The Virginia Military Institute (VMI), located in Lexington, Virginia, is the oldest state-supported military college and one of six senior military colleges in the United States. In keeping with its founding principles, all VMI students are military cadets pursuing bachelor degrees. VMI offers cadets a spartan, physically and academically demanding environment combined with strict military discipline. VMI offers degrees in fourteen different disciplines in engineering, the sciences and the liberal arts.[6] Although VMI has been called the "West Point of the South,"[7] it differs from the federal service academies in several respects. For example, while all VMI cadets must participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), they are not required to serve in the military upon graduation. Instead, VMI graduates may either accept a commission in any of the US military branches or pursue civilian endeavors upon graduation.


Early history

On 11 November 1839 the Virginia Military Institute was founded on the site of the Lexington state arsenal and the first cadets relieved personnel on duty. UnderMajor General Francis Henney Smithsuperintendent, and Colonel Claudius Crozet, president of the Board of Visitors, the Corps was imbued with the disciplineand the spirit for which it is famous. The first cadet to march a sentinel post was Private John Strange. With few exceptions, there have been sentinels posted at VMI every hour of every day of the school year.

The Class of 1842 graduated 16 cadets. Living conditions were poor until 1850 when the cornerstone of the new barracks was laid. In 1851 Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson became a member of the faculty and professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. Under Jackson, then a major, and Major William Gilham, VMIinfantry and artillery units were present at the execution by hanging of John Brown at Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1859.

Civil War period

The Institute played a valuable role in the training of the Southern officer corps and fought as a unit in actual battles. VMI cadets were called into active military service on 14 different occasions during the American Civil War and many cadets, under the leadership of General Stonewall Jackson, were sent to Camp Lee, atRichmond, to train recruits. VMI alumni were regarded among the best officers of the South and several distinguished themselves in the Union forces as well. Fifteen graduates rose to the rank of general in the Confederate Army, and one rose to this rank in the Union Army.[8] Just before his famous flank attack at theBattle of Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson looked at his division and brigade Commanders, noted the high number of VMI graduates and said, "The Institute will be heard from today."[9] Three of Jackson's four division commanders at Chancellorsville, Generals James LaneRobert Rodes, and Raleigh Colston, were VMI graduates as were over twenty of his brigadiers and colonels.[9]

On 15 May 1864, the VMI Corps of Cadets fought as an independent unit at the Battle of New Market.[10] VMI is the only military college or academy in the United States to hold this distinction.[citation needed] General John C. Breckinridge, the commanding Southern general, held the cadets in reserve and did not use them until Union troops broke through the Confederate lines. Upon seeing the tide of battle turning in favor of the Union forces, Breckinridge stated, "Put the boys in...and may God forgive me for the order." The VMI cadets held the line and eventually pushed forward, capturing a Union artillery emplacement, securing victory for the Confederates. The Union troops were withdrawn and Confederate troops under General Breckinridge held the Shenandoah Valley. VMI suffered fifty-two casualties with eight cadets killed in action,two who died of their wounds shortly after the battle and forty-two wounded. The cadets were led into battle by Commandant of Cadets and future VMI Superintendent Colonel Scott Shipp. Shipp was also wounded during the battle. Six of the ten fallen cadets are buried on VMI grounds behind the statue "Virginia Mourning Her Dead" by sculptor Moses Ezekiel, a VMI graduate who was also wounded in the Battle of New Market.[citation needed]

On 12 June 1864 Union forces under the command of General David Hunter shelled and burned the Institute as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The destruction was almost complete and VMI had to temporarily hold classes at the Alms House in Richmond, Virginia. In April 1865 Richmond was evacuated due to the impending fall of Petersburg and the VMI Corps of Cadets was disbanded. The Lexington campus reopened for classes on 17 October 1865.[11] One of the reasons that Confederate General Jubal A. Early burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was in retaliation for the shelling of VMI.[12] Following the war,Matthew Fontaine Maury, the pioneering oceanographer known as the "Pathfinder of the Seas", accepted a teaching position at VMI, holding the physics chair. Following the war, David Hunter Strother, who was chief of staff to General Hunter and had advised the destruction of the Institute, served as Adjutant General of the Virginia Militia and member of the VMI Board of Visitors; in that position he promoted and worked actively for the reconstruction.

World War II

VMI produced some of America's most significant commanders in World War II. The most important of these was George C. Marshall, the top U.S. Army general during the war. Marshall was the Army's first five-star general and the only career military officer ever to win the Nobel Peace PrizeWinston Churchill dubbed Marshall the "Architect of Victory" and "the greatest Roman of them all". The Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during the war was also a VMI graduate as were the Second U.S. Army commander, 15th U.S. Army commander, the commander of Allied Air Forces of the Southwest Pacific and various corps and division commanders in the Army and Marine Corps. China's General Sun Li-jen, known as the "Rommel of the East", was also a graduate of the VMI.

During the war, VMI participated in the War Department's Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) from 1943 to 1946. The program provided training in engineering and related subjects to enlisted men at colleges across the United States. Over 2,100 ASTP members studied at VMI during the war.


Since 1839, VMI has had fourteen superintendents. Francis H. Smith was the first and the longest serving, filling the position for 50 years. Only three of the fourteen superintendents were not graduates of VMI.

1.       Francis H. Smith (1839–1889)

2.       Scott Shipp (1890–1907)[13]

3.       Edward W. Nichols (1907–1924)

4.       William H. Cocke (1924–1929)

5.       John A. Lejeune (1929–1937)[14]

6.       Charles E. Kilbourne (1937–1946)[15]

7.       Richard J. Marshall (1946–1952)

8.       William H. Milton, Jr. (1952–1960)

9.       George R. E. Shell (1960–1971)

10.   Richard L. Irby (1971–1981)

11.   Sam S. Walker (1981–1988)

12.   John W. Knapp (1989–1995)

13.   Josiah Bunting III (1995–2002)

14.   J. H. Binford Peay III (2003–present)


The VMI campus covers 134 acres (54 ha), 12 of which are designated as the Virginia Military Institute Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus is referred to as the "Post." A training area of several hundred additional acres is located near the post. All cadets are housed on campus in a large five-story building, called the "barracks." The Old Barracks, which has been designated a National Historic Landmark, stands on the site of the old arsenal. This is the structure that received most of the damage when Union forces shelled and burned the Institute in June 1864. The new wing of the barracks ("New Barracks") was completed in 1949. The two wings surround two quadrangles connected by a sally port. All rooms open onto porch-like stoops facing one of the quadrangles. A third barracks wing was completed, with cadets moving in officially spring semester 2009. Four of the Five arched entries into the barracks are named for George WashingtonThomas "Stonewall" JacksonGeorge C. Marshall '01[16] and Jonathan Daniels '61.[17] Next to the Barracks are offices and meeting areas for VMI clubs and organizations, the cadet visitors center and lounge, a snack bar, and a Barnes & Noble-operated bookstore.

VMI is continuing with significant construction projects under the "Vision 2039" program. Under this capital campaign, VMI's alumni and supporters raised over $275 million over three years. The Barracks are being expanded to house 1,500 cadets, all academic buildings are being renovated and modernized, and VMI is spending an additional $200 million to build the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics. The new Leadership Center will be used by VMI cadets, Washington and Lee University students, and other students throughout the country and abroad to develop leadership abilities combined with a focus on integrity and honor to benefit tomorrow's world. The Center will also be home to VMI's Distinguished Speaker Series and its Leadership Symposia. The funding will also support "study abroad" programs including joint ventures with Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England and many other universities.


1.       ^ "VMI Administrative and Professional Faculty Handbook" PDF

2.       ^ "History of the VMI Coat of Arms, Motto, Seal & Spider Logo". Retrieved 20 April 2012.

3.       ^ As of 30 June 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved 12 March 2010.

4.       ^ "Fall Headcount Enrollment". Retrieved 20 April 2012.

5.       ^

6.       ^ "VMI Web site". Retrieved 20 April 2012.

7.       a b c Strum, Philippa (2002). Women in the Barracks: The Vmi Case and Equal Rights. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-1164-9.

8.       ^ [1] VMI Archives

9.       a b Sears,Stephen W., "Chancellorsville". Mariner Books, 1996, p. 242.

10.   ^ VMI Archives webpage

11.   ^ [2] VMI Archives

12.   ^ "The Burning of Chambersburg". 22 September 2001. Retrieved 20 April 2012.

13.   ^ "VMI Website: VMI Superintendents, 1839–present". Retrieved 20 April 2012.

14.   ^ Also a Commandant of the Marine Corps

15.   ^ Medal of Honor recipient and the first American to earn all three of the United States' highest military decorations.

16.   ^ "VMI Alumni Flag Rank Officers – Alumni Generals & Admirals". Virginia Military Institute. Retrieved 2 November 2010.

17.   ^ "Jonathan Myrick Daniels (VMI Class of 1961) Civil Rights Hero". Virginia Military Institute. Retrieved 2 November 2010.

Source: Wikipedia
Contributed by Anonymous
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