Virginia Military Institute—Building and Rebuilding

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Virginia Military Institute—Building and Rebuilding  (1890) 
by Major General Francis Henney Smith
Transcribed by William Maury Morris.
Superintendent Old Spex


BY



MAJOR-GENERAL FRANCIS HENNEY SMITH, LL.D.



LEXINGTON, VIRGINIA








Virginia Military Institute --"Virginia Mourning Her Sons"



PREFACE


The record contained in this volume was written by General Francis Henney Smith during the last years of his administration as Superintendent, at such moments as could be spared from the exacting duties of his office.

It was General Smith’s purpose to rewrite the rough draft thus made, but his death, which occurred March 21, 1890, less than three months after his retirement, prevented this revision.

Believing the record of the birth, growth and development of the Virginia Military Institute to be a subject of interest to all who have been identified with its history, the manuscript has been placed in the hands of the Board of Visitors for publication.

Knowing my father’s feelings, I make no mistake in dedicating this work to all old Cadets who knew and honored Old Spex.


Francis H. Smith, Jr.
Lexington, Virginia.



INTRODUCTION


When I commenced writing the following pages, my design was to prepare, for the use and benefit of my children, some appropriate sketch of my own public life. It had been a long, and, in some respects, an eventful one, beginning with my graduation from the U. S. Military Academy, at West Point, as a Lieutenant of Artillery, in 1833; then my service at West Point for some two years as an Assistant Professor; then two years as Professor of Mathematics at Hampden-Sidney, Va.; and finally my long service as Superintendent and Professor of Mathematics, Moral and Political Philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute, commencing with its organization on the 8th of June, 1839, and closing, by my voluntary retirement, on the 1st of January, 1890, with the honorary title, after a continual service of fifty years, of Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Moral and Political Philosophy.

But as I progressed in this work, my personality was soon lost in the transcendently more important history of the Virginia Military Institute. Its rise, progress, and development, the distinctive mission for which it seemed to be providentially prepared and adapted, the many difficulties by which it had been surrounded, its early struggles amidst the strongest and most bitter prejudice and opposition, the exacting duties and sacrifices to which its alumni were called during four years of Civil War, its total destruction by the torch of the invader, its restoration from the ashes in more than its original proportions and usefulness, — all these were subjects not only worthy of preservation as an important part of the educational history of Virginia, but demanding the faithful labors of the historian, as due to the distinguished gentlemen who, from time to time, as members of the Board of Visitors, had directed and controlled its destiny, to the faithful men who were called by them to serve as professors and officers in the various departments of the institution, and to the long roll of alumni who, as sons of the Virginia Military Institute, have been all the time its crown and its glory.

During the most of this long period in the history of the Virginia Military Institute, the relations existing between the several Boards of Visitors, as the supreme governing authority, and the Superintendent, as its chief executive and administrative officer, were so intimate and confidential, that more or less of a personal narrative seemed to be unavoidable, in any effort to present a satisfactory record of the progressive development of the institution. The Superintendent was, ex officio, the chairman of the faculty. In the meetings of the Board he appeared as their representative, and was, at all times, prepared to lay before the governing body, the views of the faculty on all measures for the educational work of the school. The Board of Visitors recognized the wisdom of this cooperation. The work of the Virginia Military Institute, as an educational establishment, was exceptional and distinctive. It was a departure from the long-established routine of collegiate education. The Board, therefore, looked to the faculty to supply information and to make such suggestions as would enable it to legislate to the best advantage. System and harmony were thus secured in the work undertaken, and the satisfactory results achieved are largely due to this prevailing principle.

In its government, also, the Board of Visitors labored to give full effect to the distinctive military organization. The Superintendent was placed by law, and he was made by regulation, the commanding officer of the institution. He was held responsible for the enforcement and maintenance of the prescribed discipline, and inasmuch as appeal was reserved to the Board of Visitors, from all his decisions, the Superintendent was necessarily brought into constant communication with the Board, that he might fully lay before them the state of the discipline, and ask for such support as might be needed. Thus concert and harmony in deliberation, unity and efficiency in action, secured subordination and respectful obedience to lawful authority.

This brief outline will serve, in part at least, to relieve the writer from what would otherwise be inexcusable egotism, when it is remembered that this history of the Virginia Military Institute is written by one whose relations to the work in hand were not only such as have been described, but who, as the only living representative, save one, of the early life of the Institute, stands alone in telling the story of its eventful career.

Francis H. Smith


Lexington, Virginia,
February 28, 1890.




CHAPTER I. — 1834-39

HISTORIC SKETCH OF THE ESTABLISHMENT AND ORGANIZATION OF THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, prepared, at the request of the Board of Visitors, by Col. John Thomas Lewis Preston, Professor Emeritus V.M.I., July 4, 1889.


CHAPTER II. — 1839

ORGANIZATION.


CHAPTER III. — 11TH NOVEMBER, 1839

THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE THIS DAY BEGINS ITS WORK.


CHAPTER IV. — 1840

FIRST EXAMINATIONS BEFORE BOARD OF VISITORS, JUNE, 1840 — MESS HALL AND WATER PROVIDED FOR BY STATE — NEW CADETS APPOINTED — CADET ASSISTANTS PROVIDED FOR — INFLUENCE OF DEMERIT ON CONDUCT — CINCINNATI CLASS, WASHINGTON COLLEGE.


CHAPTER V. — 1841-1842

ORGANIZATI0N OF THE QUARTERMASTER’S DEPARTMENT — RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION OF THE CADETS — APPOINTMENT OF PROFESSOR OF DRAWING, TACTICS, ETC. — CADETS EXAMINED IN RICHMOND BEFORE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY — NORMAL CHARACTER GIVEN TO THE SCHOOL BY ACT OF MARCH 8, 1842 — PUBLIC LIBRARY — CARE OF THE SICK.


CHAPTER VI. — 1842-1845

FIRST GRADUATION DAY THE FOURTH OF JULY, 1842 — SECTARIAN TROUBLES — COMPLAINT OF WASHINGTON COLLEGE.


CHAPTER VII.

APPOINTMENT OF PROFESSOR OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES AND COMMANDANT Of CADETS — ORGANIZATION OF THE COMMISSARY DEPARTMENT — APPROPRIATION BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR NEW BARRACKS.


CHAPTER VIII.

MAJOR THOMAS J. JACKSON APPOINTED PROFESSOR OF NATURAL AND EXPERMENTAL PHILSOPHY, AND INSTRUCTION OF ARTILLERY TACTICS — DEATH OF GENERAL JACKSON — REBELLION OF THE CADETS.


CHAPTER IX.

SUPERINTENDENT SMITH, UNDER THE INSTRUCTION OF THE BOARD OF VISITORS, VISITS MILITARY, SCIENTIFIC, AND AGRICULTURAL SCHOOLS IN EUROPE — FORMULATES OUTLINE OF COURSE OF STUDIES


CHAPTER X.

EXECUTION OF JOHN BROWN — CADETS PRESENT — COMMISSION TO ARRANGE FOR ARMAMENT OF STATE — MAJOR JACKSON’S EXPERIMENTS WITH PAROTT GUN — CADETS ORDERED TO RICHMOND 1861 — MARCH UNDER MAJOR JACKSON — MCDOWELL — NEW MARKET.


CHAPTER XI.

DESTRUCTION OF THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE BY GEN. DAVID HUNTER U.S.A. 1864 — WORK OF RESTORATION.


CHAPTER XII.

DISCIPLINE — LITERARY SOCIETIES — RELIGIOUS TRAINING — CONCLUSION.