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Class Year

2017

Abstract

The Virginia Military Institute was founded in 1839 and flourished throughout the mid- nineteenth century. The Institute remained loyal to Virginia during the Civil War, providing the Confederate Army with top ranking generals and deploying the corps of cadets during the Battle of New Market. Exposed as a target for Union troops marching through the valley, the Institute was virtually destroyed in 1864. The defeat of the Confederacy in 1865 left VMI uncertain of its very existence. Advocates for the Virginia Military Institute faced the daunting task of rebuilding the school while a fractured nation struggled to rebuild itself through the contentious period of Reconstruction. The Institute secured initial funding from the “restored” state government in 1865, survived a critical challenge to its existence in 1868, and eventually gained compensation for unjust losses during the war. The unwavering dedication of those advocating for the Institute was met with gracious support from those in political authority who chose to share the vision of a prosperous Institute integral to the rebuilding of a nation. Through the cooperative efforts of the State of Virginia, the Superintendent, the Board of Visitors, the cadets and faculty members, and the greater Lexington community, the Virginia Military Institute was able to overcome the devastation of war and rebuild a school that would continue to prosper 151 years after it was “left in ruins, with nothing left but reputation.”

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