Francis H. Smith was one of the founders of and the first superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. He built the school and then ‘rebuilt’ it after the end of the Civil War, during which time the school had been burnt by raiding Federal troops. He survived his retirement from VMI by only three months.
Elisha 'Bull' Paxton was a lawyer who had received his training at Harvard. He had served on Stonewall Jackson’s staff until he was promoted to general and thereafter given command of the Stonewall Brigade. He was shot down at Chancellorsville, one day after Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded.
William Nelson Pendleton was the Episcopal clergyman for Lexington for some 28 years. He also served as Robert Lee’s Chief of Artillery, a position which he was not well suited for. He was present with Lee at the end at Appomattox and would preside at Lee’s funeral, some five years later. Nearby, his wife and son, LTC A.S. “Sandie” Pendleton lie. Sandie served as one of Stonewall Jackson’s main staff officers, a man whom Jackson trusted implicitly. Surviving his chief’s death in 1863, he was killed a year later, only six days short of his twenty-fourth birthday.
Ellinor Junkins was the 29 year old daughter of the president of the Washington College that Thomas Jackson fell in love with and married in 1853. Their happiness was shortlived, however, as Ellinor died the next year giving birth to a stillborn boy. Jackson took their deaths very hard and it was only after some time that he was able to recover.
South of downtown Lexington, on the east side of Main Street, is the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery where along with Stonewall Jackson and his family, two Virginia governors and over 100 Confederate veterans are buried. The Statue of Jackson was done by Edward Valentine, the same sculptor who did the statue of the sleeping Lee found in the Lee Chapel at nearby Washington & Lee University. Jackson’s body was moved from an earlier burial site, a site that is marked by an appropriate monument. Beside Jackson, his second wife and daughter are buried, as well as more recent family members - including men who served in the re-United States military services, demonstrating the continued family military tradition.
Higher than NIagara at 215 feet, and considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County was initialed by George Washington in 1750 while surveying for Lord Fairfax. Just before the American Revolution on July 5, 1774, Thomas Jefferson purchased 157 acres of land including the bridge from King George III of England for 20 shillings.
Natural Bridge is open every day from 8 AM until dark.
We visited this site quite a few years ago. At that time there was a nice restaurant adjacent to the entrance to the bridge. The caverns offer a chance to explore the underground world on a guided tour. Better than what we expected, the tour lasts about 45 minutes and explains the geology, history and folklore of the Rockbridge Co. area.