Located below the Jackson Memorial Hall, the VMI Museum exhibits deeds of valor that have been performed by the alumni and instructors of the Institute over the years. The museum is free of charge and it is from here that cadet tours begin. Some of the exhibits include the uniform Jackson wore at the Institute and the stuffed skin of his horse, Little Sorrel. Newer exhibits include Medal of Honor winners that have come from VMI and one exhibit honors VMI alums that have died since September 11, whether it was in the Twin Towers, in the Pentagon attack or in Iraq.
William Willson, local merchant, postmaster, and treasurer of Washington College, from 1803 until his death in 1840, built the house in 1820. The property consisted of an icehouse; smoke house, stable, and carriage house as well as two other small buildings and a large garden.
We know this from an ad Capt. Willson placed in the Lexington Gazette June 29, 1838 offering the place for sale. After his death it passed to his wife Sally who sold it at public auction ten years later. James C. Paxton, the first Mayor of Lexington, purchased the house, outbuildings, and lot for $3,000.
Here in the middle of the real location of Lexington Virginia are the graves of many famous people, in addition to Thomas Jonathan 'Stonewall' Jackson [body minus Arm], including 144 Confederate veterans, and two Virginia governors.
Others (in alphabetical order):
John White Brockenbrough - the founder of Washington and Lee Law School
John Mercer Brooke - Confederate States Naval Commander, Inventor, and Professor.
William Gilham - the author of a popular book on military drill and tactics.
Mary Anna Jackson -Widow of General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson who wrote his memoir.
George Junkin - the founder of Lafayette College in Easton, PA; the founder of the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio (Miami of Ohio); and the President (1846-1861) of Washington College (present day Washington and Lee University ) in Lexington, Virginia. He was also the father of Eleanor Junkin, the first wife of Confederate Civil War General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
John Letcher - Virginia Governor, US Congressman. the editor of the Democratic “Valley Star” from 1839 to 1850
Elisha Franklin 'Bull' Paxton - Civil War Confederate Brigadier General.
Alexander Swift 'Sandie' Pendleton - Civil War Confederate Army Officer. Historians today call him the most capable staff officer in the whole Confederate army
John Thomas Lewis Preston. - founder of the Virginia Military Institute and his wife
Margaret Preston - Author ot "Silverwood, a Book of Memories," "A Rhyme of the War," and "Old Songs and New."
Absalom Willis Robertson - Major, World War I, 1917-1919; United States Representative from Virginia, 1933-1946; United States Senator from Virginia, 1946-1966; father of televangelist Pat Robertson.
Francis Henney Smith - the first Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute.
Edwin Parker 'Cy' Twombly - Major League Baseball Player. He was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 1921.
Traveller was the best known of Lee’s wartime horses. After the many journeys they shared during the Civil War, Lee let Traveller roam the college lawns in retirement. The horse only survived Lee by seven months. His bones were on display in the museum until the horse was finally allowed to rest, here in this grave by the side of the Lee Chapel, in 1971.
While Washington Hall - built in 1824 - serves as the centerpiece of the university, it is the Lee Chapel - built in 1867 - that tourists will gravitate towards. The chapel served as an assembly hall for the students and was built - by Lee’s request - to seat 600 students. Inside the chapel, at the front, is Edward Valentine’s statue of Lee sleeping on a battlefield cot. The statue is surrounded by replicas of Confederate battle flags. Below the chapel is the Lee Tomb, resting place for the General, his wife, sons and daughters. Lee’s office is nearby, as is a fine museum devoted to Lee’s life.
Originally the school was founded in 1749 as the Liberty Academy, but was renamed after a generous grant was given to the school by one, George Washington. The new name became Washington College. That name change and a statue of the First Father of the Nation, himself, enabled the school to not have to share the same fate as its neighbor, VMI, in 1864 when occupying Federal troops put that school to the torch. It was to this school that Robert E Lee retreated to after his four years of war came to an end at Appomattox. He spent the rest of his life rebuilding the college in the War’s aftermath with only 40 students attending when he arrived. There were 400 by the time of his death in 1870. In honor of his efforts, the school was renamed once again as Washington & Lee, a name it has kept to this day. The school seems to be quite the quintessential Southern private coeducational university today and stands as quite a contrast to its neighbor, VMI, on its northern side.
The Parade Ground is multifunctional to say the least. Cadet marching formations, engineering survey classes, physical training sessions and sports training are all but some of the events going on in the front yard of the Institute.
There is no better way to become better acquainted with the Institute and its customs than by taking one of the tours given twice daily by VMI cadets. You meet up at the VMI Museum desk and then walk together around the grounds gaining new insights from the viewpoint of the students themselves.
Just east of the Barracks, the Chapel is the main assembly hall for VMI’s cadets. Prominently displayed above the front of the hall is a large painting that commemorates the VMI cadets who fought at the Battle of New Market in 1864. Surrounding the hall are 26 flags honoring the existing 26 States at the time of the school’s founding in 1839.
There are four main statues placed around the Parade Ground. One commemorates the school’s first superintendent, General Francis H. Smith. Another honors the dead cadets who fell at the Civil War battle of New Market where 10 cadets were killed. The other two statues are just outside of the Barracks, memorializing the school’s most luminous instructor, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, and the school’s most illustrious alumnus, George C. Marshall, the Chief of Staff for the US Army during World War II, Secretary of both Defense and State after that War and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. A vintage World War II howitzer sits near Marshall while four 6-pound cannons stand next to Jackson. These cannons were made 320 pounds lighter than normal since the Institute was short of horses and the cannons had to be manhandled by the cadets in the drills put to them by their instructor. The guns took part in several battles early on in the War. Little Sorrel, Jackson’s faithful horse is buried by the base of Jackson’s statue.
This quadrangular building is where the VMI cadets live for the duration of their time here. Built in 1851 and burnt during the Civil War, the Barracks is home to student-cadets and a whole host of arcane rules/regulations that new students become aware of rather quickly during the initial stay at the school.
VMI’s most distinguished alumnus is celebrated here. George C. Marshall was the Chief of Staff for the US Army throughout World War II. Following the War, he served as both Secretary of Defense and State, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts rebuilding western Europe with the Marshall Plan.
At the suggestion of President Truman, the Marshall Foundation was founded in 1953. The building was dedicated in 1964 by President Johnson and Eisenhower to honor the memory of George C. Marshall, VMI graduating class of 1901. After resigning as Army Chief of Staff in 1945, Marshall developed The Marshall Plan, the economic rebuilding of Europe following WWII. Marshall continued serving his country with a political and diplomatic career as Secretary of State and Defense and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Begun in 1749 as Augusta Academy, the school was saved from financial ruin with a gift of stock from George Washington in 1796. To honor George Washington, it was renamed Washington College. After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, as president from 1865 until his death in 1870, revived it and set it on its course as a modern university, now called Washington and Lee.
Mary Anna Radolph Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. These three important Virginia families linked by marriage combine to tell the remarkable story of the nation's ninth oldest educational institutions now called .
On the beautiful rolling grounds, regarded as one of the most beautiful in the nation, you can visit the R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church, the Lee House, Washington Hall, Lee Chapel, Reeves Center and the Morris House. Most of these buildings were constructed in the early 1800's.
Lexington citizens persuaded the state of Virginia in 1839 to convert the local arsenal into Virginia Military Institute. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson taught natural philosophy (physics) and artillery tactics at the school for ten years prior to the Civil War. General George C. Marshall, began a remarkable career, class of 1901, in Lexington that eventually led to his appointment as U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, Secretary of Denfense and his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which is in the Marshall Museum at VMI.
All of the superintendents of VMI have lived at The Superintendents Quarters. The Commandants Quarters was the home of VMI professor Matthew Fontaine Maury.
Lejeune Hall is the cadet activities and reception center. The Old Hospital is the oldest VMI building. When visiting The Barracks you will see the Washington Arch and the George Washington Statue. This is the original entrance to the Barracks.