Virginia Military Institute was founded in 1839 in Lexington, Virginia. The first class graduated in 1842 with 16 cadets. Thomas J. Jackson joined the faculty in 1851 as professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy.

VMI graduates played a major leadership role in the Civil War. Fifteen VMI students went on to become generals in the Confederate army during the Civil War, and one became a general in the Union army. 

At the beginning of the Civil War VMI cadets were ordered to Richmond to help train recruits. Cadets also took part in a number of engagements. The most famous was the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, when 247 cadets under the Commandant of Cadets Scott Shipp were sent into action to halt a Federal breakthrough and turn the battle into a Confederate victory. Ten cades were killed and 45 wounded. 

A month later, on June 12, 1864, Federal forces destroyed the VMI campus. Classes were relocated to Richmond. When Richmond fell in 1865 the Corps of Cadets disbanded. After the war, classes resumed in Lexington in October of 1865.

VMI Cadets in the Civil War Listed by Class Year

(section under development)

Class of 1842 – First graduating class (16 cadets)

Class of 1843
John Echols – Virginia, Brigadier General. Resigned in 1841 but was made an honorary graduate.
Birkett D. Fry – Alabama (born in Virginia), Brigadier General. Resigned in 1841 to enter West Point Class of 1846.

Class 0f 1845 (20 cadets graduated)
Reuben L. Walker (ranked # 19) – Virginia, Brigadier General.

Class of 1846 (14 cadets graduated)
Raleigh E. Colston (ranked #4) – Virginia, Brigadier General.

Class of 1847 (12 cadets graduated)
William Mahone (ranked #8) – Virginia, Major General
Gabriel C. Wharton (ranked #2) – Colonel, commanded division in Army of the Valley 1864-65.

Class of 1848 (24 cadets graduated)
Jones, John R. (ranked #7) – Virginia, Brigadier General
Robert Rodes (ranked #10) – Alabama (born in Virginia), Major General. Faculty at VMI 1848-50. Killed at the 3rd Battle of Winchester
James Slaughter – Resigned in 1846. Virginia, Brigadier General.

Class of 1849 24 cadets graduated)
Thomas Henry Carter – Colonel, artillery officer.
Samuel Garland (ranked #2) – Virginia, Brigadier General. Mortally wounded at the Battle of South Mountain.
William H. Payne – Resigned after 1 year and declared honorary graduate in 1873. Virginia,  Brigadier General.

Class of 1850 (17 cadets graduated)
Raleigh T. Colston – Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment. Mortally wounded at Mine Run 1863.
Jones, Alexander C. (ranked #16)  – Virginia, Brigadier General.
William R. Terry (ranked #15) – Virginia, Brigadier General.

Class of 1851 (29 cadets graduated)
Frederick Samuel Bass – Colonel, 1st Texas Infantry Regiment
Humes, William Y.C. (ranked #2) – Virginia, Brigadier General
Alfred Vaughan (ranked #15) – Virginia, Brigadier General. Badly wounded at Battle of Vining’s Station on July 4, 1864, losing his leg.

Class of 1852
James A. Walker
(dismissed for disobedience) Virginia, Brigadier General. Challenged Jackson to a duel after his dismissal but served under him 10 years later commanding the Stonewall Brigade. Granted honorary degree in 1872 for his service in the war.

Class of 1853 (22 cadets graduated)
John McCausland (ranked #1) – Virginia (born in Missouri), Brigadier General. Faculty at VMI 1859.

Class of 1854 (24 cadets graduated)
Walter B. Botts (ranked #6) – Lieutenant Colonel, 4th Texas Infantry Regiment. Wounded and disabled at Seven Pines 5/31/62.
James H. Lane (ranked # 2) – North Carolina, Brigadier General. Wounded at the Battle of Cold Habor.
Thomas T. Munford (ranked #14) – Virginia, Brigadier General.

Class of 1855
William Edward Fife – Lieutenant Colonel, 36th Virginia Infantry Regiment. Wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Class of 1858 (19 cadets graduated)
Wilfred Emory Cutshaw – Lieutenant Colonel, artillery officer.
John Francis Neff – Colonel, 33rd Virginia Infantry Regiment. Mortally Wounded 8/28/62 at the Battle of Groveton.
James B. Terrill (ranked # 16) – Virginia, Brigadier General. Killes May 30, 1864 at Battle of Totopotomy Creek, Virginia.

Class of 1860
Thomas Middleton Semmes, Lieutenant, 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment and 8th Star Virginia Artillery; Faculty of VMI 1/1/62.

Class of 1861
Henry King Burgwyn – Colonel, 26th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. Mortally wounded 7/1/63 at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Emmet M. Morrison – Lieutenant Colonel, 15th Virginia Infantry Regiment

Class of 1864
Joseph W. Latimer – Virginia. Left to become an artillery officer in 1861. Mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. <see bio>

VMI Cadets in the Civil War Listed by Last Name

With graduating year of class

Bass, Frederick Samuel, 1851
Botts, Walter B., 1854
Burgwyn, Henry King, 1861
Carter, Thomas Henry, 1849
Colston, Raleigh E., 1846
Colston, Raleigh T., 1850
Cutshaw, Wilfred Emory, 1858
Echols, John, 1843
Fife, William Edward, 1855
Fry, Birkett, 1843
Garland, Samuel, 1849
Humes, William Y.C., 1851
Jones, Alexander C., 1850
Jones, John R. – 1848
Lane, James H., 1854
Latimer, Joseph W., 1864
Mahone, William, 1847
McCausland, John, 1853
Munford, Thomas, 1854
Neff, John Francis, 1858
Paynes, William H., 1849
Rodes, Robert, 1848
Semmes, Thomas Middleton, 1860
Slaughter, James E., 1846
Terrill, James B., 1858
Terry, William R., 1850
Vaughan, Alfred, 1851
James Walker, 1852
Walker, Reuben L., 1845
Wharton, Gabriel C., 1847