New Market Cadet William McDowell
The Ghost Cadet
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Online Resources for Students and Teachers
The VMI Archives receives many inquiries every year from students and teachers throughout the United States regarding the life of Cadet William H. McDowell. A fictional account of McDowell's participation in the Battle of New Market is featured in The Ghost Cadet, an award winning children's book by Elaine Marie Alphin.
This VMI Archives site contains links to factual biographical information and to the full text of available primary sources. Unless noted otherwise, all sources are from originals in the VMI Archives.
Questions? Contact the Archives
- The photograph shown on this page (at right) is the only known image of Cadet McDowell. It was taken at the request of his mother - see her letter dated October 3, 1863. You can also view a larger version of the image.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Cadet McDowell
- Biographical Information - His real life
- Letter of Recommendation, January 1863
This letter is written by McDowell's relative, Mary Anna Jackson, wife of General Stonewall Jackson.
- Letter (June 1, 1863)
From Rebecca McDowell, William's mother, inquiring about his application to VMI. She discusses her son's character. This letter also contains references to the death of Stonewall Jackson, which occurred in May 1863.
- Letter (October 3, 1863)
From Rebecca McDowell, William's mother, requesting that her son have a photograph taken. "Should any misfortune befall him, I would wish some likeness of him preserved." The photograph appears above.
- VMI notifies Mr. McDowell of his son's death.
From the VMI Superintendent's letter book, May 25, 1864.
- Letter (May 30, 1864)
From Cadet McDowell's father written after he received the news of his son's death--"It came upon me like a clap of thunder in a clear sky...."
- Letter (July 25, 1864)
From Rebecca McDowell to her Aunt, in which she discusses the loss of her son. This letter mentions Willie's gold watch.