Life and Death of a VMI New Market Cadet
Battle of New Market top level
Samuel F. Atwill.
Samuel Francis Atwill ("Frank") was born at Atwillton, near Montrose, Westmoreland Co., Virginia on January 31, 1846. He was the son of Samuel Bailey Atwill and Jane Ann Broun. Atwill matriculated at VMI on May 20, 1862; two years later, while a Cadet Corporal in Company A, he took part in the Battle of New Market, Virginia (May 15, 1864), where he was mortally wounded. He died on July 20, 1864, at the home of Dr. F. T. Stribling, in Staunton. A contemporary account of his wounding states:
"Struck in the calf of the leg, his wound was considered severe, though not dangerous. Being removed to Staunton, he had almost gotten well, when he was attacked with lockjaw, and died in the most excruciating agony. His pain was so intense that he could not touch the bed without a groan of agony, and death came to him as a blessed relief."
The following full text documents include letters written by Atwill early in his cadetship, biographical information, and correspondence concerning his death. Atwill was thoughtful and religious; his letters also reflect a wonderful sense of humor---they contain amusing anecdotes about wartime cadet life, including a colorful account of cadets stealing chickens from a local farmer in order to supplement the basic mess hall fare (1862 Sept. 28); and the story of students vying for the attention of a professor's "prettie daughters" (1862 Sept 3). The letters also highlight the difficulty of wartime communication and the pain of separation from family. Although Cadet Atwill was wounded on May 15, his father did not receive the news until July, and he did not hear of his son's death until early August. "It is painful to lose a child at home, but to be unable to see him was very grevious to me...."
Samuel F. Atwill Papers. (Manuscript # 0061)
View original documents
VMI Official Records
- Letters, April & May 1862 from Atwill's father to VMI, regarding his son's appointment.
- Letter, 1864 July 3. Cadet Atwill to VMI. Written from Staunton 6 weeks after he was wounded in battle, Atwill explains he has been too weak to travel; asks for money to go home.
- Letter, 1864 July 9. Mr. Atwill to VMI, asking for news about his son's condition.
- Letter, July 28, 1864. VMI's Superintendent informs Mr. Atwill of his son's death.
- Letter, August 8, 1864. Mr. Atwill to VMI, acknowledging news of his son's death.
Biographical sketch published in 1875