William D. Washington
VMI Obituary, December 1870

William Washington top level

Head Quarters
Virginia Military Institute
December 2nd, 1870
General Orders No. 36

It is the painful duty of the Superintendent to announce to the Professors, Officers and Cadets, the death of Colonel William D. Washington, late Professor of the Fine Arts in this Institution.

He died at 20 minutes of 10 o'clock last night. Feeble in his physical constitution from childhood, he had suffered all his life from chronic disease which finally terminated in his death, after a rapid and brief illness.

Col. Washington was endowed by nature with gifts of genius to a very high degree, and these gifts had been sedulously cultivated by study and foreign travel.As an artist he was rapidly rising to distinction in his Profession, his chief work of Art, "The Burial of Latane" having given him wide reputation. In the midst of his usefulness his career has closed before he had reached the meridian of life.

As an appropriate mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, academic duties will be suspended until after his interment, and the usual badge of mourning will be worn by Professors, officers, and cadets, for the period of thirty (30) days.

The interment will take place at 11 AM tomorrow under a funeral escort of the Battalion of Cadets, in such order as may be prescribed by the Commandant of Cadet.

By Command of General F. H. Smith.

Superintendent's Office
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA
December 2, 1870

The Academic Board met at the call of the Superintendent. Present, all except Commodore Maury. The Superintendent announced the death of Col. W. D. Washington, Professor of Fine Arts of the Virginia Military Institute, whereupon the following minute was unanimously adopted & ordered to be spread upon the records of the Academic Board:

Resolved: That it is with feelings of peculiar solemnity that we record upon our minutes the first death, by natural causes, occurring in the Professorial Corps of the Virginia Military Institute, since its establishment in 1839. The last added to our number has been the first thus removed.

We recall to mind with sorrowful tenderness his genius, his accomplishments, his sensibility, his high toned principles, and the purity and delicacy of his nature, constantly manifested in his intercourse with his brother officers. By nature he was fitted for Art, and to the cultivation of it he gave himself with unreserved love and assiduity.

The Gallery of this Institute is adorned by his labors with works, to us, of inestimable value, and we mourn when we consider how much is left undone of what he proposed to do for the Institution to which he belonged, and for his native State, Virginia. In the midst of his labors he has been called away, and in the prime of life. His work will survive him, and with pride and with sorrow his memory will be cherished by us all.

Col. Washington was born in Loudoun County, VA, on the 7th October 1833.He early manifested his taste for Art, and when quite a young man, was draftsman in the U. S. Patent Office, Washington, where he laid the foundation of those studies which he subsequently prosecuted in the best schools of art in Europe. During the late Civil War he served on the Staff of Gen. Floyd, and took advantage of this period of duty in the mountains of Va. to make those sketches of mountain scenery which he afterwards put upon canvas.

His physical infirmity kept him in Richmond during the greater period of the war, and in this interval, besides many smaller pieces, he painted the more elaborate work "The Burial of Latane", and "Jackson Entering Winchester". At the close of the war he established his studio in New York and in July 1869 was called to the Virginia Military Institute as Professor of Fine Arts, and was more especially occupied in painting the portraits of the alumni of the Va. M. Institute who fell during the war. His taste soon gave form to the "Corcoran Gallery of Art" of the Virginia Military Institute, and the walls of this Gallery are now ornamented with the portraits of Gen. R. E. Lee, Gen. T. J. Jackson, Gen. R. E. Rodes, Gen. Samuel Garland, Col. S. Crutchfield, Col. Geo. S. Patton, Col. W. T. Patton, Col. J. W. Allen, Col. J. B. Strange, Captain J. Q. Marr, Maj. J. W. Latimer, the boy-Major; Maj. J. Chenoweth, and Capt. G. G. Otey. Some of his finest small pieces are landscapes taken in the neighborhood of the Institute, one of which the "Snow Scene" and another scene near the Natural Bridge are especially beautiful works of art. Tennyson's Poems find striking illustrations in his "Maud", "Elaine", and "Lady Clare", while he had just put into form a study of an historic painting commemorative of the work of the Faculty of the V. M. Institute, in the restoration of the Institute, when death closed his labor on the evening of the 1st December 1870.

Resolved, That in token of our sorrow and our respect we wear the accustomed badge of mourning for six (6) months.

/signed/ Francis H. Smith, Jr. Secretary Academic Board.