Administrative Offices Delay: - VMI administrative offices will be on a one hour delay, Friday, March 6. Normal class schedule in effect.
skip to content

John F. Hanna Diary---annotations
Civil War Cadet Life
Manuscript #0317

Return to Hanna Diary text 

1.   John Francis Hanna (1843-1885) was born at the home of his grandparents in Philadelphia on August 20, 1843. Before matriculating at VMI he attended Gonzaga College and Georgetown University. He entered VMI from Manassas, Virginia, on January 22, 1862 as a member of the Class of 1864. He was a cadet First Lieutenant, Co. D., at the Battle of New Market. Fourteen members of the class, all New Market Cadets, were graduated on June 17, 1864, approximately a month after the battle. After the war he studied law at Columbian (now George Washington) University and practiced in Washington, DC. He never married. He was injured in a riding accident on October 25, 1885 and died at his home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia, on October 31.

2.   Col. John T.L. Preston (1811-1890), one of the founders of the Institute and an early faculty member. He taught languages and English literature from 1839-1875, and served as Acting Superintendent in the absence of Francis H. Smith.

3.   Cadet Thomas Dixon Davis (1843-1925), was Hanna's classmate and best friend. "Tom" or "Short" was a native of Lynchburg, Virginia. One day before the Corps left on its march that would end at the Battle of New Market, Davis left for home on a 14 day furlough and thus did not participate in the battle. After the war he was a merchant in Lynchburg. He died in that city on June 24, 1925.

4.   Mary and Clara Davidson, the daughters of James Dorman Davidson, a local lawyer. Hanna refers to them throughout the diary as "Miss C.," "Miss C.D.", "Miss M.," and "Miss Mary."

5.    Nannie and Olympia, the daughters of VMI Professor of Engineering Thomas Hoomes Williamson. Olympia is referred to in the diary as "Lymp" or "Lymph."

6.   William Gilham (1818-1872), VMI Faculty member, 1846-1864; he taught chemistry, mineralogy and geology. He was also the author of the successful tactics book, Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia. First published shortly before the Civil War, "Gilham's Manual" was subsequently used by both the United States and Confederate armies.

7.   Samuel Sprigg Shriver (1843-1881), Hanna's classmate and fellow New Market cadet. After the war he was a farmer in Nansemond, Co., Virginia and served in the Virginia legislature.

8.   Carlton Shafer (1844-1906) of Leesburg, Virginia, Hanna's classmate and New Market cadet. After the war he became a lawyer and Maryland state legislator. He died in LaPorte, Indiana on April 26, 1906.

9.   "Subs" or sub-professors were junior faculty members who often lived in Barracks and whose responsibilities included maintaining discipline and enforcing the Institute's regulations. They reported any infractions to the Commandant, leading to punishment of the guilty party.

10.   Edward Harvie Smith, Jr. (1845-1912), a member of the Class of 1867 and a New Market cadet. After the war, Smith was a merchant and held various Civil Service appointments. He died in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1912.

11.   John Braxton Jarrat (1843-1906), a member of the Class of 1866 and New Market cadet. After the war, Jarratt lived in Sussex Co., Virginia, where he was a merchant and county treasurer.

12.   Robert Ridley (1844-1913), a member of the Class of 1866 and New Market cadet. For many years after the war he was a farmer; in 1882 he moved to Portsmouth, Virginia where he was a railroad official.

13.   William George Bennett (1847-1916), Class of 1866 & New Market cadet. Bennett later attended law school at the University of Virginia and was an attorney and judge in Weston, West Virginia. Thomas Herbert Shriver (1846-1916), Class of 1867 & New Market cadet. After the war he was a farmer, banker and Maryland state legislator.

14.   William MacFarland Patton (1845-1905), Class of 1865 and cadet Sergeant, Company A, at the Battle of New Market. Patton was a later a faculty member at VMI and VPI, where he taught Civil Engineering. Three of his brothers also attended VMI: Col. George Smith Patton, Class of 1852, who was killed in battle at Winchester and was the grandfather of Gen. George S. Patton of World War II fame; Waller Tazewell Patton, Class of 1855, killed at Gettysburg; and John Mercer Patton, Class of 1846.

15.   William Nelson, (1845-1877), a member of the Class of 1865 and a New Market cadet. After the war he studied law and practiced for several years in New York City; he later moved to Austin, Texas.

16.   Scott Shipp (1839-1917) Class of 1859 and Commandant of Cadets during the period covered in Hanna's diary. Shipp was in command of the VMI Corps at New Market. He served as the Institute's second Superintendent, 1890-1907.

17.   Alexander Spotswood Payne (1845-1910), of Lynchburg, Virginia, was a member of the Class of 1867 and a New Market cadet. After the war he was a businessman in Lynchburg.

18.   The ruins referred to are those of Liberty Hall Academy, the original name of the Institution known today as Washington and Lee University and in Hanna's time as Washington College. The ruins were of the original academy building, which burned in 1803. Photo of ruins.

19.   Cadets Cary Weston, Collier H. Minge, William Charles Hardy, and James Bruce Morson.

20.   Francis Iselin Tomes (ca. 1847-1864), VMI Class of 1867 and New Market cadet. He died in 1865 from the effects of illness contracted while digging trenches near Richmond in the fall of 1864.

21.   Francis Henney Smith, VMI's first Superintendent.

22.   Ferdinand Bowman Price (1846-1917), Class of 1867 & New Market cadet.

23.   Gen. Thomas L. Rosser's famed "Laurel Brigade" was encamped near Lexington from March 31st until April 25th, the day of this diary entry. On April 11th, Rosser had presented VMI with the battle flag of the 164th New York Vounteers, which his men had captured in a fight at Sangster's Station, near Fairfax Courthouse. In 1883 this flag was taken to New York City by members of the Corps and returned to its owners.

24.   Cadet J. Beverley Stanard, who was killed at the Battle of New Market on May 15.

25.   Professor Thomas Hoomes Williamson.

26.   The Ann Smith Academy, named for its first principal, was a "Classical School for Females," established in Lexington in 1807. Students included both local day students and boarders from throughout Virginia and other southern states; the ages of the students generally ranged from 13 to 17. Boys were first admitted in 1877; the school closed in 1910.

27.   Traditionally, July 4th was commencement day at VMI. However, the Battle of New Market on May 15 and Gen. Hunter's occupation of Lexington in June would disrupt the usual schedule. For more about these events, see our Civil War resources page.

28.   Richard Booker Chaffin, a former cadet serving as a CSA staff officer.

29.   Jonathan Edward Woodbridge (1844-1935), Class of 1865 and cadet sergeant major, the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the Corps. He later became a mechanical engineer and ship designer.

30.   William Root Bull (1836-1889) is listed in the 1860 Lexington census as a private secretary at VMI, presumably working for Superintendent Francis H. Smith. During the war he took over the job of Institute Steward and Commissary. Jennie (Virginia) Smith was the daughter of Francis H. Smith. Lizzie (Elizabeth) Letcher, daughter of Virginia's former governor John Letcher. Misses Compton, probably the daughters of Lexington merchant James Compton.

31.   Otis Allan Glazebrook (1845-1931), Class of 1866 and New Market cadet. After the war, Glazebrook entered the Episcopal ministry; he subsequently served as U.S. consul in Jerusalem during World War I and in Nice, France during the 1920's. He died at sea on April 26, 1931.

32.   William Charles Hardy (ca. 1843-1900), Class of 1864 and 2st Lieut., Company A at New Market. He was subsequently a merchant in Norfolk, Virginia.

33.   Captain Frank Preston (1841-1869) was the son of VMI Faculty member John T. L. Preston and a graduate of Washington College. He was badly wounded in battle at Winchester, and captured along with with other Confederate wounded who could not be moved with the army. His arm was amputated by Federal surgeons. After escaping from the Union hospital, he returned to Lexington and became an instructor of Latin, English and Tactics at VMI. He served as the tactical officer of Company B at the Battle of New Market. He died following a long illness on November 19, 1869.

34.   Frederick William Claybrook (1944-1914), Class of 1864 and 2nd Lieut. Company D at the Battle of New Market. After the war he practiced law for several years and then entered the Baptist ministry.

Cadet vocabulary and slang used in the diary.
  • O.D. -   Officer of the Day
  • D. Parade -   Dress Parade
  • Rev.-   Reveille
  • Rat -   a first year (new) cadet. The term "Rat Sub," as applied to Captain Preston, is an insult.