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VMI Cadets at the execution of John Brown
From the Virginia Military Institute Order Book
November 19-December 12, 1859
Full text online

John Brown top level

Head Quarters, Va Military Institute
Nov 19, 1859
Order No 237

In anticipation of orders from the Governor for the services of a portion of the Corps of Cadets on special duty at or near Charles Town, Virginia, those cadets who have been detailed for such service will hold themselves in readiness to take up the line of march at a moment's notice. The Corps of Cadets will be under the command of Major Gilham, who will have his command in readiness for the special services of infantry troops. The artillery detachment will be under the command of Major Jackson, who will be prepared specially for the use of Howitzers. Majors Preston and Colston will accompany the Superintendent as part of his special staff. The Superintendent need scarcely say to those detailed for this important service that there never was a time in the history of the State when more prudence, judgment, and fidelity were demanded than at this moment. He implicitly confides in the cadets that they will promptly discharge every duty and obey every command, that they will abstain from all thoughtless levity and from all forms of indiscretion and immorality and that they will remember that called into service for duty as men they will acquit themselves like men and as true sons of a common mother. His own word stands pledged for this. He looks to each and every one to redeem it.

It is important for the order as well as efficiency of the Institution that the regular duties may proceed with as little interruption as possible. A moment's reflection will show the necessity of this. Let no boisterous noise be heard at any time and let those who remain on duty at the Institute remember that their duty at home is a trust also, in which their fidelity may be tried at any moment. Be faithful to all duties and especially on the alert for night guard duty. The recitations will be regularly kept up, but lessons will be so regulated as to impose light burdens upon the student. Special orders have been given to the Commandant of Cadets for insuring due protection to the public property.
By order of Col. Smith

Head Quarters
Va Military Institute
Nov 23d 1859
12 1/2 p.m.
Order No 243 I. The following telegraphic dispatch has been recd from Governor Wise.

Harpers Ferry, 3 o'clock PM
Gen. W.H. Harman or J.H. Kinnier, Staunton
Dispatch message to Col. F.H. Smith Supt of Va. Military Institute that his corps of howitzers is required at Charles Town by the 1st of Dec next. He will come ahead & let his corps follow. Henry A. Wise

II. In obedience to the above order Maj Gilham will hold the detachment in readiness to leave by Monday morning next or at such other time as may be required. No cadet in the detachment will be permitted to leave the Institute except with special permission & then for a limited time.
By order of Col. Smith.

Head Quarters, Va Military Institute
Charles Town Va Nov 28th, 1859
Genl Order No 1
The detachment of cadets called into the service of the State, being now on war footing all the rules and articles of war governing an army in the field will govern this command. Maj. J.T.L. Preston is detailed on Quarter Master & Maj. R.E. Colston is adjutant of the command. Reveille will sound at 6 AM, breakfast call at 7 1/2 AM, guard mounting at 8 1/2, dinner call at 2 PM, Dress parade at 3 1/2 PM and retreat at 6.
By order of Col Smith/R.E. Colston Act Adjt.

Head Quarters, Va. Military Institute
Charles Town, VA, Nov 28th, 1859
Order No. 2
I. Cadets are authorized to leave their Barracks between the hours of the established roll calls. But they will not pass beyond the limits of the town without special authority, and no cadet will be absent from quarters after retreat at 6 PM. It is expected that the detachment of cadets on duty here will be a model command & it is hoped that every officer and cadet will consider himself in the solemn sanctions of honor bound to abstain from impropriety which could by possibility impair the standing of the corps occupying so proud a position in the command of the state. The eye of the military of the state is turned with peculiar interest to every act a movement of the cadets. Let that criticism only tend to exhibit in their highest proportion all the elements of a true soldier.
By order of Col Smith/R.E. Colston Act Adjt. Head Quarters, Va. Military Inst. Charles Town Va.
Nov 28th 1859
Order No 3
I. Besides the regular detail for the general guard a special detail for a quarter guard of one commissioned officer and 6 privates will be made.
II. No cadet shall at any time enter the commissary's department, or the kitchen without permission, and if necessary to prevent it a special sentinel shall be placed there at all times.
By order of Col Smith/R.E. Colston Act Adjt. HQ, VMI
Charles Town Va, Dec 1st 1859
Order No 4
The detachment will hold themselves in readiness for immediate action tonight & tomorrow night. This morning a quarter guard of three privates from the infantry and an artillery guard with the proper non-commissioned officers will be detailed and mounted on for duty tonight. The cadets will be relieved from the picket guard tonight. Every cadet will have his musket in perfect firing order, for inspection this evening at 3 1/2 o'clock and 12 rounds of ball cartridges in good order in his cartridge box. The cadets will lie down in their clothes and accoutrements with their arms loaded by their sides to be ready at a moments warning for any emergency tonight.
By order of Col Smith/R.E. Colston Act Adjt.

HQ, VMI, [Lexington]
Dec 12th, 1859
Order No 245
The commanding officer of the detachment of cadets on duty at Charles Town deems it his duty to tender to the officers and cadets engaged in this special service his thanks for the cheerful alacrity with which they have one and all met the duties to which they were so suddenly called. It is no slight praise to receive the commendation of the Governor so publicly, and so honorably expressed in his annual message, but when this is associated with the spontaneous sentiments of the citizen soldiery collected at Charles Town, and responded to by the approbation of the public at large.
This command has real cause of honest pride, that they have been able to render the state some service, and in doing so, have demonstrated the value of the Institution as the chief dependence of the state in time of trial. The Institution has been placed in great prominence by the service thus proffered and it should be the aim of all to make it more and more worthy of confidence and support.
By order of Col. Smith