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The Execution of John Brown
Francis Smith Report

 CadetsJohnBrowndetail03About this document: This report was submitted to the Governor Henry Wise by VMI's Superintendent, Francis H. Smith. It is dated 1860 January 16.  More about this topic.

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As soon as I heard of the invasion of our rights and territory, by the gang of marauders headed by John Brown, I deemed it my duty as well as privilege to tender the services of the officers and cadets to the governor, for any duty to which he might think proper to assign them. Accordingly, I was ordered by his Excellency Governor Wise to proceed to Charles Town with an artillery detachment of 80 cadets, serving with howitzers. Taking with me on my personal staff, Major J. T. L. Preston, acting quartermaster, Major R. E. Colston, acting adjutant, Surgeon E. L. Graham and Commissary J. T. Gibbs, I detailed 64 cadets to served as infantry under the command of Major Wm. Gilham and 21 cadets with two howitzers, under the command of Major T. J. Jackson. Lieuts. J. McCausland, H. Otey, and S.Shipp accompanied the infantry detachment, and Lieut. D. Trueheart the artillery detachment. The command reached Charles Town on the 26th of November, and remained on duty there until they were relieved on the 6th December. In pursuance of orders received from the governor, the command returned to Lexington, by the way of Richmond, and I was afforded the privilege of presenting them to the governor, in the presence of the general assembly.

It gives me great pleasure to report, that the novel duty thus assigned to the corps of cadets, although at times involving much exposure and hardship, was discharged with an alacrity and fidelity which reflected the highest credit upon them, and won from all observers the plaudits of approval. I am pleased to add that my command returned to their regular duty on the 10th December without the slightest accident, or without a single case of serious sickness.

It has afforded me much gratification to know that the service thus discharged on the part of the institution was in perfect harmony with the wishes of the parents and friends of those who accompanied the detachment. One widowed mother, who had three sons under my command, thus wrote to them: "My dear boys--- only think of your being in camp, preparing for war! -- and civil war too! And yet I would not have you back, even if I could. I would not have one of my sons to be recreant to their state in this her hour of trial." Such is the spirit of the mothers of Virginia.