VMI Cadets at the Execution of John Brown
About the Documents: These letters were written by VMI Superintendent Francis H. Smith to Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise.
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Va. Mil. Institute. Nov. 19th 1859
His Excellency, H. A. Wise
The Adjutant General has shown me your communication to him dated Nov. 17th with reference to the propriety & expediency of ordering a detachment of the Corps of Cadets to be present at the execution of Brown & the others. When I originally tendered to your excellency the services of the Corps of Cadets for any duty which their military education might qualify them in the emergency now pressing upon the state, it was from the conviction that in all the essential elements of military defense they were better prepared than any other portion of the military of the state. More than this, I believe that the sentiment of any parent would respond to this patriotic duty on behalf of the sons, in giving protection to their own homes & firesides from the wicked assaults of incendiary & midnight marauders. My opinion in the prospect of their services being required now is unchanged. I can readily select 80 able bodied & well disciplined cadets acquainted with the Artillery drill, who will be ready to obey your excellency's order for the duty now claiming their service & I tender you my own services & those of Maj.. Gilham & any other officer for duty in connection. Thanking you for this confidence that [is] placed in the this Institution.
Va. Mil. Institute. Nov. 22d 1859
His excellency, Henry A. Wise
Charles Town, Va.
In obedience to the instructions conveyed to me by your telegraphic dispatch, I have kept a detachment of the Corps of Cadets, 80 in number, with a battery of Howitzers, ready for service at a moments call, and I beg leave to state that the command is provided with all the appliances for taking care of themselves upon the field of duty now claiming their services.
The Commissary has his cooks & cooking implements in order & we are thus in a state of preparation much more complete than that attends an ordinary militia command. In addition it gives me pleasure to state that Messrs. Harman & Co. have placed their stages & entire stock at Lexington & Staunton at my command & they will transport my detachment at a moment's call, free of charge. I mention it specially to you, as showing the patriotic spirit that actuates them. These facilities will enable me to reach Winchester in 20 hours after notice & you may therefore rely upon dispatch in our movements as soon as ordered. I am at your service for duty in advance of the Corps, should it be required.