On the night of the 10th May a dispatch was received from Major General J.C. Breckinridge, by special courier, calling upon me for cooperation on the part of the corps of cadets, in his effort to repel the advance of General Sigel. Orders were immediately given to Lieutenant Colonel S. Ship, commandant of cadets, to proceed without delay, with a battalion of infantry of four companies, and a section of artillery, and to report to General Breckinridge at Staunton. Having previously communicated to General Breckinridge the letter of General R.E. Lee, addressed to the adjutant general of Virginia, and the instructions of the governor, as conveyed in general orders of date September 5, 1863, I signified to him my readiness to give to him such support as my authority under these instructions would warrant. The corps of cadets was accordingly placed at the disposal of General Breckinridge, subject to the limitations thus expressed. As soon as the cadets reached Staunton, the command of General Breckinridge immediately moved down the Valley to meet the enemy. A sanguinary battle took place on the 15th May, near New Market, resulting in a signal victory by the confederate forces, the capture of a battery of artillery, many small arms, horses and prisoners. The enemy were pursued to Mount Jackson, where the further pursuit was arrested by their burning the bridge behind them.
In this sanguinary battle the cadets were engaged; and the casualties reported (six killed and forty-two wounded) show the prominent part borne by them in this struggle. I have been informed by Gen. Breckinridge that it was not his intention to put the cadets into the battle, unless absolutely required. He considered the necessity for using them urgent; and had they not been freely used, the result of the battle, in his judgment, might have been different. He assured me that the officers and cadets had borne themselves with conspicuous gallantry; and it was a source of great satisfaction to him to bear testimony to their patient endurance of severe hardships, under a forced march in a storm of rain, and the fine discipline exhibited by them through the whole expedition.
The report of Lieut. Col. Ship will present in detail the events of this memorable battle with the names of those who participated in it, with the list of killed and wounded.
Having been prevented by illness from accompanying the cadets on this expedition, Col. Gilham was requested to go as acting superintendent, that he might provide for the general wants and comfort of the cadets, and discharge such duties as would properly devolve upon the superintendent. He was enabled to provide for the wounded, and to have proper arrangements made for the burial of the killed.
Having joined the Corps in Staunton, I there received the orders of the adjutant general directing me to move the cadets to Richmond to aid in the defense of the capital. Having reported to the governor and secretary of war, in obedience to orders, the cadets were assigned to the command of Maj. Gen. Ransom, and were encamped about two miles from the city limits.