Died on the Field of Honor: Gravestones of the New Market VMI Cadets
Of the 257 cadets from Virginia Military Institute who fought in the Battle of New Market, five were killed and five more died later of their wounds. Almost 50 cadets were wounded because of the battle. Their legacy of service and sacrifice has inspired each successive generation of cadets. Since 1866, a commemorative ceremony has been held at VMI each year on May 15, the anniversary of the battle. The Corps of Cadets assembles on the Parade Ground, and announces the ten fallen New Market Cadets. With each name, a cadet responds, “Died on the Field of Honor, Sir.”
The tradition of the roll of honor dates to the French army of Napoleon I, who felt his troops would be inspired by the act of commemorating their fallen comrades. For VMI, the tradition reinforces the ties between cadets of today and their predecessors who fought at New Market.
Once this Roll of Honor is reported to the Commandant, a wreath is laid at each cadet grave beneath a statue entitled Virginia Mourning Her Dead. The statue was created by Moses Ezekiel, a world-renowned sculptor who fought in the battle as a cadet in Company C.
In 2005, the original gravestones of the six cadets interred at VMI were replaced with new markers, and memorial markers were added for the four cadets buried elsewhere. The original six gravestones were transferred to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in 2006 and serve today as cenotaphs.