Founded in 1816 at the Lexington Arsenal by attorney John T.L. Preston and West Point graduate Francis H. Smith, Virginia Military Institute was established to offer education and training to the young, and often unruly, soldiers guarding the arsenal. The original Gothic Revival Barracks, mess hall, and faculty housing were built in in 1851, the same year that Stonewall Jackson joined the institute as professor of natural philosophy and artillery tactics. VMI Cadets were called up for active service 15 times during the Civil War. Ten cadets lost their lives at New Market, where even today entering cadets still gather to take the Oath of Cadetship. In June of 1864, Union Gen. David Hunter burned the VMI Barracks in retaliation for the cadets' participation in that battle.

After the war, the VMI Barracks - a National Historic Landmark - were restored and later Jackson Memorial Hall, home of the VMI Museum, was built. Since then VMI has expanded, yet the distinctive and elegant modern gothic buildings reflect the institute's history, tradition and original design.

VMI Museum

VMI is as rich in architecture as it is in history as can be seen in the windows of Jackson Memorial Hall.

For nearly 200 years, VMI has prepared students for leadership positions in both military and civilian life. Distinguished alumni and faculty include Col. John Mercer Brook, who designed the armor plating of the CSS Virginia that fought during the Battle of the Ironclads in Hampton Roads. Prior to leading the Allied Invasion of Normandy, George S. Patton Jr. followed family tradition and attended VMI. Before exploring the South Pole, VMI graduate Richard E. Byrd enjoyed spelunking - exploring the Shenandoah Valley caves around VMI. George C. Marshall graduated at the top of his class at VMI before winning the Nobel Peace Prize for putting Europe back together again after World War II. In the late 1960s African American students gained admission to VMI, and women were admitted beginning in 1997.

VMI Museum houses 13,000 artifacts including the spectacular Henry M. Stewart, Jr. Firearms Collection - one of the most impressive antique firearms collections in America. A VMI graduate (class of 1935), Steward was a civil engineer and entrepreneur. His extensive collection spans two centuries and is a telling of both military and social history as well as advancements in technology.

The VMI Museum and gift shop are open daily, and guided tours of the campus are offered by the cadets.

Pictured at the very top: The inscription on Stonewall Jackson's statue reads, "The Virginia Military Institute will be heard from to-day." These words were spoken by Jackson hours before his mortal wounding at Chancellorsville to his former VMI students who had become his officers. The cadet battery is painted red today as it was when it was first installed at VMI in 1848.