The Civil War In The Shenandoah Valley, The Lees Of Virginia and Appalachian Origins
Virginia Commonwealth University
March 11 - 16, 2007
Natural Bridge, Virginia
This Elderhostel was somewhat disappointing in that we spent
almost of the first three days sitting listening to lectures
about the Lee's and the origins of the Appalachians. Some
what interesting information but it was hard to keep from dosing
off on occasion. The speakers were not very inspiring.
We had the traditional visit to the Natural Bridge on
Tuesday Afternoon. Since I did that field trip last week I
did not venture down the path to Cedar Creek. Instead
I used the free time to visit Lexington and the
Virginia Military Institute campus.
The entrance to the VMI campus. The institute is a part of the
Virginia State higher education system and was founded in 1839.
It offers a four year degree within the framework of
military discipline that emphasizes the qualities
of honor, integrity and responsibility.
My first stop was at the General George C. Marshall
Museum on campus. It was a very interesting museum that
documented the outstanding contributions of General Marshall.
The most interesting exhibit was a large map that
displayed the events of World War II. General was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize for his development of the Marshall Plan after World War II.
The statue of General George C. Marshall
overlooking the VMI parade ground.
The house where General Marshall and is future wife were married.
It is now the Institute's admissions office.
The statue of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in front of the
student residence hall. Jackson was one of the south's leading
generals in the civil war. He was a teacher at VMI at the
out break of the civil war.
The VMI chapel. There is a very good museum with displays about
VMI students and graduates on the second level of the chapel.
There was a display of the seven Medals of Honor that were
awarded to VMI graduates over the years.
It was a warm and sunny spring day in Lexington and
some of the VMI cadets were out for a run. The run
through downtown Lexington involve
lots of yelling and traffic disruption.
On our last full day of our Elderhostel we finally got
out of the meeting room and to have a field trip up
to New Market where we viewed several battle sites.
On Wednesday morning, we had two sessions
with Major Keith Gibson of VMI that set the stage for our field trip.
He presented the topic, "Civil War in the Valley."
He was an outstanding presenter.
Our day long field trip started at Washington and Lee University
where we visited the Lee Chapel & Museum. General Lee is
buried in the family crypt in the basement of the Chapel.
There is a stunning recumbent statue of the late general and
college president in the front of the chapel. There were
portraits of George Washington and Robert E. Lee hung in the Chapel.
The spot where the bones of "Traveler" General Lee's
horse were buried. It is next to the Lee Chapel.
Our next stop was at New Market, Virginia the site of
the Virginia Military Institute, Hall of Valor. There was a super
Civil War Museum on the site where 257 VMI Cadets made
the difference between Victory and Defeat. During the battle, fifty-seven
Cadets were wounded and ten would die. This battle of
May 15, 1864 blunted General Grant's Federal foray up the
Shenandoah Valley. The battle occurred on the Bushong Farm
and many Cadets and soldiers lost their shoes in the mud of the
battlefield. Today the area is know as the "Field of Lost Shoes ."
A beautiful stained glass mural celebrating the battle
and the Cadets who died that day.
One of several well done diorama in the museum.
The Bushong farm house which was built in 1825, where the battle took place.
The Bushong family took refuge in the basement during the battle,
the house became a hospital for a week after the battle.
We had other stops at Port Republic and Cross Keys
battlefields on our return trip to Natural Bridge.
This was the end of the Elderhostel program for me, as I was
driving to Tuscaloosa, Alabama the next morning to visit my grandchildren
and their parents. The program was just average except for the last day
and a half when we finally got into the study of the
Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley.