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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.