A life-sized bronze statue of General Stonewall Jackson stands in front of the Old Barracks at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) along with four red cannons and the grave of Gen. Jackson’s beloved horse, Little Sorrel.
The Old Barracks, built in 1848, is the oldest surviving building on the campus of VMI. Considered a fine piece of early Gothic Revival architecture, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 for its architecture and association with the nation’s oldest state-supported military academy.
Thomas J. Jackson, better known as Stonewall Jackson, was on the faculty at VMI before the Civil War and at the time of his death. He taught natural philosophy, which is similar to physics today, and artillery tactics. Jackson was the one to special order the cannons, which were used to train the cadets. They are 300 pounds lighter than regular guns and painted red.
Jackson was riding Little Sorrel when he was shot by friendly fire and died a few days later. Little Sorrel lived with the general’s widow until she could no longer care for him; he was then sent to VMI to live. He grazed on the parade grounds for the next two years and was then relocated to the Confederate Soldiers’ Home in Richmond. Little Sorrel died in 1886 at 36 years old. His hide was mounted and can be seen in the VMI Museum. In 1997, his bones, which had been in museum storage, were cremated and buried at the foot of Stonewall Jackson’s statue.
Virginia Military Institute is located in Lexington, Virginia.
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Copyright 2020 Susan Rissi Tregoning
March 11th, 2020
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