The VMI Cadets at the Battle of New Market - May 15, 1864
Throughout that Sunday, May 15, 1864, the Federal and Confederate armies fought over possession of Jacob Bushong's orchard and wheat field near the town of New Market, Virginia.
Suffering the combined effect of the Union muskets and artillery's canister rounds, the center of the rebel line, companies from 51st, 30th and 62nd Virginia regiments evaporated. Confederate General Breckinridge quickly realized his options: repair the gap in his line or fall back. With the VMI cadets as his only available reserve, he hesitated. "Put the boys in," he commanded at last, "And may God forgive me for the order."
The cadets moved forward in characteristic parade ground precision, suffering their first casualties as they descended the slope leading towards Bushong's Farm. The fire intensified around the outbuildings and the mud pulled at their boots. Struggling forward through the churned up barnyard, they crossed the white farm fences, reaching the rail fence on the north edge of the orchard. Letting loose a volley, the fresh, excited cadets filled the gap in the faltering Confederate line.
Once again the Confederate forces moved forward. Sigel attempted to organize a counterattack but unsupported, this force collapsed and retreated to the north followed closely by the deterioration of the entire Union line. The Confederates now rushed into the wheat field and through the position just moments before defended by Union cannoniers.
The cadets briefly engaged the few remaining Federals of Von Klieser's Battery still attempting to defend their cannon. Six foot two inch Oliver Evans jumped up on the captured cannon, madly waving the VMI flag as the cadets cheered wildly.
"Well done, Virginians," was Breckinridge's praise, delivered on the battlefield evermore associated with the cadets of VMI.