William H. McDowell, the "Ghost Cadet"
Letter from Rebecca McDowell regarding her son's VMI application.

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The following letter was addressed to Francis H. Smith, the Superintendent (President) of VMI. The cousin she refers to is Mary Anna Jackson, the widow of General Stonewall Jackson 

June 1st, 1863
Col. Smith

I write for information concerning the time when the exercises at Lexington commence; as you promised Mrs. Jackson last winter that you would take him in July but did not state what time in July. Please let me know the time, the regulations, and terms.

I might obtain the necessary information from my cousin but her grief is too recent, too great, & sacred to obtrude upon with my concerns. Virginia had reason to be proud of & thankful for such a chieftain as Jackson. A great & good man, a pure & unselfish patriot, and it is a pleasure to us to think that we can do something by kind offices & soothing attentions, to cheer his widow on her lonely way. We all mourn him, through the length & breadth of this Confederacy.

You will find our child careless & thoughtless, but high principled, & too firm to be led astray. I hope his conduct & deportment may be unexceptionable as it has been hitherto. And let me beg of you to take an interest in him. I can scarce hope to have him with me much more after he goes to you--as when he leaves you twill be to enter the army. He has been a good obedient child to me and I would feel relieved to know that far from home and among strangers he has found one friend and protector.

Please direct you letter to Mrs. R.R. McDowell, Mt. Mourne, P.O. Iredell Cty, N.C.

Very respectfully, R.R. McDowell