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New Market Ceremony to Honor 150th Anniversary

 

LEXINGTON, Va., May 6, 2014 -- On May 15, VMI will commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of New Market with the traditional ceremony and parade -- but this year, these activities will hold special significance as 2014 marks 150 years since the New Market cadets, many still in their teens, charged across a farm field and helped to secure a key victory for Confederate Gen. John C. Breckinridge.

The New Market parade will include the usual placement of floral tributes at the statue Virginia Mourning Her Dead and at the graves of the six New Market cadets who are buried beneath the statue. In addition, there will be the traditional calling out of the names of the 10 cadets who died either during the battle or of their wounds afterward, with the same response each time from cadets in the Corps formed up on the Parade Ground: “Died on the field of honor, sir.”

Cadet Weston Hitchcock ’14, 1st Class president, noted the uniqueness of the New Market parade. “It’s the only parade during the year that’s marched on Letcher Avenue, and where an eyes right is given to the New Market cadets,” he said. “We’re saluting their sacrifice, not only those who died on the field of honor but also those whose names are inscribed on Virginia Mourning Her Dead. It’s a respect toward them and what they did.”

During this year’s New Market ceremony, the VMI Board of Visitors will bestow its highest honor, the New Market Medal, on Bruce C. Gottwald ’54. Gottwald and his family have been strong supporters of the Institute for many decades. The medal, which will be given for only the 14th time since its inception in 1962, recognizes individuals whose lives have displayed the virtues shown by the 1864 New Market cadets: duty, honor, devotion, and leadership.

Taking review of the New Market parade for the last time will be Col. Tom Trumps ’79, commandant. Trumps will step down from that post this summer, after eight years in the commandant’s position.

“[The New Market parade] is the one parade … that the cadets do get excited about,” said Trumps. “They do understand the significance of it.”

Trumps explained that the New Market parade is the only parade at VMI in which the commandant, and not the superintendent, reviews the Corps. It’s done that way, he said, because it was the commandant, Scott Shipp, who led the cadets to New Market, rather than the superintendent, Francis H. Smith, because Smith was ill.

“It’s significant,” said Trumps of his last New Market parade. “It’s a neat ceremony, and it’ll be my last one. Next to Scott Shipp, I’ll be the longest-serving commandant. ... There’s a little connection there.”

Also helping to build a connection between the Corps of 1864 and the Corps of today is Cadet Alyssa Ford ’14. Ford, who serves as S-5 captain in charge of public relations, is helping to compile items for a time capsule, to be buried in November when VMI observes the 175th anniversary of its founding.

Ford began her work on the capsule by deciding to honor the 10 cadets who died either on the battlefield at New Market or of their wounds afterward. To do so, she contacted 10 entities on post, including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th classes, along with the dean’s office, the athletic department, and others, and asked them to donate an item that would have been significant to a particular New Market cadet.

After doing some research, Ford was able to match up cadets and donors fairly easily. Samuel F. Atwill was a corporal, she explained, so he’s being sponsored by the 3rd Class, because corporal is a rank that today can only be held by a 3rd Class cadet.

Likewise, the 1st Class is donating a belt buckle in memory of Joseph C. Wheelwright, a private and one of the six New Market cadets buried beneath Virginia Mourning Her Dead in front of Nichols Engineering Hall.

“It’s unique because only 1st Classmen can wear this particular belt buckle,” said Hitchcock.

For Hitchcock and his Brother Rats, the 1864 cadets’ bravery and sacrifice at New Market has been a constant presence throughout their years at VMI.

“Our breakout was on the New Market battlefield,” Hitchcock explained. “Our rats’ breakout this year was basically a re-enactment of the Battle of New Market. It’s an element of the class. It’s represented on our rings. … New Market has been something important to the class.”

-- Mary Price

 -VMI-