VMI has very high standards, and it obviously produces some seriously impressive graduates... but it is high on the list of a lot of historians for it's links to the 1860s.
I have already talked some about VMI's most noted teacher, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Stonewall is buried a very short walk from the campus. His close friend, General Lee, is buried very close by too, on the campus of Washington and Lee University.
The young men (some very young) of VMI are most noted for their participation at the Battle of New Market where 247 cadets showed up. Marching 80 miles from the college to be there, the student/soldiers were reluctantly put into the fight by Major General (and Kentuckian/former US VP) John Breckenridge. 47 of the VMI cadets were injured, and 10 killed. There is a very good movie that came out in 2014 about the cadets involved in the battle called, "Field of Lost Shoes."
We walked around the campus while we were in the area, and we took some time to visit the VMI Museum.
The museum is located in Jackson Memorial Hall, in the same building as the chapel, which is a bonus, because you want to see the chapel too.
The focal point of the chapel is the MASSIVELY huge and visually amazing New Market Battle Painting. The 1914 work by Benjamin Clinedinst is something to see, and it is especially something to see in person. This grand painting and stunning chapel are such a perfect compliment to each other. Either would be impressive without the other but they are so perfect together.
We took the elevator down to the actual museum. We saw a group of students come through, and another group who looked to be military pose with a Canadian flag. This is obviously a near religious experience for some.
In the main area of the museum as you walk in, you immediately notice a case devoted to Stonewall Jackson.
For any Jackson admirer, this is a Holy Grail type of display. Items directly linked to him, and his death are on display. I was very impressed to see a coat he wore when he was shot.
AND, one of the main attractions at the museum is Little Sorrel. Stonewall's favorite horse, Little Sorrel now is on display at the VMI Museum. The Horse actually passed away in 1886, and now, his hide is on display at the museum.
Elsewhere, there are many uniforms and other items related to the history of VMI and it's cadets. There is a very cool display showing class rings from each year. Displays on notable alumni are also there.
MANY of the cadets and soldiers that we saw the day we were on campus gravitated to the gun display. I'm not a gun person myself, but I understand the interest. I do like looking at weapons from the Civil War, but that's about it for me.
I did hear many of the young men excitedly telling their pals details about specific ones. I heard one brag of owning a similar model. This may have been the most popular area of the museum.
After exploring the museum, I did spend some money in the gift shop. They have a great, well stocked store with something for everyone. I got my usual items, AND found a 1999 issue of Blue and Gray magazine covering the Battle of New Market for the 1999 cover price of $3.95! Oh, and I had a nice chat with one of the very sweet ladies running the gift shop.
After that, we walked around campus some, and it was VERY common to hear a "hello and "how are you". There is a very sincere and gentlemanly vibe going on here.