Indoors at VMI, There’s Little Sorrel and George Marshall’s Important Speech

While the Gothic Revival architecture may be the most popular exterior attraction at Virginia Military Institute, there are plenty of other interesting discoveries inside museums on the Post.

Little Sorrell, VMI Museum

After lunch on the terrace of Moody Hall, home to the VMI Alumni Association, our next stop was calling on Little Sorrel. Stonewall Jackson’s famous horse is in residence at the VMI Museum, where you can also see examples of a cadet’s Barracks room and uniform, a lock of Stonewall Jackson’s hair and a chronological collection of VMI class rings (each class designs its own unique ring, becoming larger and more elaborate each year). The museum is housed in Jackson Memorial Hall, another Bertram Goodhue architectural creation. In fact, Goodhue even designed the hardware for the lock on the front door of the building, which includes the Seal of Virginia and the state’s motto, “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Thus Always to Tyrants).

"Sic Semper Tyrannis" on the front door of Jackson Memorial Hall, Virginia Military Institute

Next to Jackson Memorial Hall are the Memorial Gardens. Here, we had punch and cookies, but graduating cadets convene in the space to participate in military commissioning ceremonies. The gardens were designed by Furriccio Vitale, a landscape architect who also created Longwood Gardens and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. A wall on one side of the gardens features over 125 bronze plaques commemorating VMI cadets and alumni who were killed in service to our country.

At the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library, across from the VMI Parade Ground, a knowledgeable Virginia gentleman sporting my favorite “George and Bob” Washington and Lee tie shared highlights of Marshall’s life and accomplishments with us, including the Nobel Peace Prize that Marshall received in 1953.  Colonel Tom Davis, professor emeritus of history at VMI, gave an engaging lecture about Marshall’s years as a VMI cadet and his relationship to the Institute in later years.

George Marshall's Nobel Peace Prize, George C. Marshall Museum

After describing how the George C. Marshall Foundation preserves Marshall’s legacy, Paul Barron, the director of the Marshall Foundation’s library and archives, pulled out some special collections, including Marshall’s original signed typescript of the remarks he made at Harvard University in June 1947 about the need to help Europe recover after World War II. All three of these men’s enthusiasm for their subject made military history much more interesting than usual! Museum staff had even compiled a special slide presentation for Garden Week tourists showing photographs of Marshall gardening at his home and the rose named for his second wife, Katherine.

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