On November 11, 1839, the
Virginia Military Institute
was founded on the site of the Lexington state arsenal, and the first cadets relieved the
enlisted personnel on duty. Under Major Francis H. Smith, superintendent, and Colonel Claudius Crozet, president of the Board of Visitors, the corps was imbued with the discipline and the
spirit for which it is famous. The first cadet was Pvt. John Strange.The Class of 1842 graduated 16 cadets to the ranks of the first alumni. Living
conditions were poor, and hardship was the keynote of cadet existence until, in 1850, the
cornerstone of the new barracks was laid. In 1851 "Stonewall" Jackson became a member of the faculty and Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy.
Under Major Jackson and Major William Gilham, VMI infantry and
artillery units were present at the execution by hanging of John Brown at Charles Town, Virginia (now West
Virginia) in 1859.VMI began admitting women in the fall of 1997,
after a court order requiring it to do so. Unlike The Citadel, however, the Institute requires that female cadets adhere to the same strict physical
regimen as male cadets.