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    Stonewall Jackson signs one of his final V.M.I. diplomas, dated July 4, 1860

    Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson V.M.I. Diploma Signed "T. J. Jackson Prof Nat & Exp. Phil. &c." with a Société de Cadets Certificate. The diploma is one vellum partly-printed page, 15.75" x 19.5", "Given at Lexington in the State of Virginia," July 4, 1860.

    During the anxious year of 1860, Virginia Military Institute issued this diploma to James R. Kent of Pulaski County. It contains the signatures of eight faculty members and nine members of the Board of Directors. The faculty signatures include, in addition to Jackson, "Francis H. Smith Am. Supt & Paymaster," the superintendent of the institute and later, a Confederate colonel. "Thomas H. Williamson, Prof Engineering &c," who was known as the most skilled engineer in Virginia. "S[tapleton]. Crutchfield, Prof Math" was appointed by Jackson as his chief of artillery during the Civil War. He was wounded in the same battle and on the same day that Jackson was fatally wounded. "John T. L. Preston A. M. Prof. Languages &c" was known by the cadets as "Old Bald." The grandson of Edmund Randolph, Preston became one of Jackson's dearest friends. "William Gilham A. M. Prof . . . [illegible] &c &c Inst. . . . [illegible]" was the professor of sciences and the commandant of cadets. Earlier on December 2, 1859, Gilham and Jackson had led a contingent of V.M.I. cadets to the hanging of John Brown. "R[aleigh]. E. Colston, Prof of French, Mil. History &c" was French-born and known to the cadets as "Old Parlez." He served as a Confederate brigadier general during the war. "R. L. Madison MD. Prof Natural History &c." later enlisted in the Confederate army as a surgeon.

    The Board of Directors signatures include "Philip S. Geo. Cocke Prest.[President]," who commanded a Virginia regiment at the first Battle of Manassas. After the battle he returned home and committed suicide. "William McLaughlin" was a commissioner of Lexington slave sales. "John Echols" was an 1843 graduate of V.M.I. He was a lawyer and, during the Civil War, a Confederate brigadier general.
    Other members signatures include "Jos. Mayoff[?]"; "J. C. Mon[?]"; "William H. Richardson"; "A Russell Weem"; "T. S. Haywood"; and "John Letcher," the governor of Virginia.

    Following his celebrated service during the Mexican War, Thomas Jonathan Jackson (1824-1863) began teaching at the Virginia Military Institute in the small town of Lexington during the spring of 1851. As professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Instructor of Artillery, the taciturn Jackson emphasized mobility, efficiency, and discipline. While at V.M.I., Jackson married, became a widower, married again, lost two children, bought his first house, and joined the Confederacy. At the graduation ceremony on July 4, 1860, he was ill with dyspepsia. In pain, he and his wife, Anna, left Lexington the next day for a spa in Vermont that offered hydrotherapy.

    Graduate James Randall Kent went on to enlist in the Confederate Army as a second lieutenant on May 27, 1861. He was commissioned into the Virginia 24th Infantry, but, unfortunately, died three months later of typhoid fever. His diploma contains no folds.

    Also included is a Société de Cadets Certificate partially printed in French on one vellum page, 15" x 19.5", July 4, 1860. The document is signed by the society's president G. D. Parker and secretary Henry W. Hunter. The certificate, or diploma, confers James R. Kent with membership in the society. The original light-blue silk riband is intact. No folds. Accompanied by the original tin storage cylinder.

    A beautiful and exceedingly rare document, bearing the signature of one of the most iconic figures of the American Civil War.


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    June, 2011
    25th Saturday
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