Statue of "Virginia Mourning Her Dead"

Item

Legacies Classification
Memorial Artwork
Memorial Type
Sculptural Memorial
Memorial Context
Memorialized Subject
This sculpture commemorates members of the Corps of Cadets who died at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864 in service of the Confederacy.
Title
Statue of "Virginia Mourning Her Dead"
Background and Context
Virginia Mourning Her Dead is a statue commemorating the VMI cadets who fought and for the Confederacy at the Battle of New Market on May 15th, 1864. Its internationally prominent sculptor, Moses Ezekiel, was a VMI alumni who fought at New Market, where ten cadets were killed or mortally wounded. Casualties included Ezekiel’s roommate, Thomas Jefferson (great-grandnephew of President Thomas Jefferson). Moses found his roommate mortally wounded in the aftermath of the battle and tended to him for three days before the seventeen-year-old Jefferson died in his Ezekiel’s arms. The charge by the Corps of Cadets was later romanticized and became a widely celebrated event among proponents of the Lost Cause.

The monument was dedicated on June 23rd, 1903, at a reunion for the surviving cadets who fought in the battle. Speakers alluded to the Lost Cause and exhorted cadets to emulate the New Market cadets’ dedication to the Confederacy. The statue today stands prominently outside of the Nichols Engineering Building adjacent to VMI Parade Ground. The graves of the cadets killed at New Market lie adjacent to the statue, their bodies having been reinterred after the Civil War. The site features prominently in annual New Market Day and Memorial Day ceremonies, which have traditionally included the laying of a wreath to honor VMI’s Confederate dead.

The statue attracted national attention in 2020-21, amidst controversies over the racial climate at VMI and the sustained movement to remove Confederate statues in Virginia and the nation. In May 2021, the VMI Board of Visitors voted to retain Virginia Mourning Her Dead, promising to re-contextualize the statue “to commemorate all VMI cadets who have died in service.”
Physical Description
The bronze statue is set on top of a base that encompasses the names of every cadet who fought in the Battle of New Market in order by their company. The top of the sculpture depicts Lady Virginia slumped over on top of a cannon with a spear next to her. She appears in mourning over the deaths of the cadets during and after the battle.
Memorial Inscription
The names of all cadets who fought at New Market with the Corps of Cadets are inscribed on the base of the sculpture organized by companies.
Creator/Participating Person(s)
Date created, installed or dedicated
23 June 1903
Location: Institution, City, State

Position: 322 (7 views)