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John B. Strange letter

Identifier: MS-0153
Strange's letter to his sister Anne M. Strange was written just a few months after the Institute's opening day, and is one of the oldest personal cadet letters still in existence. Strange mentions several aspects of cadet life that were common during the pre-Civil War era, including that final examinations were given orally rather than as written tests, presided over by faculty and the VMI Board of Visitors and open to the public; summer furlough was not automatic, and many cadets stayed at the Institute throughout the year, going into a summer encampment on the Parade Ground from late June until the beginning of the next academic session; and obtaining extra clothing and other goods from home was a serious matter to most cadets.


  • 1840 June 23


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1 items

Biographical / Historical

John Bowie Strange was born in 1823 in Fluvanna County, Virginia. He is the son of Gideon Alloway Strange and Harriet J. Magruder. When VMI opened its doors to cadets on November 11, 1839, Strange was one of the small group who enrolled that first day. He had the additional distinction of serving as the first cadet sentinel assigned to guard duty, replacing the militia guard that had previously been charged with guarding the stores held in the Lexington Arsenal. Following his graduation on July 4, 1842, he pursued a career in education, serving as a teacher, as Principal of Norfolk (VA) Academy, and as Superintendent of the Albemarle (VA) Military Academy. Strange married Agnes Gaines in the early 1850's and the couple had four children: Agnes, Henry (VMI Class of 1873), Willoughby, and James (died in infancy). During the Civil War, Strange served as Colonel of the 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment. He was killed at the Battle of South Mountain (Maryland) on September 14, 1862 and is buried at Maplewood Cemetery, Charlottesville, VA.

Physical Location

Manuscripts Stacks

Repository Details

Part of the Virginia Military Institute Archives Repository

VMI Archives
Preston Library
Lexington VA 24450