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Capture of Lexington.

On the approach of the Yankees to Lexington General McCausland had the bridge which spans Norih river burned in order to cause delay. While the Yankees were making pontoons, a section of their artillery amused themselves by shelling the Virginia Military Institute, Washington College, and other portions of the town. The residence of the Misses Baxter, Professor John L. Campbell, and others were struck, and two shells pierced the walls of the county jail, but, fortunately, there was no loss of life. On the 13th the enemy entered Lexington, and their whole force camped immediately around the [186] town. The house occupied by the Superintendent, General F. H. Smith, of the Virginia Military Institute, was used as General Hunter's headquarters, while the Presbyterian parsonage was put to a similar purpose by General Averill.

It was sad to me to leave Lexington, the scene of my boyhood, and have it turned over to pillage and plunder. In its confines were the most hospitable and cultured people the sun ever shone on, and now I had to turn my back upon them when they were in despair. In this town was then, and is now, located the Virginia Military Institute, which had sent many gallant men to the armies of the Confederacy, and probably the greatest American soldier that ever trod its soil—Thomas J. Jackson. This school, ‘the West Point of the Confederacy,’ was an object of intense hatred, and to destroy it would be the acme of all good.

Hunter came with fire and sword, and most effectually did he accomplish his purpose. The barracks, mess-hall, officers' quarters. a library containing 10,000 volumes, and all the appartus and instruments of the various departments of the school were quickly reduced to ashes. From providential causes the home of Superintendent Smith escaped destruction, and was the only building left standing upon the grounds. The statue of General Washington, which stood in front of the institute, erected by resolution of the General Assembly, was taken down and hauled away. Some ancient cannons, of no use whatever, except as ornaments, taken from a stranded French man-of-war more than one hundred years ago, were also hauled away. The statue and cannons were recovered after the war, and to-day stand where they formerly stood.

For some reason the enemy did not burn Washington College. At the first alarm of war a company had been raised here, largely from among the students of the college, and known as the Liberty Hall volunteers, the germ of the college having been old Liberty Hall Academy. This company was a part of the Stonewall brigade. The enemy was content with destroying the chemical apparatus of the institution and a number of valuable books, principally scientific works, but which would be of little value now, except as relics, as science has left them in the rear. The Federals used the lecture-rooms of the college as stables for their horses and in many ways defaced the antiquated buildings. Through the efforts of Hon. John Randolph Tucker, after the war a claim for $17,000 damages was allowed and paid. The home of Virginia's war Governor, John Letcher, was burned to the ground, the family not being allowed to [187] take anything out of the building, and barely escaping with their lives. This ended the burning in Lexington.


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