The obvious cause of Hunter's failure was that he did not reach Lynchburg on the 16th, the day upon which, according to Averell's plan, he was due. Had he reached his destination on the 16th he could have occupied the town without opposition. General Breckinridge was there, an invalid, and his troops were there in small numbers, much wearied, and they, with a few Silver Gray home guards, and the boys from the Institute, constituted the sole garrison opposing his army of twenty-five thousand men. Why he did not come up is accounted for upon two grounds. The first of which was the unnecessary delay at Lexington. He says in his report, after giving the detail of his performance there, ‘I delayed one day in Lexington’ (70 War of Rebellion, 97). Colonel Hayes says two days. (Id., 122.) Had he marched without delay he would have been in Lynchburg before Early or any part of his troops left Charlottesville, and the town would have surrendered without firing a gun. He delayed at Lexington that he might vent his personal ill — will upon the State of Virginia. He says in his report that he ordered the Virginia Military Institute, a college for the education of youth, to be burned, and that he also ordered the burning of the residence of Hon. John Letcher, formerly Governor of Virginia, alleging as his reason for this latter act of barbarity that the Governor had urged the people to rise in arms to repel the invasion. In burning both places he gave no time for anything to be saved. The family of Governor Letcher barely escaped with the clothes upon their persons, and the torch was applied to the Institute without the opportunity to save its library, its philosophical apparatus, its furniture or its archives. All alike were consumed to appease his vindictive spite. The statue of the Father of his Country, belonging to the Institute, was stolen and sent to be erected upon the grounds at West Point. （Id., 640.) It was returned after the war. General Early in his memoirs says:
The scenes on Hunter's route to Lynchburg were truly heartrending; houses had been burned, and helpless women and children left without shelter. The country had been stripped of provisions and many families left without a morsel to eat. Furniture and bedding had been cut to pieces, and old men and women and children robbed of all the clothing they had except that on their backs. Ladies' trunks had been rifled and their dresses torn to pieces in mere wontonness; even the negro girls had lost their little finery.