May 18, 2018

Marshall Day

Each May 15, the Virginia Military Institute corps of cadets assembles to pay tribute to the ten cadets who were killed in the Civil War Battle of New Market, in 1864. On New Market Day in 1951, VMI also celebrated the fifty-year career of their most accomplished graduate, George C. Marshall, Class of 1901. The event was designated “Marshall Day” and a special program was printed for the occasion. That morning Marshall was awarded the Virginia Distinguished Service Medal and at 11:15am was present for the New Market Day ceremonial roll call, in which the names of the ten cadets were read aloud one by one.

Looking back, Marshall described the impact the roll call had on him as a VMI cadet in Forrest Pogue’s book George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences:

I was much impressed by the May 15 roll call when some designated member of the first class would step forward and salute and say “died on the field of honor” as the name of that man was called, if he belonged to that company which you were in. There were two, I think, in my company. I think that was probably more impressive in my day than it is now, because the little cadet cemetery was in a wooded dell, I guess you would call it, sort of a little swale in what is now part of the level parade ground. Mrs. Stonewall Jackson was one of the spectators when we honored the graves of the men who fell at New Market.

At 12:15 VMI held a ceremony dedicating the George Catlett Marshall Arch, an entranceway into a new section of the barracks completed in 1949. Marshall Arch joined two arches named after Generals George Washington and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The program reverently states: “Through the George Catlett Marshall Arch shall march the cadets of today and the future.”

Marshall made light of the event later when asked by Pogue if he was ever “made to feel that you were a Yankee at VMI”:

Yes, quite a bit. I was “hazed” on my accent up to the day of my graduation. I remember that when I was called on to make a speech at my class dinner honoring the occasion of naming this arch for me, my principal twist that I gave to it was while they were these southern fellows largely, and while they pretty much kept the pressure on me on account of my northern accent and all, I happened to be the one and only one there who had an arch named for him down at the VMI.