ALEXANDRIA, Jan. 21, 1860.
DEAR DOCTOR: . . . I endorse you, herewith, a draft of an act for making the Seminary a Military Academy by law, and I hope the reflections of your mind will bring you to the conclusion to support it. Look at the immense sum, $1,500,000, expended by the state in educational efforts; and where are the results? Not a vestige of them remains for any useful purpose.
Look at the youth of the state, and the low grade of education pervading it. Look at the lethargy of the parents in regard to the education of their sons, and the reluctance of the sons to submit to control or guidance either at home or at school. The superintendent told me that already a very insubordinate . . . disappointment is manifested by several of the boys. The Academic Board has no power to punish in case of any difficulty; a meeting of the Board of Supervisors can hardly be obtained before next spring. The state must lend the whole aid of its power and influence to enable the institution to exercise a beneficial control. This can only be done by a military government – this makes the young men themselves a part of the power for governing themselves that soon becomes attractive and works better than any other system of college government. But the boys themselves will be very quick to perceive the difference between a system established by a gentleman and one established by a legislature authorizing with the little pomp and circumstance of military parade in music, colors, etc. The people of the state will be brought to take an interest in it that they never will take in any other kind of school or college. This I witnessed at Lexington, Va., in July, 1857, when six hundred people, come to witness the “commencement” of the Virginia Military Institute, dined at one of the hotels of the place.
SOURCE: Walter L. Fleming, General W.T. Sherman as College President, p. 133-4