May 10: Inspiring Orders, Books, and Travel Plans

“Methinks that even after thirty-three years I once more hear the gamecock voices of the sergeants detailing their artillery and ammunition squads, and ordering us to appear with canteens, haversacks, and blankets at four A.M. Still silence reigned. Then, as company after company broke ranks, the air was rent with wild cheering at the thought that our hour had come at last.”

That’s how John S. Wise remembered the moments after General Breckinridge’s orders arrived for the Corps of Cadets from Virginia Military Institute to join his gathering army at Staunton, Virginia. After long weeks of begging parents’ for permission to join the army, devising schemes for sneaking off, or trying to acquire enough demerits to get kicked out, the eager young men felt their chance had come. They had little idea of the realities they would face on the march and battlefield or how their lives would be changed five days later in the battle at New Market against a new invading army of Yankees.

And that’s the quote that came to mind when my mom texted me at work to say that the boxes of books had arrived. It was May 10! The 155th anniversary since the VMI cadets had been “called out.” Since my new book is about them and the Battle of New Market, it seems like a perfect historical coincidence…



I don’t get to go to war (for which I am very thankful), but I do get to head out on a book tour. If you’re in Virginia, here is my schedule during the next week. Come say hello and I’d love to personalize and sign a book for you.

  • May 15: Virginia Military Institute, booksigning at the museum store in Jackson Memorial Hall; witnessing the memorial ceremony
  • May 16: Powhatan County Civil War Roundtable
  • May 17: Booksigning at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War at New Market State Historical Park, 1pm to 3pm
  • May 18: Presentations and booksignings during the New Market battle reeneactment
  • May 19: Presentations and booksignings during the New Market battle reenactment

Call Out The Cadets is the 33rd book in the Emerging Civil War Series published by Savas Beatie and is now available for purchase. 

The books arrived. And I feel like cheering! It’s been a journey that’s taken me thousands of miles, sleepless hours, hours of editing, tracking down the little details, and lots of email correspondence, but I wouldn’t trade it. It’s the fourth time now that I’ve opened book boxes for the first time and it gets better each time. A new book that needs a new place on the shelf. A new story to be shared. A new book that – now that it’s in my hands – will still send me on a journey of learning, growth, and personal challenge.

That’s part of writing and authorship, and I’ll give it a hearty cheer…

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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11 Responses to May 10: Inspiring Orders, Books, and Travel Plans

  1. Rhea Cole says:

    Like Falstaff, I don’t believe in glory. In today’s world, conscripting children into armies is a war crime. By that time of the war, an engagement between 9,000 men was not a battle, New Market was just a big skirmish. That 220 something children could be considered a grand part of an engagement is a testament to the sad state of an army with more deserters than men in the ranks. The sacrifice of the cadets is not some great glorious romantic Robert Lewis Stevenso epic, it is sad & pathetic.

    • Sarah Kay Bierle says:

      Hi Rhea,
      I appreciate your thoughts and comment. New Market was not romantic, I agree.
      However, the cadets were at a military academy – they were a trained military force. Due to a variety of circumstances, Breckinridge did not have enough troops and summoned the Corps of Cadets to join him; their services had been voluntarily offered weeks earlier and he did not send for them until he felt he had not other choice. Breckinrdge intended to only use the cadets as reserve, but when the gap in his battle lines could not be filled he made a military decision to send a military trained force to fill the gap. It was not made rashly or with glee. He did not want the cadet to have to fight.
      One other fact to consider – the average age of the cadets was 17 (actually five days shy of 18, to be precise). The reality of the Civil War (and many other conflicts) is that young people are affected or are involved. The Cadets were not the only ones in their teens on New Market battlefield. There were young men in Union units and Confederate units also on that field.
      Perhaps this clarification helps. I do not wish to romanticize this battle or trivialize the casualties.
      There can be a perceived conflict of writing perspective and tone since many of the surviving cadets saw the battle as a glorious moment – especially as they remember it in later years. The “memory wars” and the immediate battle effects on the cadets are topics that I will be addressing here on the blog in the coming weeks.
      Sincerely,
      Sarah

      • Rhea Cole says:

        I certainly did not mean any reflection on your book, which I obviously haven’t read. The average Civil War soldier was almost ten years older than the 17 year old cadets. War is an adult business. Be that as it may, the ruh, rah, rah comment above is what I was commenting on. In Georgia, st about the same time, an attack by old men & children met a terrible fate at the hands of Sherman’s veterans. The victors were apaled when they advanced across the field littered with a slaughter of innocents. No rah, rah, rah for those boys.
        I am a decades long living history volunteer at Stones River National Battlefield, so am a Western War scholar. As I am sure you know, on an 8 1/2 by 11 map of the Western Theater, the entire operations of the AoP & AoNV is the size of a postage stamp. I mean no personal disrespect, but do we really need another book about a minor action that had no effect on the strategic situation or outcome of the war?
        I think that all of us who are fascinated by the Civil War need to stop naval gazing. Look at the question of the week on this site, how many ‘what would dead Stonewall have done’ are posted every year? Has anyone ever had a question about the Civil War era Indian war in North Dakota? Would dead Stonewall have kept his hair? No wonder interest in the Civil War is so limited.

    • DC says:

      Rah, Rah, Rah is the traditional Old Yell that all Cadets take part in cheering when the Corps is together surrounding the Sentinel boxes inside of barracks. It is an long standing endearment cheer shared by all “BR’s” (Brother Rats). My family and I are VMI Alumni. I assure you, there is nothing sad or pathetic regarding the service of the Cadets who fought valiantly during New Market or in the service for our Country thereafter. Your certainly entitled to have your personal opinion concerning VMI’s history at the Battle of New Market. If you have never been, I recommend you attend an annual New Market ceremony at VMI in May. Romanticized is not what I would define how VMI honors those 10 Cadets. Its certainly not how my daughter or her fellow Cadets were taught about New Market during the Ratline or during their charge across the New Market Battlefield after taking their Oath. Romanticizing is not what Cadets were doing when they left their uniform shoes on the parade deck after marching off of it this past Wednesday, following the rifle salute, taps and amazing grace being played the Pipes Band.
      Thank You Ms Bierle for a wonderful book and sharing the storied history of an honorable institute that continues to grow citizen soldiers who graduate to serve our great Country and Communities.

      • Rhea Cole says:

        Of course, I meant no disrespect to your school. History has lessons that should be learned. According to Jefferson Davis, by the time of the New Market Battle, more men had deserted the Cofederate army than were serving in the ranks. All over the remainder of Confederate territory, children were brought into the army. As Mary Chestnut so eiequently put it, knowledgeable people knew that the war was lost, irretrievably lost. Calling on boys to die in defense of a lost cause is not noble, it is just pig headed hubris. The cheer should be shame, shame, shame for the men who sent those children to a pointless death.

  2. DC1904 says:

    Look forward to your book Ms Bierle! Safe travels and enjoy your stay in the Valley

    RAH, RAH, RAH!! RAH VIRGINIA MIL!!!

  3. Robert Rainey says:

    Good luck with the sale of your books, can’t wait to read it.

    • Sarah Kay Bierle says:

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy it. It’s been a honor to research and writing this history.

  4. Larry De Maar says:

    This book is going to be fabulous. Great author, great series, great publisher. I look forward to reading it, also.

  5. John Sinclair says:

    According to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation website, just over 10,000 troops were involved in this battle with 1,372 casualties. Kind of sounds like a battle to me. The story is a fascinating one, and I am sure your book will make a valuable contribution. I will certainly buy a copy. Good luck with the sale of your book.

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