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Remembering a brave VMI cadet

Monday, Jun. 9 | By Julie Taylor
Buried in the Remington cemetery, Henry "Harry" Clay Bowen, Confederate veteran with the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets was remembered on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Market which took place on May 15, 1864.

Cadets as young as 15 entered battle. Out of the 257 men, 10 lost their lives and 45 were wounded in New Market.

Bowen survived the battle, went on to join Mosby's Rangers, and eventually returned to Remington to raise a family in the house that is now owned by his great-granddaughter, Martha Bowen Gill.

She said that growing up, she heard all of the war stories, but her favorite was a personal one: frustrated that he couldn't easily reach his food at the head of his oval dining table, Bowen grabbed a saw and squared off the end of the table.

She said that table remains in the house to this day.

To remember the local legend, Bowen's ancestors, VMI representatives, and a Remington Town Councilman Evan H. Ashby, III gathered at his grave.

“As a unit, several other schools or military academies have participated in battles. VMI cadets have the distinction of having won their battle,” said Ashby, who graduated from VMI in 1977 and is veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “They charged headlong up a hill into cannons. It’s amazing.”

Bowen marched for five days as an 18-year-old private in Company A under Confederate Gen. John C. Breckenridge—who was also the 14th vice president of the U.S.

Tim Moriarty, one of the organizers of the commemorative event said Breckenridge was opposed to sending the under-trained men into battle, "[Breckenridge] said, 'Put the boys in, and may God forgive me for the order."

The fighting took place in Bushong Orchard, in New Market. The young cadets were not deterred by shells, grape shot, canisters and bullets, but ran forward to the remnants of a battered fence where they dove down and began to fire.

This charge is said to be the pivotal moment as the cadets fearlessly entered the first line of battle.

Another key event during the battle is remembered as the "field of lost shoes." As soldiers advanced uphill their shoes became stuck in the mud. Unfazed, they pushed forward, not stopping to retrieve their footwear.

A film was recently released about the incident, appropriately entitled “Field of Lost Shoes.”

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