Our next-door neighbor, Virginia Military Institute, is hosting a lecture this Sunday, May 19, at 3:15 p.m, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the death of Stonewall Jackson, who taught there before gaining fame as a military leader during the Civil War. The keynote speaker, though, is a graduate of Washington and Lee: Frank O'Reilly, a National Park Service historian.
Frank, of the Class of 1987, is based at Virginia's Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park. He frequents the lecture circuit, has contributed to several documentaries, and has written two books: "Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg" (1993) and "The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock" (2003). That volume won several prizes.
The lecture is a kind of homecoming for Frank. According to the VMI story about the lecture and related events, "Frank began his career as an historian by acting as a weekend tour guide at the Stonewall Jackson House while he was an undergraduate at Washington and Lee," said Michael Lynn, the site director of the Stonewall Jackson House. "He's gone on to a long and distinguished career."
As for the topic of Frank's lecture, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, he taught at VMI but lived on the W&L campus when he was married to Elinor Junkin, the daughter of the college's then president, George Junkin. Wed in August 1853, the couple occupied the small northern portion of what we call today the Lee-Jackson House, a wing built just for them. Elinor died in childbirth in October 1854. The Lees lived there from 1865 to 1869. It has since served as administrative offices and the home of the dean of students. It now houses the office of the dean of the College.