Lexington Travel Guide: 92 reviews and 212 photos

Lexington is a very pretty little town sitting just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley. It remains the sleepy town today that is has been since the mid 18th Century. Two schools that developed here are the main reasons that the two greatest generals of the South came to buried in Lexington and the main reason for the casual - or not so casual - tourist to make a stop. A visit to Lexington is a pilgrimage to the spirit of the Old South. Both Robert E Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson remain as large in myth and memory as they were in life. Lee became the president of Washington College at the Civil War’s end - the college dates back to 1749 - devoting himself to the rebuilding of the school following the effects of the War. He died in 1870 and is buried with his family beneath the Lee Chapel, a main building of the, now, Washington & Lee University..

Just next door to the Washington & Lee University is the school that was raison d’etre for Thomas Jackson, the Virginia Military Institute. VMI was founded in 1839 and was the first Stat supported military school. Converted from a local arsenal, VMI opened with 23 cadets. The school provided the South with many of its military leaders - 94% of the 1800 VMI alumni living at the start of the Civil War joined the Confederate Army, including three major generals, 17 brigadier generals and 92 colonels. Cadets took an active role during the War, best known for their actions at the Battle of New Market in 1864 where they helped an outnumbered Confederate force of about 4000 put 9000 Federals to flight. That battlefield can be visited today - roughly in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley - and the ground is owned by VMI to commemorate the efforts of her cadets, 10 dead and 45 wounded out of 229 for a brutal 23% loss ratio. Six of the VMI dead are buried on the campus. Because of these actions, Federal troops burnt VMI when they occupied Lexington later in the War.

I have organized the must-see tips around three locations: VMI, Washington & Lee University and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. There is much more to see in the town, as well, as many 19th Century buildings have been preserved. Lexington is a great town to just wander about in. Pick up a walking tour map from the very helpful Visitor Center at 106 E. Washington Street.

  • Last visit to Lexington: Sep 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (2)

  • DEBBBEDB's Profile Photo
    Feb 10, 2008 at 2:43 PM

    There are two VT locations called Lexington in VA. This is the one north of Charlottesville and not the one where W&L is located

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 7, 2007 at 12:08 PM

    Highly interesting tips on a place I have never known much about, despite the prominence of Washington & Lee University. I never knew how it got that name, for instance, or that Lee was their president after the war.


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