The Virginia Military Institute furnished the most generals of any Southern military school, 20; VMI also furnished 92 colonels, 64 lieutenant-colonels, 107 majors, 310 captains and 221 lieutenants. Author Bruce Allardice points out that though the North in 1861 “had a two-to-one advantage over the South in West Point-trained officers, this was counter-balanced by the six-to-one edge the South enjoyed in men who had attended private military schools.”
West Points of the Confederacy
When Francis Henley Smith, an 1833 graduate of West Point, assumed the superintendency of the newly established VMI, he sought to make it “the West Point of the South.” Since many Southern schools modelled themselves after VMI, often hiring its graduates as teachers, the VMI model, with its distinctly non-military spread throughout the South. By 1843 South Carolina had converted its Columbia Arsenal and Charleston Citadel into interconnected military schools; in addition to the education, the cadets relieved the State of the expense of providing guards for its armories.
If the Civil War had taken place five or ten years later, the State military school programs would have given the South a huge edge over the north in potential officer candidates with military training. In 1861 the programs in many of the Southern States had scarcely begun; the numbers educated were small and the graduates too young to play a significant part in the war.
Douglas Southall Freeman recognized that Virginia’s VMI graduates “constituted a large, immediate and indispensable officers reserve corps” at the start of the war and concluded “that the Army of Northern Virginia owed to the Institute such excellence of regimental command as it had. I do not believe the campaign of 1862 could have been fought as successfully without VMI men.”
Almost to a man, the cadets, former and present, joined the Southern armies. And whereas 304 West Point graduates joined the Southern army, at least 12,000, and possibly many more, matriculants of ninety-six Southern military schools donned the Rebel grey and filled the high ranks of command. Thirty-seven of the matriculants became Confederate generals, about 8 percent of the total number of Confederate generals.”
(West Points of the Confederacy: Southern Military Schools and the Confederate Army. Bruce Allardice. Civil war History – A Journal of the Middle Period. Vol. 43, No. 4, December 1997, pp. 315; 317; 321-322)