From the Richmond Dispatch, Monday, April 29, 1861, p. 1
The Hermitage Camp of Instruction. - From the very large number of young, strong and likely men which are daily to be seen upon the streets, we are sure our citizens had already concluded that Virginia was preparing to accept the "irrepressible conflict" with and "irrepressible" spirit. But we judge there are few who have not seen for themselves whose estimate of the preparation which is making approximates the reality. To such as suppose that Virginia is not making preparations commensurate with the immensity of her requirements, we would extend an earnest invitation to visit the several encampments in the vicinity of this city, and see for themselves. Besides the encampments of volunteers in this vicinity, there are a number of companies quartered in buildings in various sections of the city proper, and daily the number increases. We shall only speak particularly now of the encampment at the Hermitage Fair Grounds where about 5,000 troops are undergoing the preparation necessary for effective service, being drilled five hours a day by the Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, and such drill masters as the Colonel of the station (Gilham) may select. On Saturday last the First Regiment of Virginia volunteers, or rather a large part of it, pitched their tents there, and are now enjoying all the delights of camp life. There are also a number of companies from the interior of the State encamped there, among them the Danville Blues, Capt. Graves the Lynchburg Home Guard, Capt. Garland; the Lynchburg Rifle Grays, Capt. Langhorne; the Spring Garden (Pittsylvania) Blues, Capt. Luck, and a large number of other companies, whose Captains we do not now remember.
Every evening a large number of the ladies and gentlemen of Richmond make a visit to the encampment, where they are permitted to examine the many interesting features of the military life. The large number of soldiers upon the ground, in uniform, makes the scene truly one of life and activity. Their hurrying to and fro increases this appearance of activity, and all combined serve to give the civilian, unused to such scenes, somewhat of an idea of what real soldiering is. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the day is the dress parade, which comes of every evening about sunset. The Cadets, comprising four companies, are drawn out upon the field, and every company in camp is required to be present in line, and the visitor is enabled to see more soldiers than at any other time. - The drilling which the Cadets have received gives indubitable evidence of its thoroughness by the admirable manner in which they manipulate their guns at dress parade, in the manual exercise. Col. Gilham, who has charge of the encampment, is a thorough soldier, and the best thing that should be done for the proper preparation of the Virginia volunteers was to place them under his charge, as has been done. It is worthy of remark that on yesterday (Sunday) divine service was held in the encampment at 11 o'clock A. M. and again at 5 o'clock P. M.