William & Mary 1850 - 1899

Benjamin Ewell

The Alpha of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was revived. William Short, then 90 years old and living in Philadelphia, had been president of the fraternity at the time of its suspension in 1781. He provided a connecting link with the original society and permitted the chapter to be reconstituted.


Benjamin S. Ewell was elected president, serving until 1888.

1859, February 8

The College Building again burned. The contents of the library and most of the remnants of the great collection of scientific apparatus assembled in the late 18th century were destroyed. A new building was almost immediately erected, using much of the old walls, and William & Mary reopened October 13, 1859.John Tyler

1859, October

John Tyler, 10th President of the United States and a student at William & Mary in 1806, became chancellor. He served until his death in 1862. The honorary degree of Doctor of Laws had been conferred on him in 1854.

1861, May

President Ewell, the professors and nearly all the students entered the Confederate army. The College Building was used as a Confederate barracks and later as a hospital.

College Building 1859
1862, May 5

Williamsburg was taken by Federal troops. While the campus was occupied, the Brafferton was used for a time as quarters for the commanding officer of the Union garrison occupying the town.

1862, September 9

The College Building was set on fire by drunken soldiers of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry.


In the early spring, the west doorways and windows of the College Building were blocked up and loopholed. Cannons were placed inside to protect against a possible Confederate raid. Each end of the building was flanked by a line of palisades extending across adjacent roads. The war ended in April, and in the fall William & Mary reopened in the ruined building with Col. Benjamin S. Ewell, C.S.A., as president.


From this year until his retirement in 1888, President Ewell made numerous fruitless attempts to secure reparations from the U.S. government for damages suffered by William & Mary in 1862.

1868, July 10

By vote of the faculty, William & Mary classes were suspended until the College Building could be rebuilt and other buildings properly repaired.

1869, October 13

Classes were resumed in the rebuilt College Building. This was the fourth form of the building, much of the old walls having remained from the original structure.

College After 1869
1870, July 5

William & Mary held its first Commencement since the Civil War but conferred no undergraduate degrees.

1875, July 1

Alumni held their first post-Civil War reunion at Commencement.


William & Mary was forced to close for lack of funds. The College bell continued to be rung by President Ewell at the opening of each academic year, reminding Williamsburg that the ancient William & Mary still lived.

1888, March 5

The General Assembly of Virginia approved an annual appropriation of $10,000 to William & Mary for training male public school teachers. It also enlarged the Board of Visitors by mandating that "ten additional and associate visitors" be appointed by the governor; the superintendent of public instruction would serve as an ex officio member.

Lyon Tyler1888, August 23

William & Mary was revived under President Lyon G. Tyler, son of President of the United States John Tyler. Until transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1906, William & Mary was limited by available finances to a small but able teaching staff, which, by 1891, included professors Lyman B. Wharton, Thomas J. Stubbs, J. Lesslie Hall, Van F. Garrett, Charles E. Bishop, Hugh S. Bird and President Tyler-"The Seven Wise Men" as they were affectionately called by the students.

1888, October 10

A group of William & Mary graduates met at the Exchange Hotel in Richmond to reorganize the Alumni Association.

1890, December

William & Mary's first literary magazine, The William & Mary College Monthly, was published.

1892, July

The first number of the William & Mary College Quarterly Historical Papers, edited by Lyon G. Tyler, was issued. It was published as a private venture by President Tyler until 1919.

1893, March 3

The U.S. Congress partially indemnified William & Mary for its losses in the Civil War with a payment of $64,000.

1893, November 11

William & Mary fielded its first football team against the Norfolk Y.M.C.A. The Norfolk team won, 16 to 4.

1893, December 9

Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Virginia, was revived for the second time under President Emeritus Benjamin S. Ewell, who had become a member of the society during the 1850s. Col. William Lamb was primarily responsible for the revival.

1894, November 10

Hampden-Sydney vanquished William & Mary, 24 to 0, in the university's first intercollegiate football contest.

1899, June

The first issue of William & Mary's yearbook, the Colonial Echo, was published.