Thomas Nelson Conrad

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Thomas Nelson Conrad (August 1, 1837 – January 5, 1905) of Fairfax Court House, Virginia was the third president of Virginia Tech (then Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College). He played an active role in influencing Blacksburg as the location of choice for the new college. Prior to his presidency, he taught at Preston and Olin Institute in 1871.

Conrad received his bachelor's degree from Dickinson College. He fought for the Confederate States during the Civil War.

In 1890, Conrad resigned the college and accepted a position with the Census Office. [1]

Civil War[edit]

At the outbreak of the War, Conrad attended the Georgetown Institute in Georgetown, District of Columbia and openly expressed his sympathy for the Confederacy. A few days after commencement, he was arrested and placed in the Old Capitol Prison in June 1861. [2]:26–27

Conrad was given a letter of recommendation from General Stuart to President Jefferson Davis to spy for the Confederate Secret Service. He met Davis, who endorsed the letter and referred him to other members of the Confederate government. Conrad received gold from Judah Benjamin and his “name placed on the rolls of the secret service bureau”. He then saw Secretary of War Seddon for “papers and outfit”. Davis invited Conrad to his executive mansion hear his plans.[2]:93–95

Captain Conrad went to Washington with his Dickinson roommate and Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity brother Daniel Mountjoy Cloud and M. B. “Tippie” Ruggles, son of General Daniel Ruggles as couriers. His slave William also accompanied them[2]:95

In September 1864, Conrad and a team went to Washington to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln. The members of the team were “Bull” Frizzell (who had been in the Old Capitol Prison with him), Cloud, and slave William. The plan was abandoned because Lincoln was well protected.[2]:118–130 Conrad denied that the Confederate government knew of his plot except the military secretary of General Braxton Bragg.[2]:131 However, Seddon wrote an order for John S. Mosby and Lieutenant Cawood to “aid and facilitate the movements of Capt. Conrad.”[2]:119

Conrad’s courier Ruggles assisted John Wilkes Booth by giving him a ride on his horse shortly before Booth was killed.[2]:144,152 Mary Surratt hosted Conrad when he visited her boarding house.[2]:153,154

Conrad was arrested by a landing party of the Union vessel Jacob Bell on the night of April 16, 1865.[2]:150

Conrad wrote about his wartime experiences in his book, The Rebel Scout which was published in 1892.

Tenure at VMAC[edit]

There were many changes at VMAC under Minor. The college switched from semesters to the quarter system which remained in place until the late 1980s. The college's new librarian spent $2,229.96 entirely on books of fiction and poetry and a museum was opened. For the first time ever, the school’s farm became financially successful.[3]


  1. ^ ’Thomas Nelson Conrad Dead’, The Washington Post, January 6, 1905, p. 10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Conrad, Thomas Nelson (1904). The Rebel Scout. National Publishing Co. 
  3. ^ "Life & Times of Virginia Tech Presidents". Office of the President of Virginia Tech. Archived from the original on 2007-03-03. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 

External links[edit]