The Military College of South Carolina
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Abbreviated History of The Citadel

A highly abbreviated history of The Citadel, as presented in the Academic Catalog.

Citadel Origins

In 1822, the South Carolina Legislature passed an "An Act to Establish a Competent Force to act as a Municipal Guard for the Protection of the City of Charleston and Vicinity." Land on the North end of Marion Square was selected for an arsenal and guard house and in 1829, the architect, Frederick Wesner, completed the building which was known as The Citadel. A similar facility was constructed in Columbia, South Carolina which was known as The Arsenal. State troops occupied both sites at a cost of $24,000 a year.

Governor John P. Richardson felt that guard duties should be combined with a system of education. On December 20, 1842, The South Carolina Legislature passed an act establishing the South Carolina Military Academy. The Citadel and The Arsenal were converted into educational institutions and students replaced the state troops. In 1845, the role of The Arsenal was changed to the instruction of freshmen. As a result, cadets spent their first year in Columbia and transferred to The Citadel for the remaining three years. The South Carolina Military Academy became known for its high academic standards and strict military discipline.

Civil War Period

Enrollment in The South Carolina Military Academy increased from thirty-four students in 1843 to two hundred ninety six in 1864. The $200 tuition in 1843 increased to id="mce_marker",200 in 1864. When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Major Robert Anderson moved his garrison of U.S. troops to Fort Sumter and requested reinforcements from the federal government. On January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets stationed on Morris Island fired on the U.S. steamer, the Star of the West, which failed to supply Fort Sumter with troops and supplies. This was the first overt act of the war.

On January 28, 1861, the Corps of the Cadets of The Arsenal Academy and The Citadel Academy were made part of the military organization of the state and were known collectively as the Battalion of State Cadets. The Arsenal and The Citadel continued to operate as military academies. However, classes were often disrupted when the governor called the cadets into military service. Mounting and manning heavy guns, guard duty and escorting prisoners were among the services performed by the cadets.

In December 1864, Governor Bonham ordered the Battalion of State Cadets to Tulifinny Creek to join a small Confederate force defending the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. On December 7 and 9, 1864, the cadets fought against Union forces, successfully defending the railroad line and forcing Union forces to withdraw. The cadets suffered eight casualties at Tulifinny Creek. The battalion was commended for its display of discipline and gallantry under fire and won the admiration of the troops who fought with them.

The Battalion of State Cadets earned nine battle streamers for its service in the war. On February 18, 1865, The Citadel ceased operation as a college when Union troops entered Charleston and occupied the site. The Arsenal was burned by Sherman’s troops and never reopened.


It was not until 1882 that the Board of Visitors regained possession of The Citadel and The South Carolina Legislature passed an act to reopen the college. The 1882 session began with an enrollment of 185 cadets.

Name Change

The name of the college was officially changed in 1910 to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. The word, "Academy", had become synonymous with secondary schools and the public had the misconception that the South Carolina Military Academy was a preparatory school.

New Campus

The Citadel had outgrown its campus on Marion Square, despite numerous building additions, and could accommodate only 325 students. In 1918, the City of Charleston gave the State of South Carolina one hundred seventy six acres on the banks of the Ashley River for a new campus. In 1922 the college moved to its current location.

Today, the picturesque campus contains twenty-four major buildings. There is an enrollment of approximately 1,900 cadets and nineteen degree programs are offered. Women were admitted into the Corps of Cadets in 1996. The College of Graduate and Professional Studies offers, during the evening and summer, coeducational undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked The Citadel among the best colleges in the region in their surveys of "America's Best Colleges."

Military Service

As early as 1846, cadets served as drill instructors for the recruits of South Carolina's Palmetto Regiment prior to the regiment's departure for the Mexican War in 1846. During the Civil War, the Corps of Cadets participated in eight engagements:

Star of the West 1861, January 9
Wappoo Cut 1861, November
James Island 1862, June
Charleston & Vicinity 1863, July-October
James Island 1864, June
Tulifinny 1864, December
James Island 1864, December - 1865 February
Williamston 1865, May

Confederate States Army

The flag of the Corps of Cadets includes eight battle streamers representing the engagements and one streamer representing the Confederate States Army. In the war with Spain in 1898, more Citadel alumni volunteered for service than were needed. In World War I, Citadel graduates were among the first contingents of American troops to fight with the English and French divisions. Citadel men have performed military service for their country in all wars since World War II. Twenty-three cadets served on active duty as National Guardsmen and Reservists during Operation Desert Storm.

Further Reading

For further reading on the history of The Citadel:

Thomas, John P. The History of the South Carolina Military Academy. Charleston, S.C.: Walker Evans & Cogswell, 1893. Reprinted in 1991 by Palmetto Bookworks, PO Box 11551, Columbia, SC 29211.

Bond, Oliver. The Story of The Citadel. Richmond, Va.: Garrett & Massie, 1936. Reprinted in 1989 by Southern Historical Press, Inc., 275 West Broad St., Greenville, SC 29602.

Baker, Gary. Cadets in Gray. Columbia, S.C.: Palmetto Bookworks, 1989.

Nicholson, Col. Dennis D. A History of The Citadel: The Years of Summerall and Clark. Charleston, S.C.: The Association of Citadel Men, 1994.

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