The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina is also known as The Military College of South Carolina, commonly is a state-supported, comprehensive college. It was founded in 1842 as one of the six Senior Military Colleges in the United States.
Currently, The Citadel has 17 academic departments divided into five schools offering 19 majors and 35 minors. The core program consists of military cadets pursuing bachelor’s degrees who are required to live on campus for all four years.
In 1829 South Carolina constructed an arsenal on what is now Marion Square in downtown Charleston to house arms and ammunition. The State entered into an agreement with the War Department in 1830 for Federal troops from nearby Fort Moultrie to guard this new arsenal, state militia replaced them in 1832.
Over the next 10 years arsenals throughout the state were consolidated in Charleston and Columbia, Governor John Richardson eventually proposed converting both into military academies and on December 20, 1842 the South Carolina Legislature passed “an Act to convert the Arsenal at Columbia and the citadel and magazine in and near Charleston, into Military Schools” thereby transforming the two state arsenals into the South Carolina Military Academy. The act specified:
That the students when admitted, shall be formed into a military corps, and shall constitute the public guard of the Arsenal at Columbia, and of the Citadel and Magazine in and near Charleston … to guard effectually, the public arms and other property at the places aforsaid …
The first 20 cadets reported to the Citadel Academy at Marion Square in downtown Charleston on March 20, 1843, a date now celebrated as “Corps Day”. Initially both schools operated as separate institutions governed by a common Board of Visitors, in 1845 the Arsenal Academy in Columbia became an auxiliary to the Citadel Academy in Charleston; first year students attended the Arsenal then transferred to the Citadel Academy to complete their education. Both schools continued to operate during the Civil War but the Arsenal in Columbia was burned by Union forces and never reopened.
On January 9, 1861, a battery on Morris Island manned by Citadel Academy cadets fired on the U.S. steamer Star of the West, preventing it from reaching Fort Sumter with troops and supplies and thus firing what is considered to be the first shots of the American Civil War. Citadel cadets also manned several guns at “the battery” on Charleston harbor during the firing on Fort Sumter of April 12–13, 1861. The first shot of the bombardment is believed by many historians to have been fired by Second Lieutenant Henry S. Farley, Class of 1860.
On January 28, 1861 the Corps of Cadets of The SC Military Academy was made part of the military organization of the state and named the Battalion of State Cadets. The Academy continued to operate as a military academy, but classes were often disrupted when the governor called the cadets into military service.
Mounting and manning heavy guns, performing guard duty, providing security and escorting prisoners were among the services performed by the cadets. The Battalion of State Cadets participated in eight engagements during the Civil War. As a result of these actions, the state of South Carolina authorized the flag of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets to carry the following Confederate battle streamers:
- Confederate States Army
- Star of the West, January 9, 1861
- Wappoo Cut, November 1861
- James Island, June 1862
- Charleston and Vicinity, July–October 1863
- James Island, June 1864
- Tulifinny, December 1864
- James Island, December 1864–February 1865
- Williamston, May 1865
In early December, 1864 Governor Bonham ordered the Battalion of State Cadets to Tulifinny Creek near Yemassee, South Carolina to join a small Confederate force defending the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. On December 7 and 9 the entire Corps of Cadets fought a much larger Union force (including a contingent of U.S. Marines) in the Battle of Tulifinny, successfully defending the rail line and forcing the Union troops to withdraw.
This battle is the only occasion when the entire student body of a U.S. college fought in combat. The Citadel is one of only 7 colleges to have received a battle streamer for wartime service. During the conflict 43 graduates and 200 former cadets were Killed in Action.
On February 18, 1865, the school ceased operation as a college when Union troops entered Charleston and occupied the site. Following the war, the Board of Visitors eventually regained possession of The Citadel campus and with the urging of Governor Johnson Hagood, Class of 1847 the South Carolina Legislature passed an act to reopen the college. The 1882 session began with an enrollment of 185 cadets.