The Citadel has a long history of preparing its graduates to serve their country, both in civil and military pursuits. The idea of “citizen-soldiers,” trained to take up arms for their country in time of conflict but prepared to serve with integrity and discipline in all walks of life, has been central to its mission from its early years.
In December of 1822, following the discovery of a slave revolt planned by Denmark Vesey, the South Carolina state legislature passed “An Act to Establish a Competent Force as a Municipal Guard for the Protection of the City of Charleston and Vicinity.” The original Citadel, intended to serve as an arsenal and guardhouse, was constructed near the site of Charleston’s Revolutionary War fortifications. Located just north of Calhoun Street, it stood in a neighborhood of free blacks, working-class whites, and slaves, where it provided a visible reminder of city authority. It was initially intended to house a municipal guard, but was instead guarded first by United States troops and then, during and after the Nullification Crisis in the early 1830s, by local troops.
In 1833, the legislature voted to consolidate arms and munitions at two locations, the Citadel in Charleston and the Arsenal in Columbia. In 1842, they voted to replace the local guard with students. Half of the students would pay tuition; the other half would be “beneficiary cadets,” young men selected from among the poorer residents of each county, whose tuition would be paid by the state. Importantly, all cadets took the same classes and performed the same duties, while uniforms erased social distinctions and rank was based on merit alone. The inclusion of cadets from all counties helped unify the state politically, while the spaces available to beneficiary cadets made The Citadel one of the only places in the state where the sons of poorer citizens could gain a college education.
In their curriculum and military training the schools were modeled on the United States Military Academy at West Point, Norwich (University), and the Virginia Military Institute.
The first classes were taught in 1843. Two years later the Citadel and Arsenal were combined, so that fourth-class cadets (freshmen) attended classes at the Arsenal, then transferred to the Citadel for their remaining three years. From the beginning, The Citadel was known for its high academic standards. Cadets were required to take courses in history, literature, logic, French, moral philosophy, and elocution, a liberal arts education that would prepare them to serve as leaders in public life. Many entered careers in law, medicine, and education. Others were called to religious service, including Bishop Ellison Capers, class of 1857, and William Porcher DuBose, class of 1855, one of the most influential theologians in the Episcopal tradition. Cadets also studied the practical sciences, including chemistry, physics, civil and military engineering, mathematics, astronomy, geology, and surveying. Among the school’s early alumni, E. L. Heriot, Class of 1847, conducted the first railroad survey west and south of the Rio Grande River, while T. J. Arnold, Class of 1852, designed the harbor and wharves of San Francisco and Oakland, California.
Students also studied infantry and artillery tactics, and helped train the state’s Palmetto Regiment for service in the Mexican-American War.
The Civil War and Reconstruction
When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, federal troops were moved from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. To protect the entrance to Charleston Harbor, the Governor of South Carolina ordered a fortification to be constructed on Morris Island. On January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets who were stationed on Morris Island fired on a U.S. steamer, the Star of the West, which had been sent to re-supply Fort Sumter.
On January 28, 1861, the Corps of Cadets were incorporated into the military organization of the state as The Battalion of State Cadets. The cadets took part in eight engagements in defense of Charleston and South Carolina. In recognition of their service, the Office of the South Carolina Adjutant General authorized The Citadel to carry the following battle and campaign streamers:
Star of the West, January 9, 1861
Wappoo Cut, November 1861
James Island, June 1862
Charleston and Vicinity, July to October 1863
James Island, June 1864
Tulifinny, December 1864
James Island, December 1864 to February 1865
Williamston, May 1865
The college remained in operation throughout much of the war, and cadets were eligible for commissions in the state’s military upon graduation. Of the 224 graduates living at the time of the Civil War, 209 entered the Confederate service. Four graduates achieved the rank of Brigadier General: Johnson Hagood, Ellison Capers, Evander Law and Micah Jenkins. Citadel graduates were involved in the major battles of the war, including Fort Sumter, First Manassas, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Atlanta, and Petersburg.
The Arsenal Academy burned during the fall of Columbia in 1865 and never reopened. The Citadel was occupied by federal troops when Union forces entered Charleston in early 1865. After the end of Reconstruction Citadel alumni, who had organized the Association of Graduates in 1852, pressured the legislature to reopen the school. Although many legislators questioned the need for a state-supported military college in the absence of munitions to guard, the support of alumni and the Washington Light Infantry, as well as the school’s renewed commitment to educating beneficiary cadets, ultimately saved the institution. It reopened in 1882.
Citadel alumni have served in all major military actions in which the United States has been involved since the late nineteenth century. Seventeen graduates served with volunteer regiments and five alumni served with the Regular Army in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The National Defense Act of 1916 began the formation of Reserve Officers Training Corps in U.S. colleges and offered the opportunity for recent graduates to enter the Regular Army. 315 Citadel graduates served in World War I; of the class of 1917, all 33 entered military service.
During World War II, The Citadel had the distinction of having the highest percentage of its students enter the military service of any college, with the exception of the service academies. Of 2,976 living graduates in 1946, 2,927 had served their country. Before the end of the war, 279 Citadel men had given their lives. Citadel graduates participated in all major campaigns of World War II, from Pearl Harbor through the major engagements in the European, North African, and Pacific Theaters, and at sea. A number of Citadel graduates fought in the Philippines and endured the Bataan Death March. The Citadel also provided wartime training to over 10,000 men under a contract with the War Department.
In the Korean War, roughly 1500 alumni were on active duty, and 31 graduates were killed in action. Sixty-five Citadel men gave their lives in Vietnam, and several graduates were prisoners of war in North Vietnam. Graduates also displayed their valor in the liberation of Grenada and peacekeeping operations in Beirut, Lebanon, and in the Balkans. During the Persian Gulf War 22 cadets served with Reserve and National Guard units; alumni served in both the Active and Reserve components of the Armed Forces. Citadel alumni, veteran students, and current cadets assigned to activated Reserve and National Guard units have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Twenty Citadel alumni have given their lives for their country in the War on Terror.
The Corps of Cadets has grown from 43 students enrolled at the Arsenal and Citadel in 1843 to 2,356 in 2020. With 40 percent of the Corps now coming from out of state, and a student body that represents 27 different countries, the college draws students from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
The Citadel has attracted international students since the 1920s, when Chinese students entered as cadets, sponsored by the Boxer Indemnity Fund. Most went on to serve in the Chinese Army, several achieving the rank of Brigadier General. The Chinese cadets were followed by groups of students from Thailand in the 1960s, Iran in the 1970s, and Jordan in the 1970s and 1980s. Connections forged during international students’ college years could grow into lifelong bridges: Charles G. Huie later returned to the U.S. to conduct research as an engineer with the U.S. Army; Andrew Chinn became a business owner in the U.S.
The first African-American cadet, Charles D. Foster, entered the Citadel in 1966, three years after South Carolina began integrating its public colleges and universities. He graduated in 1970, followed by Joseph Shine in 1971; six African-American students graduated in 1973. African-American students were often targeted with racial slurs and threats of racial violence. At the same time, the unique culture of the Corps of Cadets, and particularly the shared experience of the fourth-class system, helped promote integration across racial lines. Today, black and African-American students make up 7% of the Corps of Cadets, and 23% of the Corps are minorities.
Women began attending The Citadel in 1949 as part of the summer school program, and were admitted to evening classes in 1966. In 1995, Shannon Faulkner, through court orders, became the first woman to matriculate into the Corps of Cadets. She resigned a few days later, but the next year, following a United States Supreme Court ruling on a similar case involving the Virginia Military Institute, the Citadel Board of Visitors voted to revoke the male-only admissions policy of the Corps of Cadets.
In August of 1996, four females matriculated with the class of 2000. Two of these resigned amid allegations of hazing and harassment. The lawsuits and negative publicity associated with this incident marked a difficult time for the reputation and image of The Citadel and its alumni. Nancy Mace received her degree three years later, becoming the first female graduate of the Corps of Cadets. She was followed by Petra Lovetinska, who became the first female cadet to receive a commission in the U.S. Armed Forces. Today, women make up 9.7% of the Corps of Cadets. Women and minorities are an integral part of the Corps, many occupying key positions in the cadet chain-of-command, varsity athletics, and campus organizations. They also form an important part of The Citadel’s strong alumni network and have served on the Citadel Board of Visitors.
Veteran students, too, have become important contributors to the Citadel’s academic life. Veterans were first admitted as civilian students under the GI Bill® at the end of World War II; the current veterans program was established in 2007 and 68 veterans are currently enrolled as day students.
In 1968, the Citadel began granting graduate degrees through an evening program. The program grew until 1994, when the Citadel Board of Visitors approved the foundation of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies (now known as the Citadel Graduate College, or CGC). A coeducational institution from its conception, the CGC is now a mainstay of the Citadel’s academic environment, offering 28 graduate degree programs and 26 graduate certificate programs.
The Citadel’s growth has led to the need for an ever-larger physical campus. By the end of World War I, the school had outgrown its location on Marion Square and the City of Charleston donated land, previously the site of the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, for a new campus. The current campus opened in 1922 with Padgett-Thomas Barracks, an infirmary, two wings of Bond Hall, and other auxiliary buildings. State- and federally funded building projects during the Depression included Summerall Chapel and the distinctive Works Progress Administration faculty houses. The college continues to expand as it serves a growing student body.
Leading the Community and the World
In addition to a long history of military service, the school’s citizen-soldier ideal prepares graduates for service and leadership in civil capacities. Alumni have gone on to pursue distinguished careers in areas including law, politics, medicine, engineering, education, business, and law enforcement. Ernest F. Hollings, Class of 1942, served as South Carolina Governor and United States Senator. Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Class of 1964, served ten consecutive terms as mayor of Charleston, overseeing a number of ambitious development projects. Alvah H. Chapman, Class of 1942, headed the influential Knight Ridder newspaper chain, while author Pat Conroy graduated in the Class of 1967. The Citadel and its graduates have also been active in world affairs. In addition to serving as Governor of South Carolina, John C. West, Class of 1942, served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, while Langhorne A. Motley, Class of 1960, served as U.S. Ambassador to Brazil and as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs.
Today’s Citadel builds on this distinguished legacy, preparing students to lead with integrity in an increasingly interconnected world. Through a growing study abroad program, students develop language skills and gain experience working with a range of cultures and countries. The current honor system, re-instituted in 1955, enshrines the integrity of students and alumni as a cornerstone of The Citadel’s values. During their academic careers and beyond, Citadel men and women put into practice the core values and principles of the institution.
SUPERINTENDENTS /PRESIDENTS OF THE CITADEL
Captain William F. Graham, USA, 1843-1844
Major Richard W. Colcock, USA, 1844-1852
Major Francis W. Capers, CSA, 1852-1859
Major Peter F. Stevens, CSA, 1859-1861
Major James B. White, CSA, 1861-1865
Colonel John P. Thomas, CSA, Class of 1851, 1882-1885
Brigadier General George D. Johnson, CSA, 1885-1890
Colonel Asbury Coward, CSA, Class of 1854, 1890-1908
Colonel Oliver J. Bond, SCM, Class of 1886, 1908-1931
General Charles P. Summerall, USA, Ret. 1931-1953
General Mark W. Clark, USA, Ret. 1954-1965
General Hugh P. Harris, USA, Ret. 1965-1970
Major General James W. Duckett, SCM, Class of 1932, 1970-1974
Lieutenant General George M. Seignious II, USA, Ret., Class of 1942, 1974-1979
Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, USN, Ret. 1979-1980
Major General James A. Grimsley, Jr., USA, Ret., Class of 1942, 1980-1989
Lieutenant General Claudius E. Watts III, USAF, Ret., Class of 1958, 1989-1996
Major General John S. Grinalds, USMC, Ret., 1997-2005
Lieutenant General John W. Rosa, USAF, Ret., Class of 1973, 2006-2018
General Glenn M. Walters, USMC, Ret., Class of 1979, 2018-Present