Like other southern states, South Carolina believed that a military education would instill education, discipline, character, and patriotic devotion in its young men.
The Citadel originated in 1822 as an arsenal and guardhouse to defend white Charlestonians from possible slave uprisings. In 1832, during the nullification crisis, federal troops were withdrawn from the arsenal, known as the State Citadel, to Fort Moultrie and were replaced by local guardsmen. A decade later in 1842, the General Assembly combined the State Citadel with the Arsenal in Columbia to create the South Carolina Military Academy. Like other southern states, South Carolina believed that a military education would instill education, discipline, character, and patriotic devotion in its young men.
When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, Citadel cadets helped shore up defenses around Charleston harbor. One month later they assembled on Morris Island and fired cannon shots at the Star of the West as it steamed to supply the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter, forcing the vessel to abort its mission. Citadel alumni claim that these were the first shots fired in the Civil War.
In February 1865 Union soldiers occupied the Citadel, where they remained for fourteen years. Through the efforts of state legislators and members of the Association of Graduates, the War Department withdrew Federal troops quietly and without explanation in the spring of 1879. Alumni and legislators immediately pushed the General Assembly to reopen the school. Led by the former Confederate general Johnson Hagood, supporters argued that the Citadel was still relevant to the needs of the state. However, its new mission was not to defend South Carolina against the federal government, but rather to combine a useful education with the virtues of military discipline, uniting the sons of all South Carolinians, whether rich or poor, into an egalitarian Corps of Cadets. Their arguments prevailed, and the Citadel reopened in October 1882.
Soon after, the barracks were overflowing with “paying cadets,” sons of the more prosperous and prominent citizens, and with “beneficiary cadets,” boys from poorer families in every county who were selected by competitive examination to receive full scholarships. By 1918 the buildings on Marion Square no longer could accommodate the 350-man Corps of Cadets. That same year the city of Charleston transferred one hundred acres between Hampton Park and the Ashley River for the construction of the “Greater Citadel.” Four years later the towering new barracks were filled with cadets and new buildings accommodated classrooms, faculty, and staff.
This expansion did not occur without “growing pains.” Hazing of freshmen, known as “rats,” had become endemic, and the “detail” system bound them to serve the demands of upperclassmen. These practices invoked the ire of General Charles P. Summerall, who became president of the institution after his retirement in 1931 as army chief of staff. His blistering rebuke of cadet leadership led to the elimination of the “detail system” and a sharp reduction of hazing incidents. Summerall also secured federal and private funds to establish scholarships, construct new buildings, and enhance the professional standing of the faculty. He left a solid foundation for retired general Mark W. Clark, who succeeded Summerall in 1955. Throughout the ten years of his presidency, Clark utilized his World War II fame to increase enrollment, establish an endowment, and upgrade campus facilities. At the same time, he vigorously resisted the admission of African American men, echoing the belief of thousands of Citadel graduates that integration was part of a communist plot to take over America. In 1965, as South Carolina colleges moved toward the integration of their student bodies, Clark announced his retirement. One year later the Citadel admitted its first African American, Charles Foster.
The Citadel created master’s degree programs for men and women in 1965. However, in spite of the admission of women to the national service academies, as well as its own graduate programs, the Citadel continued to reject the admission of women into the cadet corps. In 1995 the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Citadel to admit its first female, Shannon Faulkner. However, after six days on campus in the spotlight of national and international media attention, she left and returned home. In 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Virginia Military Institute’s all-male policy was unconstitutional, and in June the Citadel Board of Visitors voted unanimously to admit women into the Corps of Cadets. In August four women entered the corps. Two withdrew after they charged upperclassmen with hazing, but two, Nancy Mace and Petra Lovetinska, completed their “knob year” and went on to become the first female cadet graduates of the Citadel. In the fall of 2004 the cadet corps of 1,964 included 120 women and 151 African Americans.
Andrew, Rod. Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839–1915. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Baker, Gary R. Cadets in Gray: The Story of the Cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy and the Cadet Rangers in the Civil War. Columbia, S.C.: Palmetto Bookworks, 1989.
Bond, Oliver J. The Story of the Citadel. 1936. Reprint, Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1989.
MacCaulay, Alexander S., Jr. “Discipline and Rebellion: The Citadel Rebellion of 1898.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 103 (January 2002): 30–47.
Manegold, Catherine S. In Glory’s Shadow: Shannon Faulkner, the Citadel and a Changing America. New York: Knopf, 1999.
Nichols, W. Gary. “The General as College President: Charles P. Summerall and Mark W. Clark as Presidents of the Citadel.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 95 (October 1994): 314–35.