There were 224 living Citadel graduates when South Carolina announced it was seceding from the Union and 209 served in the confederate armed forces during the period referred to as The War Between the States (1861-1865). Of the 15 who did not serve 5 were ministers of the gospel, 2 were physicians, 2 civilian engineers for the confederate government, 1 railway official, 3 resided in California and one was studying in Germany. By proclamation, the South Carolina legislature declared that “all graduates of The South Carolina Military Academy (The Citadel) be qualified for officer status, up to Colonel,” so most served as officers. Those alumni who did not graduate, but resigned in order to serve, were not necessarily granted officer rank.
On 9 January 1861 Citadel Cadets under the command of the college’s Superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, fired what many consider to be the first shots of the War Between the States when the battery at Morris Island opened fire on the federal ship Star of the West that had been ordered to re-supply the federal garrison manning Ft Sumter in Charleston harbor. The cadet battery was exceptionally accurate and by the 5/6th round the ship had turned about having been struck 3 times. South Carolina had already anounced its secession in December 1860 and this event served to accelerate other southern states to join the confederacy.
In June, 1862, 37 cadets resigned from The Citadel and enlisted, forming the famous “Cadet Rangers,” later to participate in the largest cavalry battle of the war at Trevilian Station, Va. In that battle, two “Rangers” were killed-in-action and six were wounded-in-action. During the war, a total of 11 Cadet Rangers were wounded in action and 4 made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Battalion of State Cadets was formed by order of the Governor and was made up of the combined classes of Citadel and Arsenal cadets. Among their numerous engagements was the Battle of Tulifinney Creek, SC. This battle may be the only time in U.S. history that an entire student body participated in a combat engagement and fought as a unit…… suffering eight casualties in the fight. The Battalion never surrendered in battle and never retreated, in fact they were the last armed confederate force in SC, and they fought what is arguably the last skirmish of the war at Williamston, SC on May 1, 1865. They finally disbanded themselves at Newberry, SC Courthouse on May 9, 1865. It should be noted for historical purposes that a member of this unit, W. McKenzie Parker, 1868, was arguably the last battle casualty of The War east of the Mississippi River when killed by federal soldiers on May 12, 1865, also at Williamston.
The Citadel knows of 90 graduates and cadets ( those who resigned while a cadet to join the fight, and those called to serve in the Cadet battalion) who died in the war as a result of being combatants, to include those killed on the battlefield by hostile fire, those who died of wounds suffered on the battlefield, and those who died after contracting an illness on the battlefield. They are listed below to include the college’s first graduate and first cadet combat deaths (KIA), as well as our first to be listed as Missing In Action (MIA). In total numbers, approximately 2275 students have been identified as having been enrolled as a cadet from 1842-1865 an estimated 325 were lost. There were 240 graduates (224 living at the time of hostilities) and 25% of those were lost. A known total of 31 cadets lost their lives serving in confederate forces during the war. Another result of the aftermath of this terrible conflict was that The Citadel was occupied by federal armed forces for 17 years reflecting the historical note that there were no graduating class’s from 1865-1886.
As a result of actions on the battlefield by The Battalion of State Cadets, The Citadel earned the right to post nine “institutional” battle streamers for “significant participation in a battle of historical importance.” Only VMI (one “institutional” streamer), Florida State, William & Mary and Univ. of Hawaii Army ROTC units (each with one) have also been authorized that right. The national service academies post the battle streamers of their respective services, but none for “institutional” participation by the cadet corps.
Much of Citadel record keeping was either lost, or intentionally destroyed, during the evacuation of the college in advance of Sherman’s march into South Carolina in early 1865. Some records were transported to The Arsenal in Columbia as federal forces entered Charleston and physically occupied The Citadel for 17 years. Sherman’s troops then marched on Columbia and many of the schools records that survived from Charleston were forever lost in the chaos that ensued. The data illustrated below is the result of referencing, and repeated cross-referencing, of SC state and local archives, family genealogy, books, Citadel record-keeping, on-line sources relating to Southern and South Carolina history of the period, even the engraving on various tombstones. Each name has been cross-referenced twice at a minimum, however one’s unit and/or rank listed could be faulty due to eventual transfers/promotions. Research continues to uncover the identities of the other alumni who have made the ultimate sacrifice in answer to their state’s call to arms and information from outside sources about alumni during this period is welcome. Dates, units, and rank can be erroneous due to record keeping, re-assignments, or promotions. On the list below, ‘SOW’ refers to one being a member of the battery on Morris Is. in 1861—a “Star of the West cadet”.