Founded in 1842, the first twenty cadets entered The Citadel on Marion Square, in March 1843, to take up their dual roles as students and armory guards. From her inception, The Citadel has been at the forefront of every significant conflict in our nation’s history.
Disclaimer: Due to the rarity, condition, or size of some uniform pieces, not all uniforms pictured are complete.
1846 - 1848
The first graduation was held in 1846, in the midst of preparation for the Mexican-American War. Citadel cadets, and some of the first graduates, were assigned to train the Palmetto Regiment of South Carolina volunteers to fight in that war. After valiant service, fighting under General Winfield Scott from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, the Palmetto Regiment was the first to plant the American flag on the walls of the captured capital city.
1861 - 1865
Cadets and graduates were again called to take up arms in 1861, after South Carolina seceded from the Union.
Of the 224 living graduates, 209 served in the Confederate forces, participating in all major battles and holding ranks from private to general. In January 1861, Citadel cadets manned the artillery battery on Morris Island that fired the first shots of the Civil War against the federal steamer Star of the West as it attempted to re-supply Fort Sumter. A few months later, cadets were involved in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, as the war began in earnest. During the war, Citadel cadets took part in many engagements defending Charleston and the state, earning the gray battle streamers on the regimental colors.
36 cadets also left the school and joined the 6th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment. As the Cadet Company, they fought in 12 major battles between South Carolina and Virginia. They were recognized for their bravery and professionalism under fire, especially at Louisa Court House and Trevilian Station, Virginia, the bloodiest cavalry engagement of the war. Citadel men were also involved at the end of the war; Major Robert Sims, Class of 1856, carried the flag of truce from General Longstreet to General Custer at Appomattox Court House to end this war between brothers.
For 17 years following the war, Union forces occupied The Citadel. She finally reopened in 1882, due to strong efforts on the part of the Association of Graduates and the Washington Light Infantry. 189 cadets reported to the reopened Citadel and a system of military discipline, training, and education as rigorous as that before the war. This system's value was demonstrated in 1885 when Cadet James Coleman won the title "Best Drilled Cadet in the United States" in a national competition, and again in 1894 when the Army Inspector General described The Citadel as "a military school in the best sense of the term (equal to) any organization in the Army."
April 1898 – August 1898
During the Spanish-American War of 1898, Citadel graduates again answered the call to arms, with more men volunteering for service than were needed. Captain Edward Anderson, Class of 1886, commanded the first South Carolina unit mustered into service.
World War I
1914 - 1918
In 1914 "the war to end all wars" erupted on European soil. There were a number of Citadel men on the first American convoy that sailed for France in 1917. They were with the artillery brigade that pulled through the mud of Lorraine and into position near Bathlemont, sending America's first shots into German lines. They were with the units that stemmed the tide at Chateau-Thierry and Montdidier, at Compiegne, Saint-Mihael, and in the bitter struggle in the Argonne Forest. 315 in their country's service: 6 killed, 17 wounded, slackers none!
World War II
1939 - 1945
One of our most famous presidents, former Army chief of staff General Charles P. Summerall, took the reins in 1931 and led The Citadel through her expansion and the economic turmoil of the Depression. At the outbreak of World War II, he offered the full services of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets to the War Department.
During World War II, more Citadel students entered military service than those of any other college, except the service academies. As in past wars, Citadel graduates, as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, merchant mariners, and Coast Guardsmen, participated in all the major campaigns of World War II. From Pearl Harbor and Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid, through the battles in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, and at sea, Citadel men were in the thick of it. Before the war ended, more than 280 had given their all in service of the Greatest Generation.
1950 - 1953
No sooner had peace descended upon the world than Communism reared its ugly head and we, as a nation, found ourselves involved in the Berlin Airlift and fighting in the hills and rice paddies of far-off Korea, where some 1,500 alumni fought the North Koreans and Chinese Communists. 32 graduates offered the supreme sacrifice.
Pictured here is a uniform worn by the Army during the Korean War.
1950 - 1953
Pictured here is a uniform worn during the harsh winters of the Korean War.
1955 - 1975
As tensions heightened in Southeast Asia, The Citadel once again found herself preparing cadets and graduates to answer the call to arms.
Once again, they acquitted themselves well, in every land, sea, and air battle of that long war. Many graduates led our Army and Marine Corps ground units in fierce, close-in fighting, always leading, always out front. Many Citadel men flew air strikes throughout Southeast Asia as Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots, supporting our ground forces. Several of these men were shot down over North Vietnam and spent years as prisoners of war before returning. 68 of these men have their names permanently engraved on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.
Pictured here is a uniform worn by the Army during the Vietnam War.
1955 - 1975
Pictured here is a uniform worn by the Air Force during the Vietnam War. The same flight suit is worn today.
1990 - 1991
A dedication in answering the call to duty in defense of America and the free world continued through the conflicts in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf, where, once again, Citadel graduates offered up the supreme sacrifice.
War in Iraq and Afghanistan
2001 - Present
Today, alumni are fighting for our country in every clime and place where our Nation’s servicemen and women stand watch.
Pictured here is a uniform worn by the Army during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout 175 years of existence, The Citadel has made contributions to South Carolina and the nation disproportionate to her size, sending out graduates, steeped in The Citadel's tradition of selfless service, who have made a mark for good wherever they went.
As The Citadel embraces the 21st century, she stands steadfast in her reverence for fellowship, duty, purity, faith, and honor, and is dedicated to serve South Carolina, the United States of America, and the free world through the citizen-soldiers she produces.
Pictured here is the uniform worn by the Marines today.