Army ROTC Palmetto Battalion History
Brief History of the Army ROTC "Palmetto Battalion" at The Citadel
The Citadel’s Army ROTC “Palmetto Battalion” is duly nicknamed for the palmetto tree and its importance in South Carolina military history. Palmetto trees were used to fortify Fort Moultrie and on June 28, 1776 assisted in repelling the British fleet's attack on Sullivan's Island. It is featured on the South Carolina flag and the battle flag of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at the Citadel.
The Citadel was founded in 1842 but before the first class had even graduated, President James K. Polk called on citizen soldiers to serve with the U.S. Army in the Mexican War. Citadel cadets and cadre developed a soldier training program to teach the South Carolina Volunteer Regiment which became known as the "Palmetto Regiment". South Carolina’s "Palmetto Regiment" fought bravely and were the Vanguard of Winfield Scott's Army in some of the battles in Mexico. Cadet William Magill became the first Citadel graduate to serve in the regular US Army in 1846 and served under Brigadier General Zachary Taylor with the 3rd U.S. Dragoons Cavalry Regiment. Several more Citadel Cadets were granted furlough to join the "Palmetto Regiment" and six lost their lives in the War.
During the War Between the States, the Corps of Cadets formed the Battalion of State Cadets by order of the Governor and fought in eight engagements as a unit. Countless other graduates served as military officers after the South Carolina legislature declared in 1861 that all graduates of The Citadel were qualified for officer status. The College of Charleston also saw many of its faculty and students leaving college to enlist with the Confederacy. In June 1862 many cadets also resigned from The Citadel and enlisted, forming the "Cadet Rangers," who later participated in the largest cavalry battle of the war at Trevilian Station, Virginia. For 17 years following the War Between the States, the college was occupied by federal troops and thus had no graduating classes from 1866-1885. When The Citadel reopened, the same strict system of military and academic discipline was instituted with the goal of furthering scholastic achievement and producing men who would excel in both the civil and military fields.
The U.S. Army began evaluating the military science education in senior military colleges in the early 1890s to ensure high standards were maintained. The Citadel was repeatedly recognized as the number one state supported military college in the United States and was a model used by several Land Grant military colleges that emerged in the late 1800's.
When the National Defense Act established the Reserve Officers Training Corps in 1916, it finally offered a direct route for Citadel cadets to commission in the United States Army. In fact, all members of the Class of 1917 and 1918 entered military service upon graduation. This occurred again when entire Class of 1944 answered the call to arms during World War II with the majority entering the United States Army. Army officers from the Citadel have since served in every major conflict since World War II including the current operations throughout the world.
The mission endures…and The Citadel and the Army ROTC "Palmetto Battalion" will continue to produce quality officers in a structured environment with the mission of scholastic excellence and military distinction.