The Citadel, despite having no association with any one branch of the service, is one of the top military colleges in the United States and reported to be the Military Academy featured in The Lords of Discipline, based upon the book of the same name by Pat Conroy. To the residents of South Carolina, the Citadel is more than just a school that produces excellent officers, it's a matter of pride and a symbol of excellence and tradition.

In 1822 The South Carolina Legislature passed "An act to establish a competent force to act as a municipal guard for the protection of the city of Charleston and vicinity." By 1829, architect Frederick Wesner had completed the building known as The Citadel located near Marion square in Charleston. A similar facility, named The Arsenal, was constructed in Columbia. and both were occupied by state troops.

On December 20, 1842, the South Carolina Legislature passed a bill championed by Governor John P. Richardson to combine the guard duties with an educational system. The South Carolina Military Academy was created, converting both garrisons to military education. In 1845 The Arsenal was converted for freshman instruction. Cadets spent their first year in Columbia and moved to Charleston for the remainder of their schooling. The academy was popular and from 1843 to 1864 enrollment increased from 34 to 296 and tuition rose from $200 to $1200.

It was Cadet troops of The Citadel, stationed on Morris Island that fired the first angry shots of the American Civil War. On January 9, 1861 they fired on the supply ship, Star of the West while it attempted to re-supply Fort Sumter. On January 28, 1861 the cadets were officially made a part of the military and became known as The Battalion of Cadets. The Arsenal and Citadel continued to function as academies during the war years, but classes were often interrupted as Cadets were called to arms. The Cadets were involved in a total of eight engagements during the civil war and the Corps of Cadets flag includes eight corresponding battle streamers.

On February 18, 1865, educational operations were ceased as Union troops occupied the city of Charleston. When Sherman marched through Columbia he burned The Arsenal and it was never reopened. The Citadel remained closed after the war, until 1882 when the state legislature passed an act reopening the Academy.

In 1910 the name of the school was changed to The Citadel, The Military College. The word academy had become synonymous with secondary schooling and the public was becoming confused, believing that The Citadel was a military preparatory school. By 1918 the school had grown larger than the campus on Marion Square could support. Even with the addition of several new buildings, the school could only accommodate 325 students. The city of Charleston stepped up and assisted their beloved institution and awarded the State of South Carolina a gift of 176 acres on the bank of the nearby Ashley River for use as a new campus. Following several years of preparation the school completed its move in 1922.

Today the Campus has 24 major buildings and an average enrollment of 1900 Cadets, in 19 degree programs. Since its beginning the school had been a boys only club, but that all changed on August 25 1996 when the school was forced to comply with a Supreme Court decision and accept four female cadets. Jeanie Mentavlos, Petra Lovetinska, Kim Messer and Nancy Mace started their training just like every other cadet for more than a hundred years, and will doubtless be remembered as simply another example of the benefits of an outstanding Military Academy.

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