The Citadel through History

The Citadel through History


Image above taken from the official Citadel website

Although the Citadel is a major historic landmark in Charleston, its original location was not where it is currently located along the banks of the beautiful Ashley River. Today, the Embassy Suites Hotel, adjacent to Marion Square on Meeting Street, sits on the original site of the Citadel.

Marion Square, in the heart of downtown Charleston, was originally used by the State of South Carolina as a fortification area during the Revolutionary War. The site was later transferred to the City of Charleston and then a small portion was transferred back to the State after that. The remaining land that the City retained became known as the Citadel Green and it was here, in 1829, that the structure of the Citadel was erected for arms deposit of the State of South Carolina.

After South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, the American Civil War would shortly follow. In January of 1861 the Corps of Cadets at the Citadel and the Arsenal in Columbia would combine into the South Carolina Military Academy. In February of 1865 the Citadel halted operation as a military academy when the Union troops captured Charleston and took control of the building and grounds. For close to 17 years it remained governmental property and was used by federal troops.

While the State made multiple efforts to regain control in those 17 years, it was not until a successful campaign by Brigadier General Johnson Hagood that the Citadel was finally turned back over to the State in 1882 and the South Carolina Military Academy was reopened. During that same year, Marion Square was created when the City converted the land around the Citadel into a parade ground and public mall.

With the steady increase in enrollment and need for a larger facility, the City of Charleston offered the State a parcel of land along the Ashley River for a bigger campus. By 1922 the new structure, that now exists, was completed and ready for occupancy.

In 1966 the first African-American cadet was admitted and the first woman cadet admitted in 1996, as the Citadel continues to grow in its cultural diversity. To this date, the Citadel’s graduates have proudly served as volunteer regimens in all the subsequent battles of the United States since the historic Civil War.

For an even deeper look at Charleston’s unique history, hop aboard The Carolina Belle for a narrated, 90-minute historic Charleston harbor tour.

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