Citadel Cadets Fire on Star of the West

by Fred Ray on January 10, 2011 · 2 comments

Not really, although they did 150 years ago.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Gray-clad cadets from South Carolina’s historic military college fired cannons Saturday on a barren, wind-swept island on Charleston Harbor to re-enact the 150th anniversary of a key episode leading up to the Civil War.

The event recalled what some consider the first shots of the war – the 1861 firing on the steamship Star of the West that was trying to reach Fort Sumter with supplies and 200 federal troops. Cadets manning a battery on Morris Island hit the ship and forced it to turn back.

Sumter was never resupplied and the Union garrison surrendered after a Confederate bombardment the following April, the episode considered by most the first engagement of the war.

They were not quite the first shots of the war. A few hours earlier the guards at the Pensacola Navy Yard had fired at “lurking figures” nearby. So far as we know, nobody was hit, but a round shot fired by the cadets did hit the Star of the West, causing it to turn back.

One of the cadets on the guns was a young man named Samuel Pickens, a nephew of the state’s governor. When the war began Pickens got a commission as a lieutenant in the Confederate regular army. Assigned to the Twelfth Alabama as adjutant, he eventually won election to major and eventually became colonel after the death of his predecessors.

As mentioned in the article, the flag of the Citadel has several battle streamers, which are awarded for participation in a battle or campaign. The Virginia Military Institute also has one for the battle of New Market.

There is one other college whose ROTC detachment has a battle streamer. Trivia points for identifying the school and the battle.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brendan January 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm

College of William & Mary, Revolutionary Guard Battalion. From which I am a dropout. Hu-ah.

Siege of Yorktown, VA…the Revolutionary War one.

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Bob Hurst April 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Florida State University for cadet involvement in Battle of Natural Bridge. By virtue of the Confederate victory at Natural Bridge (just south of town), Tallahassee has the distinction of being the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi to not be taken by the yankee horde during the war.

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