From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

The Southern Guards

Written By: Phillip Stone - Mar• 24•20

This is the first in a multi-part series featuring photos and documents from the library’s Spring 2020 exhibit on 100 years of ROTC at Wofford. Today’s post is more back-story, as it is included to show that the college had a military tradition before ROTC, and also to show where the ROTC unit got its name.

While ROTC got its start at Wofford in 1919, a large number of Wofford students and young alumni served in earlier wars.  In 1860, Wofford students formed themselves into a militia unit to prepare for war, but South Carolina’s governor Francis Pickens requested they remain in school until needed.  After the first shots of the war were fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, many students began to leave to join militia companies in their home towns.   The college gave members of the senior class their diplomas, but the students had to promise to return to college to complete their senior year if the war was short. It was not, and they did not.

The first Wofford alumnus to die in military service was William Maxwell Martin, a member of the class of 1857.  His 1857 Commencement address, The Calico Flag, caused a sensation in the audience, according to observers.  After South Carolina’s secession, he volunteered and was sent to guard Charleston Harbor, at Fort Moultrie.  On the night of January 31, he stood guard by his cannon on a cold, damp night and as a result, he caught a chill.  His illness led to hospitalization, and he died three weeks later, on Feb. 21, before hostilities began.  His volume of poetry, Lyrics and Sketches, was published after his death.   

Class of 1860
Many members of the Class of 1860 ended up serving in the Confederate army.

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