Legacy of Valor by Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa
With its cobblestone streets and colorful row houses with their sometime-sagging, often elegantly restored piazzas, it’s almost impossible to think of Charleston without recognizing its celebrated history. Many important dates crowd the city’s rich historical timeline, but featured prominently is December 20, 1842—the date that the South Carolina legislature voted to establish The Citadel.
The Citadel is a small, scenic campus that sits on the banks of the Ashley River. The focal point of campus is Summerall Field, the parade ground where the Friday afternoon dress parades take place. Along the perimeter of the parade ground are administrative and academic buildings as well as five battalions—white stucco fortress-like barracks where the cadets reside.
Like the cadets who first arrived in 1843, I reported to The Citadel in 1969 for a college education and military training. Unlike those cadets, however, I had been recruited to play football. Roundtrip airfare from Jacksonville, Florida, where my parents lived, to Charleston back then was $30. I lived in Murray Barracks. There was no air conditioning, and from the open windows wafted in the pungent smell of pluff mud. But the pluff mud didn’t compare to the overwhelming smell of sulphur from the paper mill in North Charleston that assaulted us when the wind blew our way on overcast days. Throughout the year, the Westminster chimes sounded from the bell tower on the quarter hour, and in the spring, honeysuckle filled the air.
Braving life as a freshman cadet was not for the faint of heart, as I quickly learned. I remember returning from football practice and asking my roommate why we chose to live a regimented existence in Spartan-like quarters when we could instead be managing our own time and living a far more comfortable life in any other college dorm in America. Then and there, we decided to quit. . . but we would wait until after Parents’ Weekend.
To read more of Lt. Gen. Rosa’s essay, please purchase your copy of Charleston Salt and Iron by Wendy Nilsen Pollitzer here. $39.95 plus tax and shipping.
Essay reprinted from Charleston Salt and Iron, the new book by Wendy Nilsen Pollitzer. A collection of images, essays and stories written by business leaders, writers, artists, musicians and those who have their family trees deeply rooted in soil tended by generations of Charlestonians. Available in stores and www.starbooks.biz.