The Alabama Corps of Cadets participated in the defense of Tuscaloosa beginning on April 3, 1865. During that spring, cadets were sent to train and drill volunteer companies within the state. With orders to destroy the remaining southern industrial complex, specifically focused on Selma, Alabama, Union Gen. James H. Wilson executed a Calvary raid across Alabama. Wilson sent Gen. John T. Croxton to Tuscaloosa to destroy the university and any industrial buildings in the area. Traveling through Northport, the 1,500-strong cavalry force crossed the Black Warrior River, where they exchanged small arms fire with the Corps of Cadets. Realizing the cadets were overmatched, President Garland retreated the Corps back to the university, eventually evacuating toward Marion.
This opening allowed the Union Army to enter Tuscaloosa and UA virtually unimpeded; its troops ultimately destroyed all but seven of the university buildings. Col. James T. Murfee, an architect, supervised the reconstruction of the campus. The university reopened to students in 1871, with the leadership of the Corps of Cadets participating in reconstruction. The campus was not entirely closed from 1865 until 1871, but only a few students attended, and the administration struggled to find a president.
Following the June 3, 1916, signing of the Defense Authorization Act, the Montgomery Advertiser reported on October 8, 1916, that UA would become the first state school to inaugurate the ROTC.
Following the June 3, 1916, signing of the Defense Authorization Act, the Montgomery Advertiser reported on October 8, 1916, that UA would become the first state school to inaugurate the ROTC. US Army Cadet Command, the unit that supervises all 275 Army ROTC programs, shows the date of establishment as December 4, 1916. In her book A Mansion’s Memories (University of Alabama Press, 2006), Mary Chapman Mathews writes, “The following year the United States is engaged in war in Europe, and the ROTC unit becomes the most important part of the school. The ROTC students want to abandon classes and drill all day.” She continues, “Every male in school is in ROTC, and many professors join in drills.” ROTC has had a continuous presence at UA since 1916, producing officers for every major military conflict in which the nation has participated.
Today, the ROTC remains one of the premier leadership courses offered at UA. With more than 120 cadets and contributing well over $3 million in scholarships and Army faculty, Army ROTC continues to produce officers to defend America’s national interests and its citizens from hostile nation states and non-state actors and adversaries.
Lt. Col. (Promotable) Jonathan L. Goode serves as the Professor of Military Science for the UA Army ROTC program.
This article was previously published in Issue #122, Fall 2016.