The tradition of military instruction on civilian college campuses began in 1818 when Captain Alden Partridge, former Superintendent at West Point, established the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy, which later became Norwich University.  The idea of military instruction in civilian colleges soon spread to other institutions, including Virginia Military Institute, The University of Tennessee, and The Citadel.  The Land Grant Act of 1862 (Morrill Act) reinforced this tradition by specifying that courses in military tactics should be offered at the colleges and universities as a result of this act.

Although 105 colleges and universities offered this instruction by the turn of the century, the college military instruction program was not directly associated with Army needs.  The National Defense Act of 1916 turned away from the idea of an expandable Regular Army and firmly established the traditional American concept of a citizen’s Army as the keystone of our defense forces.  It merged the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and Regular Army into the Army of the United States.  Officers for this expanded citizens’ Army were to be given military instruction in colleges and universities under a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.  Army ROTC was firmly established in the form in which it is known today.

By the beginning of World War I, ROTC had placed some 90,000 officers in the Reserve pool.  In 1917 and 1918, the majority of these were called to active duty.

At the outbreak of World War II, more than 56,000 Army ROTC commissioned officers were called to active duty within a six-month period.  By the end of World War II, more than 100,000 had served.  Since 1945, more than 328,000 men and women have received commissions through Army ROTC.

In 1964, Congress passed the ROTC Vitalization Act, which made the ROTC program more effective by establishing an attractive scholarship program, introducing the two-year program and providing monthly financial assistance to Advanced Course cadets.

The importance of the ROTC program to national security is highlighted by the fact that about 75% of all officers commissioned each year come from the ROTC sources.  The national resurgence of interest in ROTC is also clearly evident by the involvement of over 70,000+ college students in ROTC courses and by the more than 300+ college institutions and 00+ cross-enrolled schools which offer the ROTC program on their campuses.

Battalion History – Davidson Army ROTC 

The 49er Battalion’s history can be traced to its creation at Davidson College, where it was know then as the “Carolina Foothills” ROTC Battalion. ROTC was organized at Davidson College in 1917 and quickly became an established part of the school with 450 cadets in the program by 1925.  In 1917, the year the United States entered World War I, Captain J. W. Lea, a temporary military instructor from The Citadel, was assigned to Davidson College with the mission of organizing, drilling, and training infantry tactics to a group of student volunteers.  This organization took a more formal structure in October 1918 when the Student Army Training Corps (SATC) was officially inaugurated.

With the first world conflict coming to a close, the Davidson College Board of Trustees decided to permanently integrate Military Science into the institution’s curriculum with the establishment of a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.  On 1 April 1919, LTC A.H. Mueller, the battalion’s first professor of military science, officially opened the program, offering classes on military tactics to Davidson students.

In 1923, Davidson College Army ROTC was charted as “Company B, 5th Regiment” in the Scabbard and Blade National Military Honor Society.

In the 1920’s, the Davidson ROTC program grew rapidly, reaching more than four hundred cadets in the Basic Course alone.  A strong showing of student support, combined with a series of national accolades, convinced the Board of Trustees to keep ROTC in the curriculum, despite growing sentiment among the faculty and alumni that the military principles taught in ROTC conflicted with the Christian ideals espoused by the school.  However, in 1968 the Board of trustees made the mandatory Basic Course a voluntary elective–a change which cut the military studies enrollment to a fraction of its previous size.

Among Davidson ROTC graduates are more than 25 general officers, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, former Davidson College President Dr. John W. Kuykendall.  Davidson ROTC won the Governor’s Trophy two times, finishing Advanced Camp with a more impressive showing than ninety ROTC detachments from Maine to South Carolina by the 1990’s.

Davidson College Army ROTC is presently designated “B Company, 49er Battalion.” 

Battalion History – UNC Charlotte Army ROTC

In 1981, the first fulltime detachment with full cadet cadre was established at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Cadet Terry Wiley was the first UNC Charlotte Cadet Battalion Commander.  Previously cadets would make the long drive up to Davidson to participate in ROTC.  Cadet Cadre at UNC Charlotte trained junior cadets in preparation for Advanced Camp.  During this time cadets were often seen at many exhibitions and displays around campus, even rappelling off the Colvard and Kennedy Buildings educating the campus about the purpose of ROTC.

In the 1983 Prospector Yearbook, the Army ROTC is shown for the first and only time.  Yearbooks ceased at UNC Charlotte in 1985 and this was the only time the ROTC Department was represented.  Also in 1983, the UNC Charlotte Army ROTC program was awarded the Omar Bradley Trophy, a regional award, for being the top rated cadets at Advanced Camp (Camp All-American), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  The cadets also placed first, both in the state and the Carolinas.

In 1996, The “Carolina Foothills” Battalion relocated to its current location at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, in order to more effectively reach the growing consortium collegiate market in the Piedmont region.

In 2002, the “Carolina Foothills” ROTC Battalion formally changed its name to the “49er Battalion”. The name change was one of several leadership initiatives taken to firmly establish the battalion’s new home and enhance the working relationship with the university. The UNC Charlotte “49er Battalion” is host to satellite programs in several colleges and universities in a 100+ square mile area of the Piedmont.

In 2010, UNC Charlotte Army ROTC was charted as “Company A, 19th Regiment” in the Scabbard and Blade National Military Honor Society.

In 2011, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Faculty & Staff along with Army ROTC cadre, established the Military Science minor beginning in the Fall 2011 semester to all cadets who successfully complete the requirements for becoming a commissioned officer.

The “49er Battalion” consists of five companies.  UNC Charlotte Army ROTC is “A Company”, Davidson College Army ROTC is “B Company”, Gardner-Webb University Army ROTC is “C Company”, Johnson C. Smith University Army ROTC is “D Company”, and Winthrop University Army ROTC is “E Company.”

Today the “49er Battalion” consists of students from the following schools:

UNC Charlotte, Davidson College, Gardner-Webb University, Johnson C. Smith University, Winthrop University, Queens University, Belmont Abbey College, Wingate University, Pfeiffer University, Gaston College, Livingstone College, Lenoir-Rhyne College, Catawba College, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Carolinas College of Health Sciences, University of South Carolina at Lancaster, Central Piedmont Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, Cleveland Community College, Mitchell Community College, South Piedmont Community College, and Stanly Community College. 

Battalion History – Gardner-Webb University Army ROTC

Gardner-Webb University has had an ROTC presence that reaches back into the 1990’s, when the students at the university could enroll in Army ROTC at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.

The current program, however, came into existence with the Partnership Agreement signed by the U.S. Army, UNC Charlotte and Gardner-Webb University in July 2004.  The Army ROTC cadre at UNC Charlotte’s “49er Battalion” saw great potential for ROTC at Gardner-Webb and worked to commit the appropriate resources to ensure its firm establishment and future growth.

In the spring of 2005, GWU Army ROTC became “C Company, 49er Battalion” and CPT William Nicholson became the first Assistant Professor of Military Science specifically assigned to Gardner-Webb University.  CPT Nicholson served from 2005 to August 2006, and during his tenure he established the university’s Military Science minor, and greatly improved the department’s facilities, moving from a single office in Bost Gym to its current location, a 5-room building on 148 Memorial Drive.

From 2006 to 2010, the company of Cadets doubled in size, from an average of 10 Cadets to an average of 20, under the direction of MAJ Brian Luti. The GWU Army ROTC cadre also grew by one as the University authorized Army ROTC with a (part-time) department secretary. During this time, GWU Army ROTC commissioned its very first officer, Lieutenant Terri Lopez Class of 2007 (now a decorated combat veteran), added two additional scholarship options to the program, started an Alumni Scholarship Fund, and instituted Military Fitness as a credited Physical Education course.  Gardner-Webb University will also pay 100% Room & Board to all Army ROTC Scholarship recipients.

Battalion History – Johnson C. Smith Army ROTC

In 2012, the 49er Battalion, conducted a re-activation ceremony for JCSU Army ROTC, and are now designated “D Company, 49er Battalion.”

Battalion History – Winthrop University Army ROTC

Winthrop University students have long been able to enroll into Army ROTC via the CAEC Consortium agreement and take military science classes at UNC Charlotte.

In 2011, the “49er Battalion” in a partnership with Winthrop University, have established a presence on the Winthrop University campus with an office and classroom in the DiGiorgio Building.

The first Assistant Professor of Military Science to begin teaching freshman and sophomore level military science classes at Winthrop University was MAJ Scott Siegfried.  Presently only the freshman and sophomore level classes are taught on the Winthrop University campus.  All junior and senior level classes are taught at UNC Charlotte and therefore all junior and senior students/cadets must travel to UNC Charlotte for class.  In time, if the Winthrop Army ROTC program grows significantly and maintains its growth, then a permanent cadre member could be stationed at Winthrop University.