Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Marching in Step: Patriotism and the Southern Catholic Cadet Movement

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Marching in Step: Patriotism and the Southern Catholic Cadet Movement

Article excerpt

Rod Andrew Jr. explains that nineteenth-century American Southerners perceived their sons as indolent, willful, and in need of discipline. To address this concern, college administrators attempted to implement strict military cadet training rooted in religion and patriotism. Andrew's argument focuses on college military training as a tool used to enhance scholastic order, improve civic engagement, and promote Southern patriotism. Within this larger argument, Andrew also contends that aside from discipline, military training in Southern colleges reflected religious and patriotic ideals by attempting to transform students into good upright citizens and respectable Christians.1 Similar to Andrew, Jennifer Green discusses military training in Southern colleges and universities as a disciplinary tool and opportunity for social mobility via a fostered sense of * 1 networked professionalism as a result of self-discipline, perseverance, and social distinction.2 Such cadet instruction and military training practices lasted well into the twentieth century.3

Despite the clear presentation of facts in both Andrew's and Green's theses, their narratives rely on examples drawn from non-Catholic institutions such as secular institutions or colleges and universities founded on Protestant values (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist) but omits Catholic institutions.4 Thus, a pertinent question has been ignored: What particular significance did similar systems of cadet training have in Catholic colleges in the American South? Although scholarship regarding cadet corps and military training in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Southern higher education is intermittent, there is a need to expand this body of knowledge to include Catholic colleges and universities. To fill this gap, this article focuses on the implementation and objectives of military cadet training at Catholic colleges in the southern United States during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries (see figure 1).

Historically, several existing and defunct Southern Catholic colleges and universities provided military training. Institutions such as St. Mary's Jefferson College in Convent, Louisiana; St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana; St. Mary's University in Galveston, Texas; the College of the Sacred Heart in Augusta, Georgia; and Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, all had cadet corps. Likewise, the College of the Immaculate Conception in New Orleans boasted a cadet corps that rivaled the long-standing military cadet battalions at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.5 These Southern Catholic colleges fostered military programs that mirrored non-Catholic college cadet regimes; however, Southern Catholic institutions already provided overtly religious instruction with internally reliant, rigid disciplinary systems.6 For example, the priests and brothers at St. Mary's University in Galveston

. . . had . . . taken hold of the Texan youth to mold them into some shape . . . It was a hard task, for the boys were wild, indeed. . . . They knew little or nothing of discipline, and it was with the greatest difficulty they were controlled. The good brothers came with their click signals to attract the attention of the boys and with their straps to inspire fear and enforce discipline. These weapons of law and order brought not a little into line. Besides these weapons the Brothers had others, and they were those of religion. They were very strict with regard to Catechism, Confession, Holy Communion and a faithful attendance at Mass. . . . Punishments were well given, and the Brothers ever insisted on strict order and discipline.7

Southern students at Catholic institutions were perhaps equally "wild" as those at non-Catholic institutions. Certainly, the Jesuit priests of antebellum Spring Hill College experienced less than enthusiastic student dispositions toward hard work and academic rigor. The priests felt that these student attitudes were a

consequence of their [the students'] belief that they can succeed in life and get rich without work; the weakness of parents, who tolerate and encourage everything . …

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