Early Military Training at Notre Dame

c/2LT Philip F. Mauro, USAR
Fr. Thomas Blantz, C.S.C.
Notre Dame History
09 April 2007

The history of military training at Notre Dame is almost as long as the university itself. This history can be split up into two distinct segments based on the official standing of the units which trained there. During the 19th century, the units were student or faculty run, and had little real affiliation with the United States Army. However, as the 20th century approached, the Army began to create official training units on campuses nationwide. These units were part of programs such as the Students’ Army Training Corps, and later the Reserve Officer Training Corps, which remains a part of the Notre Dame community today. This essay will provide an overview of the first segment of the history of military training at Notre Dame, with special emphasis given to the student and faculty organizations which provided the first formal military training at the university. The most prominent of these units, each of which were sometimes referred to as the “military company” were the Continental Cadets/Washington Cadets, Otis Light Guards, and the Hoynes Light Guards, though other units appeared at interim stages.

An introduction to the origin of military training at Notre Dame is found in a display case which is located on the first floor of Pasquerilla Center, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps building on campus. This display case holds numerous items from American military history which are related to Notre Dame. These items include Civil War swords, letters, bayonets, pictures, and clips of news articles. Along with the pictures, a series of printed cards recounts the history of military training at Notre Dame. The introduction of the series reads as follows:

“Military exercises were part of Notre Dame’s earliest curriculum. Father Edward Sorin, Notre Dame’s founder, encouraged the training just as he promoted Fourth-of-July celebrations, programs on Washington’s birthday, and other patriotic endeavors in order to prove that a university run by French clerics could be truly American. Two companies known as the Continental and Washington Cadets were formed in the late 1850’s. They were described at the beginning of the Civil War with many of the cadets joining the 1st Company of the Indiana Volunteer Regiment which was organized in the South Bend Area.” [Pasquerilla Center, Placard]

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