In 1777 the Virginia House of Burgesses authorized the formation of two militia companies in Williamsburg. Although legally exempt from military service, students and faculty at the College of William and Mary expressed their strong patriotic desire for freedom by enlisting and swearing an oath to defend their state and fight for national independence.
So large was the College’s involvement that one of the two Williamsburg companies that was formed consisted almost entirely of students and faculty and was designated “The William and Mary Company.” This patriotic act of William and Mary’s scholars helped advance the concept of the citizen-soldier and laid the foundation for ROTC at William and Mary. Reverend James Madison, president of the College, was appointed captain of the company and served in that capacity from 1777 to 1778. The College was later used by General Washington as a military hospital, and members of the William and Mary Company were among the militia and regulars of the Continental Army that defeated the British during the Siege of Yorktown. For this action, the company was awarded an official Army battle streamer, which adorns the William and Mary Revolutionary Guard Battalion flag today. Only one other ROTC unit (The Virginia Military Institute) is so honored.
Today the College of William and Mary continues to support the United States by training future military leaders through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. To this end, the Department of Military Science was established at the College on July 1, 1947, with the name “The Revolutionary Guard Battalion” and the assigned mission of qualifying students for positions of leadership and management in the United States Army and the civilian sector.
The Revolutionary Guard Battalion began a second company, C Company, at nearby Christopher Newport University. Classroom courses are taught at both schools, with field leadership training conducted at sites such as Ft. Eustis, the Mariner's Museum, and the College’s Lake Matoaka Woods.
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