Colonel Charles Young, 9th U.S. Cavalry.
A Proud History-A Bright Future
The Central State University ROTC Battalion has been proud to help develop the leaders of tomorrow.
Unparalleled and Unexcelled Marauder Battalion History
From the 19th century to the present, Wilberforce has played an important role in American military history. Since the Civil War, Black men and women associated with Wilberforce have made major contributions to national defense. Most have been officers or cadets of the first military training program established at a historically Black institution of higher education. In 1893 President Grover Cleveland authorized the United States War Department to establish at Wilberforce the first Student Army Training Corps for African Americans. The University received cannon, uniforms, weapons and supplies totaling in value $3,386.21, representing substantial federal backing and support. But the new program would soon sustain what could have been a fatal blow when its first Professor of Military Science died suddenly only a couple months following his appointment. The death of Lieutenant John Hanks Alexander, the second Black to graduate from West Point Military Academy, was a serious setback. Determined to retain the program, the University’s president T. S. Mitchell lobbied for Lieutenant Charles Young to replace Alexander.
The third African American to graduate from West Point and the last for nearly half a century, Charles Young had considerable experience, having served with the 9th Cavalry, one of four Black regiments. During his four-year tour in Wilberforce he firmly established the military training program that exists today as the Marauder Battalion at Central State University. Young made Wilberforce his home. His commitment to the military training of young men there continued throughout his illustrious career. Young was the first African American appointed a military attaché, serving in that capacity in both Haiti and Liberia. He commanded the 9th Ohio Volunteer Battalion during the Spanish American war. An experienced leader in combat in the Philippines and Mexico, and the first Black superintendent of National Parks, Young was the highest-ranking Black officer for most of his career. As World War I loomed he was eager to lead troops in Europe.
Despite his exceptional record and the great need for experienced officers, Charles Young was involuntarily retired from active service. President Woodrow Wilson had written to the Secretary of the Army to express his concern that White officers would refuse to serve under a Black commander. Young was sent to an Army hospital and determined to be physically unfit for active duty. Young had suffered severe illnesses while posted in the tropics but he insisted that he was eager and able to lead men in battle. To prove his fitness, Young rode his horse from Wilberforce to Washington, D.C. Though he had the support of General Pershing, the Black press, and leaders in the Black community, the Army did not relent until five days before the Armistice ended the war, too late for Young to command troops or to be promoted the first Black general. Though bitterly disappointed he had aggressively supported the war effort. Recalled to active service, Young was sent to arduous duty in Liberia and died three years later while on assignment in Nigeria. He was celebrated as a hero and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery following a procession through Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of admirers honored his service to his community and his country. American Legion Chapters across the nation were named in his honor.
Charles Young had inspired and mentored generations of Wilberforce students and men under his command. One of them, Lieutenant Benjamin O. Davis, would replace him as Professor of Military Science at Wilberforce. Davis was assigned duty in that post four times during his distinguished career. The highest-ranking Black officer in World War II, Davis achieved what Young was denied, becoming the first Black general. After completing his first tour at Wilberforce, Davis was succeeded by Lieutenant John E. Green. Like Davis, Greene was detailed to Wilberforce for several tours of duty totaling nearly twelve years. He and Davis were the only two enlisted Black men of the era to be promoted to the officer ranks.
Among the extensive list of exceptional leaders of the military training program at Wilberforce are Aaron Richard “Cap” Fisher, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre in World War I, and Patricia Nephew, the first Black woman to command an ROTC Battalion. Among the many exceptional Cadets are Fred Sheffey and Fredrick Leigh, both of whom became general officers, and John R. Fox who was posthumously presented the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroic service in World War II. Cadets from the program have served with distinction from its inception and they and their mentors have demonstrated the seminal role Wilberforce has played in American military history. Today, Cadets from Central State, Wilberforce, Cedarville, and Wittenberg universities join together in an integrated battalion that continues this legacy and tradition of excellence.