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Furman History and Traditions

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University Riflemen

A group of Furman University students formed a volunteer military company named the University Riflemen in the spring of 1856. The following is a brief timeline of the company.

  • May 22, 1856. Judge John Belton O’Neall, a Furman Trustee, mentioned the group in a letter to the editor in the Greenville Patriot and Mountaineer newspaper. O'Neall protested arming the students, referring to a recent incident at the South Carolina College where a cadet company played a role in a student riot. However, there were many who opposed Judge O’Neall’s views and were strong proponents of military training.[1]
  • July 25, 1856. The Furman faculty made a report to the Board of Trustees indicating that they had granted the students’ request to form the group after obtaining consent of parents and guardians and after creating rules that would prevent “future danger or inconvenience.”[2]
  • The same report indicated that the company, limited to sixty-five members, was under the supervision of Professor John F. Lanneau who was "thoroughly trained and therefore competent to implant military instruction."[3]
  • July 31, 1856. According to this edition of the Patriot and Mountaineer, the University Riflemen were in full uniform for a parade through town [Greenville] and an inspection by Major Easley of the State militia.
  • February 21, 1857The Greenville Enterprise reported that the Butler Guards celebrated their second anniversary on this date, and were joined by the University Riflemen, dressed in their silver laced black dress coats, and handsome caps and rifles.[4]
  • April 23, 1857. The Greenville Enterprise reported that May Day festivities were planned for May 1, and young ladies of the Female College and of the village who desired to participate were to be escorted by the Butler Guards and University Riflemen.[5]
  • July 9, 1857. Independence Day celebrations in Greenville included a parade by the University Riflemen and the Butler Guards, and it was reported by The Southern Enterprise that the Riflemen were presented a beautiful banner made by one of Greenville’s fair daughters -- Miss Lenora I. Brooks.[7]
  • July 4, 1859. The Riflemen celebrated their third anniversary at the Bartlett House in Greenville.[6]
  • April 18, 1861. After the Civil War started, Furman students were eager to go to war and the University Riflemen requested that they be allowed to volunteer as a company. The faculty consented and on April 18, 1861, Furman president James C. Furman wrote a letter to South Carolina Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens, indicating the faculty resolutions.[8
  • The Governor declined their service since he thought all of the fighting would take place in Virginia, but indicated he would call on them if South Carolina ever became involved in the war.[9]
  • April 22, 1861. Officers of the company elected Professor Lanneau as Captain, and they then joined the Brooks Troop, a company formed early in 1861. The University Riflemen disbanded as many of the former members left school and joined the military. In May 1861, the Brooks Troop was accepted into Hampton’s Legion cavalry battalion and designated as Company B.[10]

University Riflemen's Banner

The banner made by Miss Lenora I. Brooks never made it into battle and lay for years in the Furman University museum on the ground floor of the Science building on the downtown campus.[11] The flag is made of blue silk with gold fringe. One side depicts a soldier with a gun set on his shoulder and the Latin, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori," meaning “it is sweet and sacred to die for one’s country.” On the other side is the image of the palmetto tree with battle paraphernalia lying about its trunk, and the Latin, "Animis Opibusque Parati" meaning "prepared in mind and resources".

The banner was brought out of storage in the 1920s and was so fragile that it was framed between pieces of glass and then displayed in the campus museum. Today the banner is kept in storage due to its fragility.

A replica of the banner has been made and is kept in the University Archives. Anyone wishing to see the replica must give advance notice.  Please email, or call 864-294-2194.

[1The Patriot and Mountaineer. May 29, 1856. Furmaniana File, University Riflemen. 
[2"Report of the Chairman of the Faculty to the Board of Trustees, July 25, 1856," RG 45/005-A Faculty Reports.
[4] "The Parade on Saturday Last," The Greenville Enterprise
[5"May-Day," The Greenville Enterprise, April 23, 1857, p. 2.
[6Invitation, June 27, 1859, third anniversary. 45/005-A Historic Documents, Student Organizations, Various. 
[7"The Fourth," Southern Enterprise, July 9, 1857, p. 2.
[8Remembrances of the Civil War : the note book of John F. Lanneau, Captain, Brooks Troop, Hampton Legion, South Carolina, June 1861- June 1862, pp. 2-3. Call no. E577 .L36 1960. 
[9]  Ibid. 
[10Ibid. pp. 5-6 
[11“Flag of‘Furman Riflemen’ of Sixty Years Ago Once More Stirs Brave Hearts.” The Greenville News, May 5, 1917, p. 5.