The Washington Light Infantry is one of the nation's oldest militia units, organized in 1807. Anticipating a second war with Britain, the citizens of Charleston organized a number of volunteer corps, one of which was the Washington Light Infantry. It alone survives.
The Corps was named in honor of George Washington. On his birthday, February 22, a military banquet has been observed annually by the Corps. The famous Eutaw Flag (the story of which follows), was borne by another Washington, Colonel William Washington, who was a cousin of General George Washington.
Since 1807, the Washington Light Infantry has participated as a unit exhibiting honor and bravery in every major war this country has fought. In the War of 1812-1814, between the United States and Great Britain, this company was mustered into active service. No military event occurred in the United States and the infantry did not serve.
In 1824, the company was distinguished as a "Fusilier Francaise" or a special guard of honor. Its function served to escort the Marquis de Lafayette into Charleston. The Captain gave his commands in French. Having been previously coached in the French commands, the company's performance was heralded as a compliment and was received with much delight by the General.On April 19,1827 the widow of Colonel William Washington of the Revolution, Jane Elliot Washington of Sandy Hill, South Carolina, assigned her husband's battle flag to the Washington Light Infantry. Today, the flag is still preserved as the Corp's most precious relic.
In 1836, the Washington Light Infantry hastened to the rescue of the city of Saint Augustine. The rescue afforded the women and children of the city protection from the torch and tomahawk of the Seminole Indians who massacred three hundred U.S. troops in the wilds of Florida.
In 1842, the Washington Light Infantry greatly assisted in the establishment of the South Carolina Military Academy (now known as The Citadel). In 1843, the Infantry relinquished the guard of the Citadel building to the new Cadet Corps.
In 1842, the Washington Light Infantry greatly assisted in the establishment of the South Carolina Military Academy (now known as The Citadel), and in 1843 relinquished the guard of the Citadel building to the new Cadet Corps.
When the Mexican war broke out in 1847, the Federal Government called upon the Governor of South Carolina for a regiment of infantry. The Charleston volunteers were accepted and Ensign William Blanding of the Washington Light Infantry was called to its command. As a part of the famous and historic "Palmetto Regiment" it shared the trials and distinctions of General Scott's brilliant campaigns.
Obeying the authority of the State of South Carolina, when the War Between the States developed in 1861 -65, the Washington Light Infantry formed themselves into three companies for the war. The total
total number of men enrolled was four hundred and fourteen; and at the close of the struggle its casualties numbered one hundred and fourteen killed, and many others maimed and scarred for life. Official reports show frequent citations of acts of individual heroism and deeds of sublime courage on the part of the Washington Light Infantry officers and men.
The war over, the survivors returned to their homes and in 1866 they formed what was called the Washington Light Infantry Charitable Association, the first organization of its kind in the South, to assist the families of those who had fallen or who were disabled by the war. Today this Association is known as the W.L.I. Charity Fund, and its by-laws have been so amended that the destitute families of fallen comrades of all military engagements, wars, and even riot duty may participate.
Many persons have credited the Washington Light Infantry with using their utmost influence in 1842 in the founding of the South Carolina Military Academy, now known as The Citadel, the Military College of Sout.hCarolina.At the close of the War Between the States in 1865, the institution was closed and in the possession of the Federal Government. The W.L.I, determined that it would be reopened for the training and education of South Carolina's sons; and after numerous meetings and using every influence possible, TheCitadel was finally reopened in the fall of 1882.
In 1916, the Washington Light Infantry, as Company "B", 2nd. South Carolina Infantry, answered the call of President Wilson for patrol duty on the Mexican border near El Paso, Texas. And in 1917, when the United States entered World War I, the active company of the W.L.I, was augmented to war strength of 150 men, and under the command of Captain Harry 0. Withington, served in the National Army overseas in the 105th Ammunition Train, 55th Field Artillery Brigade, 30th Division.
Following the war, the National Guard (formerly the State Militia) ,came under a vast reorganization plan under the direct authority and supervision of the Federal Government. The active company of the W.L.I, was reorganized, and was mustered into service on June 30, 1919, becoming "B" company, 118th Infantry, South Carolina National Guard, a part of the National Defense set-up at the call of the President.
In May 1921, the Washington Light Infantry active company answered the call of the United States Shipping Board for a tour of duty in guarding shipping at docks and at anchor when seamen and shipping interests had a dispute over wages.
In the years following, the W.L.I. Company "B" was called out several times on tours of duty for similar crises in the states. In 1940 at the call of the President, the National Guard of the United States was called to active service for full time training, where they remained for a year before being sent overseas. Upon their departure, the