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Norwich Flashback: NU Name Change of 1880

Although enrollment and the financial health of the university were critical when President Schneider replaced President Todd in 1993, historically, the university had seen much worse days.

In the second half of the 19th century – partly due to the Civil War and exacerbated by the burning down of the “Old South Barracks” in 1866- the ranks of the Corps of Cadets dropped down to approximately a dozen students. Strapped for cash, many felt that the end of Partridge’s dream was near.

Enter Charles H. Lewis, class of 1855.

After graduating, Lewis built considerable wealth through “mining, financial affairs and real estate.” He also served honorably in the Civil War from 1861-1864 making him, in many ways, the quintessential Norwich graduate and the embodiment of the citizen soldier envisioned by Captain Alden Partridge.

In exchange for his financial support Lewis was named president in 1880. Ten days later the university was renamed Lewis College. He served as president for two years and in 1884 Lewis College reverted back to the Norwich University we know today.

Sidenote: Norwich University was not the original name of the school at its 1819 founding in Norwich, Vermont. The original name was the “American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy.” The university relocated to Northfield, Vermont in 1866 after the “Old South Barracks” burned down (this was not an isolated fire, it pretty much destroyed the campus).

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  1. During the Civil War Norwich relocated to Connecticutt for, I believe, two years before NU returned to Vermont. In fact, that resulted in the naming of Norwich, CN.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Norwich did relocate to Connecticut briefly in 1825, but when the town of Middleton refused to grand the land title, Alden Partridge marched everyone back to Norwich, Vermont. The land in Middleton eventually went to Wesleyan University.

    *Norwich, Connecticut was incorporated in the late 1600s.

    Thanks for stopping by. – Randy

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