Over the past century and a half many American presidents have visited Governors Island either before, during or after their administrations. Theodore Roosevelt visited one hundred years ago. His purpose was to meet the Commander of the Department of the East Major General Leonard Wood. Wood of course had been helping with the organization of the Plattsburg Preparedness camps that had taken place in Upstate New York over the previous few summers. With unrestricted German submarine now again a reality Preparedness was taking on increasing urgency. And so on the afternoon of Saturday 17 February 1917 Theodore and Theodore Roosevelt took the ten-minute ferry from Lower Manhattan. Roosevelt’s appearance was quite public; the former commander-in-chief received not one but two twenty-one gun salutes.
The Roosevelts had lunch with Wood and other dignitaries and watched a group of forty Plattsburg men, whom Roosevelt referred to as “rookies,” drill. The Plattsburgers apparently had been drilling most Saturdays for some time. One of the most striking things about the drill to Roosevelt was that the men had no rifles; instead they carried broomsticks as they marched. Not one to mince words, especially when given a chance to take a shot at Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt had something to say on the matter for the assembled journalists, averring that he was “filled with wonder and shame that a great people like ours should be in such a state of unpreparedness” as the country headed toward war.
On a happier note enjoy your Presidents Day Weekend, everyone.
(image/Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 20 February 1917)