Americans were watching with increasing anxiety as the winter of 1917 moved along. Everyone was wondering what would happen with the German u-boat attacks and looking ahead to what spring and summer might bring. No one of course knew that the United Sates would enter the war the first week of April. The first week of March 1917 officials were predicting that 50,000 men and 10,000 young males between 15-18 would registeri to attend the Military Training Camps for civilians in Plattsburg, New York and elsewhere before they opened that June. They were to be called “Federal Reserve Students.”
Things had changed a great deal since the first camps in 1913; as pf summer 1917 the civilian camps were to officially be under the auspices of the Army. This had a number of implications. For one thing in previous years the men had paid their own way, which explains why most Plattsburg men came from upper class families, usually from the Northeast where interventionist sentiment was stronger than in the South and West. The Army would pay for uniforms, food, arms, and travel expenses. The duty of processing the letters of interest fell to Leonard Wood and his staff at the department of the East on Governors Island. He tasked his chief of staff Colonel George True Bartlett to take care of it.
Theodore Roosevelt was watching it all closely and was never happier than when he heard that his eighteen-year-old nephew, William Sheffield Cowles Jr., his sister Anna’s only son, was intending to attend. As it turned out, neither Cowles nor the other 60,000 boys and men attended the civilian training camps that winter. When war indeed came, the Army prioritized the camps at Plattsburg and elsewhere exclusively for military use alone.
(image/Library of Congress)