The men of the 23rd’s Third Battalion were the first from New York State to enter Federal service in the Great War.

I’m sorry about the lack of posts this past week. Things have been so busy with the semester in full swing and spring break coming next week that there has not been much time for posting. I did something I rarely do and took a full day off yesterday: no work, no writing, no anything. Instead I went into the city and did a few things. Among other things I went to The Strand and bought a copy of Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. Some might know Snyder’s best known work Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. I remember ordering it for our library when it came out five years ago. I am always pleased to note that it circs well too.

Speaking of historians and books I’ve ordered, I am going to see Anne Applebaum, the author of Gulag: A History, lecture tomorrow night at the CUNY Graduate Center on the future of the West. Though I am wary of drawing “lessons” from history, circumstances are always more complex and varied to draw exact parallels between historical moments, the past can inform of us where we are and how we got here. There is comfort too in the awareness that the people before us faced challenges just as we ourselves do today.

Speaking of historical moments, today marks one of the most pivotal days in the history of the Great War. It was on Monday 2 April 1917 that President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress asking for a declaration of war on Germany. I don’t think I realized until recently that the country was already on a war footing in the weeks and days prior to Wilson address. Here in the city the men of Manhattan’s 71st Regiment and a battalion of Brooklyn’s 23rd became the first units from the Empire State to enter national service when they mobilized over the weekend. For its outsized role in the war New York was surprisingly a little late to the game. Men from around the nation had already been doing so for much of the past week at least.

(image/Brooklyn Museum/Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection)