New York National Guardsmen traveled in luxury on their way to the Mexican Border in June 1916 during the Punitive Expedition (above). Accommodations would be more spartan eleven months later in the leadup to the larger campaign to come against the Kaiser.

I have not been there yet but the Governors Island season began last weekend. Normally things get underway Memorial Day Weekend but they are starting earlier this year. Things were moving at Governors Island one hundred years ago as well. Leonard Wood was gone by now, banished by Newton Baker and Woodrow Wilson to the Department of the Southeast in South Carolina. The new commander in New York Harbor was J. Franklin Bell. He got off to a running start; the Plattsburg training camp was scheduled to open in mid-May, within two weeks of his arrival at Governors Island to command the Department of the East. Thankfully General Bell had men like Major Halstead Dorey continuing with the work they had begun over the previous few summers preparing the nascent American forces. Officers at the Preparedness camps were also working diligently.

Now there was an increased sense of urgency. With war having been declared over a month ago men were moving not just to Plattsburg but to camps across the forty-eght states. This created an extraordinary logistical problem for the War Department. The act of moving men, let alone training and supplying them, was a task unto itself. On 8 May 1917 officers at the Plattsburg training camp announced the train schedule for the troops slated to start arriving later in the week. Here and elsewhere the railroad system was the primary means of travel and the system was severely tested and strained as spring went on. This was not lost on Secretary of War Newton Baker. On 21 April Secretary Baker had issued an order prohibiting the use of luxurious Pullman sleeper cars for the movement of American troops. It was to be day cars only for the doughboys. The measure allowed for a few exceptions–with prior approval–under extenuating circumstances but Baker was adamant that the order be carried out So many men had to be moved to so many different locales on so few rails that there was no other option.

(image/Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 29 June 1916)