I wrote yesterday that the staff of Base Hospital No. 9 sailed for France one hundred years ago. There was a great deal of activity throughout New York City in the first days of August 1917. On August 5 all of the units of the New York State Militia were finally federalized, becoming the 27th Division. What made the 27th distinct during the Great War was that it was the only fully-formed division to have existed in whole prior to the war. The 28th Pennsylvania existed prior to the war too, but did not have all of its constituent units at that time. July and August were difficult months for the men of the New York Division. An engineering regiment of some 2000 men had traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina to begin construction of Camp Wadsworth in late July. A lack of running water hndered their task. Back home, the division was already planning a going away parade for Thursday August 9, with the mayor, governor, and others to be in attendance. On August 6 the War Department called off the parade.
O’Ryan had a great deal on his mind in early August 1917 as he planned the logistics of sending his division to South Carolina. He also waited Senate confirmation of his Federal commission in the National Army that would allow him to remain in command.
The division’s departure was being postponed for three weeks, perhaps even into early September, due to shortages of guns, blankets, uniforms, and other accoutrements necessary to provision 27,000 men. Also, there was still a shortage of men to fill the ranks. Mayor John Purroy Mitchel and his Committee on National Defense were holding rallies across the boroughs to raise men for the Army and other service branches. Part of the problem was that many men from New York State had rushed out and joined the Regular Army, not the state militia that would eventually be federalized and made part of the National Army. It gives a sense of the challenges that Newton Baker and the War Department had to contend with.
Even the 27th Division’s senior leadership was tenuous. Major General John F. O’Ryan had commanded the unit since 1912, but that was when it was still the 6th Division and part of the state militia. Once Wilson federalized the militias, the generals of these state units had to be confirmed by the United States Senate. Wilson planned to send the names of these 120 or so senior officers to Capitol Hill sometime in mid-August. Most people assumed O’Ryan would remain in command, but until the Senate voted that was not a certainty.
(image/The Pictorial Record of the 27th Division)