Chapter 4
The New York National Guard Heads For the "Sunny  South"

Camp Wadsworth was constructed for the purpose of training the New York National Guard.  Originally numbered the Sixth Division, it was re-designated the 27th Division in October of 1917.1  The New York National Guard was an unusually large organization.  It was one of only three National Guard outfits able to meet United States Army war time division strength requirements without being merged with other state National Guard organizations (Pennsylvania and Illinois were the other two).  This made the 27th Division almost exclusively a New York organization.  After serving on the Mexican border, the New York National Guard was called back into Federal Service on July 12, 1917.  The 27th Division was commanded by Major General John Francis O'Ryan.2  In many ways, General O'Ryan was an exceptional figure.  A lawyer in private life, he was the youngest major general in the army.  The only National Guard general to maintain his original command until the conclusion of the war, O'Ryan was well liked and respected by the men he led.3  Prior to departing for Camp Wadsworth, the 27th Division was given one of the largest send off parades that New York City had ever seen.  A member of the 102nd Ammunition Train recalled that "On the morning of August 30, 1917, we left camp to take part in the 'Farewell Parade' of the 27th Division.  What a parade it was!  Throngs of people lined the streets the entire length of Fifth Avenue from 110th Street to Washington Square, cheering themselves hoarse, waving flags and banners, and bombarding us with candy, chewing gum, and all kinds of fruit, cigars and cigarettes.  We reached the end of the march at Washington Square late in the afternoon, tired but happy.  After a little lunch we boarded the elevated line and were soon back in camp to rest up for the trip to the training camp in the South."4  The first large formation to leave for Camp Wadsworth was the famous 7th New York Infantry Regiment.  The 7th Regiment was popularly known as the "Silk Stocking Regiment" because of the large number of wealthy New Yorkers serving in its ranks.  On September 11, 1917, the 7th Regiment began its journey to Camp Wadsworth.  Sergeant Gerald F. Jacobson would later write:

"When assembly was blown at 1.50 o'clock the visitors retired to and filled to overflowing the great gallery around the drill floor.  The regiment was formed promptly, attendance reports were made, the command was given which started New York's 'aristocratic' regiment for the Southland, the band played 'Auld Lang Syne,' and off we went while our friends and loved ones shrieked and shouted, laughed and cried, waved their handkerchiefs and stamped their feet.  Colonel Willard C. Fisk led us out of that deafening roar, down Park avenue to 57th street, west to Fifth avenue, down Fifth avenue to 23d street, and west to the Pennsylvania ferry slip at the Hudson River.  The regiment boarded a ferry, crossed to Jersey City, and entrained… Perhaps only on the occasion of the homecoming parade of the 27th Division, of which the Seventh Regiment became a part, was a larger crowd massed along Fifth avenue than on the day the Seventh went away."5 

    Upon reaching their destination, the 7th Regiment and the units that followed it would soon find themselves in a world very different from New York.  This was true not only of military life at Camp Wadsworth, but of Spartanburg itself.  Endless cotton fields, African-American spirituals, the state wide prohibition of liquor, and conservative Southern values were just a few of the striking differences between New York and Spartanburg.  Yet, from September of 1917 to May of 1918, the Yankees of the 27th Division and the citizens of Spartanburg would experience each others similarities and differences first hand.  The experience would largely influence both parties for the better, and earn the New York National Guard a permanent place in the hearts of the people of Spartanburg.

For Notes please see Appendix C - Bibliography

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© 2006, Jonathan Brooke and the Spartanburg County Historical Association, All Rights Reserved