The last units of the Wisconsin National Guard had returned from Mexican Border Service only weeks prior to the United States’ declaration of war on Germany on April 6, 1917. About 5,000 Wisconsin troops had answered that call and spent nine months in Texas. It was the state’s largest deployment since the Civil War.
Eau Claire's two National Guard units spent their Fourth of July marching in that city's holiday parade. Company E, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry and Troop L, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry were expected to mobilize on July 15th and the parade was one of the final opportunities for the community to see their troops (EAU CLAIRE LEADER, July 3, 1917).
Sheboygan's two National Guard units on June 28, 1917 marched as part of Military Night to celebrate Sheboygan County's substantial contributions to a Red Cross fundraising effort. The units marched through the streets and conducted drills. It was expected that both units would depart soon for the Wisconsin Military Reservation at Camp Douglas and this was considered one of the final opportunities for local residents to show their support of their Guardsmen.
Company C, 2nd Regiment was not the only unit pounding Sheboygan's streets for recruits. Creation of a new unit was also underway to help bring the Wisconsin National Guard's wartime strength to 15,000. Troop M, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry by late June had already met the state standard for a new unit; however, it was still waiting on federal recognition.
As we prepare for the offical 100th birthday of the 32nd Division on July 18th, consider the training the Division's Soldiers faced as a new organization, blending with counterparts from Michigan and incorporating the volunteers from throughout Wisconsin and Michigan. Here is page one of the 32nd Division's training plan for their time at Camp MacArthur, TX. "All instructions must contemplate the assumption of a vigorous offensive." (32nd Division WWI Collection--National Archives).
Sheboygan's Company C suffered a severe setback when Sgt. Peter Stoiber passed away suddenly. Born in Germany, Stoiber was the unit's supply sergeant and had joined the unit in 1898. Stoiber was married with eight children and thus eligible for an exemption from war service; however, he refused the offer so he could stay with Company C.
Like many Wisconsin communities, the citizens of Antigo organized a National Guard unit soon after war was declared. One daunting task for a new unit was to find an armory. John Hanousek solved that problem for Antigo's unit when he donated $10,000 to purchase a foreclosed opera house, which essentially was a community building with a large open hall and plenty of other rooms for storage.
The U.S. Army was still trying to organize and expand into a modern force capable of fighting in World War I. Part of that task was to integrate the National Guard into its force structure. The initial plan was for the Guard from Wisconsin and Michigan to join together as the 11th Division.
Accounts state that the Wisconsin National Guard was having little problem recruiting its force up to 15,000 Soldiers; however, equipping those troops was a different story. The June 10, 1917 issue of the EAU CLAIRE LEADER reported that Adjutant General Orlando Holway had postponed the Guard's June 15th mobilization citing lack of equipment.
The June 9, 1917 edition of the EAU CLAIRE LEADER reported that the entire town baseball team had joined the newly formed National Guard unit in Stanley, a city of 2,700 in west central Wisconsin. Captain J.C.P. Healey organized the company soon after war was declared and soon had 152 recruits.
While the first U.S. troops had reached France, the mission of Sheboygan's Company C was recruiting its ranks to its wartime strength. Recruiting officer Lt. William Jensen urged in the June 8, 1917 issue of the SHEBOYGAN PRESS to those who were about to be drafted, "Do not wait until Uncle Sam takes you by the shoulder and says 'Young man, I am going to take you for your country needs you,' when you have the opportunity of enlisting in an organization which has made a name for itself not only in the state, but throughout the United States."
President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917 in order to create an army ready to fight in World War I. At the time, the Army numbered 165,000 Soldiers while the strength of the National Guard of all the states totaled 181,000. While two million Americans ultimately volunteered for all branches of the military, additional men were needed to raise what would be at the time the largest army in American history.
The April 26, 1917 edition of the GRAND RAPIDS TRIBUNE reported that Wisconsin Rapids' new cavalry unit had been busy locating an armory building, horse stable and rifle range. Next on the list before acceptance of the unit into the Wisconsin National Guard was appointing officers and measuring for uniforms.
Supporting a National Guard unit as it prepared for war was very much a local affair with only limited support available from the U.S. Army. The nearby city of Plymouth supported Sheboygan's Company C by raising money for uniforms for any Plymouth man who would join the unit.
A World War I army required more officers than West Point could possibly train and the Army needed them quickly. As reported by the April 18, 1917 edition of the EAU CLAIRE LEADER, the Army authorized several officer training camps throughout the Midwest with prospective officers from Wisconsin and Michigan sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
While Eau Claire's Company E had been mobilized earlier in the week, Lieut. C.A. Johnson continued his work raising a cavalry troop for enrollment into the Wisconsin National Guard. Adjutant General Holway encouraged Johnson's efforts and stated that he needed "not less than 75 men" before he would send an officer to administer the oath of enlistment and consider the unit part of the Wisconsin National Guard (EAU CLAIRE LEADER, April 1, 1917).
In March 1917, war with Germany seemed all but inevitable. The March 29 edition of the GRAND RAPIDS TRIBUNE (Wisconsin Rapids) noted that Adjutant General Orlando Holway expected a rapid mobilization of all Wisconsin National Guard units and was preparing equipment and supplies for such an event.
War news dominated headlines of Wisconsin’s newspapers in the winter and spring of 1917.
We are working on an exciting piece of the Dawn of the Red Arrow Project. A book titled From Army Camps and Battlefields, by Chaplain (Captain) Gustav Stearns from 1919 documents his experiences as Chaplain of 127th Infantry Regiment from Texas to Germany and back. Throughout the war, Stearns wrote home to his congregation in Milwaukee, WI. The book is the complete collection of his 78 letters.
The SHEBOYGAN PRESS reported on Valentine's Day 1917 that Sheboygan's Company C, 2nd Regiment of the Wisconsin National Guard was one step closer to home after service near the Mexican Border. The unit arrived at Fort Sheridan north of Chicago, but was quarantined to prevent the men from catching measles. Also noted by the paper was the sinking of an American schooner by a German submarine -- the sinking of American ships by the Germans escalated in early 1917 and each sinking moved the two nations closer to war.
The Wisconsin State Legislature in 1917 recognized the service of the Wisconsin National Guard during the Mexican Border Crisis and ordered Wisconsin's Adjutant General to create the Mexican Border Service Badge and award that badge to the 5,000 Guardsmen who answered the call.
The SHEBOYGAN PRESS reported on January 25, 1917 that Company C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment of the Wisconsin National Guard was soon to return after its Mexican Border Service deployment to Camp Wilson, Texas. The unit would return to Texas a few months later and become part of the 32nd Division. We will be highlighting the journey of Sheboygan's Company C from Wisconsin to France as part of this project. #WWI #32ndDivision #LesTerribles
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. — On Sept. 11, 1917, Michigan’s 2nd Infantry Regiment reorganized as the 126th Infantry Regiment and became part of the storied 32nd Division.
The Wisconsin National Guard announced plans to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 32nd Division’s service in World War I and honor its historic legacy.
One hundred years ago Wisconsin National Guard troops were closing out their role defending the nation’s southern border during the Mexican Border Crisis of 1916. Their work set the state for their entry into World War I - and the beginning of the 32nd Infantry Division’s rich history.