Company C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry left Sheboygan in the summer of 1917 for eventual service in World War I, it left the city without a National Guard unit available for local emergencies.
Sheboygan was not alone, with all 15,000 members of the Wisconsin National Guard mobilized and traveling to train at Camp MacArthur, Texas, the state was without any military force available to respond within Wisconsin.
The National Guard’s dual mission of service to the state in its time of need, as well as standing ready as the Army’s primary combat reserve makes it the most unique of all of the nation’s military organizations. Full mobilization of the Wisconsin National Guard into the Regular Army for World War I left the state unprepared for handle a major natural disaster, civil unrest or other emergency.
To remedy this problem, state law authorized Adjutant General Orlando Holway to create the Wisconsin State Guard, a temporary military force available to the governor until the Wisconsin National Guard returned from the war.
Holway required communities wanting a State Guard unit to provide a petition with 65 names willing to join the organization. Sheboygan Mayor Herman Albrecht immediately submitted a list of 100 under the command of Capt. E.A. Hickey, a retired commander of Company C.
Service in the State Guard was open to any male between 18 and 45 who was not eligible for the draft. Most of these men were over the draft age of 31 although younger people like Marquette University dental student Harry Gerber also enlisted “for the period of the present emergency . . . when the Wisconsin National Guard returns to state service.”
Members of the State Guard drilled weekly and conducted a voluntary annual training without pay at the Wisconsin Military Reservation near Camp Douglas in July 1918. Although it took a while due to the focus on deploying troops, State Guardsmen eventually were issued uniforms, basic equipment and rifles.
Frequently referred to as the Home Guard, these units frequently marched in parades, provided color guards, as well as participated in other ceremonial and patriotic occasions. Fortunately, events did not require their activation for a state emergency.
Over 3,600 people joined one of nearly fifty Wisconsin State Guard units and served until Wisconsin reconstituted its National Guard after the war. Although never called to emergency service, these men fulfilled a vital mission by standing ready to assist their local communities and the people of Wisconsin while Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers began the proud legacy of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division.