July 26, 2017

When the United States got into the First World War in April 1917, it was woefully short on soldiers.

Between the Army and National Guard, the nation had a little more than 200,000 troops. According to rough estimates, it was going to need about 3.5 million. And it was going to need them fast.

That meant, for starters, running more than three million men through basic training right away. And the country needed a place, or places, to do that. One of the results was the creation of Camp Jackson outside Columbia, S.C., which would play a key role in the nation’s efforts to ramp up for war.

On Friday, July 28, at the monthly “Lunch and Learn” session in the Education Room of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, Henry Howe will talk about the role local leaders played in helping the nation train those troops. Mr. Howe is the director and curator of the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum at Fort Jackson.

America’s cantonment strategy called for 32 new bases to be established – half for the Army, and half for the National Guard. But where would they be built?

As it happened, a group of local visionaries in Columbia had been thinking about this problem since late 1916. They formed a Cantonment Commission that started talking to officials in Washington about the benefits of training troops here. The group would donate 1,200 acres to the Army, and put together another 14,000 acres that could be donated, bought or leased.

It may be hard to imagine today the patriotic attitude of those civic leaders a century ago, said Mr. Howe. They weren’t out to benefit themselves; their attitude was “It’s going to be great for Columbia, and it’s going to be great for America.”

Mr. Howe’s 45-minute presentation begins at noon at the museum, is open to the public and is free of charge. While you’re there, be sure to check out the museum’s Camp Jackson exhibit.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.

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