U.S. Army 2nd Draft Increment Train Schedule September 1917

Author: 
Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

After the United States officially declared war on the Germany Empire on April 6, 1917, the country scrambled to develop a system to increase the standing U.S. Army. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. Army was a policing or constabulary force untrained and unprepared to fight a major war. The regular Army then was composed of a total of 121,797 enlisted men and 5,791 officers., and the total of the U.S. National Guard was 181,620 men from the 48 states.

On May 18, 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed authorizing the President to increase temporarily the military establishment of the United States. The Selective Service System, under the office of the Provost Marshal General, was responsible for the process of selecting men for induction into the military service, from the initial registration to the actual delivery of men to military training camps. For the first federal draft registration—to be held on June 5, 1917—all men age 21 to 30 were required to register with local draft boards.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration explains the historical background of the United States’ Selective Service System and organization at the local level as it started in 1917:

 “The Selective Service System was one of ‘supervised decentralization.’ The office of the Provost Marshal General in Washington was responsible for formulating policy and transmitting it to the governors of the 48 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Under the administration of the PMGO it was the states, territories and the District of Columbia which managed the operation of drafting men for military service in World War I.

Under the office of the Provost Marshal General the Selective Service System was made up of 52 states (or territories) and 4,648 local boards. These organizations were responsible for registering men, classifying them, taking into consideration needs for manpower in certain industries and in agriculture, as well as certain special family situations of the registrants; handling any appeals of these classifications; determining the medical fitness of individual registrants; determining the order in which registrants would be called; calling registrants; and placing them on trains to training centers.

District boards were established by the President (one or more for each Federal Judicial District). The average district board had jurisdiction over approximately 30 local boards, each with an average registration of 5,000 men. . . . Local boards were established for each county or similar subdivision in each state, and for each [approximately] 30,000 persons in each city or county with a population over 30,000. The local boards were charged with the registration, determination of order and serial numbers, classification, call and entrainment of draftees” (https://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww1/draft-registration).

Each state and territory were responsible for meeting quotas for the total number of men to be added from the state for the National Army. As of September 1917, there were a total of 16 U.S. Army military cantonments or camps for military training, to which those men who were drafted would be called into active service through a system of draft increments and calls to meet the quota. On September 19, 1917, 300,000 men were called from around the country as part of the second increment of men being sent to camps, as new camps and facilities were being expanded to be able to absorb more men in the future. Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina North Carolinians called as part of this increment largely would be assigned to the 81st Infantry Division and its various regiments. 

Between September 19 and 21, 1917, North Carolina men who were inducted into service through the draft began traveling to Camp Jackson near Columbia, S.C. A train schedule from each county in North Carolina for these men was developed, to coordinate them swiftly to the camp. The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina holds an original copy of the “Schedule for the Second Increment of the National Army.”

This train schedule—a rare document that is little-known to many people—includes the total number of men sent from each county to Camp Jackson; the railways the men would be transported on; the cities from which the men left by train, and the cities where they had junctions or transfers to other trains; and the dates of the men’s departure and scheduled arrivals from their counties to Camp Jackson. 

The train schedule also lists the times and cities for train stops of the troop transport trains, and when and where meals were provided to the men. Typically, boxed lunches were provided by American Red Cross chapters at canteens in the cities and towns where the trains were stopping.

For men in eastern counties in North Carolina, their arrival at Camp Jackson would be delayed by heavy flooding there in September 1917, which delayed the certification of men by the local city and county draft boards in order for them to be sent to training camps.

To see the complete train schedule, you can visit the State Archives of North Carolina and use the collection WWI 3 North Carolina Draft Records (in which the train schedule is housed), or you can order copies of the seven-page schedule through the State Archives’ Reference unit through our Public Services’ page.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.

Resources

"World War I Draft Registration Cards: Part 1: Introduction, Historical Background," U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, viewed at https://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww1/draft-registration.

World War I: Building the American Military,” by Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity, U.S. Department of Defense, March 29, 2017, viewed at https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1134509/world-war-i-building-the-american-military/

"Preparing for 2nd Increment," Charlotte News (Charlotte, N.C.), September 14, 1917, Page 12.

"Three Hundred Thousand Men Traveling To Camps For Europe's Battlefields," Charlotte News (Charlotte, N.C.), September 19, 1917, Page 1.

"Columbia Expects Two Thousand Daily," Charlotte News (Charlotte, N.C.), September 19, 1917, Page 1.

"Camp Jackson Short 2,400 Men Last Night," Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, N.C.), September 25, 1917, Page 10.