36th Division in World War I

Chapter I: The Call To Arms

[8] All new Guard officers owed their appointments to General Hulen who was placed in charge of recruitment of men and selection of officers with headquarters at Houston. From the "several thousand written applications for commissions" turned over to him by Governor James E. Ferguson and Adjutant General Hutchings, Hulen recommended and the governor approved 417 for commissions. Hulen’s selections were based on geographical and population considerations, the applicant’s recommendations and prior service, personal interviews, and eligibility under the National Defense Act. Upon the selection of an applicant Hulen recommended his official appointment to Governor Ferguson and provided the officer-designate with enlistment forms and instructions to recruit troops.

By late June, 1917, 73 companies and artillery batteries were being recruited by the "prospective commanders" in towns scattered throughout Texas. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments of Texas Infantry had originated in the southwestern, southeastern and northern sections of the state, respectively. The new 1st, 5th, and 6th Infantry Regiments were assigned the same sections in the order listed while the 7th Texas Infantry drew from the northwestern counties. The 1st Texas Cavalry and other units were filled or raised without particular reference to geographical apportionment.

Texas officials, with the cooperation of the press, vigorously promoted the recruitment of the Guard. It was no longer a question of "whether the war is right or wrong," Governor Ferguson averred in an appeal to the young men of Texas on June 7, war was a fact and the Guard needed about 10,000 men. By "enlisting at this time you go to war with people of your native state." An unsigned newspaper article in the Statesman, dateline Houston, June 16, which probably originated in Hulen’s office, set the number to be recruited at 12,000 and declared that Texas, "must show the other States of the Nation that the biggest State is also the most patriotic." How? By its young men enrolling in "one of the grand old institutions of the Lone Star State," the National Guard. If they did not join it, they would be drafted, in which case they would be unable to determine with whom they would serve. But the opportunity was "at hand" for them to enlist in the Guard and serve in a company made up of friends and commanded by an officer from their community.

[9] These efforts notwithstanding, the Guard had, according to General Hulen on June 25, recruited less than 3,000 men. Major W. W. Nelms of Dallas, a recent officer-appointee, thought the slow progress of enrollment an "everlasting disgrace" to Texas "and her traditions." To speed things up, Governor Ferguson issued a proclamation declaring the week of July 4, 1917 as Texas Enlistment Week; asked the assistance of "patriotic organizations," newspapers, employers, parents, "wives and sweethearts," and citizens "everywhere" in recruiting men; and exhorted young Texans to do "their duty in the public service." What "greater life can a man live than that of sacrifice? What greater death can he die than that for principles?" The governor’s second appeal was effective, for when the figures were tallied at the termination of recruitment early in August, 1917, 14,057 enlisted personnel had been added to the Texas National Guard. From 194 officers and 5,097 men at the outset of the recruitment campaign the Guard had risen in numbers to 611 officers and 19,154 men for a total enrollment of 19,765.9

Although the Oklahoma National Guard was expanded much less on an organizational basis, it appears that existing units were equally as understrength as those of Texas. The Oklahoma Guard as reactivated in the spring and summer of 1917 included the following units and commanders: The 1st Oklahoma Infantry Regiment, Colonel Hoffman; the 1st Battalion of Engineers, Major Frank B. King of Guthrie; the 1st Squadron (four troops) of Cavalry, Major Donald R. Bonfoey; and the Field Hospital Company No. 1, Major Floyd J. Bolend of Oklahoma City. It was mobilized and recruited at several points across the state.

The 1st Oklahoma was mobilized and recruited to war strength at Fort Sill. Despite the "large numbers" of volunteers at Fort Sill in April, 1917, they were not nearly enough to fill the regiment even to peace strength. Colonel Hoffman and Oklahoma Adjutant General Ancel Earp therefore issued urgent appeals for recruits. In Oklahoma City on April 28, Hoffman stated that the 1st Oklahoma contained 1,020 men and needed almost 1,000 more to achieve war strength. In a call for volunteers through the medium of the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, Earp counseled the young men of the state to sign up with the 1st Oklahoma, "the only strictly state organization authorized for Oklahoma." He implied that the other units were so small that they would form [10] portions of other state organizations. Those "boys" who wished "to enlist in a unit that will retain its identity throughout the war should join the First." Later, he stressed that Guard enlistments were for the duration of the war. Evidently some men were reluctant to sign up because they believed the term of enlistment was the same as before the war, three years active duty and three years in reserve. Earp also called on commercial and civic groups to assist in the search for recruits.

Among those responding to the call for volunteers was the entire baseball team of the Armstrong Indian Academy at Bokchito, Oklahoma, which had graduated several prominent Choctaws, among them Victor M. Locke, Jr., the principal chief of the Choctaw tribe and a former officer in the Guard. Victor’s brother, Captain Ben Davis Locke of Antlers, and three other Indians, or part Indians, Captain Charles H. Johnson of Pawnee, Captain Walter Veach of Durant, and First Lieutenant Moses Bellmard of Newkirk, were officers in the 1st Oklahoma. Veach and Locke’s companies were composed largely of Indians and in July numbered about 300.

The larger part of the Indian Guardsmen in the 1st Oklahoma were Choctaws, but the regimental rolls also contained the names of Cherokees, Chickasaws, Osages, and other tribesmen. Although many Oklahoma Indians were considered citizens under rules laid down by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and followed by selective service officials, a number joined the Oklahoma National Guard who were noncitizens and as such were exempt from the draft. Their service was entirely voluntary as was that of the majority of American Indians in World War I.

Among the reasons offered in both Texas and Oklahoma for joining the Guard was that rank and promotion would be easier to achieve in it than in the National Army. There were indeed many non-com and officer ranks to fill in both old and new units. There were even more than was originally anticipated in the enlisted grades when the "pick" of the non-coms left for a new Officer Training Camp at Leon Springs, Texas, during the course of the Texas and Oklahoma recruiting campaigns.

The 1st Oklahoma was increased to peace strength by about mid-June. The search for volunteers continued, however, with recruiting parties from Fort Sill fanning out all over the state to secure the nearly 500 more men needed to reach war strength. By [11] early August, 1917, the 1st Oklahoma contained 1,650 officers and men. The total for the entire Oklahoma Guard was 2,576. These figures may have been slightly short of full authorization, but they compared fairly well with those of the Texas Guard. The membership of the latter organization was almost quadrupled while that of the Oklahoma Guard was about doubled.10

Many Texas and Oklahoma Guard units underwent rudimentary training at the various mobilization points. The training was undoubtedly uneven owing to insufficient equipment and inadequate facilities and to the fact that some units were composed largely of veterans while others consisted almost if not entirely of green recruits. The veteran Texas infantry regiments, though posted along the Rio Grande "in small detachments," engaged in bayonet practice "as well as bombing and hand grenade throwing."

Probably no other unit received training more advanced than that of the 1st Oklahoma at the Fort Sill military reservation. Officers from all over the country came to Fort Sill, which contained the largest artillery range in the United States, during the summer of 1917, and afterwards for that matter, to attend its School of Musketry. The 1st Oklahoma occupied the old concrete barracks for a time, but was soon moved westward to a tent camp to make way for a Regular Army artillery regiment.

Trench work in makeshift trenches dug by the Guardsmen, bayonet practice with padded sticks, strenuous marches, target shooting, drill and French lessons for the officers and non-coms were the order of the day for the Oklahomans who believed they would soon be engaged on the battlefields of Europe. For amusement the Guardsmen played baseball, visited a YMCA tent nearby, or patronized the little town of Lawton adjacent the post. The threat of an invasion of shady ladies caused Colonel Hoffman to institute patrols along the perimeters of the encampment.

Early in July Hoffman gathered up the Oklahoma City men, numbering about 250, and took them home by rail for a July 4 parade and a farewell visit. The Chamber of Commerce extended them the "freedom of the city" and there was much speechmaking and band playing, but there was no parade due to inclement weather. Afterwards they departed aboard a Rock Island special amidst tears, cheers, honking of automobile horns, and cries of "go get the Germans." The relatives and friends who saw them off, [12] the Daily Oklahoman observed, constituted "a gathering of the classes-social elite and the rabble standing side by side.11

Although General Hulen complained about the difficulties of "getting suitable and trained officers for the increased [Texas] guard," the officer personnel of the Texas and Oklahoma Guards was probably comparable to that of militia organizations early in past wars. According to the official historian of the 36th Division, Captain Alexander W. Spence, a Dallas attorney in civilian life, less than half the enlisted men and only "a slightly larger proportion" of the officers had previously served in the military. Worse, but a small percentage of the officers were trained as such.12

In terms of military and civilian experience, the ranking officers of the two Guards were seemingly qualified enough. Hoffman was born in Kansas in 1869 and educated at Kansas Normal College. He was the founder of the Guthrie, Oklahoma Daily Leader, was a member of the Oklahoma bar, and had been a district attorney and a district judge. He had served as a captain in the 1st U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish American War and had been an officer in the Oklahoma Guard since 1900. The fact that he was a "dyed-in-the-wool democrat" lent support to the allegation of critics that the Oklahoma Guard was "a political organization." In August, 1917, Hoffman, who was supposed to be "the senior colonel" in the National Guard of the United States, was commissioned a brigadier general in the National Army. Since there was no provision for a brigadier general in the small Oklahoma Guard, he remained with the 1st Oklahoma in an unassigned status because it was expected that he would command the Depot Brigade serving the 36th Division.

For all practical purposes, Hoffman continued to command the 1st Oklahoma though he was succeeded officially by Lieutenant Colonel Elta H. Jayne of Edmond. According to First Lieutenant (later Captain) Ben Hur Chastaine of the 1st Oklahoma, a Tulsa reporter who wrote numerous articles for the Daily Oklahoman during World War I,13 Jayne was "as mean a republican" as Hoffman was a Democrat. He was a successful business man, 42 years old, and a 15-year veteran of the Oklahoma Guard. Below Jayne, the majors commanding the 1st Oklahoma battalions were long-time Guardsmen or veterans of volunteer service in the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection.14

[13] General Hulen, the commander of the 1st Texas Brigade, was 46 years old, a graduate of the Marmaduke Military Academy in Missouri, his native state, and a prominent Texas railroad and bank executive. He had also attended the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia. Hulen entered the Texas National Guard as a private in 1889 while residing at Gainesville and soon rose to first lieutenant in the 3rd Texas Infantry. During the Spanish American War he served as a lieutenant colonel in the 1st Texas Cavalry which was stationed much of the time at Fort Sam Houston. Appointed a captain in the 33rd U.S. Volunteer Infantry, Hulen commanded a company in the Philippines during the Insurrection. He was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in northern Luzon. After several years as adjutant general of Texas with the rank of brigadier general in the Texas Guard, he left public service until 1916 when he came out of military retirement to command the Texas militia on the border. Shortly after his appointment as a brigadier general in the National Army, he commanded the troops in Houston which was placed under martial law following the mutiny of Negro soldiers in the 24th U.S. Infantry.15

General Hutchings, the commander of the 2nd Texas Brigade, was 54 years old and possessed the equivalent of a high school education from public and private schools in New York and England. As the proprietor of a printing firm in Austin from 1885 to 1911, he published the local newspapers and "executed the general commercial printing" of the State of Texas. He worked as aide to Democratic Governor Lawrence S. Ross in 1890 and served as assistant secretary of state in 1905-1906. After an enlistment in the Iowa National Guard from 1882-1884, Hutchings entered the Texas National Guard and rose through the enlisted and officer ranks to lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Texas Infantry. As colonel of the 1st Texas Infantry he participated in army maneuvers at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1903 and at Manassas, Virginia, in 1904. He was in 1907 elevated to brigadier general, was subsequently appointed Texas adjutant general, and was in August, 1917, made a general officer in the National Army. Hutchings had two sons in the military, one a recent West Point graduate and the other Captain Edwin G. Hutchings, 2nd Texas Infantry, both of whom were soon [14] majors.16 Though Hutchings and Hoffman perhaps held an edge over Hulen for involvement in politics, Hulen’s record was seemingly the most distinguished militarily.

The colonels of the Texas National Guard regiments were also veteran Guardsmen. The careers of three of them are perhaps fairly typical. Colonel Guessaz was a San Antonio printer, 62 years old, and a veteran of the Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurrection. He entered the National Guard in 1883 and retired a brigadier general in 1913. In 1917 he returned to active duty and assisted in the organization of the 1st Texas Infantry. Colonel Bloor, an Austin attorney and long-time Guardsman, was 20 years or so the junior of his fellow commander. He was a graduate of Texas A&M and of the University of Texas Law School. He accompanied the 1st Texas Volunteer Infantry as a first sergeant to Cuba during the Spanish American War, was a member of "the famous governor’s guards," served as a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Texas Infantry on the Mexican border, and attended the School of Musketry at Fort Sill in the summer of 1917. Colonel Birkhead was born in Oregon in 1878 and was educated in the Waco, Texas, public schools and at Fort Worth University. Moving to San Antonio, he practiced law and became a district judge. He raised and captained a battery in the 1st Texas Field Artillery during the Mexican border troubles and in 1917 participated in the organization of the 2nd Texas Field Artillery to which he was assigned as regimental commander.17

Birkhead and Bloor were only two of many officers who were promoted and given new positions either in the old or new Guard units as a result of the practice of skeletonizing the former to provide experienced cadre for the latter. The officers in the rank of major and above were generally men of some though often limited military background. An exception was Major Nelms, a district judge, who had no martial experience prior to his appointment in June, 1917, as an officer in the 6th Texas Infantry. His must have been a purely political appointment since there were many captains with more impressive credentials. For examples, Captain Robert M. Wagstaff was a graduate of Simmons University in Abilene and a veteran Guardsman prior to his assignment as a company commander in the 7th Texas Infantry, and Captain W. 0. Murray, a Floresville business man who helped organize a [15] battery in the 2nd Texas Field Artillery at Orange, was a graduate of West Point. Most officers at the captaincy level and below were not so well qualified. One notices that the officers were usually men of some attainment in their hometowns.18 Whatever the caliber of the officer personnel of the Texas and Oklahoma National Guards in the summer of 1917, it would undergo adjustment and improvement during the extensive training interval of the 36th Division.

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