The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website

Camp Grant Gallery One

When the original founders of what is now Rockford paddled down the creeks and rivers in 1834 and established their settlement at the junction of Kent Creek and Rock River, they  probably never imagined that their initial venture would ever develop into what is now the present City of Rockford. While Rockford for many years had been noted as a manufacturing center throughout the world, it was the coming of Camp Grant, one of the Government's great troop training centers, that brought Rockford into real prominence.


At the time Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, he began the United States first draft since the  American Civil War, raised billions of dollars in war funding through Liberty Bonds, set up the War Industries Board, promoted labor union cooperation, supervised  agriculture and food production through the Lever Act, took over control of the  railroads, and suppressed anti-war movements. During his term in office, Wilson  gave a well-known Flag Day speech that fueled the wave of anti-German sentiment  sweeping the country in 1917–18.

"New Era Of Expansion For Rockford" exclaimed the morning headline on June 15, 1917 of the Rockford Morning Star as Rockford would get a National Army Cantonment. "Clean City Won The Camp For Rockford Many Free Offers From Other Cities". Experts in the government location board which toured the state in search of a cantonment site came to Rockford, enjoyed the hospitality of the Chamber of Commerce viewed the location and went away perfectly certain of their Washington report. Still not certain of the outcome a group of Rockford business men traveled to Washington to rally for the camp to be located in Rockford.

These are the loyal citizens of the city who gave unstintingly of their time, money and energy to locate one of the governments great army cantonments near Rockford. It was their far vision that prompted them to grasp the magnitude of the under taking and to appreciate the wonderful advantages that would accrue to the city by reason of the location of the camp here. Camp Grant stood as a monument to the untiring energy of this Chamber of Commerce committee of Rockford citizens shown here.

In June of 1917 Secretary of War Newton Baker issued an order creating a National Army Cantonment near Rockford shortly after we entered World War One. The camp was  bounded on the north by Sandy Hollow Road, the timber lined Rock River on the west, the virgin hills of the winding Kishwaukee River on the south and east, it was known as one of the scenic show places of the northern Illinois river country with Its natural beauty. Named in honor of the war hero from Galena, Ulysses S. Grant,  United States of America Commander-in-Chief, 1864-1869, and President of the United States, 1869-1878. Established, July 18, 1917, to serve as training camp for 86th Division of the National Army, which occupied the Cantonment.

The farmland of the McLarty, James, Johnson, Pease and Lace families, with over 3,000 acres of land, was purchased by the government for  $835,000 collectively. This rolling, sleepy farmland would soon turn into a very active Camp Grant.

On June 24, 1917, the work of building suitable quarters for housing, and providing drill grounds, rifle ranges, parade grounds, latrines, mess halls and other necessary items for the training of this division of 43,000 men of the new National Army, was begun. In a little more than three months after the erection of the first building, 180 barracks were ready for the reception of the first group of the selected men who were to be trained. And in the short period of five months the corn fields, pastures, and orchards had been razed, and in their place long rows of bare, unpainted structures had sprung up, macadamized roads built, sewers put in, heating, lighting and water systems installed, bridges built, rifle range and a remount station constructed.

Construction continues at Camp Grant as the cantonment began to rise on what had been parched fields of grain. Camp Grant now was a roar of clanging hammers and creaking cranes, and the long streets were full as the great army of workmen, choking through incessant clouds of dust, rushed toward completion the new city for soldiers.

Click On Picture Above For A Panoramic View of Camp Grant Construction - Click anywhere on the enlarged picture to return

This was a big undertaking to build a "small city" in that amount of time. But that is exactly what they did. They would use 48 million square feet of  lumber, 18 miles of water pipe, 350 miles of electrical wiring, 150  acres of  roofing material, 680 tons of nails, 21,000 barrels of cement and 170 carloads of plumbing. 4,500 carloads of material was hauled to the site by railroad. The  barracks housed 200 soldiers each. The total  area of the camp - Cantonment site proper, 1600 acres, the entire reservation grounds was 5,665 acres and included 1,520  buildings with a combined floor space of 2,200 acres.

Camp Grant served many tasks during World War One, it served as a Reception Center for the processing and training of selectee's for infantry, engineers, machine gunners, artillery, officers training and medical training before they were  assigned to their regular camps. Before the soldiers could occupy the camp other facilities needed to be constructed other than just barracks, which included latrines which were built outside of the barracks as a sanitation measure, mess halls so the soldiers could eat and power plants to furnish the electricity for the camp. They would also need medical, religious and service buildings.

The Residence of Camp Grant Commanding Officer Major General Barry. Thomas H. Barry was born in New York, October 13, 1855. When he finished the common schools, he became a cadet at West Point. He graduated in 1877 and detailed to the famous Seventh Cavalry, Custer's regiment. He won his first promotion fighting Indians, passed through the grades of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel, and in the Philippines was made a brigadier general for gallantry in action. He commanded the Military Academy at West Point in 1910 and was moved to Chicago in 1916 to command the Central Department, which post he left the following year to take command of the Eighty-sixth Division and Camp Grant as it's first Commanding Officer.

Major General Thomas H. Barry

In this view of the Commanding Officers residence it appears some soldiers were busy doing some work around the house with a ladder leaning against it and a barrel in the yard with some branches sticking out and cars in the yard.

There was a small number of troops in camp who had been provided as  guards during the construction period of Camp Grant. These troops required hospital facilities of  some sort, and on August 12, 1917 a small camp hospital of 24 beds was opened. There were no cooks for this newly built hospital, two enlisted men were assigned to one of the guard companies for one week to receive training in cooking. The personnel of the Medical Department at that time included, in addition to the  camp surgeon, two medical officers and five enlisted men. In the middle of August a complete field hospital, with the exception of transportation was received and, when put into use, augmented the bed  capacity of the hospital to 240. An adjacent regimental infirmary, together with six  recently finished barrack buildings, were temporarily taken over for use as hospital  buildings. One of the two infirmary buildings was used as headquarters of the  hospital, and contained, in addition, the medical supply room and dental office. The other infirmary building was used as a kitchen and  contained, in addition, the officers ward and operating room, surgical wards, and space for the special medical examiners who gave physical examinations to new recruits.

Camp Grant Pumping Plant from which eighteen miles of water pipe originated, through which the camp water plant forced 6 million gallons of water per day to the various buildings. Eight wells to supply fresh water were sunk, a 250,000-gallon water tank was erected and a 300,000-gallon reservoir built to supplement the elevated tank.

The 250,000 gallon water tank at Camp Grant. This tank survived in it's original location until 1961. By that time the Greater Rockford Airport was located on part of the former Camp Grant site and the water tank sported a red and white checkerboard paint job. The tower was interfering with radio signals from the tower to aircraft and was dismantled and sold to the city of Rockford and reassembled around the Alpine Road - Harrison Avenue area. The city has since replaced it with a modern tower.

Fifty nine steam heating plants like this one furnished the heat for the camp through a system of 32 miles of pipes, produced by two to ten 250 horsepower boilers at each plant. In contrast to the heating system, an ice plant turned out 20,000 tons of ice a day to supply the cold-storage house and the refrigerators of the 180 barracks.

An incinerating plant burned 30,000 pounds of rubbish a day from the various buildings and barracks as sanitation was a high priority at Camp Grant. No unnecessary waste is permitted and the waste is converted into soap greases and fertilizers. Most of the garbage from the camp is sold to near-by farmers for feeding to hogs.

By mid July endless trains of camp equipment and supplies began to be unloaded at the long line of new warehouses or were shunted down the spur lines that veined the camp. Sometimes more than one hundred cars of supplies reached the camp in a single day.

The newly completed Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad depot would see plenty of activity.

Another view of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad railroad depot.

The first batch of recruits arrived at Camp Grant late in the afternoon of September 5 1917, the first consignment of 350 men. Their train pulled into the Camp Grant station at 5:35 P. M., ten minutes ahead of time. Camp Grant, acknowledged to be one of the largest reception centers in the nation, and was equipped to process and outfit many recruits daily.

Upon arrival at the camp, each individual selectee was given a brief physical examination, then is assigned a spot in the barracks that were to be his quarters during his brief but memorable stay in the center. "When do we eat?" was one of the first thing on the minds of the new recruits when they arrived at camp.  After being assigned to barracks, the men were lined up for mess at once, and the first supper of short ribs of beef, browned potatoes, stewed corn, pickles, bread, syrup, prunes and coffee was a pleasant surprise to many.

New recruits waiting to enter the reception center where they were given a brief physical examination, then assigned a spot in the barracks.

First Roll Call at Camp Grant - After reveille was sounded, the recruits bounded out of bed and hurried to dress in ten minutes or less and line up in a double row to answer roll call when your name was called. A platoon was made up of six squads of eight men each, an officer, and at least one sergeant. The Corporal of each squad held the left hand front rank of each squad.

After an aptitude test which determined the kind of work he was best suited for in the army according to ability, experience and education, they were ready for the actual "outfitting", the men are taken to a warehouse and assembled in groups of forty. Here they are measured and then move from station to station to receive shoes, under-clothing, shirts, trousers, fatigue clothing, mess kits and rain coats. In the above picture you can see the men entering on the right in civilian clothes and before leaving the building on the left they are in uniform.

Two-story barrack buildings were being erected by the hundreds. Each building was equipped to house about two hundred and fifty men. Each contained a large mess hall, a kitchen, a supply room, and an orderly room for the company clerk and company officers.

A partial view of the barracks. All were heated by steam conducted through thirty-two miles of heavily insulated overhead pipe lines connected with centrally located heating plants. At the rear of each barrack was a heated bathhouse equipped with laundry tubs and shower baths. Downstairs was the kitchen, mess hall and rec room.

Fire protection was provided from three camp based fire stations and 262 fire hydrants  provided throughout the camp as well as buckets and fire extinguishers. Pictured above is one of the fire brigades ready to serve the Army base on a moments notice.

A pile bridge across the Rock River was built which was 1,000 feet in length with an eighteen-foot wide roadway

Connecting with the camp system of road-ways are two cement roads leading from Rockford to the cantonment. The rural roads of Eleventh Street and Kishwaukee Street were improved in record time to insure fast arteries of traffic into and out of the camp.

Main Street of Camp Grant where you would pass through the guard shack and the camps main gate  Some of the inductees arrived in the city of Rockford and were transported on  buses and trucks in through the camp's main gate. the camp's original stone  pillared entrance remains visible today at the intersection of Kishwaukee Street  and Airport Drive.

Camp Grant Headquarters Building where the staff officers transact business. In the camp are divisional headquarters, also the various brigade headquarters for the 40,000 men in camp.

The flag flies proudly outside of the National Armies Camp Grant's Divisional Headquarters.

Another view of the Division Headquarters

Soldiers stood at attention while the flag was raised on the flagpole in the morning, and toward evening when the bugle sounded retreat and the flag was lowered.

Another flag raising postcard

Section of Barracks at Camp Grant where the enlisted men lived. There were 180 of these barracks. The barrack buildings were along two main axes, the chief of which ran northwest and southeast, quartering the points of the compass for better sunlight and air, as well as accommodating the lay of the ground. The minor axis ran due north and south. On the banks of the Rock River, in the center of camp division headquarters were situated. Also in the center of the camp was the civic center, consisting of the big Y. M. C. A. and K. C. Auditoriums, the Christian Science Welfare House, the library erected by the American Library Association, the big amusement tent, which later gave way to the Liberty Theater, the Jewish Welfare Hut, the camp store, the post-office and the telephone and telegraph office.

Camp Grant knew no eight-hour law. Often after retreat or later, were heard the commands of some acknowledged leader who had his little squad of eager volunteers repeating the drill of the day. The long period of training, which lasted for over a year, a training necessary for self mastery, for the development of obedience, courage, leadership, loyalty and all requisites of the successful soldier.

6:00 - 6:15 A. M. Calisthenics

6:15 A. M. Mess call for breakfast

6:45 A. M. Inspection of Quarters

The men quickly learned the art of making up a bed to Army standards.

6:55 A. M. First Drill Call

7:00 - 7:40 A. M. First Drill

7:50 -  8:30 A. M. Practical Instruction in Guard Duty

8:30 - 9:00 A. M. Physical Drill

9:10 - 11:30 A. M. Special Instruction

11:30 A . M. - 1:30 P. M.  Lunch and Rest Time

1:30  - 2:00 P. M. Special Instruction in Hygiene and Sanitation

2:00 - 4:30 P. M. Military Instruction

5 P. M. Mess Call for Supper

   All Website Content Copyrighted By  © 2008-2017