Gearing Up For War:
The Palmetto State Becomes a Major Training Center:
"Yes, Columbia has been selected as the site of one of our camps, but details concerning how many men will go there, just when they will be sent, and how long they will remain there must... [wait]... Columbia displaying the pluck that has ever characterized her efforts, has again scored a victory."
-- The State, May 20, 1917
In August 1916, President Wilson authorized legislation to increase the nation's military preparedness. This allowed the country to form a Council of National Defense with a mandate to develop plans to prepare the nation for possible war. One of the architects of this was South Carolina native, Bernard Baruch.
Many communities across the nation and in South Carolina soon began to lobby the Army to place training posts near them. Not only was it a patriotic gesture, but more importantly it provided new economic opportunities for business.
City fathers in Columbia, Greenville, and Spartanburg began this process in 1916, using all the influence they could muster. To improve their chances, these city leaders purchased or leased property for the specific purpose of building a post. While these efforts may have helped, other factors influenced military leaders in making their decisions. Mild weather, cheap land, and lower labor costs for construction all were factors in bringing the Army to these South Carolina communities.
On the coast, the Navy had already established the Navy Yard in North Charleston on the Cooper River (1901) and a Marine training center at Parris Island (1915). The coming of war led to a large acceleration in new construction, reviving the economies of both areas.
Some Carolina Enthusiastically Enlist:
"The Navy Calls for Recruits at Once..." -- Charleston News and Courier, March 26, 1917
"... recruiting stations have been unable to handle the flood of application of men and women which has followed Secretary [of the Navy] Daniels' call..." -- Charleston News and Courier, April 7, 1917
It did not take long for young men across the state to offer their service to the armed forces. Hundreds crowded into army and navy recruiting stations in towns and cities. Gov. Manning encountered this enthusiasm for whites but not for African Americans. Even though minorities tried to enlist by the thousands in the weeks after war was declared, Manning advised them to return to their jobs. He feared that if too many minorities left, there would not be enough labor to harvest the drops. Furthermore, some whites feared the loyalty of African Americans even though such sentiments were groundless. Consequently, Manning advised them to wait until they were drafted. Thus most black South Carolinians did not enter service until the fall, 1917, when they received their draft notices.
In all, nearly 65,000 South Carolinians served. A little more than 2,000 perished during the conflict.