"This place was nothing by dense wood before they started this camp. They had to mow down trees and they are nowhere finished yet."
-- Bert Lobdell, 27th Division to his family in New York, September 13, 1917
Located on the western outskirts of Spartanburg, Camp Wadsworth was constructed out of a wilderness area in the foothills of northwestern South Carolina. In June 1917, the U.S. Army announced that the upstate community had been awarded the post and the next month the city leased 2,000 acres to the government for its construction. Like Camp Sevier, most of its recruits were housed in tents, but more than 1,400 structures were also built, including mess halls, a post office, latrines, and a laundry. Sewer lines, roads and rails also had to be built to the camp. The work was carried out by more than 4,500 laborers and continued into 1918.
For artillery, the camp found a more isolated area in northern Greenville County known as Hogback and Glassy Mountain. Unlike Sevier, the unit had real pieces to drill with early in training. By the war's end, 100,000 troops had trained at the post. The first was a New York national guard unit renamed the 27th Division. When the 27th left for France in May 1918, the 6th Division from Fort McClellan, Alabama replaced it. The 96th Division was the last to train there. Neither of the 6th or the 96th saw combat.
15th New York Comes to Wadsworth, by briefly:
"We weren't down there more than two hours when trouble started..."
-- Melville T. Miller, 15th New York Regiment, on arriving in Spartanburg to prevent this.
An African American regiment from New York, the 15th, was assigned for training. The mayor told the army that, "they (northern blacks) do not understand our attitudes." In spite of this, the unit came. Soon, confrontations between local whites and members of the unit occurred. A near disaster was averted days after their arrival when some troops marched on the police station with rifles to find two comrades rumored to have been hanged. Their commanding officer intervened just in time to show them that their comrades had not been harmed. The soldiers marched back to camp with shouldered rifles. They looked so disciplined that locals clapped and cheered them, not knowing the near tragedy that had just been prevented.
Soon after this incident, the 15th was ordered to Europe where it served with distinction as the 369th U.S. Infantry. Their German foe called them the "Harlem Hell Fighters." They would become one of the first Allied regiments to cross the Rhine into German territory at the end of the war.
Life at Camp Wadsworth:
Since the first units to train at the camp were from New York, the troops had a more difficult time adjusting to their new surroundings. For many, the rural southern life was too quiet and some of the natives were difficult to understand. Ironically, these northern troops sometimes found the unseasonably cold winter of 1917-18 particularly severe. This must have been due, in large part, to the flimsy tents they lived in. It was hard to keep warm in the cold with a stove that barely kept anyone near it warm. Albert "Bert" Lobdell, from Salem Center, New York, described his sojourn at Wadsworth as "4 months, 232 days, 34 weeks, 32 days of rain, 14 days of cold (reported), 5 days of snow, 4 days of mud, 40 days of guard duty... 10 days in the trenches, 4 days of flu... 100 days of drill, 0 days of furlough... 1 car accident, 4 hot baths, 2 stys, 4 boils, 12 days on the firing range, 1 frozen water pipe."
After enduring all of this, Bert Lobdell shipped out with his division to France. He was killed in action on September 29, 1918.