June 12th, 2009
The questioner is Alan Grayson (D, FL)
Incident at Camp Mills
The following anecdote is told by military historian Al Nofi at StrategyPage: www.strategypage.com/cic/docs/cic238b.as
In mid-1917, after being inducted into federal service, a large number of National Guard regiments from several states were concentrated at Camp Mills, on Long Island, in New York.
Among these were the 69th New York, the 15th New York, and the 4th Alabama..
The 69th New York was traditionally an Irish unit. In the reorganization for the war, however, the 69th had acquired several hundred men from New York’s other famous regiment, the 7th, the very first militia unit to bear the title “National Guard,” and nicknamed the “Silk Stocking Regiment” because in its ranks could be found the scions of some of the richest and most notable names in the state, such as Roosevelt, Fish, Lefferts, de Bevoise, and so on.
The 15th New York was a largely black regiment. The men had been recruited mostly from New York City’s black middle and professional classes. Although the officers were mostly white men from the city’s upper crust, many of them veterans of the 7th Regiment, such as Col. William Hayward and Capt. Hamilton Fish, Jr., as well as regimental surgeon George Bolling Lee, grandson of Robert E. Lee. There were also a number of black officers, among them James Europe, already a noted bandmaster, N.B. Marshall, a prominent attorney, and Vertner Tandy, a promising young architect, serving as lieutenants and captains.
The 4th Alabama was, of course, of different character. And the Alabamians had a problem with Northern black folks, who clearly lacked a certain degree of obsequiousness toward whites. On trains and in local businesses near Camp Mills the Alabamians often abused black citizens, discovering to their surprise that local whites frequently raised objections. And they were extremely hostile to black soldiers. The Alabamians refused to salute black officers or acknowledge their authority if at all possible. Black enlisted personnel were frequently subject to verbal insults and occasionally physical assaults, even when performing official duties, such as provost guard. In local businesses and taverns, which were open to all, there were often tense confrontations between white servicemen from Alabama and their black counterparts from New York, not to mention the occasional brawl.
To the surprise of the Alabamians, the men of the 69th, although Irish and reputedly anti-black, often stood up for their duskier comrades, jumping in to help in free-for-alls, or where a group of Southern “gentlemen” were harassing a lone black soldier.
Now the Irishmen were hardly champions of racial justice. Nevertheless, the black soldiers of the 15th were, after all, fellow New Yorkers. And some of the men from the 69th had served with some of the officers of the 15th, when both had been members of the 7th. But there was another reason the Irishmen were willing to jump into the fray; The Alabamians had cast aspersions to the courage and honor of the 69th, claiming to have sent them fleeing in terror at First Bull Run.
Naturally, the tensions and incidents between the black New Yorkers and the white Alabamians soon come to the attention of the powers-that-were. The camp commander, fearing worse violence (after all, everyone was armed), and not willing to take action against the principal instigators and thus be seen to be siding with blacks against whites, ordered the men of the 15th New York to turn in their ammunition, but allowed the Alabamians to keep theirs!
This injustice really rankled New Yorkers of all colors. So Capt. Hamilton Fish, later a noted Congressman and isolationist, commanding a company in the 15th, quietly approached a friend in the 69th, apparently Maj. William J. Donovan, who would win a Medal of Honor at the head of the regiment, and still later lead the O.S.S. in a greater war. Fish asked Donovan if he could “borrow” some ammunition. The latter quietly agreed. Just as quietly, word was passed to the Alabamians that any further incidents would meet with an appropriate response. This seemed to cool things down quite a bit, especially since the men of the 69th let it be known that if there was any shooting, they’d join in, in support of their fellow New Yorkers.
At about the same time, the Army decided to form a division at Camp Mills, to be composed of National Guard units from all across the United States, which was promptly dubbed “The Rainbow Division.” Of course, what to do about the 15th New York? Among New Yorker’s there was considerable support for including the regiment in the new division; indeed, the most famous New Yorker of the day, Teddy Roosevelt, had proposed raising a division of “Rough Riders” that would have included a black regiment. But someone in authority – apparently Douglas MacArthur – declared that “Black is not a color of the rainbow,” and promptly arranged to ship the 15th off to France, where it arrived on New Year’s Day, 1918.
As for the regiments, the 69th New York became the 165th Infantry and the 4th Alabama the 167th (at least someone realized that the two outfits needed to be in different brigades), of the new 42nd Division, seeing hard service at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne. The 15th New York became the 369th Infantry, of the partially formed 93rd Division, which served with the French. No American regiment spent more time in the front lines than the 369th, which never yielded an inch of ground, earned the first Croix de guerre awarded to a Doughboy, and was the first American regiment to enter Germany after the Armistice.
Today all three units are active, the 69th Infantry (having been so-redesignated in the Army list after World War II) and the 369th Sustainment Brigade in the New York National Guard and the 167th Infantry of the Alabama guard, and all have done their bit in recent conflicts.
A web site calling itself "The Art of Manliness" listed the 100 must-read books, "the essential man's library." The entire list is here:
The first 25 listees are:
- The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Republic by Plato
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
- The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer
- Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Call of the Wild by Jack London
- Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
- Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Master and Margarita by by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
What would you suggest instead, or in addition?