Many of the boys from Jackson County who served in World War I were trained at Camp Sevier in Greenville, S.C. The camp was named in honor of John Sevier, a Revolutionary War hero who fought at Kings Mountain and later went on to become Tennessee’s first governor.
By the time it closed in April of 1919, more than 100,000 servicemen had trained at Camp Sevier. Twenty-five ships were required to transport the North Carolinians, South Carolinians and Tennesseans comprising the120th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 30th Infantry Division (“Old Hickory”) trained at Sevier to the front lines overseas.
That unit gained immortality when, on Sept. 29, 1918, it breached the supposedly impregnable Hindenberg Line, a key step to the eventual end of the war on Nov. 11, 1918.
When German defenders realized the Old Hickory unit had succeeded in its attack, some German officers reportedly “threw up their hands in despair, saying, ‘It is over; there is nothing between you and the Rhine.’”
Camp Sevier was frequently visited by friends and relatives of local soldiers in training. Below, a dispatch from Dan Tompkins that appeared in the Feb. 15, 1918 edition of the Jackson County Journal describes the mood at the camp prior to the bloody fighting that lay mere months ahead:
“Well folks, it has been quite some time since I had the pleasure of telling the people at home what the boys are doing down here, through the Journal. And I don’t know that it is necessary for me to write this, as my very good friend, ‘XYZ’ of Speedwell, has been in this neck of the woods recently, and I am sure that he can tell the story much better than I shall ever be able to.
I noticed in the Journal of last week, that it carried the story of Capt. Dorsey’s resignation. His successor has arrived and is now in command of the Radio Company. He is an excellent gentleman, and from all accounts will make a good commanding officer, and best of all, he is very much liked by the boys of the Radio Company, as well as of the Companies of the Battalion.
The Radio boys have bought a Victrola, with part of their Company Fund, and now we have music with all our meals, and in between times, when anybody gets a chance to wind the thing, the notes of “Oh Johnnie, Oh Papa” and other rags, with an occasional change to “Joan of Arc They are Calling You,” may be heard coming from the general direction of the radio street.
Most of the boys took advantage of the beautiful weather Sunday, and went to Greenville or some nearby town and took in the sights. Your correspondent tried it one Saturday not long ago. He went to Greenville, and being there at mess time, hied himself to a café, and ordered a supper of half a fry, an order of hot cakes, and a cup of coffee, a very reasonable bill of fare for a hungry solider. When bill came in the charge was 80 cents. How the cashier arrived at such conclusion has been a puzzle to me until a few minutes ago, when I decided she looked me over, guessed that I had exactly one dollar (which was correct) and figured to leave a dime for car fare back to Camp, and ten cents with which to write to three friends and try to borrow enough to keep me in cigarettes until pay day.
This kind of weather is mighty nice, but it is certainly putting the pep into work for the training, which is going steadily forward, almost every minute during the day being devoted to learning something that will come in handy ‘over there’ or in practicing what has already been learned, that we may be able to do the right thing, do it right, and do it at the right time.
The health of the boys from Jackson has been very good, except for a few isolated cases of mumps, a thing every fellow should have had years before he was old enough to join the Army.
Sgt. Elsie Dillard of the Radio Company and Corporal Fred Bryson of the Wire Company spent the weekend in Asheville.
County Coroner J.R. Dillard was here the last of the week, from Webster, visiting his son Will and the other Radio boys.
Lt. David Lee Hooper was here to see his brother, Oburn.
Theodore Buchanan and Harry Buchanan stopped over for a visit at Camp a few days ago, as they were returning to Sylva from Atlanta.
George Sprinkle was here Sunday and Monday, visiting his brother, who is a member of the Military Police, and shaking hands with the boys from Jackson.
Zeb V. Watson and Lee Hooper of Speedwell were here for the weekend with the boys.
I think both would have enlisted had it not been for the fact they are slightly above the draft age, and think they can be of more service raising hogs and hominy than they would be in the Army. And by the way, men, get it into your heads that grub is what is going to count in the long run in this war. I see that the County Farm Demonstrator is on the job, and is making efforts to arouse the farmers to the danger as well as to the absolute necessity, for old Jackson to raise every pound of food that is possible to be produced in the county this season.
Jackson is not a slacker county. More men volunteered from that county for this war, in proportion to the population, than from any county in the state. She furnished her full quota for the draft, and perhaps more, when the fact is she got no credit for the volunteers is taken into consideration, without a murmur from the boys coming forward when the nation called. And I know that the farmers will redouble the splendid efforts of last summer. The boys in the Army are counting on the people of the home county to back them up, and we are sure we will not be disappointed.
Get behind that Farm Agent. I have never seen him, but from his articles in the newspaper I think he is starting a good campaign. So grab onto anything good that comes along. The only way to carry this conflict to a speedy and successful termination is by concreted efforts of the nation. We can have no slackers. When the house is afire is not the time to stop and count the cost of cutting a hole in the roof.
American soldiers are holding a section of the Western front. Americans have made the supreme sacrifice on the battlefield. American boys have gone under on the high seas, the victims of cowardly attack of the assassin submarine, and rest the honored sleep of heroes, as the waves of the Atlantic gently rock them to and fro in the cradle of the great deep. Hundreds of thousands of others are in training camps, waiting the call to service overseas. The boys are in the fight. The baptism of fire is just beginning, and to carry it to a successful, honorable, lasting peace, they must have the backing of the nation, and any man who tries to hinder or who tries to dodge the issue of service should not be tolerated in the society of decent men and women, now or hererafter when peace shall have come.”