Colorado in World War I

The story of Colorado’s participation in the events which have occurred since the United States’ entrance into the present World War is one of patriotism and pride. The state has accomplished great things in preparation and has not only given freely of her youth, but has given money continually and liberally. The future historian of the State of Colorado will have a larger and greater story to tell of the state’s share in the great struggle overseas, as now the accomplishments have been directed toward the war preparations and other tasks necessary for the insurance of success. In the columns of the Rocky Mountain News, Governor Julius C. Gunter stated:

“Colorado is shaped for war. The state is organized to meet any demand the nation may make. At the threshold of the New Year (1918) Colorado faces the war problem of future months with a council of defense in every county of the state. This means that our state is well advanced in preparation to bear its part and to do its share in all of the services President Wilson had in mind when he said: ‘It is not an army we must shape and train for war; it is a nation,’ and it further means that Colorado’s people, zealous to give their abilities and resources to the cause of the world’s democracy and liberty, are coordinated and unified in organizations that can quickly and effectively translate into action the policies of their chief executives, state and nation. Thus prepared, Colorado will bend its energies in concentration upon the performance of its work.

“Our state began its loyal action before even the declaration of war. First an appropriation in the regular session of the Legislature, in anticipation of the possibility of war. Again, on March 29, 1917 four days before our President delivered his historic address at the joint session of Congress, and eight days before the issuance of the official proclamation declaring the existence of a state of war with Germany, the chief executive of this state called together a voluntary group of citizens to advise and aid in the direction of Colorado’s war activities. From then until now that group of volunteers, since enlarged as conditions have demanded, has been laboring continuously and zealously to meet fundamental needs.” This organization is now known as the Colorado Council of Defense which, with its auxiliary, the Woman’s Council of Defense, has done such laudable work.

Prior to the outbreak of the war the National Guard of Colorado was considered one of the best state organizations in the country. This body of men was well equipped, well trained and every way ready for instant call to the colors. The state National Guard aggregated about forty-two hundred men when mustered into the United States service on August 5, 1917. The mustering was directed at that time by Capt. I. L. Hunsaker of the regulars, who had been de-tailed by the War Department as senior mustering officer for Colorado. Previously, on July 7th, the troops had been mobilized by Governor Gunter’s orders and encamped while awaiting formal muster. By the close of the year practically all of the companies and regiments had been transported to national camps. The First and Second Regiments of Infantry and the First Regiment of Cavalry were stationed at Camp Kearney, Linda Vista, California; also a Signal Corps Company was there. The First Battalion of Field Artillery was despatched to Camp Mills, Long Island, New York, there becoming a part of the Sunset Division. The Field Hospital Company of the Colorado National Guard is now upon French soil, being part of the famous Rainbow Division.

Something of the war activities of Colorado during the year may be learned from the following figures:

Number of officers and men of the Colorado National Guard in the United States service 4,250
Number of Colorado citizens drafted and sent to the national camps 4,753
Red Cross funds subscribed by the state $1,570,000
Red Cross funds subscribed by Denver City $714,500
Colorado’s subscription to First Liberty Loan $18,000,000
Denver’s subscription to First Liberty Loan $12,900,000
Colorado’s subscription to Second Liberty Loan $23,017,850
Denver’s subscription to Second Liberty Loan $14,913,600
Total registration in state under selective conscription law 83,847
Total registration of Denver 18,468

While Colorado boys are going to war to fight for democracy, echoes come of that old conflict back in the ’60s when other Colorado boys, some of them fathers of those who are now going to the front, were fighting for an undivided nation and the right to open western America to the white man.

A document of interest to state historians has recently come from one of those who helped to write the early chapters of the history of Colorado in war time. Sylvester Gilson, private of Company B, Second Colorado Cavalry, now living in Los Angeles, has added to the archives a copy of the parting address of Capt. J. C. W. Hall as he bade his comrades farewell and retired from the service with the reorganization of the regiment in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on November 15, 1864.

Colorado was nearly a thousand miles from the seat of the conflict, isolated by untracked prairies stretching from the mountains to the Mississippi, yet its troops did valiant service in heading off raiding guerrilla bands and played a part in the defense of St. Louis from capture by Confederates. The long hike those early day Colorado soldiers took gives them a unique place in the history of the Civil war.

The address of the retiring captain in part recites this march, but the achievement can better be appreciated when one considers that the route of the regiment wove from Denver through New Mexico to Honey Springs, Arkansas, to Fort Gibson, in the Cherokee nation; to St. Louis and back to Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth.

Regiments Consolidated As Cavalry Unit

The Second and Third Colorado regiments were filled with their full complement of men and it was decided to consolidate them and make them cavalry instead of infantry. This was effected at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, and it was then that a readjustment of the official roster became necessary and Captain Hall retired.

James H. Ford became colonel, T. H. Dodd, lieutenant colonel, S. S. Curtis, J. Nelson Smith and Jesse L. Pritchard, majors of the new cavalry regiment, which under the consolidation became a regiment of twelve squadrons magnificently mounted and armed. Colonel Ford was placed in command of the district of central Missouri; Captain Hall became his provost marshal.

The troops had frequent skirmishes with bands of Missouri bushwhackers, the most harassing and perilous form of warfare which had been known to that time, and invariably the men from the mountains of Colorado acquitted themselves with credit.

The address of their retiring commander recites some of their deeds as general orders No. 40:

Unflinching Bravery Praised By Officer

“The captain commanding announces to the members of his company that he this day leaves you as your company commander, and in leaving you he leaves a company which is a pride to its adopted territory and his pride to command, and whose gallantry and good deportment now forms a part of their country’s history.

“You were the first soldiers to leave Colorado in defense of your country; you were the only representatives of Colorado at the battle of Val Verde, New Mexico, February 21, 1862, and your participation in that conflict has been a theme of praise.

“You nobly sustained your reputation in the different skirmishes, long and toilsome marches through snow, wind and sandstorms, in driving the Texan army from the soil of New Mexico.

“Your footprints in the sands and the sweat of your brows while on the march from Fort Union, New Mexico, to Fort Blunt, Cherokee Nation, a distance of over twelve hundred miles, and your conduct at the battle of Cabin Creek, Cherokee Nation, July i and 2, 1863; your forced march and the unflinching bravery manifested in the hard-fought battle of Honey Springs, July 17, 1863; the untiring energy with which you performed the duties of provost guard and guarded for so long a time a large number of prisoners at Fort Blunt, will long be remembered.

“Your march from Fort Blunt, Cherokee Nation, to St. Louis, Missouri, thence across the state to Kansas City, Missouri, in the dead of winter; your many toilsome and dangerous scouts after bushwhackers in the district of central Missouri; your efficiency as provost guard at Kansas City, Missouri, incurring the love as soldiers and as a company of all citizens who knew you, and finally, your bravery and devotion to your country’s cause in volunteering after the term of service of the larger portion of you had expired, and joining your regiment in the hard-fought battles of Little Blue, Missouri, October 21, 1864; Big Blue and Westport, Missouri, October 22 and 23, 1864, and your conduct in the many skirmishes and night marches in driving Price’s army with marked rapidity to the State of Texas, and the cheerfulness with which you have marched over five thousand miles as infantry, and performed every required duty as infantry and cavalry soldiers, forms a part of a most worthy history.

Heroic Dead Are Lauded For Sacrifice

“Your territory honors you, and it is with pride that your friends speak of you as soldiers of Company B, Second Colorado Cavalry. The price of your good name is shown in the records of your comrades who have been wounded, and who have laid down their lives as a sacrifice to their country’s honor and integrity, to the perpetuity of her institutions and of the Union.

“The sad dreams of the past bring mournfully to our minds the names of Privates West, Hicks, Brown, Woodward, McKee, George, Eastland and Dickason as having a place among the heroic dead of our commonwealth, besides many others who have their names upon the list of those wounded and maimed for life.

“I would say to you, as a parting request, remember and appreciate the compliments and kindness awarded you by your colonel, James H. Ford, your commanding generals, Canby, Carleton, Blunt, Curtis and Brown. To those of the company who are soon to indulge in a citizen life, I would say, encourage and uphold the institutions of our Government, and encourage a vigorous prosecution of the war.

“To those of the company who are to continue in the service, I would say, stand by the principles you first enlisted upon, stand by your country, and when the contest comes between you and the enemy of the Union, strike and battle with will and determination until the last foe has fled who would sever and destroy this glorious Union, and the true and wise will sustain you, and the patriotic will honor you.”

Fort Logan

Early in the year 1887, Henry R. Wolcott, Sen. N. P. Hill, David H. Moffat and other wealthy men proposed to donate a tract of land sufficient for the establishment of a large garrison near Denver. The real leader of the movement was Maj. W. S. Peabody, who acted as agent for the men interested and for the Chamber of Commerce, and who also aided in drafting the bill which went through the’ lower House of Congress. On February 28, 1887, Congress passed an act authorizing the secretary of war to establish a military post near Denver; the same act appropriated $100,000 to be expended under the secretary’s direction for the necessary construction work. The State of Colorado was required to cede jurisdiction over the tract of ground used by the post. Gen. Phil Sheridan came to Denver and selected the present location from a great number offered, and after it had been accepted by the War Department, Gen. George K. Brady, with two companies of the Eighteenth Infantry, was ordered to proceed to the ground and erect temporary quarters, the site to be known as “Camp near the City of Denver.” In November of the same year (1887) Capt. L. E. Campbell, of the quartermaster’s department, was ordered to Denver to begin the construction of permanent quarters. At the end of three years the post was an accomplished fact, and Col. H. C. Merriam, with six companies of the Seventh Infantry, took possession. For some time the post was called Fort Sheridan, but the people of Chicago, Illinois, had given their post the name of Fort Logan. When the matter was submitted to General Sheridan he switched the titles and the new Colorado post became known by its present name, Fort Logan.

Fort Logan is not, at the present time, a regular training post of the U. S. A., although strong efforts have been made to have it created as such. The post is used as a receiving station; however, for thousands of enlisted and drafted men, and here they are outfitted and given some preliminary training before being assigned to permanent training camps.

History of Colorado

Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top