Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Great War: July 30, 1917

Last Sunday, Prince Charles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prime Minister Theresa May joined the King and Queen of Belgium to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, which began on July 31, 1917, and continued until November 6, 1917. Two days before that disastrous battle began, Company F of the Tenth Regiment, Hudson's own unit of the National Guard, now federalized, left for Fort Niagara, on their way to the front. The departure took place on a Sunday evening. The next day, the Hudson Evening Register reported on the event.

Company F, Tenth regiment, left Hudson at 7:22 o'clock Sunday evening for Fort Niagara, near Lewiston, to assist in training student officers of the United States army.
The greatest demonstration ever made in this old and historic city, except that which took place in connection with the Hudson-Fulton celebration in 1909, was coincident with the unit's departure.
Practically a half of Columbia county's population cheered the boys as they marched through the crowded thoroughfares to the cars which carried them to their present destination. 
There were shedding of tears, women fainted and fathers and brothers broke down as the "F" boys' train slowly rolled out of the lower Boston & Albany yards onto the spur that connects the New York Central tracks with those of the Boston & Albany.
The parade was inspiring, for comprising the escort were organizations exceedingly appropriate to these troublesome times, and the whole atmosphere was imbued with patriotism and affection for the departing soldiers.
As their train sped on toward Fort Niagara, there was little sleep last night for the "F" members, for the rousing farewell accorded them kept echoing in their ears, and though they had "Packed Up Their Troubles in Their Old Kit Bag," all felt a bit of real sentimentality for the "folks back home."
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Literally oblivious of atmospheric conditions prevailing, the rain which began to spatter almost simultaneously with the soldiers' departure from their armory and the streaks of lightning lashed across the southwestern horizon at intervals, 10,000 persons stretched their necks to get a glimpse of the "F" company of Hudson march stepping with an easy stride into Warren street toward Worth avenue about 7:20 o'clock last evening on the initial lap of a journey which may eventually take it to the battlefields of France. Crowded along Warren street from Fifth down to South Front another 10,000 persons waited patiently for the boys to march down the thoroughfare to the Boston & Albany railroad yards to entrain for Fort Niagara, situated near Lewiston, on Lake Ontario.
Excepting, perhaps, the celebration held in 1909 coincident with the Hudson-Fulton celebration, Sunday's demonstration was of a greater magnitude than any ever held in this city. Flags floated in the breezes, the whistles of practically every factory in Hudson and its immediate vicinity were blown, bells were rung, and cheers vibrated through the air. An inspiring parade in which about 2,000 persons participated, was made in connection with the boys' departure and the "F" boys went away with the best wishes of thousands of Columbia countians, and amid the beautiful strains of "Auld Lang Syne."
The occasion was one that would furnish much material for sentimentalists, for there were vivid patriotic scenes and numerous features which might be touched upon quite extensively. Prominent among the latter elements was the existing weather conditions, which eventually bore out the old proverb that "every cloud has a silver lining." When the parade was commenced from the armory rain began to fall, and the drops became thicker and larger, while the skies were overcast and in the southwest a flash of lightning could be seen at intervals, but when the parade got under way, nature evidently became imbued with the spirit of loyalty being displayed, and soon the rainfall ceased. When the "F" boys marched through the huge throng of human beings gathered in the vicinity of New York Central station, the sun, almost as red as blood, had broken through the clouds, which settled over the Catskills, sending a ray of consolation and much brightness to the hearts of practically every man, woman and child who took part in the remarkable demonstration.
Most Autos Ever Seen in Town.
Hours before the start from the armory was made, Warren street from Second to Eighth streets was lined with automobiles, and as the parade went past Public square a reporter counted 216 cars parked in that vicinity. It was originally planned to keep all automobiles on the right side of the thoroughfare, and facing uptown. This plan was carried out exceptionally well by the police until room for hundreds of other machines was not available on the thoroughfare. There were automobiles from every part of the State, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire represented in the long lines. One machine had a California license, two had Florida licenses, and another was from New Mexico.
Rain Might Dampen Clothes, but Not Fealty
People crowded the sidewalks along Warren street, every porch was packed with men, women and children, on many roofs were spectators and on the steps in front of the Reformed church more than 200 persons assembled. 
The great mass of humanity increased the humidity which prevailed throughout the afternoon, and many small children suffered even greater than many of the older folks who were in the vast throng because they were not able to get a breath of air, or see much of the parade either. Women wearing costly gowns and hats were apparently unmindful of the rain and many men paid no attention to the fact that their new straw hats were rapidly becoming like pulp. In fact the rain did not interfere in the slightest, apparently, and did not dampen the commendable spirit of patriotism and fealty which prevailed.
"Oh, bother the rain; I'd rather have all my garments spoiled than miss seeing the boys go by," was the declaration of one lady who stood near Fifth and Warren streets just prior to the commencement of the parade in reply to another woman who advised her to step into a nearby shoe shining parlor because of the rain. In those few words she evidently expressed the feeling or more than twenty thousand persons. . . .
The picture of the Reformed Church, which in 1917 stood on the south side of Warren Street just below Fifth, did not appear in the newspaper article. It's from Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection, as is this picture of Company F, posing in front of the armory in June 1916.

There were pictures that accompanied the article in the Evening Register, but they were pictures of the officers of Company F: Captain Archland Best, 1st Lieutenant Tristram Coffin, and 2nd Lieutenant Robert W. Evans, Jr.

 
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