Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Great War: June 13, 1917

A hundred years ago, the New York State Military Census and Inventory was underway in Columbia County. Unique to New York, the census had been ordered by Governor Charles S. Whitman to assess "the military preparedness of the state to assist the nation in the conduct of war." The census involved everyone--men and women--between the ages of 16 and 50. They were asked to fill out gender-specific questionnaires meant to provide information about their abilities, aptitudes, and assets, with the goal of identifying the resources in the state that could be tapped for the war effort--not only by the military but in other ways as well. For example, the newspapers in early June 1917 regularly reported about the plight of local farmers who, responding to appeals about wartime food shortages, had planted larger than normal crops but now, at the beginning of summer, found themselves without enough workers to tend and harvest those crops. This need is acknowledged in an article about the census that appeared in the Hudson Evening Register on June 13, 1917.

That a capable woman will step into the shoes of every young farmer drafted from Columbia county is quite evident from the responds made to the interrogation on the females' census blank relative to whether the person enrolling can do agricultural work. Not only are many young women in the surrounding towns answering "yes" to that question, but there are more than thirty women in Hudson who have already stated in substance that they can do farm work.
In every town in the county many women have so far in the State Military census asserted they are experienced in farm work. Many others by their enrollments state they are practical nurses. It is pleasing to observe that here are a large number of females, not only in this city, but in various parts of Columbia county who have or are doing Red Cross work. That the number of young ladies who can operate telephone switchboards, drive automobiles and take shorthand will be larger than is generally anticipated, was the indication today.
There are numerous responses being made in answer to the question for males as to what particular arm or branch of the military service the person enrolling believes he is best fitted for. A Philmont man yesterday stated, "Organization work and business end," a Hudson man wrote, "Secret service and scout duty"; a Kinderhook man said, "Inspecting." Many simply wrote, "I don't know;" others stated, "I have no preference," and several wrote, "It's immaterial to me." It would seem that a majority of those who would enter some service prefer the navy. There are many who stipulate the quartermaster's department, a large number who prefer the marines, many who want to get in the ambulance reserve corps, and a few who think they would make excellent aviators. Infantrymen were scarcer in yesterday's registration than they were on the preceding day.
Many men there are between the ages of 15 and 45 years who claim exception. Of course, "dependents" is the reason given by a large number, but the number who claim physical disability is quite large.
One man who registered outside of Hudson claimed he had a wife and two children depending on him for a livelihood, and that he had weak kidneys. defective eyesight and flat feet. Another man stated he had poor hearing, weak ligaments, leakage of the heart and ruptures. Many claim exemption because of poor feet, and the exemption claims because of bad teeth are numerous.
As was shown in the Federal census last week, a vein of true patriotism is being displayed in this census, which, however, does not seem to be quite as popular with the men. A Hillsdale man wrote on his blank that he has a wife and two girls to support, but if his country needed him, he was ready. In the Fourth ward of Hudson a man wrote that he has six persons depending upon him for a livelihood. "If the United States needs me, I will fight," he said. When he went to register in the Second ward a man said: "I have a wife and three children, but I didn't claim exemption. I didn't see the need for it. I believe the government will exercise excellent judgment in selecting men to fight and won't take men with families until the last resort, realizing that a fellow who is rearing a family properly these days is doing a noble deed. So I didn't claim exemption. My country won't call for me until I'm really needed, and then Uncle Sam will find me 'Johnny on the Spot.'"

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