Clarence and the Wisconsin State Guard Reserve

It was pure chance that I was preparing this post for this week, and Veteran’s Day is Saturday. Brilliant. To all the veterans in my family, past and present, thank you for your service.

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Clarence with his State Guard Reserve unit. (He is in the back row, straight back from the gentleman sitting on the far right in front.) His designation was provided by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison.

In 1904 the Wisconsin State Legislature enacted Chapter 434.

“In the event of all or part of the Wisconsin National Guard being called into the service of the United States, the governor is hereby authorized to organize and equip a temporary military force equal in size and organization to that called from the state, provided, that upon the return to the state of the troops called into the service of the United States the temporary military force shall be disbanded.”

Both my grandfather Clarence Fredrick John and his uncle Milton Cain were members of the Wisconsin State Guard (or in Clarence’s case it was the State Guard Reserve). Milton went on to fight in France with the Rainbow Division. My grandfather, on the other hand, never stepped foot in Europe, or Africa for that matter, during this war. He did not turn 21 until October 29, 1919 and the war was over a little more than a week later.

The State Guard was organized after the Wisconsin National Guard went overseas to join in the war effort in July of 1917. The first units of the State Guard that were organized were in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Green Bay. The men recruited were all volunteers who were too old or too young for the draft.

Its first encampment was at Camp Douglas in July of 1918. It was comprised of four regiments of infantry and a State Guard Reserve. In total about 5,500 officers and men.

The Guard was paid an allowance by the state for: armory rent, upkeep of clothing, and the expenses connected with their training. However, the men in the Guard were all volunteers so received no wages or pay. And if you were in the State Guard Reserve, you paid for your own equipment and uniform.

The camp was commanded by BG Charles King, a retired officer of the Wisconsin National Guard. He trained the men as if they were regular army, and their competence  after a few days of intensive training, along with their own drills at home, was impressive. In his report to the adjutant general Gen. King complimented them highly.

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From the family album. Clarence Fredrick John in his State Guard Reserve uniform.

It was understood that joining the State Guard did not exempt the men from the draft. Those who were too young to join at that time would be eligible for active service when they reached the age of 21. The older men could be called up if they ran out of young blood.

The Wisconsin State Guard was needed 3 times during the World War I:
1. Sept. 16-18, 1918 Clark County; to assist in search for draft dodgers.
2. Aug. 20-24, 1919 As guards during the Cudahy riots.
3. Sept. 9-12, 1919 Troops were assembled in the armory at Manitowoc, for use in strike riots at Two Rivers, but they were not used.

The State Guard was incrementally disbanded starting on May 5, 1920, as the National Guard was slowly reactivated in full, a process which was completed in 1921.

Clarence was with the 26th Separate Company of Crandon.5 He sure does look cute in his duds. He apparently liked to say that his ship was turned around at sea because the war was over, so he never got to fight. It makes for a nice story, but I am doubtful that that was the case, as he wouldn’t have had time to be on a ship heading overseas, less than two weeks after he was of age. He might, however, have had his bags all packed and been raring to go.

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Sources:
1.  http://www.b-1-105.us/history/wsg.html.
2. Email from: Horton, Russell <Russell.Horton@dva.state.wi.us.
3. “State Guard to Camp Douglas”, The Farmer-Herald, Oconto Falls, Wis., Friday, June 28, 1918. Page 4 Column 2.
4. “Wisconsin in the World War,” by R. B. Pixley. Milwaukee, The Wisconsin War History Company, 1919. Copyright 1919:S.E. Tate Printing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. Google Books digitized. p285
5. “…found a Clarence F. John in the State Guard Reserve microfilm. It appears he with the 26th Separate Company, which seems to be based out of Crandon” — email from Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 
30 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 53703.

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Milton Cain in the “War To End All Wars”

Thankfully, for my readers, I recently came across the information in the following post just in time for this Memorial Day. Although Milton did not die during a war, he did serve and was wounded, so I am telling his story in that respect.

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Milton Cain on the left with an unknown fellow soldier. This picture was probably taken in France and sent home to family1

Milton Cain was one of two of the youngest children of John Cain and Carrie Rosa, as he was a twin, along with his sister Mildred. Both were born in Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin in November of 1894.

When the United States officially joined with Europe in efforts to defeat the Kaiser during WWI, Milton had already been in the Wisconsin State Guard for a year and a half.  He was 22 years old when he was assigned to Company B, 150th Machine Gun Battalion, 42nd Division. Otherwise known as the ‘Rainbow Division’2, (because it consisted of National Guard units from 26 different states, along with the District of Columbia).

Milton, and his fellow soldiers, were all shipped to Camp Mills in Mineola, Long Island on September 3rd of 1917, where they waited for orders to sail to Europe. And on October 18 they boarded the Covington in Hoboken, New Jersey to begin their trip to France.

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Here is the ship’s passenger list with No. 21 being Milton.

The local papers in Oconto County did their best to keep their readers informed about the goings on during the war, as in this article which started the efforts to track the boys route during the war.1917_11_23TheFarmerHerladp1c5

The 42nd went overseas to the Western Front of Belgium and France in November 1917, one of the first divisions of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to do so. The AEF was commanded by General John Joseph Pershing. Upon arrival there the 42nd Division began intensive training with the British and French armies in learning the basics of trench warfare which had, for the past three years, dominated strategy on the Western Front, with neither side advancing much further than they had in 1914. The following year, the division took part in four major operations: the Champagne-Marne, the Aisne-Marne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In total, it saw 264 days of combat. While in France, the division was placed under French control for a time. [from Wikipedia entry for Rainbow Division.]

According to published accounts of the 42nd, the 150th specifically was involved in the following battles:

Luneville sector, Lorraine, France, 21 February-23 March, 1918
Baccarat sector, Lorraine, France, 31 March-21 June, 1918
Esperance-Souain sector, Champagne, France, 4 July-14 July, 1918
Champagne-Marne defensive, France, 15 July-17 July, 1918
Aisne-Marne offensive, France, 25 July-3 August, 1918
St. Mihiel offensive, France, 12 September-16 September, 1918
Essey and Pannes sector, Woevre, France, 17 September-30 September 1918
Meuse-Argonne offensive, France, 12 October-31 October, 1918.
Meuse-Argonne offensive, France, 5 November-10 November, 1918

When Milton was seriously injured on July 29, 1918, it is possible this happened during the Aisne-Marne offensive. But his injury did not keep him from continuing on with his company. The last battle that the 150th was involved in was the one most known to me, and probably others, that is the Battle of the Argonne Forest. It was the first  part of the final offensive of the Allied forces along the Western Front. This battle lasted 47 days and ended with Armistice on November 11, 1918.3

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Here is a cool map that shows the route of the 42nd during the war. Just follow the rainbow.
American Soldiers Returning Home on the Agamemnon, Hoboken, New Jersey
American soldiers heading back home after the war.

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Milton came home in 1919, unlike many of his fellow comrades in arms. He married and even became Mayor of Oconto, twice, in the 1950s. He died November 8, 1972 still living in Oconto.

Ex-Mayor Cain Died At Age 78
       Former Mayor Milton J. Cain of Oconto died Wednesday at Oconto Memorial hospital following an extensive illness.
       Mr. Cain, a popular votegetter in both Oconto and Oconto county, served as mayor for two separate terms, from 1952-1954 and from 1958-1960.
He also was an alderman (city councilman) and a supervisor on the Oconto County Board.
He was a tavern owner for many years and a member of the VFW.
Mr. Cain was born November 24, 1894 in Oconto, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John P. Cain, He attended Oconto schools and was a lifelong resident of Oconto. He married the former Eva Bitters on October 18, 1927. A veteran of World War I, he served with the 42nd Rainbow Division.
Survivors include his wife; one daughter, Mrs. Jan (Helen) Hansen of Appleton; one son, William of Oconto; one brother, Harry of Waukesha, 7 grandsons and one great-grandchild. Three brothers and three sisters preceeded him in death.

In memory of those who gave their lives while serving their country.


Source:

  1. The Farmer Herald, vol. 21, Issue 12 1918-08-23 page 1. Milton Cain image regarding WWI soldiers. “Milton Cain, a son of Mrs. Carrie Cain with the Rainbow Division was severely wounded July 29th.” [1918]
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Infantry_Division_(United_States)
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meuse-Argonne_Offensive