THE PLATTSBURG BUSINESSMEN’S TRAINING CAMP

by G. William Glidden, MAJOR ( R ) USA, Registered Historian, Assoc. of Public Historians NYS Former Deputy Town of Plattsburgh Historian

The training camps, designed to be seminaries for propagandists who preached preparedness to the civilian population, developed the cause of patriotic service to the extent that military training became highly acceptable. One result, the draft riots of the Civil War became unheard of during World War I. Another was the blue print for the formation of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC).

Note the spelling of Plattsburg which was temporarily used during the period.

In Colliers Magazine, Richard Harding Davis published an article, “The Plattsburg Idea” to encourage the spread of voluntary training camps. He defended the aims in preparedness against such opponents as Henry Ford, whom he quoted “any man who chooses to be a soldier is either lazy or crazy and should be placed in an asylum.” Davis further remarked, “should war come, Ford may be among the first to run shrieking to those lazy and crazy officers to protect his life and millions.”

Direction for the training camp movement came from a young New York lawyer, Grenville Clark. Clark’s ideal of the citizens’ obligations for public service became the essence of the Plattsburg Idea. With a few associates, he agreed to recruit a hundred volunteers from business and professional men. Their military training would be at their own expense, if the War Department cooperated by furnishing proper instruction. On 22 June 1915 General Order No. 38 authorized young businessmen and professionals to pay their own way to the training camps. They planned the strategy and organized the civilian groups. In August 1915 strenuous efforts and a public rally in New York City produced a first training class of twelve hundred at the Plattsburg Barracks. A year had passed since the German entry into Brussels.

Both influential younger leaders of the community and immature undergraduates from colleges came to the camp. The muster rolls at Plattsburg sounded like ‘Who’s Who’ and `The Social Register’ combined. The Roosevelts came with the Chanlers, Fishes and Milburns. Among the first noted to train with them: Robert Bacon, former Secretary of State and Ambassador to France; John Purray Mitchell, young reform Mayor of New York City; Arthur Woods, New York City Police Commissioner; and Richard Harding Davis. The public read of millionaires doing ‘kitchen police’, digging trenches, and caught the message behind the incongruity. The sort of men who went to Plattsburg, the publicity that occurred, and the emphasis on officer training gave a distinct elitism to the movement. This would change in the camps of 1916, and especially the camps of 1917 and 1918.

Upon return from training in 1915, the Military Training Camps Association (MTCA) became organized. During the Fall of 1915 and the early months of 1916, the MTCA began to apply more pressure upon Congress, as Congress debated the National Defense Act. The organizers of the MTCA chose to work within the system instead of fighting it. In so doing, they salvaged what they could of the controversial bills. They managed to secure the result in the passage of Section 54 of the act.

On 11 April 1916, Richard Harding Davis died. Upon his death General Leonard Wood remarked, “The Plattsburg Movement took a very strong hold of Davis. Davis saw in this great instrument for building up a sound knowledge concerning our military history and policy, also a very practical way of training men for the duties of junior officers. He realized fully that we should need in case of war tens of thousands of officers with our newly raised troops, and that it would be utterly impossible to prepare them in the hurry and confusion of the onrush of modern war. His heart filled with a desire to serve his country to the best of his ability. His recent experience in Europe pointed out to him the absolute madness of prolonging and disregarding the need for doing those things which cannot be accomplished after the trouble is upon us.”

A year later in April of 1917, by a request to Congress, President Wilson declared war. The Plattsburg Movement became the basis of recruiting influence in military policy. By the signing of the armistice in 1918, approximately 100,000 officer candidates, nearly one half of the officer corps, graduated from the Plattsburg Movement. The birth of ‘the 90 day wonder’ had taken place.

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PART III: BLACKS, SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN OLD PLATTSBURGH

by Jerry Bates

We have been relating the story of black slaves and slaveholders in early Plattsburgh as recorded in the Town Record Books. I previously indicated that I would list the remaining slaves that were noted in the Town records over the 23 years following the last entry that referenced Slaveholder Treadwell in 1798. While records reveal only a few slave owners in Plattsburgh, slavery affected a significant number of Blacks.

As related in my last blog, “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery” freed all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799 when males reached 28 years and females at 25. Those enslaved before that date remained enslaved as “indentured  servants” for life. The following entries laid claim to the children of slaves. (Misspelling and inconsistent capitalization was common in the record).

June 12, 1800 – “This is to Certify that I William Bailey of the Town of Plattsburgh Esquire am Entitled to the Services of a Male Negro Child Named Frances born on the thirty first day of January One Thousand Eight hundred.”

August 9, 1800 – “This is to Certify that I Benjamin Moores of the town of Plattsburgh am Entitled to the Services of a male Negro Child name siak born on the Ninth day of August 1800.”

May 10, 1801 – “This may Certify that Benjamiin Mooers is Intitled to the cervice of a female negro Child name Cate born October 24, 1801 agreeable to Law.”

December 14, 1801 – “This may certify that Thomas Miller is Intitled to the Service of a female Negro Child name Jude born the 25 day of July 1801 agreeable to Law.”

January 15, 1802 – “This may Certify that I John Bailey am Intitled to the Services of a femal Malatter Child named Sarah born the 31st day of May 1801 as Witness my hand at Plattsburgh”

May 15, 1801 – “This May Certify that I John Miller am intitled to the service of a male Chld Malato Named Robert Born the 16th of October 1800 the above Child a mother Name is ann as witness my hand at Plattsburgh”

April 22, 1803 – “This May Certify that John Bailey am intitled to the Service of a Male Child by the name of Franck Born the ninth Day of March Last  Witness by hand at Platsburgh”

May 10, 1805 – “This May Certify that Nathl Platt is Intitled to the  Servis of a female Child Born of a Slave the Childs name is Dine Born 29th of January”

April 23, 1803 – “This may certify that Thomas Miller am Intitled to the Service of a Male Child name Enos Born January the 18th 1803…”

Then releases from bondage began to appear, whether by changing sentiment, by finding slaveholding less profitable, or even perhaps the burden of maintaining older workers is not clear.

April 1, 1803 – “We Benjamin Mooers and Joshua Hilliard Overseers of the Poor of the Town of Plattsburgh in the County of Clinton Do Certify that Brist a negro man with Property of John Addoms of the town of Plattsburgh aforesesaid appears to be under the age of fifty years and of Sufficient Ability to provide for himself given under our hands this first day ….”

April 1, 1803 – “I do hereby certify that I have and by these presents Do Manumit and Discharge from all personal Service a certain Negro Man Named Brist and forever—hereafter Relinquish all Claim to him as my Slave….”                                                                                 John Addoms

November 20, 1804 – This may Certify that I, John Addoms have manumitted and sett free a Certain Negro man named Will who Belongs to me and I do hereby free him from all his personal Service to me forever and I do Recommend him to have been an honest and faithful Servant….

On the same date, the overseers of the poor, Peter Sailly and Thomas Miller certified that the named Will, a Negro Slave Belonging to John Addoms, “Appears to us to be under the age of fifty and of Sufficient abilities to provide for  himself.”

December 20, 1804 – The overseers of the poor certified that the negro Man—Josiah Hick belonging to Thomas Tredwell Esquire…”appeareth to be under fifty Years of age and of Sufficient ability to provide for himself.”

October 4, 1805 – ‘This may Certify that John Addams is Intitled to the Serice of a Negro Boy By the name of Will Born the Sixth Day of May 1805. His Mothers name is Margret”

November 26, 1805 – “I, Do, hereby Certify to whom it may Concern that ame my Black Servant Girl about 23 years of Age and in good Health has this Day by me her pardon given her. I Believe her to be faithful and honest. this to be a complete Exoneration from me after the poor Masters have Subscribed the underwritten Certificate.”                                                                        Benjamin Mooers

January 10, 1806 – The Overseers of the Poor Certified “that the above named Ame a black girl appears to be under the age of fifty and about the age above mentioned and of Sufficient Abilities to provide for herself“

May 10, 1806 – “I do hereby Certify to whom it may Concern that Gin my Servant Black Girl about thirty years of age and in good Health has this Day by me her pardon Given her I believe her to be faithful and honest—this to be a compleat Exhonoration from me after the poor Masters have Subscribed the under Written Certificate”                                                                        Rovert Platt

October 3, 1807 –  “This may Certify that I John Miller am Intitled to the Service of a Male Black Child named Sharp in Rememberance of his Father, and that said Child was Born of Violet My Negro woman on the ninth of September Last Past.”

January 8, 1808 – “I Jonas Platt acting Executor of the Estate of Zephaniah Platt Esquire deceased do hereby manumit and liberate Cato a negro Slave belonging to said Estate, aged about Twenty four Years in Pursuance of the Statute in such case made and provided.” but amended to read that Cato appeared to be under the age of forty-five Years.

October 29, 1808 – under the heading Negros & Bastards.  “Margaret the Slave of John Addoms had a Male Child Born on the 27th Day of October in the Year 1808. The Child’s name is Tom.”

May 4, 1808 – William Bailey manumitted “a Man of Colour named Peter my Slave” and made reference pursuant “of the Statute in Such Case” Peter appears to be under the age of fifty and robust.

May 4,1808 – Peter Sailly manumitted “a Woman of Colour Named Dean My Slave, her Son Francis, her Daughter Caty and her Son Abel, in Persuance of the Statute in such cases”

The Poor Masters certification notes that Dean appears to be under forty, healthy and robust.

May 8, 1816 – Isabel a female slave of William Bailey had a female child born on July 20, 1813. Isabel also had a female child named Zander, born November 19, 1815.

July 22, 1816 – “Maria a Negro Slave of Melancton Smith had a male child born about 28th December 1814 named Sir George Prevost”

Maria also had a female child born about June 15, 1816. No name was noted .

April 25, 1821 – Under the headline, “SAMPSON SOPERS CIRTIFICATE”, Daniel Baker certified that to his knowledge, Sampson Soper with his parents had been born free and never been enslaved at a Court of Common Pleas that found  Sampson Soper “a colloured man about five feet Sevn inches high rather light complexion aged  aboutforty two years & born in Manchester Vermont” was born free.

On the same date, the last slave referenced entry of record: Gilliead Sperry of the Town swore that he was acquainted with Martn Tankard a Black or Mulatto Person and knows the family in Vermont and has no dout to say he was born free and is about 22 years of age”  and was so found free by Judge Caleb Nichols.

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