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The Army draft was completed in 1917 for World War soldiers being assigned to battle overseas

Bob Cox • Oct 14, 2018 at 12:00 PM

The drawing of the numbers for the local Army Draft aroused intense interest and massive anticipation all over the country. Every registered male in the United States had been issued a number, and thus occupied a certain and fixed status among the registrants.

In forming the first Draft Army, the registrants were summoned before exemption boards in the order in which their numbers were drawn. It was yet to be announced just how each state would apportion its quotas. Eventually, the government decided to draft more men summoning the next in order for the new Army.

In apportioning the draft to several states, the federal census bureau made estimates of the population as of 1917 as compared with that of 1910. In Tennessee and five other Southern states, it was estimated that there had been an actual decrease of population.

On the other hand, large increases in population were estimated for some of the northern states. These estimates became very much criticized. The real inequality consisted of the provision of the law to be taken. The population of military age from 31 to 45 thus became exempted.

Many of these recruits would make fine soldiers. At any rate, the War Department, after three months of preparation since the declaration of war, had at last fixed the status of the young men who were subject to the draft. They now knew the order in which they would be summoned before the exemption boards.

Within a few weeks, they knew who would comprise the Conscript Army. Under the rules as promulgated, there were certain classes whose exemption was sure. Those who could prove that a wife, child or parent was dependent on them would be exempted.

If this number was anything as large as was indicated by the registration cards, about 26 percent of those summoned for examination would be exempted. In addition, a considerable number were in county or city officers, elected by the people. Then there were the aliens (not naturalized citizens of the United States) and ministers.

After all of those had been sorted out, the physical examinations removed another large proportion. In examination for the Regular Army, these ran as high as 30 percent. Up to 65 percent of those first called before the exemption boards, finally went into the Draft Army.

It was hoped to assemble this Army in special camps by Oct. 1. They were put through training and were ready for service in Europe soon afterward.

Johnson City's National Guard unit, now completely in the Federal Service, observed regular Army routine. The boys went to their Armory in the Gray Building (W.D. Gray, Grocer) at 225-27 W. Main Street and obtained their meals at a local restaurant. Art Shoe Shine Parlor and White City Laundry also occupied that same address.

The first 50 men drawn were notified to appear for physical examination at Dr. John W. Cox's office at 110 N. Roan the following Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Johnson City members of Battery C numbering about 15 left Tuesday for Knoxville, where the field artillery unit was mobilized before proceeding to a training camp at Charleston, S.C.

The final physical examinations were held in Knoxville on a Monday morning, which brought the total roster of the battery up to 190 men, surprisingly only two short of the full quota.

Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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