Today marks the 100th anniversary of when Union County’s Company E, 4th Ohio/ 166th Infantry Regiment officially left to go fight in World War I.
However, the Great War wasn’t the mens’ first stop. The accompanying photo, taken outside of the courthouse in Marysville, shows a snapshot one week before the men of Union County geared up to go train at National Guard training facility Camp Perry, in Ohio, in September. However, the group was facing a problem: it needed to boost its numbers to be 150 people by August.
“At the time, they had about 60 to 70 guys, and a company back then was supposed to have 150,” said Bo Johnstone, a war historian with the Union County Historical Society. “What they were supposed to do for that month, from July to August, was recruit more guys for that unit.”
Johnstone said, when President Woodrow Wilson declared America’s participation in World War I in 1917, he activated and federalized the National Guard and instituted a draft for men among the ages of 21 and 40. Company E, the Union County troops, had to report to their local station, located in Marysville.
He said the armory was used to train the company’s men in drills, as well as provide a rifle range in the basement. He said the armory they reported to was so close by to some of the men in the company that they were able to sleep at their homes at night rather than bunk in at the facility.
After being able to scrounge up the men to reach its quota, the company had another problem once it got to Camp Perry in August: now it needed 250 members in its group.
“The state basically grabbed a 100 guys from every company in the state, mainly draftees, and assigned them to these units,” he said. “In the picture… there were 161 on the roster, though one guy deserted.”
At that time, there were six regiments in Ohio, so company E, the 4th Ohio regiment, was under the assumption they would be sent to Alabama with the other Ohio regiments to form the 37th Division. However, they were surprised to find out they were going to create the new 42nd Division at Camp Perry, the Rainbow Division.
He said the 42nd Division got its name of the Rainbow Division because it was comprised of men from 26 states, including New York, Alabama, Wisconsin, Virginia and other states. He said, as an interesting point, there were some fights among the division, particularly with the Alabama men, because of the Civil War.
“Douglas MacArthur said it would ‘stretch across the country like a rainbow because we’re going to include men from everywhere,’” he said. “It’s ironic the 82nd Division got the nickname ‘All American,’ when technically the 42nd Division should have had that name.”
He said the men were then taken to Camp Upton in New York after Camp Perry, which they left in October to go to France. They arrived in France in November and never saw official combat until April, 1918. He said the 4th Ohio regiment of Union County would become the 166th Infantry Regiment upon reporting.
According to Johnstone, the officers in the picture include Captain Abe Newlove, 1st Lieutenant Herman Doellinger and 2nd Lieutenant William Sellers. The chaplain in front is William Haines, a Civil War soldier and prisoner of war.
Among the 161 men in the company, there were nine sets of brothers and numerous sets of cousins. Among the men, 17 of them were killed in action or died from their wounds, and 47 of them were wounded, some more than once.
According to Johnstone, some other Union County men in the 166th infantry regiment include regimental surgeon Major Angus McIvor, 3rd Battalion Commander Major Frank Henderson and 1st Lieutenant Robert Beightler, the personnel officer and adjutant for the 3rd Battalion.
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