Fort Drum

From Jefferson County NY Wiki

Fort Drum

First known as Camp Hughes (1907), Pine Camp (1908-1951), Camp Drum (1951-1974), and then finally Fort Drum (1974-).

Fort Drum lies in the northeast corner of Jefferson County. It occupies land in the towns of LeRay, Philadelphia, Antwerp, Wilna and Champion.

On August 31, 1907 the first training was done by the NY National Guard on the Pine Plains, then called Camp Hughes, about a mile from Felts Mills. Beginning in 1908, the U.S. Army established Pine Camp near Great Bend (Madison Barracks and other military units of the US needed more training area), eleven miles east of Watertown. Brigadier General Frederick Dent Grant, son of General Ulysses S. Grant, was sent with two-thousand regulars and eight-thousand militia. Grant decided that it was an ideal place to train land troops and the next year money was allocated to purchase the land.

CCC trucks filled with trees for planting

In 1934 Madison Barracks became the headquarters for ten CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps - a work relief program created by FDR during the Great Depression to relieve unemployment) Camps in the region. The horses and mules of the field infantry at Madison Barracks were replaced by trucks in 1934 to 1935.

Also in 1935 Pine Plains gained national attention when the largest peacetime maneuvers ever held in the US took place on Pine Plains and the surrounding area. Over thirty-six thousand troops participated in the maneuvers and some were arriving by train every fifteen minutes, coming from as far away as New York City. The exercise continued for thirty-six hours on the hundred or so miles of land the Army had leased. After the great success of this exercise the military purchased another nine-thousand acres.

Because of the war and the United States Army's need for a larger training area (Pine Plains only had around 17,000 acres or so), the US Government acquired LeRaysville and the William Phelps Mansion on September 24, 1941 from Mr. and Mrs. William V. Delancey as part of the Pine Camp Military Reservation Expansion. The government also acquired the LeRay Mansion and the Sheepfold Cemetery. Pine Camp had been picked for a major expansion and an additional seventy-five thousand acres of land (some say 84,000) were purchased by the US Government, under . By Labor Day of 1941 one hundred tracts of land had been taken over. Five hundred twenty-five families were displaced - nearly 2,000 people, five villages were eliminated (LaRaysville, Sterlingville, Lewisburg [named Sterlingbush for awhile], North Wilna and Woods Mills) as well as smaller settlements (Slocumville, Reedville, Nauvoo, Sterlingburgh, Doolins Crossing, East Antwerp, Hubbard's Crossing, Alpina, and Rockwell Creek), some others were reduced to a portion of their size, three thousand buildings; including twenty-four schools, six churches and a post office were abandoned (these are the so-called "Lost Villages" of Fort Drum).

The large groups of migrating people who had to leave with their vehicles, animals, and possessions was said by some to be reminiscent of the "dust bowl" displacement of people in the 1930's.

Then, during a ten month period and at a cost of twenty million dollars, contractors built what consisted of an entire city to house the divisions scheduled to train there, in what was called Pine Ridge by the local residence before they moved. Constructed were eight hundred buildings; two-hundred forty barracks, eighty-four mess halls, eighty-six storehouses, fifty-eight warehouses, twenty-seven officers' quarters, twenty-two headquarters buildings, ninety-nine recreational buildings, and guardhouses and a hospital. The contractors had a hard job as the winter of 1941-1942 was one of the coldest in the history of the North Country. Three divisions trained at Pine Camp under General George S. Patton's 4th Armored Division (General Creighton Abrams was a battalion commander here at the time), the 45th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division. Pine Camp was also a prisoner of war camp and of the prisoners who died in the POW camp, one Italian and six Germans, are still buried in the Sheepfold Cemetery near Remington Pond. (Most of the preceding and more can be found on the Drum website.)

In 1945 the U.S. Government considered closing both Pine Camp and Madison Barracks. But it was decided to expand Pine Camp and close Madison Barracks.

On December 3, 1951 Pine Camp was officially renamed Camp Drum in honor of Lieutenant General Hugh A. Drum, a First Army Commander in early WWII.

In June 1952 the 655th AC&W Squadron started operating the Dry Hill Radar Installation made up of AN/FPS-3 and AN/FPS-5 radars on the Dry Hill Plateau, and assumed coverage previously provided by Lashup site L-6 at Pine Camp.

In 1974 Camp Drum was renamed Fort Drum and a permanent garrison was stationed there.

During the period of 1981 to 1982 Fort Drum was considered for housing the Haitian "boat people" that were being detained by INS. In April of 1980; B Company, 76th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) was reassigned to Fort Drum from Fort Meade, MD and was followed by the rest of the battalion, except Company D, three years later. The Department of the Army announced in January 1984, that it was studying some Army posts for a new light infantry division. A Construction Battalion was activated in 1982 to begin preparing Fort Drum to become the installation that it is today. On September 11, 1984; it was announced that Fort Drum would be the new home of the 10th Light Infantry Division. The new division was officially activated on February 13, 1985 and the name was changed to the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Between 1984 and 1990 Jefferson County was the fastest growing county in New York state, because of the Fort Drum expansion and related industries. The county's population grew from 88,151 to 110,943, an increase of 25.86 percent. With Fort Drum's population itself being around 13,000.

Also in 1989 Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division reached its full strength. Between 1986 and 1992, a hundred thirty new buildings, thirty-five miles of roads, and four-thousand two-hundred seventy-two sets of family housing units were built at a cost of $1.3 billion.

A medical clinic on Fort Drum is named after Dr. Samuel Guthrie, a Town of Hounsfield resident, who conducted experiments which led to the first known use of chloroform in 1831 or 1832 in an operation at Madison Barracks. He used it for amputations. Dr. Guthrie also is credited with inventing the percussion pill.

Fort Drum is one of the largest military reservations in the U.S and has the largest tank range east of the Mississippi River.

A UH-1 (Huey) helicopter used at the Fort Drum Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) Unit. The aircraft are equipped to rescue people out of the water, or off the tops of mountains, if necessary, and the crews are highly trained and qualified to perform almost any rescue mission. - Photo and description courtesy of Gene Albee.

Picture of work on a downed helicopter from Fort Drum (unknown photographer)

See Also

10th Mountain Division

Lost Villages

Madison Barracks

LeRay Mansion

Dry Hill Radar Installation

Sheepfold Cemetery

Remington Pond

William Phelps Mansion

Fort Drum website (external site)

Civilian Conservation Corps (external site)

Cemetery Internment Listings on Fort Drum (external site)