100 Years Ago This Week: Poppa Joins the Army

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Monday, Sept. 24th, 1917 –Enlisted at Milwaukee in the 20th Engineers. Rode all night in car of rough necks to St. Louis.

Tuesday, Sept. 25th –Arrived at Jefferson Barracks.  Took shower bath. Spent day rather quietly.  No sleep last night.

Wednesday, Sept. 26th –Took medical exam and got “shot in the arm”  Mighty sore tonight.  Barracks beds are fine.

Thursday, Sept. 27th –Got our uniforms today, assigned to 16th Recruit Co.  Arm still sore.

Friday, Sept. 28th –First day of drill.  Feet sore by noon.  First mail from home today.

Saturday, Sept. 29th –First day of work in the Mess House.  Stringing beans and waiting on table.



A Red Cross worker hands out care packages to soldiers departing from Milwaukee. This picture is from the book by Kevin J. Abing called “The Crowded Hour Milwaukee During the Great War 1917-1018. The author of the book used the picture with permission of the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

My grandfather was 28 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept 24th, 1917.  According to his diary he travelled to Milwaukee to enlist.  He lived about 100 miles away in Poynette at the time but he doesn’t say how he got to Milwaukee.  By the next day he had arrived by train at Jefferson Barracks in Lemay, Missouri which is located on the Mississippi River just south of St. Louis.  The Jefferson Barracks Military Post was built in 1826 and was used in the Mexican American War and the Civil War (by both sides) prior to becoming a training sight for WWI soldiers.

In the entry for September 24th he indicated that he enlisted in the 20th Engineers.  This was a regiment of forestry engineers.  The government realized that going to war in Europe would require the building and maintenance of great deal of infrastructure from docks to bridges to barracks to outhouses.  Lumber was needed for all of these and that was the job of the 20th engineers.  Poppa was the third generation of his family to own a lumberyard in Poynette, WI so choosing to join a regiment of lumbermen makes sense.

On September 26th he indicated that he got a shot in the arm.  According to a book entitled World War I by Jennifer D. Keene soldiers enlisting in the Army in 1917 received a vaccine for tetanus, typhoid and small pox.  For many soldiers this may have been the first vaccination they had ever received.


Soldiers receiving vaccinations in WWI




A picture of Jefferson Barracks from Wikipedia

Next Week: Working in the Mess Hall



“Jefferson Barracks Military Post.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Aug. 2017. Web. 29 Aug. 2017.

“20th Engineer Brigade (United States).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Aug. 2017. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Davies, Alfred H. “Twentieth Engineers, France, 1917-1918-1919 : Davies, Alfred H : Free Download & Streaming.” Internet Archive. Portland, Ore., Twentieth Engineers Publishing Assn, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

“World War I.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Imgur. “American Troops Receiving Typhoid Vaccinations during World War 1.”Imgur. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2017.

Abing, Kevin J. “A Crowded Hour: Milwaukee During the Great War 1917-1918.  America Through Time 2017


2 Replies to “100 Years Ago This Week: Poppa Joins the Army”

  1. I just acquired a postcard with my GGF in it labeled Jefferson Barracks –July 16,1918. A group of 11 soldiers posed together with all their names on the back. Let me know if you’d like to see it or what I can do with it to potentially get the image into the hands of other descendants of these heroes.

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