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Greenburgh Goes “Over There!!”: Greenburgh During WWI
Greenburgh Goes “Over There!!”: Greenburgh During WWI
By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
“Johnnie, get your gun Get your gun, get your gun Take it on the run On the run, on the run
Hear them calling, you and me Every son of liberty Hurry right away No delay, go today
Make your daddy glad To have had such a lad. Tell your sweetheart not to pine To be proud her boy's in line.
Over there, over there! Send the word, send the word over there That the Yanks are coming The Yanks are coming The drums rum tumming everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer Send the word, send the word to beware We'll be over, we're coming over And we won't come back till it's over, over there!” (Over There 1917 by George M. Cohan)
The above song was a popular song in America during World War One, entitled Over There. World War One has been called many names: U.S. News articles of the time called it simply, “The War,” President Woodrow Wilson called it, “The War to End All Wars!” Later, American historians called it, “The Great War. “the Russians called it, “The Great Patriotic War.” Whatever one chooses to call this war, the facts are that it began in 1914, ended in 1918, more than 10 million people were killed and more than 20 million people were wounded (Keylor, William in MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
How was the Town of Greenburgh involved in the war? In answering this question, it is important to remember that the United States of America did not get involved until 1917. This was in large part due to the aforementioned President Woodrow Wilson, who, spent a lot of time urging Americans to be neutral. As he himself put it, “We must be impartial in thought as well as in action” (Woodrow Wilson August 19, 1914 Message on Neutrality). Woodrow Wilson would eventually change his mind.
President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
On April 6th 1917, he asked Congress for a declaration of war. It was in this speech to Congress asking for such a declaration that he famously referred to World War One as, “The War to End All Wars.” With Wilson’s change of heart, the American People enthusiastically embraced the war effort. In his report in 1922, Former Greenburgh Town Historian Edgar Mayhew Bacon says, “Nowhere did this declaration find a more instant and patriotic response than in the Town of Greenburgh… No sooner had war been declared than youth flocked to the recruiting station and the training camp. No village could claim preeminence in this respect and none was slack.” [In addition to the men and boys sent overseas to fight] at this time every village had its “Home Guard” or Home Defense Corps.” (Bacon, “Greenburgh During The Great War 1922 p.1-2).
Curiously, having said that, Mr. Bacon’s report only mentions the: recruitment, feeding, clothing, funding, and arming of the Tarrytown regiments. So it is to the Village of Tarrytown to which we, the authors, now turn our attention.
When talking of recruitment, it is important to make a distinction. The distinction between those recruited to serve in the United States Army or United States Navy and those recruited to serve in the “Tarrytown Home Guard.” Both types of recruitment began almost as soon as war was declared. Those that wished to join the army or the navy went to a recruiting station at the Tarrytown Music Hall on April 29th 1917 (Bacon Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 3). Most of these men came from the volunteer fire department, but a few Spanish American War Veterans transferred from the National Guard (Bacon Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 3). Even boys and girls younger than eighteen were able to do their part, because although they couldn’t join the army or navy, they could join the Junior Naval Reserves or the Junior Marine Scouts (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 3). In June of 1917, a draft was initiated which brought 480 additional troops from Tarrytown (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 5).
But what about those too old for active service? They too contributed because they left the Music Hall, and a month later proceeded to the Y.M.C. A. where they joined The Tarrytown Home Guard, under the command of Captain William B. Carter. In all, 150 Tarrytown residents joined The Tarrytown Home Guard. Although they did not see action, they too wore uniforms and carried rifles, just like the army (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p.6-7). The troops were now gathered, the next challenge was, how to feed them?
Feeding Our Boys:
During World War One, Tarrytown had plenty of civic organizations: The Freemasons, The Knights of Columbus, The Ancient Order of Hibernians etc. It also had many committees. Sometimes these committees were offshoots of these organizations sometimes they operated independently. One organization that was particularly concerned with feeding the troops was The Equal Franchise Association. They created the, “Food Supply Committee.” The committee got garden plants and seeds to supply troops with fresh fruit and vegetables. On one occasion, the Food Supply Committee held a potato planting party in which twenty four women planted potatoes in Wilson Park (Bacon Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p.2). One Tarrytown resident, Mrs. H.A. Grant, even lent some of her private land to the government for the purpose of growing potatoes (Bacon Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p.2). The next challenge Tarrytown faced was how to fund the war.
Funding The War:
On November 4th 1917, many Tarrytown residents again met at the Y.M.C. A. only this time the goal wasn’t to recruit for the Home Guard as it had been in May, but rather to raise money to help fund the war effort. They intended to raise $35 million, instead they raised only $1300 (Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p18-19).
But, even though the Y.M.C. A. fell short of their goal, money kept pouring in from other sources: On March 14th 1918, The Knights of Columbus met in the Tarrytown Music Hall. They wished to raise $7,500. They surpassed their goal! They successfully raised $2,000, just on the first day (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p 22)! The Third Liberty Loan Committee raised $700,000 (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 21). The Fourth Liberty Loan Committee raised $848,700 (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p. 31)!
Honoring Fallen Heroes:
There is a tendency among Americans to romanticize war. Sometimes, as part of this romanticization, it is implied that soldiers will go to some special place in the afterlife. This concept is not a uniquely American concept. In Old Norse Culture this was the highest form of heaven known as, “Valhalla.” There is even a Latin phrase for this concept, “Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.” It means, “It is sweet to die for one’s country.”
For proof that this concept has worked its way into the American Psyche one need only look to the title of a 1997 book by Michael Blake about General George Custer. Blake called his book, Marching to Valhalla: A Novel of Custer's Last Days. (Blake 1997). But there is nothing glorious about war. War is simply a bunch of people trying to kill a bunch of other people to accomplish a political goal. The lack of glory in war is perhaps best shown by looking at the first death of a Tarrytown resident during the war. The first fatality Tarrytown suffered during the war was James P. Dick JR. He died on January 5th 1918, after he fell out of an airplane flying over Love Field, near Dallas Texas (Bacon, Tarrytown During the World War 1922 p 23).
While there is nothing glorious about war, those who perish in their country’s service should be remembered and honored. On May 30th 1927, Memorial Day, a special ceremony was held. This ceremony was to honor Tarrytown men who had lost their lives during WWI. At this ceremony: “America” was sung, a prayer was said by Reverend Charles M. Dixon, wreaths were laid, and Taps was played. These things are common to Memorial Day celebrations even today. But what separates this one from subsequent Memorial Day celebrations is that a monument was unveiled commemorating all those Tarrytown residents who died serving during World War One. This monument was a bronze statue depicting an American Soldier, with his helmet off, and head bowed, looking down at a cross at his feet. (Report by Former Greenburgh Town Historian Edgar Mayhew Bacon June 4 1927).
In conclusion, World War One was a long and brutal war. Initially the United States tried to stay out of it, but when the time came the Town of Greenburgh enthusiastically did its part: recruiting, feeding, clothing, funding, and arming regiments. The president said this war would end all wars. Obviously, and sadly, history has proven President Woodrow Wilson wrong. When as was inevitable, many Tarrytown men and boys lost their lives, the village honored its fallen heroes. Every village did its part, now we would do well to honor their sacrifice by remembering that there is nothing glorious about war, and it should be avoided if possible.
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at email@example.com
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at email@example.com.
Two Interviews with the authors:
Blake, M. (1997). Marching to Valhalla: A Novel of Custer's Last Days. New York: Ballantine Books.
Bacon, E. M. (1922).Greenburgh During The Great War. Tarrytown, NY:Unpublished.
Bacon, E. M. (1922). Tarrytown During the World War. Tarrytown, NY: Unpublished .
Keylor, William in Microsoft Encarta. (1993-2003, (Not Given) (Not Given)). Encarta Encyclopedia. Redmond, Washington, United States of America
University of Virginia. (2022, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)).August 19, 1914: Message on Neutrality Retrieved from The Miller Center: https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/august-19-1914-message-neutrality