Kentucky in the Great War

By Robin Wallace

The television series “Downton Abbey” and the film “War Horse” are vividly bringing the horrors and heroics of World War I to life this year.  Louisville was, of course, very actively involved in the Great War with the construction of the army training facility Camp Zachary Taylor in 1917, and over 10,000 local soldiers serving in the war.

Norman Kohlhepp (1892 - 1986) enlisted in the French army in 1917, and served in the "Reserve Mallet" in World War I - a transport unit that was created as part of the French Army but later became part of the United States Army's Transport Service. He was also an accomplished artist in painting and print making, studying at the Academy Colarossi and Academy de la Grand Chaumiere. Andre Lhote, the cubist painter, was one of his instructors. Norman was married to artist Dorothy Kohlhepp. He died in Louisville, KY in 1986. Norman Kohlhepp Collection

The National Guard History eMuseum tells us that a total of 84,172 persons from Kentucky served in the United States Army. This total included 80,009 enlisted men, 3,747 commissioned officers, 241 nurses, 153 army field clerks, and 22 United States Marine Cadets. A breakdown of these figures show that there were 12,759 men in the regular Army, 7,518 National Guardsmen, 2,526 in the Reserve Corps, 2,734 volunteers, and 58,635 drafted men. Seven Kentuckians were Army Major Generals, nine were Brigadier Generals, and 23 were Colonels. Distinguished aviators were Major Victor Strohm and Lieutenant Colonel J. O. Creech. Of the overall total 41,655 saw overseas duty, while 2,418 deaths occurred among Kentucky troops, 890 of which were battle deaths.

Place de la Concorde, German tanks surrounded by captured German guns.- Norman Kohlhepp Collection

Sentiments were divided in Louisville at the start of the war, with Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson vehemently opposing the German and Austro-Hungarian Central Powers in his daily editorials; young men were whipped into a frenzy of volunteering at patriotic meetings.  But the local German-American community  and the German language newspaper the Louisville Anzeiger vocally supported Germany.  And much like “Branson,” the Irish chauffer on "Downton Abbey," many Irish-American Louisvillians were more Anti-English than Pro-German, but also opposed the U. S.’s entry into the war.  The city was, however, united in May of 1917 when a German submarine torpedoed a Louisville-owned cargo ship owend by C. C. Mengel and Brothers.  Louisvillians flooded recruiting stations, German, Irish and otherwise.

Captain John Speed at Fountainebleau during World War I. The Speed Collection

AEF Field Artillery, 1917. The Speed Collection

Camp Taylor opened in 1917 and 150,000 men were trained there.  In addition the casualties of war visited upon the troops, 824 soldiers at the Camp died of the Spanish Flu when the disease struck in 1918.

Barn being burned to make way for the building of Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, KY, 1917

Camp Zachary Taylor under construction, 1917

Kentucky’s last World War I veteran, Robley Henry Rex of Louisville, passed away in 2009.

Contributed by Filson Staff Member Robin Wallace

Filson Historical

22 comments on “Kentucky in the Great War

  1. pamela c.day

    My father Joseph E. Cox was born in 1891 and served as a private 1st class in WWI. He inlisted in Lancaster ,Ky and I believe he did his training in Louisville,Ky. Is there any way to find out more about his service record?? Thank you. pamela day

    Reply
  2. admin

    Hi Pamela, we’d be happy to help point you in the right direction with researching your father’s WWI service. Please call our library 502-635-5083, or email research@filsonhistorical.org, to get started.

    Reply
  3. Valerie Summers

    I am researching the activities of non-military organizations at Camp Taylor during WWI. The War Department’s “Commission on Training Camp Activities” enlisted the help of seven civilian organizations such as the YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Jewish Welfare Board and the American Library Association and all seven organizations built facilities at CZT. I no longer live in Kentucky but would make a trip to the Filson Club if you have records of civilian participation supporting CZT. Would you please tell me what kind of records you have along these lines? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Valerie,
      I will be sending you an email with some follow up information on your request on Camp Zachary Taylor. Thank you for contacting us with your questions!

      Reply
  4. don cline

    looking for list of ww 1 veterans Carter, Elliott, Fleming countys CLINE NAMES

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Don! One of our reference staff will be reaching out to you shortly!
      Best,
      Jennie

      Reply
  5. Michael Hight

    I’m trying to find information on Willie Hatton (Great Grandfather) who was a PVT in B Co. 164 Infantry (WW1). I was researching him for my mother. He was from Stanton, KY.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Michael, someone on staff will be looking into your question and will respond to you next week. Thank you!

      Reply
    2. Winston Swim

      MY grandfather Hobart Purvis of Farmers Ky, was also B Co. 164 infantry (WW1).

      Reply
  6. Winston Swim

    I would like any information possible about Hobart Purvis of Farmers or Morehead , Ky. B Company 16th Infantry. (WW1). This is my grandfather, and would appreciate any information about him. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Mr. Swim, Thanks for your inquiry! I’ll pass it along to one of the Collections staff, who will be in touch with you.
      Best,
      Jennie

      Reply
    2. Michelle Barbee

      My grandfather was Willard Herman Purvis. My father is Billy “steve” Purvis. Please share any information as I too am researching family history for my family.
      MIchelle Purvis Barbee
      mbarbee1976@gmail.com

      Reply
      1. Jennie Cole

        Dear Ms. Barbee, I’m going to put the reference staff member who worked with Mr. Swim in touch with you.
        Best wishes,
        Jennie

        Reply
  7. Winston Swim

    Correction, 164th infantry.

    Reply
  8. CPT SONYA BURTON

    Good evening. I am CPT Sonya Burton, the Historian for the 84th Training Command. I am seeking assistance and information on the 84th Infantry Division. I am planning a centennial event. Thank you in Advance.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Captain Burton, Thank you for contacting us regarding your historical research on the 84th training command. I can only find one collection in our manuscripts that specifically notes the 84th Infantry Division – you can read the description of it, The Logan Berry English Papers, here: http://filsonhistorical.org/vcc/card/?id=74549b284184fbbab1f595b872cb0167. Please contact us at research@filsonhistorical.org with any questions about this collection.
      Best wishes,
      Jennie

      Reply
  9. Ray Buckberry

    I’m interested in all matters relating to Warren County and/or Bowling Green with respect to World War I. If you are aware of any manuscripts, etc. I can plan a trip to the Filson.
    Thank you – Ray

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Dear Mr. Buckberry,
      I am so sorry for not responding to your post sooner! I think you may have an interest in the Barton Family Papers we hold at the Filson. Here is a description of some of the content:

      Correspondence dated Feb.-May 1917; Feb.-May 1918; and Feb., April-June 1919 recalls life while a student at Western Kentucky State Normal School. Letters note social activities like the May Festival. car rides. and picnics; and describe patriotic marches, liberty loan drives, and Red Cross work for World War I.

      You can see the descriptive card here: http://filsonhistorical.org/vcc/card/?id=be9fa0733f42d8d51daec289f3125f56

      For information on conducting research here, please see our “Using the Collections” page: http://filsonhistorical.org/special-collections/using-the-collections/.

      Best wishes,
      Jennie

      Reply
  10. RIchard

    Can you provide guidance to finding WW1 military records for a Kentucky resident? Draft card, etc. Or any information at all to help start the process?

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Richard,
      I’ve asked a member of the Collections team to respond to you via email. Thanks for your question!
      Jennie

      Reply
  11. Sharlene

    I am tracing back our family and have found that many have come from Kentucky. Walter Wheatley born on Sept 27, 1808 in Breckenridge County is the oldest family member I have. Any information on the Wheatley family would be grately appreciated.
    I believe he married Sally Avis 6/24/1832 in Perry, IN.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Cole

      Hi Sharlene! I’ve asked a member of the Collections team to look into this and email you. Thanks for your question!
      Jennie

      Reply

Leave a Reply to CPT SONYA BURTON Cancel reply