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1917 World War I

On April 2, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson reluctantly asked Congress to declare “a state of war exists”. Thus the United States joined England, France and others in conflict with the German Empire. In May the Conscription Act became law and nearly 10,000,000 mean between the ages of 21 and 31 were registered for possible induction into the armed services. Many young men from Madison would be among that number. Over 30 of them would die. Of that thirty, a full one third died of influenza, pneumonia or other diseases.

On May 9, 1918 Captain Horace O. Woolford received the following communication:

From the adjutant General, State of Indiana
To Capt. Horace O. Woolford, Madison, Indiana
Subject: Organization of Infantry Company

  1. You are hereby authorized to proceed with the organization of an infantry company at Madison, Ind.
  2. The minimum strength will be 65 enlisted men and three officers. The company will require the minimum of strength after the elimination of all applicants who fail to pass the physical examination.

Harry B. Smith, The Adjutant General

On the home front the women of Madison joined “the shirt club”. Material was sent to Madison from the Depot Quartermaster at Jeffersonville, Indiana and the women sewed it into shirts, bedsacks and other items to be used by the troops. The women worked from their homes and received a certain amount of money for each article they completed. In time, over 2,000 women were so employed. The materials were transported between the two cities by truck and steamboat.

The local woolen mill (Schofield’s) processed over 40,000 woolen blankets. The Hummel and Schroeder saddletree factories produced something like 15,000 saddletrees which were sent to Louisville and turned into saddles.

There were shortages at home. Coal was one commodity that was hard to come by. Much of the coal and the trains used to deliver it were diverted to the war effort. Poor organization and internal greed also played a big part in the coal shortage. Flour, sugar and other staples became scarce. Perhaps it was fortunate that most of the country was still devoted to agriculture. Many of the local farmers helped supply the food needed to survive.

In his book, Jefferson County in the World War, George S. Cottman relates, ”When the news came of the signing of the armistice, November 11, 1918, a spirit of jubilation took possession of the people.” A parade was hastily prepared with floats, bands and fraternal orders marching down Main Street. Flags were unfurled and noisemakers of every description were employed. The newspaper reported, “Those who could not play an instrument sang, and those who could not sing made a joyful noise by yelling.” The war was over.

The most famous soldier from Jefferson County was Samuel Woodfill. He was quite possibly the most decorated soldier of the war. Among the medals he received were the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Medal.

MJCPL: Historical Files
MJCPL: Family Files
MJCPL: Jefferson County in the World War by George S. Cottman
MJCPL: World War I by S. L. A. Marshall
MJCPL: Woodfill of the Regulars by Thomas Lowell
MJCPL: 1915 The Death of Innocence by Lyn MacDonald