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Friday, August 23, 2019
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The Beginning 

Major General George B. McClellan

As President Wilson maintained a neutral stance refusing to begin military planning, even after breaking diplomatic ties with Germany in February of 1917, no plans had been made for mobilization of U.S. forces. But America was soon drawn into the conflict. On April 6, 1917 America declared war on Germany. The Cantonment Division Office, formed from the Construction and Repair Division of the Quartermaster General's Office, was established on May 19th. The Army officers who handled the Cantonment Division initially were Colonel Isaac W. Litrell and his assistants, Captain William H. Oury and Captain Richard C. Marshall, Jr. The government mandate for this new division was simple in it's wording.......To have 32 divisional camp ready by September 1. Camp McClellan was chosen as one of those camps. It would be the first Southern military installation named in honor of a Northerner - worse, the Commander of the Union Army between 1861 and 1862, Major General George B. McClellan. The cities of Anniston and Jacksonville, plus the whole Calhoun County area was ready for this positive economic infusion after the depression of the 1890s.

While Anniston's candidacy for a military installation predates 1917, the events of that year compelled the construction of a National Guard Camp. Charles L. Dulin was the Constructing Quartermaster placed in charge of Camp McClellan. Dulin arrived in June of 1917 under orders to build a machine gun camp to accommodate six machine gun companies. In July, his orders changed. A telegram from the Officer in Charge of Cantonment Construction informed Dulin that Anniston had been selected as a National Guard Camp. Dulin immediately informed the Anniston Chamber of Commerce that the government wanted immediate ownership of a large portion of land, changing the original purchase agreement which had allowed the many farmers to cultivate their land throughout the year. Lost crops were valued at $136,000. This debt would not be cleared until 1934 through diligent efforts by the community.

After survey, Dulin chose the site for the new camp. Three major roads traversed the camp site. Leaving Anniston, Rocky Hollow Road crossed Blue Mountain and intersected with Bain Gap Road in the center of the camp. Bain Gap ran eastward over the Choccolocco Mountains. An unidentified road leading to Jacksonville, later to become State Highway 21, crossed the northwestern sector of the site. Cane Creek and its tributaries, Cave and Carrot Creeks, coursed through the site, flowing in a south, east and southeasterly direction. Land use was mostly agricultural, and no small villages or towns were displaced by the new camp.

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