World War I draftees paraded through Elizabethville in 1918 before marching off to war

“Attention! Right dress!”

The shouted orders of the drill sergeant were heard for the first time in the Pennsylvania farming community of Elizabethville on Saturday, August 3, 1918. As five hundred local spectators looked on with wrapped attention, Captain Harry Stine of Harrisburg took 150 drafted men from Dauphin County through their first military drill.

Harry Stine
Capt. Harry M. Stine

Demonstrations like this became familiar in Pennsylvania communities as American troops entered the conflict in Europe and faced the test of battle for the first time in a generation. More soldiers in olive drab were needed to reinforce the Yankee contigent fighting on the Western Front in the First World War’s final months.

Meant to inspire communities like Elizabethville, these demonstrations soon spread to neighboring communities in an effort to connect residents with the military struggle occurring thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic. As the first of its kind in Dauphin County, the demonstration with the drafted men attracted much attention in the local press.

The Harrisburg Telegraph gave the parade and drill proceedings thorough coverage, providing readers with a full description of the day’s proceedings.

“Attention! Right dress!”

These and other similar commands, shrilly barked out this afternoon, are furnishing the first taste of military life to approximately 150 registrants of the 1917 and 1918 classes of the Dauphin County Board No. 3. These men are receiving their first drill at Elizabethville.

This drill at Elizabethville is the first preliminary drill to be given to registrants in Central Pennsylvania by any draft board and it being conducted under the supervision of Captain Harry M. Stine, a major in the Harrisburg Reserves. Other drills are planned to be held several times weekly during the next several weeks with officers of the Reserves in charge.

Big arrangements have been made at Elizabethville for this afternoon’s drill. The affair resembles largely a great festive occasion. A patriotic program has been prepared with a comparatively big street parade as part of it.

The program got under way at 1 o’clock at the headquarters of the Elizabethville board with Chairman W.J. Daniel, of the Elizabethville Board, in the speaker’s chair.

Band Opens Program

The Elizabethville Citizens Band opened the program with a selection after which the audience joined in the singing of “America.” The first address on the program, the address of welcome, was delivered by Burgess E.K. Romberger. He spoke in glowing terms of the efforts being put forth by the boys already wearing the olive drab and heartily commended, during the course of his remarks, the Elizabethville board for its initiative in the establishment of drill for its class one registrants.

Following the singing of another selection short talks were delivered by Chairman James E. Lentz, of the instruction board, Millersburg; the Rev. L.C. Bair, of Millersburg, and Captain Harry M. Stine, of Harrisburg. Patriotism was the keynote of all the talks with war insurance and other matters of military nature forming the basis for most of the remarks.

With the conclusion of Captain Stine’s remarks, a parade with probably 500 persons in line, started. The procession, headed by the band, moved over the principal streets of the town. IN line with a big American flag were ten girl members of the Red Cross, followed closely by the registrants, members of the Elizabethville Boy Scouts, the twenty-five members of the instruction board, and the members of the Harrisburg Reserves.

After traversing the prescribed route the procession moved to the town park and the drill promptly got under way under the direction of Captain Stine. It is scheduled to last for two hours…

Elizabethville Drill
This image appeared in the Harrisburg Telegraph on August 9, 1918

The local reporter for the Elizabethville Echo picks up the story with a description of the drill that took place in the town park.

On the drill ground Capt. Stine quickly formed the men into squads, with Capt. L. V. Harvey Commanding the 25 registered men from Williamstown; Sergeant H. E. Erb, twelve men from the Elizabethville district; Lieut. W. A. Moore fifteen men from Gratz; Sergeant Raymond E. Miller, fourteen from Halifax; Lieut. Frank Payne, eleven from Wiconisco; Capt. F. H. Hoy, forty-two men from Millersburg; Lieut. S. E. Fitting, twenty-three from Lykens;

The drill lasted for two hours and the boys enjoyed it, and undoubtedly this meeting, the first of its kind, in the state, will be of great value when the boys get to their training camps. Arrangements have been made for weekly drills in each of the seven towns.

Troop No. 1, Boy Scouts had twenty members in line of march, under command of Scoutmaster Dr. W. L. Stevenson and at the drill grounds had charge of the comfort station and grounds, clothing and furnished ice water to the men drilling. The boys marched like veterans.

In the weeks that followed the successful drilling at Elizabethville, other Dauphin County communities followed suit and hosted their own parades featuring officers from the Harrisburg Reserves.

Drill Schedule
Published in the Echo on August 8, 1918

Featured Image: An image taken on the parade ground at Elizabethville on August 3, 1918 showing the groups of 25 as they begin to train. 

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One thought on “World War I draftees paraded through Elizabethville in 1918 before marching off to war

  1. Great article, with lots of info. In my military collection I have CWO Percy Swabs WWI military jacket, and a box of handwritten letters, and some truly wonderful penny postcards sent between Percy and his wife Mabel while he was overseas with the 79th Infantry. This article enhances my information. Than you.

    Liked by 1 person

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