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Camp Grant: 1918

Camp Grant: 1918

September 24, 1918. "5th Company, 161st Depot Brigade, Camp Grant, Illinois. Lieut. C.A. Geers commanding." Gelatin silver print by Hinkley Photo Co. of Rockford. View full size.


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Re: Lean Commanding

By today's standards, your comment is spot on. However, 100 years ago promotions did not trip along as they do now. Back then, it was not uncommon for a veteran of 12 to 15 years service to still be a First Lieutenant.

Cyrus Alberding Geers

1st Lieutenant Cyrus Alberding Geers was born in Pin Oak Township in Madison County, Illinois on March 16, 1878 To Thomas Geers and Mary [Alberding] Geers. After graduating from law school in 1906, he was admitted to the Illinois Bar. He then worked as an attorney in the Edwardsville, Illinois area until he entered the U.S. Army during World War I. After the war, he continued to work as an attorney, but at least part of the time in St. Louis, Missouri.

On February 22, 1904 he married Miss Louise Held with whom he had two sons: Ferguson B. and William A. Geers. He died on November 3, 1948 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Jefferson Barracks Veterans Hospital (now the VA Medical Center). His interment was at Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville, and his grave marker shows his affiliation with the 161st Depot Brigade. He also served as an officer with Company B, 344th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

I believe the photo below is 1LT Geers. Since only four officers are shown in the photo, the only one who looks to be about 40 is the gentleman pictured. Note the three Sergeants to his right with the white gaiters, and the Corporal with the black and white gaiters. There are though several other NCOs in the same row with different colored gaiters. If I had to guess, the 1st Sergeant is just to the right of the four officers with the lighter colored gaiters. The rank on his sleeve is too difficult to see to be certain.

Camp Grant existed from 1917 - 1946. After World War I, it became one of the training areas for the Illinois National Guard. The Civilian Conservation Corps also used the base during the 1930s. The post was returned to the federal government during World War II, and it was used, among other things, for the housing of about 2,500 prisoners of war. Some of the land is now part of the Chicago Rockford International Airport, and much of the rest of the land is a park.

The Campaign Hats

I am amazed at the variety of blockings on those campaign hats...It doesn't seem that such leeway is given today.


You missed the one in the first standing row with his arms crossed and hat at a jaunty angle.

Saved from combat, killed by a virus

Since the Meuse-Argonne offensive started only two days later, the probability that any of these soldiers made it to the front is pretty much zero. The offensive was the US contribution to the final battles of the war which resulted in the collapse of the German front, and the armistice on November 11th. The casualty rate from the Spanish Flu was greater than they would have seen in combat though.


That’s my count. In the course of which, I noticed two interesting things. The soldier in the sixth row from the top, seventh from the right, is the only man not looking straight ahead. (Beside him, also, is the only chunky fellow.) And the soldier in the third row from the top, fifth from the left, is bathed in some preternatural, ethereal light.


Between September 23 and October 1, 1918 at Camp Grant, more than 4000 soldiers were stricken, with around one in four dying.

Those poor, brave boys

It just breaks your heart.

Lean Commanding

Now, that is lean management, or lean commanding.

What looks to be well in excess of 200 soldiers, and commanded by a mere lieutenant.

These days the person in front would probably be a major. And half of them officers or OR-5 and better.

In the midst of death

Camp Grant, located south of Rockford, Illinois, had just incurred the "Spanish Flu":

In 1918, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic affected over 4,000 men at the camp, taking the lives of over 1,000 between 23 September and 1 October. [Wikipedia]

This area is now occupied by the Rockford International Airport.

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