Camp Alexander (1)
Camp Alexander (1) (1917-1918) - A U.S. Army World War I Embarkation Camp first established by G.O. 107, 1917, on 7 Sep 1917 as a part of Camp Hill (1) near Newport News, Virginia. Named Camp Alexander on 15 Aug 1918 after Lieutenant John H. Alexander (Cullum 3205), 9th U.S. Cavalry, the second black graduate of United States Military Academy in 1887. The camp was abandoned in 1918.
One of five U.S. Army Embarkation Camps established in 1917 to house and train troops awaiting shipment overseas. Camp Alexander was established in August 1917 as a part of Camp Hill (1) and later separately named. The camp housed mostly black stevedore regiments and labor battalions awaiting shipment overseas. Thirty labor Battalions were organized and sent overseas from Camp Alexander and three were organized for duty at Newport News. Over 50,000 black enlisted stevedores and laborers were sent overseas from Camp Alexander.
The embarkation process usually began at one of the 32 divisional training camps (16 for the National Army (draftees) and 16 for the National Guard) with troops riding to the embarkation camps by train and spending a variable amount of time at the embarkation camp. From the Camp Merritt embarkation camp troops usually marched to the nearby Alpine ferry slip on the Hudson River and traveled by ferry directly to the Hoboken Port of Embarkation docks and onto troop ships. At the Newport News Port of Embarkation all four of the embarkation camps were close enough to the port for the troops to march directly to the ships.
Infantry Divisions were too large to move intact on single ships so it could take a division a month or two to reassemble on the European side. The typical U.S. infantry division contained about 1,000 officers and 27,000 enlisted men. The largest available troop ship, the Leviathan, could deliver 12,000 men a month. Troops were sent directly to France or via England. Some 2,084,000 U.S. troops reached France and 1,390,000 saw active service on the front lines.
When the armistice took effect on 11 Nov 1918 many of the embarkation camps became disembarkation camps. The returning National Army and the National Guard troops were, for the most part, sent back to one of the training camps for demobilization. The process of returning the troops home from overseas took place at even a faster pace than sending them over. Most troops were returned to the states and demobilized by mid 1919. The training camps and the embarkment camps closed as they completed the demobilizing process for their returning division(s).
Many of the training camps had established large hospital complexes to treat wounded returning soldiers and these remained open even after the camps had closed. The realization that many of the wounded would require lifetime care gave rise to the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital system.
At the end of the war Camp Alexander was ordered abandoned on 11 Nov 1918.
Markers (2) in Newport News, Newport News Independent City, Virginia.