Fort Oglethorpe (May 15 – August 15, 1917)


[Monty is three years out of law school and has just closed down his budding law practice.  His college debts are a hurdle now exacerbated by a military obligation.  We may learn more in future letters.]

May 30, 1917 [envelope postmark]

Tuesday Night

Dear Mother,

In writing you Sunday I forgot to mention the fact that I will have to renew before next Tuesday note at the Central National which you will remember endorsing for me when in Spartanburg at commencement last year. [Kenley graduation?]

The money was borrowed to pay Mr. Lide some interest on what I owe him for my last year in law school. I have made out the new note and am enclosing same herewith. To save time, after endorsing it, wish you would forward it directly to the Central National. I am writing them to say that the note is coming forward through you. The old note which this was to replace was for the same amount but I paid the interest on it before leaving Spartanburg leaving an even $108.00 due.

Very little news except hard work since I wrote Sunday. We have holiday tomorrow and expect to get in town and look up Frank’s[1] friends and should find them in their offices at this time. Will write again Sunday as usual.

With love,

Carl

[1] Brother in law, Frank Broadnax, husband of Monty’s sister Kate Montgomery Broadnax?

The Decision

As the correspondence from his military career begins, Monty is 28 and about to be commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. He has just wrapped up his law practice as Horton & Montgomery in Spartanburg, SC where he had previously spent time in a noted firm Bomar & Osborne that employed Wofford graduates before he went out on his own for a brief year. After college he taught for a year, dabbled with law at his father’s office and then went on to Harvard Law where he graduated in 1914. He was nurturing a solo law practice when the United States declared war on Germany and the mobilization was underway; then he was closing down his fledgling practice in anticipation of the draft.

Some forty years later, Monty’s oldest sister Mabel recalled his decision to enlist. He realized “that as a single man without dependents he would be drafted, he closed his law office, in May, 1917 and entered Officers Training Camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.”[1] Congress passed The Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917. Monty’s calculated response suggests he anticipated the law and had probably thought through this decision with his family. There is no evidence that he was enthusiastic about the need to go to war or that his decision was motivated by an overabundance of patriotism. He was just doing what was required of him.

His Local Board Number 3 tried to catch up with him at his YMCA address where they sent a Notice Of Call And To Appear For Physical Examination, dated July 28, 1917, that demanded his appearance at the Local Board on August 1, 1917. By then he was at Fort Oglethorpe two weeks away from being commissioned a Second Lieutenant.

[1] Monty’s sister Mabel Montgomery privately published a family memoir Limbs On Our Family Tree in 1955. Though these were her reminiscences, she would have consulted Monty on the brief biography she included.