William Couper’s Diary, World War I, 1917

South Caroliniana Library


William Couper (1884–1964), a native of Norfolk, Virginia, received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1906. After working for nearly eleven years for the Pennsylvania Railroad in New York City, he accepted a commission as major in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps in 1917. His first assignment was Construction Officer at Camp Jackson (now Fort Jackson) in Columbia, South Carolina, and he would spend six months of 1917 and 1918 in Columbia in charge of building this newly established camp.

This volume, the bulk of which covers his time in Columbia, contains diary entries, official correspondence, telegrams, and financial records documenting the construction of the camp. Entries and other paperwork detail labor and supply difficulties, the presence of African American workers, competition with other construction projects and firms, his relationship with local landowners near the camp, and the effect of an influx of nearly 10,000 new workers on the town of Columbia. When completed, Camp Jackson received classification as a Field Artillery Replacement Depot but also boasted an airfield, balloon detachment, and officer’s training school. Its population during World War I peaked in July 1918 at over 44,000, and the army demobilized over 70,000 men there in 1919.

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