The is a snapshot of one of my four great-grandfathers in 1917-1918. I wrote it upon my discovery online of their WWI draft registration cards.
The others, in order of Father’s Father’s Father to Mother’s Mother’s Father, are:
- Post-368: Great Grandfather No.1 before draft board, 1917
- Post-369: Great Grandfather No.2 before draft board, 1917
- Post-370: Great Grandfather No.3 before draft board, 1917 (this post)
- Post-371: Great Grandfather No.4 before draft board, 1917
Below I transcribe the draft registration card, provide a picture of the man, some comments on how the war period turned out for each man, and most ambitiously I try to re-create how they would have likely stood on the war. While I never knew any of these men, I did now their children in their old age (my grandparents).
Born in Leipzig, Germany, but never lived there (in the US from age 1 in 1887); a near-lifelong resident of New Britain, Connecticut; in his 20s, he followed father’s trade into the printing business. Subject to draft registration in June 1917. This card was submitted when he appeared before the draft board of New Britain, Connecticut:
1. Name in full: Walter G. Kosswig
2. Home Address: 202 Hartford Ave., New Britain, Conn.
3. Date of Birth: July 10, 1886
4. Are you: a natural-born citizen, a naturalized citizen, an alien, or have you declared your intention (specify which)? Naturalized citizen
5. Where were you born? Liepsic [Leipzig], Saxony, Germany
6. If not a citizen, of what country are you a citizen or subject? [n/a]
7. What is your present trade, occupation, or office? Paper Roller
8[a]. By whom employed? Case, Lockwood, & Brainard
8[b]. Where employed? Pearl St., Hartford, Conn.
9. Have you a father, mother, wife, child under 12, or a sister or brother under 12 solely dependent on you for support? (specify which): Wife and two children and mother in part
10[a]. Married or Single? Married
10[b]. Race: Caucasian
11. What military service have you had? None
12. Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)? Only on ground of dependent
“I affirm that I have verified above answers and that they are true,”
[Signed,] Walter G. Kosswig
1[a]. Tall, Medium, or Short? Medium
1[b]. Slender, medium, or stout? Stout
2[a]. Color of Eyes: Blue
2[b]. Color of Hair: Light
2[c]. Bald? No
3. […]Disabled: No
[Signed by the Registrar, Thomas Shuhan]
Date of Registration: [Not noted, but will have been June 5, 1917, the date of the first draft registration for men ages 21 to 30.]
Walter G. Kosswig [1886-1952] was not drafted and did not serve in World War I.
Why was Walter not drafted? What was going on in his life in the 1910s? What would have been his position on intervention in the 1914-1918 war?
Why was Walter not drafted?
He would’ve low on the list for having several dependents: Two sons at the time (including my grandfather, then age 1), wife, “and mother, in part” which he wrote overflowing onto the second line. (His father had died earlier in the year.)
He was also at the older range of the registrant pool, nearly 31.
One indication of how lukewarm support for the war was even by April and May 1917 was that there was no flocking to the recruitment stations upon declaration of war, which led to the immediate draft law, passed by the U.S. Congress on May 17, 1917 (by comparison, the Civil War draft law only came in March 1863, two years after the crisis began, rather than two months as in 1917). The draft law stated in part:
Such draft as herein provided shall be based upon liability to military. service of all male citizens, or male persons not alien enemies who have declared their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty-one and thirty years, both inclusive […]
If a man was up to 30 years, 364 days old, he was subject to registration when the day came around. The day was then set tat June 5. Walter turned 31 a month later (July 10).What would Walter’s position on the 1914-1918 war have been?
The Kosswigs in Connecticut, of which I think Walter was a standard member, and related families, would have been against intervention between 1914 and 1917 for several reasons which I talk about at length in Post-366: Book as Time Capsule — ctrl-f for the words “This is the answer” and read from there for more on my view of the very likely Kosswig position on World War I at the time — especially relevant being points  and .
What was Walter’s life like in the 1910s?
He was married (m.1910) with two sons (b.1912 and b.1916). A third child, a daughter Ethel, was born in 1919. His wife was Connecticut-born but also of German origin. Her ancestry was largely from Saxony, like Walter’s parents.
Unlike my paternal great grandfathers, mentioned in post-368 and post-369, Walter was not working in a critical occupation like farming. He was following his father’s calling and working for a printing press; he lists his occupation as Paper Roller (what that means, I am not sure) at a Hartford printer, Case, Lockwood, & Brainard. He was also involved in some way in this capacity with the New Britain Record newspaper in Connecticut.
The year 1917 was a bad year for Walter in that he suffered two near and dear losses: his father died early in the year, and later in the year he lost his hand in an printing machine accident. His stoic reaction to the loss of his hand earned him a favorable writeup in the paper the next day, the original clipping of which he proudly saved and was preserved by his son Ern, in whose house I found it in the mid-2010s in a folder. Walter’s reaction was not panic or despair at the life-changing loss of his hand. He patiently asked someone to rush off to inform his wife that he might not make it home for dinner on time.
Miscellaneous ObservationsEither Walter or the registrar, who may have filled out the form, spelled Walter’s birthplace, Leipzig, as “Liepsic.” It was then a common English spelling as in Leipsic, Ohio; some 19th century references to the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 in which Napoleon suffered his first open field defeat also use the spelling “Liepsic” (with ‘i’ before ‘e,’ just as I think the registration card says).