Historic Barnhardt Circle

Thousands of military personnel, including Women’s Army Corps members, were trained at Fort Oglethorpe, and nearly 4,000 Germans were housed at the post as POWs or enemy aliens during World War I and World War II.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 6th Cavalry (also known as the “Fighting Sixth”), making Fort Oglethorpe (the former military post) its home base. The regiment was based at Fort Oglethorpe from 1919 to 1942.

The 6th Cavalry was formed in 1861 and has been based many places throughout its long history, but its 23 years at Fort Oglethorpe make the area a natural home for the museum that bears its name and preserves its history.

Here are some interesting facts about the history of Fort Oglethorpe (the military post) and the 6th Cavalry Regiment.

♦ Fort Oglethorpe came into existence after the Spanish-American War when the Army decided to try to move military training away from Chickamauga Battlefield and bought 810 acres just north of the Battlefield.

♦ The construction of Fort Oglethorpe (the fort) took two years (1902-1904) and included the officers’ quarters on Barnhardt Circle.

♦ The official title of “Fort Oglethorpe” came in 1904.

♦ In spite of the face that Fort Oglethorpe was built to eliminate the need to train troops in the Battlefield, it was still necessary to use Battlefield grounds during training for World War I and World War II.

♦ In 1917, the U.S. entered WWI and Fort Oglethorpe expanded to meet the need. By 1918, there were over 1,600 buildings at and surrounding the fort. Three camps were established. Camp Greenleaf was a medical and sanitary corps where doctors and other medical personnel were trained for war conditions. Camp Forrest trained men in trench warfare and long-distance firing. Camp McLean trained officers.

♦ During WWI, Fort Oglethorpe was also the largest detention camp east of the Mississippi for German POWs and enemy aliens, where 3,400 prisoners were housed.

♦ The 6th Cavalry arrived, with their 1,500 horses, in Fort Oglethorpe in 1919, after the end of WWI. They continued to train during 23 years of peace but also held polo matches, horse shows, parades and engaged in mock war games.

♦ When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II and the 6th Cavalry was ordered to join Gen. George Patton in North Africa.

♦ The 6th Cavalry didn’t get out of U.S. waters before their ship was sunk – off the coast of New Jersey, by a German submarine. It would be a year before a new, fully-supplied ship would take them off to WWII.

♦ The 6th Cavalry has distinguished itself in battle repeatedly, in every conflict in which it fought, including the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Philippine Insurrection, the Mexican Revolution (when Pancho Villa raided a town in New Mexico), World War I, World War II, and in various middle eastern countries during the collectively-termed “War on Terrorism.”

♦ Fort Oglethorpe served as an induction center during WWII.

♦ Fort Oglethorpe again served as a POW camp during WWII, this time with only around 400 prisoners, mostly from German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps.

♦ The Provost Marshal School trained men and women as military police at Fort Oglethorpe during WWII.

♦ Fort Oglethorpe was the largest training center in the country for the Women’s Army Corps (WACs).

♦ World War II ended in 1945. Fort Oglethorpe became a center for discharging GIs who had fulfilled their service and routing others to new assignments.

♦ The Fort Oglethorpe Army Post was officially closed for good on Dec. 31, 1946, at midnight.

♦ In 1947, the Army sold off the remaining buildings (around 100) from the post. The new property owners petitioned the state of Georgia to incorporate Fort Oglethorpe as a city.

♦ In 1949, Fort Oglethorpe became the first new city in the state in 25 years.

♦ The city of Fort Oglethorpe turned 70 years old this year.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.