Camp Joseph E. Johnston (Jacksonville, Fla.) Collection

Finding Aid

Collection Number: M07-2
Dates: 1917-1921
Size: 2.5 linear ft. (6 boxes)
Repository: Special Collections, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida
Arrangement: Arranged by series; chronological within folder.
Language: English
Container List: View Container List

Abstract

The Northeast region of Florida has an extensive and rich military history and the area served an important military role during both World Wars. The site now known as Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jacksonville), was previously named Camp Joseph E. Johnston during World War 1. It served as an Army training camp from its commissioning on October 15, 1917 until its closing on May 16, 1919. Over this nearly two year period, the Camp developed into a major training center for Army quartermasters, grew to a complex of over 600 buildings, and held the nation's second largest rifle range. In 1928, the site was occupied by the Florida National Guard and renamed Camp J. Clifford R. Foster. During World War II (1940), it was re-commissioned as Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jacksonville).

The collection consists primarily of the World War 1 correspondence of Wesley "Lee" Bouslog, a soldier from Indiana who arrived at Camp Johnston in late December 1917. During his six month stay, Bouslog sent 106 letters to his girlfriend, Opal Valentine Baker, in Indiana. The lengthy letters provide extensive documentation on his life as a soldier in training; the wide-ranging topics cover descriptions of maintenance tasks, such as clearing away shrubbery from the banks of the St. John's River, to his daily meals and the Camp's popular songs. Additional items in the collection include postcards, a souvenir folder, and oversize photographs of the Camp's soldiers.

Acquisition

Majority of materials acquired via purchase.

Access to the Collection

The collection is open for research. For additional information and to make an appointment to view the collection, contact (904) 620-1533 or e-mail lib-special@unf.edu.

Preferred Citation

Camp Joseph E. Johnston (Jacksonville, Fla.) Collection, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida.

Additional Guides

Souvenir folder of Camp Joseph E. Johnston, Jacksonville, Florida.  [Detroit, Mich.? : National Art Co.?, 1918?]

Related Materials

The Florida Collection at the Jacksonville Public Libraries holds 19 postcards of Camp Johnston.


The Florida Peace Officers School Collection at the Special Collections Dept. of Florida State University Libraries provides information on the history of the site, chiefly during its post-1928 years as Camp Foster.

The Florida Photographic Collection, State Archives of Florida holds 71 visual images of Camp Johnston, from postcards and photographs.

Hawk, Robert. Florida's Army : Militia / State Troops / National Guard 1565-1985. Englewood, Fla. : Pineapple Press, c1986.

Historical / Biographical Note

In May 1907, a 1,300-acre tract of land was authorized by the Florida Legislature for a state military camp at Black Point, known as Philbrofen, on the St. Johns River. The Florida National Guard established a base there in 1909, and occupied it until 1917, when the federal government took it over to establish a World War 1 training base, Camp Joseph E. Johnston (named after Confederate general Joseph Eggleston Johnston). Construction began on the Camp (near Yukon) in October 1917, and the first group of enlisted men and officers arrived on November 19, 1917.


The Camp developed into a major training center for Army quartermasters, with a complex of over 600 buildings. On April 18, 1918, a trolley line from Jacksonville to the Camp's front gate was completed, and soldiers were finally able to visit the "big city" of Jacksonville on a regular basis. Other local duties of Camp soldiers in 1918 included the guarding of Jacksonville's public utilities. A major event chronicled in Bouslog's letters were the visits of Florida Governor Sidney Johnston Catts. The Camp officially closed on May 16, 1919, and the site was renamed Camp J. Clifford R. Foster in 1928. In 1940, it became a training camp for World War II soldiers and was renamed as the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jacksonville).

The principal correspondent, Wesley "Lee" Bouslog, was born on October 18, 1891 in Sulphur Springs, Indiana. His parents were Sanford M. Bouslog and mother, Mary J. Yost. Little information is available on Wesley Bouslog, other than his World War 1 draft registration listing as a "mailcarrier on a rural route." He was twenty-six years old in 1917, at the time of this correspondence. In one of the last letters in the series, he discusses his assignment overseas, and lists in detail his embarkation clothing. Bouslog was sent to France in June 1918 with Army Supply Company 311. Opal Valentine Baker Bouslog, his girlfriend (later wife) and the recipient of the letters, was born on February 14, 1901, and died in September 1966. No other information is known about her.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists primarily of the correspondence of Wesley "Lee" Bouslog, with 106 letters and envelopes dated from December 31, 1917 to May 21, 1918. The first letter describes his arrival at the Camp, and thereafter, the often lengthy letters detail Bouslog's life as a soldier, including descriptions of his daily meals and routines, and maintenance tasks. The letters provide a glimpse into camp life, with Bouslog relating that more than twenty states were represented in his Barracks, as well as several different nationalities, including Irish, Scottish, and Jewish.


According to the letters, soldiers enjoyed entertainment, including films and concerts at the Camp theater, and also received educational benefits on-base such as schooling. Due to a lack of initial transportation for the early soldiers on base, there are few references to visits to the City of Jacksonville and vicinity. As a result, many activities took place in the YMCA building on Camp grounds. Letterhead on Bouslog's stationery includes: "With the Colors" YMCA; National War Work Council, Army and Navy, Young Men's Christian Associations; and Camp Joseph E. Johnston Jacksonville, Florida.

Printed materials in the collection include postcards, a souvenir folder (depicting 22 views of the Camp), and oversize photographs of the Camp's soldiers. The collection provides printed and visual documentation of the Camp's activities and development from 1917 to 1918, which signal the beginning of a significant military presence in the Jacksonville region.

Index Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection:

     

  • Camp Johnston (Jacksonville, Fla.) -- History.
  • Camp Johnston (Jacksonville, Fla.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Military training camps -- Florida -- Camp Johnston -- History.
  • Military bases -- Florida.
  • United States. Army. Camp Johnston, Fla.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Florida.
  • Bouslog, Wesley, b. 1891.
  • Bouslog, Opal Valentine Baker, 1901-1966.