Fort Devens Museum
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Biography of 74th Infantry Commanders Part of Musical Program

March 6, 2004

By C. David Gordon, cgordon@nashobapub.com
Copyright Nashoba Publications


Devens — Biographical material and photos are included in a 166-page printed program for a 1919 Camp Devens musical drama for the three top 74th Infantry Regiment Commanders.

Commander of the 74th was Col. Oliver H. Dockery Jr., born in 1862 in North Carolina and an individual who had studied law. In 1898, he was an officer of the Volunteers in Cuba, and he served in the Philippine Insurrection. Made colonel Aug. 1, 1918, he was assigned as chief of staff of the 12th Division at Camp Devens and very soon assumed command of the 74th, on Aug. 25.

The book stated, Dockery "labored unceasingly preparing (the 74th) for the overseas service which was denied us. His guiding hand, contagious enthusiasm and kindly but dominating will shaped our course, and made us the 'Champion Regiment of the 12th Division.'"

Proof of their becoming champions is made known in photographs of two division championship cups the 74th won: one from the Military and Athletic Tournament of Nov. 6, 1918, the second from a military tournament held Nov. 25 and 26. The 74th dedicated its musical drama to Col. Dockery.

Another section was devoted to a history of the 74th "from its origins (July 25, 1918) to its present." The Plymouth Division (Regular Army) had but two regiments: the 74th and "our twin" as it is called in the book, the 73rd Regiment.

Both commander of the 24th Infantry Brigade, Brig. Gen. John E. Woodward, and commander of the 12th Division, Maj. Gen. Henry P. McCain, graduated from West Point, while McCain came from Mississippi (born in 1861) and Woodward from Vermont.

Woodward had served in Cuba and the Philippines, in China and on the Mexican border before joining the Adjutant General's Department in Washington, D.C. At his promotion as colonel in 1917 he commanded the 152nd Depot Brigade at Camp Upton in New York, where he later served as camp commander before coming to Camp Devens on Aug. 8 1918.

The book said of Woodward, "By his earnest helpfulness and cheery interests, he has brought the Brigade up to its present high level of training and morale."

McCain "was in Alaska when the Spanish War began and took part in some of the severest fighting in the Philippine Insurrection." From being a major in the Adjutant General's Department, he became adjutant general of the Army as a brigadier general in 1914. He was assigned to the 12th Division in Aug. 1918.

Of him, the book stated, "His example and inspiring personality is responsible for the rapid progress and marked efficiency of the command."

Then came a synopsis of the program itself.

The 74rh Infantry Band performed the overture, and three soldiers participated in a "Black and White Dance." The musical drama itself featured 20 main and bit players, large choruses of French and American soldiers and of French villagers. Included were parts for nuns, French peasants, Jeanne D'Arc, and even two dead Germans.

Setting for the production was Chateau Thierry, France, at "the ebb of French hopes." From a YMCA rest camp, the action proceeded through the battle of chateau Thierry and a scene in No Man's Land after the battle before concluding with "a French village street scene." Among what may have been many special effects was the use of battle scene footage from Pathe Film Co., Inc.