History of Camp Dix, World War I Cantonment
Camp Dix, where the National Army from western New York, New Jersey, and Delaware is in training, is located near the town of Wrightstown, N. J., on the Delaware River side of the watershed that divides the State into east and west Jersey. The elevation above sea-level is approximately 100 feet.
One would have to travel far to find more beautiful fields or better-kept farms than those which had to be transformed into a training camp for the Jersey and neighboring troops.
Stretching across the State from the Atlantic Ocean below Sandy Hook to Salem. on the Delaware, and passing through Burlington County, in which Camp Dix is situated, is the marl region of New Jersey. The marl (an earthy, crumbling deposit consisting chiefly of clay, and greatly valued as a fertilizer) is found at various depths and sometimes lies in beds 30 feet or more thick. The ground above it is rich and highly productive.
When the construction forces started to work on the buildings for Camp Dix they found themselves among great fields of growing corn and ripening wheat. Some of the farmers were very reluctant to move away from homesteads which had been in their families since the days before Washington crossed the Delaware ; but the military authorities were patient with them and afforded them every consideration that the exigencies of the hour would permit.
It is told that one farmer took the money he received and made a long-deferred trip with his family to the West. When he came back the transformation was so marked that, although he and his father and his father's father had lived and worked upon his farm, he found difficulty in finding his way around.
While Camp Dix is situated in a rich agricultural community, it has the advantage of being contiguous to the pine-barren regions, where ideal grounds for target practice are available. Thousands of acres of these pine barrens have been cleared, so as to permit the training of men in the handling of big guns, as well as small arms.
Gen. John A. Dix, in honor of whom this camp was named, was an ensign in the War of 1812 at the age of 14, and lived to become major general of volunteers in the Civil War. As the President of the Union Defense Committee during the latter conflict, he organized 17 regiments and was instrumental in saving Maryland for the Union.
At the outbreak of hostilities he was Secretary of the Treasury. Two revenue cutters were ordered home from New Orleans by him. One of the commanders refused to obey. He was ordered placed under arrest, and Secretary Dix telegraphed the now famous command, "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."