History of Camp Pike, World War I Army Cantonment
Camp Pike, situated eight miles northwest of Little Rock, Ark., houses the National Army forces drawn from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and western Alabama. Here an up-to-date military city of 42,000 capacity had virtually to be built in the midst of a wilderness.
Ground was broken for the camp on July 9th. The site was almost entirely covered with second-growth timber, the nearest railroad was five miles away, and supplies had to be brought by truck from Little Rock over hilly highways. A vast deal of rock was encountered in ditching for water and sewer pipes—nearly 75 per cent of the total excavations, in fact.
Labor was scarce, as Camp Funston, in Kansas, had an earlier start and had secured most of the available supply. But the contractors ranged far and wide, even into the Mexican States of Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi, with the result that all handicaps were overcome. This camp has little level ground, resembling Camp Ayer and Camp Gordon in that respect, and many heavy grades in the road system result. The 75 hospital buildings cover 47 acres of ground.
Little Rock, which plays the role of host to Camp Pike, is the largest city in Arkansas. It was settled in 1814, becoming the seat of the territorial government in 1820, although at that time it had a population of only 20 people.
Situated on both banks of the Arkansas River, the city takes its name from the rocky promontory which rises to a height of some 5o feet above the river. It was called Little Rock in contradistinction to the bold precipice, some 3 miles above and about 50o feet high, which was known as Big Rock. To the west of the city and of Camp Pike the foothills of the Ozark Mountains rise, but to the east are fertile cotton fields and corn lands. The Arkansas River is navigable to boats of considerable draft as far as Little Rock, while steamboats of shallow draft go as far as Port Smith, 165 miles to the west.
At the outbreak of the Civil War the State was hopelessly.divided in sentiment. The upland people, living west of Little Rock, were Unionists and the cotton-territory folk, living east, were Secessionists. Camp Pike stands near the line of cleavage.
Camp Pike is named in honor of General Zebulon M. Pike, an American soldier and geographer. Born in Lamberton, N. J., in 1779, he spent his boyhood in Pennsylvania, and in 1805 started from St. Louis on an expedition to locate the source of the Mississippi. He was successful. Later he followed the Missouri and Osage rivers into Kansas, then went southward to the Arkansas, proceeding through Kansas and Colorado to the present site of Pueblo, and viewed Pikes Peak (since named in his honor).
While searching for the Red River he lost his way and wandered into Mexican territory across the upper Rio Grande. He was arrested, taken to Chihuahua, and, after some delay, escorted back to the border. In the War of 1812 he led American forces into Canada and was killed at York by falling rock when the retreating force blew up a powder magazine. He died while his nomination for brigadier general was pending.