Camp Devens - History - World War I Cantonment 1918
The cantonment at Ayer, Massachusetts, known as Camp Devens, houses the forces of the National Army drawn from New England. It lies to the north of the town of Ayer, on a site that was largely occupied by second-growth scrub timber. The ground is open and porous, as well as rolling, thus insuring good drainage. The site was selected with an eye to having a force quartered near Boston, which is only 30 miles away, to defend that city in the event of any military emergency.
The town of Ayer has an unusual history, as the history of New England towns goes. It is one of the most youthful of all the municipalities east of the Hudson River, having acquired a corporate existence and a name in 1871. The railroads of northern Massachusetts found convenient crossing points in that neighborhood. First there came a signal tower. then a village, and then a community. which tired of being called "The Junction" and wanted a real town name.
This camp has the lowest average temperature of any of the cantonments. On the other hand, it has more cloudless days than any other with the single exception of Deming, New Mexico, which is in the "sunshine belt" of the Southwest. Camp Devens' average temperature is 47 and it has an average of 200 cloudless days a year.
The smallest except one of the 16 cantonments, Camp Devens is larger than the neighboring cities of Taunton, Waltham, Quincy, and Pittsfield, being in a class with Fitchburg and Newton.
The men who get camp leave are in easy reach of many places famous in American history. Concord and Lexington, Cambridge and Charleston, and a hundred other places are there to stir men's souls to the spirit of the hour, and to enable officers to say in 1917 what Captain Davis said in 1775, in America's first battle for liberty against a German king : "I haven't a man that's afraid to go."
Camp Devens is named in honor of Brig. Gen. Charles Devens, a native of Massachusetts, whose distinguished services before Richmond in the Civil War brought him the brevet rank of major general. He was Attorney General of the United States under President Hayes.