North Georgia's Reaction to the Selective Service Act of 1917

                Cumming, Georgia native John Lewis Tate was a 24-year-old farmer when the United States entered ‘the Great War.’ With an infant and wife, John Tate was most likely in ‘Class IV’ of the five classifications created by the Selective Service Act of 1917, therefore, Tate was excused from serving so he could support his young family. Despite this classification, Tate registered for the draft along with thousands of other men from Northern Georgia. As the war raged on, most people of Northern Georgia supported America’s effort to ‘keep the world safe for democracy.’ 

                Tate’s patriotic actions towards America’s involvement in ‘the Great War’ and the implementation of the Selective Service Act was shared by many, but not all. Georgia politician and ‘journalist,’ Thomas E. Watson was a significant voice in the opposition to conscription. With thousands of followers Watson challenged the validity of the draft law, eventually in the Supreme Court. Much of the German-American population of Georgia, expressed their ideas against America’s involvement in the war by calling for American neutrality after President Woodrow Wilson asked for a declaration of war in 1917. The German-Americans met with violent opposition in many cases. 

                Other than Watson’s vocal opposition, a majority of North Georgians were in support of the war effort. African Americans and women, although not able to enjoy all of the rights that went with American citizenship, enthusiastically support America’s effort. North Georgia also provided one of the largest training grounds for the war at Chickamauga/Fort Oglethorpe. Thousands and men and women went through training at the Civil War battlefield, preparing for their time in France.


John S