Just over century ago, what came to be called “The Great War” was underway in Europe. The war had begun in July, soon after the assassination in Sarajevo of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie.
In 1914, Wisconsin wasn’t yet a part of this conflict that would go on for four years and kill an estimated sixteen million people.
Wisconsin soldiers and nurses would begin arriving in France in the early months of 1918. The U.S. entered the war in April 1917 and the draft began that June.
In Giddyap Tin Lizzie, the residents of fictional Ashley Springs, Wisconsin, watch their young men leave for “The Great War.” Ashley Springs is based, in real life, on Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Characters also reside in surrounding Iowa County, Wisconsin.
Ultimately, about 122,000 men and women from Wisconsin served in World War I. Two Wisconsin soldiers – Clayton Slack of Plover and John Siegel of Milwaukee, received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration. About 2,000 Wisconsin men and women died in battle.
Of those from Wisconsin who served in World War I, about 260 were from Iowa County. The thirty-two Iowa County soldiers who died in World War I are memorialized on the Iowa County Gold Star List.
Now, it is easier to research family members from Wisconsin who served and died in World War I.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum has been working on an online World War I Database. The database is ready for public use.
In addition, there are other, hard copy resources you can tap if you visit the museum in person. Those include printed World War I roster lists of soldiers, that are organized by county. You can also look at individual enlistment cards for Wisconsin soldiers that have their dates of service and lots of personal details.
To learn more about Wisconsin in World War I, read the 1919 account, Wisconsin in the Great War: A Brief Record of War Work in Wisconsin, Putting Forth the Proud Record of the Badger State. It is free on Google Books.