Camp Buell

Flora Hall at Red Mile, Company A Quarters    <UK>

In May 1918, the army established technical training camps, known as Students Army Training Corps[1], at various university and colleges around the country.  At the University of Kentucky, the army established Camp Buell for the technical training of truck drivers, electricians, mechanics, blacksmiths, carpenters, radio operators and telegraphers.  The first camp (or class) of 400 recruits arrived in early May from Tennessee.  The course of study was scheduled for 8 weeks.  During the first 2 weeks, the soldiers were confined to the camp and drilled in basic military activities.  The soldiers were quartered in tents at the fairgrounds[2], with Stoll Field used for drilling.  A number of buildings on campus were used for classrooms, including the Mechanical College and Buell Armory.[i]

On June 7, 1918, the soldiers at Camp Buell were given the day off to spend hiking and swimming in the county.  The soldiers were provided lunch by the Fayette County Red Cross.[ii]

Retreat at Camp Buell, August 15, 1918   <UK>

Lower the flag at sunset, August 15, 1918   <UK>

In July, the YMCA opened a Red Triangle Hut, a recreational and amusement center for the soldiers stationed at Camp Buell.  The hut provided soft drinks, magazine, stationery and entertainment.  Once again, the Lexington Public Library opened a branch library at the camp for the soldiers.[iii]

Departing Troops from Union Station, 1918   <UK>

On July 4, 1918, the graduates from Camp Buell left for an undisclosed point in the East (for shipment to France).  The first group of 168 soldiers marched four abreast to Union Station, on Main Street.  On July 12 and 13, 1918, another 103 and 113 soldiers respectively were shipped out.[iv]

On July 10, 1918, the War Department issued War Bulletin No. 35, an order prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquor within a half-mile radius of Camp Buell.  The dry order forced the closing of all saloons on South Limestone and one on Prall Street.  Captain J. W. Harding, commanding officer of Camp Buell, issued the following statement:

“Owing to the fact that soldiers in Camp Buell have been obtaining intoxicating liquor both directly and indirectly from certain saloons in Lexington, I want to say that boundaries at Camp Buell can be made identical with boundaries of the University of Kentucky.” [v]

Red Cross Drive during First World War

On July 15, a new class of 412 soldiers from Kentucky arrived at Camp Buell for training.  The camp was moved to the university, near Stoll Field, from the old fairgrounds, on Rose Street.[vi]

On July 30, 1918, because of the number of women loitering about Camp Buell, the provost guard and local police began arresting prostitutes.

“That the Secretary of War is hereby authorized, empowered and directed during the present war to do everything by him deemed necessary to suppress and prevent the keeping or setting up disorderly house within such distance as he may deem needful of any military camp . . . . punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or both.”[vii]

Construction of Barracks at Camp Buell, July 1918   <UK>

Construction of Barracks at Camp Buell, August 1918   <UK>

Construction of Barracks at Camp Buell, August 1918   <UK>

On September 1, 1918, the new barracks located on the university’s campus were completed.

Water Detail outside of barracks, August 15, 1918   <UK>

In early October, the Spanish Flu epidemic hit Lexington and Camp Buell.  By the middle of the month, Company A had 120 men and Company B had 75 men (out of 200 men in each) in the hospital with the flu.  The army converted the barracks into a hospital and relocated the healthy soldiers to the Lexington Country Club.  Private John J. Voss, of Company B, wrote:

“we had to move and move quick on account of the Spanish Flue which Hit our Company in the last few days they turned our Barrack in to a Hospital and sent all of us Healthy boys out to the Country Club for rest.  It is a swell Place about 4½ miles from our other Place out in the Country there is a lot of Beautiful farms out around here and Plenty of Fresh air we have steam Heat now and Hot and Cold Showers.  Both we have Baths tubs to wash in and a swimming Pool out doors . . . . a tennis court Base Ball and foot Ball and Golf links.”[viii]

On November 19, 1918, Captain H. N. Royden, commandant of Camp Buell, received orders to “send an unlimited number of his men to the infantry training camp at Camp Pike, Ark.”  He immediately canceled all furloughs granted because of the influenza epidemic.  Captain Royden indicated “this sudden summons of the government to men for infantry training at Camp Pike is on account of the huge gaps made in the fighting ranks by the influenza epidemic.[ix]

Hospital at Camp Buell, October 1918   <UK>

The war ended in November 1918 and Camp Buell was closed by the end of the year.


[1] With the rapid expansion of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, the War Department required large numbers of officers and technical experts. To meet this need, it turned to college campuses with the Students Army Training Corps (SATC) program.  Colleges had the classrooms, equipment and organization to train large numbers of students for military service.

[2] Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders’ Association track (Red Mile).


[i] Lexington Herald, July 17, 1918, page 3, column 3.

[ii] Lexington Herald, June 7, 1918, page 1, column 6.

[iii] Lexington Herald, June 30, 1918, page 1, column 8.

[iv] Lexington Herald, July 3, 1918, page 1, column 7, July 4, 1918, page 12, column 3 and July 13, 1918, page 10, column 7.

[v] Lexington Herald, July 10, 1918, page 1, column 3 and August 13, 1918, page 1, column 3.

[vi] Lexington Herald, July 6, 1918, page 1, column 3, July 14, 1918, page 12, column 1 and July 17, 1918, page 3, column 3.

[vii] Lexington Herald, July 30, 1918, page 8, column 4.

[viii] Letter dated October 14, 1918, from John J. Voss, Private Company B, Camp Buell to his family in Covington.

[ix] Lexington Herald, October 19, 1918, page 8, column 3.

William M. Ambrose, Bluegrass Military Camps, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2012.