The land on which the Fort Drum military reservation sits has been used as a military training site since 1907. In 1908, Brig. Gen. Frederick Dent Grant, son of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, was sent here with 2,000 regulars and 8,000 militiamen. He found Pine Plains to be an ideal place to train troops. The following year, money was allocated to purchase the land, and summer training continued through the years.
The camp’s first introduction to the national spotlight came in 1935 when the largest peacetime maneuvers to date were held on Pine Plains and surrounding farmlands. About 36,500 Soldiers came from throughout the northeast to take part in the exercise.
Some Soldiers traveled by trains that arrived in town every 15 minutes, coming from as far away as Buffalo and New York City. For 36 hours, young men from offices, factories and farms marched, attacked and defended in tactical exercises on the 100 miles the Army had leased for its war games. The maneuvers were judged to be most successful and the War Department purchased another 9,000 acres of land.
With the outbreak of World War II, the area known as Pine Camp was selected for a major expansion, and an additional 75,000 acres of land was purchased. A total of 800 buildings were constructed: 240 barracks, 84 mess halls, 86 storehouses, 58 warehouses, 27 officers’ quarters, 22 headquarters buildings and 99 recreational buildings, as well as guardhouses and a hospital. Construction workers paid the price, as the winter of 1941-42 was one of the coldest in North Country history.
The three divisions to train at Pine Camp were Gen. George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division (Gen. Creighton Abrams was a battalion commander here at the time), the 45th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division. The post also served as a prisoner of war camp.
Pine Camp became Camp Drum in 1951, named after Lt. Gen. Hugh A. Drum, who commanded the First Army during World War II. During and after the Korean conflict, a number of units were stationed and trained here to take advantage of the terrain and climate.