Most of us who were raised in this little corner of the Ozarks know about Camp Crowder – the Army Signal Corps training camp created during World War II, and which also doubled as a prisoner of war camp for captured German and Italian troops.

Most of us who were raised in this little corner of the Ozarks know about Camp Crowder – the Army Signal Corps training camp created during World War II, and which also doubled as a prisoner of war camp for captured German and Italian troops.
What we may not as much about is the man for whom the camp was named – General Enoch Herbert Crowder (1859-1932).
Crowder was born on April 11, 1859 in a log home in the hamlet of Edinburg, Missouri, northeast of St. Joseph. He was locally educated, and then dabbled in farming and school teaching for a short time before taking and passing the exam for the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1877. After graduating West Point in 1881, the young 2nd Lieutenant was assigned to the 8th Cavalry, stationed near Brownsville, Texas on the US/Mexican border. During that time he studied law, and was admitted to the Texas bar.
After years of trying, Crowder was transferred in 1884 back to his home state of Missouri, to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Then in 1885 he gained an instructor assignment to the University of Missouri as Professor of Military Tactics. He also continued his legal studies and earned his law degree in 1886. That same year, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and ordered to rejoin his regiment as a troop commander during the Geronimo campaign in Arizona and New Mexico. When that campaign ended at the tail end of the year, Crowder went back to the University of Missouri and continued teaching until 1889. The following year, he was again ordered back to his regiment to take part in the final campaign of the Plains Indians Wars, against Chief Sitting Bull in the Dakota Territory.
That was the end of Crowder’s combat soldiering, and he spent the remainder of his life in the legal branch of the military, ultimately rising to the rank of Major General. Over the next couple of decades he gained accolades in military and diplomatic circles for his service as judge advocate for the Department of the Platte; for his work in framing new laws in the Philippines; for his service in Manchuria as an observer of military tactics in the Russo-Japanese war; as administrator for the provisional government of Cuba, drafting new laws that were adopted and supervising presidential elections there; as a US delegate to the Fourth Pan-American Congress at Buenos Aires, Argentina; and for his legal work in several landmark court cases.
In 1911, this country-raised Missouri boy was appointed Judge Advocate General of the United States Army. And in that post he did his most important work.
Crowder revised the rules for the governing and discipline of the US Army, which included reforming the Army court martial and prison system, and updating the Articles of War for the first time since 1874, among other changes.
What Crowder is most known for, however, is his authorship of the Selective Service Act – i.e. “the draft.”
When the US entered World War I in 1917, the country’s all-volunteer-based military could not begin to meet the need. As Judge Advocate General, Crowder took a personal hand in authoring the Selective Service Act, and saw it approved by Congress. He then supervised and directed the draft, which mandated that all males between 21 and 31 (later 18 and 45) years of age register for military service. Before the war was over, 24 million men had registered, and more than 2.8 million were inducted into the military services. Crowder was largely the father of that.
Crowder retired from the Army as a Major General on Feb 14, 1923, but on the very same day was appointed US ambassador to Cuba, a post he retained for the next four years.
Crowder spent the last years of his life as a private attorney, before passing away on March 7 1932 in Washington, D.C. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
In September 1941, on the eve of America’s involvement in a second world war, a yet-to-be-built army training facility outside of Neosho was officially named Camp Crowder, in honor of the late General Enoch Crowder, the country boy from Missouri. His name lives on today with Crowder College, located at the heart of what was once Camp Crowder.