From the Vineyard Gazette edition of July 22, 1915: The Fifth Regiment, Mass. Vol. Infantry, Col. Frank F. Cutting commanding, arrived on the island Sunday afternoon last and went into camp at Eastville, that part of Oak Bluffs which borders on Vineyard Haven harbor. The regiment had arrived in New Bedford on special trains and had embarked on steamer New Hampshire for the run to the Vineyard.
The command numbers about 850 men, with 90 horses, and six army wagons with mules. A machine gun company also accompanies the troops.
The trip to the island on Sunday from New Bedford was marked by perfect weather. The New Hampshire went through Quicks Hole and down Vineyard Sound, giving the men fresh from the city’s heat an enjoyable taste of the ocean’s breezes.
Shelter tents were pitched on the sloping fields that rise from the harbor’s edge at Eastville. Headquarters tent commanded a broad sweep of blue water and the Fifth Regiment Band played Sunday night to the great gratification of hundreds of visitors to the camp who had come by automobiles, carriages and on foot, from Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and other points.
The troops Monday forenoon broke camp and marched through Oak Bluffs on their way to Norton’s Pond on the Constant Norton place at Farm Neck.
Monday night was passed at the Norton farm. No such body of troops has disturbed the quiet of those hills since Grey’s raiders in the days of the Revolution a century and a half ago. The site of the Norton homestead is historic ground. Officers of the Fifth were invited into the homestead to see the sword which Major Norton used in the war for independence. Mr. H. Franklin Norton and parents exhibited many other interesting heirlooms of this ancient family. Here also was the home of the ancestors of Lillian Nordica, the famous grand opera singer, recently deceased, who was Lillian Norton in her early Vineyard girlhood.
Early in Tuesday forenoon camp was again broken and the regiment took up its line of march over the old county road to Edgartown, where it arrived about noon and went into permanent camp until Friday on the large tract of land on the State Road, a little way above Memorial Park and opposite the Bartlett Norton place, so called. The camping ground extends from the State Road through to West Tisbury road, is owned by George N. Norton, and in most ways is well adapted and located for a camping place for troops.
Edgartown and the Vineyard extends a cordial welcome to the Fifth Regiment and trusts that a most satisfactory encampment will attend its stay. The command, officers and men, are an exceptionally fine looking body of men, well set up, and hundreds greatly enjoy the battalion and regimental parades, the fine band concerts, and the features of camp life.
In the evening the town was invaded by the “boys in brown” — instead of the familiar “blue” of former times — and they “took the town” without firing a shot. It was a peaceful invasion, but just as effective. Everyone enjoyed seeing the “boys” and citizens and non-residents of the town made them feel welcome and hoped they would have a happy time while on island. The streets were patrolled by special guards from the regiment to keep order and officers mounted as a police force, but it appeared as if all they had to do was to ride their spirited horses and look fine, for both officers and guards, as well as members of the regiment, appeared well, and everything went along smoothly.
Soon after ten o’clock the men had returned to their camp for the night, and soon “lights out” was sounded and quiet reigned.
Greatly to the delight of those who were fortunate enough to learn of it in advance, and so obtain vantage points for observation, the regiment marched out of town by way of Circuit avenue Tuesday morning. Many were on hand to witness the unusual spectacle of a regiment of soldiers marching through the streets of Oak Bluffs, and it was indeed a most inspiring scene. While flags waved and people clapped their hands, the regiment came on, and a person standing at an angle between Penacook and Tuckernuck avenues could see Circuit avenue, from Narragansett avenue to the top of the hill near Noepe Theatre, filled with a solid moving mass of men, as they went in their way to the next camping place, the Norton Farm, on their way to Edgartown.
The music of the band was inspiring, and the various companies marched well and looked fine. They carried all their equipment. They had on their backs the rolled blanket, knapsack, canteen, etc., and they carried their rifle over the right shoulder.
It all reminded us of the days of ‘61 to ‘65, when we saw regiments march out of our home city and “on to Washington.” As we looked into the faces of these men, as they marched on, we prayed in our hearts that there would be no real war for them to take part in; they looked so boyish and youthful, and soon would be the men who would govern the country instead of losing their lives perhaps in its defense.
Compiled by Hilary Wall