Breathitt Volunteers

Historical Marker #904 commemorates the volunteers of Breathitt County during World War I.

Better known as home to feuding Appalachians, Breathitt County gained national prominence by filling their quota of troops without relying on the draft. This feat was widely-reported in the national press, with publications from Dallas, Texas to Hartford, Connecticut praising the "patriotic ex-feudists."

The enthusiasm for volunteering that swept Breathitt County stands in stark contrast to the broader experiences of Kentuckians, as about 60 percent of men who entered the service were drafted. Breathitt County's penchant for military service seems to have predated American entry into the conflict since the Army recruiting station in Jackson, the countyseat, recorded more enlistments than any other station south of the Ohio River as early as 1914. Most of the Breathitt volunteers trained at Camp Zachary Talor in Louisville and many joined the 84th Division, known as the "Lincoln Division," along with troops from Indiana and Illinois.

While some Kentucky soldiers, including the highly decordated Sgt. Willie Sandlin, won widespread renown for their accomplishments on the European battlefields, most served in relative obscurity outside of their own communities. Virtually annoymous men like the volunteers from Breathitt County provided the vast majority of the manpower that made America's entry into World War I a turning point in the conflict.

Historical Marker #904 was dedicated in 1966.