Coastal Tales: The Plattsburg Idea

November 9, 2020

The Adirondack Coast’s expansive military legacy goes beyond battles in the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812 — with national ramifications. 

In particular, Plattsburgh’s Old Stone Barracks and Old Oval Base have been repurposed at various points throughout the area’s history and played a founding role in the creation of what we now call the ROTC program.

Let’s start with General Wood, Army Chief of Staff, first commander of the Rough Riders under Teddy Roosevelt and a believer that military training would bind together all classes of society into one common purpose: defending their country. With no support, Wood gave numerous speeches around the country convincing people that Universal Military Training would create “manly boys of America.”

Clinton County Historical Association

And so it began.  

The first training camps were held and only open to college students, but the appeal of these camps to businessmen was strong. 

By ‪1915‬, New York Times reported that a summer camp for professional men would be held in Plattsburg (without the H). Ninety percent of these businessmen were considered upper class or known political figures (like the Mayor of New York City and Ronald Reagen) who saw physical hardship and discipline as a way to challenge their lives of luxury and leisure.

Photo found on Roads to the Great War blog.

In the summers of 1915 and 1916, thousands of businessmen flocked to Upstate New York to pursue this “Plattsburg Idea” and attend six weeks of grueling Businessman Training Camp that ended with a 9-day hike. Very few failed. 

The idea gave way to civilian flying school, military medicine courses for civilian physicians, naval training and, after the U.S. declared War on Germany, it heavily influenced the creation of the Selective Service Act.

Businessman Training Camps evolved into officer training camps and 90% of those that volunteered served in WWI on the front lines. 

Photo found on

It was trainees from this 1917 camp that wrote The Plattsburger, a book that said, “If the world is to be made safe for democracy, it is the Plattsburg idea that a democratic army must do it. Likewise, it is the Plattsburg spirit that a democratic army WILL do it.”


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Alyssa Senecal

Alyssa Senecal serves as the Assistant Director of Tourism and Marketing for the Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau, a division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.  In this capacity, Alyssa helps to lead the Visitors Bureau’s Marketing efforts in developing a yearly strategic marketing plan geared towards promoting the Adirondack Coast as a world class destination.  Born and raised in Peru, NY, Alyssa graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and from Johnson & Wales University in February 2014 with a Master’s degree in Business Administration.  In her free time, Alyssa enjoys living the foodie lifestyle; never passing up an opportunity to eat out or try local products on the Adirondack Coast.

Adirondack Coast Adventures

A Division of the North Country Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 310 |  7061 Route 9 | Plattsburgh, NY 12901 USA