The McIver Papers include a memoir, correspondence, genealogical materials, publications and artifacts. The papers include three versions of General McIver's memoir. These consist of an original handwritten manuscript by McIver, a typed transcription, and a version edited by Jonathan Dembo. The edited version also includes some transcripts of the correspondence also found in the papers. Dembo's version resulted from the book he edited entitled
A Life of Duty: The Autobiography of George Willcox McIver. The book was published by History Press in 2005, and a copy can be found in the Special Collections Reference Collection.
The original memoir was produced between 1930 and 1940, and is divided into two volumes. It should be noted that some discrepancy exists in the numbering of pages in both volumes. The bulk of the material concerns military matters interspersed with genealogical information concerning the McIver, Smedberg, and Willcox families, as well as several pages concerning the Hart family of Virginia (verso of Chapter 22). The first volume concerns his early life and military career from 1883 to 1915. Of particular interest are comments concerning North Carolina at the end of the Civil War, and the college towns of Davidson, Chapel Hill, and Greensboro, North Carolina. The educational movement in North Carolina is briefly touched upon, particularly where his father was concerned. Impressions of the Bingham School in Mebane, North Carolina, are also noted.
Life at West Point from 1877 to 1882 is described, and comments of note include the rough treatment plebes received from upperclassmen, criticism of teaching methods, cadet reaction to integration, and the scandal which developed after dismissal of black cadet Johnson Whittaker. The commentary of McIver as a young infantry officer in the West is interesting, as he describes the various camps and the often dull social life. His criticism of the Army's handling of the Sioux Campaign (1890), which culminated in the Battle of Wounded Knee, the general treatment of Indians and their trading posts, and the difficulty of training by using Civil War tactics as opposed to modern tactics gives some insight into that era. McIver gives eyewitness accounts of the civil unrest resulting from the massacre of Chinese miners at Rock Springs, Wyoming (1885), and the California railroad strikes (1894). The latter elicited criticism of National Guard troops for failing to restore order.
McIver also offers many comments about the Spanish-American War, including poor health conditions, breakdowns in leadership and supply, distaste for the Army Inspector General, Medal of Honor recipients, disease, Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and conditions at mobilization points at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida. The battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney dominate his descriptions of the Spanish-American War.
At the end of that conflict, McIver was sent to Nome, Alaska (1900). The complete isolation of Nome during an Alaskan winter and the effects of the Gold Rush there are noted. He was sent to the Philippines (1903), and garrison life at Camps Jossman, Daragu, and Stotsenberg are commented upon as are the rapid promotions of officers John J. Pershing and Leonard Wood. Duties in the Philippines are recorded including court-martial duty at the trail of Private Grafton, a case which was finally decided in the U.S, Supreme Court. Duties as commandant at Alcatraz Prison (1905) are briefly described, and an eyewitness account of the San Francisco Earthquake, fire, and the Army's role in restoring order are discussed.
A turning point in McIver's career was his assignment as commandant of the Musketry School at Monterey, California (1906). The history, organization, and usefulness of the school are discussed. War maneuvers in the Philippines are mentioned as he returned for his second tour of duty (1911), especially those at Camp Stotsenburg involving machine gun maneuvers, testing of different machine guns under battle conditions, and the controversial usefulness of machine guns.
The second volume of McIver's memoir deals primarily with his military career from 1915 up to and including the years of his retirement until 1940. Of interest are his comments concerning his duties as executive officer of the Militia Bureau in Washington, D.C. (1915), descriptions of many officers in the War Department including generals Hugh Lenox Scott, Tasker Howard Bliss, and Enoch Herbert Crowder, as well as Captain Douglas MacArthur, criticism of the National Guard upon being mobilized for Mexican Border Duty (1916), and the resentment which followed an army efficiency report of their service. Of further note are descriptions of the War Department and attempts to prepare for World War I, training schemes such as the Plattsburg "Idea," and criticism of Theodore Roosevelt's attempts to organize a volunteer army.
The World War I period is represented by comments concerning 81st Division history such as camp life, training problems involving trench warfare, a Cherokee and Croatan Indian company from North Carolina, McIver's appeals to Governor Richard Irvine Manning of South Carolina to stop the Puerto Rican Plan, the effectiveness of the 371st Infantry composed of black troops commanded by white officers, criticism of the Inspector General's Department of the Army, a visit by ex-President William H. Taft to explain the U.S. war role (1918), and the YMCA's role in building troop morale. Upon completion of training, the 81st Division was sent to Europe as a part of the American Expeditionary Force (1918). Comments of interest during this period include descriptions of the voyage and reception, hand-to-hand combat, trench warfare, Meuse-Argonne offensive (November 1918), casualty statistics, and the numerous French and German towns and villages through which the American Expeditionary Force passed.
The final section of the memoir includes duties at Fort Slocum, New York until retirement, life after retirement, family information, and the mention of writings including an article entitled, "North Carolinians at West point Before the Civil War," which was published in the
North Carolina Historical Review (January 1930).
Correspondence (1888-1919) includes handwritten letters from McIver to Alexander McIver (father) and Helen H. S. McIver (wife). The earliest correspondence (1888-1902) is letters from McIver while stationed at various military camps to his father in Pittsboro, North Carolina. The later correspondence (1918-1919) consists of letters from McIver to his wife. These letters were written by him while in England, France, Scotland and at sea. Topics include news from home and details of McIver's day-to-day life during this period. (Transcripts of some of the above correspondence are included in the memoir edited by Dembo.)
Genealogical Materials (ca. 1860s-2004) consist of both published and unpublished materials by Helen H. McIver and Anne F. Boyd. These materials document history of the McIver Family (including descendants of Kenneth McIver of Scotland) and the Smedberg Family. Also included is a copy of the McIver family scrapbook. The bulk of these images (ca.1860s-1940s) are scanned photographs of McIver family members and some taken by George Willcox McIver while on military duty. Some select images from the scrapbook are contained on compact discs, accompanied by print versions. A detailed descriptive list of these images is also present. This list offers reference numbers corresponding to the numbered printed images, as well as which page numbers these images can be found in the complete McIver scrapbook.
Published Materials include publications written by McIver and some from his personal library. McIver's works include "North Carolinians at West Point Before the Civil War" from
North Carolina Historical Review, v. VII, n. 1-4 (1930), a short history entitled "The Musketry School at Monterey, California" (1930) and "Washington in the French and Indian War" from
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Order of Indian Wars of the United States (1932).
Items from McIver's personal library include seven books. These are
The Farm and the Fireside, or, The Romance of Agriculture, by John Lauris Blake (1852),
The New York Reader No. 3, Being, Selections in Prose and Poetry from the Best Writers. Designed for the Use of Schools. (1847) and five biographies of military generals (Jackson, Scott, Greene, Thomas and Lee), all part of
The Great Commanders Series, by various authors and edited by General James Grant Wilson (1893-1898).
Artifacts include a shoulder patch and pin of the 81st Division (Stonewall / Wildcat Division), ca. 1918-1945.