Eli A. Helmick Papers

Manuscript Collection #350
Helmick, Eli A. (Eli Alva), 1863-
Physical description
0.43 Cubic Feet, 2 volumes , photocopy of autobiography, bound book, of professional papers and articles, and copy of a lecture.
Preferred Citation
Eli A. Helmick Papers (#350), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1863-1935) including a photocopy of an autobiography, bound book, of professional papers and articles and copy of a lecture.

Biographical/historical information

Eli Alvo Helmick (1863-1945) was born in Quaker Point, Indiana. His father, Hiram T. Helmick, was a farmer and a self-taught country doctor. After Helmick's parents died of malaria in the later 1870s, he attended Kansas State Agricultural College (1880-1884) and graduated from West Point in 1888.

While stationed at Fort Spokane, Washington, Helmick commanded a detachment of Indian scouts and participated in the Wounded Knee Campaign (1890-1891). After serving guard duty at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893) he was sent to Santiago, Cuba, and became inspector of the Rural Guard (1899). Transferred to the Philippines in 1901, Helmick participated in the campaign led by Gen. John Pershing against the Moro people (Muslim-majority ethnic groups).

Helmick served at Fort Lieum, Alaska (1906-1907), and then attended School of the Line in Kansas (1907-1909). He completed his training at the Army War College and was promoted to major. From 1911 to 1914, he served in the Inspector General's office in Chicago. He commanded the 27th Infantry on border patrol in Mexico (1914) and resumed duty in the Inspector General's office in 1916. Helmick arrived in France in 1918 as commander of the 5th Division. After the war, he was appointed Inspector General, a position he held until retirement in 1927. For more biographical detail see Who's Who in America.

Scope and arrangement

In his memoir, "From Reveille to Retreat" (1935), Helmick describes his military career in depth and comments on the various army posts at which he served. Of particular interest is his description of West Point, his impression of military training, attitudes of white cadets toward black classmates, and social life at Forts Spokane and Reno. As a participant in the Wounded Knee campaign, Helmick mentions meeting Chief Joseph and Chief Moses.

For the Spanish-American War period, Helmick discusses public reaction to the MAINE sinking, hostility among the three branches of the service, malaria and yellow fever epidemics, and the hospital care the men received. Stationed in Cuba during the military occupation, Helmick also comments on the social life of the natives and the military personnel, the management of a sugar plantation, and the effects of martial law.

In 1901, Helmick was commander of a garrison in the Philippines. He describes the campaign against the Moro people, living conditions of the natives, an earthquake, and vaccinations against smallpox. In 1905, Helmick visited Germany and he compares German military training with that of the U.S. The following year he was stationed in Alaska and describes mining operations, weather conditions, and missionary activities.

Helmick comments on the organization of the army, increased centralization, graft, and the effectiveness of military training while he served in the Inspector General's office. In 1914 he participated in border patrol in Texas and describes agriculture, damage from a cyclone, and increased hostility between Mexico and the U.S.

For the pre-World War I period, comments concern the unpreparedness of the Army, prejudice against the National Guard and the political hostility between President Wilson and General Leonard Wood. World War I comments pertain to the Armistice Day celebration, the importance of various welfare organizations, role of women during the war, debarkation and clean-up procedures, and the President's tour of Brest.

The collection also contains Helmick's professional papers and lectures. Subjects include evaluations of military instruction, reasons for conflict among the branches of service, a lecture on the psychology of leadership, evaluations of the communist threat during the 1920s, and a history of the Inspector General's department. Among his speeches is an address concerning the growing organization of communists, socialists, and pacifist radicals in the U.S.; a raid on Brigman, Michigan in 1922; the publication of the Daily Worker; and the intentions of the communists.

Administrative information
Custodial History

January 4, 1978, 2 volumes; Memoir (1863-1925) of U.S. Army officer and a volume of speeches and articles reflecting his views. Major General Helmick served in the Spanish-American War, Cuba, Philippine Insurrection, Mexican Border, World War I, and as Inspector General of the Army. Gift of Major General Charles G. Helmick, Arlington, Va.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Major General Charles G. Helmick

Processing information

Processed by M. Hart, April 1978

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Helmick, Eli A. (Eli Alva), 1863-
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
Wood, Leonard, 1860-1927
Corporate Names
United States Military Academy
United States. Army--Military life
United States. Army--Officers--Biography
United States. Army. Office of the Inspector General
Border security--Texas
Military education--United States
Military inspectors general--United States--Biography
Spanish-American War, 1898--Campaigns--Cuba
World War, 1914-1918--United States
World War, 1914-1918--Women
Alaska--Description and travel
Cuba--Description and travel
Mindanao Island (Philippines)--History--Autonomy and independence movements
Philippines--Description and travel