A look back at Pine Camp’s ‘Great Horse Stampede’

The Great Horse Stampede
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 6:24 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - We’re nearing the 105th anniversary of the Great Horse Stampede at Fort Drum, which at the time was called Pine Camp.

It’s September 5, 1917, and the United States had just entered World War I. Soldiers at Pine Camp still relied heavily on horses for transportation.

“And so up here at Pine Camp the horses were used in an artillery unit, and they had a temporary enclosure with wire and posts in the ground,” said documentarian R.D. White. “I guess something spooked the horses that night and they poured out of there.”

Around 400 horses started stampeding through Pine Camp, into Deferiet, Great Bend, Felts Mills, Black River, through Watertown’s Public Square, and even into Adams Center.

“Well, yeah, the article talked about them going all the way to Syracuse,” White said. “I don’t know how many went that far but they definitely spread throughout the county.

With a swarm of that many horses, there was some destruction. One man in a Cadillac reported a horse bursting through his windshield and meeting him nose to nose.

Others collided with a buggy, throwing out a 10-year-old boy who then ran in the stampede for a half mile until he could slip away.

“Several other horses were killed,” White said. “They ran into a train on the New York Central tracks that used to go through Carthage and Watertown.”

Despite the 70-mile chase, only eight horses died in the incident.

“A lot of them were recaptured,” White said. “Apparently, it took several days if not a week.”

Back home to Pine Camp they went after their tour of the north country. The event was one of the largest horse stampedes in Army history.

Here’s where to find White’s documentary, “Fort Drum: The First 100 Years,” which features the stampede.