Letter from the South Carolina State Council of Defense to Senator Lee Overman regarding pro-German sentiment raised by F.J.H. von Engelken, 21 January 1919
Written to North Carolina Senator Lee S. Overman, this letter outlined evidence collected against F.J.H. von Engelken, former president of the Federal Land Bank in Columbia, South Carolina. The South Carolina State Council of Defense suspects von Engelken of espousing pro-German sentiments. His crimes include being rude to Red Cross volunteers soliciting war donations, publicly justifying Germany’s sinking of the U.S.S. Lusitania, stating the German Army offered him a commission but he declined it “on the ground that he could serve Germany better in America” along with a host of other offenses. The State Council of Defense charges that his “general attitude was intensely pro-German and disloyal.” This letter expresses concern that the von Engelken issue would be “white-washed” rather than be dealt with accordingly.
The State Council of Defense appealed to Overman who headed a special subcommittee in the United States Senate. Known as the Overman Committee (1918-1919), it was originally charged with investigating the German element in the American liquor industry. During the height of the United States involvement in World War I, the committee’s purpose transformed to include investigation of German propaganda and pro-German activities.
Created in 1917, the State Council of Defense served as South Carolina’s public relations and propaganda arm during World War I. Appointed by South Carolina governor Richard I. Manning III, David R. Coker served as Chairman on the state level. Under his leadership, each county established a council of defense to support the war effort. In 1918, after internal reorganization, the State Council of Defense devoted its efforts to curtailing criticism of the war and investigating pro-German sentiments. Once the war was over, the State Council of Defense came to an end.
Letter to Hon. Lee S. Overman. 21 January 1919. Military Department Council of Defense (1917-1918), Miscellaneous Council of Defense records. S192069. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.
Standard 7-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and effects of world conflicts in the early twentieth century.
Indicator 7-5.1 Explain the causes and key events of World War I, including the rise of nationalism, ethnic and ideological conflicts in different regions, political and economic rivalries, the human costs of the mechanization of war, the Russian Revolution, and the entry of the United States into the War.
Standard 8-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of South Carolina’s development during the early twentieth century.
Indicator 8-6.2 Explain the impact of World War I on South Carolina, including the building of new military bases and the economic impact of emigration to industrial jobs in the North.
Standard GS-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the effects of economic, geographic, and political interactions that took place throughout the world during the early twentieth century.
Indicator GS-5.1 Summarize the causes of World War I, including political and economic rivalries, ethnic and ideological conflicts, and nationalism and propaganda.