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Lancaster County and the Great War

Lancaster County and the Great War

Автором John Chandler Griffin

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Lancaster County and the Great War

Автором John Chandler Griffin

199 pages
55 minutes
Dec 13, 1999


Though the machines and technology have changed drastically over the past century, the themes of sacrifice, loyalty, and heroism have been felt by countless generations of American soldiers. While today s armed forces depend on the accuracy of satellites and smartbombs, the American soldier of the early twentieth century fought under much different circumstances an era dominated by machine guns, massive artillery, gas masks, biplanes, and trench warfare. Our nation s families, at that time, were full of patriotic pride and were more than willing to give their sons in the fight for democracy. Lancaster County, a rural community in the Palmetto State s Upcountry, was proud to count many of its men as the first volunteers in our country s call to arms. In Lancaster County and the Great War, you will listen to the compelling stories of many of the county s veterans of World War I, from their trials of admission and boot camp to the nightmarish scenes in the barbed-wire lined, bullet-ridden trenches to the victory celebrations they experienced in foreign landscapes and back at home. Complemented with period photographs, local county newspaper headlines, and wartime posters, these personal histories truly share a unique experience in South Carolina s and our country s past. As you read through these pages, you will feel as if you have been handed a government-issue rifle, journeyed across the East Coast to various training camps, felt the incredible fear and anxiety of battle, and paraded down Lancaster s streets to the ovation of joyous crowds.
Dec 13, 1999

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Author John Chandler Griffin, with the help of his students from USCLancaster, went out into the community in the mid-1970s, with tape recorders in hand, and took down these veterans� stories for future generations to learn from and enjoy. Lancaster County and the Great War is a fitting tribute to these men who left the safety of their Carolina homes and nobly defended the honor and ideals of their country.

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Lancaster County and the Great War - John Chandler Griffin



For almost three years the United States refused to be drawn into the deadly struggle that had tortured Europe since August 1914. Then, in April 1917, following the torpedoing of a great many American and Allied passenger ships, a clear violation of American neutrality, President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany and its allies. Congress reacted immediately, and suddenly our nation entered what is today remembered as one of the most horrendous conflicts in the annals of warfare: The Great War of 1914-18.

President Woodrow Wilson.

Blake Shute

William R. Steele

Carl D. Twitty

Rebecca Vassey

June C. Wade

*Note: These interviews were originally conducted in 1976. Today, in 1999, we would like to thank all those citizens of Lancaster County, the children and grandchildren of our Great War veterans, who came forward with their treasured photographs and other mementoes which the reader will find herein. This work would not have been possible without them.

The Lancaster News of April 3, 1917 (Easter) announces that America is going to war.

The people of Lancaster County were more than willing to meet the challenge. To answer our nation’s call came men from all walks of life: textile workers, doctors, students, clergymen, postal workers, and even a watch maker. Still, in 1917, we were primarily a rural people, and our boys for the most part were young farm lads who had rarely, if ever, imagined that one day soon they would see the likes of New York, London, or Paris.

But they did, and most of them were glad for the experience. And most of them were just as glad to see Lancaster County again when it was all over.

The veterans we interviewed are in accord on one particular issue: to a man, they felt that our cause was just, and they were more than willing to do their bit. Typical is Bill Medford (30th Old Hickory Infantry Division) who says: I was really patriotic about it. I thought our nation was right, and if they’re in a war, I’ll go with ’em. I wasn’t just willing, I was downright eager to go. I just felt like if this country’s worth living in, it’s worth fighting for. And I still have that feeling today. I haven’t changed a dern bit since then.

And former U.S. Senator J.P. Richards (30th Old Hickory Division) adds: You see, we had the old fashioned idea back in those days that if you loved your country you just grabbed a rifle and went. We didn’t know much about conscientious objectors and things like that—though I guess there were some. We just felt we had a duty to defend our country against all comers—and we did.

On August 10, 1917, the Lancaster News announced that the above 53 young men, the first to go from Lancaster County, would report for duty by September 1.

Indeed, in April of 1917, with the Germans threatening the gates of Paris and the United States now in the war, our nation was frantic for recruits, and thus our men experienced few difficulties in being accepted for military training.

Before departing for basic training, Lancaster’s second contingent of inductees were feted on the second floor of the Bank of Lancaster on September 19, 1917.

There were a few exceptions, however, such as Coyt Green (27th Infantry Division) who had to stretch some to measure up to Uncle Sam’s minimum standards. As a clerk in a Main Street drugstore, says Green, in hopes of gaining weight, he made it a point to consume literally hundreds of malted milkshakes. Still, oddly enough, in April 1917 he mounted the scales and noted with dismay that he continued to weigh only 98 pounds, which had been his weight since he was 14 years old.

Boy, laughed one of the doctors on Green’s examing board, you couldn’t even pick up a rifle, let alone shoot one.

Depressed at being rejected for service, Green walked back to the drugstore. It was April in Lancaster and the flowers were in bloom and the birds were singing, but Green was oblivious to it all. He could hear only the mocking jibes of the examining doctor—Go home and eat forty-three pounds of buckshot, then come back again.

Green says he was tempted to try it. But as the spring progressed and the news from France became increasingly grim, with Allied soldiers being killed by the tens of thousands, Green decided to give it another try. To his satisfaction, the same doctor who had poked fun at him before gave him a quick look and said, Green, the army took my nephew last week and he weighed only one-nineteen. So I don’t think you’re gonna get turned down. In fact, you’re in.

Green says, I never felt so grateful to one man before in my life. A year later he would be decorated for valor at the Battle of the Marne.

Nor were the heroic attitudes of our young recruits lost on the civilian population of Lancaster. There were parades down Main Street, speeches made in front of the Court House, and even receptions given in honor of those about to go to war.

Oscar Roddy Bell (30th Old Hickory Infantry Division) recalls: The people of Lancaster gave us a big reception the night before we left. It was a very pleasant warm evening in late September 1917, and we all gathered in the armory space over the Bank of Lancaster. I was honored with a seat on the rostrum right between Leroy Springs and the Reverend Patterson, pastor of the A.R.P. Church. Then, the next morning eighty of us marched from the Court House down Main Street to the Southern Depot and boarded a train for Camp Jackson in Columbia. If only we’d known then what lay ahead!


The majority of our recruits were assigned to one of several major training centers for basic training: Camp Jackson in Columbia, Camp Sevier in Greenville, Fort Wadsworth in Spartanburg, or Fort Hancock in Augusta, Georgia. A few lucky ones had the privilege of sleeping in barracks, but for most, since these various training centers were just being developed in

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