At least 21 Mint Hill men, probably more, wore the Doughboy uniform during World War I, also known as the “Great War” and the “Great War to End All Wars.” (Doughboy was a nickname for American soldiers at that time.) The Great War began July 28, 1914, after the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and ended Nov. 11, 1918. More than 70,000 million men served during what was deemed to be the largest war in history, and nine million of them died. An estimated seven million civilians also perished because of the war. The United States fought with the Allied Forces (which also included Russian, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, and Japan) against the Central Powers of Europe (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire).
The Great War had a tremendous impact on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region. Not only did our sons march off to war in foreign lands, Charlotte was chosen as the site for Camp Greene, three miles west of town. The July 5, 1917, edition of The Charlotte Observer reported that Major General Leonard Wood was impressed during his site visit by “several particularly high knolls, which afforded excellent places for the location of headquarters.”
Named for General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero, the 6,000-acre camp, extended from the west side of Charlotte to the Catawba River in Gaston County. It was constructed in record time – only six weeks. The camp doubled the size of Charlotte, which had a population of 46,000 at the time. The “city within a city” featured wooden barracks, hundreds of tents lined up in neat rows, a bakery, post office, 2,000-bed hospital, rifle range, airfield, and horse stable. At full capacity, the base could handle up to 60,000 soldiers.
The first troops arrived at Camp Greene on Sept. 6, 1917. Upon completion of basic training, the 41st Infantry Division, part of the American Expeditionary Forces, was the first unit to leave the camp for France, followed by the 3rd and 4th Divisions. “Having been in intensive training for eight months, we receive orders to proceed to the port of embarkation,” wrote Pvt. Willard Newton, 105th Engineers. “From the cheering that followed the reading of these orders, it did not seem as if any of the boys regretted going, but were glad of the opportunity offered them to go ‘over there’ and do their share in bringing to a successful close the great war….”
A little over a year after Camp Greene was established, the Great War ended and so did the camp. Per “The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Story” (www.cmsstory.org), states that “Camp Greene, the largest employer at the time in the county, closed up quickly. The Headquarter Company of the Fourth Division Recruit Camp celebrated with a farewell dinner on Dec. 19, 1918. The military lost many of their soldiers to the flu epidemic. Bodies of soldiers were stacked up waiting for burial or transportation to other parts of the country. Many materials were salvaged, and some buildings were just vacated….Places that had once been home to thousands of soldiers soon returned to fields and vacant buildings. Other buildings were torn down during the building or expansion of roads and shopping areas in west Charlotte during the 1970s. Few buildings from Camp Greene are known to exist today.”
Several men who died at the camp were buried in Section DX 008 of Elmwood Cemetery. The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument at Wilkinson Boulevard and Monument Street in Charlotte as a memorial to the soldiers who died at Camp Greene. Another memorial to the soldiers is “Spirit of the American Doughboy,” a sculptor by E. M. Viquesney that is located at Trade and Davidson Streets, also in Charlotte.
Mint Hill Doughboys: Lawrence Bartlett, John Clayton Cook, Perry G. Beaver, Byron B. Long, Mack D. Biggers, Roswell C. Long, Dexter L. Williams, Edward A. McWhirter, Cyrus J. Wilson, Henry Grady Miller, Charles W. Wilson, Arthur Brown Phillips, Hugh B. Craig, Earnest D. Phillips, James Dulin, Murry W. Reams, Oscar M. Forbis, Oscar R. Flowe, Lawrence M. Flowe, Watson Morris, and William Simpson – The Presbyterian Gathering on Clear Creek by Russell Martin Kerr.
Carol Timblin recently received a Publication Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians for “A page from the past…Mint Hill,” which appears in The Mint Hill Times.