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Charlotte in Time of War

Book 2, Chapter 13
Hornets' NestBook Two
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THE battle of Charlotte is given scant attention in general histories of the Revolution, but the battle marked the turning point in the fortunes of the British. Never thereafter did the enemy wage a very successful offensive. Unlike the Mecklenburg declaration of independence, about which some have had doubts, no serious question has arisen about Charlotte's part in the Revolution.
The American Revolution began on April 19, 1775 when the British soldiers fired on the minutemen of Lexington, Massachusetts. The fighting ended with the surrender of the British at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. There was very little military activity in North Carolina until 1778, though the state had, of course, responded to the call in 1775 for troops to man the Continental Army. There is no way of estimating definitely the number of these troops provided by North Carolina but the best information places the figure at between 5,000 and 7,500.
In addition to the troops supplied for the Continental Army there was the North Carolina Militia, "under which all free, male white citizens, 16 to 60, inclusive, were subject." Members of still another group, which might be termed the home guard, were known as partisans. Militia and partisans exceeded the troops in the Continental Army, a fact that became quite important when the war moved into the South.
On December 29, 1778 Savannah capitulated to the forces of Colonel Archibald Campbell who, shortly thereafter, restored British rule to George. With Savannah subjugated, Sir Henry Clinton, commander of the British forces in America, became eager to take Charleston as the first step in his conquest of the Carolinas. This he did on May 12, 1780 when defense efforts of General Benjamin Lincoln of the American forces failed and both the city and army surrendered. Following this victory, Clinton sailed for New York leaving Lord Cornwallis in command of Charleston with instructions to hold Georgia and South Carolina and complete the conquest of North Carolina.
Cornwallis started his campaign brilliantly by defeating the American forces under General Horatio Gates on August 16, 1780 at Camden, South Carolina. Leaving Camden September 8, Cornwallis arrived in Charlotte on the 26th, intending to occupy the town, fortify it and enlist Tory volunteers. The reception he and his forces received in Charlotte and their treatment by Mecklenburg citizens replaced the joy of the Camden victory with gloom of impending disaster. Following his sixteen days spent in Charlotte, the fortunes of the British general sank lower and lower until the surrender in Yorktown a little more than a year later.
Charlotte's treatment of Cornwallis fully justified him in naming the town "The Hornets' Nest." There is no doubt but that his situation before and after his occupation of Charlotte was rendered very troublesome and he reported to Clinton that Charlotte was "an agreeable village but in a damned rebellious country and that the people were more hostile to England than any in America."
The most complete source of information about Mecklenburg men and other North Carolinians who served in the American Revolution is contained in Roster of the Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution, compiled by the North Carolina United Daughters of the American Revolution in 1932.
The War of 1812
Though few records are available concerning the county's participation in the War of 1812, five companies of Mecklenburg troops served throughout the conflict. The names of nearly 600 men in the five companies are listed in Muster Rolls of the Soldiers of the War of 1812, detached from the Militia of North Carolina, published in 1873 under direction of the Adjutant General of North Carolina.
The Mexican War
Mecklenburg's chief interest in the war between the United States and Mexico was the fact that a native son, James Knox Polk, was the President who declared war against Mexico. North Carolina furnished one regiment for the war but Mecklenburg had no part in its formation. A few patriots from Mecklenburg volunteered and formed a company of "light horse dragoons." They left Charlotte in April 1847 and joined the American forces at Vera Cruz where they engaged in several battles.
The Civil War
On May 20, 1861, which was the 86th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg declaration of independence, the state of North Carolina joined ten other states which had already seceded from the Federal Union. Conditions which led to this momentous step were too many and complicated to set forth in this volume. Briefly, however, the North and South had developed along entirely different lines ever since the formation of the Union, until a breaking point was reached on April 12, 1861 with the bombardment of Fort Sumter and its surrender to Southern forces.
Charlotte escaped virtually unscathed from this war. Its people did not. All of them were deprived of most of the comforts and many of the necessities of life, men gave their lives, or suffered lasting wounds, for the Southern cause, bringing anguish, misery and want to countless wives and children. It was one of the most terrible wars since the beginning of recorded history.
Charlotte men got off to a fast start in the war. Two companies of militia were sent to Raleigh four days after the surrender of Fort Sumter. These were the Charlotte Grays (Company C) and the Hornets Nest Rifles (Company B). Upon arrival in Raleigh they became a part of the First North Carolina Volunteers, commonly known as the Bethel Regiment. The entire history of the war does not include a nobler example of valor and efficiency than that of this regiment. It was one of the units which inspired Judge Walter Clark to write of North Carolinians in the war as:
First at Bethel
Farthest to the front at Gettysburg and Chickamauga
Last at Appomattox

The faculty and cadets of North Carolina Military Academy were taken to Raleigh almost immediately to drill the troops being assembled there. By May 16 the First North Carolina Volunteers were organized into a regiment with Daniel Harvey Hill as colonel, Charles C. Lee as lieutenant colonel, James H. Lane, major, and Reverend E. A. Yates, chaplain, all of these men being from Charlotte. Three companies of regiment were in Richmond May 18 and the other seven arrived three days later. Within the next twenty days they had fought and won a battle.
On the same day that North Carolina passed the Ordinance of Secession, Confederate officials at Charlotte seized the branch of the United States Mint. Thereafter, until the close of the war, this historic building served as local headquarters for the Confederate government. Between 1861 and 1865 Mecklenburg County furnished 21 companies which, with recruits, numbered 2,713 soldiers. Besides these, there were many who joined other companies as officers or privates.
Hardly had the cadets form North Carolina Military Academy left their barracks for war duty when the building, one of the largest in Charlotte, was converted into a military hospital. Throughout the war, hundreds of sick and wounded were treated there.
A large part of the Confederate Navy Yard was moved form the vicinity of Norfolk, Virginia, to Charlotte. This strange action took place in May, 1862 when it became apparent that the Norfolk location was in immediate danger of capture or destruction. Charlotte was selected because of its railroad facilities. It was a wise choice, since later reports indicated that Charlotte yard suffered "less interruption from the movements of the enemy," than had any other naval ordnance plant.
Additional men and equipment were sent to Charlotte from time to time until there were nearly 300 employed at the Navy Yard, near the Southern Railroad underpass. Throughout the war this plant produced shafting for the propellers of steamers, wrought iron projectiles and various kinds of ordnance equipment and ammunition.
The abandonment of the Charlotte Navy Yard, at the time of the surrender, marked the end of the Confederate Naval Administration, and the Confederate Naval records are reported to have been burned there. On June 3, 1910, a small commemorative marker was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on a building located where the Charlotte Navy Yard stood. When this building was demolished in 1959 the marker was removed and its future location depends on building plans of the property owners. There is a state highway historical marker on the East Trade Street sidewalk a few feet west of the railroad underpass.
The need for sulphuric and nitric acid for the manufacture of explosives, plus the fact that gold-mining equipment was located at Charlotte, was responsible for the selection of the city as a location for a sulphuric acid plant. On December 9, 1863, Professor Charles Henry Winston, president of the Richmond Female Institute, was instructed to go to Charlotte and look into the equipment owned by the Rudisill Gold Mine. This introduced him into the production of sulphuric acid and shortly thereafter he erected the plant.
There is little known about the quartermaster's supply depot at Charlotte, beyond the fact that it burned or exploded January 7, 1864, with an estimated loss of $10,000,000.
Charlotte's most unforgettable war days were those just preceding and immediately following Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
When Jefferson Davis anticipated the imminent fall of Richmond he sent his wife and children to Charlotte where he thought they might dwell safely and comfortably until he could join them. At Charlotte they were house guests of a local merchant named Weill. Subsequently, Mrs. Davis and her party moved into a furnished house. This event is described in a letter written by Mrs. John Wilkes which reads, "The house was located on the northeast corner of Brevard and 5th Streets. Such of us as could spare any furniture sent what we could to furnish the house. I sent her bread, milk and pantry supplies, as did many other housekeepers."
When Mrs. Davis heard of Lee's surrender and that President Davis was making his way south, she became frantic with alarm. When she observed the troops which had brought treasury funds from Richmond to Charlotte sometime before, preparing to move them to a place of greater safety, she decided to join them and left Charlotte two days before her husband's arrival. She wrote her husband frequently. A copy of these letters has been preserved and illuminates the situation that existed in Charlotte at that time:

My own dear Bunny, Since my arrival here I have been so busy as to have only the evening to write in, and then but one room where the children most did congregate, so I have written you but one disjointed letter.

The news of Richmond came upon me like the "abomination of desolation" the loss of Selma like the blackness thereof. Since your telegram upon your arrival at Danville, we have nothing except the wildest rumors, all, however, discouraging.

I, who know that your strength when stirred up, is grand, and that you can do with a few what others have failed to do with many, am awaiting prayerfully the advent when it is God's will to deliver us through his appointed agent. I trust it may be you, as I believe it is.

It would comfort me greatly if you could only find an opportunity to write me a full, long letter. As soon as we are established here I am going to leave Mrs. Chesnut with the children and bring Li Pie [evidently the baby] to see you. The gentlemen I have seen here are exceedingly kind, and have offered me every civility in their power.

The surgeon general was also very kind in his offers of service. Colonel Johnston, with his wife, called to see me. Mrs. Joe Johnston is living here with the cashier of the bank, and family, and keeps a pretty fancy carriage and horse. I haven't seen her but I hear she is going out of town before long to some watering place or other. Mrs. Semmes went off yesterday for the South. I did not see her. The Wigfalls are staying, I believe, with Mrs. Johnston, also. They arrived yesterday.

I hear a funny account of Wigfall's interview with Beauregard. It seems he went to see him on his way to this place and when the news of the evacuation of Richmond came, and that the enemy had not yet entered town, the general said, "Oh! they do not understand the situation. It is, or ought to be a plan of Lee's to keep between Richmond and the enemy. If Grant attempted to throw troops between his army and Richmond, Lee can whip them in detail."

I cannot judge the moral effect of the fall of Richmond. The people here were about as low as they could be before, as I infer from little things, but, upon the whole I do not think the shock is as great as I expected.

We had a digest of your address to the people today, and I could not make much of it, except an encouraging exhortation. Am anxious to see the whole thing. Numberless surmises are hazarded here as to your future destination and occupation, but I know that wherever you are and whatever engaged it is an efficient manner for the country. The way things look now the trans-Mississippi seems our ultimate destination.

Though I know you do not like interference, let me entreat you not to send B. B. to command here. I am satisfied that the country will be ruined by its intestine feuds if you do so. If your friends thought it best I should feel helpless, but resigned; but even those who hope for favors in that event deprecate it for you. If I am intrusive forgive me for the sake of the love which impels me, but pray long and fervently before you decide to do it.

Mrs. Chesnut wrote me a most affectionate letter from Chester today. She is staying in two rooms very badly furnished, and furnished with food by her friends there. . . .

Much of the money that was stored at Charlotte was taken further south but some of it, along with the money that belonged to the branch bank at Charlotte, was removed to a spot about eighteen miles from town and there buried. The details of the search for a safe spot, the removal of some 3,000 pounds of gold bullion and its eventual recovery are recorded in the diary of J. H. Carson, grandfather of James H. Carson and McAlister Carson, Sr., of Charlotte.
Just about the time the gold was being removed from Charlotte, ten boxes of valuable papers from the Department of State of the Confederacy arrived in Charlotte. One of these boxes contained the Great Seal of the Confederacy, made of silver and weighing about three pounds. All boxes were hidden in the Mecklenburg County Court House until hostilities ceased, after which they became spoils of war and passed from one unscrupulous character to another. Eventually the papers were purchased by the United States government and are part of the official records of war, while the Great Seal was acquired by private individuals for display at Richmond, its original home.
President Davis rode on horseback into Charlotte on the afternoon of April 18, 1865. He was accompanied by three aides and members of his cabinet. Arrangements had been made with private families in Charlotte for accommodating him and members of his cabinet. Mr. Bates, at whose home on the southwest corner of Tryon and Fourth Streets Mr. Davis was scheduled to stay, thought that the party would arrive by train and was at the station to meet them when the presidential party arrived at his home. The President dismounted and, being unable to get in, was welcomed by Colonel William Johnston, a neighbor, and a rapidly gathering group of citizens. To the brief speech of Colonel Johnston, President Davis responded:
"My friends, I thank you for this evidence of your affection. If I had come as the bearer of good news, if I had come to announce the success of our arms and at the head of a triumphant army, this is nothing more than I should have expected. But coming to you as I do to tell you of a very great disaster; coming as I do to tell you that our national affairs have reached a very low point of depression; coming, I may say, as a refugee from the capital of the country, this demonstration of your love fills me with feelings too deep for expression. This has been a war of the people, for the people, and I have simply been their executive.
"I am conscious of having committed errors; but in all that I have tried to do, I can lay my hand on my heart and appeal to God that I have had but one purpose to serve, one mission to fulfill, the preservation of the true principles of Constitutional freedom, which are as dear to me today as they were four years ago. I have nothing to abate or take back; if they were right then, they are right now and no misfortune of arms can change right into wrong. Again I thank you."
While the President spoke, John C. Courtnay, from the telegraph office, walked rapidly through the crowd and handed him a telegram, which he held unopened until his talk was finished. Then he silently read the dispatch. "Can this be true? This is dreadful! It is horrible! Can it be really true?" he exclaimed. The dispatch reported the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
President Davis and his cabinet made their headquarters during their stay at the branch of the Bank of North Carolina, located on the west side of Tryon Street, midway between Trade and Fourth Streets. The final meeting of the whole cabinet was held on April 20, 1865, at the home of Mr. William Phifer. This location was made necessary because of the illness of Mr. Trenholm, Secretary of the Treasury, who was Mr. Phifer's guest. The next day the sad, demoralized party left Charlotte for points further south. Subsequently, a meeting of most but not all of the members of the cabinet was held at Abbeville, South Carolina, and later another and smaller meeting was held at Washington, Georgia.
At daybreak on April 19, 1865, the day after President Davis arrived in Charlotte, 250 Federal cavalrymen under Major Erastus C. Moderwell, 12th Ohio Cavalry, destroyed by fire the 1,127-foot-long covered railroad bridge over the Catawba River near Nation's Ford, south of Charlotte. Confederate cavalry of Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Ferguson's brigade of Wheeler's cavalry corps arrived from Charlotte too late to prevent this cutting of rail communication with Columbia, S. C. This engagement was one of the last to take place in North Carolina and the closest that actual conflict came to Charlotte.
The most nearly correct list of all Confederate troops furnished by Mecklenburg County in the war was compiled by Dr. J. B. Alexander, as a result of a motion which was passed unanimously at a meeting of the Mecklenburg Camp United Confederate Veterans in 1894. This list was published in pamphlet form enlisted Roster of the Twenty-one Companies Furnished by Mecklenburg County in the War 1861-1865. It can also be found in History of Mecklenburg County by Dr. J. B. Alexander and in Volume II of Tompkins' History of Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte.
The most complete list of all Confederate troops furnished by the state of North Carolina is recorded in the "Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of North Carolina" in the Department of Archives, Washington, D. C. This list is available on microfilm in the North Carolina Department of Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina, and in a few libraries throughout the country.
The most complete published list (though not as complete as above) of Confederate troops furnished by the state of North Carolina is the Roster of North Carolina Troops in the War Between the States by John W. Moore (1882). The only index to its four volumes is on cards in the North Carolina Department of Archives at Raleigh. The Public Library of Charlotte has had a microfilm made of this index.
A brief detailed history of each unit from North Carolina can be found in Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65 (written by members of the respective commands), edited by Walter Clark.

There was no meeting of the town board in Charlotte after March 24, 1865. Lee's surrender came two weeks later. The city was saddened by the flight of Davis and his cabinet, and stunned by the assassination of Lincoln. Civil government in Charlotte was demoralized except for the few remaining members of the Guard for Home Defense authorized by the legislature July 7, 1863, and commonly known as Home Guard. Lieutenant T. H. Brem commanded the Home Guard and did much in protecting the county from marauders and, before the war ended, in enforcing the conscript laws and capturing deserters.
With the increasing number of law infractions by Negroes, some of whom regarded the new-found freedom as license to plunder, and carpetbaggers who abetted them, it is not hard to imagine that Brem and other members of the Home Guard welcomed, rather than resented, the arrival of the occupying military forces from the North. When Colonel Willard Warner, with the 180th Ohio Regiment, took charge in June 1865 he was well received. A little later, General Thomas, in charge of all military forces in this section, arrived in Charlotte to make his headquarters, and he earned everyone's respect for preserving good order. This arrival is vividly described in the following letter taken from Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Series I, Volume XLVII, Part 3, Page 490):

Greensborough, N. C., May 13, 1865

Lieutenant E. W. Welsted,
Adjutant Ninth New Jersey Volunteers
I have the honor to submit the following report: In accordance with orders from Major-General Cox, I left Greensborough, N. C., with my company on May 5, 1865, and proceeded by railroad to Salisbury, N. C., arrived there at 11 a.m. I left Salisbury at 5 p.m., and was transported by rail to within five miles of Concord, a station twenty-one miles from Charlotte, N. C. The next morning, May 6, I marched to Concord and telegraphed to Charlotte for a train and I received an answer stating that an accident had happened to the downtown train and that no train would run for a day or so. I immediately took up line of march, and that evening encamped thirteen miles form Charlotte. The next morning I resumed the march and arrived in Charlotte at 5:30 p.m. I found the town filled with rebel soldiers; raids were made by mobs on stores that had been left by the rebels. Drunkenness and disorder generally had been the order of the day. I immediately issued an order assuming command of the post; also, another prohibiting the sale of all kinds of spiritous liquors. After my arrival good order prevailed. The following is a list of stores taken possession of and guarded by my command. . . . On Friday, the 12th, Brigadier General Thomas, of the Third Brigade, First Division, Twenty-third Army Corps, arrived, relieving me of my command. . . . The next day, the 13th, I had my command placed on cars and reported at regimental headquarters at Greensborough at 4 p.m. the same day.
M. C. Runyan, Captain
Commanding Company G
Ninth New Jersey Volunteers

"I have the honor to report . . . that I arrived here and established my headquarters on the evening of the 13th. Portions of the division had arrived from time to time until now nearly the whole division is here. I have been issuing such orders and regulations as I have thought proper for the maintenance of order. I find the citizens generally disposed to accept the new situation without complaint, and apparently desirous of resuming a condition of peace and observance of law. This region of country is strongly rebel, however. . . . There is no evidence, so far as I have been able to ascertain, of the movements of Jeff Davis in this vicinity, except that he was entertained at the house of a Mr. Bates, and left, going westward, two weeks ago last Thursday...."


Occupying forces at Charlotte numbered between four and five thousand from the time of their arrival until departure on December 18, 1867. "On the occasion of their departure," writes Tompkins, "Mayor Harris presented the captain with a resolution adopted by the board of aldermen thanking the soldiers for their good behavior and expressing regret at their leaving. The captain acknowledged this courteous act with a pleasant note in which he declared his gratitude for the hospitality of the people of Mecklenburg."
During the first two or three years of the reconstruction period, while Charlotte was governed by occupying forces, there were undoubtedly some unpleasantnesses and many infractions of the law. In a chapter entitled "Reconstruction, 1864-1867," Dr. J. B. Alexander's history mentions a number of specific instances but even he admits, "This county escaped the worst evils of these times. . . . During the whole period there was only one disturbance of consequence."
The discomforts endured during the final years of the war left little else for the people to dread. Instead of sulking, Charlotte men and women seemed to accept their lot with abundant grace. They are said to have discovered that, "action is, after all, the best panacea for troubled minds."
Spanish-American War


In response to a call for volunteers by President McKinley on April 19, 1898, two white companies and one Negro company were quickly formed in Charlotte and transported to Raleigh. These troops left Raleigh May 22, encamped near Jacksonville, Florida, until October 24, when they went to Savannah, and remained until December 7. At that time the regiment was ordered to Havana, arriving December 11 and being the first Americans to land at the Cuban capital. The regiment was kept in Cuba until March 18, 1899. It was mustered out at Savannah, April 12, 1899.
The diary of Fred R. Cates, who was a corporal, reads: "May 2, 1898. Company E. 4th Regt. N.C.S.G. (State Guard) left Charlotte at 9 40 a.m. over the Seaboard Air Line Railroad for Raleigh, arriving 2 50 p.m. Went into camp which was named Bryan Grimes. Our colonel was J. P. Armfield and Lt. Col. Calvin D. Cowles, known by all the boys as 'Fido.'"
The departure of the companies from Charlotte was described in the Charlotte Observer on May 3, 1898: "Amid cheers, music, the waving of flags and general enthusiastic demonstration of 7,000 or 8,000 people the soldiers comprising of two companies of the Hornets' Nest Rifles and Queen City Guards went forth yesterday to answer their country's call. . . . Charlotte witnessed the greatest demonstration ever remembered in the history of the county."
In the Spanish-American War, Mecklenburg had the distinction of sending into the service a Negro troop commanded by a Negro man. C. S. L. A. Taylor rose from the rank of captain to the position of being the only Negro colonel in command of a regiment of the United States Army at that time. Following the war he returned to Charlotte.
Shortly after the war there was formed in Charlotte the Chase Adams Camp No. 1, United Spanish War Veterans, the first camp to be chartered in the North Carolina division. The camp was named for the first Mecklenburg County soldier to die in the war. It was organized by Dr. Hillery M. Wilder, who saw active service. It was for more than a quarter of a century one of the city's leading patriotic organizations.
World War I

Enjoyment of the most pleasant decade in American history was interrupted on July 28, 1914, by the news of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. no one, however, suspected that within a few weeks after the appearance of that tiny cloud over the world scene, Europe would be plunged into the greatest war the world had ever known.
During the first three years of the war, life in Charlotte continued almost as pleasantly as before. People agreed with President Wilson that the war was not America's fight. But by 1917 Wilson was forced to ask Congress to declare war on Germany, a step which was taken April 6.
Charlotte responded wholeheartedly to President Wilson's ideal of "making the world safe for democracy." There were 1,800 men inducted into military service by the local boards for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County; 734 of these were Negro troopers. Casualties included 30 Negro and 74 white soldiers who died in service. The first to be wounded was Melvin G. Caldwell of Charlotte and the first to be killed in action was Marine Corporal Henry James Smart of the Chadwick-Hoskins section, who was killed in France on April 15, 1918.
Charlotte's first call for financial and material assistance came January 15, 1917 when an all-out effort was made for the first Liberty Loan Drive. The second such drive began October 27, 1917 and the fourth and final drive on October 12, 1918.
Charlotte's principal contribution, aside from personnel for the armed forces, consisted in providing a location for Camp Greene and acting as the host city for troops numbering 60,000 at times. Through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, supplemented by the help of many citizens, Charlotte was selected as the site for the camp by Major General Leonard Wood late in July 1917. The camp was named for General Nathaniel Green who commanded the American forces at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in the American Revolution.
The first occupants of Camp Greene, after it was made ready, were General Hunter Liggett's 41st Division comprised of guardsmen form the northwestern states. Following this division, General G. H. Cameron organized the Fourth or "Ivy" Division and General Joseph Dickman organized the famous Third Division. Camp Greene was the only Southern camp in which three divisions were organized.
North Carolina troops, including those from Charlotte, were molded into units at Camp Sevier, near Greenville, South Carolina, and at Camp Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, which became concentration points for drafted men for many states but principally from the southeastern section of the country. These troops composed the Old Hickory or 30th Division which later won its place in history by being the first to pierce the Hindenburg line, September 29, 1918.
The winter of 1917-1918 was one of the most severe ever experienced in Piedmont North Carolina. Heavy snows and frozen ground impeded construction operations at Camp Greene but did not slacken the arrival of recruits. The headquarters building was a ramshackle converted residence. The camp hospital, hostess house, mess halls and other buildings were hastily constructed of green lumber. With every brief thaw the camp became a sea of red mud.
On January 21, 1918, Charlotte, in common with the eastern half of the United States, observed the first of ten "Heatless Mondays" ordered by the National Fuel Administration to conserve fuel for the war effort. On January 24, 1918, a cerebro-spinal meningitis quarantine was imposed on Charlotte, closing all amusement places, churches, schools, and forbidding all public gatherings. The quarantine was lifted after two weeks. But before the year was out, on October 4, 1918, Charlotte was quarantined because of an epidemic of influenza. There were 400 cases in Charlotte and many more at Camp Greene, where the death toll was high. During the quarantine most of the forces stationed at Camp Greene were sent overseas. They were never replaced, except for a few Negro troops stationed here briefly, leaving Charlotte merchants with large stocks bought in anticipation of a continuance of the camp.
Routine life in Charlotte was complicated by an overflow of people. The sudden arrival of some 50,000 or 60,000 soldiers, not to speak of visiting parents, wives and sweethearts, taxed housing, dining, amusement and other facilities built to serve a population of 52,347. Many of the rooms vacated by Charlotte men who had enlisted or been drafted were rented by officers from Camp Greene who were not obliged to remain on post. One gentleman from Boston, forced to come to Charlotte to make his home in December 1917, considered himself lucky to find sleeping space in a room occupied by four lieutenants. They were on night duty and used the two double beds in daytime, while he used one at night,. Finally his roommates were shipped away, one by one, and he had the room to himself.
Notwithstanding these circumstances, the men and women of Charlotte, individually and collectively through churches and clubs, made life bearable, and sometimes pleasant, for the strangers in their midst. There were dances, parties, concerts, and other diversions suited to almost any taste. When officials arrived they were properly received by the Charlotte Country Club, Manufacturers' Club and other such organizations. A notable occasion of this kind occurred on March 9, 1918, when Mr. and Mrs. William H. Porcher gave the most elegant function of the season so that some 400 guests might meet and welcome General George Hamilton Cameron.
During the life of Camp Greene at least four units began publication of their own periodicals. One was The Mud Turtle of Company F of the First Army, Headquarters Regiment. Others were The Skirmisher and The Propeller, details of which are lacking. By far the most ambitious and successful was The Caduceus, published by the Base Hospital corps for more than a year. Its editor was Verlin Harold, a private, and the advertising manager was Ted Neal, one of the Camp Greene men who met his fate in Charlotte, returning here to be married and live happily the remainder of his life.
The best-selling books at Stone & Barringer, Glen Smith, and Brockmann's book stores were Streeter's Dere Mable, Wells' Mr. Britling Sees It Through, Empey's Over the Top, Peat's Private Peat, Service's Rhymes of a Red Cross Man, and Macgrue's Under Fire.
Within a few weeks after Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, Charlotte men and women began to return to their homes. By mid-spring 1919 the city's business and social life had about returned to normal, sufficiently so to make the most of the appearance in Charlotte of the 120th Regiment.
The last public appearance of this famous regiment, which is credited with having broken the Hindenburg line, was at Charlotte on April 16, 1919. Three special trains brought about 2,000 who were all that then remained of the original 3,600 in the regiment. A huge parade, in which the regiment marched, was witnessed by many military and civil officials and tremendous crowds. Charlotte outdid itself in the treatment of the veterans from the time of their arrival in the morning until midnight when they started on the return trip to Camp Jackson.
World War II


While the bombing of Pearl Harbor was totally unexpected, entanglement in the war then in progress was forecast by many. This was true in Charlotte, which was already well on its way to become a key point in the nation's defense with the establishment here of a huge Quartermaster Depot and an army air base.
The Quartermaster Depot at Charlotte was activated May 16, 1941 in a building located just inside the city on the Statesville Road, purchased by the government from the Ford Motor Company. At the height of wartime activities the depot employed 2,500 civilians under a staff of 80 army officers. Everything from toothpicks to battle gear was processed here. After the war ended the depot served in repatriating the war dead, housing the bodies of 5,170 deceased service men which were returned to their next of kin in the Carolinas and neighboring states. The first commander of the Charlotte depot was Colonel Clare W. Woodward. Subsequently, the property, greatly enlarged and expanded, was leased by the Douglas Aircraft Company for producing missiles.
Morris Field Air Base


On April 21, 1941, the government dedicated an army air base at Charlotte, naming it Morris Field in honor of Major William C. Morris of Cabarrus County, a distinguished flyer in World War I. Morris Field represented an investment of about six million dollars for land, barracks, hangars, mess halls and other miscellaneous buildings, the nucleus of the whole facility being the comparatively small Douglas Municipal Airport. This installation was devoted principally to the advanced training of combat pilots and maintenance crews. For many months the Charlotte skies were filled with fighting craft as pilots and crews finished their training before going overseas. Commanders at Morris Field included Colonel C. W. Howard, Colonel Warner B. Gates, and Colonel R. H. Bullard. All property comprising Morris Field was turned back to the City of Charlotte in 1946 and, with large additions, is now the location of the city's airport.
Navy Shell-Loading Plant


Charlotte was chosen as the site for a huge shell-loading plant by the Navy, and some 2,200 acres on the York Road were purchased. A contract was awarded to the United States Rubber Company to handle all management and manufacturing functions under direction of naval personnel. Ground was broken on June 17, 1942, and production of 22 mm. shells was begun the following December. The installation required 30 miles of gravel roadway, 15 miles of interior railroad siding, and dozens of buildings, some of which were of considerable size. At the height of production the work force numbered about 10,000 men and women, some of whom commuted daily from a distance of fifty or sixty miles. Peak production was attained December 7, 1944, the third anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when in a 24-hour period 213,143 rounds of ammunition were produced. After the surrender of Japan, termination details required many months, following which the property was used for government storage purposes. Later it was sold to private investors.
A club for service men and women was maintained during the war period at 208 1/2 South Tryon Street, later replaced by a Veteran's Information Center with club-like furnishings in a spacious residence at 525 North Tryon Street. This center became unnecessary and was closed with the opening of a regional office of the United States Veterans Administration in the old Charlotte Sanatorium Building, 127 West 7th Street.
Selective Service in Mecklenburg


Selective Service registration in World War II included, by 1943, all males in the 18- to 65-year-old group. The total number of men registered with the Selective Service Boards in Mecklenburg County was 52,542. The rate of rejection was 37 per cent. Mecklenburg County ranked fifteenth in comparison with the 100 counties in North Carolina in number of rejections; it was second in number of white, and thirty-first in number of Negro rejections.
There were five Selective Service Boards in Mecklenburg composed of the following men who served without compensation: Board No. 1: Carol D. Taliaferro, Rufus M. Johnston, James A. Bell, and John F. Durham; Board No. 2: H. M. Victor, William S. Greene, W. Brice Bingham; Board No. 3: E. A. Myers, Louis G. Ratcliffe, Eddie E. Jones, and Grover C. Osborne; Board No. 4: J. M. Smith, H. L. Kiser, F. W. Hengeveld; Board No. 5: F. A. Wilkinson, Draper H. Ward, Clarence O. Kuester, Sr., Leonard W. Keeter, Mark P. Johnson, and Robin S. Kirby.
The Medical Advisory Board to the Selective Services Board in Mecklenburg County was composed of the following physicians: E. J. Wannamaker, L. C. Todd, Thomas D. Sparrow, O. L. Miller, Fred E. Motley, A. A. Barron, Robert H. Lafferty, Bernard N. Walker, Henry Sloan, Sr., Joseph A. Elliott, Grady L. Ross and Hamilton W. McKay.
From the total registration, Charlotte and Mecklenburg contributed to World War II about 21,000 men and women, of whom more than 500 gave their lives. The first native of Charlotte to lose his life was W. C. Hunnicutt, a chief petty officer aboard the U.S.S. Livermore, in March, 1942. Charlotte's best known contribution to the active war effort was a group, mostly physicians and surgeons and nurses who composed the 38th Evacuation Hospital Unit, which distinguished itself by its surgical and medical skill under primitive and dangerous battle conditions.
Toward the close of the war, a group of men and women of Charlotte attempted to assemble a complete record of all World War casualties form Mecklenburg County. While this data is far form complete the file of 559 names is, on the whole, invaluable. The list is in the Public Library of Charlotte.



Blythe, LeGette and Brockmann, Charles Raven. Hornets' Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte, N.C.: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1961.