As always, click on the pix for full size

 

Forsyth Riflemen lead a funeral procession around 1894

 

Company E, 2nd Battalion, 105th Engineers at Camp Jackson, SC, April, 1919

On Tuesday, April 22, 1919, the Forsyth Riflemen finally came home, triggering the biggest single event in the history of Winston-Salem.

On September 29, 1918, two North Carolina infantry regiments, the 119th and 120th, supported by the 105th Engineers, broke the unbreakable Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt and won the Great War

The Riflemen, our local militia, had been gone for a long time, beginning in the summer of 1916 in New Mexico, where they helped to fight off the cross border raids of Pancho Villa, then in early 1917 in South Carolina, training for infantry engineering operations and then in Flanders and eastward, where, as Company E of the 105th Engineers, 30th (Old Hickory) Infantry Division, they played a major role in breaking the unbreakable Hindenberg Line.

Ever since the Great War armistice went into effect at 11:11 AM on 11/11/1918, local folks had known it would be just a matter of time until the troops came home. But when that time would be was unknown. Until Friday morning, April 11, 1919 when the Winston-Salem Journal gave them the good news. The Riflemen’s troop ship was approaching Charleston harbor and a great celebration would be held in the Twin City as soon as possible after their arrival.

The original idea came from the Rotary Club. When the Winston-Salem Board of Trade jumped on board, it became a done deal. The impending event was front page news every day for over a week. Mayor Gorrell stayed in constant contact with the troop ship via radiogram and with the governor and other high ranking officials.

The celebration had to be put together in less than two weeks. Hundreds of local citizens populated committees to plan the homecoming down to the nth degree, seeking to answer many questions:

1. Who would be coming? Answer, only the members of the 105th Engineers who were natives of North Carolina, over 500 troops.

2. Since the soldiers would be staying overnight, where would they sleep? Answer: In the homes of volunteer local families?

3. What amenities would be provided the troops? Answer: Whatever the soldiers might want, including “the key” to the city, all meals, free street car and theater tickets, coupons for free soda fountain drinks at all local drugstores, and a lot more. Arrangements were made for the troops to meet friends and family members at the YMCA at Fourth and Cherry Streets. And despite statewide prohibition, we can be sure that a drink or two was offered here and there.

4. There had to be a parade. Where would it begin and end? Answer: It would begin at the corner of Church and Fourth Streets, proceed west on Fourth to Trade, north on Trade to Fifth, west on Fifth to Cherry, south on Cherry to Second, east on Second to Liberty, north on Liberty to Third, east on Third to Main, north on Main to Fourth, west on Fourth to Liberty, and north on Liberty to Piedmont Park

At some point, one of the parade planners mentioned that the boys had been tramping around muddy Europe for too long, so the parade route would be kept as short as possible. The final route was over four miles long…I guess “long” had a different meaning back then; we haven’t had a parade anywhere near that long since.

5. Who would participate in the parade besides the soldiers of the 105th? Answer: Anyone from the area previously discharged from Great War service. Those who have read our first post on The Battle of Henry Johnson are aware that Henry’s unit, The Harlem Hellfighters, awarded a unit Croix de Guerre by the French, were excluded from the national victory parade in New York.

Would black troops be excluded from the Winston-Salem parade as well? No. In the end, about 400 local white soldiers and about the same number of local black soldiers, all of whom had already been discharged, marched in the parade. And the best band by far in the parade was the local black unit, the Gold Leaf Cornet Band, which dated to 1877.

So as frantic preparations continued, on Tuesday afternoon, April 22, the special train carrying the Forsyth Riflemen approached Pomona junction southwest of Greensboro. They were held there briefly so that the regular Winston-Salem-Greensboro passenger train could pass, headed to the Gate City. That was necessary because the Winston-Salem depot, the surrounding area and the streets for blocks in every direction were choked with thousands of people hoping to catch a glimpse of the arriving troops.

Finally, the train was released. At about 5:45 PM, as it approached the trestle over Salem Creek, a general fire alarm was sounded. That was the signal. Every church bell in town began ringing. Every factory whistle began screaming. The loudest was the huge siren of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. But even that was almost drowned out by the roar of the crowd.

People were jammed shoulder to shoulder through the Winston yard and all surrounding streets. People were hanging out of every upper story window with a view of the tracks. Every accessible rooftop was packed. Many even climbed telephone poles. Those who could not find a view headed over to East Fourth Street to line the route that the soldiers would march along from the depot to the Riflemen’s armory, where they would stack arms before being released to join friends and family. As the train pulled into the station, the delighted soldiers leaned out of the train windows, smiling and waving.

After stacking arms at the local armory, the soldiers were released. The local boys had happy reunions with family, friends and sweethearts. The others were led by individual greeters to the YMCA on Fourth Street where they met their hosts for the night. Several hundred cars were standing by to take them on tours of the city, or wherever else they might want to go. That party went on most of the night.

The YMCA on Cherry at Fourth was the official headquarters for the celebration. The reviewing stand for the parade was next door in front of the Winston-Salem High School on Cherry.

 

The troops stored their weapons in the armory of the Forsyth Riflemen, marked by the arched windows. The parade began at the far right.

The next morning, the parade kicked off at exactly 11:00 AM on the word of Colonel Joseph Pratt, the commanding officer of the 105th Regiment. Area newspapers estimated that between 75 and 100 thousand spectators lined the parade route, the largest public gathering ever in the Piedmont region. They overflowed the sidewalks into the streets, leaving just enough room for the parade to pass. The order of march:

Police chief J.A. Thomas and sheriff George W. Flynt

Col. Jesse C. Bessent and Lt. Ben Gray, Forsyth Riflemen

Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt and 105th staff, mounted

105th Regimental Band

Three platoons of the 105th

105th Regimental colors

Nine platoons of the 105th

Troopers of the 105th round the corner from Liberty onto Third. Under construction is the Universal Auto Building, which would house a bank, several auto dealers and repair shops and a parking deck with an elevator for cars.

Crouse’s Band

Home Guard, Capt. Jule Stith, commanding

Salem Band

Maj. Robert M. Hanes and other local officers

Returned officers of the various services

Five platoons of returned soldiers

Gold Leaf Cornet Band, Professor L.B. Princefield

Five platoons of returned black soldiers, Lt. Russell Atkins, commanding

Already discharged black veterans march on North Liberty Street near Seventh

Reynolds Band

At the rear was the only float in the parade, commemorating the war dead. It was draped in white and decorated with gold stars and stacked arms, with Liberty (Miss Willie Griffin) enthroned, and containing the slogan “In memory of those who gave their all that liberty might live.”

When the parade arrived at Piedmont Park, the soldiers did a lap around the 1/2 mile dirt horse racing track in front of the reviewing stand which held such dignitaries as North Carolina Governor T.W. Bickett and US Senator Lee S. Overman. After a round of speeches, the soldiers were served a huge picnic lunch, followed by a baseball game at Prince Albert Park between Davidson College and Elon College (Davidson scored four runs in the first inning and cruised to a 6-4 win before a crowd of around 3,000). The black soldiers had their own picnic and baseball game at Piedmont Park.

After the game, the local soldiers returned to their homes while the men of the 105th marched back downtown, where they stacked arms on the courthouse square, then drifted down to Salem square. There they were served dinner by the young women of Salem Academy and College. The evening was rounded out by a huge street dance, held on a roped off section of West Fifth Street between Cherry and Spruce Streets. The Journal reported that the dance was the highlight of the day, with hundreds of couples swinging to popular tunes provide by the 105th Regimental Band and the local favorite, Crouse’s Band, as thousands more looked on.

The next morning as they boarded the train back to Camp Jackson, the troops were handed individual baskets of ham, beef, tongue, candy and fruits by members of the local Red Cross. Many were reluctant to leave, and some later moved to the Twin City in appreciation of the great welcoming.

The following day at Camp Jackson they were mustered out of active service and were able to come home for good.

The local men of Company E who marched in the parade:

Name, Rank, Residence

Brewer, Clarence P. CPL 218 E. Ninth St.

Carter, John CPL UNKNOWN

Chandler, Seborn PVT UNKNOWN

Davis, William H. SGT 1109 E. First St.

Estep, Burn C. PVT King, NC

Ethridge, Willis CPL 715 Devonshire St.

Faircloth, Dewey M. PVT 623 Academy St.

Gunter, Colon J. PVT 1027 Patterson Ave.

Hamby, Ernest PVT 156 Green St.

Hardister, Sam G. PVT 451 S. Liberty St.

Hicks, Ed PVT 1017 White St.

Huffman, Ray PVT 408 13 ½ St.

Jarvis, John PVT 122 Spring St.

Johnson, David A. PVT 1011 E. Shuttle St.

Kiger, Herbert PVT 109 S. Poplar St.

Landingham, Carey PVT 408 13 ½ St.

Lewellyn, Thomas H. PVT 613 E. Eleventh St.

Marshell, Dewey M. PVT 501 E. Fifteenth St.

McCormick, Howard PVT 201 S. Spring St.

Morton, Ben PVT 246 McAdoo St.

Mullican, Enoch B. PVT 1202 Twentyfifth St.

Nichols, Claude R. PVT 54 Broad St.

Phillips, Lawrence E. PVT 942 Fifteenth St.

Reavis, B.G. PVT Pine Hall, NC

Reavis, Fred PVT 835 Marshall St.

ReLove, Russell PVT 224 Cemetery St.

Russell, Grover Y. PVT 2719 Liberty St.

Shipley, Fred M. PVT 1131 Hickory St.

Smith, Authur G. PVT 1003 Liberty St.

Solomon, Rufus C. PVT Walnut Cove, NC

Supp, Oliver O. PVT 209 Mill St.

Vanhoy, Nat W. PVT 635 Devonshire St.

Wagoner, Robert B. PVT 102 Shawnee St.

Wall, Ellis PVT Clemmons, NC

Whitlow, Harry D. PVT 514 Cleveland Ave.

Williams, Allen T. CPL 640 Devonshire St.

Wilson, Felix PVT 540 S. Main St.

Wilson, Lee PVT 416 S. Spring

Wright, Cub SGT Walkertown, NC

PVT Charles B. Idol, from Walkertown, who was in another company of the 105th, also marched.

Company commanding officer: CPT G.P. Murphy, Philadelphia, PA

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