Mines: Chattanooga and the Last Days of the Great War



As Chattanooga mourned the deaths of his sons on the Western Front in the German spring offensive of 1918, a call again came from Washington, DC, for a “replenishment of the nation’s war chest.” CC Nottingham stood as zone chairman, while WM Elliott signed on as Hamilton County chairman. Together, they organized an army of volunteers committed to raising an additional $ 3 million in Liberty Bonds.

Quickly planning a “grand parade” to mark the first anniversary of the United States’ entry into the war, the volunteers staged a spectacular event that drew thousands of flag-waving citizens on the parade route as ‘they cheered the “Yanks”. Hundreds of soldiers in training at Fort Oglethorpe, members of men’s and women’s organizations, religious youth groups and students representing public and private high schools followed the Big Five – Judge Bachman, Judge Garvin, Justice Cummings, Justice McReynolds and Sam Connor – who marched carrying a large horizontal American flag. The celebration continued long after the parade had ended with spontaneous parades through neighborhoods across the county.

Two weeks later, on April 26, Hamilton County declared another Freedom Day and sponsored a series of crowd-pleasing events. Once again, Chattanooga held a parade. More than 15,000 school children marched on the parade route, 10 students across, as the column stretched over boulders. The parade meandered through town to applause from family members and other citizens, often throwing confetti and holding tall photos of “their soldiers.” That afternoon, a simulated battle was held at Warner Park, culminating in an Allied victory, followed by exercise displays by soldiers-in-training and groups of students. As the sun set, local Elks lit up the sky with fireworks that “wowed young and old”. By the end of the month, Chattanooga had again oversubscribed its quota and raised over $ 4 million.

On June 27, 1918, the city came alive to celebrate the “departure” of Camp Gordon soldiers from Union Station. As a sign of unity and support for the troops of the United States Army, Confederate and Union veterans linked arms and stepped in to lead the soldiers as they approached the station. Among the veterans marching were LT Dickinson, Captain JF Shipp, Dr. TL Abernathy, Captain AJ Gabagan and Colonel DM Steward. The Elks and other organizations followed the soldiers. Factory whistles sounded and local bands coordinated to play “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile”. Bouquets of flowers were thrown at the soldiers, and the crowd waved not only American flags but also flags of Allied nations. According to a local newspaper, “no color line was drawn in these protests; the same praise was given to black troops as they went to war.” Patriotic fever swelled the crowd.

Patriotism in Chattanooga reached a new high on September 12, 1918, considered registration day, when the city announced that the recruiting age had been extended to 45. For weeks the newspapers had printed the casualties of the region, state and nation; a sense of urgency had arisen among the citizens. Many remembered President Wilson’s call to “make the world safe for democracy” and feared the tide would turn in favor of the Axis Powers. About 13,000 local men responded, joined by additional recruits arriving in Chattanooga to march south for training. As all the camps have grown, the number of medical training has increased so significantly that by the end of September Camp Greenleaf, as the Doctors’ Quarters were called, “had become the world’s largest medical university. of the world”.

In less than six weeks, an armistice was announced. As the Chattanooga Times later reported: “Who of those who witnessed it could ever forget the scenes on the streets of Chattanooga when, on that memorable morning of November 11, a big bomb was fired from the roof of the Times Building. , and repeated to herself a second later from Hotel Patten, gave the joyful and moving signal that the armistice was signed, that the war was truly over! Market Street filled with screaming crowds, “indulging in unbridled joy ….”

Once the drunkenness of victory had worn off, citizens across the city quietly gathered in their churches and synagogues to remember those who had died, recognizing the price of victory – the price of freedom.

Linda Moss Mines, Chattanooga and Hamilton County Historian, is Regent, John Ross Chapter Chief, NSDAR, and Vice-President of the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.


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