The War to End All Wars

They once called it the “War to End All Wars.”  It came nearly fifty years after the cataclysmic American Civil War and nearly 100 years after the end of the War of 1812.  Unlike the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Fort Sumpter, this war, which resulted in the direct deaths of 16 million people, including 116,000 Americans and 50 Laurens Countians, began somewhat inauspiciously with a Serbian national’s  assassination of Archduke Ferdinand Franz and his wife Sophie  on June 28, 1914.    A month later on June 28, Austria-Serbia declared war on Serbia.  Three days later on the last day of July, Germany declared war on Russia. Then one by one, the powers of Europe chose sides and declared war against one another.

Within a week, troops from the United Kingdom moved into France. By the 12th of August, the first World War began.  The United States remained somewhat neutral until the beginning of 1917.  Troubles south of the border in Mexico led to the reestablishment of the Local Guards in Dublin in May of 1917.  Judge R. D. Flynt and Captain W.C. Davis, a former commander of the unit, helped to organize local men, who anticipated that they would be going overseas within a few months. A couple of months later,  Lt. J.C. Minnenant, organizer of the Dublin Guards, left for France. Lewis Cleveland Pope was elected Captain of the Home Guards, the senior home guard organization in Georgia at the beginning of the War.   At the end of 1917, the Guards were led by Captain, L.C. Pope; First Lieutenant, Dr. E.R. Jordan; Second Lieutenant, W.M. Breedlove.  Lieutenants Jordan and Breedlove had replaced C.F. Ludwig and R.D. Flynt.  Carl Hilbun was elected First Sergeant.

On June 5, 1918, a large celebration, complete with a parade, speeches and a flag raising ceremony, was held on the first Draft Registration Day.

Within a week, patriotic Laurens Countians had already purchased more than $30,000.00 in war bonds.  Some of Dublin’s more prominent Yankee Doodle Dandies, Dr. C, A, Hodges, Peter S. Twitty, Mayor of Dublin, Dr. Sidney Walker, Dr. Landrum Page, Judge  Roy A. Flynt and Theron Burts, Gratton Corker, and Turner Schaufele signed up to go over there for Uncle Sam.

Even Dublin's mayor, Peter S. Twitty, Jr., enlisted in the U.S. Army.  Both Twitty and his  successor, Ozzie Bashinski, donated their salaries to the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A..
The first men drafted were:  Early L. Miller, Alva D. Rozar, R.C. Dawkins, Herbert T. Pullen, Charles G. Payne, Horace C. Spivey, Albert A. Rountree, John Johnson, Willie C. Smith, W.H. Horton, Gordon F. Daniel, C.B. Brantley, D.W. Knight, W.H. Flanders, A.G. Murray and Raymond Bennett.  The first alternates were:  J. Aurice Keen, Floyd Murray, C.P. Perry, James H. Pritchett, and George W. Jackson.

Among the first Negroes in Georgia to be drafted in the Army were a contingent of Laurens County men.  Many Negro soldiers were used primarily in support and transportation units.  Few were assigned to actual combat duties.

Civilians, Mrs. T.H. Smith, Dr. U.S. Johnson  and T.R. Ramsay led the local chapters of the American Red Cross.  By May 7, 1918, War Bond sales, under the direction of James M. Finn, exceeded a half million dollars.  Laurens County was ninth among Georgia counties in war bonds sold and third in Georgia counties which had exceed their quotas.

Not all Laurens Countians were excited about the entry of the United States into a world war.   By mid August, the city council was vowing to fight any anti draft meetings which might be held.   Chief among the opponents  was the highly respected and admired jeweler and optometrist, Dr. C.H. Kittrell, who was forced to resign his position on the school board at the request of the city council because of his unpatriotic  stand against the way America got into World War I.

Dublin and Laurens County furnished nearly 1100 men to the armed forces in World War I.   Corporal Walter Warren of Dexter was the first American aviator to be wounded in France in early December 1917.  

Cecil Preston Perry became the first Laurens Countian to die in action in the summer of 1918.  James Mason, who first served in the Mexican War of 1916,  was the first Dubliner to die in action. He died in France on July 29, 1918.  James L. Weddington, Jr., of the 6th Marine Corps Regiment, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre on July 10, 1918 for his heroism in carrying many wounded men off the battle field to field hospitals for several hours, risking his own safety in the process.  Lt. Col. Pat Stevens was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre for extraordinary heroism in action south of Spitaal Bosschen, Belgium, on October 31, 1918.  Lt. Ossie F. Keen was awarded the Silver Star.

Sgt. Bill Brown of Dexter was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and was one of only 34 Americans to be awarded the French Cross with a Star for his heroism on October 14, 1918 at the battle of Cote de Chattelon.    

Coley B. White survived the sinking of HMS Otranto.   Four hundred thirty-one other American and British soldiers and sailors did not.  Oscar K. Jolley survived a stint as a prisoner in a German P.O.W. camp.  Fortunately, the war was relatively short and only  fifty Laurens County men lost their lives.

Even as the war was ending the work of draft board continued.  It would be another six months before things in Dublin and Laurens County returned to some semblance of normality.

A nationwide influenza epidemic  killed many of the county's older citizens during the months before and after the end of World War I.  The county board of health closed schools and banned public meetings for several weeks. The epidemic finally waned in the spring of 1919.

Two lasting impacts of the war were the reorganization of the Dublin Guards, a state militia unit, as  Co. A. of the 1st Battalion of the Georgia National Guard.  The unit, which was the first National Guard unit in the Southeast,   has evolved to a support company and is still active today.  The company's first captain, Lewis C. Pope of Dublin, served as Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard in the 1920's.   Another, highly negative impact of war was the rapid decline of Dublin and Laurens County’s stature as one of the largest cities and counties in Georgia.

An ephemeral legacy of America’s victory against Germany came during the euphoria following the end of the war.  Enough residents of Academy Avenue convinced the city council to rename the avenue in honor of Woodrow Wilson.  A few weeks later, more prominent and powerful residents persuaded the council to reverse their hasty decision.  To compensate for the hasty faux pas, the city planted a tree on the grounds of the high school, which has long since died or cut down.

Some of the casualties from Laurens County.


 John W. Adams, George L. Attaway, Walter Berry, James Bradley, Leon F. Brannon, Fisher Brazeal,  Linton T. (Leonard) Bostwick, Joseph J. Bracewell, James Brown, Tom Watson Bryant, Sammie Burke, David Burton Camp, Freeman Coley, Ashley Collins, William Coney, Alvin T. Coxwell, Samuel Evans, James W. Flanders, Clarence David Fordham, Oscar Fulwood, John W. Green, James C. Hall, Archie Hinson, Syril P. Hodges, Delmar M. Howard, Ben F. Howell, Wallace C. Huffman, Jesse Kelley, Frazier Linder, Dewitt Lindsay, Ed McLendon, Walter E. Martin, James Mason, George McLoud, Jessie Mercer, Rayfield Meacham, George C. Mitchell, Robbie  New, Cecil Preston Perry, Wilbur Pope, John H. Sanders, Roger O. Sellers, John Stevens, Ed Stuckey, Louis M. Thompson, Edgar Towns, Fleming du Bignon Vaughn, Ed Washington, George Windham, James A. Williams, Henry K. Womack, Wayman Woodard, and McKinley Yopp.