Looking back: United States in state of war with Germany

Published 9:55 am Friday, April 14, 2017

by Clyde Parker

April 6, 1917
On Monday night, April 2, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, appeared before Congress and, in a special message, asked for a declaration of war with Germany. A war resolution was passed by the Senate by a vote of 82 to 6 Wednesday night, and by the Lower House Thursday night by a vote of 373 to 50. 

(According to a front-page article headlined “U.S. DECLARES WAR!” contained in the Friday, April 6, 1917, edition of the Virginian-Pilot/Norfolk Landmark, on that very day, at 3 a.m., the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to declare war on Germany.

President Wilson, according to the story, signed the declaration of war document later in the day. “The World must be made safe for democracy,” he said.) 

There is calm but concerted activity throughout the Nation as America prepares to defend her inalienable rights and the War Department plans for calling 2,000,000 men to the colors. The Navy is said to be in splendid fighting trim.

(Prior to the actual declaration of war, the Nation was, and had been for some time, in preparation for the looming belief that, soon, we would be compelled to enter the conflict due to German attacks on American maritime commerce and their ever-widening aggressions and threats.)

Various reserve units, such as Franklin’s Company “I” were being activated and mobilized to various strategic national security locations.)

Company ‘I’ responds to call for service

With the good wishes and heartfelt ‘Godspeeds’ of leading Franklin citizens, friends, relatives and loved ones, Franklin’s Company “I,” Fourth Regiment, Virginia Volunteers, led by Captain Roy R. Knight, left Sunday afternoon, April 1, via the Southern Railway for Newport News, Virginia, where they are now on guard at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad piers and grain elevators. 

The boys, now 50 strong, made a brave showing in their service uniforms, and have already won the esteem of C&O officials and the people of Newport News by the manner in which they are conducting themselves.

Brigadier General Cecil C. Vaughan, of Franklin, Commandant of the Virginia National Guard, who was in Newport News the first part of the week, states that they have made a most favorable impression both as to service and conduct. 

Prior to departure of the Company, a patriotic meeting was held at the Fourth Avenue Armory Hall at 1 o’clock, feeling addresses being made by Honorable John Crafford Parker, Honorable E. Frank Story, Major R.E.L. Watkins, Captain A.L. Gardner, and Colonel L.R. Edwards. The meeting was closed with a benediction by Reverend J.L. McCutcheon of the Franklin Baptist Church.

Departure of the Franklin Company Sunday called to mind the gallant response with which Franklin boys met their Country’s call during the Spanish-American War, a full Company under command of Captain (now Brigadier General) Vaughan, seeing service in Cuba.

Recently, in a discussion of that time, General Vaughan said, “I hope the young men of this section will be as prompt to join the colors in the present crisis as they were in 1898.”       

The roster of Company “I” officers and non-commissioned officers is as follows:

Roy R. Knight, Captain; Franklin Edwards, 1st Lieutenant; Cecil C. Vaughan III, 2nd Lieutenant; Roscoe H. Stephenson, First Sergeant; John N. Carr, Second Sergeant; Joe Johnson, Third Sergeant; H.W. Beale, Fourth Sergeant; Richard Davidson, Fifth Sergeant; Philip M. Hayes, Mess Sergeant; and George H. Sanderford, Quartermaster Sergeant. 

April 13, 1917


The President and Congress of the United States having officially declared, last Friday, April 6, 1917, that a state of war exists between the United States and Germany and her allies, I, Joe Bynum Gay, Mayor of the Town of Franklin, do urge upon the people of this community, the necessity of loyally standing by our President and Congress in our every thought, word, and act.

Cooperation with officials of the town and community in detecting and reporting to the Mayor or Town Sergeant any act or utterance against the government of the United States or any United States Official is earnestly sought.  Punishment for treason is death or, at the discretion of the Court, imprisonment, for not less than five years and a fine of not less than $10,000. Vigilance and loyalty is service for our country.

Joe Bynum Gay, Mayor, Town of Franklin

National Guard to be recruited to full strength

General C.C. Vaughan, Commandant of the Virginia National Guard, received a telegram last night authorizing National Guard organizations to be brought to maximum strength.

This will doubtless be welcome news to many young men of the town and section who were thinking of joining the home Company and were really disappointed when last week’s order temporarily stopped recruitment for the National Guard.

Although all the men of Company “I” are now serving the State, and the Nation, in Newport News, General Vaughan will receive applications here at any time, and it is hoped that our local Company may be recruited to full strength (100 men) at once by patriotic young men of the town and section.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net