Looking back: Peace news premature

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

by Clyde Parker

November 8, 1918

The Tidewater News

Following the whirlwind events of the world war for the past few weeks in which Bulgaria, Turkey and Austria-Hungary have successively surrendered unconditionally to the Great Allies upon the terms laid down by President Woodrow Wilson at the allied conference at Versailles, the American people have been breathlessly awaiting the news of GERMANY’S surrender since the German armistice legation set out from Berlin for the allied lines on Wednesday.

They were not prepared, however, for the cruel hoax played on them by stock brokers’ reports and the “yellow” journals of New York, which are said to be responsible for the premature peace news flashed over the United States yesterday. Celebrations were held in many cities and towns; and Franklin went wild with joy for the afternoon. Factory whistles, Church bells, auto horns and cheers made joyous pandemonium, while the pupils of the high and grammar schools paraded the town and sang patriotic airs.

The celebration was premature, but the signing of the armistice by Germany is expected soon. The Kaiser’s envoys have reached the allied lines; revolutionists have seized the German Navy at Kiel, German soldiers are deserting on every front, and the empire is in turmoil and despair.         

Nov. 15, 1918

The Tidewater News


Franklin held a hilarious celebration of the coming of peace Monday morning November 11; the whole town regardless of age, color, occupation, or profession joined in with glad hearts and uplifted voices. Nothing daunted by the premature celebration last Thursday, the big noise began as soon as the people came to their places of business after breakfast; there was much spasmodic hurrahing and general jollification. Then, a large crowd of children appeared, coming from the high and grammar schools, the Euphradian Institute and the Franklin Female Seminary, with hundreds of flags, horns and bells. Gathering at the intersection of Main Street and Second Avenue, the children sang patriotic songs in which their elders joined.

Mayor Joe Bynum Gay presided over an informal and enthusiastic mass meeting. Honorable E. Frank Story, Honorable John C. Parker, and Major R.E.L. Watkins were called on for speeches. After a fervent prayer of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of peace by Rev. J. L. McCutcheon of the Franklin Baptist Church, a parade was formed headed by the Mayor and our Town Councilmen, followed by the school children, both white and colored, and all civilians who could walk, hobble, run, or caper. In the meantime, whistles blew, from both Camp’s Mill and a steamship docked at Albemarle Navigation Company. And, bells rang, auto horns screeched, and all the clamor that could be produced by human throats or the discharge of firearms furnished “the music,” which was heard at Carrsville if not, indeed, at Berlin.

In the evening, a union thanksgiving prayer service was held in the Sunday School Auditorium of the Franklin Baptist Church to which everybody came. John Parker presided over the meeting. The assembled people were addressed by Paul Camp¸ director of the War-Savings Campaign; Frank Story, chairman of the Liberty Loan Campaign; Miss Lizzie Savage, Woman’s chairman of the Liberty Loan Drive; Miss Cora Vaughan, Red Cross chairman; and ministers of the town — the Revs. J.L. McCutcheon, R.M. Chandler, C.H. Rowland and C.W. Scarborough.

Chairman Parker paid a well-merited tribute to the work of General C.C. Vaughan Jr., recently retired, for his great work as Commandant of the Virginia Militia for many years, and as man who, more than any other individual, is responsible for the continued successful existence of a military company in Franklin — Company “I” — from whose ranks so many of our young men of the town and community went into the great overseas army to take commissions and to make the name of Franklin and Southampton honorable in the annals of the war.  It was Vaughan, as a Brigadier General (one star,) who led the Franklin-Southampton Company of men into Fort McClellan, Alabama, to be consolidated with the 29th Infantry Division for deployment to France. General Vaughan, however, did not go to France. Instead, due to health issues, he was called to Washington for termination of his service in the U.S. Army. He retired, while holding the rank of Major General (two stars.)       

Over there, the final Allied push towards the German border began on Oct. 17, 1918. Allied powers consisted of the United States, France, Britain on the western front; and Russia, on the eastern front. The “enemy,” called the central powers, consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine, and parts of the Arabian Peninsula.) As the British, French and American armies advanced, the alliance between the central powers began to collapse.       

And, Germany began to crumble from within. On Nov. 9, the Kaiser abdicated and slipped across the border into The Netherlands and exile. A German republic was declared, and peace feelers were extended to the Allies. At 5 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 11, an armistice was signed in a railroad car parked in a French forest near the front lines.    

The terms of the agreement called for the cessation of fighting along the entire western front to begin at precisely 11 a.m. that morning — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, French time. The term “Armistice Day” was applied to that momentous and historical, point in time.

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