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Carolina Goes to War A Lesson from Campus History, 1915-1919:
Electronic Edition.

Hutchinson, Glenn

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Source Description:
(caption title) Carolina Goes to War A Lesson from Campus History, 1915-1919
Glenn Hutchinson
p. 3-7
[Chapel Hill, N.C.]
[Dialectic and Philanthropic Literary Societies of the University of North Carolina]
Call number C378 UQm v.67 no.3 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Appears in Carolina magazine. Vol. 67, no. 3 (Dec. 1937)

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Carolina Goes to War
A Lesson from Campus History, 1915-1919

Glenn Hutchinson
GLENN HUTCHINSON, graduate student in economics and former newspaper reporter, went through files of old Tar Heels and MAGAZINES to discover what happened to pre-war Carolina pacifists when America joined the Allies. What may happen to members of present-day student peace organizations is hinted.

        THE WORLD today has a bad case of war nerves. Troubled by hostilities in China and Spain and the realization that another major conflict is not unlikely, it is definitely jittery. Carolina students right now are probably more jittery about final exams than about the prospect of war, but I have no doubt that in some spare moments they have stopped to ask themselves what would happen to them and to life at Chapel Hill if America should again go to war. In trying to answer that question let us examine the University's history and see what does happen when Carolina goes to war.

        In 1861 Carolina men found within the plain blue covers of the April issue of the University (Carolina) Magazine this stirring call to arms:

                         Sound your bugles--mount your horses,
                         Hasten to the battle field
                         There to strew a thousand corses
                         Ere our dearest rights we yield.
                         Hear ye not the tumult rising
                         From the gory field afar
                         Where our comrades, freedom prizing,
                         Brave their foes in direful war?

                         . . . As a band of brothers brave,
                         Though a Union's ties we sever,
                         We must die or Freedom have.

        A majority of Carolina's 376 students heeded the call and went to the field. So many left that the remaining students petitioned the president to close the university, but it was kept open throughout the war. Six of the fourteen faculty members volunteered, the rest being clergymen or too old for service. In 1864 there were only nine seniors in a class that had numbered sixty-eight four years earlier. Of these, two had seen hard service in the army, two had enlisted, two had substitutes, one was under age and one was permanently disabled. Five of the fifteen members of the junior class were killed in action, and sixteen out of twenty-four men in the sophomore class joined the army. The tablets in Memorial Hall remind us of the 312 students and alumni who were killed or died in service in the Confederate Army. All together 1,062 Carolina men fought under the Stars and Bars.

        According to one historian the Spanish-American war, although it had the overwhelming approval of students and faculty members, "scarce produced a ripple in our University circles . . . they had such confidence in the superior power of our government that they were content to stay at home and rejoice over our victories."


        Carolina's earlier war traditions came to fruition in the World War. Like a cyclone, which in the distance causes little concern, but which creates wild excitement as it comes closer, the war finally burst upon the campus in full force, enveloping its entire life, tearing up established precedents and rooting up the planned curriculum, only to pass on after the Armistice, leaving a changed and bewildered university to readjust itself to its normal life.

        The peace sentiment which was manifest in many parts of the nation during 1915 and 1916 was reflected at Carolina when such outspoken advocates of peace as Alfred Noyes, the English poet, and William Jennings Bryan were invited to speak here. Addressing more than 1500 persons in Memorial Hall in November, 1915, Bryan denounced preparedness and jingoistic newspapers and pleaded for America to stay out of the conflict. "If the dogs in Europe won't stop fighting, don't let us get hydrophobia over here," he urged.

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"If we ever have a war I think that the jingo editors ought to be put on the front line and be allowed the glory of dying before anyone else. You can no more judge the sentiments of a peace loving nation by the ravings of the jingo editors than you can measure the depth of the ocean by the foam on its wave."

        Carolina was destined, however, to fall in behind the jingo editors rather than behind Bryan's banner of peace and unpreparedness. In January, 1917, 344 students signed a petition asking that military training be given; and by the close of March more than 500 men were receiving military instruction, the space behind South Building being lighted to allow night drilling.

        Two weeks after the United States declared war, the companies gave their first exhibition drill, and the late President Edward Kidder Graham spoke to more than 1,000 persons in Memorial Hall. "The single thought of the University is to coöperate in every intelligent way with the government," he said. "To this end it offered several weeks ago its all--every resource and equipment, means and men. It organized military training under competent instruction, and complied with the requirements for a Reserve Officers Training Corps. . . . Our larger task is peace; our immediate task is war. There is now no alternative for a Christian democracy."

        A week later the faculty adopted a resolution "strongly favoring" the draft, and voted to give full credit to students who went to Camp Oglethorpe without finishing the term. The same week a Carolina man won the state peace oratorical contest, declaring that "America has taken the first step toward international peace by entering the war." The final issue of the Tar Heel that year announced that Secretaries Daniels and Baker were to be commencement orators and that the final week of the year was to be a period of patriotic celebration.


        By the next fall the crescendo of patriotic fervor was louder, but it had not yet begun to scream is it did later. A streamer head in the first issue of the Tar Heel announced that the University had formally introduced military training, and a smaller one declared that varsity football would be cancelled due to the war. A choice bit of jingoistic writing was the following: "When the first gun from the Land of Freedom sends its first valentine to the Boche, the Stars and Stripes will wave over many Carolina men acting as officers in the new national army. Carolina traditions have been nobly upheld by all her students and alumni . . . and all join in praise of the Old North State and its schools and colleges for the part they have played in giving of their youth and manhood."
Another story announced the fact that the University was unfortunate in losing eleven faculty members who had been called to the colors, among whom was "F. P. Graham, A.M., Assistant Professor of History."

        Under this headline, "Universities and Schools over the Country Have Slapped the Boche," the Tar Heel carried a story on American universities and the war. President Lowell of Harvard was quoted as saying "I am not sorry but proud that forty per cent of Harvard University has gone to war." Colleges and universities throughout the nation were placing their dormitories, laboratories, faculty and students at the service of the government.

        University Day was celebrated in grand style in 1917 with military exercises and an address by the Governor of North Carolina. Standing on the steps of Alumni Building President Graham spoke briefly of the Carolina men who had volunteered. "The bitterness of having them taken is swiftly lost in the larger happiness of giving them and in the gallant fashion of their going," he said. Governor Bickett declared the United States "went in because it could no longer afford to stay out and preserve its self-respect. In this war despotism, autocracy, socialism, aristocracy, are all passed into the melting pot, and the thing that will come out will rule the world for years to come. If by any chance Germany should win, the ideals of Prussianism would hold the master hand of civilization. On the other hand, if the Allies triumph, war will come no more upon this earth. . . . The State of North Carolina expects you men to so order your power that when the call comes, you will say, 'Here am I, send me.' "

        Carolina had her bonfires and pep rallies then, but instead of being "Beat-Duke" rallies they were "Beat-Germany" rallies. The fourth Liberty Loan drive was launched with a huge bonfire in front of the post-office, and the battalion paraded through the streets. Chapel Hill was aportioned $39,000 and students and faculty members were urged to "let our dollars fight for

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things worth while." The following verses, entitled "Buy and By," appeared in the University Magazine at the time the drive was launched:

                         Let's down the Kaiser in a sea of consternation
                         Let's show him how our money can fight
                         Let's buy a bond, and buy and buy
                         Let's do all this as our part, and then, by and by
                         Let's enjoy our freedom--and watch old Kaiser die.

        As a part of their realistic war training the student-soldiers dug trenches near the Raleigh road, complete with barbed-wire, dug-outs and all the trimmings. There they practiced trench war-fare, staged mock engagements, practiced bomb throwing and layed down barrages of artillery. They even had the local Red Cross chapter serving them coffee and doughnuts "up at the front." But the boys didn't stay in the trenches. The whole town of Chapel Hill was the scene of mock street fighting and military maneuvers on a grand scale. One of the "pitched battles" occurred in the arboretum late one evening, a fact that ought to emphasize how no phase of campus life was exempt from the impact of the war.

        Throughout all the war activities of the University there was a clear and penetrating note of idealism. That of the faculty and administration was portrayed in the numerous speeches of the president, and that of the students was well expressed by the editors of the Tar Heel and Magazine in Thanksgiving editorials in 1917. Said the Tar Heel, "We give thanks that we are free to give and to fight for that which is best in the world; that we are not led by a ruthless government into a shameless struggle but that we unselfishly, may 'dedicate our lives and all that we have' to the greatest ideals--that we may lay down our lives and give our all for even the least of these in order that the world may at last become a better place in which to live and that all mankind may have the glorious privilege of peace, freedom, and justice, and that men may at last be brothers."
And the Magazine, "We give thanks that we are privileged to know that 'the right is more precious than peace,' that we are fighting 'for the things that we have always carried nearest to our hearts, for democracy . . . for the rights and liberties of small nations, for the universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.' "


        One searches the University publications vainly for any expression of cynicism, of questioning, of opposition to the war. The only hint of anything but the "theirs not to question why" attitude was that expressed by a student in "The Range-finder," a magazine published by students in English 21, who commented on "the greedy grafters" who were getting rich off war contracts. President Wilson's admonition not to "mention patriotism and profits in the same breath," his eloquent appeals which were quoted by University speakers and reproduced in the University publications, the terrific stream of war propaganda which poured in upon the campus caught up the University life and swept it irresistibly into the main channel of the war.

        One writer in the Magazine declared, "A single purpose should actuate us all. The war is on. Our individual views of its necessity or expediency, our views of its futility or its efficacy as a means of establishing the principles for which we contend must for its duration be subordinated to a united effort in order to achieve a complete victory."

        By December, 1917, the University was completely enveloped by war hysteria and began to scream and beat its breast. Some of the most piercing of these cries came from the pages of the Magazine. The leading feature of the December issue was a poem, "Christmas in London," which referred to the Germans as

                         . . . The damned carrion crows, foul hook-billed kites
                         That tear young children's flesh, and women's hearts,
                         These unseen, brooding vultures wing their flight
                         And leave behind a heap of jumbled slain.

                         And while poor English mothers kneel and wail
                         A glorious sound has risen from the west:
                         A land of freedom, love and liberty
                         Has waked her might, and sends to all the world
                         A thund'rous cry that shakes the hellish hearts
                         Of that foul ruler and his craven crew,
                         Who hear the sound that shakes the boldest heart:
                         The cry I come, I come to slake thy woe
                         I come to help thee free a war sick world
                         To stop the maddened screams of tortured men.
                         To help thee in the cause of all mankind
                         To help the world itself at last be free.

        An appeal to the patriot's pocketbook in the

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form of a poem by John Kendrick Bangs, republished from Life, appeared in the Tar Heel:

                         I do not mind the Movie-tax
                         They laid on patriotic backs.
                         With purest joy each extra cent
                         By yours sincerely will be spent,
                         Since every penny goes to slug
                         Von Hindenburg's ungodly mug.

                         For eight per cent on Railroad Fares
                         What patriotic human cares
                         A tinker's ding, if so he knows
                         The extra store of shekels goes
                         To give the Potsdam Gang the boot
                         And bang the Crown Prince on the snoot!

        The powerful appeal of religion was added to that of patriotism. In delivering the McNair lectures in May, 1917, Dr. Shailer Matthews, dean of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, chose as his subject "Patriotism and Religion." Said the Tar Heel, "Dr. Matthews gave a vivid picture of a young man's love for his native land, defining Patriotism as loyalty to country and to national institutions. A counterpart of Religion is the sacrifice and devotion of the men and women of the nation in Arms." War waged in defense of Christian ideals is just, he told the students. At about the same time the Tar Heel was urging students to "Go to Berlin by way of Blue Ridge," the summer "Y" conference center.

        "To Win War Keynote of U. N. C. Activities" was a Tar Heel headline in May, 1918. "To give its utmost to the war for democracy has been the shining light in the achievement of the University during the past year," began the story, which summarized the work of the University in the war.

        The height of patriotic fervor was reached in the fall of 1918, when the University ceased to be a university and became a government camp, the Students Army Training Corps taking over the campus, lock, stock and barrel. The 750 Carolina men in the Corps were part of 150,000 men in 500 American colleges who were inducted into the organization at the beginning of the fall term.

        When Lt. G. W. S. Stevens of the U. S. Army moved his military headquarters into the Sigma Chi fraternity house and took charge of the SATC, he really took charge of the University, for the student body and the SATC were practically the same thing. Military terminology and regulations were the order of the day. The dormitories were referred to as barracks, Swain Hall was known as the mess hall, and Memorial Hall became the Armory.

        The old liberal arts curriculum was thrown out, class lines were abolished, and military training was the paramount consideration, with each student's course being arranged to fit him for some branch of the service. Students were grouped by ages instead of classes, and eleven hours of military training and three recitation hours in the study of the issues involved in the war were required. These classes in War Issues were the largest of any in the University.

        A course in military French was added by the French department, and other departments changed their courses or added new ones, until the University was prepared to train students for the infantry, field artillery, heavy artillery, air service, ordnance and quartermaster service, engineer corps, signal corps, chemical warfare service, motor transport and truck service, naval service and marine corps.

        President Graham was regional director of the SATC for the South Atlantic States; and twenty-six members of the faculty donned the uniform, among them J. Henry Johnston, of the Education Department, who "made the supreme sacrifice overseas."

        University men were ready to offer not only their lives but also their money to the cause. More than $25,000 was subscribed, by SATC students and members of the naval unit, to the Fourth Liberty Loan. The YMCA, which was known as the Army and Navy Y, was completely dominated by war purposes, giving up its Negro work and other activities to raise $8,000 for war service and to devote its attention to the welfare of the student-soldiers.

        Students were so preoccupied with war preparations that the local moving picture theater had to close because of lack of patronage. One enthusiastic student writer even urged his schoolmates "to practice asceticism at times" to build up their self-control so they could become good soldiers.

        Summarizing the war work of the University, the Tar Heel of October 9, 1918, declared Carolina men were "doing their best to crush Kaiserism." It pointed out, in addition to other activities outlined above, that the University Extension Service had been an effective means of reaching the people of the state and encouraging them to support the war. More than 100,000 citizens

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heard lectures on war subjects by members of the faculty, 75,000 war information leaflets were sent to North Carolina homes, and the war editions of the University News Letter reached a weekly circulation of 15,000.


        By the end of the war 2,240 alumni and students were in the service, and fifty-six names were on the University's casualty list. Of these, fifteen had been killed in action, eighteen had died of disease and twenty-three had been wounded. Three Carolina men were cited for bravery.

        The Armistice pricked the distended balloon of war fervor on the campus, and rapidly eased the tension. By December the SATC had been demobilized, and there was general rejoicing that the strenuous military life could be left behind and the University resume its normal life. One student declared the University should require every student to loaf at least two hours a day, shine his shoes only once a week, and not mention the numerals 1, 2, 3, 4 except in math class. The winter quarter of 1919 found the curriculum back to normal, the war mania receding and the University embarking on a new period of endeavor.

        Since that time the University has followed the natural tendency of reaction against the war, and a tradition of peace-mindedness has grown up in contrast to earlier war traditions. Instead of supporting militarism, the "Y" is propagandizing for peace, President Graham was one of the sponsors for the Emergency Peace Campaign, and students and faculty alike have joined in condemning war.

        But what of the future? Will another war sweep these fledgling peace traditions into the discard and fan into a blaze the smouldering war traditons that lie deeply imbedded in the University's history? The University with its present liberal traditions could be a powerful influence in keeping America from taking another fateful step; but once the United States declares war, Carolina's dove of peace would more than likely be smashed against the wall by the iron fist of militarism and the University repeat her war history on a grander scale than ever before.

        Any University president who dared oppose the government after she had declared war would remain president only long enough for the governor to sign an order. Any faculty member who opposed it would cease to be a faculty member, and any student who refused to get into uniform would become a candidate for graduation with honors from Leavenworth or a concentration camp. The University is too organic a part of the state to expect anything else. With its dormitories, laboratories, faculty, students, press, and extension service, it would be too valuable an instrument for the prosecution of the war to allow it to be used for any other purpose.

        The plans worked out by the army for the immediate mobilization of the nation's industrial and human resources in case of war leave little doubt as to what would happen to both persons and institutions in the event of conflict. Recent press releases from Washington have pointed out how the plan would provide for the enlistment of 500,000 soldiers during the first sixty days of hostilities, how industry would immediately be put under control of the war ministry and how all phases of American life would immediately be "conscripted." The government would immediately assume control of all means of communication, including the press, radio and moving pictures; and every man, woman and child would be told what to do and how quickly to do it.

        Both Carolina's past and the nation's plan for the future seem to point to the inevitable conclusion that if America again goes to war, Carolina will go to war. And after that happens any opposition will be about as effective as a speech advocating the abolition of intercollegiate athletics delivered to a Carolina student body yelling "Go, Go, Go," when the Tar Heels have the ball on Duke's nine-yard line.

                         I think this form
                         that I am and you are
                         must be the expression
                         of a black plot
                         among little gyrating atoms
                         to become more aware
                         of their own mad dance.