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Mecklenburg County Home Guard
Rules and Regulations of Mecklenburg County Home Guard
Charlotte: [The Council], 1917.


The Mecklenburg County Home Guard, along with other civilian militias in North Carolina, played an important role in domestic security during World War I as it had since the Revolutionary War era. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson had sent National Guard troops from North Carolina to Mexico to aid the United States Army in its fight against Mexican revolutionary "Pancho" Villa. The 7,464 Tar Heel Guardsmen had only recently returned from Mexico when in July 1917 President Wilson pressed them into service in France.

The departure of the National Guard left the state without a security force to protect against enemy sabotage or, more likely, racial conflict or labor unrest. As a remedy, Governor Thomas Bickett called up five thousand men to form a reserve militia, or Home Guard. Each county was to have a continent of at least twenty-five men, though as the "Rules and Regulations" item shows, Mecklenburg County far exceeded that minimum. Urban counties like Mecklenburg had little trouble securing enough volunteers for the Guard. (Men actually had to be elected by their peers to serve in the Guard.) Members had to provide their own uniforms and weapons, but otherwise the Home Guards functioned as tight military units.

The Home Guards were called into service only twice during the war. Once was to quell a race riot in Winston-Salem in November 1918. (For more detail, see the introduction to The Home Front/African Americans.) The second time was to break a series of wildcat textile strikes in Charlotte in 1919. (For more detail, see "Introduction: Carolinians Go to War." After the war, National Guard troops took the place of the Home Guard. Many of the Home Guard veterans, however, returned to the service of the state and local industry in the 1929 and 1934 to quell a wave of textile strikes. (For more detail, see "The North Carolina Experience" Economics & Business/Labor & Unions.)

Michael Sistrom

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