World War I

About this collection

This collection includes World War I materials from the collections of the State Library and State Archives of North Carolina. This project is constantly expanding, but currently holds:

  • Materials from the State Library, including regimental histories and published narratives;
  • Materials from the State Archives including:
  1. World War I posters (a finding aid is also available);
  2. A selection of letters from the World War I Papers, part of the Military Collection. Finding aids for that collection are available on the the Military Finding Aids page of the State Archives website;
  3. Official Army Signal Corps Photographs, 1918-1919;
  4. Photographs from the Warren C. McNeill Papers;
  5. The World War I map collection from the World War I Papers. The map collection contains more than five hundred maps and blueprints of various types. The bulk of the World War I maps are topographical studies of France and Belgium, either field or ordnance surveys. Other types represented include barrage maps; drawings to accompany engineers’ operational reports; sketches of railroads, roads, and bridges; depictions of trench lines, troop dispositions, and positions of balloons; aerial photographs; Corps situation maps, updated daily; and blueprints of bombproof shelters. Of particular interest are the various maps with contemporaneous annotations by the officers who used them, such as the engineering drawings from the papers of Joseph Hyde Pratt and the topographical maps carried high above the trenches in the balloon of James A. Higgs.

When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914 North Carolinians shared the same feelings of regret and fear as other Americans. Tar Heels, like many others, did not want to get involved in the war. They saw the horror of the war that in 1916 alone cost the European armies 2.5 million casualties, equal to the entire population of North Carolina at the time. But once the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917, most North Carolinians supported the war effort. They believed President Woodrow Wilson when he said that America was fighting for democracy in “a war to end all wars.” Tar Heels purchased Liberty Loans and War Savings Stamps to raise money for the war. Women joined the American Red Cross, the YWCA, the Salvation Army, and served as nurses in military hospitals at home and in France. Farmers grew victory acres and children grew thrift gardens to earn money to buy war bonds. Citizens raised and canned their own food, and went without meat to conserve food supplies for the army. North Carolina industry also geared up to support the war. Ships were built in Wilmington, airplane propellers were made in High Point, wagon wheels were made in Hickory, and in Raleigh artillery shells were made for the army and navy. North Carolina’s tobacco factories produced cigarettes while its textile mills made blankets, socks, and tents for the army. Training camps for new soldiers were set up throughout the country, including three in North Carolina: Camp Greene near Charlotte, Camp Bragg near Fayetteville, and Camp Polk near Raleigh.

For more information on North Carolina's involvement in World War I, visit NCPedia.