The Dawn of War
Learn more about Lynchburg during the war and the Museum's
World War One artifacts!
President Woodrow Wilson was born west of Lynchburg in Staunton, Virginia and tried mightily to keep America out of Europe’s war that began in 1914. By 1917, Germany had committed numerous hostile acts including attacking foreign vessels with Americans on board and ships flying the American flag. When the US intercepted a telegram between German ambassador Arthur Zimmerman and the Mexican government asking Mexico to fight the US in return for Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, Wilson saw no choice but to enter the war on the side of Britain and France.
In Lynchburg, local citizens quickly joined the war effort in the military and on the home front. Some 2,500 citizens served in the military during the war out of a population of approximately 30,000. Three from the city became brigadier generals: Samuel Rockenbach, Randolph Kean, and M. Lewis Walker. Local National Guard units such as the Musketeers, Shawnee Rifles, and Home Guard were called to active duty and men from Central Virginia served in the 29th Division and the 42nd Division of the Army. Others served in the Coast Artillery, 80th Division, and Blue Ridge Division.
World War I also produced another change in Lynchburg. With so many men in service, women moved into the workforce in business, industry, healthcare, and agriculture. While some returned to the role of homemaker at the end of the war, others remained in the workforce, enjoying the independence and financial benefits work provided.
While the Treaty of Versailles was signed by the defeated Germans and their allies, the harsh conditions it forced on Germany left that nation desperate and angry. Less than 25 years later, Adolph Hitler started another European war that dwarfed WWI in all aspects.