These postcards from the Durwood Barbour Collection depict Camp Greene, a training camp for American troops built in Charlotte in the summer of 1917 and named after Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene. The 2500 acre camp supported 40,000 soldiers and looked like a small town including, among other things, a hospital, bakery, and stables. The camp mainly consisted of soldiers from the western U.S. and New England, with Massachusetts contributing the greatest numbers. Soldiers, some of whom brought their families, lived in rows of tents set upon wooden platforms.
The average day extended from 5:45am to 11pm and included trench warfare training. Weekends were left for rest and relaxation. Soldiers could enjoy or participate in various sporting events; nearby townspeople put on socials and concerts. Even the students at Queens College supported the troops by providing entertainment.
Camp Greene was placed in a southern location in hopes that weather conditions would be mild. But the winter of 1917 and 1918 was particularly harsh. Cold, wet weather turned the clay-soiled camp into a mud pit. The clay soil allowed for little to no drainage, causing massive sewage problems and making the terrain difficult to traverse. Such conditions prompted Representative Sherman E. Burroughs of New Hampshire to to tell his fellow congressmen in a speech in the House of Representatives on February 22, 1918: “This soil is almost completely impervious to water, and the effect of melting snow and recent rains there has been to make it a veritable bog. Mud is knee-deep in all the roads throughout the camp.” Representative Burroughs chastised the War Department for “its failure to provide adequate and proper sewerage facilities in a camp where upward of 40,000 young men, the pick and pride of this country, are quartered to-day.” And, as was the case in many places, at Camp Greene there were a tragic number of deaths as a result of the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.
Even with these difficult living conditions and extreme weather, Camp Greene soldiers were not deterred from returning to the Charlotte area. At the conclusion of World War I, many of these soldiers decided to return to Charlotte and make it their home, once again giving a boost to the local economy and population. In the end, Camp Greene played a large role in the formation of Charlotte as one of North Carolina’s major cities.