The Roanoker - November/December 2017 - 98
HISTORY | ROANOKE, 1917
spectacle afforded them...Soldiers whose families were
here to see them off broke down and sobbed like little
Before going to the train station, the olive drab men
had been encamped at the Roanoke Fair Grounds (site
of the former Victory Stadium). At 3:00 p.m., the men
broke camp and marched to the railway station where
military equipment was loaded onto freight cars. The
men were divided into four sections and the last section finally left for Camp McClellan at 7:00 p.m.
Each passenger train paused briefly near the Norfolk
& Western Railway station for final goodbyes.
Acting Brigadier-General A.F. Leedy paid tribute
to the Magic City and its citizens. "I deeply regret
that we are ordered away from your city. On behalf
of the Second Virginia Regiment I wish to express
their hearty appreciation of the many kindnesses
that have been bestowed upon them. You people
have just been lovely to us...Every man in the regiment regrets his departure from Roanoke. Each is
positively enthusiastic about this city. I cannot find
words with which to express the deep enjoyment
and satisfaction we soldiers have had since being
With the day being a multi-sequenced event of
decampment, marches and train-station farewells
98 | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017
and departures, there was humor. Five mules behaved badly and let their masters know they had
no intention of boarding their caged car. The mules
broke free, sending soldiers over the car rails, and
it took an hour for the mules to be caught and secured for transport.
Two inmates were being escorted from the city
jail for train travel. Wading through a shoulder-toshoulder sea of humanity by deputies, they took
advantage and made their escape.
Two bull dog mascots of Army companies got
into a literal dog fight, such that several soldiers
were required to pull them apart.
Banners read "Berlin or Bust" and men sang
songs, kissed girls they knew (whether romantically
involved with them or not), and gambled. One
These Red Cross ladies
served military servicemen
coming through Roanoke on
trains during WWI.
Above top left:
Viscose began operating its
plant in Southeast Roanoke
in the summer of 1917. At
the height of its operations
several years later the plant
Hotel Roanoke had by 1917
recovered from fire.