On November 29, 1917, Hon. Henry C. Stuart, Governor of Virginia, and Brigadier-General William Wilson Sale, Adjutant-General of Virginia, granted permission to organize a company of Coast Artillery at South Boston, Va., under the provisions that the company be formed by mid-night of December 14, 1917, and to have not less than 100 enlisted men and three officers. The time being very limited to organize a company, full force was put behind the movement by spirited men of South Boston and Halifax County and in less than twelve days the company was ready for muster. This company now holds the distinction of being formed in less time than any other company in the Commonwealth since 1871.
Wednesday morning, December 13, 1917, was the day set by the War Department for the muster and on that morning everything was in readiness to receive the inspection, 109 young men having been enlisted and passed by the surgeon as physically fit. Just prior to the inspection the men were assembled in the Big Four Warehouse and there elected the following men as their officers: John V. Thompson, captain; John D. Evans, first lieutenant, and Donnan E. Gray, second lieutenant.
Promptly at 11 o'clock A. M. the company was again formed at the Planters' Warehouse and there inspected by Lieutenant-Colonel Jo Lane Stern, Inspector General, representing the State of Virginia and Captain Eli Bennett, C. A. C. (Regular Army), representing the War Department. The company was highly praised by these officers and upon their recommendations to the Militia Bureau at Washington, the company was granted Federal recognition to date from the date of their inspection.
From the date of inspection until early spring, orders were expected at any time calling the company into Federal service. Finally, however, the following order was received.
WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
Richmond, Va., April 27, 1918.
Captain J. V. Thompson,
Pursuant to the call of the President of the United States and telegraphic instructions from the Adjutant-General, Eastern Department, Governor's Island, N. Y., the fourteenth Company Coast Artillery is ordered to mobilize at South Boston, Va., on Wednesday, May 1, 1918, for Federal service.
On the prescribed date all members reported for duty and from then until the company was ordered to Fort Monroe on the 10th inst. every man was kept as busy as a bee doing either clerical work in the office or drilling at the Fair Grounds. Captain Benjamin S. Beverly, C. A. C. (West Pointer), from Fortress Monroe mustered the company into Federal service.
During the company's ten-day stay at its home station, headquarters and all formations were made at Planters' Warehouse; the owners giving the entire structure to the company for the time being. The members of the company will ever remember the cordial hospitality extended them by the people of South Boston and Halifax County in providing meals and lodging for them during their stay at the home station.
Orders having been previously received for the company to proceed to Fort Monroe, Va., on the morning of May 10th to receive their intensive training, special cars were in waiting at the Southern Depot and promptly at 8 o'clock A. M. the company was marched from its headquarters to the station, accompanied by one of the largest gatherings that had ever been in South Boston at any one time. At the train speeches were made by numerous ones and the God speed to the men on their journey was all that could have been wished for. Nice lunches and lots of cold (soft) drinks had been placed on the coaches before the company arrived by the people of South Boston.
The company arrived at Richmond at 12:45 P. M. and was reviewed by Governor Westmoreland Davis, together with General Jo Lane Stern, the Adjutant-General of the Common-Wealth, After this formation the company together with the two Richmond companies, the Twelfth and Thirteenth, respectively, boarded a spccial train of the C. & O. Ry. and proceeded on the last lapse of their journey to Fort Monroe, arriving there in time for supper, which the Fort Commander had ordered prepared for these companies.
After five weeks of very hard training the company was ordered to proceed by boat to Baltimore, Md., there to be attached to the Fiftieth Infantry at Curtis Bay Ordnance Depot for guard duty.
Again on August 16, 1918 the company was ordered to proceed to Hampton, Va., and there establish a new post at the Hampton Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company's plant, (part: of the Emergency Fleet Corporation). While at Hampton the company performed its usual military functions and established its guard as well.
After November 1, 1918, the designation of the company was changed by War Department Orders from the Fourteenth Company, Va. C. A. N. G., to Battery "D", and assigned to the Thirty-Fifth Regiment Coast Artillery. The Virginia Batallion of this regiment which was then composed of the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Companies was placed under the command of Major Willson H. Cralle, who established his headquarters with Battery "D" at Hampton. Orders were now expected at any hour for overseas duty, but they never came owing to the signing of the armistice a few days later on November 11, 1918.
On November 17, 1918, orders were received from Governor's Island, N. Y., for the company to procced to Camp Meade, Md., for demobilization. The company arrived at its last station on the 19th inst. and on December 4, 1918, all the members were on their way back home to again resume their peaceful occupations in the many walks of life.
1. "History of Organization", Roster and History of Battery D, 35th Regiment, Coast Artillery, Fort Monroe, Virginia, pages 14-16.