Savannah Volunteer Guard
World War I
In 1901, by an act of the Georgia Legislature, the Savannah Volunteer Guards become designated as "heavy artillery" and shortly thereafter the "Coast Artillery Corps, National Guard, Georgia."
At the outbreak of the first World war, they were mustered into the U.S. Army, under the command of Major G. Heyward, and served as the 61st Coast Artillery Company, Expeditionary Force, in France, as tractor-drawn Army artillery.
The companies of the First Georgia Regiment were converted from infantry to the 118th Field Artillery Regiment, which consisted of three battalions of two batteries each, using 6-inch howitzers. In that regiment, they were a part of the Thirty-first division. They arrived in France only partly equipped, and saw no action. The Georgia Hussars served as headquarters troop to that division.
In June 1918, after then months' intensive training and various inspections and tests, the 61st CAC was ready to go overseas and was moved to Camp Eustis, Virginia, where final arrangements were made for embarking. After about three weeks, the battalion boarded the Wilhemina (a former German ship) and left in convoy, arriving at St. Nazaire on July 30, 1918, and moved by train to Camp Castillion where the men were quartered in billets.
Coast Artillery training was immediately resumed with 8- and 12-inch guns drawn by tractors and consisting of emplacement, forward displacement, target practice, etc., with the usual close-order drill, marches, etc., until the end of the war.
Duty there and the association with the French people was pleasant. The personnel of the battlaion were entertained by the populace and, in return, staged a number of entertainments for them. During this period, many men and officers were detailed to various schools.
After the armistice was signed, the battalion was moved to Bordeau and later on to Marseilles, from which it left in February, 1919, on board the Italian ship Dante Alighiere, landing at Hoboken, and moved to Camp Upton. From Camp Upton, the batallion was moved to Savannah for the welcoming home parade thorugh the city and then to Ft. Screven, where it was mustered out on March 1, 1919.
At the close of the war, the 118th Field Artillery Regiment, National Guard, Georgia was reorganized out of the First Georgia Regiment, and into it were merged the Chatham Artillery (two batteries) and the Savannah Volunteer Guards. It was equipped with 75mm guns (pictured).
The envolment of the “Guards” in WW1 began in 1912 while under the command of Major William B.Stephens.The Federal and State Governments anticipated possible envolment and turmoil in Europe and protection of the Coast line. The “Guard” was converted to Heavy Artillery with 10” Mortors.Two dummy forts were built in Forsyth Park, with dummy Mortars for training. The “Guards” also began using Ft Screven on Tybee Island and in 1917 the “Guards” were federalized with Major Heyford appointed Post Commander of Ft Screven, as well as Commander of the 61st C.A.C. the “Guards”.
The “Guards” were sent to France and were sent home in 1919. Artifacts of the “Guards” can be seen at the Coastal Heritage Museum on the corner of Louisville Road and MLK Blvd.in Savannah.
More detail is available in History of the Savannah Volunteer Guards, Inc. 1802-1992 by Henry J. Kennedy.