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Virginia and the Great War: A Centennial Commemoration

  • Grace Episcopal Church 110 North Church Street Berryville, VA 22611 United States (map)

The First World War left an indelible mark on the modern world, and one hundred years later the reverberations of the conflict are still felt. MHAA has invited a panel of renowned historians to examine the impact of the Great War on the nation and in Virginia. Our program begins with a symposium at the historic Grace Episcopal Church in Berryville, Va.

Berryville was home to USMC Major Lloyd Williams, who famously uttered the words, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" while leading his men into combat at Belleau Wood. Although Williams was killed in action his words live on as the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. A monument to Williams also adorns the wall of Grace Episcopal Church. Major Williams was just one of thousands of Virginians from the Heritage Area to be sent “over there.” Among these soldiers were many African Americans, including James Edgar Thornton, who was drafted in Virginia and sent to the western front. While away he kept in touch with his family through a steady stream of letters, providing valuable insight into his wartime experience. Back on the home front, the Woman’s Land Army of America worked northern Virginia’s farms, while down in the tidewater, Norfolk became the US Navy’s most important port. Discover how these people and events left their mark on Virginia and the nation with the following historians:

Annette Amerman, Historical Reference Branch Chief and Historian, Marine Corps History Division: Major Lloyd Williams, Berryville Marine

Gordon Calhoun, Historian, National Museum of the United States Navy: The Navy Builds A Base in Hampton Roads.

Anna Gruber Kiefer, Independent Historian: Sowing the Seeds of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army of America in Virginia and Washington, DC, 1917-1920

Marilyn Thornton, Family Historian: Letters from Edgar’s Trunk

Mitch Yockelson, Historian, United States World War One Centennial Commission: Forty-Seven Days: Pershing's Warriors Come of Age

Following the symposium there will be a reception at nearby Clermont Farm (ca. 1755). The farm was home to Lloyd Williams’s grandmother, and as a young man he often visited her there. The reception includes a display by military historian John Heckman entitled The Virginia Doughboy at War, as well as refreshments, book signings, and more.