WWI Profile: Rufus Earl Sellers 1899-1946

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is accessible by the blue button on the right.

Postcard of the Boys Brigade Armory in Wilmington, 1908.
Photo courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library
Rufus Earl Sellers
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard

May 7, 1917 – April 7, 1919
May 14, 1918 – April 2, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918

Rufus Earl Sellers was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch. Rufus had two brothers who also served in WWI, Pvt Oscar David Sellers and Mechanic Chesley Burgwyn Sellers.

Rufus’ NC WWI Service Card shows that he enlisted in the NC National Guard on May 7, 1917. He was 18 years old. He actually was a member of a group of young men who answered the call of Boys’ Brigade, which was then accepted into the NC National Guard. The story behind this is an interesting one.

The Boys’ Brigade was a national organization that gained popularity in the 1890’s. It was similar to Boy Scouts, with a civic and military focus. In 1895, Colonel Walker Taylor, a prominent businessman in Wilmington and regional commander in the state militia, organized a local group that was admitted to the United Boy’s Brigades of America as Company A, First North Carolina Regiment, the first company of its kind ever organized in the state.

Col. Taylor supplied muskets and bayonets. There were uniforms consisting of white pants, shoes, caps and blue jerseys. There were annual encampments and drilling at the State Guard. Members were required to attend a Sunday School of their choice and regular drills with the brigade.

In 1903, Col. Taylor bought a house at Second and Church streets in Wilmington and an armory was constructed for Brigade members. The photo is shown above. The building included an auditorium, dining room, kitchen, gymnasium, dressing rooms, a bowling alley and a 2,000-volume library. Membership swelled to nearly 500 boys. Sports, clubs, vocational classes and more were added. The Boys’ Brigade was disbanded in 1916, then later became part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and still exists today.

The armory was used for various military functions during the early part of the war such as troop quarters for North Carolina Cavalry and the Field Artillery infirmary. Near the later part of 1918, Carolina Shipbuilding Corporation leased it for employees.  The building eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1962.

On May 18, 1917, six weeks after the United States formally entered the war, the U.S. Congress passed the Selective Service Act giving the president the power to draft soldiers. The first draft, June 5, 1917, was required for men between the ages of 21 and 31.

Likely anticipating the draft and age ranges, the former Boys’ Brigade leaders must have realized that younger men would have an interest in serving. These former leaders organized meetings in Wilmington.

On March 29, 1917, a call was made to former members to organize an infantry company. It was their hope that the NC National Guard would accept this infantry once assembled.

“These young men are now anxious, in the country’s crisis, to offer their services to the government in any capacity… They have announced that they are willing and ready to go anywhere their country may call them, even to Europe.”

At an April 2 meeting, Col. Walker Taylor told the young men that they should answer their country’s call, saying that it would be much more pleasant to serve with friends than with utter strangers.

On May 16, 1917, the list of recruits was published, which included the following young Brunswick County men. Wanted were those between 18 and 30 years of age, who weigh at least 120 pounds and stand at least 5’4″. Training was planned at Camp Royster in Goldsboro, NC.

Edgar L. Ballard, age 19
Calmer T. Clemmons, age 22
Elder E. Heath, age 19
Alvah H. Nance, age 21
Lindsay Pigott, age 21
James R. Potter, age 18
Rufus Earl Sellers, age 18

The Boys’ Brigade was soon accepted into the NC National Guard and Rufus was eventually assigned to Company I, 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division.

Previous posts described training with the 30th Division at Camp Sevier, SC, the transportation to France, and events up to and including the Hindenburg Line assault.

Cpl Rufus Sellers was wounded on that tragic yet victorious day when the Hindenburg Line was broken. Recall that History, 119th Infantry, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, U. S. A. Operations in Belgium and France, 1917-1919 reported the casualties in the 119th Infantry on that day were as follows:

146 KIA
691 Wounded
16 Died of Wounds
37 Taken Prisoner
12 MIA

Cpl Rufus Sellers was described as “slightly wounded” and returned to duty October 17, 1918. The war had less than a month to go.

After Cpl Rufus Sellers was discharged, he married and raised a family. He passed away on June 23, 1946, at age 46. His obituary was published on the front page of the State Port Pilot [June 26, 1946].

Note that his age was misprinted. See his family tree referenced above for documents verifying he was 46.

Rufus E. Sellers is Laid to Rest
Former Engineer with U.S. Engineers Dies at Veteran Hospital in Fayetteville

Rufus Earl Sellers, 61, for many years employed as engineer by the U.S. Army Engineers Office in Wilmington, died in the Veterans Hospital in Fayetteville Sunday. He had been in failing health for some time.

Mr. Sellers is survived by his widow, Mrs. Opie Sellers; three sons and one daughter, Burwin Sellers, John Paul Sellers, Earl Lee Sellers, and Miss Cellie Sellers, all of Supply. In addition three brothers and two sisters survive. They are Willie Sellers of New York, Charlie and Oscar Sellers, of Supply, Mrs. Homer Peterson, of Wilmington, and Mrs. Annie Belle Fullwood, of Supply.

The remains were brought back to Brunswick by Kilpatrick’s Funeral Home and burial was made at the Galloway cemetery near Supply yesterday afternoon at three o’clock. Rev. Mr. Fulmer, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist church, had charge of the funeral services.

The active pallbearers were Murdic Holden, J.R. Lawrence, Floyd Evans, Murchison Holden, Dewey Sellers, and J.B. Sermons. Honorary pallbearers were Dr. J.W. Hayes, Dr. L.C. Fergus, Dr. L.G. Brown, Floyd Kirby, Herbert Sellers, Yates Sellers, Herbert Holden, E.L. Holden, Hiram Long, Elwood Clemmons, O.P. Holden, and T.T. Clemmons.

Rufus Earl Sellers was laid to rest in Supply. No military honors are shown.

The information on Boys’ Brigade was gathered from the following sources.
Dudley, First Lieutenant E.P. “The Boy’s Brigade.” The Wilmington Morning Star, 18 Jul 1897, p. 1.
“Boys Brigade Members are Ordered Out.” Wilmington Dispatch, 29 Mar 1917, p 5.
“Boys Brigade in Line.” Wilmington Morning Star, 03 Apr 1917, p. 5.
“Boys Brigade Unit.” The Wilmington Morning Star 19 May 1917, p. 5.
Star News (Wilmington, NC) Ask a Reporter of Feb. 2011.

If you would like to help us honor Rufus Earl Sellers or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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WWI Profile: Mack D. Atkins 1893-1930

To view this or an earlier profile at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is accessible by the blue button on the right.

Source: 119th Infantry Unit Rosters for Company E to Company G, page 24.
Mack D Atkins
Makatoka, Brunswick County, NC
Regular Army/US Army

October 31, 1914 – July 20, 1919
May 11, 1918 – April 2, 1919
Wounded: September 11, 1918

Additional information about historical records

Trace through historical records and you will discover many contradictions. Headstone dates don’t match birth and/or date records. Census records often make one wonder: can a person truly avoid aging the ten years between them? Yes, there are census records spaced ten years apart that show a person with the same age.

Records handwritten through a war that occurred 100 years ago surely have many errors.

The more records found and the more detailed the records are can actually add questions, not answer them. In the case of the 119th Infantry, the source listed below has a wonderful and unusual feature: a roster that shows dates wounded and the date returned to duty. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to have some issues with the roster. These caused some missteps:

  • The alphabetical list is not actually alphabetical, although close, so Brunswick County names were constantly being missed. Imagine the writers alphabetizing 3400+ names on multiple company rosters by hand.
  • There are misspellings that added more complexity in a list that large.
  • The use of the word “sick” caused confusion. Given that some NC WWI Service Cards showed gassing injuries and the roster showed “sick” it was left up to the researcher to make the determination. In the case of Pfc Perry G Carlisle, mentioned in the previous post, his Service Card showed no injury but the roster showed he was “sick.” Newspapers did not include his name in the list of wounded, so the conclusion was made that he contracted an illness. This may be incorrect. Others appeared more straightforward. If the Service Card showed a gassing injury, then the “sick” of the roster must mean gas sickness. Maybe.
  • The usual inconsistencies with dates were present, such as dates wounded listed in the roster didn’t exactly match the NC WWI Service Cards. In that case, the unit history documents help to suggest the correct date, as the unit may not have been in combat during one date presented.

Creating the WWI Profiles begins with the NC WWI Service Cards, then the WWI Draft Registration Card. The date and place of birth don’t always match. Death certificates and Findagrave listings cause more discrepancies with dates and places of birth and dates and places of death.

Another idiosyncrasy with war records is the rank. Battlefield or field promotions are commonplace. Soldiers may leave the country with one rank, then return with another much lower rank. The NC WWI Service Cards show ranks going up and down and back up again and assignment changes between units or even divisions. Yes, some were demoted. Diaries mention soldiers demoted for drinking alcohol. But, it is assumed that the vast majority were due to new assignments or battlefield promotions that were no longer in effect after combat ended. When writing WWI Profiles, the rank chosen is the highest rank the veteran had obtained as listed on the NC WWI Service Card. This matches the military headstone applications that have been found.

The military headstone applications are submitted after death and confirmed by official War/Military Records. But even some inconsistencies are found on those. If an inconsistency is found, the WWI Profile post will include a note. In some cases, the veteran continued to serve which is beyond the scope of the WWI project.

Every WWI Profile on this blog has had, at the very least, an inconsistency with dates. The links are typically included so the reader can investigate further. But Mack D. Atkins’ records had a few more than usual, which makes it difficult to state his story with confidence.

What we do know is that a large portion of his short life was spent in service to his country.

Mack D. Atkins was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC.

His NC WWI Service Card is complicated and there are discrepancies between it and other sources. Using the service card and the following sources, a possible timeline can be pieced together.

October 31, 1914: Mack D. Atkins enlisted in the Regular Army at Fort Caswell. He served with 19th Company, Coastal Artillery Company, Fort Caswell.

April 6, 1917: America declared war on Germany.

June 1, 1917: Pvt Atkins was promoted to Private, First Class.
September 6, 1917: Pfc Atkins was promoted to Sergeant.
September 22, 1917: Sgt Atkins was assigned to Quartermaster Corps at Camp Sevier, NC.
January 30, 1918: Sgt Atkins was ranked as Private. The assumption is this is due to him being reassigned, below.
February 14, 1918: Pvt Atkins was assigned to Company G, 119th Infantry, until discharge.
March 1, 1918: Pvt Atkins was promoted to Corporal.

At this point, Cpl Atkins was training with the 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division as explained in Pvt Luther Benton’s profile.

May 11, 1918: Cpl Atkins boarded Haverford to France.

September 3 or 11, 1918: Cpl Atkins was wounded or became ill.

The roster shows that Cpl Mack Atkins became sick on September 11th, yet his service card shows undetermined wounds on September 3rd. Newspaper accounts at the time report that he was wounded, so an assumption is made that he wasn’t just sick. Using information about the unit activities at the time, it is assumed that he suffered a gas injury.

Cpl Atkins’ injuries occurred during the occupation/operation as described below. His service card shows he was engaged at Ypres and the Canal sector, and the date of September 3 matches this timeframe.

Kemmel Hill/Mont Kemmel/Kemmelberg
The Canal sector was the general line extending from immediately southeast of Ypres, about two miles southwest to Elzenwalla, inclusive, on both sides of the Ypres-Commines Canal and the country on this immediate front was very low and wet, thus causing many hardships upon the troops occupying it. To the right of the Canal sector stood Mount Kemmel, from the top of which the Germans had a dominating view of the entire sector, thus causing camouflaged screens to be erected on all main roads leading towards the front, and making it very difficult to move about during the day. On the left of this sector was the remains of Ypres, after the great battle the British fought in July, 1916, when the Germans used gas for the first time. – Page 18, History, 119th Infantry, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, U. S. A. Operations in Belgium and France, 1917-1919

According to Col Pratt’s diary, the 105th Engineers and some infantry, possibly some from the 119th Infantry, performed a gas attack on August 28th, which resulted in many engineers and infantry being gassed. An investigation was ordered to prevent injuries in the future. This could have been the source of Cpl Atkins’ injury.

Then Col Pratt wrote the following on August 31, 1918, the 30th Division’s first contact with the enemy.

The unexpected happened. The Germans are off of Mount Kemmel and the “German Eye” will no longer watch us as we work. … The British were on top of Kemmel early this morning and moving over the slope. Our Division also advanced a short distance, capturing fifteen prisoners and one machine gun. They (the Germans) are not retiring on our front and we are meeting with considerable resistance. I received orders to assign one company of engineers to each Regiment in the line, which I did. Company F with the 120th Infantry; Company E with 119th Infantry. Our troops are attacking and we have actually come in contact with Germans in a fight.

The German retirement is very probably due to his desire to straighten his line and thus cut down the number of troops necessary to hold it. He will probably try and withdraw to the old Hindenburg line and make a stand there. He is fighting hard and giving way as slowly as possible so as to be able to withdraw all his guns and ammunition.

Kemmel Hill/Mont Kemmel/Kemmelberg in 1918
Col Pratt writes of many German gas shells throughout the operation.

(The 30th Division were then moved to the Hindenburg Line and did not participate in the Battle of the Peak of Flanders.)

While evidence points to Cpl Atkins being gassed, whatever injury/illness he suffered, his recovery took 3 months. By then, the war was over.

December 2, 1918: Cpl Atkins returned to service.
December 16, 1918: Cpl Atkins became a Private. The assumption is his previous rank was a field promotion.
March 21, 1919: Pvt Atkins boarded USS Huron in France to return to the US.
July 20, 1919: Pvt Atkins was discharged [Source: 119th Infantry demobilization camps rosters, Camp Jackson, Page 17]. Pvt Atkins immediately re-enlisted.
August 3, 1919: Mack Atkins married Mattie Caison.
January 6, 1920: The 1920 Census shows Cpl Mack Atkins serving at Camp Jackson, SC. This census record shows his service extended into 1920, and also confirms his rank of Corporal.

Mack Atkins and his wife had two children. But Mack’s life ended soon. He passed away on February 25, 1930 at age 37. His cause of death is included in current medical research papers as having possible connections to mustard gas exposure.

Mack D. Atkins was laid to rest in Hope Mills, NC.

His application for a military headstone does not match the above service information. It shows his rank as Private, serving in the 48th Infantry, 20th Division. The 20th Division was created in October 1918, never went overseas, and was demobilized in February 1919. It could be a mistake, as mentioned earlier, or previous and later service could explain this. Anyone with information, please contact Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range and this profile will be updated.

If you would like to help us honor Mack D. Atkins or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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Derby Day volunteers needed

For five years, volunteers have been the key to the success of the Derby Day fundraisers for the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Volunteers for the 2018 Derby Fundraiser are now needed.

Please click on this link to go directly to the 2018 Derby Day Fundraiser webpage.

Thank you!

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Commemorate the WWI Centennial of Armistice Day

2018 is a special year for the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range. What began seven years ago as an effort to save a irreplaceable piece of history, a relic from 1918, reaches a milestone of 100 years old.

At the same time, an important date in history is the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, a day which is commemorated every year. This year, we commemorate the centennial of the signing, when the tragic war came to an end and the death and destruction from the war in Europe ended.

We have seen how our young men and women bravely volunteered or heeded the call to service and traveled across the ocean to fight with the Allies. Many of them had never before left the county or state. Many of them left behind families. Many of them did not return.

The focus since November 2017 has been on the veterans in Brunswick County and their sacrifices and this continues with our two events this year. We have received donations for the planned WWI memorial at the site of the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range. The thermometer at the right side of the website indicates the amount of funds still needed for the memorial. It also shows the number of Brunswick County WWI veterans who have been honored and the number not yet honored. Please take a moment to read through the veteran list and donor list, and view the WWI Profiles that are being posted weekly. Their stories can be both inspiring and tragic.

Our next event is April 6, 2018, the Commemoration of the Centennial +1 of the United States entering WWI. A flyer will be posted soon. This event is similar to last year’s commemorating the Centennial. The names of those Brunswick County veterans who have been chosen for honor by residents and donors will be read aloud.

The 2018 Derby Fundraiser is also being planned. As years past, it will be held at the Caswell Dunes clubhouse on May 5, 2018, from 2:30pm – 7:00pm. See the Fundraising section for details, or click on this link to go directly to the 2018 Derby Day Fundraiser webpage.

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Eagle Scout Service Project scheduled this month

For several months, Ethan Pannkuk, an Eagle Scout Candidate from Troop 210 in Carolina Beach, has been researching and planning his Eagle Scout Service Project to assist in the stabilization of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

The Eagle Scout Service Project planning and approval process is a long one. There are several levels of approval needed: unit, district and council. The project must be approved by officials, in this case a structural engineer from Andrew Consulting Engineers, PC; and a  member of the State Historic Preservation Office, which has offered guidance and advice to Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range for many years.

Ethan was required to justify the project; obtain the materials, supplies, and tools; provide transportation; raise funds; and take steps to ensure safety at all times.

The planning and approval process with the Boy Scouts of America is complete, and is now scheduled to be performed at the end of March.

Thank you to Ethan Pannkuk for choosing the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range for his Eagle Scout Project!

Note: To read about the stabilization milestones, go to the Stabilization section or click here.

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WWI Profile: Luther Marvin Benton 1891-1966

Source: 119th Infantry Unit Rosters for Company A to Company C, Page 2.
Luther Marvin Benton
Ash, Brunswick County, NC
US Army

March 21, 1918 – April 7, 1919
May 11, 1918 – April 2, 1919
Wounded: August 17, 1918; October 17, 1918

 Luther Marvin Benton was born and raised in Brunswick County. He was ordered to report to duty on March 22, 1918 [Source: ancestry.com]. His WWI Draft Card shows he was single and a farmer. He was sent to Camp Jackson, SC, then joined the 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division at Camp Sevier, SC, on April 24, 1918.

Refer to the previous posts outlining the history of the division. (Only information specific to the 119th Infantry will be included here.)

The 119th Infantry had been training since the Fall of 1917. From History, 119th Infantry, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, U. S. A. Operations in Belgium and France, 1917-1919

A system of trenches was constructed by the 105th Engineers and these used extensively by the Regiment, in order that the men might become somewhat familiar with trench life, and their tactical use. A large target range was also constructed and on this the men were trained in the art of shooting accurately and rapidly, in order that they might protect their own lines in time to come.

Pvt Benton had little time for training before boarding the British Steamship Ascania in May with the rest of Company A.

In May 1918 when they left for France, the 119th Infantry included 1,800 men from the State of North Carolina, 900 from Tennessee, and 700 from the States of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The company roster of enlisted men begins on page 60. The following Brunswick County men were located in the roster, which includes the date returned to service after injury.

Name Co. Returned to Duty
Cpl Mack D Atkins G Wounded: 09/11/1918 12/02/1918
Cpl Edgar L Ballard B Slightly Gassed: 10/29/1918 11/27/1918
Pvt Luther M Benton A Wounded: 08/17 & 10/17/1918 12/02/1918
Pfc John W Carlisle K Died of Disease: 02/16/1919
Pfc Perry G Carlisle I Sick: 10/31/1918 12/22/1918
Cpl Joseph W. Chinnis I Transferred: 01/29/1919
Cpl Calmer T Clemmons F Wounded: 09/29 & 10/18/1918
Wag William P Comron/Cameron Sup
Pvt John F Cox E
Cook Henry B Danford I
Pvt Herman D Fulford L Severely Wounded: 10/14/1918
Pvt Samuel G Fulford C Wounded: 10/17/1918 11/26/1918
Pfc James R Ganey MG
Cpl Elder E Heath I Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918 12/02/1918
Sfc Van G Mintz E Wounded: 10/10/1918 11/01/1918
Cook Alvah H Nance I
Cpl Lindsey Piggott B Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918
Pvt Herbert Rabon I
Cpl Rufus E Sellers I Wounded: 09/29/1918 10/17/1918
Pvt Everet J Skipper I
Cpl George L Skipper D
Pvt Benjamin B Smith A  Severely Wounded: 09/29/1918; Died of Wounds
Cpl Curtis L Smith G
Pvt Goodman Smith A
Pvt Percy A Smith H
Capt Benjamin West
Pfc Albert W Williams M Severely Wounded: 10/10/1918 11/14/1918
Cpl Henry D Williams M

Note: Pvt Samuel Claudius Swain and Pvt Harry Lee Dosher do not appear on the roster above because they were no longer among the 119th Infantry in May 1918 when the roster was created.

An earlier WWI Profile covered Pvt Swain’s death on January 7, 1918. He was in Company C.

Pvt Dosher was given a Surgeons Certificate of Disability (SCD) release on March 3, 1918. He had been ill for some time at Camp Jackson [Source: Wilmington Dispatch, 10 Mar 1918, p. 9] He was in Company G.

Additional note: Pfc Perry G Carlisle is listed as sick from October 31 – December 22, 1918. His NC Service Card does not indicate he was wounded or gassed, and no reports were found in newspapers that list the wounded. The assumption is he was actually ill, likely from the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Three British Transports, Ascania, Haverford and Laomadon met in the Harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, formed a convey with nine others, and sailed for England. The convoy was escorted by the British Cruiser Cornwall. On Friday, May 24th, the convoy reached the “danger zone”, and held numerous “abandon ship drills.” Many accounts and diaries of this time express gratitude for the US Navy. The following two excerpts are from the 119th Infantry document referenced above.

At daylight of the 25th several United States Submarine Destroyers were seen chasing all around our convoy, and remained as our best friends until the convoy landed.

About 11:30 p. m., May 26th, a German submarine was sighted within very close range, but it immediately submerged and was not seen again. The crafty Destroyers were on their job and dropped several “depth bombs” at the spot where the submarine had been seen. No disorder or confusion among the troops was caused during these crucial moments.

After reaching England, it took several days before the Regiment arrived in France.

About 9:30 a. m., May 27th, 1918, the convoy filed through the Irish Sea and in a few minutes docked at Liverpool, England. All troops remained on board until 5:00 o’clock that afternoon when the Regiment debarked, and marched a short distance to the train which left at 10:00 p. m., for Dover, England’s chief Channel Port for the exportation of troops. The train passed through London about midnight and arrived at Dover about 8:00 o’clock on the morning of the 28th.

Beginning at 11:00 a. m., on the same date, the Regiment moved by small detachments from Dover, England, across the English Channel to Calais, France, and by the afternoon of May 29th the entire Regiment was once more assembled in camp, located about one and one-half kilometers from Calais.

The 119th Infantry received their gas respirators, ammunition, and swapped their American rifles for British rifles, because they were to serve with the British.

The first night of arrival, the Regiment experienced their first air attack. Colonel Pratt, whose diary has been used in previous veteran profiles, wrote about the experience of an air attack.

You know you are perfectly helpless and if he can make a direct hit on your hut or tent, you are a “goner.” …as you lie in bed listening (if you are awake) to the air planes coming nearer, you and your tent or hut begin to grow larger and larger until it seems to you as though you were bigger than anything else out doors, and that you stand out so distinctly that you just know the air plane is going to drop its bomb on you. It is a very disagreeable feeling. It is a helpless feeling. There is nothing you can do to further protect yourself and you lie “awake” expecting the bomb to hit your tent or hut. It is not only one night, but night after night.

Source: NC Digital Archives
The 119th Infantry was the first American unit to enter Belgium. After endless marching, they finally settled in a camp two kilometers southeast of Watou, Belgium. (First Battalion, pictured at left, includes Pvt Benton’s Company A.)

Pvt Benton’s first injury occurred on August 17, 1918. At that time, during the night, the 119th Infantry was relieving the 98th British Brigade. The orders can be found on page 17 of the document referenced above. During this period of time, spanning the remainder of the month, 64 enlisted men were killed, 208 wounded, 12 Died of Wounds, and 2 were Missing.

Pvt Benton’s injury was not severe enough to be sent home, as he resumed serving and was wounded a second time, on October 17, 1918. Activities during that time will be covered in a future post. (Pvt Samuel Fulford was wounded on that date.) As the chart above shows, he recovered from the injury received in October and returned to service on December 2, 1918.

Pvt Benton returned home with Company A in March 1919. He married and raised his family in the area. Luther Marvin Benton was laid to rest in 1966. Military honors are shown.

If you would like to help us honor Luther Marvin Benton or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

Click the category: Veteran Profile here or at the bottom of any veteran profile post to see all of the veteran profiles published. Follow or subscribe to the blog to stay updated on all new profiles.

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The Brunswick County World War I veterans list has been updated

Trying to find information or locate a WWI profile about a specific veteran in a group of 730+ names can be difficult.

Here is the easiest method:

  • Go to the Brunswick County World War I veterans list by clicking here or the blue button labeled “WWI Brunswick Co. Veterans” on the top right of most pages.
  • Names are listed alphabetically. Find your veteran name.
  • If there is a blue link on the name, click on it to view either a WWI profile that has been posted or entries in the World War I Wall of Honor.

    The Wall of Honor was created using photographs and stories sent to the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range. There are Brunswick County veterans on that list. WWI profiles are being posted first on veterans who were wounded or died while serving. Any Brunswick County veterans on the Wall of Honor will eventually have a WWI profile posted.

  • If there is a blue number after the name, click on it to view a reference to that veteran.
  • If the date of death has a blue link, click on it to view the cemetery where the veteran is buried. Most of these are findagrave listings.

All stories and photographs are welcome.

If you have any findagrave listings for veterans, please send them to ftcaswellriflerange@gmail.com. We hope to have a complete list eventually.

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Spotlight: Carl Mauney

Carl Mauney

Carl Mauney, a World War I reenactor, made a welcome appearance April 8, 2017, when the Brunswick Town Chapter NSDAR along with the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range held the Commemoration of the Centennial date the United States entered World War I: April 6, 1917. The event was the first commemoration held at the site of the 1918 World War I Rifle Range located in Caswell Beach. Read several stories linked from here.

Carl was outfitted with a full World War I reproduction woolen uniform, including gas mask and rifle. He demonstrated how the rifle worked and explained that rifle ranges like the Fort Caswell rifle range placed the line of fire 300 yards away because the rifles could not consistently hit targets at longer distances.

Carl modeled his gas mask, showing how difficult it is to breathe or even hear. This is similar to the experiences of veterans described in a recent WWI Profile post.

Carl also made a guest appearance at the 2017 Derby Day fundraiser, an annual event to raise funds for continued stabilization of the rifle range. After each race he read an excerpt about a WW I soldier from the WWI Wall of Honor.

Carl Mauney became a permanent fixture at the Friends of Ft Caswell Rifle Range when his profile was used for the WWI Centennial logo.

We thank Carl Mauney for contributing his time, knowledge, enthusiasm for WWI, and his silhouette!

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WWI Profile: Samuel Claudius Swain 1890-1918

Source: Library of Congress
Camp Sevier, SC
October 18, 1917

Samuel Claudius Swain
Bolivia, Brunswick County, NC
US Army

October 7, 1917 – January 7, 1918
Died of Disease: January 7, 1918

Samuel Claudius Swain was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. Most of his family is buried in Bolivia or Wilmington. On April 25, 1917, Samuel Swain married Myrtle Clemmons.

Samuel was ordered to report for duty on October 6, 1917, then accepted into the military at Camp Jackson, SC, on October 15, 1917. [Source: ancestry.com] He eventually was assigned to Company C, 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division and began training at Camp Sevier, SC. More details on the 119th Infantry to follow in later posts.

Three months later, on January 7, 1918, Pvt Samuel Claudius Swain died of pneumonia. His was the first known casualty in the 119th Infantry from Brunswick County. His death certificate was filed from Camp Sevier and shows that he had been ill since December 14, 1917. His death was a month after Pvt Carl Danford lost his life from pneumonia following measles, when 4000 men were still under quarantine. Recall from Pvt Danford’s profile that the entire camp was under a quarantine during the month of November 1917.

This table from Chapter 32, Military Hospitals in the US, shows the statistics from the base hospital in Camp Sevier. The hospital opened in September 1918. The patient totals for several months, with resulting deaths are shown below.

November 1917: 2,228 total patients; 82 deaths

December 1917: 1,217 total patients; 56 deaths

January 1918: 2,082 total patients; 31 deaths

The pandemic of 1918 was yet to occur, beginning in September 1918 with a peak in October of nearly 7000 patients and 332 deaths in one month. More information on the pandemic, commonly referred to as the “Spanish Flu” is planned for a later post.

Samuel Claudius Swain was laid to rest in the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery in Bolivia, NC. The Wilmington Morning Star, 10 Jan 1918, p. 6, published this account.

Brunswick Soldier Dead.
News of the death of Private Samuel Claudius Swain, stationed at Camp Sevier, S. C., resulting from pneumonia, was received by relatives yesterday. He was 29 years old and had been in the service but a few months. He was a son of Mr. B. F. Swain, of Suburb, Brunswick county, and is survived by his wife, one sister, Mrs. Walter Clark, and three brothers, Preston, Cleveland and Roger. The funeral and interment will take place probably today at his old home. The bereaved family have the tender sympathy of a host of friends.

Several members of the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range recently visited his gravesite to pay respects and take photos of a very nicely restored headstone, as well as identify whether military honors are shown.

Samuel Claudius Swain lost his life while serving his country.

If you would like to help us honor Samuel Claudius Swain or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement: Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran: How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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Army/Marine unit names and dates served have been collected

The Brunswick County WWI veteran spreadsheets now have all of the unit names and dates served, including overseas, for those who served in the Army or Marines. At this time, only some of the Navy and Coast Guard information has been collected.

Due to the number of people unfamiliar with spreadsheets, a webpage was created with this information. You can click on the new blue button “Army/Marine Units/Dates” on the right side of almost every webpage, or click here.

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