Graveside Honors: Private George Finnis Willetts 1894-1956

Kenny Jones, Sue Jones Jordan, and Mary Willetts Earp are pictured here honoring their uncle, Private George Finnis Willetts, at his graveside in Sharon United Methodist Church Cemetery, Holden Beach, Brunswick County, NC.

Private Willetts has been honored with a donation by his granddaughters Darlene Willetts McGee, Joann Willetts Neal, and Beth Willetts Osborne.

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range are encouraging donors and supporters to honor Brunswick County WWI veterans by submitting photos of themselves at the gravesides. Use the Cemeteries list to locate gravesites for Brunswick County WWI veterans.

Comments Off on Graveside Honors: Private George Finnis Willetts 1894-1956

Filed under Graveside Honors, Honor a Veteran

WWI Profile: Harry Langdon Pigott 1894-1918

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 also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

American Soldiers killed during the Hindenburg Line assault

Harry Langdon Pigott
Shallotte, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private
Served:
September 18, 1917 – September 29, 1918
Overseas:
June 5, 1918 – September 29, 1918
KIA: September 29, 1918

Harry Langdon Pigott was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree is in FamilySearch.

His 1917 Draft Registration Card shows he was married, farming, and living in Shallotte. He was married to Annie Eliza Milliken on December 15, 1916.

Harry was ordered to report to duty on September 18, 1917. [Source: ancestry.com] Records show his wife was pregnant at the time. Private Pigott was assigned to Company M, 120th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division, and eventually began training at Camp Sevier, SC, as reported in previous posts. In December, his daughter Rosalind Pigott was born.

Private Pigott, along with Private Jesse James Leonard (his WWI Profile post will follow this one), were scheduled to depart for France on May 17, 1918, but did not board the USS Miltiades with their Companies. Instead, both boarded Ascanius on June 5, with many other soldiers of the 30th Division who were detached from their units, for reasons unknown.

Soon after departing, Pvt Pigott’s small daughter passed away. She had survived only five months, dying on June 9, 1918, from whooping cough. [Source: ancestry.com] She was laid to rest where her father would eventually join her, at Gurganus Cemetery in Shallotte.

Multiple posts have included the horrific details of the Hindenburg Line and the many who were wounded or died during the assault. Private Pigott was KIA on September 29, 1918.

Pvt Harry Langdon Pigott gave his life for what has been called the turning point of the war. Pvt Pigott and the courageous men of the 120th Infantry were the first Allied troops to break the line. It was also the Great War’s deadliest day for NC.

Between September 29th and October 1st, 1918, the three days of the Hindenburg Assault, the following 120th Infantry casualties were reported.
202 KIA
759 Wounded

Pvt Pigott’s remains were returned to the United States on April 3, 1921. [Source: ancestry.com] He was laid to rest in Gurganus Cemetery with his daughter. His headstone shows that he was Killed in Action [Source: findagrave].

This concludes the Brunswick County soldiers who died or were wounded breaking the Hindenburg Line, the conflict that led to the end of the war.

These words were written in 1923: [Source: Library of Congress]

The 2nd American Corps, under Maj. Gen. Geo. W. Read, consisting of the 27th and 30th American Divisions, was not with the main American army at the Marne and St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne. It served throughout the war with the British armies. Consequently the work of the New Yorkers of the 27th and of the Carolinians and the Tennesseans of the 30th has been somewhat obscured in our histories.

The Canal Tunnel sector of the German line north of St. Quentin was tremendously fortified, with passageways running out from the main tunnel to hidden machine gun nests. Into these nests the German gunners returned after the American assaulting waves had passed, and poured a destructive fire into their rear. But through everything the men of the New York and the “Old Hickory” divisions forced their way, supported by the Australians, until the fortified zone was conquered in one of the most desperate single conflicts of the war.

“In fact, in analyzing the records of our state’s dead, we now know that the September 29, 1918, charge on the Hindenburg Line was North Carolina’s deadliest of the war.”Source

If you would like to help us honor Harry Langdon Pigott 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.

Comments Off on WWI Profile: Harry Langdon Pigott 1894-1918

Filed under Honor a Veteran, Veteran Profile

In the News – June 2018

Click here or the NEWS selection at the top of the website to see the many stories in the media about the rifle range and Honor a Brunswick County WWI Veteran project.

As always, The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range appreciates the support of the local media!

Comments Off on In the News – June 2018

Filed under Honor a Veteran, In the News

Independence Day 1918

Source of photos: Library of Congress

THE  A.E.F.  TO  AMERICA — July  4,  1918

On this anniversary of our independence, the officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces on the battlefields of France renew their pledges of fealty and devotion to our cause and country. The resolve of our forefathers that all men and all people should be free is their resolve. It is quickened by sympathy for an invaded people of kindred souls and the war challenge of an arrogant enemy. It is fortified by the united support of the American people.

(Signed)         PERSHING

The American entrance into the war was celebrated by Allied powers on July 4, 1918.

American troops marching through the Place d’Iena on July 4th, 1918, when all of Paris joined in celebrating the American Independence Day

French girls in a balcony over Avenue du President Wilson showering the American troops with flowers during the Fourth of July parade


Allied Representatives at the Belgian General Headquarters saluting the American flag during the United States Independence Day celebrations, 1918

Parade in honor of American Independence Day in Florence, Italy, 1918

A view of the parade on Fifth Avenue, 1918

The drawing below used for The Soldier’s Record represents the cooperation among the Allies.
In order of the illustrations: Cuba, England, France, Romania, America, Belgium, Italy, Serbia, Russia

Source: NC Archives
This Soldier’s Record is for John Wesley Eubank, NC
Click here for the original and to zoom in further.

Additional Reading:
The United States WWI Centennial Commission which was authorized by Congress to designate the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range an Official United States National WWI Centennial Memorial has a short post on the July 4th celebrations: The day the Stars and Stripes flew from Victoria tower

Comments Off on Independence Day 1918

Filed under History

WWI Profile: Hanson Hillard Leonard 1888-1936

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 also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: The Charlotte News (Charlotte, NC) 08, Feb. 1919, p.9
Hanson Hillard Leonard
Southport, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private
Served:
April 2, 1918 – April 18, 1919
Overseas:
May 17, 1918 – April 13, 1919
Wounded: September 19, 1918

Hanson Hillard was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch.

Hanson had a brother who also served, Stacy Harvey Leonard. See below for additional details about his brother’s service.

Hanson’s 1917 Draft Registration Card shows he was single and working as a farm hand for Hiram McKeithan in Southport.

Hanson was ordered to report to duty on April 2, 1918. [Source: ancestry.com] On April 26, he was assigned to Company I, 120th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division.

Previous posts describe activities until September 1, 1918, when Private Edward Mills was wounded. A few days later, the Regiment was relieved by the British.

September 5th and 6th were devoted to cleaning up. The entire Regiment was deloused and bathed at “Kill Bug Station and Hop Factory,” each man receiving a clean suit of underwear. After a period in the line the little bugs were plentiful.

The Regiment trained until the end of September when the 30th Division broke the Hindenburg Line. While Pvt Leonard’s NC Service Card shows he was wounded September 19, the Official History of the 120th Infantry does not seem to indicate an opportunity. More telling is that the document does not include a list of wounded for the dates between September 5 – September 29. While it is possible that his wounds were received on the 19th, it is more likely that he was wounded during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line.

On the night of September 23, 1918, the Division was transferred to the 4th British Army, commanded by General Rawlinson. No one knew what was to take place, but each man in the Regiment felt the time had come for the Regiment to prove its worth.

The Regiment was formed in columns of twos on the road between Acheux and Forceville. Lorry after lorry rolled into place, and at 8:00 P. M. all troops were embussed and ready to move into the night.

All night long the movement continued through Albert, Peronne, Doingt, and along the marshy Somme. With the sky growing lighter in the east the Regiment debussed at Cartigny and marched to Tincourt. Once more the flash of guns and the burst of “Very lights” could be seen.

The same day the Regiment was joined by a detail of Australian officers and men, who were to give whatever assistance the Regiment might need; and from these Australians more was learned in the short period they were with the Regiment, particularly as regards the rationing of troops in the line, than in the entire period of training.

In the afternoon the Regiment marched to Hervilly. Regimental Headquarters was in the side of a sunken road. The troops were scattered wherever room could be found, the mass of artillery, infantry, and cavalry filling the entire country.

The Regiment learned that in front of it lay the hitherto impregnable positions of the Hindenburg Line, against which many fruitless attacks had been made; that the British Army had been given the task of fighting the only decisive battle in the World-War; that the place of honor in this attack between Cambria and St. Quentin had been given the 4th British Army; that the 30th Division, as part of the 4th British Army, would attack in the center with the 46th British on the right and the 27th American on the left; that the 119th and 120th Infantry Regiments had been selected to do the job, with the 117th Infantry to follow and attack to the right after crossing the Canal, and 118th Infantry as Divisional Reserve.

1920 Hindenburg Line model
Source: Library of Congress

This Regiment’s sector of the Hindenburg System consisted: First, of three rows of heavy barbed wire, woven so thick as to resemble a mass of vines and briars intermingled–each row was from thirty to forty feet in depth, and to which the artillery fire did but little damage; second, three rows of the Hindenburg trenches, on which four years of work had been spent; third, the backbone of the entire system, Bellicourt, the St. Quentin Canal Tunnel. This Canal passed for a distance of 6,000 yards underground from Le Catlet on the north to Recquval on the south.

It had been built by the Great Napoleon, and in some places was 193 feet underground. The Germans filled the Canal with barges, lighted it with electric lights, and fitted it with dressing stations. On the barges accommodations were provided for a division of troops, where they could rest secure from any shell-fire.

The end of the tunnel had been closed with ferro-concrete walls with openings left for machine gun. To the trench system and to the town of Bellicourt, overhead, ran concrete tunnels through which troops could move to reinforce the front line or to occupy the prepared positions in Bellicourt; third, the Catlet-Nauroy Line, a supporting system; and, fourth, the village of Nauroy, which had been prepared for defense.

Over the entire area were machine guns without number, not only the probable approaches, but every inch of front was covered by one or more guns.

The Germans believed the position could not be taken, and even when lost, prisoners would not believe it to be possible, and laughed at those who would tell them.

It was the turning point of the war.

Between September 29th and October 1st, 1918, the three days of the Hindenburg Assault, the following 120th Infantry casualties were reported.
202 KIA
759 Wounded

Many months later, Pvt Hanson Leonard returned on USS Martha Washington with his Regiment in early April 1919, and was honorably discharged on April 18, 1919 with no disability. Nothing is known about his wound or recovery.

He married in 1928. The 1930 Census showed he was the father of two step-children. His life ended suddenly in 1936 at age 47. The 1940 Census shows he and his widowed wife had at least one child together.

Hanson Hillard Leonard was laid to rest in Pender County, where he was living at the time. There is no picture of his gravesite but an application for a military headstone was submitted and approved.

Additional details about his brother Stacy’s service

Stacy Leonard’s NC WWI Service Card shows he was a Private in 156 Depot Brigade. The Depot Brigades were to receive, train, equip, and forward replacements (both officers and enlisted men) to replacement divisions of the corps. Yet his military headstone lists “Pfc Co L, 20th Infantry.” Why the discrepancy?

Luckily, Pfc Stacy Leonard’s military headstone application was available on ancestry.com. The back shows that he enlisted in the National Guard on January 20, 1917, and was honorably discharged on September 16, 1917, with a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability (SCD). He was then ordered to duty (for the draft) on August 25, 1918. He served until December 6, 1918 when he was honorably discharged.

His injury or illness in 1917 had to have been recoverable as he passed the physical examination a year later and was accepted for duty. Unless it was a service related disability, he would not have received military disability in 1917.

This explained the discrepancy. As the highest rank achieved is credited, the Brunswick County Army/Marine WWI Veterans – Units, Dates Served was updated to reflect Private First Class. The units and dates served were modified to include both sets of service.

If you would like to help us honor Hanson Hillard Leonard 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.

Comments Off on WWI Profile: Hanson Hillard Leonard 1888-1936

Filed under Honor a Veteran, Veteran Profile

Booth at the 2018 NC 4th of July Festival in Southport

Visit Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range VP Russ Barlowe and other Representatives on

Tuesday, July 3, at Waterfront Park

in the Community Non-Profit Spotlight Booth from 11:00am – 5:00pm.

Available at the booth:
  • Notecards for sale, 5 for $5.00, featuring Helen Radcliffe’s gorgeous watercolor of the rifle range.
  • 5×7 prints for sale, $12.00
  • Certificates to Honor a Brunswick County WWI Veteran for a donation.
  • Pamphlets about the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range
  • Business cards
  • Forms to support the rifle range
  • Information about various events from past and future by the non-profit, which can be found on this website:
    • Recitation of Brunswick County WWI veterans at commemorations throughout the year
    • Designation as a National WWI Centennial Memorial
    • Onsite memorial plans
    • Book to be published (names are being collected of those interested in purchasing the book)

For more information about the festival, visit http://www.nc4thofjuly.com/
Events calendar and map here.

Comments Off on Booth at the 2018 NC 4th of July Festival in Southport

Filed under Event, Exhibit, Honor a Veteran

Graveside Honors: Private Frederick Arnold Willetts 1895-1972

Kenny Jones, Sue Jones Jordan, and Mary Willetts Earp are pictured here honoring their uncle, Private Frederick Arnold Willetts, at his graveside in Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery , Wilmington, New Hanover County, NC.

Private Willetts has been honored with a donation by his Great-nieces Sue Jones Jordan and Maggie Faulkner Harper.

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range are encouraging donors and supporters to honor Brunswick County WWI veterans by submitting photos of themselves at the gravesides. Use the Cemeteries list to locate gravesites for Brunswick County WWI veterans.

Comments Off on Graveside Honors: Private Frederick Arnold Willetts 1895-1972

Filed under Graveside Honors, Honor a Veteran

WWI Profile: Edward Anderson Mills 1891-1953

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 also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Rockingham Post-Dispatch (Rockingham, NC) 21, Nov. 1918, p.9

Edward Anderson Mills
Winnabow, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
September 19, 1917 – February 11, 1919
Overseas:
May 17, 1918 – January 21, 1919
Wounded: September 1, 1918
(Note that Wagoner Dorman Mercer appears on the list. However, they did not serve in the same division.)

Edward Mills was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. His Draft Registration shows he was single, living at home, and working on the family farm.

Edward was ordered to report for duty on September 19, 1917. He was initially assigned to the 322nd Infantry (81st Division). Many from the 81st Division were moved to supplement the 30th Division and this included Pvt Mills. In April 1918, he was transferred to the 120th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division. In May, they left for France, as detailed in the previous post. See previous post for details of operations through mid-August.

Pvt Edward Mills was severely wounded on September 1, 1918. A previous profile for Cpl Mack Atkins of the 119th Infantry describes the activities of the 120th Infantry at the time. There was a gas attack performed by the 105th Engineers that resulted in some of the infantry being gassed. This is one possibility for Pvt Mills’ injuries. But there are also more details about the operations involving Mont Kemmel that went beyond the details in that post.

The 120th Infantry was originally to be relieved by the 117th Infantry after the gas attack, but there was increased activity on the front so it was canceled. When it appeared the Germans were withdrawing from Mont Kemmel (as described in the profile for Cpl Atkins), patrols were sent forward to confirm, and this resulted in some casualties. Then, an attack was ordered.

On the morning of September 1st an attack was made by the Second British Army. The 1st and 3rd Battalions, this Regiment, was ordered to push forward 100 to 1,000 yards, establishing a new line from Lock No. 8 on Canal, running north of Lankhof Farm to Zillebeke Lake. The principal objective was Lankhof Farm, a strongly fortified position surrounded by a moat. The fighting was very bitter, but, with the cooperation of the artillery, who maintained close liaison with the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, the new line was taken and consolidated, for the consolidation troops were sent up from the 2nd Battalion and from the engineers. The 119th Infantry made a successful advance on the right, taking Voormezeele.

Given the date he was wounded, September 1st, it is likely this was when Pvt Mills was wounded. His injuries were severe and he did not return to duty.

Between July 4th to September 5th, 1918, the following 120th Infantry casualties were reported.
34 KIA
216 Wounded
1 POW

On January 2, 1919, he was taken aboard USS DeKalb from Base Hospital No. 29 in Liverpool, England, with other sick and wounded soldiers, headed for Camp Merritt for more treatment and recovery [Source: ancestry.com].

Base Hospital No. 29 was organized at City and County Hospital, Denver, Colo., on April 5, 1917, and was mobilized at Camp Cody, N. Mex., during March, 1918. The nurses (some 100) were all graduates of Colorado State University and were equipped by the Denver Red Cross Chapter.

The unit trained at Camp Cody and at Camp Crane, Allentown, Pa., until July 5, 1918, when it left for Hoboken, N. J., arriving there on July 6, 1918. It embarked on the Empress of Russia, and sailed the same date for Europe. The unit arrived in England on July 17, 1918, and was assigned to duty at North Eastern Fever Hospital, London, where it arrived on the night of July 19, 1918. It took over the hospital from the British on August 1, 1918. The hospital cared for 3,976 cases, of which 2,351 were surgical and 1,625 were medical.

Base Hospital No. 29 ceased operating on January 12, 1919; sailed for the United States on the Olympic, February 18, 1919; arrived in the United States on February 24, 1919, and was demobilized at Fort Logan, Colo., on March 13, 1919. [Source: The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Chapter 24, and Lost Hospitals of London]

After returning to the United States, it would be a few more weeks before Pvt Mills completed recovery. He was honorably discharged on February 11, 1919, with no reported disability.

Edward returned to the family farm, and married years later in 1930. The 1940 Census shows that he and his wife had three daughters. The final number of children is unknown.

Tragically, Edward was killed by a falling tree in 1953. He was laid to rest in Robbins Cemetery in Town Creek. Military honors are shown.

Information regarding the 120th Infantry was gathered from Official History of the 120th Infantry “3rd North Carolina” 30th Division, From August 5, 1917, to April 17, 1919. Canal Sector Ypres-Lys Offensive Somme Offensive

If you would like to help us honor Edward Anderson Mills 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.

Comments Off on WWI Profile: Edward Anderson Mills 1891-1953

Filed under Honor a Veteran, Veteran Profile

Graveside Honors: High Point, NC

Some supporters of Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range traveled to High Point to seek the gravesite of one of Brunswick County’s three WWI veterans awarded medals during their service: Corporal Curtis Lee Smith.

Corporal Smith’s WWI Profile had already been posted but until now, the details and picture of his gravesite were unavailable. His death certificate shows Floral Garden Park in High Point as the cemetery. If his gravesite could be located, then military honors could be verified.

Floral Garden Memorial Park (Cemetery Census) is 44 acres. There is an onsite office and files are available to offer an exact location of a grave. Because the information in findagrave for this cemetery indicated that phone queries could be a problem, an actual visit to the office was made instead. Maps to the gravesite were provided by a very nice gentleman in the office.

Below, the map of the cemetery indicating the correct section, followed by the map of the section indicating his gravesite.

Findagrave accepts GPS coordinates and Plot numbers, both of which were entered after the visit.

Corporal Curtis Lee Smith‘s gravesite is next to his wife, Mary Alice Jones Smith. Both pictures were added to findagrave.

His flat marker is not an official military marker but it does include the words, U.S. ARMY HERO, WWI.

Three Brunswick County men were awarded medals for their service in WWI. We now know the resting places for all of them.

    • Sergeant Forney Boston Mintz
      ★Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster

    • Private Benjamin Bantie Smith (Died of Wounds)
      ★Silver Star, British Military Medal

    • Corporal Curtis Lee Smith
      ★Silver Star

If you are interested in assisting with the discovery of gravesites, please read this post: Memorial Day 2018: Graveside Honors for more information.

Comments Off on Graveside Honors: High Point, NC

Filed under Graveside Honors, Honor a Veteran

WWI Profile: Erastus I. Nelson 1893-1918

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 also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

Source: Randolph County Public Library
120th Infantry at Camp Sevier, SC
March 16, 1918

Erastus I. Nelson
Leland, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private First Class

Served:
September 19, 1917 – August 22, 1918
Overseas:
May 12, 1918 – August 22, 1918
Killed in Action: August 22, 1918

Erastus Nelson was born and raised in Brunswick County. A partial family tree is located in FamilySearch. The 1910 Census and his WWI Draft Registration shows he was working on his father’s farm.

Erastus had a brother who also served, Walter Decator Nelson. See below for additional information about his brother’s service.

On September 19, 1917, Erastus was ordered to report for duty [Source: ancestry.com].

The 120th Infantry was formed with the 119th Infantry, as part of the 30th “Old Hickory” Division as described in previous posts. The roster contains quite a few Brunswick County men. All of the rosters can be found on the World War I Army/Marine Division Rosters webpage

30th Division, 120th Infantry (from Brunswick County)

Name Co.
Pfc Kinnie Benton H
Pvt William C Hewett C Died of Wounds 10/25/1918
Pvt Hanson H Leonard I Wounded 09/19/1918
Pvt Jesse J Leonard D Wounded 10/09/1918
Pvt Claudie H McCall Sup Died of Disease 04/13/1919
Wag George M Milliken Sup
Pvt Edward A Mills M Severely Wounded 09/01/1918
Pfc Erastus I Nelson C KIA 08/22/1918
Pvt Harry L Piggott M KIA 09/29/1918
Pvt Andrew J Robbins F
Pvt Byron Stanley I
Pvt Martin R Willis A

The 120th Infantry trained at Camp Sevier, SC, along with the other units of the 30th Division. They soon began training with French and British instructors covering the use of bayonets, bombs, scouting, trench-warfare and open-warfare. The middle of December 1917 brought an unusually frigid winter that interfered with training and caused hardships, but the men were able to resume training in January.

The trip to NYC to prepare for embarkation began in May 1918. All men had an opportunity to visit the city, which was a great experience for “most of the men.” (no further explanation was given)

Transport from Boston to London was provided by an Australian transport service. The food, therefore, was Australian and not appreciated by the men. The boats were crowded but the weather was good and all submarine attacks were unsuccessful.

The trip to France was completed on June 5, 1918, when all men were given a copy of an autographed letter from His Majesty, George V.

At first, the men were anxious to join the battle.

…for a long time the constant query was “When do we go South?” but in course of time it was changed to “We don’t want to go South.” At Calias the distant thunder of guns could be heard, and the nightly air raids with the accompaniment of bombs, taking their nightly toll of women and children, gave the first touch of war, and opened the eyes of many to the kind of enemy they were to fight.

They were the first troops to enter Belgium. It was July 4th and the village had Belgium and French flags flying from the houses in honor of the American holiday.

In early August, the men were thrilled to have an inspection by King George. It was over in a few minutes but enjoyed by all.

Training was finished and the Division prepared to relieve British troops at the Canal Sector at Ypres.

The entire sector is a ghastly monument to the tenacity and courage of the British soldiers. For four long years they held it against bitter attacks by a determined enemy; to-day it is consecrated ground made sacred by the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Britain’s finest sons; and the few Americans who lie “where poppies bloom”

On the night of August 17-18, the 120th and 119th Infantry relieved the British troops. At this time, Pvt Luther Benton of the 119th Infantry was wounded, as shared in his WWI Profile.

The ground was very low, easily flooded, and the water so near the surface that each shell hole became a little pool. All of the high ground, Observatory Ridge, Passchendaele Ridge, and the famous Mont Kimmel, was held by the enemy. These points of observation enabled the enemy to detect any movement within the sector, and, as a result, daylight movement was of necessity reduced to a minimum, for even small parties would provoke instant and heavy shelling. The Salient was so deep and so narrow it was subjected to shell-fire from front, flanks, and rear. Oftentimes the men in the forward systems believed they were being shelled by their own artillery, when as a matter of fact the shells were from enemy guns on our right and rear.

It was during these operations, on August 22, 1918, that Pfc Erastus Nelson was killed in action.

Between July 4th to September 5th, 1918, the following 120th Infantry casualties were reported.
34 KIA
216 Wounded
1 POW

The Wilmington Morning Star [Wilmington, NC] 29 Sept. 1918, p.8 published this about his death.

The following is a copy of a letter from Lieut. Gross [George] McClelland, chaplain, 120th infantry, 30th division, American Expeditionary forces, to Mr. and Mrs. John C. Nelson, R.F.D. 1, Leland, notifying them of the death of their son, Erastus I. Nelson, who was killed in action August 22:

“Your son met death instantly yesterday afternoon by a direct hit. He was in the line of his duty and died like a man. I wish, as the officiating chaplain at his burial, to command you to the great Comforter of hearts in this your dark but proud hour.

“We buried your son this morning at Nine Elms cemetery with due military honors. A number of the boys from our regiment were present at the service.

“I should like to get a line from you at any time. Meantime, assuring you of my personal sympathy, and with every high personal regard.”

A friend of Private Nelson has received a letter from him, which was written August 17, five days before he paid the supreme price. The letter follows:

“There are so many laws concerning what a solider can and cannot write that I hardly know what a fellow is allowed to say and get his letter past the censor. Anyway I am well and getting plenty to eat, although it is far from being your table.

“We are not working so hard now. This much talked about ‘Sunny France’ is not what I expected to find. Its lots colder here than at home, and is at least 100 years behind the good old U.S.A. in every respect. The more I see of it the more I appreciate America.

“I am having quite a lot of fun with my French. By using my hands I can generally make myself understand. I think I am going to be able to speak French soon. I find more trouble trying to count the money than anything else.

“We are billeted in a French village, but am not allowed to give the name. At present am sleeping in a barn, which is not so bad so long as we are under a roof.

“If at any time you do not hear from me for quite a while do not worry for if anything happens you will be notified at once.”

His remains were returned to the United States in 1921 [Source: ancestry.com] and laid to rest in Nelson Cemetery in Leland, NC.

Source: findagrave
PRIVATE ERASTUS I. NELSON
SON OF J.G. & HARRIET S. NELSON

BORN OCT. 8, 1893
DIED AUG. 22, 1918

KILLED IN ACTION WHILE
SERVING AS AN INFANTRYMAN
WITH AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY
FORCES IN BELGIUM

[Remaining illegible]

Pfc Erastus Iredell Nelson was the first KIA from Brunswick County.
There would be four more.

Information regarding the 120th Infantry was gathered from Official History of the 120th Infantry “3rd North Carolina” 30th Division, From August 5, 1917, to April 17, 1919. Canal Sector Ypres-Lys Offensive Somme Offensive

Additional details about his brother Walter’s service.

Walter was a Wagoner with the 117th Engineer Train, 42nd “Rainbow” Division. The 117th Engineer Train was created entirely with North Carolina men. Wagoner Walter Nelson served with Wagoner Dorman Mercer and quite a few other Brunswick County men. More information will be available when the 42nd Division is covered in later profiles. This is confirmed by his NC WWI Service Card and his US Army Transport Passenger lists [Source: ancestry.com] for both outgoing and incoming, as well as the Roster for the 42nd Division. Yet, his application for military headstone and his military flat marker show “155 Depot Brigade.” The Depot Brigades were to receive, train, equip, and forward replacements (both officers and enlisted men) to replacement divisions of the corps. Walter Nelson had enlisted in the NC National Guard in July 1917, was a member of the 117th Engineer Train in October 1917 when he was transported to France, and remained in the 117th Engineer Train through April 1919 when he returned to the United States.

With all of this evidence from multiple records and the published roster, the assumption is his military flat marker is incorrect.

If you would like to help us honor Erastus I. Nelson 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.

Comments Off on WWI Profile: Erastus I. Nelson 1893-1918

Filed under Honor a Veteran, Veteran Profile