Monthly Archives: January 2018

WWI Profile: George Harker Hewett 1897-1956

George Harker Hewett
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard
Corporal

Served:
August 15, 1916 – April 16, 1919
Overseas:
May 26, 1918 – April 13, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918
Severely Gassed

The previous veteran profile described the birth of the 30th Division, “Old Hickory”, created from National Guard members from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, supplemented by volunteers and draftees from around the United States.

The 30th Division insignia is shown above. It consists of the “O” and “H” from the name “Old Hickory” and three XXXs, the Roman numeral for 30.

Like Lawson Ballard, George Harker Hewett enlisted in the NC National Guard in 1916. Perhaps they knew each other as their enlistment dates are the same day. According to The History of the 105th Engineering Regiment of Engineers, George likely was in Company A, NC Engineers, organized in Wilmington in 1916, mustered into Federal Service, then engaged at the Mexican Border. When the US entered WWI, George, Lawson Ballard, and Vander Simmons were moved into the new 30th Division, assigned to the 105th Engineers. (Later, Harvey Chadwick, Thedford Lewis, and Samuel Cox joined the 105th Engineers – see table from previous veteran profile.)

The “Old Hickory” Division trained at Camp Sevier, SC, a temporary cantonment site created for the WWI training of National Guard troops. Soldiers trained in a range of common infantry skills and in new modes of warfare, such as gas defense and the use of the machine gun.

The 105th Engineers were required to learn not only infantry skills but engineering work.

Boy, they dig trenches and mend roads all night, and they fight all day!'”

– Lt. Col. John Thomason, referring to engineers

Their responsibilities included the construction and maintenance/repair of trenches, barbed wire, shell- and splinter-proof shelters, roads, bridges, railroads, buildings, and finding water sources/wells for both men and horses, tested for safety. They also performed gas attacks, removed “booby” traps and mines, and tested for gas in buildings and trenches. All of this was often performed while under artillery fire!

Major (later Colonel) Joseph Hyde Pratt was second in command and then Commanding Officer and remained with them throughout the war. Colonel Pratt was from Chapel Hill, where some of his previous titles were Professor of Economic Geology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; State Engineer and State Geologist of NC; Secretary of NC State Highway Commission; and Consulting Engineer. Colonel Pratt kept a diary of the 105th, providing us insight into the challenges of the engineers. “There is too much tendency to make us Infantry instead of Engineers but we can do either and do it well.” – August 12, 1918

(left) At Camp Sevier, SC, the 105th Engineers laid out and supervised the construction of the rifle range.

(right) You may recognize this photo from the History section of this website. These are the target butts constructed by the 105th Engineers at Camp Sevier.

(left) Constructing a pontoon bridge during training at Camp Sevier.

(right) One of the many concrete machine gun pill boxes constructed by the Engineers in Belgium.

(left) A pyramid shelter constructed by the Engineers in Belgium.

Like Corporal Ballard, Corporal Hewett was seriously wounded by German gas shells on September 29, 1918, the day of the assault on the Hindenburg Line. (More details on the assault will follow in the next veteran profile.)

George’s gas injury is listed on page 283 as part of the Special Order from the Headquarters of the 105th Engineering Regiment found on pages 280 – 285 of the book The History of the 105th Regiment of Engineers, located in the NC Digital Collections. The order gave him the right to wear a wound chevron. (Wound chevrons were replaced by the Purple Heart in 1932.)

Also like Lawson, George returned to Brunswick County, married, and raised his family in Wilmington. In 1956, he was laid to rest alongside his wife in a cemetery there.

Most of the information gathered was from The History of the 105th Engineering Regiment of Engineers, and the incredible diary Colonel Pratt kept for his wife and son.

If you would like to help us honor George Harker Hewett 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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Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range Receive Contribution


Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range received a $1000 contribution for the historic 1918 rifle range project from long time supporters Norman and Lois Sprinthall.

“The Centennial of World War I is here and we have a prize in our own backyard as a reminder of the men and women that served and sacrificed in that war.” ~ Norman.

Their contribution was in honor of Norman’s father, Sergeant Archie Sprinthall, who served in World War I with the 103rd Field Artillery, 26th Division.

“My father joined the war effort in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and he would have wanted me to help save this rifle range located in our residential area in Caswell Beach.”

This picture of Sergeant Sprinthall taken near Chateau-Thierry in 1918 shows a large French knife tucked in his belt given to him by the French trainers before he went into battle. Sergeant Sprinthall fought in many of the fiercest battles while in France, including the 2nd Battle of the Marne, the Liberation of Verdun and the Meuse-Argonne.

Norman has made two pilgrimages to the battlefields in France to reflect on the meaning and the effect it had on his family as well as others. Norman’s father returned from France, but many of his fellow soldiers did not.

Norman visited the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France to pay his respects at the gravesites of his father’s fallen comrades from the 26th Division.

Norman also visited the church in Belleau. The original church was destroyed by American artillery and rebuilt using funds raised by Sgt Sprinthall and other veterans from the 26th Division. It was completed and dedicated in 1929.

The plaque over the wooden door shows this inscription (in French)

This church, destroyed during the world war, has been rebuilt by the veterans of the 26th Division of the American Expeditionary Force in memory of their comrades who fell on the soil of France while fighting for a common cause.

Visiting the major battlefields where our military fought was the final homage paid to the men and women of the ‘war to end all wars’ before the Sprinthalls left for home.

Norman would like his donation to assist in the complete stabilization of the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range, and is looking forward to the Brunswick County World War I Memorial planned for dedication at the site of the rifle range on Armistice Day, November 11, 2018.

“What is funny, well not really funny, is that I’ve been passing the rifle range so often since we purchased our condo back in 1985 and never thought to find out what it was or what it was used for. So now that we all know that it was used to train the military to perfect their markmanship before leaving for France in World War I, why not put our heads together and make it a memorial for all residents in NC to honor, especially Caswell Beach? This historic structure tells us a story of our past going back 100 years ago.” ~ Norman

 

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WWI Profile: Lawson Devaun Ballard 1896-1981

Source: NC Digital Collections
Company A, 105th Engineers Regiment, 30th Division; Camp Jackson, SC; probably 1919, before mustering out

Lawson Devaun Ballard
Suburb, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard
Corporal

Served:
August 24, 1916 – April 16, 1919
Overseas:
May 26, 1918 – April 13, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918
Severely Gassed

Lawson Devaun Ballard was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. Most of his family is buried in Bolivia or Wilmington. Two of Lawson’s brothers, John Thomas Ballard and Edgar Levett Ballard (WWI Profile), are also WWI veterans. His family tree can be viewed on FamilySearch.

In 1916, Lawson joined the NC National Guard. A year later, the United States was drawn into the war in Europe.

January 31, 1917: Germany announced its U-boats would sink without warning all ships traveling to and from British or French ports.

March 1917: U-boats sank three American merchant ships with a heavy loss of life.

April 2, 1917: President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress to declare war against Germany.

April 6, 1917: America entered the Great War.

When the United States entered World War I, the country faced the enormous task of creating a modern army and transporting it overseas.

World War I remains one of the defining events in the history of the U.S. Army. The conflict transformed the Army from a small dispersed organization to a modern industrialized fighting force capable of global reach and influence.

Source of table: WWI Fact Sheet

U.S. Army Statistics:
April 1, 1917: November 11, 1918:
Regular Army:

Philippine Scouts:

National Guard:

  • Federal:
  • State:

127,588

5,523

181,620

  • 80,446
  • 101,174
Increments:

  • Commissioned:
  • Inducted:
  • Enlisted:

3,882,617

  • 203,786
  • 2,801,373
  • 877,458
Total Available: 213,557 Total Army Forces: 4,176,297

 

New divisions were created using existing National Guard units such as Lawson’s.

Source of table: Maneuver and Firepower: The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades

Lawson’s new division, the 30th, was nicknamed “Old Hickory” after Andrew Jackson because of his historic connection between the three states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee) furnishing the majority of the personnel. The division’s organization included the 117th, 118th, 119th, and 120th Infantry Regiments, the 113th, 114th, 115th Artillery Regiments, the 113th, 114th, 115th Machine Gun Battalions, and the 105th Engineer Regiment, along with other supporting units.

In all, six Brunswick County men served the duration of the war in the 105th Engineers of the 30th Division. Rosters are listed in The History of the 105th Engineering Regiment of Engineers

Lawson Devaun Ballard Enlisted:
National Guard
August 1916 Company A
George Harker Hewett Enlisted:
National Guard
August 1916 Company A
Vander L. Simmons Enlisted:
National Guard
October 1916 Company A
Harvey T. Chadwick Ordered to Report March 1918 Company D
Samuel Peter Cox Ordered to Report March 1918 Company A
Thedford S. Lewis Ordered to Report March 1918 Company D
Note: Pvt Carl Jefferson Danford died of pneumonia before the roster in the document referenced above was created. He trained in Company D until his death in December 1917.
Pvt Henry W. Cannon trained in Company B until his discharge in March 1918, due to dependent relatives.

 

Late in the conflict, in August 1918, the distinction between National Guard, Reserve Corps, Regular Army, and National Army was legally dissolved and all four elements were fused into one organization, the United States Army. This was the first time in American history that career soldiers, citizen soldiers, and drafted men of the infantry found themselves on the same legal basis.

On May 26, 1918, Lawson boarded Talthybius to France, along with the other five Brunswick County men. After a short training period, the division was transferred to the British troops in Belgium to help construct defensive positions. This was followed by more training and offensives. Their defining battle was the assault on the Hindenburg Line, which began at 5:50am on September 29, 1918. The action was part of a series of Allied assaults known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the Armistice of November 1918.

Lawson was seriously wounded by German gas shells on September 29, 1918, the day of the assault on the Hindenburg Line. (More details on the 105th Engineers will follow.)

Lawson’s gas injury is listed on page 283 as part of the Special Order from the Headquarters of the 105th Engineering Regiment found on pages 280 – 285 of the book The History of the 105th Regiment of Engineers, located in the NC Digital Collections. The order gave him the right to wear a wound chevron. (Wound chevrons were replaced by the Purple Heart in 1932.)

Lawson returned to Brunswick County, married, and raised his family in Wilmington. In 1981, he was laid to rest alongside his wife in a cemetery there.

If you would like to help us honor Lawson Devaun Ballard 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: Robert Bollie Stanley 1894-1961

Robert Bollie Stanley
Shallotte, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
March 29, 1918 – August 25, 1919
Overseas:
June 10, 1918 – March 24, 1919
POW – Wounded: October 29, 1918

 

Robert Bollie Stanley was born and raised in Shallotte, NC, where most of his family remained throughout their lives. The 1900 Census lists his father George (1870-1931), with mother Francis (1870-1957) having two children, all living. Besides Robert: his sister Hattie E (1896-1936) and later, Ellen (1902-1975).

His father and mother are buried in Stanley Cemetery (Brierwood Golf Course).

Robert’s WWI Draft Registration of June 1917 lists his occupation as laborer at Southport Fish Scrap & Oil Company, living in Shallotte, NC, and unmarried.

As the previous two WWI Veteran Profiles recounted, Robert was honored with a position in the 365th Infantry, 92nd Division, along with William Frederick Brooks, who sadly had died of meningitis days before the infantry left for France, and William James Gordon, all from Brunswick County.

The passing months of training, drilling, and the occupation, then command, of the St. Dié Sector, was leading up to the main offensive that eventually ended the war: the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

A diary written by the captain of their infantry brings the countryside and experiences alive. One entry in August describes his first experience of shell fire, giving a glimpse into what Pfc Gordon and Pvt Stanley were experiencing.

I had my first experience of shell fire. It is an experience that one cannot well describe. You hear the boom of the distant gun then the rushing whine and screeching of the shell as it passes, then you wait for the terrific explosion wondering how far beyond you it will strike. It sure causes a weakness in the knees and a funny feeling up your back. The man that says he was not scared at those first shells he heard is either a damn fool or a liar.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26 – November 11, 1918, was the southern part of the great triple offensive that broke the German lines on the Western Front and ended with the signing of the armistice.

The Meuse-Argonne front (the area around the Meuse River and Forest of Argonne) had been practically stabilized in September, 1914, and, except for minor fluctuations remained unchanged until the American advance in 1918. The net result of the four years’ struggle on this ground was a German defensive system of unusual depth and strength and a wide zone of utter devastation, itself a serious obstacle to offensive operations.

The strategical importance of this portion of the line was second to none on the western front.  All supplies and evacuations of the German armies in northern France were dependent upon two great railway systems: the southern one, where the 92nd Division was located, being the Carignan-Sedan-Mézières line.

Should this southern system be cut by the Allies before the enemy could withdraw his forces through the narrow neck between Mezieres and the Dutch frontier, the ruin of his armies in France and Belgium would be complete.

The operations in the Meuse-Argonne battle really form a continuous whole, but they extended over such a long period of continuous fighting that they will here be considered in three phases, the first from September 26th to October 3rd, the second from October 4th to 31st, and the third from November 1st to 11th. It was during the second phase that Pvt Robert Stanley was reported MIA.

Source of map
On October 9, the 92nd Division relieved the French 68th Division and assumed command of the Marbache Sector. Their mission was to hold the line of the First Army east of Moselle, harassing the enemy by frequent patrols. The 183d Infantry Brigade occupied the front line with the 366th and 365th Infantry Regiments in line from right to left. The advance of the 92nd Division can be seen in the South East corner of the map shown at Pont a Mousson.

During the period October 9-31 the division was engaged in patrolling on the front.

The danger of the assignment was reflected in the casualty reports. In the one month of patrolling, there were 23 Killed in Action or Died of Wounds, 362 Wounded, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 Missing, which included Pvt Robert Stanley. The French decorated members of the 365th Infantry and 350th Machine Gun Battalion for their aggressiveness and bravery.

Source: Men of the 366th during Gas mask drill. The 366th was in the 183rd Infantry Brigade with the 365th.

By the end of October, the First Army had accomplished the first part of its plan for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and was  ready to undertake the second operation, i. e., cut the Carignan-Sedan-Mézières railroad, and drive the enemy beyond the Meuse. It was planned that an attack to accomplish this would be launched on November 1.

The last week of the war took a heavy toll, especially as the Germans grew more desperate and lobbed an enormous amount of poisonous gas in their direction. Pvt Stanley was still missing.

He would not be released until November 27.

Pvt Robert Stanley returned to America on March 24, 1919, with his right leg amputated at the thigh (source:ancestry.com). He was not discharged until August 25, 1919, with a 95% disability classification.

After the war, Robert married Ethel Harrison and had several children (total number unknown). Little else is known about this hero from Brunswick County.

Robert Bollie Stanley was laid to rest September 22, 1961, in the same cemetery as his parents. A military headstone was not requested, so no WWI honors are displayed, giving no indication he made such considerable sacrifices for his country.

If you would like to help us honor Robert Bollie Stanley 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: William James Gordon 1891-1930

William James Gordon
Southport, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private, First Class

Served:
March 29, 1918 – April 9, 1919
Overseas:
June 10, 1918 – February 11, 1919
Wounded: November 4, 1918
Gunshot wound

Photo source: 92ndinfantry.org.

William James Gordon was born May 29, 1891, in Southport, Brunswick County, NC, the son of Franklin H. Gordon (1855-1939), a public school teacher (and first black educator in Brunswick County), and Nannie Gordon (1860-1943). His father is buried in Smith Cemetery in Southport. His father’s headstone shows William had two siblings, Cenelius and Frank. The locations of his mother’s and brothers’ gravesites are unknown.

Note: The John N. Smith Cemetery in Southport was named by the Wilmington Foundation as the most threatened historic site in the Cape Fear region for 2017. The 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range is on this list as well. The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range support the recovery and restoration of this important cemetery.

William was married on June 4, 1912, in Southport to Evelyn Frink (1891-1957). His 1917 WWI Draft Registration shows he was married with a 4 year old son. He is listed as a laborer working in Philadelphia. His son, William James Gordon, Jr. (1913-2004) had a very distinguished career in education like his grandfather, served his country like his father, and is buried in Lebanon National Cemetery in Kentucky.

As the previous WWI Veteran Profile recounted, William was honored with a position in the 365th Infantry, 92nd Division, along with William Frederick Brooks, who sadly had died of meningitis days after the infantry left for France, and Robert Bollie Stanley, all from Brunswick County.

Before leaving for France, the 92nd Division chose their insignia and nickname. The 92nd was nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers” in honor of African American troops who served in the American West after the Civil War. The patch is shown above.

Company H of the 365th Infantry, which included Pvt Gordon and Pvt Stanley, embarked at Hoboken, NJ, on June 10, 1918, and reached Brest, France, on the 19th day of June, 1918. The camp was established at Bourbonne-les-Bains, a small resort area in the northeast of France, about 60 miles from the front. They immediately began an eight week period of intensive training in offensive and defensive tactics.

On July 6, 1918, Pvt Gordon was promoted to Private First Class.

Photo source: 92nd Division WWI History.
This map shows the approximate location of the front lines in western Europe when the 92nd Division was deployed.

The soldiers of the 92nd and the 93rd infantry divisions were the first Americans to fight in France.

In August, they took up positions in the St. Die sector, where they received their first contact with the enemy. They fought with honor through many engagements on the Meuse-Argonne front and won numerous awards from the French.

Photo source: net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/scott/Stn06.htm
October 29, 1918: Pvt Robert Bollie Stanley (Pfc Gordon’s fellow soldier from Brunswick County) was reported missing.

November 4, 1918: Pfc Gordon was wounded.

November 11, 1918: The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed.

In the 365th’s final battle, there were 43 Killed in Action or Died of Wounds, 583 Wounded, and 32 Missing, most of whom were killed or succumbed to wounds. Of the three initial Brunswick County soldiers in the infantry, Pvt William Frederick Brooks died of disease before leaving the United States, Pfc William James Gordon was wounded, and Pvt Robert Bollie Stanley was missing.

On February 25, 1919, Pfc Gordon boarded the U.S.S. Nansemond with other sick and wounded soldiers. He was discharged from the Army on April 9, 1919.

William passed away in 1930 from heart disease [source: ancestry.com]. His death certificate lists a contributory cause to his death as “paralysis left side due to bullet wounds received in world war.”

He was laid to rest in Smith Cemetery with his father. A military headstone was requested in 1937 and remains there today.

In the years following the war, the 92nd Division gained fame as records of their accomplishments slowly became known. The November 7, 1942 edition of Baltimore Afro-American, p 20, published this account from General John J. Pershing:

The 92nd Division has been, without a doubt, a great success. And I desire to commend both the officers and the men for the high state of discipline and the excellent morale which has existed in this command during its entire stay in France.

The 92nd Division continued their gallantry in World War II, after which segregation in the military was ended.

Most of the information gathered was from E.J. Scott, author of The American Negro in the World War, Chapter XI, which quoted the work of T.T. Thompson, Historian of the Famous 92nd Division.
Another excellent reference is the website http://92ndinfantry.org/

If you would like to help us honor William James Gordon 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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FAQ: Honor a Brunswick County WWI Veteran

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How do I make a donation?

A: Click on the green button on the right side of the website: “How to make a donation” or HERE.

Q: How do I choose a Brunswick County WWI veteran to honor?

A: To view the list, click on the blue button on the right side of the website: “WWI Brunswick Co. Veterans” or HERE. The webpage listing the names of the veterans also allows you to view the spreadsheets, which contain much more information.

Q: Give me an example of choosing one.

A: One supporter of the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range decided to give a Christmas gift to her family members by making a donation in a family member’s name.

Her mother-in-law had retired from a career in nursing, so a donation was made to honor Nurse Susan Williams.

Her father-in-law had retired from a career in the US Army as a supply sergeant. A donation was made to honor Sgt Joseph Walker Mintz, a soldier who had also retired from a career in the army as a supply sergeant.

Q: What if I want to honor a veteran who has already been chosen?

A: You can honor a veteran that has already been chosen! Any donation you make will ultimately be used to honor all of the Brunswick County WWI veterans through the dedication of the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range Brunswick County WWI memorial.

Q: I still can’t choose one. What should I do?

A: You can make a donation to honor all of the Brunswick County Veterans. We will send you a certificate for your donation. Another option is to make a general donation to the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range in memory of a loved one.

As an example, Norman Sprinthall made a donation in honor of his father Archie Sprinthall from Rhode Island, who served in World War I.

But your loved one isn’t required to have served. In addition, you could also make a gift in a family member’s or friend’s name as shown in the example above.

Q: How do I decide the amount to donate?

A: Any amount you feel comfortable donating is welcome!

Q: Where did you find the NC Service Cards? Can I search for someone who served in WWI?

A: The North Carolina WWI Service Cards are now available online for free through the joint efforts of FamilySearch and the State Archives of North Carolina. FamilySearch (familysearch.org) is a free site, but requires registration to view records.

You can read more about the NC WWI Service Records on this State Archives of North Carolina blog entry

Another State Archives blog entry is available that helps interpret the service cards. Definitions of abbreviations can be found here.

Q: Is the Brunswick County WWI Veteran list a complete list?

A: No, it is very difficult to find all names. The names on this list were collected by searching for Brunswick County among these sources:

  • NC WWI Service Cards (familysearch.org)
  • WWI lists of men ordered to report to the Brunswick County Board for military duty (ancestry.com)
  • Brunswick County local draft board records (NC Digital Collections)
  • Passenger lists for US Army Transport to/from France during and after WWI (ancestry.com)
  • Any other state WWI Service Cards available online (familysearch.org, ancestry.com, and resources here)

If you know of someone not included in the list, please contact ftcaswellriflerange@gmail.com.

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