Category Archives: History

Why “Doughboy”? revisited

Last week, a page from the 1920-21 Fort Benning yearbook The Doughboy was posted which explained the quest to find the origins of the word doughboy, a term referring to US Army infantry.

The style of writing was humorous. This was the beginning of the Roaring 20s, which was characterized by breaking tradition and formality in contrast to the somber mood of WWI. However, humor is also a tool used to deal with trying conditions. Recall the 77th Division’s “Our Company” which was written in rhyme form, or the 81st Division’s play, “The Bloody War.”

The yearbook had many samples of this writing style and contained oodles of comics. Some would describe the yearbook as “a hoot.” Many of the documents from this period that were used to write the WWI Profiles were written this way.

The 1936 version of the yearbook had returned to a more formal writing style, although some comics were included.

To reiterate, three possible origins of doughboy as US Army Infantry were presented, and the term was traced back to the Revolutionary War.

  • Soldiers kept the piping on their uniforms white by applying pipe-clay, referred to as “dough.”
  • “Dough ball” was used to describe a certain type of button worn on the Infantry overcoats in the early parts of the nineteenth century.
  • The Cavalrymen started it, making fun of infantry because they have to plod along through the mud.

And one additional theory is presented by The History Channel.

  • During the Mexican War of 1846-48, American infantrymen made long treks over dusty terrain, giving them the appearance of being covered in flour, or dough. As a variation of this account goes, the men were coated in the dust of adobe soil and as a result were called “adobes,” which morphed into “dobies” and, eventually, “doughboys.”

Please contact Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range with any additional documented theories.

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Why “Doughboy”?

Copied from the Camp Benning 1920-21 yearbook. Source listed below.

“Who, what and why is a ‘doughboy’?” Well, he is an American Infantryman, of course, as distinguished from all other wearers of Uncle Sam’s uniform, and about the best two-fisted and two-legged fighting man of which there is any record anywhere, and he gets his name because – because, why, er, come to think of it, how does he get the name?

And there you are. In an ambitious attempt to solve this mystery of long standing for the benefit of our readers, we went to no less an authority than Lieut. Col. James G. Hannah, Director of the Department of Research, and an officer of long service and deep erudition. “My boy,” said the Colonel sadly, “you ask me the only question this Department has never been able to solve satisfactorily by the critical research method. In my youth, I, too, was intrigued by this mystery and spent many long hours pouring over musty tomes of military lore, delving deep into the official records of our Army back to Revolutionary days, but never have I encountered an explanation that would really explain this perplexed question. This Department can only commend your worthy purpose and wish you success in the task you have set yourselves.”

With our confidence somewhat shaken, but still hopeful nevertheless, we next accosted a grizzled non-com, who bore on his battle-scarred breast all the campaign ribbons since the Black Hawk War. “Can’t say, sir,” he replied to our question. “I’ve heard it all my life, but never took the trouble to find out how we happened to get the name. Some say the Cavalrymen started it, sort of making fun of us, I guess, because we have to plod along through the mud, and I suppose that’s as reasonable as for us to call them Yellow Legs.”

And so it was all along the line. About all our investigation established was that, as regards this question, there are two major schools of thought, one of which adheres to the origin stated by Sergeant Hill just quoted, while the other contends that “doughboy” is a corruption of the words, “dough ball” used to describe a certain type of button worn on the Infantry overcoats in the early parts of the nineteenth century. Still another tenable theory comes from the use of pipe-clay (familiarly known as “dough”) to whiten the trouser stripes of the dress uniform. And here we are forced to rest, leaving the solution of the question to some master mind of the future, if indeed there is a solution. May it not be that, like Topsy, the term was not born, but “jes growed”?

Regardless of how the sobriquet originated or the idea it may at one time have been intended to convey, the title “doughboy” is Infantry property and belongs of right to no other branch, all of which have their own popular nicknames. We are proud of it, and justly resent its misuse. In these days of machinery, when our brethren of the Field Artillery, the Engineers, the Air Service and other branches call to their aid the genius of the gasoline engine to move them from place to place, there is inspiration in the realization that we “doughboys” are not dependent upon any thing but the equipment we were born with, and that while we may churn up a lot of mud in the process, we GET THERE just the same. If we are a little slower than some, why we’ll just stick around a little longer, that’s all.

The WWI Profile of Sgt Forney Mintz referenced the yearbooks from Camp Benning, GA, (now Fort Benning) home of the US Army Infantry School. The yearbook is named “The Doughboy.” The text and photos above were taken from the 1920-21 yearbook.

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100 years ago today: The breaking of the Hindenburg Line

September 29, 1918: North Carolina’s deadliest day of the war.

Old Hickory

The 30th Division “Old Hickory,” was organized in October 1917 with men primarily from North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Division was the first to breach the infamous Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. September 29, 1918 was not only North Carolina’s deadliest day of the war, but was also Brunswick County’s deadliest.

The Hindenburg Line was a defensive position in France built by the Germans in 1916. 90 miles long with up to six defensive lines, containing fields of heavy barbed wire woven so thick as to resemble a mass of vines and briars up to 100 yards deep, it seemed impenetrable. A large subterranean system of tunnels with hidden exits and entrances formed a safe method for communication and reinforcement for the Germans.

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.

At 5:50am on September 29, 1918, the men from the 30th Division assaulted this terrible line on a front of 3,000 yards, captured the whole Hindenburg system, then advanced still further and took the tunnel system with all the German troops hidden in it and next captured the towns of Bellicourt, Nouroy, Riqueval, Carriere, Etricourt, the Guillaine Ferme (farm) and Ferme de Riqueval.

“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 “Old Hickory” division forced their way until the fortified zone was conquered in one of the most desperate single conflicts of the war.”

Reported casualties on September 29, 1918, from Brunswick County in the 30th Division
Each name links to their WWI Profile

KIA: Private Harvey T. Chadwick (Shallotte)
KIA: Private Harry Langdon Pigott (Shallotte)
Died of Wounds: Private Benjamin Bante Smith (Ash)
Pvt Smith died on October 17 of wounds sustained on September 29.
He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and British Military Medal.

Corporal Lawson Ballard (Suburb)
Corporal Calmer Thomas Clemmons (Supply)
Corporal Elder Eugene Heath (Bolivia)
Corporal George Harker Hewett (Supply)
Private Thedford S. Lewis (Supply)
Corporal Lindsey Pigott (Supply)
Corporal Rufus Earl Sellers (Supply)

The NC DNCR blog commemorated the breaking of the Hindenburg Line the week of September 29, 2018. This included a List of North Carolinians who died on September 29, 1918. 241 North Carolinians were confirmed as dying that day.

Military Services Day at the North Carolina Museum of History marked the 100th Anniversary of “Breaking the Hindenburg Line” by honoring the service and sacrifice of North Carolinians during World War I. Read more at

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History of the Rifle Range: 1980s

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range received the following letter from a former resident of Caswell Dunes, along with a generous donation.

He agreed to allow us to share his letter here.


I am enclosing a check for two hundred dollars to help towards the repair and
maintenance of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range.

Here is a bit of history since I am one of the earliest residents of Caswell Dunes. The layout of Caswell Dunes was done without adequate exploration of the land because it was like a jungle and quite overgrown and thick with vines. Practically impenetrable. I purchased my condo by walking along the edge of the golf course with the realtor and simply pointing. They did not discover the rifle range until they started bulldozing, and had to inform the authorities, who didn’t know what it was, but said it had to be protected, and the builder had to move some buildings accordingly. My condo overlooked the rifle range and Bunker Rd. was so named because we called it the bunker back then and did not know it was a rifle range until much later when some research was done on the subject.

I lived there from 1985 or 86 (can’t remember which) until around 1990. The bunker then was largely covered by thick jungle-like growth and not very visible. My gray cat lived on its walls and would pass the entire day completely protected, watching traffic drive by. When I arrived home in the evening the cat would run along the wall and greet me like a dog. He thought he was a dog and took walks with us on the golf course at night.

In those days children played on the walls and we planted shrubs and bushes around it. Consequently, it has always had a special place in my heart.

Henry F. Tonn, M.S.
Wilmington, NC

The earliest photo available is this photo from 2011.

After many years, the current condition is quite different.

More significantly, the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range is now a nationally designated WWI Centennial Memorial.

A quick illustration of the progress:

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range could not have accomplished the transformation to date without supporters like Henry Tonn. View all of the supporters and donors on the Contributors webpage.

For more details on the previous seven years of the stabilization effort, see the Stabilization section of the website.

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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

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The origin of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range

In April, we honored and recognized the Centennial of the US entry into World War I by holding a Commemoration Ceremony at the Fort Caswell Rifle Range alongside the Brunswick Town Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

As we prepare for the Centennial of the End of World War I on November 11, 1918, we will also recognize the centennial of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range, which was approved and built in 1918.

Mason’s mark on north wall

The Fort Caswell Rifle Range was built to replace the existing one, which had become unsafe due to the increase in the garrison to house the “large number of recruits and drafted men now here or expected in the near future.”

A site for the new rifle range was found “three miles distant from the Post.” The site, now within the Caswell Dunes neighborhood, “affords a fine camp ground with plenty of water and wood without further expense to the Government.”

These US War Department documents including blueprints can be found by clicking the HISTORY selection at the top of the website.


Please consider making a donation to save this unique piece of history. Click here or the green “How to make a donation” button at the top right of this website.

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Have you seen our World War I Wall of Honor?

Last year, the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range began a project to commemorate the rifle pit’s centennial year in 2018. Requests were made locally and beyond for photographs and biographies of family members who served in World War I. These were assembled on a physical Wall of Honor that is displayed during special occasions such as the Kentucky Derby Day fundraiser at the Caswell Dunes Clubhouse.

You can see the Wall of Honor behind Norm Sprinthall, who is shown here wearing his father’s WWI medals.

But did you know there is a virtual World War I Wall of Honor right on the website? It’s accessible in the WWI section of the website or using the link above.

If you’re interested in submitting your own photographs, please use the link for details.

The World War I Wall of Honor will be displayed again at this year’s Kentucky Derby Day fundraiser on May 6, 2017.

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How much did the rifle range cost in 1918?

The War Department lists an estimate dated January 24, 1918, for a total of $3856.38 for
“Target pit, protected passage and store house at New Rifle Range, Artillery Cantonment”

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