Category Archives: Veteran Profile

WWI Profile: Calmer Thomas Clemmons 1895-1965

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.

Photo Source
Calmer Thomas Clemmons
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
National Guard
Corporal

Served:
May 5, 1917 – February 28, 1919
Overseas:
May 11, 1918 – January 30, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918; October 16/18, 1918

Calmer Thomas Clemmons was born, raised, and lived most of his life in Brunswick and New Hanover Counties, NC.

On May 5, 1917, at the age of 22, Calmer enlisted in the NC National Guard by way of the Boys’ Brigade, as described in a previous post.

In October, the 30th Division was created from NC National Guard units. Cpl Calmer Clemmons was assigned to Company F, 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.

Recall the following description of the operation.
Photo Source

Very early in the morning of September 29th the 60th brigade [119th Infantry, 120th Infantry, and 115th Machine Gun Battalion], with some units of the 117th regiment, 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; in this part of the assault advancing 4,200 yards and defeating two German divisions of average quality and taking from these (the 75th and 185th) 47 officers and 1,434 men. – Source

Cpl Clemmons was slightly wounded during the heroic assault on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. This injury was reported on his NC WWI Service Card. But he faced more serious injuries a few weeks later. Details of that battle will be covered in later posts, as several Brunswick County men were wounded during that time.

Source: Rockingham post-dispatch. [Rockingham, NC], December 05, 1918, p. 9

 

Cpl Calmer Clemmons was seriously wounded on October 16 [NC WWI Service Card] or 18 [119th Roster]. The date was probably recorded incorrectly because Cpl Clemmons was initially reported missing.

Cpl Clemmons never returned to service due to the seriousness of his injuries, which are unknown. On January 22, 1919, he left US Army Base Hospital No. 40 in Southern England and boarded USS Plattsburg to New York. The passenger list stated that all passengers were “Walking Cases.” [Source: ancestry.com]

The Charlotte Observer [Charlotte, NC] 1919 Feb. 13, p. 14 reported the following.

52 Carolina Soldiers, Wounded, Arrive Here

Sent to Camp Greene Base Hospital for Medical and Reconstruction Treatment.

Fifty-two Carolina soldiers, wounded in action in France but now almost well again, from a New York army hospital, arrived at the base hospital at Camp Greene for medical and reconstructive treatment, according to information given out there yesterday. With relatively few exceptions these men formerly were with the famous Thirtieth division. Others were with labor battalions, medical corps unit and artillery regiments.
[…]
Corporal Calmer Clemmons, Company F, 119th infantry.
[…]
Bugler William R. Smith, Machine Gun company, 322d infantry.
[…]

Bugler William R. Smith was also from Brunswick County. His WWI Profile is coming soon.

 Calmer Clemmons was honorably discharged on February 25, 1919, with no reported disability. He married  and appears to have lived with his wife and son in Wilmington until his death. Calmer Clemmons was laid to rest on September 26, 1965. Military honors are displayed.

If you would like to help us honor Calmer Thomas Clemmons 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: Elder Eugene Heath 1896-1984

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: 119th Infantry Unit Rosters for Company H to Company M, Page 13

Elder Eugene Heath
Bolivia, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard
Corporal

Served:
May 27, 1917 – April 7, 1919
Overseas:
May 12, 1918 – April 2, 1919
Severely Wounded: September 29, 1918

Elder Eugene Heath was born, raised, and lived most of his life in Brunswick and New Hanover Counties, NC.

On May 27, 1917, at the age of 19, Elder Heath enlisted in the NC National Guard by way of the Boys’ Brigade, as described in a previous post. He was eventually assigned to Co. I, 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division.

Cpl Heath’s NC WWI Service Card shows he was a Private. Company rosters, such as the one pictured above, US Army Transport records to and from France [Source: ancestry.com], casualty lists printed in newspapers at the time [see below], and his military flat marker refer to him as Corporal Elder E. Heath. It is not unusual for discrepancies in historical records, and the evidence is overwhelming that the service card is incorrect.

Before settling at Camp Sevier, SC, the soldiers were at Camp Jackson, SC. There, photographs were taken. This photograph is Pvt Thomas Newton Bryson (on the left) with three unknown fellow soldiers. [Source: NC State Archives] Pvt Bryson also served in the 119th Infantry. More about Pvt Bryson later.

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 Elder Heath was seriously wounded during the assault on the Hindenburg Line, along with many of his comrades in the 30th Division. 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

Source: The commonwealth [Scotland Neck, NC], December 17, 1918, p. 4

This (partial) casualty list appeared in many newspapers after he was wounded.

Pvt Newton was also severely wounded that day. He recuperated in France and had this photo taken, again, with an unknown fellow soldier. [Source: NC State Archives] Pvt Newton’s photographs give us a glimpse into the experience of the other soldiers from the 119th.

Cpl Heath luckily had a complete recovery, returning to duty December 2, 1918. [Source: 119th Infantry Roster, Page 91] The war had ended a month earlier.

When he boarded USS Huron on March 21, 1919, to return to America, the passenger list shows All Class “A” (fit for duty).

After Cpl Elder E. Heath was discharged, he married. It doesn’t appear he had children.

Elder Eugene Heath was laid to rest in Columbus County, NC in 1984. He was 88 years old.

If you would like to help us honor Elder Eugene Heath 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: Benjamin Bantie Smith 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: Soldiers of the Great War, Vol. II
Benjamin Bantie Smith
Ash, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
September 19, 1917 – October 17, 1918
Overseas:
May 11, 1918 – October 17, 1918
Wounded: September 29, 1918
Died of Wounds: October 17, 1918

Awarded Distinguished Service Cross; British Military Medal

Benjamin Bantie Smith was born and raised in Brunswick County. There is a partial family tree in FamilySearch.

His WWI Draft Registration from June 5, 1917, shows he was single and working on his family’s farm.

Benjamin B. Smith was one of 16 Brunswick County men ordered to report for duty on September 19, 1917. Included were John Carlisle, Samuel G. Fulford, James R. Ganey, and William P. Comron/Cameron, who were all eventually assigned to 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division, to train at Camp Sevier, Greenville, SC.

Previous posts described events up to and including the Hindenburg Line assault.

This account of the assault can be found in the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources blog:

At 5:50 AM on the morning of September 29, 1918, the North Carolinians of the 30th Division—then serving under British command as part of the Fourth Army—emerged from the safety of their trenches and formed up in a single line, each man standing shoulder to shoulder, roughly four to six feet apart.

As they moved across the field under a cacophony of machine gun and artillery fire, the men did their best to stay abreast and maintain unit cohesion. Due to the poor visibility, the difficult nature of the terrain, and battlefield obstacles, however, the lines began to waver almost immediately. Enemy artillery fire punched at the Allied lines as a thick cloud of fog and smoke enveloped the field. “[Y]ou could hardly see your hand before you,” remembered Luther Hall, a Surry County native attached to the 119th Infantry Regiment.

Pvt Benjamin Smith died later from wounds received that day. According to History, 119th Infantry, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, U. S. A. Operations in Belgium and France, 1917-1919, the casualties the 119th Infantry reported that day were as follows:

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

Also included was this description.

The field over which this fight took place, on the 30th day of September, presented a miserable appearance, as dead soldiers were scattered broadcast over its area. Shell holes were so numerous that one could not walk three steps without falling into one. Huge masses of barbed wire had been partly cut by the bombardment and the Tanks. Not a telephone pole nor a tree had been left standing by the sweeping Artillery fire. The town of Bellicourt was a complete wreck.

Pvt Benjamin Smith died of his wounds on October 17, 1918, over two weeks after the Hindenburg Line assault.

On November 18, 1918, he was recommended for both a British and American military medal. Pvt Benjamin Smith was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (pictured left) by the United States Army for great bravery in battle. His NC WWI Service Card and page 8 of the 119th Infantry military honors recommendations list shows he was also awarded the British Military Medal (pictured right).

On July 8, 1918, the United States Congress approved an act permitting members of the military forces of the United States serving in the World War to accept and wear certain foreign decorations.

This is an example of a Distinguished Cross Citation that Private Benjamin Smith would have been awarded. This citation was awarded to Captain Ben F. Dixon, who was KIA during the same battle to break the Hindenburg Line.
[Source: NC State Archives]

An account of his bravery can be found in a NC Armistice Day program in 1921
[Source: North Carolina Day. Friday, November 11th, 1921. Armistice Day. North Carolina in the World War; North Carolina. Dept. of Public Instruction]

BENJAMIN B. SMITH, private, Company A, 119th Infantry. For extraordinary heroism in action near Bellicourt, France, September 29, 1918. After being wounded twice in making attacks with his own organization, he joined Australian troops and attacked with them, being wounded a third time before he consented to be evacuated.

Included in the program is this table:

NORTH CAROLINA’S WAR RECORD (A TABLE)

73,000 . . . . . men in the Army.
9,000 . . . . . men in the Navy and Marine Corps.
1,600 . . . . . men gave their lives.
1 . . . . . man awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
200 . . . . . men awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
12 . . . . . men awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

The 1921 NC Armistice Day program ended with this dedication

Eighty-two thousand North Carolinians fought in the war. One thousand six hundred of these gave their lives in battle. These are the men whom we should especially honor today. Some day their names and homes will all be known. But scholars will have to work a long time to get them all right. In the meantime you should learn as many as you can of the men from your own county who died. Their names should be read on Armistice Day, and hymns sung and prayers offered in their memory. Some of these men have been brought back from France and are now buried in their home cemeteries. Their graves should be visited this day, and decorated with flowers. Remember that these men died for us, and honor them always.

 

The remains of Private Benjamin Bantie Smith were returned from Belgium on the USAT Wheaton on July 2, 1921 [Source: ancestry.com]. He was laid to rest in the Smith Family Cemetery on Hwy 130 in Ash. His headstone is not a military one but includes the inscription, “Served with honor in the World War and died in the Service of his country.”

If you would like to help us honor Benjamin Bantie Smith 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: Lindsey Pigott 1895-1960

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: findagrave
Lindsey Pigott
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
NC National Guard
Corporal

Served:
May 5, 1917 – March 6, 1919
Overseas:
May 11, 1918 – January 19, 1919
Severely Wounded: September 29, 1918

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

On May 5, 1917, at the age of 21, Lindsey enlisted in the NC National Guard by way of the Boys’ Brigade, as described in a previous post.

In October, the 30th Division was created from NC National Guard units. Pfc Lindsey Pigott was assigned to Company B, 119th Infantry, 30th “Old Hickory” Division. In December, he was promoted to corporal.

Previous posts detail the 119th Infantry’s operations up to the assault on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. The assault itself is also covered in posts about the 105th Engineers, also part of the 30th Division.

Very early in the morning of September 29th the 60th brigade [119th Infantry, 120th Infantry, and 115th Machine Gun Battalion], with some units of the 117th regiment, 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; in this part of the assault advancing 4,200 yards and defeating two German divisions of average quality and taking from these (the 75th and 185th) 47 officers and 1,434 men. – Source

Corporal James E. Gregory, Company M, 119th Infantry, shared these memories of being “sent to the Somme front in France to help the Australians break the famous Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt.”

Here we learned we were used as storm troops for the English 4th Army.”

Source: NC digital Archives 2

“At 5:50 a.m., September 29th, our Division attacked the Hindenburg Line on a front of three thousand yards. For four long hours the barrage continued without one minute of let up from both sides. It looked to me as if the destruction of the world had begun.

I couldn’t hear myself think, shells were falling everywhere, and shrapnels filling the air with their horrible whistles, and men were moaning and groaning at every side, pleading for someone to help them.

German prisoners were coming over with hands up yelling ‘Kamerad,’ enemy aeroplanes whizzing low to the earth and sending showers of bullets down on us, friends everywhere falling dead and wounded.

I was in a continuous struggle for life and almost unconscious of what was really happening, when the hardest of the battle was over and we had reached our objective, the tunnel of St. Quentin and the entire Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt. We spent the night in a German dugout seventy feet under ground, where the night before Hindenburg’s men never dreamed of having to give up.

On the morning of the 30th we began to gather up the remainder of the dead and wounded. Horrible sights
were to be seen. I saw men piled beside the shell-torn road in piles of from two to a dozen, and Australians hauling men to bury in wagons like we haul wood-a dozen or fifteen to a load. At the burying ground some of the men could not be identified for only half a man could be found, sometimes his body being blown to pieces and the identification tag lost.

Cpl Lindsey Piggot was among the severely wounded. He would not return to fight again.

On January 10, 1919, Cpl Lindsey Pigott was transported from Camp Hospital 40, Liverpool, England, to Lapland for home [Source: ancestry.com]. On March 6, 1919, he was discharged from the US Army with a 50% disability.

Lindsey lost his left hand and wrist in the battle and sustained serious injuries to his left side. More tragedy awaited after returning to the United States. A shotgun fell from a counter and discharged, resulting in the loss of both legs. But Lindsey didn’t lose his fighting spirit.

An article on the front page of the State Port Pilot [1946, Dec 25] announced Lindsey Pigott as the new manager of the Gulf Station and lunch room at the corner of Routes 74 and 17 near the Brunswick River bridge.

Folks who know Mr. Piggott regard him as a very striking illustration of independence despite adversity. …[Un]daunted by the loss of both legs and a hand and wrist, Mr. Pigott, who is married and has two young children, has worked for several years operating concessions with the R & S Amusement company. Tired of having to be constantly on the road, he decided to engage in a business of his own.

On February 22, 1960, Lindsey Pigott was laid to rest in Wilmington National Cemetery. His headstone with military honors is shown above. The notation “PH” indicates a purple heart was awarded.

If you would like to help us honor Lindsey 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.

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

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
Corporal

Served:
May 7, 1917 – April 7, 1919
Overseas:
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. Except for James R. Potter, all from the Boys’ Brigade listed above served in the 119th Infantry.

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
Sergeant

Served:
October 31, 1914 – July 20, 1919
Overseas:
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:

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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
Private

Served:
March 21, 1918 – April 7, 1919
Overseas:
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
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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
Private

Served:
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
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WWI Profile: Carl Jefferson Danford 1893-1917

Source: Library of Congress
105th Engineers at Camp Sevier, March 1918
Trenches built by the engineers can be seen in the foreground.


Carl Jefferson Danford
Southport, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
September 18, 1917 – December 8, 1917
Died of Disease: December 8, 1917

Carl Danford was born and raised in Brunswick County, NC. In 1915, he married Luola Lewis. His first and only child, a daughter, was born in August 1916.

His WWI Draft Registration lists his occupation as farmer, living in Bolivia with wife and child. On September 18, 1917, he was ordered to report for duty [Source:ancestry.com], sent to Camp Jackson, SC, and eventually assigned to the 105th Engineers, 30th “Old Hickory” Division, training at Camp Sevier, Greenville, SC.

Camp Sevier was built in a very short span of time. In those few months from June to November 1917, land had to be acquired, facilities built, and supplies found and stocked to train and house 46,000 men and women. Sanitation was an issue. Most military camps did not have running water for toilets, so pit toilets were used. Soldiers began using neighboring woods, which resulted in complaints from land owners. [Read more here on the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources blog.]

Many training camps were built in the South to avoid harsh winters. However, this particular winter was unusually cold and supplies and proper winter clothing and uniforms were scarce.

Source: Wilmington Dispatch, Dec. 1, 1917, p. 2
In November 1917, a measles epidemic was declared at Camp Sevier. The camp was quarantined and civilians were not allowed to enter without a pass from the city board of health. Each day, deaths were announced. Near the end of the month, a mumps epidemic had begun.

The quarantine of the camp was lifted on December 3, 1917. Reports indicated a total of about 2000 cases of measles, 175 cases of pneumonia, and 15 of meningitis. There were 60 deaths reported.

On December 8, 1917, Pvt Danford died of “broncho pneumonia following measles.” A total of five men died that day. 4000 men were still under quarantine.

According to Providing for the Casualties of War, during WWI there were 93,629 cases of measles with 2,343 deaths (2.5% death rate). There were 70,030 cases of pneumonia with 18,040 deaths (25.76% death rate). Almost all of the Died of Disease deaths among the Brunswick County veterans were due to pneumonia.

Carl Jefferson Danford was laid to rest in the same cemetery as some of his family. No military or WWI honors are displayed to indicate that he lost his life while serving his country.

Note: Pvt Danford was not listed on the roster posted in Cpl Ballard’s profile. This is due to his death occurring before the roster was created. The profile has been updated to include his name, noting that it wasn’t on the official lists.

If you would like to help us honor Carl Jefferson Danford 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
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WWI Profile: Thedford S. Lewis 1896-1938

Source: Operations, Thirtieth Division, Old Hickory
Thedford S Lewis
Supply, Brunswick County, NC
US Army
Private

Served:
March 21, 1918 – April 24, 1919
Overseas:
May 26, 1918 – April 18, 1919
Wounded: September 29, 1918
Severely Gassed

Thedford S. Lewis was born and raised in Supply. Most of his family appears to have remained in the area throughout their lives. Several are buried in Sharon United Methodist Church Cemetery in Supply, NC.

Thedford’s WWI Draft Registration card from 1917 shows he was single and working as a farmer.

Thedford was ordered to report to the Brunswick County military board on March 22, 1918, with 13 other men from Brunswick County [source:ancestry.com]. Included in this group of 14 men was Harvey Chadwick from Shallotte and Samuel Peter Cox from Bolivia. All were sent to Camp Jackson, SC. On April 24, Thedford and Harvey joined the 105th Engineers, Company D, 30th “Old Hickory” Division. Samuel joined Company A. Their very strenuous training was at Camp Sevier, SC, which was detailed in a previous post.

As the table in a previous post listed, three Brunswick County men in the NC National Guard were already members of the 105th Engineers. They were: Lawson Ballard (Company A), George Harker Hewett (Company A), and Vander L. Simmons (Company A). On May 26, 1918, Thedford 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 and was the deadliest day of the war for North Carolina.

Pvt Thedford Lewis was in Company D with Pvt Harvey Chadwick. Pvt Chadwick’s veteran profile listed their company activities on September 29, 1918, the day Pvt Chadwick was KIA. Pvt Lewis was severely gassed the same day. His NC WWI Service Card lists the date October 26 as the day he was wounded. But the 105th Engineers were relaxing and planning athletic fields and rifle ranges at that time. After more research, Pvt Lewis’ name was discovered in the 105th Engineer Honor Roll and the date shows his gas injury was September 29. Here is the extension of the list that included Corporals Ballard and Hewett, gassed by enemy gas shells in the line of duty.

To understand the use of gas in the war, some background information is needed.

This photograph was taken at Fort Dix, NJ, as soldiers prepared to learn how to use their gas masks by entering trenches filled with tear gas. [Source: Library of Congress] Details were given and are shown below.

In order that these soldiers might be properly taught the necessity of having their masks adjusted, the army officers made use of this tear-gas trench where fumes that would irritate but not permanently injure the eyes, were used.

The soldier nearest to you is testing his mask to see if it is tight all about his face. With his hand he has removed the piece of rubber from his mouth and is exhaling his breath inside the mask. The mask, you can see, is inflated, proof that the edges are tight. On the mask of the third soldier you can plainly see the circular spring just below the eye piece that is used to adjust and hold the nose grip in place to prevent breath entering the lungs except through the mouth.

All of these men have their masks at the “alert,” that is, strapped high on their chests with the lower part firmly tied around their backs. You will notice too that the flaps of the case fold in toward the body, to lessen the possibility of water, dampness and dirt getting into the mask.

When these masks are adjusted the chin is inserted first and then the rest of the mask drawn over the face, being held in position by that rubber band which you can see passed over the top of the head and two rubber bands that pass around the head.

Months before the 105th Engineers went into battle, on June 16, 1918, Colonel Pratt referred to his men attending gas school, to prepare for gas attacks. Gas masks were fitted, tested, and the men went through the gas house. (Colonel Pratt’s diary was first introduced in George Harker Hewett’s profile.)

The gas mask almost gets the best of me. I nearly suffocate with it, and can hardly control myself from tearing it off. This is one of the worst phases of the war to me.

November 11, 1918, Captain Hill from the 92nd Division (referenced in previous posts) was gassed and shared the following in his diary. He was released November 20th.

…they piled us into an ambulance and rushed us to Field Hospital #366. We expected to return the next day after a good bath—but none of us realized the terrible effects of mustard gas. Shortly after reaching the hospital my eyes began to close and for two days I was unable to see even the light of day. It was then that I realized to what extent we were gassed. I lay in bed and many, many times wondered if I would ever see again and I can assure you it was anything but pleasant. On the 14th of November we were pronounced somewhat better and moved to Base Hospital #82 at Toul. There in the gas ward the sights that we necessarily saw were anything but encouraging: big fine American soldiers, blind, burnt completely over their bodies and physical wrecks—all the result of mustard & other gases. Sure was enough to take the heart out of you.

Source: CDC
Sulfur mustard or Mustard gas was used for the first time by Germans in 1917. Sulfur mustard sometimes smells like garlic, onions, or mustard and sometimes has no odor. It can be a vapor (the gaseous form of a liquid), an oily-textured liquid, or a solid.

The advantage of using it during wartime is the fact that it can have no odor or that the nose quickly adapts to it and no longer notices it. The symptoms typically take time to appear, sometimes not appearing for 24 hours. Also, it can last in the environment for days or even months under very cold conditions.

In its liquid or solid form, you can drink or eat contaminated water or food, or touch it and get it on your skin or eyes. In vapor form, you can breathe it or get it in your eyes or skin.

It can affect:

  • Skin: redness, itching, blistering, second and third degree burns and death
  • Eyes: pain, swelling, temporary or permanent blindness
  • Respiratory tract: sneezing, bloody nose, shortness of breath, chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer
  • Digestive tract: pain, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting
  • Bone marrow: affects blood cells and platelets, leading to weakness, bleeding, and infections

After breaking the Hindenburg Line, the 105th Engineers continued to push forward. It’s unlikely that any of the gassed men from Brunswick County participated in this push. But Corporal Vander Simmons and Private Samuel Cox were unharmed and eventually Corporals Ballard and Hewett, and Pvt Lewis likely rejoined the 105th Engineers for the cleanup. Sadly, Pvt Harvey T. Chadwick had been laid to rest, although his remains were returned to Shallotte years later.

Source: The History of the 105th Engineering Regiment of Engineers
The engineers had an enormous task ahead of them. Besides supporting the infantry, the enemy was destroying everything as they retreated and repairing it was the engineers’ task.

There were also “booby” traps, and mines in buildings, churches, and trenches. These had to be found and removed by the engineers. There was also the continual search for safe and tested water, which seems to dominate many of the maps and orders located in the book.

Company A returned on USS Martha Washington, while Pvt Thedford Lewis (Company D) returned on USS Zeelandia. The troops traveled to Camp Jackson, SC, where they were mustered out. Thedford married and began raising his family.

Thedford passed away in 1938 at age 42 and was laid to rest before any of his family members. A military headstone was not requested, so no WWI honors are displayed.

Most of the information gathered was from The History of the 105th Engineering Regiment of Engineers; and Operations, Thirtieth Division, Old Hickory; as well as the incredible diary Colonel Pratt kept for his wife and son.

If you would like to help us honor Thedford S. Lewis 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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