Category Archives: History

William Wylie and Ledrew Sellers: a Wartime Friendship

The Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range continues to prepare Brunswick County in the Great War: Preserving the 1918 Fort Caswell Rifle Range and the Legacies of the Men and Women Who Served for publishing.

Kathryn Kalmanson, granddaughter of Brunswick County WWI veteran Craven Ledrew Sellers, graciously agreed to share her recent research. Thank you, Kathryn!

“Going through boxes of family papers, I discovered a little WWI gem among my grandfather’s papers. Being curious to identify the writer, I started searching.” The result is shared below. Kathryn was particularly amused at Mr. Wylie calling her grandfather a “splendid boy,” given that Wylie was several years younger.

Brion-S-Ource, France
May 2nd, 1919

Dear Dad:-
This will introduce to you Mechanic Sellers of Co I. 324 Inf who leaves for the States today, having received a discharge.

Sellers is a splendid boy and anything you can do to make his stay in Wilmington a pleasant one will be greatly appreciated by me.

Mech. Sellers is from close to Southport.

Sgt. W A Wylie

Insights into the letter of introduction written by Wylie
by Kathryn Kalmanson, granddaughter of Ledrew Sellers

The writer of the letter has been identified as William Abraham Wylie of Wilmington, NC, son of Robert John Knox Wiley, the intended recipient of the letter. Robert, who had come to Wilmington, NC, from Ohio, and his wife Mary lived at 14 Wrightsville Avenue (“at Carolina Place”) where he operated Wilmington Cooperage Company. His two sons, Dwight and William, also lived there and worked in the company. According to a 1908 newspaper article, Robert owned half of the shares in the company which manufactured “staves, headings, barrels, casks, etc.”

William and Ledrew had very different beginnings. William was born April 9, 1893, in Ohio. In 1915, when he was 20 years old, he is listed as foreman at the cooperage, with his father as vice president and his brother Dwight as a cooper. The Wilmington City Directory for 1917 lists William and Dwight as clerks and Robert as Vice President and Treasurer.

Ledrew was born at Supply, NC, on August 7, 1889, the second oldest of ten children born to Elisha and Theodosia Sellers. At that time Elisha was a farmer, and the children all helped with the running of the family farm which was located in the Lockwood’s Folly area of Brunswick County.

1918 was an eventful year for both William and Ledrew. On February first William married Charlotte Fennell and shortly after that the young couple established their own residence at 804 Market Street. A few months later, William received orders to report for military duty.

Mechanic Ledrew Sellers

Ledrew also married shortly before going into service. On May 20, 1918, he and his cousin Lelia Sellers were married at Supply, NC. Exactly one week later Ledrew was inducted, leaving his bride with his family as he went off to war.

It was the war that brought these two young men together. They were inducted on the same day, May 27, 1918, assigned to the same unit, Company I 324th Infantry, and sent to Camp Jackson for training. The unit departed from New York on August 5, 1918, bound for France.

Both men received promotions while serving in France, Private Ledrew becoming Mechanic and Private William becoming a sergeant. It may be that William became Ledrew’s commanding officer and in that context wrote the enthusiastic letter of introduction. Or perhaps they simply became friends while serving together or while waiting in St. Nazaire for departure to the states.

Discharge papers for Mechanic Craven Ledrew Sellers

Ledrew left on May 17, 1919, nearly two weeks after the letter of introduction was written, sailing from St. Nazaire aboard the Antigone, bound for Newport News, VA. Home at last, Ledrew was honorably discharged from service on the first of June 1919. One week later, on June 7, 1919, William sailed from St. Nazaire aboard the Martha Washington to begin the long trip home.

The Wylie House, ca. 1914, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
William and Ledrew’s lives took very different paths after the war, each following in his father’s footsteps. William returned to his father’s home after the war and worked at the cooperage. The 1920 Census shows William and his brother working out of the Wrightsville Avenue address with their father, aged 51, listed as Manager. William was 26 and Dwight 24. In the 1922 Wilmington City Directory, William is listed as clerk and John as manager.

It was not a small company for that time. Information from the NC Corporation Commission and the US Engineers reports on the port of Wilmington shows that the cooperage had $15,000 in capital stock. Their wharf was located “south of the foot of Wright Street.” The company also had operations at several other locations, including Charleston, SC.

While William was away at war, tragedy had struck at home: His wife Charlotte died on December 27, 1918, one of the many victims of the great influenza epidemic. In April 1922 he married Sadie McCallum, and they had a daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, born June 19, 1923. She appears to have been their only child. The 1940 Census shows them living at 1403 Rankin Street in Wilmington. William was a lumber salesman and Sadie a “trained nurse.” William’s final occupation, as shown on his death certificate, was “clerk of the federal court.”

The letter of introduction that William wrote for Ledrew may have been a hint for his father to offer Ledrew employment at the cooperage or perhaps it was simply a friendly gesture. In any event Ledrew never presented the letter to Mr. Wylie because it was found still among his papers after his death.

After discharge from the Army, Ledrew returned to his family home where his wife was waiting for him. He continued farming and also worked at a saw mill. Then soon after the birth of their first child, Susan Evelyn, on May 25, 1920, he and Lelia moved to Southport where he became a merchant. They had two more children, Thelma Vashti, born April 11, 1922, and William Rydell, born June 2, 1923. William’s middle name was given to honor a sergeant who served in the war with Ledrew. Did the name William reflect Ledrew’s friendship with William Wylie?

William Wylie died December 27, 1943, at age 50 and was buried in his family plot at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington. Ledrew Sellers died June 16, 1960, at age 71 and was buried in the family plot at Northwood Cemetery in Southport. Although William and Ledrew spent the post-war years only about twenty-five miles apart, it appears that they never saw each other again after the day that William penned the note to his father and Ledrew sailed home from France with the note in his pocket.

To read more about Ledrew’s wartime experiences, see his WWI profile here.

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Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC)

On May 18, 1917, Congress approved what was commonly known as the Selective Service Act, authorizing the President to increase the military to prepare for entrance into WWI. All men between the ages of 21 and 30 were required to register on June 5, 1917.

On June 5, 1918, those men who had reached age 21 since the previous registration were required to register. This occurred again on August 24, 1918.

A final registration was set for September 12, 1918, increasing the age range to include men between the ages of 18 and 45. This meant that for the first time, any man enrolled or about to be enrolled in college would be eligible for the draft. The Students’ Army Training Corps was a solution to allow men to remain or enroll in college but also begin preparation for military service. The men became privates in the US Army. Tuition, room and board, and possible uniforms and supplies were paid for by the government. The men received $30 each month.

The Students’ Army Training Corps was volunteer only, for men who met requirements. More details will be included in the following weeks.

“The President directs that for the period of the existing emergency there shall be raised and maintained by voluntary induction and draft a Students’ Army Training Corps. Units of this corps will be authorized by the Secretary of War at educational institutions that meet the requirements laid down in special regulations.”

“The primary purpose of the Students Army Training Corps is to utilize the executive and teaching personnel and the physical equipment of the educational institutions to assist in the training of our new armies.”

The training was available in about 600 colleges, universities, professional, technical, and trade schools of the country. There were four sections: Collegiate, Vocational, and limited Marine and Naval sections.

“Students of authorized institutions join the Students Army Training Corps by voluntary induction into the service. They then become members of the Army on active duty, receiving pay and subsistence, subject to military orders, and living in barracks under military discipline in exactly the same manner as any other soldier.”

These 12 institutions in North Carolina were authorized to create the corps.

Institution Name Location Section
Atlantic Christian College
(now Barton College)
Wilson Collegiate
Biddle University
(now Johnson C. Smith University)
Charlotte Collegiate
Catawba College Newton Collegiate
Davidson College Davidson Collegiate
Elon College Elon Collegiate
Lenoir College Hickory Collegiate
Negro Agricultural & Technical College
(now NC A&T State University)
Greensboro Vocational
NC State College of Agriculture and Engineering Raleigh Collegiate, Naval
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Collegiate, Naval, Marine
Shaw University Raleigh Collegiate
Trinity College
(now Duke University)
Durham Collegiate
Wake Forest College Wake Forest Collegiate


The following Brunswick County men volunteered and were accepted into the Students’ Army Training Corps. It is assumed that they felt the same excitement at their acceptance as the young women and men of today feel when receiving full college scholarships. Those serving in the SATC were also more likely to serve in leadership positions in the military.

These men had to meet educational as well as physical requirements; all were literate. This was not always the case.

It is estimated that 25% of the WWI draftees in this country were found to be illiterate. The percentage in Brunswick County is unknown. While inspecting the WWI Draft Registrations of Brunswick County veterans, it is rewarding when they include an actual signature. Many men could sign only with an “X.” The WWI Profile for David Elton Lewis includes details of him learning to read and write in order to improve his employment prospects.

According to historical documents, one goal of the Army was to teach the men to sign their names when receiving their pay.

More information will be shared in their WWI Snapshots, which will be posted in the coming weeks.

Name Institution
Oliver Banks Negro Agricultural & Technical College
Commodore Clarence Chinnis University of North Carolina
Harry Churchhill Corlette, Jr Davidson College
Elmer Davis Negro Agricultural & Technical College
Joseph Clyde Knox Trinity College
Francis Dillard Price Clemson College
Andrew Jackson Robbins, Jr Davidson College
William Asbury Rourk, Jr University of North Carolina
John Rivers Smith Negro Agricultural & Technical College


The Armistice of November 11, 1918 ended their training. The SATC was demobilized in December.

Students Army Training Corps, Descriptive Circular, October 18, 1918.

United States. War Dept. (1918). Students’ army training corps regulations, 1918. Washington: Govt. print. off..

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WWI Snapshots will begin on Monday, September 30, 2019

As we prepare for the book preserving the legacies of the WWI veterans of Brunswick County, a dedicated group is working to identify the dates of death and cemetery locations for all of the 725 veterans. Gwen Causey, Amy Eckard, Emma-Lou Edwards, Jane Freach, and Kathryn Kalmanson have contributed to this effort.

While gathering this data, some stories have emerged that must be shared. Photos have been uncovered. And additional stories have been shared by Kathryn Kalmanson, daughter of Susie Carson, the late historian and founder of the Southport Historical Society.

In order to preserve this valuable data, short snapshots are being prepared for the blog in the coming weeks. Some will only consist of a photo which was uncovered, while others will include a brief story of interest.

In addition, the list of veterans may grow or shrink as this research continues.

If anyone would like to share more information about a veteran for a snapshot, or contribute to the effort to identify the dates of death and cemetery locations, please contact the Friends of Fort Caswell Rifle Range. Thank you!

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100 years ago today: The signing of the Treaty of Versailles

June 28, 1919: Over six months after the November 11, 1918 Armistice which ended the fighting of WWI, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ended the war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

The Wilmington Morning Star, 29 June 1919, p. 1

In Brunswick County, 82 men serving in the US Army had not yet returned home after the treaty was signed, out of a total of 351 Brunswick County soldiers making the trip overseas.

It is difficult to track the 93 Brunswick County men serving in the US Navy but we do know that 56 had already been discharged including Navy nurse Susan Williams from Southport.

Many who continued to serve overseas were those you might expect: some from service and labor battalions, as well as engineers, medical units, and MPs, such as Pfc Harry Clayton Chinnis.

Those serving in units other than the above may have remained due to illness, such as Cpl Rothschild Holden from the 81st Division and Pvt Castello Goodman from the 543rd Engineers.

The 1st and 5th Divisions had been assigned to the Third Army, the Army of Occupation, and had not yet returned home. The 5th Division was relieved in May 1919 but their departure was delayed until July, which included Cpl Charles Byron Drew, Pfc John William Mills, Pvt Owen Ransom Mintz and Pfc Barfie Randel Long from Brunswick County.

The 1st Division remained until August 1919, which included Pvt Alvin Alwin Milliken, Cpl William Thompson White and Cpl Johnnie Vereen.

Historians and economists continue to debate whether the concessions and reparations the treaty required from Germany helped lead to World War II. After being assured this was the “war to end all wars” these courageous and in many cases, forgotten veterans were then asked to make additional and likely what they considered more difficult sacrifices as they sent their sons and daughters to face the horrors of war.

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WWI Fort Caswell nurse profiles begin next week

Source: Oteen Newsletter, October 4, 1919
“If Doughboys Gave Medals”
Beside the brave fighting men of WWI were the women of the Red Cross and Army Nurse Corps. Fourteen of these courageous women were identified as serving in Fort Caswell during WWI. These women’s lives will be shared in the coming weeks.

Navy Nurse Susan Adkins Williams from Southport was introduced in one of the first Brunswick County WWI Profiles posted on the website. WWI began the shift to viewing women as competent contributors both in war and at home. The diary used in Nurse Williams’ profile gives a clear picture of the physical and mental strength required to serve overseas. To read a short article about WWI nurses serving overseas, visit

These women chose to serve. What motivated them to join the war effort? A look into their lives may help answer that question but there are no obvious answers. Some had both parents, some lost one, one was an orphan. Some were the oldest children in the family, others were the youngest. Some were relatively wealthy, others came from more disadvantaged backgrounds. All of them relocated, at least briefly, to cities for training.

One immigrated from Germany. Two were born and raised in NC, one relocated to NC (Asheville) for nursing training and remained in NC throughout her life.

During World War I,

  • 5 served only at Fort Caswell.
  • 7 served in multiple locations.
  • 3 served overseas.

After World War I,

  • 7 continued serving.
  • 2 of those continued serving in the US Navy.
  • 1 served in World War II, became the first Navy nurse to win the Bronze Star, and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

In their life after service,

  • 8 were married.
  • None had children.
  • 1 died at age 33 (tuberculosis)
  • 3 died in their 50s.
  • 3 lived into their 90s, with one dying at age 99.

ANC Pin from WWI; Source of Pin: NC DNR
The Army Nurse Corps (ANC) was formed in 1901 after the Spanish American War in which 1500 nurses were contracted to help. A permanent nursing corps was deemed necessary. The Red Cross recruited reserve nurses, while the ANC included active duty nurses.

Posters such as the one shown below lured women to become trained nurses. Only graduate nurses were eligible for serving in WWI.

“The minimum educational requirement is one year of high school work. The profession, however, offers almost unlimited opportunities for high school and college graduates. During training the students receive full maintenance, also books, uniforms and a monthly allowance of $25.00. Free elective post-graduate courses are open to graduates.

“The schools in the Department of Public Welfare, New York City, also Bellevue School, afford the best of facilities for a broad general training.

“Address the Principal of the following registered Schools for further information –
Bellevue Hospital School, East 26th Street – New York City
City Hospital School – Blackwell’s Island, New York City
Cumberland Street Hospital School, Cumberland Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Kings County Hospital School – Clarkson Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Metropolitan Hospital School – Blackwell’s Island, New York City”

When the US entered WWI, there were only 403 nurses on active duty. By November 1918, there were 21,460 with 10,000 serving overseas. By one estimate, 1/3 of nurses in the US served with the military during WWI.

These were the requirements for US Army nurses. Some requirements were changed during the war in order to admit more nurses.

  • US citizens – later changed to accept citizens of Allied countries
  • female
  • unmarried
  • between 25 and 35 years of age – later changed to 21-45 years of age
  • Caucasian
  • Graduates of training schools offering theoretical and practical nursing
  • Appointed by the Surgeon General with the approval of the Secretary of War
  • All applicants had to be individually considered, especially regarding physical examinations before and after appointment.

No member of the ANC was assigned to overseas service against her will.

According to Volume V of the Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, published in 1921-1929 by the Government Printing Office, “The part played by the post hospitals in the care of the sick and wounded during the World War was, perforce, relatively small.” Unless the post hospitals were at large recruit depots like Fort Jay or Fort Leavenworth, they had few personnel and the senior medical officer on duty was in charge of the hospital while also serving as post surgeon.

A chart in the referenced document (page 394) that lists the number of personnel in United States Army Post Hospitals shows that the majority had no nurses whatsoever. One post hospital with a list of the number of nurses broken down by month matches fairly closely to Fort Caswell: Chief Nurse Nellie E. Davis began in March 1918 with a staff of 7, swelling to 13 during the influenza pandemic in the fall-winter of 1918, dropping gradually as nurses left for other posts or overseas until March 1919 when all nurses were discharged.

US nurses overseas worked on surgical teams, hospital trains, hospital ships, and in all sorts of hospitals: field hospitals, mobile units, base hospitals, evacuation hospitals, camp hospitals, and convalescent hospitals. They often worked 14-18 hour shifts for weeks at a time. They served on shock, gas, orthopedic, and surgical specialty teams where they could be moved to the front lines in groups of five or six.

All of this was accomplished while wearing full length dresses! Initially the dresses were required to be white, but in order to free up time to care for the wounded rather than cleaning their white clothing, nurses were given permission to wear gray uniforms.

“All white is the dress uniform of the Red Cross nurse in foreign service, where its wearing, for laundry purposes has to be a luxury. But sometimes a wounded man is decorated in the ward, or a General may visit; almost certainly then the nurse will wear dress uniform as a mark of honor, and one which is dramatic in its symbolism. Nurses of the Army and Navy Nurse Corps wear the same uniform, with their insignia the Caduceus of the Army or anchor of the Navy replacing the Red Cross pin. They retain the Red Cross on the cap, however, if they have entered military service from the Red Cross reserve.”

“This is the Nurses’ uniform that wounded soldiers know best – the gray cotton crepe working uniform of the Red Cross Army and Navy Nurse, which makes its wearer “the best dressed woman in the world.” Gray is an innovation used abroad made necessary by the laundry problem in France. The Red Cross brassard is worn only by nurses serving directly under the Red Cross.”

“Stormy weather attire is the same in the Red Cross or Army and Navy service, the only difference being in the insignia. The heavy ulster was worn often in the sleeping tents as well as the out-of-doors during the rigors of last winter in France. Though the nurses who had tent quarters in base hospitals maintained that they were as warm as those within solid walls, during the almost fuel-less months.”

272 US Army nurses died of disease. Those who died during their Army service were buried with military honors.

Three nurses were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and 23 the Distinguished Service Medal.

  • Nurses held no rank.
    • In 1920, they were authorized to retain ranks from 2nd Lieutenant to Major.
    • In 1947, the Army Nurse Corps was established as a staff corps, with officers holding permanent commissioned rank from second lieutenant to lieutenant colonel.
  • Their pay was half that of soldiers with the same rank.
  • They were neither enlisted nor commissioned personnel.
    • In 1944, military status was granted by Congress.
  • African American nurses could join but could not serve in the war.
  • Men were prohibited.
    • The first man was commissioned in 1955.

The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. These women accelerated the changing views of what women could accomplish. To learn more, listen to episode #125 of the WWI Centennial podcast.

Nurses assigned to Fort Caswell were discovered by searching “Nursing News and Announcements” in the issues of The American Journal of Nursing in the relevant years. The list of fourteen may not be complete.

More details were found when the nurses lived in small communities with archived newspapers. Larger cities rarely published details about them in their society pages or included obituaries.

A few references were found in the Wilmington newspapers.

Dora Bell in March 1918:

Bertha Jost in June 1918:

Anna Loveland in December 1918:
The name listed with Anna, “Helen E. Davis,” is certainly Nellie E. Davis, another Fort Caswell nurse.

The Army Nurse Corps Association
Army Medical Department
The History of American Red Cross Nursing
Posters from Library of Congress
Photographs from National Archives

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National School Nurse Day

Today is National School Nurse Day.

School nursing is not a typical topic on a WWI and historical preservation blog. However, there is a small connection.

The WWI Profiles of Brunswick County veterans are about to end. Profiles for the Fort Caswell WWI nurses will begin and they were an impressive group of women.

It just happens that two of the nurses who served at Fort Caswell during WWI became school nurses after the war.

Ida Estelle Trollinger was employed as a Wake County Raleigh City School Nurse for many years, then became Head Nurse in the Infirmary at North Carolina State College (now NC State University).

Frances Cordelia “Fannie” Boulware was Head Nurse in the Infirmary at Furman University (Greenville, SC).

These were the women who cared for Brunswick County WWI soldiers at Fort Caswell, then may have cared for them or their children or grandchildren at school after the war.

The WWI Fort Caswell Nurse Profiles will begin in a few weeks.

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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.

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

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