100 Years ago this Week: Some soldiers leave for the front

Background:  December 1917:  The soldiers of the 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, have traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and are staying temporarily at the American camp 2 miles outside of St. Nazaire France.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 9- A case of scarlet fever developed yesterday in Co. C.  If nothing more develops we may get out of quarantine soon.

Monday Dec 10- Some of the boys went to town today as a result the night was rather noisy.

Tuesday Dec 11– About 8000 more troops arrived today.  I am very busy at supply house.  Tonight “Mock Trial” (?)

Wednesday Dec 12 – Co D, of HG 2nd/Bn (?) and ½ of ba F left today for near the front.

Thursday Dec 13– CO B & ½ bo H (?) left today.  Have been in town all day working.

Friday Dec 14The weather has been very good since we have been here .  Humidity is so great clothes all moldy.

Saturday Dec 15– This has been a very happy day.  Mail came last night bringing me 7 letters.  2-Marion 2-home (?) & Uncle Will.

Note:  My grandfather wrote his daily entries in pencil in a small pocket journal.  When I was unable to decipher what he wrote I entered a (?) in my transcription of his writing.  This is a picture of his diary for this week.  On Tuesday December 11 it appears that he wrote Tonight “Mock Trial”.  I don’t know what that refers to.  Any ideas?

John Rodney Jamieson’s Journal entry for December 8-13, 1917

Wednesday Dec 12, 1917-  In his journal Poppa noted that some units were sent to other locations.  Here is a map of where in France the different battalions and companies of the 20th engineers were eventually stationed.

Poppa wrote that among the units going to a location near the front was the Second battalion Headquarters.  Battalion headquarters are identified with a diamond shape.  Note the diamond with the number 2 in it in the upper right (Northeast) section of the map.  It appears to be very near the border with Germany.  According to the 20th Engineers website this is the Vosges area of France.  Many WWI battles had already been fought in this area of the Border of France and Belgium before America joined the war.  Although the main purpose of the 20th Engineers was to produce lumber and timber for Allied forces the 2nd battalion would find itself immediately behind the front lines of battle.

On Saturday, Dec 15th Poppa indicated that mail arrived and he received 7 letters. Two of those letters were from Marion Clarkson Brown who had recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Here is a page from her yearbook. Although they were just courting in 1917 (Spoiler alert) Marion was my grandmother.  Marion grew up in Webster Groves MO.  It appears that she attended a year of college at University of Washington in St. Louis before transferring to the University of Wisconsin.  Family legend says that Marion wanted to go to medical school but in those days women were not encouraged to be physicians.  Apparently after graduation Marion was qualified to teach high school science.  In his journal Poppa had a mailing address for Marion which was in Webster Groves.  Apparently Marion returned there to live with her family after college graduation in 1917.

He also received mail from ‘Uncle Will’.  William Wallace Jamieson was his uncle and would have been about 62 years old in 1917.

William Wallace Jamieson (1855-1947)


Next week: Moving to a New Camp




20thEngineers.com – World War 1 – 2nd Battalion. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2017.The University of Wisconsin Collection: The Badger (Volume XXXI): Classes. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2017.