100 Years Ago This Week: An Easter Tragedy

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army.  He was assigned to the 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Mar 31, 1918– Not a very pleasant Easter as today at 3:25 Pm Major Hartwick died.  There will never be another major after service under this man. Body shipped to Bordeaux tonight. Hq Dept. bought nice wreath of flowers.

Monday April 1– Funeral at  B ———- today.  Several of the boys were allowed to go, I could not go.  Rained nearly all day here.

Tuesday April 2– Major Weisel has taken over command of our battalion.  Rec’d notice to go to B— tomorrow for examination for Corps of Engineers U.S. Army.

Wednesday April 3– Did not go to B—— for exam, postponed.  Some real nice mail today.

Thursday April 4 –Working each day at building garage and machine shop.  Building in all 36×60. Have had 8 men each day on the job.

Friday April 5– Took exam for Corp of Engineers today.  Two Colonels gave it. Not very much encouraged over outcome.  Going to B—- this PM for physical examination.

Saturday April 6– Spent day at B——. Took physical exam at base hospital (?) 6 , saw many interesting things.  “Skin clear except for recent ? Bites. 3 of us took exam. Brundage an (?) Johnson were the others.

Death of a Commanding Officer

Major Edward E. Hartwick

Sunday Mar 31– “Not a very pleasant Easter as today at 3:25 Pm Major Hartwick died.  There will never be another major after service under this man. Body shipped to Bordeaux tonight. Hq Dept. bought nice wreath of flowers.”

Edward E. Hartwick had graduated from West Point and served in the Spanish American war.  He retired from the army and went into the lumber business in Grayling and Detroit Michigan until he rejoined the army in 1917 to work as an officer in the 20th Engineers.  It appears that Poppa worked closely with him and for a time was his orderly.

According to the book A Biographical Study of Major Edward E Hartwick” by Gordon K.Miller the Major died of meningitis Sunday March 31,  1918 at 3:25 Pm French time and he was buried at 3 PM Monday in Bordeaux, France.

It appears that Poppa and his mates had great respect for the Major.  One of his soldier friends that Poppa mentions frequently in his journal is M.Malone who wrote this letter to the Major’s widow:

“I am only a private but having been in the office with and around the Major since the organization of his battalion in Washington I naturally came to know him and I consider it not only an honor but a revelation to have been associated with and commanded by a man of his character and ability.  He was never tiring in his labors never weakening in his undertakings, and always looking out for the comfort and welfare of his men.  He was faithful to his country, he was faithful to his family, and thus he came to the end of a perfect day on this earth And now I would write across his records here was a MAN and a SOLDIER to the end.”

(Apparently private M. Malone was later promoted to sergeant.   According to Poppa’s address book Sgt. Malone was later involved in the lumber business in Beaumont Texas.)

Two years after Hartwick’s death his body was removed and buried in Detroit Michigan.   In 1927, his widow purchased more than 8,000 acres  of land in  Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and donated the parcel to the state of Michigan in her husband’s name. This became the  Hartwick Pines State Park, the largest state park in the lower Peninsula.

“Monday April 1– Funeral at  B ———- today.  Several of the boys were allowed to go, I could not go.  Rained nearly all day here.”

Was Poppa disappointed that he was not allowed to attend the Major’s funeral?   Bordeaux is about 90 miles from Dax.

Tuesday April 2– “Major Weisel has taken over command of our battalion.”

In this screen shot of officers of the 20th Engineers Captain F.R. Weisel is number 6.

The only other reference I could find to Major Weisel was in this article from the 1918 edition of the American Lumberman.



In his journal entries this week Poppa referred to Bordeaux or B—- almost every day.  He reported that Major Hartwick was buried there and later in the week Poppa received his physical exam there at Base Hospital 6.

Bordeaux , a French city about 90 miles from Dax, where Poppa was stationed is the world’s major wine industry capital and in 1918 had a population of over 250,000 people.

Base hospital 6 was located near Bordeaux.  It was organized at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and traveled to France a a unit.  They left New York on July 9, 1917 and were treating patients in Bordeaux by August 21st.

According to Michel Boquet:  “Foreign soldiers who died there were buried at the Talence Communal Cemetery extension. The Americans were later exhumed and buried or in their country or at the Suresnes American Cemetery. Mainly, the Canadians stayed there.”

A drawing of Base Hospital 6
This picture of a portion of Base Hospital 6 was taken in April of 1918.

I wonder how long it took to travel from Dax to Bordeaux in 1918?  Did they drive a military vehicle or did they take a train?

Next Week:  We all Hope That the French and English Will Hold Them


“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“Edward Hartwick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Mar. 2018. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“American Forestry.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“American Lumberman.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2018.

“Bordeaux.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2018. Web. 07 Apr. 2018.
“OnViewCurated Content from the Center for the History of Medicine’s Extraordinary Collections.” Omeka RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2018.

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