100 Years ago this Week: Starting the New Year in France

Background:  In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the 20th Engineers regiment of the United States Army.  In November they sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  After spending some time at a camp outside St. Nazaire they observed Christmas at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 30, 1917– First Sunday in sometime.  Made a few blue-prints.  Balance of day rest.  Mail today 2 packages, and papers.  No letters.

Monday Dec 31– New Years Eve Party.  Supper for 10 of six courses.  Great feed. Later  joined by Canadian and French solider.  Hope to be in USA in 1919.

Tuesday Jan 1, 1918– Some of the boys had bad hangovers today.  Snowing all day but weather is not cold.

Wednesday Jan 2– We are told this is the worst cold spell Dax has ever seen.  3 Christmas packages today.

Thursday Jan 3– Packages came from 1-home 1 Aunt may and 1 Ora.  Pair of mittens are great.

Friday Jan 4– Nights are very cold sleeping in tents.  Keep warm during day by fire.

Saturday Jan 5– Present allowance of bread per capita in France is about 10 ounce per day.  Sugar allowance about 1 lb per month

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January 5, 1917 – Poppa commented on food rationing for the citizens of France. According to an article on the internet  the previous winter of 1916-17 was harsh and resulted in shortages of food available for the French citizens.  Ironically, the  meat rationing cards, meant to distribute available meat fairly resulted in the poorest Frenchmen having access to types of food they couldn’t afford before the war.

A French propaganda poster from WWI. Rough translation: “Save the Bread. Cut it thin. Use the crusts”

Here is a translation from French describing food rationing in France during and after WWI.

“So terrible had the food shortage there become that the daily rations had been cut to the minimum that would sustain life and strength. The peasant population of continental Europe, which means a large part of the people, lives principally upon wheat in one form or another. In France bread is literally the staff of life, normally constituting 52 per cent. of the Frenchman’s food. Yet the French bread ration was successively lowered until at one time it reached seven ounces a day per capita…. even the bread ration of the soldier was sharply reduced – a measure to which resort it had only in situations of direst necessity. Indeed, many well-informed persons attribute the disaster of 1917 on the Italian front to the lowering of morale consequent upon the cutting of the bread ration. The soldier well knew that if his food was cut his family must be well-nigh starving to death.”

French bread and sugar rationing tickets. Courtesy of www.314th.org

 

Instructions on use of the bread and sugar rationing tickets. French bread and sugar rationing tickets. Courtesy of www.314th.org

A portion of the rationing instruction sheet above was translated by Google to –

“each ticket corresponds to 100 grams of bread and presents it sheet is established for daily consumption of 500 grams, or 5 tickets for a day. Each slice of 5 bread coupons has, at the left end, a ticket valid for 25 grams of sugar, which corresponds to the daily ration of this commodity. The soldier on leave of absence of 10 days will have the Faculte, by vertically cutting all the sugar tickets to obtain in one go the 250 grams of this commodity represented by 10 tickets of 25 grams each.”

The cover of a French ration ticket book.

Posters were also distributed here at home to encourage Americans to support the effort to feed the French population.

At the bottom of this poster it says “They are struggling against starvation and trying to feed not only themselves and children but their husbands and sons who are fighting in the trenches.”

Next Week: President Wilson’s Conditions of Peace 

Sources:

Log Cabin Memorial – Veterans 314th Infantry Regiment A.E.F. – French Bread and Sugar Ration Tickets. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

“World War 1 Propaganda Posters.” Examples of Propaganda from WW1 | Will You Help the Women of France? Save Wheat. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.

 

100 Years ago this week: Christmas in the Bull pen

Background:  In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the 20th Engineers regiment of the United States Army.  After training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and on the grounds of the American University in Washington, D.C. he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  After spending some time at a camp outside St. Nazaire they have now set up camp inside a bull ring in Dax, France.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 23, 1917Very busy day getting supplies from Depot.  Building tent floors and erecting tents.  Have two tents with stoves.

Monday Dec 24 – Working hard to get tents up and arranged.  Spent Christmas eve in city at picture show and in seeing town.

Tuesday Dec 25– “Christmas day in the “Bull Pen”  Had a fine dinner of turkey, dates, nuts.  No work today.

Wednesday Dec 26– Mail today 1-home 1-Marion 2-Uncle Will 1 Ora.  Had travellers checks cashed at Banque de Franca.

Thursday Dec 27– Today was payday.  Nearly everyone has been broke for some time.

Friday Dec 28 – There is plenty of hot water here as hot springs are found all over town.  Big night tonight.

Saturday Dec 29 – Ground covered with snow. Very cold (about 23 degrees above)  for this place.  Dinner party this night  First “grand eats” for some time


Here is a description of contemporary Dax, France from the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Dax is in the Landes District of southwestern France. It lies on the left bank of the Adour River, 88 miles (142 km) southwest of Bordeaux and 50 miles (80 km) north of the Pyrenees frontier with Spain. The town is a spa resort whose thermal springs and mud baths have been noted for the cure of rheumatism since Roman times, when it was known as Aquae Tarbellicae. Situated on the edge of the Landes Forest, it is also a tourist centre. The remains of its Gallo-Roman walls have been made into a promenade. At the Place de la Fontaine Chaude, near the Roman wall, there are hot springs, the waters of which gush out at a temperature of 147 °F (64 °C). Near the river is a park with a bull ring. Small-scale woodworking and leatherworking are local industries. Pop. (1999) 19,515; (2014 est.) 20,485.”

Sunday, December 23, 1917- As the week begins Poppa and the other soldiers of the Headquarters unit have been in Dax, France for only 36 hours and they are working to set up camp inside a bull fighting ring.  I don’t think many veterans can say they were stationed in a bull ring!

The existence of a bull ring, not a typical feature in France, was due to the close proximity of Dax to the Spanish border.

Major Edward Hartwick was Poppa’s commanding officer.  Here is how he described the bull ring camp in a letter to his family in Michigan:

“The headquarters detachment about forty men are encamped- where do you think- well I got permission to pitch our tents in the Arena a Spanish bull ring surrounded with raised seats all constructed of concrete similar to our ball park except the diameter of the ring is only about 150 feet but is the best camping place we will ever get.  Under the concrete raised benches are rooms where we store our baggage.  Also toilet rooms and where they kept the bulls and horses we are going to keep our horses, pigs, auto trucks, automobile and the best of all one of the hot springs is but a few feet from the entrance.  A circular concrete wall with only two entrances encloses the place. A most admirable place for a little camp. When we shut the big door we are hidden from the curious though friendly public which has been flocking to look at us so much that I had the mayor put up a notice that it was forbidden to enter the arena without permission from him.  Soon we shall have the arena connected with electric light and our own telephone to the two camps and then we will be settled.”

The Dax bullring was built in 1913.

 

In his photo album this picture is labelled: John Rodney Jamieson Dax, France 1917.

20th Engineers– The 20th Engineers battalion was established to mill and provide lumber products for the army’s use in building bridges, roads buildings, etc.  Poppa, like most of the other soldiers of the 20th had experience in the lumber business.  Before (and after) his service in the army he worked for his father and uncles at Jamieson Brothers lumber yard in Poynette, Wisconsin.

Dax was chosen as one of the camps of the 20th Engineers because of the areas abundance of forests.  Major Hartwick wrote the following about the trees in the area:

“One hundred or so years ago this country was a wide expanse of sand and sandy moraiss a desert but about that time experiments were made with a view of growing a forest of pine and after years of trial and discouragement the successful methods were found so that the woods are of trees from fifty to seventy years a species of pine resembling in appearance our jack pine but growing fifty to sixty feet high and with limbs about thirty feet from the ground.”

Christmas Day 1917– Poppa reported that he had the day off and had a nice meal.

December 26– Poppa received mail from Marion Brown (who would become his wife and my grandmother) and Ora Hopkins, who was his cousin, daughter of his aunt Samantha Janet (Jamieson) and Uncle Edgar Hinkson.

The grave marker of Ora Hinkson Hopkins in the Hillside Cemetery, Poynette, WI

Next Week:  Starting the New Year in France

Sources:

“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2017.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Dax.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 09 June 2017. Web. 20 Dec. 2017.

 

100 Years ago this Week: Moving to a New Camp

Background:  In September 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the 20th Engineers regiment of the United States Army.  After training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and on the grounds of the American University in Washington, D.C. he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  Some soldiers have recently been sent to northeastern France near the front line.  However, Poppa and other soldiers of the first battalion of the 20th Engineers remain at the American camp 2 miles outside of St. Nazaire.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 16, 1917 – Have not had a Sunday for a long time.  Every day is the same in the army.  Spent day at warehouse in St. Nazaire

Monday Dec 17– Nearly every day the band of the 116th Engineers at neighboring  camp plays “On Wisconsin”.

Tuesday Dec 18– Through Hourgines (?) good work I succeeded in Getting a pass up town and “took in” St. Nazaire. Sent souvenirs to family.

Wednesday Dec 19- Very quiet day but mighty noisy night.   Hill and Lloyd have much wedding and raise h-l till Midnight.  (?)

Thursday Dec 20– Arose at 4:00 A.M. packed and left St. Nazaire at noon.  Rode in box car with no heat.  Very crowded night.

Friday Dec 21– Rode South all day in boxcar.  Arrived at 4:00 PM Dax all marched out but slept in car.

Saturday Dec 22– We are assigned quarters in an arena previously used for bull fighting.  Spent night under grandstand.


Dax France –  At the start of the week Poppa and the rest of the first battalion of the 20th engineers were living and working  in the US Army camp outside of St. Nazaire, France.  By the end of the week they had travelled about 350 miles south by train to Dax.  They must have been surprised to find that their new living quarters were inside a bull ring.

Modern picture of the Dax Bull Ring

 

The bull ring was built in 1913.

A picture postcard of the Dax bull ring from the early part of the 20th century.

According to the internet bull fighting is not a common activity in France.  However,  Dax, France is only about 50 miles from the border with Spain so it appears that the bullfighting tradition spills over the Spanish border.

Major Edward E. Hartwick was Poppa’s commanding officer.  According to Gordon K. Miller, author of a biography of Hartwick here is what Hartwick wrote to his family regarding their new camp:

I have my headquarters in the town and one company on one side about four miles away and the other on another side about five miles distant The headquarters detachment about forty men are encamped- where do you think- well I got permission to pitch our tents in the “Arena”- a Spanish bull ring surrounded with raised seats all constructed of concrete similar to our ball park except the diameter of the ring is only about 150 feet but is the best camping place we will ever get.  Under the concrete raised benches are rooms where we store our baggage, also toilet rooms; and where they kept the bulls and horses we are going to keep our horses, pigs, auto, trucks automobile and the best of all- one of the hot springs is but a few feet from the entrance. A circular concrete wall with only two entrances encloses the place – a most admirable place for a little camp. When we shut the big door we are hidden from the curious, though friendly, public which has been flocking to look at us so much that I had the mayor put up a notice that it was forbidden to enter the arena without permission from him. Soon we shall have the arena connected with electric light and our own telephone to the two camps and then we will be settled.

December 17th, 1917  – “On Wisconsin” was written in 1909 and is both the state song of Wisconsin and the fight song for the University of Wisconsin.  For a young American man stationed in a country at war hearing the song of his alma mater must have provided some comfort.

The cover of “On Wisconsin” second edition from the archives of the University of Wisconsin

 

Meanwhile, back in America–  On December 18, 1917 The United States congress passed the ‘Prohibition amendment’ It was then sent to the states for ratification.  In a previous episode of this blog Poppa reported that he had experienced the beginning of prohibition in Washington, D.C.  Prohibition was implemented as a result of the 18th amendment which didn’t pass until 1919.  However, state governments were encouraged to implement their own laws outlawing alcohol prior to the amendment passing.  Washington, D.C, was not a state and was governed by Congress.  So Congress decided that the city would be dry choosing November, 1st 1917 as the day that alcohol became illegal.

December 19th- Sometimes I have trouble reading Poppa’s handwritten journal.  I don’t understand what he meant by Hill and Lloyd have much wedding and raise h-l till Midnight.  What do you think he actually wrote for December 19th, 1917? 

Remember, Poppa used a pocket calendar from 1913 as his 1917 journal. He just changed the day of the week!

In the back of Poppa’s journal there is a list of names with dollar amounts after them.  One entry said Lloyd $10.00.  Poppa’s father and grandfather were bankers.  Do you think this is how Poppa kept track of who he lent money to?  Or maybe who he borrowed money from?  Is the Lloyd listed here the same one who, along with Hill “raised h–l all night”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Week: Christmas in the Bull Pen!

Sources:

“The Song and Controversies.” UW Archives and Records Management. N.p., 23 June 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2017.

https://www.britannica.com/place/Dax

“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2017.

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

 

 

Sources:

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.

100 Years ago This Week: Quarantined in France

Background:  The 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, travelled across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS Madawaska, They recently docked in St. Nazaire, France.  They are staying in a nearby camp but are now under quarantine.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Dec 2, 1917– Working in supply room issuing rations.  Would not know it was Sunday.  Another death (no. 2) last night at hospital.  

Monday Dec 3The weather is rather cool but very good.  We sleep on the ground , have very good mess.  Will be glad to be allowed a little freedom.   

Tuesday Dec 4– The spirit in this camp is very good considering the quarantine. Another death reported (3).

Wednesday Dec 5– A big shipment of Red Cross sweaters, etc were received today.  The Red Cross deserves a lot of praise & credit.

Thursday Dec 6– We are all getting tired of this quarantine and hope to be able to get out soon.

Friday Dec 7Every evening we sing, play cards and have a jolly good time while we are shut in.

Saturday Dec 8I am still working every day in supply room.  We are getting everything to the companies.

 

Soldiers dying in quarantine.  

It appears that my grandfather kept count of the soldiers in his unit that passed away by putting a number inside ().  So far he is aware of three.

 

The Red Cross

Poppa was complimentary of the Red Cross because the soldiers received “a big shipment of sweaters, etc” on December 5th.

In the summer of 1917 the Read Cross urgently requested knitted goods and hospital supplies and thousands of Americans responded.  The boots worn by the soldiers had seams that tore out easily and metal studs on the bottom so wet and cold feet were a big problem.  The socks knitted by the Red Cross volunteers were highly valued by the soldiers on the front, many of whom were in trenches.

 

 

 

 

Getting Organized

The 20th Engineers are in St. Nazaire, France, getting organized before moving on to their unknown destination.  Edward E. Hartwick was a major in the 20th engineers and my grandfather’s commanding officer.  His biography includes entries in his diary and letters home to his wife.  Here is some of what Major Hartwick wrote after they arrived at St. Nazaire:

Major Edward E. Hartwick

This is a very quaint old town (St. Nazaire), most substantially built. As you may imagine, the streets are very narrow, but kept thoroughly clean (only the main streets). Also bought some picture postcards, but the censor regulations will not permit me to send them by mail. I am dictating this while I have a little time after breakfast, waiting for the office of the transportation officer to open, as I want to get an automobile and look over our camp before we go to it.

 

Type of truck used by the military in WWI

The sick were taken off the ship yesterday, … Have been unable to get permission to cable and everyone on the ship is very much disappointed that we cannot cable our safe arrival. I find that people here are more in the dark as to news of the war than are the folks at home, as it seems that what news they receive here comes from New York, Washington, London and Paris, and of course it is all censored. At this writing do not know where we are to go, except that we are to go by train; the little dinky cars and engines would certainly make Robert laugh if he could see them. For example, we moved our entire command and baggage on the American train in thirty-six cars, but will have to have seventy-two cars on this French rail road. The locomotive looks like a model of the first engine ever built.

Here is a fuzzy picture of a trainload of U.S. soldiers near St. Nazaire France
Here is a fuzzy picture of a trainload of U.S. soldiers near St. Nazaire France.

 

We … are quartered in buildings similar to the buildings at Camp American University, except that there are no floors in the buildings and the men are all sleeping on straw in their bedsocks, spread on the ground. Almost hustled my legs off that day getting rations, fuel and ovens, etc., so the men could have hot coffee and a warm supper. Our lunch we brought with us off the boat. The men were a happy lot, to get their feet on solid ground. Everything is very scarce here and we are striving to economize. I should not say everything, as food seems to be plentiful. But wood, coal, paper, milk and clothing are scarce. We had no heat for warming until today, when I managed to secure one stove for each barracks, heated by a “slack” coal and only heated evenings. We are in quarantine and have most stringent regulations to keep all officers and men in camp, except when I give permission for them to leave on duty — or with me. We are in a camp commanded by an officer of marines — and several other organizations are here. Our sick list is improving and we hope to be out of quarantine by December 10th. Winter weather here; seems to be about like late October in Detroit, only more dampness or fog in the morning.

 Based on the journals of both my grandfather and major Hartwick it appears that supplies of most things are in short supply.  The soldiers are sleeping on the ground and can only heat their quarters at night.  The term ‘slack coal’ refers to small pieces of coal or even coal dust.

Sunday December 2nd, 1917

Poppa reported in his journal that on Sunday, Dec. 2nd he was working in the supply room.  Major Hartwick also made an entry for that day:  Here is some of what he recorded:

Sunday Morning,December 2nd: This is a beautiful Sunday morning and I have come down to the town near the dock, as we have our impedimenta in a warehouse and are moving it by motor trucks, so as to divide it up among the detachments that I am to send to their stations. Our boat is still at the dock unloading cargo, and I took the opportunity to get one more good fresh-water shower bath. Am now writing this in the “salon” of the Hotel Bretagne — a room about ten by fourteen, containing a writing table and piano, which, with a few chairs and fireplace, completely fill it. … It was so cold my toothpaste was frozen or at least so cold it would not squeeze out till I warmed it at the cook-fire. … Last Thursday — Thanksgiving day — Major Greeley arrived at camp and surprised me, as I had talked with him from Paris on the telephone the day before. He is on the staff of the general officer at the head of the forestry department. The general officer was stationed in Detroit a year ago. You have heard me speak of him as my former instructor at West Point, General M. M. Patrick.

General Mason Mathews Patrick (16 Dec 1863- 29 Jan. 1942) A US transport ship was named after him and launched in June 1944.

He was so glad to learn that these two battalions had arrived that he sent Major Greeley to learn all about us, our equipment, etc. Our army is really in desperate need of lumber, fuel (wood), poles, railroad ties, bridge timber, etc. One campaign here was stopped for lack of certain wooden products. Well, he gave me my orders; so as soon as we are out of quarantine I am to send the various detachments out and will be in charge of a “district” as district commander. We will begin work at once getting out logs, building camps, roads, cutting up the limbs for fuel — even the twigs are saved here. Thanksgiving day was not much of a celebration here.  Worked all day, but that evening was invited to a 7:00 p. m. dinner with Major Greeley and Major Johnson, given by the “casual officers” on board our ship to us and to Captain Watson and Lieutenant McCauley of the navy. We had a good time, but it was a poor substitute for the table with you and the boys. Thanksgiving afternoon our men and officers were addressed briefly by Chaplain Talbott of the 17th Engineers, an Episcopalian. After his talk I took the opportunity to say a few words to our men and for once in my life must have made a good one, as both the officers and men afterwards spoke of it. We are forbidden to talk among ourselves or with civilians as to events of the war, our station, our moves, our numbers, etc., so there is very little I can write about such… Our men are feeling better and we have several ball games every afternoon — baseball and football. The sick are improving, though we lost another soldier last night of pneumonia. 

 

 

Next week:  Some Soldiers Move Toward the Front 

Sources:

“HistoryLink.org.” Knitting for Victory — World War I – HistoryLink.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2017.

“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2017.

http://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/career-advice/military-transition/gm-military-history-motorized-vehicles.html

“Mason Patrick.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Nov. 2017. Web. 30 Nov. 2017.

 

100 Years ago this Week. Our Destination is Finally Revealed

Background:  November 1917:  The 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, are traveling across the Atlantic Ocean on the Madawaska, a passenger ship originally built by Germans but confiscated by americans when the war started. They haven’t been told yet where the ship is going.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Nov 25, 1917 – Rough weather today made us feel rather safe.  We expect to land tomorrow but know one knows where.

Monday Nov 26th– A pleasant day Pretty scenery accompanied first view of land.  Arrived at Saint Nazaire France at 4:30.  No one allowed to leave boat.

Tuesday Nov 27– All day spent on board ship.  Due to 7 cases of spinal Meningitis (?) and measles.  We are having trouble in landing.

Wednesday Nov 28This A.M we unloaded and sent to a camp 2 miles from boat.  We are quarantined and assigned to a certain section.  

Thursday Nov 29Spent Thanksgiving under quarantine working in supply room.

Friday Nov 30– Our barracks are fairly comfortable except we have no floor or cots.  Sleeping close to nature.

Saturday Dec 1– This is a large camp but we have only a very small part of it and closely guarded.  Weather is fine.


Land!

The soldiers and crew of the USS Madawaska must have felt relieved to finally reach the relative safety of a harbor after many days of traveling under the constant danger of attack from German submarines.  But soldiers continue to get sick and for the third time in as many months my grandfather and his comrades are placed in quarantine.

Major Edward E. Hartwick was the commander of the 20th engineers and was onboard the Madawaska with his soldiers.  Here is what he wrote in his journal on November 26th, 1917:

“Land sighted at 6 :35 a.m. Sea smooth and weather clear. We were met by three yachts flying the American flag all mounting guns forward and aft. Also two French biplanes came out and hovered over us having the tricolor and stripes on the lower plane and on the tail also. At each end of the lower plane a tri colored target circle and we could see mounted forward a large machine gun pointed downward Also a dirigible balloon was flying over the harbor. Our fleet formation was changed to column formation our escort of destroyers falling in behind us and we were piloted in by one yacht the other two sailing along on our starboard.”

A french bi-plane circa 1917. Note the forward mounted machine gun pointing down as described by Major Hartwick

St. Nazaire, France

St. Nazaire is a community where the Loire river flows into the Atlantic.

St. Nazaire indicated by the red pin on this map

 

In 1917 St. Nazaire was a small town but has grown considerably due to industrialization and ship building.

Here is a Youtube video of what St. Naizaire appears in modern times.

 

This picture, from the 1917-1919 photo album of Donald R. Cochran, shows the Madawaska in port at St. Nazaire in 1919.

The caption under this picture says U.S.S. “Madawaska” at St Nazaire May 1919.

 

This picture was reportedly taken on June 25th, 1917 and shows the first group of soldiers to arrive in St. Nazaire, France.  This would be five months before Poppa’s arrival but the photo likely reflects conditions similar to what he experienced.

Picture of the first contingent of American ‘Doughboys’ to arrive in France in 1917. They are assembled on a pier in St. Nazaire before marching to their camps.

Wednesday, November 28, 1917

Poppa reported that they left the ship and went to a camp two miles away.   He had spent his whole life in Wisconsin and now, three months after joining the army, he set foot on foreign soil, just in time for Thanksgiving.  What must he have been feeling?

Here is a picture of the U. S. army camp near St. Nazaire in 1919.  This was 2 years after Poppa arrived.  Maybe it was smaller and less efficient in 1917?

The caption says “The big mess and the headquarters St. Nazaire, France 1919.’

 

According to his biography, the commander of the 20th engineers, Major Hartwick, received this  letter from the captain of the Madawaska:

“So noteworthy has been the conduct discipline and bearing of the troops under your command while embarked in this vessel that it calls for some expression from me as Commanding Officer of the ship. Your men have distinguished themselves by orderly quietness and promptness at abandon ship drill and at all other times by keeping their quarters washrooms and latrines scrupulously clean and by standing an earnest interested and excellent lookout.  They have won the admiration and liking of the officers and men of this ship who have been proud and glad to be associated with them and feel sure that in the future they will render an excellent account of themselves.

Edward Watson”

 

A monument commemorating the US troops in St. Nazaire was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of their arrival in 1927.  The monument was destroyed in 1941 by the German army but was rebuilt in 1989.  Here is a picture of the monument.

 

 

Next Week: Quarantined in France

Sources:

“Saint-Nazaire.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Nov. 2017. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
“Where Is Saint Nazaire on Map France.” World Easy Guides. N.p., 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
Donald R. Cochran’s Photo Album, 1917-1919 — Pages 9-16. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
“”Lafayette, We Are Here” – WW I American Soldiers Arrive in France on June 25, 1917.” TeeJaw Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick By Gordon K. Miller

 

100 Years ago this Week: Watching for German Submarines

Background: My Grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, and other soldiers of the 20th Engineers quietly left Camp American University in Washington, D.C. on November 11, 1917 aboard a train.  Upon arriving in New Jersey they boarded the Ship Madawaska for parts unknown.  The voyage continues.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Nov. 18, 1917 – Much better today.  Weather better and appetite fair.  I am sick of a transport.  Hope I can go back in a better manner.

Monday Nov. 19 – Still going.  We have no lights on this ship on account of danger.  Go to bed at about 6:30 P.M.  and get up at 6:30 A.M.  Weather rather rough.

Tuesday Nov. 20 – We have made very slow time throughout.  Today we have been going very slowly in a circle.  Looks like we are waiting for something.  

Wednesday Nov. 21We were met today by supply boats with convoys who gave our destroyers oil and during the night we started forward.  One destroyer crippled.

Thursday November 22– Quiet weather good going.  No subs yet.  One destroyer towed by cruiser.  Stood still all night.  

Friday Nov 23 -At 6:30 this morning we were met by 6 more destroyers as escorts.  Weather is ideal for submarines.  We are very carefully guarded.

Saturday, Nov 24– Very carefully and steadily we have moved forward all day through the heart of the danger zone.  Weather excellent.


 

Poppa indicated that he and other soldiers  did not have a good appetite due to seasickness.

Here is the kitchen (galley) of the Madawaska. Maybe these cooks weren’t very busy because no one was hungry due to sea sickness?

On Monday November 19, 1917 my grandfather reported that they were going slowly with no lights on “on account of danger”.  Presumably they are worried about German submarines since he mentions them again on November 22nd and 23rd.  They were correct to be concerned.

Although submarines were used before before World War I the Great War was the turning point where submarine warfare took place on a global scale.

Two years earlier on May 7th, 1915, the British liner Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine.  Nearly 1,200 people died including 128 Americans when the skip sank. Within a year the U.S. would become involved in the war.

Prior to 1915 Germany had agreed to adhere to rules of submarine attacks.  Since freighters and tankers were not military boats and the crew were usually not military, the submarines were to come to the surface, search the ship, give the merchantmen the option to leave via lifeboat, and then sink the ship.

However, earlier in 1917, Germany announced a new policy known as unrestricted submarine warfare. As the name implies, this meant the German Navy was going to sink any and all ships it deemed threatening without warning.

German Submarine U-14

 

Poppa indicated that they were escorted by a cruiser and 2 destroyers.  The Cruiser was the USS San Diego.  The San Diego was built in 1907 and originally named the USS California.  She made several trips across the Atlantic safely escorting US soldiers to Europe. It was sunk on 18 July 1918.  Officially it was determined that it hit an underwater mine laid by the germans although the captain believed it was struck by a torpedo.

 

The notation on this picture says it is the Madawaska in a convoy in November 1917. Was my grandfather on the ship when this picture was taken?

The Madawaska went on to serve the military through both WWI and WWII.  It was sold for scrap in 1948.  Other transport ships were not as lucky.  Another ship that transported soldiers on the same route was the President Lincoln.  This ship made five voyages from New York to France safely delivering over 23,000 soldiers.  She was sunk on May 30th, 1918 while returning to the US.  26 of the 700 men on board were lost.

Next Week:  Our Destination is Finally Revealed

Sources:

“U-boat Campaign (World War I).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2017. Web. 09 Nov. 2017.

“Submarine Warfare – WWI Unconventional Naval Strikes.” Totally History Submarine Warfare Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2017.

20thEngineers.com – World War 1 – 1st Battalion. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2017.

 

100 Years ago This Week: Leaving on the Q.T. for an Unknown Location

Background:  More than one month after arriving at the American University in Washington, D.C. My grandfather and other soldiers of the 20th Engineers are packed up and ready to move.

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Nov. 11th, 1917 – Everything packed up.  Left American Univ.  At 5. P.M. Marched to Rotin (?) yard.  Everything done on the Q.T.  Rode all night.

Monday Nov 12thArrived Jersey City 6 A.M.  Took ferry to transport Madawaska  formerly Koenig Wilhelm II.  Confined to quarters not allowed on deck.

Tuesday Nov. 13– Very quiet day.  Slightly seasick could not eat anything.  New York Harbor great sight last night

Wednesday Nov. 14We are escorted by one Battle cruiser and two torpedo Boat destroyers.  One other transport.  Weather fine.

Thursday Nov. 15– Acting as orderly for Maj. Hartwick  I am getting very well acquainted with the boat (?) weather still fine.

Friday Nov. 16 – Very rough sea today.  Everybody seasick.  Meals are served at 7AM. 11:30 AM and 4:P.M.  No one eats much.

Saturday Nov. 17Several still seasick.  My appetite has been lost altogether.  I certainly will be glad to get to land.


In a family album this picture is labelled “JRJ in Uniform in 1917”

On Sunday, November 11th, 1917  my grandfather, along with the other soldiers of the First and Second Battalions of the 20th engineers, left Camp American University where he had been since since October 4th.  Imagine what the soldiers must have been feeling as they left camp “on the Q.T.” .  They did not know where they were going but they must have suspected that they were about to join the war in Europe.

Sometimes it is difficult to read his handwriting in his journal.  It appears that he writes they marched to “Rotin” yard.  Here is a copy of that entry.

Journal entry for 11/11/. What is “Rotin Yard”?

Since they “Rode all Night” I assume they were on a train. But what is the “Rotin yard”?.  Do you have a better reading of the phrase?

Update:  Mystery solved!  Thank you to Michel Boquet for pointing out that in the book Twentieth Engineers, France 1917-1919 it was reported  that other units which trained at American University left from Roslyn (not Rotin).

Rosslyn Virginia is about 3.5 miles from the camp at American University and just across the Potomac River.  It seems reasonable that the soldiers might march that distance to board a train for Jersey City.  Although it doesn’t look like Poppa was trying to write Rosslyn it is likely that was their departure point.   Possibly he did not know the name of the place, or had not heard it correctly.

Monday November 12, 1917– Jersey City, New Jersey is 222 miles from Washington, D.C. and across the Hudson from New York City.  In nearby Hoboken there is a memorial ‘boulder’ commemorating the city’s role as an embarkation point for WWI service men and the three million troops passed through the port.

The Hoboken Memorial Boulder
The Hoboken Memorial Boulder

The Madawaska had previously been the German liner “Konig Wilhelm II.”  According to Wikipedia she was a steel-hulled screw steamer launched on 20 July 1907 at Stettin, Germany.   It was built by Germany for the transatlantic passenger trade, and travelled  between Germany, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, until the outset of World War I in 1914. Voluntarily interned at Hoboken, New Jersey, to avoid being captured by the Royal Navy, the passenger liner was seized after the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, as were all other German vessels in American ports.

Before agents of the U.S. federal government took possession of the ship, her German crew attempted to render her unusable by cracking her main steam cylinders with hydraulic jacks. Following repairs to the damaged machinery, Konig Wilhelm II was commissioned on 27 August 1917.

The Madawaska

She was renamed Madawaska on 1 September, 1917.   During World War I, she conducted 10 transatlantic voyages in which she carried nearly 12,000 men to Europe. After the armistice of 11 November 1918, Madawaska made seven more voyages, bringing 17,000 men home from the European theater.

It appears that Poppa travelled across the Atlantic on what was built as a passenger ship.  Do you think it was more comfortable than other troop carriers?

Thursday November 15– Major Edward E Hartwick was commander of the First battalion of the 20th engineers.

Major Edward E. Hartwick

 

Next Week: Watching for German Submarines

Sources:

Thanks to Michel B for pointing out errors in a draft of this episode

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_U._S._Grant_(AP-29)

Gobetz, Wally. “NJ – Hoboken: World War I American Expeditionary Forces Memorial Boulder.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 10 June 2006. Web. 09 Nov. 2017.

Http://Www.20thengineers.Com/Images/ww1-20thEngineersBook.Pdf.

100 Years ago this Week: Ready to Go to War

Background:  The 20th Engineers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, are training in anticipation of being sent overseas to participate in World War I.  Having arrived in Washington, D. C. on October 4th, 1917,  they have been training, getting equipped and staying in tents on the campus of American University.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Nov. 4th, 1917 – Have pass uptown today.  Spent A.M. in long walk.  P.M. at Keith’s Vaudeville,  On fire duty tonight.

Monday Nov. 5th– Pay day.  Everybody is happy as nearly everyone is broke.  Camp is guarded tonight no one leaves.

Tuesday Nov. 6th– Looks as though we will leave before long now.

Wednesday Nov. 7th– Weather is fine.  Nothing special doing.  No one allowed passes.

Thursday Nov. 8th– All supplies are packed and loaded.  A sure “go” this time.

Friday Nov. 9th– Inspection of both battalions today in full marching order.

Saturday Nov. 10th – In full marching order.  We were reviewed by War Dept. in front of War building.  Trip about ten miles everyone stiff & tired. (Note- according to google maps it is 4.9 miles from American University to 1650 Pennsylvania Ave.)


 

Here is a picture of the 20th Engineers on the campus of American University taken in October, 1917.  Presumably, my grandfather is in this picture somewhere.

“European War Mobilization – 20th Regiment Engineers (Forestry) Camp American University, Washington, D.C. – Oct. 1917”

 

B. F. Keith Theatre stage

Sunday November 4th–  Poppa wrote that he spend the  P.M. at Keith’s Vaudeville.  B. F. Keith opened a Vaudeville theatre in 1913 on the corner of 15th and G in Washington.  Keith was known as the ‘King of Vaudeville because he had 30 theaters and was worth $50 million.  According to the publication Vaudeville and Other High Drama at 15th and G, Keith’s Theatre was only a block from the White House and President Wilson rarely missed a Saturday night show there.

This theatre was about 4 miles from The American University where the soldiers stayed.  Did they walk to the theatre or was there some other form of transportation?

Monday November 5th– Pay day.  Apparently during WWI privates were paid $15.00 per month.

Friday November 9th– Poppa indicated that both battalions were inspected.  According to a website  “...the 20th Engineers was the largest regiment ever to exist in the United States Army. formed in 1917 it grew to over 500 officers and 30,000 soldiers by Armistice Day in 1918. The organization included 14 battalions deployed to France, with another 14 battalions and additional company-sized units attached, and 15 more battalions still organizing in the United States. Its missions were among the most diverse of the American Expeditionary Forces, from operating within direct combat range of German forces, to units scattered along the Spanish border; its soldiers were among the first to arrive in France, and among the last to return home. The primary function of the 20th Engineers was forestry–to produce lumber and timber for Allied forces–but its flexibility and command structure allowed for a wide range of other engineer missions.”  Although the organization grew to 14 battalions by the end of WWI my grandfather was in the First or Second battalion.  The first battalion, originally authorized to be 600 men strong grew to 800.  The article didn’t report the size of the second battalion.

The 20th engineers spent September and October of 1917 training in military things such as close order drill, interior guard, and physical exercise. However, the same article noted that none of the recruits was trained in the forestry skills that were to be central to their unit’s functioning because they were assumed to have brought these  skills from civilian life.  My grandfather fit the bill since he came from a lumbering family.

Saturday November 10th– My grandfather indicated that they were reviewed in front of the War Building and that they marched 10 miles that day. His estimate that they marched 10 miles is pretty accurate as Google Maps now indicates that it is 4.9 miles from American University to the address of the War Building.

Here is a picture to document the event! Poppa must be in there somewhere.

The handwritten label at the bottom says: “REVIEW OF 20TH ENGINEERS, BY SECT’ Y OF WAR BAKER AT THE STATE, WAR AND NAVY BIDG. WASHINGTON, D.C. NOVEMBER 10, 1917.”

The War Building  is located across the street from the White House in Washington, D.C.but is now called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and houses a majority of offices for White House staff. It was originally built for the State, War and Navy Departments between 1871 and 1888.

The war building must also be in the same neighborhood as the other building Poppa visited this week; Keith’s Vaudeville.

 

Next Week:  Leaving on the Q.T. for an unknown location

 

Sources:

“Vaudeville and Other High Drama at 15th and G.” Streets of Washington. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

“WWI Army Pay Card.” Currach. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2017.

20thEngineers.com – World War 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2017.

“Eisenhower Executive Office Building.” The White House. The United States Government, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Oct. 2017.

20thEngineers.com – World War 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2017.

 

100 Years ago this Week: Prohibition Begins in Washington, D.C.

Background:  A train load of soldiers including my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson arrived in Washington, D. C. on October 4th, 1917.  They have been training, getting equipment and staying in tents on the campus of American University ever since.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday Oct. 28th, 1917 – Visited Washington today.  Saw National Museum, Potomac River and nearly run over by Pres Car.

Monday Oct 29th– Weather fine.  Not much work to do.  Heavy rain tonight.

Tuesday Oct. 30th– Rain all forenoon.  Drill this P.M. and enjoy it as weather is cool and all are tired of sitting around.

Wednesday Oct. 31st– Secretary of War Baker visited quarters today.  No passes were allowed tonight.  ? roll call at 10 P.M as city went dry this day.

Thursday Nov. 1st– Muster yesterday.  Look for pay tomorrow.

Friday Nov. 2nd– No pay today.  Spent most of the day around the stove.

Saturday Nov. 3rd– Cooked dinner today in field.  Spent evening at Mrs. Wickersham home very well entertained.


October 28th – It appears that my grandfather was doing some sightseeing on Sunday and was ‘nearly run over by pres car’.  I assume he means President Woodrow Wilson’s car.

President Woodrow Wilson in his Car

 

October 31st– Poppa indicated that the Secretary of War Baker visited quarters today. Newton D. Baker served as secretary of war from 1916 until 1921.  Baker, a former mayor of Cleveland Ohio supported Wilson at the 1912 Democratic National Convention.  Supporting a candidate in the election gets you a position in the presidential cabinet later?  Things haven’t changed.

Newton D. Baker secretary of War under Woodrow Wilson

Prohibition– Poppa indicated that no passes were allowed on the night of October 31st because ‘city went dry this day’.  Prohibition was implemented as a result of the 18th amendment which didn’t pass until 1919.  However, state governments were encouraged to implement their own laws outlawing alcohol prior to the amendment passing.  Washington, D.C, was not a state and was governed by Congress.  So Congress decided that the city would be dry choosing November, 1st 1917 as the day that alcohol became illegal.  In D.C. alone almost 300 barrooms were closed and 2500 bartenders lost their jobs in the process.  Confining soldiers to camp on October 31st was likely the prudent thing to do.  Imagine if the soldiers were allowed to patronize those barrooms on the last day that alcohol was legal!

Thursday, November 1st–  Based on his journal entries it appears that living at Camp American University was routine and sometimes boring.  However ,overseas things were getting deadly serious for America.

On November 1st the first three American soldiers were killed as a result of WWI combat.  Members of the 1st Division, they were:  James Gresham, Merle D. Hay and Thomas F. Enright

Saturday, November 3rd– Poppa indicated that he was entertained at the home of Mrs. Wickersham.  He doesn’t say who she is but it is interesting to speculate.  Mrs. Mildred Wickersham was the wife of George Wickersham who was the attorney general of the United States under President Taft until 1912.  They had a son who served as a US solider in WWI.  According to the book The Five Towns Mrs. WIckersham was an avid gardener who was known for her gracious entertaining and often opened their gardens to visitors.   Is it possible that they also entertained soldiers who were in Washington, D.C.?  Or, maybe, a different Mrs. Wickersham operated another type of house that provided ‘entertainment’ to soldiers?

Next Week: Ready to go to War

Sources:

“Prohibition in Washington,.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2017.

LIbrary, Hewlett-Woodmere Public. “Five Towns Local History.” Gardens in the Five Towns. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 03 Oct. 2017.

“Video.” Woodrow Wilson Of The U.S Stock Photos and Pictures | Getty Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2017.

“Newton D. Baker.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Sept. 2017. Web. 07 Oct. 2017.