100 Years Ago This Week: “Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas”

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


Sunday August 4, 1918– Rainy day.  Spent morning in the office.  A continuous game in our tent from morn to taps.  From crap game to poker. Some are cleaned some have more.

Monday August 5– Heard today from examination that I did not pass professional exam.

Tuesday August 6– I am very much disappointed but not discouraged.  Will try to go to training camp this winter.

Wednesday August 7– Am working every day on maps.  Have more drafting room on top floor of new office but I am tired of drafting and map making.

Thursday August 8– General Pershing says “Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas”.

Friday August 9– Captain Campbell came yesterday for baggage.  I had a nice visit with him and received much encouragement from him regarding my “flunk”.

Saturday August 10– Rather of a large night.  Joe, Schroeder and I put on something of a party.


 

The Exam results arrive

Previously, During the week of July 15th, Poppa traveled to battalion headquarters in Tours France to take an exam for a commission.  after completing the exam he felt his performance was “Unsatisfactory”  This week Poppa received the results:   “Heard today from examination that I did not pass professional exam.  I am very much disappointed but not discouraged.  Will try to go to training camp this winter.” It appears that Poppa had a good relationship with Captain Campbell who was part of his unit until he was transferred to  training camp in mid-July.  Apparently on August 9th Captain Campbell returned to Dax to pick up some of his luggage.  While there they apparently discussed the fact that Poppa had not done well on his examination for commission.  

Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas

Thursday August 8- General Pershing says “Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas

General John, ‘Black Jack’ Pershing was the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which was the name for the American armies engaged in WWI.  Sometime in 1917 he started using the rallying cry “Heaven Hell or Hoboken before Christmas”.  This was interpreted to mean that, one way of the other, the war would be ended by Christmas.   Although the war continued into 1918 the soldiers still used the phrase.  For some reason, in his journal Poppa switched the order of the first two words.

General Pershing

Hoboken, New Jersey was the major debarkation point for soldiers being sent to the war in France.  During 1917-18 about two million soldiers passed through Hoboken on their way to or from Europe

Meanwhile on the front lines :

Poppa was fortunate that he was stationed in Dax, France, far from the front lines.  While things were quiet for him significant events happened at the front during the first full week of March 1918.

August 6, 1918-  Second Battle of the Marne ends

The Second Battle of the Marne was the last major German offensive of World War I.   The attack failed when an Allied counterattack, supported by several hundred tanks, overwhelmed the Germans on their right flank, inflicting severe casualties. The German defeat marked the beginning of the end of the war.

Next Week:  I am getting very tired of my job

Sources:

Zautyk, Karen. “’Heaven, Hell or Hoboken’.” The Observer Online, 10 May 2017, www.theobserver.com/2017/05/heaven-hell-or-hoboken/. Accessed 3 Aug. 2018.

“Second Battle of the Marne.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_the_Marne. Accessed 3 Aug. 2018.

 

 

 

100 Years Ago This Week: I Guess I Got it Too.

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.


Sunday July 28, 1918 – I guess I got it too.  Feel very “bum” today. Woolie  also in bed with the fever.  Hope I don’t have to stay in bed tomorrow.

Monday July 29 – Took a trip in side car today with Munday nearly to coast looking for forest fire. Fire was out when we got there but had a very good trip.

Tuesday July 30 “Oui-Oui” has been gone for nearly two weeks we now have “Chick” a little puppy about six inches round.  Full of pup life.

Wednesday July 31– Another fire in “C” cos woods today.  Everybody out fighting the fire which was defeated after a couple of hours fight.

Thursday August 1– The Americans are doing some neat work up the line.  The allies are advancing every day.

Friday August 2– We have moved our offices from the arena uptown to a building formerly used as a hotel.  Much better place for offices but not so handy as before.

Saturday August 3– Payday and Saturday combined.  Enough said. Shorty put on a party with Joe and  Schroeder.


The Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918-1920

Last week on July 26, 1918 Poppa wrote that ” at least half of the fellows are sick with the Spanish Fever. ”  He described the effects of the disease this way:  “Makes one quite sick for a couple of days and for several days before strong again. ”  At the time Poppa and the rest of the world had not yet grasped the severity of this disease.  The Spanish flu eventually killed over 20 million people around the world and was one of the greatest disasters in history.   Not all people react to the disease in the same way.  Fortunately for Poppa he was apparently able to return to work on Monday July 29th after feeling “bum” the day before.

Patients lie in an influenza ward at a U.S. Army camp hospital in Aix-les-Baines, France, during World War I. PHOTOGRAPH BY CORBIS

Tuesday July 30 “Oui-Oui” has been gone for nearly two weeks we now have “Chick” a little puppy about six inches round.  Full of pup life.

Here Poppa was referring to a pet mascot that was being kept by their company.  Poppa referred to Oui-Oui earlier but now it appears that he has gone missing.  However, the company has a new pet named chick.

This article from the battalion newspaper contains more detail about the new dog adopted by A company and named “Chick”. Credit Michel Boquet for this article

Next Week: “Hell, Heaven or Hoboken before Christmas”

 

Sources:

“1918 Flu Pandemic That Killed 50 Million Originated in China, Historians Say.”National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 08 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 July 2018.

 

100 Years ago This Week: The Newspapers are Very Encouraging

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


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday June 23, 1918– Rather quiet day. The past two weeks have been wet and rather cool.  Today is again warmer.

Monday June 24– Some mail today.  Two wonderful letters from Marion.  I am very happy today and henceforth.  Also letters from home.

Tuesday June 25– The newspapers are very encouraging.  Austrias failure of her offensive timed to Italy’s victory.  

Wednesday June 26– The hospital is rapidly getting into shape.  Have a good crew of carpenters who should not take long to build it.  

Thursday June 27– Not very busy today.  Weather warm. A few more letters from home.

Friday June 28– All quiet on the Dax sector today.

Saturday June 29– Took supper at Cheval Blanc.  Went to picture show in evening.  


Monday June 24– Some mail today.  Two wonderful letters from Marion.  I am very happy today and henceforth.

What was it about his latest letters from Marion Clarkson Brown that made him “very happy today and henceforth”?  Have they some how taken their relationship to a new level through the mail?

Italy Pushes Back

Tuesday June 25– The newspapers are very encouraging.  Austria’s failure of her offensive timed to Italy’s victory.

In 1915 Italy joined Britain as one of the Allied Powers.  Austria was on the German side.  On June 15th, 1918 Austrian troops began an offensive along the Piave River in Italy, at the urging of the Germans. Although suffering from a lack of food, horses and supplies, they crossed the river and established a 12-mile front, but then realize they can not hold it against the Italian Army and withdraw after suffering 150,000 casualties. Following this, Austrian soldiers in Italy begin deserting. This  Second Battle of the Piave River,  which ended on June 23rd, was a decisive victory for the Italian Army.   It would later become clear that the battle was in fact the beginning of the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Regimental Hospital

Wednesday June 26– The hospital is rapidly getting into shape.  Have a good crew of carpenters who should not take long to build it.

In a previous entry (Friday April 26, 1918) Poppa wrote– “Started survey for hospital site down the river around the hotel and seminary.  Many very interesting things around these places and have met several English speaking people.”  And, on Wednesday June 5, “Grading and setting sills for regimental hospital which will be located here.  Consisting of 5 large tents, five small and two buildings.”

Poppa refers to the ‘seminary’ in Dax, France.  The seminary was named for St. Vincent de Paul who was born in Pouy, near Dax, France  in 1581.  In the later half of the 19th century his followers built the seminary near the birthplace of Vincent.   The bull ring where Poppa served as part of Company A of the 20th Engineers is nearby.  During the WWI, the Great Seminary of Pouy was used as a civilian Hospital from September, 1st 1914 to January 27, 1919.
Apparently Poppa and the other engineers were engaged in building an American Army hospital near the existing civilian hospital which was housed in the seminary built to honor St. Vincent de Paul.  This hospital had been authorized by Poppa’s commanding officer Major Edward E. Hartwick prior to his death on March 31, 1918.  (Thank you to Michel Boquet for providing information about the seminary and hospital).
The Cheval Blanc (or White Horse) where Poppa had dinner on June 29th, 1918
Next Week: Dominion Day and A July Fourth Fire
Sources:
“Second Battle of the Piave River.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 June 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_the_Piave_River. Accessed 19 June 2018.

100 Years Ago This Week: We are Given our First Issue Tobacco

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army.  He was in 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 based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday June 9, 1918 – Took a long walk today about ten miles.  Found a pretty drive and returned along river.

Monday  June 10– Major Weisel leaves for ten day trip to southeastern France in his car.  Mail today.

Tuesday June 11– Working on maps for Capt. Berry of timberland.  Lots of drafting and blueprinting for this week.

Wednesday June 12– “Home” is rather quiet this week as Joe is in Arengosse helping the 43 engineers – one company – to get located.

 Thursday June 13– The Marines have made a name for themselves in their advance yesterday.

Friday June 14– Were given our first issue tobacco yesterday, consisting or 8 packages of “Bull Durham” and 25 cigarettes for one month.  Gave “Bull” away.

Saturday June 15– Two aeroplanes flew over today one having engine trouble both landed.  One did not have room to land, running into hedge, overturning and smashing machine badly.  No one hurt badly, one slightly.

—————————————————-

Monday  June 10– Major Weisel leaves for ten day trip to southeastern France in his car.  

Major Weisel is the commanding officer of Company A of the 20th Engineers. He took command after the death of Edward E. Hartwick on March 31st, 1918.

Tobacco Issued

Friday June 14– Were given our first issue tobacco yesterday, consisting or 8 packages of “Bull Durham” and 25 cigarettes for one month.  Gave “Bull” away.

Prior to World War I pipe smoking was more popular among American men than cigarettes and any type of smoking was considered “unlady like”.  When the United States entered the war in 1917 tobacco companies saw an opportunity and marketed cigarettes to the soldiers as an escape and morale booster.  Cigarettes became so popular that they were used as a form of currency among soldiers.

Back home in America as women began filling jobs that became available as men joined the military they also began to take up smoking.  Campaigns were initiated to provide tobacco to the troops over seas.  The American Tobacco company of Durham started a program that allowed any American citizen or organization to provide a soldier with a gift box of 2 packages of Lucky Strike cigarettes, 3 packages of Bull Durham tobacco, 3 books of Bull Durham cigarette papers, 1 tin Tuxedo tobacco, and 4 books of Tuxedo brand cigarette papers for less than retail price.  When it was determined that not enough tobacco was getting to the troops through these contributions the American tobacco company took their products off the market and contracted directly with the U.S. government to provide tobacco to our soldiers.

For soldiers, tobacco was seen not only as an item of comfort but also as a battlefield necessity.  Contemporary studies supposedly demonstrated that soldiers could go an additional two hours between meals if they smoked, the tobacco serving as an appetite suppressant.

Poppa did not specify whether his tobacco ‘issue’ came directly from the army or if was a provided by private parties.  Apparently he was not a pipe smoker because he gave away the loose Bull Durham tobacco  but kept the cigarettes.

Aerial Warfare

Saturday June 15– Two aeroplanes flew over today one having engine trouble both landed.  One did not have room to land, running into hedge, overturning and smashing machine badly.  No one hurt badly, one slightly.

When America entered the war in 1917 they did not have an air force.  combatants on both sides were trying to figure out how to use planes as weapons of war.   The first aerial bombing occurred in 1911 when a pilot threw grenades at the enemy from his plane.  According to the website onthisday.com the first aerial bombing raid by an American unit occurred on June 12, 1918.

Is it possible that the “aeroplanes” that landed in Dax  France 3 days later were related to this event?

Next Week:  We are building Hospital Now

Sources:

“Bull Durham Tobacco, To the Rhine and Back.” NC DNCR, 16 Nov. 2017, www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2017/11/16/bull-durham-tobacco-rhine-and-back. Accessed 8 June 2018.

“Smoking in the United States Military.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_in_the_United_States_military. Accessed 8 June 2018.

100 Years Ago This Week: Marines are Making a Name for Themselves

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 June 2, 1918– Very warm today.  Everyone laying around camp.

Monday June 3– Nothing of interest

Tuesday June 4– Ten years ago today I graduated from P.H.S.  Little did I think then of being over here in the army at this time.

Wednesday June 5– Grading and setting sills for regimental hospital which will be located here.  Consisting of 5 large tents, five small and two buildings.

Thursday June 6– Went to casino this night.  Not much of picture.

Friday June 7– Marines are making a name for themselves.  Kaiser BIll will find out that Americans are more than second class troops.

Saturday June 8– Have not received any mail for some time.  Must be letters for us somewhere.


Tuesday June 4– Ten years ago today I graduated from P.H.S.  Little did I think then of being over here in the army at this time.

John Rodney Jamieson Poynette High School class of 1908. High school graduation picture.

Regimental Hospital

Wednesday June 5– Grading and setting sills for regimental hospital which will be located here.  Consisting of 5 large tents, five small and two buildings.

In a previous entry (Friday April 26, 1918) Poppa wrote– Started survey for hospital site down the river around the hotel and seminary.  Many very interesting things around these places and have met several English speaking people.

Poppa refers to the ‘seminary’ in Dax, France.  The seminary was named for St. Vincent de Paul who was born in Pouy, near Dax, France  in 1581.  In the later half of the 19th century his followers built the seminary near the birthplace of Vincent.   The bull ring where Poppa served as part of Company A of the 20th Engineers is nearby.  During the WWI, the Great Seminary of Pouy was used as a civilian Hospital from September, 1st 1914 to January 27, 1919.
Apparently Poppa and the other engineers were engaged in building an American Army hospital near the existing civilian hospital which was housed in the seminary built to honor St. Vincent de Paul.  This hospital had been authorized by Poppa’s commanding officer Major Edward E. Hartwick prior to his death on March 31, 1918.  (Thank you to Michel Boquet for providing information about the seminary and hospital).

Battle of Belleau Wood

Friday June 7– Marines are making a name for themselves.  Kaiser Bill will find out that Americans are more than second class troops.

Poppa is likely referring to the fact that the U.S. Marines had some success against the Germans in the Battle of Belleau Wood.  Although the Battle started on June 1st and lasted until June 26th, on June 6th the Marines were able to stop the advance of the Germans and turn them back.  The courage and tenacity demonstrated by the Marines during this battle helped to build their legacy.

Cover of sheet music ‘Comic song’ about Wilhelm II (1859-1941). He was the German emperor and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918. The American soldiers saw him as the leader of the enemy although controversy continues regarding whether the Germany army was controlled by him or by his generals.

Next Week: We are Given our First Issue Tobacco

Sources:

“Battle of Belleau Wood.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Belleau_Wood. Accessed 2 June 2018.

 

100 Years Ago This Week: Not Very Good News Just Now.

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 May 26, 1918  – A concert in arena this P.M. by Monte Carlo concert company.  Very good.

Monday May 27 – Box from Marion today which was mailed on Dec. 5th.  A box full of surprises. I had given this up as lost long time ago.

Tuesday May 28 – Tom went to Tours last night to take exam for commission.  Hope he hears inside of two months anyway.

Wednesday May 29– The weather is getting very warm.  What will it be like in July and August!

Thursday May 30– Malone arrives back from hospital.  Holiday for us. First BN team defeated sixth in baseball 1 to 0 in 13 innings.  Douglas Fairbanks at casino tonight

Friday May 31– Not much doing today.  Very warm.  A General…(?) visited camp this morning.  

Saturday June 1– The big drive started again last Monday.  Not very good news just now.


  • Tours, France

Tuesday May 28 – Tom went to Tours last night to take exam for commission.  Hope he hears inside of two months anyway.

Tours is a community about 300 miles from Dax.  The forestry regimental headquarters was located there.

On this map Tours is marked as the regimental headquarters for the 10th Engineers.
  • Decoration Day

Thursday May 30– … Holiday for us. 

On May 5, 1866 there was a ceremony in Waterloo, New York to honor veterans of the civil war.  The observance eventually became known as Decoration Day or Memorial Day and was held annually on May 30th .  By 1900 ceremonies were being held all over the nation and recognized by governmental agencies.

After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.  In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

  • Douglas Fairbanks

 Thursday May 30 Douglas Fairbanks at casino tonight

In 1918 Fairbanks was the most popular actor in Hollywood, and one of the highest paid.  Presumably Poppa saw a Douglas Fairbanks movie at the casino and not the man himself.

Douglas Fairbanks circa 1910s

  • Third Battle of the Aisne

Saturday June 1– The big drive started again last Monday.  Not very good news just now.

Poppa is probably referring her to the fact that the German army was achieving some success against the French and British.  The Germans had started an offensive on May 27, 1918 successfully demolishing four French divisions and advancing 12 miles into French territory.  The Germans were not as successful elsewhere on the Western Front, however, as an Allied force including some 4,000 Americans scored a major victory at Cantigny, on May 28.

Next Week: Marines are Making a Name for Themselves 

Sources:

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.” Go to VA.gov. N.p., 18 Mar. 2006. Web. 23 May 2018.

“Douglas Fairbanks.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 May 2018. Web. 23 May 2018.

Third Battle of the Aisne Begins.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 23 May 2018.

 

100 Years Ago This Week: Not Much Work to do for me

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 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 May 19, 1918– Officers ball game at Co. A today against 6th Bn officers.  Also game between “A” and “C”. in evening I went to Co. “C” Y.M.C.A. to lecture.

Monday May 20–  Lloyd is confined to camp for six weeks due to A.W.O.L. one evening last week in camp Victor.

Tuesday May 21– Payday today everyone has been broke for nearly a month.

Wednesday May 22– The engineers and medics have a ball game with indoor ball in evening.  Have had several games thus far.

Thursday May 23– Not much work to do for me.  At companies they are getting out lots of lumber and all feel that now they are doing something.

Friday May 24– Making  map of location for regimental infirmary which is to be at this place.

Saturday May 25– Rec’d a Christmas box from home today.


Monday May 20–  Lloyd is confined to camp for six weeks due to A.W.O.L. one evening last week in camp Victor.

It can be inferred from this entry and others in his diary that the soldier named Lloyd was not always the best rule follower.  Months earlier on December 19, 1917 Poppa made this entry in his journal  “Very quiet day but mighty noisy night.   Hill and Lloyd have mock wedding and raise h-l till Midnight.” 

Thanks to Michel Boquet for finding this picture of S.R. Lloyd. who apparently was not always as serious acting as he appears in this picture.

Wednesday May 22– The engineers and medics have a ball game with indoor ball in evening.  Have had several games thus far.

Based on several journal entries it appears that the soldiers enjoyed playing baseball.  But what is he referring to when he writes of “indoor ball”?

Thursday May 23– Not much work to do for me.  At companies they are getting out lots of lumber and all feel that now they are doing something.

One main purpose of the 20th engineers in France was to produce lumber.  That is why they were sent to the Dax area which is in the edge of a large forest.  This is the second time that Poppa reported that the engineers were producing lots of lumber.  In previous posts he had expressed frustration with how little they seemed to be contributing to the war effort.  However, on May 2, 1918  they started up the newer bigger lumber mills which resulted in significantly increased production of lumber.

First French mill used by 1st Co., Mees
Production of lumber increased significantly when the older, smaller French mill was replaced with this 20 M mill.

Saturday May 25– Rec’d a Christmas box from home today.

Like soldiers in every era Poppa looked forward to receiving mail from home.  It must have been frustrating when it took over five months for Christmas packages sent from Wisconsin to reach him in France.

According to the Postal Museum “During World War I, the postal system experienced unprecedented growth. Between July 1, 1917 and June 30, 1918 the Post Office Department dispatched 35 million letters to the American Expeditionary Forces.”  “In May 1918, the War Department assumed responsibility for overseas post offices. Military personnel replaced Post Office Department employees who had been sent to operate the field stations. The Military Postal Express Service (MPES) was the first all-military mail service in American history.

Next Week:  Not very good news just now.

Source:

“Expanded Service 1898-1920s.” Methods of Communication That Have Threatened Letter Writing. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2018.

100 Years Ago This Week: Poppa’s 27th Birthday

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.  The company has been recently struck by the sudden death of their commanding officer Major Edward E. Hartwick, of meningitis  On March 31st, 1918.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 28, 1918– A very fine day.  Took a walk this morning, read in the P.M. and had supper at the White Horse.  Took some pictures today.

Monday April 29Drawing map today.  Three letters from home written on Easter.  Shorty is scratching

Tuesday April 30– An event worthy of mention: The weather is now such that Moore takes off his shirt when going to bed.

Wednesday May 1– All French people are wearing a small bunch of May flowers today.  We now have a shower bath connected by means of engine and pump to hot water spring.  By the time the water reaches us it is at a fine temperature.

Thursday May 2– Both Companies A and C started their big 20 M mills today.

Friday May 3– Received my birthday presents today in the nature of letters.  Two from Marion, two from home and one from Ernie.

Saturday May 4– Spent birthday rather quietly, – Went to picture show at casino.


Lighthearted posts?

On Monday, April 29th Poppa wrote that “Shorty is scratching” and on April 30th he wrote “The weather is now such that Moore takes off his shirt when going to bed”.  I’m assuming that Poppa had formed friendships with other soldiers and like soldiers everywhere there was teasing involved.    I can find no other reference to the soldier named Moore.  However in a previous post Poppa wrote that “John and Shorty cannot play billiards”. Presumably these posts refer to characteristics of his colleagues that warranted teasing.  I wonder how these other soldiers would describe Poppa if we could ask them?  

Wednesday May 1– All French people are wearing a small bunch of May flowers today.  We now have a shower bath connected by means of engine and pump to hot water spring.  By the time the water reaches us it is at a fine temperature.

May Day

In  France today the first of May apparently represents 2 holidays:  May day and Labour day.   It has long been a French tradition to give those you love flowers on May first. In giving these flowers you are also wishing that person happiness and good luck in celebration of the arrival of spring.  Apparently it did not come to also represent Labour day until 1919 so what Poppa experienced in 1918  was the traditional celebration of love that the French observe on May 1st.

Hot Showers

Poppa is with the Headquarters unit of company A of the 30th Engineers which is stationed in Dax, France.  Dax has long been known for it’s hot springs which come from the ground at a temperature of 147 degrees F and had  been thought  to cure rheumatism since Roman times.  Poppa had previously written that he could go to the public baths in Dax and get a bath for 30 cents.  It appears now that they have rigged a system to bring the hot water to their camp instead of going to town and paying for a bath.

Thursday May 2– Both Co.s A and C started their big 20 M mills today.

One main purpose of the 20th engineers in France was to produce lumber.  That is why they were sent to the Dax area which is in the edge of a large forest. In previous posts Poppa had expressed frustration with how little they seemed to be contributing to the war effort.  This frustration may have been due, at least in part, to the fact that they had inferior equipment.  Once in France the original plan was that they would shortly receive powerful sawmills from America.  These were delayed so the engineers used available French mills which they perceived as being inferior.  Based on Poppa’s journal it appears that the companies finally received their larger mills and got them up and running on May 2nd 1918.

There were three main types of sawmills.  The 20 M type that Poppa referred as the largest and was powered by a permanent steam power plant.  It was rated as being able to produce 20,000 board feet of lumber in 10 hours although the soldiers took pride in exceeding that rating regularly.  The lumber produced by one shift with one of these mills,  put end-to-end would stretch for four miles.  Imagine how much lumber was produced by the 20th Engineers during the rest of the war once they had the big mills operating!  The smaller mills were rated at 10 M and 5 M and could be powered by a gas engine or a tractor.  Although these mills produced fewer boards in a day they were much more portable and could be moved around relatively easily (by the same engine that provided their power).  This was a very important feature to those units which were closer to the front lines (Thanks to Michel Boquet for providing me with information about the saw mills.)

This is a picture of the smaller French mill initially used by 1st Co. in Mees, France
This is the larger 20M Sawmill used by the  1st Co. in Mees.  This mill apparently did not get up and running until May 2, 1918, almost 6 months after the soldiers arrived in Mees.

Saturday May 4– Spent birthday rather quietly, – Went to picture show at casino.

Poppa turned 27 on May 4th 1918.

Poppa was born in 1892. Here is a picture of him, his brother, and cousins circa 1896 (?). He is standing in upper right leaning against the column.
This picture of Poppa from the the family photo album is labelled “1908-High School Grad”. Did he really graduate at the age of 17 or was there a mistake in labelling it?

More pictures of Poppa are here

Next Week:  The River is Very High!

Sources:

Woolsey. “Studies in French Forestry, by Theodore S. Woolsey, Jr. with Two Chapters by William B. Greeley.” HathiTrust. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2018.

 

100 Years Ago This Week: Seven Months a Soldier

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’,  joined the U.S. 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 was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  The company has been recently struck by the sudden death of their commanding officer Major Edward E. Hartwick, of meningitis  On March 31st, 1918.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 2 1, 1918– Hdq played baseball at CO. A today.  Co A won by several points. We’ll do better next time.  

Monday April 22– Nothing to write today.  Only thing of interest is daily newspaper on the big battle which looks better today.

Tuesday April 23– Seven months ago today my last day as a civilian, I spent in Milwaukee and decided to enlist in the 20th engineers.

Wednesday April 24– Garage is nearing completion and my job is nearly done.   

Thursday April 25– Nothing particular today.

Friday April 26– Started survey for hospital site down the river around the hotel and seminary.  Many very interesting things around these places and have met several English speaking people.

 Saturday April 27 – (no entry)

 

April 21 1918,- Death of the Red Baron

Manfred von Richthofen was the the German pilot known as “The Red Baron.” On the day that Poppa was playing baseball with the other soldiers he was likely unaware that 600 miles away in the skies over France “The Red Baron,” was killed by Allied fire.  Originally in the German army, the Red Baron  switched to their air force and  in 1916  he downed 15 enemy planes.  By the time of his death he had 80 victories under his belt,  more kills that any other ace on either side in WWI.  On this last day Richthofen penetrated deep into Allied territory in pursuit of a British aircraft.   One account reported that The Red Baron was flying too near the ground when an Australian machine gunner shot him through his chest, and his plane crashed into a field alongside a road.  Another account has Captain A. Roy Brown, a Canadian pilot in the Royal Air Force, shooting him down. For the last 8 months of his life Richthofen flew a Fokker triplane, painted red.   It is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an English nickname for the German pilot–the Red Baron.

An artist’s depiction of the Red Baron in aerial battle.

British troops recovered his body, and he was buried with full military honors. He was 25 years old.

Monday April 22– Nothing to write today.  Only thing of interest is daily newspaper on the big battle which looks better today.

On April 9th the Germany’s military initiated the Georgette Offensive when 46 divisions from the German 6th Army attacked the British 2nd Army around Ypres, Belgium.   The Germans pushed the British back three miles to the outskirts of Ypres.  However, by April 22,  when Poppa read news of the battle in the newspaper the arrival of British, French and Australian reinforcements from the south had begun to slow the German momentum and by April 29th the offensive halted.  Georgette, was only a partial success. Their goal of first separating the British and French armies and then destroying the British via Georgette is not achieved.  The Germans suffered 330,000 casualties and as a result  lacked sufficient reserve troops.  Ypres is about 620 Miles from Dax.

Tuesday April 23– Seven months ago today my last day as a civilian, I spent in Milwaukee and decided to enlist in the 20th engineers.

Poppa in France in 1918

Here is his journal entry seven months earlier:

Monday, Sept. 24th, 1917 –Enlisted at Milwaukee in the 20th Engineers. Rode all night in car of rough necks to St. Louis.

Friday April 26, 1918– Started survey for hospital site down the river around the hotel and seminary.  Many very interesting things around these places and have met several English speaking people.

Poppa apparently is part of an effort to build a military hospital “…down the river around the hotel and seminary”.  A search of the internet for Dax, seminary resulted in this image labelled “N. D. du Pouy la maison vue du Nord Quest”.  There is also a reference to the fact that St. Vincent de Paul was born in Dax.

Is this the seminary that Poppa was referring to in his journal? And how does it relate to St. Vincent de Paul?

 

Next Week:  Poppa’s 27th Birthday

Sources:

“Cedric Popkin.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018. Web. 16 Apr. 2018.

“Roy Brown (RAF Officer).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018. Web. 16 Apr. 2018.

Operation Georgette. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2018.

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.

 

Bordeaux

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

Sources:

“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.