WWI Vermont National Guard Photo – 1st VT Infantry Captain Portrait Mystery


This portrait photo recently arrived from an eBay dealer in New Hampshire and my research bug is in full throttle.  The photo was taken at the Burnham Photo Studio in Burlington, VT in 1917 and depicts a 1st Vermont Infantry Regiment Captain posing for the camera.  I’ve seen similar shots of other officers taken at the same studio.  Not much to go on in terms of an identification, but I feel that a little hard work will pay off.  I should be able to narrow down all the captains in the 1st VT and work from there.  Most officers would have their portraits listed in unit histories, so my journey may take me in search of obscure tomes.  All the more fun!

1stVT063ab

Here’s the breakdown of the distribution from the 1st Vermont Infantry Regiment:

101st Ammunition Train, 26th Division

1 Major, 6 Captains, 3 First Lieutenants, 3 Second Lieutenants, 700 Enlisted Men

101st Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

2 First Lieutenants, 2 Second Lieutenants, 197 Enlisted Men

102nd Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

1 First Lieutenant, 2 Second Lieutenants, 212 Enlisted Men

103rd Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division

2 First Lieutenants, 1 Second Lieutenant, 229 Enlisted Men

With this info in hand, I’ve been able to narrow down our sitter as a Captain who is most likely an officer with the 101st Ammunition Train of the 26th Division.  I’ve located a list of the captains of the 1st VT who were transferred to the 101st Ammo Train:

Captain Charles E. Pell, Co. B, St.Albans

Captain Haroll M. Howe, Co.F, Northfield

Captain Dowe E. McMath, Co.H, Montpelier

Captain William N. Hudson, Co.M, Burlington

Captain Richard T. Corey, Co.L, Newport

Captain John L. Shanley, Co.G, Winooski

Our sitter is one of the above-listed men.  Now to get down to some ancestry.com research……………..

I started with Captain Pell and quickly found a portrait of him.  His long ear lobes are quite distinct and are not a match for our sitter.

Captain Pell

Captain Pell

Captain Howe was next and I was able to find a shot from his 1911 Norwich University year book.  Not sure on the ID, so I will continue to search……..

Captain Howe

Captain Howe

Next step – locate a copy of the 101st Ammunition Train unit history.  Hopefully officer photos are listed!

WWI Vermont Veteran Photo – John J. Corcoran, 101st Machine Gun Battalion Wounded in Action


My continued obsession with WWI Vermont material has landed me a new WWI photo taken in France in June of 1918.  I literally stumbled across this listing; the seller didn’t mention the fact that the soldier was a Vermonter.  Luckily I checked out the back of the photo before moving on to the next auction listing.

The photo was addressed to a Mrs. George Bolduc of Fitzdale, Vermont dated June 25th, 1918.  The writer added the following info:

“June 25th, 1918

Dear Sister,

Am well and happy and hope you and children are well.  Will write you a letter later, am pretty busy just now so am sending this in place of a letter.  This is not very good but will have to pass some love to you all.  From bro-

John Corcoran

101st MG BN, AEF”

101stMG043a

John J. Corcoran(R)

John poses in the above photo with an unnamed friend of his from the 101st MG Bn. sporting a beautiful example of a woolen M1911 sweater.  I’ve attached below a period advertisement showing two versions of the service sweater.  These were either hand-knit from patterns or could be privately purchased through various supply and retail companies.

I am fortunate enough to own a copy of the hard-to-find 101st Machine Gun Battalion unit history.  Wagoner John J. Corcoran is listed with a frontal snapshot beside his biography.  He was born on May 29th, 1890 in Maine and eventually made his way over to Vermont where he lived in Lunenburg, VT working as a paper maker with the Gilman Paper Company.  He enlisted at Fort Ethan Allen on June 29th, 1917 with the 1st Vermont Infantry, where he was later transferred into the 103rd MG of the 26th Division.  His WWI and WWII draft cards were both listed on ancestry.com and I’ve included them below along with a copy of his death record.  He passed away in 1947 and is buried in Lunenburg.  I hope to travel there soon to take a photo of his grave!

101st MG Bn. Unit History Roster Entry

101st MG Bn. Unit History Roster Entry

CorcoranWWIRecordVT

WWI Draft Card

WWI Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

WWII Draft Card

John was badly wounded on July 22nd, 1918 during an attack on the French town of Epieds.  I’ve included a period map of the battle as well as an image of the location today.  Not much has changed!  This attack was coordinated only a few days after the Battle of Chateau Thierry.  Luckily, John’s encounter with the Germans was noted in the 101st MG unit history diary section.  I’ve transcribed the section:

“At daybreak both companies were sent into some woods overlooking Trugny to assist the attack of Major Rau’s battalion against the town. We could not locate any enemy to fire at, and the best we could do was wait to protect Rau’s left against possible counterattack.  We were shelled and M.G. bullets flew pretty thick.  Bristol of C Co. was wounded.  After awhile(sic) the attack crumbled in spite of Rau’s gallant efforts against impossible odds, and the troops were withdrawn to the old positions.  A little later C Co. was sent over to the right to join Rau.  There they found him with only a few of his men left.  The guns were set up on the edge of the woods in a defensive position.  B Co. got orders to support an attack of the 102nd Infantry Regiment on the town of Epieds over on the left flank.  The company formed a fourth wave behind the infantry, and spread out into a long skirmish line.  The advance started over the open wheat field at a slow walk, with frequent halts during which each man flattened out so that no moving thing was visible in the field.  M.G. bullets began to kick up little puffs of dust all around us, and the enemy artillery barrage came down fiercely just ahead.  We knew we would have to go through this, and every nerve was tense.  We soon found ourselves in the midst of it – direct fire at that, mostly from one pounders, and 105’s and Austrian 88’s which come with the shriek of a thousand devils.  The fumes choked us and the concussion half stunned us.  it was here that Hez Porter, following his platoon leader, was instantly killed.  Corcoran, Dick and Wendt were wounded…………………………….”

Unit History  Casualty Report

Unit History
Casualty Report

Corcoran038

CorcoranWounded

Death Registration

Death Registration

WWI 104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Yankee Division Portrait Photo – Wearing French Fourragere Cord


 

 

Yet another great Yankee Division photo for my collection; this shot shows a 104th Infantry Regiment soldier wearing his unit designation on his cap.  He is also sporting the United States National Guard collar disc.  What a great image!  He is proudly wearing his French fourragère on his left shoulder.  The 104th Infantry Regiment was one of a small handful of WWI US units to be awarded the fourragère for gallantry.  Please read the article below for more info!

 

 

A Mystery…………..

 

A 1918 article in the Springfield, MA newspaper The Republican

Enemy Storm Troops Hurled Back By Impetuous Yankees Regiment Reveals Its Valor and Fighting Qualities in the Fierce Combats of Bois Brule.

By AMICO J. BARONE

Apremont!The name spells horror and glory for the 104th. In April 1918, the troops from Springfield, Massachusetts achieved a distinction never before won by American troops in the entire history of our armed forces. So valorously did they conduct themselves in the Bois Brule, a wood close to Apermont, that the French Government decorated the colors of the regiment with the Croix de Guerre. It was the first time such an honor had ever come to an American unit. In addition the regimental commander and 116 other officers and men had the bronze cross with its red and green ribbon pinned on their breasts. The regimental citation read: “For greatest fighting spirit and self-sacrifice during action of April10, 12 and 13, 1918. Suffering from heavy bombardments, and attack by very strong German Forces, the regiment succeeded in preventing their dangerous advance, and with greatest energy reconquered, at the point of bayonet, the few ruined trenches which had to be abandoned at the first onset, at the same tome making prisoners”. In a general order issued a few days after the Bois Brule engagements, the French general Passaga declared: “During this fight the American troops gave proof not only of their splendid courage, which we know, but also of a brotherhood in arms which was absolute and ever present. With such men as these the cause of liberty is sure to triumph.”

Continued below: The First American Croix de Guerre to be awarded to an entire regiment. This Medal was also given to Captain George Roberts, and the bronze frame was specially cast with the infantry tools of the day around the frame. The frame mold was broke and never reproduced to be one of a kind. The picture is Colonel George A. Roberts, Commander of the 104th Infantry Westfield Massachusetts.

Continued: Bois Brule was in La Reine sector on the southeasterly face of the St. Mihiel salient, a rough and ragged terrain where virtually all the tactical advantage lay with the enemy. In 1914 the sector had seen violent fighting, but as the war of attrition developed, it became moderately quiet with a sort of tacit understanding between the opposing forces to permit the situation to remain unchanged. The town of Apremont, whose name will be forever linked up with the 104th Regiment, lay outside the Allied lines. In the distance, grim and desolate Mont Sec loomed up as a splendid vantage point from which the enemy could observe the American positions. Difficult Spot to Defend.

The 26th Division took over the sector the first of April, the left of the line being assigned to the 104th. On the immediate left of the Western Massachusetts outfit was the 10th Colonial French Division. The regiments sub sector in the Bois Brule formed an awkward, narrow salient, hard to defend. The trenches were in poor condition, there was inadequate protection against shelling, and the marshy land made trench drainage difficult. The third battalion of the 104th, under command of Capt. George A. Roberts of Springfield, MA., immediately went into the forward position. The battalion commander, noting the small salient extending out and realizing how simple it would be for the enemy to pinch in on it and make prisoners of the men holding the position, asked and received permission to straighten out the line. K Co., under the command of First Lieutenant George Hosmer of Springfield, MA., performed this operation successfully. For some unaccountable reason, the French had persisted in maintaining the small and unimportant salient and had often lost prisoners to the enemy who would come over and successfully pinch it out. During the first three of four days the outfit held the sector, it was subjected to a harassing enemy fire. On April 5 the shelling grew in intensity and for the following four days the area was severely pounded by the enemy artillery. Evidently, an action was impending and the Germans were bent on shaking the moral of the troops by the concentration of shells.

Early on the morning of the 10th, the enemy blasting became particularly severe. The huge projectiles from the German minenwerfers came thundering down on the positions held by the third Battalion, shattering trenches and subjecting the men to terrific punishment. Capt. Roberts sent back word that help was needed to evacuate the wounded and suggested that the bandsmen be used as stretcher bearers. The suggestion was acted upon and the valiant work these men did under fire won for several of their number decorations from the French and American Governments. .As the dawn crept over Bois Brule on April 10, the enemy troops made their appearance on the front held by the 3rd Battalion – a hillcrest. They came on relentlessly, but that assault wave of storm troops failed to dislodge the men of Western Massachusetts. It was a severe test of arms in which much technique of warfare was forgotten by the green Yanks who nevertheless battled vigorously and effectively to beat back the veteran enemy.

The artillery fire also was of great aid in stemming that first tide. Thus for the moment the 3rd Battalion had checked the attack on the night of the 11th despite heavy enemy shelling, the second Battalion came in to relieve the 3rd which had held the position for 10 days. On the 12th the enemy came over again with renewed energy. This time the French on the American’s left fell back, exposing the left flank of the Yanks. But the Americans rose to this emergency and by a vigorous counter-attack, driving back remnants of enemy groups.

Gives Credit To Men By the 13th the affair of Bois Brule was over and the 104th had conclusively demonstrated that it could withstand the attack of seasoned troops. The men had revealed courage and resourcefulness and the officers had shown real leadership under trying conditions. A day or two later Capt. Roberts was promoted to the rank of major for the splendid manner in which he had handled his battalion. An incident characteristic of his modesty occurred at that time. The divisional commander, Gen. Edwards drove up to battalion headquarters and seeing Capt. Roberts he called him over to congratulate him. Capt. Roberts said: “The credit belongs to the men of the battalion, General, not to me.” The General answered: “You would say that.” On April 28, the regiment was lined up at Bocq, not far from where it had demonstrated its mettle, and there Gen. Passaga decorated the colors of the outfit and scores of men and officers with the Croix de Guerre. His voice trembling with emotion, the French officer pinned the red and green ribbons to the 104th colors, saying: “I am proud to decorate the flag of a regiment which has shown such fortitude and courage.”

Capt. Roberts was among those decorated with the French cross. He was also recommended for the American Distinguished Serviced Cross. Later, in the Bouconville sector, he was slightly wounded and in July he was transferred to provost marshal duty in Lanon.

Amazing 103rd Infantry Regiment Field Written Poem – “Somewhere in France” – 26th Division


Sometimes a true gem will turn up among the pages of boring WWI eBay listings.  In this case I was able to purchase a small lot of photos and letters for less than $10, and discovered an amazing field written poem by a battalion runner in the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division” (my favorite division BTW).  Although the photos that came with the grouping are unrelated to the 103rd, I thought I would post the poem and transcription as a memorial to all those who died in the trenches of France.  Memorial Day is only a few days away and I think it is a fitting tribute to the men and women who served during the First World War.

Please visit Soldier’s Mail for other photos and interpretations of further 103rd Infantry Regiment related material.

Written at Apremont France by Battalion Runner  Blanchard of Company F of the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division



Somewhere in France

I

A soldier boy lay dying,

On a road “somewhere in France;”

he had tried to get through a barrage

Tho he knew he stood no chance.

A pal knelt down beside him

While the tears ran down his cheek

For this soldier was his lifelong friend

And he longed to hear him speak.

II

When the dying soldier opened

Up his eyes, and look around

And saw his dear old pal

Kneeling side him on the grounf

He smiled and said “They got me Jim

Yes got me with a shell.”

“My orders were to take this note

Through water, fire and hell.”

III

“Take this message Jim and run it thru

Do not stop for me

It means two hundred lives and more

Its for our company

Fritz made a fake attack this morn

Just it break o’ day

If you can only get it rhu

We’ll make those dam Huns pay”

IV

“And when you get around to it

Just write a line or two,

To my mother and my sweetheart Jim

Old pay so good and true;

Tell them I tried to make it

Thru gas, barrage, and shell

That my resting place is heaven

For I when there thru a hell.”

V

Then the dying soldier closed his eyes

His pal with tender care,

Gently laid him down

And smoothed his bloody ruffled hair,

And with a sob of anguish

He started down the road,

In his hand he held the message

That was written out in code.

VI

Jim got the message there in time

To quell the Germans’ bluff,

He told the story to the boys

How the blood got on his cuff,

The dying words of Bill his pal

A runner dead and gone

And the company paid their last respects

To the brave but silent form.

~Wrote at Apremont by Batt. Runner Blanchard

At the conclusion of a dream – YD Co. F 103. Inf.