Aug 212016
Ashby Williams

Lt. Col. Ashby Williams

I must admit I was not very familiar with World War I history.  I had studied it in school history classes, watched the old movies and read a couple books on the subject.  I never really appreciated the courage and bravery of those who served in that war until I investigated the life of my mother’s uncle, Private First Class Russell Stewart.  He served in Company M of the 319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division.  He died at the battle of the Meuse-Argonne on November 2, 1918, just as the war was ending.

In reading the relevant regimental and divisional accounts of that battle, I found the most interesting and moving account of all.  It was written by Lieutenant Colonel Ashby Williams (1874-1944)1 in his book, “Experiences of the Great War” (Roanoke, Virginia: The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company, 1919).  He started out as commander of Company E, 320th Infantry and was promoted to battalion commander, with the rank of Major, over Companies A, B, C and D, of the 320th.  Although he was an officer, he endured only slightly better conditions than his men.  He describes in great detail the experience of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

The 320th and 319th were in the same brigade, the 160th, and undoubtedly shared the same locations, movements and conditions.  Therefore his is probably the closest description of what my granduncle experienced.  I have included here the most poignant and eloquent passages from Lt. Col. Williams’ book.  His words describe the indescribable horrors of existence and death in the trenches.  It is something the world often forgets, as I did, in my generation.  But now I remember.

Continue reading »

  1. Jim Tipton, Find A Grave ( Downloaded 16 August 2016), John Ashby “Ashby” Williams, Sr (1874-1944), Memorial 64601385.
Aug 032016
Corp. Arthur Pollock

Cpl. Arthur Pollock

Corporal Arthur Nelan Pollock served in Company F, 320th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in World War I.  Amazingly, he kept a diary.  It so happens he got separated from his regiment and became attached to the 319th Infantry.  This was the same regiment in which my granduncle Russell Stewart served, as I describe in a previous post.

It is enlightening to read Corporal Pollock’s account of the battle.  Since both men were then in the same regiment, this is very likely what Russell Stewart also experienced.  Here is an excerpt of Corporal Pollock’s account from September 26 to October 2, 1918.  It was originally published in the Pittsburgh Press, April 20, 1919 and continued on May 18, 1919.  This excerpt was transcribed by Lynn Beatty and the full text is found at the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania USGenWeb.1

Continue reading »

  1. Pennsylvania, USGenWeb Archives, Allegheny County, Military, World War I, ( : 3 August 2016.)
Jul 232016

VioletsThere once was a precious little girl named Violet who died at age 2. More than one hundred years later, it is she who helped me unravel a compelling mystery.

Continue reading »

Jun 302016
Russell Stewart

Russell T. Stewart

My granduncle Russell Thomas Stewart was my maternal grandfather’s younger brother. In a family tree published by my second cousin, Robert M. Stewart, there is a somber copy of a telegram addressed to my great-grandmother, Mary (McKee) Stewart, and dated December 5, 1918.1   It was news that her son Russell Stewart was killed in action November 2, 1918.

Finding no other information, I decided to investigate the short life of my granduncle, who I had never heard about. I was able to find a little more about him, but his story is mostly the tragedy of World War I and the sad ironies of its end.

Continue reading »

  1. Robert M. Stewart, Stewarts 1776-1979 (N.p.: n.p., 8 July 1978), Appendix, Copy of Western Union telegram to Mary Stewart indicating Russell Stewart was killed in action 2 November.