I decided to scan the notepad paper upon which William Boles kept track of his WWI whereabouts. So here they are. I especially love how he refers to the US as “God’s country” (page 4). To view photos he took while serving, click here. To view the medal awarded to him by the State of NJ upon his return to civilian life, click here.
Monthly Archives: July 2011
I discovered a little notebook belonging to William Boles that contains brief details about his WWI whereabouts in service with the 29th Division, 112th Heavy Field Artillery. Thought I would transcribe it to share it here. I have done my best to decipher some of the French towns. The writing in brackets () is mine:
Enlisted July 3, 1917
Left Montclair [NJ] July 25th for Sea Girt [NJ].
Left Sea Girt September 24th
Arrived Camp McClellan [Alabama] Sept. 28th
Left Camp McClellan June 20, 1918
Arrived Camp Mills [Long Island, NY], June 22
Left Camp Mills, June 28
Boarded the good ship Melita at 8 a.m. Friday morning, June 28, 1918 at Pier 2 at West 24th Street, NY [Note: the Melita was built as a passenger ship for the Hamburg-America Line, but ended up being purchased by Canadian Pacific. The ship entered service in January 1918 and was used for troop transport during WWI; to view some ship interiors, click here.]
Pulled away from Pier at 10 a.m. arriving at Liverpool, England, on July 10th. Train for So. Hampton where we arrived late that night, remaining until the following day.
Left S. Hampton, July 11 [via the swift steamer Prince George]
Arrived Le Havre, July 12
Left Le Havre, July 13
Arrived Portiers [Poitiers], July 15
Left Portiers, August 25
Arrived Vannes [Vienne], August 26
Left Vannes, Nov. 11
Arrived Trampot, Nov. 13
Left Trampot, December 6
Arrived Écot, Dec. 7
Left Écot, Dec. 7
Arr. Clefmont, Dec. 7
Left Clefmont, Dec. 9
Arr. Villars, Dec. 9
Left Villars, Dec. 10
Arrived Raincourt, Dec. 10
Remaining there for a sojourn of four months. Leaving on the 11th April 1919.
Arrived Oisseau Petit [Oisseau-le-Petit] on Apr. 13
Left Oisseau Petit [Oisseau-le-Petit] on May 6
Arrived H. Nazaire [St. Nazarine], May 7
Left H. Nazaire, May 11 [via the transport USS Orizaba]
Arriving at Newport News [Virginia] in God’s Country on May the 21st.
Leaving May 28
and [illegible] May 29 [A parade and official welcome took place in Atlantic City]
and returned to civil life on the fourth day of June in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and nineteen.
For images of the actual notebook, see next post.
For more on the SS Melita, click here and here.
For more on the 112th Field Artillery Regiment, see pages 17 & 18 of this document. They corroborate the itinerary.
Additional resource on Google Books: 29th Infantry Division: A Short History of a Fighting Division by Joseph H. Ewing, pages 11-17.
I came across a little book recently called The Works of George S. V. Wills and The Westminster College of Chemistry and Pharmacy. I knew prior to this discovery that we have a George Wills in our family tree who was an accomplished builder and sculptor in Northamptonshire, England, in the early 1800s. His dates as I have them listed are 22 Feb 1793 to 24 July 1856. This is a family line that has been on my “to-do” list for quite some time, and I must admit that this curious little book spurred me to place the Wills higher up in my research priorities. The first few chapters give sufficient detail about G.S.V. Wills to know that he was a grandson of our George Wills who was a son of Sampson Wills, also a well known builder in his day. So I have plenty of information to work with to piece some more family details together, and I will begin to share them in subsequent posts.
Meanwhile, I am including an image of George Wills that has traveled down through the generations and landed with me and my family. George was married to Mary Capon, whose mother, Mary Pitt Capon, was supposedly a cousin of William Pitt, prime minister of England from 1783-1801.
I have done searches on the Wills name on the LDS site and have come up with dozens of Wills ancestors but have yet to find those on our direct line. The areas in Northamptonshire I am focusing my research on are Stony Stratford, Blisworth, and Roade. I believe George Wills is buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Wolverton, Buckingham, England. If anyone reading this has any details to share, please get in touch. Thanks.
Update (12/11): Since writing this entry, I have made many posts about the Wills family. Click on “Wills” in the left-hand column under “Surnames”. It’s best to read them in chronological order. For G.S.V. Wills family exclusively, click here.
Call it a “junior moment” but I just realized the other day that both Francis C. Ludey (b. 1845) and Henry A. Trowbridge (b. 1835) served together in the Civil War. Both were in Company C, 14th Infantry New Jersey Volunteers. Francis began his service at age 17, while Henry began his service at age 27. Francis is a great great uncle by marriage via my maternal line and Henry is a great great great uncle via my paternal line. They certainly must have been acquainted with each other, having spent three years together in service. This is fascinating to think about. It would be very interesting to discover old photographs of either of them in uniform either individually or together with other men from their company. If anyone reading this has any such photos to share, I would be very interested to see them.
In the last post containing Henry Trowbridge’s letter of November 14, 1863, he mentions “fried hard tack.” If I’d heard the term before back in my school days, I’d forgotten it so I looked it up. It’s said that armies travel on their stomachs; without a doubt an army that is well nourished has the strength, both mentally and physically, to perform better than one that is not. Though I suspected the diet at the time was pretty limited and unhealthy, it was even worse than I’d imagined. Henry Trowbridge alluded to the tedium of the daily diet: “we had fried hard tack, pork, and coffee. and when we get hard of that, we have coffee, pork and hard tack.” Many Civil War diseases were diet-related. Often spoiled foods were consumed. I’d assumed “hard tack” was some kind of beef jerky, but it was actually a heavy unleavened biscuit pierced with holes that could last a long time before being consumed. The Visit Gettysburg website discusses hardtack in detail, even offering a recipe. From this site I learned that the biscuit had a number of aliases like “tooth dullers,” “hardbread,” “worm castles,” and “sheet iron crackers.”
Each soldier would receive six to eight biscuits to hold them for a three-day period. As the biscuits got older they became so hardened, the soldiers would have to soften them up using soup, coffee, or water. Frying them up in bacon grease was also a solution for making them edible. From Henry Trowbridge’s letter, we can see that this was his approach. There was even a song written during the war about hardtack called “Hardtack, Come Again No More”(see below).
Interestingly, the small insects that infested the biscuits over time were actually helpful in providing protein for the troops when the normal sources of protein were scarce. To see a list of Union Army daily rations and to read a very interesting essay on the daily diets of the soldiers on both sides of the conflict, click here. For insight into the role of coffee during the war, click here. For a firsthand account of a soldier’s experience with Civil War rations, you can view online the 1888 book, Hardtack and Coffee, by John Davis Billings, a Union soldier. Visit Internet Archive.
Hardtack, Come Again No More
Let us close our game of poker, take our tin cups in our hand
As we all stand by the cook’s tent door
As dried mummies of hard crackers are handed to each man.
O, hard tack, come again no more!
‘Tis the song, the sigh of the hungry:
“Hard tack, hard tack, come again no more.”
Many days you have lingered upon our stomachs sore.
O, hard tack, come again no more!
‘Tis a hungry, thirsty soldier who wears his life away
In torn clothes—his better days are o’er.
And he’s sighing now for whiskey in a voice as dry as hay,
“O, hard tack, come again no more!”
‘Tis the wail that is heard in camp both night and day,
‘Tis the murmur that’s mingled with each snore.
‘Tis the sighing of the soul for spring chickens far away,
“O, hard tack, come again no more!”
But to all these cries and murmurs, there comes a sudden hush
As frail forms are fainting by the door,
For they feed us now on horse feed that the cooks call mush!
O, hard tack, come again once more!
‘Tis the dying wail of the starving:
“O, hard tack, hard tack, come again once more!”
You were old and very wormy, but we pass your failings o’er.
O, hard tack, come again once more!
This next letter of Henry Augustine Trowbridge’s was written on Thursday, November 12, 1863, from Brandy Station, Virginia. This was 15 days before the battles occurred in which the 14th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers, Company C, first participated: 27 November 1863, Locust Grove, VA, and Jacob’s Ford, VA. This letter was written to nephew William Woodruff who would have been 14 at the time. The letter is in bad shape–faded and hard to read, so I am not scanning it for insertion here. His spelling and punctuation are retained. Note: the abbreviation “inst.” is short for instante mense (Latin for “this month”).
I received your letter of the 8th inst. last evening and was very glad to hear from you once more. it found me as well as ever and sitting by my camp fire warming my shins which I hope this may find you. I sat by the fire and read your letter then I wished I had more to read for yours was so short but how some ever. not withstanding never the less I was very glad to get it and hope you will continue in writing often. this is quite a pleasant morning. the sun shines on us once more. we have just eaten our breakfast and am sitting in my tent writing to you. I wish you were here to eat with us. we had fried hard tack, pork, and coffee. and when we get hard of that, we have coffee, pork and hard tack. when I wrote you last we were near Warrenton Junction on the north side of the river we were there one week. and on Saturday last we pulled stakes at day light and at sun rise the Coloms were on the move toward the river which was 12 miles off. our company was deployed as skirmishes on both sides of the advancing lines. we marched untill in the afternoon and till we came near the river. then our bull dogs began to bark. as we advanced they barked louder and faster. there was a small force of rebels entrenched on the north side of the river. but as the 1st Division of our Corps was on the advance they made a charge on the rebels and drove them over the river through the water 3 or 4 feet deep. they were followed up by the 1st Division and with the help of our baterys on the hill drove them back 2 miles. we layed in the reserve and could see them git up and git 3 shells A mimet wherled in amongst them bursting and scattering them in every direction. we had some 32 pounders at worke on them they throwed some shells near 3 miles we could hear them move over our head like steam from a locomotive. then we would stand up and see them strike and burst throwing the dirt in evry direction. when our boys made a charge on them we could hear them give a yell that would scare anyone. you would laugh to have seen the gray backs run with our black 32 pounders a [?] into them. they captured 400 prisoners and these armies. at dark the firing cleared. then they went to worke at the pontoons and soon got them over in 2 places. then the rest of the 3rd corps crossed went a short distance from the river and halted for the night. the rebels was then in front so we could not have any fire to make our coffee so we had to lay down without our hot suppers. we spread our blankets on the cold and lousy ground and layed down to rest our sore and weary bones. but i was so tired that i could not sleep for the wagons were crossing all night. the Army was all night getting over the river on two bridges. and such a noys you never heard on a Sunday morning. when we got up and found that the rebels had all skedaddled and we could make all the fire we wished to. then we went to the fences and such a chopping and such a noys I never heard. we soon made our coffee and got thawed out. Then we had to storm off after them on the double quick. we went 8 miles when there rebel coloms were seen 2 miles distent we formed a line along the soil and rested for an hour while our batterys went on to give them a few more shells. our batery got in position on the hill in front near the railroad while we layed in the valley they soon opened on the rebels and after they fired 18 or 20 shells at them they were out of sight. then we would advance 2 or 3 miles then halt while they gave them some more iron pills, so we advanced and so we spent sunday untill 3 oclock in the afternoon when we got here to Brandy Station where we are yet. we are within 4 miles of Culpeper the railroad that the rebels tore up is nearly rebuilt to the river. they had no time to distroy the track here. when the track is finished to the Rappahannock then I expect we will advance on to Culpeper to the Rapidan and we may get as far as gordonsville. the weather is getting cold. I had the watter in my canteen freeze solid the other night. we expect the paymaster here soon. you must to have had a good time up to the swamp a hunting. I wished I had been with you. You say that if I was [?] at Washington and you a little older you would be with me. well I would like to have you but you may bee glad that you cannot come for I tell you you are better off home. I got a letter from Hatt (I’m not sure but Hatt may be Hattie, Henry’s sister Harriet Trowbridge) before we crossed the river and wrote one to her and sent it off the same day so I will not answer it. I wrote to Emma [William’s sister] yesterday. so I will close for this time. give my kind regards to all the boys. good by all. You must excuse me for sending with no stamp for I cannot help it. I cant get them.
I came across some old family pet photos so here’s a little gallery that I plan to expand as I come across more such photos. I find the photo of Button taken in February 1910 quite interesting. The address was 902 Salem Rd in Elizabeth, NJ. Look around–no buildings, barely any trees, just what appears to be farmland which makes sense since the Woodruffs, descendents of Elizabeth’s original settlers, were farmers. And then look at the aerial photo of that part of Elizabeth today (note: the red “A” marks the spot of 902 Salem Rd.).
My, how things have changed. I’m not sure to whom Miss M. E. Woodruff refers. I’d have said Mildred Woodruff, perhaps, but her middle name was Wealthy. In any case, she was surely someone close to William Woodruff about whom I wrote in a previous post about Uzal Trowbridge, his uncle. William had six daughters. The fact that this photo (printed on a quite sizable piece of cardboard) survives to this day means that the dog and his owner must have been special to the William Woodruff family.
Update 5/2012: I believe ME Woodruff was Mary Earl Woodruff, daughter of Ogden and Phebe Woodruff and a cousin of the Wm Woodruff mentioned above.
CLICK ON AN IMAGE TO VIEW AS A SLIDESHOW:
William Boles, who emigrated to the US from Drumkeerin, Co. Leitrim, Ireland, in the early 1910s, enlisted in the US Army for service in WWI. He was still a British subject at the time. Below are some photos from his service in the 29th Division, 112th Heavy Field Artillery. There are many more photographs in the album; when I have time, I will scan the rest and post them here. CLICK ON ONE PHOTO SO YOU CAN VIEW THEM AS A SLIDE SHOW.
Below is a letter written by Pvt. Henry A. Trowbridge to his nephew, William Earl Woodruff, son of Mary Trowbridge Woodruff and Francis Woodruff. It was written on March 7, 1863 while Henry was located at Camp Hooker near Frederick City, Maryland. At this point Company C, 14th Regiment was still inactive.
I received your Welcome letter of the 1st inst. [Note: the abbreviation “inst.” is short for instante mense (Latin for “this month”)] with one from Emma [Willy’s sister, Emma Woodruff]. I was very glad to here from you once more. It found me as well as ever and able to eat my pork and beans which I hope these few lines will find you all. I hardly know what to write to you because I wrote to you the other day with a sketch of our camp. The line of the Monocacy [Monacacy Junction near Frederick, MD; the Battle of Monocacy in which the 14th Regiment NJ participated and was honored with a monument, was fought here in July 1864] is all quiet at present and is like to be as long as the 44th is here. We have rain or snow about every other day and the mud is 4 feet deep or less and the river is raising very fast and they are afraid the Bridge will float away. They haf to watch it night and and day to keep the drifting trees from barring the bridge. I would like to be home to help you cetch muskrats and to try your gun. I suppose you are getting to be a good marksman by this time. I wish I could send you one of our rifles then you could plug them with an ounce ball. that is a good piece for them. I think it pays very well. you done very well in trading guns to get too $ to boot you must to have had quite a time on Washington’s birthday. they must be getting rich to waist so much powder as that don’t you think so. we have ben into having a 20 pounder fired twice a day by the baterry that has been here all winter with us but they have gone down in dixeys land to take there stand and before long we will follow them but it dose not matter much as long as we get out of this filthy place. it must be as warm there as it is here if the meadows is not froze yet so you can get your hay. is it [?] as good as it was last winter I am not offended of those valentines because you sent them but I thought Emma sent them because it was her directions. I thought they was rather hard for her to send. that song put me in mind of old times i tell you. I must close for this time hopeing to here from you soon again. it rains tonight and tomorrow is Sunday and I will be on guard in the rain as usual if it does not clear off to night who would not be a snoger & give me back my money. [ends here; could be a final page is missing]
I was amused to see mention made of Willy catching muskrats–hard to believe this was once possible given how urban Elizabeth, NJ’s environs are in this day and age. But the Woodruffs, descendants of Elizabeth’s founding families, were farmers with land, so it is not unlikely that they would have hunted muskrats and other critters on their property. Or maybe for hunting purposes, Willy went further afield to nearby Trowbridge Mountain in Morris Co., NJ, where his Trowbridge relatives resided.
I have a few more letters from Henry (sent after his regiment became active) which I will share in upcoming posts.