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Jersey County: World War I Experiences (1917-1919)


In the pages that follow are accounts of the experiences of some of our Jersey County men. It has been the object of this publisher to secure as many of them as possible and to obtain proof of their authenticity. As a general rule, a man who has seen action does not care to relate many of his experiences and wishes to avoid any recollection of the terrible scenes through which he has passed.
William A. Bridges was the first wounded Jersey County man to return from overseas. Bridges left Jerseyville with a contingent of drafted men on the 27th of May 1918, for Camp Gordon, Ga. He underwent preliminary training at the Georgia Camp until the 17th of July, when he was transferred to Camp Merrit, N.J. On the 24th of July he embarked from the port of Boston on the British Transport Beltana, with 8,000 other troops. Bridges went overseas with the 53 Replacement Company of the 5th Regiment; on the 8th of August he landed at London and went from there to a rest camp near Manchester. After four days in the rest camp he crossed the English Channel and landed at the French Port. From the posy of debarkation he went to camp at LaMane until classified in Company D of the 18th Infantry. Bridges first big fight was the St. Mihiel Drive. His next battle was before Verdun in the drive on the Argonne Forest. His division went up to the Argonne Forest lines the 30th of September and held the line until they went over the top on the 4th of October. The objectives were all captured and the division dug in awaiting a relief division that was to make the second drive. The weather was rainy and the road so congested with traffic that the relief division could not get up, so Bridges' division was forced to make a double drive. Bridges was wounded in the second engagement, receiving a machine bullet though the body in the region of the stomach. Bridges was wounded at 8:30 a.m. and crawled to a first -aid station where he received treatment at 9:15 am. He was then placed in a shell hole until sentry brought in a German captain and four privates as prisoners. The bunch were turned over to Bridges, who was placed on a stretcher and carried to the field hospital through a continuous downpour of bursting shells. The field hospital was reached at 6:00 o'clock in the evening and at 10 o'clock Bridges was operated on. He was placed in a German cave for two week, then removed to Hospital No. 14. Later he was transferred to No 18 and then taken to the hospital in Paris. He was in the Paris Hospital from the 29th of October to the 20th of November. He sailed for the United Statedonthe10th of December from Brest and arrived the 20th of the month. He was discharged the 15 of February 1919. When asked to recount his most interesting experiences he was reluctant to do so saying with a shudder that he did not care to recall the terrible sights that he had seen at the battlefront. "The most interesting experience was the general work with the infantry in actual battle," he said. "I saw one shell explode nearby and completely bury a comrade alive. I helped dig him out. Life in the field under battle conditions is terrible and an experience that one cares little to recall"

When a man goes over the top in battle he little can guess what the fortunes of war may hold in store for him. One of the Jersey County boys who carried a lot of luck in his makeup is Oliver House. The story of House's experiences would fill a book and make mighty interesting reading. He enlisted the 7th of August 1917, in the regular army at a St. Louis recruiting station. From ST. Louis he went to Camp Worth, Ga., where he went through eight months of strenuous army training. At the conclusion of his training he went to Camp Merritt and went across inn the giant converted German merchantman Vaterland, embarking from Hoboken, N.J. He landed at Brest, France, and remained there four days. His command was then transferred to Fresney, where it remained for a period of three weeks, at the termination of that time, the command was sent into what the boys called the "Valentine Sector." There the duty was mostly trench duty and House served as a sharpshooter, it being his duty to work out in advance of the American trenches and make life miserable for any of the Boches that might care to get reckless and expose part of their anatomy. In the big St Mihiel battle House and his command played an important part, capturing many prisoners it was in this battle that House was seen by other Jersey County men bringing in a bag of one-hundred and forty-eight prisoners that he and others of his company had taken. Before leaving this country, House, Roy Redlich and Ernest Crone had chummed together considerably. When House enlisted the other two remained in Jerseyville until they were drafted and sent to France with an artillery contingent. At the termination of the St. Mihiel drive, Roy Redlich was standing by the side of one of the roads when someone called to him "Hello Speck." Looking closely at the Yank who was trailing a bunch of prisoners, Redlich recognized his old friend House. The former left his battery in his excitement and walked for nearly a mile with House. Later he returned and told Crone, who was with the same battery, that he had seen "Shanty House" with a whole bunch of Boches that the latter had captured.

House went into the great Argonne Forest battle on the 14th of October and four days later was badly wounded. His life was saved in a miraculous manner. A trench mirror that he carried in a pocket over his heart deflected the bullet that otherwise would have penetrated that vital organ and caused it to pass below. The bullet went through House's body and lodged in his back. It was removed by the army surgeons and is today in House's possession. After he was wounded, House administered first aid to himself and walked as best he could for a mile until he met some litter bearers. He was then carried to Hospital No. 5. He remained there for twenty-three days, then was sent to Base Hospital No 49. He remained there for a month, then was transferred to No 119. After a period at NO 119, he was sent to Brest and came home with a list of other casualties.

"My most interesting work in the service," said House, when asked to narrate his experiences that appealed the most, "was the work with the scouts to whom I was assigned. There was a company of sixty to which I was attached. Our work was all done at night. One night thirty of us would start out and the next night the other thirty would be on the job. It was our duty to patrol No Man's Land and obtain needed information for headquarters. We would locate the machine gun nests of the enemy and when day would break the artillery would get busy and blow them off the map. When headquarters wanted information, it was out duty to go into the enemy trenches and take a prisoner. Many nights we penetrated completely through the entire German trench system without being detected."

Among the list of Jersey County men who saw a large amount of service appears the name of Bert Feyerabend, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Feyerabend. Bert enlisted early in July, 1917, and went overseas as a member of Company I of the 59th Infantry. He was in the fierce fighting of Montfoucon, took part in the battle of Cruisyand, the struggle at Septsarges and helped at Sergy. He was a member of the American forces that ran the Germans out of the Saint Mihiel salient and went into the Argonne Forest fight following St. Mihiel. Feyerabend says that the fighting in the Argonne was about as hot as he ever experienced. Early in the was Feyerabend was gassed, but aside from that experience, went through the war with remarkably good fortune, considering the fierce fighting in which he participated. At the time of compilation of this volume, Feyerabend was a member of the Army of Occupation and was stationed at Coblenz.

Harry Ross left Jersey County with the May 27th draft contingent. He went to Camp Gordon, Ga., where he received preliminary training. With the 53rd Replacement Company he went overseas and was sent into the great Argonne Forest battle. The Argonne fight in the future will undoubtedly be classified as America's greatest battle, for close to 700,000 of our men were in the conflict. Ross was in the fighting for a period of fourteen days and nights and went through without a scratch, although men were killed on all sides of him. His company got caught twice in their own barrage fire. "The fire of the German's was bad enough," said Ross, in telling of the experience, "but that American barrage was something fierce. I saw three of my company killed by the explosion of one of our shells scarcely twenty paces from me. Ralph Pickett, with whom I had been chumming, was shot through the neck and shoulder the day of the battle. I never learned what became of him until I returned home."

The Americans were at great disadvantage in the Argonne fighting for the enemy had all the advantage of position. The fighting was mostly of the sniping variety. The infantry would wait for the artillery to blast a way, then advance under machine gun fire from the enemy and take the bombarded area, dig in and hold it until the artillery would advance. Then the infantry would repeat and so it went until the woods was cleared.

"We were counter-attacked on two occasions. During one of the attacks I was in a dug-out asleep and did not get into it. The other time I was on duty. We succeeded in repelling these attacks and the next morning there were many dead Germans visible. We always killed three to one in an attack of this kind." Ross became ill and was sent to the hospital. His illness as due to eating canned willy, which was the only food the troops in many sections had during the entire battle. Roads were congested and food supplies could not be brought up. Ross returned home with a hospital unit.

Walter Krueger, son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis J. Krueger, enlisted in the United States Navy July 1st 1918. He arrived at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station on July 8th. On September 13th, he was transferred to Philadelphia and while there had the Spanish Influenza. On October 13thhe was transferred from Philadelphia to New York. On October 16th he sailed on the United States Transport Agamemnon and arrived in Brest, France, October 25th. From Brest he went to Queenstown, Ireland and from there to London via Johnstown, Ireland, and Halyhead, Wales. After going to Southampton, England, he went aboard the United States Steamer Yale, which made regular trips from Southampton to LeHavre, France.

To have fought with the Americans at Cantigny is an honor that any soldier may well be proud of. Marcus Sunderland of Jerseyville was with the American forces at the place in question and was wounded during the engagement. Sunderland enlisted the 12th of July, 1917, at Springfield, Ill., and went to Jefferson Barracks. From there he was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison, where he trained for three months before going over. He crossed the ocean on the Mt. Vernon and landed at Brest. From there he went to Sanamand, where he was trained until the lst of March, 1918, when he went into the trenches with the rest of the force in the Toul Sector.

"My first experience in battle was with German raiding parties," said Sunderland, in relating his experiences. "We raided their trenches many time also and to me it was more exciting business than a real drive. Volunteers were called for at times for raiding parties and at other times we were selected for the business.

The 27th of May the Germans made a big raid upon the American forces near Cantigny and the 28th the American forces attacked the town which was a veritable fortress. The result of the attack is well known. The Americans held it against eight counter attacked of the Germans, who were greatly chagrined at its loss to the Yanks.

"The artillery back of us did great work in repelling the counter attacks." said Sunderland, in telling of the fighting. "Our gunners simply mowed the enemy every time and only once did he get into our trenches and that was in those of K Company. That organization drew back and, in about an hour, attacked the enemy and drove them back. At one time they used twenty-eight tanks to try and retake the town. Our artillery shot the entire outfit to pieces, with the exception of two or three, and when they discovered what they were up against, they turned ad went back."

Sunderland was wounded at Cantigny. He was trying to crawl through a wheatfield to an advanced post in front of the American trenches when he was wounded in the arm and side by machine gun bullets. As he was being carried to the field hospital by German prisoners a high explosive shell burst near and killed two of the men who were serving as litter bearers. Sunderland was wounded about the neck and shoulders by fragments of the shell and sustained a bursted ear drum. The other prisoners were badly wounded. After a period of six weeks in the hospital, Sunderland was transferred to the Motor Transport Corps. He served in the Argonne fight from its beginning until Thanksgiving, when he was sent to the hospital on account of his ear giving him a lot of trouble. He remained in the hospital until the 20th of March, 1919, and sailed from France for home on the 27th of February, landing at Hoboken the 6th of March. He received his honorable discharge from Camp Grant the 1st of April.

Charles W. Medford left Jersey County with a contingent of drafted men the 25th of May, 1918 for Camp Gordon, Ga. After a period of preliminary training he was sent overseas as a member of the 53rd Replacement Company. Medford was badly wounded in the great Argonne fight. He was placed in the same company with Oliver House before the drive began. The first day of the battle Medford went down wounded from shrapnel. For a number of months no report of Medford was obtainable. Relatives attempted to learn something, but were unable to get any information, finally through the medium of the Red Cross word was received regarding Medford and his condition. It was learned that he had sustained the loss of one leg that had been amputated to save his life. At the time of this writing Medford was in a hospital at Fort Snelling, Minn.

There are a number of Jersey County families boasting of three men in service and several boasting of having three men in France. One family having three boys in France is the John Taylor family of Delhi. The first boy in the family to hear the call to action and respond was Carl B. Taylor, who enlisted in May, 1917, shortly after the outbreak of the war with Germany. He was a member of Company K, 1st Regular United States Marine Cops, and went across to France and saw service with that fighting organization.

The second son to enter service was Charles H. Taylor who, with is brother, Culver J. Taylor, left Jersey County the 18th of August, 1918, with a draft contingent for Camp Taylor, Ky. Culver J. Taylor was attached to the 110th Machine Gun Battalion and beat his brother into the fighting, seeing hot action with his battalion in the great Argonne battle. Charles H. Taylor was attached to the 101st Field Artillery, Battery E, and went overseas about the time of the signing of the armistice.

Carl J. Schmieder went to Camp Taylor, Ky., the 26th of February, 1918 with a draft contingent. He was trained in the artillery branch of the service at that camp and then transferred to West Point. He sailed from New York the 9th of September, 1918, and landed in Scotland the 23rd of the same month. He served in France with the 326th Field Artillery Battery D, but did not get into action. He sailed from France the 31st of January and landed at Newport News the 15th of February. His honorable discharge was received early in March 1919.

Robert E. Flynn enlisted in the navy the 11ot of May 1918. He reported for duty at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station where he remained four weeks. He was then transferred to Philadelphia, where he remained for a month. He sailed then for France on the George Washington and landed at Brest, France. From the landing place he went to Bordeaux, where he remained five weeks. He was then transferred to Killingholme, Eng., where he saw service on a speed boat in the convoy service. It was the duty of Flynn's vessel to patrol the waters in the region of Hull to pick up any fallen sea planes which went from Killingholme to escort incoming ships. He remained at Killingholme for three months, then sailed via Liverpool for America on the 4th of December. He was discharged from active service the 21st of January 1919.

John J. Wels, son of Thomas R. Welsh of Piasa Township, went to Camp Taylor with a contingent of draft men the 26th of February, 1918. He was a member of the 326th Field Artillery attached to the Lincoln Division. With his battery he set sail for Scotland the 15th of September on the English ship Waldmer Castle. The trip across took fourteen days. They landed at Glasgow and wen from there to rest camps in England. After five days in res camps they went to France, crossing the English Channel in five hours. After arriving in France they hiked two miles and were transferred across the country in box cars. The cars were built to hold eight horses. Forty-five men with their equipment were packed into each car. The trip across country occupied three days and they had one meal of canned willy and hardtack during the trip. Welsh sailed for home the 31st of March and landed the 15th of February. After twelve days spent in a eastern camp and Camp Grant he received his honorable discharge.

William LeRoy Edwards left Jerseyville the 23rd of September, 1917, with a contingent of draft men for Camp Taylor, Ky. After a period of eight months' training he was transferred to Camp Herman, Ohio, where he remained for several months. He was then transferred to Camp Mills until he embarked for overseas service. He landed in France during September. Edwards was attached to the Ambulance Corps of the 84th Division. He is the son of W.H. Edwards of Dehli.

Amiel Rosenthal was another member of the May 27th draft contingent that left Jersey County for Camp Gordon, Ga. After a brief period of training at the Georgia Camp he went across with the 52nd Replacement Company. He was a member of Company B of the 18th Infantry and participated in the St. Mihiel drive and the Argonne battle. In the latter conflict he was wounded by the explosion of a shrapnel shell. After a period of hospital experience he was sent home, sailing from France the 1st day of February, 1919 and landing the 14th. He received his discharge from Camp Grant the 27th of February.

Gus McFain went to Camp Gordon the 27th of May, 1918. Like the others who went to camp at that time he was hurried overseas to help meet the great demand for men. Gus took part in the St. Mihiel drive and went through the big Argonne fight without a scratch. He was a member of the 53rd Replacement Company and was attached to Company B of the 18th Infantry during the two battles in question. McCain, in telling his experiences seemed to be most impressed with the number of shells the Germans fire in and effort to halt the American advance. McFain says that he knows there must have been a million of them fired at his company in an effort to dislodge them from the slope of a hill in the Argonne. The slope of the hill always afforded good protection from shell fire. The shells either struck the top or else went over the top and landed beyond.

Theodore L. Conklin enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1917 shortly after the United States entered the war, and left St. Louis, June 14th, for Paris Island, S.C. There he had ten weeks of intensive training, after which he was transferred to Quantico, Va. Upon arriving there he was assigned to the 96th Company, 2nd Battalion, Regiment of Marines. After training for four months at this camp, the battalion was ordered to pack all equipment and sea bags and be ready to move. On January 19,1918, the battalion boarded a train and detrained at the Navy Yards in Philadelphia. There they marched on the ship Henderson, the Marine transport. On the 5th of February he landed at St. Nazaire. After staying in quarantine for two days, the battalion was loaded on box cars, forty men to a car, and after two days' traveling, landed near Nancy, where they underwent five weeks of intensive training. March 17th he went into the trenches with the 6th Regiment as a part of the 2nd Division. For forty-five days they were in the Verdum and Toul sectors, On the 1st of June his regiment was pit into the Belleau Woods, when the tide of the German offensive turned, Out of 8,000 marines, 6,000 were either killed or wounded. At one time Conklin's Company had less than twenty men. At this time it was all open fighting and after thirteen days he escaped with nothing more serious that being slightly gassed. After spending a month in the hospital he again joined the 96th Company, remaining with them until September 15th, when he got a machine gun bullet through both legs while going over the top during the St. Mihiel drive. This put him in the hospital again for five months. On April 14th, 1919, he sailed from Marsailles France, with a casual company, landing in New York the 30th of April.

Pearl T. Rodell went from Jersey County with the second contingent of drafted men. He went to Camp Taylor, Ky., where he received his preliminary training. From that place he was transferred to Camp Dix, N.J., where he remained a few weeks and was then shipped to France. He was a member of Headquarters Company of the 346th Infantry, 87th Division. The 87th did not figure in any active fighting but was held in reserve. At the time this volume was compiled Pearl Rodell had joined an army show and expected to remain for three months with the Army of Occupation in Germany. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Rodell of Fidelity.

Irl Cline, a former Jersey County boy, went with a contingent of draft men from Danville the 28th of June, 1918. He went overseas with an engineering corps the early part of September, reaching the scene of the great war the 18th of September.

Jerome Long left Jersey County with a contingent of draft men the 27th of May, 1918, for Camp Gordon, Ga. He was trained at the southern company until he went overseas with the 53rd Replacement Company. He embarked at Boston and sailed on the Beltana, on which were a number of other Jersey County boys attached to the same company. The Beltana was a member of a convoy of fourteen transports and the trip required seventeen days. He landed at Auberry, Eng., was sent to Winchester via London, thence to Southampton. He went across the Cherbourg, France, and from there was sent to LaMans, where he remained for two weeks. He was then transferred elsewhere. Long had been promoted to the rank of sergeant and was not sent to the front lines with the other members of the Replacement Company. He was retained for a drill sergeant for which work he was admirably adapted because of a good voice. His work consisted in drilling men f=before sending them to the front lines.

Ralph R. Pickett went to Camp Gordon, Ga., the 27th of May, 1918. Practically the entire contingent that went on the date in question saw overseas service. Pickett went across as a member of a Replacement Company and got there in time to be sent into the great Argonne battle. Harry Ross of Jerseyville was a buddy of Pickett and went through the first days of the fight with him. Pickett fell later, wounded from a burst of shrapnel. The terrible experiences through which our men passed cannot be described. There is no turning back and it was the indomitable Yankee determination, the constant driving ahead of the American forces that turned an allied defeat into a great victory in the summer and autumn of 1918.

Four Jersey County men who saw hard service with the Marine Corps in France are Curtis Freeman, Ashley Marshall, and Edgar Seik of Grafton and Theodore Conklin of Jerseyville. The four men enlisted and were sworn in the same time. They were placed in the same company, went overseas together, went into the fighting at the same time and were all gassed at the same time. Three of them went back into the fighting and were again either gassed or wounded.

Corporal Earl G. Tunehorst and Sergeant Melville Lipscomb enlisted in the 86th Aero Squadron at Scott Field, Belleville, Ill. Sailed for overseas duty on English ship Scotia the 1st of March, arriving at Liverpool, Eng., March 17th, 1918. They were stationed at a large aviation field near Sussex, Eng., for five and one-half months; were then sent to France on the American Transport Narragansett; were stationed near Bar Le Duc, France, until the close of the war, and were overseas with A.E.F. more than a year.

The Wood family of Jerseyville is another family that "did its bit" in the World War. Scott Wood, a member of the heavy artillery, was one of the first thirty thousand men from this country to land in France. He went through some terrific fighting and at one time another gunner and himself were the only two left after the explosion of a bomb dropped from an aeroplane. Mark Wood was the youngest Jersey County soldier in the service and died in the hospital in Panama. Max Wood saw service overseas with the artillery and Glen Wood at the time of the compilation of this book was overseas with the Army of Occupation.

The family of William F. Loellke, of the West Side, had three boys in the war and two of them went through the big fight in the Argonne Forest. The father of the boys served in the army of the Kaiser for three years before coming to America, but no more loyal family existed in America than the Loellke family. The father publicly expressed himself as willing to give every boy he had and his own life to help rid the world of the Kaiser. The boys from this family who saw service were Frank, James and William.

The family of Robert Shortal contributed three sons to the service. The boys who saw service from this family are Harold, who served with the Radio Section; Joseph Shortal, who was in the active fighting in France with the Ambulance Section of the army and is at present with the Army of Occupation, and George Shortal, who is one of Uncle Sam's sailors and at the time of this publication was still in service.

From Otter Creek Township the home of Asbury Hart sent three fighters to service. The boys from this family to go are Leon C. Hart, who was in the regular army at the outbreak of hostilities and Clayton A. and Earl Hart.

The three sons of Mrs. Eliphat Hewitt went into the service in the great war for humanity. The boys to go are Paul F., John F. and Jesse.

Mr. and Mrs. James Sunderland of Jerseyville had three sons in the army during the great war. The boys are James W., who saw service with the regulars along the Mexican Border; Wilbur, who was with the regulars in the Philippines, and Wayland who re-enlisted in the service at the outbreak of war.

The barrage placed down during the first great American offensive in the St. Mihiel Sector was one of the most destructive in the history of the big war. Jersey County men of the 308th Field Artillery helped lay the barrage that made the German Army flee. The following boys were with the 308th from Jersey County: Byron McDow, Robert Meysenburg, Mark Matthews, Ernest Crone, Roy Redlich, Ed. Dabbs, Harry Brown and Edward H. Warnick. The 308th also helped shell the Germans from the Forest of Argonne. Of the eight men with the 308th all have returned home except Clarence Schmidt and Ernest H. Warnick, who went into Germany with the Army of Occupation.

The 138th Infantry was one of the hard-hitting organizations of General Pershing's battering ram. When a difficult task was scheduled during the early part of America's participation in the war, the 138th Infantry was one of the units that took its place on the edge of the assault. Jersey County had two men who were members of the organization in question to give their lives. They were Fred and Harold Worthey. The other Jersey County men who were in the organization are Harold Holland, John G. Atchison, George Frost, Jr., Roy G. Freeman, Roy Cox and Edward Smith. The unit sailed for France in May, 1918, and after intensive training went into the trenches in the front lines about the 19th of June. The big battles participated in were two in the Vosges Mountains, Meuse, Argonne, reserve in St. Mihiel. Etc. The unit went into the Argonne fight the 26th of September and came out the 2nd of October. It then went into the Somme-Dieu Sector the 13th of October and came out the 7th of November.
[Source: "Jersey County in the World War 1917-1919" - Transcribed by Kristie Dunlap]