I never knew. I don’t think most of us did during Granddaddy’s lifetime. Many years after his death, I learned that Granddaddy had fought in France in World War I when my Dad showed me some of his WWI memorabilia. I’ve begun piecing together more of his service over the past few years but have recently had my eyes truly opened. I never knew or appreciated what Granddaddy experienced. I wish I could have told him thank you.
Granddaddy Bill was allegedly only 17 when he joined the Alabama National Guard on 3 Jul 1916. He was a member of the 4th Alabama Infantry, Company I, and was probably among those sent to Nogales, New Mexico, in October 1916 as part of the defense on the Mexican border. The 4th Alabama trained in the town of Nogales about four months but didn’t actually engage in any fighting. 1
The United States entered World War I on 6 Apr 1917 by declaring war on Germany. According to Illustrated Review, Fourth Alabama Infantry, United States Army, the 4th was based in Montgomery, AL, at Camp Sheridan. Crowds turned out for a downtown parade on 29 Jul 1917 honoring the soldiers led by Colonel William P. Screws and Lieutenant Colonel Walter E. Bare. On August 5, the 4th was mustered into the U.S. Army. 2
A few days later the 4th Alabama was designated the 167th U.S. Infantry and made part of the 42nd Rainbow Division serving on the Western Front. The 42nd was comprised of troops from 26 states arced across our country thus giving it the ‘rainbow’ name.
On 28 Aug 1917, the 167th left Montgomery, AL, for Camp Mills, Long Island, NY. 4 Company I was in the Third Battalion. Granddaddy was promoted from Private First Class to the rank of Corporal on 25 Sep 1917 before shipping overseas on 6 Nov 1917. 5 His battalion was aboard the “Andania” and arrived in Liverpool, England, on 18 Nov 1917. After a rough, stormy crossing of the English Channel, they arrived in LeHavre, France on November 25. 6
I’ve wondered why Granddaddy joined the National Guard and which of his buddies joined with him. I think he must have signed up with some relatives or friends, and 17-year-olds don’t know very much about the carnage and horror of a war. Perhaps, he saw it as his patriotic duty or maybe as a ticket out of the textile mills of the South. He was paid $15 a month by the Alabama National Guard, per one of his payroll voucher cards. 7 In comparison, a spooler in a textile mill averaged $4.00 a week and a spinner $3.00 a week working 10-12 hour days, six days a week. 8 Then, when America entered the war and mustered in the National Guard units, he didn’t have a choice. If he hadn’t volunteered, he would’ve eventually been drafted, anyway. Whatever the reasons, off he went “over there” with hundreds of thousands of other young men.
Next – What went on, ‘over there.’
- Amerine, William H., Alabama’s Own in France, Google edition (New York: Eaton & Gettinger, 1919), 35-46. ↩
- Illustrated Review, Fourth Alabama Infantry, United States Army, Montgomery, Alabama: W. B. Edmundson and G. F. Jennings, 1917. ↩
- McKern, Bill, “42nd ID original patch,” Wikimedia Commons (http://www.commons.wikimedia/wiki/File:42nd_ID_original_patch.jpg) ↩
- Amerine, Alabama’s Own in France, 53. ↩
- Georgia, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919, Willie McCune, image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2 Oct 2015). ↩
- Amerine, Alabama’s Own in France, 59-70. ↩
- Alabama National Guard payroll, Voucher #295, 10 Oct 1916, Willie McCune, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 Feb 2016). ↩
- “Work in a Textile Mill,” North Carolina Digital History (http://www.learnnc.org: accessed 12 Oct 2015). ↩