THE GREAT WORLD WAR
Updated 4 November 2019 by author Lawrence Eugene Vaughn Jr
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Dating Story
- U.S. Enters World War One
- German Provocations
- Camp Zachary Taylor
- 40,000 Soldiers
- Official Basic Training Portrait
- Clyde Cox and W.T. Vaughn
- Graduation Day
- Unit Reorganization
- American Expeditionary Force
- Tom Abbott Death
- Return from Artemis
- Love, From France
The Vaughn Family in 1910
In 1910, my Grandfather Vaughn’s family, the Lemuel Lafayette Vaughn family, was living on a farm in Tunnel Hill Township of Johnson County, in Southern Illinois . . . an area known locally as Little Egypt. The census records from that year indicate that Lemuel, a white male, was 42 years of age, had been previously married, and in the current marriage for seventeen years. He was born in Illinois to parents who had been born in Tennessee.
Lemuel’s wife was Rebecca, age 43, was in her first marriage of seventeen years. The record shows that she had given birth to eight children, five of whom were still living. She was born in Illinois to parents who were born in Kentucky. Both she and Lemuel were able to read and write.
Living in the Vaughn household on the date of the census were:
- William T, age 15, born Illinois
- John L, age 13, son, born Illinois
- Ollie M, age 11, daughter, born Illinois
- Nellie, age 7, daughter, born Illinois
- Malinda, age 72, Lemuel’s widowed mother, a white female, was born in Tennessee. She had birthed 8 children, 3 of whom were still living in 1910.
In 1920, Lemuel was pastor of the Methodist Gospel Church in Bloomfield, Illinois. The census for that year shows that all the children had left the home, Malinda, his mother is not listed, and his wife, Rebecca’s middle name is indicated with an “A.”
During the Great Depression, Lemuel and Rebecca were back on the farm in Tunnel Hill Township. Family tradition is that he preached on alternating weekends at the local Methodist and Missionary Baptist churches in that area. In the 1940 census they were still on the farm, now ages 72 and 73 respectively.
The Great World War
This chapter is primarily about the author’s grandfather Vaughn, William “Bill” Thomas Vaughn, oldest child of Lemuel and Rebecca, and his military service in World War One. When he registered for the draft in June of 1917, he was a grocery clerk for the Madison Coal Corporation, in the Dewmaine community, on the north side of Carterville, Illinois.
Beulah remembered the store where he worked being ‘Number Nine.” I haven’t been able to establish whether that was the number of the mine it served, or some other numbering system, since the Madison Coal Corporation has been long gone, and I have not been back to the area to do research at the library level.
Draft registration card dated June 5th, 1917.
The Dating Story
Grandmother Vaughn (Beulah) used to tell the story of how they had met, and started dating. William, known to his friends as “Willie,” originally from Tunnel Hill, had moved to Carterville from Creal Springs, and was boarding at a house next door to where she was rooming. She was managing a 5 & 10¢ store in Carterville, and he was a grocery clerk at a nearby coal mining company store.
She, age 21, went to church one night with a girl friend, and noticed Willie, age 23, singing in the church choir. She had seen him walking by her house on the way to church, but they hadn’t spoken. In those days it was proper etiquette to be introduced, rather being so bold as to approach someone directly.
However, one day after church services, Willie asked her if he might walk home with them, since he was heading that way himself. She allowed as how that might be alright, and they became acquainted, started dating, and eventually were married. We don’t know why there were married in the pastor’s home rather than having a church wedding, but with the first world war raging, it must have seemed like end times
In August of 1914 the war had fully exploded in Europe. America was a lot different at the time of the First World War. We were mostly farmers, and a lot of folks hadn’t even learned English yet, because their families had just recently arrived here. The older generation had, almost entirely, been born in Europe, and the younger generation born in the United States. They were hard working, honest, and God-fearing.
They had come to America to make new lives; to achieve the American dream. They feared that if Germany ruled the world, their dreams of that new life would be destroyed. So, patriotism ran high, and many of the immigrants enlisted with allies to fight the German threat, because America was trying to stay out of the war.
At 2:12 p.m. on May 7, 1915 in the waters of the Celtic Sea, the 32,000-ton passenger ship Lusitania was hit by a German torpedo on its starboard side, and sank within 20 minutes. Among the 1,201 drowned in the attack were many women and children, including 128 Americans.
The American public was appalled by the senseless loss of civilian lives, and came to strongly resent German militarism. Some joined the Allied armies, while others prepared for American service, which the public felt coming.
Condemnation over the event led to a formal German apology and a pledge to reduce submarine warfare. But on January 31, 1917 the Germans decided to return to their unrestricted use of submarine warfare in the waters of the Atlantic, putting civilian cargo ships at risk of being targeted.
Three days later the U.S. government ended their diplomatic relations with Germany. Within hours of this announcement a German submarine torpedoed the Housatonic, a private American cargo ship. No American sailors were killed or even injured when the lone torpedo struck the Housatonic because none were onboard.
The U-boat commander allowed the American sailors on board the Housatonic to abandon ship. The sailors obliged and boarded their own lifeboats. The now abandoned Housatonic wasthen struck by a single torpedo on the starboard side and sank in 20 minutes.
New York Times had a thorough explanation of the sinking in a front-page story on February 6, 1917. The story quoted the Housatonic’s captain, P. A. Ensor of New York, who said he stopped his vessel after the German U-boat had fired two warning shots.
Ensor boarded the German submarine and spoke with the commander, who explained to Ensor that, “You are carrying foodstuffs to an enemy of my country, and though I am sorry, it is my duty to sink you.”
Although no one was killed or injured in the Housatonic incident, German subs later sank numerous private cargo ships in that same area, resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries to British and American civilians.
Near the end of March, German subs targeted and sank four additional American cargo vessels. Days later, President Woodrow Wilson went to Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. On April 6, 1917, Wilson’s request was granted.
U.S. Enters World War One
World War I personnel were first enlisted from the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, in 1917, and were formed into an infantry division. Organized at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, in Sept., 1917, the division was composed of National Army draftees from Indiana and Kentucky.
The Williamson County Draft Board had announced that fourteen men were to be the first to be drafted into military service. Willie and his friend, a young plumber named Tom Abbott, and Clyde Cox, also from Cartersville, were among the fourteen sent to Camp Zachary Taylor on September 4, 1917, for basic training. The troops remained in training at Camp Taylor until August 1918, and was then deployed to France in October 1918.
At the war’s end, the formation was recalled home and, without having seen combat actions, inactivated in January 1919. The Division was relieved of duty and sailed home on the U.S.S. Artemis from St. Nazaire, France, on May 11, 1919, arriving at Camp Stuart, Newport News, Virginia on May 24, 1919, and was honorably discharged June 2, 1919.
Camp Zachary Taylor
Camp Zachary Taylor was a military training camp in Louisville, Kentucky. It opened in 1917, to train soldiers for U.S. involvement in World War I, and was closed three years later. It was initially commanded by Guy Carleton. Its name (and some of its buildings) live on as the Camp Taylor neighborhood of Louisville. It is named for Louisville resident and United States President Zachary Taylor. The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald trained at the camp.
Cover for the Camp Zachary Taylor Souvenir Brochure which lists the field recruits could select for specialty training: Engineers, Artillery, Aviation, Cavalry, Infantry, and Signal Corps.
The camp covered several square miles and had 1,000 buildings. It was laid out in rectangular form with wide streets which were lined with barracks for the soldiers, officers’ quarters, hospital, post exchange, divisional headquarters, brigade headquarters, and other service buildings. Accommodations for 40,000 men were provided in the camp.
The barracks were each occupied by a regimental company of 200 men with kitchen and dining room downstairs and dormitories above. Ten barracks house a regiment of 2,000 men, and 100 house an entire division.
This Souvenir Folder consists of front and back covers, as well as 10 fold-out images on each side and 10 fold-out images on the opposite site. Many of the images are illustrations rather than being actual photographs.
Basic training included infantry drill, bayonet drill and physical exercise. In the afternoon they had combat exercises, rain, mud or dust, then 28-inch steps at 140 steps per minute on a hike of several miles. After about 10 weeks in the army the doughboys were getting accustomed to the life. After basic training each soldier was sent to advanced training in their assigned specialty.
This photo of Bill and Beulah was probably taken during his first leave, which was usually granted after the first few weeks of basic training. It is known that Willie earned the grade of corporal before being shipped to France in 1918. The date of the photo, and location, however, are uncertain.
Beulah had stayed in Carterville until Bill found an apartment for them in Louisville KY near Camp Taylor. After basic, Bill was transferred to Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio for training in his specialty, machine gunnery. After training he was shipped overseas, and Beulah went to live with her parents in Marion, Illinois.
Below L-R: W.T. Vaughn, Tom Abbott, Clyde Cox, and wives,
Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, KY- circa 1917-18
Official Basic Training Portrait
Clyde Cox and W.T. Vaughn
Clyde Cox and Corporal W.T. Vaughn, date and location unknown. This may have been taken at a U.S.O. or post exchange at the Camp. Notice the life preserver at right. And the ocean in the background mural
Graduation at Camp Zachary Taylor, date unknown
Before leaving Illinois to be deployed overseas, Willie and Beulah went to Parker, Illinois to visit his parents (Fate (Lemue Lafayette)l and Becky (Rebecca Ann Snider). Beulah had not met them yet, but Becky and a neighbor lady put on a nice supper for them.
They stayed only the one night, and the next day at the train station there were over fifty people present to give Willie a send off with their well wishes.
Willie was transported to Brooklyn, New York, where his battalion boarded the Vasari, a commercial steamship. On the third of September, 1918, they sailed for France.
While in service in France, his unit was reorganized into Company A, 112th Machine Gun Battalion. A machine gun battalion was commanded by a major, and composed of four machine gun companies. These companies were identical in organization to the regimental machine gun companies.
One machine gun battalion was assigned to each of the two infantry brigades within a Division, Each battalion had an assigned strength of 28 officers and 748 enlisted men and was authorized 64 heavy machine guns, divided equally among the companies.
The machine gun company, commanded by a captain, had an assigned strength of six commissioned officers and 172 enlisted men, and carried 16 guns, four of which were spares. Within the company there were three platoons and a headquarters section. A first lieutenant led the first platoon, while second lieutenants led platoons two and three.
Each platoon with four guns was made up of two sections, each having two guns and led by a platoon sergeant. Within each section were two gun squads, each with one gun and nine men, led by corporals. The gun squad had one combat cart, pulled by a mule, to transport its gun and ammunition as close to the firing position as enemy fire allowed. From there the crews moved the guns and ammunition forward by hand.
The Browning Model 1917 was used at the battalion level and was a crew served, belt-fed, water-cooled machine gun that served alongside the much lighter air-cooled Browning M1919. It was often jeep mounted as well.
American Expeditionary Force
President Woodrow Wilson created the AEF in May 1917, originally appointing Major General John J. Pershing, who was later promoted to General, as commander. Barely any American troops were sent to Europe in 1917, because Pershing ordered all AEF forces to be well-trained before going overseas.
The American Expeditionary Forces fought on the Western Front order of battle. The AEF consisted of the United States Armed Forces, mostly the United States Army, that were sent to Europe in World War I to support the Allied cause against the Central Powers.
Americans fought in France alongside French and British allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces. Some of the troops fought alongside Italian forces in that same year, against Austro-Hungarian forces. Late in the war American units also fought in Siberia and North Russia.
The Americans helped the French Army at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood in June 1918, and fought major actions in the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse–Argonne Offensives. Organized into two field armies, it had a total strength of about two million men in Europe by the time of the Armistice.
Tom Abbott Death
Tom must have become a close friend during their time together in basic training, as evidenced by the survival of this 1918 newspaper article in Grandfather’s collection. Tom had left basic training to go to England for tank training in the cavalry division. He was at an unknown location on one of the fronts in France at the time he was hit by an enemy shell and killed.
Love, From France
Return from Artemis
The 112th Machine Gun Battalion was relieved of duty and sailed home on the U.S.S. Artemis from St. Nazaire, France, on May 11, 1919, arriving at Camp Stuart, Newport News, Virginia on May 24, 1919, and was honorably discharged June 2, 1919. The now famous allied Victory Parade was held in
Paris, July 14, 1919.
Next chapter: Reverend William Thomas Vaughn