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History of the 4th Trench Mortar Battalion, C.A.C. During WWI


The Battalion was organized at Camp Abraham Eustis, Virginia, June 20, 1918, under authority contained in letter from The Adjutant General's Office, June 13, 1918, (file A.G. 320 (Misc. Div.)), under command of Major Monte J. Hickok, C.A.C.

For three months the Battalion underwent extensive training in the use of 240 mm. Trench Mortars.  During this time, Major Hickok was promoted to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel and automatically relieved from duty with the Battalion, leaving Captain Benjamin S. Beverley, C.A.C., in command.

On September 25, 1918, in compliance with verbal orders Commanding General, Coast Artillery Training Center, the Battalion moved to Camp Hill, Virginia, Port of Embarkation, in motor trucks.

On arrival at Camp Hill, the Battalion was placed in quarantine, in barracks, pending final inspection prior to embarking for oversea service.  While at Camp Hill, Spanish Influenza broke out and ninety-four men were transferred to the Embarkation Hospital with this disease.  These men were left behind when the Battalion embarked on October 6, 1918, aboard the U.S.S. Tenadores.

Several other cases of the influenza developed among the officers and men after leaving Port, among them being the Commanding Officer, Major Benjamin S. Beverley, who died from complications of the disease November 13, 1918, at sea.  Captain Robert A. Laird, C.A.C., then assumed command of the organization.

On October 21, 1918, the Battalion debarked at Brest, France, and marched to Pontanezen Barracks, where they remained until October 26; on that date the organization entrained for the Trench Artillery Center at Vitrey, Haute Saone, in compliance with Par. 7, S.O. #290, Base Section #5, S.O.S., A.E.F., 1918.  Arriving in Vitrey on October 30, 1918, the organization marched to Chauvirey le Chatel, a distance of approximately three miles, and was assigned to billets throughout the village.

The Battalion remained at Chauvirey le Chatel until November 12, 1918, carrying out an intensive program of Trench Artillery gunnery, gun emplacements, etc., during this time.  On the latter date, the Battalion was ordered to move into Vitrey, where it was again quartered in billets and the program consisted, mostly, of general fatigue.

On December 29, 1918, Major Edward N. Jerry, C.A.C., was assigned to the Battalion and assumed command.

About November 22, 1918, instructions were received that the Battalion would be among the first to return to the United States, and preparations were begun at once to that end.  Final orders for the move were received December 9, 1918, and the next day the Battalion entrained, bound for Brest, arriving there December 12, 1918.  The organization was at once marched to Pontanezen Barracks, where it was quartered in tents, pending final inspections required before embarking.

The 4th Trench Mortar Battalion returned to the States on January 18, 1919 and were demobilized.

Source: Fourth Trench Mortar Battalion Headquarters Correspondence Item 451. Records of the 1st – 9th Trench Mortar Artillery Battalions.  Records of Trench Mortar Artillery Batteries and Battalions, 1917-1919.  Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), 1848-1942, Record Group 120. National Archives at College Park, MD.

Transcription by John Schomaker, March 22, 2016. John is the nephew of Pvt. Julius E. Schomaker of Battery B.

The Trench Mortar Men had a song that they sang and it went like this:

You can sing of the glory of death on the lyre,
Of ar-e-o-planes for their swank,
Prefer to pass out to the fumes of the gas,
Or give up your life in a tank.
But I’ll sing to you of a job that is new,
A job worse than any disease,
A job where your coffin is ever in view,
Or you can die any death that you please.

Working on Fifty-Eight Two's,
You can die any death that you choose.
Get hit by a shell, the gas gives you hell,
Grenades wake you up when you snooze.
But your family is proud of you now,
They are sure to collect that ten thou’
Ten days to each man is the average span,
Working on mortars, those jolly trench mortars,
Those damnable Fifty-Eight Two's.

Photo of Battery A, 4th Trench Mortar Battalion, CAC

This photo was shared with me by Rogier van de Hoef who lives in the Netherlands. The photo is not in the best of condition and Rogier describes the photo, "I bought it because I thought that the 4th TM Battalion was part of the 4th Division (I'm a collector of only WW1 US 4th Division related items), and restored the photo. It came in 3 parts, and I've glued the parts together carefully and reenforced the backside. I was about to frame the photo, when I learnt that it was not part of the 4th Division. I guess it still would look great being framed again. You can see a lot of the "flaming bomb" patches being worn on the sleeves of the uniforms."


4th Trench Mortar Battalion Roster

As I find information on men of the 4th TM Bn I will list them here. If you have a family member who served in this unit please contact me.


Sgt. Lester O. Boggs , Battery A

Lincoln, NE. Born Goodland, KS Jan. 11, 1897. Son of Adelaide and William Boggs. Entered the service May 3, 1917. 3rd Co., Coast Artillery Corps. Overseas from Oct. 1918 to Jan. 1919, with Battery A, 4th Trench Mortar Battalion.

Sgt. Prince Herbert Clark, Battery A

Prince Herbert Clark was born on February 23, 1888 in Ina, Spring Garden Township, Jefferson County, Illinois. He died on November 9, 1970 at Chico, Butte County, California, at the age of 82-years, and is buried at Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California. (Lot 26, grave No. 1963, space A). His memorial is also listed on Find-a-grave # 61062713

He was the son of Andrew Jackson Clark and Martha Vianna (Lampley) Clark. Prince Herbert Clark and his mother and father along with two sisters Dollie and Stella grew up in Jefferson County, Illinois. The family then moved to South Dakota where they lived there for several years before moving to California.

Sometime about 1910 is when the Clark family came to California. The family lived on a farm near Brawley, which is located in Imperial County. Both of his parents, Andrew and Martha are buried in Riverview Cemetery, in Brawley.

Prince Joined the Army during WWI and served as a Sergeant in Battery A of the 4th Trench Mortar Battalion, C.A.C but saw no combat because his unit arrived in France too late for service on the front. He served overseas from October 7, 1918 until his return on January 18, 1919. He was a Private on July 1, 1917 to June 7 1918. Made Coporal on June 7, 1918 and then he made Sergeant on November 21, 1918.

After the war he returned to California where he lived for several years in Chico. He was first married shortly after returning home from the Army but little is known of this first marriage. Later in 1944 Prince married his second wife, Ellen. Prince was a member of the Veterans of World War One, Post 440 in Chico and also the VFW Post 1555 in Chico.

At the end of his life Prince was staying in a local Chico Convalescent hospital when he passed away. The Rev. Robert H. Satterfield officiated at the burial services.

At his funeral Merrill Womack sang a song accompanied on the organ by Norman Sendberg. Casket-bearers were Al Hunt, Hugh St. Georg, Alvin Tyrell, Rollo Parker, Elmer Wood and Edward Shinn. Gus Griffin and Erwin Gross conducted flag folding ceremonies. Prince Herbert Clark lies buried beside his late wife Ellen.

Grave marker of Sgt. Prince H. Clark.

Merrill Glenn Mackey, Battery B

Merrill Glenn Mackey was born on 24 February 1902 in Charter Oak, Iowa. He was the eldest son of Charles Jackson Mackey (b. 16 July 1878 in Agra, Kansas, d. 21 March 1926 in Charter Oak, Iowa) and Grace Maude Mulheron (b. 21 December 1884 in Charter Oak, Iowa) Charles and Grace were married 27 February 1901 in Charter Oak, Iowa and together they had 5 children, Merrill Glenn, Harvey Earl, Thelma Lucile, Lawrence Andrew and Charles Arthur. Charles Jackson Mackey was a Mason by trade.

Merrill worked in the Local drug store in Charter Oak from age twelve until he entered the army. According to the daughter of Merrill Glenn Mackey, Jane Pinkerton of Burbank, California, Merrill ran away from home when he was fifteen and enlisted in the army at Fort Logan Colorado. Jane relates, "He trained at Fort McArthur California and was overseas from October 1918 to January 1919. He was with Battery B, 4th Trench Mortar Battalion, which was an unattached group. He said that when they got to France, the Germans were in retreat out of range of their cannons so they did not unload their equipment from the train cars. Consequently, this group, according to my father, was among the first to return to the US. My father arrived back home in time for his 17th birthday."

After Merrill's return from France he went back to Charter Oak, Iowa and lived with his parents and 3 other siblings. Merrill’s younger brother, Lawrence Andrew Mackey died in 1919 from a strep infection. The story in the family was that Lawrence stayed alive to see his oldest brother Merrill return safely home from France. Merrill’s brother, Harvey Mackey is still alive at age 101 (as of 1 April 2006). Merrill then finished High School and then attended Morningside College for two years. He paid his way by borrowing on his military insurance, a loan from his sister, and waiting tables at the boarding house where he lived. After two years at Morningside, he went to Des Moines and attended pharmacy school for two years. The school eventually became part of Drake University College of Pharmacy. In 1932 Merrill and Naomi purchased two drug stores in Wall Lake. They combined the two stores into one and maintained the business until 1962 when they sold it. After that Merrill was a "relief" pharmacist for another twenty years. By the time he died in 1996, he knew most everyone in west central Iowa.

On 10 June 1929 Merrill G. Mackey and Naomi Ruby Chalberg (b. 10 June 1904 in Pocahontas, Iowa) were married in Nashua, Iowa. In 1930 Merrill worked as a clerk in a drug store in Charter Oak, Iowa. The home they lived in was a rented house in which the monthly rent was $22 and Merrill and Naomi had one of the few luxuries in the home, which was a radio set that Merrill built himself.

Merrill lived the rest of his life in Iowa and when he passed away was living in Wall Lake, Iowa. He died there on 6 July 1996 at the age of 94 years.

PVT. Julius E. Schomaker, Battery B


Pvt. Julius E. Schomaker

PVT. Julius Schomaker was a member of Battery B of the 4th Trench Mortar Battalion and had died in France on November 28, 1918 after an operation on his appendix. Below is his signature from a letter he had sent from Mulberry Island, Camp Eustis, Virginia to his home in Saginaw, Michigan before the 4th Trench Mortar Battalion went to France.

After his death in France he was first buried in a military grave where his simple military cross was marked "Julius E. Schomaker 3367976 PVT. Co. D 4 TR. MOT. BN" This discription was not totally accurate as Pvt. Schomaker was actually was in Battery B not Company D. After the war the Government had a program to bring back to the States the bodies of fallen servicemen if the family wanted. The Schomaker family requested that his body was to be brought back for burial in the States and this was done in the summer of 1920. You will see that in the newspaper article from July 23, 1920 they have the date of death wrong and listed it as November 7, when he actually died on November 28. Additionally on his white marble stone marked from 1920 his unit is listed as the "Trench Mortar Battery, 4th Division" which is also not accurate.

SWAN CREEK BOY DIES IN FRANCE
(Special to The News Courier.) SWAN CREEK, Mich.,
The Saginaw News Courier, 20 December 1918.

News has been received of the death in France on November 28, Thanksgiving day, of Private Julius E. Schomaker, son of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Schomaker.  Death followed an operation for appendicitis, the government telegram said.

Private Schomaker enlisted July 9, 1918, and was sent overseas in September as a member of the Fourth Trench Mortar Battalion.

He was born in Swan Creek township, attended the townships schools and later studied telegraphy at the Ferris Institutue.  For several months before his enlistment he was employed at the Republic Motor Truck Co. plant at Alma.  He leaves his parents, three brothers and three sisters.  The brothers and sisters are: Walter, Karl, Edwin, Viola, Linda and Henrietta Schomaker, all at home.

SAGINAW SOLDIER'S BODY BROUGHT BACK FROM FRENCH SOIL
The Saginaw News Courier, Friday, 23 July 1920, p. 7, col. 4.

The body of Julius E. Schomaker, a Swan Creek soldier who died in France November 7, 1918, after an operation for appendicitis, and was buried there, arrived in Saginaw Thursday night from Hoboken, N. J.  This is the first soldier's body to be brought back to Saginaw in accordance with the government's plan of bringing home at the request of parents the bodies of soldiers who died overseas.  Private Schomaker enlisted in July 18 1918, and was sent overseas shortly afterward.

He was born in Thomas township April 7, 1898 and spent his boyhood days there.  He was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Swan Creek.

Besides his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Schomaker, he is survived by three brothers and three sisters, Walter, Carl, Edwin, Viola, Linda and Henrietta, all at home.

     Private First Class George Friel Buchanan

George Friel Buchanan served in the 4th Trench Mortar Battalion during WWI. Born in Texas on April 5, 1898, he was a musician, played fiddle and guitar, was a tall friendly guy of Scottish descent. He served in both WWI and in WWII. George F. Buchanan passed away on June 2, 1946 of Colon Cancer. He was buried in the Ft. Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas. He died in California while staying with his sister and his mother while going through what cancer treatment they had in 1945-1946. His body was returned home for burial. It was said that his wife was heartbroken and never got over the loss of her husband.

Private First Class George F. Buchanan's grave stone in the Ft. Bliss National Cemetery
George Friel Buchanan

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