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Battery D, 56th Artillery, C.A.C.
1917-1919


Battery D of the 56th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps was composed principally of men from 38th Co. Long Island Sound, formerly members of the Conn. Coast Artillery and members of the National Army most of whom came from Conn. On 28 March 1918 there were 233 enlisted men plus the below listed men in Battery D that sailed on the HMS Olympic. Battery D was commanded by the following Officers as of 28 March 1918:

Captain Frank E. Withee
1st Lt. Oscar H. Cowan
1st Lt. Burton K. Harris
2nd Lt. Van N. Sarles
2nd Lt. Joeh E. Casey
2nd Lt. Robert E. Lowe

1st Sgt. Harold F. Glendining, Battery D 1st Sgt.

When the 56th Artillery Returned on 5 January 1919 from Brest, France only one officer and 208 enlisted men returned with the Battery on the USS South Dakota. Below is a list of the men in charge of Battery D when they went aboard the USS South Dakota on 5 January 1919:

1st Lt. Robert E. Lowe, Battery Commander
1st. Sgt. Edward Michael, Battery 1st Sgt


Battery D Muster

As I find information on Battery D 56th Artillery men I will list them here in this section. If you had a family member in Battery D please contact me and I will add them to this web page.

Pvt. 1cl, Joseph Ferrigno (Service No. 624059)

Joseph Ferrigno was born on the 15th day of January 1894 in the Provincia di Messina, or the Province of Messina on the island of Sicily. Joseph and his brother Frank along with their parents Francesco and Marie lived in the little village of Tusa with in the Province of Messina. Tusa has a present day population of 3,504 and the tenth most popular surname today in the village of Tusa is the name of Ferrigno with about 88 persons having that name today still living there.

Joseph's father Francesco immigrated to the Untied States in 1904 and left Joseph, Frank and his wife Marie back in Tusa. Francesco likely went to America looking for work and a place to live. Francesco was a machinist by trade and did own a machine shop in New London, Connecticut. Then two years later in 1906 Marie, Joseph and Frank made their way to America to join Francesco and create a new live in this "New Country".

On June 5th 1917 Joseph Ferrigno registered for the draft, as he was required to do as America had now joined the war in Europe. Joseph was a 23-year old single man living with his parents at 93 South Main Street in Danielson, Connecticut. Joseph was of medium height and slender build and had blue eyes and dark brown hair. Joseph was a self-employed plumber and was supporting both his mother and father. Joseph did claim for exemption from the draft on the grounds that his parents were dependant on him but he was accepted anyway. At the time of registration for the draft Joseph was not a U.S. citizen yet but he listed himself as a Declairant.

Joseph Ferrigno was inducted into the National Army, which were men who joined through the draft. On November 20, 1917 by the order of the War Department in Washington, the Coast Defense Commander, Coast Defenses of Long Island Sound, organized the 56th Artillery, C.A.C. All transfers of enlisted personnel from the Coast Defenses and from the National Army to the Regiment were made on December 20, 1917. The men of Battery D of the 56th Artillery came principally from the 38th Co. Long Island Sound, formerly members of the Connecticut Coast Artillery and members of the National Army most of whom came from Connecticut.

This was how Joseph Ferrigno came to be in Battery D, 56th Artillery, C.A.C. Joseph was given a service number and 624059 was stamped onto his round aluminum dog tags along with his name and rating of Mechanic. After the organization of the 56th Artillery was completed, the Regiment remained in the Coast Defenses of Long Island Sound until March 26, 1918. Orders were received by the Regimental Commander to move the Regiment on March 26. On the afternoon of March 26, the entire Regiment consisting of 62 officers and 1679 enlisted men left Fort H.G. Wright, New York for overseas. The Regiment traveled by boat to New London, Connecticut and from there by New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad to the Harlem River Yards, at this place the Regiment detrained and was transported by ferry to Pier 59 North River and boarded the Admiralty Transport No. 527, the RMS Olympic. Pvt. Ferrigno boarded the ship and he is listed on the passenger manifest on the March 28, 1918 sailing of the Olympic. Joseph listed his father, Francesco Ferrigno of 93 S. Main St, Danielson Connecticut. as the next of kin.

On March 28th the 56th Regiment consisting of 62 Officers and 1679 Enlisted men and the 59th Regiment with 69 Officers and 1712 Enlisted men together sailed on the White Star liner "Olympic," without convoy. Colonel Louis R. Burgess commanded the 56th Artillery and Colonel Sydney Grant, C.A.N.G., was in command of the 59th Regiment. The "Olympic" was headed for Liverpool, but wireless orders en route changed the course to Brest. Alternate concerts by the bands of the 56th and 59th helped relieve the tension that came from the daily wearing of life preservers and that even the arrival of the convoying destroyers, in the danger zone, could not remove.

While in France Pvt. Ferrigno participated in all battles that the 56th Artillery took part in and was advanced in rating to Private First Class. At the end of the war the 56th Artillery was ordered to sail for home and on January 5th, 1919 the entire Regiment, less Battery F left the camp at 3:00 am and marched to Brest and went aboard the U.S.S. South Dakota for transportation to the United States. The ship left Brest harbor at 1:00 pm, just nine months from the day the Regiment landed at Brest (April 5, 1918).

This time as Pvt. 1cl Ferrigno filled out his name on the passenger manifest as he boarded the South Dakota listed his brother Frank as next of kin living at the home on 93 S. Main Street in Danielson. Work of preparing discharge papers of all National Guard, National Army and Emergency Regulars was being done at Fort Schuyler, NY, from the 23-28 January and Pvt. 1cl Ferrigno was discharged from the Army.

By 1923 Joseph Ferrigno had married Mary D. Orlando also born in Tusa, Italy like Joseph. Mary was born on November 21, 1900 in Tusa, on the Island of Sicily. Mary's family according to the 1920 Federal Census lived in New London, Connecticut in a home owned by her father Mario who was 60 years old and worked as a farm laborer. Mary's mother may have been dead at the time of the taking of the 1920 Census on 17th of April 1920, as she is not listed. There were 6 children listed in the Orlando family, they were; Mary age 19, Rose age 16, Annie age 13, Josephine age 9, Mario, Jr. age 7 and John age 5. Mary, Rose and Annie were all born in Tusa, Italy and came to America in 1909. Josephine, Mario, Jr. and John were all born in Connecticut.

Joseph and Mary started their family and lived in a home owned by Joseph's father Francesco at 16 Jefferson Ave. in New London, Connecticut. The home was valued at $13,000 and Francesco and his wife Marie lived there with their son Frank. At that time Francesco owned a general machine shop and Frank worked as a house carpenter. Also in the home was the family of Joseph and Mary who paid $30 rent per month. Joseph owned his own company, which was Plumbing Contractor business. On April 17, 1930 when Cyril G. Warns took the Federal Census in the Ferrigno home, Joseph and Mary had 3 children. They were seven-year-old Marie G., five-year-old Jessma [sp] and 2-year-old Frank Jr.

Joseph Ferrigno worked as a plumber all his life and also worked for the Electric Boat Company in New London for a time. Electric Boat was known for building many of the US Navy's submarines. Joseph and Mary lived out the rest of their lives in the home at 10 Jefferson Ave., in New London just 6 houses away from the home which was owned by Joseph's father.

On May 12, 1982 at the age of 88 years Joseph Ferrigno passed away. His wife Mary lived another 11 years after Joseph passed on still in the home at 10 Jefferson Ave in New London. Mary passed away on April 20, 1993 in Stonington, Connecticut at the age of 92 years.

Pvt. William H. Pike

Pvt. William H. Pike died on Feb. 13, 1918 at 06:50 a.m. in the Post Hospital at Fort Terry, N.Y. of bronchial pneumonia. He was listed as a Private in Battery D of the 56th Artillery, CAC. It was noted that with the loss of Pvt. Pike the Regiment's strength level was 232 enlisted men. This information came from the book "History of Battery D, 56th Regiment C.A.C..." written by Corporal Frank H. Kirk Battery D Clerk. Private William H. Pike had a brother, Private Ernest H. Pike who was also serving in Battery D. Ernest Pike served in France throughout the war with Battery D.

On Pvt. Pike's headstones at the "Evergreen Cemetery" in Plainfield, CT., located in Central Village, this is written:

Pike, William H., son of Zelots H. & Mary E.,
Battery D., 56th Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps,
born 1892, died 1918, World War I"

Pvt. Adelard T. DeForest 624248

On the left is Pvt. DeForest's dog tag along with a local New Hampshire Veterans medal. About a year after I saw this auction this very same dog tag was again up for auction, this time with out the New Hampshire medal. I purchased his dog tag and I now have it in my personal collection.

Adelard T. Deforest was born about 1891 and when he passed away at the age of 73 on 31 December 1964, was living with his wife Ethel in Darien, Connecticut.

Several years ago I found this dog tag on ebay as I was searching for "Dog Tags" on the auctions. It is the dog tag of Pvt. Adelard T. DeForest 624248 of Battery D 56th Regiment C.A.C. I have checked the listings of names in the book I have ("History of Battery D, 56th Regiment C.A.C..." written by Corporal Frank H. Kirk Battery Clerk.) and his name appears on the muster roll of 31 March, 1918. The men were mustered at sea by Major Walter Singles C.A.C. aboard the transport H.M.S. Olympic. 231 men present and 2 men listed as absent sick. Pvt. DeForest's name in this muster roll list is spelled "Adalard" but on the dog tag it is "Adelard" The medal on the right of the below picture is a local New Hampshire medal, so I'm assuming that Pvt. DeForest was a New Hampshire native. During WWI the dog tags were made of Aluminum disks and were hand stamped letter by letter. So each dog tag has it's own special look to it. The ebay auction listed as $58 for the two items. I did not bid on them but downloaded these pictures for all to see. Pvt. DeForest's name was listed on the muster roll of August 16, 1918 when the Battery first went into action against "Fritz". The muster roll of November 11, 1918 shows the names of the men in the Battery at the time of the cease fire, they were still at the front on that date. Major John A. Hoag C.A.C. was in command of the 2nd Battalion on the last day of the War. Pvt. DeForest name was among those listed. This muster list showed that the Battery had 205 men present. Pvt. DeForest was also listed on the muster roll of 18 January, 1919 aboard the USS South Dakota anchored at Staten Island New York. On 28 January, 1919 a total of 169 men were discharged from the Battery. Pvt. DeForest was among those discharged that day.

Sergeant Percy Brown

The headstone of Percy Brown reads: Connecticut SGT BTRY D 56th Coast Artillery

Percy was born Dec. 15 1889 and died Oct. 15 1968. He was from Dayville, Connecticut. He walked with a cane, which family lore says was the result of being wounded in France. On the Passenger manifest of the sailing to France aboard the HMS Olympic Percy is listed with Battery D. His rank was Sergeant and he listed his mother Emma L. Brown of Danielson, Connecticut as his next of kin. His service number was 624019

Private Samuel Tresser

Samuel Tresser was a Private in Battery D and his service number was 624243. Tresser was from Stamford, Connecticut. On the passenger manifest for the HMS Olympic Tresser is listed and he liste his mother Mrs. Bella Tresser of 83 Hawthorne St. Stamford, CT as his next of kin. Private Tresser was killed in August of 1918 while the 56th Artillery was in the area of Fismes, France.

William J. Jarvis

William J. Jarvis was a member of Battery D while the 56th was serving in France. He was born in 1898 and died in 1929. He is burried in the St. Mary's Cemetery in Putnam, CT.

PFC Eugene Mericer

Battery D of the 56th Artillery, CAC had many men from Connecticut that filled its ranks. Taftville, Connecticut supplied 10 of her sons to Battery D. These ten men were; PFC Eugene Mercier, Pvt. Cornelius R. Hoelck, Cpl. Alfred Gladue, Cpl. Joseph Cormier, Pvt. Prosper Lorette, Sgt. George A. Stone, PFC Joseph Lorette, Pvt. Alfred Benoit, Pvt. Velderic Chenette, and Mech. Harvey A. Benoit.

Taftville is a small village in eastern Connecticut, and was established as a mill town for the large Taftville Mill in 1866. The Taftville Mill is also known as Ponemah Mill and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The mill buildings comprise of some 430,000 square feet, and today the mill buildings are being redeveloped into luxury apartments and commercial spaces.

But in the 1870’s the cotton mill was a bustling place and the small town of Taftville had many mill families living and growing in her streets and homes. In April of 1875 some 1,200 mill workers went on strike against the Ponemah Mill because the mill owners had raised the rents in company owned housing as well as the prices of goods in the company stores. But the mill owners replaced the striking workers with French Canadians, who would eventually come to number over 70 percent of the population of Taftville.

This is the reason so many of the ten men from Taftville who were in Battery D of the 56th Artillery had French last names. Eugene Mercier was once such boy of French Canadian heritage.

His father was Essa Mercier who was born likely in Taftville in October of 1870, a product of French Canadian parents who were replacement workers at the Ponemah Mill. Essa himself was a mill weaver in the mill. About 1892 Essa married a woman named Claudia, herself the product of French Canadian replacement mill workers. Together she and Essa had four children, 3 girls and one boy. Donia was born first in April of 1893, and then came Selenda in March of 1894, followed by Alice in March of 1895, and lastly Eugene the subject of this history was born on March 5, 1897.

Life in a mill town was nothing but work, but somehow the kids found time to be kids, and life went on day after day. But sometime between 1900 and 1910 something had happened to Essa and Claudia. It’s not known what happened to them or where they went but two of the girls, Donia and Alice were living with their grandmother Emilee St. Germain in a home on Sumner Street in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Emilee St. Germain was a French Canadian who had immigrated to the United States about 1885. In the house on Sumner Street lived Emilee and her 18-year old son Lewis who was a spinner in a cotton mill. Donia Mercier who was 17 at the time worked as a Spindle tender in the same mill and her 14-year old sister Alice was a doffer in the mill. It was not known where Selenda and Eugene Mercier were living.

Eugene Mercier growing up in a Mill town and seeing a future of only working for the mill the rest of his life may have had thoughts that their must be more to life than just life in the mill. So after Eugene turn 17 he joined the United States Navy about September of 1914, possibly to see the world beyond the mill. He would serve 2-years and 6-months as a seaman.

Before America was drawn into the First World War the State of Connecticut decided they should take a census of young men who they might be able to call on should they be needed to defend the Country. So on February 7, 1917 the Connecticut State Legislature approved a bill to procure certain information on its citizens.

On February 20, 1917 Eugene Mercier filled out his required form where he states that his address was PO Box 542 in Taftville, CT. and he was 19-years old, single and 5-feet, 6-inches tall. He also stated that he had 4 persons who were dependent on his support. He was a cotton twiller operator at the Ponemah Mill. He also stated that he had Machinist skills.

On the form it asks the following questions, which Eugene answered. Can you do any of the following:

Ride a horse? Yes Any experiences with a steam engine? No
Handle a team? Yes Any experiences with electrical machinery? No
Drive an automobile? No Handle a boat, power or sail? Yes
Ride a motorcycle? No Any experiences with coastwise navigation? No
Understand telegraphy? No Any experience with high-speed marine gasoline engines? No
Operate a wireless? No Are you a good swimmer? Yes

Clearly the State of Connecticut was preparing to call men into military service should the State be called into Federal Service. War did come and Eugene Mercier was call into Federal Service serving with Battery D, 56th Artillery in combat in France. On March 28, 1918 PFC Eugene Mercier went aboard the HMS Olympic with Battery D for transportation to France. That day Battery D was under the command of Captain Frank E. Withee, and PFC Mercier listed his wife Anna as next of kin on the passenger manifest of the sailing of the Olympic. Private Mercier’s service number was 624117. He would remain with Battery D through out the duration of the war, and he would return back from France and after his discharge from the army he would fall back into life working at the Ponemah cotton mill.

After Eugene was discharged from the army he married Anna Breault. Eugene and his wife Anna, in 1920 were living at 41 1/2 South B Street in Taftville, CT. They would live there at least through 1922. Anna was born on May 8, 1900 in Connecticut, and she would pass away in 1965. During this time Eugene was working as a weaver at the Ponemah cotton mill.

There in the company house on B street Anna and Eugene started their family. Rita the first child was born about 1919 followed by a son Wilfred born about 1921, and Gloria born about 1923. The last child a son named Romeo was born on February 27, 1926. For a short time about 1923 through 1924 Eugene, Anna and the family moved to a house at 71 River Street in Taftville.

About 1927 Eugene, Anna, and the children had moved a block over from the old company house and now lived at 45 South A Street in Taftville where the rent was $7.80 per week. This house was only 4-blocks from the Mill gate, and the house was a two-family company row house. Eugene and Anna would live here on A street for the next 14-years. He and Anna were able to save enough money to have one of the luxuries of the day, which was a radio set in the home. Eugene still a Ponemah Mill man was now a loomfixer in 1930.

Also living in the house on A Street was Anna’s father Zephyr Breault. He was French Canadian born about 1871 and immigrated to the States about 1876 likely a replacement Ponemah Mill worker. In 1930 Zephyr was still working for the Ponemah Mill as a weaver.

Anna and Eugene were active in the local and State Veterans of Foreign Wars Associations. During the Connecticut State V. F. W. Encampment held June 23-25, 1933 at Bridgeport, Connecticut Anna Mercier was a Delegate in the Ladies Auxiliary, and Eugene Mercier was an Alternate at the State Encampment that summer. And then on August 31, 1935 Eugene served as a Committee member at the dedication service of the Taftville, CT Foreign Service Memorial ceremony.

Eugene would work the rest of his life for the Ponemah Mill until his death on November 4, 1941. It is not known where he is buried but it is assumed someplace in or near Taftville.

After Eugene’s death in 1941, Anna in 1948 re-married to Arthur Dupour. Arthur lived with Anna in the old company house at 45 South A Street. Also living in the old house was Arthur’s son Eneas and his wife Antoinette. Anna’s youngest son Romeo, also live there with the new family. Romeo followed in his father Eugene’s footsteps and worked for the Ponemah Mill as a machine operator. Romeo was now a fourth generation Ponemah Mill worker. Romeo Mercier like his father Eugene would work and live his entire life in the Mill town of Taftville, CT. Romeo would pass away in November of 1976 in Taftville about the same time the Ponemah Mill closed.

Above are the 3 VFW medals of Eugene Mercier

On the left is Eugene Mercier’s WWI Victory Medal with Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, and the Defensive Sector clasps.
On the right is the State of Connecticut WWI Medal.

Eugene Mercier’s WWI dog tags. “Battery D, 56th CAC” has been stamped out with “X’s” presumably done
when they were on the front lines to keep secret what regiment they were from. On the reverse is stamped his service number 624117

Supply Sergeant George Leroy Pearl

George Leroy Pearl was born on 28 December 1893 in Danielson, CT. His mothers name was Nellie C. Pearl of Brooklyn, CT. In May of 1917 George Pearl enlisted into the Army and was attached to the 13th Company, Long Island Sound, at Ft. Terry, NY. When the 56th Artillery was formed the 13th Company was absorbed into it. Most men from the 13th Company were formed into Battery A of the 56th Artillery, but George ended up in Battery D somehow. On the passenger manifest of the HMS Olympic George was listed as a Chief Mechanic in Battery D and his service number was 624060. He listed his mother, Nellie C. as next of kin to notify incase of emergency.

When the war was over and the 56th Artillery was returning to the states on the armored cruiser, USS South Dakota, George had been promoted to Supply Sergeant, and still with Battery D. After his discharge from the army George married Lida Swett [Sweet] on 28 August 1920 and their marriage produced no children. Lida and George lived in Fitchburg, MA and Laconia, NH where George worked as a mechanic.

PFC Ovela J. Mitchell

Ovela Joseph Mitchell was a Private First Class with Battery D of the 56th Artillery, CAC during WWI. His flat bronze grave marker has lay silent in the Rose Hill Memorial Park Cemetery in Rocky Hill, Hartford County, Connecticut since it was delivered and placed on his grave in May of 1962. But now after 52-years of silence for this soldier’s grave, it is time that his story is told.

Ovela Joseph Mitchell was born on March 27, 1898 in or near Bristol, Connecticut. It is not known what his father’s name was but it is known that he was a French Canadian by birth. He must have passed away sometime after the youngest child a son named Omar was born about 1902. Ovela’s mother was Regina Mitchell who was born about 1859 in the State of New York. Both of Regina’s parents where French Canadians. Regina and her husband first lived in New York State where they had their first three children, Kate (b. abt. 1879), William (b. abt.1881), and Selina (b. Abt. 1890).

Little of Ovela’s early life is not known except that in February of 1917 he was living in Plainfield, Connecticut and was working as a Chauffeur or a truck driver. In January of 1917 at the age of 18, Ovela joined the Connecticut National Guard and was serving with the 13th Company, Coast Artillery, Connecticut National Guard out of Danielson, Connecticut. This was four months before America formerly joined the fight in Europe, and being he was already in the Guard he would be some of the first men to be called into Federal Service from Connecticut.

The 13th Company when it was called upon to be federalized became part of Battery D of the 56th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps. Private Ovela Mitchell would be among the first units of the Coast Artillery to sail to France. Private Mitchell officially became part of Battery D, 56th Artillery on August 5, 1917, and he was given an Army service number of 624120 and advanced to Private First Class.

PFC Mitchell would serve throughout the duration of the war and see combat on the front lines with the 56th Artillery. Once the war ended he returned to the States with Battery D and was Honorably Discharged on January 28, 1919.

After his return from France Ovela Mitchell went back to his family who were living in Bristol, Connecticut at the time. Ovela was then working as a truck driver for a local hardware store. His family at the time consisted of his widowed mother Regina, and siblings Kate, William Selina, Lena, Olivia, and Omar. Also living in the home were a niece and nephew, Ursula, and Robert Mitchell.

By 1928 Ovela Mitchel had married Sadie B. Bizzinsky who was the same general age as Ovela. Sadie was a first generation Polish-American and her mother Josephine Bizzinsky was living with the couple after they were married. Josephine was then a 67-year old widow and had come to America in 1892. In April of 1930 Ovela and Sadie were living in a rented home located at 167 South Street in Hartford, Connecticut where he worked as a carpet layer and Sadie was a bookkeeper for a grocery store.

At the time of Ovela Mitchell’s death on March 13, 1962 he and Sadie were living in Milford, Connecticut. On April 6, 1962 Sadie B. Mitchell singed the application for a military bronze grave marker for her husband she was living at 12 Third Street, Ryders Trailer Park in Milford, CT. Ovela’s bronze grave marker was delivered on May 16, 1962 and placed shortly thereafter resting silently until now.

Bronze grave marker Ovela Joseph Mitchell

PFC David Osborne Mills, Service Number 624119 Battery D

On the passenger manifest for the sailing to France aboard the HMS Olympic March 28, 1918, PFC Mills listed his mother Louise Mills as next of kin. Address was Greens Farm, Connecticut.


Researched, compiled, written and edited by Joe Hartwell ©2006-14 

This page was created on 12 March 2006 and last updated on Wed, Nov 5, 2014

If you have research comments or additional information on this page e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell

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