Photo courtesy of Paul Jarosh -- Grandson of 1st Lt. George O. Jarosh, Battery D, 58th Artillery
Upon entry into the World War, the United States was confronted with the problem of providing artillery of a type different from any the Army had ever used. There was little or no heavy artillery for field use and such as existed was horse-drawn. To be properly equipped for taking the field the Army had to be supplied with heavy tractor-drawn artillery. The War Department decided that the nucleus for the personnel of this branch of artillery must come from the Coast Artillery of the Regular Army and National Guard, composed of organizations which, with their thorough training and methods of fire control, were well prepared for this service. At this time the Coast Artillery of both the Regular Army and National Guard was organized by companies, assigned to batteries of the important seacoast defenses. Consequently it was at once necessary to organize these companies into regiments for field operation.
The 58th regiment of Coast Artillery was formed pursuant to instructions from the War Department issued in December, 1917. This order authorized the formation of the First and Second Battalions and the Headquarters and Supply Companies in the Coast Defenses of Eastern New York, and of the Third Battalion in the Coast Defenses of Baltimore. The personnel of these units was drawn from Regular, National Guard and National Army troops.
Colonel Alston Hamilton, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, for many years and instructor at West Point and at the Fort Monroe Artillery School, and known internationally as and authority on gunnery and ballistics, was assigned to command the Regiment. He was at this time in command of the Coast Defenses of Eastern New York, with headquarters at Fort Totton. While General Order No. 3 from these Headquarters, officially assigning officers and men to the regiment, did not appear until January 30th, 1918, a vast amount of work in the development of the Regiment had been accomplished before this time.
Battery A and the Headquarters Company were for the most part made up from the Regular Coast Defense Companies of Eastern New York, consisting of the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Companies. Batteries B, C, and D and the Supply Company were largely composed of troops from the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 31st, 32nd, 34th, and 36th Companies from the Eighth Coast Defense Command, New York National Guard. Each of these new units was brought up to its required strength by the addition of men of the new National Army. The Medical Detachment was drawn from the enlisted personnel of the Fort Totton Hospital, and the Ordnance Detachment from the respective detachments of Ordnance men of the Coast Defenses of Eastern New York and Baltimore.
Battery E and F, comprising the Third Battalion, were the first units to complete their organization and to bear the regimental designation. The Fifth Company (Regulars), stationed at Fort Smallwood, Maryland, was ordered to Fort Howard, Coast Defense Headquarters, and became the foundation of Battery E. Battery F was a National Guard unit. It's nucleus was the fourth company, Coast Artillery, Maryland National Guard, which had been organize the preceding spring, mustered into Federal service on August 5th, and was then stationed at Fort Howard. Battery E was completed by the assignment of troops from the other regular companies of the Command and of National Army men, while Battery F drew on the First and Second Companies, Coast Artillery, Maryland National Guard.
In all the enlisted personnel of the regiment comprised Approximately, 1,800 men. The War Department order (W. D. S. O. No. 9, 1918) assigning officers other than Medical and Ordnance to the Regiment was issued on January 11th, 1918.
The National Guard Organization which furnish a large part of the First and Second Battalions, the latter stationed at Fort Schuyler, directly across Long Island Sound from Fort Totton, was the Eighth Coast Defense Command, National Guard of New York. This command, formerly the Eighth Infantry, New York National Guard, was better known by its historical title of the " Washington Greys" and dated back to Revolutionary times, when it acted as a bodyguard to General Washington on the occasion of his taking the Oath of Office has first President of the United States, receiving its name from the gray color of the uniform then worn. Another President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, at one time held a lieutenant's commission in the regiment. The Washington Greys saw service in every American War, and in being called upon to contribute to the 58th Artillery, continued this tradition of action.
On April 6th, 1918, the first anniversary of America's entry into the war, Battery F formed the guard of honor for the President of the United States when he reviewed the 79th Division at Baltimore. The excellent performance of this duty by the Battery excited favorable comments and Captain Rudolph Ritterbusch, Commanding, was personally commended by the President. This was the occasion of the President's famous speech, echoed around the world, accepting Germany's challenge to the arbitrament of force rather than right, in the affairs of the world. "I accept the challenge," he said. "Henceforth shall be force - force to the uttermost, force without stint were limits, until every selfish dominion is humbled in the dust."
With the completion of the formal organization of the Regiment, material preparation for overseas service began. Table is of Organization and equipment had to be studied and their demands filled. The new Regiment drilled and hiked and held inspections. New Short overcoats were issued as well as new Springfield rifles, identification tags " dog tags" as they were familiarly called, and hob-nailed field shoes. Of course, rumors of immediate departure cropped up every week or two. Necessary secrecy left free play to retailers of imaginary prophecies. The 58th arrived in France many times ere ever seen the inside of a transport. Touching farewells were almost every day affairs and sweethearts grew cold toward the often-repeated au revoirs "till it's over, Over There." Their soldiers had gone to France so many times that it was no longer a joke.
During this tedious period the Regiment furnished heavy guard detachments along the waterfront of the North River at Chelsea Piers and on the docks of Weehawken, Jersey City and Hoboken as well as on the Piers of Canton and Locust Point at Baltimore.
The weeks of training would have been very monotonous had it not been for the diversions furnished by the various welfare associations and by theatrical stars who came to Fort Totton and Fort Schuyler. The Y.M.C.A. and the Knights of Columbus, assisted by committees from local societies in the neighborhoods of the Forts, gave it a variety of entertainments.
The most notable incident prior to sailing was the presentation of the Regimental Colors on the 26th of April at Fort Totton. There were various exercises, including a field meet on the afternoon before. The Second Battalion was brought over from Fort Schuyler for the occasion. Before the review of the troops on the Parade Ground, Colonel Walke, Commanding the Middle Atlantic Coast Artillery District, presented National and Regimental Colors to Colonel Hamilton with the following words:
"Colonel Hamilton, I entrust to you and the men of the 58th Regiment these colors. I know that under your leadership no dishonor can ever taint them. Under your leadership, we know that everything that is humanly possible will be done to carry them to victory. Whenever and wherever your men follow these colors, teach them to see among the stars and stripes the words engraved upon the heart of every West Pointer - words that represent everything worth living for, words that every man should gladly die for - DUTY - HONOR - COUNTRY."
After words and address was made by Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States. Few of those present fail to remember some of the characteristically vigorous phrases of his speech, as, after referring to is own connection with the Washington Greys and his personal friendship for Colonel Hamilton, he reminded the men that it would be much easier, in after years, for one to explain why he had taken part in the Great War then why he had not; urged that "conscientious objectors" to military service be placed on mine sweeping duty were there would be no opportunity to take human life, though there might be excellent prospect of losing it; and exhorted his hearers to "hit, and hit hard, and hit in the right place," in the cause of liberty and civilization. "Never hit until you have to, but when you do hit - put your man to sleep."
President Teddy Roosevelt giving his speech to the men of the 58th Artillery on April 26, 1918 at Fort Totten, NY during the Presentation of the regimental Colors.
Former President Teddy Rossevelt posing for the camera with Colonel Hamilton of the 58th Artillery, CAC.
Roosevelt photos are from the Assistant Engineer Walter H. Cole, HQ Co. 58th Artillery, CAC, collection.
With these instructions in mind, the Regiment was ready to fare fourth to fight. While every man was on edge, the First Battalion received orders to proceed, not to France, but to Fort Wright, farther up Long Island Sound, for small arms practice. But it's stay there was short, for within a few hours after arrival, the Battalion was ordered back to Fort Totton. Sailing orders had arrived. They were secret, of course, and gave rise to much mysterious talk of "zero hour" and midnight movements. On the afternoon of May 9th the two Posts were thrown open to visitors for a few hours to permit affectionate relatives to bid farewell to departing heroes, off for the wars. That night the men slept in their clothes, packs rolled and ready. Assembly sounded at 3:00 a.m. and the Fort Totton units of the Regiment marched aboard the excursion steamer Grand Republic. Progress was made as far as Fort Schuyler to take on the second Battalion; but at that point the Grand Republic most unromantically and un-heroically stuck in the mud. The Mine Planter General Ord, one hawser and much puffing and the polling were required to free the steamer and her precious cargo. In the end, obstinacy yielded to resolution and the Grand Republic proceeded on her voyage through the East River, while a heavy fog settled down only to lift as she rounded the Battery.
The troops were unloaded at the North German Lloyd Company's piers at Hoboken, where, by early afternoon, they were aboard the United States Transport Covington, formerly the Hamburg-American liner Cincinnati. The Red Cross knows how many sandwiches and how many cups of coffee went to fill the hungry but grateful mouths while the men waited on the piers. As each man was checked aboard the ship he gave his name backwards "Jones, John W." and John W. Jones scurried up the gangplank.
In mid-afternoon the men had their introduction to a transport mess. They ate in the forward mess hall, where some stood up beside rickety tables, while others, less fortunate, squatted on the deck. This disposed of, they filled out the "I have arrived safely overseas" cards and drop them in a mailbag near the gangplank, the sealing, as it seemed, their complete separation from home and families.
At 6 o'clock the men were sent below and the portholes were covered. Scattered blue electric bulbs gave a ghastly illumination to the troop compartments, already is strange environment to the landlubbers of the Fifty-Eighth. The passages were narrow, the bunks cramped and built in tiers of three, and stumbling blocks seemed to be nailed to the floor in the darkest and most unexpected places. There was an epidemic of bumped heads and sort toes. Smoking was forbidden. It was stifling and noisy, and the men climbed around like monkeys over the maze of bunks.
The Covington crept out of her birth before nightfall and glided quietly down the harbor. The men were weary and soon fell asleep, awaking in the morning to find the ship well out at sea. She was joined by other ships, forming a convoy for which the Covington was flagship. The U.S. Cruiser Huntington convoyed the transports, which numbered 14. The Covington had 3,600 troops aboard and the number carried by the convoy was close to 40,000 probably the largest shipped at once up to that time.
The voyage lasted thirteen days. Most of the time the sea was calm and the weather fine. There were no submarine attacks, though elaborate precautions against them were taken. Daily "Abandon-ship" drills were held and the ship's crew was continually on watch for submarines. No lights were shown at night. The danger was real enough, too; for one of the transports in the same convoy was torpedoed on her homeward trip, and the Covington followed her to the bottom on her next return trip after that. During the voyage the enlisted men of the 58th were quartered in the forward part of the ship, well down, with a restless, clanking anchor chain nearby to diversify the monotony and break up the landlubberly habit of sleeping all night.
The Covington listing to port after being hit by a German sub.
As soon as the troops found out where they could and could not go on the ship, they proceeded to make themselves at home. When a private climbed a couple of decks toward the bridge, intent on seeing how the ship worked, a forbidding voice would call, "You can't stand there!" There did not seem to be room to stand anywhere. The famous calls "All on deck!" or "All below deck!" and "The smoking lamp is out!" were heard long after the seafaring days of the Regiment were over.
May 14th was a day wasted as far as progress was concerned. The ships engaged in target practice, shooting at a periscope target towed by one of them. The President Lincoln and the Covington work together and the rest of the convoy drew out of sight. The men saw the two for word 6 inch pieces make several hits, and they hoped and prayed a U-boat would stick up a bit of its periscope to start the fun. However, they were disappointed. Dawn the next morning showed all the ships, which had scattered beyond the horizon, assembled and once more on their way.
A guard of thirty posts went on every day. More than one officer of the day lost his way in the unfamiliar recesses of the ship when trying to inspect his Guard, and forced to divert his attention to finding his way out. In fact, it was a problem for the Corporal of the guard himself to remember where he had posted all the men of his relief. At that, there was not a great deal for the guards to do. If any man became worn out and discouraged at not being able to find the "smoking lamp", none went absent without leave. " The smoking lamp is out" seemed to be always sounding and few ever heard the welcome news, "the smoking lamp is lit!"
There were no serious hardships on the voyage. Motion pictures and band concerts helped to shorten the long day, reveille for "stand-to" being at 4:00 a.m. during the passage through the danger zone. The good health of the Regiment was remarkable, although scarlet fever broke out among the troops of the 129th Infantry, who occupied the after part of the ship.
One man was lost by death, however Private Walter E. Wilhelm, of the Supply Company, succumbed to appendicitis after an operation.
During the latter part of the voyage the convoy spent a few days in what seemed to the landsmen a desperate naval engagement - two days of rough sea and much rolling of the ship. But the sailors ("Gobs", the men sometimes called them) reassured their passengers, telling them the ship was never really in danger till the ocean began coming aboard by way of the funnels, and as the water was barely coming up to the promenade deck, there was no cause whatever for alarm.
In the early morning of the 21st of May, as the men lined the decks in their life belts, the destroyers that were to form the escort through the war zone appeared one by one on the horizon and surrounded the convoy. Two days later, May 23rd, the convoy sailed into the picturesque harbor of Brest. The first suggestion of land came with the site of a fleet of small fishing smacks, and then two hydro-aeroplanes appeared and circled above the convoy. The destroyers dashed hither and thither like dogs searching for a scent. Soon the headlands of Brest dimmed the horizon and took on shape. A captive observation balloon was on duty at over the harbor.
That night the Covington lay inside the breakwater and the next afternoon the troops disembarked and marched 3 mi. to the famous rest camp of Brest, outside of the city. The Port of Brest had not long been opened as an American base port, but was teeming with American activity. The march up the hill road to Pontanézen Camp afforded the men their first sight of France and the French. Children welcomed them along the roads by seizing their hands, giving them flowers and asking for pennies. Pontanézen Barracks and a it the surrounding temporary camps which went to make up Base Section No. 5 are situated in the high country in the picturesque province of Brittany. On arrival in the vicinity of the Barracks, the Regimental column, led by Colonel Hamilton and headed by the Band, was directed down a lane leading to two small fields in which the troops pitched shelter tents and made their homes. Fortunately, during the week spent here weather was fine and pup tents proved comfortable albeit somewhat cramped quarters.
The men found themselves on all sorts of details, from hauling water to building houses and roads. The term "rest camp" was voted to be "all wrong", as it seemed to imply a variety rather than cessation of activity. Luckily the troops did not work from sunup to sundown, for the sun was up by 4 o'clock in the morning and set reluctantly about 9 o'clock at night.
Meanwhile, at Fort Howard the Third Battalion heard disturbing rumors that the rest of the Regiment had sailed for parts unknown, and remained in uneasy inaction awaiting orders. Their time was to come, however. On Sunday afternoon, May 19th, the usual rigorous restriction on the Post was removed; visitors were extended an amazing liberty, which surely portended something. The following day the little Government boat, Sprigg Carroll, made two trips from the Post up the river to the piers At Locust Point, carrying Batteries F and E respectively to their entraining point. Lieutenant-Colonel A. M. Mason, who had been assigned to the Regiment first as a Major and later as Lt. Colonel, and then was, to his unspeakable grief, compelled by physical disability to remain behind, accompanied the Battalion to Locust Point and bade an affectionate farewell. The train landed the men in Jersey City the next morning. There men and baggage were transferred to a ferry boat, and eventually landed on the United States Naval Transport Leviathan, formerly the German liner Vaterland, which sailed after another 24 hours. The largest ship in the world, steaming down the Hudson River in mid-afternoon, is not a sight to escape notice, especially when rumor had spread throughout the city that the great vessel was carrying across the sea more human beings than had ever been carried on any ship in the world's history before, and those human beings American soldiers off for the Great War. Whistles in the harbor blew, and from thousands of office windows handkerchiefs fluttered.
There were 13,600 people aboard the Leviathan - something over 10,000 troops, the rest, officers, crew, casual sailors and Red Cross nurses. The Leviathan made an excellent troopship, and was suspected by many of having been designed for that purpose. Weather conditions were ideal and the sea was calm. Life preservers were worn throughout the voyage. The Leviathan was un-convoyed until met by destroyers near the European shore. The day before our arrival in port she made a wide detour to avoid the scene of recent submarine activity, where a ship had just been sunk. The enemy was not to be evaded, however, there was a fleet of submersibles awaiting the ship's arrival at the entrance to the harbor of Brest. The attack was a bold one, occurring just about midday. Naval officers of the ship were of the opinion that the submarines lying in wait were least five in number. One rose to the surface just aft of the ship on the port side. The Leviathan's 6-inch guns opened fire upon it. The wakes of other submarines were clearly visible racing alongside the ship, but gradually falling behind. Twenty-Eight shots were fired from the ship's guns, one of which was believed to be a direct hit. None of the subs fired torpedoes, as far as could be observed. This encounter took place on Decoration Day.
The Third Battalion was landed at Brest on May 31st and followed the dusty road to Pontanézen Barracks. When the troops, under command of Major Thomas A. Terry, reached the gates of Pontanézen, they were informed that the rest of the 58th had departed a couple of days previously, leaving its portion of the camp in better condition than any other organization had ever done. The Third Battalion was more fortunate as regards quarters, being assigned to pyramidal tents within the Caserne, bordering the dusty Parade Ground. Pontanézen remained a very vivid experience in the imagination of the troops, and with each prospective move on the part of the regiment the fervent hope was always express that they would not again be sent to a "rest camp".
The total strength of the regiment in France was now 66 officers and 1,811 men.
The trail of the 58 to its training area in the Department of Haute Vienne proved to be a 40 hour ride in boxcars, each marked, to the dismay and amusement of the men, with its stated capacity of "Chevaux 8, Hommes 40" the kind generally known through the A.E.F. as "Side-door Pullmans". The main body of the regiment journeyed via Tours and Limoges to village of St. Leonard, in Haute Vienne, arriving there at midnight on May 31st. The third Battalion a week later came to rest at Ambazac, Haute Vienne. The two villages are about 18 km apart, situated in the beautiful, semi mountainous country of the ancient Province of Limousin. The city of Limoges, known officially in the A.E.F. as "Organization and Training Center No. 2, Tractor Artillery", lay about 20 km distant, both from St. Leonard and Ambazac. The life of the regiment centered in this region for the next two months and a half.
The billeting system as employed by the American Expeditionary Forces in France was entirely novel in the experience of American troops. Throughout all the areas occupied by United States troops there was a billeting organization, French or American, with a representative called the "Town Major" in each village. Each house and building was marked with its stated capacity of so many officers, so many man, so many horses and with its official number. Every available bit of floor space was usually seized for the purpose. During their sojourn in France the man of the 58th were quartered in garrets, cellars, barns, factories, churches, stores, schools, town halls, Adrian Barracks, Chateaux, dugouts, shelter tents, pyramidal tents, and trenches. The billeting system worked out very satisfactorily. The omnipotent mayors of the French communes were almost without exception courteous and fair in their treatment of American troops, and there were French interpreters to smooth out linguistic difficulties. The billeting system took the soldiers directly into the homes of the French people and gave them opportunity for personal contact with French life that could come in no other way so intimately. Though the French populace was almost always friendly, it was always the children who were quickest to appropriate the soldiers as their special friends. There could be no more pleasing sight in the world than the very frequent one presented by a big Yankee soldier learning French from a group of youngsters clustered around him or climbing over him.
The 58th was very fortunate in having St. Leonard and Ambazac as the scene of first real contact with the French. Both officers and men made exceptionally pleasant acquaintances among the townsfolk. At Ambazac the Haviland family, Americans of large business interests in Limoges, made both officers and enlisted men welcome visitors at their beautiful estate. The broad sympathies and perfect courtesy of Colonel Hamilton did much to make for cordial relations between the nationalities. The French people greatly admired him and he saw to it that every concession was made to their feelings. The band concerts every evening at St. Leonard were at first frowned upon, because the French took the war and its consequences so seriously that music and merrymaking seemed almost sacrilegious to them. That feeling soon wore off, however, and the evening music became the rallying place of all the children and many grown-ups.
We were now to have our first intimate contact with the miserable backwash of the war, a party of about 20 Belgians, all women and children, were literally dumped from a refugee train into the middle station that St. Leonard. But a few days previously their little village on the Flanders front came under German shellfire, and these people were so hurriedly evacuated that they reached us absolutely destitute. They were still stupefied with the horror of their experiences, and appeared too dazed to even rustle for a bit of food they so much needed. However, they fell in good hands when our regimental Color Sergeant, DeWolf, a sterling soldier of the old school, heard of their arrival. Himself Belgian born, and speaking their language, for they spoke neither French nor English, he soon collected a sum sufficient to provide them food, found them a place to sleep, and in a day or so secured employment that made them self supporting.
On the second day of June orders were received to the effect that the 58th Artillery had been assigned to the 32nd Artillery Brigade, Brigadier General William C. Davis Commanding, and that's its equipment would be that of Caterpillar drawn 8-inch howitzers. Other regiments of the Brigade were the 59th and 65th Coast Artillery, with Limoges as the center of the training area for the three regiments. During this period the guns arrived, gaily camouflage in green and yellow and wide and looking quite ready for business, first one for training, then the full equipment with caterpillars. The guns were breached loading Howitzers, 8 inch, of English design,Vickers, Mark VI, but made by the Midvale Steel Company of America. The 58th was the only American heavy artillery regiment to get into action that was completely equipped with guns built in America and originally ordered by the United States Government for its own use. The caterpillars were of the Holt agricultural type, some of 75 horsepower and some of the 120 horsepower. Each Battalion received eight guns and eight caterpillars. The question of Motor Transportation, always urgent in the A.E.F., was solved for the regiment at this period by the arrival of a number of motor vehicles. Eventually the regiment was fairly completely equipped with White staff observation cars, Dodge sedans, Ford touring cars, Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Riker trucks for general use, and four-wheel drive trucks for hauling ammunition, together with a number of motorcycles, with and without sidecars.
Training of the batteries in handling the new Guns began as soon as the latter were received. Meanwhile, officers and men were constantly being sent off to schools of one sort and another, schools for chauffeurs, for tractor drivers, for Orienteur work, for radio, telephone and signal work, and for training in gas warfare. It is no exaggeration to state that representatives from the 58th were conspicuously successful in these schools, practical proof of their success being the large number of them retained at the schools as instructors. Over 50 motor vehicle drivers were lost to the regiment in this way at one swoop. There was also a course of lectures for the officers, given at St. Leonard and Ambazac by American officers detailed from the O. and T. Center who had seen service at the front, covering various details of artillery practice, and punctuated with frequent examinations. At one time during this period, orders were received for one of the Battalions to be detached from the regiment and handed over to Railway Artillery. The second Battalion was selected for the purpose and all the arrangements made therefore; but the orders were rescinded before the transfer was actually effected.
The two great national holidays in July evoked the greatest demonstration of mutual good between the Americans and the French. The program at St. Leonard was substantially the same for the two festivals, Independence Day on the fourth and Bastille Day on the 14th. On each occasion the band toured the town early in the morning; playing patriotic airs. On the fourth there was a parade with colors flying, the two Battalions proceeded by wooded French soldiers from a local military hospital as guard of honor. Colonel Hamilton made an address in French and speeches were also made by other representatives, both military and civil, of both nationalities. These were followed by the raising of the national colors at noon to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise. The afternoon was given up to field Sports and Baseball, both novel performances to the French spectators, to whom baseball appeared a form of grenade throwing. At 5 o'clock a reception was tendered the officers of the 58th by the "Cercle de l'Union" club of French gentleman living in St. Leonard. Each dayÕs celebration concluded with an outdoor vaudeville entertainment furnished by the talent from the Regiment. At Ambazac the native population gave a lavish entertainment to the soldiers on the Forth of July, even the poorest people contributing toward the expense because, as they said, they had grown so fond of the men billeting in their homes that they felt toward them as toward their own kin. But on the French holiday, the mayor of the town ask that there be no special celebration because from that little village 137 men had given their lives in the war, and the townsfolk wished to observe the National Festival in silence and seclusion.
The only incident that might have marred the good feelings between the French population and the regiment was happily taken in such good part by both that no better evidence could be adduced of the cordial relations between the two. A gendarme, Léon Théophile Faure, was shot and killed at night by an American sentry on guard over a Howitzer in the woods beyond the town. All agreed that both men were doing their duty and the French accepted the situation with apparently perfect equanimity.
During this time regular religious services - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish - were maintained. The proportions of the various faiths in the regiment were approximately 50% Protestant, 40% Catholic, 10% Jewish. The Y.M.C.A. operated canteens and writing rooms in St. Leonard and Ambazac, and sent out occasional entertainments from Limoges. There was no indoor place of Assembly in either town, but the good weather that prevailed all summer made it feasible for these to be held out of doors.
Gas masks were issued and every man in the regiment underwent practice in wearing them. Hiking by the hour wearing the masks, the man found, was no fun, but they knew their lives might depend upon ability to wear the cumbersome "harness" for long periods and took the irksome drills in good part.
Before leaving St. Leonard each Battalion was organized on an independent basis, somewhat after the French system for Artillery regiments of this type. Under this system each battalion or "group" became a semi-independent unit, with a self-contained organization under the battalion commander for both supply and tactical purposes. The central regimental organization remained, but each Battalion organization was so developed that it could, whenever necessary, operate as a distinct unit - necessities of modern warfare often requiring that battalions of heavy artillery occupy positions widely separated from each other in point of space and work tactically as parts of different Army Corps or even of different field armies. Each Battalion staff contained, besides the commander and adjutant, a medical officer, a supply officer, a mechanical officer, a signal officer, and orienteur officer and a gas officer, in addition to a headquarters enlisted detachment of trained specialists to assist them.
The last Sunday evening before departure from the settled quarters of St. Leonard and Ambazac, the officers of the regiment tendered a dinner to Colonel Hamilton at the Hotel de la Paix in Limoges. There were 35 present, and Lieutenant-Colonel Pendry, as toastmaster, expressed for the regiment the deep affection in which it held " The Father of the 58th".
The training of the regiment was now proceeding to completion and the next move brought it to the great French artillery camp at La Courtine, Départment of Creuse - a distance of some 60 miles - for target practice. The journey was made by train during the week beginning August 11th, guns and caterpillars being loaded on flatcars. As on most journeys made by the regiment, only one Battalion was moved at the time. The third Battalion marched over from Ambazac and entrained at St. Leonard.
La Courtine was a huge, desolate camp with brick Barracks, deluged with dust and swarming with flies. There the whole regiment was gathered together for the first time in its history, but even then the third Battalion found itself located a mile or more from the rest. The work of the regiment at La Courtine consisted in target practice with the famous French "75's" as well as with its own guns and in calibration of the latter. This process, which might be defined in civilian terms as a study of the individual eccentricities of each particular gun, was carried through in unusually rapid time, and the data obtained was found effective and later use of the guns at the Front.
While here the Regiment experienced the first fatal casualty of its service abroad. During practice firing of the French pieces a shell exploded in one of the guns, and a splinter from the muzzle struck Private Monroe C. Hodge, of Battery E., who was working on a neighboring piece. He died of painful wounds a few hours later and was buried in the camp cemetery at La Courtine with military honors.
Upon completion of target practice, the Regiment moved in the week of September 1st to a billeting area along the Marne River, north of Chaumont (Haute Marne). Regimental headquarters were established in the town of Vignory, on the road between Chaumont and Joinville. In the same town there were billeted the Headquarters Company, the Supply Company and the First Battalion. Battery C and D occupied the neighboring villages of Vouécourt and Soncourt, respectively, while the third Battalion was quartered more remotely, occupying the village of Villiers-sur-Marne. The first duty of all the organizations on arriving at their stations was, of course, to "police" the villages - a task so often repeated in the Regiments history that the men jokingly interdicted C.A.C. as standing for " Clean All Cities", or," Come And Clean". The refrain of a popular song ran:
"All of the war
We've seen so far
Is cleaning the streets of France."
The regiment settled down more or less comfortably to perfect its organization, obtain shortages in transportation facilities and await its call to the Front. The 32nd Artillery Brigade formed part of the Army Artillery of the First Field Army, the headquarters of which were as Bar-sur-Aube, not far from Vignory. A rigorous inspection of the Regiment was made at this time by Colonel Harry T. Matthews, C.A.C., Inspector General of the First Army.
The Lorraine Cross was selected as the Regimental emblem, Lorraine being the Regiments prospective scene of action. The pattern adopted showed the cross in white on a blue background, the whole enclosed in a red circle. This design was painted on the Regimental armament and property and was considered one of the most attractive in the A.E.F.
This is the 58th Arty's sholder patch. The "A" represents the Army Artillery and the logo below is the Regimental emblem. It is the Lorraine Cross and was selected because Lorraine was the Regiment's prospective scene of action. The pattern adopted showed the cross in white on a blue background, the whole enclosed in a red cirlce. This design was painted on all Regimental armament and property and was considered one of the most attractive in the A.E.F.
Many changes occurred in the commissioned personnel during this period. Lieutenant-Colonel Pendry, who had joined the Regiment at St. Leonard, and had by his tact and goodwill contributed greatly to the smooth running of the organization, was ordered back to America for duty, as were many other officers then or later. Unofficial forces of the Regiment were strengthened by the attachment of Miss Susanna Bottomley, " The Daughter of the Regiment", of the Y.M.C.A., and the Reverend James H. Eding, of the Knights of Columbus. Miss Bottomley managed canteens in the various villages and in many ways made conditions as cheerful as possible for the enlisted men. They became greatly attached to her and her presence with the Regiment was a very beneficial influence. Father Eding looked after the spiritual welfare of officers and men and was very popular with all. Both Miss Bottomley and Father Eding continued with the 58th until after the cessation of hostilities. They were valued aides to the Regimental chaplain who supervise the welfare work of the Regiment in addition to his ministerial duties. Chaplain Devan had joined the Regiment with the Fort Howard contingent and early gain the confidence and respect of officers and men. His interest and sympathy for those of all be leaves and his warm friendliness race strong felt influence in the Regiment and brought him a deserved popularity.
Although the regiments had been held in reserve as a part of the First Army, when the call to the front finally came, it was for duty not with the First, but with the Second Field Army. The days before the movement actually took place were times of no small perturbation. Successive changes of orders as to the date, manner and objective of the move, owing perhaps to the St. Mihiel salient operation, which was in progress at this time, were received. Meanwhile, the guns had been drawn up along the roads ready for movement. Orders finally came, however, and the journey to the Front was made during the week of October 20th. Guns, Tractors, and men of the Battalions were loaded on successive days at the Vignory station and taken thence by rail to Toul. Detraining there, the units proceeded marching toward the Front to take up their positions.
Here was the parting of the ways for the several Battalions. On reporting to the Second Army the Regiment found itself divided. Regimental Headquarters and the Third Battalion were assigned to duty as Corps Artillery with the Sixth Corps, of which the headquarters were at Saizerais; while the First and Second Battalions were assigned to the Fourth Corps, the headquarters of which were at Boucq. Regimental headquarters were at first established in Manonville (Meurthe-et-Moselle), but, this being in the Fourth Corps area, it was found necessary to remove to Rosiéres-en-Haye. Headquarters and Supply Companies remained, of course, with the Regimental Headquarters.
The First and Second Battalions were under the command of Colonel C. G. Bunker, C.A.C., whose post of command was at Mamey (Meurthe-et-Moselle), Headquarters of the heavy artillery of this sector of the Corps. Later Colonel R. M. Mitchell, C.A.C., took this command. The Third Battalion, together with the Third Battalion of the 65th Artillery, C.A.C. formed an artillery group under the 58th's commander.
The general arrangement at the front was for each Battalion to have its "rear echelon" or rest position, together with the battalion headquarters, at some point fairly well back of the line, while its "P. C." (post of command), or Battalion Commander's station and the actual gun positions were, of course, on the line itself. The guns sections, as a rule, remained on duty with their pieces for periods of four days at a time; at the end of which they retired to the rear echelons and other gun sections came forward to take their places. The rear echelon of the First Battalion was established in Camp Montjoie, a former French camp in the woods north of Manonville, the men being billeted in wooden shacks and dugouts, long occupied by the French. The entire portion of the Front, in fact, in which the 58th operated had been occupied by the Enemy until the St. Mihiel drive had cleared it only a few weeks previously. The rear echelon of the Second Battalion, after a brief stay in the Montjoie woods, removed to a Chateau in Manonville, which had been temporarily occupied by regimental headquarters. The Third Battalion, after several stops, finally brought to rest in some Adrian Barracks near the village of Jézainville.
Now the regiment was in First hand touch with the war. Booming of guns was audible day and night, troops constantly on the move back and forth, airplanes always whirring about somewhere in the sky, and sometimes seen in combat. The towns and villages were but heaps of broken masonry, the last undestroyed it remains of constructive civilization.
It was the most genuine regret that, just before going into action, the 58th had to bid farewell to its organizer and chief, Colonel Hamilton, who left on October 24th, to take command of the 35th Artillery Brigade at Limoges. Lieutenant Colonel Terry, formerly commander of the Third Battalion, was left in charge of the Regiment and all of the heavy artillery of the Sixth Corps until November 5th, when Colonel William T. Carpenter, C.A.C., took this command. Colonel Carpenter had joined the American Expeditionary Forces in September, 1917, as a captain in the Seventh Provisional Regiment, C.A.C., the first Regiment of this arm of the service to reach France. He had been successively a battalion commander in the 52nd Artillery, C.A.C., and brigade adjutant of the 13th Brigade, C.A.C., a member of the Heavy Artillery Board, A. E. F., and president of the Heavy Artillery Board A.E.F.
The next task for the batteries after the occupation of the rear echelons was the selection of "P. C.'s" (Post Command) and battery positions, and the laying of telephone communications, camouflaging, bringing up the guns and digging in.
The digging of the Gun pits and practically every case was seriously retarded by mud and rock, and was finally accomplished only after long hours of hard work day and night. The matter of dugouts was easy for some organizations through the kindness of the Germans, who had spent years in digging comfortable and comparatively commodious shelters in the earth, from which they had withdrawn (under urgent pressure) before the arrival of the Regiment in this region. Many of their dugouts had concrete walls and gas-proof entrances; they were ornate according to the Teutonic notion of art, and had even and their days of glory been illuminated by electric light. Frequently they could be approached over the mud by boardwalks. The slight drawback that they faced the wrong way and had their entrances toward the front did not embarrass their American occupants.
The First Battalion
The First Battalions Guns were set in the wooded valley of the Foret des Venchéres, (Meurthe-et-Moselle), in positions that had formerly been occupied by the 51st Artillery C.A.C.. The emplacements of the to batteries formed a continuous roll along a narrow gauge railway that ran along the north side of the valley. The battery commander's stations and the dugouts that harbored the guns sections were a few hundred yards away on the opposite side of the valley; they had been built by the Germans. "P. C. Wallace," the battalion post of command, late a mile or more distant, in the Bois du Four, across the Thiaucourt road. The zero original "P.C." of Battery A was a German pillbox later abandoned because telephone communications with the guns were found difficult. Kitchens of both batteries were in the floor of the valley.
The gun crews on duty "stood to" in daytime, and frequently for long periods at night as well, but in general they were allowed to sleep at night in dugouts, subject to call. It was a sight long to be remembered to see the men at a sudden call streaming from their dugouts, stumbling through the mud and underbrush to the guns. The First Battalion got into action before either of the others. The first shot was fired by Battery B on October 31st and the last at 10:56 a.m., November 11th, 4 minutes before the Armistice hushed the sound of cannon all along the Front. In all, 1167 rounds were sent over the hill into the German lines by this Battalion.
The enemy was in the habit of shelling with great perseverance in the woods on the other side of the hill, toward the village of Vieville. His activities were not confined to that, however, and the valley itself was a frequent target. His airplanes were often overhead, sometimes repelled by American anti-aircraft fire, and sometimes quite oblivious of it. On the afternoon of November 8th 3 hostile craft flew immediately over the batteries positions, swooping so low that their observers could be clearly seen manipulating their machine guns against the artillerymen. Observation was all too easy and the visit boded no good. That night the First Battalion positions were subjected to a very severe shelling. High explosive and gas-mustard and di-phosgene shells were concentrated in the valley. A direct hit was scored on Battery A's powder dump, which burst into flames that lit the whole sky. The only fatal casualty to occur in the Regiment resulted from this bombardment. Cook Teofil Figula, of Battery A, was killed it instantly by a shell fragment. He was buried at night in a little cemetery near the southern road leading from Vieville to Vilcey-sur-Trey. There was no opportunity to offer to his memory the military honors which his death deserved and the usual simple cross of a soldiers grave was left to mark the spot. The total casualties of the First Battalion were: 1 killed; 17 wounded or gassed.
During the week before the Armistice was declared, new and very advanced positions were being prepared by batteries A and B in the northern edge of the Bois d'Heiche, southeast of Thiaucourt. Three of the guns were already in place by Monday; the 11th, but no firing had been done from them. The movement continued, however, and all the guns were put into position. The new emplacements were very close to the front lines, and were threatened by enfilade fire on the right flank. The targets of the First Battalion were the towns of Onville, Waville, St. Julien and Villécey-sur-Mad, and crossroads, pillboxes and it Infantry works in the Bois de Waville.
Headquarters IV Army Corps
American Expeditionary Forces, France
Third Section, General Staff
Troop Movements Office
23 October, 1918
G-3 Memorandum No. 203 SECRET
1. The 58th Artillery CAC, will proceed to the woods in the vicinity of Noviant.
2. Precautions against hostile observation will be taken.
By Command of Major General Muir.
Briant H. Wells, Chief of Staff.
Above is a copy of Secret Orders given to the 58th Artillery on October 23, 1918 at 14:00 hours. This copy of the orders, of which there were 4 copies firnished to the 58th Artillery, were among the effects of Captain Edwin S. Roscoe of the Hq Company, 1st Battalion, 58th Artillery. Captain Roscoe was a Battalion Adjuant of the 1st Battalion under the command of Major Frank A. Buell, CAC. This order directed that the 58th Artillery should emplace the guns starting on 23 October in the woods near Noviant, France prepatory to where they first went into combat.
Non-Commissioned Staff of HQ Company, 58th Artillery CAC. This photo was taken in France during 1918.
This photo was from the collection of Asst. Engineer Walter H. Cole who is the last man on the right in the back row. The names are:
Front Row left to right:
Engineer Henry Dollet, Service No. 627602,
Radio Sgt. Elliott Grossman, Service No. 608966
Radio Sgt. Virgil C. Scarbrough, Service No. 627608
Radio Sgt. George A. Routledge, Service No. 693807, born in Indiana
Radio Sgt. William C. Holcombe, Service No. 719027
Radio Sgt. Robert Seeman, Service No. 614020, born in Bohemia (Czech Republic)
Middle row left to right:
Master Electrician, Kenneth Lawrence, Service No. 627604, born in New York
Engineer Banjamin A. Gerry, Service No. 599110
Radio Sgt. Frank L. Lane, Service No. 627609, born in Louisiana
Color Sgt. Petrus DeWulf, Service No. 627712, born in Belgium
Color Sgt. Karl E. Kickhafer, Service No. 627713, born in Wisconsin
Back row left to right:
Radio Sgt. Fred V. Green, Service No. 627607, born is Alabama
Radio Sgt. Grahm V. Lowe, Service No. 627610, born in New York
Master Gunner William J. McMinn, Service No. 693931
Sgt. Major Jr. Gr. John D. Springett, Service No. 627663, born in New York
Master Gunner Daniel J. Hayes, Service No. 627890, born in New York
Master Gunner Harl L. Russell, Service No. 627606
Assistant Engineer Walter H. Cole, Service No. 627603, born in Virginia
The Second Battalion
The Second Battalion was assigned positions in the area northwest of Vilcey-sur-Trey (Meurthe-et-Moselle), in the edge of the Forét des Vencheres. It was found necessary, however, to move Battery C to the Bois d'Heiche, northwest of Viéville, near emplacements from which a battery of lighter calibre artillery had just been shelled out. The good defilade afforded by this position and the stubborn nature of the soil meant many hours of continuous hard work with pick and shovel. The dirt removed from the pits had to be carted away and carefully camouflaged. Battery C began firing on November 3rd. Meanwhile Battery D and established itself in a particularly thick part of the Foret des Venchéres, on the road from Vilcey to Viéville, where many trees had to be cut down, sections of the trunks cut out and the tops set up again. This difficult work, like all other kinds of Camouflage, was done under the direction of specialists from the Camouflage service. Battery D commenced firing on November 2nd. The gun sections of the Second Battalion found inadequate facilities for shelter, those of Battery D sleeping in pup-tents and slit trenches, which has every soldier knows, our poor protection against the cold, rain or shrapnel.
The targets of the second Battalion were the villages of Onvillee, Waville, Vande-lainville and Pagny-sur-Moselle. Some counter-battery and interdiction firing was also done. Sound ranging was twice used with fair successes. Aerial and ground observation were not obtainable. Both batteries continued shooting until the last moment before the Armistice, using in all 1256 rounds more, that is, than any of the others. The battalion commanderÕs station "P.C. Hardigg," later, "P.C. Heath," was located near the top of the steep hill in the Biois de Friére. Several days prior to the Armistice, new positions were started for this battalion at Sainte Marie Farm, northeast of Vilcey, very close to the German lines. Setting up telephone lines and "Digging in" were exciting tasks enough. On two successive nights truck trains bringing up supplies to the men at work there were shot up by the enemy with gas, high explosive and shrapnel, causing a number of casualties. The total losses of the battalion during the nine days of firing were 20 men wounded and gassed.
All the positions occupied by the First and Second Battalions were advanced to a degree very unusual with Artillery pieces of this caliber. The new positions of the Second Battalion, especially, were the farthest for word of any occupied by the Regiment. All this was part of the preparation for a drive on the Metz front as a continuation of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and the object was to extend the range of the guns for harassing fire against the retreating enemy. "Doughboys," who had never seen Heavy Artillery so near the front line before, christened the 58th "The Eight-inch Infantry." The great drive expected, however, never came off; the Armistice saved the Germans that, but there was constant activity in the Infantry line as well as continual bombardment by the American artillery, massed for the attack, until 4 minutes of 11:00 a.m., November 11th, 1918.
The Third Battalion
The Third Battalion was assigned it positions in the Bois le Pretre, near Motauville, (Meurthe-et-Moselle). The men detrained Toul on the day following the Second Battalions arrival and marched to Lagney; thence the next day to Camp Nayette, near Saizerais, headquarters of the Sixth Corps, and two days later went on to Griscourt where they moved direct to take up their positions along a woods road in the Bois le Pretre, north of Montauville. After passing village, the gun trains found roads well impassible, due to heavy mud and steep hills. These obstacles finally overcome, the batteries found themselves faced with grave difficulties in setting up the guns for action. The soil was very hard and Rocky and there was considerable obstruction by trees of the path of the projectiles. Hard labor on the part of the men at last paved the way for action and the battalion reported ready to fire on the eighth. The first shot was fired at midnight of the ninth. The major part of the fire was directed against artillery positions in the Bois le Comete and the Bois la Cote, near Vittonville.
The Third Battalion fired 396 shots. No casualties as the result of enemy action were reported, although several men were injured by accidents while it work. The guns sections were fortunate in finding large dugouts, built by French, near at hand, and used these shelters as living quarters. "P. C. Hall," later, "P. C. Gallaghar," the post of command, was in a precarious, wrecked house in shell torn Montauville.
An un-technical description of the guns with which the Regiment worked at the Front may not be out of place at this point. 8-inch Howitzers were among the most dangerous weapons of destruction employed in the war, and had been particularly effective in the hands of the British forces by whom they were designed and originally employed. Howitzers are "High angle fire" cannon; the projectile rises in the air, clearing hills and other obstacles, and descends upon targets which would be sheltered from longer-range guns using direct fire. The diameter of the bore of the Howitzer used by the regiment was eight inchs and its length, 155 in. The weight of the gun itself was over 3 tons, gun and carriage together totaling about 10 tons. Nor were the projectiles light, those ordinarily used, containing high explosive, weighing 200 lbs. apiece. The mass of steel was sent hurtling through the air for distance of about 10,500 yards at the maximum range. The powder charge that gave this propulsion itself weighed 10 lbs. and 12 ounces, though when the maximum range was not needed, there were for lighter charges, which could be used, thus saving wear on the guns.
Neither gas nor shrapnel shells were used by the regiment, the projectiles sent over contained only high explosive. To set off this explosive when the shell arrived at its targets two types of point fuse were used, the instantaneous and the non-delay action fuses. The instantaneous fuse caused the shell to explode the instant it touches the surface of the ground-or its targets, whatever that may be. Only a slight crater is formed in the ground by this explosion, not more than 2 were 3 ft. deep. The great effect is the fragmentation of the shell itself. Splinters of steel fly in all directions and with killing effect for radius of 800 yds to the right and left, 600 yds in front and about 250 yds to the rear. The instantaneous fuse is used in "interdiction fire" or "harassing fire", where the object is to retard the movement of enemy troops, or in "Neutralizing fire", where the effort is to stop batteries of Enemy Artillery from functioning. Instantaneous fuses, for example, were used by the First Battalion on the night of November 9th and 10th, a retirement of enemy troops was expected and interdiction fire was poured all night upon certain crossroads which they were expected to use.
The non-delay fuse is not quite so prompt in its action; consequently the shell penetrates more deeply before exploding. A huge crater is formed in the ground, eight or ten feet deep and eight to fifteen feet across the top, depending upon the nature of the soil. The non-delay fuse it is very useful when the object of firing is the destruction of the material rather than the enemy personnel. It is very effective for use against dugouts, shelters and Battery emplacements. Hence it is of prime value for counter- battery work.
Signal Corps photo # 36566 Showing a Holt caterpillar tractor pulling one of Battery "E" 8" howitzers. Captain Willard M. Hall in charge. They were en route from Limey to Marril by way of Toul, Pont a Mossen, Meurtha at Moselle, France November 21st, 1918.
The method of preparing the positions and directing the fire of the guns up on targets was different from the system used by Coast Artillery in America and was a combination of American field artillery and French and British systems. After the selection of a Battery position, the first up was to locate accurately upon maps drawn according to the French system of quadrangle called "Lambert's Projection" the position and the direction of the sector of fire designated for that Battery. This involved hazardous and difficult work over rough and shell torn country, sometimes under fire, on the part of the Orienteur details. It was first necessary to locate a point whose exact position was known from previous surveys, and from this point to establish the location of the battery and stake out the center of its field of fire. Camouflage, consisting of burlap and branches of trees, was always raised over the position before work was begun. The digging-in details, thus shielded from air observation, were then sent to work excavating the gun pits, which measured about 20 ft. square. The telephone section was already at work locating existing lines and planning a net work of wires that would reduce to a minimum the chance of complete severance of communication by enemy shelling. House successfully this work was done was shown during the heavy bombardment of the First Battalion, already mentioned, when the direct wires "went out" early in the action and communication between the batteries and "P. C. Wallace" was only maintained through the auxiliary lines, which were "tapped in" on the second Battalions system.
In addition, the signal details strung lines between the battery commander's station and each of the four gun pits and maintained a switchboard at each Battery. The establishment of these connections was of course of the utmost importance from the moment work began on a position, and the man of these sections worked day and night to put in the initial lines. There was plenty of thrills in running wires over dangerously exposed ground and the life of a "Trouble shooter" was a hot skip and jump affair day in and day out.
The man that labored in shifts through a day and night, until pits were dug and the guns in place. When hard and rocky soil was encountered this was no small undertaking, and for days and nights together a work when on unceasingly. Trenches had to be cut in the floor of each pit to receive the heavy platform beams, which had to be fitted leveled to a nicety. After completion of the positions, the guns were drawn up from the rear echelon or some convenient place of concealment in the rear, by the caterpillars, usually during the night, and then rolled up on the platform. The caterpillars were sent back to the rear and again concealed. With the hauling of ammunition, the preparation of niches to receive it and the digging of slit trenches for shelter during bombardment, the Battery was ready to receive firing orders.
The targets assigned it were communicated to the batteries through the P. C.'s and the necessary computations were made by the battery commanders. To fire the shell so that it would strike the target, the Battery Commander corrected the range and direction for the weather conditions of the moment. When time permitted, both range and direction were computed from the known coordinates of gun and targets as determined from the map, the position of the gun having been determined by instrumental survey. The actual range was determined in meters and the direction, or azimuth, of the targets in degrees and minutes with reference to Lambert's North. This line of direction was then referred to the line between the gun sights and some convenient aiming point, visible from the gun, and the angle obtained was set off on the sight with the necessary corrections for wind and drift of the projectile. This angle was called the "Deflection". The actual range to the target was then corrected for variations in the muzzle velocity of the powder lot, temperature of the powder at the time, density of the atmosphere, direction and velocity of the wind and the heights of site. The result, commonly called the "corrected range," was referred to the range table and corresponding "Elevation" obtained in degrees and minutes. This angle of elevation was applied to the gun by means of the gunnerÕs quadrant, a form of spirit level graduated in degrees and minutes. The essential facts regarding atmospheric conditions were obtained every four hours from the nearest meteorological station by the radio operator at each P. C. The battalion commander then telephoned to each gun or to designated guns the elevation and deflection for laying and the number of rounds to be fired, fuses to used and rate of fire. During the preparation of firing data the gun crews were summoned to the guns and made preparations for firing, loading and laying the pieces as the firing data was received. The guns were then reported "Number 1, Ready," "Number 2, Ready," "Number 3, Ready," and so on, each gun crew striving to be the first to report ready. At the command "Fire", or in the case of a series of shots, "Commenced firing," lanyards were pulled.
During the days of action there was little or no rest for officers and men. Many of them went more than 36 hours without a moment of rest or sleep. The man spare neither themselves nor their equipment in carrying out the heavy firing program that was laid down for some batteries. This not only through a heavy physical strain on the entire personnel but was a severe test of the effectiveness of the organization. Few were put to the tests more severely than the man in the kitchens, who work tirelessly answering calls for coffee and hot food, in the night as well as all during the day.
The drivers of supply and ammunition trucks saw enough excitement to last them all their lives. Pushing through roads hub deep in mud usually at night without any lights, but sometimes during the day when dangerously exposed to enemy view, they rendered an arduous and most important service. These things were everyday occurrences, and the adventure of an unexpected treatment to shelling was not unusual. The drivers "Kept going" despite these ups and downs, and more than one is willing to swear he felt the breeze as a shell fragment grazed his head.
The Caterpillar drivers found enough work, too, to keep them from worrying or becoming homesick. Grooming a "Cat" is a man's size job - in fact, it is enough to occupy the driver and the assistant driver and a mechanic or two. But this is only a small part of the job. Maneuvering and 8 inch howitzer to the Front, together with its platform, is the real thing. Crossing dangerously weakened bridges, turning abrupt corners, digging through deep mud holes, climbing banks and sliding down cliffs, all in utter darkness without lighting even a match, gave these men the chance to show that they could "deliver the goods" without needing the thrill of battle.
Sniffing for gas by the hour does not sound like hard work, but when it is realized that upon the gas sentry's ability smell, and smell correctly, depended perhaps lives of all of a Battery, it is evident that he had no "cinch". Then he was always open to more or less chafing from his comrades. He appeared to be doing little enough, in comparison with those who were digging pits or serving their pieces, but in reality he was rendering a service of the highest importance.
The 11th of November, 1918, brought that great event, the signing of the Armistice by Marshal Foch, bringing peace to the world in arms. Peace spelled Victory and Victory spelled Home. There was no excited celebration of the tremendous news on the part of the Regiment, but there was deep and heartfelt satisfaction, the 58th was grateful that after its many months of preparation and waiting, it had succeeded in playing a worthy part in the great cause. The officers' mess at Regimental headquarters in Rosiéres-en-Haye observed the occasion on November 13th by having a dinner as grand as circumstances allowed, which was at once a celebration of the peace and a formal welcome to the new Regimental Commander, Colonel Carpenter.
At the moment of the Armistice, 11 o'clock in the morning, officers and men completely relaxed for the first time in weeks, and, while there was celebration all over the world, these men on the Front were almost dazed in the realization that it was all over. The men disappeared into their dugouts and shelters to enjoy a well-earned rest. The overwhelming relief that everyone felt was too deep for ordinary expressions. The event that had just occurred seemed to blot out all thought and to dwarf into insignificance all personal feelings.
Signal Corps photo # 36568 Showing a 120 hp Holt caterpillar tractor pulling an 8-inch Howitzer of Battery E, 58th Regiment CAC., in charge of the 108th Supply Train (formerly detachments 7th Regiment Infantry, Illinois National Guard). This unit was with the 33rd Division. Photo taken on the front near Toul, Meurtha at Moselle, France November 22nd, 1918.
For an interval following the signing of the Armistice, the batteries remained in their various positions and considerable time was spent in salvaging war material along the Front. Then the long homeward movement began. On the 21st the first move was made, southward, to the village of Bruley, just west of Toul. Each organization marched from its station to the village of Loviant, where the regimental train was formed, and the March was continued to the destination. This meant a hike of 43 km in one day for the Third Battalion, which came in fagged but "Game" that night. The guns were drawn over the roads by the caterpillars without mishap to men or material on this and each subsequent moved until they were turned over finally to the Ordnance Department. The next day's journey brought the Regiment to Pagny-sur-Meuse, where a longer stay was made. Here there were shower baths, the first available since the Regiment left Vignory. On Thanksgiving Day, 28th, the next stage of the journey in cold, rainy weather ended at Houdelaincourt, between Vancouleurs and Joinville. The Regiment left Houdelaincourt at 2:00 a.m. on December 1st. The weather was wretched. It was bitter cold and either raining or snowing continually. Most of the men were carried on trucks, but those whose duty kept them with the guns were enroute for many hours continuously and found the experience one of the toughest pieces of "Soldiering" they had met with in France. The splendid physical condition of the troops may be inferred from the fact that of the men subjected to this exposure none suffered a serious effects. The objective of the journey was the "18th Artillery Area," a region northwest of Chaumont, given over to Heavy Artillery troops and under the command of Brigadier General Davis. The Regimental Headquarters, including Headquarters and Supply Companies, the First Battalion Headquarters and Battery A were located in the town of Charmes-la-Grande; Battery B was billeted in Charmes-en-l'Angle; the Second Battalion Headquarters and Battery C in Brachay; Battery D in Flammerécourt; Battery F in Leschéres, and the Third Battalion Headquarters and Battery E in Ambonville. The Regiment now settled down to prepare for the final journey homeward. Later on, the Third Battalion moved from the to last name villages to Rouvroy, near the railhead at Donjeux.
The vast amount of government property possessed by the Regiment had now become an encumbrance and was ready to be disposed of. Each lot inspected, invoiced and turned in became an occasion for rejoicing. The Howitzers and caterpillars, In spick and span condition, were loaded at the familiar station of Vignory, and finally dispatched, on December 11th, to the Ordnance Depot at Mehun. The good condition in which property held by the Regiment was turned over received favorable comment. Trucks, touring cars and motorcycles were turned into motor parks as fast as conditions permitted.
On December 16th a regimental Parade was held in a meadow near Flemmerécourt. It was the first time in the history of the Regiment that all three Battalions were assembled in one formation, and the first occasion that the Third Battalion had ever seen the Regimental Colors. The following day the 58th participated with the 44th, 51st and 60th Artillery Regiments and the 53rd Ammunition Train, in a Brigade review near Mertrud, with Colonel R. M. Mitchell, C.A.C., in command and with Major General W. S. McNair, Chief of Artillery of the First Army, and as reviewing officer. After the review the officers were assembled and complementary speeches were made by Generals McNair and Davis.
Christmas drew near. Soon the famous Red Cross "Amexforces" "3 x 4 x 9 in." packages, straight from home and guaranteed to bring holiday cheer over thousands of miles, began to arrive. Mess sergeants and cooks were the men of the hour. With the scantiest of materials they produced such wonders of culinary art that the palates of the most home sick boys were tickled. The doughnuts of Battery C became famous the country round and were dispensed with Liberality by the kitchen staff of the Battery to all comers on several occasions. The country was scoured for pork and fowl, rare articles in that region after four years of close proximity to the battlefront. Company funds were drawn upon to supply many articles not furnished by the Government as essential in the makeup of a real Christmas dinner. Many of the men decorated their billets and mess halls with greens, in decided contrast to the French who took the day more soberly. With the precious remembrances from home and the hearty contributions of generous cooks, it was a real Christmas despite the separation from family and friends. Several impromptu minstrel shows and vaudeville stunts were staged in barns and mess shacks, which helped to enliven the days for the men. These performances were so popular that a regimental minstrel troupe was organized under the name of "The Whiz-Bangs," a term descriptive of one of the most dreaded shells in the war. Entertainments were given by them throughout the 18th Area. Colonel Carpenter, following old time Army custom, gave a party for the officers on the afternoon of New Year's at his billet, a chateau near Charmes-la-Grande.
There was drilling and hiking almost every day for each Battery, but great emphasis was placed on policing the various villages, and it may be said that each one of them was as neat as a new pin. The men not only cleaned their own billets, which were vacant rooms and haylofts, furnished with double-decker board bunks, but the entire street area, backyards of French homes, all public spaces and neighboring fields as well. In January regimental schools were started in accordance with orders effective throughout the A.E.F.. Class's in English, French, mathematics, history, geography and various other subjects were started, attendance being voluntary. The teachers were volunteers from the officers and men.
The regiment lost a great number of men during this period by transferred to various departments of the A.E.F., owing to their special qualifications for certain kinds of work. Some went to the Postal Express Service, some to the Chief Quartermaster, A.E.F. at Tours, and others to various branches of the service.
Detachments from the regiment were engaged all during this period in loading for shipment guns and caterpillars of other Coast Artillery regiments, which had been ordered home. The material of eight other regiments, which had been parked in the 18th Area, was maneuvered to the nearest railroad, carefully loaded aboard flatcars and dispatched. This through heavy work on the Regiments Caterpillar drivers and on special details assigned from every Battery for this work. However as many men as could despaired were allowed to go on leave, some of the most attractive resorts of France, taken over as these centers by the American military authorities. Aix-les-Bains and Grenoble were among the well-known spots men of the Regiment were privileged to visit.
Meanwhile, hardly a day pass without its rumor as to entraining orders. The Regiment had hoped to reach a base port on the homeward journey by January 1st, but week after week passed with no definite orders. Finally, instructions were received for the Regiment, excepting the Third Battalion, to entrain at Wassy on the 24th of January for Base Section No. 2 at Bordeaux. With a parting clean up of its villages the 58th moved via trucks to Wassy and boarded a real American freight train. The men were in roomy boxcars, bedded with straw and marked U.S.A., which afforded a luxurious trip compared with the "Hommes 40, Chevaux 8" brand of car to which they were accustomed. Leaving shortly after noon, the train took the route, Troyes - Chateauroux - Limoges - Libourne. At the last named town it was switched to a branch line and it came to stop at the station of St. Laurent-des-Combes at 10:00 a.m. on the 26th. The Detraining was soon accomplished and the various units started in heavy marching order, trucks being scarce on the hike to Branne (Gironde), the new billeting center. Battery A was located in Vergnonet, a kilometer or so from Branne, where all the other units were grouped.
The school program was now reopened and a light drill schedule was maintained. The men were in fine spirits. Hope of an early return home prompted the imaginations to impossible dreams. The weather was as pleasant as that in the Haute Marne district had been disagreeable and the people were kind and hospitable, reminding the men of their first warm friends in St. Léonard. The billets, however, were poor, stoves being scarce and firewood at a premium, but the sweet rich wine of this region was recompense to some extent for any discomfort. The hillsides of the district were covered with vineyards which constituted the principal industry of that country.
For the first time the regiment now have the opportunity to put into effect and athletic program, including basketball and a field meet, in accord with the liberal, athletic policy throughout the American forces in Europe. Various games and defense were staged, culminating on February 1st, 1919, in a field meet for the regimental championship. This date was the anniversary of the formation of the 58th Artillery and was declared a holiday by Colonel Carpenter, who reviewed the troops in the forenoon in the public square. After the ceremony Colonel Carpenter addressed the Regiment, reminding its members of the significance of the occasion and commending their soldierly bearing and fine qualities.
The Third Battalion joined Battery A at Vignonet on February 5th. The next day the Regiment started to move by truck to Camp Ancona, at Bassens, close to the American docks, of the port of Bordeaux. For a week the organization occupied tents while the personnel was busy getting broken in to stevedore work on the docks. On the 16th of February the Third Battalion moved to Poudererie Barracks, near Bassens, from Vignonet and on the next day the remainder of the Regiment joined them there. The housing facilities consisted of wooden barracks, formerly used by the French for Annamite troops.
The entire Regiment was now assigned to dock work while awaiting its turn to enter the Embarkation Camp for final inspection before the return to America. Practically the whole Regiment, excepting only those men necessary for administration, worked daily loading the enormous amounts of supplies on freight trains for shipment to the American forces in Europe.
General Pershing, the Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, made an inspection of the Bordeaux area and on the 27th of February visited the docks and reviewed the 58th, which was drawn up in two Battalions on the waterfront. Accompanied by Brigadier General Walsh, Commanding the Base Section, General Pershing inspected each Battalion and then assemble the officers and sergeants in front of the ranks. He made the following brief address:
"I cannot let this command go home without saying a few words. I appreciate what you have done, for you have done it well. Your services at the Front were very satisfactory, and the people at home are entitled to know that you were a unit in the greatest military machine in the world. It is an honor to have been a member of the American Expeditionary Forces, and units not so fortunate in getting to the Front are nevertheless part of this great machine."
"Your work and the work of the entire American Expeditionary Forces was not only routine; the machine depended on each man to do his best, and I certainly appreciate your splendid work."
"I want this command to go home morally sound and in good physical condition. Please convey to the men what I have just said, as it is impossible for me to speak to all."
The "Whiz-Bangs," the Regiment's minstrel troupe, went on a tour of several weeks, playing before soldier audiences in "huts," hospitals and various theaters all over the Base Section and as far away as Limoges. The show was tremendously popular in the Bordeaux area and elsewhere, and remained in great demand during the rest of the regiments stay in France. Efforts were made by the Entertainment Bureau of the Y.M.C.A. to induce the members of the troupe to remain indefinitely in the A.E.F. for entertainment purposes, but the men were all too anxious to get home to consent to this arrangement. Performances were all given after leaving France, both on the Transport and after arrival in New York. The minstrels were entirely independent of outside help, staging and costumes being their own work, and the Regiment was justly proud of their achievements.
On March 20th the Regiment moved by marching to the Embarkation Camp at Genicart, a few miles from the docks. The first stop was the Entrance Camp were records were checked, preparatory to inspection in the Permanent Camp. Batteries E and F and the Supply Company entered the latter on March 22nd, and the remainder of the Regiment on the 27th. There was only a short hike from one camp to the other, but the awe-inspiring ordeal of the "Delousing Plant", called "The Mill", which was the introduction to the new camp, will long be remembered.
The purpose of this institution was to examine the men and their property thoroughly before their embarkation, so that no members of the Expeditionary Forces would return home in improper physical condition or with incomplete equipment. In "The Mill" a soldier presented all his belongings for inspection, then personally checked the information on his Service Record, put his clothing through a dry-heat germ-destroyer, bathed, had a searching physical examination, was reclothed, completely outfitted and departed via the barbershop, where he got a hair cut if one was deemed necessary. The whole process was carried out with thoroughness and required only about two hours per Battery.
One of the most distressing incidence of the Regiment's stay in France was the death of Cook Edward F. Bentz, of Battery F, which occurred the day his unit entered the Permanent Camp. His death resulted from a bayonet wound accidentally inflicted when arms and equipment were being prepared for inspection.
It soon became known that while the 58th was ready to embark, it must still wait some time on account of a prolonged shortage of transports. However, the men felt that they would soon "Make it" - to use a slang expression of the day, "It" implying home, of course, and made the best of the situation as they always had done. For the first time since the days of La Courtine the ball team had a chance to show its ability, and several games were put on with various Engineer Regiments then in the Camp. The 11th Engineers, which had been organize at Fort Totten and it reached France nearly a year ahead of the 58th, were loyal supporters of the Regiment in all these contests. In evidence of the friendly sentiments between the troops of the two regiments and the high regard entertained for Colonel William B. Parsons, Commanding the 11th Engineers, Colonel Carpenter invited him to review the 58th. This ceremony took place on the Parade Ground a few days before the two regiments embarked. Colonel Parsons in a short address thank the Regiment through it its officers for the compliments, and remarked upon the extraordinarily fine appearance of the troops.
During this stay here the 58th received complement of being chosen as the guard of honor to Field Marshall Pétain, of the French Army, on his arrival in Bordeaux on official visit on April 8th. The Regiment was drawn up in line on the square in front of the Gare du Midi, Bordeaux. The Marshall with his staff of high French and American officers reviewed the Regiment.
Excellent soldier shows, moving pictures, several welfare huts and basketball games also contributed to make the stay here as pleasant as could be expected for soldiers who were waiting to go home.
The happiest day the men had known since leaving home came with the announcement of sailing orders. In the early evening of Tuesday, April 15th, 1919, the Regiment formed in columns of twos on the Parade Ground and marched away to the docks - those same docks were the men at work so long while waiting to go to the Embarkation Camp. Along a hike over very muddy roads and with packs heavy with souvenirs and presents could not dampen their spirits, and by 9:00 the entire organization was in the big Red Cross shed, opposite which the SANTA BARBARA, the 58th Transport, was tied up. The Red Cross was generous as ever with coffee and sandwiches. Troops were checked aboard the ship with minimum delay and by 11:00 every officer and man of the Regiment was in his place. The SANTA BARBARA left her birth at 7:00 the next morning and steamed down the mouth of the Gironde, where she anchored a few hours. She put to sea about noon.
The ship carried 48 officers and 1,553 men, comprising the entire Regiment. The SANTA BARBARA was an oil-burner of the William R. Grace Co., converted to use as a transport. This was her first trip would troops. She was clean and comfortable, though she occasionally pitched and rolled enough to upset the equilibrium of the soldiers. The Band gave frequent concerts during the voyage, the "Whiz-Bangs" put on several shows and there were a few boxing matches, these events serving to break the monotony of the long trip.
The ship reached New York Harbor on the morning of April 27th. This was the most longed for moment of all. For months there had been talk of greeting again the Goddess of Liberty and the seeing again the inspiring skyline of New York. Now the time had arrived. The men hung over the rails, some climbed up on the lifeboats, some hung high up in the rigging and others were perched in the crow's-nest. The boats of the Mayor's Reception Committee, filled with welcoming relatives, met the transport in the Bay and escorted her to her berth at Bush Terminal docks, Brooklyn. The greeting of all New York, as it seemed, was a manifestation no man could ever forget.
By noon the Regiment had disembarked and, after a hearty Red Cross lunch, was reloaded on a ferry and landed at Long Island City. Here favors in the form of cake, chewing gum and cigarettes were distributed. The Regiment was entrained in three sections for Camp Upton, Long Island, New York, were all arrived by 8:00. Four men, owing to sickness on the transport, were transferred to the Naval Hospital authorities at New York.
While awaiting Demobilization orders, the troops had liberal pass privileges to New York City, where many of them lived. Hundreds of relatives came to the camp. The Demobilization of the New York men was completed on Wednesday, May 7th, when discharges from the United States Army were handed to 548 men. The Regular Army men, numbering 179, were transferred to permanent or semi-permanent organizations at Camp Upton or elsewhere.
The remaining men were divided into detachments to be sense to the Demobilization camps nearest their homes. These groups were sent out under the command of officers of the 58th as fast as railway facilities could be provided. The officers were given discharges as they could be spared, except those wishing to remain in the service, who were assigned to other organizations. Regimental records were turned in and the Regimental and Battalion Colors were forwarded by Colonel Carpenter to the Adjutant General of the state of New York, in compliance with War Department orders to the effect that they should go to the state having the largest representation in any organization. The 58th Artillery, C.A.C., ceased to exist as an organization May 13th, 1919.
The regimental Commander bade the officers and men farewell in the following General Order:
58TH ARTILLERY, C.A.C.
May 5th, 1919
General Orders No. 5
To the Officers and Men of the 58th Artillery, C.A.C.:
On the eve of our separation, I wish to express my appreciation of the splendid work of the officers and men of this Regiment during the time that it is been my good fortune to command, and to say that I shall always remember with pride my service with you. Your good work under my command has been characteristic of the entire service of the regiment since its organization. Your attention and devotion to duty in training, at the Front and since the Armistice, has been of the highest order and merited praise received from our superior officers and the French population wherever the Regiment served in France. You were always ready and willing to endure the hardships required by the service. The health and discipline of the Command has been excellent under the most trying circumstances.
It is gratifying to us to know that the Regiment is typically American, consisting as it does of men from the Regular Army, the National Guard, men from every part of our country and for many of the foreign countries that have contributed to our population.
You can return to your homes with every assurance of the appreciation and gratitude of our nation and with a feeling of satisfaction for duty well performed. Your friends and loved ones can feel proud of the service you have rendered our beloved country and the cause of humanity.
I thank you for the loyalty and support you have given me in carrying out the orders of our superiors and for the high standard of discipline that each has helped to maintain. With best wishes for the best of health and good fortune for each and everyone, I am
Sincerely and faithfully yours,
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