My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 22 – France – “[Thanksgiving] dinner consisted of burnt beans…”

My Grandfather’s World War I Log Book – Part 22 – France

November 17 – 30, 1918

“Our big turkey [Thanksgiving] dinner consisted of burnt beans…”

My comments: My grandfather was with the U.S. Army 111th Engineers battalion. In this excerpt from his Log Book, he describes the days after the signing of the Armistice ending World War I, when his regiment hiked for 12 days (including 7 days in the rain) across France.  He described how the troops “cussed every officer they could think of” by the last day of their exhausting marches.  He also described his unappetizing Thanksgiving dinner.  I am adding photos to accompany the text from his Log Book.

More Comments: The troops must have hiked a circuitous route, as my grandfather estimated that they marched 275 miles during the 12 days, not 233 km/145 miles as shown when I searched the approximate route on Google maps.  What could account for the discrepancy?  One factor is that the roads were probably packed with troops, animals, wagons and supply trucks.  The 111th Engineers may have needed to take many detours each day.  The second factor is that the roads were in disastrous condition due to years of shelling by both the Germans and the French, as told in previous excerpts from the Log Book describing the work of the 111th Engineers to try to make roads passable.

World War I, Engineers

Photo of my grandfather’s U.S. Army 111thEngineers patch from World War I

Excerpts from Log Book*:

November 17th, 1918: Left wood on hike at 7:30 A.M., arrived at Les Isellets at 4 P.M.  That was our last stopping place when we were headed for the front last Sept.”

November 18th: On hike at 7:30 A.M., reached Villers Argonne at 4:30 P.M.  Corp. Cummings was sent to the hospital.”

November 19th: Left at 7:30 A.M.  The boys feet are sure all in, blistered and tired.  Arrived at French Aeroplane Hangers near Revigny at 5 P.M. Pvt. W. Luckensmier joined us here.”

Destruction in Revigny, 1915 (photo from Toulouse archive)

November 20th: On hike at 7 A.M.  Our packs are getting pretty heavy.  Was billeted at Chancenay.”

Map of approximate route of the 12 days of hiking by the 111thEngineers from November 17 to November 29, 1918.  The troops must have hiked a circuitous route, as my grandfather estimated that they marched 275 miles during the 12 days, not 233 km/145 miles as shown on Google maps above.

November 21st: Sgt. Hatcher sent to hospital this morning. On hike at 7 A.M.  Pvt. Tedford caught up with us.  Reached Pont-Varin at 3:30 P.M.

November 22nd: On hike at 7 A.M.  Sure leaving many miles behind us.  It seems as if we have walked across the country 2 or 3 times already. Reached Soliere-Dommartin at 5 P.M.”

Mass held at a bombed-out chapel in Dommartin during World War I (photo from National Museum of Health and Medicine)

November 23rd: Hike at 7 A.M.  Reached Pratz at 2:30 P.M.”

November 24th: On hike at 7 A.M.  Lignol at noon.”

November 25th: Rained all day.  Supposed to rest, but had inspection & did fatigue all day.”

November 26th: Pvt. Tedford sent back to hospital.  On hike at 7 A.M.  Reached Ailleville at 3:30 P.M.  We are just 8 kilos from Argancon, the town where we took our training in France.”

November 27th: On hike at 7 A.M.  Arrived at Landreville at 5:30 P.M.”

November 28th: Thanksgiving day.  On hike at 7 A.M.  This sure has been hell on the boys as it has been raining the past seven days.  Our packs weigh a ton.  Our big turkey [Thanksgiving] dinner consisted of burnt beans, corn, wooly wet bread & bum coffee.  Reached Arthonnay at 7 P.M., all in.”

November 29th: On hike at 7 A.M.  & reached our destination at 8 P.M.  The boys sure cussed every officer they could think of. I’ll be darned if I blame them; sure did some cussing myself.  We made about 90 kilos the last couple of days.  We are billeted at Charrey just about 10 kilos from Tonnerre on the canal. We have walked about 275 miles since the 17th and that’s going some.”

Canal of Burgundy near Tonnerre in 2012.  I am sure it did not look this pristine November 29, 1918 when my grandfather was there!

November 30th: Our long deserved day of rest.”

 

Next post will be — “Received Xmas box from mother.”

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*Quotes are from my grandfather Sergeant 1st Class Lou Sheckard’s World War I handwritten Log Book.  He describes his experience with the U.S. Army 111th Engineers from March 1, 1917 to June 15, 1919.  To learn how I discovered this 100-year-old family treasure, click here.

Peter Finkle bio: Husband, Father, Writer | Herbal Health Researcher | Co-Founder: Vets Vites dietary supplements

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