The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.
"Troopship Sunk by Submarine" and "First American Casualty List" - The Daily People's Press. October 21, 1917
On the Regiment's first full day at sea enroute to France, George Leach describes a rough scene in his diary. Many of the men on the ship, the S. S. Transport President Lincoln, are suffering from seasickness, which impedes operations and military preparations. The men would not reach their destination until the end of the month.
Saturday, October 20th
Four hundred miles east of Hatteras at sunrise. Sea is rough and most of the men sick. Whole day spent in drill and inspection below decks. Two men lost over-board last night. So many of the officers are sick that it makes a tough day for the others. The hold and decks at times look simply hopeless, and all you can do is to keep at it. Details for work get sick before they report, and it is a constant fight to get things done. Tonight the sea is not running so high.
Citatoin: George Leach Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1963
Mary T. Hill wrote in her diary about the success of the 2nd Liberty Loan campaign, which sold government war bonds in the Twin Cities. Apparently a newspaper report proclaimed that $17 million in Liberty Loans were purchased in St. Paul. These bonds were heavily advertised and and marketed as a way for common people to show their support, as they were used by the government to fund the war.
October 19, Friday; North Oaks.
Yesterdays paper reported 17 million subscribe to 2nd Liberty Loan in St. Paul. This is another dark morning - flurries of snow down to 28 last night at 930. In the afternoon I went over to Rachels to see the children found them in the Barn seeing the calves. Helen Bunn and Annita [sic] Furness came out for the night.
Citation: 1915-1920. Mary T. Hill Papers. 64. C.5.6 Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 64.C.5.6
"U.S. Coasts Are To Be War Zones" and "Sentences Pickets: Judge Gives Four Suffragists Six Months in Jail." - The Daily People's Press. October 18, 1917.
Bugler Floyd Gramps was a member of the Signal Service of Company F. 18th Engineers Ry. He died when he was struck by a train while on guard duty alone near the train tracks. Information surrounding his death is murky at best, but this could just as easily have been declared a suicide as an accidental death. Gramps' Gold Star Roll includes a photo, copy of a letter from his Commanding Officer, and typed excerpts from his diary. One entry from Sept 1, 1918 tells of the French people and the soldier's preference for the French people over the English people they encountered when they first reached Europe.
Tues. Aug. 28 - Got up five o'clock in the morning and packed all articles ready to leave about 9:45 for South Fampton Harbor. We are not at the harbor waiting till 5:00 oclock to sail across the english Channel. We will be to France soon. In the harnor [sic] is the largest ship afloat,- Aquitania, speed 30 some knots - it is used as a hospital ship. Another ship called _____ and there are several men painting the ship to rather resemble a monoplane or to make it appear smaller so that it would be hart do submerge. Very strange that we did not take the boat to France Yesterday. We boys can't understand their reasons but anyway we went out to the rest camp of South Hampton at 5:00. Aug. 28 A.M. The people were very curious as we marched out to Camp Rest. Stayed over night at Camp Rest.
Citation: "Gramps, Floyd M." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.3B
In 1917, the University of Minnesota awarded Dr. R. E. Morris of St. Paul a medal for his service in the First World War. The circular, gold-colored medal, which is pictured below, features an image of a woman holding a torch. Along the border, it reads, “FOR / DEMOCRACY / TO / MAKE / THE / WORLD / SAFE”. Inscribed in the center is, “AWARDED TO / R.E. MORRIS / IN RECOGNITION OF / HIS PATRIOTIC / SERVICE.” The back side of the medal features a date as well as the name of the awarding organization: “THE / UNIVERSITY / OF / MINNESOTA / 1917.”
Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 6591
"Another Advance by British Indicated by Artillery Action" and "Violation of Voluntary Censorship by Papers Strongly Condemned" - The Duluth Herald. October 15, 1917
With continued poor weather in Tours, France, David Backus and his flight school classmates begin to feel the effects of being kept grounded by the conditions. Though this entry suffers from particularly illegible handwriting, Backus mentions spending most of his day downtown (in the rain) after a lecture on map reading. He meets up with some friends, and later witnesses some fights break out at the canteen back at the base. Backus attributes this behavior to the weather messing with everyone's heads.
Note: Backus has his days of the week mixed up-- he had two Thursdays earlier in the week. He eventually gets back on track near the end of the month, but the hectic and weather-dependant schedule of military flight school seems to have him confused as to the day of the week. He writes that is is Saturday, but it is actually Sunday.
Saturday Oct. 14-17
Still raining lecture on compass + map reading voyages etc. Cleaned up at 11. Went downtown on truck back 2 - Well it started to rain - cleared up three but heavy wind. John Hurlbent (?) took me down to dinner. We walked down - Got our hair cut. [...] for dinner met Stuffy + Foster there [...] truck back 10:30. Lot of fellows stayed downtown. Big crew light up at the Canteen last night, few fights etc. This weather is playing [..] with everybody. Hours of flying changed I now fly from 2 P.M. until dark 5:30. used to fly from 4- +5. Rolled in.
This letter from George R. Case, the chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee, to the Chairman of the American Red Cross in Minneapolis conveys Case's regrets that his committee cannot perform the task it was organized to do: to meet troop trains with refreshments. Case describes how he organized volunteers, conducted research, and arranged for food and equipment. The Committee faced an impasse, however, in trying to obtain train schedules, since the movement of troop trains was generally kept secret. Case also found that soldiers were not permitted to bring food onto the trains. In his letter, Case expresses his regrets to the chairman and assures his that if their task becomes possible, the volunteers will be ready to complete it. Railway canteens eventually became allowed in December 1918.
October 13th 1917.
Mr. Karl DeLaittre,
Chairman American Red Cross Minneapolis.
Dear Mr. DeLaittre;-
I am sorry that as chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee I cannot report substantial service rendered. When you asked me to organize a committee to meet troop trains with refreshments the idea appealed so strongly that I asked my company, K company, of the Civilian Auxilliary, [sic] for volunteers for the service. [...] After quite a thorough investigation which included interviews with many of the men and officers of the First Minnesota, the nature of the refreshments most appreciated by men on troop trains was determined and arrangements made with the Minneapolis Club to provide such food of the best quality at cost on short notice. The necessary equipment was also arranged for. There only remained the matter of locating the troop trains in time to provide service. I wrote to the representatives of the railraods entering the Twin Cities requesting their cooperation in the way of advising us of movements of such trains and was informed that the most positive instructions had been issued that no such news should be divulged. On taking the matter up with army authorities I found this to be the case. For evident military reasons troop trains are moved with as little publicity as possible and care is taken to avoid stop in large cities unless necessary. [...] With the case the drafted men leaving for cantonments we found that the insructions to the draft boards prohibited the men from taking food aboard trains which rendered service there impossible. [...]
It is possible that conditions may yet allow the committee to perform in some way its function and if so the list is still on file and there will be a ready response.
Very truly yours,
George R. Case