Casualties of September 29, 1918

Author: 
Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

As the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources' week-long effort to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the deadliest day of WWI for North Carolinia service individuals--the attack and breaking through by the 30th Division of the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918, at the Battle of St. Quentin Canal (also referred to as the Battle of Bellicourt)--we wish to bring you different perspectives of the events and experiences of those who were casualities of that day. To date, NC DNCR has a count of 241 North Carolinians killed on that day. Some men were injured that day and died weeks later, while other men died later in October 1918 as part of the same battle. For today's blog post, we want to share photographs of those who served and sacrificed during this period, with a little bit about where they were from in North Carolina and their units. This is only a sampling of all those North Carolinians who sacrificed on September 29.

Col. Sidney W. Minor

 

Col. Sidney W. Minor was the regimental commander of the 120th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army, during the attack by the Allies on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. The 120th Infantry was able to break the line, while its sister regiment the 119th Infantry, 30th Division, could not break through. Minor survived the war and the battle. The 120th Infantry saw a great number of casualties that under Col. Minor's watch, of which he discusses in a unit history he wrote in 1919 as follows:

"Had they failed they could have been forgiven, but they did not fail, and the rays of the sun piercing the fog at 10:00 A.M. found the 120th [Infantry] on their objective, the only regiment in the whole attack who went through on time. The road was opened to the Australians, the lines had been broken, the defenses were ours. Our losses were grievous, but the accomplishments, as Field Marshall Sir D. Haig said, ‘made final victory possible.’"--The 120th Infantry, USA, On His Majesty’s Service by Col. Sidney W. Minor.

Archibald W. Limer

Born in New York City, 1st Lt. Archibald W. Limer was raised in the community of Afton in Warren County, N.C. He served in the North Carolina National Guard in the Warrenton, N.C., guard unit, prior to his unit being called into federal active service for WWI in 1917. Limer served in Company H, 120th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army, during WWI. During the push on the Hindenburg Line, he was killed on September 29, 1918. His body was sent back home eventually, and interred in the Providence Methodist Church Cemetery in Warrenton, N.C. 

Eugene E. McDonald

Eugene Earl McDonald was born and raised in Cumberland County, N.C. McDonald appears to have enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard prior the United States’ entrance into World War I in April 1917. He may have served with Company F, 2nd Infantry Regiment, North Carolina National Guard, when the National Guard was called to the Mexican border in 1916, as part of the U.S. Army’s Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. Whether or not he was with the National Guard for this action, McDonald was serving in Company F, 2nd Infantry, when it was called into federal military service for WWI. His unit was sent for basic training at Camp Sevier, S.C., on August 9, 1917, where it was federalized as Company F, 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Arriving on May 11th, McDonald and his unit marched from the train for the Philadelphia docks, where they boarded the British steamship SS Laomedon. The ship left the dock at 2 P.M. on May 11, 1918, sailing for England.

Cpl. McDonald served for the remained of 1918 with Company F, 119th Infantry. He was involved in the following military actions in France and Belgium throughout 1918: Ypres, July 26-August 1, 1918; Ypres, August 21-26, 1918; and Bellicourt, France, September 27-29, 1918. McDonald was severely wounded at Bellicourt on September 29, 1918, though it is unknown for sure how he was wounded. After the Armistice, McDonald was transferred to the 291st Company, Military Police Corps, U.S. Army, to serve with the Allied occupation forces in Europe.

Jerry Harris

Jerry Harris was born and raised in the town of Roanoke Rapids in Halifax County, N.C. Harris served in Company H, 3rd Infantry, North Carolina National Guard, prior to the United States' entrance into WWI. When his unit was called into active federal service, he was assigned as a Private in Company H, 120th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Harris was killed in action on September 29, 1918, though his body was never recovered. He is listed officially as missing in action, and listed on the "Tablets of the Missing" at the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial in France.

Larry Jordan

Larry Jordan was born in Northampton County, N.C. He was living in the town of Roanoke Rapids in Halifax County, N.C., prior to WWI, where he worked in a cotton mill in the town. Jordan served in Company H, 3rd Infantry, North Carolina National Guard, prior to the United States' entrance into WWI. When his unit was called into active federal service, he was assigned as a Private in Company H, 120th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Jordan was severely wounded on September 29, 1918. He was able to rejoin his unit after he recovered, and stayed with his unit until they left France around the start of April 1919.

Joseph J. Bumpus

Joseph Jethro Bumpus was born and raised in Halifax County, N.C. He was living in Enfield, N.C., when he enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard prior to the United States' entrance into WWI, serving in Company D, 3rd Infantry. When his unit was called into active federal service, he was assigned as a Private and later Private First Class in Company D, 120th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Although it is not known for sure where he was when he was killed, Bumpus was killed in action on the last day of the Battle of St. Quentin Canal, October 10, 1918. He made it through the initial push along the Hindenburg Line only to fall at the end of the push. Bumpus was buried in the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial in France, in Plot A, Row 26, Grave 1.

John E. Ray Jr.

The State of North Carolina has no better-documented sacrifice during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line than that of John Edwin Ray Jr. Ray Jr. was born and raised in Wake County, N.C. He graduate from Cornell Medical School at Cornell University in New York with high honors in June 1912.  Ray Jr. was drafted into military service on August 7, 1917, as a First Lieutenant with the Medical Corps in the North Carolina National Guard. When the National Guard was called into federal military service, they were reassigned as the 30th Division of the U.S. Army. Ray Jr. then served in the 105th Field Signal Battalion and the 119th Infantry, 30th Division, U.S. Army, during World War I. He received a promotion to Captain on March 16, 1918—the rank he would hold until his death.

On September 29, 1918, Ray was serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, attached to the 119th Infantry. He and his fellow medic William D. Ervin were preparing the night before for the work they would have on the battlefield the following day, as Ervin describes in a letter to Ray's mother:

"At eleven o'clock [September 28, 1918] he [Ray Jr.] called me and requested that I fill two large bags with dressings. He soon joined me and we went into the front line with Headquarters of the 3rd Battalion with scissors, forceps and dressings. Our bags were well loaded and with nothing more with which to work. It took until nearly daybreak on September 29 for us to reach an old out post of the enemies' where we located in an open trench with no protection whatsoever from a terrific barrage that was started at 5:50 [A.M.] and as bad counter barrage thrown by the enemy. Our two bags of dressings and a Red Cross flag tied to the butt of a rifle which had been stuck in the ground constituted all our equipment of supplies. Before noon we had dressed more than 300 wounded and long before that our supplies had been exhausted but by taking the individual dressing packets off men who had been killed on the field, we managed to not let a single wounded man go unattended."

"Among our wounded that day was a German who had been shot several times thru the abdomen and had little or no chance to live. Naturally a man in his condition would be held back until all men with a greater chance for recovery had been evacuated, so this poor man lay thru from early morn until nearly dusk, but not unnoticed, for Captain Ray at every opportunity would raise his head and give him a drink from his own canteen until his last drop was gone, and would then go out on the field and fill it from that of a slain soldier. Near night when we were forced to go back for supplies, Captain took one end of the stretcher that bore the German prisoner (about three o'clock on the afternoon of the 29th he divided his last piece of chocolate with me, the first he had had to eat since noon the 27th)."

"When we returned to our post with fresh supplies it was again filled with wounded and here we worked until early morning of September 30 when I was sent forward to a vent in the tunnel where the St. Quentin canal ran under the town of Bellicourt to investigate conditions. It was quite a distance and before I returned Captain [Ray] had become impatient and had himself gone forward with an officer from the 118th Infantry, but taking a different route from that I took. In this way I lost him and he found one of the other boys from the Detachment who was with him his day in the line."

"He was severely wounded in the thigh about six o'clock on September 30, but insisted that he be allowed to walk back to the ambulances, a distance of about 5 miles. 'Twas here that I sawm him last, I having reported here for orders and was retained. On his way back he had dressed several wounded men in less serious condition than himself. Although suffering greatly, he had apparently no thought of self but had the welfare of the others that had been wounded in his heart and insisted that help be sent immediately from where he had come" [from undated letter from William D. Ervin to Mrs. Ray, Folder 6, John E. Ray Jr. Papers, WWI 73, WWI Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.]

After successful surgery at the Officers Division of the 74th General Hospital, U.S. Army, in France to remove the artillery shell fragment from his thigh, Capt. John Ray Jr. succumbed to gas gangrene that infected the wounded. He died on October 5, 1918, in the hospital. For his heroism, John E. Ray Jr. was posthumously awarded the British Military Cross.

Macon Twins of Franklin County, N.C.

This is the story of one twin brother's death a few weeks after the other twin was injured during the push on the Hindenburg Line.

Willie Glenn and Alexander Wilson Macon were twins, and born on May 30, 1892, in the city of Louisburg in Franklin County, N.C., to William Jefferson and Susan Jordan Wilson Macon.

Alexander Wilson (who went by “Wilson”) enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard in Louisburg, N.C., on November 18, 1915, and assigned to Company D, 3rd North Carolina Infantry. He would serve in the Company D, 3rd North Carolina Infantry, before WWI. Wilson Macon remained in the National Guard when his unit was called into federal military service for World War I, following the United States’ entrance into the war in April 1917. His unit was sent for basic training at Camp Sevier, S.C., between late August and early September 1917, where it was federalized as Company D, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division, U.S. Army. Macon served in this unit for his entire WWI military service, and held the rank of Sergeant. Macon was slightly wounded on September 29, 1918, during his time in Europe, but it is unknown where or in what engagement he was injured.

Willie Glenn Macon is believed to have also served in the North Carolina National Guard with his brother Wilson, but there is no information on when he entered Guard service or how long he served. Willie Macon was inducted for active military service in World War I on September 4, 1917, at Louisburg, N.C. He was assigned as a Private initially to Company A, 322nd Infantry Regiment, 81st Division, U.S. Army. Macon was transferred to serve in the same unit as his brother—Company D, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division, U.S. Army. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal at some point after joining the 120th Infantry. He left with his unit from the United States for Europe aboard a troop transport ship on May 12, 1918.

 

Willie Macon was killed in action on the last day of the Battle of St. Quentin Canal period, on October 10, 1918, while involved in the commune of Busigny, in the Nord department of northern France. He was buried in the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial near the commune of Bony, in the Aisne department of northern France. Macon is buried in the cemetery in Plot B, Row 18, Grave 12.

 

Thomas N. Bryson

 

Thomas Newtown Bryson was born on February 5, 1894, in the community of Cullasaja in Macon County, N.C., to John Turner and Martha Jane Deal Bryson. Bryson was inducted into military service for WWI on September 18, 1917, in Franklinton, N.C. He was assigned in the U.S. Army to Headquarters Company, 316th Field Artillery, 81st Division, in which he served until October 16, 1917. On that date, he was transferred to Company G, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, in which unit he remained until his discharge.

Thomas Bryson was involved in the Battle of St. Quentin Canal in France, and was severely injured in battle on September 29, 1918. He would walk with a cane for a while after the injury. Bryson recuperated overseas until December 1918, when he left Europe for the United States and arrived back in the country on December 23. He was honorably discharged on July 7, 1919, at which time he was reported as 15% disabled (though his injuries appear to have been worse).