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Chapter 2 - A Portrait of the 7th Texas Infantry

Gregory W. Ball University of North Texas Press PDF

2 a portraIt oF the 7th teXas INFaNtry

An examination of the make-up of the 7th Texas Infantry from a socioeconomic standpoint offers a useful composite portrait of its soldiers. Th is serves not only to broaden historical knowledge of those individuals, but also offers a starting point for comparing them soldiers with others in the state and other sections of the country. Who were those soldiers that Texans asked to uphold its military tradition? What were their lives like prior to the war? What occupations did they follow? Were they married, and did they have families? Answers to such questions bring these National Guard soldiers into sharper focus and point to representative characteristics of a World War I Texas soldier.

The fourteen counties mentioned in this study functioned as recruiting headquarters for fi fteen companies of the 7th Texas Infantry. On arrival at

Camp Bowie in September 1917, the regiment consisted of approximately 1,952 enlisted men. Research into the draft registration cards and other sources disclosed information on 1,096, 61 percent of the regiment. Across the counties, this amounted to 59 percent of each company. Because of a muster roll from

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Chapter 7 - “Bad Enough at the Best”

Gregory W. Ball University of North Texas Press PDF

7

“Bad eNough at the Best”

As they left the line near the end of October 1918 and marched to Valmy,

James McCan of Quanah recalled that his comrades were “the worst looking bunch of men you ever saw,” and about “half a dozen could barely talk above a whisper as our lungs were full of gas.” From Valmy, the division marched southeast toward the American First Army, to which they had been assigned. The division stopped for a rest day near Thiacourt on November 2, but the next day many soldiers could hear artillery at the front more distinctly than at any time since they had left the

Aisne River a week earlier, which led to speculation they would soon be back at the front. Soon, the division arrived at Bar-Le-Duc near the southern edge of the

Argonne Forest, and began preparations to return to the line. By this point, the

36th Division was short 23 percent of its officers and 34 percent of its soldiers.

Replacements poured in, fi lling each company to nearly 200 soldiers while veterans received new uniforms and fresh equipment. Before returning to the front, however, news came on November 7 that the German high command sought an armistice.

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Chapter 6 - The Western Front, October 13–30, 1918

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6 the WesterN FroNt, octoBer 13–30, 1918

As the 142d Infantry filtered into the lines on the night of October 13, 1918, they were certainly not aware that in several weeks they would have to attack such a strongly fortified position as Forest Farm. Lieutenant Sayles’ weapons platoon dug in on the side of a hill and managed to bring up straw from Vaux to line their holes.

Several soldiers also found doors to use as roofs over their fox holes, but it turned out they had taken the doors from regimental headquarters and Sayles ordered them to return them. For the most part, the soldiers waited and tried to stay comfortable and warm. Whenever he went to sleep, Sayles wrapped his scarf around his stomach and wrapped his feet in a rain slicker and slept in the same hole as another man so they could keep each other warm. Over the next several days, Sayles’s platoon dug a

“long gallery” into the side of the hill, covered the floor with straw, used branches to keep the sides from caving in, and created an “arbor” that kept some of the rain out, although the “roof always dripped somewhere, and little rivulets broke out under the deep mat of fallen leaves that covered the ground.” The dugout was large enough to hold half of his platoon, who would crowd into the dugout to eat. At the top of the hill, above their “gallery,” he placed two 37mm cannon, ready to fire across the river on German positions to the north. Not everyone had it so great, as part of

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Chapter 1 - Recruiting the 7th Texas Infantry

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1 reCruItIng the 7th texas Infantry

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of the United States Congress where he responded to a number of events, including the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany and the disclosure of the infamous Zimmerman Telegram. He then asked Congress for a declaration of war. Congress debated the president’s request for several days, and approved a declaration of war in the Senate on April 4, 1917, and two days later in the House.1

Although there was debate across the nation as well as within Texas regarding the president’s request for a declaration of war, most Texans supported the president.

Once war was declared, a different topic became the center of debate in the nation and in Texas: How would the United States raise and field an army large enough to make a difference on European battlefields? The answer to that question affected millions of young men across the nation and thousands in Northwest Texas. The debate hinged on whether or not the United States should raise an army by relying on volunteers or through a mandatory system of service. Such a debate was not new to the nation, and as late as February 1917, the government had expected to rely primarily on voluntary enlistments to increase the army’s size. By April, however, the debate became more urgent and crystallized around which system would allow an army to be raised more quickly.2

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Chapter 3 - Camp Bowie and France

Gregory W. Ball University of North Texas Press PDF

3 caMp BoWIe aNd FraNce

Although local communities treated the soldiers of the 7th Texas as heroes before the regiment had even left North and Northwest Texas, their arrival at

Camp Bowie in the first week of September underscored their lack of training and unfamiliarity with Army ways. The companies from Potter, Donley, and Childress counties arrived first, followed by the companies from Hardeman, Foard, and

Wilbarger counties. Eventually, the Lubbock, Taylor, Denton, Cooke, Johnson and

Wise County soldiers arrived and all of the 7th Texas Infantry companies were in bustling Camp Bowie by September 11, 1917, the first consolidation of the regiment as a whole.1

Of course, the 7th Texas was only one small part of the Texas National Guard, which itself made up a fraction of the entire National Guard called to service for the second time in two years. When “drafted” into federal service on August 5, 1917, the 7th Texas consisted of 56 officers and 1,952 soldiers. At the time, the “combat arms” of the Texas National Guard, which included infantry, cavalry, field artillery, coast artillery, and signal corps, totaled 315 officers and 11,074 men, while the total

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