Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, September 22, 2018

In Their Own Words: America on the Brink of War

From In Their Own Words of the Doughboy Center

Christianburg, Virginia

Clay and gravel roads, wooden sidewalks, kerosene lamps (later gas), and the simplest sanitary arrangements represented [American] civilization. It was not surprising... to see a sign painted in large letters on the side of a store where there were public baths, which read, "WHY MESS UP THE KITCHEN. BATHS FIFTEEN CENTS." The important facility in a village was the livery stable... The village was equipped with few conveniences... Each morning the grocery-man sent his wagon from house to house taking orders. In two or three hours the same wagon would return with the goods.

Capt. Geo. Van Horn Moseley, Fifth Artillery Brigade
Unpublished Memoir 

The country was a lot different before the First World War...More farm boys, and more folks who hadn't learned English yet...Their families had just arrived here.

Pvt. Al Furrer, Ammunition Train, 4th Division
1989 Interview

Greencreek, Idaho

The affair of the Lusitania has gone through me again and again. I feel as if I could not just go ahead as I have since the war started, making plans for my own advancement, or my own family's welfare...Thousands of men have given their lives to the end that Germany is not already in a position to destroy every woman, baby, and law of God, which interferes with [their] affairs... if I could go to this war as a citizen of the world, I would pray to be allowed.

Lt. Edwin Abbey, 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles,
American KIA April 1917, Letter

New York City

When I was a little boy about ten years old, my father went to Europe to visit his aged mother in Germany...After that I used to dream of an ocean voyage to Europe and particularly Germany... Little did I then think that "My First Journey" to Europe would be with a gun in my hands on a mission to kill my German cousins...I can think of no better starting point than August 9th, the second Sunday in August 1914. The previous week the war had fully exploded in Europe. We are in church, a little North Philadelphia...the people who composed our little congregation, hard working, honest, God-fearing. The older generation had, almost all, been born in Europe, the younger generation in the United States. All were American citizens, every one of them... 

Sergeant Maximilian Boll, 79th Division
Unpublished Manuscript, First Journey


  1. Pretty simple life, lots of rural boys - including my grandfather and several great uncles - changed quite a bit after the war as they say How Do You Keep Them Down On The Farm After They Have Seen Gay Paree!