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

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Lonesome Memorials: #1 The U.S. 4th Division, Meuse-Argonne Monument, Brieulles-sur-Meuse

4th Division Monument with "Ivy" Division Insignia

With this article, I'm beginning a new series on Roads to the Great War.  In my travels to the war's battlefields, I've frequently come across out-of-the-way monuments and memorials that are sometimes very substantial but have only the barest inscriptions and few or no details about what happened in this location that was worthy of memorialization. It's also often evident that there have been few visitors to the site. In this series, I'm going to try tell the stories of some of the little-visited, little-remembered memorials.

Today we begin with the monument to the AEF's 4th Division for its service in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign.  The division went into action in the opening attack on 26 September 1918 and advanced approximately 5.35 miles to the point shown above—with the Hindenburg Line then positioned in the elevations visible in the photo just behind the memorial—before being relieved on 19 October 1918.  

The 4th Division in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

4th Division Artillery Firing During the Battle

The 4th Division was assigned to III Corps of the First Army for the opening attack. It was charged with protecting the right flank of the 79th Division, which was given the job of taking the most important first-day objective of the assault, the German defensive bastion and observation post on Montfaucon. It was expected to advance a little over five miles by the end of the first day of the attack, 26 September. It would actually take the division all 24 of its days in the line to reach that point.

After jumping off at 0530 hours, the division seized highly-defended Cuisy and Septsarges villages—a most successful advance. The advance might have been greater the first day absent a five-hour pause ordered to allow the 79th division to secure Montfaucon to the west, which it did not accomplish until the following day. The attack was continued on 27 September with only slight gains as German reinforcements began arriving in the sector. Part of Bois de Brieulles was captured on the 28th and the remainder on the 29th.

No attacks were made during the period, 30 Sept–3 Oct as Pershing's First Army regrouped. Afterward, the principal attacks were made on the west side of the division’s frontage. On 4 October, the leading troops advanced to to the Brieulles-Cunel road but were driven back to Bois de Fays. From 5 to 8 October, the division held its position in Bois de Fays against counterattacks. Minor gains to the north were made over the next several days culminating in the capture of the western portion of Bois de Foret. No attacks were made on 12 October.

4th Division Casualties Being Evacuated

Troops in the Bois de Foret were relieved by the 3rd Division early in the morning of 13 October; the remainder of the division, less the artillery, was relieved on the night of 18-19 October. These were the last major operations of the division during the war. They were preparing for a joint French-American offensive in the Lorraine when the Armistice occurred. The division suffered 5,785 casualties during the 24 days on the line, including about 1,400 killed.

To Get There:  

The monument is located on the north side of Road D164, about one mile southwest of  Brieulles-sur-Meuse.  Similar monuments for the 4th Division are located just west of Fismes for the Second Battle of the Marne and at Manheulles for the St. Mihiel Offensive.


  1. Great post, Mike!...very thorough!
    Can't remember if we saw this monument on our Sep. 2019 tour
    or not. Thanks/Merci again!
    Bill G.

  2. Hi Bill, I didn't do a tour in 2019. If you meant my 2018 tour, the answer is no, we did not go this route.