Looking Ahead from A Very Muddy Place
Monday, September 10, 2018
As the climactic battle draws near, we’re picking up the pace this month in A Very Muddy Place. Private Potts has no idea that this is his itinerary for the rest of September—a hundred years ago:
September 12—In Reserve at Saint-Mihiel
16—Special Job for Private Potts
19—A Potts Family Day of Thanks
24—Planning the Meuse-Argonne Offensive
29—Charge to Exermont
29—Clyde Brake Boards the Leviathan
October 8—Roy Albert Buried Alive!
My great grandfather, like many veterans, didn’t talk much about his wartime experience. His family has only his discharge paper and a few anecdotes.
One hundred years later, I’ve discovered a few documents that bear his name. From draft registration to discharge, I’m following the paper trail of B. F. Potts’s journey to the battlefields of the Great War in France and back home again.
“Well, Daddy, what did you think about France?”
“It's a very muddy place.”
Benjamin Franklin Potts Registers for the Draft
As the Great War thundered across the fields of northern France, ten million American men, ages 21 to 30, signed their names to register to be drafted into military service.
Military Induction and Entrainment
“I, Benjamin Franklin Potts, do solemnly swear to bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully, against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever…”
“If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, paint it!”
Embarkation, the Tunisian, and the Bridge of Ships
In his first ocean voyage, B. F. Potts crossed the submarine invested waters of the North Atlantic in a convoy of steamers escorted by a warship.
Enterprise, Tennessee: The Town That Died
Grandpa owned matched pairs of horses. Him and the boys [Ben and his brothers] cut and snaked logs out of the wood to the roads. He got a dollar a day plus fifty cents for the horses.