Thank You

On this otherwise unremarkable day, I’d like to thank you, Dear Reader, for your support. Your feedback and encouragement since the posting of the first chapters of my great grandfather’s story have made the past year and a half exceptionally rewarding.

I would also like to ask those of you who have enjoyed A Very Muddy Place in paperback to leave a short review, please, on its Amazon page. A few heartfelt words with as many stars as you think it deserves help the book to find its audience.

Special thanks to those of you who have already done so. I love all three of you!

Thank You


AVMP Kindle Edition on Pre-Order

I am happy to announce the Kindle Edition of A Very Muddy Place: War Stories is available for pre-order. If you order now, you get 1/3rd off the regular price and the book will be delivered to your Kindle on its release date, scheduled for November 1.

 


 

A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Available on Amazon

 

An intimate account of a soldier’s experience in World War I, A VERY MUDDY PLACE takes us on a journey from a young man’s rural American hometown onto one of the great battlefields of France. We follow Private B. F. Potts with the 137th US Infantry Regiment through the first days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. We discover a personal story—touching, emotional, unforgettable.

In 1918, twenty-three-year-old Bennie Potts was drafted into the US Army to fight in the World War. He served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. At home after the war, he married and raised a family, and the war for his children and grandchildren became the anecdotes he told them.

A century later, a great grandson brings together his ancestor’s war stories and the historical record to follow Private Benjamin Franklin Potts from Tennessee to the Great War in France and back home again.

 

A Very Muddy Place
WAR STORIES

Available on Amazon

 


75mm Second Hand

A steel chamber holds a brass shell. Inside it, a pin ignites propellant. The confined explosion shoots a projectile and a gout of flame from the 75mm (3 inches) bore. The gun jumps, the earth shudders, a shock wave shatters the air and accompanies a roar that bursts between the ears. Spent, the brass shell slides to the ground with a hallow shing! Another round replaces it and, as soon, ignites. Powder fumes permeate the air. Explosions count seconds across unending darkness…

It was the night of September 25, 1918. To prepare the terrain for the next morning’s attack, the artillery barrage began at 11:30 p.m. “The infantry moved forward through the woods in approximately the formation they were to employ the following day. The men lay down among the big guns and tried to sleep” (Kenamore, From Vauquois Hill to Exermont, 88, emphasis mine).

The video, footage taken by the US Army Signal Corps, shows “The famous ‘75’s’ in action at Le Cotes de Forimont, September 27, 1918.”

Les Côtes de Foriment are a ridge two kilometers (1.24 miles) south of Vauquois. From the 35th Division field orders, we know the division’s 60th Field Artillery Brigade, with their 75mm guns, took position there by September 25.

In the video, notice the gun fires every four seconds. An artillery battery consists of four guns.

…Explosions counts seconds across unending darkness.

In this infernal night lies our young private, waiting, suspended in time, between sleep and prayer.

—Excerpts from A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Continue reading "75mm Second Hand" »


Private Potts’s Interactive Itinerary

The 18th of September [1918] was a Wednesday. It was the day Benjamin Franklin Potts turned twenty-four years old. Any letters from home wishing him a happy birthday would have found him around Foucaucourt-sur-Thabas, six miles west of Les Charmentois, sixteen miles south of the Butte of Vauquois.

—from A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Foucaucourt is a tiny village in the Argonne region of France. It lounges on the south bank of the Thabas, a shaded stream.

It’s more difficult to find on a map than it is to pronounce. I can help you with both. In my American accent, I say fook-oh-cor sur ta-ba, and you can find it on the interactive map below.

Also on the map, I marked other places on Private Potts’s itinerary in North America and Europe, as well as those of his brothers.

And on this Wednesday, September 18, I am happy to announce I am hard at work on the electronic version of the book. A Very Muddy Place: War Stories will be available for Kindle in the autumn.

Happy Birthday, Bennie.

 

Interactive Itinerary on Google MapsImagery ©2019 Google, DigitalGlobe, Map data ©2019 Google

Continue reading "Private Potts’s Interactive Itinerary" »


AVMP in the Library at The Friends of Vauquois

I had a message from Alain Jeannesson, president of Les Amis de Vauquois et de sa région, to whom I sent a copy of A Very Muddy Place. Mr. Jeannesson informs me that the book takes its place in the association’s library and is to be accompanied by a summary in French.

Association of the Friends of Vauquois and its Region. “Mound of Vauquois.” http://butte-vauquois.fr/en/.
The website of the Association of the Friends of Vauquois and its Region has photos and information on visiting the site. The guided tour of the underground galleries, where the mine war took place, is enlightening, educational, and horrific.

—from the bibliography of A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

 


 

A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Available on Amazon

 

An intimate account of a soldier’s experience in World War I, A VERY MUDDY PLACE takes us on a journey from a young man’s rural American hometown onto one of the great battlefields of France. We follow Private B. F. Potts with the 137th US Infantry Regiment through the first days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. We discover a personal story—touching, emotional, unforgettable.

In 1918, twenty-three-year-old Bennie Potts was drafted into the US Army to fight in the World War. He served with the American Expeditionary Force in France. At home after the war, he married and raised a family, and the war for his children and grandchildren became the anecdotes he told them.

A century later, a great grandson brings together his ancestor’s war stories and the historical record to follow Private Benjamin Franklin Potts from Tennessee to the Great War in France and back home again.

 

A Very Muddy Place
WAR STORIES

Available on Amazon

 


Five Map Sheets from La carte de l’état-major

I love maps—especially pretty ones and especially old ones. These are both.

The 273 rectangular sheets that constitute La carte de l’état-major cover all of France at 1:40,000 scale. Elevation (in meters) is marked on hilltops and mountain peaks. Steepness is indicated by hatch marks, lines like rays from a peak. The closer together these lines, the steeper the slope. This elevation hatching and the Garamond typeface make the maps distinctive.

In use from the mid-nineteenth to well into the twentieth century, these maps were used by the French army during the war to generate larger scale maps of the western front.

—from A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

If you love maps too, you can follow Private Potts from the Haye Forest (see Chapter 8, “In Reserve at Saint-Mihiel”) to Auzéville (12, “A Potts Family Day of Thanks”) on map sheets Commercy SE and Bar-le-Duc NE, then to the Hesse Forest and Vauquois to Exermont (Part Two, “The Argonne Battle”) on Verdun SE and Verdun NE, and back to Sampigny (29, “Cruel Days”) on Commercy SO. On this last, General Pershing inspected the troops (30, “Godspeed”) just north of Commercy on the field between the villages Vignot and Boncourt.

VERDUN NE Verdun NE
Exermont (top left)
 
VERDUN SE Verdun SE
Vauquois (middle left)
 
BAR-LE-DUC NE Bar-le-Duc NE
Auzéville (top left-of-center)
 
Commercy SO
Commercy (bottom center)
Commercy SE
Forêt de Haie (bottom right)
  COMMERCY SO COMMERCY SE

Five map sheets from La carte de l’état-major arranged in geographic order

Explore elsewhere in the country on the French government’s Géoportail.

Continue reading "Five Map Sheets from La carte de l’état-major" »


Homecoming

There were parades in that glorious spring of 1919. In New York and Washington, D.C., in small towns and state capitals, ranks of soldiers, formed in companies and led by the army band, marched down Main Streets across the United States. In Topeka, the officers and men of the 137th Infantry “All-Kansas” Regiment stepped with heads high, through cheering crowds, flags waving.

But Private Potts was not among his comrades of Company M. After disembarking the Manchuria at Hoboken, April 23, the Thirty-Fifth Division entrained to Camp Upton, New York. In the last week of April, all replacement soldiers, of which B. F. Potts was one, were detached from the division.

Continue reading "Homecoming" »


Soldier Entitled to Travel Pay

While transcribing B. F. Potts’s discharge paper, I was curious about the dollar amount noted in pencil on the back: “89.05.” Potts got remaining pay and a $60 bonus, plus train fare for home. The army paid five cents a mile.

A private earned $30 per month. Prorated for the first twelve days of the month (discharged May 12), his pay was $12. Less that and the bonus leaves $17.05 in travel pay—or 341 miles.

But driving distance from Chattanooga (near Fort Oglethorpe) to Erin is only 200 miles. Either he didn’t get paid from the 1st of the month, or the rail distance to home was much farther.

I found a Louisville & Nashville Railroad map in the 1920 edition of Poor’s Manual of Railroads. The map also shows the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway, which by then was a L&N dependency.

While you might not get a passenger train today, you could take the highway from Chattanooga through Stevenson, AL, and Nashville, TN, to McKenzie (on the NC&St.L) and from McKenzie to Erin (on the L&N). The trip would take almost seven hours to drive the 337 miles.

Which is close enough for curiosity’s sake.

Poor 1920 L-N map facing 82“Map of the Louisville & Nashville R. R. and Dependencies”
Henry V. Poor, Poor’s Manual of Railroads: Fifty-Third Annual Number, New York: Poor’s, 1920, facing 82.

 


 

A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Available on Amazon

 


Easter Aboard the Manchuria

With orders for home, the 137th Regiment boarded trains at Sampigny on March 7. They arrived in the Le Mans area three days later. The companies were dispersed to surrounding towns and villages, Company M to Monfort-les-Gesnois. Far from the desolate battlefields, the men enjoyed a couple weeks of “the best accommodations since [their] arrival in France,” whether in billets or private homes (Haterius, 197).

Following this respite, they moved to what was known as “the Belgian Camp,” where they slept in tents and were subjected to medical examinations, inoculations, and “cootie baths” to make them presentable to their mothers.

Continue reading "Easter Aboard the Manchuria" »


ABMC Maps

To accompany their series of books summarizing the operations of each US Army division in World War I, the American Battle Monuments Commission produced maps showing each division’s position during the battles in which it participated.

High-resolution digital versions of the two ABMC maps referenced in A Very Muddy Place are given here. Click on a map to view or download the larger image.

On the maps, straight red lines mark division sector boundaries. The ragged red lines show the division’s limit of advance at midnight on the date indicated. Each map is divided into one-kilometer (0.62 miles) squares. Contour lines show elevation in five-meter (16.4 feet) intervals.

 

Grange-le-Comte Sector  September 21-25  1918  Meuse-Argonne Offensive  September 26-October 3  1918Grange-le-Comte Sector, September 21-25, 1918,
Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26-October 3, 1918
(ABMC, 1937)

 

30th Division  Somme Offensive  October 3-22  191830th Division, Somme Offensive, October 3-22, 1918
(ABMC, 1938)

 


 

A Very Muddy Place: War Stories

Available on Amazon