Success, Freedom, and Castles in the Air

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

I’ve lived with this quote, the first sentence of a paragraph from Thoreau’s Walden, the past several months. It’s written on the inside cover of my pocket notebook. Yesterday, I read the passage again from the secondhand paperback on the shelf. It goes on and ends with another familiar citation. Between, the text is more complicated and less quotable, though it is, in my experience so far, equally true.

“He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

View from a castle in the airView from the parapet of a castle-in-the-air, foundation under construction

Photo from the ruins of a Turkish fort atop a hill above Kounoupitsa, looking over Kissamos and the Gramvousa and Rodopou Peninsulas on either side of Kissamos Bay, Crete


Any Questions You Have

The list of bonus material for A Very Muddy Place is, I think, complete. Feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions you might have about any aspect of the book. I’m happy to reply, and maybe the exchange will make a spark.

Thank you for reading A Very Muddy Place: War Stories.

 

 

Hardcover edition available in December

A Very Muddy Place
Buy on Bookshop

All book sales made through Bookshop directly benefit independent bookstores.

Also available at these retailers.

A Very Muddy Place
WAR STORIES

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.

Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

More about A Very Muddy Place

 

Disclosure: This page and linked pages contain affiliate links to Bookshop, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. As an affiliate of those retailers, Stephen earns a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

 


Armistice Day Veterans Giveaway

Dear Veterans,

I want to give you a copy of my book.

If you’re an armed forces veteran of any country, tell me what unit you served in, and I’ll send you an electronic copy of A Very Muddy Place: War Stories.

Look for “Email Me” below in the page footer or send me a private message on Facebook or Twitter.

The book is available in MOBI for your Kindle, EPUB for other e-readers, or PDF for reading on your PC. This giveaway is not time limited. It starts today and goes forever. Feel free to share this message with veterans you know.

Thank you for your service.

—Stephen


“A vivid and deft mingling of anecdotes, history, and dramatic fiction—captivating and historically important.”
—Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

“A VERY MUDDY PLACE is an insightful combination of historical narrative and fictional recreation that brings the Great War to life.”
—Steve Ruskin, PhD History, author of America’s First Great Eclipse

“A poignant, stirring, and ultimately remarkable account, interspersed with personal anecdotes and a keen sense of empathy—a unique, triumphant work.”
—LTC Kevin Ikenberry, USA, Ret., author of The Protocol War series

 

A Very Muddy Place: War Stories
Buy on Bookshop

All book sales made through Bookshop directly benefit independent bookstores.

Also available at these retailers.

Disclosure: The links above go to Bookshop and to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. As an affiliate of those retailers, Stephen earns a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

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.

 

Praise for A VERY MUDDY PLACE

“A VERY MUDDY PLACE is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read about the humble soldier’s point of view. It focuses on the experiences of the author’s great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Potts, who fought with the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. The book is a vivid and deft mingling of anecdotes, history, and dramatic fiction, enriched with historic photographs, documents, and detailed maps. This is a captivating and historically important work. I highly recommend it!”
—Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

“Far too many histories of the First World War languish in private letters and forgotten family records. In A VERY MUDDY PLACE, Stephen Wendell constructs a narrative with his great grandfather’s stories to open a window on the horrors of that distant war. Using primary source material, he brings the Great War to life in the person of Benjamin Franklin Potts. This book is a delight, an insightful combination of historical narrative and fictional recreation, and we are better for it.”
—Steve Ruskin, PhD History, author of America’s First Great Eclipse

“Stephen Wendell crafts a poignant, stirring, and ultimately remarkable account of his ancestor’s service in the Great War. His attention to detail and depth of research is commendable. Interspersed with personal anecdotes and a keen sense of empathy, A VERY MUDDY PLACE is a unique, triumphant work of the highest merit and a tribute unlike anything I’ve ever read.”
—LTC Kevin Ikenberry, USA, Ret., author of The Protocol War series


Your Local Independent Bookstore: Online!

“Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.”—Bookshop.org

Exciting news for book lovers: You can buy books online and get them delivered to you in a couple days—just like buying on Amazon. But it isn’t Amazon—it’s your local brick-and-mortar independent bookstore.

“We believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our downtowns and communities.”—Bookshop.org

The Bookshop.org About page explains very well how it works in a dozen sentences, five of which I quote here. Below I summarize the essentials.

Shop online

You browse the Bookshop.org book catalog or find the book you want using the search bar. At check-out, you tell Bookshop.org which independent bookstore* gets credit for the sale.

*To avoid confusion, I use “Bookshop.org” to refer to the online store and the term “bookstore(s)” to refer to the brick-and-mortar shops we know and love.

“By design, we give away over 75% of our profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books!”—Bookshop.org

Independent bookstores

Bookshop.org distributes 10% of regular sales to independent bookstores every six months. Currently, the amount is over $7 million.

What’s more, an independent bookstore can become an affiliate, promoting and selling books online through Bookshop.org with affiliate links. In which case, the bookstore earns 30% of sales generated through its affiliation, which is the entire profit margin—Bookshop.org doesn’t make any money from these sales.

All the books

Bookshop.org gets its catalog from Ingram Content Group, a major US book distributor, which is used by most US publishers. So, you can find books from the “Big 5” publishers, like Simon & Schuster and Random House, to mid-size and small presses, and even from clever self-published authors, yours truly among them, who distribute their books through Ingram.

Print-on-demand and delivery

The bookstore doesn’t do anything more than promote the book. Bookshop.org provides the online interface, and when you place an order, Ingram prints the book and ships it to you.

International

In January 2020 Bookshop.org got started in the US.1,2 They plan to be fully operational in the UK by Christmas3, and they aim to offer similar support for independent bookstores worldwide4.

Centralized

Ingram does all the material work, and they get paid for it, as they should. Printing and shipping costs are included in the price of any printed book we buy anywhere.

Still, Ingram Content Group is a large organization and a subsidiary of an even larger company, Ingram Industries, which earned over $2 billion in 20145—compared to Amazon’s $280 billion (2019)6.

Future awesomeness?

Maybe I’m dreaming here, but wouldn’t it be awesome if our local independent print shops could print books on-demand? I’m guessing it comes down to economics. When the local demand for print-on-demand comes up to meet the cost of the print machine, such as an Espresso Book Machine, small print shops around the world might replace the centralized printer.

By providing the platform, Bookshop.org may be an important step to making the dream a reality. By buying books from our local independent bookstores online, we provide the demand. We make the future awesome.

Bookshop - Support Local Bookstores


1 This Startup Wants to Help Indie Booksellers Take on Amazon

2 The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Changing How People Buy Books

3 Bookshop Opens in the U.K.

4 Bookshop.org FAQ

5 Ingram Industries

6 Amazon

 


AVMP Bibliography

Entering the web addresses from AVMP’s bibliography can be tedious. With the publication of the Kindle edition, I have the bibliography in HTML format. For the print reader’s convenience, I copy it here with hyperlinks.

 

Annotated Bibliography

The following is a list of selected sources used in research for this book. I give notes on those I found most useful.

For the reader who would like more details about what life was like for B. F. Potts and about his movements with the 137th Regiment, I draw attention to the works of three authors: Haterius, Hoyt, and Kenamore, who were with the regiment or its parent division.

Where a source is available on the World Wide Web, I give a URL. All web addresses below were last accessed March 15, 2019.

 

American Battle Monuments Commission. 30th Division, Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1944.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b3110102.

To accompany this and similar volumes, including one for the Thirty-Fifth Division (below), the ABMC also produced maps showing each division’s position during the battles in which it participated. For high-resolution digital versions of the ABMC maps used in this book, see the web page:
https://www.stephenwendell.com/avmp/.

American Battle Monuments Commission. 35th Division, Summary of Operations in the World War. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1944.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b3110105.

American Battle Monuments Commission. American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A History, Guide, and Reference Book. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1938.
https://www.abmc.gov/sites/default/files/publications/AABEFINAL_Blue_Book.pdf.

Ambulance Company Number 139. History of Ambulance Company Number 139. Kansas City, KS: E. R. Callender, n.d.
https://archive.org/details/historyofambulan00kansiala/.

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.

Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association (website). “Arl B. Kelly.”
https://etvma.org/veterans/arl-b-kelly-6676/.

Giangreco, D. M. “Captain Harry Truman and Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, in Action in the Argonne.” Journal of the Royal Artillery 130, no. 3 (Autumn 2003): 56-59.

Giangreco is the author of several books on military and sociopolitical topics, including two about Harry Truman: Dear Harry . . . : Truman’s Mailroom, 1945-1953 (Stackpole Books, 1999) and The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman (Zenith, 2009). The journal article is also found at Worldwar1.com’s Doughboy Center:
http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/truman2.htm.

Haterius, Carl E. Reminiscences of the 137th U. S. Infantry. Topeka, KS: Crane, 1919.
https://archive.org/details/reminiscencesof100hate/.

Haterius was a band member in the 137th who kept a diary. Although events sometimes run together and the dates can be nebulous, what Haterius does well is give the ambiance—what it felt like at a place and time. He also reproduces the division and brigade orders for the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

Hoyt, Charles B. Heroes of the Argonne: An Authentic History of the Thirty-Fifth Division. Compiled by C. B. Lyon, Jr. Kansas City, MO: Franklin Hudson, 1919.
https://archive.org/details/heroesofargonnea00hoyt/.

A private first class in the 139th Field Hospital, Hoyt wrote this history from official records, orders, and interviews with officers and men of the division. While it lacks Haterius’s intimacy and Kenamore’s detail, the book corroborates dates and places, and accompanying the text are plentiful maps and photographs.

Hurley, Edward N. The Bridge to France. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott, 1927.
http://www.gwpda.org/wwi-www/Hurley/.

Kenamore, Clair. From Vauquois Hill to Exermont: A History of the Thirty-Fifth Division of the United States Army. St. Louis, MO: Guard, 1919.
https://archive.org/details/fromvauquoishill00ken/.

Kenamore had previously reported on another of General John J. Pershing’s exploits, the Mexican Expedition, in 1916. When the officers and men of the Missouri and Kansas National Guard units shipped to Europe, Kenamore followed. A correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he reported back to the folks at home the activities of their sons on the front. After the war, he collected articles and notes to write this history of the Thirty-Fifth Division.

King, Benjamin, Richard C. Biggs, and Eric R. Criner. Spearhead of Logistics: A History of the United States Army Transportation Corps. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 2001.

Poor, Henry V. Poor’s Manual of Railroads: Fifty-Third Annual Number. New York: Poor’s, 1920.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.a0002685253.

Powell, Ted. King Edward VIII: An American Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Rinaldi, Richard A. The United States Army in World War I: Orders of Battle, Ground Units, 1917-1919. Takoma Park, MD: General Data, 2005.

Smith, Eugene W. Trans-Atlantic Passenger Ships Past and Present. Boston, MA: George H. Dean, 1947.
https://archive.org/details/transatlanticpas00smitrich/.

Stuart, Richard W., ed. American Military History Volume II: The United States Army in a Global Era, 1917-2008. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 2010.
https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/educational-services/military-history/american-military-history-volume-2.pdf.

The US Army’s Center for Military History produced this thorough but brief text, which covers the nation’s military history up to Afghanistan and Iraq in two volumes. Volume II, Chapter 1: “The U.S. Army in World War I, 1917–1918,” covers our target period in fifty pages, including maps, photos, and informative sidebars.

Sparks, Winnie, ed. Livingston County Illinois in the World War. N.p.: Board of Supervisors of Livingston County, n.d.

 

 

A Very Muddy Place
Buy on Bookshop

All book sales made through Bookshop directly benefit independent bookstores.

Also available at these retailers.

A Very Muddy Place
WAR STORIES

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.

Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

More about A Very Muddy Place

 

Disclosure: This page and linked pages contain affiliate links to Bookshop, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. As an affiliate of those retailers, Stephen earns a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

 


Epimenides’ Paradox

Cretans, as a people, are kind and proud and fierce. I said so to a friend after one of many sojourns to the Isle of Myth.

“All Cretans are liars,” he said.

I said, “That’s a lie.”

“Of course it is; a Cretan said it!”


Epimenides is a legendary figure. He lived in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. He was a poet, philosopher, ascetic, wise man, prophet, and—according to his own countrymen—a god.

Diodorus Siculus, first-century-BC historian of ancient Greece, called Epimenides a theologian and a trustworthy authority on Cretan affairs (Epimenides Fragment 20). In the second century AD, Christian philosopher Clement of Alexandria wrote in The Stromata that Greeks of his time counted Epimenides among the seven (or nine) men most admired for their wisdom.

In the third century, Diogenes Laërtius treats Epimenides in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Most of what we know about his life comes from this biography.

Of his youth, Diogenes tells the following legend, which I summarize: While tending sheep one summer day, Epimenides sought shelter from the sun in a cave, where he took a nap. He woke up fifty-seven years later, untouched by age. When folk heard the story, they took him for a favorite of the gods.

His parentage is disputed among ancient historians, but all agree that Epimenides was born and lived in Knossos. Unlike Cretans of the day, he let his hair grow long, and tattoos covered his skin. He ate rarely, in small quantities, and only food provided by nymphs. He purified cities, built shrines and temples, and was given to prophesying.

Though age caught up with him fifty-seven days after his waking, Epimenides lived on to write poetry as well as prose, which Diogenes describes:

He wrote a poem of five thousand verses on the Generation and Theogony of the Curetes and Corybantes, and another poem of six thousand five hundred verses on the building of the Argo and the expedition of Jason to Colchis.

He also wrote a treatise in prose on the Sacrifices in Crete, and the Cretan Constitution, and on Minos and Rhadamanthus, occupying four thousand lines. (Lives, 51)

None of these writings, however, survived the intervening millennia. We know of Epimenides through biographers and fragments of his work in later texts.

One such text is St. Paul’s Letter to Titus, then bishop of Crete. The epistler calls on Titus to reprimand those who rebel against the faith.

They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith. (Titus 1:11-13)

Clement, again in The Stromata, identifies Epimenides as the Cretan prophet of Paul’s letter:

… Epimenides the Cretan, whom Paul knew as a Greek prophet, whom he mentions in the Epistle to Titus, where he speaks thus: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars…” (Stromata 1.14)

Some 300 years after Epimenides, Greek poet Callimachus writes: “The Cretans ever feign.” In his Hymn to Zeus, it is the tomb of the father of gods and men—which the Cretans say is in their country, therefore blasphemy—that prompts the denigrating remark.

The Cretans ever feign - Callimachus“The Cretans ever feign” from “The Hymn to Jupiter” translated by William Dodd in The Hymns of Callimachus (London: T. Waller and J. Ward, 1755).

Callimachus doesn’t mention Epimenides. We will see below, however, that the scenario is borrowed from the Knossian prophet—or at least the two writers share a common source.

Though Epimenides’ work is lost, Paul’s Letter to Titus was collected into a large volume, which is both respected for its veracity and widely circulated. And so, what has become known as Epimenides’ Paradox[1] comes down to our times.

In the early twentieth century, biblical scholar and manuscript hunter J. Rendel Harris found evidence linking Paul’s quote with the scenario given by Callimachus. The discovery was made in successive steps. Here, I make short the process, which Harris documents in three articles over five years in a theological journal.[2]

Ishodad of Merv was a theologian of the Nestorian Church, a branch of Eastern Christianity. In the ninth century, he wrote extensive commentary on the Old and New Testaments.

Among Ishodad’s commentary, Harris discovered a familiar refrain concerning Cretans: “Liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.” It is one of a four-line verse describing the same scenario given by Callimachus. And the verse is part of an excerpt summarizing the work of a fourth-century theologian, Theodore of Antioch, called “The Interpreter,” because Theodore’s works were considered heresy.

Furthermore, the excerpt gives the verse as dialog, part of a speech by Minos, mythical King of Crete.

In one article (The Expositor, Oct. 1912), Harris reproduces the text, of which the following is part:

The Cretans said about Zeus, as if it were true, that he was a prince, and was lacerated by a wild boar, and was buried; and behold! his grave is known amongst us; so Minos, the son of Zeus, made a panegyric [speech of elaborate praise] over his father, and in it he said:

The Cretans have fashioned a tomb for thee, O Holy and High!
Liars, evil beasts, idle bellies;
For thou diest not; for ever thou livest and standest;
For in thee we live and move and have our being.

So the blessed Paul took this sentence from Minos.

The final phrase, according to Harris, intends a work by Epimenides, possibly a short title for “Minos and Rhadamanthus,” mentioned by Diogenes.[3]

The tomb of Jove - Callimachus“They have built the tomb of Jove…, who bears no dying frame” from Dodd, who translates the Greek Zeus to the Roman Jupiter and Jove.

If we accept the character’s existence at all, Minos was a first generation Cretan. So, while we now better understand the context, the paradox remains.

Diogenes writes that Epimenides died at 299 years of age—“as the Cretans report.”

 


[1] The paradox is sometimes called the “Fallacy of Mentiens,” especially in turn-of-the-twentieth-century textbooks on Logic, e.g. Fowler (1883), Gibson (1914), Bartlett (1922). Diogenes, in another entry of Lives, gives a long list of works by Chrysippus, a philosopher who wrote 200 years after Epimenides. A few of Chrysippus’s titles, grouped together, refer to “the Mentiens Argument.” Among this group, another title is “Reply to those who hold that Propositions may be at once False and True.”

[2] I refer interested readers to Harris’s articles published in The Expositor available on the Biblical Studies website: “The Cretans Always Liars” (Oct. 1906):305-317, “A Further Note on the Cretans” (Apr. 1907):332-337, and “St. Paul and Epimenides” (Oct. 1912):348-353. For more about Harris’s quest for ancient texts, consider his biography by Alessandro Falcetta, The Daily Discoveries of a Bible Scholar and Manuscript Hunter: A Biography of James Rendel Harris (1852–1941).

[3] Ishodad’s excerpt comes from his commentary on Acts of the Apostles. In the text above, “this sentence” refers to the last line of Minos’s dialog, which St. Paul quotes in his speech to the Areopagus (Acts 17:28). For more about references to Epimenides in Titus and Acts, see Paul Davidson’s informative article, “Lying Cretans and Unknown Gods: Allusions to Epimenides in the New Testament,” on Is That in the Bible?

 


Twenty-first-century author Stephen Wendell is writing a novel set in mythological Crete.

 


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
Buy on Bookshop

All book sales made through Bookshop directly benefit independent bookstores.

Also available at these retailers.

A Very Muddy Place
WAR STORIES

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.

Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

More about A Very Muddy Place

 

Disclosure: This page and linked pages contain affiliate links to Bookshop, Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. As an affiliate of those retailers, Stephen earns a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

 


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" »