..."The Eighth Illinois"
Story of the 370th U. S. Infantry---Another Negro National Guard Regiment That Won Distinction on the Battlefield---Chicago's Colored Fighters---Called "Black Devils" by the Germans and "Partridges" by the French Because of Their Proud Bearing---First American Troops to March into the Fortified City of Laon---Their Stubborn Resistance at the Oise-Aisne Canal.
The Eighth Illinois National Guard Regiment, which during the great war came to be known as the 370th U. S. Infantry, was the only regiment in the entire United States Army that was called into service with almost a complete complement of colored officers from the highest rank of Colonel to the lowest rank of Corporal. Having been brigaded with French troops and given every opportunity to get into the thickest of the fray and to demonstrate their bravery, ability, and solidarity as fighting men, the brilliant record made by this regiment effectually served to answer the question as to whether colored soldiers would follow colored officers into battle.
Below will be found the record of events of the 370th U. S. Infantry (formerly 8th Illinois Infantry) from July 25, 19179 the date of responding to the call of the President, to March 11, 1919, the date of demobilization of the regiment.
Pursuant to the call of the President, dated July 3, 1917, the regiment reported at the various rendezvous on July 25, 1917, as follows:
At Chicago, Illinois-Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Machine Gun Company, Supply Company, Detachment Medical Department, and Companies A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H.
At Springfield, Illinois---Company I.
At Peoria, Illinois---Company K.
At Danville, Illinois---Company L.
At Metropolis, Illinois---Company M.
On the date of responding to the call, the Field and Staff was as follows:
Colonel Franklin A. Denison, commanding the regiment.
Lt. Col. James H. Johnson, duty with the regiment.
Major Rufus M. Stokes, commanding the 1st Battalion.
Major Charles L. Hunt, commanding the 2nd Battalion.
Major Otis B. Duncan, commanding the 3rd Battalion.
Captain John H. Patton, Regimental Adjutant.
On August 18, 1917, Company G proceeded to Camp Logan, Houston, Texas, for the purpose of preparing camp for the arrival of the remainder of the regiment. This company was present at Camp Logan during the riot in Houston which involved certain colored soldiers of the 24th Infantry, U. S. A., in the latter part of August, 1917, and was commended by the public, the press, and military authorities for its conduct and general bearing.
At the end of October, 1917, on the date of the closing of the Second Liberty Loan campaign, out of a total of 2,166 officers and enlisted men, belonging to the regiment at that time, 1,482 officers and men subscribed $151,400.00 to the Second Liberty Loan. Approximately 96 per cent of the regiment took out $10,000.00 War Risk Insurance.
There was some question in military circles as to whether or not this
regiment should be sent overseas, to meet the Huns with its colored Colonel
and a full complement of colored officers; but the splendid way in which
Colonel Denison had handled his men and maintained discipline at Camp Logan,
and at Camp Stuart (Newport News, Virginia), proved to the War Department
that he was every inch a man, that he was an intelligent and experienced
soldier, and a competent officer who knew how to command and to guard the
interests of his regiment. It is especially pertinent to refer to the discussion
as to whether this regiment should be sent Overseas with a colored commanding
officer and its entire colored officers, personnel, because, at that time,
Colonel Charles Young, the veteran colored officer, a graduate of West Point,
who had given the best years of his life to the United States Regular Army,
had been retired from active duty on the strength of a report submitted
by a Medical Board of Examiners, before which he was called, and who decided
that he was physically disqualified to
The morale of the colored people was, therefore, very much depressed by the retirement of Colonel Charles Young over his earnest protest and the protest of his legion of friends. Negro newspapers, reflecting the sentiment and desire of the Negro people, urged that be. be not only retained and actively utilized as an officer of the National Army, but that he be given what they believed to be his rightful reward---namely, promotion in rank to at least that of a Brigadier-General. The futility of these requests and protests, and the failure of repeated efforts to have the findings of the Medical Board which passed upon Colonel Young's case reviewed, and set aside, so that he could be placed in active command of a Negro regimental unit, gave rise to suspicions of unfair play and disturbed the morale of colored Americans generally. For another colored Colonel to be denied active service would have further dampened the morale of the colored people, especially in view of the openly expressed feeling on their part that the highest ranking Negro officer in the United States Regular Army had been unjustly denied active service in the world's greatest war and had been likewise deprived of promotion to the next rank above him---that of Brigadier-General which he would have automatically received upon being called to active duty.
Colonel Denison, however, proceeded overseas with his regiment, which was the first American regiment to set foot upon the soil of Alsace-Lorraine-territory that had for nearly fifty years been wrongfully held under German domination.
Equipped with French Arms
After about six weeks' training under French instructors, the regiment
was considered sufficiently trained to go into the lines, and on June 12
and 13, 1918, pursuant to Ordre Particulier No. 30, Headquarters
10th Division, French Army, dated June 11, 1918, the regiment marched to
Morvillars (Haut-Rhin), entrained and proceeded to Ligny-en-Barrois (Meuse),
detrained and marched to stations as follows: Headquarters, Headquarters
The French instructors referred to were needed in view of the fact that the men of the 370th Infantry, when they arrived at Grandvillars, were relieved of all of their American equipment, with which they had been trained at home, and were re-equipped with French arms and equipment exclusively, including French rifles, pistols, helmets, machine guns, horses, wagons, and even French rations, which consisted of food sufficient for about two meals per day, while the American ration had provided for three meals per day. But in spite of difficulties arising from difference in languages, the issuing of French arms, ammunition and other equipment, and the French ration, which was considered insufficient, the regiment made rapid progress.
In the St. Mihiel Sector
On June 21, 1918, the regiment began occupying a sub-sector, Han-Bislee, St. Mihiel sector. This being the first time the regiment had occupied positions in the line, it was deemed advisable by the Division Commander to intermingle the 370th with French troops, in order that officers and men might observe and profit by close association with veteran French troops. Thus, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, commanded by Majors Rufus M. Stokes and Charles L. Hunt respectively, were intermingled with platoons and companies of the French battalions. Except for occasional shelling and rifle and machine gun fire of the enemy, nothing of interest occurred while in the sector, and there were no casualties.
On the night of July 3-4, 1918, the regiment was withdrawn from the St.
Mihiel sector, marched to Loxeville, and entrained for the Argonne Forest.
Various positions were occupied in the Argonne until August 16, 1918. The
particular sector occupied by the 370th Infantry was exceptionally quiet
at that time, except on one or two occasions. In this position the regiment
suffered its first casualty, namely, Private Robert E. Lee of Chicago, Company
E, Machine Gun Company No. 2. It is highly encouraging to note the fact
that General Mittlehauser, the French general in command
While in this sector, a portion of the regiment engaged in its first offensive encounter with the enemy. The Stokes mortar platoon, under the command of First Lieutenant Robert A. Ward , took part in a "coup de main" (raid), on August 4, 1918, having as its mission the filling-in of the gaps in the French artillery barrage. For his work during this raid Lieutenant Ward and his platoon were highly commended by General Mittlehauser.
On August 16, 1918, the 370th was relieved from its position in the Argonne Forest and sent for rest behind the lines near Bar-le-Duc. On September 1, the regiment again began to move toward the front lines, and by easy stages, proceeded to positions in the Soissons sector. On September 16 Companies G, H, I, and L were pushed forward to positions in front of Mont des Signes, and from that date to September 21 took part in the various battles and engagements incident to the capture of this exceptionally strong enemy position.
One platoon of Company F, under command of Sergeant Matthew Jenkins, especially distinguished itself by capturing a large section of the enemy works, turning their own guns on them and holding the position for thirty-six hours without food or water, until assistance came and the position was strengthened. For this meritorious work in this engagement Sergeant Jenkins received both the American Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.
Company F was relieved on September 21, spending the night at Antioche Farm and proceeding to Mont des Tombes (Aisne) the following day and taking position in reserve; Company G was relieved on September 21, 1918, and proceeded to the caves near Les Tueries (Aisne); Companies I and L were relieved on September 22, 1918, and proceeded to Antioche Farm and Tincelle Farm, respectively, and placed in reserve. From September 19 to 21, the organizations not engaged in the front lines were employed in constructing defensive works between Antioche Farm and Vauxaillon.
Takes Over a Full Sector
Prior to September 21, the regiment had never occupied a full regimental sector, the companies and battalions having been theretofore attached to various French units of the 59th Division. Pursuant to Order 187/S, Headquarters 59th Division, French Army, dated September 21, the regiment for the first time took over a full regimental sector. The 1st Battalion relieved the Battalion Garnier of the 325th Regiment of Infantry, French Army, in the positions outlined by La Folie-l'Ecluse on the Oise-Aisne Canal and the Farm Guilliminet. The 2nd Battalion went into the support position at Mont des Tombes and Les Tueries, and the slopes west of Antioche Farm. The 3rd Battalion went into reserve at Tincelle Farm. The Headquarters Company was stationed at Levilly and the Supply Company at Monte Couve.
On September 25 Company K (Depot Company) changed station from Duvy (Aisne) to Resson le Long (Aisne). On the night of September 26-27 the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Captain John H. Patton, was ordered to relieve with like units one-half of each of the companies of the 1st Battalion in the lines. The relief was completed about 2:00 a. m. An attack along the Oise-Aisne Canal was ordered at dawn on September 27, 1918. By extreme effort the remainder of the 2nd Battalion was brought up to the front, relieved the remainder of the 1st Battalion, commanded by Major Rufus M. Stokes, and the attack began as ordered. The attack continued from the morning of September 27 until October 4. The 2nd Battalion was relieved by the 1st Battalion after having gained possession of the railroad track and woods to the northeast of Guilliminet Farm.
On September 30 the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lieut. Colonel O. B. Duncan, was ordered to make an attack with the Ferme de la Rivière as the principal objective, and about 3:00 p. m. on that date the attack began. The fighting in front of the Bois de Mortier, which woods the enemy held strongly, continued and it was not until October 4 that it was certain that the enemy had been driven across the canal.
From the 27th of September to the 4th of October the 370th was subjected
to severe shelling and to murderous fire of numerous machine guns and rifles.
After the 2nd Battalion was relieved by
On October 4, just before dawn, a reconnaissance in the Bois de Mortier was ordered. As the enemy strongly held the woods, a patrol consisting of volunteers was ordered to make the reconnaissance. Captain Chester Sanders and the necessary 20 men readily volunteered and at 3:30 a. m. crossed the canal and penetrated into the woods about 50 meters east of the Vauxaillon-Bois de Mortier Road, more than a hundred meters within the enemy lines. When reaching this point they were discovered by the enemy and were fired on by numerous machine guns. The mission of the patrol being to discover whether the woods had been abandoned by the enemy, the patrol retired to the French lines under heavy machine gun fire and shelling without the loss of a man.
October 4, 1918, pursuant to Order No. 330/S, Headquarters 59th Division, French Army, the 1st Battalion was ordered to make the following dispositions: Company A sent to the 325th Regiment of Infantry, French Army; Company B sent to the 232nd Regiment of Infantry, French Army. These companies to be used as reinforcements for those regiments. October 6, 1918, General Vincendon, commanding the division, went on leave and General Rondeau. assumed command.
October 7, 1918, at 4:30 a. m., after five minutes' violent bombardment by the French artillery, three raiding parties started into the triangle formed by the Oise-Aisne Canal, the railroad, and the Vauxaillon-Bois de Mortier road. The mission of these raiding parties was to capture prisoners. One of these parties under command of 1st Lieutenant Elisha C. Lane entered the triangle, gained the trenches along the south bank of the canal and ejected the enemy after a hand-grenade fight, Lieut. Lane and two enlisted men being wounded. This party was unable to hold this trench on account of its being exposed to enfilade fire from two directions. The other two patrols established themselves along the railroad and sent small patrols into the triangle, but were unable to establish themselves therein. No prisoners were captured.
During the night of October 7-8 Company C of the 1st Battalion relieved Company F of the 2nd Battalion in the lines near l'Ecluse. Company C continued the effort made by Company F to establish themselves in the above mentioned triangle, but were unable to do so for the same reasons that prevented Company F from remaining therein. On October 10 the remainder of the 1st Battalion moved up into the front lines, relieving the rest of the 2nd Battalion, and the units of the 3rd Battalion in the lines along the Oise-Aisne Canal in front of the Bois de Mortier. The 2nd Battalion went into reserve at Antioche Farm and the 3rd Battalion went into division reserve at Mont des Tombes.
Pushing the Enemy Back
A general advance having been foreseen, Order No. 1978/3 of the Division provided that after the objective, the Laon-La Ferre Railroad, was reached, the Division would be relieved by the 33rd Division, French Army, and sent into the reserve for rest. The alarm for the advance was given at 9:40 a. m., on October 12, and the various units of the regiment proceeded to the Zones of Assembly previously assigned. The 1st Battalion was given the mission of clearing the Bois de Mortier. The 2nd Battalion was placed at the disposition of Lieut.-Colonel Lugand of the 232nd Infantry, French Army. Company F and one section of Company E (Machine Gun Company No. 2), were detached from the 2nd Battalion and sent to join the Battalion Garnier of the 325th Regiment of Infantry, which had as its mission the mopping up of the hills and woods from near Anizy-le-Chateau to a point near Crepy. One company of the 325th Regiment of Infantry, French Army, was attached to the 2nd Battalion to replace Company F. The 3rd Battalion was assigned as reserve of the division, the command of which was assigned to Colonel T. A. Roberts.
Soon after the alert was given, the pursuit began. The 1st Battalion
advanced through the Bois de Mortier and successfully reached the first
objective, Penancourt, on the same date. The 2nd Battalion began the pursuit
on the morning of October 13, having been assigned as the support battalion
of the 232nd Infantry, and passed Anizy-le-Chateau, the Farm Fontenille,
Tervanne, Cessières, and Butte de Sevresis, and bivouacked at dark
On October 13 the 1st Battalion continued the pursuit via Cessières to a point to the west of Molinchart. The 3rd Battalion rested in the Bois de Mortier the night of October 12, and next day went to Manneux Farm. For the work done in this general advance, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were complimented by the Commanding General---the 1st for its passage of the exceedingly strong position in the Bois de Mortier, and the 2nd for a well-conducted march in pursuit via Anizy-le-Chateau.
The regimental P. C. moved up to Cessières and late in the night of October 13 the division was ordered into rest for twelve days. The first ten days were spent in hard work on the roads, but the last two were given over to the issue of badly needed clothing and equipment. These twelve days found the regiment at the following places: Regimental Headquarters at Susy; 1st and 2nd Battalions in the St. Gobain Forest near Le Cateau; the 3rd Battalion at Manneux Farm. By Order No. 4442, Headquarters 59th Division, French Army, dated October 16, 1918, the General Commanding the division thanked the Colonel of the 370th Infantry for the good work done by the regiment in aiding the Engineers in the repair of roads and the cleaning of villages in the devastated districts.
On October 19, 1918, Major Rufus M. Stokes was relieved from command of the 1st Battalion and Captain John T. Prout assigned to command the battalion, Major Stokes being assigned to the Supply Company as administrative officer.
On October 27 the regiment was again ordered into the lines, and pursuant to Ordre de Mouvement No. 30, I. D. 59th Division, French Army, the 2nd Battalion during the night of October 27 proceeded to Farms d'Allemagne and de Cordeau. On the following night, October 28, the 2nd Battalion proceeded to a position in support to the northeast of Grandloup, remaining in various positions near Grandloup until November 5. Except occasional shelling and some machine gun fire on the support positions, nothing of interest occurred to the 2nd Battalion while in position near Grandloup.
On October 29 the 1st Battalion left camp in the St. Gobain
On November 2 the 1st Battalion was moved to new positions with a view to the defense of Grandloup in case of enemy attack, Companies B and C taking position in the open trenches to the southwest of Grandloup and Company A to the southeast of the village. On November 3, an enemy shell struck in the mess line of Company A, at the Farm Chantrud, killing 35 men and wounding 41, making it necessary to withdraw this company from the lines. On November 4, Company C of the 1st Battalion relieved a company of the 325th Regiment of Infantry in the front lines in the vicinity of Brazicourt Farm. The positions of the 1st and 2nd Battalions received severe intermittent shelling while in these positions.
Further Pursuit of the Enemy
On November 5, the enemy began again to retreat and the pursuit recommenced and continued until November 11, 1918, the date of the signing of the armistice.
On November 5 the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Capt. John H. Patton, moved
out in pursuit of the enemy via Farm Attencourt, Autremontcourt, and bivouacked
in the woods north of Erhecourt Farm for the night. The position was shelled
intermittently during the entire night. At 6:00 a. m. the following day,
in a heavy rain, the pursuit was again taken up, the battalion proceeding
to the Farm Bellimont, arriving at about 11:00 p. m., and resting until
6:00 a. m. the following morning, November 7, at which time the battalion
moved out and proceeded to Longue Rue de Bas, arriving about 9:30 p. m.
At 3:30 a. m. the battalion proceeded to Beaume, arriving at 5:30 a. m.,
and reporting to Lieutenant-Colonel Lugand, 232nd (French) Regiment of Infantry.
An attack was ordered at 6:30 a. m. by the division. The 2nd Battalion occupied
a position on the left of the division with the 68th Regiment of Infantry
on the left. At 6:30 a. in. the battalion moved out to the attack. The first
operation, crossing the River Thon, was successfully accomplished, and the
battalion continued the attack eastward towards Aubenton for about one and
The French military officials, as will be seen by the official communication which follows, always called the battalion by the name of the battalion commander. Thus the 2nd Battalion, just referred to, commanded by Capt. John H. Patton of Chicago, Illinois, was termed "the Battalion Patton."
232ND REGIMENT D'INFANTRIE
FROM: Lieut. Colonel Lugand.
TO: Captain John H. Patton. .................................November 7 , 1918.
1. ORDER OF OPERATIONS FOR THE JOURNEY OF THE 8TH. In the morning of the 8th, the 59th Division will attack as follows.
First Operation: Passage of the River Thon, occupation by the advanced lines of the line Bas-Val-la-Caure to LaHayette.
2. The 6th Battalion of the 232nd Infantry and the Battalion Patton will turn off at Aubenton towards the Northwest. The 325th Infantry will occupy Aubenton. On the left the 68th Infantry will attack Leuze.
3. Axis of the march of the 232nd Infantry Le Four Chaux, Hill 246, Fligny.
4. Limit of the left of Battalion Patton, Bas-Val-la-Caure, Lisiere, south of Mattin Rieux.
On the right the 6th Battalion of the 232nd Infantry will form an
advance guard "in echelon" in rear of the left of the Battalion Patton, having two companies in the first line, one company in the second line. The company on the right of the first line will march on the "axis of the march" of the regiment, so as to be 600 meters from the company on the left of the 6th Battalion. Battalion Patton will attack on the left of the 232nd each time the enemy resists during the forward movement.
6. The movement will commence at 6:30 a. m.
7. Battalion Patton will maintain "liaison" (keep in touch) with the 6th Battalion on his right and with the 68th Infantry on his left.
8. The Command Post of the Colonel will be at Beaume.
On November 6 the 1st Battalion received orders to take up the pursuit in support of the Battalion Michel of the 325th Regiment of Infantry, and proceeded to Hill 150, near St. Pierremont, via Brazicourt, Vesles-et-Caumont, Rapiere. The Battalion P. C. was stationed on the road to Marle and this road was shelled intermittently during the night. On November 7 the battalion continued the pursuit, advancing through St. Pierremont, Taveaux-et-Pontsericourt to Maison De Garde, south of Nampcelles. At Val St. Pierre, Company C of the battalion, commanded by Captain James H. Smith, by a series of flanking operations, drove the enemy from a position they occupied with three field pieces (77's) and two machine guns, causing them to abandon the cannon, which were taken by Company C. The enemy left several dead on the field and evidently had defended the position to the last. For this action, Company C was decorated with the French Croix de Guerre. On November 8, the battalion was ordered to Camp at LaHayette. On November 9 the command advanced to Mont Plaisir. On November 10 the battalion moved south to a position at Farm LaHayette. On November 11 it proceeded to Fligny, at which place it was found at the signing of the armistice at 11:00 a,. m. on November 11, 1918.
On November 5 the 3rd Battalion began the pursuit and rested in the open
field at night on the 5th and 6th. On November 7 the battalion moved up
and passed Bosmont, Tarveaux, Virginette, Lambercy, Mont Plaisir, and on
into the front lines at the Rue Larcher. At the Rue Larcher the battalion
passed under command Of Colonel Pernin, of the 325th (French) Regiment of
Infantry. On November 9, the battalion passed under command 'of Lieut.-
After the Armistice
On November 12 the 3rd Battalion, pursuant to Order No. 2082/3, Headquarters 59th Division, French Army, retired from Belgium and took station at Auge (Aisne). On November 15 the regiment changed station as follows: Regimental Headquarters and the 1st Battalion to Dagny (Aisne) ; the 2nd Battalion to St. Clements (Aisne) and the 3rd Battalion to Morgny (Aisne). On November 16 the regiment changed station as follows: Regimental Headquarters and the 1st Battalion to Barrenton-sur-Serre (Aisne); the 2nd and 3rd Battalions to Froidmont-Cohartille (Aisne). On the following day, November 17, Regimental Headquarters and the 1st Battalion changed station to Verneuil-sur-Serre (Aisne).
From November 17 to December 12, 19187 the regiment was engaged at its various stations in cleaning and repairing roads and villages in the immediate vicinity of its stations. On December 12 the regiment formally passed from under command of the French and on the same date left the various villages in which cantoned and marched to Soissons, arriving in the afternoon of the 13th. On December 15 Capt. John H. Patton was relieved from command of the 2nd Battalion and resumed his duties as Regimental Adjutant and Major R. M. Stokes was relieved from duty with Supply Company and was assigned to command the 2nd Battalion.
The usual cantonment duties were performed at Soissons until December
23, 1918, on which date the regiment entrained for the American Embarkation
Center at Le Mans, arriving on December 25, 1918, and going into cantonment.
While stationed at Le Mans, the regiment was engaged in the various inspections
incident to embarkation for the United States until January 8, 1919, on
Until February 1, 1919, the regiment engaged in the various delousings, inspections, etc., incident to embarkation and on that date began embarking on the SS. La France IV, Colonel T. A. Roberts assuming command of the troops on board and Captain Patton the duties of Transport Adjutant. The embarkation having been completed on February 2, the steamer sailed for the United States, arriving at New York on February 9, and proceeding to Camp Upton, Long Island, for station.
The Reception in Chicago
February 15, 1919, the regiment entrained at Camp Upton, Long Island, N. Y., en route for Camp Grant, Illinois, via Chicago. On February 17 the regiment arrived at Chicago, detrained, and proceeded to the Coliseum, where the citizens had arranged a reception for the returning regiment. At 2:00 p. m. the regiment paraded through the "Loop" district of Chicago and at about 4:00 p. m. entrained for Camp Grant, Illinois, arriving the same date and going into barracks.
From the date of arrival at Camp Grant, the regiment engaged in the various duties incident to preparation for demobilization until February 24, on which date the discharge of officers and enlisted men began, and continued until March 12, 1919, on which date the regiment formally ceased to exist.
Cordial Relations Overseas
In commenting upon the friendly and cordial relations which existed between French, English, and Negro officers overseas Capt. John H. Patton, at one time commanding the 2nd Battalion, 370th Infantry (and who, together with Capt. James E. Dunjill and Lieut. Charles S. Parker, 366th Infantry, 92nd Division, were the only three. Negroes who served in the capacity of Regimental Adjutants during the war), made the following statement:
"Both French and English officers were very friendly and hospitable
in their relations with the colored officers of the 370th Infantry, which
unit was brigaded with French troops. They made no discrimination whatsoever
in their treatment of Negro officers,
"Colonel Franklin A. Denison and Lieut.-Colonel Otis B. Duncan were frequently entertained at lunch, not only by officers of their own rank, but occasionally by French generals, for instance, by Gen. Hirsbauer, Commander 2nd French Army; Gen. Lebuc, commanding the 73rd Division; Gen. De Boisuide, commanding the 10th Division; Gen. Savatier, commanding the 34th Division; Gen. Pauliner, commanding the 40th Army Corps, and frequently by Gen. Mittlehauser, who was the commanding officer of the 36th (French) Division.
Awards and Commendations
The first American Distinguished Service Cross won by the 370th Regiment was awarded to Corporal Isaac Valley, Company. M, in the following language: "When on July 22, 191S, a hand grenade was dropped among a group of soldiers in the trench and when he might have saved himself by flight he (Corp. Isaac Valley, Company M, 370th Infantry), attempted to cover it with his foot and thereby protect his comrades; in the performance of this brave act he was severely wounded."
While serving under General Mangin, the French commanding officer of the Tenth Army of France, the men of the 370th U. S. Infantry came to be known as the "Black Devils" by the Germans because of their fighting spirit, and were facetiously called "Partridges" by their French comrades because of their proud bearing.
Lieut.-Colonel Otis B. Duncan, commander of the Third Battalion, 370th
Infantry, formerly the old Eighth Illinois National Guard Regiment, who
was raised from the rank of Major to Lieutenant-Colonel at Camp Stuart,
Newport News, Virginia, March, 1918 (being the highest ranking Negro officer
in the American Expeditionary Forces), in speaking of the military campaign
overseas in which the 370th U. S. Infantry participated, spoke in St. Louis
of the difficulties which his men had to face and of the hardships they
had to endure. He related some of the deeds of the regiment, but modestly
refused to speak of his personal exploits. He wears, however, the French
Croix de Guerre, with silver star, conferred by the French Government through
Colonel Duncan continued: "Beginning September 27, 1918, we sailed into them and drove them back to the Ailette Canal, where they made a stand, facing us not 50 yards away. The fighting here was fierce. The Germans had placed barbed-wire entanglements in the canal, but we avoided these with pontoon bridges and continued our drive. We reached what was known as Mont des Signes, or "Monkey Mountain." We took up our position here between "Monkey Mountain" and the German line, near a narrow-gauge railroad. Here we encountered more concrete emplacements, dugouts, and barbed wire, and in getting to the Germans every man of us had to climb up on that railroad embankment, where we were fair marks for any kind of shell the Germans sent over. Naturally we lost many of our men.
"The 370th Infantry," Colonel Duncan said, "was the first regiment of allied troops to enter Petit Chapelle, in Belgium, and the citizens gave them an ovation. In the advance made by Gen. Mangin's army in its 59-day drive, from September 11, 1918, to the date of the Armistice (November 11, 1918), one or another of the units of the regiment was always under shell fire and fighting. In Petit Chapelle the regiment established its lines while German combat troops still were in the town."
Colonel Duncan served for 16 years with the Illinois National Guard, and saw service on the Mexican border, where he held the rank of Major. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in April,. 1917. His home is in Springfield, Illinois, where for twenty years he was connected with the State Department of Education. The order citing him for bravery which was signed by Gen. Vincendon of the French Army, reads:
"The General commanding the Fifty-ninth Division cites to the Order of the Division Military the following names
"Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan, Otis B., commanding the Third Battalion of the 370th R. I. U. S.
"In command of a battalion during the operations of September, October and November, 1918, up until our victorious armistice, with the very best of tact and highest type of judgment.
"At all times during the pursuit from the 6th of November to November 11th, 1918, he was present in person and was an example of bravery and endurance for his soldiers.
On the Soissons front the 370th Regiment met with the strongest resistance of the enemy. Companies F, G, H, I, and M distinguished themselves in the great drive. They took "Hill 304" from the Germans, and the Tenth French Army, with which this unit was fighting renamed it "370th Infantry U. S. Hill" in honor of this Negro regiment.
Death Valley was another exciting place for this unit, for they had advanced into the Hindenburg line and every inch of ground that was won had to be held with science and grit. The "8th Illinois Regiment" gave a splendid account of itself, and proved at the Oise-Aisne, Canal to be among the world's greatest troops. Their position was near the center of the 59th Division, in the same spot where France had lost division after division.
Record of the 370th in France
Suffered 20 per cent casualties, lost ninety-five men and one officer killed outright.
Lost only one prisoner to the Germans in all the months they fought.
Captured many German cannon and German machine guns.
Participated in the final drive against the Germans on the French sector, advancing in the final stages of the war as far as thirty-five kilometers in one day.
Were the first American troops to enter the French fortress of Laon when it was wrested from the Germans after four years of war.
Won twenty-one American Distinguished Service Crosses, sixty-eight French War Crosses, and one Distinguished Service Medal.
Fought the last battle of the war, capturing a German wagon train of fifty -wagons and crews a half-hour after the Armistice went into effect.
Refused to fraternize with the Germans even after the Armistice was signed.
Chapter XVI. The 371st Infantry in France
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