...Negro Heroes of the War
The Exploit of Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts---How one American Soldier in No Man's Land Killed Four Germans and Wounded Twenty-eight Others Single Handed---First American Soldiers to Receive the French Croix de Guerre---Other Instances of Individual Heroism by Negro Soldiers.
There is no prouder chapter in the history of the Negro race than the records of the American and French Armies that tell of the heroic exploits of colored soldiers, exploits that rank with the most glorious examples of individual courage and devotion to duty in all history. The names of these men who, through their personal bravery and daring, won the coveted Distinguished Service Cross of the American Army or the no less significant Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) of the French, will live forever in the annals of the race.
The first American soldiers of any race, white or black, to receive the French Croix de Guerre, were Henry Johnson of Albany, N.Y. and Needham Roberts, of Trenton, N. J. Both men were privates in the 369th Infantry, the old Fifteenth New York National Guard regiment. This regiment was brigaded with French troops and early in May, 1918, with other American Negro detachments, was put in charge of a long sector of the front line trenches. The event that gave to Johnson and Roberts the honor of being the first Americans to win the French War Cross is best described in a letter which Colonel William Hayward wrote to Mrs. Edna Johnson, the wife of Private (now Sergeant) Johnson. Colonel Hayward's letter follows:
Colonel Hayward to Mrs. Johnson
"Your husband, Private Henry Johnson is in my regiment, 369th United
States infantry, formerly the Fifteenth New York infantry. He has
been at all times a good soldier and a good boy of fine
"He and Private Needham Roberts were on guard together at a small outpost on the frontline trench near the German lines and during the night a strong raiding party of Germans numbering from twelve to twenty judging by the weapons, clothing and paraphernalia they left behind and by their footprints, stole across No Man's Land and made a surprise attack in the dead of the night an our two brave soldiers.
Fighting Against Great Odds
"We had learned some time ago from captured German prisoners that the Germans had heard of the regiment of Black Americans in this sector, and the German officers had told their men how easy to combat and capture them it would be. So this raiding party came over, and on the contrary Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts attended very strictly to their duties. At the beginning of the attack the Germans fired a volley of bullets and grenades and both of the boys were wounded, your husband three times and Roberts twice, then the Germans rushed the post, expecting to make an easy capture. In spite of their wounds, the two boys waited coolly and courageously and when the Germans were within striking distance opened fire, your husband with his rifle and Private Roberts from his helpless position on the ground with hand grenades. But the German raiding party came on in spite of their wounded and in a few seconds our boys were at grips with the terrible foe in a desperate hand-to-hand encounter, in which the enemy outnumbered them ten to one.
"The boys inflicted great loss on the enemy, but Roberts was overpowered
and about to be carried away when your husband, who had used up all of the
cartridges in the magazine of his rifle and had knocked one German down
with the butt end of it, drew his bolo from his belt. A bolo is a short
heavy weapon carried by the American
Knifing the Hun
"Henry laid about him right and left with his heavy knife, and Roberts, released from the grasp of the scoundrels, began again to throw hand grenades. and exploded them in their midst, and the Germans, doubtless thinking it was, a host instead of two brave Colored boys fighting like tigers at bay, picked up their dead and wounded and slunk away, leaving many weapons and part of their shot riddled clothing, and leaving a trail of blood, which we followed at dawn near to their lines. We feel certain that one of the enemy was killed by rifle fire, two by your husband's bolo, one by grenades thrown by Private Roberts and several others grievously wounded. So it was in this way the Germans found the Black Americans. Both boys have received a citation of the French general commanding the splendid French division in which my regiment is now serving and will receive the Croix de Guerre (Cross of War). The citation translated, is as follows:
"First---Johnson, Henry (13348), private in company C, being on double sentry duty during the night and having been assaulted by a group composed of at least one dozen Germans, shot and disabled one of them and grievously wounded two others with his bolo. In spite of three wounds with pistol bullets and grenades at the beginning of the fight, this man ran to the assistance of his wounded comrade who was about to be carried away prisoner by the enemy,
and continued to fight up to the retreat of the Germans. He has given a beautiful example of courage and activity.
"Second---Roberts, Needham (13369), private in Company C, being on double sentry duty during the night was assaulted and grievously wounded in his leg by a group of Germans continuing fighting by throwing grenades, although he was prone on the ground, up to the retreat of the enemy. Good and brave soldier. The general requested that the citation of the division commander to the soldier Johnson be changed to the citation of the orders of the Army.
"Some time ago the great General Gouraud placed in my hands the sum of 100 francs to be sent to the family of the first one of my soldiers wounded in the fight with the enemy under heroic circumstances. Inasmuch as these boys were wounded simultaneously, and both displayed great heroism, I think it but fair to send to each one-half of this sum. Accordingly I am enclosing New York exchange for the equivalent of fifty francs. I am sure that you have made a splendid contribution to the cause of liberty by giving your husband to your country, and it is my hope and prayer to bring him back to you safe and sound, together with as many comrades as it is humanly possible by care and caution to conserve and bring back to America. But it must be borne in mind that we cannot all come back, that none of us can come back until the job is done."
Whole Regiments Decorated
Four Negro regiments won the signal honor of being awarded the Croix de Guerre as a regiment. These were the 369th, the 370th, the 371st and the 372nd. The 369th (old 15th New York National Guard) was especially honored for its record of 191 days on the firing line, exceeding, by five days the term of service at the front of any other American regiment.
Among the honors which France has bestowed upon American soldiers none
is more interesting than the "citation" by which the entire 369th
Regiment was given the coveted Croix de Guerre. The citation was for gallantry
in the September and October offensives in the Champagne sector. By command
of General Martin, commanding the 92nd Division, General Orders were issued
commending a number of colored officers, non-commissioned officers, and
privates of the 369th Infantry for meritorious conduct in action
Individual Awards for Bravery
Among the first men in the 92nd Division to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in the fighting in the Argonne was First Lieutenant Robert L. Campbell. He was twice cited for bravery in a single battle. Another instance of his bravery is told, when it became necessary to send a runner with a message to the left flank of an American firing line. The way was across an open field swept by heavy machine-gun fire. Volunteers were called for. Private Edward Saunders of Company "I" responded. Before he had gone far a shell cut him down, when Lieutenant Campbell sprang to his rescue and carried his man back to the American lines. For the valor shown both were cited for the Distinguished Service Cross. Before entering the army Campbell was instructor in mechanical engineering at the Agricultural and Technical College at Greensboro, North Carolina.
Another single detail taken from the record of this same company is the instance of John Baker; having volunteered, he was taking a message through heavy shell fire to another part of the line; a shell struck his hand, tearing away part of it, but he unfalteringly delivered the message.
First Lieutenant T. M. Dent was promoted to a captaincy
In another General Order Second Lieutenant Nathan O. Goodloe of the 368th Machine Gun Company was commended for excellent work and meritorious conduct. During the operations in the Argonne Forest Lieutenant Goodloe was attached to the 3rd Battalion; during the course of the action it became necessary to reorganize the battalion and withdraw part of it to a secondary position. He carried out the movement under a continual machinegun fire from the enemy. General Martin said of him: "Lieutenant Goodloe's calm courage set an example that inspired confidence in his men."
General Martin also cited for meritorious conduct near Vienne-le-Chateau, Tom Brown, a wagoner, who as driver of an ammunition wagon, displayed remarkable courage, coolness, and devotion to duty under fire. Brown hauled his wagon, even after his horse had been hurled into a ditch by shells, and despite his own painful wounds, worked until he had extricated his horse from the ditch, refusing to quit until he had completed his work, even though covered with blood from a painful wound.
Lieutenant Thomas Edward Jones faced a direct machine-gun fire to care for a wounded soldier. A man was killed within a few yards of him. For this deed he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
When Pershing's infantry swept the Huns from the St. Mihiel salient September
12 and 13, the veteran Pennsylvania machine gunners and automatic riflemen
were in the van. Prominent in the attack were Lieutenant John H. Geisel,
who was wounded on the
Awarded the Croix de Guerre
The following officers and privates from different regiments were awarded the Croix de Guerre:
Although severely wounded in action near Lesseau, France, on September 4, 1918, Private Ed Merryfield of Greenville, Illinois, remained at his post and continued to fight a superior enemy force which had attempted to enter our lines, thereby preventing the success of an enemy raid in force.
Sergeant Duncan, formerly an elevator operator in a department store in Philadelphia, took over the command of his platoon when the platoon sergeant was killed and the officer wounded. He .was awarded the French War Cross and four hundred francs.
Captain Napoleon B. Marshall, a graduate of the Washington High School and Harvard Law School and an attorney of New York City, served on the firing line, where he was gassed and sent to the hospital. Returning to the battle he was wounded from shell fire on October 21, 1918, in a night raid south of Metz in an effort to capture a machine-gun position.
Sailor Edward Donahue Pierson was wounded when the U. S. S. "Mount Vernon" was torpedoed off the coast of France; he is the son of Professor and Mrs. E. D. Pierson, his father being head of the Science Department of the Colored High School in Houston, Texas.
Lieutenant L. E. Shaw was in one of the most exposed centers of the fighting,
being under terrific artillery fire and the fire of two German machine guns.
He handled this very difficult situation with cool bravery. The enemy barrage
was so close that it was impossible to stand up and Lieutenant Shaw controlled
his guns by rolling from one to the other; his two guns fired 5,000 rounds.
Lieutenant R. C. Grame was in command of the group which received the brunt
of the enemy fire which, besides the barrage, added a heavy fire of large
minenwerfers. There was no flinching the troops always working under perfect
control and keeping all combat posts manned, though three men were knocked
down by the explosion of shells. Private Howard Gaillard, with a small
Dr. Claudius Ballard, a colored physician of Los Angeles, received the Croix de Guerre for work in the Belgian drive; Henry P. Cheatham, son of former Congressman Henry P. Cheatham of North Carolina, for distinguished service in action under the French General Rondeau, Commandant of l'Infanterie de la 59th Division, with which the 370th Infantry was brigaded, and Captain Samuel R. Gwynne, commanding officer of the Third Machine Gun Company for loyalty and bravery in action, having led his men over the top after having been wounded twice.
For extraordinary heroism under fire 124 soldiers of the 371st and 372nd Infantry have been decorated by the French authorities. Four received the Croix de Guerre. Several exploits stand out prominently. Sergeant Depew Pryor, Corporal Clifton Morrison, Privates Clarence Van Allen and Kenneth Lewis were awarded the Médaille Militaire. All except the last mentioned were Massachusetts boys and belonged to the same company. Lewis is dead, having been killed at his post by hand grenades. He took from the Germans a machine gun while it was in action on Bussy Farm in the Champagne district. Lewis was from Washington, D. C.
Sergeant Robert Terry and Sergeant Charles Hughes were in a big raid and went ahead in spite of a terrible barrage fire from the enemy. Over the top they went and it was due to their coolness under fire that all objectives were gained.
Private George Byrd was in command of a mortar near Verdun. He rendered
valuable assistance to a raiding party by cutting wires so that the party
could advance into enemy territory. The mortar he was firing had not been
securely placed and it began
Sergeant George H. Jordan received the Croix de Guerre and palm for taking command of an ammunition train at Verdun on October 5, 1918, when the commanding officer had been killed by a shell; he saved and brought through eight of the seventeen wagons of the train.
Private Reuben Burrell, of a machine gun company with the 371st Regiment, was cited for extraordinary heroism in action in the Champagne sector, September 30, 1918, and Private Ellison Moses of Company C went forward and rescued wounded soldiers, working persistently until all of them had been carried to shelter after his company had been forced to withdraw from an advanced position; all the while he was under severe machine-gun and artillery fire. For such services these heroes also were given the Croix de Guerre.
Private James Williams was a member of Company C, of the 369th, and it was in the attack of his regiment an "Snake Hill" in the Champagne sector that he exhibited the valor for which he, was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
Private Tom Rivers, of Company G, 366th Infantry, was cited by the commanding general of the American forces in France "for extraordinary heroism in action." Although gassed he volunteered and carried important messages through heavy barrages and refused aid until his company was relieved.
Heroes of "The Old Eighth" Decorated
The Distinguished Service Cross has been awarded to the following soldiers attached to the old 8th Illinois Regiment. Copies of citations follow:
Private Tom Powell (deceased) for extraordinary heroism in action near Beaume, France, November 8, 1918. He repeatedly carried messages under severe fire to the various units in the vicinity of his company, until he was killed in the performance of his duty.
Private Spirley Irby carried messages to the various units in his vicinity under severe enemy fire. He was badly wounded.
Private Alfred Williamson of the Medical Detachment was assigned to duty at the first-aid station, but volunteered to accompany the attacking lines to more expeditiously attend to the wounded. During the advance he constantly exposed himself to the enemy fire to render first aid.
Acting as ammunition carrier, Private Arthur Johnson received a painful injury in the back from a shell fragment. While engaged in carrying ammunition he found a wounded man in an exposed position, and, regardless of his own wound, carried this man under heavy fire to the first-aid station, a distance of more than a kilometer, returning to his work immediately afterward.
Private Charles T. Monroe, afterward promoted to Sergeant, in the absence of a platoon commander took charge of a platoon of Stokes mortars, directing the work of the men under heavy shell fire. Although the shelling was so intense that guns were at times buried, Sergeant Monroe and his men worked unceasingly in placing them back into action. He himself was buried by the explosion of a shell, but on being dug out continued to direct the work of the men and encouraged them by his fearless example.
During the action at Mont-de-Sanges, September 20 to October 1, 1918, Sergeant Thompson, then a corporal, volunteered and took charge of a detail to secure rations. He succeeded in this mission under very dangerous and trying conditions, and, notwithstanding the fact that his detachment suffered numerous casualties, he remained on this duty, and continued to supply the company with rations until completely exhausted.
A messenger having been wounded by an enemy sniper in the open between the line, Sergeant Lester Fossie immediately went to his rescue and brought him into the company headquarters, over ground swept by machine-gun and sniper's fire.
Early Instances of Heroism
No one in France was in a better position to report on the heroism of Negro soldiers. than Ralph W. Tyler, the Negro war correspondent. Here is Mr. Tyler's report of some of the first instances that came to his attention:
"Somewhere in France.---A successful raid, planned by one of the majors of the old 8th Illinois Regiment, whose home is at Metropolis, Illinois, was made in the Voucharn sector, and with great daring. The motor battery of the regiment first took part in laying down a barrage fire. The barrage fire began at 4 o'clock in the morning---just as the first rays of the sun shone sluggishly, and but dimly, behind the horizon. At the hour named, every gunner was at his post. The Major flashed an electric signal, and within a minute or two thereafter every gun fired simultaneously, as if connected with and controlled by an electric battery. For fifteen minutes the colored gunners kept up their barrage fire, and then a French company was sent out behind the barrage to make the raid. So surprising was the raid, and so quickly made, that but three of the colored soldiers were wounded, and they but slightly, and but eight of the French, with whom they were fighting, while the Germans' casualty toll was eleven killed and three wounded, and the remainder were captured.
The Negro in the Argonne
"Stories of the fight in the Argonne Forest," said Mr. Tyler in a later report," and the splendid endurance and valiant fighting of the colored soldiers continue to come in. It is reported that a company of the old Ninth Ohio Battalion, under command of its colored captain from Dayton, Ohio, lay in an open field all night, awaiting orders to go into action, while all the time the Germans were dumping big shells and machine-gun fire into them. But even in the face of such a murderous fire, the colored line stood as firm as if the huge shells and murderous machine-gun fire were but the discharge of toy blowguns. Among their casualties were Anderson Lee and William Chenault, of Dayton, who were killed. The firmness of the line these khaki-garbed black soldiers maintained in the face of a withering fire---a veritable hell---constitutes one more reason why the folks of the race back home should be proud of these, their colored soldiers over here, whose unyielding spirit and bravery is making history for the race.
"I have learned that Hill 304, which the French so valiantly held, and which suffered such a fierce bombardment from the Germans that there is not a single foot of it but what is plowed
up by shells, and whose sides, even today, are literally covered with the corpses of French soldiers who still lie where they fell, was later as valiantly held by the colored soldiers from the United States, who fought with all the heroism and endurance the best traditions of the army have chronicled. The colored soldiers, under their own captain from Dayton, Ohio, who so splendidly maintained their line in the Argonne Forest, and those who held that bloody and forever historical Hill 304, had the odds against them, but like Tennyson's immortalized 'Six Hundred,' they fought bravely and well, firmly in the belief it was 'not theirs to reason why, but theirs to do or die, ' and, like the patriots they were, they did DO and this war's history will so record."
How Two Colored Captains Fell
Still another report by Mr. Tyler says:
"Recently, in an engagement already reported, a colored unit was ordered to charge, and take if possible, a very difficult objective held by the Germans. Captains Fairfax and Green, two colored officers, were in command of the detachments. They made the charge, running into several miles of barb-wire entanglements, and hampered by a murderous fire from nests of German machine guns which were camouflaged. Just before charging, one of the colored sergeants, running up to Captain Fairfax, said: 'Do you know there is a nest of German machine guns ahead?' The Captain replied: 'I only know we have been ordered to go forward, and we are going.' Those were the last words he said, before giving the command to charge, 'into the jaws of death.' The colored troops followed their intrepid leader with all the enthusiasm and dash characteristic of patriots and courageous fighters. They went forward, they obeyed the order, and as a result 62 men and two officers were listed in the casualties reported, Captains Fairfax and Green being among those who fell to rise no more. Captain Fairfax's last words: 'I only know we have been ordered to go forward, and we are going,' are words that will forever live in the memory of their race; they are words that match those of Sergeant Carney, the color sergeant of the 54th Massachusetts during the Civil War, who, although badly wounded, held the tattered, shot-pierced Stars and Stripes aloft and exclaimed: 'The old flag never touched the ground.' Men
who have served under Captains Fairfax and Green say two braver officers never fought 'and fell."
"Since this 92nd Division has been in France there has come to it four promotions for its colored officers, among these being the promotion. of Captain Adam E. Patterson and Captain Dean to majorships, the former now serving as Divisional Judge Advocate, while the latter is in command of a munition train. Major Patterson will be remembered as the colored man whom President Wilson, soon after his first inauguration, nominated for the position of Register of the Treasury, but who, on learning certain Southern Senators would prevent his confirmation, wrote the President requesting, in order not to embarrass the President, that he withdraw his name, which was done. The Division Commander speaks in high terms of Major Patterson's ability, his attentiveness to duty, and his fine conduct of the office of Division Judge Advocate. Both Major Patterson and Major Dean won their promotion, the Division Commander says, on merit alone."
Captain Jones and His Gallant Fighters
"In one engagement in the Argonne woods, where the fighting has been most sanguinary," said Mr. Tyler, "and where the American troops showed their mettle, Captain J. Wormley Jones, of Washington, D. C., is reported to have stood like a stone wall, and rallied his men, when others were wavering in the face of a murderous fire and of great odds. In this particular engagement, Captain Jones displayed such fine leadership, such fearlessness of danger, that his Division Commander, in a personal talk with the writer, praised in highest terms the valor and leadership shown by the Captain. It is such instances as these, and there are many coming to light almost daily, that justify the hope entertained by the race that our colored officers would prove efficient, and that our colored soldiers would fight as well under colored officers as under any others." And in a later dispatch Mr. Tyler continued:
"Realizing that there is nothing more encouraging to the race back in the States than to learn how bravely our colored soldiers over here are enduring and fighting. I made it a point to secure a fuller report of the bravery displayed by Captain J. Wormley Jones, of Washington, D. C., in one of the Argonne engagements.
The place of honor, it appears, fell to Captain Jones's regiment, and to the battalion to which he belongs. Under cover of the night's pitch-black darkness, the Captain led his men into the trenches overlooking No-Man's-Land, that grim sepulcher that holds so many thousands of the Allies' and the enemy dead.
"Notwithstanding that Captain Jones and his men had just completed a forced march of some twenty kilometers, the men were in excellent condition and splendid spirits, and eager to demonstrate their fitness to try conclusions with the Huns. Captain Jones was supported by Lieutenants Frank Coleman, C. W. Marshall, D. J. Henderson, and Paul Jones, the last mentioned being a brother of the captain. These men were all of 'the sterner stuff,' and fit for the trying ordeal which awaited them. Space forbids dealing with the blackness of the night, or with the awful bombardment.
"Neither can I individualize respecting the magnificent valor of the men of the company led by Captain Jones in this engagement, which Secretary Baker himself praised. When the awful bombardment died away, just as the gray streaks of early dawn pierced the night's blackness, which was made grayer by a thick heavy fog, the Captain ordered a charge 'over the top' with fixed bayonets; through the treacherous fog and into no-man-knew-what or seemed to care. The first wave, or detachment, went over with a cheer---a triumphant cheer---and the second wave followed their comrades with a dash. It may, perhaps, be best to let these boys and officers tell with their own lips of the terrific, murderous shell, shrapnel, gas, and machine-gun fire which baptized them, only to make them the more hardened and intrepid warriors; of how they contended every inch; fought with marvelous valor, never for an instant faltering. Trench after trench of the enemy was entered and conquered; dugout after dugout was successfully grenaded and made safe for the boys to follow; wires were cut and communicating trenches explored; machine-gun nests were raided and silenced, and still the boys fought their way on. Of course, as a natural sequence to such a daring raid, there were casualties, but the black soldiers, heroes as they were, never flinched at death, and the wounded were too proud of their achievements even to murmur because of the pain they endured. Captain Jones and his men
took over a mile of land and trenches which for four years had been held by the Germans. The newspapers have given due and proper credit to the Americans for this daring raid, but the world has not been informed that it was the colored soldiers of America, under Captain J. Wormley Jones, a former Washington, D. C.,. policeman, who made the charge that was as daring, and more successful, than the Tennyson-embalmed charge of 'The Light Brigade.' "
A Brave Y. M. C. A. Secretary
To E. T. Banks, of Dayton, Ohio, belongs the honor of being the first Y. M. C. A. colored secretary to go "over the top," which he did in one of the Argonne engagements. It was permitted him to fight for two days and nights in the forests and trenches side by side with real soldiers. On the last night, while lending first aid to a wounded black scout soldier, he was fired upon by a German machine gun, but succeeded in bringing his wounded scout to the American line, though not until they had lain all night in the forest under a most fearful barrage fire. For his bravery, Banks was cited and recommended for meritorious service. An officer, in a personal letter to him commending his splendid service, wrote: "When the full story of the Argonne is told, the 'Red Triangle' represented by Mr. Banks will add beauty to the rainbow that is reflected from the silent tombs of those who sleep the sleep of death that Democracy may not perish from the earth."
A Heroic Colored Physician
There was a heroic calmness, according to Ralph W. Tyler, in the death
of Lieutenant Urban F. Bass, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, colored, serving
as a physician with one of the colored regiments, and it is deserving of
more than a passing notice. He was directing the affairs of his temporary
aid station just behind the crest of a hill, while the battle was raging,
when a shell from the enemy's gun combed the hill and struck among the group
of workers being directed by him, tearing off both legs of the physician.
Lieut. Bass, with remarkable fortitude, as calmly instructed his hospital
corps how to give him first aid as if he was but writing a prescription
for one of his patients back in his Virginia office.
Here is another story told by Mr. Tyler:
"Yesterday about 10 o'clock, a platoon of colored men, under colored officers, was sent out to reconnoiter, to learn the strength and position of the enemy, and with positive instructions to bring back live prisoners. They went, but discovering that the enemy was strongly entrenched, and realizing that it would be suicidal to attempt to attack almost :a regiment with a handful of men, returned and reported. The Major of the battalion thereupon said he would go himself and do the job, and called for eight volunteers to accompany him. There was no lack of volunteers, even from among those of the platoon that had previously returned to make this report. The Major, a white officer, selected eight men from the many who had volunteered to make the perilous trip, and started out to locate the Huns' position and return with a live prisoner. Instead of returning, he, with two of his volunteers, are now prisoners of war in the German camp, for they found, to their Major's regret, that the colored officer had reported correctly the German strength. This is but one more instance showing that the colored soldiers are indifferent to fear; that they quickly, cheerfully, and eagerly volunteer to go even though death or capture is the sure fate awaiting them."
How Lieutenant Cameron Died
"It was but one of the many small raids nearly every night chronicles here at the front," said Mr. Tyler in another dispatch, "but it demonstrated the daring courage of our colored troops. Some two hundred colored soldiers, under Captain Robert Stephens, of Columbus, Ohio, were ordered to raid the Boche's trenches. They were ordered to do this without a barrage fire being first laid down for them, and without artillery or machine-gun support. They never hesitated, however, but out into the pitch-black darkness of night they moved, encountered the usual barbed-wire entanglements which so fearfully harass advance even in the day, to say
nothing of the night. The Germans lay quiet until these black warriors were within forty rods of their trenches, and then they opened up a murderous machine-gun fire, and exploded shells of deadly gas among the black soldiers. But the latter never wavered. They fought manfully against great odds. Among the casualties were Captain Stephens and Lieut. Stewart, badly gassed, and Lieut. Cameron, of Nashville, Tennessee, killed. Bruce McCray, Maxton, North Carolina, just as he was going over the top, was hit by a machine-gun bullet that ripped his stomach, and Cornelius Turner, of Sellars, Louisiana, was stopped from going over the top by a bullet which indented his helmet, cutting a jagged wound in his head. There were a number who were more or less gassed. I visited them in the hospital the following afternoon, and found those injured and gassed getting along as well as could be expected, and had the assurance of the physicians in attendance---careful physicians of their own race---that all would recover. The death of Lieutenant Cameron, however, cast an impenetrable gloom over every one in the regiment, and even in the entire division, for he was loved by officers and men. The draft would not and could not have reached Lieutenant Cameron, but he came ---volunteered---to serve his country, and died for it."
Badly Wounded, He Fought On
"An incident showing unusual fidelity to duty came to light yesterday. Sergeant Gans, with two other colored comrades, was on guard at a 'strong point' on one of the active fronts. During the night his two comrades were killed by enemy shrapnel, and he himself had ugly wounds in his back and leg, from which the blood flowed freely; still he remained at his post. When it was learned that his two comrades had been killed, and he himself wounded, Captain Harry Atwood sent to have the dead and wounded brought in, but Sergeant Gans refused to leave his post, because a sergeant, as he thought was proper, was not there to relieve him. It became necessary for Captain Atwood to order this badly wounded sergeant to leave his post at the point of a bayonet, to secure medical treatment. All he knew was duty; he was firm in the belief that before he could leave his post for anything, a relief should be there to take his place."
A Fighting Colored Chaplain
"The gas mask has saved hundreds from being gassed," said Mr. Tyler, "but perhaps the first case reported of a gas mask saving a soldier's life by warding off a deadly bit of shrapnel was the case of Chaplain J. T. Simpson, a former Pittsburgh colored minister. The courageous chaplain, as full of fight as of religion, was going over the top with 'his boys,' as he called the troops of his regiment, when a big shell exploded, and a piece of the shrapnel from it hit the mask he was wearing, striking the metal part, otherwise he would now be a dead chaplain instead of confined in the hospital from shell shock. Frequently it takes longer to recover from shell shock than from a shell wound. The chaplain, when I saw him was, however, slowly but surely recovering."
Mental Effect of a Big Shell
"When one calmly reads of the shelling of a town, he cannot form any adequate knowledge of the feeling which possesses those who experience the shelling. Yesterday afternoon the Boche opened up on the little town at the front, in which I was gathering news," said Ralph W. Tyler in another letter. "The big guns of the Huns sent their awful instruments of death whistling through the air. First a belching sound is heard, and then comes the siren-like whistle of the shell as it races overland to its terminal of destruction, and then a roaring, hellish sound----'Boom!'--shaking hills and vales for miles around. The people are startled. They gather in little knots and look far over the lines, whence came the belching sound, to see if they can get a view of the approaching engine of death. Soldiers hardened to the oft-heard sound, calmly proceed about their duties, when they find the Hun has failed to get the proper range of the town. But the feeling is peculiar. Even when the shell misses, involuntarily there arises, in one's mind, the question: 'Will the next one hit? ' There are experiences far more pleasant than seeing a big death-tipped shell-so, I thought when two whistled over my head yesterday and struck a few yards to the right and left of me."
Chapter XIX. The Negro Soldier as a Fighter
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