War History Commission News Letter, July 1920
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WAR HISTORY COMMISSION NEWS LETTER No. 7 State Capitol, Richmond, VA July, 1920
For Virginia's Sake Slowly but surely material for Virginia's War History is accumulating. It would be alike unfair to the cities and counties which have been working hard and to those divisions which have accomplished little if an official statement should be made that satisfaction is general. Far from it! There are several of the counties of Virginia and a few of the cities that are completely or virtually unorganized. There are some with paper organizations, but which give little or no indication of work accomplished. This is really a most unfortunate condition which cannot be overlooked and should be corrected. There is not a political division of Virginia which failed to make a worthy contribution toward the State's share in winning the war. Men were given cheerfully to the colors, money was contributed freely toward every worthy cause, provisions were conserved, production was speeded-- in short, all Virginia did well. However, these facts, known today, will not be known years from now unless the story is recorded. It will be impossible to make future historians believe that "A" county played its full part if, in the official history of Virginia, there is only the most meager mention of "A." On the other hand, "B" county will secure at once the favorable attention of the future historian if the official history sets forth completely, accurately and impressively the record of its performances. Yet "A" may have done as much or more than "B." To those who regard history as non-essential, who are averse to writing anything that savors of boasting, who think that official records in statistical form collected by various organizations are all-sufficient, the History Commission would only say that, which patient digging through the numerous mines of official records might give the future historian material for his work, the reader of history will have no time for such investigations and his judgment of a county, of its patriotism, its loyalty, its courage, its generosity, will be obtained primarily from the official story of the State. People who, otherwise, would never visit Wakefield, go there because George Washington was born there. St. John's Church in Richmond is a Mecca for visitors, drawn by the sentiment attached to the place where Patrick Henry delivered an immortal oration. Lexington attracts because General Lee lived there during his last years and died there. Charlottesville would be a shrine even if there were no University of Virginia, because Jefferson lived at Monticello. So Temple Farm and Bruton Parish Church and Jamestown Island and St. Paul's in Norfolk and the Crater near Petersburg draw their pilgrims because history has made these places famous. Every high school student knows of the Minute Men of Lexington, but few, even in Virginia, know of the Minute Men of Culpeper. Students in grammar grades know of Salem's Town Council, but who knows about the patriotic justices of the peace in Westmoreland County in the Colony of Virginia? Men are revered, places are hallowed, if their worthy histories are known, but the unrecorded great soon pass into oblivion. This is not a plaint or a lecture. It attempts to be a plain statement of accepted fact and is written without prejudice and without annoyance in the hope that it may make tardy commissions speed up their work which, if well done, will mean so much for the future fame and possibly the development of their sections.
NATIONAL HISTORIANS MEET IN WASHINGTON Washington, April 6 and 7, 1920. The spring meeting of the National Association of State War History Organizations was held in Washington on the 6th and 7th of April. Fifteen of the sixteen member-organizations were represented, several, however, by proxy. The Virginia Commission was represented by the Executive Committee of the Commission, excepting General Stern, who, at the last minute found it impossible to attend. There were four sessions. The first session and last were sessions at which only members of the association and one or two persons especially interested in the work of the association were present. These meetings took place in the Woodward Building in the quarters of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. They were held on the morning of the 6th and the afternoon of the 7th, respectively. Reports as to the progress of the work in the several States represented were made, and discussions entered into as to the best ways for attaining results. The election of officers for the coming year resulted in the retention of the whole list of officers who have served the association heretofore. The other two sessions, held in the auditorium of the Department of the Interior, were open sessions to which were invited representatives of the various governmental departments in Washington and most of the great welfare organizations which aided so materially in winning the war. Most of those invited attended, and gave addresses in which they described the condition of the records under their supervision which might be interesting to the State war history organizations. It was gratifying to learn that the records of most of the departments, as well as the records of many of the organizations doing remedial and morale work, such as the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A., are in such condition that they may be used to a very helpful extent by the war history organizations in the collection of information. It was the decided opinion of most of the speakers, however, that information desired ought to be sought for, and secured through, a central agent, such as the National Association of War History Organizations has in Washington in the person of its research secretary, Dr. Newton D. Mereness. No one who listened to the speeches made could doubt the wisdom of the State war history organizations in entering into an association and securing as its secretary a man who has done a great deal of research work and who is favorably (Continued on page 2)
VIRGINIA SOLDIER URGES MODESTY Colonel Jennings C. Wise, U.S.A., was the principal speaker at the Fourth Quarterly Meeting of the Virginia War History Commission which was held in the Hall of the House of Delegates on the evening of April 20. Major General Adelbert Cronkhite, commander of the famous 80th Division under whom Colonel Wise served while in France introduced the young Virginian whose military services had been conspicuous and who enjoys a well-deserved reputation for his literary historical work. The large hall in the State Capitol was crowded and the audience was well repaid. Colonel Wise paid a deserved tribute to his commanding officer and then discussed :The War and the Rational Viewpoint." The speaker described the contesting parties as virtually balanced when America entered the war, admitted that the scale dipped slightly in favor of Germany but holding that no one nation won the war that if France had become exhausted, Italy depleted or England tired, the end would have been long delayed and most uncertain. He felt that America's entry was determining but even conceding that, he urged his hearers to ridicule any claim that this country was the winner of the conflict. Colonel Wise gave the figures of French losses and Belgium and British and Italian. He showed that one out of every eight Englishmen of war are had been killed or permanently injured and that of the more than two million men whom we sent to France there were less than sixty thousand who died. Colonel Wise's speech was interesting not only by reason of its philosophic character and the quality of national modesty it displayed, but some of the inferences he drew from witnessing troops under fire were most instructive. The speaker expressed indignation over the stories told in this country concerning the French women whom he described as being on as high a moral plane as those of any country in the world.
COLONEL PRAISES COLORED TROOPS Promising a report on the work of the Five Hundred and Eleventh Engineers Battalion, Colonel George E. E. Fairley, writing to Miss Julia Sully, praises the loyal colored men of Virginia who served under him. As an evidence of the difficulties that are to be encountered by the History Commissions of the several States, the story of the Five Hundred and Eleventh Engineers is more or less typical. Of these men 95 per cent were Virginians. Their colonel testifies that they were fearless soldiers and one of the best engineers battalions in France, yet, until the flag of the battalion was sent to the State Capitol there was no record within the State showing that this battalion existed. This letter from Colonel Fairley is particularly interesting because so many people have disregarded the dangers encountered by the working battalions or have been ignorant of these dangers; yet, depending on locations, the men who prepared roads and built railways were exposed to dangers at almost all times, varying only in degree of risk. The letter follows: "My Dear Miss Sully: "I trust you will pardon my delay in answering your letter regarding the war history of the Five Hundred and Eleventh Engineers Battalion. I am working on the matter and expect to have it in shape in the near future. "I certainly owe it to the loyal and faithful Virginia colored men who composed at least 95 per cent of the enlisted personnel of my battalion These men never flinched in time of danger and were rated as now of the best engineers battalions in France, and were in every way a credit to your State. I shall be pleased to forward my report as soon as it is completed "Very respectfully, (Signed) "GEORGE E. E. FAIRLEY, "Lieut. Col. Corps of Engn. Reserve."
Minutes of Meetings
MARCH Senate Chamber, March 23, 1920. The chairman called the meeting to order, immediately after which General Stern moved that the roll call and reading of the minutes of the last meeting be omitted. This motion was carried. The following members were present: Arthur Kyle Davis, C. R. Keiley, H. R. McIlwaine, Jo Lane Stern, Robert R. Prentis, H. J. Eckenrode, James Southall Wilson, Rosewell Page, Miss Julia Sully, J.G. Randall, J. A. Kelleher, Moran Robinson, John P. Leary, George Cole Scott; Mrs. Bradley S. Johnson, representing Goochland County; Mrs. R.M. Crawford, representing the Williamsburg Commissions, and W.S. Morton, representing Charlotte County. There were several visitors present, among them Mrs. Morgan Robinson and Mrs. C.R. Keiley. Negro Office Opened. Under the head of "New Business" Miss Sully, chairman of the section, "War-Work and Relief Organizations," was asked to make a report of her work. Miss Sully reported a central committee of negroes organized in Richmond, an office furnished and equipped for first-class work in the Mechanics' Bank Building,, and much real enthusiasm and interest on the part of this colored committee. Miss Sully said she had two plans for this work. That General Stern had promised to aid her in getting the lists of the colored drafted men and in various other ways, and that the civilian records would be handled through the colored churches in cities such as Richmond, and in the rural communities largely through the Organization Society. (Continued on page 2.)
MAY In the Senate Chamber on the evening of May 25th the Virginia War History Commission held a regular monthly meeting at which thre was a notable departure from precedent. Theretofore some speaker of national or international repute had featured the meeting. The last gathering was a strictly business affair of reports, suggestions and discussions. Six cities and five counties were represented by their chairmen, and each of these contributed largely to the value of the occasion. Three notable contributions were recorded. The complete record of Virginia's largest industry- the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company-- had been compiled and only needed final revision to make it available for the archives. The history of Langely Field, one of the army's chief aviation stations, and its only aerial school of photography, was delivered to the secretary, and the minute book with a complete clippin grecord of the Godmothers' League, a unique organization started in Richmond, was also turned in. There were several reports of additional local appropriations, among them $600.00 from the Council of Petersburg and $500.00 from the Board of Supervisors of Albemarle County The chairman of the Commission, Mr. Arthur Kyle Davis, gave a partial list of the material already in the central office. In some sections the accomplished work had been satisfactory, in others less had been done, and for some of the sections there was no report, but, as will later be shown, there is a good explanation for the omissions. Probably the most interesting part of the meeting, and certainly the most helpful, was a general discussion of the plans of the Commission, coupled with suggestions for additions and changes. A surprising incident of the discussion was the virtually unanimous statement of the local chairmen that the American Legion was not taking an active part in collecting soldiers' records. While in some places, notably in Petersburg, the fault lay, not with the Legion, but, as frankly stated by the local chairman, with the Commission itself, this was not true generally, and, in an effort to get a better working understanding with the Legion, a committee was created with Mr. William Meredith as chairman. A startling bit of information was given by General Jo Lane Stern, who said that there was a very strong probability that Virginia's military contribution- soldiers, sailors, and marines- might, in the final figures, reach one hundred thousand. When the Commission issued its first booklet it suggested to the local commissioners that they appoint for each topic of the history a collaborator-chairman to whom should be intrusted the collection of all information under his specific topic that could be obtained in his city or county. Subsequent publications of the commission and instructions from the central office have confirmed this arrangement; but recently the secretary of the Commission, who has been visiting a number of the counties, ascertained that occasionally this arrangement was infeasible, that particularly in those counties which conducted no Y.M.C.A. or Y.W.C.A., Knight of Columbus or Jewish Welfare headquarters, but confined their activities in those lines solely to the raising of funds for work elsewhere, the counties which had no Red Cross, canteen work or community service work, seem to prefer some arrangement whereby the collection of data for any particular district of the county should be placed in the hands of one man or woman who would turn into the office of the local commission a complete record of the activities of his or her neighborhood. The practicability of this innovation was discussed at length. It was not the thought of any one present to take this suggestion to me an abrogation of the plan now being so generally pursued, but it was made evident at the meeting that the general concensus was to the effect that it would be wise to permit the countries to have this alternative offered to them. The matter was left to the decision of the Executive Committee which, it may be remarked, subsequently decided to permit the counties to exercise their own discretion in this matter. The thing of chief importance which was made clear by this discussion, a matter which seems to have confused some of the local commissions and the collaborators, is that the thing to be desired is not so much form as material. The Commission has always accepted this as a definite conclusion, but apparently many of the local branches had been laboring under the delusion that they would be compelled to transmit their information under a fixed formula and collect their material by a fixed plan. This decision of the Commission and the Editorial Committee should clarify the situation and remove all misunderstandings. Hon. Alexander W. Weddell, Consul General of the United States in Athens and temporary charge d'affaires of the United States in Greece gave a brief but very interesting talk on the work of the men in the diplomatic and consular service. His address gave a very clear idea of the value of the work of the men who held consular positions, their contribution to the administration of re- (Continued on page 2.)
TWO NEW PLANS The two outstanding features of the June meeting were the naming of new agents and the fixing of specific dates in the work of the local branches. The following new agents under the Commission have been appointed: Mr. Walter F. Beverly, of Wise County; Mr. Arthur W. James, of Richmond, and Mr. H.H. Simms, of Orange County, have been sent out to perfect the organizations and to aid in the work of local branches wherever needed. The Board of Negro Collaborators has nominated Mrs. Ora Brown Stokes, of Richmond, as field agent among the colored people of the State. For July and August six definite weekly drives have been arranged, as follows: July 18 to 24 - Service Records. July 25 to 31 - Church Records. August 1 to 7 - War Letters and Diaries. August 8 to 14 - War Work and Relief. August 15 - 21 - Economic Facts and Conditions. August 22 - 28 - Pre-War and Post-War Facts. The quarterly meeting will be held in the Senate Chamber in the Capitol on Tuesday, August 31st. At this meeting a tabulated report of the work of each local branch will be submitted. This means that an intensive campaign for the collection of local data is now set on foot by the Commission. Both the local members and the local collaborators are urged to push this work. Under this plan just one week of intensive work is asked of the local collaborator and assistants under each topic. The Executive Committee urges that this service be given to the State. Each city and county has its filing cabinet in the office of the Commission and each of these cabinets should be full of interesting and valuable data by the end of August.
Mr. Stearnes Helps. Mr. R.C Stearnes, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction and more recently directing important work for the National Community Service, has very kindly consented to help the commission in the securing of local material during July and August. Mr. Stearnes will confine his attention almost exclusively to the cities. He has already begun work in Richmond and Alexandria and expects to make engagements for most of the Virginia cities during the brief period that he can give to the commission. The Community Service organization has very kindly given him a vacation for this purpose.
Coming Meetings. On the 27th of the current month the regular meeting of the commission will be held and it is hoped that there will then be reported a goodly amount of local work accomplished. Encouraging reports have been received from the commission's filed agents and the office is more optimistic than it has been. The next quarterly meeting of the commission will be held on August 31st and since the greater number of the section chairman have promised a more or less complete return on the subjects allotted to them on or before September 1st, this meeting should prove to be the most interesting in the history of the commission and it is hoped that it will be well attended.
HISTORY COMMISSION MAKES PLANS TO HELP LOCAL BODIES The June meeting of the History History Commission was particularly notable by reason of the large out-of-town attendance. The following commissioners and collaborators were present: Mr. Arthur Kyle Davis, chairman; Col. C.R. Kelley, Secretary; Dr. H.R. McIlwaine, General Jo. Lane Stern, Judge Robert R. Prentis, Dr. H.J. Eckenrode, Miss Julia Sully, Rev. John A. Kelliher, Mrs. W.G. Stanard, Mr. W.G. Stanard, Miss Mary S. Gammon, Major H.L. Opie, Miss Julia S. Wooldridge. Local Commissioners: Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson, Mrs. W. S. Copeland, Newport News; Mr. Samuel D. Rogers, representing Dr. W.F. Drewry, Petersburg; Mrs. R.M. Crawford, Williamsburg; Mrs. Henry L. Schmelz, Hampton, Mr. David A. Harrison, Jr., Mr. Richard Epps, Hopewell; Mrs. E.C. Madison, Warwick county; Miss Juliet Gish, Bedford county; Mr. Samuel R. Twyman, Buckingham county; Mr. James H. Quisenberry, Louisa county; Mrs. W.F. Wilbur, Princess Anne county; Mr. Morton G. Goode, Dinwiddie county. Local collaborators: Rev. L.J. Rhaup, Prince George county, W.E. McClenny, Nansemound county; C.H. Causey, Suffolk; Miss Annie V. Mann, Petersburg; Mrs. Filllmore Tyson, Mrs. Richard Epps, Mr. I.M. Warren, Hopewell. Field representatives: Walter F. Beverly, Wise county, Arthur W. James, Richmond, H.H. Simms, Orange county. Visitors: Miss Isla Jones, Miss Pauline Pearce. Officers reports noted the receipt of a number of interesting contributions received during the month, including two complete Red Cross histories, a large number of completed military records, a full report of the was relief work done by the Mennonite church in Virginia, some interesting pre-war papers, histories of places and movements outside of Virginia and a mass of material from the Historical Branch of the of the war office in Washington including the final report of the provost marshal general. Satisfactory Progress. Out-of-town commissioners without exception reported satisfactory progress, some notable. With the exception of Hopewell, the divisions reporting gave evidence of satisfactory progress in the completion of soldiers' records, but Judge Harrison, who spoke for Hopewell, said that, owing to the fact that fully 95% of the men who enlisted from Hopewell are now scattered throughout the country, it had been very difficult for him and his associates to get any personal records. He did, however, say that the story of the industrial activities of Hopewell was nearly complete and that other subjects were being handled satisfactorily. It may be remarked that the story of the industrial activities will include the history of the great DuPont plant in Hopewell which was the largest powder-making plant in the country during the war. Mrs. Crawford, of Williamsburg, reported an appropriation made by the city council to cover the work of the commission and said that her branch was fully organized with collaborators anxious to perform the tasks allotted to them and she expressed her opinion that the story of that college city would be completed within a reasonable time. Mr. Davis called upon the representative of the Buckingham county branch, Mr. Samuel R. Twyman, to read a report of the work accomplished in that county. Mr. Twyman report 256 soldiers' records secured or nearly 50 per cent of the men who entered service from that county, Red Cross questionnaires completed, a number of letters and one diary sent to Richmond office, and a number of questionnaires on various topics nearing completion. Buckingham county is, up to the present time, the only (Continued on page 2.)