One hundred years ago, United States military forces including Tennesseans in the 30th Division, were engaged in the Great War, having participated in the first assault on the Hindenburg Line at Bellicourt. Thousands of other Tennesseans were being drafted, considering enlistment or preparing to leave home for basic training, often at Fort Oglethorpe. November 2017 has been designated Remembrance Month and the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR and the Tennessee Great War Commission have joined forces to share the stories of Tennesseans and the Great War.
Great War Remembrance Month began with a commemorative service at the Chattanooga National Cemetery at noon on Nov. 1. Chief John Ross Regent Jessica Dumitru welcomed attendees with a personal connection to the Great War. “My great-grandfather Clifton Apple, originally from Jackson County, Tn., joined the army with his best friend, Smith Stidham, and several of his cousins, including Andy Apple, buried here in the Chattanooga National Cemetery just across the hill. Clifton Apple was a carpenter and a farmer but he understood that evil exists and that, at times, evil threatens our nations and our families. What was a world fight against tyranny became his personal fight against a movement that threatened liberty, equality and justice. He trained here at Fort Oglethrope, shipped out with his friends, fought gallantly and returned home to marry his sweetheart. He, like so many other veterans of the Great War, carried his wounds and his memories, often in silence, until his death.”
Dr. Michael Birdwell, chairman of the Tennessee Great War Commission, spoke about the first U.S. soldier wounded in the Great War, Tennessean George Ashburn of Fentress County. He then focused attention on the actions of the 30th Division’s 119th Infantry Regiment during the attack on the Hindenburg Line. “Now, with no support, they were surrounded by the enemy and, in the confusion that followed, Sergeant Joseph A. Adkinson of Egypt, Tennessee took action. In the words of his Medal of Honor citation: ‘When murderous machine-gun fire at a range of 50 yards had made it impossible for his platoon to advance, and had caused the platoon to take cover, Sgt. Adkinson alone, with the greatest intrepidity, rushed across the 50 yards of open ground directly into the ace of the hostile machine-gun kicked the gun from the parapet into the enemy trench, and at the point of the bayonet captured the three men manning the gun.’” Dr. Birdwell noted that Sgt. Adkinson was one of the six Tennesseans who became Medal of Honor recipients.
The Commemoration concluded with the placement of a memorial wreath at the World War I monument in the cemetery and members of the Chief John Ross Chapter planting a bed of ‘WWI Remembrance Red Poppies’ on either side of the Chattanooga National Cemetery’s Holtzclaw entrance.
Other events during the weekend commemoration included “Over There and Over Here”, a Digitization Project of World War I artifacts staffed by Tennessee State Library and Archives historians and archivists at the Chattanooga Bicentennial Library. The Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR also sponsored a Words and Remembrance program of World War I poetry. UTC hosted James McGarth Morris for an evening lecture, An End to the Age of Innocence: How the Great War Forever Changed American Literature, and a follow-up discussion of A Farewell to Arms during the Southern Writers Conference. Mr. Morris’s visit was supported by a display of French and American World War I Posters in the George Connor Special Collections Room at the University. Kelley Wilkerson, TSLA Education Outreach coordinator, facilitated Tennessee and the Great War: A Primary Documents Workshop for area teachers while the Sixth Cavalry Museum at Fort Oglethorpe hosted In the Footsteps of Sergeant York, an exhibit that will remain open until Nov. 30.
The Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR and the Tennessee Great War Commission, along with commemorative partners, will continue to host programs and activities related to The Great War until November 2018. For more information about future events, contact Dr. Birdwell at email@example.com or Ms. Dumitru at firstname.lastname@example.org