Rare letter describing military events on the day of November 11th, the last day of the Great War.
Somewhere in France November 27,1918
….This last hitch we done was one of the worst of all our experiences. So many attempts had been made by all Americans, French, English, and colonials that it had a very impressive effect upon our character...we met violent fire at nearly all times but we couldn’t be stopped. Our objectives were reached in due time and held without any counter-attacks…
We made the attacks from November 8th to eleventh, the eleventh you are aware ended the war. You may be surprised too but on the morning of the eleventh at ten o’clock we made an attack on the germans, knew the war was to stop at eleven too but we had to advance. The week previous 800 men lost their lives over the same ground. It made us sort of think of home I’m telling you. However the Boche were very few in front of us so practically no resistance whatever was had. Exactly at eleven we stopped, not a noise could be heard, all artillery had ceased and for the first time in four years everyone was perfectly safe the walk around, run around or do whatever one might please. What a wonderful feeling it was! It was like a dreamy dream…
We are taking up drilling tomorrow to callback some of the old form of close order drill so that when we parade on Fifth Avenue etc. will be able to hold up that wonderful record we have established as a fighting organization. All eyes of the world are turned towards us expecting to see we respond now as soldiers of peace…
My fondest love to all, Joe. B. Saunders
Joseph B. Saunders (68479) was a Corporal in G Company 103rd Infantry, when it was stationed at Camp Devens MA, prior to going overseas. His brother John was a 1st Class Private in that unit.
On Nov 11th, the 103rd was in the Bois de Wavrille area.
Printed on 'American Expeditionary Force – Knights of Columbus New York N.Y. ' letterhead.
Fist page split in two on fold. Folded vertically and horizontally, small creases.
4 pages. 8⅜ x 5 ¼ “
...At 2.30 o'clock on the morning of the 11th, the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion (Reserve and Support) were ordered to move to the Eastern edge of the Bois de Wavrille in order to attack at 9.30 the following morning in an Easterly direction through Herbebois. Our 3rd Battalion was to remain in the front line position already held and attack from there at the same hour in the direction of Cote 265. This placed all three Battalions of the 103rd Infantry in the front line for the attack on the morning of the 11th. 17. The 2 Battalions sent to the South were in position in the Eastern edge of Bois de Wavrille at 8.45 o'clock, preparatory to jumping off at H hour. At 9.15 o'clock, 15 minutes before the attack was to start, an order was received and transmitted, to the effect that the artillery preparation would go on as ordered until 11.00 o'clock but that the Infantry would not advance. At 10.35 o'clock, the order holding up the Infantry advance was revoked and they were ordered to move forward until 11.00 o'clock, when all action would cease and all ground gained would be held. Very little time remained after this order finally reached the troops, nevertheless they advanced from 200 to 300 meters Eastward, straightening out the line along Azannes-Beaumont road, which position they held at 11.00 o'clock. The 3rd Battalion to the North expended its efforts in trying to mop up the Tr. du Bosphore before advancing towards Cote 265. This was by my order and was considered necessary to the advance. The Tr. de Bosphore was too heavily manned with enemy Machine Guns, however, with the result that no ground was gained by this Battalion.
History of the 103rd Infantry - Frank Hume
On 13 April 1917, elements of the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry were merged into the 2nd Maine to create the 103rd Infantry Regiment. The new regiment was placed in the 52nd Infantry Brigade as part of the 26th Infantry Division, the "Yankee Division." The regiment served on the Western Front and was one of the first National Guard units in combat during the war. The 103rd served in the Champagne-Marne campaign where they had their first real taste of fighting, and went on to fight gallantly in the Aisne-Marne. The bloodied New Englanders continued the fight at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and in the momentous Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest and bloodiest operation of the war for the American Expeditionary Forces.
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, also known as the Maas-Argonne Offensive and the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was fought from 26 September 1918, until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, a total of 47 days. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end. The battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which was commanded by General John J. Pershing, and the bloodiest battle in American history. American losses were exacerbated by the inexperience of many of the troops and tactics used during the early phases of the operation. The Meuse-Argonne was the principal engagement of the AEF during World War I.