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Remembered Today:

Does this seem credible?


Daveleic

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I have come across a book on the internet which looks quite interesting, "Caissons Go Rolling Along", by Maj. Gen. Johnson Hagood. It is good to read his glowing praise of the British 46th Division in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. But what did surprise me was the suggestion that some American soldiers in their sector had buried some of their dead forward of where they had fallen to make it seem that they had got further frward than they had. Does this seem credible ie has anyone heard of this sort of claim elsewhere?

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Sounds more like an bit of rivalry - 'you couldn't possibly have advanced further than we did'.

Why would you take bodies further forward, presumably in to no-man's land to bury them ?.

Craig

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It is difficult to see how men could be buried further forward than their unit had reached - who would have buried them? If it was other men from their unit, then the unit must have got that far!

Ron

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Maybe they were buried, and subsequently the unit retired.

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You can read many times of men who brought bodies in from no mans land but I have not heard of men doing it the other way round.

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I should have explained that the Americans had spearheaded the assault but the Australian's had gone through and beyond them. The allegation about the burials was made to Hagood by an American War Graves bod. The ground ahead of where the Americans reached was therefore in allied hands. However, it seems difficult to believe. Wouldn't some digger have wondered what the doughboys were up to carrying corpses forward?

It seems odd that this allegation is made by a fairly senior U.S. soldier. (The passage can be found in Google books).

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That name Hagood rings a bell. Old American military family ?

If memory serves, there was a divisional/brigade commander of that name : a confederate general in the American Civil War.

Such a man, with such a provenance, might indeed have encouraged extremes of rivalry...or at least interpreted battlefield folklore in such a light.

Phil (PJA)

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Yes, this Hagood is the same family. But what I find most interesting about his book is that whilst praising the ordinary soldiers, he is pretty scathing about some aspects of the A.E.F. at higher levels.

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I should have explained that the Americans had spearheaded the assault but the Australian's had gone through and beyond them. The allegation about the burials was made to Hagood by an American War Graves bod. The ground ahead of where the Americans reached was therefore in allied hands. However, it seems difficult to believe. Wouldn't some digger have wondered what the doughboys were up to carrying corpses forward?

In that case though - it was still behind allied lines so the American's could simply have used the most appropriate spot even if it was between their positions and Australians further forward. It is wise,where possible, to be careful where you bury bodies.

Craig

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You might remember that rather good film GLORY, which depicts the fate of black soldiers in the American Civil War.

The story is told of the 54th Massachussetts Colored Regiment, under the command of the blue blooded abolitionist officer Robert Gould Shaw.

This regiment took part in the assault on Battery Wagner, in the complex of defences around Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

The attack was repulsed, after the bitterest hand to hand fighting.

Johnson Hagood was the Confederate commander.

Much importance was laid on the retrieval and burial of the Northern dead.

Hagood refused to relinquish the body of the yankee commander, and left it with hundreds of his black soldiers in the ditches in front of the fort.

He thought it fitting that the damned yankee abolitionist should be left to rot " in the ditch with his niggers".

Such was the mindset of a South Carolinian fire eating secessionist in command of a rebel brigade in that war. A bit topical at the moment, with the news about the Confederate battle flag and the massacre of those black people in that church in Charleston recently.

Perhaps, fifty odd years later, his descendant attributed singular importance to the pride of place in battlefield burials.

This is suppositional on my part....but I feel there is some credibility, bearing in mind the provenance.

Editing : there is a sequel : when Gould Shaw's parents were told of Hagood's blunt refusal to relinquish their son's body, they said " Let him lie where he is. We could think of no holier place, and no better companions, for him. "

Phil (PJA)

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Thanks, PJA. Yes, Hagood's relative sounds like a pretty obnoxious individual and there may be something in what you say. I don't know what WW1 Hagood's views on black people were.

I've always found it a bit rich that America tended to criticise Britain because of her Empire whilst treating her own black people atrociously in many ways.

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They could have been members of a patrol who got further forward than the unit as a whole & were killed there. then buried where they fell even though further forward than the unit officially reached. Only way I can explain it. Wonder how many graves he was talking about?

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I don't get the impression that it was many graves. The other issue is that the fighting was so confused and the Americans got pretty lost in places by all accounts. They seem to have been enthusiastic but very inexperienced and under-provided with officers.

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Very doubtful motive he gives for burying men forward of where they were killed, but later battlefield clearance could certainly result in this happening. Have one case at Guillemont where his body was one of ten found in 1919, some 250 metres forward of where I know he was killed on August 15th 1916. Only explanation (apart from a gross map-reading error by the GRU) was that when the battlefield was cleared after Guillemont fell in September 16, that bodies were brought to 'collection points' and buried in groups rather than where they were found. Interestingly, another group of men killed with him were found in 1930, some 200 metres to the west of where they died, putting 450 metres distance between burials of men killed on the same night within twenty yards of each other.

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Thanks, IRC Kevin. I thought Hagood's claim seemed far fetched. The other point that has only really just struck me is that once the initial, purely American part of the assault went wrong, many doughboys joined in the fight alongside the diggers, under the A.I.F's officers, who had come in the second wave, so surely some could/would have fallen forward of the theoretical furthest forward point of the solely-American advance. It seems difficult to credit the idea that soldiers would indulge in the sort of point-scoring that is implied in Hagood's comments.

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many doughboys joined in the fight alongside the diggers, under the A.I.F's officers, who had come in the second wave, so surely some could/would have fallen forward of the theoretical furthest forward point of the solely-American advance.

That too seems a perfectly reasonable explanation.

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