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Stephen Wendell
Paris, France
In 2018, Stephen Wendell followed his great grandfather from Tennessee to the Great War in France a hundred years before. He recounts his ancestor's war stories in A VERY MUDDY PLACE. Stephen is also the author of the Littlelot series of children's books.
Recent Activity
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With orders for home, the 137th Regiment boarded trains at Sampigny on March 7. They arrived in the Le Mans area three days later. The companies were dispersed to surrounding towns and villages, Company M to Monfort-les-Gesnois. Far from the desolate battlefields, the men enjoyed a couple weeks of “the... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Peregrine Publishing
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To accompany their series of books summarizing the operations of each US Army division in World War I, the American Battle Monuments Commission produced maps showing each division’s position during the battles in which it participated. High-resolution digital versions of the two ABMC maps referenced in A Very Muddy Place... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Peregrine Publishing
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“A VERY MUDDY PLACE is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read about the humble soldier’s point of view. It focuses on the experiences of the author’s great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Potts, who fought with the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. The book is a... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Peregrine Publishing
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It was a happy day in France. April 12, 1919, the 137th Infantry Regiment waved goodbye to the country B. F. Potts later described as “a very muddy place.” A morning march, loaded with all their gear, took them to the docks [at Brest]. From there, they were conveyed by... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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I am pleased to announce A Very Muddy Place: War Stories will be released in April. May through November last year I wrote the story of my great grandfather in World War I. Over the winter I edited the three dozen articles into a 153-page book and wrapped it up... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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At Triopetra on Crete’s south coast, I learned that its highest rock is the place from which Icarus took off on his mortal flight, too close to the sun. I also learned that, while Icarus fell into the sea, his father and wing maker, Daedalus, flew on to Sicily… In... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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The photograph measures 2-3/4 by 5 inches. The image shows a young man, clean-shaven, dressed in wide-legged trousers, coat, and tie. A carnation adorns the left lapel. He wears a wristwatch. He sits, legs crossed, in a chair with a high back and one arm, made of wrapped rattan. The... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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A Very Muddy Place readers will recognize the title. I read it from a PDF downloaded at archive.org. Journalist Claire Kenamore compiled the book from notes and newspaper articles he wrote while following the 35th Division across France during WWI. Back in St. Louis, it was published by Guard Publishing... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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“It happened on Monday, February 17th, that the units of the 35th were called out and formed on a wide level stretch of the Meuse Valley near Commercy. Here twenty-two thousand men of the division passed in review of the Commander-in-Chief and the ‘petit’ Prince of Wales, who was the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
A Very Muddy Place outlines a possible itinerary for B. F. Potts’s journey. But what if I’ve got it all wrong? The enlistment record shows B. F. Potts in the Sommedieue sector from October 14 to November 6. It does not show the Meuse-Argonne. An administrative oversight? Suppose, for whatever... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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Included here are Benjamin F. Potts’s discharge and enlistment record, two sides of the same paper, accompanied by a transcript, including that of stamps and pencil marks on the latter. Based on the penmanship (in which I am no expert), the lieutenant, signatory of the enlistment record, seems to be... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” I’ve lived with this quote, the first sentence of a paragraph... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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September 5, 1918, Clyde Brake Potts followed his two older brothers’ steps to the Houston County Courthouse, where he took the oaths of an enlisted man in the United States Army. Unlike his brothers, who received military training at Camp Gordon before going overseas to combat the enemy, Clyde Brake... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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In A Very Muddy Place, scenes told in present tense are fictional. Three such scenes recount Private Potts’s encounters with an artillery officer, who gives him permission for leave in the final meeting. In the first, the officer helps to pull a gun through the mud. In the second, we... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
Prior to battle, musical instruments are confiscated and stored, and band members become guards, messengers, first-aid providers, and stretcher bearers. Carl E. Haterius played a horn in the 137th Regiment Band. While strictly forbidden in order to protect operational security, he kept a journal throughout his military service. After the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
September 18, 1918, was a Wednesday. It was the day Benjamin Franklin Potts turned 24 years old. Any letters from home wishing him a happy birthday would have found him around Foucaucourt-sur-Thabas, six miles west of Les Charmentois, 16 miles south of the Butte of Vauquois. Happy Birthday, Bennie. Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
With the ceasefire signed, the fighting was over, but the war wasn’t ended. Though the possibility diminished as the German army withdrew and gave up its equipment, hostilities might recommence at any moment. The Allies’ strong military position brought the Germans to Compiègne. Continued pressure, in the form of a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
The church bell rang this Thursday morning. Long, measured strokes echoed through the neighborhood’s narrow, paved streets. Howling dogs answered. I closed the door behind me as I left on daily errands. My neighbor stood on the terrace before her house, facing the street. Marianna and I always exchange greetings.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
While editing, whether my work or someone else’s, certain refrains come to mind from long ago. They come in the voice of my high school sophomore English teacher. When I use modifiers like “very,” “almost,” “about,” “some,” “little,” the voice says, “Don’t be wishy-washy. Be definitive.” About a common or... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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The wood is primeval. Prehistoric relics indicate human presence in the area of the Compiègne Forest since time immemorial. Beech, oak, and hornbeam trees sheltered game in Roman times. Since then, the forest has been the hunting ground of kings and emperors, the playground of princes and princesses, as well... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
Tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, we’ll relive a big moment with Private Potts in A Very Muddy Place. Today, I assembled the twenty-six articles of the series into a single document. At 17,000 words, the 80-page manuscript should make a print book of something over a hundred pages.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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Nowhere in my research did I find that anything worth noting happened in the life of Benjamin Franklin Potts on this day a hundred years ago. He was in the Sommedieue sector, south of Verdun, in the trenches with the 35th Division. Haterius reports a few engagements during the week,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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Today’s is the last of my great grandfather’s war stories. The rest—the Armistice, his return trip, and homecoming—is denouement (articles forthcoming). I appreciate all of you who have commented on social media and sent private messages and emails. Your encouragement is invaluable to me. Among other things, it gives me... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing