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Stephen Wendell
Paris, France
Explorer, adventurer, campaigner, peregrine
Recent Activity
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 2 days ago 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 4 days ago 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 7 days ago 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
October 1918, Sommedieue Sector, France—Private B. F. Potts trudges along a roadside, head down, hands in pockets. He passes a group of his comrades from Company M huddled around a stool they use as a card table. Between turns, the boys talk about what fun they’re going to have on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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“The injury that forced Uncle Roy into the field hospital was he was near the spot where a shell landed and was buried under dirt. He was rescued due to the fact that only his hand was above ground and someone saw it moving and dug him out.”—Bruce Potts For... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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At 3 a.m., October 1, the 35th Infantry was the fourth of Pershing’s nine front-line divisions to be relieved from the front. The troops of the 1st Infantry Division, in country since June, 1917, were veterans of the Battles of Cantigny, Soissons, and Saint-Mihiel. When they pressed the attack four... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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September 30, 1918, what was left of the 35th Division lay in defensive positions built by the 110th Engineers the previous day. These were a long series of short, shallow trenches, not man-height but deeper than a foxhole, from which the troops might repulse a counterattack. The division would lay... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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In 1913, the German-owned Hamburg America Line launched a series of three steamships, each one larger than its predecessor. The first, the Imperator, was larger than the Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic the year before. The Vaterland (“Fatherland” in German) was the second. It measured 290 meters (950... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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In war, a “casualty” is a soldier who suffers any condition that puts him or her out of action, which includes being killed as well as wounded, whether in battle or by accident. During the four days in which the 35th Division advanced the line, it suffered 8,023 casualties. September... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
“When I asked him [Grandpa Ben] if he killed anyone, this is what he told me: They had just been in action and his best friend had been killed that day and he was very upset. As he left the area he was walking through the woods and came up... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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September 28, 1918, the sun rose, unseen. A cold, drizzling rain fell from a close sky. On the slopes of the hollow north of Baulny, men of the 137th and 139th regiments lay, soaking wet, chilled to the bone. Sleep was impossible with the cold, the damp, and the night’s... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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The confusion that began in the fog the morning before, continued through the morning of September 27. Around 3:00 a.m., the 137th Regiment, now behind the 139th, received orders to support the 139th in its morning attack, which was to begin at 8:30 after a three-hour artillery barrage. The 137th... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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“Then [in war] there is a very great difficulty arising from the unreliability of all data. This means that all actions must necessarily be planned and carried out in a more or less uncertain light, which like a fog or moonshine, gives things a somewhat exaggerated and unnatural size and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing