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Stephen Wendell
Paris, France
Explorer, adventurer, campaigner, peregrine
Recent Activity
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
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For the French, it’s the Battle of Verdun. For the British, the Somme. For the Americans, the Meuse-Argonne is the superlative battle. The largest battle in US history: 1.2 million American soldiers participated. The longest battle: lasting 47 days. The deadliest: 26,277 Americans killed. The battle ended with the war,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
“Each infantryman carried his rifle, bayonet, steel helmet and gas mask. He had 250 rounds of rifle ammunition, carried in a belt, and two bandoliers, each one swung over one shoulder and under the other arm. On his back was his combat pack, in his pack carrier. This contained his... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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Below, I’ll detail the battle plan where it concerns Private B. F. Potts of Company M, 137th Infantry Regiment. For the moment, I’ll rely on Kenamore, who ably describes the stakes in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which will begin in two days—a hundred years ago. At the conference of allied leaders... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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“One day they came upon a building during a rain storm, and the guys wanted to seek shelter there. The captain forbade them from entering, so they slept in the field that night about 100 yards away. In the middle of the night, the building was destroyed by an artillery... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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It’s difficult to imagine the Grandpa I knew as a young man, in the prime of his youth, in the uniform of a World War I infantryman. But there he is. Private Potts’s medium frame fills the olive drab wool service tunic, with narrow, standing collar, five buttons up the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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“That first of September was a notable day, although it did not appear so at the time, for it was the last time the men were to sleep under cover for more than a month, and that month the most trying in their histories.” (Kenamore 69) By the time Private... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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As the climactic battle draws near, we’re picking up the pace this month in A Very Muddy Place. Private Potts has no idea that this is his itinerary for the rest of September—a hundred years ago: September 12—In Reserve at Saint-Mihiel 16—Special Job for Private Potts 19—A Potts Family Day... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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“Grandpa Ben told me about a time on a train in France. They had stopped for the night and were directed to stay on the train, which was on a track next to a small French town. Some of the guys disobeyed orders, went into the town, broke into a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing
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My great uncle John Wesley Potts, one of Ben Potts’s boys, was the family genealogist. To him the Potts family is thankful for much of the information we have concerning our family history. I have several photocopied pages of the family tree, which includes old photographs and a few stories.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 31, 2018 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… Issue... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2018 at Peregrine Publishing