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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
I had a message from Alain Jeannesson, president of Les Amis de Vauquois et de sa région, to whom I sent a copy of A Very Muddy Place. Mr. Jeannesson informs me that the book takes its place in the association’s library and is to be accompanied by a summary... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
Slanting afternoon light showed me a field of rocks. Erosion on the crystalline limestone that covers the peninsula makes formations of standing stones, legions of trolls caught in sunshine marching across the landscape. But these rocks looked different. Curious, I stopped the car to have a look. Crystalline limestone, yes,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
I love maps—especially pretty ones and especially old ones. These are both. The 273 rectangular sheets that constitute La carte de l’état-major cover all of France at 1:40,000 scale. Elevation (in meters) is marked on hilltops and mountain peaks. Steepness is indicated by hatch marks, lines like rays from a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
I subscribe to writers’ newsletters to see how they do it, to incorporate aspects I like into my own. One of my favorites is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast File. It’s informative, concise, and infrequent. Each issue also contains an extra something for the reader. In June, current subscribers... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
There were parades in that glorious spring of 1919. In New York and Washington, D.C., in small towns and state capitals, ranks of soldiers, formed in companies and led by the army band, marched down Main Streets across the United States. In Topeka, the officers and men of the 137th... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
While transcribing B. F. Potts’s discharge paper, I was curious about the dollar amount noted in pencil on the back: “89.05.” Potts got remaining pay and a $60 bonus, plus train fare for home. The army paid five cents a mile. A private earned $30 per month. Prorated for the... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
Heracles is resting. He leans on a club. The end of which is adorned by a lion’s head, hooked by its jaws. The beast’s hide drapes the shoulders. Behind the back, an over-large hand holds two apples. The other hand and the penis are broken off. Even at rest, the... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
There is a moment, that instant when you must choose to do or not to do. Instinct makes you aware of its importance: Act now, and everything hereafter is different. Act not, and things remain the same. In her History of Ancient Sculpture (1883), Lucy M. Mitchell describes a Greek... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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 Apr 19, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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 Apr 17, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
“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 Apr 16, 2019 at Peregrine Publishing
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
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
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
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
A Very Muddy Place readers will recognize the title. I read it from a PDF downloaded at 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
“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
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
“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
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
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