Chattanooga History Column: Hamilton County casualties in World War I

Chattanooga History Column: Hamilton County casualties in World War I

July 30th, 2017 by Sam D. Elliott in Opinion Columns

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On April 5, 1917, prominent farmer Sam Julian of the Shepherd community (near today's Lovell Field) brought his only son, 18-year-old Earl S. Julian, to the recruiter for the Tennessee National Guard. His proud father noted that Earl "doesn't know anything about military service, but he's sure a good boy on the farm and at home."

Two years and two months later, across Hamilton County, the Ladies' Aid Society of the Daisy Methodist Church presented a play titled "The Minister's Wife's New Bonnet." Part of the proceeds from the production went to erecting a monument to "the heroes of the recent war from the Daisy vicinity."

That monument, originally erected in front of the old Daisy Elementary, was moved some years ago to the Veterans Park in Soddy-Daisy. The names of 48 men appear on the monument, who with young Earl Julian, were only a small portion of the nearly 5,000 residents of Hamilton County who served in the World War I era.

Appearing on the top of the Daisy monument is the name of Claude Walker. Walker's is the only name with a star beside it, indicating he was the sole serviceman from Daisy who made the supreme sacrifice in the war. Walker was drafted Sept. 5, 1918, and shipped overseas Sept. 29. But on Oct. 15, 1918, he died from pneumonia, probably secondary to the Spanish flu, and was buried in France.

There were 117 Hamilton County service deaths during the Great War, Walker being one of at least 64 who died from disease, usually pneumonia, but also malaria, diphtheria, "dilatation of the heart" and, ignominiously, syphilis.

Carl Houston died of anesthesia following an appendix operation April 2, 1918. Pvt. Nathan Smith died of "military tuberculosis" on April 29, 1918. Capt. Harry A. Seymour of Chattanooga died of meningitis in the Philippines Nov. 3, 1918. There were drownings, train wrecks and deaths from other accidental causes.

But many men were killed and wounded in action. Pvt. Mallie L. Davis was a porter at the Grand Hotel in Chattanooga before being drafted. He served in the segregated 368th Infantry Regiment, fought alongside the French at Vosges, Argonne and South Binarville, and was killed in action on Sept. 27, 1918. Pfc Jesse Hudson of Chattanooga was mortally wounded in action, dying of his wounds Aug. 10, 1918, and reportedly received the French Croix de Guerre.

Particularly sad were instances of death just before the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918. Pfc Claude Levi of Soddy was killed in action Oct. 29; Pvt. Earl T. Dempsey of Chattanooga was killed Nov. 6; Pvt. Stephen G. Allison of Birchwood was killed Nov. 7; and Pvt. Luther Evans of Ooltewah died on Nov. 8. Evans' wife received a letter from a chaplain saying that he was "instantly killed on the battlefield going forward in the last attack." Pvt. Wallace Hagan of Chattanooga died of wounds almost a month after the end of the war.

Another 211 men from the county were wounded in the course of the war. Some wounds were only slight, some crippling for life. Pvt. G.W. Clingan of East Lake survived a near fatal wound in the back to return home with three broken limbs and an injured lung. Herman Guthrie suffered a "crushed foot," and Floyd Norris survived a hit from a German machine gun. Frederick R. Harris of Chattanooga was struck by shrapnel while going "over the top," necessitating a leg amputation. Corp. Harvey Martin of Soddy, however, was fortunate to have suffered only a slight wound.

But most came through without a significant incident. Escaping the pneumonia that killed Claude Walker and the bullets and shrapnel that claimed other young men, Earl S. Julian served in Company B of the 117th Engineers. He was overseas between Oct. 18, 1917, and April 28, 1919, and was honorably discharged May 13, 1919.

He married and had three sons and two daughters. After a career working for the postal service in the Chattanooga area, he moved to Tampa, Fla., where he died at age 83 in 1982.

Sam D. Elliott is a member of the law firm of Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott and Cannon PLLC. He is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and the Chattanooga Bar Association, and the author or editor of several books and articles on Tennessee in the Civil War era. For more visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.

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