Endangered History: The Sutfin Farm

I have visited a lot of old battlefields. My career as a soldier, and my frequent personal travel, took me to many places where history was made.

In Germany I walked in the footsteps of both Roman legionaries and Napoleon’s Grande Armee. I have gazed across the field at Waterloo, down from Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, and into the Crater at Petersburg. I have seen century-old shell craters at Verdun and felt the sand on Omaha Beach. With my fellow officers I even stood in awe on the spot where our regimental forebears of the Greatest Generation broke through the German lines at Bastogne.

In some cases these locations were well-preserved, as though time stood still; Antietam is such a place. Sometimes monuments and natural activity have altered the landscape, as at Gettysburg. But almost always there a sense of reverence: a subconscious nod to great events of long ago. Rarely have I been appalled by what I saw in one of these places: until the Sutfin House.

The Sutfin farmhouse was built in the early 1700s; the Sutfins were apparently peaceful people, just trying to extract a living from the fertile New Jersey soil. Until, that is, the British Army marched past in June, 1778. The family wisely hid their valuables and fled. The next day, on June 28th,  the Continental Army marched by the Sutfin Farm and attacked the British rear guard at Monmouth Courthouse, just down the road. In the seesaw fighting that followed, the Sutfin home was at the epicenter of the biggest artillery duel of the American Revolution. It was an anchor for the British right flank at the climax of the battle, and it bore mute witness to the Continental counterattack at the close of the battle. Today it remains a key point of reference in understanding the flow of the battle.

Sadly, the years have not been kind. The Sutfin house today is a dilapidated, graffiti-covered abomination. It broke my heart to see what has become of what should be a historic landmark.

Sutfin Farmhouse

The Sutfin House on the Monmouth Battlefield. Photo taken on May 29th, 2017: Memorial Day.

I do not accept the status quo. I am hereby resolved that in some way Gideon Hawke and his series will work to protect and restore both the Sutfin House and the Monmouth Battlefield. It is not much, but is the least I can do to honor the memory of those who were there, and perhaps restore some of that missing sense of reverence.

 

Friends of Monmouth Battlefield: http://www.friendsofmonmouth.org/

Monmouth Battlefield State Park: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/monbat.html

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Historical Research: Valley Forge and Monmouth

The other week I had the opportunity to do more on-site historical research: this time at Valley Forge and Monmouth!

As I finish Gideon Hawke #4, A Constant Thunder, I have begun research for the yet-to-be-named Gideon Hawke #5. In this installment, after the Saratoga campaign, Gideon and Ruth will find themselves enduring a cold, wet winter at Valley Forge. The Continental Line will undergo a thorough retraining, and Gideon and his new command will be put their training to the test at Monmouth Courthouse.

With this storyline in mind, I headed to two of the most significant sites in the history of the U.S. Army. Having grown up in the Northeast, I have been to both sites before, but this time I came with a better understanding of what happened there.

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Replica soldiers’ quarters at Valley Forge

At Valley Forge I looked in detail at a few particular pieces of ground: Washington’s headquarters, the areas where Gideon’s unit was quartered, and the Grand Parade, where the Army drilled endlessly to ready itself to confront the British once again. I was struck by the size of the Grand Parade; I could envision several Continental brigades maneuvering over hill and valley, deploying from column to line, practicing volley fire, and charging with fixed bayonets. I could envision an Army gaining confidence in itself. Valley Forge did not disappoint.

At Monmouth, on the other hand, I was at first a bit frustrated. I knew that significant portions of the actual battlefield had been covered by urban and suburban sprawl, but after having been spoiled with the beautifully preserved National Parks at Saratoga and Valley Forge, I found the Monmouth State park to be quite a mixed bag: useful brochures, well thought-out trails, and restored fences–all blighted by neglected buildings, missing markers, graffiti, and a confusing array of working fields and orchards. Not to be deterred, I walked the ground, with my very patient and understanding family along for the hike. I was encouraged by a few intact markers detailing the archaeological finds on the battlefield; some of these were directly relevant to the plot of Gideon Hawke #5.

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Overlooking the southern portion of the Monmouth Battlefield. On this spot Nathanael Greene posted his division’s guns, enfilading the British gun line near the plowed field in the distance.

Finally, our patience was rewarded by what was to me one of the highlights of the trip: tracing the route of the light infantry counterattack at the close of the battle, when Washington launched a few battalions of “picked men” along the Spotswood North Brook in a move against the British right flank. I was able to scramble up the bank and emerge from the woods, envisioning the Continental troops deploying on line, and a battalion of Royal Highlanders forming up and wheeling right to meet them. I could also see the ridge where the American guns were posted, and could envision American grapeshot skimming through the field and skipping across the ground into the British ranks. (Archaeologists have recovered a good deal of that fired grapeshot, confirming the British positions) Then we were able to walk along the line where the Americans marched in parade-ground formation, closed the distance to the Highlanders, and finally traded volleys with their foes in the open field. As we stood there, I could imagine the Continental troops’ elation when the British quit the field, grudgingly rewarding the Americans’ skill, discipline, and valor.

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Emerging from Spotswood North Brook: on June 28th, 1778, climbing up the ravine and stepping into the light would have put you within musket shot of the British right flank.

For an author of historical fiction, it was a remarkable experience; one which will heavily influence my fifth novel. For an American combat veteran, visiting the battlefield on Memorial Day, it was a humbling reminder of the grit, determination, and sacrifice of all those who stayed on in the ranks of the Continental Army and learned to beat the British at their own game. It also reminded me of the soldiers I have known who continued that tradition, and gave the last full measure of devotion.

After Valley Forge and Monmouth, the War for American Independence changed for good: no longer was it simply a contest of weak trying to survive against strong. The Continental Army had come of age, and with France and Spain going to war against Great Britain, it became a global war that threatened the very existence of the British Empire. The British soldiers would continue to despise their American foes, but on several occasions after Monmouth, British hubris would be severely punished at the point of American bayonets. The war would grind on for years, and the British Empire would survive, but ultimately it would do so without its thirteen erstwhile colonies.

So, ultimately, my visits to Valley Forge and Monmouth were successful. It cost us several pairs of soggy shoes, a couple of bug bites, and a few poison ivy rashes, but Gideon Hawke #5 will be the richer for it; and so will my children’s understanding of their heritage.

 

Valley Forge National Historical Park: https://www.nps.gov/vafo/index.htm

Monmouth Battlefield State Park: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/monbat.html  

Robert Krenzel Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor/

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

2017 Kansas Notable Book: A Nest of Hornets!

anh-cover-smallA Nest of Hornets was just selected for the 2017 Kansas Notable Book Award!

Every year the Kansas State Library selects fifteen books which “highlight Kansas people, places, and events” as Kansas Notable Books.

As a Kansas-based author I submitted A Nest of Hornets, and I literally had a jaw-dropping moment a few days ago when I received the notification that it was selected!

The awardees will be recognized at the 2017 Kansas Book Festival on September 9th, 2017 at the State Capitol in Topeka. I have been invited to be one of the presenting authors at the Festival, which needless to say is a tremendous honor! In addition to speaking about A Nest of Hornets, I will do a book signing, have the opportunity to meet some amazing authors and readers, will likely pick up a great book or three, and will definitely partake of the fare offered by some of the many food vendors!

Many thanks to my family, friends, readers, and fellow authors who encouraged me and made this honor possible!

Now, I feel as though I need to step up my game! Given the success of the Gideon Hake Series thus far, I must ensure that Gideon Hawke #4, A Constant Thunder, does not disappoint!

 

2017 Kansas Notable Book Awardees: https://kslib.info/1318/2017-Notable-Books.

2017 Kansas Book Festival: http://www.kansasbookfestival.com/

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Preparing to Walk the Ground

As I strive to complete the first draft of Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder, I am also preparing to visit a few sites to do research for Gideon Hawke #5.

The fifth novel in the Gideon Hawke Series will be set in the first half of 1778. While 1777 was a year of decision, with the fate of the Revolution hanging in the balance, 1778 was a year of rebirth: the Continental Army endured a terrible trial at Valley Forge, but used the time to turn itself into a competent fighting force, finally capable of meeting the British on equal terms. At Monmouth this training would be put to the test as the Continentals went toe-to-toe with the British and exchanged volleys with some of the best troops the Crown could put in the field. While tactically indecisive, at the end of the day the British quit the field. More importantly, after Monmouth both sides well understood that the Continental Army had finally come into its own.

From a strategic perspective 1778 marked a transition in the American War for Independence. No longer would the British attempt to draw Washington into a pitched battle in the Northern States: no longer was a British victory in such a battle assured. Once French troops began arriving in the Americas, the British were at a decided disadvantage. So, they would hunker down in New York, and the focus of the fighting would shift to the south. The British would find some success in the Carolinas, but these were local victories that would not change the strategic balance. Moreover, they were offset by a few incredible American victories. After Monmouth, British prospects would become increasingly bleak.

Before all that could happen though, there would be blood, sweat, and tears; Gideon Hawke will be right in the middle of the action.

495So, soon I will be packing up the map case that served me so well in the Army. This time in addition to a compass, binoculars, notebook, pens, and markers, and my map board, it will include maps of Monmouth and Valley Forge. Once again I will walk upon hallowed ground, and try to capture the spirit of the ill-equipped, poorly clothed, determined men and women who made a Nation.

Check for the latest updates on Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Progress

Quill Pen Retro Ink Vintage Antique History PenGideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder is creeping closer to being a reality!

The other novels in the Gideon Hawke Series have come in at 65,000 to 71,000 words. A Constant Thunder is now at 55,000; more importantly, I only have a few chapters left to write!

The story is coming together nicely. The summer of 1777 is a time of great challenge and change for Gideon Hawke and Ruth Munroe. At the same time the fledgling United States is facing the greatest threat yet to its existence, Gideon and Ruth’s relationship is going through a profound change. They will each face dangers and trials, and will each learn a great deal about themselves and each other.

Each of the Gideon Hawke novels has a unique feel. A Constant Thunder most certainly feels like a journey: a journey of adventure, change, growth, and exploration. At the end, Gideon and Ruth will be older and wiser, and they have learned a bit more about what it means to be themselves, and what it means to be Americans.

Now…back to writing!

Check for the latest updates on Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Learning as I Go: Pulling the Thread

It is simply amazing how a simple inquiry can open doors to new learning: how pulling a single thread can reveal a wonderful tapestry.

In working on Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder I found myself wanting to learn just a little more about a very specific place and time. While trying to discern British General Howe’s intentions in early August, 1777, General George Washington ordered Daniel Morgan’s Provisional Rifle Corps to Maidenhead, New Jersey. There the Corps had a few days’ respite from marching, before the pivotal order that sent it north to Saratoga and into history.

In weaving the narrative of the Gideon Hawke story it seemed this interlude would be a great opportunity for Gideon and the lads to take care of a few pressing matters, and perhaps to get in touch with their Creator. “Where’” I wondered, “would they go to church?” A little Google magic took me to the website of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (formerly Maidenhead). The website itself was incredibly informative, but then I had the courage to contact the pastor! A few emails later and I was introduced to a small brick church building that in 1777 stood on the highest point around, along the Princeton-Trenton Road. Even better, I was introduced to Reverend Elihu Spencer: writer, missionary to Native Americans (fluent at least in the Oneida language), veteran of the French and Indian War (Chaplain to the New York Troops), rebuilder of congregations in the Carolinas, and pastor of the flocks in Trenton and Maidenhead during the Revolution. I also learned quite a bit about the toll the 1776, Princeton, and winter forage campaigns had taken on Maidenhead. Wow! Suddenly a fleeting thought had become a haunting reality, thanks to the efforts of a few good-hearted history buffs.

In researching and writing A Constant Thunder I have met some wonderful people: Douglas Bicket, Park Ranger at the Saratoga Battlefield; David Manthey, expert on Mohawk and Hudson River bateaux; and Reverend Jeff Vamos and Bill Schroeder of The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Not only are these folks truly passionate about their historical interests, but they have been incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise. Gideon Hawke #4 will be a much better reflection of history thanks to them.

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Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier: Philadelphia, PA

Now, I must admit a bit of trepidation: a truly great writer could weave a beautiful tapestry of words with the kind of input I have received; I’m not sure I can do justice to the material at hand. I am, however, determined to try. My work may fall short of greatness, but if one person reads A Constant Thunder and takes away a better appreciation of the cost of war, and the magnitude of the American victory at Saratoga, it will at least have been a worthwhile effort.

 

Now…back to writing!

History of The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville: https://pclawrenceville.org/our-history/

Check for the latest updates on Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

Gentleman Johnny: Major General John Burgoyne

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John Burgoyne, by Joshua Reynolds (1766)

 

It is a rare distinction indeed when a commander can claim to have lost one of the most decisive battles in history. “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne was one such commander.

In early 1777 John Burgoyne was a rising star in the constellation of the British military. He was an unlikely prospect: rumored to be the product of an illicit affair, he had a penchant for stylish (and expensive) uniforms, gambling, and the writing of plays. He twice sold his commission, once to clear gambling debts, and once to support the wife with whom he had eloped in 1751. Eventually reconciled with his father-in-law, who used his influence to advance Burgoyne’s career, Gentleman Johnny managed to buy another commission after the outbreak of the Seven Years War. He served with distinction in France and Portugal, and pioneered the concept of light cavalry in the British Army. He was also elected to Parliament, where he gained attention as a critic of the government.

Interestingly, Burgoyne was given the nickname “Gentleman Johnny” by his troops, who appreciated his fairness and concern for their welfare. He was unique in valuing individual thought and self-reliance among his enlisted troops. Whatever the officer corps thought of Burgoyne, he was a general for whom his troops would definitely fight.

When the American War for Independence erupted, Burgoyne was one of three major generals (the others being Howe and Clinton) sent to Boston to “reinforce” General Gage. Frustrated by inactivity, Burgoyne returned to England. In 1776 he commanded the expedition that relieved Quebec from American siege, but was again frustrated when his superior, Carelton, prevented him from pressing an offensive against Fort Ticonderoga in the fall of 1776. Again frustrated, and grieving the death of his wife, Burgoyne returned once again to England.

This time Burgoyne proposed a two-pronged attacked on the Hudson River Valley, with one force attacking north from New York while the other, commanded by him, attacked south out of Canada. It was a decent plan that failed to account for a few things: the vast distances involved, the climate, the rugged countryside, lack of Tory and Indian enthusiasm for his cause, American resilience, and appalling strategic mismanagement. Burgoyne’s plan might just have worked had Lord George Germain articulated an overall British strategy that included the details of Burgoyne’s plan, but he did not. Instead, General William Howe proceeded with his plan to capture Philadelphia. He set sail and spent several critical weeks at sea, this not only deprived Burgoyne of much-needed support, but also allowed Washington to transfer significant forces to the American Northern Department to oppose Burgoyne.

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Burgoyne’s Plan

Compounding these errors was Burgoyne’s flair for drama. His attempts to overawe the Americans, and inspire Tories and allied Native American tribes, were absolute disasters. By unleashing several hundred Native American warriors he not only forced potential Loyalist recruits to stay home to protect their families, but he also enraged American sentiment. As he advanced farther south his supply system began to fail and his battlefield fortunes waned. As a result he Native Americans abandoned him, even as American forces converged on the Hudson Valley.

 

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A tree at Freeman’s Farm. Near this spot Morgan’s Rifle Corps fired the first shot of the Battles at Saratoga.

Finally, just north of Stillwater, New York, Burgoyne switched from playwright back to gambler: he rolled the dice two more times, and in battles that would become known as Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, he lost. Defeated, he attempted to retreat, but the Americans were having none of it. Near a place then called Saratoga he soon found himself surrounded, massively outnumbered, and out of provisions. Finally, on October 17th, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered his army of over five thousand men.

The shockwaves of Burgoyne’s surrender were immediately felt across the Atlantic. Saratoga directly precipitated France’s decision to join the American cause, turning the American War for Independence into a global war that threatened the entire British Empire. It also marked the end of Burgoyne’s military career.

John Burgoyne probably deserved a better fate. He was ambitious to a fault, but he also had a keen military mind and took the kind of calculated risks that fortune usually favors. His treatment of his troops was centuries ahead of its time. His superiors failed him, but he reaped the blame for the miscarriage of his campaign. He continued to write plays and be active in politics, but he will forever be best known as the pompous playwright who lost at Saratoga and thus made Britain’s war unwinnable.

Gentleman Johnny will appear in the forthcoming Gideon Hawke #4: A Constant Thunder.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

The Shot Heard Round the World

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

 And fired the shot heard round the world.

     –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Concord Hymn

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground, by Don Troiani

 

On April 19th, 1775 the world changed forever. Tensions between the British Government and its American Colonies had reached the boiling point. For some time British forces had been making forays into the countryside to confiscate weapons and ammunition, and American militia units had been turning out to observe, taunt, and intimidate the Crown’s troops. On this particular morning in Lexington, Massachusetts, the tensions metastasized into violence. As British troops maneuvered to outflank and disperse the Lexington Training Band, which had formed up on Lexington Common, shots rang out. In short order eight Americans were dead and one British soldier was wounded. Word of the shooting spread like wildfire, and soon militia units were converging on Concord, the British objective, and the road from Concord to Boston.

As the British troops were searching the Concord area, a British light infantry force guarding the North Bridge found itself confronted by a strong militia force, which advanced on the bridge. The shooting at Lexington might have been an accident, but what happened next at Concord was deliberate. A few shots were fired, and then a British captain ordered his men to fire on His Majesty’s subjects. Then, in the first formal act of rebellion, a Massachusetts militia officer ordered his men to fire on the King’s troops. That volley was the shot heard round the world. British troops fell, the light infantry retreated, and Great Britain and its colonies were at war.

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The North Bridge at Concord

 

In short order the countryside was aflame. Militia forces ambushed the British time and again; they pursued the British column and harried its flanks. At times British soldiers stood back-to-back, loading and firing at fleeting figures and puffs of smoke on either side of the road. At times the British troops simply ran for their lives. By the time the British made it back to Lexington they were in near panic: their ammunition was nearly exhausted and they had miles yet to go. Mercifully for them, a British brigade had marched to their relief and occupied the hills near Lexington. The combined force then battled its way back to Boston, fighting the entire way. As the sun set, campfires sprung up on the hills overlooking Boston and Cambridge: the British garrison was under siege.

When the sun rose over the Atlantic Ocean on April 19th, 1775, it had shed its light on a peaceful countryside. It would be eight years before peace was fully restored in the newborn United States of America.

You can learn about Lexington and Concord from the participants’ perspective in This Glorious Cause.

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Over There: One Soldier’s Perspective on other Soldiers’ Wars

FT-17-argonne-19181Last week I was able to catch much of the live stream of the ceremony marking the Centennial of America’s entry into the Great War. It was wonderfully done, reflected multiple perspectives, and offered insights into the impact that moment had on America and the world. The ceremony wrapped up with a rousing rendition of “Over There.” As I hear the lines “We’ll be over, we’re coming over,” I realized I had tears in my eyes. I wondered, “How could a hundred year-old song move me to tears?” I suppose the reason is because my own experience of war gave me at least a little glimpse into what was in store for the young men and women headed “Over There.”

To be clear, between the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan I never set foot in a trench. (Well, that’s not entirely true: in Kosovo I stood in a two-foot deep decoy trench the Serbs dug to draw attention from the well-camouflaged foxholes they had prepared in the woodline nearby.) I never huddled in a shell crater, never endured a sustained artillery barrage, never dodged machine gun fire while negotiating a barbed wire obstacle, was never gassed, and never had my tank break down or get mired in front of the muzzles of several enemy machine guns. That was not my generation’s experience of war.

Our experience was very different. Several years ago I had the great honor of delivering a Posthumous Bronze Star Medal for Valor to the family of a fallen soldier with whom I had served. Before the ceremony I chatted with a few WWII 10th Mountain Division veterans, and I remarked that their accomplishments in Italy were an inspiration to today’s soldiers. I was surprised by the humble reply: “Are you kidding me? We got there in January and the war was over in May; then we were done! You people today go over there for a year, and then you go back over and over again. I don’t know how you do it.”

So it would seem every war is horrible in its own way, and each participant’s experience of war is different. There are moments of horror, but in the midst of the violence and chaos, many, if not most, participants also find moments of valor, excitement, and exhilaration. These highs and lows leave a lasting imprint, and the longer one is exposed to them, them more imprints are left. I think that is true for all wars.

I suppose the most important thing to remember is that when a soldier comes back fromBob and Junood “Over There,” a little bit of “Over There” comes back HERE. Some return better people than when they left. Some returned shattered by their experiences. For most, it is somewhere in between. I can only imagine what went on the minds of veterans of the Great War; I know that I carry a bit of my wars with me wherever I go. If I move over when I pass a broken-down car on the side of the road, it’s to give me room in case the car explodes. If I duck during the weekly tornado siren test, it’s not because I was startled, it’s because in Afghanistan sirens meant a rocket was inbound. If I spend an hour and a half on the phone with someone I’ve not spoken to for years, it’s because at one time he and I were ready to give our lives for each other, and that is a bond that will never be broken.

There is another complicating factor for me: while my military service is over, my wars go on. The dirty roadside where I found my first IED (to be fair, it found me) is still in the hands of Daesh. There is still fierce fighting in Afghanistan. American service members are in harm’s way every day…and I have a son who is seventeen years-old. A hundred years ago he would have been in the target age group to go “Over There,” and I still worry that someday he is going to decide to follow in my footsteps. Maybe that perspective is really why I had tears in my eyes last week.

I did not serve in the Great War and I did not serve in the American Revolution; I can’t claim to know what soldiers experienced in those wars. But I did serve in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan and I am beginning to understand what I experienced in those places. When I write about Gideon Hawke’s involvement in the American War for Independence, I hope that my involvement in other wars can help illuminate some universal experience of war. Perhaps people will better understand what it means to go “Over There.” If so, then perhaps I will have truly accomplished something.

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

Gideon Hawke Novels Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GideonHawkeNovels/

100 Years On: America Decides to Go “Over There”

WHEREAS, The Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America; therefore, be it

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government, which has thus been thrust upon the United States, is hereby formally declared; and

That the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”

               -U.S. Declaration of War against the German Empire, April 6th, 1917

100 years ago today the U.S. Senate passed a Declaration of War on the German Empire.

When America entered the war, it was totally unprepared. While combatant armies in Europe numbered in the millions, the U.S. Army consisted of fewer than 135,000 troops. These American soldiers were devoid of much critical modern military equipment: for example the Army had ZERO steel helmets, ZERO tanks, ZERO gas masks, and very little modern artillery. Furthermore, in spite of the Wright Brothers inventing powered flight, American military aviation was virtually non-existent. TO make matters even worse, the U.S. military had little or no appreciation of the skills and training it would need to survive and win on the Western Front.

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Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO

Once committed, the United States made a concerted national effort to get itself on a war footing. The government consolidated control over broadcasting, industry, and transportation, and the size of the military exploded. By Armistice Day the U.S. military had grown to over 4 Million members, and the American Expeditionary Force in France included over a million troops, about half of whom saw combat. The Americans relied heavily on the British and French for equipment, but made good use of the equipment received, putting dozens of artillery battalions and even four tank battalions into action against the Germans. Sadly, these American troops had to learn things the hard way. At Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne they would pay in blood for the expertise the British and French had earned at such high cost at places like Verdun, the Somme, the Marne, the Aisne, Passchendaele, Ypres, and Arras.

But all of that was in the future. In April 1917, a visitor to the 400+ miles of trenches along the Western Front might be forgiven for not knowing that America had entered the war; there was no immediate material effect. There was, however, a psychological effect: now the Allied troops had a glimmer of hope, because now they knew “The Yanks are coming.”

Post on America’s slide toward war: https://robertkrenzel.com/2017/03/22/100-years-on-america-slides-toward-the-great-war

National World War I Museum page on America’s Entry into the Great War: https://www.theworldwar.org/us-enters-war

US Department of State Historian website: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/wwi

Robert Krenzel Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertKrenzelAuthor

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