I mentioned to someone connected to the WW1 Centennial Commission last week of my intention to “adopt” the 27th Division during the Great War 100th anniversary. I intend to blog about the division, especially its 23rd (106th) Infantry Regiment, a great deal over the next two years, from its basic training in Spartanburg, South Carolina through its coming home after the Armistice. The 27th is a natural choice for me; it was the only division sent to France comprised of units from only one state, New York. Its 23rd Regiment was from Brooklyn and its armory is today on the National Register of Historic Places. The 23rd served on the Texas border during the Punitive Expedition in 1916. Its unit chaplain was the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman. When the regiment was called into federal service during the Great War it became the 106th. There were so many men, regiments, and divisions that fought in the war that it seems the best way to tell a doughboy story is by finding the general in the particular. That’s why I selected the 27th. Plus, they fought with the British, which gives me a chance to better explore the international aspects of the war.
Yesterday when we were at the Library of Congress I saw a man standing in front of a wooden trunk outside the exhibit hall. As it turned out, he was a volunteer and the trunk held the accoutrements of a Brooklyn doughboy named Christian F. Stensen, a private in the 23rd. I had an interesting conversation with the man from the Library of Congress, who graciously showed me Private Stensen’s belongings. We did not know for sure, but we were speculating that the Indian was adopted as a logo because the division’s Orion symbol looks something like a tomahawk. I’ll have more on the Orion symbol itself in a future post. You never know what you will see if you get out there. Whether it is the Park Service, the Library of Congress, or some other institution, yesterday’s experience was testimony to the special role that volunteers play in the telling of our history.