Monday, May 27, 2013

The James Boys and World War I

I was thumbing through my notes this week trying to decide how I would update this blog when I happened across a story from The Constitution concerning the James brothers serving in the United States army during World War I.

Prior to World War I the United States had become a peace-loving nation. Very few folks wanted to enter a foreign war, and many had to be persuaded to accept the declaration of war against Germany since they had not invaded our borders. Many Georgians objected to the Selective Services Act including our elected representatives like Thomas Hardwick, Rebecca Latimer Felton, and Thomas E. Watson who challenged the legality of the Selective Services Act in court.

President Woodrow Wilson had been re-elected in 1916 on the promise he would keep the United States out of the war in Europe, but by 1917 things had changed.

The Lusitania, a British liner, was torpedoed and sunk on May 7, 1915 by a German U-boat. 128 innocent Americans among those killed. President Wilson called for the Germans to stop attacking passenger ships, and for a time they did stop, but by January, 1917, Germany began attacking any ships they had in their sights and had begun negotiating secretly with Mexico for an alliance. Germany wanted the United States to enter the conflict. If Mexico became a German ally they would be awarded their lost territories of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona once the United States was defeated. President Wilson made the plan public and most people understood at that point war should be declared. The last straw was the sinking of seven additional merchant ships.

I've written about how citizens of Douglas County answered the call to war here.

The story in The Constitution was titled "The James Lieutenants Uphold Record of Fighting Forebears" and was dated July, 14, 1918.

I present it here in its entirety....

Linton Stephen James and Royal Percy James, two Douglasville boys, born and reared, are now wearing the uniforms of the United States army, the first as a first lieutenant now in France, while the second, working under a second  lieutenant’s commission, is at present stationed near Waco, Texas, drilling and preparing selectmen for service overseas.

The lieutenants James are the sons  of W.A. James, well known lawyer of Atlanta and Douglasville, and as privates both saw service on the Mexican border as members of the old Fifth Georgia and both came home with excellent records.
They came from old fighting stock, their forefathers having taken faithful parts in the Mexican war and in the later war between the states.

After the United States entered the war Linton Stephen James (see picture below), still with the old Fifth, than at Camp Wheeler, Macon, secured admission to the second officers’ training camp and was sent to Oglethorpe, near Chattanooga. Then he was put through the paces by English, French and American officers, and in a class of 700 faced an examination board seeking a commission.
In the grading by that board he was rated seventh, of the six men ahead of him two came from Florida, two from South Carolina and two from Pennsylvania. The latter part of November, 1917, he was assigned to the Eleventh Regiment, U.S. Army, then stationed at Camp Oglethorpe where it remained until about two months ago, when it was sent across and is now presumed to be on or near the fighting line in France.

First Lieutenant James is 24 years old, is six feet one inch tall and weighs 210 pounds. He is married and his wife is now in Douglasville.
Royal Percival James (see picture below) was yet in the service at Camp Wheeler when a third training camp for officers opened. He stood an excellent entrance examination and, when the finals came, won out with a commission as Second Lieutenant, standing second in his rating in a platoon of 63 men. When handed his commission he was ordered to report to Camp Stanley, at Leon Springs near San Antonio, Texas. That was the first of January last, and there he remained until a month ago when he was transferred to Camp Pike in Arkansas where he remained but a short time, a second transfer sending him to Waco, where is his now whipping new selectmen or raw material into finished fighters for the western front “over there” and for a final spurt into old Berlin herself.

Second Lieutenant Roy James – that’s the name he prefers – is just past 21 years old and while he is a full-blooded James, he is not quite as large as his big brother.
However, I’m as big as dad,” he is wont to say when a comparison is made between him and his elder brother.

And now he thinks five feet and ten inches combined with 150 pounds of bone and muscle is enough for any Boche he may encounter when he gets across.
He is yet single and he’s been the baby at the James home in Douglasville ever since he tossed aside his rattles for the old family shotgun, how discarded for Uncle Sam’s shooting irons. Just the same, he is large enough to have graduatedwell up in his class from  Atlanta Tech High school before he essayed to invade Mexico with the old Fifth.

That these boys came from good fighting stock is certain, for their ancestors have had part in every war in which the United States has participated. Six generations back the James name was on General Washington’s muster rolls.  Again the same name and the same branch took part in the war of 1812. In the war with Mexico, Georgia sent the James name into Monterey. And in the war between the states the father of these two boys and two of his brothers took part. G.W. James went to Virginia with the old Seventh Georgia and served under Stonewall Jackson, while another  uncle, John M. James, enlisted in the Twenty-First Georgia and was also with Stonewall Jackson. G.W. James never came home. He died at Port Royal in the Shenandoah Valley, while John M. James left one leg at Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock in the Old Dominion.
After the war John M. James become prominent in state politics and represented his district in the senate. Their father, W.A.James, because of his age, had only two years of service during that struggle, but that those two years were busy years, about the busiest of his life, is attested by the fact that he served under General Joe Wheeler and that he surrendered with General Joe Johnston in North Carolina on April 26, 1865.

Also the maternal side of these Lieutenants James boys has a war record of which anyone might be proud. The maternal grandmother had two uncles William Danforth and John W. Danforth, both of Campbell County, this state, killed in Virginia while serving under Stonewall Jackson. She also had three brothers in the Confederate Army, William, John and George Powell, all of Cobb County.
And still the Jameses are not satisfied with their war record for on the last day of June, Sunday June 30, a son was born to First Lieutenant Stephen James at the family home in Douglasville, and as if to bequeath him a soldier’s career, his mother named him Linton Stephen James, Jr., so the cablegram sent the next day to the father somewhere in France informed him.

“I told my boys when they went into the army,” said W.A.James, the father, “to stand by their country to the last. That they are fighting for the greatest principles man ever battled for and that they are being led in the greatest conflict of all time by the greatest leader of this or any other age of the world – President Woodrow Wilson.”
I know that L.S. James went on to practice law like his father, but it was noted in a small note in the Atlanta paper for October 18, 1918 that Lt. Linton S. James of Douglasville had been “gassed in the St.Milhiel drive. He was identified as an adjutant to Major Mahin.”

Today, Memorial Day, 2013, I’m thinking of the countless thousands of soldiers thorough the years who have fought, who have been injured, and who have died defending our rights to be free and live in the greatest nation ever conceived based on liberty!

Check out the link above for "St. Milhiel Drive"'s a great video with real footage.  Who knows?  Perhaps Lieutenant James is in some of the footage.

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