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Chaplain B.H. Roberts Eulogizes the Dead

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 07, 2008

This post is a sort of prequel to previous posts about B.H. Roberts’s experiences as an LDS chaplain during World War I, here and here. It’s long; you can safely skip lightly through the multiple eulogies – I include them all here for the sake of history and to emphasize what must have seemed to be an endless experience to the men involved.

It was 90 years ago that the men of the 145 Field Artillery began to settle into their training routine at Camp De Souge, France (near Bordeaux). So far, the men seemed to be enjoying their experience in a new land, far from the battlefront. Sgt. William H. Latimer, a Latter-day Saint, wrote to his parents:

We are in fine barracks with many modern conveniences and a better condition than would be expected here. News is rather scarce but I have had the privilege of visiting one of the larger cities in France and I am more impressed with the city people than those of the rural districts.

I have so many clothes now that every time we move I find my pack is much larger and I am afraid if they continue to issue more I shall have to purchase a small mule to carry my pack.

We are now able to get about everything we require as we are supplied with plenty of the necessaries, and chocolates and other candies can be purchased form the commissary department. then grapes and nuts are obtainable from peddlers that are allowed in camp.

The chaplain appears to be getting along all right and it is marvelous how a man of his years is able to stand this life and keep going as he does. He held service last Sunday in a meadow field under the trees. There were a great many in attendance, notwithstanding the clouds were heavy and threatening.

A little later, Sergeant Latimer wrote:

We held our first Sacrament meeting in France today and notwithstanding that many of the men were on the range we had 167 present, which, under conditions, is certainly a good attendance. Then it was turned into a testimony meeting and there was not one idle moment in nearly two hours. It was certainly a fine start and I think it will be continued, if conditions permit. We are very comfortably arranged now and everything is running along very smoothly. This camp has a fine lot of barracks and we have electric lights, so we couldn’t look for anything much better.

Corporal Walter R. Burdette, another LDS boy from Salt Lake City, also wrote home with praise for Chaplain Roberts and a description of church services:

Wish you could have been with me last Sunday to attend our Regimental church services. B.H. Roberts, our dear old chaplain, preached a very strong sermon on the death of Christ. His subject being, “Forgiveness of Sins through Christ.” It certainly was a wonderful sermon and I was deeply interested. Here is the way he conducts the services and the following program was carried out Sunday:

Instrumental selection by four members of the band.

Singing, ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer.’

A short reading from the Bible to prepare the mind for prayer.

Prayer.

Singing, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives.’

Sermon on forgiveness of sins.

Prayer.

Closing hymn, ‘I need Thee every hour.’

One week from next Sunday he is going to hold sacramental services. Don’t you think this is really a wonderful idea? Think of holding a sacrament service away over here in France among so many different nationalities. I certainly think so, and will sure try and arrange to be there. We are certainly blessed in having such a man as B.H. Roberts with us.

But soon Chaplain Roberts had additional, less pleasant duties to fulfill. Spanish influenza struck the camp, and his men fell ill. For one terrible week, one or two young men died every single day; deaths continued at a slower rate during the following week. Chaplain Roberts held brief graveside services, during which he spoke a few personal words about each man in addition to the religious and military ritual. Below are the eulogies he tapped out on his portable typewriter and carefully saved among his personal papers. I wonder, was it harder for him to speak personally about men who had just transferred to his company? or was it more difficult to speak about the boys he had seen grow up, whose parents he knew well?

Eulogy of Private Andrew Monson (of Cummings, South Dakota), Headquarters Co., 145th Field Artillery

Pvt Andrew Monson of Hdq Co. was not with the Company long but while in this organization became very well known and also very well liked. He was always ready to lend a hand where such was needed and played the game of a soldier from every angle. The cheerfulness and beautiful disposition of Pvt Monson will be long remembered.

Death occurred October 11, 1918.

Eulogy of Private First Class Herbert Z. Gump (of Sacramento, California), Battery “E,” 145th Field Artillery

Private Gump was termed a new man of the battery and also the regiment. Through his willingness and cheerfulness he soon won the favor of his officers and the men of the battery. As a reward he was awarded a promotion which started him on toward success in the army. He was very popular among his fellows and seemed to be perfectly satisfied with his lot and played the game from the start to the finish.

Death occurred October 11, 1918

Eulogy of Private Norman J. Hackel (of Salt Lake City, Utah), Battery “E,” 145th Field Artillery

Private Hackel held the position of cook in this battery for about four months. Through his efforts and willingness in this capacity he was awarded a Mess Sergeant’s Certificate. He was that type of man and considered the friendship of his fellow soldiers more than the honor which could have been his, and solely for this reason he returned to the battery to soldier as a private. His popularity was won by the manly qualifications expressed in performance [of his] duty.

Death occurred October 12th, 1918

Eulogy of Wagoner Carl P. Leishman (of Wellsville, Utah), Battery “C,” 145th Field Artillery

Wagoner Carl P. Leishman has been a member of this organization for over a year and during that time has won the friendship and self respect of every man in the battery. His beautiful life was exemplified when the funeral of our comrade was announced to the men. We were allowed sixteen men but more than twice that number had to be rejected. He was a willing soldier and his disposition will never be forgotten.

Death occurred October 13th, 1918

Eulogy of Corporal Roland Twelves (of Provo, Utah), Battery “F,” 145th Field Artillery

Corporal Twelves was a man of sterling qualities and wonderful characteristics. Through his exactness he was chosen by his commanding officer to act as “Gunner Corporal,” a position which takes willingness, exactness, expertness, alertness and promptness, all of which Corp Twelves exercised in every duty he [was] call[ed] upon to execute. He had a winning smile which was his greeting to every man he knew. Through this cheerfulness he won unbounded popularity.

Death occurred October 14th, 1918

Eulogy of Private Lewis D. Chaney (of Sacramento, California), Battery “E,” 145th Field Artillery

Private Lewis D. Chaney was a new man of this battery but while he was with the organization won many friends and became a favorite among his fellow soldiers. He was a man of excellent character, and wonderful qualities of manhood came to the front while he was in this battery. The most striking characteristic of Pvt. Chaney was the politeness he displayed toward everybody no matter who he was or where he came from. He was seldom seen without a broad smile which carried him as a friend to all.

Death occurred October 15, 1918

Eulogy of Private George Fritz (of Sacramento, California), Battery “C,” 145th Field Artillery

Pvt. Fritz was often referred to as one of the new men of the battery. He was a quiet boy, but at the same time had those characteristics which make men popular among their associates. His readiness to respond to duty was very noticeable, and the cheerful way in which he did things was considered as an index to his very much appreciated fellowship.

Death occurred October 16th, 1918

Eulogy of Private Robert E. Durrant (of Spanish Fork, Utah), Battery “D,” 145th Field Artillery

For four months before and up to the time of the death of Pvt. Durrant, he held the position of battery mail orderly, a position which was handled in first class condition. He was a boy of excellent character, always willing to do what was expected of him and always ready to offer those little acts of kindness which can not be over estimated. He was very popular among his fellow soldiers and the smile that he presented them will never be forgotten by the men of this organization.

Death occurred October 16th, 1918

Eulogy of Private First Class William R. Steglich (of Salt Lake City, Utah), Battery “F,” 145th Field Artillery

Pvt. Steglich was a man of excellent character and stalwart qualities. He knew the game of a soldier from the start to the finish. His experience on the Mexican Border made him a soldier in the minds of all who knew him. William loved the life of a soldier and was willing and waiting to go into service again when the 1st Utah Cavalry was changed into the 145th Field Artillery and called into service on the 5th day of August 1917. He was well beloved by all men and through his cheerfulness, good sportsmanship, has left a hole in the battery which can never be forgotten.

Death occurred October 17, 1918

Eulogy of Private Elmer S. Bishop (of Hinckley, Utah), Battery “C,” 145th Field Artillery

Private Bishop became a member of this organization shortly before we left Camp Kearny, California to report to the American Expeditionary Forces for duty in France. He was well beloved by all the men of the battery, being that sort of soldier who had very little to say but always does his share. His cheerfulness, good sportsmanship will be long remembered.

Death occurred October 18, 1918

Eulogy of Private First Class Stanford Hinckley (of Salt Lake City, Utah), Battery “A,” 145th Field Artillery

During the year and seven months Pvt. Hinckley has been with us, he has won the name of being a good man and also a good soldier. This name is bestowed upon him by the men of Battery “A”, first because he was always ready to respond to duty and secondly because of his beautiful character. Never was Pvt. Hinckley happier than when he was doing something to help someone who was in need of assistance. He had that cheerfulness of disposition which always goes to help men to think more of each other and his little acts of kindness and also the big things he has done to help make Battery “A” better will never be forgotten.

Death occurred October 19, 1918

Eulogy of Private Milton L. Haddox (of Puente, California), Battery “F,” 145th Field Artillery

Milton L. Haddox was a new man of the battery and was a man who had comparatively “little to say.” He was interested in the mechanical side of the army, having had a good school of experience along this line before entering the army. Pvt. Haddox was always willing to do his part to help make his battery and regiment a success in whatever was undertaken. In the short time he was with us he made many friends and will be missed and thought of many times as the battery goes on to complete its calling.

Death occurred October 22, 1918

Eulogy of Private First Class Frank A. Isakson (of Ogden, Utah), Battery “B,” 145th Field Artillery

Frank A. Isakson was one of the first members of Troop K 1st Utah Cavalry, later changed to the 145th Field Artillery. He entered the service on the 3rd day [of] February 1917, and from the beginning found numerous friends in the Army. He possessed those qualities of good rich manhood which make good honest whole hearted soldiers. He was in the game for all there was in it, always willing to respond to whatever duty called him to perform. He was selected by his commanding officer to be a machine gunner in the battery, and was attending machine gun school up to the time of his illness. His disposition was none short of beautiful; congeniality and helpfulness always existed between him and his comrades.

Death occurred October 23rd, 1918

Eulogy of Private Frederick P. Holton (of Brigham City, Utah), Battery “D,” 145th Field Artillery

Pvt. Frederick P. Holton, better known to the men of the battery as “Perry” was a boy of wonderful characteristics. He was admired by all who knew him because he was able to live a good clean life. Temptation seemed to keep out of his way. He came to us shortly before we left Camp Kearny and from the first day began to make many friends in the new field he had chosen. Perry was a willing boy and went at his duties with a spirit that made everything which was worth doing a pleasure. His father is one of our “Mother State’s” leading citizens and his whole family is a credit to our state. Our sorrow is mutual and the memory of our friend will live with us until this struggle is over, and still more Forever.

Death occurred October 27, 1918

As commenter John Willis noted in the first Roberts post linked above, one of the casualties was Stanford Hinckley, the older brother of President Gordon B. Hinckley, and a young man well known to B.H. Roberts. Another old family friend, and at that time the highest ranking LDS man in the U.S. Army, General Richard W. Young, wrote to Bryant S. Hinckley, the soldier’s father, with an account of the soldier’s death. His letter gives us a glimpse of Chaplain Roberts at work:

In a training camp, France, Oct. 20, 1918.

My dear friend:

No doubt the cable has already conveyed to you the sad news of the death of your son Stanford, which occurred at 6:30 last evening in the Base hospital near the city of Bordeaux, France.

There has been much sickness in the camp. I asked Dr. Christophersen for a list of those who had been taken to the hospital and I saw the name of your son among them. I immediately went to the hospital and learned that he had pneumonia (a frequent stage of the sickness) and that both lungs were involved. The doctor felt very hopeless as to his chances of life. I met Chaplain Roberts coming from the hospital, as I was going in, and he had learned of the young man’s desperate condition. I went into the ward and saw at once that he was very ill. I talked briefly with him and ascertained there was no service that I could render. At my request the hospital kept me advised as to his condition. At noon yesterday I was advised he was dying. I picked up Chaplain Roberts and we went over, but found him barely conscious. Chaplain Roberts raised his head and gave him a drink, as he was burning with fever. He lingered until evening.

His funeral will occur tomorrow in the cemetery here. I shall pay my friend B.S. the respect of attending. You have my profound sympathy as have all who know and love him. I have not learned whether he is married; if so, his wife, will of course, be heart broken.

I am your friend,

Richard W. Young

It was this experience, multiplied by fourteen, that drew from B.H. Roberts his memorable prayer for the lives of his men.



17 Comments »

  1. BH Roberts was a hero to me when I woke up this morning. Twice as much now. Thank you.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 7, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  2. Thanks for this, Ardis. Interesting, as usual, and it made me think about family members’ bouts with flu during the war.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — October 7, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  3. Thanks, Matt. I’ve enjoyed getting to know this side of B.H. Roberts’s history.

    Stephen! Are you by chance thinking of this clip from the Piute Chieftain of 30 January 1919?

    Orson Taylor, recently back from the south where he had been in the army service, came in from Panguitch Sunday evening. Mr. Taylor was acting as nurse among the stricken in the Garfield county metropolis and he brings the good news that the disease has almost disappeared. He reports that the authorities are planning to reopen business in all channels the first of next week.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  4. You’re doing a good work, Ardis. These are wonderful and we are blessed to read them.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 7, 2008 @ 1:38 pm

  5. An interesting coincidence in the posting of the description the barracks in France in 1918. Just yesterday I received an email from my father with the following description of the camp where he stayed for most of December, 1944:

    We were in a small residue of a very old military camp. We guessed about William the Conqueror’s time, flippantly, but it could easily have been something over 150 years before we were there. Camp Poundbury is what I believe it was named. I was enough overwhelmed by the beautiful countryside and the remarkable darkness – and was not there long enough to begin to get well acquainted with trails and distances.

    My impressions are somewhat foggily as this: Our company was maybe 140 men (and boys) and we ate in a mess hall that we filled rather tightly. (When I had the stewed apricot experience [this would fit well into the category, aptly described by one of daughters, as "barf stories"], our company cooks were what I remember in the sparsely set up kitchen. That is, there may have been other companies that cooked and ate there at a different schedule, but it was a small operation and certainly put a little (too little) food into a small fraction of the division.)

    Evidently there was a big fraction of the division in Piddlehinton and some scatterings otherwise. In my sense of the past, we were at the edge of Dorchester and getting into downtown there was a short walk. Two of us heard there was a “milkbar”; we decided to live it up and discover what that was. We found a man at a shop who was willing to give abundant directions for several turns and fields and hedges freely and he said happily, “ye’ cawnt make no mistake.” We were not pleased to prove him wrong.

    Poundbury was ancient. The buildings were rough stone and well cooled in December. There was probably a small stove, but there would have been no fuel. The beds were short; I was fortunate to get a lower place and put my gear on the dirt to get at least a foot additional. I remember that I was using my great new army mummy-sleeping bag, made of army-blanket material, with a half length zipper. A wind resistant cover plus the one thickness of blanket made a mighty lean sleeping bag for the cold weather we soon got into. Our squad leader was about 6 feet 2 and could not get head and feet in at the same time. One of the drivers in our company needed more exercise, for he could not suck in his gut enough to zip over it.

    One relatively new shack in our area was labeled “Ablutions”. (I had no dictionary, of course.) Then another shack had toilets that did not flush when one pulled the long chain that reached up to the high tank on the wall. But, letting the chain free did the trick. Water was plentiful then. It was mighty fresh. [I suspect that means COLD!]

    The British were having a bad time with food shortage and we got less than we were accustomed to. The German attacks of freighters at sea were dropping off some by this time (though about three weeks later one German torpedo resulted in the death of three fourths of a thousand men of our division, including two of the best men I knew.)

    The bread was surprisingly good, for it was white but with real substance, (The army in the States had its own bakeries and these made better bread than “store bread” I had eaten. But the English bread we got was better – and very scarce. I was always hungry.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 7, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  6. 1918 barracks had deteriorated by 1944? Whoda thunk it? {g} That’s an interesting comparison between the two reactions to their respective quarters. And I’m glad you’re following up with your father to get more detail on stories that you’ve mentioned — the more time passes, the more important and interesting will be whatever reminiscences you can record.

    Thanks, J., and for the link on BCC, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  7. I second J. Stapley’s comment that you are doing a good work, Ardis. Thanks.

    (Normally, I would keep it to myself, but after reading that “[i]f lurkers only knew how much every comment is appreciated, more of you would say something.” So, I’m saying something.)

    Comment by Hunter — October 7, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  8. Ardis: simply wonderful!! Thank you for compiling this.

    I would love to see you do a piece on General Richard W. Young, who may have been the first LDS General, not counting those in the Nauvoo Legion.

    Comment by S.Faux — October 7, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  9. Hunter, I’ll read and read and reread, I promise! Thanks. It does matter.

    S., RWY would be a great subject for a post, from his training through his career and death, and his simultaneous church service. I’ll work on it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  10. Thank you for all your legwork on these B.H. Roberts posts, Ardis, and for bringing these stories to light once more. Very inspirational reading.

    Comment by Justin — October 7, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  11. As always, Ardis, this is wonderful. Bro. Roberts was an amazing man.

    Comment by Ray — October 7, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  12. Ardis, do you think that any of the families of these soldiers were/are aware of these eulogies? Wouldn’t it be special for a relative today to find such a wonderful account from B.H. Roberts? Thanks for your post. It is very moving.

    Comment by Maurine — October 7, 2008 @ 8:04 pm

  13. Maurine, we’re thinking alike again! Sometimes I list full names in posts hoping that somebody will find a family jewel by googling, when they would otherwise have no reason to know that Keepa exists. If they ever do, I hope they’ll leave a comment. (I did hear a year or so ago from someone in a BYU genealogy class who had been told he should google for the names of ancestors. He did so, thinking it was a waste of time, and ran across a Tribune story I had done about his great-grandmother’s life being saved by a Boy Scout, an event completely unknown to him. Maybe some relative will find one of these eulogies in the same way.)

    Thanks, Justin and Ray. It’s nice to have you as such steady readers and commenters.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  14. Oh, and another success story: On another site, I had posted the names of all the World War I generation who had registered for the draft in Piute County, Utah. A young woman in New Jersey contacted me because her grandfather, with an unmistakeably distinctive name, appeared on my list, and she had no idea he had ever been in Utah. After comparing notes, we decided that since he had been a railroad worker, he may have been in Marysvale on registration day, and probably only that day. The woman was pleased to find anything, because due to her parents’ divorce she was completely estranged from that side of her family.

    Then unknown to her, I contacted a friend in Marysvale. At the end of the war, the State of Utah prepared beautiful certificates of appreciation for all her World War I soldiers — names in calligraphy, the governor’s signature, a gold seal, the whole shebang — and I knew that the Piute certificates had never been given to the veterans, for some unknown reason. They had recently been found in some closet somewhere, and my friend was seeking family members to claim the certificates. I got the certificate of my great-uncle (coincidently, the Orson Taylor mentioned in #3) and sent it to Orson’s son. I remembered that my New Jersey contact’s grandfather’s certificate was still in that pile, and I arranged to have it sent to her, the first tangible relic she had belonging to the side of the family she was searching for.

    I love the internet for such possibilities!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 7, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  15. and we love the heart of the person who would remember that and take the time to make it happen.

    Comment by Ray — October 7, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  16. WOW, THANK YOU! Frank A. Isakson was my Grandmother’s older brother. It was so incredible to find his eulogy here. I am always trying to find information about him, and it was exciting to share this information with the rest of my family.

    It is a wonderful addition to our family collection of letters. We even have flowers from his grave that the men pressed and sent home to his mother.

    Frank’s parents were Swedish immigrants and I can only imagine how hard it was for them to lose their son in the war. From his letters I can tell that he was a good man. It is nice to know that he was held in such high regard.

    Thank you so much for sharing this information.

    Comment by W. Peery — January 2, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

  17. How exciting,W.! So glad you found this, and took the time to leave a note.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 2, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

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