Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued
There is no more to Hezekiah Scovil Porter's diary, save some brief notes on where he served, in someone else's handwriting.
On Monday, July 22, 1918, his unit went into battle, and Hez was killed.
Two guns had been placed in a wood, and ammunition was needed. "Hez" was one of the detail to take it up. They had to cross a wheat field, and a splinter [shrapnel] caught him square in the chest.
History of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion has a longer description of the action from the "War Diary of a Machine Gunner," compiled from the field diaries of several of the soldiers by the Rev. Charles E. Hesselgrave, a Congregational minister serving overseas with the YMCA.
JULY 22. At daybreak both companies were sent out into some woods overlooking Trugny to assist the attack of Major Rau's battalion against the town. We could not locate any enemy to fire at, and the best we could do was to wait to protect Rau's left against possible counter-attack. We were shelled and M. G. bullets flew pretty thick. Bristol of C Co. was wounded. After a while the attack crumbled in spite of Rau's gallant efforts against impossible odds, and the troops were withdrawn to the old positions. A little later C Co. was sent over to the right to join Rau. There they found him with only a few of his men left. The guns were set up on the edge of the wood in a defensive position. B Co. got orders to support an attack of the 102d Inf. on the town of Epieds over on the left flank. The company formed a fourth wave behind the infantry, and spread out into a long skirmish line. The advance started over the open wheat field at a slow walk, with frequent halts during which each man flattened out so tliat no moving thing was visible in the field. M. G. bullets began to kick up little puffs of dust all around us, and the enemy artillery barrage came down fiercely just ahead. We knew we would have to go through this, and every nerve was tense. We soon found ourselves in the midst of it—direct fire at that, mostly from one pounders, and 105's and Austrian 88's which come with the shriek of a thousand devils. The fumes choked us and the concussions half stunned us. It was here that Hez Porter, following his platoon leader, was instantly killed. Corcoran, Dick and Wendt were wounded. An infantry captain just ahead called frantically to us to put an enemy M. G. out of business. He pointed out a pile of barrels where the gun was supposed to be hidden, and two guns of Lt. Sandberg's platoon, Sgt. Hart's section, went into action in the edge of some woods and peppered the spot for some time. It was here that the whole attack was checked, and we got word from the infantry that it was pulling back and that we should do the same on our own hook. The company was drawn to the left into cover of woods, reformed, and sent back, skirting around a rise for concealment. We assembled in a patch of wood a little way back and waited for possible counter-attack and to cover the withdrawal of the doughboys if necessary. They came filtering back, bringing their wounded with them, and soon we were also returned to our old place where the guns were set up to repel any attack that might come from the left. Dr. Hesselgrave appeared with cigarettes and chocolate which was indeed welcome, as we had nothing to eat. This was not a healthy place for the Doctor to be in, but we knew he would come to us when we needed him most. There was a dressing-station near us, and it was awful to see the wounded and shell-shocked fellows brought in. About 6 p. m. the Boche put down a fearful artillery barrage close in front of us, and we were pulled back a hundred yards to escape the effects of this fire. A detail had been digging a grave for Porter, but were unable to finish. A bit later, orders came from Division that we would go back into reserve for a time. We thought our troubles were about over for that day, but were mistaken. Down on the road near Champluisant Farm, just east of Sacerie, our machines were lined up, waiting to take us out, and as we were loading up there came the familiar shriek and two shell burst in the field close by. A moment later there came a deafening blast—all was confusion. Two more shell had exploded together right among our cars. Two of them were overturned. We got the wounded into cars as quickly as possible but, to make matters worse, a mule-cart had become wedged in the road ahead and blocked all traffic, so we could not move out. Finally the way was cleared and the cars with the wounded made for the first-aid station at Sacerie Farm. Harold Smith and Ralph Henry of B Co. died. Brackett, Weld, Olschefskie, Hampson, Haskins, Barber, Maun, Rogers, Burden, Fothergill, Mercer, Burnham, Sancyzk of B Co. and Fabryk of C Co. wounded. Robinson and Gunning of B Co. shell-shocked. Our cars had been doing fine service most all day in taking out wounded. Two of C Co's cars were hit and one wrecked. At last we found ourselves in bivouac in the woods.
July 25. ... A detail went back and buried Porter.
More details about his burial are from the Geni genealogical website entry for Hezekiah Scovil Porter, presumably compiled by Charles E. Rounds, Jr., grandson of Hezekiah's brother, Philip Wells Porter.
A photograph of the temporary gravesite is in the possession of Charles E. Rounds, Jr., 107 Mt. Vernon St., Boston, MA 02108 (2013). In the photograph are two of his comrades who had survived the battle. One is from Wethersfield, Connecticut (State Street) and one is from Waterbury, Vermont. The Vermonter is Wagoner Arthur A Barlow, a farmer, who was born Aug. 10, 1895. The Connecticut man is Sergeant Everett H. Hart, born July 10, 1894, who in civilian life had been a "member" of the Chas. C. Hart Seed Co. Bordering the field, just beyond the grave-site, is a thick forest of mostly birch saplings. The underbrush is heavy.
In a letter. dated July 27, 1918, more details of the initial "make-shift" interment of the remains of Hezekiah Scovil Porter are communicated in a letter from his commanding officer (Philip S. Wainwright) to Whitney Scovil Porter (one of Hezekiah's brothers): "...The grave is marked near the head by a cross-shaped blaze on a tree with "Hezekiah S. Porter--101st. M.G.B. U.S.A.--July 22d, 1918" carved into the wood. His helmet is also placed at the head on a bayonet with his name scratched on it. I removed his wallet which contained a small sum of French money and his diamond ring, which was all the personal property we could find." [The referenced wallet, which is bloodstained, is in the possession of William Porter Wightman, grandson of the said Whitney Scovil Porter (2017)].
Hez's remains were later retrieved and given a permanent resting place in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois (Aisne), France: Plot A, Row 4, Grave 18.
Requiescat in pace, Hezekiah Scovil Porter.
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