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Average Americans by Theodore Roosevelt

By Lieutenant Colonel then Captain Barnwell Rhett Legge


[Illustration: AN AIR RAID Drawn by Captain George Harding, A. E. F., August, 1918]

The Germans now rushed up all the reserves they could to hold this threatened point. On the second day we took prisoners from four Hun divisions in front of the regiment. One prisoner told us he had marched twenty-four kilometers during the preceding night. For five days the advance continued, until the final objective was taken and we held the Chateau-Thierry-Soissons railroad and the Germans ordered a general retreat. I was not fortunate enough to see the last half of this battle, as I was wounded. I heard about it, however, from men who had been all through it.

Our casualties were very heavy. At the end of the battle, companies in some cases came out commanded by corporals, and battalions by second lieutenants. In the battle the regiment lost most of the men that built it up.

Colonel Hamilton A. Smith, as fine an officer and as true a gentleman as I have ever known, was killed by machine-gun fire while he was verifying his outpost line. Major McCloud, a veteran of the Philippines who had served with the British for three years, was killed on the second day. I have somewhere a note written by him to me shortly before his death. He was on the left, where heavy resistance was being encountered. I had just sent him a message advising him that I was attacking

in the direction of Ploisy. His answer, which was brought by a wounded runner, read: "My staff are all either killed or wounded. Will attack toward the northeast against machine-gun nests. Good hunting!"

Lieutenant Colonel Elliott was killed by shell fire. Captain J. H. Holmes, a gallant young South Carolinian, was killed. He left in the United States, a young wife and a baby he had never seen. Captains Mood, Hamel, and Richards were killed. Lieutenant Kern, of whom I spoke before, was mortally wounded while gallantly leading his company. Lieutenant Clarke died in the hospital from the effect of his wounds a few days later. Clarke was a big, strapping fellow who feared nothing. Once he remarked to me: "Yes, it is a messy damn war, sir, but it's the only one we've got and I guess we have got to make the best of it." These are only a few of those who fell. Both Major Compton and Major Travis were wounded.

The Twenty-sixth Infantry was brought out of the fight, when it was relieved, by Lieutenant Colonel (then Captain) Barnwell Rhett Legge, of South Carolina. Colonel Legge started the war as a second lieutenant. When I first knew him he was adjutant of the Third Battalion. Later he took a company and commanded it during the early fighting. He was then made adjutant of the regiment, and two or three times I recall his asking the Colonel to let him go back with his company. Captain Frey, killed earlier, who was originally my senior company commander, thought very highly of him and used to "josh" him continually. Once Legge took out a raiding party and captured a German prisoner fifty-four years old. Frey never let him hear the last of it, asking him if he considered it a sportsmanlike proceeding to take a man of that age, and saying that a man who would do such a thing would shoot quail on the ground and catch a trout with a worm. All during my service in Europe, Legge served with me. During the latter part he was my second in command in the regiment. I have seen him under all circumstances. He was always cool and decided. No mission was too difficult for him to undertake. His ability as a troop leader was of the highest order. In my opinion no man of his age has a better war record.

An amusing incident occurred in Lieutenant Baxter's platoon during the battle. The men were advancing to the attack perhaps a couple of hundred yards from the Germans. They were moving forward in squad columns as they were going through a valley where they were defiladed from machine-gun fire, though the enemy was firing on them with its artillery. Suddenly Baxter heard rifle fire behind him. He wheeled around and saw that a rabbit had jumped up in front of the left of the platoon and the men were firing at it.


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