Saturday, May 23, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

I pretty much do this every year, so here goes.

Technically, Memorial Day is for the Union dead of the Civil War, but was expanded to include all those who died in service the the United States. Since only one of those who follow died in service  and only one was a Union soldier, this list is not strictly apropos. However, two of them did die later in life partly aggravated by wounds incurred in the service.

Sgt. Tommy Flynn, CAC team Papa Three, USMC, Vietnam

Sgt. Tommy Flynn

My father's cousin lived with villagers in the mountains near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ. 

"The idea was to somewhat integrate with the Vietnamese people in order to gain their trust and friendship and ultimately military intelligence that would help us find the bad guys. It sounds good, and at times it was probably very good, because the Vietnamese were helped with schools and sanitation and protection from the Viet Cong. But it was also an extremely dangerous assignment. CAC soldiers lived near a village and survived mostly on their own. It was a small compound that was flooded when it rained and was overrun several times by the Viet Cong. On one such occasion, Mr. Flynn was severely wounded in the face, neck and thigh. He spent weeks in several hospitals and then a hospital ship with his jaw wired shut, before being mistakenly sent back to the war. He was given a choice; he could work in the rear or go back to his CAC squad. He was either a little nuts, or little bit more brave than most of us, because he chose to return to his squad."-- from Joni Bour's review of A Voice of Hope by Thomas Flynn
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Pfc. Joseph Flynn, 5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC

My father served on Iwo Jima and in the Japanese Occupation. 

As a combat engineer, Joe had the task of blowing things up, a task at which he had had practice, since he had once blown up his bedroom at home while electrolysizing water into oxygen and (alas) hydrogen.  He was assigned to battalion liaison for the landing, which meant he landed with the first wave on Iwo Jima and would take word to his company of battalion location.  His buddies all figured he was a dead duck.  The beach was volcanic sand so fine and slippery that it was hard to get traction, and the Japanese had always dealt harshly with the first wave. But the Japanese commander was canny and withheld fire until the second wave landed and the beaches were maximally crowded. Then he let loose.

Pere (upper right) as flag waver
During one such bombardment, Joe took refuge in a shellhole on the beach with (iirc) his captain.  A black marine from the Pioneer Battalion came to the edge of the hole and... stopped.  "Permission to join you, sir!"  The officer responded by telling him to get his sorry black ass into the shellhole tout suite.  Years later, recounting the incident, Joe said that the young man had grown up in an environment in which a black man did not join a group of whites without their leave, even if Japanese shells were raining about him.  A culture that would do that to a man, he said, was evil.

On another occasion, while returning to the front line with anti-tank grenades, a Japanese mortar shell impacted in front of him. The blast lifted him up and dropped him on his back. For a while he lay there, numb and unable to hear. Gradually, his feelings came back and, standing up, he took inventory. Everything seemed to be working, which he found remarkable. And no blood! In those days, Purple Hearts were not given out like candy, and so he did not receive one.

On another occasion, he nad a buddy peeked over a ridge behind which they sheltered and spotted the cave entrance to the tunnel network with which the Japanese had honeycombed the island. As they did so, a machine gun warding the entrance opened up and they slid back down behind the ridge. "That was close," said young Joe, but his buddy didn't answer because he had a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.

He and another combat engineer were sent to clear one of the northern beaches and, digging in the sand, unearthed an aerial bomb rigged as a mine. The two of them sat back on their heels and contemplated defusing the sucker. "Well," said the buddy, "if it goes, we'll never know it." And they set to it. Successfully, we note.

TOF asked the Old Man once when he first felt old, and he said on his 20th birthday, the day he left Iwo Jima. 
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Pfc. Harry Singley, 304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF

Harry Singley and his wife Helen Schwar
My grandfather on my mother's side served in the St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  He wrote home:

"It was on Sept. 26 when the big drive started in the Argonne Forest and I saw all kinds of things that I never witnessed before.  We started out on the night of the 25th.  At 9 o'clock we commenced a tank road and worked our way almost to the German's front line trenches.  At 2:30 one of the greatest of all barrages was opened.  It was said that between 3500 and 4000 guns, some of them of very large calibre, went off at that hour just like clock work.  We worked on this road under shell fire until about 3:45 and then went back until the infantry went over the top at 5 o'clock.  We followed with the tanks.  That is the way the Americans started and kept pounding and pushing ahead until the great day on Nov. 11.  ...

It was some life.  I am proud that I went through it, for nobody on the Hill will have anything on me...  I was a little with sneezing or tear gas.  It made me sick but I remained with the company for I did not like to leave my detachment at any time for if something would happen, I thought, there would be plenty of help.  I felt much better in a few days.  A small piece of shrapnel splinter hit me below the knee.  Otherwise I was lucky. ..."

"Somebody will wake up soon when the boys get back to the States..."

No Purple Heart here, either. He had a cane inscribed "FRANCE" to deal with that shrapnel below the knee. That cane is now an aid in my own infirmity. Guv died young. I barely remember him. I was told that the gassing in WW1 contributed to his death.
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John Flynn showed up in the US ca 1867 and, while the Singleys and Schwars appeared after 1854, we don't know of any that fought in the Spanish-American, Indian, or Civil Wars. For the latter, we must turn to the Incomparable Marge.

Pvt. John H. Hammontree, Co. H, 5th Tenn Inf., US Vol.

Union troops in Cumberland Gap
The great-great grandfather of the Incomparable Marge joined the Union Army when Confederates come into East Tennessee and told the fellas there 'you boys better be a-wearing gray in the morning' or they would be hung.  [As numerous other East Tennesseans had already been hung as 'traitors' from railroad bridges.] Well, the Hammontrees didn't cotton to that at-all, and so they left that night and crossed the mountains to sign up with Buell's army of the Ohio in Co. H of the 5th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. They were brigaded with other East Tennessee regiments under Brigadier General James Gallant Spears, an anti-Confederate slave-owner. 

John fought in the Cumberland Gap campaign of 1862. He was captured there and then paroled. This was followed by the Stone's River campaign, the 5th arriving at Stone's River on the morning of January 3, escorting a large, much-needed ammunition and hospital train. Wheeler's cavalry attempts to capture the ammunition train eight miles out of Nashville, near the Lunatic Asylum, but is repulsed.

Spears (and the 5th) take position on the right, relieving Rousseau. Wheeler promptly notifies Bragg of the arrival of Spears' reinforcement and, hearing that John Hammontree had arrived on the scene, Bragg turns and runs.

Ho ho. TOF jests. It was the long casualty list (25% of his force), the threat of a rising river, and the unlikelihood that Rosie was going away any time very soon that was persuasive. But the resupply, ammunition, and fresh brigade that came along with John was the final straw.
The regiment then held the crossroads after the battle of Chickamauga, when Thomas held the rearguard like "The Rock of Chickamauga." Then it was being pulled back into the Siege of Chattanooga, during which U.S.Grant took charge. The regiment was then sent on the Knoxville campaign of 1863 to link up with Burnside who was bunkered up in Knoxville. But since Longstreet [on loan from Lee's Army of Northern Virginia] was advancing on Knoxville right through the Hammontree farms, John (and others) went AWOL to see to his folks. Once the danger was past, he/they returned.

On April 10, 1864, the regiment was organized into  the XXIII Corps (d/b/a The Army of the Ohio. Maj.Gen. Schofield), assigned to Brigadier General M. D. Manson's 2nd Brigade, of Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox's 3rd Division. for the Atlanta campaign.  and fought at Dalton, Rocky Faced Ridge, and Resaca.  On 14 May, a major battle erupts at Resaca, Ga. Regarding the battle, General Cox reports that:

"The skirmish line of the division already occupied the edge of the wooded land across the open valley, some 200 yards wide, immediately in our front, when the command to advance was given and the whole division moved steadily forward, the enemy opening immediately with artillery from batteries in position down the valley on our right, and which had an oblique fire upon our lines as we passed through the low ground. After crossing the open we passed over several wooded ridges in succession, and through a deep though narrow channel of the creek, which, with its perpendicular sides, skirted by a tangled thicket, became a serious obstacle to the advancing troops. The lines were quickly reformed after passing the brook and again moved forward, steadily driving the enemy's skirmishers backward toward their works. These skirmishers were so strongly re-enforced that they were only to be driven back by the main line of our troops, who advanced, making an occasional momentary halt to deliver their fire. A short halt was made, bayonets were fixed, and the whole command charged the hill and carried the line of rifle-pits on the crest, driving the enemy back upon a second line some 250 yards from the first on our left, but approaching much nearer on our right. The first line of the Second Brigade was first in entering the works, but these were almost instantly entered by the First Brigade also farther to the left. The enemy immediately opened with both artillery and musketry from their second line, which extended far beyond both flanks of the division, and no troops being as yet in position on either our right or left, the division was halted, the Second Brigade (Manson's) occupying the enemy's works with their first line, and the First Brigade (Reilly's) occupying them with the second line, advancing the first line to the protection of a small intervening ridge between them and the new line occupied by the rebels, from which they were able to silence with their rifles a battery which was playing destructively upon the Second Brigade. No artillery had been able to accompany the division in its advance to attack, the broken nature of the ground and the physical obstacles of the creeks and thickets entirely preventing. The continuous heavy fire of the enemy caused, however, a considerable loss in both the One hundred and third Ohio and Fifth Tennessee while advancing to their position. An hour later I reported the ammunition of the whole division as being almost exhausted, and it being impossible to get wagons forward to the lines held by the command, I was notified that we would be relieved by the Fourth Corps and withdrawn temporarily to enable us to replenish the cartridge-boxes. A little after 3 p. m. General Harker's brigade, of Stanley's division, Fourth Corps, advanced under a galling fire of all arms to relieve the Second Brigade, and while preparing to effect the change Brigadier-General Manson was severely injured by concussion of a shell exploding near him, and was carried off the field." (OR No. 351)
Colonel Shelley of the Fifth Tenn. reports six officers wounded, 16 men killed, 92 wounded and 14 missing in the engagement. Among the 92 wounded is John Hammontree, who has taken a bullet through his left leg. The bullet passes between the muscle and the bone and puts him in the hospital. This wound eventually contributed to his death, years afterward. 

By Sep 1864 he is back with the regiment, just in time for the battles of Franklin and Nashville, Hood's last desperate gamble. It's not clear if the regiment remained with the army until Johnston's surrender.

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Pvt. James Hammontree, Capt. Duncan's Co., Col. Bunch's Regt, (2nd Regt., East Tennessee Militia)

Battle of Horseshoe Bend
Margie's great-great-grandfather's grandfather fought at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Creek (Red Stick) War.  This was part of the War of 1812.  

Andrew Jackson's official report of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) mentions that "a few companies" of Colonel Bunch were part of the right line of the American forces at this engagement (left, on the map). Muster rolls show some casualties from this battle in the companies led Joseph Duncan.  

The Red Sticks were forted up on a peninsula formed by a bend in a large arc of the Tallapoosa River. "It is difficult to conceive," Jackson wrote, "a situation more eligible for defense than the one they had chosen." The Red Sticks had built across the peninsula a zigzag wall of logs and rammed earth, five to eight feet high. This wall had loopholes or firing ports in it so that the defenders could fire without exposing themselves, and attackers against one of the zigs could be enfiladed by defenders at the opposing zag. Estimates placed the Red Sticks’ strength at 1,000 warriors, with another 300 women and children living among them. Menewa, "the Great Warrior," acted as overall Red Stick commander. It was the most complex defensive works ever built by native Americans.

Jackson had the 39th US Infantry and a couple regiments of East Tennessee volunteers. In addition,
Junaluska, a Cherokee chief, brought five hundred of his warriors, and a hundred Lower Creeks (White Sticks) under William McIntosh showed up. A contingent of Choctaws also joined them.

The regulars from the 39th were in the center and more Tennesseans were on the left. At 10 am, Jackson ordered Coffee to cross the river with his cavalry, Indian allies, and scouts. They made the crossing without the Red Sticks taking notice. Jackson positioned his two artillery pieces 80 yards from the breastwork and opened fire at 10:30. The cannon weren’t meant for this type of mission, and their balls bounced harmlessly off the wall, prompting the Red Sticks to taunt the attackers. Their prophets danced on the roofs of the huts, proclaiming their invincibility and the impotence of their adversaries.

For two hours, the two sides fought to a stalemate. To the south of the village, across the river, the Cherokees became impatient listening to the artillery fire. Many swam the waters of the Tallapoosa under a covering fire from their comrades. There, they captured the Red Stick canoes left on the riverbank, cut them free, and used them to ferry the force across. Soon, one hundred fifty to two hundred White Stick Creeks under William McIntosh and many of Coffee's volunteers had crossed the river as well, capturing the town and setting it on fire. They then advanced into the wooded hills that lay between the town and the rear of the barricade.

Meanwhile. the 39th stormed the breastwork. When Major Lemuel Montgomery climbed to the top; and was instantly shot in the head. Ensign Sam Houston, a neighbor of the Hammontrees back in Tennessee, took his place and received a barbed arrow in the thigh for his troubles. It didn’t stop him, and he leapt down inside the fortification, establishing a foothold for the others. The defenders fired through the loopholes at the attackers; and the attackers thrust their own muskets through and fired back, sometimes muzzle to muzzle. Only now, the Red Sticks had to worry about White Sticks and Cherokees in their rear along with Coffee's volunteers. Soon, the 39th and the Tennesseans had mounted the barricade and swarmed through intense hand-to-hand combat inside the encampment. The Red Sticks fought bravely, but they were overwhelmed. 

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Pvt. John Hammontree, Capt. John Montjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.

James Hammontree's great uncle John enlisted 30 Dec. 1776, shortly after the battle of Trenton, as a private in the Company of Capt. Hughes Woodson, 10th Virginia Regiment of Foot, Continental Line. The 10th Virginia served in Weedon's Brigade, part of the Division of Major General William Alexander, a/k/a "Lord Stirling." John's regiment fought in New Jersey, at Brandywine and at Germantown before encamping at Valley Forge, PA on 19 Dec. 1777. John died there on 24 Feb. 1778.

Pvt. Harris Hammontree, Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.

Harris [or Harrison] enlisted in the 1st Virginia Regiment of Foot, Continental Line and arrived in camp at Valley Forge on 12 Feb. 1778, twelve days before the death of his older brother John. (Today's 276th Engineer Battalion is the lineal descendant to the 1st Virginia.) He would have been drilled and trained by von Steuben, and served as a private in Capt. William Cunningham's Company, under Col. Richard Parker, in Gen. Peter Muhlenberg's Brigade, "Lord Stirling's" Division. The June and July pay records indicate his pay was docked due to illness! His first tour of duty ended in November 1778, so he would have been in the Battle of Monmouth on the left of Washington's line when Cornwallis attacked.. In his second tour of duty, Harrison Hammontree received military pay on 8 Oct. 1779, during which time the regiment picked off two forts guarding New York City.

He would seem to have left the regiment before it was reorganized and sent south to Charleston, where it was captured in toto by the British. Harris served on the western frontier of Virginia, where he was killed fighting the Indians on 25 Jul. 1781.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sisters of the Sacred Heart

Because it never appeared in any of the usual fantasy venues, the linked story of mine, "Sisters of the Sacred Heart," is linked here. It appeared for the first and last time in the magazine Dappled Things, Lent/Easter 2010.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Happy Mothers' Day, All You Mothers.

In honor of Mothers' Day, TOF will present a parade of Mothers, starting with:

1. The Incomparable Marge, who is the mother of the TOFsprings, shown here in their cute-and-innocent versions:
Sara, a/k/a Dear in the Headlights

Dennis: Wait, What's Going On Here...

 However, the I/M is herself the daughter of a mother, and while we have no digitized picture of the two in Madonna-and-child pose, we do have them individualized, as it were:

Saturday, May 2, 2020


Nearly all of TOF's maternal ancestors came from the villages of Oberhausen and Niederhausen. The names mean "Upper Houses" and "Lowet Houses," with respect to the flow of the Rhein. Oberhausen is upstream. From the German Wikipedia page for Rheinhausen:

Wonder and Anticipation, the Likes of Which We Have Never Seen

  Hello family, friends and fans of Michael F. Flynn.   It is with sorrow and regret that I inform you that my father passed away yesterday,...