The 123rd Illinois Infantry

John T. Wilder
John T. Wilder of the 123rd

One of the last classes I was required to take to complete my two Associate degrees was a writing requirement focused on research, one of my strengths. I decided to write a paper on the 123rd Illinois Infantry.

My ancestor John Green Parker was a private in Company F of the 123rd. Sadly I have neglected him and the story of the 123rd for awhile. But there’s way too much material out there for me to sit idly by, so I’ll be posting my notes on this unit and the men.

One of the most interesting of the immediate commanders of the 123rd was John T. Wilder. At some point the outfit was dubbed Wilder’s Lightning Brigade. Wilder’s letters have been preserved at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, including his wartime ones.

Camp near Corinth Apr. 29th 1862

Dear Wife

I received your letter last night, was sorry to hear you had been sick, and little Mary too, do take good care of yourself, and the “babies.” We are moving slowly towards Corinth. The rebels are falling back, as we advance, a great many deserters come into our lines, all say that their army is very much demoralized.

We are about 10 miles from Corinth, have to make timber or “Corduroy” roads as we go. Gen. Pope is here with about 25000 men. We now have a far larger army than the rebels. I am perfectly satisfied with your renting the shop, be careful that the school children do not get into the lot and destroy the trees and vines. Have everything well taken care of. I think I shall not soldier longer than through the spring campaign. Col Hascall has been confirmed as Brigadier General. I suppose I will be commissioned Col. now. Write me at Pittsburgh landing Tenn. I must close as it is late, and I am very tired. I would like, little George to go with George Anderson to live. I think it would be best for both. No more. Your loving Husband

J. T. Wilder



50 Years Ago Today: The First Nixon-JFK Debate

Kennedy and Nixon enjoying a moment
Kennedy and Nixon enjoying a moment

Fifty years ago this evening, nearly half the nation, 80 million Americans, watched Vice President Richard Nixon face off against Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy in the first nationally televised presidential debate. The entire debate is available online. The Nixon Foundation has commentary and background on the historic, trend-setting event on its site.


Brigadier General Robert A. Brown

A worker at the Research Center of the National WWI Museum sent me some material on Brigadier General Robert A. Brown and his service during the Great War, which I am including here in full. I wrote about him a bit in a previous post.

Robert A. Brown, BG
Biographical Information

BG Brown was a Regular Army officer (West Point, 1884 (Cooke, p 132) or 1885 (Ferrell, p. 46)) who “had served as an officer in a number of cavalry regiments, including the famous 7th Regiment in 1891.” (Cooke, p. 132) A Regular Army colonel, he was his promoted to Brigadier General in the National Army on 5 August 1917.

The 42nd Division was a composite organization made up of National Guard units from many states to include the 167th (Alabama) Infantry, the 168th (Iowa) Infantry and the 151st (Georgia) MG Battalion, which made up the 84th Infantry Brigade. When initially organized for combat, The 42nd was commanded by MG William Mann (later replaced by MG Charles Menoher). Other key members of the division were BG Michael Lenihan, commander of the 83rd Infantry Brigade, and Colonel Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff.

Because of the structure of the 42nd, there were significant political influences. Pershing had wanted to break up the unit to use as replacements, but was forced to keep it intact as the reserve division for I Corps. This led to the replacement of Mann with Menoher in December 1917, shortly after the division arrived in France. By February of 1918, the division was no where near combat ready, and only the 84th Brigade, under BG Brown, appeared to even be on the road to readiness. By 20 March 1918, as the division began its forward deployment, the 84th Brigade was considered to be significantly more capable that the 83rd, having more men and more medical, engineer and ammunition units.

The 42nd first became involved in combat operations in July at the Champagne-Marne Defensive. By the end of that battle (17 July), BG Brown seemed overly tired, and the officers in the brigade began to express concern among themselves as to his ability to command. He had been unable to sleep for several days and had become more and more agitated as the fight progressed (Cooke, p.118). The division reached the Ourcq River on 27 July, but was unable to cross. The whole brigade seemed to have become hesitant and unresponsive (Cooke, p.125). On 28 July, the 84th crossed the Ourcq and occupied their objective. In spite of this, MG Menoher began receiving frantic messages from BG Brown telling him that the 84th (which had been considered the division’s best) would soon be incapable of offensive action (Cooke, p. 126).

On 30 July, the 42nd Division HQ became aware that something had gone dreadfully wrong with their offensive operations because the 51st Artillery Brigade failed to provide the expected support to the division. The problem was traced directly to orders given by BG Brown. Brown received a report from the 167th Regiment that the trenches which the 168th was approaching were occupied by Americans. The 168th reported that the trenches were occupied by German machine gunners. Brown ordered the 51st to cease firing, even though BD Dwight Aultman, commander of the 51st Artillery, protested the order. Brown’s decision making came into question, since he based it on the report of the 167th, rather than the commander directly involved in the fight (Cooke, p. 128-9). This probably led to his relief, since MG Menoher had been constantly prodding Brown to move his units, and was no doubt growing concerned over constant reports of low morale and confusion in what had once been his best brigade (Cooke, p. 130).

On 2 August, Menoher began the formal process for relieving Brown of his command, and replacing him with Colonel McArthur (who would be promoted to BG on the effective date of the order). The order came out on 8 August, and although Brown contested his removal, the results of the hearing confirmed that he had not been able to handle the strain. BG Lenihan, commanding the 83rd Brigade, had seen similar action within the 42nd, but did not manifest similar behavior. On 5 September, Pershing had Brown officially reduced to Colonel and sent back to the US (Cooke, p.133).

Recently, in 2008, Robert H. Ferrell, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, has dissented with the view that Brown was overwhelmed, out of touch, and lacked the support of his junior officers. His reading of the testimony at Brown’s hearing is that Brown had a close reading and understanding of the condition of his men. Ferrell quotes at length testimony of Colonel Screws of the 167th Alabama that he had seen Brown acting efficiently, that Brown was no more exhausted than were his men, and that he, Screws, had himself recommended that the regiments be relieved (Ferrell, pp. 84-85.) On 3 August the 42nd division was relieved and sent for a short rest, corroborating Brown’s position that the troops were in need of relief.

Cooke, James J., The Rainbow Division in the Great War, Praeger Publishers, 1994.
Ferrell, Robert H., The Question of MacArthur’s Reputation: Cote de Chatillon, October 14-16, 1918, University of Missouri Press, 2008.

A retired lieutenant colonel from the Army Reserves sent me some dates related to him.

According to the Army Almanac, The Stackpole Company, 1959, Harrisburg, PA, this general officer was promoted to BG, USA on 5 August 1917, and was separated from the service on 7 November 1923 (by retirement, death, resignation, or other cause.)


Roads in Colo, Iowa

Interchange in Colo, Iowa
Interchange in Colo, Iowa

One “of the first primitive interchanges was built in Colo, Iowa, in 1936.” It “was called a ‘grade separation’ . . . but the design influenced highway design for decades.”

Here’s another one from, a site also known as Historic Bridges of the United States.

The west approach

This was arguably the most important intersection in the United State for many years. Known as “Reed-Niland Corner,” it was the junction of The Lincoln Highway and the Jefferson Highway. The Lincoln Highway was America’s first coast-to-coast highway and the Jefferson Highway traveled from Winnipeg to New Orleans. Charlie Reed’s L&J Service operated here until 1966. The curved road behind the gas station is an entrance/exit ramp for this primitive highway interchange.


Artist James Dunbar

Sun Of Africa by James Dunbar
Sun Of Africa by James Dunbar

Although my first day at Oktoberfest was shaky at best — downright bizarre — I am glad I decided to make a return trip with my brother and fiancé the next day. While on my way to stop by the church of St. Mary’s, I went into the arts and crafts building, an old gymnasium across the street from a school. Inside there were the typical booths with jewelry and crafts. Then I came across one which really stood out: James Dunbar’s paintings and prints.

He’s a unique fellow, with some terrific art. He has a style all his own, sort of a mix of Impressionism and Modernism. Most of his work is done with bright colors.


Memories of Indian Lake, Ohio

A gal has written on her blog about memories of her childhood spent at Indian Lake, Ohio.

When my mom was alive and years after we sold our summer cottage on Indian Lake, Ohio, she used to always get sentimental during summer holiday weekends, too.  She’d say, “It’s just not like it used to be back when we owned the cottage.  The extended family never gets together anymore.  We don’t have the crowds of 25 people to feed.   Times have just changed.  It makes me sad.”


War & Atrocities

Borzytuchom (Borntuchen)
Borzytuchom (Borntuchen)

GeoNames is a global free geographical database with more than eight million placenames available. It’s a great tool for locating places. For example, Borzytuchom is a town in Poland where my maternal ancestors lived prior to emigrating to America. It was previously German territory and the town was known as Borntuchen.

Here’s a site with some photos. The condition of the German Evangelical cemetery is disheartening. There may be only one unidentifiable stone remaining. There’s also a site dedicated to the trains and railways of the area.

On March 8, 1945, at the end of World War II, the advancing Soviet forces captured the town of Bytow (Bütow). En route to Danzig, the Russians targeted major German strongpoints, including rail and road ways,  and took upwards of another 300 settlements, including Borntuchen. On March 7, the Soviets captured more than 2,000 German soldiers and officers.

These military victories led to the expulsion of the German populations and the desecration of German sites.