The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

26th Division

Battery A, 102nd Field Artillery

The Diaries of
Corporal Chester Brown and
Private Ernest C. Johnson


Presented by the Great War Society

Corporal Chester E. Brown and Private Ernest C. Johnson both served in France for as members of Battery A, 102nd Field Artillery Regiment, 26th Infantry Division. Both kept diaries somewhat erratically during their service, sometimes writing retrospectively about events that occurred before they began their records. Many days are neglected by both, surprisingly few have dual entries. Neither of the soldiers mentions the other in his writings, although surely, they knew one another.

Chester Brown and His Family
Only Photo of Either Subject

To try to tell the story of Battery A., the editors have  combined both writings and placed all the events in the chronological order they happened.   Brown's recollections are in blue text, Johnson's in red.  Commentary from editors Bob Ford and Kristen Kelly are in black.  To maintain the voice, style, and intention of the author, every attempt was made to transcribe the material exactly as written in regard to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Notes, comments, or changes to the original manuscript are in italics and have been added to place particular dates and events within an historical and military context. In some cases, we corrected French place names when the accurate spelling could be found using period maps. In others, we weren’t able to corroborate Brown’s spelling with place names. The diary samples shown are all from the Brown diary. The action images are all from American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, 1927 edition.

April 20 1918

The Seichprey Battle

Seichprey battle commenced on the morning of the 19th of April 1918 and lasted till the night of the 20th we were all prepared for our attack but the Germans started it about quarter of 3 and then we went and finished it.

The German attacked northwest of Toul, so the prisoners say to teach us Americans a lesson. But the only lesson now so far as they see it is the Yankees can meet about three times their number of German “shock” troops” and send them back pretty heavily depleted.

The German blow was delivered against the junction of the French and American lines by special Saxon Storm troops, the only first class German units east of the Picardy battlefield. Outnumbered enormously, their lines swept by a hurricane of poison gas and high explosive shells. Our men exacted a price for every inch of ground they yielded, and ultimately re-captured, by the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting.

The German positions were on high ground commanding the Allied trenches. Opposite the enemy and behind our line there is a steep hill about nine hundred feet in height, on whose furthest, or southwestern slope the village of Seichprey is located. This hill on the right is steeper than on the left and may be approached on a gradual incline, of which the greater part is covered by a small rectangular grove called the wood of Reimiers.

It was through this wood that the enemy started pushing our line back and advancing about a mile and a half up to the slope of the hilltop, which gave them a short lived command of the village.

Monument at Seichprey Constructed by State of Connecticutt

The attack began about quarter of three on Friday morning, after a deluge of shells midnight onward. The enemy launched about three thousand men in three columns each, preceded by picked storm troops on a mile and three quarters front.

On the left and in the center the assault was repelled, but on the right the Germans succeeded in bursting through and occupying the Remieres Wood in which the eastern edge is a short distance behind our line. Throughout the day the Germans pursued their usual tactics, that is gradual progress in small groups, supported by quick fires, Covered by trees and favored by the nature of the ground, the Germans reached the crest and delivered a heavy attack on Seichprey.

But before dawn on Saturday the Americans and French had countered strongly and recovered the village forced the enemy back to the hilltop above. The Germans returned to the charge with about three battalions, led by perhaps 200 storm troops. The Americans, supported by the French, met the attack without flinching.

After two or three hours of desperate fighting the enemy was driven down the slope into the wood; where we, Btry A, peppered them. Throughout the morning there was bitter fighting among the trees. Then about noon, the Allies swept forward irresistibly and retook the wood completely.

Fighting terribly the Germans were pushed away back beyond the woods to their own trenches where they endeavored to maintain themselves. But a new advance, combined with pressure from the flank, forced them to retreat, and by Saturday evening they had retired to the original starting point, and our line was completely reestablished.

We had captured about 75 with losses about half the enemy. Our artillery were doing wonderful damage along with our battle planes.

Diary Cover Page

July 8th

Heavy firing all night

July 14th

Big guns firing all night. No sleep.

July 15th

German balloon shot down. Heavy firing on both sides.

The night of the 15th July 1918 3 75s blew up, within 15 minutes of another nobody hurt.    At Chateau Thierry the Germans started their offensive July 15th 1918 and we the 26th Div. came in and we stopped them and started our drive the 18th and kept it up.


(On July 16, 1918, the Yankee Division was engaged in combat at Vaux and Torcy, Belleau Wood sector.  When the Franco-American counter offensive against the Marne salient started on July 18th, the 26th was on the right flank of the attack. )

July 21st

Left the woods at Villiers (Villers-Cottêrets?) at 9:30 AM. Arrived at guns at 11:30. Left the old guns position past Hill 204. Saw a lot of dead Germans and Americans in the fields and woods. Slept in woods all night. When we awoke in the morning there was dead all around us. Sgt. Hestline was sent back to America.

July 22nd

Carried ammunition to the guns. Shells flying all around us. Dead horses everywhere. German and American heads and legs laying in the gutter. Ambulance busy all day bringing out wounded from H Battery.

July 23rd

Heavy firing. Made another advance to Chateau-Thierry. Very little water. Dead horses, Germans and Americans everywhere. Pvt. Caporina was wounded and died a few minutes later. Lt. Vale was wounded in chin. Flynn was hit in arm. O’Brien was kicked in the head. Six horses killed.

July 24th

Advanced from Chateau Thierry about 7 kilos. Slept in woods with dead French, Germans, and Americans all around us. Heavy fighting.

July 25th

Advanced about 6 kilos. Move to another position. Heavy fighting on both sides. Germans firing mustard gas. No sleep.

(Between July 21 -25 the 26th. Div. was engaged in heavy fighting in and around La Gonetrie Farm, Bois de Bourches, La Croix Farm, Trugny, and Epieds. The 26th Infantry Division sustained 5,000 casualties.)

July 27th

Heavy firing all night. Moved about 6 kilos. So many dead laying in roads we had to run over them with guns. Slept in woods. Rained all night.

July 28th

Carried ammunition to front. Heavy firing on both sides.

July 30th

Heavy firing on our side. 900 Germans captured.

July 31st

Heavy fighting on both sides.

Aug. 2nd

Advanced for 4th time through shell torn country. Slept in rain all night. Near Sergy. This town changed hands seven times in one day.

Aug. 3rd

Made another advance over shell torn roads. A lot of dead Germans and Americans everywhere. Plenty of dead horses. Horses all tired out. Nothing to eat. Slept in rain all night.

Aug. 4th

We were (illegible) at 12:30 at night. Hiked all night. Passed through Fere-en-Tardenois and stopped near deserted German hospital camp.

Aug. 5th

Left German hospital camp 9:30 PM. Hiked all night. Arrived at Chateau Thierry 6:30 AM.

Aug. 6th

Left Chateau Thierry 8:20 PM and landed at Montmararde at 6 AM.

Aug. 10th

Received July pay.

Aug. 11th

Lost $50.00 shooting craps

Aug. 13th

Left Montumarde. Arrived at Chateau Thierry at 10 AM in trained and left at 4 PM.

Aug. 14th

Rode all night in box cars. Arrived at Coincone 8 AM. Hiked 14 kilos to Pothiers.

Aug. 22nd

Went on practice road hike. Pulled guns unto position. Fired by  (illegible)

Aug. 23rd

Had practice road hike.

Aug. 25th

Went on pass to Chatilles Sur Siene


Left Pothieres for Poincon. Arrived 8:30

Aug. 30th

Intrained 2:30. Arrived at Fronville. Had echelon in woods.


Moved to Loucourt. Slept in woods

Sept. 8

Took guns to position and camouflaged them.

Sept. 11th

Carried ammunition to guns.

Sept. 12th

Drive is started.

(Begining of St. Mihiel attack.)

Sept. 13th

Move guns forward.

Sept. 16th

Moved echelon near Mouilly

Sat 21

We are on the Verdun sector and a place called St. Mihiael (Mihiel). We went to Mouilly with 5 cassions (caissons) for ammunition

Sun 22

We got a small shelling but not very bad. This morning we didnt have much to do but groom as usual.

Mon 23

Went three miles to Lavatiuel in the afternoon the Germans started shelling us and at half past five or five we opened up a small barrage on them. Our piece was picked for a gypsy gun and we went out at 8 oclock and fired a hundred rounds and then came in.

US 75 Firing

Tues 24

Camp of the Fountain

Not much doing only hauled 4 caissons load of ammunition in the night came in kind of early and had lunch.

Wed 25

Not much doing only hauled 4 caissons load of ammunition unloaded and then went back and made one more load fired a box barrage.

(A box barrage is a tactic whereby the artillery lays down curtains of fire around three sides of the position being assaulted in a box pattern with the attacking end open, preventing reinforcements from entering the area being attacked, or anything in the area of the attack escaping.)

Thur 26

Not much doing all day rained hard all day Went out about half past five with 4 caissons and went about a half a kilomater came back early and went to bed

Fri 27

Camp De Fountaine, Petiate

Not much doing all day but in the night we had to get out and haul ammunition to have plenty for a box barrage.

Sat 28

The Germans started a barrage and came pretty near blowing us up. Sgt LaBelle went to the hospital. We started at them and got one of their guns shelling all day and all night

Sept. 28th

(illegible) echelon. Sgt. LaBelle hit in arm. Carried ammunition to gypsy gun. Carried ammunition from (illegible)

Sept. 28th

(illegible) echelon. Sgt. LaBelle hit in arm. Carried ammunition to gypsy gun. Carried ammunition from (illegible)

Sun 29

We are on our new horse line in back of our position on a big hill. Not much to do but have horses groomed and keep up the necessary work.

Mon 30

There was quite a bit of shelling on both sides nobody hurt. Not much to do but lay around in the rain. Went to bed early, and froze all night.

Sample Diary Pages


Tues 1

Another day of shelling and they came pretty close to getting us No one thought of moving horse line before they killed some men or horse. I hauled ammunition all day.

Wed 2

We got orders to move our forward horse lines, so we backed up and went back about 2 kilimeters on the side of a hill. Cpl Talton (?) and myself was in charge of the horse line

Thur 3

St Remy

Les Asparges

We had a good day. nothing doing until night when one limber went out to get the roving piece (the Gypsy gun) and come right back.

Fri 4

Not much doing only 3 limbers went out at 8 PM and made one trip with ammunition and came back early.

Sat 5

Not much doing only watching air battles all day. At night 2 limbers went out for forage for the horse and came back and went to bed. They started a shelling

Oct. 5th

Saw Divisional show at echelon. General Edwards speaks.

(General Edwards was Commanding Officer of the 26th Div.)

Sun 6

Yesterday went on guard for 24 hours. Only came back from the front. The comasary came around and we bought cigars and the K of C came around and gave them away.

Mon 7

Not much doing all day. At night I went up to the front with caissons 3 and made 2 trips with ammunition and came back about 12 in the night.

Tue 8

Not much doing only hang around and smoke in the morning. In the afternoon the horse line moved back to Maux and the 4 limbers piece stayed where they were until night, the 79 154 FA is relieving us

Wed 9

At nine oclock we had orders to take 2 of the 114 FA guns up to our position and pull out 2 of our guns. We got a bad shelling 2 to 10 men in B Battery were killed and wounded got back about 2 o clock to Paux. We also got gassed.

Oct. 9th

Moved echelon back to Rupt (Rupt en Woevre) Two guns returned.

Thur 10

Last night there were one more gun of the 114 FA to gorif (unintelligible) to position. And we pulled out our last two and they got back at midnight. We are all ready to move away from the Verdun sector.

(Brown made no additional entries until war’s end, possibly due to heavy fighting by the 26th Div. at St. Mihiel, and later, the Argonne forest.)

Oct. 11th

Moved from Rupt (Rupt en Woevre) 30 kilos. 8 kilos from Verdun.

Oct 16th

Two guns moved into position. Major Root visits battery.

Oct. 18th

Moved echelon to Thurville 2 kilos from Verdun.

Oct. 23

Drive started. Echelon shelled.

(Meuse Argonne battle begins. Americans sustain 70,000 casualties.)

Oct. 24th

Pay day.

Oct. 27th

Chaplain Stackpol leaves Regiment.

Oct 31, 1918

4th gun blows up killing Frank Coughlin, Pvt. Segal, and blows Wainright left arm off.

26th Division Troops in a French Village

(Nov 1 –11, 1918)

(The last phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was launched.)

Nov. 4th

Saw German balloon shot down.

Nov. 8th

Guns advance 4 kilos.

Nov. 11

Guns stopped firing. 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month, 1918

November Mon 11

Peace declared and we sent over a terrible barrage between 10 and 11 and at 11 oclock every gun stopped firing and what a time we had.

Tues 12

Left the front and moved down to Verdun where we will stay for a while before we are relieved

December 17

Left the gun park from Tronville on a truck and went to Ligny got there about 8 oclock and went on guard until 1-30 and went to bed.

Dec. 18

The 102 (Field Artillery Rgt.) is moving from Galmagne. Im down to lying on the ground. All our stuff is ready and expect to move in the morning.

(This poem is transcribed in Brown's diary.)

Christ in Flanders*

We had forgotten you, or very nearly-
You did not seem to touch us very much-
Of course we thought about you now and then-
Especially in any time of trouble-
We knew that you were good in time of trouble-
But we were very ordinary men.

And there were always other things to think of
There are lots of things a man has got to think of
His work, his home, his pleasures, and his wife:
And so we only thought of you on Sunday
Sometimes, perhaps not even on a Sunday
Because there is always lots to fill one’s life.

And all the while, in street or lane or byway-
In country lane, in city street or byway
You walked among us, and we did not see-
Your feet were bleeding as you walked our pavements-
How did we miss your footprints on our pavements?
Can there be other folks as blind as we?

Now we remember; over here in Flanders
(It isn’t strange to think of you in Flanders)
This hideous warfare seems to make things clear
We never thought of you much in England-
But now that we are far away from England-
We have no doubts, we know that you are here

You helped us pass the yest along the trenches-
Where, in cold blood, we waited in the trenches-
You touched its ribaldry and made it fine.
You stood beside us in our pain and weakness-
We’re glad to think you understand our weakness-
Somehow it seems to help us not to whine.

We think about you kneeling in the garden-
Oh God ! the Agony of that dread garden
We know you prayed for us when the cross
If anything could make us glad to bear it-
‘Twould be the knowledge that you willed it to be we it-
Pain - Death - the uttermost of human loss.

Though we forgot you; You will not forget us-
We feel so sure that you will not forget us-
But stay with us until this dream is past.
And so we ask for courage, strength, and pardon-
Especially, I think we ask for pardon-
And that You’ll stand beside us to the last.

(*War poems with “Flanders” and “Christ in Flanders” in their titles were not uncommon for the period, but of those that are published, we did not find another matching the one included in Brown’s diary. Our attempts to authenticate the poem’s authorship as anyone other than Brown were not successful. However, the poem’s references to England suggest an English soldier may have written it.)

Bob Ford found and transcribed the diaries. Ford is a veteran of the Korean War and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the 102D Infantry Regiment Museum in New Haven, CT. Doughboy Center Editor Mike Hanlon made the decision to merge the two works.

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