Documenting the American South Logo

William Bradley and Merle Davis Umstead papers (#4529).
My Diary. A Soldier's Record. 16 August 1917-4 July 1918:

Electronic Edition.

Umstead, William Bradley, 1895-1954

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina
supported the electronic publication of this title.

Diary transcribed by Amy Davis
Images scanned by Harris Henderson
Text encoded by Melissa Meeks and Natalia Smith
First edition, 2002
ca. 40 K
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

        Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
        All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
        All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
        All em dashes are encoded as --
        Indentation in lines has not been preserved.
        Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Languages Used:

LC Subject Headings:

Revision History:

Page Cover
[Page Image]


Page cover verso
[Page Image]

Page half-title



Page [iii]
[Page Image]


Title page
[Page Image]


Paste your photo here

New York

Page verso
[Page Image]

Copyright 1917

Page [vi]
[Page Image]



Page [vii]
[Page Image]

Page [viii]
[Page Image]




Page [ix]
[Page Image]




Page [x]
[Page Image]




Page [xi]
[Page Image]




Page [xii]
[Page Image]


Page [1]
[Page Image]

Aug. 16, 1917

        After three months
hard and intense
training at Ft. Ogle-
thorpe Ga, I was
commissioned as
a second Lt. Inf.
O. R. C. I was
appointed Aug. 15
1917, and was
ordered into active
Service on that
date, with orders
to report at Camp
Jackson, Columbia
S. C. Aug. 29, 1917.

Page [2]
[Page Image]

Aug. 29, 1917

        My leave of absense
is past. Reported
this morning at
Camp Jackson. The
past ten days have
been pleasant ones
for me. Went to Kinston
on Sun. night, Aug 19.
and stayed until
Wed. night Aug. 22.
Saw there many
dear friends and
the handshake of
each made my heart
glad. Spent Sun.
night with Mac Lewis.
and took breakfast
there also Mon. A fine
home, and always
nice to me. Took
dinner that day with
Red Allen, son of Judge
O. H. Allen, one of the

Page [3]
[Page Image]

most godly men I
have ever seen. Took
supper, and spent
the night with Mr.
and Mrs. Hines, in
whose home I lived
while teaching in
Kinston. I always
will love them, and
feel at ease in their
home. Robert and Willis
are still my partners.
Took breakfast there.
Took dinner Tues. Aug
21, at Frank Hooker's.
Met his father, mother,
and sisters. The
hospitality of their
home was delightful.
Frank was a pupil
of mine, and very
near to me. Am ex-
tremely interested in

        Tues night I went
to Red Allens to a

Page [4]
[Page Image]

        Tuesday afternoon I went
out to Kelley's mill with
Nannie, Sallie, and M. Marian
Stanley, Frank Hooker and
Bevsie Stanley and Ida
Asttenger. I am very fond
of Ida, Sallie and Nannie.
They were pupils of mine
and fine girls. Went in
swimming, and on the
whole, spent a de-
lightful afternoon.

Page [5]
[Page Image]

brunswick stew and
immediately afterwards
went to Leah Hine's dinner
party. Those present
were-- Melly Lewis and
Josephine Copeland --John
Duffy and Leah Hines --
Reynold Allen and Pauline
Hood and William B.
Umstead and Katherine
Copeland. After the dinner
which was delightful in
every way, we took a
long automobile ride.

        Spent Tues. night with
Ely Perry. The Perry
home is a delightful place.
So homelike, and hospitable.
Suse, her mother and
Ely have always been
especially nice to me,
and Noah also. Took
breakfast there.

        Weds. for dinner I
went to Mr. George
Parrotts to a barbecue.

Page [6]
[Page Image]

As usual at that home
the eats were abundant,
and served in a way in
which all could enjoy it.
The Parrott girls are
charming, and preside
with equal grace over
the table and the parlor.
Both Mildred and Julia were
very intertaining. Nowhere
will the hospitality of that
home be excelled. Those
present will never meet
again in my opinion.

        Took supper at the
Perrys' home, and left
on the 7.38 train for home.
Wanted to stay over to
the danse that night, but
wanted to get home. A good
number were down at the

Page [7]
[Page Image]

Station to tell me good
bye. On a whole the
visit was a pleasant
one, and will live in
my memories far into
the future.

        I arrived home safely
Thurs. morning.

        I spent Fri. in Roxboro.
Lucille went with me.
We took dinner at the
Newell home. Was delightful.
Met Miss Francis Sessons
from Lillington. Very
attractive. Took supper
at Sue Langs. Think she
is one of the finest women
I have ever seen. A fine
physique, attractive personality,
and a head full of sense.
The man who weds her
will be lucky, and unless
an unusual man, will
not be worthy of her.
Mr. Will brought us
home that night. Mary
Houres came with us.
Mr. Will is a fine man,
and one whom I like
very much. His kindness

Page [8]
[Page Image]

to me have been many.

        From then until Mon-
day night, I stayed
at home, where I enjoy
being above all places
in the world. Sun. night
Aug. 26. I made a talk
at, and conducted prayer
meeting at Mt. Bethel
church. Enjoyed it, and
received much benefit
from it.

        Probably the saddest
time I have ever spent
was Mon. night. Aug 27.
when I left home. I
left father and mother
in tears, and it almost
wrung my heart from
within me. To leave
them, old and feeble at
home alone was the
most difficult task
of my life. It is easy
enough to go to the execu-
tion of one's duty, when
that duty may mean
death, when there is
no one but yourself,
but to leave parents

Page [9]
[Page Image]

whose joy in life rests
in their paternal interest
in you, is the saddest and
most trying of all tasks.

        I sometimes think that
the lives lost in war
are trivial in comparison
with the grief and sorrows
their deaths leave in the
aching hearts of their
dear ones. I left with
a heavy heart, trying
to bear up manly
under a burden which
almost broke me down.
That parting picture
will be clear in my mind's
eye as long as I live.

        It is hard to render one's
duty to one's country when
it seems to conflict with
duty to parents. I chose
my course, after trying
to select the right course.
God knows I did what
I think is right, and
may God care for those
I left behind.

Page [10]
[Page Image]

Aug. 30, 1917

        Columbia, with its many
colonial style homes and
buildings seems on first
acquaintance to be a large
country like town. I think
it is fairly pretty, and
at present it has the
appearance of being a
very clean town both
from sanitary and moral
standpoints. However, I
fear that it will not
stay so in the latter respect

        Went out to camp this
morning, and found
that I had been assigned
to the 317 Machine Gun Bat-
talion. Didn't like it much
on first thought, but
after thinking it over I don't
know that it makes much
difference. One's best is
one's best, just as "pigs is
pigs," and the branch of
the service makes little
difference in the long run.
I know nothing about
it, but guess I can learn.

Page [11]
[Page Image]

Mac Lewis and myself
are staying in the Pres-
byterian Theological Seminary
because we could not
get room at the hotel. Not
a bad place to stay at that!

        Met a young preacher
named Brown. Talked
philosophy with him a little,
and found him to be as
narrow as most preachers
are in regard to philosophy.

Sept. 5, 1917.

        Came out to camp to stay
on Monday Sept 3.

        First drafted men
came in today. Regular
Duke's mixture as I ex-
pected. Men from all
social castes, professions,
and walks of life, brought
together for a common
purpose which many
of them do not understand.
It is both pitiful and
inspiring to look at
them. God knows they
have my sympathy espe-

Page [12]
[Page Image]

cially during the first few
days. Thoughts of loved
ones; of business left
behind; the task of adjust-
ing themselves to a new life,
new duties, and new
habits all together at once
will be hard for them to
handle. The officer who
is not considerate at first
must have a heart of stone,
and should not have author-
ity unless tempered
by justice and patience.

Sept 8, 1917

        Heard from John today
saying that the district
board failed to exempt
him. God only knows what
Sallie and the child (soon
children) will do. I have
worried over it a great
deal. I can't see how it
is possible for them to
fail to exempt him under
the circumstances. God
knows he has my sym-
pathy. I wrote him
at once offering my

Page [13]
[Page Image]

every resource to him
if he had to come. As long
as I am able, no one else
shall support his family.
I can save enough to
support Sallie & the babies (?)
I have worked out a
plan today. They shall
live by themselves, and
be dependent on no one
but John and I. I do
not want Frank Graham
to grow up under obliga-
tions to anyone else for
his raising. It must
sting John to the quick
to think of leaving Sallie
and the little curly headed
kid behind. May God
in his providence save
him from having it
to do. I shall not see
many happy hours until
I hear definitely about
it. All I have is his in
this his hour of trouble.
May he go to God for help
and may he find solace there.

Page [14]
[Page Image]

All that I have to offer them
shall go through him as
though he were doing it.

Sept. 17, 1917

        Sat. afternoon the 15th
I went to Greensboro
to see John. Much to my
pleasure when he met
me at the Station at 11.20
he told me he had just
heard he had been exempt-
ed. He and I talked late
into the night. I found
Sallie doing fine, and
the little baby, born a
few days before, was
doing nicely.

        Sunday morning I
went out to the Normal to
see the girls from Kinston
who I taught last year.
I saw Hortense Moseley
Kathleen Moseley, and
Nannie Stanley. I also
saw Gladys. They
seemed glad to see me,
and I was equally as
glad to see them. I think
they were a little home-
sick but that was nat-

Page [15]
[Page Image]

ural as they had been away
from home only a week. They
are fine girls, and will
make good anywhere.

        I got back here about
eleven o'clock Sun night.
Had a tooth pulled Mon-
day, and found that it
still hurts in spite of
painless inventions.

Sept. 19, 1917

        Our Battalion moved Mon.
to section J. our permanent
quarters. Today we
started our company
Mess, and I have been ap-
pointed Mess Officer for
the battalion. I have a
fine job preparing menus
for about 200 men, driv-
ing rations from the
commissary, keeping
things clean, and above
all see that nothing is
wasted. Absolutely new to
me, but I intend to do it
by sticking to it. Rather
a responsible job, for
men to be satisfied, must

Page [16]
[Page Image]

be well fed.

Oct. 6, 1917.

        It has been a good
while since I have had
time to write any in this
book. Things are moving
on rapidly here. Work on
the Camp continues, and they
are rapidly whipping things
into tip top shape. The second
increment of drafted men
are coming in. Our bat-
talion now has over four
hundred men in it.

        Got along fine with
my mess. Saved over $250
feeding 185 men for 10 days.
Started Company Messes
Oct. 2, and now the Messes
are under direct supervision
of the company commanders.
I still draw the rations
and look after them in
a general way.

        I am also running our
Officers Mess, and it is more
trouble than one would
imagine. Some men are born
belly akers or grumblers, and
of course always find plenty

Page [17]
[Page Image]

to complain at.

        Today I received a
box of candy from the little
girls who were in my
room last year at Kinston.
No one knows how I appreciated
it. It touched me deeply to
think that I was remem-
bered by so many sweet,
pure, and lovable souls.
The following ones sent
me candy --

        I shall never forget
the children in that grade
with whom I worked and
learned to love last

        During the past

Page [18]
[Page Image]

week I received a knit
sweater from Katherine
Copeland. She is a very sweet
girl, and it was certainly
sweet of her to send me
a sweater. She was extremely
nice to me while I was in
Kinston, and I shall not
forget her kindness.

        Elizabeth Canady sent me
a beautiful muffler. One of
the finest specimens of knit-
ting I have ever seen. She
is also a fine girl. Very at-
tractive and I like her
very much.

        My friends in Kinston
have certainly been nice
to me, and I feel very
grateful to them for
their many kindnesses
to me.

Oct. 8, 1917

        Went to church last
night in Columbia, and
heard a good sermon
by the Methodist Minister
A. N. Brunson, taken from
the tragic death and
downfall off Sampson, or
rather his downfall and
death. Sampson was

Page [19]
[Page Image]

thoughtless for a moment
and it cost him everything.

        The above are my own ex-
pressions concerning the things
which Sampson's downfall
illustrates. I wrote these
from memory after the

Jan 11. [1918]

        It has been some
time since last I
opened this book
for the purpose
of writing anything.
I have been very
busy during the

Page [20]
[Page Image]

time which has elapsed
since last I wrote,
and then I have
not yet learned
to make the most
of my spare moments.

        Since Oct. 8 1917
I have been quite
well most of the
time. Have had
slight colds, and
was confined to my
room one day on that
account. I am
still acting as
Mess Officer, and
do not know when
I will be relieved
of it, but sometime
soon I hope. I have
proceeded rather
well with it, but all
kinds of difficulties
are constantly
arising, such as

Page [21]
[Page Image]

cooks, wood, failure
in deliveries from town,
unreliable cooks &
waiters, lack of
clenliness, and
worst of all, thinking
up something to eat.

        I have been holding
Sunday School class
in my company on
Sunday Mornings, and
I get a great deal
of help out of it. The
class sent the Baptist
Orphanage at Thomas-
ville, N. Car a check
for $20 Xmas. A
fine example of
helpfulness and

        My progress with
the men who can't read
and write in the company
has been rather slow.
Yet all of them can

Page [22]
[Page Image]

now write their names,
and can read simple
sentences very well. I
hope that I may be able
to teach them enough to
break the veil of igno-
rance so that they can
add to their intelligence.

        Christmas has come
and gone, and I can
hardly realize it. It was
my good fortune to
be able to go home
for a short stay. Got
there on the morning
of Dec 23, and had
to leave on the morn-
ing of Dec 26. Father
was sick, and I stayed
at home with him the
entire time except
one afternoon when
I went over to Durham
to see if I could hire
Uncle Henry Harris

Page [23]
[Page Image]

to go out and stay with
father. I saw him but
as I had figured, he
would not go. It hurt
me to leave home with
father sick and mother
feeble with no one
to help them.

Page [24]
[Page Image]

May 12, 1918.
Camp Hancock

        Yesterday, May 11th, I was
made B'n supply Officer
by Maj. Smith. I know
little about it, but I
can hold it down by
working hard. Every-
thing is in an awful
mess, and the responsibility
is what I dread
most of all. I feel that
Maj. Smith knows it
is a hard place to
fill, and I think
he thinks I can do it,
and I will. Tomorrow
is my birthday, and I
will be 23 years old.
On Xmas day Maj.
recommended me for
promotion, which
was indeed a fine
Xmas present. However
I must say I am
afraid he has given me

Page [25]
[Page Image]

an awful birthday
present. A supply
officer's work is
without end aggre-
vating and unap-
preciated, with all
kinds of chances to
get into trouble when
one is doing one's best.

July 4, 1918

        It has been some
time since I opened
this little book. My
time and energy have
been taken up by my
work. After a week's in-
cessant preparation
we left Camp Jackson
for Camp Hancock
on May 20, 1918. Since
arriving here, I have
worked day and
night. I have a nice
tent next to Maj's.

Page [26]
[Page Image]

This is a hot camp,
and the hottest place I
have ever seen is my
Supply House no. 1.

        We seem to be more or less undesirables
in this camp. We are
not a part of the M. T.
C. and our Div is
at Greenville. This
fact makes my
work that much