In this segment, we go to France with Posey County resident Nancy Hasting to trace the path of her great-uncle, Chester Schulz.
We can learn a lot about Chester Schulz’s time in France from military records. But what he saw, what he felt, can only be found in the letters he wrote to his mother and family. A short time after arriving in France, his unit moved to Mussidan, in southwestern France for more training in the type of warfare the American Expeditionary Force was using to finish the war.
In a letter from Mussidan, Chester wrote, “We are billeted in the stable of an old Frenchman who has three daughters in the Red Cross and two sons in the military. He has lost one daughter. He is a fine old man and treats Schentrup and I just fine.”
Detailed records in the town’s archives narrowed Chester’s possible billeting location down to just a handful of possibilities. We visited two of them with the help of local museum director Ludovic Chasseigne and translator Christianne Taildeman.
Taildeman translated, “In Seguinou we only have three farms, three names. So, at least we know that American soldiers were billeted here.”
It’s ironic that the relatively peaceful setting of Mussidan is also where a clerical error set in motion events that would cause his family months of heartache. Anxious to fill battle depleted units, U.S. Army First Division officers came to Mussidan for replacements.
In a letter, Chester wrote, “Dear Mother and Dad. I am now located with a new outfit. Our company was split to pieces to replace a part of the First Division. The First Division was the first to arrive in France and has gone through some of the hardest fighting. They have made a name for themselves that will go down in history. We are looking for a chance to help them maintain the name and also make a little more history of the kind they have made."
Unfortunately, there was no record of Chester’s name being added to the First Division roster. As he rode and marched from Mussidan toward his death, no one but Chester and a few of his buddies knew he was even there.
In our next segment, recognition for an Evansville soldier’s sacrifice in World War One.