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The Way of Duty, Honor, Country

The Way of Duty, Honor, Country: The Memoir of General Charles Pelot Summerall

Charles Pelot Summerall
Edited and Annotated by Timothy K. Nenninger
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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    The Way of Duty, Honor, Country
    Book Description:

    After graduating from West Point in 1892, Charles Pelot Summerall (1867--1955) launched a distinguished military career, fighting Filipino insurgents in 1899 and Boxers in China in 1900. His remarkable service included brigade, division, and corps commands in World War I; duty as chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1926 to 1930; and presidency of the Citadel for twenty years, where he was instrumental in establishing the school's national reputation.

    Previously available only in the Citadel's archives, Summerall's memoir offers an eyewitness account of a formative period in U.S. Army history. Edited and annotated by Timothy K. Nenninger, the memoir documents critical moments in American military history and details Summerall's personal life, from his impoverished childhood in Florida to his retirement from the Citadel in 1953. From the perspective of both a soldier and a general, Summerall describes how the very nature of war changed irrevocably during his lifetime.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2619-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editor’s Note
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chronology
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Charles P. Summerall in History
    (pp. 1-6)

    Charles P. Summerall, a son of the poor rural South from the post–Civil War era, entered the army before the last of the major battles with the Plains Indians, served on active duty as the army adjusted to its growing role as guardian of American insular possessions, and was an important combat commander when the army first entered the global stage as a participant in a European war. His active duty concluded with him at the pinnacle of his profession, leading the army as chief of staff, the senior uniformed officer. Thus, by a number of measures, Summerall had...

  6. Chapter 1 The Rock Whence I Was Hewn
    (pp. 7-9)

    I have no records of the original Summeralls in America. By family tradition, it is known that Thomas Summerall went to Florida and married a Spanish woman named Neunez in St. Augustine. He lived in south Florida by raising cattle and shipping them to Cuba. A son of Thomas Summerall named William was born probably about 1805 in Wayne County, Georgia. He married Hetty Wiggins and settled at Blountʹs Ferry on the Suwannee River in Columbia County, Florida. Here, he acquired a plantation, owned slaves, and kept a store. When the Civil War came, he was quite prosperous. He had...

  7. Chapter 2 The Pit Whence I Was Digged
    (pp. 10-13)

    When I was born in 1867, the South was in the throes of Reconstruction and what has aptly been called the Tragic Era. Without the slaves, the plantations were useless. The most extreme poverty and widespread suffering prevailed. On leaving Blountʹs Ferry about 1870, my father moved to Providence, Florida, about sixteen miles from Lake City, where he tried to operate a wheelwright shop. For several years, my mother taught there in the country schools. The pay was small, and the term was three months. She boarded around among the patrons, walking three miles over the country paths, often in...

  8. Chapter 3 “And David was wise in all his ways and the Lord was with David”
    (pp. 14-22)

    On reaching New York, I went to the dock of the riverboatMary Powell, where the agent asked me if I wanted a return ticket. I told him no. Opportunity had opened up to me, and I could not fail. On June 11, 1888, I reported to Lieutenant W. C. Brown,¹ the U.S. Military Academy adjutant, and was sent to Captain Spurgin,² the quartermaster, to pay the deposit of $65.00 required of candidates. I had only about $20.00, and I told him that I would pay the rest later. He was very angry but accepted what I had. I do...

  9. Chapter 4 “We bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue”
    (pp. 23-34)

    A new life now dawned not only for me but for my impoverished family. It did not occur to us that my salary of $116.67 per month as a second lieutenant was not to be used for the benefit of all. This, to us, was great riches. We had never dreamed of anything like it, and it meant what we had never known—security. I knew nothing of what my living expenses in the army would be, but I determined that the greater part of my salary would be sent to my parents. On graduating, I made my first choice...

  10. Chapter 5 Remember the Maine
    (pp. 35-38)

    The post had arranged for a large dance on the night of February 15, 1898. I was on the hop committee. We had invited the navy officers and ladies from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and they had accepted. Then the country was electrified by the news that the battleshipMainehad been blown up in Havana Harbor.¹ We discussed whether to cancel the hop or to ask the navy whether they would come, but we decided to do neither. All of the navy came to what was a large dance. The next day, reporters from the New York papers came...

  11. Chapter 6 The Little Brown Brother
    (pp. 39-47)

    Early in 1899, the Philippine insurrection became serious, and Reillyʹs Battery was ordered from Fort Hamilton to Manila.¹ Captain H. J. Reilly, who was in command, requested my assignment to the battery. I was relieved as aide to General Pennington on March 2, 1899, and joined the battery en route at Ogden, Utah. Thus, a new phase of life was ushered in by destiny. I had just been examined for promotion to first lieutenant at Fort Monroe when my orders came. The promotion was effective March 2, 1899, but I did not receive my commission until later. This increased my...

  12. Chapter 7 The Land of the Dragon
    (pp. 48-60)

    In 1900, the uprising that broke out in China to expel all foreign devils startled the world.¹ International naval contingents in the region were reinforced by troops from several nations. The United States sent the Ninth Infantry and a regiment of marines from Manila as part of an allied expedition that tried to reach Peking. When the Chinese insurgents, who were known as theBoxers, badly defeated this force, several nations sent larger contingents. The Fourteenth Infantry and Reillyʹs Battery were part of the American force ordered to Tientsin.²

    We embarked on a tramp freighter in Manila Bay with horses,...

  13. Chapter 8 Back to Manila and Home
    (pp. 61-64)

    In May 1901, orders came for the battery to return to Manila. When we marched away, a large contingent of British officers, including General Gaselee,¹ the commander, rode several miles with us. Colonel Wint,² who commanded the column of artillery and cavalry, did not want the men to visit the Chinese towns. He camped several miles from Tientsin, thinking it too far for the men to walk to the city. He then rode off to town, followed by his second in command. During the night, many men of the battery and the cavalry went absent without leave to see the...

  14. Chapter 9 The Land of the Midnight Sun
    (pp. 65-70)

    Early in April 1902, I received a telegram to send a company of men to Skagway, Alaska, by the first boat. I was able to embark the Thirty-second Company, Coast Artillery Corps, the next day. Later, another telegram directed me immediately to take my company to Skagway. Again, I caught a boat and left on May 11. Our baby was expected in June, and I was compelled to leave my wife with only the good Margaret to care for her. The situation was heartbreaking, although there was a good contract doctor¹ stationed at the post.

    On arriving at Skagway, I...

  15. Chapter 10 The Coast Defenses
    (pp. 71-74)

    We reserved transportation on the steamer to Seattle for September 22, as the day the ship had brought an infantry battalion to Alaska. The weather was cold with high winds and sleet. When we reached the ship at night, we found that the train had also brought the riff-raff from Dawson who had left the Yukon on the last steamer of the season. They had taken all of the accommodations that I had engaged for the men. As they were mostly women from the dance halls, our troops had to occupy the shipʹs saloon. The men, however, enjoyed the trip,...

  16. Chapter 11 The Caissons Go Rolling Along
    (pp. 75-81)

    Early in August 1903, I received a telegraphic order to assume command of the Third Battery Field Artillery at Chickamauga Park, Georgia, and march it to Fort Myer, Virginia. We shipped our furniture around Cape Horn to Philadelphia but went ourselves by railroad stateroom across the continent because of my sick wife and baby. The legacy of $500 left me by Mr. Winfield Jones was all that made this possible. Our living and the money that I sent my sister every month prevented us from saving much. We left Fort Flagler August 8. The entire company came to the dock...

  17. Chapter 12 To West Point
    (pp. 82-87)

    Without warning, during the summer of 1905, I was ordered to duty as senior instructor of artillery tactics at West Point. I reported there on August 21 and was able to choose an excellent house at the south end of the post next to the old Kinsley House. My family joined me a week later. When I left them at Fort Myer, they stayed with a neighbor. The baby fell out of bed and hurt his arm badly. He looked very pitiful with his arm in a sling when I took him off the train. Again, I was able to...

  18. Chapter 13 To Texas and Fort Myer
    (pp. 88-96)

    On March 11, 1911, I was promoted to major. A month later, I departed West Point to assume command of the Second Battalion, Third Field Artillery, whose station was at Fort Myer, Virginia, but the unit was then at San Antonio, Texas, as a part of the Maneuver Division.¹ It was with deep regret that I left the artillery detachment at West Point, then at its highest state of efficiency and morale. The noncommissioned officers were the equals of officers in the practical instruction of cadets. The artillery, both field and coast, commanded the respect of the cadets and was...

  19. Chapter 14 The War Department
    (pp. 97-100)

    On September 4, 1914, I reported to the War Department as assistant to the chief of the Militia Bureau in charge of the field artillery of the national guard. The War Department budget was being completed, but I managed to have it include $600,000 for horses for the national guard field artillery. The idea was ridiculed, but I believed that I could make a good defense before the Committee on Military Affairs of the House of Representatives.¹ One of my responsibilities was to enforce proper care of and accounting for the materiel used by the militia units in most states....

  20. Chapter 15 The World War
    (pp. 101-108)

    Toward the end of June 1917, the War Department informed me that I would go to England and France as a member of a commission to study the types and the employment of field artillery.¹ The chief of staff² sent for me and in great secrecy handed me a letter addressed to ʺGeneral John J. Pershing. For his eyes alone.ʺ He told me to be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the next morning and give it to General Pershing. I was ordered not to let anyone know that I was going and to sail from Halifax for England. In the hall,...

  21. Chapter 16 Over There
    (pp. 109-125)

    Early in September, the War Department appointed me a brigadier general and ordered me to take command of the Sixty-seventh Field Artillery Brigade of the Forty-second Division at Camp Mills, Long Island. I assumed the command on September 5. The brigade consisted of the 149th Field Artillery, National Guard of Illinois, Colonel Henry J. Reilly¹ commanding; the 150th Field Artillery, National Guard of Indiana, Colonel Robert H. Tyndall² commanding; and the 151st Field Artillery, National Guard of Minnesota, Colonel George E. Leach³ commanding. Officers and men were superior in character and ability, with many young college men in some of...

  22. Chapter 17 Soissons the Decisive Battle of the War
    (pp. 126-132)

    There can be no doubt that during the Battle of Soissons the heroic advance of the First Division, in spite of unprecedented losses and the most determined resistance of elements of eight German divisions, turned the fate of the war.¹ The First Moroccan Division on its right had to be relieved after twenty-four hours, while the Second American Division on the Moroccansʹ right lasted less than two days. The First fought desperately from July 18 until July 22. It cut the enemyʹs road and rail communications, besides killing and capturing large numbers. On the night of July 20, the Germans...

  23. Chapter 18 Recovery
    (pp. 133-134)

    As much as it had suffered, the First Division had little rest. Beginning July 23, French trucks conveyed the foot troops as rapidly as possible to the Saizerais sector in Lorraine on the left of the Moselle River, where they relieved the Second Moroccan Division during the last days of July and the early part of August. The artillery followed. The sector covered a front of eight kilometers and had successive rows of wire and trenches. We took up the elastic system of defense. Battalions were rotated in the three lines, and training was conducted for those in the support...

  24. Chapter 19 The St. Mihiel Salient
    (pp. 135-136)

    The front assigned to the First Division for the attack was the old Toul sector that it had first held. The terrain was familiar. The division assembled in the Forêt de la Reine, and units were rehearsed in their parts. Our objective was the angle of the salient, just as it had been at Soissons. We were to penetrate the enemyʹs position and meet troops attacking from the opposite angle of the salient, thus cutting it off. It was necessary for us to pass through at least half a mile of our wire, cross the unfordable Rupt de Mad, and...

  25. Chapter 20 The Second Phase of the Meuse-Argonne
    (pp. 137-163)

    On the night of September 19, the foot troops moved by trucks and the mounted troops by marching to the area near Verdun and were placed in reserve in the Third Corps. The First Division received orders to attack a very strong Austrian division in front of Verdun, and we prepared accordingly. The great Meuse-Argonne offensive of the First American Army began early on September 26. On September 27, just as the First Division on the right of the line was about to execute the assault in front of Verdun, it was transferred to the First Corps on the left...

  26. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  27. Chapter 21 The Adriatic and Peace
    (pp. 164-168)

    When the Fourth Corps was demobilized, I was transferred to Koblenz. But I had been warned that I soon was to go to Warsaw as head of a mission to Poland. But then one afternoon I received a telegram to report to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at the Quai dʹOrsay¹ in Paris the next morning at nine oʹclock. I drove nearly all night and reported as directed. The members of the commission were seated at a long table. Mr. Wilson gave no sign of recognition. M. Clemenceau said that the commission wanted me to proceed at once to...

  28. Chapter 22 Home and the First Division
    (pp. 169-174)

    Early in September, we received orders to return to the United States with General Pershing on theLeviathan,¹ sailing from Brest. I obtained permission to bring my French aide, Lieutenant Gouin,² with me. Bartolucci told me that he had been appointed assistant naval attaché in Washington, but the Americans would not give him transportation on theLeviathan. I could not change the decision of the transportation. I told Bartolucci to go to Brest and to join me when our train reached there, which he did. I then asked the shipʹs quartermaster to let Bartolucci go on board. He said that...

  29. Chapter 23 Camp Dix, New Jersey
    (pp. 175-176)

    The First Division was transferred in September 1920 to Camp Dix, New Jersey, which I reached on the twentieth. In Louisville, hundreds of the officers and men had married Kentucky girls. But there were no quarters for families at Camp Dix, so our first task was to convert a number of barracks into family apartments. This was done by the First Engineers. The New Jersey schools refused to receive the hundreds of children in the division. We gave entertainments, having vaudeville companies from New York, raised money, prepared schoolrooms, employed teachers, and conducted our own schools. The people of the...

  30. Chapter 24 Hawaii
    (pp. 177-184)

    I was ordered to the command of the Hawaiian Department, and my dear wife and I, accompanied by my two aides, Lieutenants Forster¹ and Giles,² left Camp Dix June 30, 1921. I was succeeded in command of the division by Major General David Shanks,³ who had commanded the port of embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey, during the war. As soon as I left, he ordered all the records, photographs, and valuable documents in the offices of the Society of the First Division and the First Division Memorial Association destroyed. He then, I was told, stopped all these activities and spent...

  31. Chapter 25 Return to the States
    (pp. 185-188)

    After three years in the islands, the War Department issued orders relieving me of command of the Hawaiian Department and ordering me to assume command of the Eighth Corps Area with headquarters at San Antonio, Texas.¹ About a month before the expiration of my tour of three years in Hawaii, I began receiving letters from a man in San Francisco who said that he was a veteran of the Sixteenth Infantry of the First Division in the World War. He wanted to arrange a welcome for me on arrival in San Francisco. I could not refuse but had no idea...

  32. Chapter 26 From Texas to New York
    (pp. 189-193)

    Pursuant to orders of the War Department, on the retirement of General Robert L. Bullard, I left Fort Sam Houston on January 11, 1925, and assumed command of the Second Corps Area with headquarters at Governors Island, New York City, on January 16. At a large banquet for General Bullard in New York, I tried to pay suitable tribute to him.

    My dear wife used money that she had inherited and bought rugs and furniture for the large house of the commanding general. This was the most important command in the army. I visited the posts in New York, New...

  33. Chapter 27 Chief of Staff
    (pp. 194-215)

    The announcement of my appointment by President Coolidge as chief of staff of the army was received by the press, the country, and the army with general approval. While I had never felt ambition for advancement, my dear wife and I were deeply gratified. Many letters came from old friends, and editorials in the papers were very complimentary. I relinquished command of the Second Corps Area on November 20, 1926, and assumed the duties of chief of staff November 21. We stayed for a few days with our good friends Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Butler¹ in their beautiful new...

  34. Chapter 28 The Wanderer’s Return
    (pp. 216-217)

    In reaching Jacksonville the next morning, Senator Fletcher¹ and a few friends met the train. We reached our home in Eustis, Florida, in the afternoon. A comfortable boardinghouse was available, and we stayed there while the home was being repaired.

    Sometime before the expiration of my tour as chief of staff, a financial corporation in Boston had asked me to join it on retirement. I wanted to do so, but the Depression had so reduced the volume of business that the idea was abandoned. On reaching Florida, I received many letters asking me to run for governor or U.S. senator....

  35. Chapter 29 The Citadel
    (pp. 218-230)

    On my visit to the Citadel in January 1931, I asked the chairman of the Board of Visitors¹ if my decisions on matters of discipline would be final, and he assured me that they would be. I would not have gone otherwise. When I accepted the appointment as president, I requested the War Department to change the orders of an officer designated as professor of military science and tactics and to detail an officer who had been my public relations officer in the War Department, who was eminently qualified for the position, and who was qualified to be commandant of...

  36. Chapter 30 The Men Who Influenced My Life
    (pp. 231-236)

    Of course, my father, my example and guide in childhood and boyhood, shaped my ideas and conduct in the largest measure. He was practically self-educated. I never heard him refer to going to school. He had a fine mind and was well informed on medicine, law, business, and many skills like wheelwright work, carpentering, building, painting, blacksmithing, and farming. I never knew a man with such varied knowledge. He wrote a good hand and used good English. He read many worthwhile books and had sound ideas on politics, religion, and government. He inspired confidence and made friends with the best...

  37. Notes
    (pp. 237-272)
  38. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-276)
  39. Index
    (pp. 277-298)
  40. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)