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Clayton M. Sherwood:
Diary of Foreign Service, August 1917 to February 1919

Transcribed and annotated by John C. Sherwood, March-December 2002

Clayton Marshall Sherwood was born Nov. 18, 1897. He was the eldest of three children of Charles Philo Sherwood and Ella Jane Marshall, who farmed in Kalkaska County in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Clayton’s siblings were twins, Elmer and Edna, born in May 1900.

After high school, Clayton received a basketball scholarship for a year at Kalamazoo College, a private college, but when he enlisted for military service in April 1917, he was fated not to return for the fall semester and subsequently lost the scholarship. Clayton received basic training for military service at Fort Andrews in Boston Harbor, which he left in July 1917 for Fort Adams at Newport Harbor, R.I. From there, he reported for service in August 1917 and was shipped to France as a member of the U.S. Army Field Artillery mortar team.

In May 1917 Clayton’s battery was involved in a heavy exchange of artillery fire near Noviant-aux-Prés, north of Toul in Meurthe-et-Moselle. On the night of May 26-27, 1918, he was exposed to a three-hour German mustard gas attack, and was hospitalized June 1-3 for what was thought at the time to be “the grippe” – the attending physician threatening to charge him with going A.W.O.L. if he continued to insist on returning to duty. Clayton recovered, and in September 1918 participated in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in France during the third phase of the Second Battle of the Marne.

Clayton was shipped home in early February 1919, about seven weeks after the end of the Great War. He returned to farming in Rapid River Township, Kalkaska County, Michigan. Unable to afford to go to Kalamazoo College, he was accepted to the state-supported Western Normal School, now Western Michigan University. In 1983, he received a Purple Heart award, bestowed upon servicemen who sustain injuries while engaged in armed conflict. Clayton died Aug. 26, 1993, in Kalkaska.

The Coast Artillery Corps

By the end of 1898, the U.S. Army artillery was organized into seven regiments, two of which were created that year. In 1901, the regimental organization of the U.S. Army artillery was abolished, and an artillery corps with 126 companies of heavy (coast) artillery and 30 companies of light (field) artillery was established. In 1907, the artillery corps was split into a field artillery corps, with a regimental organization and a coast artillery corps. Additional companies of coast artillery were created, making a total of 170 companies. In his diary on Aug. 9, 1918, Clayton M. Sherwood noted that his battery had been redesignated as Battery C in the 51st Artillery, and that its members, including himself, were installing and operating 270-millimeter cannons.

Clayton’s service diary – shown above and below – consists of two pocket-sized notebooks of lined paper, bound in black covers. Each is roughly three inches wide by five inches long and a third of an inch thick. The first book is at left, the second at right. A U.S. nickel is shown to compare size.

The first book holds 68 stitched pages, has its spine at the top narrow end and the generally careful handwriting is parallel to the spine. A pocket holds news clippings and notes; the final two pages record 14 addresses. A pencil with the first notebook survived virtually unused, having been sharpened only rarely with a knife; most entries were made with a fountain pen, suggesting Clayton’s own confidence in choosing his words.

The second book is a Y.M.C.A. notebook of unlined blank paper, spine at the left; the writing is generally less linear but usually controlled and small. For April 6-14, 1918, and beginning in late December 1918 until the end of the second book, the ink is replaced by pencil. Also, toward the end of the second book, Clayton’s handwriting grows larger and at times becomes haphazard, as if he were writing by dim light. Near the end of this book, five full pages are blank and the final page lists two addresses.

A number of references throughout the diary suggest Clayton carried the books on his person wherever he went, rather than store them elsewhere.

Calendar dates normally began each entry line to conserve space, but for clarity have been rendered here on separate lines with corresponding weekdays. Several references remain obscure, chiefly because the entries are in telegraphic style. Some spellings, notes, abbreviations, marks, etc., are expanded or corrected for clarity, with many of these indicated in brackets. Words and phrases now considered objectionable have not been changed or deleted.

The diary begins three months before Clayton’s 19th birthday, at a time when he already has received basic training in the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Andrews in the harbor at Boston, Massachusetts. Clayton left no known diary covering this period.


At right: Clayton Marshall Sherwood in his service uniform. The date of the photo is unknown. As the uniform’s condition suggests a good deal of wear and the surroundings indicate late winter or early spring, the photo may have been taken in February or March 1919 on Clayton’s return home to Michigan, a few months after his 21st birthday.

August 1917
Clayton leaves the military installation at Newport, Rhode Island, for New York City and departs on the Cunard ship Andania bound for England.

September 1917
After two weeks of training in Britain, the company is shipped to Mailly-le-Camp, France. Clayton does a lot of hiking and learns guard duty.

October 1917
Clayton starts to shun local beer and wine. At Mailly, he does guard duty, including at a brothel; helps move and install artillery; and does menial chores.

November 1917
Clayton does more guard duty, artillery drill and other chores. He discovers champagne and turns 20. He is considered for artillery school.

December 1917
Clayton does not get into artillery school. He continues to do guard duty and other chores while helping to set up and maintain artillery pieces in gun pits.

January 1918
Clayton continues to do more menial tasks, but also receives artillery instruction. Gas-mask respirators are issued and Clayton gets gas training.

February 1918
Clayton does more work on artillery and additional other chores in the camp, including guard duty. He has a brief bout of influenza.

March 1918
Clayton redevelops his taste for French wine and beer. A major cleanup occurs when Gen. J.J. Pershing visits the camp. Clayton injures two toes.

April 1918
Clayton is asked about becoming a corporal. Company moves April 10 to Noviant-aux-Près, soon a target for German shelling. Masked, he can smell a gas attack.

May 1918
Clayton’s battery fires its first shells. He works on construction, and declines invitation to work at headquarters. German shelling and gas attacks are heavy.

June 1918
Clayton is hospitalized two days. He is present when a French town is bombed. Company moves to Lucy-Moselle. He works in kitchens, as a guard and on guns.

July 1918
Company moves to Griscourt, France, near the front, then into tents in a wooded area nearer their artillery. Clayton is considered briefly for officers’ school.

August 1918
Clayton spends a day in Nancy, largest city in Meurthe-et-Moselle. Clayton’s friend Jim Burwell finds him at the camp; they spend several days together.

September 1918
Clayton participates Sept. 12 in major artillery assault near Saint-Mihiel. He sees German prisoners and visits installations taken during battle.

October 1918
Company moves to a new camp near Mamey. An explosion at Griscourt kills some acquaintances. Near month’s end, he joins in two-day shelling of German positions. He learns officially that he has been elevated to first-class private.

November 1918
The unit begins to move out. Armistice is declared Nov. 11. Clayton spends 21st birthday on a long march northwest. Soldiers prepare for home.

December 1918
The unit is based outside of Wassy. Clayton is told his friend Jim Burwell was killed in action. On Christmas Day, Clayton complains to the captain about excessive guard duty. On Dec. 26, they leave Wassy by train, heading to Brest.

January 1919
Clayton and his company work at the docks in Brest while awaiting transport. They board the Agamemnon; Clayton shovels coal below decks. They depart Jan. 26 from France, encountering stormy weather and damaging waves en route.

February 1919
The Agamemnon arrives Feb. 3 in New York Harbor. Clayton stays at Fort Mills and Fort Hamilton, then boards a Pullman train Feb. 14, arriving next day at Camp Custer near Battle Creek, Michigan.

Original text copyright 2002-2006 by MysteryVisits.com, Willowshade, West Grove, PA



August 1917 | September 1917 | October 1917
November 1917 | December 1917

January 1918 | February 1918 | March 1918 | April 1918
May 1918 | June 1918 | July 1918 | August 1918
September 1918 | October 1918 | November 1918 | December 1918

January 1919 | February 1919

Battle analysis | Definitions | Names | Family

Note: This project may be reproduced only with written permission from its preparers. Because this is a work in progress, additions, suggestions, challenges, corrections and explanations are necessary, requested – and welcomed. Send them to John C. Sherwood or visit MysteryVisits.com.

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