Friday, February 20, 2009

Mark Attridge Miller

My grandfather who started my genealogy interest was Mark A. Miller, July 27, 1896 - August 2, 1973. He married Marguerite Marie Daly. Her real name was Margaret Mary Daly, she was 100% Irish but changed her name during High School. He served in the US Army during WW1. I have several letters that he wrote to his parents during this time. To the left is a picture of him with a transcript of a letter to his father that is so vivid to me that I can picture being there myself.

In a dugout "over there"
November 16, 1918
My dear Gov.:
The war has run its race. It ran a good one, but like everything else it had to end. Although we had been expecting the end to come almost any hour, yet in reality the end came suddenly for us.
Up until the very last minute when the order came to cease firing on all fronts we were sending shell after shell, ringing their song of death over the boche lines. We reached the firing line the first of November but did not go into action immediately because we had to put in our guns and camouflage them, also the shell and powder depots. But when we did start firing - hell sure did bust loose. We received word from the commanding general thanking us for our good work. Our shots had gone "home." We had put out of action batteries that had never been silenced since the beginning of the war. In the early morning we opened up a fierce barrage fire for the boys who wear the hat cord of blue were going over the top. They gained a number of kilometers.
Compared to the roar of that barrage fire, a boiler factory would sound like a cemetery. I never knew that there was so many guns in the world as belched forth fire, smoke and shells that memorable morning. I knew that there were batteries on all four sides of us, but I did not imagine that they were practically hub to hub for miles. When they all, from the famous French "Une Josephine" or 75 millimeter gun, to the powerful naval gun in the rear, opened up the roar was tremendous. You will ask, "What were the boche doing from the time you reached the firing line until the end?" I will begin that part of the story by telling you that the weather favored us, for it was either raining or cloudy from the time we reached the line until the game was called. War is one game that wet grounds won't stop.
The cloudy weather prevented the boche planes from getting accurate observations on our positions and also, to begin with, enabled us to put up camouflage screens without being detected; also to bring up our guns and put them in place, which was a most difficult task.
That work was done almost entirely at night, the only work done in the day time was done under the protection of the camouflage. When not under this protection you had to be constantly on the alert ready to take cover, for boche planes were continually passing over head. Battles between aeroplanes and between boche planes and our anti-aircraft guns were so frequent that after the first day or two they no longer interested us sufficiently to distract us from our work. Night and day the boches sent shells whirling across our lines, hoping to find a living target or to put out of action guns that had caused their death toll to mount heavenward. Some, I'm sorry to say, did go "home", but the majority found only old mother earth upon which to rip and tare. We could hear the German guns fire, we could hear the shells as they whistled over head and then the explosion as they burst somewhere behind us.
Others fell short and reaked their vengenance upon dugouts and trenches.
When one would stop off on its journey and visit us we did not know, nor apparently care. Our battery and all its members were certainly fortunate. Although the gas alarm rang out frequently and we were forced to work with our masks on, again we were fortunate for no one was gassed.
When we will return to the states we do not know, but we do know that like Barnum we now have a show. We are living in dugouts about fifteen feet below terra firma. Taking everything into consideration we are living a comparatively comfortable life. Since hostilities ceased the weather has cleared up and become cold, consequently I'm writing this letter while sitting before a wood stove which makes the room quite comfortable. I received your seventh letter yesterday, also one from mother dated October 21st, was of course mighty glad to learn that you all have managed to escape the "Flu." I received a most delightful letter from Gladys Martin and also one from Father Creedon. Give my love to all at home, also any of my friends whom you might meet.
Lots of love
(signed) Mark.
Prt. Mark A. Miller
Bat. E, 58 Art. (C.A.C.)
American Expeditionary Force.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Quest

I have wondered about my ancestors ever since I was eight years old. We were at a family gathering at my grandparents, my mom's. Someone asked my grandfather about our family history and he said "No one wants to know about them, all of them were nothing but horse thieves and bank robbers." Sounded pretty neat to me, a genealogist was created that moment. It was another twenty years before active searching began, each new find now is as exciting to me as the first.