Cephas Jr. and the Great War

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Cephas Love Wilson, Jr. was stationed in France in 1917, during which time he wrote home to his mother and father whenever he could, letting them know he was safe, and likely, telling them a sanitized — and probably censored — version of what was going on with him and his comrades.

I would have loved to read Ceph Jr.’s letters to his family about his experiences during World War I. But until I establish a connection with a descendant (who, hopefully, still has the letters saved somewhere), I very gladly will make do with this:

 

A History of the 1st U.S. Engineers Division. Source: University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill archives.

Yes, people, this is the big deal I came across the other day. This is the honest-to-God story of this unit’s experiences, complete with anecdotes, personal reflections, poetry, letters, artwork, homage to fallen comrades who were left behind in the battlefields. There’s nothing pretty or glamorous about the stories of these men who fought in this unit during the Great War: There is honest, thoughtful, and heartbreaking writing in this book.

The birth and infancy of the regiment, page five. This is the story of the regiment, by the men, in their OWN words. This is wonderful!

And check. This. Out:

Ceph Jr.was an ART EDITOR for this book — and — yes, his drawings are in here! Booyah!

NOW can you see why I was so thrilled?

Cephas WAS on the U.S.S. Finland, en route to France from Hoboken, N.J., hadn’t even landed yet, and was fired upon! OMG. Did he write home to his parents about this?

As I said, the men who wrote about their experiences hold nothing back.

Several pages honoring the dead.

Not only do we have the story of Ceph’s time in World War I, but we have samples of his drawings!

It’s a wonderful find, full of excellent details, resources, photos, and — yes — artwork attributed to Cephas Jr. Modestly, he signed them “W.” You can see his cartoon experience reflected in his drawings!

There’s this one:

A humorous drawing by Cephas, Jr.

And this one:

Often too close for comfort, was it?

But this one by Cephas Jr. is most touching:

In my next post, I’ll fill you in on the rest of Cephas’ experiences in France — that is, unless you read this book for yourself (he is mentioned in here!).

 

 

 

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