When Cephas Jr. Came Home

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On or about October 9, 1918, there was a knock at the door of the Cephas Love Wilson, Sr. house, on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton Streets, in Marianna, Florida.

It was a telegram for Cephas Love Wilson’s parents — something people dreaded receiving during wartime. And it wasn’t good news.

It said their son, Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., had been injured — gassed in action — in France.

The notation on Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s WWI service card that his injury was ‘slight’ is somewhat incongruous with the fact that he was recovering at a French hospital, and at Walter Reed Hospital, for months. Image source: Floridamemory.com

Perhaps he had a long recovery time in a French hospital, because Cephas was not released to return home until August 21, 1919.

He sailed from Brest, France to Camp Mills, Hoboken, N.J., on the U.S.S. Pastores.

Photo of the U.S.S. Pastores in 1919, from Wikipedia.

After arriving at Camp Mills, Cephas Jr. was sent to Walter Reed Hospital.

Cephas L. Wilson Jr.’s listed as a patient at Walter Reed (lower right corner, highlighted in red). From The Washington Star, August, 1919. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The Pensacola Journal, September 27, 1919.

I’m not sure how long Cephas Jr. was at Walter Reed, but I have doubts that his injury was slight, given the amount of time he was hospitalized. Below is an article from September 18, 1919, where his father came to Washington, D.C. to visit him at Walter Reed.

Note the date on this article — September 18, 1919 — almost a year after Cephas Jr. was reported injured on October 9, 1918. Source: GenealogyBank.com and ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The lengthy recovery time makes me think that a) his throat injuries were more serious than the record indicates, and b) that he might have also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. During World War I, it would have been called battle fatigue, or Combat Stress Reaction (CSR). I don’t have access to Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s military or medical records yet to confirm, but it is possible this was also part of Cephas Jr’s recovery.

I also wonder if, given the publicized mental breakdown that Emmett had in 1914-1915 while he was U.S. Congressman, that Cephas Jr.’s father would have kept the CSR information out of the record or the press.

By January 10, 1920 (the date on the U.S. Census document for Marianna, Florida), Cephas Jr. was back in Marianna, living at home with his parents, his married sister and her family — pretty much the same scenario he left prior to the outbreak of World War I. It seemed like nothing changed.

The census reports that Cephas Jr. works as a presser in a shop. Probably not a satisfying vocation for a talented artist newly returned from war experiences in France. Source: 1920 U.S. Census

The 1920 U.S. Census indicates he worked as a presser — likely operating an iron in a professional laundry business — in a shop in Marianna.

And Cephas Jr. HAD changed. This was only a temporary stopping point.

Cephas Jr. was only biding his time until he felt well enough to leave — because he left Marianna for good before the year was out.

There’s more. Stay tuned.

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