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West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Sherman H. Williams
1891-1918

"My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori."

Wilfred Owen

U.S. Army Private Sherman H. Williams (“Pete”) was born in Bluefield, Mercer County, West Virginia, on August 16, 1891, the youngest son of George H. and Alice Williams, both of whom, according to the 1910 Federal Census, claimed Pennsylvania as their native state. Sherman’s birth record shows that his father was an engineer. He had three brothers: Bruce C., Frank R., and Phillip B. Williams. The only daughter in the family was Mable (married name: Mrs. Fred Buchanan), also an older sibling. Census records indicate his father died sometime between 1900 and 1910.

Sherman attended Bluefield schools and prior to his army enlistment was a clerk in the mining industry, first for the Crystal Coal and Coke Company and later for the American Coal Company at McComas. His World War I Draft Registration Card indicates he was a butcher, and Lernout’s summary of his life in the Flanders Field Book states that Williams was professionally trained as a butcher before finding a job as clerk. (Source: Patrick Lernout and Christopher Sims, De Soldaten van de Amerikaanse Militaire Begraafplaats Flanders Field, 2011, http://www.flandersfieldbook.be.) Lacking a picture of the veteran, the draft registration card also provides a physical description: He was of medium height and slender with gray eyes and light-colored hair. It also states that his mother was financially dependent on him.
Sherman Draft Registration Card

World War I Draft Registration Card for Sherman H. Williams

Pvt. Williams left Bluefield on April 26, 1918, in the company of thirteen other soldiers from the area. Their first destination was Camp Meade; later he transferred to Camp Lee. Sherman was assigned to Company H, 314th Infantry, through May 29, 1918, when he was transferred to Company D, 135th Machine Gun Battalion, 37th Division. A newspaper account of his death states that he was “sent across in about three weeks, some time ahead of the other Bluefield boys who left here with him.” The notice continues:

Mr. Williams was a son of the late Geo. H. Williams, and was twenty-seven years old on the 16th of last August. He was born in Bluefield, his parents being among the pioneer settlers of the town…. The deceased was unmarried, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him. (Source: “Pete Williams Killed in Action,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph, 26 Nov. 1918, p. 2.)

Grave Marker

Grave Marker for Sherman H. Williams, Flanders Field American Cemetery, Memorial Day 2014. Courtesy Patrick Lernout

Government form No. 724-6 A.G.O.[a death notification document] indicates Williams served overseas from June 15 until his death on October 31 and participated in engagements northwest of Verdun. Lernout provides the following information regarding Sherman’s death, just eleven days before the Armistice:

Sherman was the victim of friendly fire. Shell fragments had lodged in his chest during an artillery barrage. He was buried together with Robert Tovsrud five hundred meters west of the village of Kruishoutem and 1 km off the road near the town of Olsene. His remains were interred in Europe against the wishes of his parents [sic]. Identification problems occurred after his remains had been interred in Waregem [the location of Flanders Field]. Total confusion was caused due to the fact that the remains of Anthony Durand were found under the marker of Ira Matthews. Consequently, someone else had been buried under the marker of Durand. The remains were designated as Unknown 257. So in 1921, Sherman was reinterred as an unknown. In 1926, four years after the repatriation program had been concluded, a conclusive investigation resulted in a positive identification of Sherman Williams.
Alice Williams

Alice Williams. Courtesy Patrick Lernout

Grave Marker

Flanders Field American Cemetery. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

As such it was no surprise that his mother, regardless of her age (77), was eager to visit her son’s grave with the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage in 1930. She visited Flanders Field in Waregem, Belgium—where her son is buried in Plot A, Row 4, Grave 15—on 2, 3 and 4 July.

Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure.

Honor...

Sherman H. Williams

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


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