The 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic: A Final Resting Place for Jesse Bryan

I am continuing a series on how the 1918 influenza epidemic affected my families. The current focus of the series is Jesse James Bryan, first cousin to my grandfather, Thomas Hoskins. I have traced Jesse from his early life in Drakesville, Iowa, to his burial in Brest, France. Jesse Bryan died November 13, 1918 of influenza.

The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, IA) 06 Dec 1918

By WW1, Americans had come to expect the return of remains of the war dead to their families, but never before had there been so great a number of casualties on foreign land. This was not the practice in Europe, where the casualties of war usually remained at or near the place of death. These differing points of view led to feelings of ill will between the Americans and the French over the repatriation of American war dead. An early misstep was letters sent by the Adjutant General to families of deceased soldiers that created the expectation that the remains of all American soldiers would ultimately be returned – said without clearing it first with the French government. American soldiers had been buried in temporary graves in cemeteries and in battlefields throughout Europe, the vast majority in France. At the end of the war when the United States wanted to begin the return of the deceased, France had other priorities – food, recovery, their own dead. There were concerns about the additional burden this would place on the transportation system, sanitation, the morale of French citizens, and making allowances for the United States not afforded to other countries. The French withheld permission.

Many in the military agreed that the best thing would be for fallen soldiers to remain where they had died – or in permanent cemeteries for American war dead. But American families had been promised the return of their family member. Lobby groups formed – both for and against the return of American soldiers. A significant shift in American sentiment occurred when former President Theodore Roosevelt expressed a desire for his son’s body to remain where it was originally buried. Thereafter, the War Department decided to poll each family to gauge their desires with respect to the final disposition of their family member. By January 1919, the Secretary of War reported that roughly thirty-one percent of all dead were requested to permanently remain in France. But the situation remained unresolved. The American Legion, General Pershing, Gold Star Mothers, and even funeral directors added their voices to the conversation. It was not until 20 March 1920 that the United States and France finally reached an agreement to permit the repatriation of deceased American troops.

Jesse’s family requested to have his remains returned to his hometown and his family. According to his Grave Registration Card, Jesse’s body arrived in Hoboken on June 29, 1920. The last of the American war dead arrived on American soil March 29, 1922. Jesse’s family did not have to wait nearly as long as many others.

Jesse’s body was disinterred on May 27, 1920. Exhumation procedures followed this general pattern: Workers closed the work area with canvas screens and posted guards to prevent illicit entry. A canvas was laid on the ground next to the exhumation site. Once the coffin was exhumed, the body was removed and placed on the canvas, where it was saturated with disinfectant and deodorant before being wrapped in a blanket. The remains were then placed in a metal casket, encased in pillows to prevent movement, covered with a white sheet, and the casket sealed before being placed in a wooden shipping case. The entire process took less than five minutes. The Grave Registration Service went to great lengths to try to ensure that no mistakes were made in identifying the dead.

Pier 4 at Hoboken, NJ was selected as the site for the return of transport ships bearing caskets. Once the remains arrived at Hoboken, the Grave Registration Service needed to coordinate the shipment of the caskets to all parts of the United States as quickly as possible. The plan called for the War Department to supply Hoboken with the name of the ship, its deceased passenger list and, if possible, the final destination of each body before the ship docked at the port. This allowed lead time to ensure adequate space at the pier and to arrange ground transportation to the remains’ final destinations.

There is a discrepancy between Jesse’s Grave Registration Card and the ship manifest that lists his name. The Grave Registration Card says that his body left Brest June 6, 1920 on the transport ship Mercury. But his name is on a passenger list for the transport ship Princess Motoika.

I confirmed the Grave Registration Card with newspaper clippings, but a late night search through all of the pages of the ship’s passenger list revealed that some named the Mercury, while others named the Motoika.

The New York Tribune (New York, NY) 29 June 1920

Around this time, the Princess Motoika was chosen to transport the U.S. Olympic team, so this may be the reason for the discrepancy. (The athletes were not at all pleased with their accommodations, by the way.)

After leaving Brest, the Mercury sailed to Antwerp, Belgium, taking on some passengers, and Danzig, Poland, where a number of Polish troops boarded. The ship carried over eight hundred deceased Americans.

New York Herald (New York, NY) 30 June 1920

Today, military caskets are always seen draped by the flag of the United States. This idea was born in the aftermath of World War I as officials planned for the movement of remains from the temporary cemeteries to a permanent cemetery in the United States or Europe. Since there were no regulations for this at the end of the war, policies were established as the repatriation of troops progressed. Questions such as the size of the flag and whether or not a flag could be buried with the body were tackled.

After arrival at Hoboken, the Grave Registration Card documents that Jesse’s remains were shipped to the Depot Officer in Chicago on July 20. He finally arrived at Drakesville, Iowa on July 23, 1920 to be received by his father, James Bryan.

When the remains departed Hoboken for their final destination, a military escort accompanied each casket. Nearby Fort Hamilton, New York, usually furnished the necessary soldiers for this detail. Escorting military remains was another practice begun as a result of WW1 that the military has continued to use. The military escort accompanying remains to a funeral might be the only personal interaction some citizens had with the Army. The idea of a military escort was also practical. When a casket was shipped by train, it required documentation, just like any other cargo. In addition, as the casket changed possession receipts were required to be obtained and forwarded to the Office of the Quartermaster General. The escorts helped train station agents and funeral directors, particularly those of small towns, navigate unfamiliar government paperwork, ensure that the casket was delivered in good order, and obtain proof of receipt by the family or appointed representative. The escorts also assisted the funeral director with moving the casket to and from the funeral home, into homes, churches, and ultimately the burial site.

The newspaper clipping below reports that the military escort accompanied Jesse’s body from France, which is different from what I read was the usual situation. The dates don’t exactly match up either.

Washington Democrat (Washington, IA) 28 July 1920

Hattie Bryan, Jesse’s youngest sister, told her granddaughter that she remembered the soldiers coming to the door of their home to report Jesse’s arrival and their attendance at the funeral. Hattie’s granddaughter has the flag that was draped on Jesse’s coffin.

I received these copies of newspaper clippings from the Davis County, IA Historical Society.

Jesse Bryan’s final resting place – Drakesville Cemetery, Drakesville, Iowa.

JULY 4, 1887
NOV. 13, 1918
Died in Brest, France

This concludes my research into the life and death of Jesse James (Joe) Bryan – unless I can eventually get military records or some letters turn up.

Jesse was drafted into the army to fight in France, trained for combat as the influenza virus reached pandemic status, was infected on the transport ship as he approached France, and died at the age of thirty-one – two days after the Armistice was signed. 

Jesse James Bryan

I recently received these two photos from the great-granddaughter of Hattie Bryan. The woman is Jesse’s youngest sister Hattie – the little girl who only remembered meeting her brother when he came home on furlough before his departure for France and who remembered the military escorts coming to her home.

Hattie Rose Bryan

And another photo of Jesse.

When I started researching Jesse’s life, I thought I’d just write two or three posts and be done. But there were puzzles to solve and the more I researched, the more interested I became in understanding the context of the pandemic and the military experience.

A few weeks ago, I found a video from the National WW 1 Museum, a lecture titled Forgetting a Catastrophe: Influenza and the War in 1919. It is forty minutes long and I had no intention of watching all of it – I was just curious to see what it was. I watched the whole thing. There is a lot of interesting information here, but Professor Nancy Bristow’s main point is that the influenza pandemic was essentially forgotten. Although more lives were lost to influenza than to the war, there are very few memorials – or even mentions in popular culture. The professor believes that we Americans like to ignore or rewrite the bad parts of our history and focus instead on progress, success, and victories. This keeps us, she says, from thinking deeply and voices of trauma are drowned out. She ended her talk (in January 2020) by saying that pandemics are a thing of the future and that admitting our tales of sorrow and loss is important – ironically unaware of how soon that future would be. Here we are.

When I asked my extended family for any stories of how the influenza pandemic affected our families, I got only two replies. Surely there could have been more.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope we will think deeply and not hurry too quickly to move on and “get back to normal”. I hope the voices of trauma will be heard and remembered. I hope we will tell our stories. I hope lessons learned will not be forgotten. I hope that we do not forget that our ideas of who or what is “essential” changed.

And given the events of this week, I have the same thoughts about January 6, 2021. We need to engage in deep thinking.

*****A source I used for a lot of the information in this post can be found here: Establishing the American way of Death: World War I and the Foundation of the United States Policy toward the Repatriation and Burial of its Battlefield Dead.

*** I have made a landing page where all of the posts related to epidemics and pandemics are collected. Epidemics and My Families

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Please hop on a tram, train, truck, or transport to visit others who participated in Sepia Saturday.

The 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic: Jesse Bryan Succumbs to the Flu

I am continuing a series on how the 1918 influenza epidemic affected my families. The current focus of the series is Jesse James Bryan, first cousin to my grandfather, Thomas Hoskins. I have traced Jesse from his early life in Drakesville, Iowa to the transport ship America during WW1. I have only a family Bible, a couple of photographs, and a few records found at so I have to flesh out as much of Jesse’s story as I can from what is available online. The more I look, the more I find, but of course not everything I would like to find.

The USS America sailed at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, September 20, 1918, with Jesse Bryan onboard.

The transport ships America and Agamemnon left port together, escorted by the destroyer USS Bell headed for Brest, France.

With cramped conditions, seasickness, enforced darkness at night, zigzagging maneuvers and no sleep while in the danger zone, unscheduled daily abandon ship drills – some at night, and whatever duties he was assigned, Jesse must have counted down the days until this trip would end. Of course there is no way to know Jesse’s mindset – anticipation, dread, or both.

Flashlight taken below water line on a crowded U.S.A. Transport showing how the men live. File Unit: American Library Association – Dispatch, 1917 – 1918
Series: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917 – 1918
Record Group 165: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860 – 1952

There were diversions on the transport ships to keep up morale. Maybe Jesse watched a boxing match,

Troops on board a transport being entertained by a boxing match between two soldiers. Series: Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 – ca. 1981
Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 – 1985

participated in a song service,

Song service aboard US transport
National Archives Catalog Record Group 165: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, 1860 – 1952

or took French lessons,

A study in French. These lessons are given by a French Officer enroute to France aboard a U.S.A. Transport. In the Submarine Zone and everyone has a life preserver
National Archives Identifier:17343016Local Identifier:165-WW-27A-9Creator(s):War Department. 1789-9/18/1947

I feel lucky to have found the following information on the Naval History and Heritage Command website that pertains specifically to Jesse’s voyage.

“America parted from George Washington and Von Steuben on 2 September 1918 and reached the Boston Navy Yard on the 7th. Following dry docking, voyage repairs, and the embarkation of another contingent of troops, she arrived at Hoboken on the morning of the 17th. Three days later, she cleared the port, in company with Agamemnon, bound for France on her ninth transatlantic voyage cycle.

By this time, an influenza epidemic was raging in the United States and Europe and had taken countless lives. From its first appearance, special precautions had been taken on board America to protect both her ship’s company and passengers from this scourge. The sanitary measures had succeeded in keeping all in the ship healthy. However, this group of soldiers, who had come on board at Boston where the epidemic had been raging, brought the “flu.” As a result, 997 cases of “flu” and pneumonia occurred among the embarked soldiers during the passage to France, while 56 cases broke out among the 940 men in the crew. Before the transport completed the round-trip voyage and arrived back at Hoboken, 53 soldiers and 2 sailors had died on board. This comparatively low death rate (some ships lost considerably more men) can be attributed to the almost super-human efforts of the ship’s doctors and corpsmen, as well as the embarked units’ medical personnel. Forty-two of the 53 deaths among the troops occurred during the time the ship lay at anchor at Brest from 29 September to 2 October.”

Until I read this, I was unaware that troops had boarded the America before it made port in Hoboken. This account singles out Boston as the source of influenza infection onboard ship, but troops arrived from other embarkation camps where influenza had also taken hold.

The America would have been fitted with a surgeons’ examining room, dispensary, a laboratory, dental office, dressing room, operating room, special treatment room, sick bay and isolation ward as well as several dispensaries and dressing stations throughout the ship for minor cases.

The quote above does not specify how many of the 55 deaths on the America occurred during each leg of the ship’s round trip, only that 42 died while it was at anchor in Brest. Of the 13 deaths that occurred while at sea, I am left to wonder how many died before arriving at Brest. If there were deaths before docking in Brest, Jesse may have participated in a burial at sea.

The History of Transport Service recounts a memory of a burial at sea on the USS Seattle.
“The armored Cruiser Seattle was six days out on her third war cruise as ocean escort for troop convoy. News travels quickly in a ship, and before the morning muster at quarters we all had heard that one of the crew, ill of pneumonia, had passed away during the night.
The people of a ship are thrown intimately together on an ocean voyage and, in this case, war service added to the community spirit. The loss of our shipmate touched us all. Little was said but much thought was given as we assembled aft in answer to the tolling of the bell and the boatswain’s pipe of the solemn call, “All hands bury the dead.”

The service was conducted on the starboard side of the quarterdeck, the official place for ceremonies in a man-of-war. The bier was mounted outboard and draped with flags. Just inboard and forward stood the escort under arms. Space was left for the funeral party to march aft from inside the superstructure.

At the appointed hour, the ship’s company, numbering about one thousand, ranged themselves in inverse order of rank around and abaft the turret guns. At the rail was rigged the gangway over which the body was to make its final passage from ship to sea.

The flag was then lowered to half-mast and the accompanying troopships in the convoy also lowered their ensigns to half-mast, thus joining in the ceremony, rendering homage in memorial of the life given just as truly in service for the cause as though it had been lost by the blow of a torpedo or an enemy bullet.

When all was ready the band played the funeral dirge, while the body bearers with the casket, followed by the pall bearers and Chaplain, marched aft at “slow time.” The escort came to “present arms” and all hands stood at “attention” until the casket was placed on the bier and the dirge finished.

The Chaplain read the church services. At their completion the band played “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Then all hands “uncovered,” the escort again came to “present arms,” the Boatswain and his mates piped the side, and in reverent quiet–even the ship’s engines were stopped–the body enfolded in the Stars and Stripes was committed to the deep.

Three volleys of musketry were fired, and the bugler ended the ceremony by sounding taps. The familiar and now mournful notes echoed in all hearts the call to the final sleep.

After a short pause the Captain gave the word “Carry on.” The band struck up a march and the divisions went forward at “quick time” to their respective parts of the ship. Gun drills were resumed. Carpenters, ship fitters, blacksmiths, and machinists picked up their tools. The propellers again churned the water, flags were masted, and the ship’s work continued.”

As reported above, the America sat at anchor from September 29-October 2 in Brest. During that brief time, forty-two men died. How awful that must have been!

The story passed down in Jesse’s family is that Jesse contracted the virus while on the ship. He did not die until about six weeks after disembarking. Without military service records, it is impossible to know just what happened next for Jesse. Was Jesse counted among the 997 cases of flu and pneumonia of embarked soldiers on the America and go directly to a hospital? Or did his symptoms manifest in camp a few days later?

Some victims of the influenza virus died quickly – within a day or two. The majority died within 3-10 days or two weeks. Jesse died November 13, 1918, well outside the usual timeframe if he was infected while still on the ship.

Descriptions of the virulent influenza are hard to read. As the illness progressed beyond the fever, headaches and body aches of a regular flu, the lungs filled with bodily fluids, causing discoloration of the hands, feet and face. Bloody fluids seeped from the nose and ears. As fluids built up in the lungs, it caused suffocation. Some experienced delirium and or lost consciousness. Some victims appeared to be improving and then developed bacterial pneumonia. Interestingly, I read that the new drug, aspirin, developed by the German company Bayer, was probably over-prescribed, and that it is now believed that many of the October deaths were caused or hastened by aspirin poisoning.

I don’t know where Jesse may have been hospitalized. There were several camp and base hospitals near Brest. Most were opening or adding space around the time of Jesse’s arrival in France to serve wounded and sick soldiers prior to their return to the United States. From what I read about a few of the camp hospitals, most seemed to have serious sewage/sanitation problems.

Unloading patients from ambulances, Camp Hospital 33. Brest, Finistere, France. 12-31-1918 “Series: Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 – ca. 1981
Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 – 1985

 The military grave registration card for Jesse details his burial in Kerhuon Cemetery. Google Maps says Le Relecq-Kerhuon is about a fifteen minute drive from Brest.

I’m not sure if I found the cemetery where Jesse was buried, but maybe this is it. 

The burial ceremony for Jesse may have looked something like the one pictured below at a cemetery in Brest.

At the Kerfautras cemetery, a ceremony for members of the American army, during the Spanish flu epidemic, hence the large number of coffins. (Archives of Brest Métropole)

I have not been able to answer all of my questions about Jesse’s life and death, but I am satisfied with what I have found. Maybe those military records will surface one day.

Jesse’s story is not quite finished, so I’ll be back with the rest of his story.

P.S. I intended to have this post finished to share last week, but present day life intruded on history. Cancer can’t seem to leave me alone, so I’ve had to spend some time with doctors and scans. I’ve just gotten back to regular blogging in recent months and so I really hope I can keep that going!

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.





The 1918-1919 Flu Epidemic: Jesse Bryan Embarks

…the silent march out of the camp in the dead of night, down the macadamized highway to the river, the last quarter-mile of it upon a thoroughfare that was half road and half trail, descending stiffly to the water’s edge; there the landing, a platform open to the sky, lighted by incandescent clusters, its bitts mooring a small squadron of river ferry-boats, lumpish craft soon packed to their gates by the brown-clad travelers. Then the dark river, now and then streaked with undulating golden ribbons from waterside lights that grew thicker after an hour or so, when the boat left Spuyten Duyvil Creek behind and began hooting for a passage through the never-ceasing traffic of North River. Then the jutting, brick-and-stone headland of lower Manhattan, thrusting its vague silhouette against the graying eastern sky. Next the pier, tucked in between the projecting sterns of monster transports; the climb up from the ferry-boat; the echoing vault of the roofed pier, dusky in spite of its myriad white arcs; long tables spread with sandwiches and doughnuts, and Red Cross women at rolling coffee urns; inspections, inspections, and more inspections — medical inspections, equipment inspections, alienage inspections, inspections by intelligence officers — and instructions of many sorts.
Outside, the city now roars into wakefulness and a new day. The embarkation force comes on duty. Then the gangplank, the loud roll-call, the sharp scrutiny of individuals; at the top of the climb, the mail bag for the “safe-arrival” postcards and the last letters home. After that, the crowded standee berths erected in holds, companion ways, nooks, corners — any place where there had been a trifle of spare room. A peremptory order confined one to these stuffy, congested quarters during the trip down the bay, lest enemy eyes on shore or on some harbor craft mark this as a troopship. And so the chance to sleep, welcome to men drawn and haggard with twenty- four hours on their feet; the awakening to nauseous motion and the vibrant shudder of driving screws; permission to go on deck; the whip of salt wind, refreshing as a cold dip; far to the northward the faint cloud of the Long Island shore, elsewhere tumbling waters; and, from the horizon rim ahead to that of the sunset, a double file of transports, grotesquely streaked with deceptive bands of paint, escorted by flanking destroyers; dirigibles and airplanes overhead and, far in the van, a towed balloon.
Such is the typical individual soldier’s retrospect of embarkation — an experience brief in point of time, yet so novel to most who underwent it that it impressed its consecutive details deeply in the memory. It began at the embarkation camp, which therefore figured as the bisector between home and overseas service.
The Road to France: the transportation of troops and military supplies, 1917-1918 v. 1, pg. 170-171.

I am continuing a series on how the 1918 influenza epidemic affected my families. The current focus of the series is Jesse James Bryan, first cousin to my grandfather, Thomas Hoskins. I have traced Jesse from his early life in Drakesville, Iowa to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey. I have only a family Bible, a couple of photographs, and a few records found at so I have to flesh out as much of Jesse’s story as I can from what is available online. The more I look, the more I find, but of course not everything I would like to find.

Jesse arrived at the piers early in the morning on September 18th or 19th. He was wearing a new, or almost new, uniform, his overseas cap, and two metal identification tags suspended from his neck. Before leaving Camp Merritt, inspectors had given Jesse a quick once-over to determine if his clothing and equipment were deficient or excessive. It was important that a soldier left for France in a uniform which would give him practically 100% wear because a replacement uniform would have to cross the ocean, taking up valuable space in a cargo hold. Jesse also carried his unwieldy haversack on his back.

The Port of Embarkation maintained a disbursing office at New York to pay all embarking officers and men up to the date of their sailings. The payment was made, conveniently, in either francs or pounds, shillings, and pence, so that the soldiers would have no trouble with the money changers on the other side of the Atlantic. So it is likely that Jesse had just received duty pay in francs.

Jesse was tired when he arrived at the piers. The movement of troops from Camp Merritt to the piers took about five hours. All troops to be embarked in a single day were required to be on the piers by eight o’clock in the morning, when the pier inspectors and gangplank workers came on duty. It was vital that the check-in process be accurate, so embarkation occurred in the morning and early afternoon, when the checkers were fresh.

The practice at Camp Merritt was to start the departing troops out in columns of 2,000 or 3,000 men — enough so that each column fully loaded one ferry-boat. The columns left at half-hour intervals, the first ordinarily at one o’clock in the morning. It was from three to four miles from the camp to Alpine Landing, depending on the location of the troops’ quarters in camp, so a column was on the road to the river for at least an hour. If the ferry was loaded in half an hour, it was two-thirty or three o’clock before the first boat started down the Hudson. The ferry took two hours to make the run to lower Manhattan; so the first troops reached the piers shortly before five o’clock, and the last ones arrived by seven-thirty.

At the pier the men lined up for company roll-call. Then they were allowed to approach the tables set up by canteen workers of the Red Cross, where they could fill up on hot coffee, rolls, ice cream, cookies, or sandwiches, and cigarettes.

After the men had visited the refreshment tables, the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A. workers went among them and distributed “safe-arrival” cards.

These were printed post cards that read: “The ship on which I sailed has arrived safely overseas.” Jesse signed and addressed as many of these cards as he chose, and held onto them until he passed by a military mail bag at the head of the gangplank. The cards were held in the Hoboken military post office until a cable announced the arrival of the ship in Europe; then the cards were forwarded through regular mail.

At the piers, Jesse was looked over once again by medical officers making their final inspections. Sometimes, even at this late hour, they pulled out men suspected of disease. During the influenza epidemic, hundreds of men suspected of having the sickness were removed, even after the ships had gone down to the lower bay. Personnel officers also made a final check of the nationality of each passenger.

Each company marched to its assigned gangplank. The company commander took his place at the desk with the men’s service records at hand and the soldiers approached the gangplank a squad at a time. When his name was called, Jesse responded by repeating his name – family name first, given name and middle initial afterwards. He had previously received instructions to speak loudly and distinctly.

He was then ordered to ascend the gangplank. As Jesse passed the desk, he received a billet card which noted the compartment of the ship in which he was to be quartered and the number of his berth in that compartment. Here is an example of a billet card:

From the top of the gangplank Jesse was escorted to his bunk. To avoid congestion, the men were ordered into their bunks until all had embarked. One would guess that this time was used for some much-needed rest.

As I noted in my last post, the transport ship that Jesse was assigned to was formerly a German luxury liner. Not any more. As the demand for replacement troops increased, ships were packed to the brim with soldiers. These former luxury liners were retrofitted with standee berths. I haven’t found a photo of the interior of the USS America, but we can assume that Jesse’s berth looked something like these.

The installation of additional cots, standees, and pipe-berths increased the carrying capacity of the entire fleet by twenty-five per cent. A double-shift system (a rotating system in which two soldiers were assigned to a berth so that the berth was always occupied) proved successful on two of the transport ships, and subsequently excess loading was authorized for seven other fast transports — including the America.

Once a compartment was filled, with each man in his bunk, the next step was to stow rifles and haversacks and to learn the prescribed routes to reach wash rooms, mess halls, and abandon ship stations.

Jesse was given a life preserver when he embarked, and in the danger zone was required to wear it or keep it constantly at hand day and night. Abandon ship drills, also called “drowning drills” by the men, began while the transport ship was still in the harbor. These drills occurred daily at unexpected times throughout the voyage.

A still healthy Jesse was onboard the America, accustoming himself to cramped quarters with little ventilation, finding his way to the bathroom and mess hall through narrow passageways, practicing a drill that he hoped would not be needed in an ocean he had never seen before, and feeling the motion of the ship at port.

The America sailed at 9:00 p.m. on September 20, 1918 with 1,176 onboard.

The prompt photo this week centers on quilting or quilts – or the letter Q. I will take my cue and Quit for now.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Please visit other participants at Sepia Saturday and see what they have stitched together.

Sources: The Road to France II. The Transportation of Troops and Military Supplies 1917-1918, Vol. 1 and 2 ( New Haven, Yale University Press:  1921)

Gleaves, A. (1921) A History of the Transport Service. [New York, George H. Doran company] [Web.] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,