CULLMAN, Ala. – Five men will be honored Saturday morning at a ceremony at the Cullman Veterans Memorial Park hosted by the American Legion Post 4. These men have recently had their names inscribed on the World War I monument after the discovery that they had inadvertently been omitted.
Finding these men all began with a search to learn more about the men already on this wall. I chose Rudolphus McCain at random and that led me to an old article in the Cullman Tribune regarding the return of Clyde G. Brazil’s body to Cullman.
It’s poetic since McCain (26), Brazil (25) and Reighley (24) served together in the 323rd Infantry. Machine Gun Co. for McCain fighting alongside Charlie Company. These boys would ship out together on the Empress of India on July 31, 1918, fight together, die together and some would return home together.
Clyde Brazil was the youngest of two boys to George and Nancy Brazil of Bremen. On his draft registration, he listed himself as a self-employed farmer and described himself as tall with black hair and brown eyes. He would be assigned to the 323rd Infantry Charlie Company, 81st Division-–The Wildcat Division.
Brazil died Oct. 17, shortly after his 26th birthday, of pneumonia (Spanish flu) in the Vosges Mountain Region of France. His body would finally be returned home to Cullman County June 7, 1921 with a soldier escort.
The family members then had the gut–wrenching task of visiting the undertaker where they would then have to identify the body. An article in the Cullman Tribune noted that neighbors, friends, his mother and brother carried the body to Dorsey’s Creek Cemetery just west of Bremen.
The same day, the paper also reported on William Oden and Rudolphus McCain having being returned home for burial. William C. Reighley did not return, he remained in France.
William Crawford Reighley was from Vinemont/Holmes Gap and was the son of John and Eugenia Pope Reighley. His father was a soldier in the U.S. Army 37th Indiana Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. He would pass away when William was just 17 years old.
William would be John and Eugenia’s only son. He had three younger sisters-–Leona, Anna and Nellie. When he registered for the draft, William listed his mother and sister Nellie as dependents.
William Reighley would leave for France July 31, 1918, with he and Brazil as members of the 323rd Infantry, Charlie Co. First assigned to the St. Die sector of France’s Vosges Mountains, where Brazil would die, the 323rd would be ordered to join the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In early November, the 81st Division would move to the front lines near Verdun where they attacked the German lines. On Nov. 11, the Armistice was signed and the 323rd was ordered to march the 175 miles to the area from which they would prepare for their journey home. It was during this march that Nov. 18, 1918, Reighley would die from pneumonia/flu.
He is now buried in Plot A, Row 9, Grave 30 in the Suresnes American Cemetery in France.
Sadly, his sister Nellie would pass away in 1925 at the age of 19 and his mother Eugenia would pass away in 1929, one year before the US Government began offering Gold Star Pilgrimages to the mothers and widows of those still buried overseas. They are now buried at Flint Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Vinemont.
Merritt Eugene Carlise was born March 20, 1893. On his draft registration card, he listed Hanceville as his place of birth and his occupation as a mill worker. Carlisle entered service April 1, 1918 in Company I, 327th Infantry, 82 Division.
In Meuse-Argonne, the 327th was part of the operation to rescue the 77th Infantry’s Lost Battalion. On the night of Oct. 6/7, the regiment relieved troops on the left of the 28th Division near Aire River. On Oct. 7, it attacked toward the Argonne Forest progressing toward Cornay. On Oct. 8, they rescued the Lost Battalion. They continued to fight in the coming days, capturing Conray and Hill 180. It was during this time, on Oct. 17, that Calrlisle was wounded and eventually died. The same day as Brazil.
Carlisle is now buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. His mother Carrie was able to take a government funded pilgrimage to visit her son’s grave in 1930.
To prepare for the Gold Star mothers and widows, cemetery staff decorated each grave with the U.S. flag. Chairs were placed by the headstones of those soldiers to better accommodate the visiting loved ones and each received a photo and a memorial wreath to lay at the grave.
John Boyd was born in May of 1888 and listed Arkadelphia as his hometown. He was the oldest son of George and Georgia Boyd who lived in Colony. John Boyd’s grandparents, Sandy and Nancy, were both former slaves.
Boyd would marry Annie/Emma McCarns in 1909. The marriage certificate is handwritten and unclear. In June of 1917, Boyd would register for the draft in Morgan County. On his registration, he listed himself as widowed and working for a prominent landowner, J.P. Rowe, in Falkville. The same day, Charlie McCarns would also register for the draft in Morgan County and list himself as a farm laborer in Falkville. How John Boyd’s young wife died is unknown and records indicate that Charlie was her brother.
Boyd, described as tall, slender with black eyes and dark hair, would board the Princess Matika for France Sept. 23, 1918. Boyd was part of Company A, 544th Engineer Service Battalion- an all–black battalion except for the officers who were white. They were tasked with performing light railway construction and maintenance. Little is documented about the service battalion’s movement.
John Boyd passed away Feb. 6, 1919 of influenza. HIs body was returned to the United States in June of 1921. His parents would travel to Blount Springs to receive their son’s remains. He is believed to be buried in the Colony Cemetery with his grandmother Nancy, his parents and siblings.
Fritz M. Galin was born Feb. 28, 1896, in Welti to Fredrich and Amelia Galin, immigrants from Germany and one of the founders of Welti. The family were members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Fred Galin died in 1914. At that time, Fritz was working in Birmingham. However, on his draft registration, completed June 5, 1917, Fritz listed himself as working on the family farm. He described himself as medium height and build with blue eyes and dark hair.
On May 18, 1918, Galin boarded the ship, Metagama, as part of Company B, 103rd Engineers, 28th Division bound for France.
An article from the Cullman Tribune Nov. 14, 1918 explained that a telegram had been sent with incorrect information about Galin. A follow-up letter sent after a request for information by Fritz’s sister Bertha Galin Trexler stated:
“Dear Mrs. Trexler: In answer to your letter of September 20th to Lieutenant Hayden; your brother F.M. Galin was killed by a high explosive shell on August 11th. It was near the Vesle River during one of the big American drives. He was not alone. A number of his comrades have given themselves up for their country in the same manner. I beg to say that your brother was one of the best liked and most popular men in this company. That his loss is one of great sorrow to us all.”
Obituary from the Cullman Tribune Oct. 20, 1921
The body of Fritz Galin laid to rest Sunday afternoon in Welti, 5 miles south of the city in presence of large assembly of friends.
The body of Fritz Galin son of Mrs. F.W. Galin arrived in Cullman Friday afternoon from France where on the 11th day of August 1918, on the battlefields of France, this gallant, brave and patriotic young man-made the supreme sacrifice with his life in defense of freedom and liberty for the people of, not only we of the United States, but those of the world.
This noble young man did not wait to be called into service, but true to that patriotic spirit of the best of American manhood, saw that his country needed real men, volunteered to enlist, was accepted, after the necessary training in camp was among the first to say ready for overseas service going with the engineering department, landing in France December 7, 1917. When the end came, Fritz was in the front rank doing his best.
The love and esteem of the memory of this noble young man was shown on Sunday afternoon when over a thousand people gathered at the little cemetery in Welti, 5 miles south of Cullman, to see the casket containing the body of a dear Cullman County young man laid to rest where he had expressed a desire to be buried if the breath of life should depart from his body.
Upon the arrival of the body of Mr. Galin in Cullman Friday afternoon, it was carried to the undertaking parlor of Oscar Fischer and on Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock, Mr. Fischer accompanied by hundreds of friends of the young man carried the body to the cemetery at Welti where Rev. Henry Meyer, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, conducted the funeral services and the body was laid to rest.
Fritz was 22 years old and was the first Cullman County son to give his life on the battlefields.
The words of the correct telegram sent to his mother Amelia, just like the telegrams sent to the other mothers about the news of their own sons, informing her that Fritz had been killed are inscribed on Galin’s headstone.
“Army of the United States of America.
To all who shall see these
This is to certify that
Fritz W Galin
Born Feb. 28, 1896
Private, Troop B, 103rd Engineer
Died with honor in the
service of his country.
The Eleventh day of August 1918.”