The photo above shows the area, then Bois de Bouresches, where Private Philip Edwards and the 2nd Battalion, 102nd Regiment of Boston’s 26th Division advanced on July 20, 1918. Phil was killed in action the next day.
One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass honors Philip Edwards by revealing the gift he gave to the neighborhood children before leaving for France to fight in World War I and passing into legend. The book has an underlying theme of goal setting for children and the newly revised second edition (2015) eBook announces author Ben Edwards’ goal of pitching the book and Philip Edwards’ story as a feature film or made-for-TV movie. This page was created for that purpose.
Grade school students who have read the book, and other interested parties, can follow Ben’s progress toward his goal by checking frequent updates posted in this Movie Goal Updates blog.
The screenplay is now at the midpoint and I very pleased with where we stand. Diana and I will be meeting in Manhattan near the end of April as she gets close to the end of the first draft. Below are her notes on where we are at the end of March:
In our last blog entry, the screenplay I’m writing for Ben Edwards was called “Kasey’s Story.” That title has evolved to “Casey’s Gift.”
The title of a screenplay can change many times before the final one is found. Even after the movie goes into development (when it is being produced), the title may still change.
We made this change for one simple reason: It’s hard to know how to pronounce “Kasey.” To be sure of its pronunciation, it should rightly be spelled “K.C.” And that isn’t the kind of name we want for our heroine: It is a little too abrupt and modern for this teen girl who, in high school, fights to dismantle a culture of cruel bullying.
She is helped in this endeavor by an unlikely assemblage of angels, some living, and some perhaps not.
As of this writing, I have reached p. 48 of the screenplay. If you have read prior blogs, you know that the working length of a well-written screenplay is 100 pages, give or take a few.
In “Casey’s Gift,” p. 48 is an important structural moment that we call the midpoint. This is the moment in a movie when the protagonist — the one who is fighting for something be it survival, justice, self-esteem, safety, health, family — comes upon a hurdle that is so great, it seems insurmountable.
On p. 48 of “Casey’s Gift,” Casey learns that she is under suspicion for a crime she did not commit. Just as she was making headway in her quest for justice, she is stopped by something completely unexpected that may drop her in her tracks.
Do I know how the rest of the story goes? A well-crafted screenplay is always outlined first, with all major events decided upon. While this doesn’t make writing easy, it does give control to the writer.
Happily, Ben is thrilled with the work thus far. The subject line of his email in response to the first 48 pages was, “Love it!” Music to a writer’s ears.
Over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to interact with screenwriter Diana Amsterdam by email and share my ideas for the screenplay. It has been a great experience. In our communication, Diana has noted, “we are so in synch about this story; it’s truly extraordinary! These ideas are doable, helpful, and inspired. I promise to honor your input when I write.”
My goal of including the story of Philip Edwards will be achieved and those familiar with my children’s book One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass will recognize an element of that story in the graphic for this blog post. But, this screenplay won’t be called “Phil’s Story.” Its impact will be far greater than that. I’m excited to announce, for the very first time, “Kacey’s Story.” My thanks to Diana Amsterdam for her assistance developing that working title, for her wonderful ideas, and brilliant writing.
Here is the latest update from Diana:
“As of today, December 23, 2015, I’m twenty-five pages into the writing.
“A screenplay is about one hundred pages. By page twenty:
- Know the characters
- See where they live and what they do
- Understand and connect with the protagonist’s DDD: Deep Driving Desire.
- Get a sense of the obstacles the protagonist will face
“The screenplay I’m writing for Ben Edwards has been given the working title “Kacey’s Story.” Kacey is a high school student who needs to live in a just world. This is her DDD.
“There’s extreme bullying going on at her school, both physical and cyber. She decides she has to fight the bullies and change the climate of oppression — no easy task, as the head bully is the principal’s son.
“To prepare to write the screenplay, I’ve researched bullying, cyber-bullying, and what some schools are doing to combat the climate of cruelty that so easily prevails among impressionable teens who want, most of all, to be popular.
“I haven’t secured an appointment to visit Naugatuck High School, although I did write the principal. I understand that my visit might be considered intrusive or distracting. Instead, I will visit a local Brooklyn high school to observe.
“There are some very specific questions I need answers to, and they may not be what you think. For example: How must I describe, in the screenplay, the dress of a popular high school girl? How does a less popular more “nerdy” girl dress in comparison? These specifics can only be answered by either direct experience or observation.
“Specifics make a screenplay come alive. When you read a well-written screenplay, you must be able to see the movie.
I’ve asked screenwriter Diana Amsterdam to provide a brief update for readers. That update is shown below.
“A well-written screenplay requires preparation. The idea of the screenplay comes first: the theme. Theme is not plot. For example, the theme of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” may be summed up like this: Under pressure, people turn on one another. This theme can be expressed in an infinite number of stories. The theme of the screenplay I’m writing for Ben Edwards may be summed up this way: One person with sufficient determination can set goals and change the world. Again, a million stories can express this. Once the theme is well in hand, the writer begins the process of plotting the story. This involves deciding on the place of the story, the people, and the time. Usually, there is one central character called the protagonist. The protagonist must have a strong desire: something that he needs desperately. His journey to get what he needs is called the through-line.
“In the story I’m writing for Ben, the protagonist is a girl. On her journey, she meets formidable obstacles, makes decisions, and changes. To prepare to write, I have visited the town that is the model for the fictional town in the story. I’ve let the story inhabit me, and envisioned how it happens. I’ve come up with the cast of characters and presented major events (things that happen in the story) to Ben, and he has approved them. Next, I must visit the town of Naugatuck again and spend time with high school students, learning about their hopes and fears, and hearing how they talk. This will take place in early December. I’ll then be fully primed and ready to write.”
On November 10, screenwriter Diana Amsterdam traveled from Brooklyn, New York to Naugatuck, Connecticut to perform research for the screenplay based, in part, on elements in my children’s book One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass. On a cold and rainy day, with the assistance of Roger Hamelin of Prospect Limousine Service who acted as her driver and tour guide, Diana visited sites connected with Philip Edwards and various neighborhoods in the town. She reported gaining some great insight and inspiration for the screenplay. The story Diana is writing will be set in a fictional Connecticut town similar to Naugatuck. A second trip to Naugatuck is planned in about a month. Working with Diana I’m getting a real appreciation for her attention to detail and the steps she takes in the creative process even before the writing begins. I also love her enthusiasm as she starts to “build the story.”
Here is my reply, sent on October 20, 2015, to the October 19 email from screenwriter Diana Amsterdam that you read in the previous blog post:
Thank you so much for your comments in the email below. They are right on the mark, honest, and very constructive — exactly what I had hoped for. I am in full agreement with all the points you made. I would very much like to work with you further on this and am absolutely willing to “crack the egg” as you noted. With your assistance I feel the odds of that are at least greater than any “pecking” I would do on my own. You’ll find me to be easy to work with, flexible in my thinking, and creative.
This project serves a dual purpose for me. Beyond developing something that would be marketable as a film (certainly the most challenging part but a lifelong goal of mine) I’m using this project to educate children about the goal setting process taught in my book — so persistence is key and giving up not an option. You might have noticed that one of the products I’m developing at Teach History is a unit and lesson plans on goal setting tied in with my eBook.
My goal can certainly evolve based on where the process takes me. That’s the exciting part. Every journey begins with a single step and my objective before contacting someone like yourself was to put my best foot forward realizing that I had just about zero knowledge of the field I was trying to break in to. I’m grateful for your willingness to assist me further. Can you let me know what you recommend for next steps and the associated cost? Look forward to your reply.
All the best,
Diana’s reply, sent on October 21, 2015, opened with the following:
Good for you, reacting in this way! Indeed, you are determined and decisive about your path. For my part, I’ve been absorbing your story, and percolating. This isn’t something I do on purpose; occasionally, it just happens–a very good sign! Great stories, in my opinion, are there in the world of truth, waiting to be seen and shaped by a writer. Your story may be one of those.
My best recommendation is to go forward immediately with the screenplay. I know that if you decide to do this, you will make a commitment to go the distance. This is very important.
The screenplay will be set in the present. We want to create something that has a chance in the marketplace. What’s more, I’ve just begun a production company, Brass Ring Pictures LLC, with a partner in Kentucky, and we will be well set up, by the time your screenplay is finished, to go out with it.
Ben’s note: Diana went on in her email to pass along information that I’ll need to keep confidential such as her excellent initial ideas for modifying my story into something marketable and her price for writing an original screenplay.
After Diana’s input, I revisited my goal: To turn a children’s book that teaches American history, the power of imagination, and the value of goal setting into a feature film or made-for-TV movie. I realized that my true goal was actually greater than that. What I’m really aiming for is creating a feature film or made-for TV movie that includes the story of Philip Edwards and utilizes that story, in some fashion, to positively impact the lives of children. I felt the initial ideas for the screenplay that Diana shared with me would move me closer to that objective.
So… would my journey have a Brooklyn connection?
I’m thrilled to announce that today, October 26, 2015, I signed a contract with screenwriter Diana Amsterdam hiring her to produce an original screenplay based, in part, on elements in my children’s book One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass. I have great confidence that she will do a remarkable job. The screenplay will be completed in 32 weeks (early June 2016) and I’ll update readers on our progress in this blog. I’ll be serving as Producer on the project, which has lead me to my fifth action step — reading books to educate myself about the screenwriting process and the elements of a screenplay which include the Inciting Incident — what sets the hero of the story on his/her quest.
My first action step for the One April in Boston Movie Project was creating three videos to introduce the book and Philip Edwards’ story to people in the film industry. You can view those videos at MovieGoal.com. My second action step was writing a series of blog posts that would provide additional background on Philip Edwards. Those 10 blog posts, written between September 9 and October 4, 2015 appear beneath this one. My third action step was locating a screenwriter willing to read both my book and supporting materials and give me his/her opinion on its potential for being turned into a feature film or made-for-TV movie (my goal). I ended up selecting New York based screenwriter Diana Amsterdam — “The Best Kept Secret in Brooklyn.” Diana reviewed everything I provided and sent me the following email on October 19, 2015:
I’ve read the book and reviewed all your materials. It’s a powerful story and I’m very impressed with your diligence and passion. You have stopped at nothing, turned over every stone, and, as you put it, completed an entire puzzle that otherwise would have been lost.
Is One April in Boston or related stories the stuff of a screenplay, or made-for-TV movie? Not quite.
Your decision to place the story in the present time is a good one; and to go back in time as flashbacks. Very smart. However, what is the current story? The story of Phil is a century old. The only story here that is current is…you. Your passion is the heart of all of this, in a way. Even more important, it’s the fodder for a story based in our time, making it much more marketable, and much more desirable.
Historical stories are very difficult to get made. The reason is cost. It costs more to set a story in another era, a lot more.
Yet I’m not quite seeing the story of you and your fascination–here, I don’t think we do have all the puzzle pieces. I’d have to know more, a lot more, to help you craft this into something marketable.
And, there is a deeper challenge. You see, a dramatic story must have conflict. It can’t be a lesson; it can be, but only through the lens of struggle and the overcoming of obstacles. Great stories are quests. There are dragons, either real or metaphorical. As a lesson for children this has great merit but how would that translate into entertainment for a larger audience?
As things stand, everyone in the tale is good. This may be the way it was but…I doubt it. There is one place where the preacher at Phil’s reburying in the U.S. says something about all that he must have gone through. Surely a boy in his early twenties would be afraid, going to war? Even heroes are afraid. Surely he would be conflicted about leaving his sweetheart. Surely someone in his life didn’t want him to go–and argued, fought.
Young people today are very sophisticated. They embrace stories of conflict and struggle. They are aware of themes such as bullying and injustice. The day of the all-good hero is…over, I’m afraid. In order to make this a worthy marketable story, we would need to find a hook. Install an antagonist. Connect the themes (such as going to war, always an important theme) to our own current times. Or, we could use the spyglass, possibly, as a metaphor for a gift of seeing the future that is valuable and worthy but also frightening at times.
You see what I’m getting at?
I’d be happy to work with you further on this but you’d need to be willing to crack the egg, as they say. Otherwise, there is a show on Travel Channel called “Mysteries at the Museum” (and its spinoff, “Mysteries at the Monument”) that deals with just such a tale as this. This show is accurate historically and often deals with true-life heroes in a tone I think you’d like.
If there is a relic in any museum that relates to your story, or a monument anywhere, I would recommend bringing them the story. Not quite the path you’re looking down but one that may have potential for you.
Or, there are screenplay contests and film festivals that deal specifically with spiritually-uplifting works. You might want to fashion a story for one of them. You’d still have to install conflict and struggle, though!
Let me know if you’d like to explore further. I wish you luck with a most fascinating look into a great history.
Hope this helps.
All my best,
Ben’s Note: If you are a teacher reading this as part of the unit “Goal Setting for Children” featured on our Products page, ask your students how they would react to the feedback above. Will there be a Brooklyn connection on my journey? You’ll read my reply to Diana in the next blog post.
The newly revised second edition (2015) of One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass contains a section called “The Journey Continues — Author’s Update 2015.” The following excerpt, which mentions my leaving the audio book of One April in Boston at Phil’s marker at Grove Cemetery, is from that section of the book.
“In late 2001, the audio book for One April in Boston was produced and early the next year I relocated from Connecticut to Boston. It was the place four generations of my ancestors had once called home. I became the first family member to live in Boston in nearly 150 years. On a return trip to Connecticut, a year later, I visited Phil’s marker once again. I was surprised to see that the spyglass I had left back in 2000 was still there. The wood had deteriorated and the metal had rusted but it was in the exact same spot. During this visit I left a copy of the One April in Boston audio book at the base of the marker as a lasting tribute to my childhood hero. A light rain started to fall and I took shelter under a group of trees and stood quietly, contemplating all that had taken place on my journey of discovery. What would Phil have thought about all this, I wondered to myself … or Ella … or any of the other people in my story who rest here?”
I was always struck by the fact that Philip Edwards had died so young, just 23 years old. When I was growing up, not a single photo of him existed but one wonderful story did. I mentioned this in my last blog post. Phil was truly amazing with children — like a “Pied Piper” of Naugatuck, they followed him wherever he went. He gave the neighborhood children rides aboard a horse-drawn wagon he drove while making deliveries for the local market in Millville. I could vividly picture the magical conversations Phil had with those children aboard that wagon and the gift he passed on to them through his words. Those moments became the premise for my book.
Since I was young I had always longed to see even one photograph of Phil, at any age, so I could glimpse the face of the one ancestor who captured my imagination more than any other. In 1997, a box was discovered in an attic by a relative. It contained a family photograph circa. 1905 that was clearly marked on the back so I knew it included Phil and his parents. Located in that same box was a photo of the Edwards home in the Millville section of Naugatuck, Connecticut. Another childhood photo of Phil, circa. 1908, was located as I worked on the book. (Phil can be seen on the right.) When I learned about Phil’s relationship with Ella, I wondered if a photo of them together might still exist. I felt Ella’s sister Doris was my best chance for locating such a photo but when she looked without success and eventually passed in 2004 I thought any chance was lost. I was wrong. What happened at Grove Cemetery less than two years later is nothing short of miraculous. Click the link below to “hear” the story.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows a portion of the picture of Phil and Ella that was discovered in 2006. To see the full image, click on the audio link above.
The photo above shows the Wininger family children, circa. 1915. From left, Doris (born in 1909); Llewellyn (born in 1906); Tom (born in 1902); and Ella (born in 1900). Eighty-five years after this photo was taken, in March 2000, I met 90-year-old Doris Wininger Harkins at her apartment on Crown Street in Meriden, Connecticut. I visited Doris with Fran Jenkins, age 70, the daughter of Philip Edwards’ best friend John Simmons. It’s a meeting I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I sat across from Doris, she in her comfortable upholstered chair, and asked her if she could tell me anything about her sister Ella’s relationship with Phil. She paused for a second, and then said, “I don’t know if I should tell you this.” Time stood still for an instant in that quaint little apartment. I sensed Doris’s memory was so sharp that she could easily take us right back to 1915 — if she were willing. Doris gazed at me with her blue eyes once again and repeated, “I don’t know if I should tell you this.” By this time, I was on the edge of my seat. And then, after a moment of reflection, almost as if she sensed Philip Edwards himself was sitting before her and had posed the question, she spoke from her heart.
“Phil was my sister’s true love,” Doris said. “She thought of him nearly every day until the day that she died. Before he went off to war, Phil gave Ella a locket that she kept his photo in. She wore that locket all the time. After Phil was killed in France in World War I it took three years before his body was returned to the United States. He was buried in Grove Cemetery in Naugatuck. I would go there with my sister often, just to stand by his marker and remember Phil.” Doris was quiet for a moment and then her memory seemed to take her further back. “When I was a little girl,” she said, “I remember Phil coming to our house. He delivered groceries for the local market by horse-drawn wagon. When he asked for my sister, I was so shy that I hid behind the door.” I told Doris that my grandmother Mildred Edwards had mentioned similar stories of Phil making deliveries in that wagon. How the children from the neighborhood would chase after him. He’d pick them up, one at a time, seat them beside him on the wagon, and tell them stories until they reached the next house. Doris had similar memories and recalled how much the children in the neighborhood loved and admired Phil.
Doris told me a few other interesting facts. She mentioned that Ella never completed high school — she went to work in a woolen mill on Church Street in Naugatuck after she finished the 9th grade. Doris also noted that Ella had brown eyes, a love of pond lilies, and was crazy for horses. She asked me if I would like to see a photo of her sister. I responded with an enthusiastic “yes,” excited to see a picture of the girl Phil had left behind when he went off to fight in World War I. Doris got up from her comfortable chair and walked into the next room. In a short time she returned holding a photo of Ella in her hands. “This was taken in 1921, when Ella became a nurse,” she said. It was truly a beautiful photo, even signed “Lovingly Ella” at the bottom. I asked Doris if I might borrow the photo to scan it so it could appear in my upcoming book. Doris said that she was so touched that I was remembering her sister through my story that she insisted I keep the photo. I was really moved by her gesture. Before Fran and I left, I had a final request for Doris. I wondered, when time allowed, if she might look to she if she had a photo of Phil and Ella together. Doris said she would check and let me know.
The day after I visited with Doris, I sent her a lovely bouquet of flowers with a note thanking her for taking the time to meet with me and for giving me the photo of Ella. About five days after sending the flowers, I received a wonderful handwritten letter from Doris. In it she told me something she forgot to mention in our meeting. The farewell letter that Phil wrote to his parents on July 19, 1918 wasn’t the only one he penned that day. He wrote one to her sister too. Although that letter has been lost to time, I’ll always wonder what Phil wrote to Ella that kept her feelings of love for him alive until she passed away some 70 years later. Doris also noted that she had not located any “old snaps” (snapshots) of Ella, Phil, John, and Ethel but if she did she’d send them to me. When One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass was released several months after our meeting, two of the first copies went to Fran and Doris. They also received copies of the audio book in 2001.
That memorable March day in 2000 was the only time I had the pleasure of speaking with Doris. She passed away in September 2004 at the age of 95 and is buried in Grove Cemetery in Naugatuck, Connecticut. This is the same cemetery where her sister Ella rests and where, together, they would visit the marker of Philip Edwards. Less than two years after her passing, something remarkable happened at Grove Cemetery that led to the discovery of a photo of Phil and Ella together. I like to think that Doris somehow played a role in getting this snapshot to me, keeping the promise she had made in her letter. More on the events that unfolded in my next blog post called, “Audio Book Left at Marker Leads to Treasured Photo.”
After he was killed in action on July 21, 1918, Philip Edwards rested in France for three years. Initially he was buried in a shell hole with three other American soldiers; then at the American Cemetery at Epieds; and finally at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Seringes-et-Nesles. The articles below mention the return of Phil’s body to his hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut on July 15, 1921 and cover his funeral service held two days later.
The Naugatuck Daily News, Saturday, July 16, 1921
Body Of Local Man Killed In Action Is Home
Private Philip Edwards to Be Laid at Rest Tomorrow With Full Military Honors.
The body of Private Philip Edwards, who died on July 21, 1918, while participating with the American forces in the great drive in the Chateau Thierry sector, will be laid at rest in Grove Cemetery tomorrow afternoon. The body of the late soldier was brought to Naugatuck last night from Hoboken, N.J.
Private Edwards was a member of Company H, 102[nd] regiment. He enlisted in the 102[nd] regiment when that outfit was training at Yale field in New Haven during the summer of 1917 and remained with that regiment from the time it left New Haven until he died in action in the Belleau Woods. He was one of the first local men to make the supreme sacrifice overseas.
The arrangements for his funeral are in charge of Naugatuck post, No. 17, of the American Legion. Commander Norris M. Follett of the Legion post here has named the pallbearers John Simmons, Warren Birdsall, Arthur Holmes, C. Arthur Fager, William Lilley and Frank Wylong. Ex-servicemen of the borough are requested to meet at the town hall in uniform at 1 o’clock tomorrow. The firing squad that will officiate at the burial has not been designated as yet by Commander Follett, but Private Edwards will be laid at rest with full military honors.
The funeral will be held from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards at 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, to the Congregational church, where services will be conducted at 2:30 o’clock by the minister, the Rev. Edward R. Hance.
The Waterbury Republican, Monday, July 18, 1921
Tribute Paid To Philip Edwards
Lived and Died Gallantly; Boro Honors Memory
Naugatuck, July 17.
Pvt. Philip Edwards, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Edwards of Rubber avenue, who was killed in action while going over the top at Chateau Thierry in July, 1918, was laid in his final resting place in the family plot in Grove cemetery this afternoon. Full military honors were bestowed at the grave. The flag-draped casket was lowered in the presence of his parents, relatives and friends, and the buddies who were with him when he breathed his last. Former members of the 102nd regiment of the 26th division, of which Pvt. Edwards was a member, acted as the pallbearers and marched in the funeral procession as an escort.
It was one of the most impressive military funerals ever held in Naugatuck, being made so by the impressive church services which were held at 3 o’clock in the Congregational parish house. A simple but mindful service was conducted by the pastor, Rev. Edward R. Hance, who also paid a glowing tribute to the gallant hero.
The eulogy was made more stirring when a letter, the last written by Pvt. Edwards to his parents on the eve of his going over the top in one of the greatest battles in the world’s history, was read. The letter, which demonstrates that the dead soldier was brave to the core, is as follows:
(Note: Phil’s farewell letter can be read in One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass. The version in the actual story appeared in this July 18, 1921 issue of The Waterbury Republican. Author Ben Edwards first read that version as a child. A second version, which appeared in the July 19, 1918 issue of the Naugatuck Daily News, has since been located. The two vary slightly. The second version is also in the book — in a section in the back called “Philip Edwards’ Correspondence from France.”)
The Rev. Hance took “There is No Discharge in That War” as his text. “This service is doubly sacred,” he said. “We are not only laying to rest a loved one, but placing in an honored grave the body of a patriot. The fact that he was a soldier demands that tribute of love and respect to be laid in his grave, and this we gladly do because he had a part in the great sacrifice which meant so much to us all.” Rev. Hance then read the letter, saying that it reminded him of the text he took.
“This war was not the only war he fought,” Rev. Hance said. “His life was a life of battles and therefore he was a common soldier with us all. I refer to the battles of life from which there is no exemption. That is the warfare in which we are all engaged. Our enemies are all the agencies in the world which are opposed to God, to right, and to ourselves. We are either for or against the righteousness of God. We are engaged in a battle that will continue until death. The last enemy to be met is death.
“To every man there comes that inevitable hour and in our battle with death there are no grounds on which to obtain exemption. When summoned there is no retreat. Death is a field on which every man in succession must fall. Every man must fall in his conflict with death, but he may fall a victor, as death can destroy only the physical body. A man’s soul may rise victorious and cry, ‘Oh Death, where is thy victory; oh grave, where is thy stain.’ Every man must fall in conflict with death, but in the words of Edmund Vance Cook, ‘It isn’t the fact that you are dead that counts, but only, how did you die?’ How this man died is told in the letter which I have just read.”
The funeral which was in charge of Naugatuck post, No. 17, American Legion, took place at 2 o’clock from the house. The pallbearers were John Simmons, Warren Birdsall, Arthur Holmes, C. Arthur Fager, William Lilley and Frank Wylong of the 102nd regiment, and William Krodel and Norris M. Follett, commander of the American Legion post. Those who fired the salute as members of the firing squad and in charge of Sergeant-at-Arms Benjamin Wilcox were Michael Shea, Joseph Casey, John Ostroski, Leroy Grant, Raymond Russell, Felix D. Strucenski, Gaston Kaupinas and Richard Ostrom. McIntyre Lilley acted as color bearer and Arthur Baummer and Lawrence Foot were the color guard. Taps was sounded by Bugler George C. Thomas.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows members of the 102nd Regiment of the 26th Division speaking with Phil’s relatives after his burial at Grove Cemetery on July 17, 1921.
It’s hard to imagine the emotions Philip Edwards’ parents must have felt from the time they received the telegram on Monday, August 12, 1918 announcing that their son had been killed in action, to Sunday, August 18, 1918 when they received what turned out to be Philip’s farewell letter. The following article appeared on the front page of The Waterbury Republican the day after Phil’s parents received his final letter — Monday, August 19, 1918.
All Hope For Pvt. Edwards Is Shattered
Father of Naugatuck Soldier Receives Farewell Letter From Son Now Dead.
Naugatuck, Aug. 18. — After nearly a week of suspense Benjamin Edwards of Millville has given up hopes that his son Pvt. Philip Edwards is still alive somewhere in France. A letter received today by him from his son shattered the hope that had been most tenaciously clung [throughout] the past week. The letter was dated July , and was such a letter as is written home by the soldier boys just before going into action, and in it Pvt. Edwards said that if the letter were delivered here it would mean that he had given up his life in action. On Monday of last week Mr. Edwards received a telegram from the war department officially announcing that his son had been killed in action on July 9. Letters that had been received on July 10 and 12 however raised a big doubt and the possibility that there might have been a mistake.
In an effort to secure verification of the report, the adjutant general was appealed to, but no reply has been received. Since that time a letter dated July 15 was received. From the conflict between the date of the telegram and the dates of the letters it had been hoped that there might have been a mistake in sending the message, it not being considered probable that there was any mistake in the dates of the letters as three of these received were dated after July 9. A belief held that it might be the case that the date in the telegram was incorrect, now seems confirmed. It is thought that Pvt. Edwards was killed on July 29 and not on July 9. His name appears on the casualty list issued by the war department tonight. The period of time that it usually takes for a name to appear on the casualty list after the casualty itself, has just about elapsed. In support of this belief it is held that the name of Pvt. William Bulka of Union City, who was wounded in action on July 21, did not appear until last Monday morning, or three weeks after he had been wounded, and Pvt. Edwards’s name appears on the list also three weeks after his death, if July 9 is taken as the correct date.
Pvt. Edwards enlisted in the 102[nd] regiment on April 14, seven days after war was declared by this country. He left for overseas duty about the end of October. He was the only child of his parents, and his mother has been prostrated with grief since the receipt of the war department message last Monday and her condition is serious. Pvt. Edwards was 23 years old, and before enlisting in the service of his country, for which he was to give his life, he was employed at the Bristol Co. plant. He is the second Naugatuck boy to have laid down his life on the battlefield in the fight against Prussianism, and his chum, Pvt. John Simmons, with whom he enlisted over a year ago, was the first Naugatuck boy to be wounded in action. Pvt. Simmons, however, has since recovered, and has been back in the fighting line for some time past. The first Naugatuck boy to be killed in action was Stanley Raskowski of Union City, also a member of the 102[nd] regiment.
Note: Philip Edwards’ original farewell letter no longer exists. The photo at the top of this blog post shows a re-creation of a portion of that letter produced by illustrator Cortney Skinner.
The newspaper article below was located in the Tuesday, August 13, 1918 issue of the Naugatuck Daily News. The original telegram mentioned in the article no longer exists. Cortney Skinner, the illustrator for One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass, did extensive research into WWI era telegrams and his re-creation of the telegram Mr. and Mrs. Edwards received on Monday, August 12, 1918 is shown above.
Second Naugatuck Boy Is Reported Killed In Action
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Edwards of Millville Receive Word From War Department of the Death of Their Son.
A telegram from the war department was received yesterday by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Edwards of Millville, announcing that their son, Philip Edwards, had been killed in action in France on July 9. Letters received from Private Edwards dated July 10 and 12, have raised the possibility of a mistake, and a telegram has been sent to the war department asking for a verification of the telegram received yesterday, but up to this afternoon no answer had been received.
Last week Mr. and Mrs. Edwards received a letter from their son, the letter being dated July 10. Miss Ella Wininger, a Naugatuck young woman, who is now taking a course of training to become a nurse at the Griffin hospital in Derby also received a letter, this letter dated July 12. From both letters it was apparent that Private Edwards was in the midst of the fighting that is going on at the front. In the letter to Miss Wininger he said that “he had seen all the side shows, and was now at the circus,” and this is taken to mean that he and his company had been placed in the front line trenches. In that letter he also mentioned the fact that there were no Y.M.C.A.’s where he was and that it was impossible to get writing materials. The letter was written on a piece of paper which was not letter paper.
In his letter to his parents, Private Edwards stated that he “was still at the front” the last words of the statement being crossed off by a censor in lead pencil but still quite visible underneath the pencil marks. In the face of these facts Mr. and Mrs. Edwards are holding out hope that there has been a mistake, and are anxiously awaiting the reply from the war department to the telegram for verification of the report received yesterday. Private Edwards’ name has not yet appeared in any of the casualty lists issued by the war department.
Private Edwards, who is 23 years old, and the only child of his parents, enlisted in Company [H] of the 102[nd] infantry on April 14, 1917, just seven days after the declaration of war by the United States against Germany. With him at the same time was John Simmons of Carroll street who enlisted in the same company. The two young men were chums, and Private Simmons was the first Naugatuck young man to be reported as severely wounded in action, having been wounded early last spring. Private Simmons has since recovered from his wounds, and is back in the front line trenches, as indicated by reference to him in Private Edwards’ letter to his parents. Private Edwards also referred to Warren Birdsall, son of Mr. and Mrs. Warren Birdsall of Maple street in his letter to his parents. His letter to his parents was as follows:
July 10, 1918.
Dear Mother and Father:
It has been a long time since I have written any letter and no doubt you are greatly worried. But we have been up against it for writing material and this is the first chance I have had to write for some time.
I saw Warren the other day and he is looking fine. All the boys from here are well and happy. We are still looking forward to some mail. It has been nearly a month since we had any. John received some that had gone to the hospital after he left, and he let me read it. Of course it was rather old but it helped cheer us up. In one of them we found a two dollar bill and maybe that old American money didn’t look good. The darn stuff they have over here rots in your pocket if you keep it any length of time. It is just like a piece of newspaper.
Well, there is nothing to write about, I guess you get the war news about as quick as we do. We are still at ————. Will close with love and kisses.
A note from illustrator Cortney Skinner:
To produce an authentic re-creation of the telegram received by the Edwards family about their son’s death, it took some delving into my own document collection as well as some online research.
Western Union telegrams changed form over the decades, and so the correct basic format and layout for a 1918 telegram had to be found. At the top of the telegram can be seen the local Naugatuck Western Union office where the telegram was received before being delivered to the addressee. The number “30” stated the word count in this telegram, since the sender was charged by the word, here the sender being the U.S. “Govt.”
The notification of the Killed in Action death is worded in a standard way and is “signed” by Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, Peter Charles Harris who served as the AG from 1918 to 1922. Notice that no company, division or service details for Private Edwards are given in this telegram other than the branch of service, “Infantry.” This was due to security concerns during WWI. If detailed information about the casualties of Edwards’ company and division were known by the enemy, they would then know how successful their own military operations might have been.
Eighty-six years ago, in the village of Belleau, France, a stone church was dedicated. To this day it remains unlike any other church in the country. Its walls are adorned with stunning stained glass windows featuring Saint Michael, Joan of Arc, George Washington, Lafayette, and a French soldier and American doughboy from World War I. During the day these stained glass images are brightly lit, and their subjects appear to come to life — the American soldier standing guard over an honor roll of names. Two thousand seven hundred names are engraved on the church walls, heroes all. And among them, a private named Philip Edwards.
How and why was this remarkable church built? In actuality, it was rebuilt. More on that below.
After the battle of Belleau Wood, the men of the 26th “Yankee” Division relieved the Marines at Belleau, and on July 18, 1918 were to advance and take the village. The German troops were hidden in the village of Belleau and the hill above the town. A five hundred-year-old church stood in the center of the village and its tower became an enemy observation post and machine gun position. Major General Clarence Edwards ordered the 103rd Field Artillery to fire and destroy the village and church. After the battle, he promised to rebuild the church for the people of Belleau.
Ten years after the end of the war, the church was rebuilt at the entrance of the village. The funds for the project came from veterans of the 26th Division. The new church was dedicated on October 10, 1929. At the dedication ceremony, Brigadier General John Sherburne spoke about the men of the 26th Division who died in France and the plans to honor them. He also addressed the special friendship between France and the United States. Some of his words follow. They are taken from the November 1929 issue of Yankee Doings — a publication of the Yankee Division Veterans Association.
“A century and a half ago, your soldiers helped us in our struggle for independence; your blood mingled with our soil and our community is still grateful to France, our friend.
“Eleven years ago, nearly 3,000 New England men gave up their lives in the common cause. We, their comrades, that their sacrifice may not be forgotten have erected this Memorial and upon its walls will inscribe their names, and we have thought it appropriate that this Memorial should stand upon the soil of France where these men still lie.
“By the necessity of war, it was our misfortune to destroy the church which served this parish for five hundred years and we have thought that as well as building a memorial to our own dead, it would be fitting and proper to restore to this town its place of worship.
“We have rebuilt your church, using the old stones and plans, as nearly as possible as it was and it may be interesting to you to know that the money which has made this reconstruction possible has not come from public subscription or State aid but has been given almost to the last dollar by the men of the Division itself. It is to be your church, not ours, and it is given into your custody for your own use in the hope that the record of our sacrifice which it contains may be a permanent and undying pledge of the community of faith and friendship between our two countries.”
Major General Clarence Edwards also gave an address at the dedication of the Yankee Division Memorial Church. His remarks ended with the following words: “Beneath the sign of the cross, the symbol of the complete sacrifice, we, the Veterans of the 26th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces, dedicate here in Belleau, France, on the 10th day of October, 1929, this church. May it stand here for centuries to come as a reminder of our sincere love for France — as a monument to that unity which is ours in Peace — and as a visible evidence to our comrades that we have kept the faith with them so that they can sleep in peace in the “cradle of Victory.”
Shortly after the first edition of One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass came out back in 2000, I sent a copy to Bill Simmons in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bill is the oldest son of John Simmons — Philip Edwards’ best friend. John and Phil served together in Boston’s 26th “Yankee” Division. I received a beautiful typewritten letter from Bill telling me how much he had enjoyed the book and passing along other details about his father. Bill mentioned, “I know Dad loved Phil as you can love a brother. The death, and the fact that he was not with him at the time, affected him for the rest of his life.” He noted, “Dad never spoke about his WWI experiences.” Pressured to do so, “he told me a number of times about this one big battle…The Battle of Bunker Hill. I don’t know how old I was before I realized he was gently pulling my leg because he didn’t want to talk about his campaigns in France…and he was in five of them.”
The complete text of Bill Simmons’ wonderful letter appears below.
Dear Mr. Edwards:
Or may I please call you Ben?
Yesterday’s mail brought a package from my sister, Fran Jenkins, with a copy of your book, “One April in Boston.” I read it from cover to cover last night, and was much impressed.
Of course, I never knew Phil Edwards personally, except through mention of him within my family. I knew he was my father’s best friend, but Dad never spoke of his WWI experiences. A lot of what I learned was by eavesdropping on conversations among the vets at the annual American Legion picnic in Naugatuck.
When my mother died and we had to break up her home, I wound up with a lot of her memorabilia which no one else seemed to want, and which I felt shouldn’t be tossed out. When I came to Hawaii for good, I just couldn’t bring an excess of things with me, and I gave a lot of it to my niece, Carol Lawton, who was (and still is) working on a genealogy of the Simmons Family. Thanks God I did. I remember many years ago reading a newspaper clipping of Phil’s final letter to his parents before he was killed in 1918. And I had seen, and was so touched by, the letter my father wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Edwards after that.
I was surprised to see the picture of Phil and my Dad in their World War I uniforms in the book. I’d thought for many years that I had the only copy of that…which now hangs on my living room wall…but did find out shortly before my sister-in-law’s death that she and my brother had a second copy, which you obtained from my niece, Pat Risley. And there’s the copy of Dad, Phil and another youngster which you obtained from Carol Lawton, from the stuff I’d given her.
I never met Phil’s father, but I had met his mother on a few occasions. She was an elderly lady living, I believe, at the time in the Moodus area. As a small boy I can remember driving there with my Mom and Dad, and visiting with her. She was quite deaf, and had an old Gramaphone type ear trumpet one had to speak into so she could hear anything. I knew both my parents were very fond of her, due to the close relationship between Phil, my father, and the Edwards.
I’m aware that your story was in large part fictionalized, but I was amused by the tales of their fishing trips to Long Meadow Pond, a place I’d hiked to numerous times as a youngster. Dad was a great fisherman, and he taught me to love the sport, too. One thing I find hard to believe is that Warren Birdsall caught more bass the day of their bet than my Dad did. Hmmmm!
When I was a child, I always was fascinated with things military. Always pressured my Dad to tell me about his experiences in the Army…and he told me a number of times about this one big battle…The Battle of Bunker Hill. I don’t know how old I was before I realized he was gently pulling my leg because he didn’t want to talk about his campaigns in France…and he was in five of them. The combat vets just didn’t talk about that. Swiping fruit from an orchard, almost missing their ride in a 40&8 boxcar because of slipping into a village to buy bread at a French bakery, yes. But combat, no. So I got to hear a lot about us chasing the Redcoats back down Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill) twice before running out of powder and shot.
Incidentally, Ben, my Dad came out a Sergeant, and he had one Purple Heart, not two…he should have had a second for being gassed, but a medical orderly didn’t list it correctly in his records (called it flu), so the one Heart came from his gunshot wound. Dad was cited in orders three times, and was awarded the Silver Star…which I have in my possession. I have his copy of the History of the 102nd Infantry, and have looked these things up. I also remember being told…and not directly by my father…that he was in the hospital as the war was drawing to a close in Nov., 1918, and “deserted” the hospital to return to H Co., 2nd Bn., to be with his outfit when it ended. Quite a man, my father.
Mostly from things my mother told me I knew how close he and Phil were. It really didn’t dawn on me what that closeness meant until later in life, after I’d been in the military myself, and could understand the bond that results from growing up together and then fighting together. I know Dad loved Phil as you can love a brother. The death, and the fact that he was not with him at the time, affected him for the rest of his life. You always wonder that, if I’d been there, I might have prevented it. I wish that he and I had been able to talk about his experiences. I’d be able to understand a lot more of the man I’ll always believe is the finest man I’ve ever known.
Thinking back, I was aware of the closeness between Ella (Wininger) Boardman and Phil. You pointed out in the book that my mother, Ethel Elliott, and Ella were close friends. Did you also know that Ella was my mother’s niece, the daughter of Daisy (Elliott) Wininger, the eldest of four daughters of my grandmother and grandfather Elliott? My Mom was, I believe, three years old when Ella was born, and they grew up more as sisters then aunt and niece throughout their lives. Ella was more than old enough to be my mother, but I always thought of her as my favorite cousin. But yes, they were best friends, too. The picture of my Mom and Ella standing in the mud outside the farm across the street from the old homestead is one I don’t think I’ve seen before. Right in back of them, where the old barn was eventually torn down, was where I built my own home back in 1958.
Probably by the time you receive this you’ll have seen Carol Lawton. I talked to her earlier today and told her I was going to write to you and ask to purchase two more of your books. One I’ll send to my daughter in Florida, and the other to a good friend there, who I’m sure will find it of interest. Carol said she’d pick them up for me, so I’ll be hearing from her, but I couldn’t let this go without writing and letting you know how much I enjoyed it.
One more thing. Back in the late 40s after I’d been discharged from the service, I knew of an Edwards, who lived in Bethany. I think his first name was Ben or Benny. He was a World War I vet who had been shell shocked, and never fully recovered.
At that time a small restaurant called Dick’s Dinette existed on South Main Street in Naugatuck, later wiped out by the 1955 flood. It had a small bar on one side, and the restaurant on the other…five cent coffee, 15 cent hamburgers, 15 or 20 cent pieces of pie. Anyway, it was a hangout for the returned vets.
Benny, and I’m almost sure that’s what he was called, used to come in from Bethany a couple of times a week, and some of the creeps used to tease him, actually ridicule him, because he was…Simple. It always bothered me. I knew he’d been hurt in WWI, and if they’d been through WWII why couldn’t they just understand and just leave him alone? One night when they were ragging him, I got into the middle of it, dragged Benny aside, and told them to bug off……for which I promptly got my clock cleaned. Nah…..nothing serious, but they did thump me pretty good. Or two of them did, til someone stopped it. I think most of the guys were as embarrassed as I was by it, but….what?…..peer pressure?….whatever, most didn’t want to get involved. Benny and I did go and have a beer together after that, but the next time I saw him, I don’t think he remembered. Whether he was part of the Edwards clan, your Edwards clan, I don’t know.
Finally, Ben, I really did enjoy your tale. I’d not heard of the Church at Belleau Wood, and wish I had. Dad was there, and he probably knew of it. Best of luck to you with your work.
And thank you, too, for your personal inscription.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows, from left, Private Philip Edwards and Private John Simmons before they went to France in 1917.
Any movie based on the life of Private Philip Edwards would likely include a scene from the “Welcome Home” parade for the 26th Division held in Boston on April 25, 1919. This blog post contains information on that historic parade as well as details about Private Edwards return home two years later.
It was a day the press called “the most glorious in Boston’s history.” A million people lined the parade route to welcome home 20,500 soldiers of Boston’s 26th “Yankee” Division. The parade began at 1 o’clock, starting from Charles and Beacon streets. The parade route went up Beacon Street, past the State House to Park Street, by Park Street, to Tremont Street, to Boylston Street, to Arlington Street, to Commonwealth Avenue (northwest), to Charlesgate West, to Commonwealth Avenue (southeast), to Berkeley Street, to Boylston Street, to Massachusetts Avenue, to Columbus Avenue, to Park Square.
In attendance at the State House, on a chilly and windy day, were the Governors of all the New England states, and most of the New England senators and congressmen. At Commonwealth and Massachusetts avenues 2,000 soldiers of the “Grand Army of the Republic“ sat, their old flags flying above them. These veterans of the Civil War cheered on those of the latest generation.
Below is a portion of an article on the “Welcome Home” parade that appeared in The Boston Post on Saturday, April 26, 1919. Beautifully written by journalist Harold F. Wheeler, it began with the following banner headlines:
Boston Roars Welcome Home To Heroes of Yankee Division
Wondrous Spectacle for City as Prides of New England Show the “Home Folks” Their Mettle — Parade Moves Through Streets Packed With Cheering Thousands Who Gave the Boys a Thunderous Reception — Fully a Million People Lined the Way to Witness Historic Event — Weather Alone Fails to Be on Good Behavior.
General Edwards and Colonel Logan With Others Receive Mighty Reception
Boys Happy at Fine Showing — Proud Day For Parents, Wives and Sweethearts
By Harold F. Wheeler
Heaven echoed their welcome!
They came home yesterday, truly home, the heroes of the Yankee Division, and their home folks, about 1,000,000 of them, paid to them all homage and honor and tribute.
Feet that had tramped long, weary miles through Flanders yesterday rang the cadence of the parade step through Boston’s streets — streets transformed into triumphal avenues.
To the right and to the left, as far as the eye could reach, were solid masses of people. They filled grandstands and overflowed them. They filled sidewalks and ran up the steps of buildings. They clung to ledges and cornices. Windows were filled with them, roofs. Chimney pots were lost among them.
Mighty banks these people made, banks a-blossom as with flowers tossed in a breeze. For everywhere, sprung up from the massed multitude, from above the miles of peering faces and shining eyes, were waving flags. Above them bunting and laurel. And between these human banks the Yankee Division flowed by as a river of khaki.
The progress of the heroes — all New England could have followed it, even though all New England had not been there. Cheers marked it, cheers that rose to a tumultuous bellow and rolled along with the marchers — the bellow of Boston’s and New England’s greeting.
Never such a scene in Boston before. Never, probably, again.
Many Looked For Faces Missing
A leaden sky was overhead when the parade started. But there was sunshine in the hearts of all, even those who could not hold back their tears as they watched the marchers and saw a gap in the ranks — a gap that told of a hero who had gone forth and had paid the supreme sacrifice, a hero who sleeps the sleep eternal, his body beneath the blood-soaked soil of France, his soul in heaven above.
Through their tears those who mourned such a hero cheered with the rest. It was as if they felt what General Edwards put in words when, halting once, he turned his horse to look at the division’s honor flag. A flag with a white field, it was, one gold star in the centre and beneath the centre the numerals, “1760.” That many the Yankee Division gave to save civilization.
“The thought,” said the general softly, “that is constantly in my mind is the 1760 we left over there. They are lying there that we may march here.”
Sun Shines Glorious Benediction
But there was sunshine for all as the parade ended. Just as the last of it came to the dismissal point the clouds opened and the sun shone forth. Like a benediction it was — a benediction to the division that marched through its triumphal avenues yesterday into history. For never again will the Yankee Division, as a unit of the army of the United States, pass in review.
In August, 1917, the division came into being. Heroes from all New England comprised it — men of New England’s old National Guard regiments. There was the world war, and they volunteered. Through all the history of New England, New England men had been the first to volunteer — in 1776, in 1861, in 1898. These men were true and staunch to the noblest traditions of their sires.
And so, in the night, they slipped quietly away to France in September, 1917 — the first National Guard division to enter the world war. There had been no parade, no cheers. The war precluded that. But they had gone. And they fought the good fight, went through the world war hell and immortalized themselves at Seicheprey, at Verdun, at St. Mihiel, at Chateau Thierry. They with their countrymen who later joined them won the war. And yesterday was the day that they had looked forward to from the night they slipped away to France — their welcome home as victors. Boston and New England did not disappoint them. Boston and New England gave them the victor’s welcome.
Many Waiting Since Dawn
Many, many days ago, preparations were completed. Yesterday Boston and New England turned out to carry out those preparations. With dawn people were abroad, those who had not been fortunate enough to secure grandstand seats seeking vantage points from which they could wave their welcome, give their heart-cheers. Men and women and children there were among those early crowds. There were mothers and fathers of the heroes among them, wives and sweethearts, sisters and brothers.
Each hour saw the crowds grow larger. By noon the parade route held its multitude. The human banks through which the khaki river was to flow were formed. Through all the great length of the parade route there was not a vacant place. And what a sight! The color of it! Like a trail ablaze the route was.
Not a building but what was draped in bunting that rose and fell with the wind. Flags were everywhere. They flew from millions of staffs. They hung suspended — thousands upon thousands of them — over the streets. And the waiting multitude — it seemed as if everyone along the whole six miles held another. Then there were the Corinthian pillars, white pillars garlanded with laurel and topped by gold eagles. Boston was in carnival attire.
In Full War Equipment
The men wore their steel casques, wore knapsack and slicker. At right shoulder they carried their rifles — the same rifles that they carried in France. And above the brown stock of the guns were fixed bayonets. In the light of the leaden sky the bayonets appeared like a field of marsh grass in the fall.
Unit after unit swept up Beacon Hill, then over the trail ablaze. Behind General Edwards, a truly gallant figure on his sorrel horse, came the division’s flag of honor, with honor escort. Then came in automobiles those wounded heroes unable to march — heroes with empty sleeves, whose legless bodies and bandaged heads told more than all that ever may be written of the hell passed through in France.
But every man in every one of the automobiles smiled. And some — those who could — answered cheer with cheer.
The article concluded with these words:
The day was the most glorious in Boston’s history — in New England’s history.
The men, 20,500 of them, practically all left of those who went overseas with the division, were in the parade. Their appearance told its own story — their service stripes, their wound stripes, their medals — Distinguished Service Crosses, Croix de Guerre.
Their names will endure forever — immortalized at Chemin des Dames, Apremont, Xivray, Bois de Belleau, Torcy, Etripilly Plateau, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Raiville, Verdun, Meuse-Argonne.
Always Boston and New England will thrill at the sound of YD — at the names of YD heroes — always and eternally.
Private Philip Edwards journey back to the United States began more than two years after the Yankee Division “Welcome Home” parade in Boston. Initially buried in a shell hole with three other American soldiers, he was reburied in November 1918 at the American Cemetery at Epieds. In June 1919, Phil’s body was moved to Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Seringes-et-Nesles, France. He rested here until May 6, 1921 when the process of bringing his body back to Naugatuck, Connecticut began.
On his final journey, Phil traveled from France to the port of Antwerp, Belgium where his body was placed aboard the U.S. Army transport ship Wheaton. After a 23-day ocean voyage, the Wheaton reached Hoboken, New Jersey on July 2, 1921. Phil’s body left New York on July 15 aboard a New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad train with Private John McCarthy of the 16th Infantry serving as his military escort. Later that day, Phil was home. In the words of Boston Post journalist Harold F. Wheeler, one of the heroes of Boston’s Yankee Division was “truly home.”
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows the 26th “Yankee” Division nearing the corner of Tremont and Boylston streets during their “Welcome Home” parade in Boston on April 25, 1919.
The story of Philip Edwards is the main focus of the proposed feature film or made-for-TV movie based on my book. In the book, children learn about the people he loved, the choices he made, and what motivated him to put his love of country above all else. The newly revised second edition (2015) of One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass contains a section called “The Journey Continues — Author’s Update 2015.” This section describes the extensive research performed by one of France’s finest military historians into Private Philip Edwards’ service in World War I.
Here are two excerpts from that section of the book:
“In 1999, as my research into Philip Edwards continued, I had the good fortune of locating and corresponding with a very knowledgeable military historian named Gilles Lagin of Marigny-en-Orxois, France. Gilles spent a significant amount of time tracing the route of Philip Edwards and the 2nd Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th Division. He supplied me with photographs, maps, a time-line, and regimental history tracking Phil’s final days in France. From Gilles I learned that Phil’s name appears on a wall inside the 26th “Yankee” Division Memorial Church at the entrance to Belleau. The stone building is the only memorial in France dedicated to the men of the Yankee Division.”
In September 2011, after a tip from author James Carl Nelson (The Remains of Company D), I had a researcher visit the National Archives and pull the World War I Burial Case File for Private Philip Edwards, U.S. Army Serial Number 65385. The extensive information in the file included first-hand accounts from fellow soldiers of how he was killed. They also noted he was “well liked by all the men, good natured, a company runner, about 5 ft. 5 in. tall and weighed 120 pounds with light hair and complexion.”
“In the spring of 2012, I contacted military historian Gilles Lagin who had performed research for my book over 10 years earlier. Using new and detailed information found in Philip Edwards’ Burial Case File at the National Archives, and original battlefield maps, Gilles planned a trip that summer to see if he could find the precise location where Phil’s company had fought and where he had died. On July 22, 2012, almost 94 years to the day that Phil was killed in action, Gilles found the fighting position of Phil’s company in the forest, some U.S. World War I cartridge cases, and even the shell hole where Phil had initially been buried with three other American soldiers. Gilles took numerous photos around the place and the view of Trugny from that area noting that the wheat had not yet been harvested, so the fields were much like those Phil would have seen in July 1918.”
“In 2012 and again in 2014 Gilles made trips to the 26th Division Memorial Church, as he had done at my request many years earlier. During these visits he took beautiful photos (with better camera equipment) inside and outside the church including Philip Edwards’ name carved on the honor wall with other members of Boston’s 26th Division who made the supreme sacrifice for their country.”
Today Gilles continues his work as a battlefield tour guide in France specializing in the Marne River salient of 1918 (the Reims, Chateau-Thierry, and Soissons area) and the battles fought by U.S. forces there; as well as the battles fought by the U.S. Marine Corps at Belleau Wood, Hill 142, and Bouresches. He has served as a military advisor for the movie “The Lost Battalion” and has an extensive role in the upcoming documentary film “The Devil Dogs” that follows an American family’s pilgrimage to learn more about their ancestor who fought with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Battle of Belleau Wood. Gilles is the owner/operator of the only museum in France devoted solely to the American Expeditionary Forces, located in Marigny-en-Orxois.
Note: The photo at the top of this blog post shows Gilles Lagin working with a group of students during a battlefield tour.
The video below, produced for the movie pitch, called “Finding Philip Edwards in France,” contains the photos Gilles took of the areas where Phil fought and the church where his name is carved.
As author of the children’s book One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass I have the wonderful opportunity to speak with grade school students during school author visits. For the first 30 minutes of my presentation I discuss the beginning of the American Revolution — particularly Paul Revere’s Ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. For the second 30 minutes I talk about the book’s underlying theme of goal setting for children. I educate students about the goal setting process that the story teaches and encourage them to vividly imagine themselves having already achieved their goals and avoid using language like “I can never picture myself doing that.” We talk about the benefit of putting goals in writing, taking action toward their achievement each day, and NEVER giving up on them. I also tell them not to be afraid to set goals they might consider to be “too lofty.”
While working on the newly revised second edition (2015) eBook of One April in Boston I decided to take the opportunity to create a real life example for students. I established, in writing, the lofty goal of pitching the book and Philip Edwards’ story as a feature film or made-for-TV movie. My first action step was creating three videos to introduce the story to people in the film industry. You can view those videos at MovieGoal.com. This blog is where I will update the students I work with on the action steps I take in pursuit of my goal. They will learn about the feedback I receive, the setbacks I face, and the progress I make. Proper pursuit of any goal requires consistent action. Establishing this Movie Goal Updates blog is another important step on my journey! You can access it at MovieGoalBlog.com. Stay tuned…
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