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.