Christmas in May During the Great War
My grandfather, Louis Browngardt, arrived in Sag Harbor in 1881 with his new wife and one son. He had worked in the Fahys watchcase factory in Carteret, N.J. which was closed. He was one of many skilled workers transferred to the new Fayhs’ factory build in Sag Harbor. His family lived on the corner of Suffolk St. and Jermain Ave in one of the Fahys built “factory houses.” The house, now located in Redwood, was moved years later to help “round out” that busy corner.
The good news was the work supported his family, which had grown to seven boys by 1917. The bad news was that the U.S. had entered the Great War and our Secretary of War, Newton Baker, pulled the first draft lottery numbers in mid July 1917. The Browngardt boys and young men of age in Sag Harbor had already completed required draft registrations. Draft inductees “certified for service” for the new U.S. National Army were announced in the September 6th issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The Riverhead District included the following names:
William Kiselyak, Frank Collins, Carl Browngardt, Joseph F. Nolan, George F. Battle, Edwin B. Hale, Stanley E. Heinrichs, and Joseph Kunigonis.
U.S. involvement had escalated rapidly and these men were inducted in Riverhead on September 19, and boarded the train to Camp Upton (now Brookhaven National Labs) the same day. Many more volunteered and those inducted followed. Uncle Carl at this time was 29 years old, single, and employed as a watch engraver at Fahys. He received training at Camp Upton and in France with the 304th Field Artillery. However, after arriving in France, front line losses led to his transfer to Company L, 307th Infantry, part of the famous N.Y. 77th Division also known as the “Liberty Division.” The U.S. Army at this time promoted offensive action from the trenches and the 77th participated in major sector engagements including the Meuse-Argonne (still the largest battle ever fought) and Argonne forest sectors.
On December 12, 1918, Grandma Browngardt received the following western-union telegram: “Dated Washington D.C., Deeply regret to inform you that it is officially reported that Private Carl Browngardt Infantry was slightly wounded in action about October 17th, further information when received. HARRIS THE ADJUTANT GENERAL”.
Carl remained in France with the 307th until May 1919 when he returned on the U.S. Army transport “America.” Unfortunately many did not live to return home, including 11 from Sag Harbor. The “Liberty Division” lost 2,275 killed or missing in action and almost 5,000 wounded. Among those killed in action from Sag Harbor were George F. Battle Pvt. Co D 308th Infantry (killed 10-2-18) and James F. Chelberg Pvt Co A 306th Infantry (killed 9-6-18). Many soldiers also succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918 including Paul K. Baer Pvt 25th Field Artillery (3-19-18) and William Edward Jobe Jr., Pvt Tank Corps (10-4-18). Some that did not make it back are buried in the vast WWI cemeteries in France, Belgium (Flanders Field) and England.
Some of those who made it back used to tell my Mom (Gladys Browngardt) that she was the first person from Sag Harbor they talked to (via a free telephone call permitted). Mom worked as a telephone operator at the manual switchboard in the house on Union Street. All calls (including the who, what, where, and when) went through the operator.
Uncle Carl received his honorable discharge on May 9, 1919 and upon his return to Sag Harbor was pleased to find the Christmas tree up awaiting him! The Great War was over! He received a “Certificate of Appreciation” from Casper Schaefer (president of the village) and the “Columbia” certificate, signed by Woodrow Wilson. This certificate (prior to the Purple Heart) was given to all those wounded or to the families of those who made the supreme sacrifice. The inscription on the “Columbia” certificate sums up the sacrifice made by our soldiers, navy, and marines in this Great War.
“Columbia gives to her son the accolade of the new chivalry of humanity.”
This conflict always made me wonder if my grandfather had any reservations about his sons fighting the Germans in Europe. Born in the little village of Ostheim v.d. Rhon in Hessen, he arrived alone in the U.S. at age 16 to start a new life. He had even served in the Hessen army artillery, leaving Germany in 1873 just after the Federation. However, he loved America, renouncing the emperor of Germany in 1887 when he received his citizenship documents. Also influential were his Sag Harbor friendships and his activity in many civic organizations including the Momoweta Tribe of “Redmen.” One picture of this tribe included not only my grandfather but the grandfathers of many of my high school friends! Descendants of Crozier, Babcock, Schaffer, Butts, Jobe, Mitchell, etc. are still living in the area. Grandfather passed away just before the U.S. became active in the War. My family had the opportunity to visit Osteim v.d. Rhon and the name Braungardt is very prominent. Auto dealer “Heinz Braungardt,” hotel hostess “Barbara Braungardt,” etc. Visiting the local cemetery, one Great War monument included the name “Carl Braungardt.” Yes, there were cousins on both sides of the Great War.
The Memorial Red Poppy
Please share this bit of history for your readers.
In Flanders Fields
By Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly,
Scarce heard amidst the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago we lived, felt dawn saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch—be yours to hold it high;
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, through poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.
In the years following the First World War, veterans returning to their homes in this country remembered the wild poppies which lined the devoted battlefields of France and Flanders. The soldiers of all nations came to look upon this flower as a living symbol of their dead comrades’ sacrifice. The Memorial Poppy program was started to remind America-at-peace of the price of war and sacrifice. To remind the public of the debt owed to all those who have served and died.
The Chelberg and Battle American Legion Auxiliary of Sag Harbor will be distributing poppies along the parade route on Memorial Day. Please support our veterans and let us never forget the cost of those who served so gallantly to protect this great land of ours. It’s a small way to show our respect. Remember and wear a red poppy!
Jeannie Notturno, Poppy Chairperson
American Legion Auxiliary
Chelberg and Battle Post #388
We Can Win Energy Battle
I was very happy to read that the Town of Southampton set a goal to have 100% of the town’s electricity delivered from renewable sources by 2025 (“Southampton Town Adopts Energy Goal,” May 11).
For those who still harbor doubts about the need for offshore wind, fear for their pocketbooks or just want to kick the renewable energy can down the road, I offer just two words: climate change.
Only non-carbon sources of electricity are going to slow climate change. Without such options, the future will be increasingly disastrous for Long Island, its coastal real estate, economy, agriculture and fisheries. And scientists tell us that we don’t have much time to act.
The Long Island Power Authority’s newly released Integrated Resource Plan takes this science seriously, laying out a roadmap to renewable energy and energy efficiency as the paths to protect Long Island’s future.
So I urge those with doubts about offshore wind to collaborate with wind farm developers to find solutions to potential short-term impacts, such as siting that could affect fishing grounds. In the long term, you will be the winners, as will we all.