Military – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Carl Everett Bailey was their oldest son and they were immensely proud of him. Charles and Viola Tennison Bailey had photos made of him in a time before snapping a thousand selfies was even a thing. As you might expect there were lots more pictures of Carl than of any of the later nine children. But, that’s how it goes for the eldest.
He was born in Milton, Indian Territory on the 5th of June, 1896. Charles and Viola had married just the previous September. By 1900, they had moved back across the Arkansas River into Sebastian County, Arkansas, to Hackett where Charles had grown up.
By August of 1916, the world was at war. Or at least Europe was. The US was sort of, kind of trying to straddle the fence and stay out of things while still being in things in its own way. But, the US was not yet at war. Carl was twenty years old and wrote a letter to his parents that seems to have take them by surprise. I am not sure where they thought he would be, but from the letter, obviously, this was not the place!
Carl had gone up to Missouri and had joined the Army! This was something that he had wanted to do for some time. This was to be a career rather than a short term of service. He has long felt like the Army is a good profession and he’s really looking forward to it.
I get the impression that this is something that maybe his parents are not so keen on. In his letter, after he drops his bombshell, he sets out to convince then that the Army is a good life, that it’s not as hard as people make it out to be, and that he has lots of opportunity ahead of him.
Carl might have misrepresented things a bit to get into the Army. He says that the enlistment officer must have misheard him when he said his age was twenty and refused to correct his mistake for fear of losing his position. But, in 1916, a man under 21 had to have his parents’ written consent to enlist. This was changed to 18 in 1917, but in 1916, he still needed their permission. (By the way, Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, has a great article about this at https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2012/01/24/a-doughboys-age/)
But, in the Army, he was. And he was happy about it. He certainly looks proud and happy in his uniform.
From basic training at Jefferson Barracks, he went to Eagle Pass, Texas. His duty was as a mechanic. Eagle Pass is right along the Rio Grande River and the border between Mexico and the U.S. You might recall that there were a lot of border tensions at that time. Pancho Villa had attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico in March 1916 and the mood was still tense. So, the Army patrolled the border.
One night in April 1917, Carl was returning from guard duty at the Blocker Ranch. While he was about 60 miles from Eagle Pass, the truck he was in was in an accident and he was thrown from it. His leg was run over by the heavy truck, resulting in its amputation above the knee. He also received a serious puncture wound to the groin in the accident. And so ended his military career that he had been so excited about.
Carl returned home to recuperate and rehabilitate. He spent time in Army hospitals and worked to receive a pension. It could not have hurt that his uncle, who just happened to be the presiding judge of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, wrote to advocate on his behalf. He received his pension, but still needed a way to supplement it for a living. He tried several things that would not require his having both legs. It looks like he tried sewing and watch repair and sales, both.
Just to add insult to injury, while recuperating and rehabilitating from his injuries, Carl came down with tuberculosis. He went to Ft. Bayard in New Mexico, a U.S. Army sanatorium for servicemen who contracted TB. Carl took a number of photos that captured what it was like at Ft. Bayard and the surrounding area. He even drew layouts of the interior of some of the buildings. He made friends, participated in debate, and taught Sunday School there.
In the end, though, Carl’s life was a short one. Based on all of the things of his that his parents saved, he continued to be a favorite of theirs. He always appears to be smiling in his photos. I am sure he had times of brooding and regret for running away to the Army. But, maybe not. He had taken the chance to do something that was important to him. And that in itself was important to him. Carl died in April 1923 at the age of twenty-six, just six years after he joined the Army.
One thought on “Carl Joins the Army”
You may be right in your assessment that he didn’t regret his service in the Army, despite the accident and contracting TB. It’s still a real shame, though.