July 16, 1918: Corporal Daniel Angus Chisholm

Chisholm Daniel Angus oval crop

Date of Birth: February 8, 1879 at Salmon River, Guysborough County

Parents: Andrew and Catherine (Boyle) Chisholm

Siblings: Sisters Margaret Ann, Lucy (Mrs. Robert MacDonald), Margaret Mary (Mrs. Cyrus MacLellan); brothers Roderick, Andrew, Charles, Angus, Alexander, Alexander “Hugh” & William

Marital Status: Single

Occupation: Electrician

Enlistment: May 19, 1917 at Fort Slocum, New York

Unit: Company A, 6th Regiment Engineers

Service #: 157812

Rank: Corporal

Previous Military Service: None

Next of Kin: Roderick Chisholm, Bronx, Bronx County, New York (brother)

Date of Death: July 16, 1918 near Crézancy, France

Initial Resting Place: Oise Aisne American Cemetery, Seringes-et-Nesles, France (1918 – 1921)

Final Resting Place: Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York (1921)

Daniel Angus Chisholm was born at Salmon River Lake, Guysborough County, the fifth of 11 children—three girls and eight boys—in the family of Andrew and Catherine (Boyle) Chisholm. In 1801, Daniel’s paternal great-grandfather, Hugh Uisdean MacThomais Chisholm, set sail from Fort William, Invernesshire, Scotland, on the ship Nora, bound for Pictou, NS. During the sixteen-week voyage, smallpox broke out among the 500 passengers and approximately 62 immigrants—mostly children and young adults—were committed to the sea.

Upon arrival at Pictou, the passengers were placed in quarantine. Father MacEachern, later the first Bishop of Prince Edward Island, came to these new settlers’ aid, staying with them for several weeks. When the time came for Father MacEachern to return to the Island, several of the new settlers accompanied him. One was Hugh Uisdean MacThomais Chisholm. He would spend a year as a servant to the Governor of the Island before returning to the St. Andrews, NS area, where his family had settled. Daniel’s maternal great-grandfather, Angus (Pioneer) Boyle, left Scotland in the early 1800’s, settling in Beauly upon his arrival in Antigonish County.

Daniel A. Chisholm’s parents were married at St. Andrew’s Church in 1873. The couple moved to Salmon River Lake, where their first six children were born. They returned to Caledonia Mills around 1884, where the remainder of the children joined the family. Tragedy struck in 1898 with the loss of a son, Angus, followed by the death of a daughter, Margaret Ann, in 1899.

Following the death of Daniel’s father, Andrew Chisholm, in 1901, his oldest brother, Roderick, began the Chisholm family migration to New York. After Catherine Boyle Chisholm’s passing in 1904, the siblings continued the migration to New York begun by their oldest brother. The last and youngest, William A. “Will,” left Nova Scotia for New York in 1911, following the death of his brother, Andrew, who had married and remained at Caledonia Mills.

Until the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, all of the Chisholm men worked as lineman or electricians with local utility and telephone companies in the New York area. Five of the six brothers subsequently enlisted for overseas service. While the oldest brother, Roderick, remained in New York with his wife, family and sisters, he eventually registered for the United States military draft in mid-September 1918.

On May 19, 1917, Daniel Angus Chisholm enlisted with the 6th Regiment, US Engineers, at Fort Slocum, near New Rochelle, New York, where he was employed as an electrician with a local utility company. Fort Slocum would process more than 140,000 First World War recruits from across the northeastern United States during the country’s overseas involvement. Two weeks previously, Daniel’s younger brother, Charles, had enlisted with an artillery unit, while a second younger brother, Will, enlisted with the National Guard five days prior to Daniel and later served overseas with the 58th Artillery.

Early the following month, a fourth brother, Hugh, registered for the United States military draft and was later assigned to the 501st Engineers’ Service Battalion. A fifth brother, Alexander, also enlisted for overseas service with the 58th Artillery, the same unit as Will. Following the war, the Chisholm brothers’ sister, Margaret Mary, married Cyrus Joseph MacLellan, a native of PEI who enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in May 1916. After several years in New York, the couple returned to Nova Scotia and settled in Antigonish, where some of their descendants still reside.

Chisholm Brothers AEF cropped lower res

In November 1917, Hugh became the first Chisholm brother to sail for France. Early the following month, Daniel departed for overseas, while Alexander, Charles and Will made the crossing in early May 1918. On May 27, 1918, the New York Herald published an article about the five Chisholm brothers from Nova Scotia who were now serving in France as part of the American forces, while their oldest brother, Roderick, remained on the home front in the Bronx, caring for the remainder of the family.

The 6th Regiment Engineers—Daniel A.’s unit—traces its origins to the early days of the American Civil War. Established December 31, 1861 at Washington, DC, as part of the “Regular Army,” the unit was expanded in 1901 to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Engineers. On July 1, 1916, the 1st Battalion Engineers was re-designated the 1st Engineer Regiment. Following the United States’ entrance into the war in April 1917, the unit expanded to form the 1st, 6th and 7th Regiments of Engineers. Before year’s end, authorities abbreviated the names to 1st, 6th and 7th Engineers. On October 1, 1917, 6th Engineers—Daniel’s unit—was attached to the American Expeditionary Force’s 3rd Division.

6th Engineers departed for France in early December 1917. The unit completed its first deployment in the forward area during the “Somme Defensive” (March 21 – April 6, 1918), supporting British and French resistance to the German “Spring Offensive” east of Amiens. Shortly afterward, on April 20, 1918, Daniel was promoted to the rank of Corporal. The unit remained in the Amiens area until mid-June 1918, when its personnel relocated to the Champagne – Marne Sector, approximately 100 kilometers east of Paris.

As personnel commenced work on a defensive system, they “found it difficult to believe themselves within range of the enemy artillery.” Daniel’s Company A established operations in the Bois de la Jute area, under the command of the 30th Infantry Division. Over the next six weeks, 6th Engineers constructed rifle pits, fox holes, slit trenches and strong points in the forward area. By mid-July, work “was in an elemental stage” and personnel “scattered over the entire area” as events took a dramatic turn.

Shortly after midnight July 15, 1918, German artillery launched a massive barrage on the 6th Engineers’ sector. Company A was particularly hard-hit, as “German guns, small and large, were concentrated on [its] position to an extent never before experienced. Shelter could be obtained only in the emergency trenches which were dug in the center of the camp.” Officers immediately ordered all men into that location.

Meanwhile, “great destruction was wrought in the camp by shells… [as the area was] subjected to heavy shell fire.” One shell struck the emergency trenches, killing four and wounding many others. At 5:15 a.m., the Company received orders to move to trenches at a nearby farm and assume a position in reserve. If attacking German forces captured the nearby village of Crézancy, Company A would be called upon to launch a counter-attack.

The Company held its position into the following day, “the men that were not actually needed in the line [carrying] ammunition for a battery… which was directly behind the trenches.” At 2:00 p.m. July 16, personnel received orders to return to camp, “but on the way back… [were] spotted by an enemy scout plane, which later drew fire on the camp. This barrage set off an ammunition dump only 60 yards away, throwing missiles of death in and around the camp for more than an hour, killing four and wounding forty.” Later that night, “the dead were buried and the Company moved to [a nearby] hillside.”

Corporal Daniel A. Chisholm was one of Company A’s July 16 fatalities. In the aftermath of his passing, his younger brother, Charles, shared some of the details surrounding Daniel’s death in a letter to their oldest sibling, Roderick. According to Charles, Daniel was “following his squad to cover” when he “was killed by shell fire.” He was “buried with 16 comrades in separate graves with a cross and name affixed to each of them.” While Daniel was initially laid to rest “two kilometers south of Crézancy and eight kilometres east of Château-Thierry,” his remains were re-interred in Oise Aisne American Cemetery, Seringes-et-Nesles, 20 kilometres north of Crézancy, shortly after the war.

Charles also provided Roderick with an update on his remaining brothers’ circumstances: “Alex and Will are with me now… [and] all are quite safe. Alex and Will are attending telephone school. I have only got out of artillery school with months of training still to go. So you see we are all doing very little. Dan was in the line since last March [1918] with only a few soldiers in France.”

In November 1918, tragedy once again struck the family when both Lucy (Chisholm) MacDonald and her husband, Robert, a native of Fairmont, contracted the Spanish flu. Robert would die from the illness’s effects. While Lucy was too ill to attend her husband’s funeral, she eventually recovered and raised their four children to maturity.

Throughout the war, the wives and mothers of the United States’ fallen soldiers voiced their desire to have their fallen husbands and sons returned to American soil. While British and French tradition at the time was to bury their fatalities near the battlefield where they had gallantly given their lives for their country, during the American Civil War the United States commenced the practice of returning their bodies to their home soil, a practice that continues to this day.

Following the November 11, 1918 Armistice, the American government sought to implement this policy for its overseas fatalities. At first, France refused to co-operate, believing that all of their energies should be devoted to rebuilding their country. Finally, in late 1920, France granted the United States military permission to begin returning their fallen soldiers to American soil.

In November 1919, the United States government sent a letter to all fallen soldiers’ next of kin, giving them the choice to have their loved ones repatriated or remain in an overseas American Military Cemetery. The Chisholm family chose to have Corporal Daniel A. Chisholm’s remains returned to the United States.

On July 2, 1921, Daniel Angus Chisholm’s casket arrived at Hoboken, NJ, aboard the ship Wheaton. Eight days later, General Jack Pershing, the former Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, stood on a Hoboken pier alongside the remains of the first fallen American soldiers to return home. In the presence of over 7,000 caskets, General Pershing delivered an emotional tribute to all Americans who had died on foreign soil during the war.

Chisholm Dan A burial
A Re-interment Ceremony

Sounding much like Pericles, he described the soldiers as men who deserved great glory because they had fought for freedom. “They gave all,” he said, “and they have left us their example. It remains for us with fitting ceremonies, tenderly with our flowers and our tears, to lay them to rest on the American soil for which they died.” Within days, each soldier’s remains were returned to his hometown and buried with honour by friends and family. Corporal Daniel Angus Chisholm was laid to rest at Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.


One thought on “July 16, 1918: Corporal Daniel Angus Chisholm

  1. Thank you for this detailed history of my noble uncles. So proud of them, not only as soldiers, but for the men they were: kind, gentle, hard-working men of strong faith. So lucky to have witnessed their example in everyday life. ❤️

    Like

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