One hundred years ago at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Great War officially ended. My great grandfather, Philias Gouin, served in the US Army during WWI and was a member of the 103rd Field Artillery, Battery B.
The 103rd was primarily made up of Rhode Islanders. The unit had been formed in 1801 as the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery (PMCA). In the beginning, they mostly protected local shipping concerns during the Barbary Wars. They were also called into action during Rhode Island’s Dorr Rebellion, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War.
When Woodrow Wilson announced that the United States would be entering the war against the Imperial German Government on 06 April 1917, the 103rd was ready. At this time they were comprised of only Battery A and they began to recruit in earnest. On 04 May 1917 (Rhode Island’s Independence Day), they led a parade through the streets of Providence. They practiced public drills at the Cranston Street Armory, hoping to inspire young men to enlist. On 08 May 1917, they held a rally at the Benefit Street Arsenal featuring a rousing speech by a hero of the Spanish American War. So many men were convinced to enlist, that they split into 3 batteries, A, B, and C.
WWI soldiers at the Cranston Street Armory
Philias may have been one of the young men at the rally on May 8th, because he enlisted the following day. On 25 July 1917, the unit reported for duty and were told they would be going to Quonset Point for training. They trained at Quonset through the end of August, and then moved to Boxford, Massachusetts for additional training.
On 09 Oct 1917, the 103rd, including Philias, departed for Brest, France from Hoboken, New Jersey. They participated in the Second Battle of the Marne, the Third Battle of the Aisne, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, amongst others.
Battery B of the 103rd Field Artillery at the Second Battle of the Marne
After the Armistice Treaty was signed, the men remained in France until March of 1919. On 31 March 1919, Philias boarded the USS Mongolia and headed home. He arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on 10 April 1919 and was discharged from service on 29 April 1919.
Last weekend I attended the annual meeting of a genealogical society I’m a member of. One of the speakers was an expert on military history and research. He asked his audience to raise their hands if they had a grandfather or great grandfather who had served in WWI. I was incredibly proud to have my hand in the air.
So, on this centenary of the end of the Great War, I’m remembering those who served during that War, and am also so thankful for all of our Veterans who serve to protect our freedoms.