A letter from First Lieutenant James W. Alston to H. H. Brimley on October 6, 1918 about being shot by a machine gun in the war.

James William Alston was a First Lieutenant in the 372nd Infantry, an all-black regiment, during World War I. Alston was born in Wake County, NC on January 16, 1876. In 1907, he started working as a janitor and messenger for the State Museum, later the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. During the war, Alston wrote several letters to H. H. Brimley, who was white. Brimley was a curator and the first director of the State Museum.


Oct 6 / 1918

My Dear Mr Brimley
I have not had the time to write before since the last drive started not even to my wife, and I don't suppose I would be writing now if it was not for the fact that I am sitting up in a hospital bed with a machine gun bullett through my right shouder.

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I have a French Edition of the New York Herald of this date stating that the Huns want peace, so you can see that I must write to celebrate as the nurse won't let me get up.

This last drive is something fine from Switzerland to the sea, and every where Fritz is doomed. In my little sector we were the reserve at the commencement but on the third day we took the line, and it was just as General Sherman said "Hell." but the good work had to go on, so on we drove on the heels of Fritz, - passing him back through the lines as fast as we overtook him, killing with bayonets those who manned the machine gun nest. The French 75 high guns racing to keep up

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had a hard time and my company ran two days ahead of our rolling kitchen and the men had to subsist on about 1/2 iron ration but what did the [they] care so long as they had the bosh on the run, all they want is to end the war because they have a horror of the winter over here in the trenches and you know my people are at their best in the good old summer time. I will be back with my --------------

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company in about a month I am told but I hate to stay away that long, and I believe every man here wants to get back and help finish a job that we think is near finished. The prisoners are a poor looking lot and don't seem to have any fight left in them, they surrender readily where there are no officers to prevent them

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This is about all the news I have and it is no secret. My regards to all my friends in the Dept. especially Jim and tell him to keep praying and we will keep fighting.

Write when you can to yours very respectfully
Lt. James W Alston
372 R. I. [?] U. S.
American Exp Force