While my dad’s Uncle Albert and his brother Ray (my grandfather) performed alternative service during WWI, the other two Charboneau brothers — Tom and Dewey — were called to active duty.
Yet they mustered in so late in the war that each only served briefly — and neither went abroad.
Orville Nile “Tom” Charboneau was inducted into the U.S. Army in Little Falls, Herkimer Co., N.Y. on 3 Sept. 1918. According to his service card, he was appointed as a Private 1st Class on 15 Oct. 1918. However, where he served is a bit of a mystery.
Where did Uncle Tom serve?
Tom was in service when his brother Uncle Albert died from the 1918 influenza — and his places of service were given in Albert’s obituaries.
- One obituary, in the 24 Oct. 1918 issue of the Utica Herald Dispatch, says Albert was survived by a brother “Orville, who is stationed with the American forces at Fort Schuyler on Long Island.”
- Another of Albert’s obituaries, in the 29 Oct. 1918 issue of the Little Falls Journal and Courier, lists him as “Orville, of Camp Shutler, L.I.”
Meanwhile, his service card — under Organizations served in, with dates of assignments and transfers — says he served in “C Def of Eastern NY Ft Totten NY Co 9 to disch.”
Did Tom have three assignments?
Is it possible that Uncle Tom served in all three places? Maybe so. There were temporary WWI training camps all over Long Island at the time, so he could have started out in a Camp Shutler.
And if Tom was in coastal defense, then Fort Schuyler (located on Long Island Sound in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx) seems consistent with the final assignment listed on his service card — Fort Totten (in northeast Queens on Long Island Sound).
With so many soldiers mobilized, there was undoubtedly a great deal of troop movement here and there to fill assignments — and Tom may have been caught up in that during his brief time in service.
Proud to be veterans
Tom was was honorably discharged on 9 Dec. 2018 at the end WWI — after serving for three months.
Uncle George Dewey Charboneau’s time in the Army was even shorter than Tom’s. He was drafted on 11 Nov. 1918 — but returned home before reaching camp when Armistice was declared, ending the war.
Yet despite their brief stints, both Tom and Dewey were proud to be veterans. In his book Herkimer County in the World War: 1916-1918, Franklin W. Christman compiled an Honor Roll of Herkimer County veterans of WWI.
Here are Tom and Dewey’s entries, which I later confirmed they authored themselves in response to a survey.
CHARBONEAU, ORVILLE N., Little Falls, N.Y.; born April 23, 1891; drafted September 3, 1918; U.S. Troops, Syracuse, Fort Schuyler; discharged December, 1918.
CHARBONNEAU, GEORGE D., Dolgeville, N.Y.; born June 12, 1898; drafted November 11, 1918; returned before reaching camp, Peace Day; honorably discharged.
A Memorial Day posting
Fast forward to the year 2000, when this Honor Roll appeared online as part of a Memorial Day celebration — then to 2006, when I first saw Tom and Dewey’s names on the list and emailed for details.
Back came this response from Marine veteran Paul T. McLaughlin, Village of Ilion editor for the Rootsweb site where I found the list. Sadly, Paul died in 2017 so I will let him have the last word.
I continue to be amazed by how many inquiries I have received since that list was posted in the 2000 4-County Memorial Day extravaganza. Here’s what your relatives wrote in response to the questionnaire. [Here he typed in the above listings verbatum.]
Strange that they spelled it [their surname] differently, but that may have been a typo from the transcriber. Orville [Tom] had only to serve a couple of months, and George [Dewey] was drafted on Armistice Day, so they didn’t have much to write about. That’s good!
Up next: The deadly 1918 influenza emerges. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.