An intimate tracking of officers’ perspectives during World War I.
In this complement to his previous study of some of the enlisted men in Company D of the 28th Regiment, The Remains of Company D (2009), Nelson focuses on the officers of the same regiment, all volunteers who were siphoned through the officers’ training camp at Plattsburg, N.Y. They sent copious letters home and happened to have come through Harvard more or less at the same time. By 1915, the Plattsburg “preparedness camp,” originally organized by Theodore Roosevelt, was key to providing the officers sorely needed for the war effort, after only three months of training. Richard Newhall, 29, from Minneapolis, was teaching history at the college while working on his doctorate; bookish, bespectacled, not gung-ho about the militaristic mood of the country, he was hoping to work for “the welding together of the liberty-loving peoples into a great cooperating society.” The other four included George Guest Haydock, a 22-year-old Quaker from Massachusetts; William Otho Potwin Morgan, who was from a rich Chicago family and wondered how his education had brought him to the “cold killing of men who are fundamentally the same as I”; George Alexander McKinlock Jr., 24, heir to the Central Electric Company in Lake Forest, Ill., who volunteered out of a sense of duty to prove his own mettle; and George Buchanan Redwood, from Baltimore, who thirsted all his life for military experience and became an intelligence scout. The lieutenants expressed exasperation with the pettiness of army command structure, the misery of trench conditions and the occasional awkwardness of speaking with much less educated men.
This eloquent work of the toll of war builds moving stories through a wealth of personal detail.