We had a great program last Thursday with Matthew J. Davenport, former JAG lawyer and now a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, NC who is the author of the book, First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America’s First Battle of World War I.
This battle has a certain significance to Wilson, NC because one of its sons, Lt. Robert B. Anderson, was killed in the fight leading his troops against entrenched German forces to the south of the city of Cantigny. Robert was the brother of Wade Hampton Anderson who married Lalla Harper of the Luby Harper family that I wrote on recently.
The battle was important because of the pressure on the Americans from the British and French to prove themselves in battle before they trusted them with holding any part of the front lines that were seriously under threat as the Germans poured in troops from the eastern front for their giant offensive.
The Americans proved their mettle as they took the town from the Germans with the help of 10 French Schneider tanks, a creeping barrage of hundreds of artillery guns (including gas shells), flame throwers and 4000 American and French troops.
The Battle of Cantigny on May 28-31, 1918 was the first act for the American troops that then led to the larger battles of Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood and the eventual, final defeat of the Central powers on November 11, 1918.