27 More Days!

By BECKY WINDHAM IVY,

On October 15, 1918, my great uncle, John Lemuel Windham, died in an area of France only 27 days before the Armistice to end fighting on land, sea and air between the Allies and Germany was signed.  That date marked the end of The Great War:  World War I as we have designated it in later times.

In Homewood, MS in the United Methodist Cemetery is John L.’s tomb with the portrait taken of him before he deployed overseas. That tombstone has Chateau Thierry as the town where he perished. During a trip through Europe, his name was listed on an archaic computer system (at one of the beach cemeteries on France’s northern shore) as KIA in Bois-de-Casenvoye, France. Our nation maintains many cemeteries in the lands where we have fought and I explored both the one at Chateau Thierry and at Bois-de-Casenvoye for Uncle John L.’s name.

The administrator at the latter told me if his body had been sent home, he would not be listed in the records. This gentleman, David Atkinson, researched the 29th Division, 116th Infantry for me while my family and I toured the grounds. I was told that the 116th was “tucked” into the 29th with a division from New York and they chose the name Blue and Gray since there were both northern and southern soldiers included.

The commander of the 116th wrote to my great aunt, Lois Windham, and told of John L.’s death.  That letter has been published at least twice in The Scott County Times, soon after the war was over and again several decades later. An account and history of the 29th Division during World War I can be found in the New York Public Library. The book details the advances that our soldiers made to  push the Germans away from Paris. The Commander’s letter explains that Uncle John L. was shot by a sniper about 8:30 a.m. on October 15, 1918.  Thankfully he wrote that John L. did not suffer, but was running with the troops, all his equipment still slung over his shoulders.

The history describes how the area was torn up by Germans who had fought in the area and great holes had been created by their guns. One description told how a sniper had set up several posts with guns and ammunition ready for the soldiers who would be headed his way and he kept moving from one of his posts to another. I can only imagine that could have been the sniper that downed Uncle John L. just 27 days before Peace!

Two of John L.’s siblings named children after him:  Lemuel Clate Windham, March 28, 1929 and John Lemuel Shepard of the Mississippi Delta area, both are now deceased.

May God bless those American soldiers who have fought for freedom around the world,