163 – Coming Home

With orders for home, the 137th Regiment boarded trains at Sampigny on March 7. They arrived in the Le Mans area three days later. The companies were dispersed to surrounding towns and villages, Company M to Monfort-les-Gesnois. Far from the desolate battlefields, the men enjoyed a couple weeks of “the best accommodations since [their] arrival in France,” whether in billets or private homes.

Easter Aboard the Manchuria
163
The Tiller and Toiler – February 6, 1919

Following this respite, they moved to what was known as “the Belgian Camp,” where they slept in tents and were subjected to medical examinations, inoculations, and “cootie baths” to make them presentable to their mothers.

April 4, an overnight train from Champagne took the regiment to the coast at Brest, France’s westernmost port. After a week’s wait in cantonment, a morning march, loaded with all their gear, took them to the docks. From there, they were conveyed by light boats to a transport ship anchored a mile out in the bay. France, as its final farewell, drizzled rain on them.

Easter Aboard the Manchuria

The Manchuria was a freighter converted to a troop ship. She steamed out of the bay on April 13, 1919, headed for Hoboken, New Jersey.

USS Manchuria – 1919

There were 4,771 men aboard. The conditions were cramped. There were bunk cots, three high and two feet apart. I’ll bet the men didn’t care. They were going home.

Troops aboard the USS Manchuria – 1919

The voyage was uneventful.

On Sunday, April 20, the ship’s chaplain held Easter services on board.

Thanks to the journal-keeping Haterius, we know what meal Private B. F. Potts shared with his comrades that Sunday a century ago: “For our Easter dinner, beans were served—nothing more, nothing less—beans and beans only”.

Easter Aboard the Manchuria

Ship Manifest – Ralph Jarvis – USS Manchuria – April 12, 1919

Good old USA

The Manchuria docked at Hoboken on April 23, 1919.

Discharge and home

After a few days at Hoboken, the regiment took trains for Camp Funston, Kansas. They stopped in Topeka, Kansas on May 7 to parade down the main street. The All-Kansas regiment was back in Kansas.

Ralph and others received their discharge papers at Camp Funston on May 9 and 10.

They had spent nearly two years in service, traveled around 15,000 miles and helped break the great Hindenburg line to win the War!

A History of the 137th Infantry – An All-Kansas Regiment

The soldiers were discharged and given a rail pass to Larned.

When we were inspecting Ralph’s uniform recently, we found his rail pass in his uniform pocket, just where he left it many years ago.

A visit to Indiana, and mother

Before Ralph returned to Larned, he made a trip to Indiana to visit his mother, Anna Burton Jarvis Mounts Stafford. Anna was living in Anderson, Indiana with her husband Samuel Stafford.

Ralph’s grandmother, Eliza Burton, was still living in Greensburg, Indiana. It seems Ralph visited her too, for he sent a postcard with a picture of the famous courthouse tree.

Larned at last

At last, Ralph was home in Larned. It had been a year and three-quarters since Company F had shipped out. Ralph was glad to be home. Chleo was glad he was there. They would take up their relationship once again.

Chleo Webb and Ralph Jarvis – 1919

Sources

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