This is the final post for a multi part post on the family history of Benjamin Kent, Please see parts 1-4 for further background information.
Benjamin Kent was born 9 December 1893 in Baltimore, Maryland.[i] He was the son of Daniel Kent and Julia Gantt, and his family life was discussed above. Kent’s time as a soldier was brief, but he witnessed much.
The Selective Service act was established on 18 May 1917.[ii] Its goal was to increase, temporarily, the numbers in the U.S. armed forces. Less than one month later, on 5 June 1917, Benjamin Kent attend the draft registration.[iii]
From his draft card we learned more about Benjamin. It stated he was medium height, of a stout build, with brown eyes and black hair.[iv] His occupation was a farmer, we could assume on his father’s land, and that he resides in Huntingtown [sic], Maryland.[v]
We do not know exactly when Benjamin was called to duty. However, on 23 May 1918 the Adjunct General of the Army ordered the commander of Camp Meade, Maryland to organize a regiment of colored infantry troops.[vi] The 808th Pioneer Infantry Regiment was officially organized with 39 officers and 952 enlisted men on 10 July 1918.[vii] Benjamin was assigned to Company F.[viii]
At Brest, the men disembarked from the S.S. Leviathan and hiked 5 kilometers to the Pontanesen [sic] Barracks.[xii] The conditions were described as follows:
“The men lived in shelter tents in a veritable sea of mud and there was rain every day we were there. The result was that there was a great deal of sickness, sickness which did not appear immediately but made itself evident on the trip across France when the regiment lost between 150 and 200 men.”[xiii]
The troops remained in these conditions until 15 September when they marched across France to Foulain in the Haute Marne, France. Camp was made on September 18th in the ruins of the town Luzy.[xiv]
Benjamin and his company were moved with the regimental headquarters on the 21st of September to Dombasle-en-Argonne, France which was 10 kilometers behind the front. According to the regimental history, few of them had adequate gas mask training and they needed to be drilled because gas shells were dropped in their vicinity every night.[xv]
On 24 September they were moved to De Foy Woods (Foy, Belgium).[xvi] Here they operated the stone quarry for use on the light railway. The regimental history stated they were under constant shelling from the enemy at this location.[xvii] On 6 October Company F joined Company K at the to run the engineers dump for the 1st Army.
That would be the last place Benjamin saw. He died of pneumonia on 29 October 1918.[xviii] Only 14 days before the 11th of November, Armistice Day. From the regimental history we could assume he first became sick, along with many of his comrades, when they landed in Brest the beginning of September.
He now lies in block F, row 28, grave 35 at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.[xix] We do not know when his parents found out Benjamin had died. However, he was listed on the casualties list printed in the Baltimore Sun on 27 November 1918.[xx]
[i] United States Selective Service System. KENT, Benjamin. Ancestry. Collection: U.S. WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918. : accessed 6 February 2018.
[ii] The National Archives and Records Administration. (2016) World War I Draft Registration Cards. : accessed 28 February 2018.
[iii] United States Selective Service System. KENT, Benjamin. Ancestry. Collection: U.S. WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918. : accessed 6 February 2018.
[vi] The National Archives and Records Administration. Historical File: 808 US Pioneer Infantry. RG: 165 e310. Box: 442.
[viii] American Battle Monuments Commission. KENT, Benjamin. Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. : accessed 6 February 2018.
[ix] The National Archives and Records Administration. Historical File: 808 US Pioneer Infantry. RG: 165 e310. Box: 442.
[x] Passenger List for S.S. Leviathan departing Hoboken, New Jersey. KENT, Benjamin, 3 August 1918. Collection: U.S. Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910 – 1939. : accessed 6 February 2018.
[xi] The National Archives and Records Administration. Historical File: 808 US Pioneer Infantry. RG: 165 e310. Box: 442.
[xviii] The National Archives and Records Administration. Burial Cards. RG: 92 e1945. Box:050.
[xix] The National Archives and Records Administration. Burial Cards. RG: 92 e1945. Box:050. American Battle Monuments Commission. KENT, Benjamin. Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. http://www.abmc.gov/node/336381# : accessed 6 February 2018.
[xx] Baltimore Sun. (1918) Casualties of Land Forces. Baltimore Sun. 27 November 1918. p.2a. : accessed 15 February 2018.