SCOPE AND CONTENT
The James Rogers McConnell Papers consist chiefly of some sixty wartime letters that the University's famed aviator of the Lafayette Escadrille wrote to his friend, Paul Ayres Rockwell. The letters date from 1915, when McConnell served with the American Ambulance on the Western Front in France, through 1916, the year of the formation of the Escadrille, with McConnell as one of its original seven American pilots. They give a vivid picture of McConnell's service in the cause of France, first as a non-combattant and then as a combatant.Included are accounts of his ambulance patrols (May-June 1915), where he earned the croix de guerre for exceptional bravery under fire; his first flight in a "Baby"Nieuport (20 May 1916). the patrol of 1 June 1916 after which McConnell crashed during a landing attempt (3 June 1916); his convalescence from back injuries received in a later crash (August-September 1916), and his role in Paul Rockwell's Paris wedding (November-December 1916).
Around twenty photographs and printed items complete the collection. They include information on McConnell's grave and other monuments to his memory.Of particular interest is the proof copy of the authorized English translation(1919), published only in significantly altered form of the account of the Lafayette Escadrille written by its French captain, Georges Thénault.This volume is inscribed personally by Thénault to Paul Rockwell,and has been placed on microfilm for the use of researchers.
James Rogers McConnell was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 14 March 1887,one of three children of Samuel P. and Sarah Rogers McConnell. The elder McConnell practiced law in Chicago from 1872-1889, and served as Judge of the Cook County Circuit Court from 1889-1894. After an interval of private practice, he moved to New York City, where he served as vice-president and counsel of the George A. Fuller Company until his retirement in 1904.
The younger McConnell grew up in Chicago and New York City. He gained a certificate from the Haverford School in Pennsylvania before entering the University of Virginia in 1907. He spent two years in the College and a year in the Law School, withdrawing from his studies in the spring of 1910. While at Virginia, Jim McConnell held memberships in Beta Theta Pi,Theta Nu Epsilon, O.W.L, T.I.L.K.A., and the German Club. He was King of the Hot Feet, Editor-in-Chief of Corks and Curls, Assistant Cheer Leader, and President of the Aero Club, which he helped to found. His bonhomie and bagpipe-playing gave rise to fond memories among his college contemporaries.
After several years in business in New York and in Carthage, North Carolina,where he served as land and industrial agent for a small railroad, McConnell sailed from New York with a friend in January, 1915, to enlist in the French service. Through the spring and summer of 1915 he drove for Section "Y"of the American Ambulance in the thick of the fighting on the Western Front,around Pont-à-Mousson and the Bois-le-Prêtre. He was cited for conspicuous bravery and awarded the croix de guerre. Some of his letters from the period were edited and published in the 15 September 1915 issue of The Outlook, with an introduction by former president Theodore Roosevelt, a strong advocate of preparedness.
A back injury received in a landing mishap in August near the squadron field at Bar-le-Duc forced McConnell's hospitalization in September. Although he rejoined the squadron at Cachy briefly in November, 1916, and again at Ravenel in March 1917, his health never returned to normal. While convalescing,he busied himself with writing, and produced articles for World's Work magazine that were published in November, 1916, and March, 1917, and in book form as Flying for France which appeared in April, 1917, shortly after his death.He also was best man for his friend, Paul Rockwell, the squadron's historian and publicist, at the latter's Paris wedding in December, 1916.
McConnell was killed in aerial combat with two German planes, above the Somme battlefields near the village of Flavy-le-Martel, Aisne, on 19 March 1917. He thereby became the last American pilot of the squadron to die under French colors, before American entrance into the war in April,1917. His body was laid to rest where it fell, and was later reinterred at the Lafayette Escadrille memorial near Paris in accordance with his father's wishes. McConnell was memorialized with a plaque from the French Government and a statue by Gutzon Borglum at the University of Virginia, and with an obelisk on the court square of his home town of Carthage, North Carolina.
Something of McConnell's spirit may be gauged from his final letter,found among his effects, which concluded as follows:
"My burial is of no import. Make it as easy as possible
on yourselves.I have no religion and do not care for any service.
If the omission would embarrass you, I presume I could stand the
"Good luck to the rest of you. God damn Germany and Vive la France."
The bulk of the collection (#2104-a) is a gift of 24 February 1975 from Dr. William James Kenneth Rockwell of Durham, North Carolina, through his father, Colonel Paul A. Rockwell of Asheville, North Carolina. Some few items (#2104-b) have been loaned to the Library by Colonel Rockwell for copying and return. The collection is established in honor of the memory of James Rogers McConnell.
The correspondence has been arranged chronologically. It is followed by photographs, printed matter, and electrostatic copies, also arranged chronologically. The two parts of the collection are interfiled in a single box. The proof copy of captain George Thénault's memoirs is available only on microfilm, the original having been returned to Colonel Paul Rockwell.
Born 20 March, 1887, son of Judge Samuel P. McConnell and his wife née Sarah Rogers. McConnell family originated in Highlands of Scotland, a sept of Clan McDonald. This Clan and its septs were out for the Stuarts in the uprisings of 1715 and 1745. After the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charles at Culloden, April, 1746, some of the McConnells escaped to Ireland to save themselves from death.
James McConnell, born Ireland 1790, came to America, settled in New York,in 1828, landowner; married Sara Smith, descendant of Parsons who came to America from England in 1644. Son John McConnell (1823-18980 studied law in Abe Lincoln's office and was made a Brig-General in Federal Army during Confederate War; married Elizabeth Carrington Parsons (1830-1905); -he had settled at Springfield, Ill., in 1850. The son Samuel Parsons McConnell married Sarah Rogers of an old Virginia family (she descended from Giles Rogers who came to Virginia in 1848, also William Byrd and other notables).S.P. McConnell became a well-known judge and financier.
James Rogers McConnell attended a boys preparatory school up the Hudson River (name forgotten), entered the Univ. of Virginia in 1907. As a boy in his mid-teens with another youth he drove the first automobile from Chicago to New York, a feat that attracted great attention and newspaper publicity.At the University of Virginia, Jim McConnell at once became a leader, he was a legend even before his death. Member Beta Theta Pi fraternity; Theta Nu Epsilon sophomore inter-fraternity; the Mystic Seven; King of the Hotfeet, etc., etc. Organized in 1907 first Aero Club on the U. Va campus;learned to play the bagpipe and wearing proper Highland costume in Clan tartan performed on occasions; was chief editor of CORKS and CURLS; had many other posts and honors. (Anecdote of unveiling of Thomas Jefferson statue). Left U. Va. 1910, went to New York and with a classmate Charles Chouteau Johnson of St. Louis (later also a pilot in Lafayette Escadrille)established an Army -Navy business, which failed for lack of experience and capital. (Story of experience at College Inn).
Judge McConnell had moved to Carthage, N.C., where he was General Manager of the Randolph -Cumberland Railroad (owned by a group of friends). Jim joined his father at Carthage, and became Secretary of the Board of Trade;wrote a splendid little history of Carthage and surrounding section; pushed for development of agriculture with cultivation of grapes and other small fruits, feeling that future of Moore County lay more there than in catering to tourists and winter guests. He soon was one of Moore County's most beloved citizens. Despite his Chicago birth and Yankee General Grandfather, Jim McConnell was intensely Southern in sentiment and feelings. Had he been alive in 1861, I am convinced he would have joined the Confederate Army and fought until the end for Southern Independence.
When War broke out in Europe, August, 1914, Jim was intensely aroused;as soon as he learned an Ambulance Corps of American volunteers was being organized to serve in France, he offered his services and sailed for France,January, 1915.
Something of his experiences as an ambulance driver at the Front; his enlistment for War's duration in French Foreign Legion and transfer to French Air Service; his all too brief but glorious career as a pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille. He was killed in aerial combat 19 March 1917, attacked by 2 enemy planes.
Honors paid Jim McConnell in France and at home. Memorial Service for him at American Pro-Cathedral, Paris, where three girls showed up in widow's weeds, each saying she was Jim's fiancée (a lovely French girl of distinguished family, who actually was engaged to Jim and never has forgotten him; a somewhat neurotic American girl, daughter of an eminent exchange professor at the Sorbonne, who imagined she was engaged to Jim; a highly enterprising girl whose father was a well-known American surgeon and mother a Russian Jewess implicated in a plot to murder the Czar in the 1880s, tried, convicted, sentence suspended on condition she leave Russia---this girl was determined to marry a Lafayette Escadrille pilot and first fixed on Jim, after his death she entrapped and married W-L- and ruined his life.
Many honors paid James Rogers McConnell, in France and in his native country: monument at Moore County Courthouse, Carthage; first Public Hospital in Moore County, the McConnell Hospital at the old Farm Life School was named for him; splendid statue by Gutsom Borglum stands on University of Virginia campus. His name is inscribed in letters of gold on the walls of the Pantheon, Paris, alongside names of his comrades Kiffin Yates Rockwell,Victor Chapman, Paul Pavelka of the Lafayette Escadrille.
McConnell was first buried by French soldiers n the wrecked apple orchard where his plane fell to earth, and the plot of land was deeded to Judge McConnell by its grateful French owner. In 1928 his remains were removed to the magnificent Monument to the Dead of the Lafayette Escadrille and the Lafayette Flying Corps, at Marnes-la-Coquette near Paris. This Monument,the finest Memorial to American War Dead in Europe, was built by public subscription. The late international lawyer and philanthropist, Mr. William Nelson Cromwell, not only subscribed generously to the building of the Monument,but set up a Foundation and endowed it with a perpetual upkeep fund of one million dollars.
(no date, no identification of author and source)
possibly Col. Paul Rockwell --- some entries are in hand indicating an elderly author. A letter from Col. Rockwell, dated 15 Nov 1976, introducing the biographical material supplied by Marcelle Guerin de Précourt, has annotations in the same hand.
Buncombe County Confederate Centennial Committee
142 Hillside Street
Ashville, North Carolina
15 November, 1976
I keep longing to get to Charlottesville to see you and many places long dear to me, I wonder if I'll ever make it. I no longer travel easily and have had to slow down in my activities.
I did go to Europe last June-July, mainly to France and Switzerland,invited by the French Air Force to the Commemoration at Luxeuil of the 60th Anniversary of the Lafayette Escadrille, and by the French Government to the magnificent ceremony in Paris on July 4, of the Bicentennial of American Independence and the 200th Anniversary of Franco-American friendship and cooperation on innumerable battlefields. Both events were outstanding and I am happy I was able to go over.
I went to Switzerland to see Madame Marcelle Guérin de Précourt,who had been ill and was staying with a friend at Lauzanne. We spent many hours talking of Jim McConnell and the First World War. After much urging,she wrote the enclosed little autobiographical sketch, which please add to the McConnell Collection. I find it delightful, most charming, showing that my old friend is still "young at heart." Jim McConnell was the great and lasting romance of her life, although she eventually married twice, first to a highly distinguished Belgian diplomat, then to a White Russian nobleman refugee from the Red Terror. She now lives in Monte Carlo with a faithful old Brittany servant, in a delightful apartment she and her mother bought almost 50 years ago.
The Guérin de Précourts lived in Lorraine for many centuries,her father's father was Mayor of Metz when the Germans captured the city during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Rather than live under German rule the Mayor and his family moved to Paris, many, many from Alsace-Lorraine gave up their homes and possessions and moved to France or elsewhere at the time.
(handwritten text on 11 lined pages)
Many, many years ago in February 189--, a baby girl was born in Paris, rue St. Honoré which was then a residential section. Her Father was an intellectual and her Mother was endowed with all the qualities imaginable! The baby was frail in health but survived owing to a miracle. Her gracious smiles to an old Gentleman living in the same house & whom the nurse maid often encountered on the staircase were suddenly missing whereas the baby was bedridden & according to the Doctor not expected to live. The old Gentleman, a perfect stranger to the Parents, inquired of the maid why the baby had not been seen since some weeks. Being told the sad reality, he lost no time in going to the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires renowned for its miracles to this very day. There he lit a Holy Candle & said some fervent prayers. That same evening her temperature dropped & she lived to fulfill her Destiny to a ripe old age.
Perchance one day, my father Charles A. Guérin de Précourt ran into an old Comrade with whom he had graduated----Professor Georges, established in New York ---President of the French Association of French Teachers. Joyfully the young men exchanged respective news. Prof. Georges had fallen in love with the States and strongly urged my Father & his family to rejoin him there. On coming home, my Father in relating his morning encounter, laughingly spoke of Prof. Georges' proposal of a job in New York. To his utter amazement, my dear Mother, Eugénie-Léontine agreed.
While my Parents were absorbed in packing & preparing their departure, I was entrusted to the care of my paternal Grand Mother who took me to Have from where my Parents intended to sail, but there I contacted a severe bronchitis & was handed back to my Parents in a pitiful condition. The ship's Doctor predicted that I would be buried at sea. But his vigilance & my Mother's constant nursing allowed the three of us to be greeted by the Statue of Liberty.
My Father's first appointments were at the Universities of Cornell & Columbia, but Prof. Guérin did not relish teaching youngsters, so was awarded an adult class at the Model School for Teachers in Brooklyn where he was also requested to found a French section at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences.
We then moved to Brooklyn where we lived a number of years at 60 Herkimer Street. My father daily took me to school on his way to his classes. I attended a charming but old fashion little Quaker School by name of Lockwood Academy. Its Principal was a gentle, benevolent old Man with a white beard, the very prototype of Whittier or Longfellow. It was there that at six years of age, I overheard from a school friend my first compliment. He was arguing with a little girl who was saying: "Oh, you mean that French kid with red hair." The reply was not long in coming ---he clamored: "Ah, go on, she ain't got red hair, she got golden hair!"
Father lost no time in founding a section of the Alliance Française of which he was elected & remained many years its President, even after our return to New York where we settled at 440 Riverside Drive which was then a most beautiful & desirable section of the City. The Members of the Alliance frequently met at Adelphi College in the evenings. They formed a Drama Club & also attended lectures. My Father often acted the leading role in the plays & he relished it! I was once given a role ---at the end of the performance was presented with a huge bouquet of roses with the accompanying card that read as follows:
"Vous avez assumé une tâche difficile
Vos efforts cependant ont survaincu le péril.
Vous aviez de la grace, du charme et de la beauté
Or, en hommage, ces fleurs daignez accepter."
Edmond Rostand à Sarah Bernhardt.
In recognition of my Father's activities, he was awarded "les Palmes Académiques."
Eventually, I attended Girls' High School from which I graduated in the spring of 1914 & expected to enter College in the autumn, but while we were spending as annually our summer holiday abroad, travelling in July& devoting August to Paris & my Father's relatives---War was suddenly declared!!! My mother, a very staunch patriot, expressed the desire to remain in France---stating that she could not live in comfort in a neutral country knowing that her's was invaded & subjected to violence. Strangely enough my Father who was "Lord & Master" in his household, was comprehensif, so it was decided that Mother and I would return alone to dispose of our home.
Whereas Paris was not yet overflown by Taubes, an atmosphere of war already prevailed caused by the overflow of Belgian & North of France populations, fleeing the German invaders. The Cirque de Paris was opened to them as a shelter & call was made to aid by sending clothing & shoes. In my Mother's wise judgement, shoes would surely be painful to swollen & bruised feet, so she took me with her to the Samaritaine, & there, bought out the entire stock of cloth sandals which filled the taxi from the floor to the top, compelling us both to sit next to the driver. We delivered the goods without waiting to be thanked.
On our return to New York, my Mother inquired of our landlord whether our lease could be cancelled. Dr. Paterno being Italian & a sympathizer, courteously agreed. While my Mother packed & disposed of our furniture that various helpful friends offered to store in our absence, I applied to Mt. Sinai Hospital in quest of receiving intensive training as a nurse. My request was met with comprehension & one of the Surgeons, Doctor Abraham Wilensky, bid me to report daily at the Emergency Ward where a variety of wounded turned up every morning for surgical dressings. I likewise applied three afternoons a week at the Fraunenthal Hospital for Joint diseases & Bone deformities & here I learned to make plaster casts.
Meanwhile, Mother recalling how poorly equipped were the Soldiers leaving Paris for the battle fields, requested an interview with John Wanamaker, the proprietor of a huge department store. She acquainted him with her desire to send packages to the fighting men ---inquired what the cost would be for a gross of the following articles: an army blanket, a woolen shirt, underwear, a long wide flannel band to keep their stomachs warm while in the wet trenches, socks, a bath towel & cake of soap to which I added some tobacco. Wanamaker replied he would let her know two days later & that he intended to sell the goods at cost price!! A kindness that we always remembered with deep gratitude, also his helpfulness in delivering the goods at a Friend's house where the parcels were made up individually for small,medium & large sizes. I pasted 3 different coloured Dennison seals bearing mention of the sizes which made the distribution easier. Several days after delivery Wanamaker sent a truck to collect the 144 parcels, conveying them to the outgoing ship of the Compagnie Transatlantique & returned the receipt the same day. These shipments, my Mother made monthly until we sailed for France early February 1915. My Mother's Friends continued the shipments after our departure, but in a more modest way what was later known as "The Lafayette Kit."
Few were the ships then crossing the Atlantic that was already patrolled by German submarines. We boarded the S.S. Chicago & so did the first contingent of six Volunteer American Ambulance Drivers.
After leaving the Harbor, at a stated distance from land, the ship's Captain unsealed an envelop conveying instructions to pick up 40 "Réservistes"at Saint Pierre et Miquelon near Newfoundland which prolonged our trip considerably & also increased the danger of being sunk at sight had our cargo of precious Soldiers been discovered. Some distance from shore we saw a large tug-boat surrounded by loose cakes of ice. The men aboard were huddled in the freezing wind, awaiting our arrival since hours. Mother called on our Captain & instructed him to give each man a huge glass of champagne. The Captain stated that in all probability they were already tight. Mother replied: "In that case a little more will make no difference, besides they have the rest of the voyage in which to recuperate. My aim is to make them feel that they are being welcomed on shipboard." As the French slogan claims: "Ce que femme veut, Dieu le veut."
The second day out, one of the American boys --Walter Lovell-- who eventually became a Lafayette Escadrille Pilot, having heard that I was somewhat of a trained-nurse, inquired whether I could give him his last shot against typhoid fever. His home Doctor had bidden him to apply to the ship's Doctor but finding the latter's cabin so unclean, he decided to appeal to me. I therefore donned my uniform & after sterilizing a syringe went to Lovell's cabin that the Boys for the occasion had decorated with three ties --- red,white & blue.
From then on we became better acquainted with this Volunteer Contingent. It so happened that I had a birthday while on shipboard & the Boys across the dining room were intrigued by the number of parcels the Head-Waiter brought to our table ---presents of flowers, books & sweets from my American Friends. After being given the reason, they designated the most worldly of their group ---Enos Curtin-- to invite us that same evening for a drink at the Bar, promising my Mother that the projected ceremony would be quite private as they intended before hand to put everyone else out of the bar. Enos Curtin came to fetch us & as we made our entrance, the Boys rose from a table upon which a punch bowl had been set ---lighted. Then David Carb, a professor of literature at the Boston University of Technology read us the following dedication:
To Melle Marcelle Guérin
On her ... birthday.
Très chic and very earnest,
Très blonde and most most deft.
Who bandages our digits
And leaves our hearts thrice cleft.
Who goes to make glad
A land grown sad
And various wounds to lave.
Mam'selle Marcelle, la garde malade
Our lady of the wave.
We bear, Mam'selle a message
To the old land from the new
And a personal message of hope, Mam'selle
We bear tonight to You---
God give you what's glad
And nothing that's sad
The King and never the Knave
Mam'selle Marcelle, la garde malade
Our lady of the wave.
American Ambulance Corps
S.S. Chicago Contingent
On arriving in Paris we settled in a very lovely apartment close to the Bois de Boulogne, & I immediately reported to the American Ambulance in Neuilly where I was at once granted service as an auxiliary nurse in the Gas-Gangrene Ward of which Sister Gwendoline Williams was in charge. She was English, had served at the front during the Boer War & offered her services to the Amer. Amb. as a tribute to France. It was both exalting and beneficial to work under the guidance of so competent a nurse & it led to a staunch friendship that endured until 2nd World War when during a German air raid on London, the Nurses' Home where Gwen Williams had retired was destroyed & most of its inmates killed.
The Contingent of Ambulance Drivers had been immediately sent to the front & it was there that James McConnell was awarded the "Croix de Guerre" for heroic action under fire. His (92) letters written from the front were intensely descriptive & interesting. My Parents & I were both proud & happy to welcome him to our home whenever furloughs to Paris were granted.
Meanwhile the sons of prominent American families such as Thaw, Chapman, Prince & Cowdin were endeavoring to obtain from the Ministry of War permission to create an Amer. Flying Unit which eventually became the renowned "Escadrille Lafayette." The future Pilots were trained at Pau. In time Walter Lovell & James McConnell joined the Escadrille. To this day I wistfully recall the last time we entertained dear Jim McConnell. We were about to be served coffee in the Salon & as he stood with his back to the fireplace, he said in a quiet voice: "Well I suppose I'm the next one to go..." Those prophetic words wrenched our hearts & alas! came true the 19th of March 1917.
The achievement of these heroic young men such as: Victor Chapman, Kiffin Rockwell, Norman Prince & James McConnell who had all to live for in their own country, but who felt the urge to defend a just cause, has already been related by more gifted pens than mine.
This account of the most dramatic but also the most colorful period of my life would be incomplete were I not to mention a surviving & most precious friend --Colonel Paul Ayres Rockwell. He & his younger brother Kiffin, volunteered to fight for France on August 3d 1914 & joined the Foreign Legion, being the only unit that admitted foreigners. He likewise fought in the Rif War that took place in Morocco in 1925. At the outbreak of 2ndWorld War he returned to France where he was made a Captain before joining the U.S. Air Force. He was then promoted to Colonel & was awarded the following decorations: Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur, Croix de Guerre 1914-1918, Croix de Guerre T.O.E. (Maroc 1925). King Alphonse XIII awarded him the Spanish"Paz de Marruccos" medal for serving in the Rif. [Added in red ink and in a different handwriting: "Also two 1939-1945 Croix de Guerre, and two Bronze Star Medals."]
Little wonder that my Parents & I were grateful to have been given the opportunity of extending our hospitality to such an Elite who came to our rescue.
Madame M. Guérin de Précourt
15 Ave. de Grande Bretagne, Monte Carlo
On blue paper with Letterhead:
February 29th '15
Dear Miss Guérin:
I hope I'm not boring you by writing, but you see since they've put me on a car here I am seldom fortunate enough to be in time for seeing you at mess and this is the only way I have of bringing you nearer to me, as it were. If it gives me a certain amount of happiness to talk to you on paper, you won't begrudge me the pleasure will you?
I have to be in readiness all the time and can't even look forward with any degree of certainty to even a glimpse of you. Yesterday I saw you returning from your walk. You had a cute, blue coat on, and a blue head veil. To day I had hoped to see you, for last night I got my first typhoid treatment and felt a bit stiff; but no such luck; we got a call for La Chapelle at 11 and of course didn't get back in time.
I suppose you know all about everything that goes on in connection with the arrival of the wounded and sick, but maybe you haven't been to the station and seen the poor fellows coming in. It's very interesting. One would feel sad were it not for the fact that one realizes the men are pleased at getting out alive and are to have a rest. Yesterday at La Chapelle a large number arrived. There was one, an officer, that had brought a little Skye Terrier with him from Ypres. He had the little fellow in a sack under his coat,and when those angel nurses passed sandwiches to the men the little dog setup an awful yell because he didn't get one. His nose was cold so I guess he was well. The master told me that at one time they were opposed by Austrians and that they used saw bayonets. They had been faced by Bavarian troops at one time who had asked them not to fire, saying that in a day or two Prussians would take their place and to save the ammunition for use against them.
There is a black curtain wall between the train and the distributing room, where the soldiers are gathered around glowing braziers, and it gives a theatrical effect, (a la Carb) to have the curtain part and a line of brancardiers emerge.
Today three Germans were brought in. Everyone came running up whispering"Trois Boches" and craning their necks to get a good view. The French were good to them. They handled them carefully, and gave them food.There were two French officers also, one a captain and the other a Commandant G----. The latter had been summoned from China, and just as soon as he had arrived at Marseilles they had sent him to the northern front. Naturally his health broke down. On the way to Val de Grace he needs must have the name on his trunk hidden and though he could sit up and take notice he insisted the back of the ambulance be closed. At Val de Grace he told the captain good bye. They cried, and it was touching. We took him then to St Jose and there he held forth at length on the war, on the goodness of Americans & ourselves in particular, nota bene, and was profuse in his thanks. A fine man the Commandant and a great pleasure to meet. I think he had not seen his wife in two and a half years and wasn't allowed to go directly to her. I offered to take him there but he said it was against the rules.
I wondered if you saw the two aeroplanes that flew above the hospital today. They were beautiful. Fenton wanted a red cross band sewed onto his sleeve and I eagerly grasped the opportunity to guide him to the sewing-room, which is en face to the New York ward. I had hopes--- but nothing came of it, as you know.
Fenton also was the means of conveying a message to the effect that you had not seen me at noon mess, but it was fortunate as you didn't want to be bothered. I just missed you at the tea today during which you imparted that information.
March 16, 1917
I was mighty glad to get your letter which came this morning and to know you are having such a nice time. I'm sure the change is welcome. I didn't know your address before and hence couldn't write.
Your mother's package of cake and paté that was sent to the hospital was received here and much enjoyed. I was very grateful.
You must have been in Marseille at the same time Paul was. He's still there I believe.
The same article that was in the English World's Work is in the American W.W. and in the latter it's much better presented with a great many photos. If I had an extra copy I'd send you one but I haven't. It was nice of you to compliment the last article. The third will appear in London World's Work at least. It was too late for book which is now out.
The season for flying has now opened and a lot of new things have been assigned us such as observation work too far in the lines for slow machines. Today Lowell, Willis, two others and I went 35 kilometers inside to do reconnaissance.We flew low and saw many ground details. You know that the Boches are preparing to withdraw all along this front and will retire to what is known as the Hindenburg line roughly approximated by Cambrai, St. Auentin-Chauny and Soissons. They, by so doing, evacuate a fifth of the ground they hold in France. They are tearing up railroads, burning towns and destroying everything in the area. Nearly all their artillery has been taken away and we were shot at only once. They used ground machine guns on us, however, for the first time in my experience. I could see the streams of luminous bullets going by me like water falling in the sunlight. The other day my motor went back on me and I had to land in a field. Had been over the lines during an attack, flying low, because of the clouds, and I thought the motor was hit. Lowell and Willis are doing very well.
Have a little partition room to myself and like it much better than rooming with some one. Its just the size of a steamer cabin, and has been lots of fun fixing up. Navarre is back on the front and at our field.
Thank your mother for being so very nice to me and give her my love, and keep some yourself.
Am getting on the track of Whisky's pictures.
So they've got Mac,
Good old Mac!
The observers saw his machine
Falling in flames
Over the German lines,
They say. That's all.
One more of those grim, quiet
You can make out of it, yourself,
According to your quality,
The Horrible Thing,
Or the One More of Them Things,
Or the Beautiful Thing.
You see Mac and I were drivers
In the American ambulance--
Older men, we took to each other
Straight from the day I came green
To the front,
A God forsaken hole in Lorraine;
Hung together, he and I,
You wouldn't have guessed it
I didn't at first--
But Mac was a dreamer,
France was his dream,
France and her cause.
When I saw him there was
His angular, absurd shape,
His big, red, shiny face,
His foolish schoolboy smile,
His awkward, comical uniform,
Too tight and too loose,
But everyone loved Mac.
Good old Mac at a party!
A party to us was something
A fire. and no work;
"Change the name of Arkansaw?
By God, sir--"
Mac arguing about the war--
But Mac with his wounded;
Those light, strong, gentle hands
And his compassionate blue eyes--
God bless you, how he worked for
And once at Monteauville,
When he got to trust me,
He told me-- more by the things he
What it all meant to him.
It came down to one word:
"God, and I've got my chance to
I remember he said softly --as if
We were a job lot, we drivers,
Old, young, grouchy, gay--
Adventurers, swashbucklers, patriots,
Obstreperous, brave, profane, undis-
ciplined, tireless, devoted--
Not one yellow.
Mac had Romance--
Poetry, the magnificent vision!
There were stars in his eyes!
It was only natural
That he and his gallant heart
Should outgrow us and our meek
So by and by he went into aviation,
"I want to get nearer to it," he told
That last day at Pont-à-Mousson,
"To the real stuff; to give more
To this country."
Now he's given all, good old Mac!
His romance, his poetry,
His magnificent vision!
The stars in his eyes are out.
Only I wish
I could hear Mac again
By the fire
With something to drink,
"Change the name of Arkansaw?
By God, sir--"
Mac. au revoir!
by Emory Pottle
Action looking to the bringing of the body of James R. McConnell, '10, who was killed in France in an aerolane engagement with two German fliers, back to the University for burial was taken at a meeting of the faculty of the University, held Tuesday night, when appropriate resolutions were passed with that end in view.
It is understood, however, that a rule of the French army forbids the removal of a body from the war zone until after the war. However, if the proposed removal and interment meets with the approval of the dead aviator's family, the University will immediately make the proposal to the French authorities.
The faculty approved the raising of a suitable memorial in some appropriate spot of the University grounds in honor of the dead alumnus. What form such a memorial will take was not indicated at the faculty meeting, but already many expressions of willingness to contribute toward it have come from outside alumni, as well as students.
It is also understood that a movement, originating in the student body,will be undertaken to raise money for the purchase and equipment of an ambulance for the French army as a memorial to the dead American. This was done by Dartmouth College in the case of its alumnus Hall, who was a member of the same squad as McConnell.
Expressions of sorrow at the aviator's death, when the news became definitely established, were heard on all sides around the University, and fitting resolutions were passed by the Imps, T.I.L.K.A. and other organizations, of which he was a member.
Joint resolutions of all the University organizations, to which "Jim"McConnell belonged, will be passed at a meeting to be held in the office of the Alumni Secretary at 7:30 o'clock Sunday night. It will be attended by Prof. Richard Wilson, who was perhaps the closest personal friend of the dead moby among the faculty, and the following: William Malloney, Skull and Keys; John McNaughton, T.I.L.K.A.; George Eager, Jr., 1910 Class; Thomas Fitzhugh, Jr., I.M.P.; Roy Moyston, Hot Feet and Sigma Delta Chi; Lewis Crenshaw and representatives of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, O.W.L. and Corks and Curls Board and one representative from the University-at-large.
Among letters received from alumni regarding McConnell's death are some that quote from letters recently received from the dead aviator. Rev. Robert Williams, rector of Trinity Rectory, Princeton, writes that he received a letter from "Jim" the very day of his death. "I've gotten out a book 'Flying for France,'" wrote the dead aviator, "and there were 7,000 more words to go in, the best of the bunch, regarding the life in the Somme, but they got over too late." "Flying for France" is selling wonderfully in New York.
Frank Tupper, a friend of "Jim's" in New York, received on March 24 a letter from "Jim" in which he is reported to have said: "If I ever wanted to live, it is now." He is further to have stated that he was soon to have an eight day leave and expected to go to Paris and spend his first royalty check.
The following is a letter recently received by Littleton Tazewell:
"No use of my trying to excuse myself for not writing to you and for not answering your most welcomed letter, but I ask for pardon. In the Somme, where your letter reached me, it was too cold to hold a pen for long and when I did write it was necessary that I write to make a bit of change, so I wrote another article. It took me two months; seventy-five unanswered letters piled up on me & then came great activity. It is only at this late date that I have had a chance to send you a letter. It was rotten in the Somme. Our barracks were in a woods and it rained most of the time. We flew in it. One time I had to cross the lines at 150 meters. I could see the poor "poilus" crouched in shell holes beyond the first line, "Boche" machine guns opened up, but only hit me once. After the bad weather, snow and a fearfully cold wave set in. We have recently moved to a new sector to the south of the Somme. I was stuck in the hospital a week ago and will be here a week or so more. It is interesting to get with a crowd from the trenches. I'd like to get in the land war for a time--- it's so damned uninteresting up in the sky.
"Well, old man, here's to our seeing one another again, and my best to you and yours.
President Alderman has sent the following letter to Judge J.P. McConnell, father of the dead hero:
"March 28, 1917.
"Hon. S.P. McConnell,
"Mr dear Judge McConnell:--
"At a meeting of the General Faculty of the University of Virginia last evening, I spoke of the services and character of your son. The faculty was deeply moved by the story, known to most of them, of the boy's service to France and to liberty in this world crisis. I was instructed, on their behalf, representing the President and faculty of the University, to send you an expression of our pride that his brave young patriot was a son of this University, and our sympathy with you in the supreme sorrow that has come to you. In my judgment, there ought to be placed upon our grounds, or upon our walls, some beautiful and noble memorial to James McConnell. It ought to be of such beauty and dignity as to have a spiritual and patriotic appeal to future generations of youth. The students and his friends are setting about to try to raise such a memorial.
"I am glad that I knew James McConnell well. I saw in him, as a student, evidences of idealism, but I confess I did not suspect that there lived in his happy, carefree mood, such splendid reserves of courage, devotion, idealism, and faith. If he were my boy, though his broken body lies buried in a foreign land, I should be the proudest father in the world today. He has written his name high upon the rolls of those who have illustrated by valor and courage the spirit of this University and the loftier qualities of American citizenship.
"Very faithfully yours,
"EDWIN A. ALDERMAN.
The carver of mountains was himself a mountain man, born in the mountains of Idaho on March 25, 1871. His full name was John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum.His parents came from Denmark. His father, at first a wood carver, became a physician and surgeon, also a breeder of horses on a 6000-acre ranch.He had no money to give his children but he gave them a love of form and knowledge of the horse that inspired Gutzon Borglum to some of his most magnificent work. Gutzon's indomitable will carried him from the Idaho ranch to an art school in San Francisco. Then to Paris. He began as both painter and sculptor and was accepted as both by French salons. In England, critics and royalty heaped honors on him. After painting several murals he began to abandon the brushes for the chisel, and turned out statuary in almost every field and every imaginable form. The Metropolitan Museum bought his "Mares of Diomedes" at once. Commissions rained on him and there was never any repetition in the spirit or treatment of his responses. He also wrote much and well. He was an engineer and an inventor, overcoming by his own skill unconquerable problems involved in the construction of his larger works. He was an orator of eloquence with a practical skill in politics.
(Following article has no identification, no date)
Five years after Sergeant Pilot James R. McConnell, one of the original members of the Lafayette Escadrille, fell in battle against three German planes, his isolated grave near Flavy-le-Martel (Aisne) has been formally deeded to his father, Judge Samuel P. McConnell, of Carthage, N.C. by M.Cheverin, the owner of the land, who refused to accept a sou for the property, saying that he was proud that an heroic American volunteer in the Army of France should rest in the soil which he had died to defend. M. Cheverin, therefore, handed the sum of money, which the law requires to be mentioned in the deed, to the Mayor of Flavy, requesting that it be added to the fund for the monument, which the town will set up in memory of its 350 inhabitants who gave their lives in the World War.
Judge McConnell was represented in the transaction by Mr. Paul Rockwell, an old friend of the family and a resident of Paris, who is a brother of Kiffin Rockwell, of Ashville, N.C., the man closest to McConnell in the Escadrille.
Jim McConnell was one of the four pioneer American airmen to fall before the United States joined the Allies, having been shot down over the German lines on March 19, 1917, five days after his thirtieth birthday. "A pilot as modest as he was brave," was the description given in his citation. No member of the Lafayette Squadron was better known in France and America for his book, "Flying for France," published in 1916, gave a vivid description of just how an aviator trained and lived and fought and died. This contribution to the literature of the air and his article about the American Field Ambulance Service, published in the "Outlook,"with a foreword by Theodore Roosevelt, did genuine patriotic service informing public opinion during the period preliminary to America's entrance into the hostilities.
The grave of McConnell lies on the edge of the highway, a mile from Flavy, and the simple but impressive monument set up by the French military authorities may be seen from a great distance. The tomb is regarded as a shrine by the peasants of the neighborhood, who keep it covered with flowers at all season. Many an old French poilu stands with reverent mien before the little plot of ground and salutes the brave comrade from across the sea. The children know by heart the words on the tablet set in the base of the monument:--
Two other monuments have been erected in McConnell's honor: one at Carthage, N.C. by his fellow-townsmen, and one at the University of Virginia by his fellow-students ----a winged figure in bronze by Gutzon Borghlum. In addition, two bronze tablets, one sent by the University of Paris and the other by "La France Reconnaissante" serve to remind students of later generations at Virginia of one who crossed the ocean to aid a stricken land. The American Legion Post at the University of Virginia has been named "James R.McConnell Post" after the first former student of the institution to fall in the World War.
Chicago Daily News
Wednesday, April 27, 1921
I went Monday to Flavy-le-Martel, in the devastated region of France, to acquire title for Judge S.P. McConnell of Carthage, N.C. formerly of Chicago, to the plot of ground where his son, Sergeant-Pilote James Rogers McConnell lies buried.
M. Dupont, mayor of Flavy-le-Martel, met me at the train and took me immediately to see the owner of the land where my brave friend Jim now sleeps. No difficulty was encountered in the transfer of the necessary plot. The owner, an aged woman, once wealthy, who lost her home and all her belongings in the war, and her son, who fought the Germans during more than four years,wished to present the land without payment to the family of the hero who gave his life for France.
Then we visited the grave, which is located just outside the village, in a suburb called Petit Detroit. It was touching to see the tender care with which the tomb was looked after. Although winter is still here, and flowers are scarce, the grave was literally covered with blossoms, and showed every sign of loving attention, just as much as if Jim were buried in his home town. All the inhabitants of the region regard the grave as a shrine, but the especial voluntary caretakers are a family of farmers living near-by.
The real story of how James McConnell met his death has never before been printed. As related to me by Mme. Lemaître, mother of the family that cares for the grave and an eyewitness of the pioneer American airman's last combat, it follows:
"We had been evacuated to a village just beyond the small forest you see on the hill about the grave," Mme. Lemaître told me."The morning of March 19 I heard biplane motors, and, looking up, saw a French and a German machine circling about at low altitude over the forest.The combat lasted several minutes and the sound of machine guns was quite audible. Suddenly the French airplane started falling, then straightened out, and planed down to earth in an orchard amidst chopped-down apple trees.
"We could not go over to the wrecked airplane, because Germans were still in the country. Germans from a neighboring aviation field, who had also seen the fight, came over to see if the aviator was living, and, finding him dead, robbed the body.
"The Germans retreated the night of March 20, and the next morning I guided a French cavalry patrol to the airplane. Poor M. McConnell's body was lying beside his machine. His coat, boots and papers had been taken by the boches. Later, French aviation officers came in an automobile and identified the body, which was buried by the roadside, near where the airplane fell. I promised myself that I would always take care of the grave, just as though my own son were buried there."
Flavy-le-Martel had 2,000 inhabitants before the war, and was a rich and happy farming community, its sole industries being a small brewery and a sugar mill. The Germans arrived there August 29, 1914, and remained until the great retreat of March, 1917. They operated the brewery for the German army and turned the sugar mill into a jam factory, forcing 100 young girls to work without pay.
In February, 1917, all the able bodied men, the boys and girls over 14 years old and all women except mothers of children under 14 were deported to the north of France. In early March the women with children and the aged and infirm inhabitants were driven from their homes with only such belongings as could be carried on the arm and sent to villages near the firing line, but were rescued later by advancing poilus.
Since December, 1916, the inhabitants at Flavy-le-Martel and other invaded communities had expected a German retreat, and looked forward to it with mingled joy and terror ---joy at the prospect of being liberated, and terror because every day groups of German engineers were busy mining the crossroads, bridges, houses, barns and all other buildings. Frenchmen, in groups of ten, each group guarded by a heavily armed German soldier, were obliged to saw down the fruit trees. Men who didn't work rapidly enough to satisfy the guard were beaten or prodded with bayonets.
House furnishings were loaded into wagons and freight cars and sent into Germany and every living fowl and domestic animal was taken by the German army. When all was ready for retreat in early March, 1917, the Germans began blowing up and burning all the buildings in the regions from which they were retiring. Flavy-le-Martel was blown up and burned on the day McConnell was killed.
The inhabitants of Flavy-le-Martel began returning to the scene of their former prosperous and happy days in early 1919. Not a shelter was to be found, but courageously, with old brick, boards, strips of sheet iron and other heterogeneous material, rude habitations were made and work was begun on clearing away the ruins and tilling the land.
There are now 1,300 people at Flavy-le-Martel. Some of them are lodged in wooden barracks, but most of them live in tiny houses roofed with sheet iron or tarred paper.
I entered several of the poor homes at Flavy-le-Martel, and was everywhere kindly welcomed. I heard no complaints. These courageous French people are, unconsciously, great philosophers.
"The government has no money to give us now for rebuilding our homes,"they say, "because the Germans refuse to make reparations. We have been advanced a little money by the government with which to buy farming implements and live stock. What we older people most deplore is the loss of our fruit trees. We shall be dead long before the young trees we are now setting out will begin full bearing. The destroying of our homes and the ravaging of our orchards were not done by cannon and by battle, but systematically and deliberately, and to wreck our future prosperity."
PAUL AYERS ROCKWELL
Paris, France, March 24