TWO 1919 DIARIES KEPT BY 112TH SIGNAL BN MAN WITH GREAT CONTENT
Exceptional World War I “Citizen/Soldier” diary set (2 diaries), letter group and artifacts belonging to Easton, Pennsylvania resident Pvt. Floyd A. Brotzman, Co. B, 112th Field Signal Battalion. This is a very desirable group in that Brotzman was apparently a teacher in civilian life. The diaries, each marked by William Laubach & Sons and published by Kleckner & Joyce for the Laubach firm, are for the years 1918 and 1919. Private Brotzman used the 1918 diary in his civilian life and once in the United States Army continued using it for his military observations. The 1919 diary’s beginning pages contain the soldier’s occupational duty entries followed by civilian entries once the soldier came home and again turned citizen. Because of his education the reader gets a nice pictured understanding of civilian life just before and after the beginning and end of the “Great War,” as well as the role the writer played during his military obligation. Brotzman was mostly assigned to headquarters duties. Many of the entries, mostly written in ink, are short. Teacher entry April 25, 1918—“Went to school in morning after shopping with mother. Finished up test papers and returned home for dinner at 1P.M. Teachers gave me farewell party in the evening. Received $10 in gold. Came home at 11:30 in Mr. Albright’s automobile.” The next day, April 26—“Attended Assembly in the morning. School gave farewell to Pat Reilly & myself. Joseph Carter presented me with a beautiful Masonic ring and a $2-1/2 gold piece. Carl Henzelman gave Reilly silver loving cup. A large crowd were in the assembly room.” The next day, Saturday, April 27, Brotzman left for military camp and the diary continues with military entries, ultimately writing at Camp Lee. He left Camp Lee for overseas on Friday, June 21, 1918.
Typical of the diary’s military entries—July 31, 1918—“Helped on reel carts in morning & cleaned horses. Went down to Division Hdqrs with Sgt. Frety at 1 P.M. and began work as message clerk in telegraph office.” The, August 21—“Air raid at night. Aviator dropped 2 bombs on Baccarat. Beaty & Bossert are killed & Morgan wounded in abdomen. One of the 112th Engineers is also killed & another wounded.” And on Wednesday, October 20, 1918—“Left at 1 A.M. and hiked until 4 A.M. to Denterglem (?). Went into woods there to wait until quarters were vacated by the French. German observation balloon not far away. Germans sent shells over our heads.” With the war ended, on January 28, 1919, American troops, including Brotzman, were reviewed by General Pershing on a very cold day. “Stormy, cold & slippery,” Brotzman wrote. “Rained in morning & froze. Ate dinner at 9:45. Left at 10:15 and reached field around 11:45. Reviewed between ___ & 3P.M. Stood at attention for about 20 min. Feet were nearly frozen.” Then, on Friday, March 14, the soldiers from Pennsylvania “Left barracks at 9A.M. Stepped off of French soil at 11:25A.M. Went on board “George Washington” at 1:15PM. First meal at 6:30P.M. Consisting of sauerkraut doggies, spuds, crackers, apple fritters, slicked pineapple and tea.”
After Brotzman returned home he kept up his 1919 diary describing his daily activities, including those at school. Monday, June 9, 1919—“Rained hard in the morning. Started to walk but decided it was best to ride over. Took car at Reynolds Street. Rode home at noon. Walked back. Assisted Miss Clair in Room 21, exam in Stenography I. Attended meeting of Army Council in evening. Told of my experiences in Army. Rickey had to work but came late and also gave a talk. Came home with him ___ at 11:30 P.M. Rickey went over on the George Washington.” Monday, July 7—“Arose about 5A.M. to help with washing. Left home for E.H.S. (Easton High School) at 7:35A.M. Taught summer school from 8 to 11A.M.”
Each of the diaries has “Expense” and “Cash Account” sections in the back of each.
Besides the two diaries, the Brotzman collection also has the soldier’s “New Testament” with his name, home address and military unit written in the front; the two-piece “dog tag” set he wore during the war, complete with original neck string; his World War I American Victory Medal with YPRES-LYS, MEUSE-ARGONNE and DEFENSIVE SECTOR bars, and In addition to the diaries, New Testament, dog tags and medal, there are approximately 40 letters written by Private Brotzman to his mother in Easton, PA, and approximately a dozen written to him while he was in the AEF from relatives and friends at home. A letter from a friend is of particular historic significance, describing the 1918 flu epidemic in the United States.
In early November, the friend wrote in part, “Easton has been closed up tight for the past five weeks. Sunday was the first we were permitted to have services since the last Sunday in September. It hit us at a very bad time for this is the month we should do the best work and get the winter program well under way. The cause was the great Influenza epidemic of which you have no doubt heard…We lost about 5 or six from the congregation but buried quite a number of other people. Some are still un-buried on account of the difficulty getting coffins. In some of the cemeteries in Philadelphia they dug trenches with steam shovels and buried them a hundred in a trench. Caskets with bodies in were setting all over the cemeteries, some of them for days. Many caskets were stolen and the dead disposed of in order that others might have something to put their dead in.” Return to Shopping Cart