Sunday, February 21, 2010

Three Letters from Captain Charles R. Doran, of the 18th Field Artillery, France (1918)

BANNER-DEMOCRAT, Sept 14, 1918
An Interesting Letter from Capt. Charles Doran.--Hon. J. Martian Hamley is in receipt of a letter from Charles R. Doran, on the firing line in France. Charley has lately been promoted to Captain, which we are all gratified to hear.
August 13, 1918.
My Dear Friend:--It has been sometime since I have written you, but everything has been coming our way fast and furious. Our experiences have been numerous in the last month. We took up our position just one month from tonight, and I shall never forget that night, July 13th. I was leading a battery into position about 11:20 p.m. when an aeroplane flew over our position and dropped two calcium flares that lit up the terrain for several hundred yards. They opened up on us in about fifteen minutes, which was the starting of their big offensive that was a failure. We were in the open without cover. All we could do was to stay there and take it. It lasted until 10:20 next morning. It they shot one shell in the little valley we were in they must have sent over two thousand. Big pieces were falling all around us every few seconds. We had to wear gas masks most of the time as about every fourth shell seemed to be gas. We can tell them by their explosions. After it had quieted down a little I took the horses out and managed to get them to a safe place. When we did get our guns to working, well, we did a little shooting. It was not long before we had them on the run.
I have seen what real war is, and I can say we are in a great campaign. We crossed the Marne river four days later and kept in the fight for a couple of weeks. We have been taken out for a rest. I had quite an experience on the way back to our rest billets. We started out about 10 p.m. to go back. I was passing through a small town about ten kilometers from the front. This was about 12 o'clock and enemy planes had been very active during the night. I passed a cross road just before I entered the town and a guard told me that planes had been bombing the place every half hour. I had not gone very far before I heard one over us and about a minute later they started coming. He dropped five in about ten seconds, and I rode around just as the last one hit and saw the sparks flare up into the streets and thought sure he had made a hit in my column. you can imagine my feelings at this moment. They had just missed the tail end of my battery. We arrived at our billets the next morning at 6:30 in good order.
I have just returned from a trip to Paris, having been given two days leave to go in and purchase equipment, as I lost everything but what I had on the night of the 14th. A shell hit the escort wagon containing my bedding roll and my clothes, leaving the clothes on my back. I managed to get enough from the other officers to equip me until I could get to a place to purchase what I needed. I had a great time trying to buy what I wanted in Paris, as my French is very poor. I did not get to see much of the city, as my leave was too short. However, I visited Napoleon's tomb, the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful parks. I received my promotion as Captain last week and have taken over the command of a battery, the hardest and biggest job in the army. I have 224 men, 140 horses, 6 officers, 4 big gun cassions (sic), numerous wagons and supplies of all kinds to take care of and be responsible for. I have handled this battery before, so I am familiar with every one in it. I believe I can hold down the position, shall do my best. So far everything has been running smoothly. How is everything at home? I would live to get back for a little while. We are all satisfied over here and eager for the fight, as we know what it is. The French say we are wonderful fighters, and our boys have shown them what they can do. Write me when you can. Remember me to my friends, and with my very best wishes to yourself and family.
Your friend, Charles R. Doran, Captain, 18th Field Artillery.

A letter was received by Hon. J. Martian Hamley on Monday of this week from Captain Charles R. Doran.
France, October 2, 1918.
Mr. Dear Martin--
I have just received your letter written September 9, 1918. I was glad to get some real news from home.
We are driving the Huns back again. This is the third offensive I have been in the last two months. I had the pleasure of being in command of a battery in the St. Mehiel offensive, firing for eleven hours without a pause. Since that time I have been on the Colonel’s staff as Regimental Adjutant. It is a very good position, but any of us would rather be in command of a battery as we are in the real fight then. I am getting along fine with my work, everything is going good with our regiment.
I wish you could see this town we are located in. There is not a house that has the roof on it or the walls intact, and if they were not built of stone there would not be a sign of the place left. There is not enough of shelter above the ground and we are obliged to live in dugouts. The first night we were here it rained and I had woke up the next morning to find all my bed clothes wet. I managed to find another place that morning without mushrooms growing all over the walls and ceiling and moved in. We have some experiences but don’t mind it at all. You never hear any of the men kick while they are at the front, no matter how hard it is. The minute we are relieved they start kicking about different things and always want to get back in the fighting.
I saw four balloons shot down the other day. It was a pretty sight to see, but I don’t imagine it was pleasant for the observers. They had to jump out and trust to luck that the parachute would work. Not only this, but they were being shot at with machine guns by the aviators that shot the balloons down. I was close to one of them and saw the observer when he landed. He was scratched up a little when he came down through the trees.
Everything must be pretty quiet in Lake Providence now with all the boys gone to war. We will all be back before long. I give them another year. After the spring drive it will be over. I hate to think of spending the winter over here. It is getting cold already, and I am getting out behind the walls of a ruined church today to keep warm.
What has become of Newt Hill? I hear he and Jake Leach were the only ones left, and since Jake has gone I am wondering about Newt.
We have had lots of interesting experiences we would like to write about, but the censor rulings are very strict, so will have to save them until we get home.
The big guns are starting to open fire as I write and I guess we are going to put something over on the Hun this afternoon.
The Colonel has been looking things over today and I see him returning. I am satisfied he has something for me to do.
Give my best wishes to all of the people at home.
Your friend, Charles R. Doran, Captain,
18th Field Artillery, U.S.A. American Expeditionary Forces.

Base Hospital, No. 35. France, Nov. 9, 1918.
Mr. Dear Martian-- I received you letter of Oct. 10. I have not been able to write very much since I have been here. I was wounded on Oct. 5th at Mountfoucon by a high explosive shell, three wounds in my back and one in my left hip. My wounds are healing fine. Ever since I have been in the hospital I have been suffering with stomach trouble, which has caused me to have chills and fever. I have lost thirty pounds since I have been here, and am down to skin and bones. The doctors took blood tests this morning to try to determine what was causing the chills and fever, and I am sure they will have them checked before long, and as soon as my wounds are healed I will be able to get up. The nurses and doctors do everything in the world they can for us.
Getting wounded hit me hard. My Colonel wrote me a letter, which I am enclosing, stating that if I could return by the last of Nov. he would recommend me for promotion to Major. I will not be able to return to my regiment in time, so I will lose out. If it was not for a general order he could recommend me while I am here, but the order states that we are dropped from the rolls of our organizations after we are in the hospital ten days. So we are not considered with the organization until we return, I will be here until the first of the year, it will be sometime before I can regain my strength after I get up.
I was sorry to learn that Mr. Guenard and Major Amacker passed away.
It looks like it will be along time before the war is over. We will know tomorrow at noon.
I cannot write more now, but will let you hear from me again. Please remember me to your dear family and to all my friends, and express to them my very best wishes for a Merry Christmas.
Your friend,
Charles R. Doran, Captain,
18th Field Artillery, U. S. Army.

The Colonel’s letter follows:
My Dear Captain-I, and all the other officers of the regiment, were very glad that you came out so well, and hope that you will be back, because if you are here before the end of the month, I think I can have you promoted. We are still doing business at the old stand. To date we have 75 casualties in the regiment. We are very anxious to hear about Lieut. Edwards, who was wounded the same day you were.
Very sincerely,
Albert S. Huber, Colonel,
18th Field Artillery.


  1. Charles R. Doran is my Great-Grandfather. I currently reside in GA but was trying to do some research on my family, it was very interesting to see these letters, and have passed them on to my Father (Doran's grandson). I would love to see the originals, are you in possession or know where they are located?

  2. I'm also one of Charles R. Doran's great-grandchildren (his daughter Mary is my grandmother). I'm also interested in knowing if you have the original letters. My mom came across this blog post and shared it with me. I'd love to know if you have this or anything else related to our family.

  3. I am currently assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment which has the 18th Field Artillery Regiment that Captain Charles R. Doran belonged to as part of its lineage. Does anyone have any pictures or more information on Charles Doran? We want to add it to our unit's history room. If you have any information or pictures please contact me at Thanks.