World War I

Charles Lola

Lola, Charles photo
Pvt. Charles Lola, bottom row, 2nd from left: compiled by Haulsee, W.M., Soldiers of the Great War. Vol. I-III. Washington, D.C.: Soldiers Record (by state), 1920, online database of deceased soldiers of World War I.

Charles Lola (1895-1918) was the son of Mary Socabasin and Sabattis T. Lola. He was born in Washington County in northeastern Maine, most likely at Sipayik, the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation.

Lola was one of eight Passamaquoddy from Pleasant Point and Indian Township recruited in 1917 for Maine’s I Company. The site World War 1 Letters also lists Samuel J. Dana, Peter L. Lewey, Moses W. Neptune, Johan A. Newell, David F. Sapiel, Henry Sockbeson, Peter Stanley, and George L. Stevens.

I Company and other New England National Guard troops were assigned to the 103rd Regiment and shipped to France. There they received further weapons training as automatic riflemen, rifle grenadiers, and bombers. Each soldier also practiced close-order drill, gas drill, physical training, and bayonet-fighting. The 162nd French Infantry then trained the Americans in trench warfare. The 103rd must have learned their lessons well for they never lost a German prisoner.

In June 1918, the 103rd fought to repel the Germans in the ruins of villages in northeastern France. On June 16th, two members of the Native American squad from Maine were wounded at the Battle of Xivray-et-Marvoisin. A third, Charles Lola, was killed in action at the age of 23.

The French awarded Lola the Croix de Guerre for heroism on the field of battle.

For a history of the 103rd see 1919.


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Charles Young

Young, Charles Passport Photo 1919
Charles Young passport photo 1919. Originally shared by BruceC_JohnsonJr, 07 Aug 2015 at

Charles Young (1864-1922) was born in Kentucky, the son of former slaves Gabriel and Armintia Bruen Young. Raised in Ohio, he left home to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In 1889 he became the third African American to graduate from the school.

Young served in the segregated Infantry and Cavalry troops nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers. Over the course of his thirty-seven-year military career in the United States and overseas, Young advanced in rank at a time when the military rarely promoted men of color to leadership. In fact, white Infantry soldiers openly resented African American Cavalry soldiers riding on horseback while the Infantry marched on foot.

Because Young’s career was so long and far-ranging, we include only a few brief highlights below.

For five years during the Indian Wars, Second Lieutenant Young served on the Western Plains, in the 25th Infantry and the 9th Cavalry. Afterward he was appointed Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University, an African American school in Ohio.

During the Spanish American and Philippine Wars at the turn of the 20th century, Young and his troops were sent to the Pacific. Upon returning from the Philippines in 1903, Captain Young was appointed 9th Cavalry company commander at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. There he and his troops provided security during President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to San Francisco. Next Young led Troops I and M on a 323-mile, 16-day journey on horseback from the Presidio to Sequoia National Park where they took over the National Park duties of the white 24th Infantry. Young, the only African American troop commander in the regular army, then became the first African American to serve as Acting Superintendent of the park.

That year he also married California schoolteacher Ada Mills. Though their son was born in Ohio, their two younger daughters would be born in the Philippines.

Young was a Major of the 10th Cavalry under General Pershing when the United States mounted the Mexican Expedition from 1916 to 1917. It was also in 1917 that the United States entered World War I. Young was appointed Lieutenant Colonel, later retiring during that war as a full Colonel.

Young didn’t leave public service, however. At the time of his death in 1922, he was the Military Attaché to the Liberian Republic. And he was still the only African American to have reached the rank of full Colonel.

Charles Young was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.

Read more about the 9th Cavalry’s service at Sequoia National Park.


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Robert P. T. Coffin

Coast Artillery Corps U.S.A. poster, 1917, by artist Norman Tolson, Library of Congress.
Coast Artillery Corps U.S.A. poster, 1917, by artist Norman Tolson, Library of Congress.

Robert P. T. Coffin (1892-1955) was still a schoolboy when the United States entered the First World War. He had graduated from Brunswick High School in 1911, Bowdoin College in 1915, and received the Master of Arts degree from Princeton the following year. Coffin then went to Trinity College in Oxford, England for further study.

In 1918 he was called home to report for duty in the U. S. Army Coast Artillery Corps (CAC), which operated heavy fixed artillery. He was first stationed at Fort Levett on Cushing Island in Casco Bay, then sent overseas. There the CAC operated British and French fixed artillery from entrenched front lines. It was dangerous work: most of those who died on the battlefields during the war were killed by artillery fire.

Coffin survived his service, arriving in New York the day before the Paris Peace Conference began, Jan. 17, 1919. He resumed his earlier path, graduating from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to teach at Wells College in upstate New York and Bowdoin College in Brunswick. His published works include prose, poetry, and history which celebrate the joy of the common man and the natural world of New England. In 1935 Coffin was named Outstanding Poet of the Nation. The following year he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his collection of verses entitled Strange Holiness.

To learn more about Maine’s Fort Levett go to: Fort Levett.


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