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Full text of "His Own Life Story And War Diary"

92 161 
York 
Sergeant York 



699190 





iiiJiii! 

3 1148 00548 0223 



HIS OWN LIFE STORY 
AND WAR DIARY 

EDITED BY 
TOM SKEYHILL 



GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK 

DOUBLEDAY, DORAN 

AND COMPANY, INC. 
1930 



KANSAS CITY (MO.) PUBLIC LIBRARY 



BY OUBJ,BAY t ORAN & COMPANY, WO, 

ALL ftlOHT* HfiaURVSO 
miNTBD m TUB UNITS1D TAT* AT 
TMB COUNTRY Ufa Mg 
OAKDBK . 



TO 

OUR OWN 
LEAGUE OF NATIONS 

The American-born boys and the Greeks, Irish, Poles, 
Jews, and Italians who were in my platoon in the 
World War. A heap of them couldn't speaker write 
the American language until they larned it in the 
Army. Over here in the training camps and behind 
the lines in France a right-smart lot of them boozed, 
gambled, cussed, and went A. W. O. L. But once 
they got into it Over There they kept on a-going. 
They were only tollable shots and burned up a most 
awful lot of ammunition. But jest the same they 
always kept on a-going. Most of them died like 
men, with their rifles and bayonets in their hands and 
their faces to the enemy. I'm a-thinkin* they were 
real heroes. Any way they were my buddies. Ijes 
learned to love them. 

SERGEANT ALVIN C. YORK. 



FOREWORD 

MODERN war is an industrial art conducted like a 
great modern integrated industry. Improved means 
of transportation have made it possible to assemble 
and sustain vastly greater numbers of men upon rela- 
tively narrow fronts, and these fronts become massing 
points upon which the adversaries concentrate their 
weight. Machine guns, long-range cannon, tanks, and 
airplanes are the modern weapons, and they represent 
the culmination of a tendency which has existed from 
the earliest times. 

Originally men fought face to face at short range 
with swords and battle axes. They separated the lines 
of combatants a short distance by the introduction of 
slings and arrows. The invention of gunpowder fur- 
ther separated them* More powerful explosives and 
metals of stronger tension have again increased the 
distance, until men now fight without seeing one an- 
other, but aim their destructive missies over inter- 
vening hills to places located by airplane observation. 
The directing heads of great armies are far to the 
rear- General Pershing's headquarters at Chaumomt 
and General Foch's headquarters at Three Fountains 
were a hundred miles from the battle line and their 
headquarters resembled the engineering and account- 
ing offices of great Imsiftess houses. TJbe rival chiefV 
tains no loiiger engage in piettoesqpie personal encoun- 
ter The "fen$l ,pl? jtn, aitoy^ and even more, the 

' " ' : ^ "' ' ' - til , 



via FOREWORD 

general of a group of armies, is a remote figure, and 
the process of command operates through hierarchical 
stages. When Owen Glendower summoned to his aid 
"spirits from the vasty deep," they would not come, 
but when the modern commander summons them, they 
do come and preponderate in the battle. Along the 
line of battle itself, the issue meets with varying for- 
tunes here advance and there retreat and the re- 
sults have to be concentrated and tabulated in a remote 
place before one knows whether victory or defeat has 
resulted. There is nothing in modern war like the 
final and victorious charge of the guard. 

Still, the ultimate object of battle remains the same. 
It is to take and occupy enemy territory, and In spite 
of the machines which have been introduced, the last 
word is finally said by the man. Physical strength 
counts for less but character and courage count for 
more. The individual soldier who emerges from the 
mass has measured strength not with a single antag- 
onist, but with all the unseen and multiplied terrors 
which modern science and invention have concentrated 
around the individual There is no longer the pomp 
and parade, the waving of flags and the call of trum- 
pets; from the first to last, modern war is a grinding, 
deadly business. It Is often said that the glory and 
the opportunity for individual exploit have all been 
taken out of war, but every now and then circum- 
stances still make opportunity, and certainly one such 
was made when Sergeant York, with his little band, 
found himself surrounded by machine-gun nests to 
Chatel-Chehcrry on October 8, 



FOREWORD ix 

Fortunately the Sergeant kept a diary in which he 
tells the story with an impersonal simplicity which 
unconsciously tells why it was possible for him to rise 
to the emergency. 

Born and raised in the Tennessee mountains, York 
was utterly uncomplicated. His approach to life was 
as simple as that of the earliest American pioneer. He 
had not learned to depend upon the co-operations so 
indispensable to most of us moderns who have learned 
to do but one thing and to rely upon everyone else's 
making his contribution to our composite life. Where 
York was raised, each man lived the whole of life, met 
all of its responsibilities, and performed all of its 
tasks as an adequate individual; hence, when York lay 
in the brush under machine-gun fire, it apparently 
never occurred to him to send somebody back to ask 
artillery fire upon his adversaries, or to withdraw him- 
self and his men until the nests could be exterminated 
by the division artillery. There they were and there 
he was, and his job was to deal with them. The con- 
sequence was that he did what Marshal Foch calls 
"the greatest thing accomplished by any private sol- 
dier of all the armies of Europe." With unerring 
aim he picked off each adversary as he showed his 
head, until the German major in command surrendered 
4 officers and 128 men to this single Tennessee moun- 
tain individual. 

When I saw the Sergeant shortly after this exploit 
and with his division commander, General Duncan, 
tried to get him to tell me the details of the story, he 
shy and reluctant about it all, and gave me only 



x FOREWORD 

courteous but impersonal and brief replies to my ques- 
tions, until I finally asked him, "Sergeant, how many 
of those Germans did you hit as you lay there in the 
brush firing at them?" This question evidently seemed 
to him a reflection upon his markmanship and his in- 
stant reply was, "Mr. Secretary, I should be sorry to 
think I had missed any of them." 

As told in the Sergeant's diary, this and all the other 
incidents of his military career have a severe and 
classic simplicity. He put it down each night as it 
seemed to him with never a thought of fine writing, 
but with the conscious accuracy of a sheriff making an 
official return. The consequence is that the Sergeant 
does not seem a hero to himself, though he seems to 
us about as heroic a figure as the lion-hearted Richard 
or the gallant and delightful leader of the White com- 
pany. 

When the war was over, the Sergeant immediately 
became again the Tennessee mountaineer- He has seen 
two things: the world, which apparently attracts him 
less than his native mountain; and the need for educa- 
tion and training, which he has determined must be 
now made available to his fellow citizens in the Ten- 
nessee mountains. His projected school is as unselfish 
a contribution to one's fellow men as any hero ever 
planned, and the monument he plainly desires for him* 
self Is neither marble, nor bronze, nor lurid pages of 
biographical description, but rather finer and fuller 
lives lived on the hillsides of Tennessee by men and 
women enriched by opportunities available to them 
because he scorned to use them selfishly for himaelf* 



FOREWORD xi 

This little book ought to be read by Americans 
everywhere, both because Sergeant York is a national 
possession, and also because it teaches the priceless 
value of individual character and may warn us here in 
America from allowing our children, who have to use 
machines, from being themselves made into machines. 

NEWTON D. BAKER 



PREFACE 

THIS is the story of Sergeant Alvin C. York of Ten- 
nessee, the outstanding hero of the World War and 
one of the greatest individual fighters in the history 
of modern or legendary warfare. In the heart of the 
Argonne Forest on October 8, 1918, practically un- 
assisted, he whipped an entire German machine-gun 
battalion, killing twenty-eight of the enemy, capturing 
thirty-five machine guns and with the help of a hand- 
ful of doughboys bringing in one hundred and thirty- 
two prisoners. 

For this extraordinary feat of arms he was awarded 
the Congressional Medal of Honour, the French 
Legion of Honour, the Croix de Guerre with palms, 
the Medaille Militaire, the Italian War Cross and a 
number of other high Allied decorations. General 
Pershing eulogized him as "the outstanding civilian 
soldier of the war." And General Foche, in deco- 
rating him, said, "What you did was the greatest 
thing accomplished by any private soldier of all of the 
armies of Europe," 

Returning to New York City in May, 1919, he was 
tendered the greatest reception ever accorded an 
American soldier of subordinate rank returning from 
war. A few days later in Washington, D. C., both 
houses of Congress welcomed him in a joint session 
and cheered him to the skies. 

He was offered fortunes to go into the movies, on 
the stage, to write for the big newspaper syndicates, 
and to sign advertisements. But he firmly refused to 

xiii 



xiv PREFACE 

commercialize his fame, and with the naive comment, 
" Wouldn't I look funny in tights ?" turned his back on 
the world and "jes lit out for the old log cabin in the 
mountains and the little old mother and them-there 
hound-dogs of mine and the life where I belong." 

Sergeant York was not a professional soldier, nor a 
member of the Regular Army, nor even a volunteer. 
He was a drafted man. He went reluctantly and with 
misgivings. He bore no hatred toward the Germans; 
he did not want to kill them or anybody else. In camp 
there were insistent rumours that he was a conscien- 
tious objector. And in the archives of the War De- 
partment in Washington, D. C., there are letters and 
applications asking for his exemption from military 
service on the grounds that his religion was opposed to 
war and fighting- 
He tells the story himself that "he was worried 
a-plenty as to whether it were right or wrong." For 
two days and a night he knelt out on the mountain- 
side and prayed to God for guidance. "And I re- 
ceived my assurance. I received it from God that it 
were all right, that I would go and that I would come 
back unharmed," And he scarcely ever doubted* He 
never once lost his simple faith, not even when the 
thirty-five machine guns were blazing almost certain 
death right into his face. He told his mother not to 
worry, that he was coming back all right. He told 
the same to his brothers and sisters, and to his friends* 
He wrote it in his diary. His faith was as immovable 
as the mountains of his native Tennessee* 

He was born of good pioneer stock in a one-room 
log cabin in the mountains of Tennessee, off the ml* 



PREFACE xv 

road line. He was one of a family of eleven children, 
eight boys and three girls, all of them husky and strong 
and most of them freckle-faced and red-headed. One 
of his characteristic sayings is, "You may find a red- 
headed man in a penitentiary but you will never find 
one in an insane asylum." 

He is the biggest of the York family. He stands 
over six feet in his woollen socks, weighs more than 
two hundred pounds, and is raw-boned, red-headed, and 
freckle-faced. He has never been whipped or knocked 
off his feet in his life and has the reputation in the 
mountains of being one of the deadliest shots that ever 
squinted down the long barrel of a muzzle loader and 
busted the head of a wild turkey or picked a squirrel 
off a distant tree. He has eyes of blue-gray; sky-blue 
and gun-metal gray; eyes, which pin-point when they 
look at you and seem to see through sham and make- 
believe. Withal, eyes which beam in the presence of 
little children. 

Broad-shouldered, stout-chested, deep-dugged, 
thewed and muscled like an ox a mountain of a man, 
York of Tennessee. And like the mountain he has 
his feet on the earth and his head in the stars. And 
like the mountain again he has emerged through cloud 
and storm to learn patience and "the peace which pass- 
eth all understanding.' 7 

In his youth he "went bad." He gambled, guzzled 
moonshine, cussed, and tore up things. This did not 
last long. Realizing he was missing the finer things, 
he gave up dissipating completely and forever. Since 
1915 he has never tasted liquor, smoked, chewed, gam- 
bled, cussed, or eyen lost his temper. Again to quote 



PREFACE 

him: "I am a great deal like Paul the things I once 
loved, I now hate." 

Before the war he "went religious 1 ' and was known 
in the mountains as the "Singing Elder." 

He finished school with the equivalent of a second- 
grade education. It is doubtful whether he could have 
passed the second grade. He is not educated "in the 
larnin' that comes out of books." But he is a man of 
keen native intelligence. 

He has turned his back on the outside world and is 
dedicating his life to the education of boys and girls in 
the mountains. He is building an agricultural institute 
in the heart of the mountains and off the railroad. He 
is planning to bring "a heap of larnin' " to his own 
people. 

His is probably the most dramatic human story that 
has come out of the World War, It is one of the 
most significant spiritual documents in the world to-d^y. 
It has the stir and the sweep of an American epic. * 
***Btth Sergeant York and I feel it would not be right 
to end this preface without acknowledging our indebt- 
edness to the officers of the War Department in 
Washington, D. C, and to CoL George E. Buxton, 
junior, of Rhode Island (official historian of the Sad 
Division), for their co-operation and permission to ex- 
amine and publish many of the official "York docu- 
ments." 

We also wish to thank Mr. Maurice G* Hindus of 
New York City for his help in examining the docn* 
ments and going over and checking the story* 

TOM 
Jamestown, Tenn* 



CONTENTS 



FOREWORD 
PREFACE 

I. THE YORK COUNTRY 

II. THE HOUSE OF YORK 

III. THE STORY OF THE STORY 

IV. FIGHTERS 

V. LONG HUNTERS 

VI. FEUDISTS 

VII. BUSHWHACKERS 

VIII. MOONSHINERS 

IX. SADDLEBAGGERS 

X. GUNS 

XI. SHOOTING MATCHES 

XII. LARNIN' FROM NATURE 

XIII. HUNTING 

XIV. BOYHOOD 

XV. HOG-WILD 

XVI. MOTHER 

XVII. WAR 

XVIII. CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 

XIX. THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 

XX* SOLDIERING 

XXI. OVER THERE 

XXIL ST. MIHIEL 



VII 

xiii 
i 

J 3 
24 

34 
42 

59 
63 
70 

74 

83 

90 

103 

in 

121 

128 
136 

146 
153 

168 
179 



205 



XVII 



xvin 

CHAPTER 

XXIII. 

XXIV. 

XXV. 

XXVI. 

XXVII. 

XXVIII. 

XXIX. 

XXX. 

XXXI. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 
2U 



THE ARGONNE 

THE ARGONNE FIGHT 217 

OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 236 
OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT (Continued) 260 

ABOVE THE BATTLE 270 

THE ARMISTICE 279 

PARIS 285 

HOME 293 

A HEAP o' LARNIN' 303 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Sergeant Alvin C. York Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

Famous Tennessee Shooting Matches ... 38 

A Typical Creek-Bed Road in the Mountains . 86 

Turkey Shooting 36 

Hunting Companions 114 

Spoils for the Victor 114 

Preaching on the Mountainside 146 

York Agricultural College 146 

A Tennessee Home 206 

On the S, S. Ohioan 290 

In a Peace-Time Setting 3 02 



CHAPTER I 
THE YORK COUNTRY 

I FIRST saw Sergeant Alvin C. York in^New York 
City the day he returned from France in the spring of 
1919. What a day it was! What joy, what frenzy, 
what abandon had seized on the most hard-boiled city 
in the world ! It seemed as if the floodgates of men's 
very so^s had burst apart and all the pent-up passion 
of centuries had stormed forth in a mighty surge. 
Mobs everywhere, with banners, bands, bells, whistles, 
singing, screaming, clanging, whistling, and in every 
other way acclaiming the big hero of the day. Every- 
body's hero, everywhere. Ticker tape in endless waves 
streamed down from the tall buildings and flaked the 
streets until it seemed as though a blizzard had swept 
over them. The Sergeant himself, in commenting on 
this scene, or rather siege, or rapture, remarked: 
"There was a right smart crowd of people out and it 
seemed as though most of them knowed me." 

Of course they "knowed him." How could they 
help it? They had read and heard so much of him. 
For weeks newspapers had printed endless stories of 
his extraordinary feat in the Argonne Forest. Mar- 
shal Foche and General Pershing had officially men- 
tioned it in their dispatches. The returning dough- 
boys guaranteed that it was true, every word of it, and 



2 SERGEANT YORK 

there were the medals and other decorations on his 
chest for all the world to see. 

More stones had poured forth of his exotic moun- 
tain background, his deadly skill with rifle and pistol, 
his amazing knowledge of woodcraft, his tender so- 
licitude for the American wounded during the battle 
in the Argonne, his chivalrous treatment of the Ger- 
man prisoners, his great piety, and, most unbelievable 
of all, his having originally been a conscientious ob- 
jector! Certainly a dramatic personality, fitting mag- 
nificently the scene and the spirit of the day. 

I was one of the thousands that stormed the streets 
of the city. A returned wounded soldier myself, I felt 
poignantly the meaning of this uproarious welcome, its 
joy, and, almost as much, its undercurrent of sadness. 
I knew machine guns. I knew the staccato bark, the 
spitting yellow flame, the swish of bullet,;, and the 
double-distilled hell they sowed wherever they fell I 
knew that they fired six hundred shots a minute in a 
steady stream like water from a hose, I knew that a 
skilled machine gunner could cut his initials on a sand- 
bag. And I knew that German machine gunners shot 
straight Again and again I had seen squads, pla- 
toons, and whole companies charge them and go down 
like ripe corn before the reaper's blade* And this big, 
gangling mountaineer had whipped a whole battalion 
of them ! 

At first I was sceptical Who was not? It sounded 
too much like a fairy tale. It just could not be done, 
It was not human. Yet it was done* Therefore, it 
could be done and it was human* It was one of 



THE YORK COUNTRY 3 

best documented stones of the war. Appreciating that 
it was an almost unbelievable feat, the officers of his 
division very wisely lost no time in checking up and 
verifying it beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt. 
They carefully examined and took the affidavits of the 
surviving doughboys who were with York, but who, 
according to their own statements, took little or no 
part in the actual fight with the machine guns. They 
re-visited the battlefield and checked up the account of 
the battle the following morning and again after the 
armistice. Their report was thorough and convincing: 

The story has been carefully checked in every 
possible detail from headquarters of this division 
and is entirely substantiated. Sergeant York's own 
statement tends to underestimate the desperate odds 
which he overcame. 

And there was the Medal of Honour awarded by 
a special act of Congress. No wonder that New York, 
after one glimpse of this sturdy and freckle-faced 
mountaineer with his flaming red hair, went wild with 
ecstasy. 

The following morning I chuckled when I read in 
the newspapers that "he weren't a-going to commer- 
cialize his fame nohow. He weren't a-going on the 
stage or in the movies, but he sure would like a ride in 
the subways.' 1 It was the language of the mountaineer 
and the soldier, direct and decisive, and also of the 
boy, eager to play and see the wonder works of the 
rld> 

than ten years have fled by since then. The 



4 SERGEANT YORK 

world has returned to its normal every-day tasks. 
Diplomats have resumed the old job of writing polite 
peace notes to each other and building armies, too, and 
new machines of war, the mightiest the world has yet 
known. Meanwhile, Sergeant York has slipped back 
to "the little old log cabin in the mountains and them- 
thar hound dogs of mine and the life whar I belong." 
Now and then there would be brief mention of him in 
some newspaper of a lecture he had given in this and 
that city, of his interest in building schools and roads 
in the mountain country, and of his efforts to lead his 
people to some of the finer things in life. Once in a 
while someone would retell in a magazine the story of 
his Argonne fight. But that was all. Even his famous 
war diary, of which much had been written, had not, 
save for occasional excerpts, been put into print. The 
man himself had remained a mystery, possibly because 
he had already become a legend. 

In the spring of 1927, while driving through Ten- 
nessee, I resolved to swing into the mountains to visit 
York in his own home, I wanted to see him in his 
mountain setting "in, that-thar country whar I belong." 
I wanted to know how he was faring in his seclusion 
"far from the madding crowd," that had once so wor- 
shipfully acclaimed him- I wanted to get the feel of 
the man, the soldier, the mountaineer, the hunter* the 
preacher, the American. I had no thought at that 
time of writing with him his story* I just wanted to 
satisfy a personal urge, so deep-stirring that it htd 
been part of me since that memorable day when I sif 
him in New York on his return from France. 



THE YORK COUNTRY 5 

On Inquiry I learned that Sergeant York was living 
in Pall Mall, Fentress County, Tenn., in the heart of 
the Cumberland country. The town, if it may be so 
called, is off the railroad in the northeast part of the 
state, not far from the Kentucky line. Thither I went, 
and what a journey it was ! What a road I had to 
traverse 1 Now it was a narrow ledge, dizzily skirt- 
ing precipitous cliffs; now in the valleys, the bottom 
seemed to drop right out of it. It did everything a 
decent, civilized road should not do. It flitted up and 
down the mountain in unbelievable jerks and jumps. 
It led up creek beds. It forded streams. It most dex- 
terously dodged stumps and boulders, with falling tim- 
ber and landslides thrown in for added thrills. It was 
a primitive, barbarous road. 

The country around was likewise primitive, but 
haunting in its picturesqueness, with second-growth tim- 
ber and rock-ribbed fields. Scarcely a white man's 
country, certainly not a country of civilized humanity, 
It used to be the "Happy Hunting Ground' 3 of the 
;Creeks and Cherokees. Once it had abounded in bear, 
4eer, and buffalo. The older mountaineers still regale 
j&ch other with stories of Daniel Boone leaping on the 
packs of buffaloes and bringing them down with his 
powie knife, and of Davy Crockett shooting more than 
One hundred "baar" in one season. But when the white 
settlers, Scotch-Irish, borderers, Covenanters, Cava- 
liers invaded the country, they whipped the Indians, 
slaughtered the big game and hewed down the forests- ' 
Now the Indian is banished from the scene. Big game 
is almost a memory only and timber is largely of sec- 



6 SERGEANT YORK 

ond growth. But it is thick again, and rolls over the 
mountains in endless swells like ocean waves in a storm. 
It is really wondrous country! Sky. Pine. Rocks. 
Air that chills and buoys. Vista on vista of blue 
mountain peaks. Valleys shot with gold. Water 
everywhere, cool, clear, gurgling right out of the 
mountainside. Rhododendron bells. Laurel blooms. 
Redbud and wild dogwood blossoms, a profusion of 
both, and an endless variety of mountain flowers a 
country to delight and thrill the seeker of adventure. 
And still but sparsely populated. There were miles 
without a sign or sight of a human being. Now and 
then I would pass a cabin built of logs, with a flat roof 
and small windows, sometimes with broken panes or 
no panes at all, with a piece of cloth spread over the 
frame. Nowhere even a dab of paint. Nowhere a 
touch of brightness, save only what Nature in its 
bountifulness has provided. Dreary cabins, housing 
some of the poorest people in the country and the least 
enlightened. In the valleys there were groups of 
cabins, small, oft dilapidated, with withered shingles 
on the roofs, battered porches, sagging windows, 
sometimes twisted out of shape like the eyes of a cross* 
eyed man. Occasionally I would see a mountaineer 
toting a gun, rangy and raw-boned, with shoes twisted 
from wear, and a couple of hounds loping along be- 
hind. He would proffer the usual "howdy" and shuffle 
on. Once, right in the heart of the forest, I saw & 
man working in a field with a scooter plough which if' 
all wood but the tiny point, and a woman stooping 
over a steaming black wash-kettle in a yard* I 



THE YORK COUNTRY 7 

stood then why it was that Sergeant York had been 
seeking to bring schools to his people. 

I drove on. Again woods, sky, rocks, enlivened 
with patches of riotous-hued flowers. The whine and 
rip of a sawmill, the clanging thud of the woodsman's 
axe, the crash of a falling tree rose now and then with 
reverberating echoes over the mountainside. Once I 
passed a logger's camp. Occasionally on a hillside or 
in a valley there would be patches of corn for hogs and 
cattle, and even more perhaps for moonshine, which is 
more profitable. It is not uncommon in the moun- 
tains for some wit to ask you when you call to buy 
corn whether you want it In a sack or in a jar. Ten- 
nessee "moon" is potent, overproof, and so clear, they 
say, that one can read the Constitution of the United 
States right through a gallon jar. Moonshining is still 
regarded, especially by the older folk, as a feudal right. 
The mountaineer insists that "hit ain't agin the Gov- 
ernment nohow." Revenue men, like rattlers, and 
there are plenty of both, are not very popular in the 
mountains. 

But conditions are changing. Improved roads, auto- 
mobiles, and better organization work permit the Fed- 
eral officers to penetrate deeper and deeper into the 
mountains, and with greater safety. Occasionally 
there is a fight, but only occasionally. The mountain- 
eers have learned that it is bad business to shoot up 
Uncle Sam's men. They usually follow along without 
much fuss or bluster, or else 'light out into the timber" 
where the Government agent, unless experienced in the 
ways of the woods, soon loses his trail* Meanwhile, a 



8 SERGEANT YORK 

younger and more enlightened generation is growing 
up. In time "rev-killing" and feuds will fade into the 
memory of a picturesque, if lawless past 

At last I came on an expanse of flat country. It was 
the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, and, though I 
knew I was up high, mountains were nowhere in sight* 
.A few miles farther I was in Jamestown, the county 
seat of Fentress County, York's county. u jimtown, n 
it is called, and "hit is on top of the mountain*'* It 
has a population of about twelve hundred and boasts 
of an old courthouse right in the centre of the square, 
a frame school house, post office, pool hall, several 
stores, a prairie-schooner mail cart, and a weekly news- 
paper. Save for the York Highway, which runs 
through the centre of the town, the streets are un* 
paved, and what streets! sand and rock, turf and 
mud, ruts and hollows in which the water never seems 
to dry out, and the sidewalks, when there are any, 
are of split and rotted boards, with rusty nails sticking 
up, tripping pedestrians and scratching up their shoes* 

It is an unkempt, straggly town, with no sense of 
style or even comfort Cows browse in the side streets, 
and so do pigs. Debris is never swept away except by 
the wind. It is an old town, and it looks its age- It is 
still dreaming of the Civil War and reliving memoriet 
of bushwhackers, moonshiners, Indian fights, big huntt> 
and other boisterous incidents of the frontier days. A 
traveller passing through the town m 1893 wrote; "It 
Is one of the oldest towns in the state? and until tht 
last twelve months was also generally regarded by th* 
outside world as the deadest It is mid that for thi 



THE YORK COUNTRY 9 

past sixty years the sound of the hammer or saw has 
not been heard there, and not a single nail has been 
driven into any new building/ 5 

The main show place, in a historical sense, is the 
hotel. It stands on the site of the old home of Mark 
Twain's parents. Jamestown, incidentally, is Obed's 
Town in The Gilded Age. The famous Tennessee- 
Land Grant lies close by. Alvin C. York lives on a 
section of it. Mark's father, Mr. John M. Clemens, 
was a practising attorney in Fentress County, and was 
its first circuit court clerk. Mark himself was not born 
in Jamestown, his parents having left for Missouri a 
few months before he came into the world. In The 
Gilded Age, however, he gives the following descrip- 
tion of the town: 

"The locality was Obed's Town, eastern Tennessee. 
You would not know that Obed's Town stood on the 
top of a mountain for there was nothing about the 
landscape to indicate it but it did. A mountain that 
stretched abroad over whole counties and rose very 
gradually. The district was called the Knobs of East- 
ern Tennessee, and had the reputation, like Nazareth, 
as far as turning out any good thing was concerned." 

Still, the town is beginning slowly to stir into a new 
life. Only two years ago after a rain it was cut off 
from the world by rivers of mud. The few roads 
there were "begun and ended nowhere," as one of its 
citizens put it. But now, though still without a motion- 
picture house or dance hall, good roads are being built 
to the outlying world. Automobiles and radios are 
bringing it into closer touch with outside humanity, 



io SERGEANT YORK 

and the younger generation is beginning to learn some- 
thing about college. There are indications that James- 
town is on the eve of big things and may yet play a 
dramatic part in the modernization of eastern Ten- 
nessee. To a very large extent, Sergeant Alvin C, 
York is responsible for this budding renaissance. He 
certainly is rubbing the sleep out of the town's eyes and 
shaking the life out of it, or, more properly, into it. 

I stopped at a town restaurant, Suva's Restaurant, 
known far and wide for its culinary excellence. The 
usual unofficial court was in session there. Town folk, 
lumberjacks, mountaineers, in overalls, blue jeans, and 
ordinary street clothes, were gossiping with animation 
and were passing judgment on men and events- They 
all "knowed the Sergeant,'* or Alvin, as they call him. 
He lived nine miles ^.way in Pall Mall, "right under 
the mountain"; that is, in the valley below* They 
hadn't "seed him around nowhere," but they guessed 
he was on the farm. Suva, large and radiant, with 
sparkling eyes, was York's most enthusiastic supporter 
of them all. It was she who directed me to the Ser- 
geant's office across the street 

I clambered up the rough cement steps m the back 
of the bank building, traversed a dingy corridor, and 
entered a small furnished room where I met the Ser- 
geant's secretary and his right-hand man, Mr, A. S. 
Bushing. Hailing from Brooklyn, Bushing had wan- 
dered into the mountain region, fallen in love with $t 
native girl, and married her. For several years he had 
been a cashier in the bank, and it was there that he 
came to know the Sergeant, From the first he devdk 



THE YORK COUNTRY n 

oped into an ardent champion of his person and his 
cause. In fact, he threw in his lot with the Sergeant, 
and by that I mean his time, his savings, everything. 
He never has wavered in his devotion to the big moun- 
taineer, not even when sinister and powerful forces in 
the mountains held over him the threat of ruin and 
bankruptcy. No story of Sergeant Alvin C. York 
would be complete without the mention of this wiry 
little Northerner, whose official title is private secre- 
tary to Alvin C. York, but who is really one of the 
Sergeant's most intimate friends and most loyal cham- 
pions in and outside of the mountains. 

The Sergeant, Bushing informed me, had left that 
very morning for Florida. That was a grievous dis- 
appointment to me, especially as I had made this tor- 
tuous trip of nearly two hundred miles through the 
mountains on purpose to meet him. But Bushing's 
hospitality made up in part for the disappointment. 
The first thing he spoke of was the school. He of- 
fered to take me out and show me the site selected for 
it. It was evident that the school had already become 
as much a part of the Sergeant's story as his fight in 
the Argonne or the blue mountains amidst which he 
was reared. 

We motored out along the highway, the very one on 
which York had at one time toiled as a labourer for 
one dollar and sixty cents a day, and which when com- 
pleted was named in his honour. The school site 
stretched for a mile along this road, right outside of 
the town on the way to Pall Mall. No wonder the 
Sergeant insists that, "hit is going up right here." It 



12 SERGE ANT -YORK 

is situated in the very heart of a clump of stately ever- 
greens. It is to be a mountain school in a mountain 
setting for mountain boys and girls. It is to be the 
achievement of the life work of the big, red-headed, 
semi-literate mountaineer who faced all alone thirty- 
five blazing machine guns and "jes* teched them ofP's 
and then returned home, the greatest of all heroes of- 
the greatest of all wars. 

Bushing and I sat down under an inviting tree and 
talked and talked. He narrated to me the story of 
the big fellow's fight to build his school and to bring 
"a heap of larnin' " to the boys and girls he loved and 
who loved him; a fight to overcome suspicion, jealous- 
ies, petty politics, and small-town intrigue, a fight 
which, to quote the Sergeant, "was much more terrible 
than the battle in the Argonne," and in which he- 
"couldn't use the old service rifle or the Colt automatic, 
pistol nohow." But then, it ended well, for the pres- 
ent at least. The testimony of victory, mute but elo- 
quent, lay before our very eyes heaps of bricks, stone, 
lumber, all to go into the structure that is to be the 
fulfilment of a great dream. The small gang of mis- 
guided but powerful politicians, realtors, and country; 
officials, bent on exploiting the cause of the school for 
purely personal benefits, has been completely routed, 
and the school is to be built "where and how hit ought 
to be, where the boys and girls want hit to be built, and 
where hit is a-going to be." 



CHAPTER II 
THE HOUSE OF YORK 

SEVERAL months later, after an exchange of letters 
with Sergeant York, I received an Invitation from him 
to come to the mountains again and be his guest for a 
few weeks. "Come right on down here," he wrote, 
"and I'm a-telling you we will show you what moun- 
tain hospitality is like." 

This time, with memories of my first trip still fresh 
in my mind, I travelled by rail as far as I could it was 
more restful for the nerves anyway. At Oneida, Tenn., 
I boarded the little logging train that runs into the 
Cumberlands. We literally crawled through the 
mountains, along precipitous ledges, across swaying 
trestle bridges, stopping every few miles to switch flats 
and box cars. The only passenger car was the caboose 
and there I sat with lumberjacks, surveyors, moun- 
taineers, amidst heaps of mail sacks and parcels. The 
-brakeman knew the passengers and the mountain peo- 
ple that turned out to meet the train. All of them 
knew Alvin York and the work he was doing, and all 
of them spoke of him with an esteem that bordered on 
reverence. 

At the little station of Louvaine I was met by Bush- 
ing, and we drove together under the mountain to Pall 
Mall, the Sergeant's home down in Wolf Valley, A 

13 



i 4 SERGEANT YORK 

magnificent valley it is, this dimple in the Cumber- 
lands, with broad flat lands, towering rocks, and clus- 
ters of woods, and threaded with creeks and springs. 
Corn glistened in the sunlight; somewhere far away 
hounds bayed, following apparently some scent in the 
woods. In the near-by fields razorbacks were grunting 
merrily and rooting for acorns. 

It was Sunday, and the Sergeant was at church so 
we drove there. We parked our automobile just off 
the York Highway and, making our way through 
mules, horses, flivvers, buggies, we entered the little 
wooden structure that is the Sergeant's church. 

Once inside we were face to face with a scene that 
seemed to have crawled bodily out of a fairy story 
by Hans Christian Andersen. The church was crowded 
with boys and girls, tots all, sitting on hard benches 
around the stove. In the centre, reading from the 
Bible was the huge Sergeant. He had grown some- 
what fuller of body since the day I had seen him in 
New York. Little wrinkles had already begun to 
make inroads into his face just under the eyes, and 
traces of gray had begun to show in his hair. 

I had often speculated as to what my first impression 
of him would be after this lapse of years. I had pic- 
tured him, of course, as a hunter, a woodsman, a dead 
shot, a preacher on the mountainside, but somehow I 
never had thought of him in the role of a guide to 
children. He seemed too big, too strong, too severe, 
too much of the fighter and the killer to fit such a role. 
Yet, here he was in the midst of them, smiling and 
quiet-voiced, with a radiance in his eyes* The eyes of 



THE HOUSE OF YORK 15 

the children were on him. They followed his every 
movement. Around the little school he went, bending 
low over each little boy or girl and whispering in their 
ears a passage from the morning lesson, after which 
he called on them to read the passage aloud. When 
they faltered he smiled and helped them out. 

Bushing and I slipped into a seat in the rear. We 
thought we were unobserved, but we were in error. 
Those blue-gray eyes saw us, pin-pointed at us, as is 
the wont of the Sergeant when he looks at people 
closely, and smiled a welcome. Then he introduced us 
to his Sunday-school class, and to our discomfort, espe- 
cially to mine, asked us to recite from memory a pas- 
sage from Isaiah. This, I suppose, he did to impress 
the children with the versatile knowledge of the Bible 
that grown-up Christians possessed. A pause followed. 
Neither Bushing nor I responded. It was a long time 
since I had peeped Into the words of this ancient 
Hebrew prophet. I began to look around for the near- 
est exit, but the Sergeant's eyes were on me, and I knew 
there would be no escape. He repeated his invitation. 
Bushing acquitted himself with glory, and I stammered 
along and tried to bluff it out, but there was no 
bluffing the Sergeant. He looked at me as steadily as 
though he were squinting down the long barrel of a 
muzzle-loader, and when he resized my helplessness 
he rolled back his head and dluckled his inimitable 
"Ho I ho 1" Then we sang a few hymns, the Sergeant 
leading and his own mellow tenor voice rising above 
the others. Now I understood why it was that he was 
known in the mountains as the Singing Elder. 



16 SERGEANT YORK 

At the conclusion of the service we strolled out to 
the highway, the children following on the heels of 
the Sergeant. He held one little boy in his arms, an^ 
other was clinging to his hand, and the rest, laughing 
and shouting, trailed merrily behind. He looked for 
all the world like a modern Pied Piper of Hameln 
playing his pipes to another tune. At his automobile 
he told us that he could do little for the older people, 
for they were too set in their ways and beliefs, but he 
was sure he could lead the little ones toward a more 
enlightened future. 

Then I left the Sergeant and went for dinner with 
Pastor Pile. A unique character this pastor is, known 
over the countryside as Rosier Pile. Farmer, store- 
keeper, hunter, he is of the earth, earthy, yet spiritual 
enough to have organized a parish in the valley of the 
Wolf and to have built a church there, the Church 
of Christ in Christian Union, said to be the only one 
of this denomination in the entire state of Tennessee. 
A handsome man he is, rather thick-set, with gray hair, 
keen eyes, and patrician features. He would grace the 
pulpit of any church. He is an extraordinary conver- 
sationalist, and his faith, like the Sergeant's, Is the 
faith that moveth mountains. At first he was opposed 
to Alvin, as he calls the Sergeant, going to war. It 
was he who had sent affidavits to the county draft 
board and had written a personal letter to President 
Wilson seeking the Sergeants release from military 
service. Alvin's going to war had brought him face 
to face with the greatest spiritual conflict in his life* 
He fought desperately to remain true to his faith* 



THE HOUSE OF YORK 17 

But once the big fellow had definitely resolved to go, 
the gray-haired pastor of the Church of Christ in 
Christian Union "bowed to the will of God." He 
never ceased to pray for the safety of his soldier 
friend. He prayed in his little store, in his home, in 
the field, and of course in the church. To-day, as ever, 
Sergeant York has no more staunch supporter than this 
quiet-voiced preacher in the mountains. 

We visited the cave or rock house under the moun- 
tains where Sergeant York's great-great-grandfather 
had originally lived, and where the Sergeant himself 
had once blacksmithed. We called in the little log 
cabin where the Yorks had so long been living. We 
passed the tree where Alvin and Grade held their love 
trysts, and where they were later married by the Gov- 
ernor of Tennessee, in the presence of thousands of 
mountain people. 

Then we walked to Pile's home and sat down to din- 
ner. A sumptuous meal it was of beef, pork, chicken, 
beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, lettuce, homemade pie, 
and freshly drawn spring water from the mountains. 
While we ate Pile talked at length of Alvin's early 
days, of his "going bad and his being saved," of his 
church work before the war, of how he became known 
as a singing elder, and of his uncanny skill with rifle 
and pistol. 

After dinner the pastor said grace and then we 
walked out on the porch. He took down his muzzle- 
loader, or "hog rifle," as he calkd it, and proceeded to 
tell us of his hunting trips, and of how he busted the 
heads of wild turkeys. Here they were then, the Bible 



18 SERGEANT YORK 

and the musket, the hunter and the evangelist, so typ- 
ical of the mountains. 

I bade the gracious pastor good-bye and his son, a 
college student in Knoxville, drove me over to Ser- 
geant York's home. The Sergeant lives on the big 
farm which the Rotary Club of his native state pur- 
chased for him. He himself built his house, a square 
two-story frame building with large windows, a spa- 
cious porch, and two gigantic fireplaces a solid, com- 
fortable dwelling place almost on the edge of Wolf 
River and within hearing distance of the roar of the 
mill dam. 

As it was Sunday, the whole family had gathered 
together. Mother York was sitting before the blazing 
chunks in the open fireplace. She's an old woman, with 
a thin face that is criss-crossed from forehead to chin 
with deep lines. But her voice is firm and resonant as 
that of a person in full possession of physical powers. 
She wore an old bonnet and a plain calico dress with 
a blue checked gingham apron. Old as she was, she 
didn't seem to have outlived her mountain shyness in 
the presence of strangers. She spoke little and only 
when spoken to and always with a laconic directness, 
"I -ain't hed much larnin'," she once remarked, "but I 
raised up a family of eight boys and three girls in a 
one-room log cabin and they's all eleven living- And 
that teaches you something about life*" 

She is a woman of few illusions. Fame and glory 
mean nothing to her* Love and faith and manhood 
and womanhood in the old-fashioned fundamental sense 
of the word she prizes above all else on earth* 



THE HOUSE OF YORK 19 

cares not for the outside world at all. She has been 
in the city only once in her whole life, and that was in 
Nashville when her son, on his return from the front, 
was tendered an historic reception in the capitol of his 
native state. When she went to the city she wore the 
same clothes that she wears in the mountains a split 
bonnet, a long dress, and the inevitable gingham apron. 
She would not even entertain the suggestion that she 
displace the bonnet with a hat and the sombre-coloured, 
old-fashioned dress with one that would have at least 
a semblance of modern style. She "wouldn't feel 
natcheral nohow in city clothes," and she "warn't 
a-going to change for nobody." 

At that historic reception thousands of people 
crowded around her to shake her hand, but she was 
neither bewildered nor even Impressed. She was 
pleased, of course, at the recognition accorded her, but 
her chief wish was to hurry back to the mountains. 

She is proud of her soldier son, proud of his great 
war record, but proudest of all of his wholesome fam- 
ily life, his clean manhood, and his sterling spiritual 
qualities. She is especially pleased with the courage 
and the hardihood he showed when he resisted all at? 
tempts to draw him into the whirl of worldly life 
through the allurement of money and glory. 

All of the Yorks were in the house, all tall, sturdy, 
somewhat unkempt, and five of them as red-haired 
and even more freckle-faced than the Sergeant, They, 
too, were extremely shy. In fact, they hardly said a 
word save the usual * 'howdy" when I was introduced 
to them. They just stood or sat around and listened, 



20 SERGEANT YORK 

with mask-like expressions, betraying not an inkling of 
their real thoughts and feelings. Several times I 
turned and addressed them, but their replies were al- 
ways brief, sometimes consisting of only the words "I 
reckon." 

In the rear of the room sat the Sergeant's sister 
Lily, likewise red-headed and freckle-faced, with mag- 
nificent teeth and sparkling blue eyes* She was as 
reticent as her brothers. Not a word did she speak 
throughout the evening, though she listened with keen 
mtentness to all that was being said in the house and 
now and then joined in a laugh. 

Then there was Gracie, the tall, blue-eyed mountain 
girl whom the Sergeant married. Her luxurious mass 
of soft brown hair was done into two huge braids 
lifted to the ears and each fastened with a blue cotton 
string. Though she had given birth to four children, 
she had not lost her girlish glow or even her girlish 
ways. If anything, she was even more shy than the 
others, this despite her many contacts with the big 
outside world since her marriage to the famous Ser- 
geant. 

The four children were there, too, all sons, and all 
named for historic characters. Sam Houston, Wood- 
row Wilson, George Edwin Buxton, named for York's 
major (now Colonel Buxton, of Providence, R. L), 
and Alvin, Jr. 

The Sergeant himself by his sheer size seemed to 
overshadow all the other members of the House of 
York. He's the largest of the sons. He stands over 
six feet in his socks. He is easily the outstanding per* 



THE HOUSE OF YORK 21 

sonality in the House of York. He would have been 
that without his war record, if only for his colourful 
career in the mountains prior to the war. He was 
clean-shaven, with a neatly trimmed moustache, as red 
as the hair on his head, and with the flush of a healthy 
child in his full cheeks. As he advanced to greet me, 
I noticed for the first time that he walks with a firm 
tread, bearing down with all his weight, first on the 
heels, and taking long measured strides as of a man 
accustomed to mountain climbing. So individual is 
this gait of his that it is easy to recognize him 
from a distance just by seeing him walk. Through 
contacts with men of the world he has acquired a cer- 
tain outward fineness, almost polish, without, how- 
ever, losing his mountain manner. He is slow of 
movement, but not awkward. He dresses well on 
occasions. Indeed, in a suit of gray tweeds he looks 
very much like an English country squire. He con- 
verses well, too, once he has overcome his shyness. 
He has not lost it all yet, despite his travels and his 
associations with strangers. Indeed, on first acquaint- 
ance he is almost as reticent as his brothers. He has 
to be led in conversation, but when he warms up to a 
subject his mountain reserve leaves him. He never 
argues in conversation, which doesn't at all mean that 
he agrees with everything the speaker says. It is just 
a way of his, and it baffles strangers, often making 
them think that he is either not interested or does not 
understand. 

Here then they were, children of the House of 
( York, three generations of them under one roof, and 



22 SERGEANT YORK 

now for the first time in their lives in a real house, 
with a delco light plant furnishing modern illumina- 
tion, with a little organ of their own on which to play 
accompaniments to hymns, and with several shelves 
of books. Shy, almost self-effacing, they withdrew 
as if by common consent into the background, allowing 
only the Sergeant to do the honours to the guest. 

The fire blazed on the open hearth. One of the 
Sergeant's brothers carried in a fresh chunk, and it 
immediately began to smoke and then burst into a 
bluish flame. The Sergeant and I moved close to the 
fire, and we both talked away with much gusto. Not 
of the war not yet not of his dreams for the fu- 
ture but of life and men and nature and rifles and 
dogs and hunting and children. When chore time 
came his brothers slipped unnoticed out of the house, 
and the Sergeant and I continued talking until long 
after dusk had settled over the valley. He invited 
me to stay around the country for several weeks so 
as "to git acquainted." He would show me around, 
tramp me through the woods with "them-thar hound- 
dogs of mine," take me out bee-hiving way up there 
on "Peevy Mountain" overlooking his farm, and per- 
haps arrange a shooting match in his own woods so 
that I could see the hill billies come together u with 
them-thar hog rifles of theirs and do some real shoot- 
ing, busting turkeys 1 heads." 

Of course, I accepted the invitation. I had to 
go back to Jamestown, and so late in the evening I 
bade the Sergeant farewell and left, he agreeing to 
meet me in the morning. It was a quiet night. Not i 



THEHOUSEOFYORK 23 

a breath of wind. Not a stir in the trees. The 
mountains blurred and blended in the sky. The mill 
dam back of the Sergeant's house roared in a ceaseless 
monotone. Cow bells tinkled continuously, sometimes 
in the valley and sometimes far, far away in the moun- 
tains. Dogs barked. Otherwise, all was quiet in the 
Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf, where lives 
the most celebrated American soldier of the World 
War. 



CHAPTER III 
THE STORY OF THE STORY 

EARLY the following morning I met the Sergeant 
again in the office of the York Agricultural Institute. 
As if moved by common impulse, we plunged headlong 
into reminiscing of old days at the front. We yarned 
about camp days, rout marches, dugouts, fox holes, 
trenches, gas attacks, bayonet charges. In short, we 
were re-living and re-fighting the stirring days of the 
war. 

The next time we met we did the same thing. We 
had now become "buddies" and told each other every* 
thing about ourselves. This we did again and again, 
now at his office, now at Suva's Restaurant, with pork 
and beef and cornbread and vegetables piled high in 
stacks before us, now tramping over the hills and 
woods, and now in front of the open fireplace in his 
home on the farm, with wise old Mother York and 
Gracie and some of his sturdy brothers around. The 
more I heard of his early life the more was I in-* 
trigued to learn more and more. The Sergeant will- 
ingly enough responded to all questions. He unrav- 
elled for me the story of his early days in the moun- 
tains, his love of shooting and hunting, his "bad days," 
his u being saved," his struggle with doubt when he was 
summoned to war, his training days in Camp Gordon, 

4 



THE STORY OF THE STORY 25 

in Georgia, his "buddies" in the Eighty-second Divi- 
sion, his constant prayers in camps and at the front. 
The only episode he was always loathe to discuss was 
the Argonne fight. Whenever I would broach the 
subject he would dismiss it with a few abrupt phrases 
and pass on to some other topic. Not that it weighed 
heavily on his conscience. Most manifestly it did not, 
or rather, it does not. He is convinced that the hand 
of God was in it* Still, it is a story of killings and 
he prefers not to have memories of it stirred up in his 
mind. But he did speak, and always with animation, 
of his plans for the future, his dreams of good roads 
and schools in the mountains. 

It was then that I suggested to him that the story 
of his life be written for publication. But he only 
shook his head. He would not hear of it. When he 
returned from France he was offered a huge sum 
of money for just such a story written by himself. 
But he had resolved not to "commercialize nohow," 
and turned down the offer without a moment's hesi- 
tation. At one time during his fight with local poli- 
ticians for his new school he was so hard-pressed for 
funds that he was willing to have his war diary- 
printed. But the diary was short and the publishers 
wanted him to build the story of his life around it, 
so as to make it a book of appropriate size. At 
first he agreed to do it. But on reflection he changed 
his mind. He would not lay himself open to the criti- 
cism of attempting to exploit for personal advantage 
his war prestige. However, I pressed the matter 
with vigour again and again. But of no avail. He 



36 SERGEANT YORK 

Was firm in his decision not to write his life story* He 
had no objection to my writing it myself. But he 
would have no hand in it. It could not be his story 
"nohow." 

Once I asked to see his war diary. At first he re- 
fused. Only twice had he taken it out of the vault 
In the bank in which he has kept it since his return 
from the war, and that was to please two journalists 
who were determined to read it. However, he had 
them promise that they would not publish any of it, 
and^hen they did he was grieved. He was deter- 
mined to keep it under lock and key until he was dead, 
so that his children could have it as a record of his 
war experiences. Not even Bushing, his closest friend, 
had ever read it. So, when I asked to see it, he just 
smiled and politely shook his head. 

I had almost given up hope of seeing it when one 
morning he asked me in a way so jovial that I won- 
dered if he was in earnest, whether I still cared to 
read his war diary. Of course I did, I told him. 
.And to my unexpected joy he went out and came back 
with it. I was curious to know how he had managed 
to keep a diary, knowing only too well that the war 
authorities sternly forbade men indulging in such prac- 
tices, and this was his explanation : 

"Well, I kept a little notebook in America jes to 
remind me of places I had been. When I got to 
France I bought one of them little black French note- 
books. I carried this little diary in my pocket Every 
night I put down what happened. I wrote in it in 
camp, on the ships and in the fox holes and trenches 



THE STORY OF THE STORY 27 

at the front. I wrote in it every night. Of course I 
knowed no soldier in the American army was per- 
mitted to keep a diary. It was against the rules and 
anyone caught carrying it with him was subject to be 
court-martialled. Because the carrying of the diary, 
telling places you had been, what happened, and what 
outfit you belonged to, if you happened to be captured, 
would give such information to the Germans as we 
did not want them to have. The Captain, when the 
company was lined up, he would ask if any man in the 
company had a diary. He was Captain Danforlh. of 
Augusta, Ga. And one day he asked me if I was keep- 
ing a diary. And I told him I was not admitting 
whether I was or weren't. And he told me it would 
betray a lot of valuable information to the Germans 
if I was captured. And I told him that I was not 
figuring on being captured. That I didn't come to the 
war to be captured. That I wasn't going to be cap- 
tured nohow. And that if the Germans ever got v any 
information out of me they would have to get it out 
of my dead body. And so the Captain kept a-going. 
And I kept my diary." 

After reading it I was more firmly determined than 
ever to have him build the story of his life around 
it so as to make it not only a record of his war experi- 
ences, but a picture of the life and culture and struggles 
and hopes of the sturdy mountain folk from which 
he springs, 

Now I knew that he was in financial distress. He 
had had some unfortunate setbacks on the farm. His 
barn had burned, for one thing. He had told me all 



28 SERGEANT YORK 

that* He was also continually helping out his family 
and his plans for social improvements in the moun- 
tains could swallow many thousands of dollars. But 
I knew that money would not tempt him. It never 
had. He is a man of rigid principles and can be 
induced to accede to a demand or to embark on an 
action only if it is grounded in a principle in which 
he believes heart and soul. 

So I appealed to his, patriotism. The people, I 
argued, were entitled to know the facts of his stirring 
life. v They had honoured him as they had few war 
heroes during their history, and in a way it was really 
his duty to draw them into his confidence and share 
with them the story of his whole life from his earliest 
days in a log cabin. His only reply to my pleas was : 
"I guess I'll jes keep it all for the children." 

However, I persisted in my arguments. I pointed 
out to him that he could best draw attention to his 
school by drawing attention to himself, and this he 
could do best by having his story published. He ad- 
mitted that he u shure would like to get the school 

known, but " He was silent and sat dreamily 

looking out at the blue horizon. I continued the of- 
fensive. I knew he was primarily interested in boys 
and girls. His school was for them. His whole life 
he would dedicate to helping them. Very well then. 
His story would surely be an inspiration to them. He 
was now all attention. He always is when the sub* 
ject of boys and girls is mentioned to him. He smiled, 
threw back his head, and laughed his good-natured 
"Holho!" 



THE STORY OF THE STORY 29 

He said he would think it over. He did. He kept 
thinking it over, and he was a slow thinker. Most 
mountain people are, except when they are face to face 
with a crisis, and then their minds leap like lightning. 
There's no use trying to hurry them. They have 
their own way of deciding matters. However, once 
they come to a decision they're for it with all the 
verve at their command. - 

About a week later he came to me and declared 
that he guessed it would be all right. He placed the 
diary and the autobiography which he had begun 
writing and all of his private letters at my disposal. 
He dictated to me day after day. He gave me a 
letter to the War Department, asking them to give me 
access to his official records. "If you're going to do 
it," he explained, "you might's well know everything." 
Later he added, "Jes tell the truth, the whole truth, 
and let it go at that." 

I knew that such a story would have to be amply 
documented with statements and affidavits from the 
survivors of the fight in the Argonne Forest, and the 
official records in the archives of the War Depart- 
ment in Washington. It was easy to find Major 
Buxton, the first commander of York's battalion.- He 
had written 4an official record of the Eighty-second 
Division and York had been in correspondence with 
him since the end of the war. But how to locate the 
other men, especially those who had been in the Ar- 
gonne with York, was a perplexing problem. The 
Sergeant himself did not know where they were, nor 
even whether they were all alive. 



30 SERGEANT YORK 

We proceeded to search for them. We managed 
to locate Sergeant Harry Parsons, at Hollis, L. I. 
He had been in charge of York's platoon. And it 
was he who had issued the famous order hurling 
the eighteen doughboys against the German machine 
guns. Of course, he remembered the occasion vividly 
enough, and gladly submitted an affidavit covering all 
of his knowledge of the fight. Parsons, a huge, mus- 
cular son of Ireland, with flashing dark eyes and a 
heavy mop of wavy, dark hair, had been a vaudeville 
artist before the war, and after the armistice was 
well known in France as the producer of one of the 
most successful "soldier" shows. On his release from 
service in 1919 he returned to the footlights* But 
not for long. He had lost his power of amusing audi- 
ences. He had left his laugh in the Argonne. 

He became so interested in the project of this book 
that he volunteered to help us search out the other 
men we needed to make the record complete. 
Through the Veterans Bureau we located Corporal 
Bernard Early, in New Haven, Conn., where he 
operates a restaurant. As the senior non-commis- 
sioned officer, he led the four squads behind the Ger- 
man lines and was in command when they captured 
headquarters of the machine-gun battalion. It was 
at this critical point in the fight that he fell with sev- 
eral bullets in his stomach and in the arm. He has 
only a confused idea of what happened afterward* 
His courage and initiative in the early part of the 
fight played an important part in the outcome of the 
engagement. Like Parsons, he submitted an affidavit 



THE STORY OF THE STORY 31 

describing the activities of his command up to the 
point where he was rendered helpless. Corporal 
Murray Savage, the fourth non-commissioned officer, 
was killed during the first burst of machine-gun fire. 

Captain Danforth, who knew Sergeant York per- 
haps more intimately than any of the other officers 
and who is now residing in Augusta, Ga., was inter- 
viewed and submitted his version of thd Argonne en- 
counter. 

Of the eight privates who survived the machine-gun 
fire, the affidavits of seven have been obtained, either 
from the archives of the War Department in Washing- 
ton or from the official records of the Eighty-second 
Division, In possession of Colonel Buxton of Provi- 
dence, R. I. Thus, of the eleven non-commissioned 
officers and privates who were connected with the 
York episode, the affidavits of nine have been taken 
and incorporated in this story, together with the war 
diary. Likewise the statement of Captain Joseph A. 
Wood, Intelligence officer, describing the manner in 
which Corporal York brought in the one hundred and 
thirty-two German prisoners, and his receipt for them 
have been woven into the story, together with the re- 
port of Captain Bertram Cox, who, shortly after the 
silencing of the machine guns, led his platoon over the 
battlefield and stopped long enough to count, rather 
briefly, the number of the German dead. 

This story is told in York's own way. Great care 
has been taken to preserve his mountain dialect, 
though it must be remembered that during the past 
ten years the Sergeant has read many books and has 



32 SERGEANT YORK 

met people all over the country, all of which has made 
his speech more literary than that of the average 
mountaineer. Still this has not drained it of dialect 
peculiarities. Thus, like so many mountaineers, York 
observes no uniformity in the use of the pa^t or the 
perfect tenses. Now he says "saw," now "seed," now 
"seen," now "have saw," "have seed," and "have 
seen." He is just as inconsistent when he uses words 
ending in "ing." Sometimes he uses the final letter 
and sometimes he drops it as in "telling," which he 
often pronounces "tellin' " or in "fooling" which is 
often "foolinV Mountaineers say "hit" instead of 
"it." But the Sergeant forgets his h's now and then 
and pronounces the word as it is printed. This is a re- 
sult of contacts with non-mountain people and their 
speech. The same is true of double and triple and 
quadruple negatives. The mountain people use them 
interchangeably, and so does the Sergeant, except when 
he speaks slowly and has time to think. The expres- 
sions "you-uns" and "we-uns" occur in his speech with 
liberal frequency though not so frequently as their cor- 
rect counterparts, "you" and "we." The most extraor- 
dinary feature of his speech is its utter freedom from 
the least suggestiveness of profanity. Since the day of 
his conversion he has eschewed any words that relate, 
however remotely, to cussing. Not even army life has 
changed his speech in this respect. Once when the 
stenographer, in transcribing his speech, inadvertently 
inserted the expression "I'll be blamed," he ran his 
pencil right through it. Only on one occasion have I 
known him to use the name of the Deity in his speech, 



THE STORY OF THE STORY 33 

and that was when he learned that I had interviewed 
Everett Delk, his pal of hog-wild days. "Everett must 
have told you God's plenty," he remarked with a 
chuckle. When I remonstrated with him that he was 
swearing he shook his head and insisted that "God's 
plenty" was a thoroughly proper expression. 

So this is his own story told in his own way and 
documented with his war diary, his little autobiog- 
raphy, and the affidavits and statements of his officers 
and comrades-in-arms. 



CHAPTER IV 
FIGHTERS 

I AIN'T had much of the larnin' that comes out of 
books. I'm a-trylng to overcome that, but It ain't easy. 
If ever you let life get the jump on you, you have to 
keep hiking to catch up with it again, and I never 
knowed the truth of this like I do now. It ain't my 
fault. It ain't nobody's fault. It jes happened. We 
were most all poor people in the mountains when I 
was a boy* We hadn't neither the time nor the money 
to get much larnin'. The roads were bad. There 
were creeks to cross. So I growed up uneducated. 
And I never will stop regretting it. Only the boy who 
is uneducated can understand what an awful thing ig- 
norance is. And when he is suddenly pushed out into 
the world and has to live with educated people and has 
to hear them discussing things he can't understand, he 
then sorter realizes what he has missed. And I'm 
a-telling you he suffers a lot. 

When I joined the army I immediately knowed what 
a terrible handicap rny lack of schooling was. When 
I went over to Paris and visited all sorts of places and 
seed things I didn't know nothing about nohow, I jes 
wished I could have had my early life over again. I 
jes knowed I would have got some larnin' somewhere. 
Then when I come back home again and found so many 

34 



FIGHTERS 35 

people knowed and wanted to meet me, I kinder felt 
all mussed up about it. But until I begun this book I 
never fully understood how necessary an education is 
and how little chance you have to get anywhere with- 
out it. When I sit down to write I know what I want 
to say, but I don't always know jes how to put it down 
on paper. I jes don't know how to get it out of me and 
put it in words. I ain't had the training. Hit's no 
use kicking about it. I suppose I have to do the best 
I can. I can't do no more. All the same, I do wish I 
could have had the advantages of good schools and 
books and teachers. 

I have promised myself that I am going to get these 
things for my children; and for a heap of other chil- 
dren too. I'm a-dedicating my life to building schools 
in the mountains. If it is necessary I'm going to build 
good roads and bridges and provide transportation so 
that the children can get to these schools too. If they 
can't afford it nohow, I'm a-going to give them a 
chance to work their way through. 

Mountain people are not great readers. I don't 
mean the people in the towns and more settled com- 
munities in the mountain country, I mean we-uns right 
in the mountains. It is hard to get books and there 
ain't no libraries. But we're most all good story* 
tellers. And we repeat our stones over and over 
again until they become sort of household news. 
Whenever you get two mountaineers together you 
'most always get a story. Around the old blacksmith 
shop, at the store, or at the shooting matches you are 
'most certain to hear a whole riiess of them; and when 



36 SERGEANT YORK 

we visit each other and sit around the old open fire- 
places on long winter nights we tell a right-smart lot 
of them. Hunting and shooting stories are the most 
popular. 

And the best of them are remembered and handed 
down from father to children, jes like the muzzle-load- 
ing guns and the old dresses. We never seem to tire 
of hearing about old Davy Crockett's baar hunts and 
Daniel Boone's fights with the Indians. And we have 
all kinds of stories of Andrew Jackson and Sam Hous- 
ton. They used to get around these parts. There T s 
a whole heap of Crocketts living in Jimtown to this 
day. These old-timers must have been right-smart 
men. We don't find the like of them around nowa- 
days. But times have changed. Maybe we don't live 
the sort of lives which make great men. 

Since I was knee high to a duck I've heard tell of 
these men. I guess what outsiders call history is jes 
plain story-telling with us. 

So you see we mountaineers, without having read 
many books or studying the subject are tol'ably well 
informed of what has done been in these parts since the 
time of the first settlers. The records have been re- 
peated in story form and handed down year after year 
until it comes to us. 

These-here mountains of old Tennessee, North Car- 
olina, and Kentucky were once the hunting and fighting 
grounds of the Cherokees and Creeks. They was jes 
about the fightinest Indians that ever put on the war 
paint. I guess the panthers and wild cats must have 
studied their methods. Them-there Indians must have 



FIGHTERS 37 

been kinder fond of these-here parts* The bears and 
buffaloes must have attracted them. There sure must 
have been a mess of them around here. It was noth- 
ing for the early settlers to shoot a hundred bear in a 
single season. They say that Davy Crockett shot ten 
In one day. I'm a-telling you that's a lot of baar. 

Daniel Boone once saw so many buffaloes grazing 
in the valleys of these-here Cumberland mountains 
that he shouted, "I am richer than the man mentioned 
in the Scripture, who owned the cattle of a thousand 
hills; I own the wild beasts of more than a thousand 
valleys." And there must have been a lot of deer on 
the hoof. Some of the old settlers in the mountains 
still have the fringed deerskin shirts and moccasins 
of their pioneer ancestors. And there were coon, fox, 
and panther and all sorts of other varmints. There 
still are. 

But the white settlers come in and started things. 
The first to come were the fighting Scotch-Irish. They 
come from the borders of Scotland and from the north 
of Ireland. They were followed by the Cavaliers 
from the hills of Scotland and by the Covenanters 
from England, the Huguenots from France, and a 
number of Germans. But the Scotch-Irish outnum- 
bered all the others. They were the first. They 
stayed right on and these mountains are full of their 
descendants to-day. These old settlers were the most 
independent, God-fearing and God-loving people In the 
world. They left the other side rather than bow down 
to kings and dictators and accept political and religious 
beliefs they didn't believe in nohow. So they come 



38 SERGEANT YORK 

over here where they hoped to be able to govern 
themselves and worship God according to the dictates 
of their own conscience. They followed the Quakers 
over into Pennsylvania and then hiked down the Shen- 
andoah Valley to the mountains of North Carolina, 
and from there they fought their way through the 
Smokies over into the Cumberlands and Kentucky. 
That's how Daniel Boone travelled. 

He was a kind of trail blazer. Wherever he led 
others followed; that is, if they got past the Indians. 
They fought it out all over this country. It was tough 
fighting from the start to the finish. They toma- 
hawked and shot and scalped each other until nigh 
every inch of these mountains and valleys was stained 
with human blood. "The Dark and Bloody Ground" 
begins only a few miles from where I live. There was 
no stopping them-there early pioneers. They gave the 
Indians the best they had. It was enough. When they 
started anything they stuck it out until it was done 
finished. They believed the only good Indian was a 
dead one; so they proceeded to make them all good. 
And they did a right-smart job of it. There are not 
many redskins left to-day; and them that are live by 
themselves on Government reservations. The trouble 
was there wasn't room enough for both to live in 
this-here country. What happened is what always 
"happens, when two people fight the strongest won* 
And the new settlers happened to be the strongest* 
That's the way of nature. 

They were the fightinest men. They were always 
at it. If it is was not the Indians, it was the 




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FIGHTERS 39 

or French or Spanish. The Tennessee Sharpshooters 
were in the thick of it at King's Mountain. They 
went up the slopes and sharpshooted Ferguson and 
his Red Coats until there was nigh on none of them 
left. That-there Ferguson was a tol'able hard-fight- 
ing man himself, and he and his troops were great 
favourites with Cornwallis, And our mountain men 
shot them all to pieces. That was one of the turning 
battles in the Revolutionary War. The Tennessee 
Sharpshooters were Andrew Jackson's favourite 
troops. Their old long-barrelled muzzle-loaders did 
a whole heap to whip the English at New Orleans. 

They were up against it there too. They were 
fighting the pick of Wellington's veterans, the ones 
who helped to bust Napoleon. And the mountaineers 
out-fought and out-shot them. They were well in it, 
too, at Pdnsacola and later on in Mexico. My grand- 
father, Uriah York, was in the Mexican War and 
took part in the storming of the heights of Chapul- 
tepec. Them-there old pioneers was always fighting. 
Whenever their liberty was threatened they went right 
at it. And once when they figured their own Govern- 
ment was not doing the right thing by them they 
up and founded the free and independent State of 
Franklin, which was in eastern Tennessee. If you 
step on a rattler he will strike, and if you step on a 
Scotch Irishman or a Highlander he will jes natcherly 
hit back until somebody gets hurt. 

The descendants of them-there old pioneers are the 
mountaineers of to-day. We haven't changed so very 
much. Of course, we don't wear deerskin shirts and 



40 SERGEANT YORK 

moccasins and coonskin caps. We get on tol'ably well 
now in overalls and jeans. The old muzzle-loaders 
are givin' way to the modern high-powered rifle and 
shotgun but jes the same there are a right-smart lot 
of hog rifles, as we hunters call them, in the mountains 
even to-day. Most all of us know how to load them, 
with cap and ball; and up to one hundred yards prefer 
them to any other rifle in the world. The modern 
home is drivin' out the little old log cabin with the 
rough-hewn logs and puncheon floors, but they ain't 
all gone. You see them here and there through the 
mountains. My brother George still lives in the one 
in which we growed up. 

Even if our clothes and guns and homes are chang- 
ing, we still sort of, hang on to the old pioneer's love 
of political and religious liberty. We haven't much 
use for rituals and prayer books. Our God is still 
the God of our ancestors the God of the Old Testa- 
ment. We still believe in His word as it has been 
revealed to us in the old Bible. In politics too we 
still hang on to 'the old ideals of liberty and states' 
rights. In our family life too we are much the same. 
Blood is still pretty thick around these-here parts, and 
we still stick together much like the clans of our an- 
cestors. 

The mountains have sorter hemmed us In along 
with our own beliefs and ways of living. We kinder 
live an Eighteenth Century life, In the middle of the 
Twentieth Century. You can kinder trace our pedi- 
gree in the names of the towns all through the moun- 
tains. There is Pall Mall, whejre I live; and Jamet- 



FIGHTERS 41 

town, the county site; and Livingston, close by; and 
Cookeville, and Crossville, and Rugby. Them's good 
old Anglo-Saxon names. And to kinder balance 
things, there is Possum Trot, Coon Gap, Wolf Valley, 
Wolf River, and Burrville. There's the pioneer side 
of us. And jes like the towns which are a mixture 
of old Anglo-Saxon and the spirit of the frontier 
days, so we-uns are a mixture of old Anglo-Saxon 
stock, kinder seasoned and hardened in the roughness 
of this-here new continent of ours. 

So we people in the mountains claim that while we 
are good Americans, the sons and daughters of early 
pioneers, we are also the old Anglo-Saxon type and 
among the purest In America. We still sing many of 
the old border ballads and speak a heap of old Eng- 
lish words, like "ain't," "we-uns," "y u - uns " and 
"afeared." We are big and rangy and raw-boned. 
And there are 'most any number of red-headed people 
all around. We have a saying that you may see a 
red-headed man in the penitentiary, but you will never 
see one in an insane asylum. 



CHAPTER V 
LONG H U NTERS 

BEFORE the war, because I hadn't read many books, 
I was kinder ignorant of many of the things that 
people in the world outside of these-here mountains 
were arguing and quarrelling about. I had never 
heard tell of this racial superiority and never even 
knowed there was such a thing. I jes sorter imagined 
that people were more or less alike and that there 
were good and bad and all kinds among all peoples; 
and my experience in the World War bore out this 
belief of mine. 

I was in the Ail-American Division, made up of 
boys from all over. In my platoon there were Greeks, 
Italians, Poles, Irish, Jews, and a German, as well 
as a few mountain boys and some Middle West 
farmers. It didn't occur to me nohow to look too 
carefully at their branding marks. They was jes 
American soldier boys to me and that was all; and I 
would be a heap bothered if I was to try to make up 
my mind which of them was the best. I didn't find 
out then, and I'm a-telling you I haven't found out 
since, that jes because a man comes from some par- 
ticular place or country he's any better'n anybody else* 
It ain't where you come from, it's what you are that 
counts. But when I come home from the war and 

42 



LONG HUNTERS 43 

got to goin' around mbdn' with people, I begun to run 
into this talk about racial superiority. I didn't under- 
stand it. It didn't mean nothing to me nohow. 

So when I say that a heap of great men have come 
from these mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, and 
North Carolina, I don't mean to say that we're any 
better'n anybody else; and I ain't admitting either 
that we're any worse. I am jes stating the facts. 
Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Sam 
Houston, John Sevier, James Robertson, and Coonrod 
Pile there they are, and that's a right-smart lot of 
real people. They weren't all "long hunters 5 ' and 
they weren't all born here, but most of them growed 
up and hunted and fought and explored through this 
mountain country, and have left their traces all 
around. Davy Crockett used to hunt coon in our 
valley, and as I said, there are to this day a lot of 
Crocketts in Jimtown. Over near Jonesboro there 
is a big beech tree with this inscription on it: 

D. BOON 

cillED A BAR 
in ThE 

YEAR 1760 

When Andrew Jackson was public prosecutor for 
Tennessee he often had to come into these-here moun- 
tains and attend court; and over in Crab Orchard, 
which is only a few miles from Jimtown, there is an old 
hotel where he often used to stay on his way to and 
from Washington. Sam Houston, John Sevier, and 



44 SERGEANT YORK 

James Robertson also knowed these parts. If this is 
not enough, Hodgenville, where Abraham Lincoln 
was born, is over acrost the Kentucky line less than 
one hundred and fifty miles from our part of Ten- 
nessee. I might also add that Mark Twain's parents 
growed up in Jimtown. So I say that we have turned 
out a whole heap of most powerful fighters and 
hunters and statesmen, too. It kinder seems to me 
that the three used to go together in them days. 

I'm a-thinking that larned peCple who believe in 
this-here "Nordic supremacy" would shout their heads 
off and say that this is because we're all good Anglo- 
Saxons in the mountains. We are, but jes the same 
John Sevier was a Frenchman, and if I understand it, 
Daniel Boone was of Welsh beginnings. I know, of 
course, that blood counts. I never yet have known 
a cur dog that was any good for coon or baar; a 
mixed-up steer is the foolishest thing on hoofs; and 
a scrub horse ain't to be reckoned with a thorough- 
bred nohow. I'm admittin' that you have got to have 
the right beginnings; but that ain't all. That ain't 
enough. You have got to have somethin' else be- 
sides the right kind of bringin' up. The best bred 
hound in the world ain't goin* to earn a groundhog's 
pelt until it has been properly seasoned- And it don't 
matter what sort of blood great men have, they have 
to have the right sort of conditions to find themselves. 

It's jes like our shooters to-day in Tennessee* I 
guess our mountain boys are among the best shots in 
the world. They can bust a turkey's head at sixty 
yards 'most every shot, and they can take the centre, 



LONG HUNTERS 45 

out of a target at forty paces with the best shooters 
in the world. But they wuzn't born sharpshooters 
nohow. I'm admittin' they had it in them; and I'm 
also a-tellin' you that they had to be trained and prac- 
tised. 

There's a muzzle-loader, or hog rifle we call it, in 
most every mountain cabin. The rifle is mighty near 
the first tool that a mountain boy learns to handle, and 
there is always plenty of squirrels, turkeys, and foxes, 
and coon, for him to get his eye on. Even to-day 
hunting brings tol'able good money in our country. 
Coon skins bring around twelve dollars, fox pelts are 
well worth the going after, and turkeys make right- 
smart vittles. In between jobs there is a right-smart 
amount of money to be picked up if you know how 
to tote a rifle the right way. There you have one of 
the main reasons why our mountain boys are such 
good shots. 

I am inclined to believe that this is why so many 
great men come from around here. They had it in 
them at the beginning and they had a right-smart 
chance to develop themselves. Those old pioneers had 
to be hard-fighting and courageous men. They were 
always mixin' it with somebody or other; and they 
had to get used to receivin' as well as givin\ It was 
dog eat dog and the best won, or they jes kinder 
passed out. And they had to be hardy. This was a 
tough country a hundred years ago, with Indians, 
Tories, bad winters and worse summers, and often 
little enough food and a wilderness to travel in, often 
with no roads and no bridges, and they had to be hard 



46 SERGEANT YORK 

and they were, harder'n hickory. They had to be 
resourceful. 'Most every man had to be his own 
blacksmith, gunsmith, carpenter, farmer, engineer, 
and doctor. They had to larn to stand alone. 

This was a pretty lonely country and they was 
often alone in it. Daniel Boone once stayed out in 
the woods in Kentucky for several months without 
even a dog for a companion. So, them old-timers had 
to larn to stand alone and the man that larns that 
becomes the strongest man there is. 

All of these things went a long way towards mak- 
ing these men the kind of men they was, great men. 
They was sort of shut off from other folks In the 
outside world and they jes had to go ahead and settle 
their own problems and kinder make their own coun- 
try. So they went ahead and done it. 

Next to a man who reads his Bible, we mountain 
people most admire one who knows how to tote a 
rifle. I riccolect that when I first went into the army 
and went out on the rifle ranges at Camp Gordon, 
Atlanta, Ga., and seed some of them Greeks and 
Italians shoot, ho! ho! I didn't have much respect 
for them nohow. They was the worstest shots that 
ever shut eyes and pulled a trigger. But later, when 
I had done been with them over there in France and 
seen them fighting in the front-line trenches like a lot 
of mountain cats, I kinder realized that there are other 
things in life besides using a rifle properly. But jes 
the same, I kinder like a man who knows how to 
squint down the barrel of a muzzle-loader and bring 
the bead up until it cuts the centre. 



LONG HUNTERS 47 

Most mountain people are like me. That's one of 
the reasons why we still think a toPable lot of Daniel 
Boone. There was a shooter! Whenever he shot 
squirrels he never mussed them up nohow. He never 
even shot them through the head. He barked them. 
That is, he either shot so close to their head or be- 
tween their body and the bark of the tree that they 
died from the concussion. That's shootin' I'm a-tellin' 
you. Of course, the big balls they used in them times 
helped some, but hit was shootin' jes the same. He 
was a right-smart man with a hunter's knife, too. 
Over in the Indian country, when he was hungry and 
wanted meat and dares'n fire off a rifle for fear of 
the Indians, he would leap on the back of a buffalo 
and cut him down. And they say that the buffalo is 
one of the meanest and hardest fighters that there 
is on hoof. 

Daniel Boone come from Pennsylvania and settled 
on the Yadkin in North Carolina. After that he used 
to tote tobacco in the markets in Virginia. But he 
jes natcherly couldn't stay in one place long enough 
to make the ground warm under his feet. He had to 
be up and going, always to new country; and he never 
turned back, not for all the Indians in creation. He 
kinder had a hungering always for new ground. If 
he seed a new cabin going up or some new settlers 
coming in he sorter felt crowded and begun to search 
around for more room and the wilderness. He jes 
natcherly had to have game to hunt. No hunting and 
there was no Boone. I think the reason why he always 
whipped the Indians was because he could do anything 



48 SERGEANT YORK 

that they could and could do it a heap better' n they 
could. He could out-shoot, out-hunt, out-run, out- 
fight and out-smart any of them. They often tuk him 
prisoner but they never could keep him long. Some- 
how he always seemed to be able to slip away. 

Next to his shooting I most like him for the way 
he liked to be alone. On his first expedition through 
the mountains into Kentucky his companions were 
either killed or turned back and he stayed on all alone 
for several months. He was the only white man in 
the whole of what is now Kentucky. He hadn't any 
companions of any sort. He was all alone, by him- 
self; he hadn't even any bread, or sugar, or salt. But 
he stayed jes the same. He hunted and explored and 
wandered around and had a right-smart time. It tuk 
a great man to keep a-goin' like that, all alone in the 
wilderness for months with the nearest white man 
hundreds of miles away. And the only time, so they 
say, that the Indians nearly ketched him off his guard 
was when he was a-standin' on the bluffs above the 
Ohio River lookin' kinder dreamy-like at the waters 
and the sun a-goin' down behind the trees ; and while 
he was doin' this the Indians tried to jump him, but 
they never got him. As quick as a rattler he turned 
and jumped into a tree sixty feet below and got away. 
I guess them Indians wondered what sort of a man 
he was. 

I would most awful liked to have seen him dressed 
in them-there black deerskins he used to wear, with 
his hair all platted up in the pioneer way, standin' 
lookin' acrost the river at the sunset with them-there 



LONG HUNTERS 49 

Indians a-crawlin' up behind him without a chance in 
the world to get their hands on him. And that jump 
down into the trees, ho ! ho I 

I guess hit's my love of good shootin' more'n the 
fact that old Davy Crockett once hunted coon with my 
great-great-grandfather that makes me like to listen 
in on any story, or read anything I can git a-hold of 
about him. Old Davy may not have been the explorer 
and statesman that Daniel Boone was, but to my way 
of thinkin' he was even a better hunter and fighter. 
If he was in the wilderness he jes natcherly knowed 
where to find game and to bring it down without 
wastin' powder and lead. They say that when he was 
with General Jackson's army and the men was starv- 
ing all around him that he would always get something 
for himself and for a lot of others. He used to call 
his favourite rifle Betsy; and we-uns in the mountains 
think such a lot of old Davy that a right-smart number 
of us call ours after that old muzzle-loader of his. 

Right down the line, Davy Crockett come from 
fightin' stock. He has Scotch-Irish blood in him. His 
grandfather and grandmother was killed by the 
Indians. His father fought in the Revolutionary War 
and David himself was a soldier with General Jackson 
and in the end died like a man at the Alamo. 

He must have been jes about the greatest baar 
hunter that ever lived. When Davy with his muzzle- 
loader and baar hounds went out after them they 
hadn't much chance. He knowed their habits and 
their feeding grounds almost as well as they knowed 
them themselves; and in the winter time he knowed 



S o SERGEANT YORK 

how to locate them in hollow trees and in their cane 
houses and harricanes. He was such a right-smart 
hunter that he could always tell whether they were up 
in the tree or not. He knowed that when they climb 
up they don't slip a bit but when they come down they 
leave long scratches. 

One dark night Davy and his dogs got into a most 
awful mix-up with a screamer of a baar which they 
done treed in a big poplar. He shot the baar down 
but it was only wounded. Then in the darkness they 
all got mixed up and went to it. He couldn't use his 
rifle when in the darkness. So he jes got out his 
old hunting knife and went into it right. The dogs 
chased the baar into a big crack in the ground and 
Davy let fly with his old muzzle-loader gun, but instid 
ef killing the baar he wounded it in the fleshy part 
of the back. That made it roarin' mad. It come 
out of the crack and they went at it agin. In the 
mix-up Davy lost his rifle, so he picked up a pole and 
begun to punch the baar about until finally, with the 
help of his hounds, he got it back in the crack again. 
And they all got down after it. The baar was mussin* 
up the dogs right smart, and Davy, like the good 
hunter he was, didn't like that a bit. He must have 
been jes about as mad as the baar. He jumped down 
right on the baar's back, and in the darkness, with the 
baar and the dogfc barkin' and roarin' and fightin' and 
scratchin' and bitin', he jes finished that old baar 
with his hunter's knife, ho! ho! 

It was a cold night and everything was too wet to 
start a fire, but he got the baar out of the crack and 



LONG HUNTERS 51 

dressed it. He tended to his hounds the best he could. 
Then to keep from freezing he clum up a tree which 
hadn't a limb on it for thirty feet, and locked his arms 
together and slid down to the bottom. He done this 
all night, climbing up and sliding down over a hundred 
times ; and he said that this sort of exercise made the 
inside of his arms and legs feel pretty good. 

Another time his dogs found a baar in a hollow 
tree. Davy clum up a tree and looked into the hollow 
to make sure the baar was there. It was there all 
right. It poked its head out of the hole and Davy 
come down like a streak of lightnin' and the bear come 
after him. Davy was on his feet first, and with the 
help of his hounds and that old muzzle-loader that 
didn't know how to miss nohow he got the baar. 

Once when he was down in Texas he got into a 
most awful mix-up with a panther. He was prowlin' 
round in the trees lookin' for a bed for the night 
when he almost ran head in onto the cat. But he beat 
the cat to it. He let fly with Betsy and in the mix-up 
only wounded the panther, and it kept a-ct>min' right 
at him with four claws and a mouth full of slashin' 
teeth and two hundred pounds of wounded, mean- 
fightin' cat. He hadn't time to reload, so he used his 
rifle as a club ; but that was no use, so he throwed it 
away and went after the panther with his huntin' 
knife. They got into several clinches and mussed each 
other up, but Davy killed it dead. That's the sort of 
fighter he was* 

Oncet around Christmas time when he was out of 
meat and other provisions and had run short of pow- 



5 2 SERGEANT YORK 

der lie went afoot five miles through creeks and 
flooded country, crawling over rocks and wading up 
to his shoulders in half-frozen water to his brother- 
in-law's for a keg of powder. It was way below 
freezing and he was wet through; and several times 
he was nearly drowned or washed away; and during 
the last part of the journey he had practically no 
feeling in his legs. But he got there. 

He got the powder and he brought it home in much 
the same way. Hickory was soft beside of old Davy 
Crockett. He was even more fond of politics than 
he was of baar-hunting. He was a right-smart poli- 
tician, too. He knowed most all of the tricks of the 
trade. Oncet when he was campaigning he come to 
a town where the only way he could get the votes was 
by buying whiskey for the voters. He hadn't any 
money so he jes went out in the woods with that-there 
gun of hisn and got him a coonskin which he was able 
to turn m for the whiskey. 

The voters drunk it up and wanted more. Davy 
noticed the skin hanging over the bar. He stole that 
same coonskin several times and kept selling it back to 
the saloon keeper without him knowing nothing about 
it. He got the whiskey and the votes too. 

Like Daniel Boone, he didn't much like being 
crowded. He often visited the big cities, but he was 
more at home in the wilderness. It was the most 
natcheral thing for him to go off to Texas, He knowed 
what that Texas fight was all about. He wanted 
to carve out a new career down there and help get 
the state for Uncle Sam, Jes like w?iter kmows how 



LONG HUNTERS 53 

to find its own level, old Davy knowed how to find 
the hottest fightin'. 

So he went straight to the Alamo. He was right 
with them when they was surrounded by the thou- 
sands of Mexicans. He 'fought like a baarcat and 
when the Mexicans broke into the fort in the morning 
he was one of the six men still living. He was backed 
up in the corner of the fort with a broken rifle in one 
hand and a big bowie knife in the other. There was 
about twenty Mexicans wounded or lying dead all 
around him, and he was yellin' at the others to come 
and get him. They jes bore him to the ground and 
he went down a-fightin'. After the surrender when 
they got out the wounded and the dead they found 
him very much alive and a-kickin', so they marched 
him out with the five other prisoners. They was 
takened before a Mexican general and his officers, 
who instid of treatin* them properly begun to most 
cowardly cut them down with their swords. When 
Davy seed this he let out a roar like a wounded baar 
and leapt at the Mexicans with his bare hands. But 
he had no chance. They jes hacked him to pieces. 
So old Davy died as he lived, a most awful brave and 
wonderful fightin' man. 

Andrew Jackson, too, was another Tennesseean, 
who natcherly knowed how to shoot and fight. We 
kinder looked upon him as the greatest of them all; 
and even to this day they say that back of the cane 
breaks when the Presidential election comes around 
the people still go to the polls and vote for Old 
Hickory. Of course, that's only a story, but it sorter 



54 SERGEANT YORK 

shows how really alive he still is. We talk about him 
jes as though he only lived a few years ago. He was 
the first state prosecutor for Tennessee and he had 
to visit every court in the state. They say he was 
pretty short on law and pretty long on fightin'. He 
was as full of fightin' as a mountain cat when the 
hounds have cornered it. 

And Old Hickory's friend, Sam Houston, was an- 
other celebrated man in Tennessee. He stood near six 
feet six. He was a big one. In my home in Pall Mall 
we think so much of Sam Houston that we called our 
fourth son after him. Why shouldn't we? He was 
born right here in Tennessee. He was a twelve- 
pounder when he come into the world. And when 
our friends come in to see the baby I always introduce 
him as "Sam Houston, the man who conquered Texas." 
Ho! ho! 

Of course, I know that a right-smart lot of books 
have been wrote about these old pioneers and many 
of these things are known. But as I said when I begun 
to write this, what's history with larned people is still 
a matter of story-telling with us, and I'm a- telling 
you that these people are not merely characters in 
books to us. We talk about them and we sorter feel 
them around us as though they were still alive. They 
are, of course, as much a part of our lives as these 
mountains here and the log cabins and the muzzle- 
loaders they used and we still have. 

We have other great characters, too, John Sevier, 
James Robertson, Shelby, and still others not as well 
known. There was also my great-great-grandfather, 



LONG HUNTERS 55 

Coonrod Pile. He was the first white man to settle 
in this-here valley and one of the first in the whole of 
this-here part of Tennessee. He come in here in the 
latter part of the Eighteenth Century. He was a 
Long Hunter, and he come from over somewhere in 
North Carolina, with two or three companions, but 
they didn't stay. They kept on a-going, probably fur- 
ther West. That's the way most of them done went. 
But Coonrod Pile, old Coonrod, as most of us speak 
of him, stayed right here in the little valley. In them 
times it was a cane break with the three forks of the 
Wolf a-singing through, and a-plenty of springs bub- 
bling out of the mountains. 

He spent his first night, and most probably every 
night until his cabin was up, in the cave or rock house 
above the spring where I used to blacksmith when I 
was a boy. It was good protection from the Indians 
and wild animals. There was a-plenty of water and 
the game used to come there to drink. It was a right- 
smart place for settling in. There were a-plenty of 
Indians around and the hills and valleys were alive 
with baar, panther, and other varmints. And old 
Coonrod was the only white man and he must have had 
a heart made out of hickory and walnut. He jes went 
right ahead and built him a home and put in his crops. 
I guess he was a right-smart hunter and shooter, too. 

Other hunters come in and joined him, and soon they 
had a toV able-size' valley settlement. And they called 
it Pall Mall. I don't know why, but I guess Coonrod 
Pile in the first place come from England, and maybe 
it was jes his sense of humour letting itself go. But 



5 6 SERGEANT YORK 

Pall Mall it was called and Pall Mall it has stayed 
to this day. The little valley settlement went so far 
ahead and then it jes natcherly stopped, and here it is 
to-day, jes a sleepy, sparsely populated little place, 
sorter hid away in the Cumberland Mountains; but it 
was the beginning and what is now middle Tennessee 
growed up around it. 

Pall Mall is older than Jimtown or Byrdstown or 
Livingston or any of the other places around this part 
of the state. In old Coonrod's time there were no his- 
tories kept here, and as the few old-timers who remem- 
ber him were only little children at that time, a right- 
smart lot of what we know about him is jes hearsay, 
but there was court records and land deeds in existence 
;which sort of bear out these hearsay stories. 

Jes as he was the first, he always remained the rich- 
est and most powerful settler. At one time he owned 
'most all of the valley and the present site of Jimtown 
and most all of Fentress County. He had a blacksmith 
shop and general store, farms, and a number of slaves* 
He was a hard worker and a smart trader and he had 
a lot of money for those times. They say he used to 
keep his money in a big safe in a special room. Uncle 
Jim Pile told me that old Coonrod, who was his grand* 
father, sharpened the prongs of a pitchfork and al- 
ways threatened to fork anybody who come near that 
room where the money was. 

Uncle Jim says old Coonrod was a big man and had 
a most awful temper. Most of the other settlers were 
a-f eared of him, and when they went to him to buy corn 
or whiskey they held the money in one hand and the 



LONG HUNTERS 57 

sack or jar in the other and jes said nothing. He must 
have been a man of mighty strong likes and dislikes. 
If you went to him for anything he would look at your 
trousers, and if the knees was patched and the seat was 
all right he figured you was always going ahead and he 
would help you, but if it was the opposite, ho ho ! He 
figured you was lazy and always settin' down and he 
would run you out. 

There are also stories in the valley, but of course 
they are only hearsay, that he was most awful a-f eared 
of lightning and thunder, and whenever it stormed he 
would go right back in that-there old cave or rock 
house and shiwer and cuss and wait until hit was over. 
The log cabin he built there by the spring, he built to 
stay. Hit is still there and until a few years ago was 
lived in by Will Brooks, my mother's only brother. 

When old Coonrod died years before the Civil War 
he left a right-smart heap of money and land, but the 
war and the whole army of descendents that have 
come down from him have sorter broken it up until 
there ain't much for nobody to-day. Old Coonrod 
wasn't much heard of outside of these parts of Ten- 
nessee. He wasn't well known like Daniel Boone and 
old Davy Crockett and the others, but he was a big 
man, a pioneer of pioneers, and hit was men like him 
going alone Into the wilderness and settling there and 
building up the community that helped to make this 
country great. 

As I said before, and I'm a-saying it agin right 
here, I ain't trying to make out nohow that we're any 
better'n anybody else, but it has bothered me a lot in 



58 SERGEANT YORK 

my trips around America that a heap of people sorter 
look at Tennessee as a sort of backward and ignorant 
state. I have heard them go so far as to say that 
Tennessee's one of the worstest states in the Union. I 
guess that-there trial at Dayton hasn't helped much to 
make them change their opinions. I ain't a-going to 
argue nohow about this-here evolution. I don't know 
much about it either way. I ain't read enough books 
to understand it. I ain't for it nor agin it. I don't 
care what it proves or don't prove. Like a lot of 
other people in the mountains, I have got my own be- 
liefs about God and man and such things. They're 
real beliefs with me and they bring me a heap of com- 
fort and help me at all times and I ain't a-going to 
change them for any trial at Dayton or anywhere else. 
But I am a-telling you that the state of Andrew Jack- 
son, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and old Coonrod 
Pile ain't got to and ain't a-going to make no apologies 
to nobody nohow. 



CHAPTER VI 
FEUDISTS 

ALTHOUGH we have much the same blood and live 
in the same sort of mountains and are a much-alike 
people, we-uns in the Cumberlands of Tennessee have 
never gone in for the killings and feuds like they have 
acrost the Kentucky line. I don't know the reason. I 
don't even know that there is a reason, I jes know 
that we have had very few feuds, while over there in 
the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia they 
were baarcats for them. 

I kinder figure that the mountains, because its hard 
for the officers to git into them, most powerful attract 
careless people. Then when they git located they try 
to run out the old settlers and have things their own 
way. Then they go to it and one of them is killed 
off and one of them survives. I'm not a-going to say 
that we don't have any lawless people or any killings 
where I come from, but I am a-going to say right 
now that the more decent people usually run things 
around our part of Tennessee. But acrost the line it 
has been a hard, cruel fight. But the decent people 
there seem to be getting control agin and the feuds are 
dying out. 

The trouble with these-here feuds is that they have 
been exaggerated until ftie outside public thinks that 

59 



60 SERGEANT YORK 

all mountain people fight and kill each other when hit 
ain't so. Even in the feud districts, families not in- 
volved and even strangers, provided they keep their 
mouths shet, are not in any danger at all. But even 
so, the feuds are bad enough. To my way of thinking, 
they have been a disgrace, both to the people con- 
cerned in them and to many of the officers too. ^ And 
then newspapers and writers have most often tried to 
make some of the feudists sort of mountain heroes, or 
mistreated people, or people who don't know better; 
and that, of course, has not helped much. Feuds are 
killings and that's all there is to it. I'm admitting, of 
course, that sometimes the feudists feel that they are 
defending their blood and their honour and their man- 
hood and womanhood. It's a pretty narrow figuring 
out of these things, though. There are other and 
decent ways to protect these things without brawling 
and gunning and taking human lives and destroying 
valuable property and turning the whole mountainside 
upside down. 

They generally start over some little thing. The 
terrible Hatfield-McCoy feud in Pike County, Ken- 
tucky, begun over an argument over some hogs. One 
of the Hatfields drove some razorbacks from the for- 
ests and put them in a pen in Stringtown, Ky. A short 
time after one of the McCoys saw the hogs and claimed 
them as hisn and demanded that they be turned over 
to him. That started things. First there were trials 
and then shootings and killings; and it didn't end 
neither till heaps of people were shot and a most 
awful lot of valuable stock and property mussed up 



FEUDISTS 61 

right smart. Even women and children were beat up 
and killed. And although a most awful lot of people 
were shot down in this terrible feud only one of them 
was ever hung. 

The Tollivar-Martin-Logan feud in Rowan County 
was jes as bad. They say that moonshine and politics 
was responsible for its beginnings. For years they 
went to it and bushwhacked and shot, each other up 
until it's a wonder that there is any of them left at all. 
Families and relations and friends were drug in and 
sometimes even brothers were fightin' brothers. Often 
the officers, instid of going right after them, were 
afraid or sympathized, and sometimes they even took 
a part. Judges and juries were often corrupt, and 
the only law they knowed for a long time was that 
of the bullet and the killer. 

And there have been lots of other feuds, most of 
them in Kentucky and West Virginia, a few of them 
in the Smokies of Tennessee and North Carolina, and 
jes a few here in the Cumberlands. Hundreds of 
people have been killed in these-here feuds. Families 
have been wiped out, homes burnt and destroyed, ancl 
hearts broken; and people in the cities outside the 
feud sections have come to regard 'most all moun- 
taineers as ignorant, fighting, killing savages. And 
the awful thing about it is that so few of the real 
guilty ones has been punished. 

I live in the mountains. I ain't never been in a 
feud, but I know about them. I know some people 
who have fought in them, and I say right here, they're 
all wrong. A feudist is a killer; and there ain't no 



62 SERGEANT YORK 

other way about it. I know they often pose as 
wronged people, but jes because you are wronged 
doesn't permit you nohow to go a-gunning for ven- 
geance: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." "An 
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" ain't part of 
the Constitution of the United States. So if people 
are wronged and the authorities are properly decent 
as they should be the wrongs should be righted and 
the wrongers punished; and if the officers are not 
honest, then hit's up to the people to throw them out 
and get honest ones. 

The f eudists are not heroes ; they ain't never been. 
They are jes killers. Often they are jes cowardly 
assassins, hiding behind rocks or trees and bushwhack- 
ing and shooting people in the back or jumping them 
when they get the drop on them or ketch them un- 
armed or outnumbered. There is not much of this- 
here heroism in that and there ain't none at all in 
mussing up innocent people, or beating women and 
children, or burning and destroying. And you will 
find all of these-here terrible things in feuds. 

But feuds are dying out. Larnin' is getting into 
the mountains. Roads are being built. Officers are 
going after the killers. And better'n all, the moun- 
tain people are beginning to understand hit's all wrong 
and don't profit nobody nohow. 



CHAPTER VII 
BUS H WHACKERS 

BUT even if we-uns in the Cumberlands ain't been 
bothered to death with feuds, weVe got to admit that 
we've had our share of bushwhackers. What a lot 
of baarcats they were ! The hatreds of the Civil War 
are much to blame. Tennessee was a border state, 
and like most all the border states, it was all spotted 
with human blood. This-here northern part of cen- 
tral Tennessee was the raidin' and foragin' ground 
of both armies. It was a sort of no man's land, first 
occupied by one, then t'other. t We got it from both 
sides. 

Although Tennessee was a Southern and a slave- 
owning state, it weren't nohow all-fired in favour of 
the Confederacy. The mountaineers have always 
been free and independent. They have always kicked 
like steers if they were interfered with. They never 
could stand the Government telling them what they 
should do and what they should believe in and fight 
for. That's why they left the other side and come 
into these mountains and whipped the Indians and the 
British and founded their own civilization. They 
wanted to be left alone; and they have always jes 
bristled like a porcupine when anybody has tried to 
interfere with them. 

63 



6 4 SERGEANT YORK 

Most all of them have been good Americans, too, 
and have proved it at King's Mountain and at Pensa- 
cola and New Orleans with old Andrew Jackson. So 
when the Civil War come on they weren't going to 
be ordered about by nobody nohow. So they got 
mussed up right smart. If they were for the North 
they suffered when the Southern troops come in; if 
they were for the South they got it jes as bad when 
the Northerners marched through; and if they was 
for neither and tried to be neutral they^ got it from 
both sides. I guess there ain't a cabin in these-here 
mountains, there ain't a road or a valley or a hill- 
side that hain't seen blood and suffering and death as 
a result of the Civil War. 

Around Jimtown was the scenes of some of the 
most awful fights of the guerillas and bushwhackers. 
The citizens first formed these bushwhackers to pro- 
tect themselves against the raids and foraging expedi- 
tions of the soldiers of both armies. They were 
guerillas under independent commands and they were 
meant to protect the people and property from the 
Tegular soldiers and to do what they could to win the 
war- Around these parts the Southern Bushwhackers 
were led by Ferguson, a cold-blooded killer who was 
in jail in Jimtown awaiting trial for murder when the 
war broke out. He was then freed and took command 
of the Southern Bushwhackers. 

The Northern Bushwhackers were led by Tinker 
Beaty, who growed up around here. At first they was 
tol'able good soldiers, brave and hard fighters. They 
protected the people and their property, and they done 



BUSHWHACKERS 65 

done their best to win. But as the war went on and 
things become looser and looser and hatreds flared out 
worser and worser, like most undisciplined units, they 
kinder broke down and done jes as they liked. The 
more patriotic uns were killed off or left or went 
away and the bullies and the bedevilled uns become 
more powerful. Instid of protecting people, they jes 
went out to git whatever they could. Pastor Pile's 
mother-in-law, Mrs. Williams, remembers them right 
smart, and she's told me a right-smart lot about the 
bushwhackers, how they done got together and went 
around and takened everything they could lay their 
hands on. 

Tinker Beaty led a big command of them, and there 
was- a lot of little independent bunches who had no 
officers. They roamed around the country and when- 
ever they caught enemy soldiers off guard they would 
kill them. They would kill sympathizers, too, and 
they would slip into homes and do their devilment. 
Everybody seemed to be killing in those days, but they 
was the worstest of the lot. 

In the awful days after the Civil War when nobody 
seemed to know what was going to happen next and 
these mountain communities were the torn-downdest 
places you could ever think of, these bushwhackers 
bossed and bullied and killed and run things to suit 
theirselves. They often hunted out their own enemies 
and killed them on the spot. They run others out 
of the country and they never did come back. And 
one of their favourite games was to buy up for most 
nothing the property of soldiers who'd been killed in 



66 SERGEANT YORK 

the war, or who were in debt. These places were sold 
at public sales. Some of the bushwhackers would go 
out to the sales and threaten to kill anybody who bid 
against them, and they would put in their own low bids 
and get the places cheap. 

One of the best known was Pres Huff. He was on 
the Northern side around these parts. Old Jim Pile, 
a grandson of Coonrod Pile, who lives in Jimtown, 
knows a lot about Huff. Pres and his father was al- 
ways quarrellin' and often near shootin 1 it out. He 
was one of Tinker Beaty's men and most all of them 
had an awful reputation. 

The records of the United States Circuit Court for 
the Middle District of Tennessee describes Pres Huff 
as a "brigand of the most desperate character." 

Well, in the midst of all these killings and goings- 
on, young Jeff Pile, my own great uncle, was killed. 
It was most common knowledge that Pres Huff done 
it. Huff killed Jeff Pile on the Byrdstown road, right 
plumb on top of the hill at John Pile's place, right 
thar as you straddle the fence. He bushwhacked him, 
shot him in the back, and the bullet went most through 
and stuck against the skin on the other side. Old Jim 
Pile's father took a razor and got that-thar bullet out. 
Jeff was not a fighter in the war. He took no part in 
it- But Tinker Beaty and Pres Huff and the other 
Northern Bushwhackers considered him a sympathizer 
on the Southern side. So they got him* At least, Pres 
Huff got him. 

Jes after the war, while the killings was still going 
on, Will Brooks, a red-headed young Northerner, come 



BUSHWHACKERS 67 

into the valley and located here. He fought in the 
war on the Northern side. He was in a regiment Q 
cavalry from Michigan. When the war ended he jes 
dropped out and settled here in the Valley of the Three 
Forks of the Wolf. He fell in love with Nancy Pile, 
poor Jeff's sister, and married her and settled on her 
land. 

He was a right-smart young man, around twenty-one 
years old. He and Pres Huff were always quarrelling. 
Brooks blamed Huff for bushwhacking his brother-in- 
law, Jeff Pile. They say that Pres Huff had his eye 
on the Pile property and thought if he could get Brooks 
out of the way maybe he could get the land. Anyway, 
they was always quarrelling. They met face to face in 
Jimtown. Brooks was unarmed and had no friends 
with him. Huff had his guns and a lot of his gang 
around. Brooks had to get out. It was the only thing 
he could do. He had no chance. Huff yelled after 
him as he went that he would kill him the next time 
they met. Some time after that Huff's dead body was 
picked up on the road about a mile from his home. Of 
course, everybody knowed that Brooks done done it. 
My own kinfolks have been sayin' that most all the 
decent people here sympathized with Brooks and 
thought he done right, but the Pres Huff crowd didn't 
see it that way. They went out to get Brooks. But 
he slipped off to Michigan. A little later his wife 
and baby followed him. They would have been all 
right, but they wrote back to some friends and the 
letter was intercepted and their address was found. 
There was no real law nor order in those days, so 



68 SERGEANT YORK 

Pres Huff's friends jes organized and went up to 
Michigan, with papers, and brought Brooks back and 
put him in the jail in Jimtown. A few nights later 
they come in to see him and he jes knowed they was 
goin' to kill him. He begged them to have his little 
girl brunged to him. He wanted awful bad to see 
her. But they were not of a mind to be nice to him. 
They hooked him to the tail of a horse and drug him 
through the streets and jes filled him with bullets. 

Well, Will Brooks was my grandfather, and the 
little girl, Mary, that he wanted most awful bad to 
see, was my mother! 

My other grandfather, Uriah York, also lost his 
life as a result of the Civil War. He was first a 
soldier in the Mexican War. He fought many of the 
battles there. He went up to the Heights of Chapul- 
tepec and took part in the capture of Mexico City. 
In the Civil War he fought on the Union side. He 
went away from here and takened sick and stole back 
home and hid. While he was sick he heard that the 
Southern Bushwhackers was coming in and he got up 
out of his sick bed and stole away and buried himself in 
a canebreak where they hid the horses from the sol- 
diers. He was sick with measles and it was wet and 
damp and he takened pneumonia and died. 

So you see that both my grandfathers lost their lives 
as a result of the Civil War. One was lynched by the 
bushwhackers on the Northern side and the other died 
when he hid out in the rain and cold from the bush- 
whackers on the Southern side. 

I'm a-tellin' you them must have been most awful 



BUSHWHACKERS 69 

times. The hatreds and killings were terrible, There 
wasn't much law and human life and property weren't 
of much account nohow. 

So you see that even if we haven't suffered much 
from the feuds, we have had a most awful time in 
these-here mountains from the bushwhackers and suf- 
ferings of the Civil War. 



CHAPTER VIII 
MOONSHINERS 

THE people of the mountains always have made 
moonshine. Their ancestors larned to make it over 
there on the borders of Scotland and northern Ireland, 
and they brought the habit over with them, jes like 
they brought their Old Testament faith and their love 
of liberty and fighting. Even Daniel Boone and old 
Davy Crockett most liked to have a drink now and 
then. I guess they jes had it in their blood. But the 
mountain people hated to pay the revenue tax, which 
they thought wa often most unfair. 

So they done went ahead and made it In the cane- 
breaks and back in the timber where the officers could 
not get at them. They used to make it like this long 
before there was any prohibition. Then when prohi- 
bition come along they felt they jes natcherly still had 
to have their liquor. It was profitable to make it for 
other people, too, for they always growed corn in these 
mountains and it was hard to get it out to market. 
Roads were bad and the towns and cities were a long 
way off. It was easier to turn it into liquor and move 
it out, or sell it to their neighbours. I ain't a-tryin' to 
excuse moonshiners. I don't drink liquor myself no- 
how, and I don't believe in moonshimn'* I'm a-tellin' 
you I would like to see them all cleared out I am 
only tryin' to explain them. 

70 



MOONSHINERS 71 

A few years ago they sometimes used to fight and 
kill and it wasn't safe for an officer or a posse to try 
to get in and get them, but that's all changed now. 
Lots of folks still make moonshine. I guess they make 
more of it than ever, but they have lamed that it 
doesn't pay to kill revenue men. So when they are 
caught they light out, or else give up without much 
trouble. 

Our sheriff in Fentress County, Sheriff Livingston, 
who lives in Jimtown, is plumb fired up over moon- 
shiners. He is always a-goin' after them. He has 
been an officer seven terms, about fourteen years, and 
I guess he has captured more liquor than the whole 
county could drink if everybody drunk all the rest of 
their lives. He knows more about moonshiners and 
their ways than 'most anybody else in these-here moun- 
tains. He goes right after them. He gets them, too. 
He's a brave man, I'm a-tellin' you, a hard fighter, and 
when he finds a still and squints down that old rifle of 
his, the moonshiners jes know the game is up. 

He has been in a couple of killings. Oncet with a 
posse he went out to get some folks and he run plumb 
into them while they were driving along the road in a 
wagon. They opened fire right away. When the 
smoke cleared away they were all killed or wounded 
and the sheriff and his men were pretty badly singed 
with the powder, but they hadn't even been scratched. 
Another time he went out with the sheriff of another 
county to raid a "blind tiger" and there was a lot of 
shooting. In the middle of the fray he got a bullet in 
the shoulder* but he kept on a-fightin' and a-firin', and 



72 SERGEANT YORK 

although wounded, he got the man that shot him and 
also the other one. 

Sheriff Livingston is a brave and a pretty old man, 
but he has got a quiet voice and the softest eyes you 
ever seed. You would never think he wotald harm 
nobody nohow. But when you talk moonshiners to 
him, he sorter rares up. He has got some of them in 
his jail right now and one of his outhouses is plumb 
full of captured stills and worms and all the other stuff 
they use for making whiskey. He has to keep the 
door locked, too, to keep the moonshiners from com- 
ing right to the jail and stealing back their own stills, 
ho ! ho 1 In the last twenty months he done captured 
thirty-six stills, and I guess there is that many more 
still operating. Moonshiners hain't never fired on him. 
A few of them are bad, but they won't shoot it out 
face to face. They prefer to waylay you in the bushes. 
But there's only a few of them like that. 

They make their stills out of copper sheeting which 
they buy from the cities and then weld them together. 
They often use old oil barrels, or two washtubs joined 
together. Their worms are made out of copper pipes 
which they also buy and then wind around stumps 
until they get into correct shape. Some of them buy 
copper radiators from the mail-order houses. Most 
all the moonshiners are careless people and generally 
get mash all over themselves, so you can smell the 
stills for a mile. They put the most awful concoctions 
into their whiskey. They generally operate their stills 
away back in the woods where there is plenty of run* 
ning water. They connect the worm to the still itself 



MOONSHINERS 73 

and distil the whiskey into kegs or sealed jars, which 
they put in water to keep them cool. They make most 
of their moonshine out of the ground corn. Then they 
add the malt and they call this mash. They put it in a 
barrel and add warm water and let it stand until it 
begins to work. Then they put in sugar and let it 
stand again until it sours. Then they put it in the still 
with a furnace under it and boil it. The steam escapes 
out of the closed still and comes through the worm and 
into the bucket or barrel. This is how the best and 
the purest whiskey is made. But very little of it is as 
good as this. Some moonshiners use concentrated lye 
or tobacco, or anything else to make the whiskey 
strong. Some put buckeyes into it, and that's plain 
poison. One still Sheriff Livingston found with a 
bunch of ivy tied into the cap. The moonshiner said 
it would steam and drip and make the whiskey bead. 
But the sheriff said it would poison the whiskey and 
the moonshiner allowed you can't poison whiskey with 
anything nohow. Well, the sheriff sent him to the 
penitentiary for "a year and a day." 

I guess that old sheriff knows what he's talkin 3 about. 
He is the sheriff in one of the moonshiningest coun- 
ties in the mountains; and that's our county, Fentress 
County. So I admit that there is still plenty of moon- 
shine and moonshiners in the mountains. But I ain't 
a-goin' to admit that all mountaineers are moonshiners, 
or that all mountaineers even drink whiskey. They 
don't, but if you give a dog a bad name it's hard to 
git rid of it, and that's how it is around here. 



CHAPTER IX 
SADDLEB AGGERS 

THE old-timers in these-here mountains sure must 
have believed that "man cannot live by bread alone." 
I mean whiskey alone, ho 1 ho ! They had to have reli- 
gion aiid they done had it. But jes as they couldn't git 
in over the bad roads and acrost the creeks to school, 
they often couldn't git in to church. So the church had 
to go to them. And it done went, at least the saddle- 
baggers went. 

I'm a-tellin' you that them-there old Presbyterian 
and Methodist and Baptist preacher-men played a 
right-smart part in civilizing the people of the moun- 
tains. They were called saddlebaggers because of the 
big saddlebags they carried on their horses. They 
stuffed these bags with Bibles, song books, and reli- 
gious magazines, which they sold or give out wherever 
they done went. The people in the mountains thought 
jes as much of their religion, and a little more, too, 
than they thought of their fighting and hunting, and 
they was most awful fond of them saddlebaggers. 

The Scotch-Irish, Scotch Cavaliers, Lutherans, and 
Huguenots who pioneered this country were most awful 
religious people. But they believed in their own and 
not in other people's gods. That's why they lit out 
from the other side and come over here and t^kwsd Oft 

74 



SADDLEBAGGERS 75 

to the wilderness ruther than to live in comfort in their 
own homes. They knowed that over here they could 
find that political and religious liberty they were look- 
ing for. Even to this day you won't find many rosaries 
or Episcopalian prayer books in these-here mountains, 
and you won't find many rituals or liturgies either. 
The mountain people don't like them nohow. They 
don't permit anything except the Bible to stand be- 
tween them and their God. They sorter like their 
religion plain, like their ancestors did and like the old 
Prophets did. 

But they were so busy fighting and making their 
homes that they had no time nohow to do much preach- 
ing themselves. Then the saddlebaggers come. They 
was pioneers themselves, farmers, blacksmiths, gun- 
smiths, and hunters. They was jes plain people, earn- 
ing their living by the sweat of their brow. But they 
felt the spirit of God telling them to go out among 
their f ellowmen and preach His word. So of a Satur- 
day and Sunday, and sometimes for weeks, they would 
git in the saddle and stuff their old saddlebags full of 
Bibles and hymn books and go a-ridin' through 'the 
mountains. If there was mountain churches they would 
hold their services there. If there was no churches 
they would hold them in the schoolhouse ; and if there 
was no schoolhouse they would hold them in the cab- 
ins on the mountainside. Wherever they could get a 
few people together they would have a preaching. 
There was never a mountain cabin too far back for 
them to call at. There was never a family too poor 
for them to visit. They regarded all people alike as 



7 6 SERGEANT YORK 

the children of God and themselves as His blessed 
messengers. 

They not only held meetings everywhere they went, 
but they baptized and held marriage services and com- 
forted the sick and buried the dead. They received 
very little salary or none at all. Preaching was not a 
profession or a business with them like it so often is 
now. It was the work of God. They looked for- 
ward to their reward in the next world. They was 
good men, sincere preachers. They worked most hard. 
They travelled through all sorts of weather, winter 
and summer. They rode over the worstest roads, up 
creek beds, over the mountains. They were greatly 
loved and respected by all the people, and though they 
never carried arms they were never touched. They 
used to stay at whatever mountain cabin they arrived at 
at nightfall, and they was always welcome, too. They 
were close preachers; that is, they clung closer to the 
word of God as it is written in the Bible than a coon to 
a tree when a hound-dog has chased him up there* 
They were what we would call fire-and-brimstone 
preachers. They believed in the reward of heaven for 
the good and the punishment of hell for the wicked. 
And I'm a-tellin' you theirs was the finest heaven there 
ever was and theirs was the worstest hclL They shore 
knowed all about the pearly gates and the everlasting 
flames. 

There was many famous saddlebaggers riding cir- 
cuits in these-here mountains. Jackie Brown was one 
of them. He come from somewhere over in North 
Carolina and sorter made his headquarters in our 



SADDLEBAGGERS 77 

ley, and from here he would ride out through the 
mountains preaching and taking the word of God to 
the f urtherest corners. Often he was the first preacher 
that the settlers away back in the mountains had ever 
seen. Sometimes he got so far back in that he found 
people that had never even seed a Bible before. Oncet 
at a famous meeting near Wolf River, in the valley, he 
said he would be happy to die at any time if he thought 
that by so doing he could save jes one lost souL He 
meaned it, too, and the people listening knowed he 
meaned it. 

About seventeen years later another preacher man 
named Bobby Burke come along with a new religion 
of the Gospel of Sanctification. He converted Jackie 
Brown to his new religion, and when Jackie was saved, 
as he called it, he told the congregation that he was 
awful glad that he hadn't died before, because if he 
had done so he shure would have gone straight to hell. 

Jackie was saved between the saddle and the ground, 
so he used to say. It come to him sudden. He had 
been to a meeting and heard Bobby Burke preach and 
he was riding over to Jasper Pile's to get his dinner 
when he felt the power moving him and he knowed he 
was sanctified. He got off of his horse and laid on the 
flat of his back on the dusty road and slapped his hands 
and begun to holler. A man by the name of Jack 
Frogge was going down the road at the time, and when 
he saw Jackie Brown he thought it was some man 
drunk or crazy, and so he takened out around the other 
side and lit out for home and never stopped until he 
got there. 



78 SERGEANT YORK 

When Jackie Brown got up he run his hands into 
his pockets and pulled out his plug of tobacco and 
throwed it into the woods, and then he done went 
home to his farm, where he had half an acre of to- 
bacco growing, and he takened a hoe and hacked it 
down and threw it over the fence. He said if it was 
not right for him to use tobacco it was not right for 
him to grow it and sell it to other people. His neigh- 
bours got after him and said that as he was poor he 
should have kept the tobacco and marketed it. But 
he said the Lord would not let him starve. They say 
he become a most powerful fine preacher after he was 
sanctified. 

Another well-known saddlebagger was a man named 
Adams. He was blind. He couldn't look out into the 
world, but he declared he could look into people's 
souls. He was much loved and respected, as he should 
have been. They say that he was a Southerner and a 
very wonderful fellow. At about the same time that 
he was preachin' another saddlebagger by the name of 
Sam Greer come into the valley. He was a North- 
erner and a fire-eater. Long after the Civil War this- 
here Greer and Adams come together at a revival 
meeting on Wolf River. Sam Greer plumb forgot 
that he was a preacher man and he lit into Adams 
most awful for being a Rebel and a Southerner. So 
you see that often these saddlebaggers were human 
like most other people. They had their likes and dis- 
likes. I'm a-thinking that is why they was so well re- 
ceived and loved wherever they went. 

The most famous of the saddlebaggers was Ab 



SADDLEBAGGERS 79 

Wright. There was a man for you ! He growed up 
in our valley and rode through these-here mountains 
for nigh onto fifty years. He is a-resting in his grave 
now, but I'm a-telling you his memory still lives in the 
hearts of the old-timers around here. They never tire 
of talking about him and his wonderful sermons and 
long rides and the great good he done. 

Tennessee was a pretty tough place around seventy- 
five year ago when he begun carrying the word of God 
around. The roads were jes mountain trails. There 
were few bridges. Towns and even mountain cabins 
were a right-smart piece apart; and often Ab Wright 
was out all night in the cold and the rain on the moun- 
tainside. Agin and agin he was near drowned or 
bewatered by some sudden rising of creek or river. 

Oncet he was lost in the wilderness. He was not 
like old Daniel Boone, who said he was never lost in 
the forest but he was once bewildered for a few days. 
He really was lost and he didn't know where he was 
nohow, and he had to do a most awful lot of praying 
before he found the road. Another time he was feed- 
ing a large herd of cattle when he was gored by a 
mad bull. It tossed him several times and he come 
near to losing his life. And worst of all, he was bit 
by a copperhead. He put his hand down in a sheaf of 
oats and the serpent got him on the wrist. It made 
him most awful sick, but he didn't lose his head. He 
bound his wrist above the wound to keep the poison 
from spreading, and then kept sucking the bite and 
spitting out the poison until he was a heap better; but 
jes the same he was not getting well nohow. 



go SERGEANT YORK 

In them days they didn't know much about snake 
medicine, so they jes put another bandage on his arm, 
tighter than the first, to make shore the poison 
wouldn't spread. This bandage was so tight that it 
kinder cut off circulation and his shoulder and neck be- 
come so swollen that he couldn't hardly breathe ; and 
then they begun to give him whiskey. That was about 
the only remedy that the mountaineers knowed for 
snake bite, and I guess hit was a pretty doubtful cure 
at that. He drunk three pints of raw whiskey in a few 
minutes, and then, so he said afterwards, he felt pretty 
drowsy and went to sleep and while he was sleeping 
the whiskey and the poison fought it out inside of him 
and the whiskey won. 

Next morning when he come to he was out of dan- 
ger, but he shore was most awful sick from the snake 
bite ho! ho! For three seasons after that in the 
springtime, so he said, the bitten arm changed to the 
color of a serpent and shed off the outside skin. But 
he come round all right and was able to continue his 
preaching to the end of his life. 

Ab Wright was a most awful good man. He had 
a good word to say for everybody, even for the crimi- 
nals. Oncet he was praying with a condemned man 
the whole of his last night on this earth. It was in 
Jimtown. The man was James Calvin Logston. He 
was sentenced to hang for killing two women and a 
child with an axe- Ab Wright was with him most all 
of the last twenty-four hours. He done went and 
prayed with him in the cell and comforted him all he 
could. Well, when they were ready to hang him they 



SADDLEBAGGERS 81 

put him in a shroud and placed him on a wagon with 
his coffin. Ab Wright and the doctor set beside him, 
and a heavy guard surrounded them all. They rode 
to the gallows, singing hymns as they went. The death 
warrant was read and Ab Wright preached the funeral 
service. He must have converted the condemned man, 
too, because after he done shaken hands with the 
people he told them he done come to his end through 
keeping bad company and warned them to keep away 
from the like. Then they stringed him up, but the 
rope broke and he fell to the ground. They got an- 
other rope and placed it around his neck and he was 
drawn up agin, but after a few moments the rope 
broke agin and he fell to the ground for the second 
time. Maybe they ought to have let him go then, but 
they didn't. They jes lifted him up agin, and as they 
done so he said a few words, but nobody knowed what 
they was. This time the rope didn't break and he 
hung twenty-five minutes and was pronounced dead. 
All through this terrible time Ab Wright and some 
other preacher men were there, singing hymns and 
praying to the Lord. 

In one year this most wonderful old saddlebagger 
preached one hundred and eighty-one times, received 
one hundred and five persons into the Church, prayed 
with five hundred families, baptized fifty-four people 
and travelled over two thousand miles on horseback 
over the mountain country. He received no salary for 
this and only took up a few bits of collections. And 
during this year he had to look after his farm. That's 
a preacher man for you. In his whole life he baptized 



8a SERGEANT YORK 

one thousand three hundred and twenty-three people, 
married eighty-seven couples, and held six hundred and 
eleven burial services. I know that our preacher men 
to-day do a lot of work, and most of them are sincere 
and godly men, but when I think of Ab Wright doing 
all of this in the mountains years ago when travelling 
was much harder and living was much worse than it is 
to-day, and never caring nohow whether he got paid 
or not, I kinder feel that him and the preacher men 
like him was among the anointed of the Lord. 

Pastor Pile Rosier Pile, we call him who keeps a 
store to this day at Pall Mall and has a Sunday-school 
class too, used to be a saddlebagger. He used to ride 
through the mountains a-prayin' and holdin' meetings 
and a-visitin'. And he never received no salary neither 
and he didn't want none. 

But jes like the feuds and the bushwhackers, these- 
here grand old saddlebaggers of the past are disap- 
pearing. Roads are coming into the mountains and 
people can get into church, and even if they can't go 
in they can build small churches a heap easier than be- 
fore. So the preacher man on horseback with his sad- 
dlebags full of Bibles and religious books is passing 
out. There are a few of them left. These here mod- 
ern times that are with us are sorter silencing "the 
voice crying In the wilderness." 



CHAPTER X 

GUNS 

MOST all of the mountain people have jes natcherly 
growed up with rifles. From the cradle they are sorter 
used to the smell of powder and the presence of the 
old muzzle-loader, powder horn, and doeskin shot 
pouch hanging in a corner of the cabin. The moun- 
taineer's arm has a sort of natural crook for an old 
rifle-gun. 

The rifle played a big part in the conquering and 
developing of this-here mountain country. I ain't got 
much poetry in me, but any I have I sorter spill out 
on rifles and shooting and hunting. I am sorter used 
to these things. I understand them. I know how to 
make the most of them. 

I am telling you I would much sooner take up my 
muzzle-loader than a pen or pencil, and I am much 
more useful with it, too. The early pioneers not only 
knowed how to use their rifles, but they knowed how 
to make them. The long-barrel, muzzle-loading type 
of rifle made in the mountains of North Carolina, Ten- 
nessee, and Kentucky was the best and most accurate- 
shooting gun in the world, and up to one hundred yards 
It still is. At the two last turkey-shooting matches 
held in our valley, seven out of ten of the turkeys had 
their heads busted with the muzzle-loaders and only 

83 



8 4 SERGEANT YORK 

three with modern rifles. The distance was 'most al- 
ways sixty yards, but the old muzzle-loaders also 
brought down turkeys at one hundred fifty ^ yards, al- 
though they are not so good as the modern rifle at that 

distance. 

Before the American pioneers made and sort of 
perfected these-here muzzle-loaders there was really 
no accurate rifle-guns in the world. The old flintlocks, 
muskets, and blunderbusses which they used over there 
in Europe were not much account nohow. They were 
never sure of hittin' the mark. They were never even 
sure of goin' off, and even when they did they made a 
noise like a cannon. They often done more damage 
to the shooter than to the one he was shootin' at. Most 
often the powder flared back into the eyes of whoever 
was squintin' down the barrel. Them-there guns might 
have been all right over there on the other side where 
a miss didn't matter so much and there was plenty of 
time to reload and the more noise the better, but they 
never would have got nothin' nohow over here. The 
hunters who come into the American wilderness fightin' 
Indians and shootin 5 game for food jes couldn't afford 
to miss. They had to have a rifle-gun that they 
knowed would shoot straight; that would shoot 'most 
every time they fired it; that they could reload pretty 
quick, and that wouldn't make too much noise for the 
Indians to hear. They couldn't get these guns no- 
where. There Weren't any. So they begun to make 
them themselves. And they made the first accurate, 
dependable guns in the world. I guess the first real 
good guns that come down here to the mountains were 



GUNS 85 

the Decherds and the Leamans. They were made up 
in Pennsylvania, but soon the mountaineers begun to 
get busy and made their own. 

Most all around this-here moutain country there was 
blacksmiths and gunsmiths in them-there days who 
learned how to make rifles that jes knowed how to 
shoot straight. To this day there are men who can 
make them. And if you roam around for a while you 
can still see the ruins of the crude old blast furnaces 
they used. I spent a heap of my time as a boy black- 
smithing with my father. I never made any guns but 
I often doctored sick ones. I know the heap of trou- 
ble and care you have to take when you are fooling 
around with guns. And yet, these old Southern gun- 
smiths with crude forges and cruder home-made equip- 
ment turned out guns that served the purpose and were 
in their time the best guns in the world and are even 
now thought a heap of by our mountain marksmen. 
These old mountain guns were made from ore dug out 
of these-here mountains. Even the barrels were bored 
or welded and then rifled on the ground. The trigger, 
trigger guard, firing pan, flint chops, sights, and all the 
other fittings were also made right in the mountains* 
And the stock was generally carved out of grained and 
seasoned woods, such as bird's-eye maple, or curly 
cherry, or black walnut. 

Some of the best known of these old mountain guns 
were the Gibsons, Beans, or Duncans. Later on, of 
course, the barrels and the locks were bought outside 
and shipped in; and to-day nearly all the other parts 
are bought and assembled. But jes the same there are 



86 SERGEANT YORK 

a heap of them old pioneer guns around, and there are 
a few mountain gunsmiths still left who can turn them 
out almost as good as ever. We don't use the flint- 
locks to-day. Hit is too hard to keep them dry. Out 
in the woods we always had to keep them covered with 
a sort of sleeve which we slip over the barrel. This 
sleeve was generally made from the skin of a steer or 
a deer's leg. Armed with these old mountain guns, 
not more than nine hundred mountain sharpshooters 
whipped and shot to pieces Ferguson and his twenty- 
six hundred trained men at King's Mountain. And it 
was these same old guns which made it possible for the 
six thousand men under Andrew Jackson down there at 
New Orleans to stop ten thousand British soldiers who 
once fought under Wellington and mussed up Na- 
poleon. 

Allowing for the times and the conditions and the 
purposes for which they were used, them-there native- 
made guns were the best rifle-guns that was ever made. 
I myself have used the Army service rifles and most of 
the modern high-powered rifles, but when I go hunting 
or take part in the shooting matches up to one hundred 
or even up to one hundred and fifty yards I much pre- 
fer my old muzzle-loading rifle-gun to any other in 
the world, and that's what I think of it. 

They are very cheap to keep up. Loading ain't no 
bother if you know how. First of all, you stand the 
old gun upright with the butt resting on the ground. 
Then you pour the powder out of a powder hofn, 
made from the horn of a buck or a steer, into the 
charger, which is generally carved out of the tip of 




ATYPICAL CREEK-BED ROAD IN THE MOUNTAINS 

"And there were only mountain trails and old dirt roads, that 
were no good nohow, and creek beds here before." 




, TURKEY-SHOOTING 

"We tie the turkeys behind logs with only their heads 
showing and shoot off-hand; that is, from a standing position, 
sixty yards away. We pay ten cents a shot and get the 
turkey if we bust its head. 



GUNS 87 

a buck's horn. The amount of powder you use, of 
course, depends on the distance you expect to shoot. 
Natcherly, a long shot takes a bigger charge of powder 
than a short shot. You pour the powder out of the 
charger down the muzzle of the gun. Many shooters 
are so expert that they can measure off the powder in 
the hollow of their hands and empty it into the muzzle, 
scarcely losing a grain. Then the patch is placed over 
the end of the muzzle. This-here patch is generally a 
piece of blue denim or bed ticking and it is best when 
it is greased or tallowed. The ball is then taken out 
of the shot pouch, which is made of soft doeskin and 
placed on top of the patch and pressed with the thumb 
into the barrel. Then the ends of the patch are 
trimmed off and the bullet and the patch are rammed 
hard down against the powder. The ramrod is gen- 
erally a straight piece of hickory whittled into shape. 
A couple of whangs with this-here ramrod packs the 
ball into place. The patch lies on top of the powder 
and sorter packs the ball tight in the barrel so that 
the explosion can't escape. Last of all, the little per- 
cussion cap is put in place. Then the gun is ready for 
firing. All this takes jes a short time. Many of the 
old-timers can reload these old guns on the run. 

Of course, if you're a hunter you have got to know 
all about guns and how to handle them. Guns are 
like hounds, they have a lot of this-here temperament, 
and you have got to kinder get acquainted with them. 
Sometimes you have got to kinder kid them. A gun 
will shoot a certain way one day and altogether differ- 
ent the next day. .You have got to -know whether they 



88 SERGEANT YORK 

shoot fine or full, or to the left or to the right; how 
the wind affects them, and the sunlight and the clouds ; 
even how they shoot on damp days and dry days. I 
have a whole collection of them at home. I have an 
automatic shotgun and a twenty-five-twenty rifle and 
that old muzzle-loader of my father's. It's the cap- 
and-ball type. My father done used it in the shooting 
matches, and that's what I use it for now. It's a sure 
gun for that sort of work. It jes don't know how to 
miss nohow. And I have a forty-five pistol. I sure 
would like to have the one I used in the fight with the 
machine guns in the Argonne. I tried to get it. The 
War Department searched through about fifty thou- 
sand pistols for it, but I guess somebody got a-hold 
of it and knowed it was a good one and decided to 
keep it. 

I kinder think that the reason why the mountaineers 
are among the best shots in the world is because they 
fiave growed up with rifles. They know all about 
them. They know how to take them to pieces and put 
them together again. They know how to doctor them 
when they're sick, and many of them even know how 
to make them. I am a-telling you that's understanding 
a gun. Then they are always using them out in the 
woods shooting at all sorts of game. Of course, that's 
great practice. Then 'most all of them live pretty 
healthy outdoor lives and go in for regular hours, 
natcheral food, and the right amount of sleep. So 
their sight and their nerves are 'most always good. 

And then there's the shooting matches which are 
always very popular in the mountains. Busting a 



GUNS 89 

turkey's head and cutting the centre of targets makes 
for expert marksmanship. A right-smart heap of the 
men who went to King's Mountain and whipped Fer- 
guson went right from one of these-here shooting 
matches. They were a-having a big time of it. They 
were shooting for beeves and turkeys at a big match 
at Gilbertown, N. C., when they received word from 
Ferguson, telling them if they didn't lay down their 
arms and return to their rightful allegiance he would 
come over them-there hills and smash their settlements 
and hang their leaders. They was jes about the best 
shooters in the mountains and they went straight from 
that shooting match and connected with the backwater 
men and went up King's Mountain and showed Fergu- 
son how American mountaineers, armed with Ameri- 
can muzzle-loading rifle-guns, can shoot. 



CHAPTER XI 
SHOOTING MATCHES 

MOST every Saturday of late we have been holding 
these old-fashioned shooting matches on a hillside on 
my farm here in Pall Mall. Last Saturday we had 
one. We usually shoot for turkeys and end up the day 
with a beeve. We tie the turkeys behind logs with 
only their heads showing and shoot offhand; that is, 
standing up from a mark sixty yards away. We draw 
for positions and then take our turn shooting. We 
never know when the turkey is going to put his head 
above the log, or how long he is going to keep it there, 
or whether he is going to bob or weave just as you 
have drawn a fine bead on him. He pleases himself 
about that, and I am a-telling you a turkey gobbler tied 
behind a log is sometimes the contrarinest bird I ever 
knowed. He jes seems to know the right moment to 
duck. 

We generally pay ten cents a shot and we get the 
turkey when we bust its head. Sometimes we do that 
right smart and the owner of the turkey don't get much 
out of it. Other times, when the wind and the light 
are agin us, he will collect a heap of dimes before any- 
body busts the turkey. 

My father was p'int-blank certain death on turkeys' 
heads. He jes didn't know how to miss them. He 
really was a most wonderful shot. Often they ruled 

90 



SHOOTING MATCHES 91 

him down ; that is, they made him shoot near the last, 
and sometimes they would never let him shoot nohow. 
They made him act as judge. I recollect a hill-billy 
from one of the back creeks brought in oncet two big 
turkey gobblers. He tried to raise a heap of money 
on them by laying down unfair conditions, but the 
mountaineers are pretty smart. They jes wouldn't 
shoot. He brought the price down to a nickel a shot. 
Still they wouldn't shoot. He had ruled my father out 
but at last he let him in to sort of start things; and he 
sure enough busted that old turkey's head the first 
shot. The same sort of thing happened over the sec- 
ond turkey, and my father had a pretty good day of 
it two big turkey gobblers for ten cents. It is even 
better sport to shoot at the turkey at one hundred and 
fifty yards. We tie them to a stake out in the open 
and from a standing position have to hit them above 
the knee and below the gills. That's shooting too. 

But the big event of these-here shooting matches is 
the beeve. "Beeve" is jes plain mountain talk for beef, 
and I guess 'most all over the world a beef means a 
steer. The beef is driven alive to the shooting ground. 
Its value is fixed by the owner, and then shots are sold 
at so much each until the price is made up. If the beef 
is worth fifty dollars generally fifty shots are sold at 
one dollar each. The owner takes the money. Each 
shooter can buy as many shots as he likes, but he has 
to pay for each shot. The first and second prizes are 
the hind quarters ; the second and third the fore quar- 
ters ; and the fifth the hide and tallow. That is gen- 
erally how they are divided up. 



92 SERGEANT YORK 

The mark to shoot at is the dead centre of a criss- 
cross cut with a sharp knife on a board. Each shooter 
generally prepares his own board, and he prepares it 
according to his own liking. Some shooters blacken 
their boards over a fire of grass and twigs, and then 
put a little square of white paper either below or above 
the centre of the criss-cross according to the way they 
like to draw the bead. Others most like a plain white 
board with a black mark either under or above the 
centre of the criss-cross. The shooting is generally so 
expert that you 'most always have to cut the centre; 
that is, at least touch it with the bullet, if you hope to 
even get a smell of the meat; and if you hope to win 
one of the first choices, ho ! ho ! you generally have to 
take the centre out, bust it right out; and that's got to 
be a most powerful true shot. After each man shoots, 
his board is initialled and held by the judge until the 
prizes are settled. Often the shots are so close that 
the bullet has to be cut in half and placed In 'the hole 
and a compass used to determine which is the closest 
shot. My father 'most always was a judge and used 
to use the compass, and now that he is no more, my 
brother Sam generally does it. 

At the last shooting match we had a right-smart 
crowd of mountain sharpshooters turn out. They 
come in from all over the mountains. They come in 
afoot, on horseback, in wagons, and in automobiles. 
They come in from away back in the canebreaks, from 
up the creeks, off the farms, and from the towns 
around. They come in in their blue jeans and overalls 
and all sorts of other shooting and business clothes. 



SHOOTING MATCHES 93 

They carried their old muzzle-loaders crooked under 
their arms and their powder horns and pouches slung 
over their shoulders. There must have been nearly a 
hundred of them and they were 'most all of the best 
shots around this-here part of Tennessee. 

John Conatzer, a real hill-billy from back in the 
mountains, come in and declared he was a-gomg to eat 
turkey that night. He come in right off his little farm, 
He was dressed in his old overalls, with big patches on 
the knees and the elbows worn through. He had on 
an old slouch hat that hadn't any shape nohow. He 
had almost as much stubble on his chin as a wheat field 
after the mowing machine has been over it. He wore 
hobnail shoes and they shore give him a mean grip on 
the ground. John is jes one of the meanest men in 
all the mountains when it comes to drawing a fine bead 
under the centre of a target, or busting a turkey's head 
at 'most any distance. Winning the first prize is a sort 
of habit with him. He lives right up on top of a moun- 
tain, and he says it's that steep there he has to wear 
hobnails in the seat of his britches. 

John Souders, one of the best shots in all this part 
of Tennessee, was on the ground early. He said he 
kinder felt it was his day and them-there turkeys was 
shore going home with him. I jes can't write well 
enough to describe his get-up, but I'm a-telling you it 
was even more artistic than John Conatzer's. Them- 
there two mountaineers seem to be rivals in every- 
thing, even in clothes, and they 'most always take meat 
home with them. John Souders comes from up one of 
the back creeks. Away in. He brought his old Dech- 



94 SERGEANT YORK 

erd with him ; the same sorter gun they used at King's 
Mountain. It stands over six feet and weighs twenty 
pounds. You can still see the hammer marks on the 
barrel. It sure is an old-timer. 

Ike Hatfield was there, too. He is a descendant of 
the bushwhackers who raised Cain around these parts 
in the Civil War, and he is also a relation of the Hat- 
fields who kinder set the fashion for feuds over acrost 
the line in Kentucky. Compared with Ike's eyesight, 
an eagle can't see nothing nohow. He said he was all 
p'int-blank fired up to bust them old gobblers' heads 
and to put his bullet inside of anybody else's. 

Sheriff Livingston come in with a big crowd from 
Jimtown. He is well over sixty years of age, but there 
ain't nothing the matter with his sight or with his 
nerves neither. That-there old sheriff has raided more 
moonshiners than has 'most anybody else in these 
mountains. He's shot bigger game than turkeys, too. 
He has more'n once killed his man. Whenever he 
squints down the barrel of a gun, he is jes going to hit 
plumb in the centre. 

Several of my brothers was there Sam, toting my 
father's old muzzle-loader, which is jes about the fa- 
vourite gun around here; and Joe, who runs the store 
at Wolf River; and George, who is jes the shootinest 
fool when it comes to matches ; and Henry and Jim and 
Albert. They was all there. And they was all most 
awful keen on carrying off some of them-there prizes. 
And I am a-telling you I was there and I jes knowed I 
was a-going to have a turkey dinner that night, I was 
jes in the right mood for it. 



SHOOTING MATCHES 95 

It was a most awful bad day for shooting. The 
wind was a-blowing and there was a bright sunshine 
and a blue sky with jes a few thin white clouds kinder 
driftin' over. I was well down in the draw, so I jes set 
down and took it easy and kept my nerve steady. I 
felt plumb shore that I was going to get one of thern- 
there turkeys. That-there first gobbler was jes the 
boldest bird that I ever seed. He jes stuck that-there 
red head of his up over the log and kinder looked 
lazily around as though admiring the landscape. The 
bullets of the first shooters pelted the log under him, 
knocked the dust out of his gills, or went whizzing 
past not a hair's breadth away, but not one of them 
drew blood. He shore seemed to have a charmed life. 
Every now and then he put his old head down to 
kinder rest or gobble up something from the ground, 
and then he kinder become interested agin and bobbed 
up to see what it was all about. 

When John Souders stepped up to shoot, with that 
old Decherd of hisn I was even more interested than 
the turkey. He shore must have wanted that turkey 
most awful bad. He took a long time sighting, drew a 
fine bead jes above the turkey's gills and then missed. 
His bullet whanged right past that old gobbler's head 
and cut up a streak of dust a few yards behind. I'm 
a-tellin' you that-there old gobbler blinked. 

That tickled John Conatzer. He said that he 
knowed that the Lord Almighty was protecting that 
turkey from harm until his turn come. He took even 
a longer time than Souder. He jes stood there straight 
and still with his old muzzle-loader pointing what 



96 SERGEANT YORK 

looked like p'int-blank death at the gobbler. He stood 
there that long that it seemed that he would never fire 
nohow. We all sort of got tired holding our breath. 
Some of the other shooters tried to kid him, but they 
might jes as well have tried to kid a coon down the tree 
when the hound dogs are barking underneath. But in 
spite of everything he missed too, but only by an eye- 
lash. That old turkey was most awful close to being 
cold meat when John's ball whizzed past. 

By this time we was all gitting fired up. Two of 
the best shots in the valley had fired and missed, and 
we shore made life miserable for them. It was even 
more miserable for them than for the turkey. That 
old gobbler didn't seem to care nohow. He still kept 
his old red head up, sorter challengin' like. Then 
young Oliver Delk, who lives back up one of the 
creeks, toed the mark. He looked pretty young and 
didn't stand much higher'n the muzzle-loader itself. 
We wasn't paying much attention to him and the 
turkey wasn't either. We all kinder counted him out 
as only a toFable shot. He fired and that-there old 
turkey ducked, but he come up again right smart, bold 
as ever. Ike Hatfield was so surprised he swallowed 
his plug of home-twist and nearly had convulsions. 
Oliver had scratched it acrost the head. The skin was 
jes broken so he claimed it. The rules are that if you 
draw blood it is your turkey. So young Oliver, as 
proud as Solomon in all his glory, takened his turkey 
and another was placed behind the log. 

My brother Sam was next to shoot. He complained 
that he had some dirt in his eye and that he couldn't 



SHOOTING MATCHES 97 

draw a fine bead nohow. Jes the same he shot so close 
that I bet that new gobbler held his breath as Sam's 
bullet went past. 

I was feeling pretty good -when it come my turn. 
I told them hill-billies around to watch me right close 
and they would see what real shooting was. I looked 
that old gobbler right in the eye and he seemed to me 
to be looking right back at me and sorter challenged 
me to put his head down. I drew a pretty fine bead 
and allowed jes the least little bit for the wind. Then 
I recollected the sun was shining from the right. I al- 
lowed for that too. Then to make real sure I damped 
the foresight. 

I sighted carefully. Then I lowered the rifle and 
told the boys that I could only have nicked him that 
time and I wanted to do better'n that. I sighted again 
and I figured on drilling him right through the head. 
I could already see that turkey on the table at home 
for supper. I drew even a finer bead and pressed the 
trigger, but that-there old gobbler didn't go down. 
He hadn't any sense nohow. A streak of dust spurted 
up just behind his head, and I shore enough had missed, 
ho 1 ho ! My brother George suggested that maybe the 
bullet had bounced off of the gobbler's head, and John 
Conatzer 'lowed that I was gittin' old and shaky any- 
how. 

The next half-dozen shots also missed. That-there 
sunshine and them-there little white clouds shore made 
it bad for good shooting. 

Mr. H. C. Cravens, who keeps a store in Jimtown, 
got the next turkey. He busted it right through the 



9 8 SERGEANT YORK 

head and it never did know what hit it, unless it 
thought it was struck by a bolt of lightning. 

And, after some more missing, Allen Brooks got the 
third. It was a plumb good shot, too. After that we 
lengthened the distance. We tethered the next gob- 
bler to a stake, away under the hill, one hundred and 
fifty yards away. He shore looked pretty, too, strut- 
ting around on the end of the string, with his feathers 
kinder glistening in the sunlight, and his big red head 
held proudly up, jes like a peacock's. But he didn't 
stay up long. My brother George, who is the most 
awfulest man on long-distance turkey shooting, come 
up with that-there old muzzle-loading gun of my fa- 
ther's. Some of the boys 'lowed that a hundred and 
fifty yards was too far for that-there old hog rifle. 
But George stood up there and hit that turkey that 
hard it must have thought the hill had fallen on it. It 
went right up in the air and then come down and 
spread out all over the ground, stone dead. George 
had shot it right through the breast with a hog rifle 
at a hundred and fifty yards. 

The turkeys were now going pretty fast. The boys 
were getting their eyes in and were doing most won- 
derful things with their rifles. The next turkey we 
tethered somehow or other managed to get loose jes 
as one of the boys was taking aim. We all laughed 
and suggested that he ought to shoot it on the run, 
but he put down his rifle, spit out a plug of tobacco, 
and remarked that hit was hard enough to hit them- 
there fool birds when they were still and they was 
harder to hit than bats when they was moving* 



SHOOTING MATCHES 99 

So some of the boys lit out and chased that old tur- 
key through the woods, and run it up against a fence 
and brought it back to its rightful place, where it spent 
the next few minutes kinder contentedly picking insects 
off'n the ground. Some other shooters fired and 
missed. Their bullets tore up the dirt around the tur- 
key, but he was busy hunting his dinner and didn't 
mind nohow. 

My turn come agin after a while and I was all fired 
to make up for missing that first shot. I jes couldn't 
figure on missing this time no way and nohow. I 
squinted down the barrel of the old muzzle-loader and 
I could see that turkey jes sorter on the end of it. I 
drew a fine bead agin, allowed for windage and dis- 
tances, and was jes going to pull the trigger when one 
of thern : there hogs of mine that had been feeding on 
acorns somewhere in the woods, santered right acrost 
my field of fire. 

That kinder tickled the crowd. If it had been a 
razorback I would have let fly jes the same, but it was 
one of my prize Poland Chinas, and though I wanted 
that old turkey most awful bad, I sorter didn't want 
to ruin the future prospects of that-there hog of mine. 
I kinder figured I could have cut a couple of his bris- 
tles and got the turkey the same, but it ain't natural 
for a farmer to take chances with hogs, so I waited 
until he had wandered on a piece, and then I took aim 
agin and whanged a bullet right at that-there old gob- 
bler. I guess I must have had one eye on the Poland 
China because I shore missed that turkey by several 
feet. I didn't even scare it. The bullet kicked up the 



ioo SERGEANT YORK 

dust somewhere between the turkey and the hog. So 
you see, that time I might have been a bad turkey 
shooter, but I was a most awful careful hog farmer. 

The boys shot four turkeys in the next seven shots. 
That's shootin', I'm a-tellin' you. We kept the last 
one, a great big gobbler, the best of them all, for the 
last shootin' of the day. 

Then we made up the beeve. But this time the 
beeve was a hog a two hundred forty pounder. He 
was valued at twenty-four dollars and we paid fifty 
cents a shot until the amount was made up. Now, to 
me pork is right-smart better than turkey. Turkey is 
dry meat anyway. I had missed the old gobblers, but 
I thought I would get me that whole hog, so I bought 
five shots. John Souders bought in, and John Conat- 
zer, and my brothers George and Sam, and some of 
the other best shots, too. 

That shore was a mean day. Them-there experts 
jes couldn't cut the centre out of their targets. They 
laid a whole mess of balls within an eighth of an inch 
of the centre, but that was not close enough to git the 
meat. I was still feeling bad about the turkeys and 
I wanted to git my whole five shots right through the 
centre; I had done it before and I figured I could do 
it agin. I figured on driving that hog home on the 
hoof. That was a trick of my father's. He would 
most often win all the prizes and drive the hog or beef 
home alive. But, like the others, I got all around the 
centre, but I couldn't cut it. 

At last I put a ball inside of the other shots, it jes 
broke the centre, and then that-there young stripling 



SHOOTING MATCHES 101 

of a Delk boy that had busted the turkey went and cut 
the centre right out of his target and got first prize. 
He was the shootinest shooter of the whole bunch that 
day. I got second choice. They slaughtered and 
dressed the hog on the spot and I picked me a nice 
ham, which was not so bad after all. 

John Conatzer didn't get none nohow, but he kinder 
consoled himself by saying that the pork would be 
sorter tough because It was killed in the soon of the 
moon meaning, of course, when the moon was young. 
That's a mountain superstition. 

Then we went back to finish off that last gobbler. 
He shore was the biggest one that ever come safely 
through Thanksgiving Day. John Souders remarked 
that he looked most as big as an ostrich. Jes as we 
were all gittin' ready to let fly at that last gobbler, a 
razorback sneaked in behind us and started in on 
George's dead turkey, which he had throwed down on 
the ground, and I am a-telling you, when George saw 
that hog calmly eating up his bird he let out a whoop 
like a red Indian. He started right after it, but the 
hog wasn't willing to let go. He picked up the turkey 
and lit out down the valley and over the hill and 
George kept a-going after him, and we all whooped 
and cheered, and finally George made a dive at the 
hog and the three of them went down in a heap, and 
there was feathers all over the place. But he got his 
turkey back, and when he returned he remarked that 
razorbacks never weren't good nohow. 

Jes about this time Pastor Browne, who was holding 
a revival service in Jimtown, come out in the field. He 



SERGEANT YORK 

is only a young man, but he looked jes like one of them- 
thar old fire-eating pastors that used to preach fire and 
brimstone through these mountains in the old times. 
He was wearing a sort of square black hat and a sort 
of squared-off black suit, and he has a kind of square 
head and a square figure, and I guess he has a square 
mind; I mean he squares it with the Bible. He is a 
mighty powerful preacher and a right-smart pastor. 

We invited him to bust the turkey's head. He 
hadn't handled a rifle for eight years, but he said he 
guessed he'd try. He wanted that turkey worser'n 
any of us, he guessed. Like a real preacher-man, he 
stood to one side and prayed to the Lord that if it was 
His will he would most awful like to have that turkey. 
He stepped right up to the mark, clapped the rifle to 
his shoulder, and prayed agin and then fired, and 
shore enough he busted the gobbler's head. It was the 
best turkey gobbler of the day, and his shooting was 
the straightest and the best, too. And when he got the 
turkey he told us that he didn't even see its head when 
he pointed the rifle. It was the prayer that done it. 
He was sure of that and we 'lowed maybe he was right. 

Then he started for home in a hurry. The last we 
seed of him he was striding off acrost the hills, going 
back to Jimtown to hold his revival services that night. 
He looked about the happiest preacher man this side 
of Paradise. He was swinging the old turkey gobbler 
with one hand, and he was shouting praises to the 
Lord. 

Hoi ho! 



CHAPTER XII 

LARNIN' FROM NATURE 

THERE are two kinds of larnin' the larnin' you git 
out of books and the larnin' you pick up from living 
close to nature. If you could only git both you shore 
would be what they call educated. It's most hard, 
though. If you get one you seldom get the other. 
That's the way of things. Life's fair. There's a sort 
of balance in things. The people In the towns and 
cities get to larn from books and schools and people in 
this-here mountain country sorter got to larn from 
nature. 

Larnin' to know trees and flowers and animals and 
sunsets is like readin' a big book. You have kinder 
got to go to school to understand that sort -of readin'. 
I mean to a sort of outdoor school where you have got 
to tramp round, hunting and shooting, and stay out and 
use your eyes and your ears and your power of reason- 
ing, too. What you pick up from these things sort of 
larns you a most awful lot about life. What you pick 
up from dogs and horses and foxes and squirrels and 
coons and bees and hornets, and the little critters in the 
earth, and most everything in the woods, helps you 
understand people, too. 

I've got a lot of dogs around my farm. I know 
them and they know me. We kinder understand and 

103 



io 4 SERGEANT YORK 

love each other. A few months ago a boy up in Jim- 
town killed one of my dogs. I felt pretty bad about it. 
I jes kinder moped around and missed that dog for a 
considerable time. Oncet I had a coon dog that got 
into the most rip-roarin' fight with a big coon. He 
got scratched and beat up, but he stuck it out, and after 
he whipped the coon he came to me all full of hurt and 
wagged his tail and kinder twisted his bruised face into 
a sort of human smile, and then I kinder got down be- 
side him and petted and hugged him. I jes couldn't 
help it. 

And I have an English Walker. There is a dog for 
you. He is pretty old now and getting grouchy but in 
his younger days I knowed him to trail a fox for forty 
hours without stopping. Then he'd come home, hun- 
gry and lame and worn out, and he would stand up and 
bark and whine and look at me with that knowing dog 
look in his eyes as though wondering if I was approv- 
ing of what he'd done. I've got a couple of Red Bones, 
and when they git started after a fox they never stop. 
I'm a-telling you, you can larn a heap from dogs, and 
it makes you sort of more human to have them around. 

Fox-hunting teaches you a lot. I ain't a-foolin* when 
I say that quite a heap of foxes have got a right-srftart 
more sense than many human beings. The tricks they 
go in for to throw the hounds off the scent shore are 
astonishing. They circle and come back over their old 
trail. They go up creeks, jump from rock to rock, 
and walk along fences and rocks. They go in for all 
sorts of other contraptions; and they 'most always 
come home, too. They jes sorter circle away around 



LARNIN' FROM NATURE 105 

for hours and sometimes for days, and then, sure 
enough, if they can throw off the hounds they come 
a-loping and a-sneaking back to their homes. Foxes 
think a heap more of their homes than a lot of humans 
do. 

I kinder like laying out under the trees watching 
squirrels. They are the workinest animals. They are 
never still. They are always up and a-doing, picking 
nuts and whittling them to get the kernels out and 
storing them away against bad times ; and feeding their 
young ones and teaching them to cling to trees and 
travel over the tops of the forests. They're kind of 
impudent, too, the way they chatter and scold. Squir- 
rels sure have a heap of confidence in themselves and 
they're pretty tricky, too. They don't seem to mind 
you watching them, but they sure know when you've 
got a gun around. 

But if you want to know what real courage and in- 
dustry is, just tackle a hive of wild bees in a hollow 
tree on the mountainside. Ho! ho! They're right- 
smart soldiers and they're the fightinest things. 
They're great believers in this-here "rights of self- 
determination." When they come to swarming and 
buzzing around it ain't nobody's business to be too 
close. You may get the honey, but you're going to get 
3 lot more, too, before the bees are finished with you. 
They're most awful intelligent too. If a mouse gets 
into their hive Ho ! ho ! They sting it to death and 
then seal hit off ; that is, they seal it up in wax. They 
shore have a whole heap of sense. And talk about 
looking after their women folks 1 The way they fight 



io6 SERGEANT YORK 

and work for their queen is right smart. And when 
you try to rob their hives, the way they will all get 
around and try to hide her or get her away is a most 
astonishing thing. Bees are the hardest working, fierc- 
est fighting, and most home-loving and sensible things 
in the forest. 

There's a moth down here in the mountains that can 
even out-smart the bees. Hit goes into their hives and 
eats up the honey. That's looking for trouble,^ I'm 
a-telling you. But hit does it jes the same. Hit spins a 
sorter web around the entrance to the hive and gets in 
without the bees being able to get at it. Once inside it 
kinder webs itself off and eats up the honey; all of it 
in time. And the bees either starve to death or swarm 
somewhere else. That moth's what you might call a 
genius. Ho! ho! 

Coons are brave and good fighters, but they ain't 
got so much sense. When the hounds git right after 
them instead of dodging and doubling on their trail 
and trying to hide away in the woods they climb plumb 
up the first tree; and then you have got them. When 
you cut the tree down, instead of trying to get away 
they cling to it until it crashes, and then they do the 
foolinest thing; they climb down the tree again to the 
butt before they jump to the ground. They sorter 
haven't realized that the tree is down, and that is jes 
plain ignorance. The hounds have got more sense. As 
soon as the tree falls they rush right to the butt ; they 
jes know the coon is coming that way. 

Hogs, too, ain't got over-much brains. They do the 
craziest things. They let the dogs most often run 



LARNIN* FROM NATURE 107 

them into corners where they can scarcely turn around 
and can't get away nohow, and when the dog gets hold 
of them, they sorter stand there looking silly-like. 

If you want to know what real happiness is jes wan- 
der out into the woods of a moonlight night and listen 
to the whipperwill singing. There is a bird for you, 
always good-natured, always happy, as if always glad 
for being borned. There is only one other bird that's 
like it. Hit's the mocking bird. There is a bird with 
a heap of sense and what you'd call imagination, 
Hits always kinder f oolin' the other birds. There is 
folks here who say a mocking bird can make almost 
any sound and that sometimes they can whistle almost 
like a man and that way fool a dog. I hain't never 
heard them do that myself, but I have heard them imi- 
tate other birds until you would think the forest was 
plumb full of almost every kind of bird. Hit is no 
ordinary bird that can do that, That's why I have 
always kind of thought a mocking bird the queen of all 
the birds in the forest. 

You can larn a lot from birds and animals, but I 
kinder think you can larn most from the soil itself. 
I don't know much about philosophy. I am not certain 
that I know what it is. But I'm a-telling you that you 
do a heap of thinking about lots of things when you 
are following a plough and turning over great rows of 
all sorts of good soil. And somebody told me that 
Bobby Burns, the Scotch poet, used to make up a lot 
of his rhymes while ploughing and harrowing; so I 
went and read me that one about the mouse. That's 
poetry. Only a man who knows about the soil and the 



io8 SERGEANT YORK 

little critters In it could have written that. That's 
what I mean. 

I kinder think that even if you can't write poems 
you can sorter think them; and when you're sitting on 
a harvester with the ripe, golden-headed wheat stalks 
waving at you and going down as you go along, your 
mind sorter fills up and brims over, and all sorts of 
beautiful thoughts kinder sing in your soul. 

I guess we have all got a little of this-here poetry 
in us and it takes old Mother Nature to bring it out. 
That's the way with me anyhow. 

I am most awful fond of the woods after it's been 
raining. I like to stand in them and swing my arms 
and take deep breaths. There's scents there that jes 
make your soul bob with joy. And as for pictures, I 
ain't never seen none that could come up to a sunset 
in our valley, when the sky out there in the west is that 
full of colours that you sorter get drunk on them. And 
if you have never seen the woods when they are full 
of moonlight, all sorter soft and milky, you ain't never 
seen nothing nohow. 

I am a-telling you you can larn a lot from nature. 
I ain't an artist nor a poet nohow. I don't know much 
about pictures and poems. I often don't understand 
them when I read or see them. But I kinder got a 
hankering after these-here natcherat things. I may 
be all wrong, but somehow, way inside of me, I kinder 
feel the best poems have never been written and never 
will be, and I jes know the best pictures in the world' 
can never be made with paints and brushes. 

I have been a heap criticized for what I done when 



LARNIN' FROM NATURE 109 

I come back from the war ; for turning down all them- 
there offers to go on the stage and into the movies and 
in business. I knowed I was turning down fortunes, I 
knowed I could never hope nohow to make a lot of 
money like that agin. But I couldn't help it. 

Even at that-there big banquet in New York City I 
jes couldn't help thinking about them-there hound dogs 
of mine. I kinder heard them baying and calling and 
I couldn't get back to them quick enough. I seed the 
lights of Broadway. I liked them. But I jes knowed 
they didn't mean as much to me as the stars and the 
moonlight and that-there little valley and the growin* 
crops and woods and flowers at home. So I jes natch- 
erly lit out on the first train. 

I love being out-of-doors. I jes love it. I am used 
to it, and all my people, way back to old Coonrod Pile, 
and I am a-thinking away back beyond him too, loved 
being out and f oolin' around where there was plenty of 
room to move in. I suppose everybody jes has differ- 
ent fancies. I ain't even questioning that. I ain't even 
a-saying people are wrong for liking the cities and the 
bright lights and the noises if they get the most en- 
joyment out of them, it's all right with me. But I 
don't. And so I turned my back on them; and I am 
back here on the farm with my own people, in the 
mountains I love. I jes couldn't hope to be happy if 
I couldn't hunt and shoot and tramp around these-here 
hills with them-there hound dogs of mine. 

I have got five of them, three English hounds and 
two Red Bones. The English hounds are good for 
most anything you want them for. They're the most 



no SERGEANT YORK 

usable dogs. They're good for squirrels, coons, foxes, 
razorbacks and even rabbits. The Red Bones are no 
good for nothing except foxes. They won't yelp after 
nothing but foxes, but once they pick up the scent they 
sure will follow until they catch the animals, or get 
them back into their den. 

The best coon dogs, though, has got to be trained 
for the job. They have got to be taught that they 
must follow a scent without yelping, because if they 
make a heap of noise the coon will hear them and keep 
a-going and never come near enough to be treed. You 
have got to understand dogs before you can get much 
hunting out of them. You have got to understand 
their ways and what they're good for, and you have 
got to understand the habits of the things they're hunt- 
Ing-, too. 



CHAPTER XIII 
HUNTING 

To be a right-smart hunter you have got to know 
not only about guns and hounds and woods and ani- 
mals, but the right kind of clothes to wear. You have 
got to be comfortable when you are in the woods or 
tramping over the hills. You can't enjoy a hunt and 
you can't shoot straight or keep up with the hounds 
unless you are feeling all right. I have missed easy 
shots from being wet through and cold when I should 
not have been. And the wrong kind of socks or boots 
have made me miss more'n one fox or coon. I 'most 
always wear overalls and a hunting coat made of water- 
proof ducking. I wear light leggings and light hob- 
nail boots and a good shady hat. 

My favourite hunting is after fox. I don't mean 
riding the hounds. I mean following the hounds on 
foot, or sort of going acrost the circle to where you 
know they're most likely to be and getting them as they 
go by. You have shore got to know the habits of 
foxes and you have got to have good hounds and be a 
fair-to-middling shot if you hope to have any sort of 
success at this sort of sport. 

We have two kinds of foxes here, the red and the 
gray. The red will run for two or three days before 
it circles back to Its den, but the gray ones only take 

in 



SERGEANT YORK 

a few hours. When we go out after foxes we sorter 
hike along until the dogs hit the trail. Then they 
begin to bay. That's music, I'm a-telling you. We 
then get on top of a ridge where we can sort of lo- 
cate things. We can most always tell whether it's a 
red or a gray fox by the size of the circle they're run- 
ning. The gray keeps in kinder close, but the red goes 
from mountain to mountain and on through the gaps 
mile after mile. It shore takes a lot to tire them. 

If we know it is a gray fox we go over on the edge 
of the plantation or on a bluff. It has a habit of male- 
ing for those sort of places. If it is a red one we hide 
in the gaps in the mountains where we know it is most 
sure to go. Them-there red foxes is runners. They 
sure know how to wear the padding ofPn a hound's 
feet and then lead him home all tired out. They sure 
enough are "dog tired" when they run a red fox. 
Foxes are very sly. They can see and smell a long 
way, and if the hounds catch up with them they will 
fight too. 

Coon-hunting is Viost always at night, A dark 
night, or when there is about a quarter moon, is the 
best. It is good sport, if you have the right kind of 
dog. A coon lives in the woods, generally around 
the heads of the hollows. He feeds on corn, acorns, 
and chestnuts and the like. You take your coon dog 
out in the hills and turn him loose and you seldom hear 
of him again until he begins to bay. Then you know 
he's treed a coon. If it is in small timber sometimes 
you can shake the coon out and let him fight it out 
with the dogs. A coon's a good, hard fighter, much 



HUNTING 113 

better'n a cat. It takes a right-smart dog to whip a 
coon. If you can't shake him out you have got to get 
busy with axe and saws and cut down the tree. That 
is, of course, if you want the sport; but if you don't 
care for the sport and only want the coon, you can 
shoot him out; that is, if it is not too dark and you 
can see him; and if it Is dark, you can get out your 
electric pocket torch and shine the light around the 
tree until it reflects in the coon's eyes. He 'most al- 
ways is looking down at you or the dogs. Then you 
can shoot with a fair chance of getting him. I have 
often stayed out all night and slept under the tree. It 
was too dark to see him and I didn't have a pocket 
torch or an axe along with me, so I jes had to stay 
with them dogs until the morning when it was light 
again and I could get me the coon. 

Mountain cats are right-smart fighters, too, but the 
dogs don't seem to care. They rush in and soon kill 
them. I have knowed some cats that weighed forty or 
fifty pounds. I don't like cats. They ain't no sports 
nohow and when they get after lambs and pigs they 
shore cost a heap of money. 

Hog-hunting is a favourite sport in the mountains. 
I have been in a heap of wild-hog hunts. The wild 
hogs around here are mostly domestic hogs that have 
been turned out and have sorter gone back on their 
kind. We keep hogs in the woods all the time. They 
get fat on the acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, and 
chestnuts. They jes grub around and find them or dig 
them up and have a right-smart time. Sometimes as 
many as fifty different fanners have their hogs running 



n 4 SERGEANT YORK 

In the same woods. We all mark them with our own 
particular mark and fasten bells on straps around the 
necks of the leaders. 

When a hog goes wild his whole nature seems to 
change. He lies up in the daytime and runs wild dur- 
ing the night, which is jes the opposite to the tame 
hogs. When we go hunting for them we trail them 
with our dogs, and then when the dogs bay them we 
go up and let loose a specially trained hound, which 
gets them by the leg and holds them or even throws 
them. I once knowed a dog, a sort of half bulldog he 
was. He used to grip the hog by the nose and then 
jes lie down. That shore was a sight and he wouldn't 
let loose nohow. The fool old hog would jes stand 
there and shake his head, and not know what to do. 
Hogs shore ain't got much sense. We generally shoot 
the wild hogs with our old muzzle-loaders. That's 
why we call them hog rifles. 

Squirrel-hunting is pretty good. It's best in the 
fall when the woods is full of hickory .nuts. The best 
way to get them is to locate your hickory trees, and 
then go in among them early in the morning. You 
have got to know how to slip in quietly and not disturb 
a leaf or twig. You have got to understand, to know 
the feel and sort of sense what I call the sounds of 
the forest. And in the forest every sound, every flut- 
ter of a leaf, every falling of a nut, every strip of 
bark fluttering down, everything means something. 

The forest has its own way of talking. It has a 
language of its own, and the hunter jes has got to un- 
derstand and learn that-there language, and he has 



HUNTING 115 

got to keep his eyes and ears open all the time, espe- 
cially if he is out after squirrels. If you know these 
things and act natcheral you can go right in among the 
squirrels. I have seen as many as twenty in one tree. 
They set up there on the branches, whittling the nuts. 
They whittle off a hole and then they get the kernel 
out. They eat mulberries, acorns, chestnuts, and beech 
and hickory nuts. They eat the buckeye too. Part of 
that is very poisonous, but I am a-telling you the squir- 
rel knows that. He knows which part to eat and 
which part to leave. Some animals shore have a lot 
of sense. 

This country shore used to be full of deer, but they 
have been 'most shot out and there are only a few 
left. I have only shot a few deer, and I don't know 
much about it. 

I don't know much about baar-hunting either. 
There's a few baars left, but they are back in the 
mountains and it's hard to get at them. It's more 
luck than skill, getting a baar in these mountains these 
days. A few weeks ago one of our mountain boys was 
driving a truck acrost a trestle bridge when he almost 
run p'int-blank into a baar which was going acrost the 
bridge from the other direction. That-there old baar 
jes kept a-going on. Hit warn't scared of that-there 
old motor truck nohow. So the boy went into reverse 
and backed up and give that old baar the right-of-way. 
That's sportsmanship for you. He jes warn't going 
to run plumb into that old baar and probably go over 
into the creek below* As he himself has said, baars 
are scarce enough^ but if you have got the time and pa- 



ii6 SERGEANT YORK 

tience you can go into the mountains and get one, but 
you can't get another truck that way nohow. 

The most exciting sport of all is cutting down a bee 
tree. I am a-telling you that's looking for punishment. 
Some men can get along with bees. I can't nohow. 
My brother Henry can handle them with his bare 
hands and do 'most anything with them; and they very 
rarely sting him, and when they do, it don't seem to 
bother him much. But they sort of have a natcheral 
dislike for me. They come at me right smart, and 
they shore make me do all these-here funny dances all 
over the mountain. Wild hogs are mean fighters and 
they often kill our dogs. Baars have got a bad way 
with them and coons and mountain cats ain't at all 
sociable, but the worst of them all are them-there wild 
bees. It kinder beats me how such a little critter can 
do so much damage when he sorter backs up against 
you and pushes. 

But we mountain people are most fond of the honey 
and we will go to any length to get it. We hunt the 
wild bees jes like we hunt 'most any other animal, ex- 
cept, of course, we don't use dogs. A dog has got even 
less business than a human around a wild beehive. We 
put out bee bait on the trees. We generally use burnt 
sugar, or honey, or something else that's sweet. The 
bees come along and get at it and then we try and 
follow them up to their bee tree. They generally hive 
in a big hollow tree on the high ground on top of a 
mountain. 

Once we have the tree located we begin making 
preparations. We sometimes get all dressed up. 



HUNTING 117 

wear bee bonnets, which are made out of something 
like mosquito netting, draped down over our hats and 
tucked into the collars of our coats. We wear gloves 
and thick woollen socks, or leggings. But, somehow 
or other, wild bees when you rob their hives know how 
to penetrate most any clothing. They sure find the 
open places, and then ho ! ho 1 But 'most all of the 
mountain boys, though they don't like bee stings no- 
how, generally go out without dressing in them-there 
special clothes. But they sure take a lot of punish- 
ment. My brother Sam tackled a hive oncet, and by 
the time he had felled the tree he was so wet with 
sweat that his clothes were jes clinging to him and the 
bees most nigh drove him off before he could even get 
near the honey. 

The other night we cut down a bee tree and got one 
of the biggest hauls of honey we have ever known. 
We got out over two big bucketfuls, and there was 
even more'n that spilt or mussed up. It was a great 
big half-hollow oak tree on one of the mountains about 
three miles through the woods. We had a most awful 
time getting in over the rough places, sliding down 
mountains and climbing up others, and getting all tan- 
gled up in vines and thorny brushes. Jt was a very 
tall tree. We sawed it down. We triecf to fall it on 
a small cedar so as not to smash up the trunk and spill 
the honey, but the cedar gave way, and that old tree 
cracked up and there was honey and bees all over the 
place. 

I kept well back and held the dog. I don't like bee 
stings nohow. Besides, that-there dog thought it was 



ii8 SERGEANT YORK 

a coon tree and was rarin' to go. He would have 
rushed in there and stuck his nose into the honey and 
the bees would have stung every square inch of him. 
It's right-smart funny, I am a-telling you, to^ see a 
hound howling and prancing around, rubbing his nose 
with his paws, but it's cruel jes the same, and it don't 
do the hound no good nohow. So I clung to mine, and 
later on I tied him to a sapling. 

When the tree crashed the boys run along beside the 
trunk until they located the hive. You couldn't miss it 
nohow. It was jes a wild, mad swarm of mad bees, 
and the sweetest, most golden honey you ever tasted. 
My brother Henry turned in with his bare hands and 
didn't seem to mind the bees nohow. My other broth- 
ers, Jim and Sam, went in with him, but in a few min- 
utes they come out again, and they agreed that bees 
never was no good nohow. Jim was so badly stung 
around the ankles that he couldn't get his shoes on 
next day. Worse than. that, he was biting into a piece 
of honeycomb and there was a bee in it and it bit him 
on the end of the tongue and he hollered worse'n a 
baar. Sam jes kinder sneaked out and got well out of 
the firing line. He didn't want to admit that the bees 
had whipped him, but they had jes the same. 

But that-there Henry stayed with them. You could 
hardly see him for the bees and honey. He filled him- 
self full and said it was the best he had ever tasted. 
Then he filled the buckets and the cans and a card- 
board box, and there was a lot more running out and 
jes as much was lost as was ketched. Henry always 



HUNTING 119 

kinder believed that when you are robbing a hive you 
are safer in the swarm than on the outside. He says 
the fighters always skirmish on the outside and go 
right after anybody who's straggling around, but if 
you are in among them, and especially if you have 
honey on you, they won't touch you unless you happen 
to squeeze or pinch them, and then they let fly with 
them-there torpedoes. They crawled all over Henry 
and he jes lightly brushed or pulled them off and kept 
right on after the honey. And then he poked about 
among the bees looking for the queen. That stirred 
them up, but he didn't seem to mind. That-there 
Henry is the f oolishest man that ever took honey out 
of a hive. He don't seem to mind bees at all, and 
their stings don't seem to bother him nohow. 

After they had kinder recovered from the effects of 
the first attack, Jim and Sam sorter slunk back in 
among them, but their confidence was sorter ruined. 
It don't take many bee stings to do that. But no 
stings no honey, and they wanted more honey, and 
they got it, and everything else that went with it. In 
the evening we carried those old buckets and cans full 
of honey back home. The next day we went out and 
rounded up the bees. We wanted to take them home, 
too. We took a gum along with us. That is a sort 
of box-shaped beehive. We looked around for the 
queen, to put her in the gum, but them-there bees sure 
were on the warpath and we couldn't find her nohow. 
We put some of the comb we had left in the box and 
let it stand there and went away and when we come 



120 SERGEANT YORK 

back again they was swarming in the box and we was 
able to take them home and they're on the farm now. 
Bees sure have a lot of sense. 

So I have growed up hunting and shooting and larn- 
Ing a few of the secrets of nature in these forests and 
mountains. And I'm a-telling you, you can larn a lot 
that way. 



CHAPTER XIV 
BOTH OOD 

I WAS borned in Pall Mall, in Fentress County* Hit 
is under the mountain; that is to say, in the valley 
below. Hit is called the Valley of the Three Forks of 
the Wolf, because Wolf River forks into three 
branches not far from our home. Hit is in the Cum- 
berland Mountains, in the eastern part of middle Ten- 
nessee, not far from the Kentucky line. I was borned 
in a one-room log cabin with puncheon floors, and the 
walls made of rough-hewn slabs. These walls was 
chinked with bark and mud, but jes the same, in the 
winter time the wind would whistle in through the 
walls and up through the cracks in the floor. Some of 
them-there floor cracks were so big we could look and 
see the chickens and pigs underneath. 

I was the third in a family of eleven children, eight 
boys and three girls. Most all of them were big and 
red-headed; and I was borned and growed up the big- 
gest of them all. There was a whole litter of us and 
we jes sort of growed up like a lot of little pigs. I 
don't mean we was allowed to be dirty like pigs. I jes 
sorter mean that we were 'most always turned loose 
out-of-doors on the mountainside, kinder running wild, 
playing and hunting around. We was sort of brung 
up by the hair of the head. 



122 SERGEANT YORK 

We weren't pampered. Mother and Father hadn't 
any time to pamper us. They was most awful hard- 
working people. They had to be to bring up eleven 
children like they did. Father was a blacksmith. His 
shop was in a cave or rockhouse, as we called it, at the 
head of the spring on the mountainside, just near our 
home. He knowed wonderful well how to handle 
mares and horses and never refused even the meanest 
of them. Some of the mules was most awful, but my 
father never backed up on them. I am telling you that 
shows character. But money was scarce in them times 
and he never made more than about fifty cents a day. 
I don't mean to say he averaged that much. He didn't. 
He was so fond of hunting that he would neglect his 
blacksmithing and go out over the hills for days to 
get him some deer or some turkeys. But he wasn't 
lazy and like the rest of us boys it wasn't natcheral for 
him to resist the baying of the hounds and the call of 
the woods. I guess weVe got it in the blood. He was 
a right-smart woodsman. He could follow a trail any- 
where, or go out through the wildest country on the 
darkest nights, and never get lost for a minute. He 
was the best shot in the mountains. Often I have seed 
him take the centre out of a target, shot after shot. I 
have seed him fire a dozen times at a target and put 
most all of the bullets through the same hole. 

We most always had plenty of fresh meat from my 
father's rifle-gun. But jes the same, we was always 
poor. Mother used to hire out and work at other 
places, washing, spinning or weaving, or doing chores. 
She would earn about twenty-five cents a day. 



BOYHOOD 123 

So we growed up. We had our own log cabin and 
a little land. We raised chickens and hogs and some 
corn and we had a couple of cows and a whole heap 
of fresh air and plenty of room outside, but not much 
inside the cabin. Eleven children and mother and 
father take up a most awful lot of room, and that little 
one-room log cabin was kinder crowded at night, when 
we were all tucked in ; but we was all under one roof, 
growing up good, strong, and healthy, and loving each 
other. Jes a mountain family. We children would all 
lie in bed, tucked in for the night. Mother would sit 
in front of the big open fire carding, or spinning, or 
weaving; and Father would sit in the corner in the 
light of a lantern or a grease lamp and clean and mend 
his guns; and that's the way we growed up* 

We shore were pretty rough scrappers, and among 
ourselves and with the neighbours' kids we used to 
fight right sharp. Of course, a whole heap of children 
like that will get up to all sorts of mischief, but Mother 
jes knowed where the most stinging hickory sticks 
growed and Father had a mule whip, and they both 
knowed how to use them. I guess the reason I growed 
up so big was that I was such a roughneck and Father 
had to whip me so much that he sorter kept my hide 
loose so that I could fill out. When I was sixteen I 
was nearly six feet tall and weighed one hundred and 
sixty pounds. 

Of course, they wanted us to go to school and we 
was most all anxious to get some larnin'. But we were 
very poor, and 'most all the other mountain people 
were poor too, and there was only money enough for 



124 SERGEANT YORK 

the school to keep going about two and a half months 
each year, and that was in the middle of summer. It 
was too cold in the wintertime. The roads were bad. 
There were no bridges over the creeks and we couldn't 
get acrost; and we couldn't afford warm clothes 
neither. And even in the summertime they had to 
dismiss school for two or three weeks for crops and 
foddering. I went for about three weeks a year for 
about five years. I larned to read and write. I had 
about a second-grade education. I don't think I could 
have passed the second grade. The schoolhouse was 
a little frame one-room building over on the hill. 
There were about one hundred pupils and only one 
teacher. We used to sit on benches made out of split 
logs with two pegs mortised in them. The benches 
had no backs. They were so high that when I used to 
sit on them I could scarcely touch the floor with my 
feet. During the last year we had two or three desks. 

I never read no books till I was about twenty years 
of age. Then I read only one and that was the life 
of Frank and Jesse James. 

I begun to work almost as soon as I could walk- 
At first I would help Mother around the house, carry- 
ing water, getting a little stovewood, and carrying 
and nursing the other children to keep them from 
yelling around after Mother while she was trying to 
get a bite of dinner for us all. I would go out to the 
field with Father before I was six years old. I would 
have to chop the weeds out of the corn. Father would 
be ploughing with the old mule, and I and my brothers 
would follow after until he was out of sight, and then 



BOYHOOD . 125 

we would steal off and play and scrap around; and then 
when we would get home he would give us some hick- 
ory tea, as he called It. 

And it didn't take much of it to make a fellow wish 
there never was no hickory in these-here mountains. 
Our clothes was very poor. When I first went to 
school I wore a home-made linsey dress, and I guess 
I worned it that long it couldn't stay on me no longer 
nohow, and jes dropped off as if by Itself. As I 
growed older and larger Mother would get some 
clothes from the neighbours, old ones for washings 
she done for them, to make us boys britches and coats 
to keep us warm in the winter months. We had clean 
cotton shirts which we were only allowed to wear on 
Sunday mornings, but we had no coats. I shore do 
remember the kind of shoes we wore in the winter- 
time. Father made them. They was brogan shoes 
with brass on the toes, and when we would get up in 
the morning our shoes would be cold and stiff and we 
would have to warm them around the old log fire 
before we could put them on. They were most awful 
hard and stiff and would take the hide off our heels and 
they slipped up and down when we walked. 

When I was sixteen Mother went to the little coun- 
try store and bought me a pair of dress shoes. I called 
them Sunday shoes, for I only wore them on Sunday, 
They were number ten men's shoes. They were the 
first dress shoes I ever had. I was most awful proud 
of them. The next Sunday morning Mother and I 
started to the little church meeting. Of course, I put 
on the new shoes. I shore felt good in them. I kept 



126 SERGEANT YORK 

looking down at them, and I kinder thought that 
everybody else was admiring them. Before I got to 
church it come up a rain and got muddy and the red 
clay was very tough and pulled off one of the heels. 
I scraped in the mud, got It, and put it in my front 
pants pocket. I kept on a-going with one heel on and 
one off. When I got almost to the church the other 
heel come off and I got it and put it in my other front 
pocket. My, what trouble I was in my first pair of 
Sunday shoes and both heels off before I got to church 
where I could really show them off and I had no 
coat and my shirt was all wet and muddy too ! And 
there was a girl friend there that I kinder admired. 
So there I was with my first pair of Sunday shoes and 
my first time to wear them, and this trouble had to 
come, and I was slipping all over the road with those 
number tens with no heels on them, and that shore 
spoiled the pleasure of the day. 

As I growed up I begun to look around for some 
work, but there wasn't much of it in the little valley. 
Father took me into the rockhouse, where I helped 
him to blacksmith. He taught me to handle them- 
there mules and not to back up on them. I got to know 
horses and mules right smart, and I picked up the 
blacksmith business. But I most loved getting out 
with Father to help him shoot. We would hunt the 
red and gray foxes in the daytime and skunks, pos- 
sums, and coons after dark. Often we would hunt 
all day and do the blacksmithing at night. I did a 
heap of farming too. I worked for Mr. E. J. Wil- 
liams and others for forty cents a day. 



BOYHOOD 127 

In 1911 my dear father takened sick and died of 
typhoid fever. He was kicked most awful bad by a 
mule he was trying to shoe. She lashed out and got 
him. She was the only one that ever out-smarted him. 
She would not have done it nohow, only he didn't 
know she was mean. He was most awful sick for 
some time and I think it led up to his death. 

That left my mother with a family of eleven small 
children. Although I was only a young boy, I had 
to go out and work with the men to help support 
Mother and the smaller children. 



CHAPTER XV 
H OG- WILD 

AFTER my father died in 1911 I sorter went to 
pieces for a few years. I know I shouldn't have. I 
ought to have hewed to the line closer than ever, but 
I didn't. I was at that age, too, when a young man 
thinks that it's right smart to drink and cuss and fight 
and tear things up. I sort of felt that that was the 
right-smart way to come into my manhood. And com- 
ing into your manhood is like suddenly coming into a 
lot of riches you may not appreciate it at first, and 
sorter squander it. 

I begun to drink and gamble jes a little at the start, 
but it growed on me. I got in with a crowd of gay 
fellows and before long I sure was drifting. There 
was plenty of liquor around. It was very cheap ; about 
sixty-five cents or seventy-five cents a quart* Poker 
and other gambling games were pretty popular, and 
smoking and chewing was supposed to be the thing. 
I was a big fellow, strong and hard, too, from black- 
smithing and farming and hunting. I didn't know my 
own strength. I thought I could whip anybody. 

At the beginning we used to have a few drinks of 
a week-end and sit up nights, gambling our money 
away; and of course, like most of the others, I was 
always smoking and cussing. I don't think I was 

128 



HOG-WILD !2 9 

mean and bad; I was jes kinder careless. But the 
habits grew stronger on me. Sorter like the water that 
runs down a hill at first it makes the ravine, and then 
the ravine takes control of the water that's the way 
it was with me. I jes played with these things at first, 
and then they got a-hold of me and began to play with 
my life. I went from bad to worse. I began really 
to like liquor and gambling, and I was 'most always 
spoiling for a fight. 

There was a bunch of us. There was Everett Delk, 
Marion Leffew and Marion Delk, who is dead now, 
and a couple of my brothers. We were a wild crowd; 
wilder than wild bees when they're swarming. Of a 
week-end we would go across the Kentucky line and 
get drunk and look for trouble, and we shore enough 
found it. 

Back in the days before the World War the Ken- 
tucky-Tennessee state line was a tough place. There 
were drinking shacks, "blind tigers" we used to call 
them, 'most every few miles. I am a-telling you 
Sodom and Gomorrah might have been bigger places, 
but they weren't any worse. Killings were a-plenty. 
They used to say that they used to shoot fellows jes 
to see them kick. Knife fights and shooting were 
common, gambling and drinking were commoner, and 
lots of careless girls jes used to sorter drift in. It 
shore was tough. They used to build these wooden 
shacks right on the line, half in one state and half 
in the other. If you come from Tennessee and wanted 
to buy liquor and booze you went across to the Ken- 
tucky part of the building. If you come from Ken- 



i 3 o SERGEANT YORK 

tucky you crossed over to the Tennessee side. That 
was to befool the law and sorter protect yourselves 
and the people who were running the places. We 
used to go over there 'most every week-end and^ after 
we was filled up with liquor we would go back in the 
trees and gamble and roam around, or go dancing and 
looking for trouble. 

The liquor we used to drink in those days was most 
often jes plain Tennessee or Kentucky moonshine. 
That's powerful liquor. There was plenty of it; and 
we jes natcherly knowed how to put it away. We 
would often drink over a quart each a night, and two 
or three quarts each over a week-end. That's a lot 
of liquor. We used to think it right smart to drink 
each other down. 

I ricollect oncet a bunch of us got us each a quart 
of moonshine whiskey and a quart of apple brandy, 
and we had a sorter drinking bout. We would drink 
so long as we could stand up, but when we fell over 
or passed out we would what you might call disqualify. 
The one who drunk the most and stayed on his feet 
the longest got all of the liquor that was left. We 
bought the liquor at Ball Rock, which is right on the 
line, and then we corne back around Caney Creek and 
went to it. 

There were six of us and we shore put away a lot 
of that-there liquor. My brothers Henry and Albert 
didn't last long. They each put away about three 
quarters of that apple brandy, and that was the end 
of them. Everett Delk and me guzzled up a quart 
each, and then I am a-telling you we were rarin' to go. 



HOG-WILD i 3I 

We started out for Jim Crabtree's house. There was 
some right-smart girls there; fine girls and good- 
looking too. And though we could hardly stand no- 
how, we kinder thought we would like to have a little 
dance with them. We crossed over through a sage 
field and drunk some more liquor. I guess that old 
field was pretty flat country, but it seems most awful 
hilly to me. I knowed I was a-going ; and sure enough, 
another drink and I was flat on my back; but Everett 
kept a-going and a-drmking. 

He went to the house and swallowed a most awful 
lot of buttermilk, which sorter brought him around. 
He then went back around the field and collected up 
all the liquor that was left and took it back to the 
house and hid it upstairs. Then he kinder kicked and 
shook us awake. We was scattered here and yonder, 
jes wherever we give* up. We began to come to and 
go into the house all the way from seven o'clock till 
midnight. Next morning we didn't none of us know 
what we had done with our whiskey. We thought we 
drunk it all. We felt like it, too. But Everett went 
upstairs and got it and we went to it again. That 
was the kind of drinking we used to do. 

Another time we had to light out from home and 
go over near the state line and hide us from the grand 
jury which was after us. They wanted us for liquoring 
up and fighting and carrying weapons. They didn't 
have any specific charges against us. They jes wanted 
to get us before them and question us. And we jes 
knowed if they ever got us before them and got to 
questioning us we shore would give each other away 



SERGEANT YORK 

and be indicted So we went over there near the line 
and jes drinked and gambled and played around until 
it kinder blew over. 

Once they got me for being mixed up in carrying 
and selling a weapon. I used to always tote a gun 
around with me and a knife, too. I went before the 
jury and got out of it right smart. I pleaded my own 
case and proved to them that it was not my gun, that 
I was jes delivering it for somebody else. But hit 
shore was close and they come near getting me. An- 
other time I was riding home on a mule, drunk as a 
saloon fly, and sorter wanting to shoot things up. It 
was in the very early morning. I saw some turkey 
gobblers sitting on the fence and up in a tree. I had a 
pistol with me. I jes couldn't resist seeing if my nerve 
was all right. I jes fired six shots from a long way 
off, and the air was full of feathers, and there was six 
dead turkeys stretched out on the ground. Now that 
was one time that my marksmanship got me in bad. 
I was brung up before the court, but was able to buy 
out of it. Turkeys are pretty valuable around our 
way, especially when it's near Thanksgiving, and it's 
a pretty serious offence to muss them up. 

Once Everett and I were full of booze and riding 
home on the same mule, both of us, one behind the 
other. How we done it I don't know; neither of us 
could sit up straight. But we done done it. In the 
darkness we saw something white sorter floating on 
Caney Creek. Everett thought it was a white pillow, 
and I didn't know what it was. We were that full that 
we couldn't see straight, , I got out the old gun again 



HOG-WILD 133 

and let fly and we heard an awful squawking and flut- 
tering about In the water, and whatever it was begun 
to float off. Everett went down to investigate* He 
said there was feathers and blood all over the water. 
Then we knowed I had killed a tame goose. I had 
shot it plumb through the breast. So we thought we 
had better get out while the going was good, and we 
did. It was Mr. Moody's goose, and I guess he 
doesn't know to this day who it was that bumped it off. 

Not having no money never bothered us much. We 
could make it all right at shooting matches. I sure 
could bust a turkey's head at 'most any distance and 
cut the centre out of a target and win the prize money 
'most any time. I used to do the shooting and Everett 
would do the betting and then when we won we would 
buy us some more liquor. 

I am a-telling you I kept going from bad to worse, 
drinking more and more, and gambling whenever I 
had the chance or the money, and fighting a whole 
heap. I was never oncet whipped or knocked off my 
feet. I jes kinder thought I could whip the world and 
more than oncet I set out to do it. 

I was in a couple of shooting frays too. You see 
the only book I had read was the life of Frank and 
Jesse James. It made a big impression on me. I used 
to practise and practise to shoot like them James boys* 
I used to get on my mule and gallop around and shoot 
from either hand and pump bullet after bullet in the 
same hole. I used to even throw the pistol from hand 
to hand and shoot jes as accurate. I could take that 
old pistol and knock off a lizard's or a squirrel's head 



134 SERGEANT YORK 

from that far off that you could scarcely see it. So 
you see I was kinder handy when it come to hitting 
the mark. I never did kill nobody. I never did really 
fire at anybody; that is, not to hit them. I often shot 
a few bullets in their direction to frighten them off. 
Once we hired to a fellow to take some cattle from 
Wolf River to Chanute. We got four dollars for 
that. So we took it to Lick Creek and bought us that 
much whiskey. That was enough to make us pretty 
full. We was riding along on our mules and we met 
up with Will Huff, and we decided to have some fun 
with him. I got out my little pearl-handle revolver 
and began to shoot at the ground underneath his 
mule's belly. That sorter knocked the rocks loose and 
they flew up and hit the mule and it got to bucking 
and throwed Will off. He was not hurt, but he was 
most awful mad. 

Then we got to firing under my mule and it bucked 
me off. I was that wobbly I couldn't sit straight and 
I jes sorter fell off, and I lay where I fell, too* 
Everett got him a paling off'n the fence and proceeded 
to bring me around by slapping me with that old 
wooden paling. I come to and, thinking somebody was 
after me, I jumped on the old mule and galloped like 
an express train through the trees. I guess an express 
train couldn't have catched me. I lost my hat, but 
I kept on a-going, shooting and hollering and cussing 
as I rode. After a few miles I fell off and went to 
sleep again. 

I got into a knife fight, too, with one of the boys 
in our valley. It was on a Sunday morning afteir 



HOG-WILD 135 

church and that made It worse. We were both full 
of moonshine and that started it. We sure would 
have cut each other up, but some of the other boys 
got between us and separated us. It was over a girl. 
I am a-telling you that wine and women make a bad 
rnix-up. 

Then there was a fellow named Maxey. We had 
a most awful argument down at a stave mill, and he 
said next time we met he was going to get me. A 
few days later I decided to wait for him on the road 
and run him off. So when he come along I fired a 
few shots near his feet, and knocked up the dust, and 
told him to go ; and he done went, too. I never seed 
him again. 

I ain't a-boasting of these days. I am kinder 
ashamed of them now. They was most awful bad. 
They couldn't have been worser without me killing or 
hurting somebody; but I never did that. I did enough 
just the same. I drunk liquor whenever I could get it. 
I was drunk 'most every week-end. I gambled away 
most of my hard-earned money. I was always chew- 
ing and cussing. I was always wanting to whip some- 
body. 

I am a-saying again that old Kentucky line was a 
tough place, and the boys around there was tough too, 
tougher than hickory ; and I was one of them. I was 
always in trouble, or looking for trouble, and it looked 
as if sooner or later I would get it and get it right 
smart. 

I was hog-wild. 



CHAPTER XVI 
MOTHER 

'MOST like all boys, I think my mother wa,:> LUC 
mother in all the world. I jes think so much of her 
that I don't know how to say what I want to say. I 
guess sometimes you can feel things so deep you are 
sorter lost for words to express them. 

We mountain people are pretty clannish ; that's the 
Scotch-Irish blood in us. We sorter hang together, 
'most like bees when they are swarming. I sometimes 
think that our feelings are nearer the surface than 
they are in 'most all city people. We don't try to 
keep them down. We let them go. When we love 
we love right out, and we ain't ashamed of it, and 
when we hate it takes a lot to make us forgive and 
forget 

Both my father and mother were honest, God-fear- 
ing people, and they did their best to bring us up that 
way. They didn't drink, or swear, or smoke them- 
selves, and they didn't believe in us doing those things. 
They didn't have no use nohow for people who told 
lies or broke promises. They believed in being 
straight out and aboveboard. I'm a-telling you they 
honoured the truth so much that they wouldn't hide it 
nohow for nobody even if they was to suffer an awful 
lot. 

136 



MOTHER 137 

I have told about my father. It was sorter easy 
for me to talk about guns and hounds and horses and 
all those things he loved and taught me to love. 
Hit's different talking about Mother, but I jes got to. 
Her story is jes sorter mixed up with mine and mine 
with hers, and I can't jes tell where one ends and the 
other begins, and I can't look into my own life nohow 
without finding her always mixed up with my affairs. 
And always for the better. I have generally taken her 
advice as being most helpful. When I have failed to 
do it, I have 'most always got into a heap of trouble. 
I can't remember us ever having a short word. 

She has sort of been through everything. She has 
had 'most all the trials and tribulations they write 
about in the Scriptures. She has always had to work 
hard, and she says that is why she has always been 
happy. I guess she has never really had time to be 
unhappy. I am a-thinking that she sorter knows what 
life's all about. Long ago she had come through most 
all of the fool notions, and she sorter understands now. 

When her father, William Brooks, was killed by 
the bushwhackers in Jamestown, she was jes a little 
baby in her mother's arms. Her brother was not 
borned then. He come into the world a few months 
afterwards. The three of them went on through life 
clinging to each other jes like a three-leaf clover. 
My grandmother never married again. She jes went 
back to her people in the valley and give her whole 
life to bringing up her babies. She had to be both 
mother and father to them. Maybe it's because my 
mother never had a father she growed up so inde- 



i 3 8 SERGEANT YORK 

pendent and strong-willed and knowing. She had to 
larn to look after herself without a father and to find 
out heaps of things alone. 

There was no man-person at the house and they 
all had to work, and her little brother was sickly at 
first. She went to school and larned how to read and 
write and that was about all. She never read no other 
books but the Bible. She larned to card and ^ spin 
and weave and knit and to make clothes. She milked 
the cows and even larned how to plough. She used to 
hitch up the horses and go out into the field and do 
a good day's work. She had some cattle of her 
mother's, and she often used to go out in the fields 
and hitch them to logs and do her share of hauling. 
She worked right smart from her girlhood up. 

She must have been full of life, too. I'm a-telling 
you she still is. She used to go in for all the goings-on 
in the valley. In those old days there was a lot of 
this what you would call community spirit. If a 
couple would marry and wanted to set up for them- 
selves, or if some strangers come in and takened up 
some land, most all of the mountain people around 
would turn out and give them a good start. There 
would be log-rollings and house-raisings. The men 
would do that. They would come from all around 
and cut the timber and roll in the logs and clear up 
the brush and burn it off, so that the new settlers 
would have some good crop land. Then they would 
build them a home, a regular log cabin ; and while they 
was doing this, the women folk would get together 
and do a right-smart piece of quilting. That is, 



MOTHER 139 

would cut and sew and make quilts and other things 
for the new couple to help begin a home. 

And after the day's work was done they would all 
get together and dance on the new puncheon floor. 
They would often dance all night, them square dances 
with banjo music and fiddles. They jes paired up 
and hit the floor, the young and old, married and 
single, and all. The men sometimes would drink a 
little hard cider and liquor but they seldom got drunk. 

Then there were corn-shuckings too. Somebody 
would put up a crib of corn and maybe put a bottle 
of liquor in the centre. The men folks would come in 
from all around and shuck until they got right in the 
centre where the liquor was. Then there would be 
some drinking, and after that there would be some 
dancing. In them days they all worked hard from 
sunup to sundown ; and they knowed how to play, too. 
Their enjoyments might be different from ours, but 
they was kinder wholesome and sorter fitted in with 
this-here mountain life. 

Roads were bad in them times and travelling was 
hard. Anyone who went into Jimtown more'n once a 
month was considered to be a regular gad-about. The 
first time my mother ever went Into Jimtown she drove 
a yoke of cattle with a load of fodder. It was a little 
place then, but it was a new world for her, for she 
had been used only to the little mountain place. They 
used to raise sorghum cane in them days and grind 
the stalks into molasses and cut the heads ofi, and 
then they would take them heads that was left and 
fill up the bottom of the cart and then pile up bundles 



140 SERGEANT YORK 

of fodder on top until the cart was full. It was a 
load like this that she took Into Jimtown. 

Mother and Father most growed up together. 
They both lived In this-here valley. They first got to 
going together when my father decided to move 
house and Mother did the moving for him. This was 
long before they were married* They was both most 
young then. She took her cattle and wagon and went 
and moved him from off the mountain where he was 
living to his new place, which was within shouting dis- 
tance of her own home. She drove the oxen and he 
walked along the road, toting a rifle, with a dog fol- 
lowing him. That was the beginning of it. 

They had to run off to be married. You see her 
people were opposed to him- They jes couldn't see 
him nohow, so they went and eloped. They ran 
across the mountains to her uncle's. He was a squire 
and in them days the squire could issue a licence and 
marry people himself. He married them. Mother's 
wedding dress was made of mixed linsey. She spun 
the wool, wove the cloth, and made the dress herself. 
They stayed over at her uncle's for a week. They, 
spent their honeymoon helping the old people. Then 
when they kinder figured that Grandmother had got 
over her fractiousness, they returned. 

About a year later Father built the log house at 
the spring, and that's where most all of us were 
borned and growed up. The children kept coming 
right smart until there were eleven of us. Mother 
had to work hard from sunup often until ten o'clock 
at night to keep us clothed and fed. Of course, 



MOTHER 141 

Father had his blacksmithing and was the head of the 
house, but thirteen's a big family, and there just 
couldn't be no idle hands nohow. Until we was old 
enough to help, Mother had to do 'most everything 
around the house. She milked the cows, made the 
butter; she looked after the hogs and chickens. She 
made the soap and the tallow candles and fixed the 
grease for the lamps. She carded the wool and spun 
and wove the cloth and made all of our clothes. She 
was a good mother to us, and with Father she brought 
us all up, and we are living to-day. We're all strong 
and healthy and well and she enjoyed every moment 
of it. She enjoyed life much more in those days, so 
she says, slaving and working for us, than she does 
to-day, jes quietly living with us with not much to 
do or to bother about. 

She jes didn't have time to worry or be unhappy. 
Life tried to crowd in on her and bust her up right 
smart and she jes wouldn't let it nohow. She knowed 
what she wanted she wanted her home, her husband, 
and her own children, and she knowed she would have 
to pay for these things with work and sacrifice, so she 
was willing. That's a mother for you! And that's 
what she's done done for me. 

And here I was running hog-wild around the 
country, keeping her up late nights and worrying the 
heart out of her. No matter how long I stayed away 
and how late I come home, no matter how drunk I was, 
no matter how much I had gambled away my money, 
no matter how much I come home shouting and whoop- 
ing it up, she never had a short word for me, never. 



142 SERGEANT YORK 

She would shake her head and look at me, with a hurt 
look in her eyes, and sometimes she would cry and 
always she would beg rne to give it up and lead a 
better life. Sometimes I would come home from a big 
drunk or from a wild party, and I would find her 
sitting up in the lamplight waiting for me. And when 
I would ask her why she hadn't laid down or gone to 
bed, she would kinder look at me and say she couldn't 
sleep, because she was afraid I would get killed or 
something would happen to me. 

Often she would remind me of my father, of how 
he never drunk, or gambled, or played around with 
bad company, and of how he would not like it nohow 
if he knowed what I was doing ; and she used to meet 
me at the door and put her arms around me and tell 
me that I was not only wasting this life, but I was 
spoiling all my chances for the next. She used to say 
that she jes couldn't bear to think of where I would 
go if I died or was killed while I was leading this 
wild life. 

All of this was making me feel kinder bad. I jes 
knowed I was wrong. I jes knowed there was no 
excuse for me, and I was beginning to make up my 
mind to cut it out, when she begun her praying for 
me. She told me of the Good Shepherd in the Bible 
who left the whole flock of sheep to go and look 
after and bring in the one that had strayed. She 
prayed and prayed. So I made up my mind to finish 
it. It was hard though. When you get used to a 
thing, no matter how bad it is for you, it is most 
awful hard to give it up. 



MOTHER 143 

It was a most awful struggle to me. I did a lot of 
walking through the mountains and thinking. I was 
fighting the thing inside of me and it was the worstest 
fight I ever had. I thought of my father and what 
a good man he was and how he expected me to grow 
up like him, and I sorter turned over in my mind 
all the sacrifices Mother had made for me* I ricol- 
lected that I had never asked her to do anything 
which she refused if it was right. I knowed that she 
had given up 'most all of her life for her children. 
I knowed she would have given her whole life for me. 
I knowed how she loved me. And now she was ask- 
ing me to give up all of this wild life and bad com- 
panions and be a good boy again. 

So I thought and struggled and prayed more and 
more. And then, jes as I was making up my mind 
and getting control of myself, a preacher-man come 
into the valley. He was the Rev. H. H. Russell from 
Indiana. He preached very close. I mean very close 
to the word of God as it is revealed in the Bible. 
He fought everything that any preacher could have 
fought. He fought everything that was not right. 
His meetings were at the Wolf River Church. The 
people come In from all around. They come from the 
river flats and from the back creeks and from the 
mountains. They come most in farm wagons and on 
horseback, and some of them walked. It was a won- 
derful crowd. The church could scarcely hold them 
all. There were great meetings every night, and that 
preacher man had more conversions, in the time, than 
any other man that had ever been through the valley. 



144 SERGEANT YORK 

Sometimes I used to walk out on the mountainside 
and do a heap of thinking and praying before the 
meetings. Then I would go and listen and pray and 
ask God to forgive me for my sins and help me to 
see the light And He did. In that-there little church, 
out in the hills and at home with Mother, I begun to 
see how wrong I was and how terrible it was for a 
man to be wasting his life like I was. I begun to see 
that I was missing the finer things. I knowed in my 
heart that when you miss the finer things of life you 
might jes as well be a razorback out in the mountains 
for all the good you are to yourself and anybody else. 

So I decided to change and go in for the finer things* 
And I have done it. I give up smoking, drinking, 
gambling, cussing, and brawling. I give them up com- 
pletely and forever. I give them up the first of Janu- 
ary, 1915- I have never backslided. I have never 
done any of those things since. I have no desire any 
more. I am a great deal like Paul, the things I once 
loved I now hate. I went through the World War 
without drinking, smoking, or cussing. 

After I changed my life everybody around me was 
happy. My mother was most happy of all. I found 
out the truth of what the Bible says: "There is more 
rejoicing over one sinner that repenteth than over 
ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance/ 1 
But I was not yet saved. I knew there was something 
else. I continued to pray and go to church, and then 
it come to me that not only must a man not do bad, 
but he must also do good to be truly saved. I joined 
the church. It was called the Church of Christ in 



MOTHER 145 

Christian Union. It hasn't any rituals or anything 
like that. Its only creed is the Bible. It accepts the 
Bible as It Is written. I gave most of my spare time 
to it, and with Pastor Pile I helped teach a children's 
class at Sunday school. I also led the singing. I 
have a natural tenor voice. I went to Byrdstown and 
takened lessons. I became known as the Singing 
Elder. 

So I was saved. 

And that is the greatest victory I ever won. It's 
much harder to whip yourself than to whip the other 
fellow, I'm a-telling you, and I ought to know because 
I done both. It was much harder for me to win the 
great victory over myself than to win It over those 
German machine guns In the Argonne Forest. And 
I was able to do it because my mother's love led me 
to God, and He showed me the light, and I done fol- 
lowed it. 



CHAPTER XVII 
WAR 

LIFE'S tol'ably queen You think you've got a grip 
on it, then you open your hands and you find there's 
nothing in them. It doesn't go in straight lines like 
bees to their hives or quail from the covey. It sorter 
circles like foxes and goes back again to where it 
begun* After I had given up liquoring and gambling 
and fighting and the wild life, I kinder thought I could 
settle down in peace and make amends for my sins 
by working hard and doing all the good I could. I 
got me a job farming with Rosier Pile. I worked from 
sunup to sundown. I kept up my singing lessons, and 
I spent any spare time I had reading the Bible and 
doing church work. 

Of course, often the old longing to go out and 
bedevil around would come over me, but I jes prayed 
and resisted the temptation. Sometimes Everett or 
Marion or some of the other boys would drop around 
and tell me they were putting on another gay party 
and invite me to join them. Then it was that*I was 
most sorely tempted. I prayed most awful hard and 
got a good hold on myself and didn't go. Each time 
I refused, it was so much easier next time ; and every 
day it became easier. In a few months I got them- 
there bad things out of my mind. I was thinking of 

146 




PREACHING ON THE MOUNTAINSIDE 

bed been living for God and working in the church work 
sometime before I joined the army." 




YORK AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE 
(The Grade School) 

"I'm goin' to give all the mountain children a chance 
to get a heap o' larninV 



WAR 147 

better things, more worthwhile things. I was begin- 
ning to find peace in my soul. 

So I was happy, living and working and learning 
to love my fellowmen and trying most awful hard to 
help anybody that wanted help. My mother was nigh 
to the happiest woman in the valley. She was always 
smiling and putting her hands on my shoulder sorter 
loving-like whenever I was around. That made me 
feel good. Most all of my friends were glad too. 
That encouraged me. I worked harder than even 
I read the Bible. I led the singing in the church, and 
I helped in the Sunday school. I jes knowed I was 
saved. 

I truly felt as though I had been horned again. I 
felt that great power which the Bible talks about and 
which all sinners feel when they have found salvation, 
I felt in my soul like the stormy waters must have felt 
when the Master said, "Peace, be still." I used to 
walk out in the night under the stars and kinder linger 
on the hillside, and I sorter wanted to put my arms 
around them-there hills. They were at peace and so 
was the world and so was I. 

And, of course, there was a girl; a little slip of a 
girl. I knowed her since she was a baby. We sorter 
growed up together. She was younger than me, and 
it may have been on account of that or because I was 
careless and didn't notice things, when I was drinking 
and sinning around anyway, I hadn't noticed how she 
had growed up from girlhood to womanhood. But 
when I was saved and working hard and going in for 
the decent things again, I begun to watch her comings 



SERGEANT YORK 

and goings pretty dose. I didn't see much of her at 
first. I guess she had heard of my wild life and 
sorter wasn't interested and kept out of my way, but 
when I got religion the church work brought us to- 
gether. We did not speak to each other much ai 
first. She was kinder shy; she hain't never been out 
of the mountains and hain't been used to strangers. 
But she had a nice way about her, always kind to 
folks and always doin' things for the church. There 
hain't been nothing flighty about her nohow. And 
I'm a-tellin' you she was pretty, always as fresh as 
a flower in the mornin' with the dew on. I kinder 
noticed her hair. You jes couldn't help noticing it. 
I jes couldn't nohow. It was sort of soft and silky 
and there was so much of it, and she done it up nice 
in two big braids wound up in the back with a blue 
ribbon woven in. And I seed her eyes was blue and 
big and kinder shined with goodness, and though 
I never thought of it before, I jes knowed blue was 
my favourite colour. I am a-tellin 1 you there was 
sornethin' grand about her, the way she talked in that 
quiet voice of hers that sometimes got shaky, she was 
that shy, and the way she looked at you with those big 
blue eyes as though she was jes trying to see inside 
of you and help you be good. I jes wanted to be near 
her and talk to her; and there was many a time when 
I was out tramping in these-here mountains with 
them hound dogs of mine and scouting for coon when 
I would jes sit down on some log and look over the 
valley on that-there mountain where she lived and 
wish I could be there and tell her how much I thought 



WAR 149 

of her and how there was nothing in the world I 
would not do for her if she'd only let me. That's 
how much I cared for her. 

Her parents were agin me. I couldn't blame them 
nohow. But I wasn't in love with them at that time, 
I was in love with Gracie, and we managed to steal 
meetings, and nobody but us knowed much about them 
nohow. There was a long winding lane between our 
homes. It was lined with big shady trees. And there 
was wild honeysuckle there. And, best of all, it sorter 
dipped out of sight between the two hills. It was 
sorter made for us to meet in. So of an evening 
Gracie would come along this way to get the cows for 
milking, and I most awful sudden found out there 
were a heap of squirrels along that old lane. So I 
would tote the old muzzle-loader and go hunting down 
that way. I don't recollect getting many squirrels. 
But I kinder used to always go back there every eve- 
ning. 

I was happy. I was happier than I had ever been 
before. You see I found love, too* When you have 
found that and peace of soul you are beginning to find 
out what life is all about. I guess them-there two 
things, love and peace, are what folks call the funda- 
mental things* 

The World War done broke out, but as you don't 
pay much attention nohow to a cloud when it first 
comes up in the sky, so I didn't pay none to the war. 
I scarcely heard or seed it. It didn't touch me. It 
didn't mean nothing to me. I knowed it was in 
Europe, but that meaned nothing to me. I knowed 



150 SERGEANT YORK 

big nations were fighting, but I didn't know for sure 
how many and which ones. I didn't know what they 
were fighting for. I didn't know what it was all 
about. It was a long way from our peaceful little 
valley to them-there battlefields way across the sea. 
I read a little about it in the papers, and I heard them 
talking about it around the store. Not much, though, 
jes a little now and then. 

So I went on with my farming and my church work 
and trying to court Gracie, when people were not 
around and I was lucky enough to meet her there in 
the lane. And I am a-telling you that kept me 
a-going. I had no time nohow to bother much about 
a lot of foreigners quarrelling and killing each other 
over there in Europe. 

I had had fighting and quarrelling myself. I had 
found it bad. I had larned that it didn't profit a man 
nohow, and I had given It up forever, I hoped. I 
didn't want to go in for it again nohow. I jes wanted 
to be left alone to live in peace and love. I wasn't 
planning my life any other way. I didn't see that I had 
anything to do with them-there things away over in 
Europe. I kinder figured out that if some people 
were quarrelling and fighting in the valley next to ours 
it wasn't none of my business to go over there and 
interfere, and Europe was so much farther than any 
neighbouring valley. That's what the war meant to 
me. 

I didn't think our country would get into it nohow. 
I didn't think we had anything to do with it. I never 
even dreamed that we would go over there and fight. 



WAR 151 

Even when we got into it in 1917, it seemed a long 
way off and I didn't figure on being called. But the 
little cloud was growing blacker and bigger, and even 
in our little valley there was a heap more of this war 
talk. Some of the boys were talking of going away 
and fighting, and there was a tollable lot of talk of 
the draft and of how we would all have to go* I 
couldn't see it that way. I couldn't sorter get in- 
terested, and I just didn't want to fight nohow. 

I wasn't unpatriotic or disloyal or anything like 
that. I knowed my people for generations back had 
always fought for their country. I knowed we were 
all good Americans in the mountains, but that-there 
World War seemed such a long way off. So I didn't 
pay much attention to it. I didn't let It bother me. 
I jes kept on a-going as I had been ever since I had 
been saved. 

One summer afternoon I got my old squirrel gun 
and went down the lane as usual and met Grade. I 
disremember what we talked about or how it hap- 
pened, but I know we come to an understanding. I 
walked back home the happiest man that ever could be. 
I was kinder drunk with happiness. I had Grade's 
promise that she would marry me. Her folks were 
agin me but she was for me. I sorter lived in a dream 
for the next few days. And then all of a sudden, out 
of nowhere, so it seemed to me, life sorter took me 
by the back of the neck and tried to lift me out of 
our little valley and throw me into the war over there 
in France. I received from the post office a little red 
card telling me to register for the draft. 



152 SERGEANT YORK 

I can't tell you how I felt. I just can't describe 
It. I was all mussed up. Everything was going from 
under me. Fight ! Kill 1 And I'd been converted to 
the Gospel of peace and love, and of "Do good for 
evil." 

That's how the war come to me, in the midst of 
all my peace and happiness and dreams, which I felt all 
along were too good to be true and just couldn't last. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 

IN my records In the War Department in Wash- 
ington, D. C,, there is a little narrow pink slip, marked: 

Conscientious Objector 

YORK, ALVIN C. 

Desires release as he is conscientious objector. 
A. G. 383.2 Exemp. Religious sects. 
4-19-1 
1918 

So as long as the records remain I will be officially 
known as a conscientious objector. I was. I couldn't 
have been anything else nohow. 

At first I jes couldn't imagine I would have to fight. 
The war seemed too far away to be mixing me up in 
It. And I didn't want to be in it nohow. I never had 
killed nobody, not even in my bad days, and I didn't 
want to begin now. I turned my back on all of those 
rowdy things and found a heap of comfort and hap- 
piness in religion. I joined the church. It was the 
Church of Christ in Christian Union. I had takened 
its creed and I had takened it without what you might 
call reservations. I was not a Sunday Christian. I 
believed in the Bible. And I tried in my own way 
to live up to It* It was the only creed of my church. 



154 SERGEANT YORK 

To be a member I had to accept the Bible as the in- 
spired word of God. I did. And the Bible said, 
"Thou shalt not kill." That was so definite a child 
could understand it. There was no way around or 
out of it, So you see there were two reasons why I 
didn't want to go to war. My own experience told 
me that it weren't right. And the Bible were agin 
it too* 

But Uncle Sam said he wanted me and he wanted 
me most awful bad. And I had also been brought 
up to believe in my country. I knowed that even in the 
Civil War, when Tennessee was a doubtful state, my 
two grandfathers had both fought straight out for the 
Union. I knowed that my great-great-grandfather, 
old Coonrod Pile, had been one of the pioneers who 
done helped to build up this-here country, and he 
hain't never hesitated to use a gun, and I kinder felt 
that my ancestors would want me to do whatever my 
country demanded of me. 

So you see my religion and my own experience sorter 
told me not to go to war, and the memory of my 
ancestors jes as plainly sorter told me to get my gun 
and go and fight. I didn't know what to do. I ain 
a-telling you there was a war going on inside of me 
and I didn't know which side to lean on. I was a 
heap bothered. Hit is a most awful thing when the 
wishes of your God and your country sorter get mixed 
up and go against each other. One moment I would 
make up my mind to follow God, and the next I 
would hesitate and almost make up my mind to follow 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 155 

Uncle Sam. Then I wouldn't know which to follow 
or what to do. 

I wanted to follow both. But I couldn't. They 
were opposite. And I couldn't reconcile them nohow 
in my soul. I wanted to do what was right. I wanted 
to be a good Christian and a good American too. I 
had always figured that the two were sort of con- 
nected. And now I was beginning to find out that they 
were kinder opposed to each other. If I went away 
to war and fought and killed, according to my reading 
of the Bible, I weren't a good Christian, And if I 
didn't go to war and do these things, according to 
Uncle Sam, I weren't a good American. 

So I was the most bothered boy in all of these 
mountains. I didn't know what to do or where to 
turn. I walked the mountains night after night, trying 
to figure it out. I read the Bible over and over. I 
prayed and prayed, often late into the night. I got 
away off In the woods and I got out that little Gov- 
ernment card telling me to register for the draft. I 
turned it over. I read and studied it. I jes couldn't 
make up my mind that the Bible were wrong. And 
I couldn't make up my mind Uncle Sam were right. 
I was a soul In doubt. I'm a-telling you, I was most 
unhappy. 

Pastor Pile was the registrar. He had a store and 
the post office at Pall Mall, and the Government done 
instructed him to take the registration for the draft, 
I went to him and we talked it over, and we read the 
Bible and prayed together. No matter how we looked 



i 5 6 SERGEANT YORK 

at It, we always come up against "Thou shalt not kill." 
That was the word of God and that was how it was 
revealed in His Holy Book. There was no gitting 
past that nohow. 

So when I registered I claimed exemption from the 
draft, I wrote on the paper: "I don't want to fight." 
And that-there paper with that statement on it is now 
in the War Department in Washington, D. C. 

A few weeks later I filed this application: 

August 28, 1917. 
To LOCAL BOARD 
COUJSTTY OF FENTRESS. 

I, Alvin Cullum York, Serial Number 378, hereby 
certify that I am 29 years old and reside at Pall 
Mall, Tenn. 

I hereby respectfully claim discharge from selec- 
tive draft on the following ground, that I am 

( i ) A person who was a member of a well- 
recognized sect or organization, organized 
and existing May 18, 1917, whose then 
existing creed or principles forbade its 
members to participate in war in any form 
and whose religious principles are against 
war or participation therein in accordance 
with the creed or principles of said well- 
recognized religious sect or organization. 

But the Local Board refused to exempt me. 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 157 

LOCAL BOARD FOR THE COUNTY OF FENTRESS 

STATE OF TENNESSEE 

JAMESTOWN, TENN. 

Serial No. 378 Order No. 218 

ALVIN CULLUM YORK 

Denied, because we do not think "The Church 
of Christ in Christian Union" is a well-recognized 
religious sect, etc. Also, we understand it has no 
especial creed except the Bible, which its members 
more or less interpret for themselves, and some do 
not dis-believe in war at least there is nothing 
forbidding them to participate. 

Then I was bothered more than ever. I done done 
what I thought was right. I followed God, so I 
thought, even against the judgment of my country. 
I done wrote to the Board that I didn't want to go 
to war because I didn't want to kill; and because I 
belonged to a church which was opposed to war. And 
they done refused my appeal. But that didn't convince 
me nohow. I couldn't accept the written word of man 
against the written command of God. So I appealed 
against their decision. I wrote them: 

LOCAL BOARD FOR THE COUNTY OF FENTRESS 

STATE OF TENNESSEE 

JAMESTOWN, TENN. 

To LOCAL BOARD 

I, Alvin Cullum York, Pall Mall, Tenn., now 
hereby claim an appeal to the District Board for 
Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville, Tenn., 
because you denied my claim for discharge which 



E58 SERGEANT YORK 

was based upon the ground that I am a member of 
a well-recognized religious sect or organization ex- 
isting May 1 8, 1917, whose then existing creed or 
principles forbade its members to participate in 
war, etc. 

A. C. YORK, 
Pall Mall, Term. 

And I also forwarded two affidavits, one from 
Pastor Pile and one from myself : 

I. Affidavit of Person Whose Discharge Is 

Sought. 

State of Tennessee, 
County of Fentress, to wit: 

Ij Alvin Cullum York, do solemnly affirm that 
I am 29 years old and reside at Pall Mall, Tenn., 
and that Serial Number 378 was given me by Local 
Board L. B. for County Fentress, and that claim 
for my discharge was filed with said Local Board 
on the 28th day of August, 1917, on the ground 
that I was a person who was a member of any well- 
known religious organization, organized and exist- 
ing May 1 8, 1917, whose then existing creed or 
principle forbade its members to participate in war 
in any form and whose religious principles are 
against war or participation therein, in accordance 
with the creed or principle of said religious organi- 
zation. 

I do further solemnly swear that I am a member, 
in good faith and good standing of the Church of 
Christ in Christian Union, which, on the i8th day 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 159 

of May, 1917, was organized and existing as a well- 
recognized sect or organization whose existing 
creed or principles forbade its members to partici- 
pate in war In any form. 

I do further solemnly swear that my religious 
convictions are against war or participation therein 
in accordance with the creed or principles of said 
religious organization. 

I do hereby bind myself to report in person and 
to notify said Local Board, at once, whenever the 
conditions entitling me to discharge cease to exist. 

A. C. YOKK, 
Pall Mall, Tenn. 

Subscribed and affirmed to before me 
this ist day of Sept., 1917. 
Elaine Williams, 
Notary Public, 
State of Tennessee, County of Fentress. 

2. Affidavit of Clerk of Minister in Support of 

Claim for Discharge. 
State of Tennessee, 
County of Fentress, to wit: 

I, R. C. Pile, Minister, do solemnly affirm that 
I am the minister of the Church of Christ in Chris- 
tan Union, and I hereby certify that A. C. York, 
who is personally known to me, is now a member of 
said religious sect or organization. 

I do further solemnly affirm that the said re- 
ligious sect or organization was organized and ex- 



i6o SERGEANT YORK 

istlng on the i8th day of May, 1917, and was then 
a well-recognized religious sect or organization, and 
that the then existing creed or principles of said 
religious sect or organization forbade its members 
to participate in war in any form. 

I hereby bind myself that if the said person 
whose discharge is now sought ceases to be a mem- 
ber of said religious sect or organization, or if the 
existing creed or principles of said religious sect or 
organization are changed so as not to forbid its 
members participating in war in any form, or when- 
ever the conditions entitling such person to dis- 
charge cease to exist I will at once notify said Local 
Board and will also request my successor in office 
to give such notice. 

R. C. PILE, 
Church of Christ in C. U. 

Pall Mall. 

Subscribed and affirmed to before me 
this 3d day of Sept., 1918 
Elaine Williams, 
Notary Public, 
State of Tennessee, County of Fentress. 

But It weren't no use. They denied my appeal: 

Notice of Decision of District Board on Claim of 
Appeal Filed by Person Called 

To ALVIJSF CULLUM YORK, 

Pall Mall, County of Fentress, Tenn. 

You are hereby notified that this District Board, 
having considered your daim of appeal from the 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 161 

decision of Local Board for County of Fentress, 
and having considered all affidavits and the record 
with respect to said claim of appeal, has, this 6th 
day of October, 1917, affirmed said decision. 

DISTRICT BOARD FOR MIDDLE DISTRICT OF 
STATE OF TENNESSEE 

By ERWIN L. DAVIS 

(Chairman) 
W. H. HANFORD 

(Secretary) 

I was now most awful worried. I was sorter 
mussed up inside worser'n ever. I thought that the 
word of God would prevail against all of the laws of 
man and of nations. I thought there must be some 
mistake somewhere. I knowed those words in the 
Holy Book come from God. I knowed He meant 
them and I knowed they must be right. I thought 
that I would not be a good Christian If I did not do 
all in my power to stick to them oncet I done accepted 
them. So I appealed to the Board again. I was 
sorter fighting against fighting. I mean I was fight- 
ing hard so I would not have to go to war and kilL 
It was sorter like a forest fire, when you fight fire 
with fire. I didn't understand It all. I only knowed 
I was troubled more'n I ever'd been before. I was 
up against the biggest thing I ever'd been up against. 
I'd used God's holy command in order to get an ex- 
emption from war. And now men who claimed they 
were jes as good Christians as 1 was, and were good 
churchmen too, although they didn't belong to my 
church, disallowed the words of God, as I had sent 



i6a SERGEANT YORK 

them In, and told me that I would have to go to 
camp and learn to fight and kill for my country. So 
I appealed again: 

Form No. 151, prepared by the Provost Marshal 

General. 

Notice of Claim of Appeal by Person Certified to 

District Board 
To DISTRICT BOARD FOR MIDDLE DISTRICT OF 

TENNESSEE 
Nashville, Tenn. 

I, Alvin Cullum York, Pall Mall, Tenn., hereby 
give notice that on the 13 th day of September, 1917, 
I filed with Local Board for the County of Fentress, 
State of Tennessee, Jamestown, Tenn., a claim of 
appeal to your Honourable Board from the decision 
of the said Local Board, wherein said Local Board 
denied my claim for discharge, which claim was 
based upon the ground that I am a member of a 
well-organized Religious Sect or organization, exist- 
ing May 1 8, 1917* whose then existing creed or 
principles forbade its members to participate In 
war in any form and whose convictions are against 
war or participation therein in accordance with the 
creed or principles of said well-recognized religious 
sect or organization. 

A. C. YORK, 
Pall Mall, Tenn. 

So you see how I fought against going to war. I 
didn't hate nobody; I didn't want to kill nobody. I 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 163 

jes wanted to live and let live. I jes wanted to live 
my life in peace and I jes wanted to be let alone to 
love God and my f ellowmen ; and though the Germans 
were a long way off and I didn't know them, 1 figured 
jes the same they were my f ellowmen. 

For the third time the Board refused to exempt me 
and wrote confirming their decision that I would have 
to go, 

Form No. 157, prepared by the Provost Marshal 
General. 

Notice of Decision of District Board of Claim of 
Appeal Filed by Person Called. 

To ALVIN CULLUM YORK, 
Pall Mall, Tenn. 

You are hereby notified that this District Board, 
having considered your claim of appeal from the 
decision of Local Board, County of Fentress, and 
having considered all affidavits and the record with 
respect to said claim of appeal, has, this 6th day 
of October, 1917, affirmed said decision. 

DISTRICT BOARD FOR MIDDLE DISTRICT OF 
STATE OF TENNESSEE 

By ERWIN L. DAVIS 

(Chairman) 
W. H. HANFORD 

(Secretary) 

I wrote it in my little diary: 



164 SERGEANT YORK 

JUNE 5, 1917 

Pall Mall, Tennessee. Well, the first notice I 
receved was to go and register. So I did. And 
then I begun to think that I was going to be called 
to be examined. 

I was lean and hard at that time. I'd been hunting, 
farming, blacksmithing, and driving steel. I had no 
fat on me at all. I was all bone and muscle. And 
I knowed I was physically fit. 

OCTOBER 28, 1917 

Jamestown, Tennessee. I was called to report 
to the Local Board for examination. So I went 
and when they look at me they weighted me and 
I weighted 170 lbs M was 72 inches tall. So they 
said I passed all right. Well, when they said that 
I almost knowed that I would haft to go to the 
army. 

NOVEMBER IOTH 

Pall Mall, Tennessee. So I just went on with my 
work and I receved a Little Blue Card that told 
me to be ready for a 24 hour call at any time. 

I didn't pass judgment nohow on the members of 
the Boa^d. I knowed it was written, "Judge not lest 
ye be judged." I was not even angry. I larned to 
kinder hold in my anger. I was only sad and sorry 
and bothered deep down In my soul. I thought that 
if I wanted to follow God and do His blessed 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 165 

that was my own affair, and I would be left alone to 
do It. And I wanted to be left alone, I told them 
this again and again* I wrote it in my application. 
I swore it out in my affidavit, and they said jes the 
same I had to go! And worst of all, Pastor Pile, 
who was my friend and spiritual adviser, and who 
didn't want me to go any more'n I did want to go 
myself, had to be the one to register me. I often 
wondered why we have got to do things we don't 
want to do nohow, why, when we want to live in 
peace, we have to go away to war ; why, when we say 
we are Christian nations, we don't try to live in peace 
and kinder respect people who love peace instead of 
sending them off to fight and kill, like they were going 
to send me. 

And the worstest thing of all was that it was my 
country that was sending me, I'd always loved my 
country and believed in it. I was willing to live and 
work for it. If It wanted me to, I was willing to die 
for it. I hain't never been afraid to die, I am a-telling 
you. But my country wanted me to do more'n that ; 
it wanted me to go and fight and kill others, and it 
said that it was right for me to do this, and God said 
it was not right. And there I was that way I didn't 
know what else to do but pray for the light. 

Then I received word to report. 



NOVEMBER 14, 1917 

Jamestown, Tennessee. So later I sure receved 
a card that said report to your Local Board. So 



i66 SERGEANT YORK 

I went to Jamestown, Tenn., and reported to the 
Local Board and I stayed all night that night with 
Doctor Alexander, 

1 knowed that I had to go. Of course, I could have 
run away and hid in the mountains, but I hain't never 
run away from anything before, except sin. I hain't 
never run away from my country. I hain't never done 
anything agin my country so I would have to run away. 
So I didn't. I could have stayed in Pall Mall and jes 
waited to see what happened, but then I knowed what 
would happen. The soldiers would come for me and 
takened me, and if I resisted there would be a fight, 
and maybe a killing, and that's jes what I didn't want 
to happen. I didn't want to fight or kill at home or 
anywhere else. So I reported, 

NOVEMBER I5TH; 

Oneida, Tennessee. The morning of the I5th I 
started for the camp, which was Camp Gordon. I 
went to Oneida, Tenn., and stayed there until about 

2 o'clock A.M. the next morning, when I entrained 
for Atlanta, Ga. 

I jes went to that old camp and said nothing. ] 
did everything I was told to do. I never once dis- 
obeyed an order. I never once raised my voice ir 
complaint, but I was sick at heart jes the same, ] 
heard the boys around me talking about what fun ii 
would be to go over seas and fight in the trenches 
I heard them telling of how many Germans they wen 



CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR 167 

going to kill If ever they got a chance* I heard all 
sorts of things about the glory of war. But I couldn't 
see It like they seed It nohow. I prayed and prayed 
that God would show me His blessed will. And back 
there In the mountains Pastor Pile prayed and Mother 
prayed, too, and I jes knowed that all of those prayers 
would not be In vain. I jes knowed It* 



CHAPTER XIX 
THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 

I WAS detailed to Company G, 328th Division. 
That was a fighting division and was soon to be 
ordered overseas. I knowed that unless something 
happened I would have to go up into the front-line 
trenches and shoot and kill my brother men. I knowed 
that would be soon, too. And I didn't want to do that 
nohow. 

So at last I went to my company commander, Cap- 
tain Danforth, of Augusta, Ga., and I told him every- 
thing. I told him I belonged to a church that was 
opposed to war and that I didn't wish to be placed 
in a position that it might be necessary for me to kill 
a fellowman. I told him I hain't never talked about 
this in camp or disobeyed orders. I hain't never 
shirked my duty at no time. I hain't never refused to 
do anything he had ordered me to do, and I wasn't 
planning on refusing, I told him I knowed I was in 
the army and would have to obey. I would continue 
to be a soldier if I had to. I would go overseas. 
I would go in the front-line trenches. I would even 
kill Germans if I was ordered to. But I told him 
I wanted him to know I didn't believe in killing nohow, 
and that it worried me a-plenty. I told him all of this 
as man to man straight from the shoulder. 

168 



THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 169 

The Captain told me that there were several con- 
scientious objectors in the camp, but that he sorter 
believed I was honest and sincere. I told him then 
how I had prayed and prayed. He assured me that 
he would consider everything I had told him and give 
me a right-square deal. A few days later he told me 
he done spoken to the battalion commander. Major 
Buxton, about me, and that the Major asked him if 
he believed I was sincere and when he said he believed 
I was, the Major done told him to bring me to his 
headquarters for questioning. 

Major Buxton was from Providence, R. I. He was 
the first New Englander I ever knowed. He was a 
very good man, but at that time I was most troubled 
for his soul. I disliked to think that such a good man 
as he appeared to be would be willing to go to war 
and lead other men to fight, I couldn't understand 
how he could sorter square war and killing with his 
professed religious beliefs. 

So one night Captain Danforth took me to Major 
Buxton' s room to discuss these things with him. Be- 
fore I done went I prayed to God for guidance. I 
took my Bible along with me. We all got together 
in his room there in Camp Gordon, which is in Georgia 
not far from Atlanta. The Major's room was like 
most of the officers' headquarters, jes a plain, small 
room. There was a little bed in it and some camp 
stools. There was a trunk In the corner and some 
military clothes hanging up or scattered around, and 
jes one light, a small electric light that hung down 
from the ceiling. The Major was very friendly-like; 



170 SERGEANT YORK 

he always was with us boys. He told us to sit down. 
He said he didn't want to discuss this question as a 
battalion commander discussing it with an officer and 
a private. He wanted us to discuss it as three Ameri- 
can citizens interested in a common cause. He said 
he respected any honest religious conviction and would 
be glad to discuss things as man to man. He asked me 
why was I opposed to going to war. I told him that 
I belonged to a church which disbelieved in fighting 
and killing. He then asked me what was the creed 
of the church. I told him the only creed was the Bible, 
and I also told him that I done accepted the Bible as 
the inspired word of God and the final authority for 
all men. So he then asked me what did I find in the 
Bible that was agin war, and I told him it was written, 
"Thou shalt not kill." He kinder looked at me for a 
moment and then asked if I accepted everything in the 
Bible, every sentence, every word, jes as completely 
as I accepted the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt 
not kill." I told him I did. 

He then begun to read other parts of the Bible 
which he said proved that a, man under certain condi- 
tions could go to war and fight and kill and still be 
a good Christian. He read a number of quotations. 
He read them well and accurate. I was kinder sur- 
prised at his knowledge of the Bible. It made me 
happy in my soul to know that my battalion com- 
mander was familiar with the word of God. I always 
thought Major Buxton was a good man, and now I 
knowed he was. Jes the same, he was for fightin*. I 
remember he begun by pointing out that Christ once 



THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 171 

said: "He that hath no sword, let him sell his cloak 
and buy one." I lowed that was in the Bible. But 
I reminded him that Christ also said: "If a man smite 
you on one cheek, turn the other to him." He ad- 
mitted that, but he asked me if I believed that the 
Christ who drove the money changers from the temple 
with the whip would stand up and do nothing when 
the helpless Belgian people was overrun and driven 
from their homes. 

By this time we was at it right. We both knowed 
the Bible. I knowed now that I was on the right track. 
I knowed that if we studied the whole business through 
the words of the Lord, we must come to a right under- 
standing. We talked along these lines for over an 
hour and every now and then Captain Danforth 
joined in, We didn't get annoyed or angry or even 
raise our voice. We jes examined the old Bible and 
whenever I would bring up a passage opposed to war, 
Major Buxton would bring up another which sorter 
favoured war. I believed the Lord was in that room. 
I seemed somehow to feel His presence there. I dis- 
remember a heap of what we said, but I know that I 
mentioned that when St. Peter struck off the ear of 
the high priest's servant, Christ, in restoring the ear, 
told Peter to put up the sword: "They that live by 
the sword shall die by the sword." But that-there 
Major Buxton knowed his Bible right smart He 
come right back at me and answered that at the same 
time Christ also said : "For my kingdom is not of this 
world; but if my kingdom were of this world, then 
would my servants fight." 



i 7 2 SERGEANT YORK 

The Major then went on and said that the United 
States of America was an earthly government and its 
servants must fight for it whenever its liberties was 
threatened, and he reminded me that Christ said we 
must render unto Caesar the things that are Cassar's. 
And the Major 'lowed that Christ meant by this to 
emphasize the duties of Christians to their govern- 
ment. Major Buxton ended by quoting from Ezekiel: 

When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the 
land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watch- 
man: 

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the 
trumpet, and warn the people ; 

Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet and taketh 
not warning, if the sword conie and take him away, his blood 
shall be upon his own head. 

He heard the sound of the trumpet, and he took not warn- 
ing, his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning 
shall deliver his souL 

But if the watchman see the sword come and blow not the 
trumpet, and the people be not warned, if the sword come and 
take any person from among them, he is taken away in his 
iniquity; but his Hood will I require at the watchman 's hands. 

The Major made a great Impression on me that 
night. A right-smart impression, too. He had kinder 
opened my eyes to things which were in the Bible, 
which I knowed were there, but which I hadn't thought 
of as he had thought of them. I ain't admitting that 
he had convinced me. He got me to thinking more 
and more. And more than ever now I didn't know 
what to do. I jes sat there and prayed and thought. 
He must have knowed it, too. He sorter looked at 



THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 173 

me and smiled, jes like my father used to. Then I 
told him that I would like time to think it over, and 
that in the meantime I would go on jes as I'd been, 
doing everything I was told to do and trying to be a 
good soldier. He shook hands with me and told me 
to take as long as I liked, and to come to him when- 
ever I wished to. Then he said good-night, and Cap- 
tain Danforth takened me back to my lines. 

I spent considerable time turning the Major's argu- 
ments over in my mind that night and I worried and 
prayed 'most all through the night until reveille. The 
next morning I wrote in my little diary : 

MARCH, 1918 

Camp Gordon, Georgia* Oh, these were trying 
hours for a boy like me, trying to live for God 
and do His blessed will, but yet I could look up and 
say: 

O Master, let me walk with Thee 

In lonely paths of service free, 

Tell me Thy secret, help me to bear, 

The strain of toil, the fret of care. 

And then the Lord would bless me and help me to 
bear my hard toiles. 

But I couldn't get no understandings around that- 
there old camp. I hain't been used to that. I sorter 
can r t get alone with myself when there's crowds about. 
And I knowed I jes had to be alone to fight it out 
with myself. Hit was one of them-there sort of battles 
where nobody can help you nohow. You have jes got 



174 SERGEANT YORK 

to help yourself. And I kinder knowed that the only 
place where I could do that was back there In the 
mountains where I belonged There's heaps of peace 
there. I jes knowed I had to go back, or else I would 
always be sorter twistin' in torment like thern-there 
lost souls that can't never see the light nohow. 

So I applied for leave and I was given a pass for 
ten days. 

MARCH 2 1 -3 1ST 

Pall Mall, Tennessee. So I got a pass after a 
while for 10 days. So I went home and while I 
was at home we had several services at Greer's 
Chaple, and the Lord blessed us and we had a fine 
meeting. Rev. R. C Pile and others were helping, 
and there were a number of people saved during 
this little meeting. So the Lord was with us. Bless 
His holy name. 

I knowed now that if I went back and told the 
Major I was still opposed to fighting he would let me 
out or have me transferred into another branch of the 
service where I wouldn't have to kill. He knowed 
now that I was sincere. He was a good man. He 
would help me. But something in me had kinder 
changed. I was beginning to see war in a different 
light. I had takened to heart and read over and over 
again them-there passages from the Bible he had read 
to me. I kinder balanced them against the passages 
that made me a conscientious objector. I had tried to 
bring the two together. I knowed the "Lord worked 



THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 175 

in marvellous ways, His wonders to perform.'* I 
knowed that He had His own way of saying and doing 
things. I knowed that if it was His will He would 
even use war as an instrument in His hands. I tried to 
look at it this way. I talked to Pastor Pile again and 
again. But all I got from all of this was to get more 
and more confused than ever. I jes didn't know what 
to do; whether to want war or peace; and I didn't 
know which He wanted me to do. 

So I went out on the mountainside and asked Him 
sorter straight out from the shoulder. I went off to 
a quiet place not far from my home. I knelt down and 
I prayed and I prayed all the afternoon, through the 
night and through part of the next day. I asked Him 
to have pity on me and show me the light. I begged 
Him to comfort me if it was His will and tell me what 
to do. And as I prayed there alone a great peace 
kinder come into my soul and a great calm come over 
me and I received my assurance. He heard my prayer 
and He come to me on the mountainside. I didn't see 
Him, of course, but He was there jes the same. I 
knowed He was there. He understood that I didn't 
want to be a fighter or a killin' man, that I didn't want 
to go to war and hurt nobody nohow. And yet I 
wanted to do what my country wanted me to do. I 
wanted to serve God and my country, too. He under- 
stood all of this. He seed right inside of me, and He 
knowed I had been troubled and worried, not because 
I was afraid, but because I put Him first, even before 
my country, and I only wanted to do that which would 
please Him. 



i ? 6 SERGEANT YORK 

So He took pity on me and He gave me the assur- 
ance I needed- I didn't understand everything. I 
didn't understand how He could let me go to war and 
even kill and yet not hold It agin me. I didn't even 
want to understand It was His will and that was 
enough for me. So at last I begun to see the light I 
begun to understand that no matter what a man Is 
forced to do, so long as he is right in his own soul he re- 
mains a righteous man. I knowed I would go to war. 
I knowed I would be protected from all harm, and that 
so long as I believed in Him He would not allow even 
a hair of my head to be harmed. 

I arose and thanked Him and went home over the 
mountains, singing a hymn. 

I told my little old mother I was going and not to 
worry. I was coming back safe and sound. I told my 
brothers and sisters and 1^ told Pastor Pile. And for 
a while I was happy and at peace with myself and with 
my God. 

But when I went back to camp and seed all the boys 
there getting ready to go to the war, some of the old 
worries come a-piling back on my soul. I knowed I 
was all right. But I kinder got a-figurin* that the 
whole thing was a heap bigger than my own personal 
peace of soul. I might be safe myself, but in going 
over there and fightin' I might be helping to have them 
killed and a heap more of others, too, and that wor- 
ried me. 

I knowed He was going to watch over me, because 
I done done what I thought was right. But I wanted 
Him to watch over all of us, and I knowed He would 



THE SWORD AND THE BIBLE 177 

only do that if we were all right and if our cause was 
right, too. I kinder felt now that it was right. But 
I wasn't sure. It's most awful hard for a weak human 
being, all sort of torn up with doubt and worry, to 
walk his way in perfect faith and understanding. 

Pastor Pile wrote direct to President Wilson and 
explained things to him and asked him to release me. 
The letter come on down to our camp in Georgia. But 
I didn't follow it up. I didn't make any more claims 
for exemption. I didn't try to get out nohow. I 
knowed I was to go, but I was still worrying about 
the war in general. 

We moved up to Camp Upton, N. Y., and prepared 
ourselves to go overseas. So I went to the Captain 
again, Captain Danforth of Augusta, Ga., and asked 
him to please explain to me what we were fighting for 
and why we were leaving our homes and going over 
there to fight people we didn't even know and had 
never met before. The Captain kinder looked at me, 
funny like, as though he had thought he had settled 
all of that with me once before. But jes the same he 
was patient. Lieutenant Stewart, who, later on, was 
killed in the Argonne, was there in the orderly room 
with him and he was patient, too. They explained to 
me how the Germans done broken their promise to Bel- 
gium and done overrun those countries over there and 
put so many people to the sword; that unless they were 
stopped they would keep on until they done overrun 
the world. They jes had to be stopped and we Amer- 
icans were going over there to help stop them. 



*7S SERGEANT YORK 

Then I begun to understand, not clearly yet, but 
kinder like. 

We were to be peacemakers. And it was written 

in the Bible, "Blessed are the peacemakers" 

That was we-uns. We were to help make peace, the 
only way the Germans would understand. But I 
couldn't help a-wonderin' why there wasn't some other 
way to get peace except by fightin* for it. 



CHAPTER XX 
SOLDIERIN G 

AND all of this time while I was struggling with 
my doubts I was going on with my training and sorter 
fitting into camp life. I obeyed orders. I did every- 
thing I was told to do. I tried rny best to be a good 
soldier. 

NOVEMBER, 1917 

Camp Gordon, Georgia. I was placed in the 2ist 
Training Bn and there I was called out the first 
morning of my army life to police up in the yard 
all the cigarette buts, and I thought that was pretty 
hard as I didn't smoke but I did it just the same. 

I hain't never travelled much before going to camp. 
I hain't never been out of the mountains before, and 
I'm a-telling you I missed them right smart. It's 
pretty flat and sandy country down there In Georgia, 
and there ain't no strength or seasonin' in it. Hit 
shore needs hills and mountains most awful bad. 

DECEMBER, 1917 

Camp Gordon, Georgia. So I stayed there and 
did squads right and squads left until the first of 
February, 1918, and then I was sent to Company G 

328 Bn. 82 Div. 

179 



i8o SERGEANT YORK 

The Eighty-second Division was known as the All- 
Amerkan Division. We wore the insignia A A on 
our shoulder. We were made up of boys from 'most 
every state in the Union. There were some moun- 
taineers. Not many of them, though. Jes a few. 
There were Jews from the East Side of New York; 
there were English and Irish boys from the mill towns 
of New England; there were Greeks and Italians from 
some of the big cities in the East; there were Poles 
and Slavs from the coal mines of Pennsylvania ; there 
were farmers from the Middle West; there were cow 
punchers from Oklahoma and Texas; and there were 
even some German boys. One-fifth of our men were 
of foreign birth, and several hundred were not even 
citizens of the United States. A right-smart number 
of them couldn't speak or understand the American 
language. And a whole heap couldn't read or write 
or even sign their own name. 

FEBRUARY, IQlS 

Camp Gordon, Georgia. So there they put me 
by some Greeks and Italians to sleep. Well, I 
cotddn't understand them and they couldn't under- 
stand me, and I was the homesickess boy you ever 
seen, ho ! ho ! 

I had never had nothing to do nohow with for- 
eigners before. When I first heard them talk I kinder 
thought they were angry with each other; they seemed 
to talk so fast and loud. I couldn't pronounce their 
names nohow. There was a great big Pole in guy 



SOLDIERING 181 

fit whose name was Private Feodor Sok. That was 
easy. We jes called him Sok. There was another, 
Private Maryan E. Dymowski. I never could get the 
straight of that nohow. And then there was Private 
Joe Konotski. I couldn't do much with that either. 
And there was Private Mario Muzzi and Michael Sac- 
cina. These are only a few of the foreigners we done 
had in my platoon. But they kinder give some idea 
of what a mixed-up gang we had In the All-American 
Division, 

Our battalion commander was Major George Ed- 
ward Buxton, Jr., from Providence, R. I. He was a 
New Englander. His beginnings went away back; so 
far back that I guess he can scarcely trace them him- 
self. He was one of the finest men I had ever met. 
He was one of the most larned men too; and he was a 
right-smart mixer. He was one of the best soldiers I 
ever knowed. Before America come into the war he 
was over there on the other side writing for the Provi- 
dence, R. I., Journal. When he returned home he jes 
knowed America was coming in, so he got busy doing 
everything he could to prepare us for when our turn 
came. He takened part in the Preparedness Cam- 
paign with ex-President Roosevelt. He went to Platts- 
burg and he was one of the first officers to be commis- 
sioned there. He went all over the country preach- 
ing preparedness. 

He was a most wonderful man at handling soldiers. 
He had a battalion mixed up of all sorts. And yet he 
knowed most all of us and understood us and figured 
out the way to handle us. He was young for a com- 



282 SERGEANT YORK 

mandmg officer, in his early thirties, I reckon. He was 
handsome, and in his major's uniform he looked a 
right-smart soldier. He had a kinder habit of ^getting 
us soldiers together and talking to us, something like 
a father talks to his sons. I'm a-tellin 5 you he sorter 
looked upon us as his sons, too. And in quicker time 
than it takes a coon to jump out of a tree he made 
that torn-up battalion all around us into a happy 
family. 

I ricollect a heap of our fellows were sorter short 
on this saluting business. So one day the Major got 
us together and talked to us. He told us that we were 
soldiers and we had to salute. Then he explained to 
us that when we saluted an officer we weren't admittin' 
nohow that we were under him or inferior to him; we 
were jes letting him know that we were his friends. 
He told us how the salute began. It was over there in 
England, They had a big Civil War something like 
ours here in America. The side that was beaten was 
mussed up awful bad. Some of them were killed. 
Some of them were put in jail. Some of them were 
shipped away acrost the seas. And a whole heap of 
them were driven into the forest where they were 
hunted jes like wild animals. They had to keep mov- 
ing jes in order to keep alive. Their sufferings sorter 
drew them together. Of course, they were desperate 
and did a lot of killing. But not among themselves. 
Whenever they come together in the forest they would 
hold out their right hand to show they didn't have a 
gun in it and that they were friendly. That was the 
beginning of it, so the Major explained to us. And 



SOLDIERING 183 

after a while it was sorter takened up by the English 
army and made over into the salute. And so Major 
Buxton pointed out that if we didn't salute him and his 
officers he would take it that we were not friendly, and 
if the officers didn't salute us back we were to take 
It that way. 

^ After that there was no more trouble about this 
saluting business. Our boys were so friendly they 
would salute every chance they got, and the Major had 
to sorter slow us down* I ricollect another little talk 
he gave us. He said in every war there was always 
one famous battalion that come out of it and sorter 
lived forever. He hoped that battalion would be ours. 
And every war always produced its outstanding hero. 
He didn't know where that hero was in the American 
Army, but there was jes as good a chance of him being 
in our battalion as anywhere else. And I'm a-tellin* 
you after we heard him speak like that we all kinder 
made up our minds to begetter soldiers and maybe try 
and be that outstanding one ourselves. His favourite 
advice to us was "Keep moving and always use your 
head." I'm saying here and now that's right-smart 
advice. 

Captain E. C. B. Danforth, Jr., was my company 
commander. He come from Augusta, and was a 
Georgia "Cracker." He was a Harvard man. That 
didn't mean nothing to me in those days. It didn't 
mean much to the other boys either. All we knowed 
was that like the Major he had a heap of larnin'. He 
was tall and tough jes like a hickory pole. He must 
have been about twenty-three or twenty-four years old, 



184 SERGEANT YORK 

and he had as much sense as a much older man, He 
was the fightinest man, too, and when he was in action 
our boys used to say he was that hard that the bullets 
used to bounce ofi'n him. The Major and the Cap- 
tain together were as good a combination as a pair of 
Red Bones when you have them out after the foxes. 
They ran together. If ever I have to go to war agin 
I'm a-telling you I wouldn't ask for anything more 
than to have them two leading me. Wherever they 
go I am willing to follow. And that's jes about how 
most of the other boys under them feel. 

My own platoon was made up of a gang of the 
toughest and most hard-boiled doughboys I ever heard 
tell of. There were bartenders, saloon bouncers, ice 
men, coal miners, dirt farmers, actors, mill hands, and 
city boys who had growed up in the back alleys and 
learned to scrap ever since they were knee high to a 
duck. They were mixed up from 'most every country. 
They were as hard as a forest full of oaks and they 
were meaner and more full of fight than a hive of 
wild bees. They could out-swear, out-drink, and out- 
cuss any other crowd of men I have ever knowed. 
They sorter looked upon leave-breaking as a divine 
right. 

Our sergeant takened forty-eight hours' leave and 
stayed away ten days. He was busted for that, but 
later on he got his stripes back. He had to. He was 
the only one who could drill and keep ias in hand. One 
of our corporals went on leave and missed the boat 
and had to follow us to France. 

They were always spoiling to have it out with some* 



SOLDIERING 185 

body. They were fighters and that's all about It. If 
you looked at them sorter sideways for even a second 
you were in danger of being on the wrong end of a 
punch. If you didn't drink they kinder regarded you 
as being ignorant; and if you didn't cuss a blue streak 
every time you opened your mouth you were considered 
to be most awful illiterate. 

A heap of them couldn't talk our own language at 
all, and any number of them couldn't sign their own 
names. The only way the Captain could get them to 
larn to write was by telling them they couldn't get 
their pay unless they could put their signatures to the 
pay sheets. Ho 1 ho ! 

But jes the same, they were my buddies. I didn't 
understand them at first. I didn't know nothing about 
them nohow. I didn't cuss or drink or smoke or fight. 
I didn't go A. W. O. L. [absence without official 
leave]. And I was a conscientious objector. So they 
didn't understand me either. But most they left me 
alone. And that's all that I asked for. So they let it 
go at that. 

I guess Major Buxton and Captain Danforth 
must have lost a heap of sleep trying to figure out 
how to handle that-there gang of wild men. But 
I'm a-thinking them-there officers knowed in their 
hearts that if ever they got them safe overseas and 
into the front-line trenches they would have a bunch 
of fighters under them that never would stop until 
they done mussed up the Germans right smart and 
busted a hole right through that-there old Hindenburg 
Line. But the puzzling thing was to keep them to- 



z86 SERGEANT YORK 

gather and to handle them in the right sort of way 
until they were overseas. That was a job, I'm a-tellin' 
you, and I ain't a-foolin' nohow. Them-there boys jes 
had to fight. 

The sergeant in charge of our platoon was Harry 
Parsons, of Brooklyn, N. Y. He'd been an actor and 
he was jes a natcheral-born entertainer. He used to 
lead us in singing. He used to entertain us at night, 
and when we were out on a long route march and were 
tired out he would gather us around and go to it and 
then we would all get to laughing and singing. That's 
one of the ways he handled us. He was a big husky 
sort of fellow. He knowed how to handle that pla- 
toon. He didn't fight unless he had to, and then he 
had a habit of biting his teeth together and putting his 
chin out and letting fly with both hands at the same 
time. And when he did that somebody went down, 
and it was never him. But he never manhandled our 
fellows unless he had to. But when he had to he made 
a right-smart job of it. Something must have hap- 
pened to him over there In the Argonne, because when 
he come home he was changed. He went back on the 
stage but he done lost his power to entertain. 

Then we had two of the wildest fighting corporals 
that ever knocked them down and dragged them out. 
One of them was Bernard Early. He used to be a 
bartender in Connecticut. The amount of liquor he 
could put away was most amazing. And when it come 
to fighting he jes couldn't be beat. Early come from 
Ireland where they jes natcherly breed fighting men. 
In and around the camp, in the saloon or over in the 



SOLDIERING 187 

front lines In France, It was all the same to Bernie, 
If there was a fight he was happy. If there wasn't he 
was kinder always looking for one. But he was a 
friendly chap, and he had a sorter way with him. He 
was a right-smart soldier, too, most awful brave. I 
guess he hain't never known what fear was. 

His particular buddy was another corporal, Wil- 
liam S. Cutting. He was a Pole from around Boston 
and New York, where he used to be an ice man. He 
was always rarin' to go. You ought to've heard him 
talk. He was funny oncet he said that when he got 
into the front-line trenches if the Germans ever threw 
bombs at him he would jes eat them-there bombs for 
breakfast. These-here two corporals were jes about 
the hard-bolledest soldiers I ever knowed. It took me 
a long time to understand them, and I'm a-thinkin* I 
ain't never really done it. But jes the same, once they 
done gone into action, they shore enough cost the Ger- 
mans a heap more bother than a whole swarm of 
hornets or bumblebees ever could have. 

Among the privates was that-there Sok. For a long 
time I didn't even know that was his real name. I 
thought it was a nickname. When he went berserker 
over there at the front it looked as if he never would 
stop nohow until he got right through to Berlin. 

Then there was Michael Saccina, a little Italian. I 
think he come from New York. After the fight in the 
Argonne he likened the German Major's whistle to the 
little whistle on a peanut stand at home in New York. 
That sorter speaks for itself. 

And there was Joe Konotski and Walter Swanson 



188 SERGEANT YORK' 

and Muzzi and Beardsley and Johnson and a heap of 
others; all of them most awful hard fightin* men and 
most awful tough soldiers. Most of them were always 
causing a lot of trouble; but they bothered the Ger- 
mans a heap more than they bothered anybody else, I 
ricollect, too, we had a couple of farm boys from the 
South with us. Hoi ho! When we were in New 
York, before sailing, they got their safety razors. 
They didn't understand them nohow. One of them 
fixed up his razor and tried to shave with it, but it 
weren't no good. He looked at it and said: "Any- 
thing the Government gives you for nothing ain't never 
no good," and with a sort of disgusted look on his face 
he throwed it away. The other one tried several times 
without even cutting a hair* Then he throwed his 
away too, and said he "never had no use for the Demo- 
crats nohow, 5 ' and now they were in power they had 
to go and buy razors that wouldn't shave. Ho 1 ho ! 
They were trying to shave with the wax paper on the 
blades ! 

So these were the sort of soldier boys that I was in 
with in the Eighty-second Division. Jes a bunch of 
hard-living, hard-fighting doughboys; always spoiling 
for a scrap. But when you got to know them, they 
were jes about as fine a bunch of buddies as ever got 
together and did squads right and squads left, and 
when they got into it over there they jes kept on 
a-goin'. 

Of course, it takened me a long time to get to know 
them. In camp I never did think I would larn to un- 
derstand them, and I guess they couldn't figure me out 



SOLDIERING 189 

nohow. They knowed that I was a conscientious ob- 
jector, and they hadn't much use for that. They jes 
didn't understand, Sometimes they got to teasing me 
most awful bad, but I never done any arguing with 
them. I hadn't anything to say or any fault to find, 
and I wasn't going to quarrel or fight with them no 
matter what they done. I didn't want to fight nobody 
and least of all American doughboys. 

So we went on training together through the early 
months of 1918. 

MARCH, 1918 

Camp Gordon, Georgia. Well, they give me a 
gun and oh my that old gun was jes full of Greece 
and I hed to dean that old gun for enspection. So 
I had a hard time to get that old gun clean. So 
when I got this gun I begin to drill with the gun, and 
we had to hike once a week. So I have seen many 
boys fall out of the hikes. We would haft to take 
long hikes with all our stuff on our back and carry 
that gun. Ho 1 ho ! And we would haft to go out 
before daylight and have sham battles. So I begin 
to want a pass to go home. 

That first army rifle that was issued me was all full 
of grease, gun grease of some kind. Of course, I 
didn't like that. The rifles we used in the mountains 
we always kept clean. They were most all muzzle- 
loaders. And I'm a-tellin' you up to one hundred 
yards they could out-shoot them-there army rifles any 



J9 o SERGEANT YORK 

time. But, of course, a muzzle-loader wouldn't be no 
good nohow in a modern war. It takes too long to 
reload. It don't carry far enough, and it's too heavy. 
So I had to get used to the army rifle. And I did. 
I cleaned it up. I takened it to pieces. I put it to- 
gether agin. I nursed it and doctored it. It larned all 
about it. 

Then we went out on the rifle ranges to practise 
shooting. Them-there Greeks and Italians and Poles 
and New York Jews and some of the boys from the 
big cities hadn't been used to handling guns. Some of 
them didn't even know how to load them, and when 
they fired they not only missed the targets, they missed 
the backgrounds on which the targets were fixed. 
They missed everything but the sky. It shore was 
dangerous scoring for them boys. Of course, it 
weren't no trouble nohow for me to hit them great big 
army targets. They were so much bigger than tur- 
keys' heads. And an army bull's-eye is about a million 
times bigger than a criss-cross cut with a sharp knife 
on a piece of board or a tree; and that's the target we 
most often used in our shooting matches at home. We 
had to cut the centre right out to win anything. That's 
the sort of shooting I was used to. So I made a tol'- 
able score on the shooting ranges in camp. 

I got my pass to go home in late March. I takened 
the train as far as I could and then I hiked the last 
twelve miles over the mountains, alone. I had to carry 
my suit case, too. Ho I ho I 

It kinder hurt to say good-bye to Mother* And I 
jes knowed I would never forget that-there last meet- 



SOLDIERING 191 

ing in the lane with Grade. But I ain't a-writing about 
those things. There are some things in your life that 
you can't do nothing else with but jes sorter feel deep 
inside of you. And that's the way it was with me. 

MARCH 29TH 

Pall Mall, Tennessee. So I had to start back to 
my company, and that was a heart-breaking time 
for me, as I knowed I had to go to France. But I 
went back to my company, trusting in my God and 
asking Him to keep me, although I had many trials 
and much hardship and temptation. But yet I could 
lookup and say: 

O God, in hope that sends the shining ray, 
Far down the future's broadening way; 
In peace that only Thou canst give; 
With Thee, O Master, let me live. 

Then it was that the Lord would bless me, and I al- 
most felt sure of coming back home, for the Lord 
was with me. 

APRIL I9TH 

Camp Gordon, Georgia. So we left Camp Gor- 
don in the afternoon. 

APRIL 2 1ST 

Camp Upton, New York. We got to Camp 
Upton, N, Y., so we stayed there a few days and 
drilled. 



SERGEANT YORK 

APRIL 30TH 

Boston, Mass. We went to Boston, Mass. 

MAY 1ST 

Boston, Mass. About 4 o clock am we got on 
board the old Scandaneven ship and started for 

France* 

We left Boston and sailed down around to New 
York Harbour and we stopped there until we got our 
convoy, and then we lit out. And that was the first 
time that I had ever seed the open sea. It was too 
much water for me. Like me, Mark Twain, whose 
parents come from Jimtown, was borned inland. And 
he never seed the open ocean until he growed up. And 
when he stood on the beach and seed it for the first 
time, his friends asked him what he thought of it, and 
he said, "It was a success/' But when Mark said that 
he weren't on the ocean. He were on the shore* And 
when our old boat got away out and begun to pitch 
and toss I jes knowed Mark was wrong. 

The Greeks, Italians, and Poles, and New York 
Jews stood the trip right smart. That kinder im- 
pressed me. It sorter made up for their bad shooting. 
I sorter got to like them more. 



CHAPTER XXI 

OVER T H ERE 

MAY l6TH 

Liverpool, England. We got off the boat in the 
evening. 

MAY I7TH 

Camp Knotteash, England. We stayed at a little 
camp called Knotteash on the lyth. 

MAY l8TH 

Southampton, England. We went to South- 
ampton. 

MAY 



Southampton, England. Stayed there the 

MAY 20TH 

Southampton, England. We started from Eng- 
land to France. 

So you see I didn't see much of England. I'd trav- 
elled over three thousand miles from my home to get 
there, and when I did get there all I did was hike and 
catch trains and keep moving. I might jes as well have 
been in Georgia, only the English country was more 
beautiful. It was sort of rolling-like and the parks 

193 



194 SERGEANT YORK 

and fields were so neat and tidy that it 'most looked as 
though they had special gardeners to look after every 
few acres of them. 

Of course, we were all anxious to get to France. 
We wanted to get into it and get it over. We had a 
sorter idea that they would rush us right to those old 
front-line trenches and let us get at the Germans with- 
out losing any time. 

MAY 2 1ST 

Le Havre, France. So we got to France at Le 
Havre there we turned in our guns and got British 
guns. 

We crossed the English Channel on the H. M. S. 
Viper. It was more like a bucking mule than a boat 
We were only on it for a few hours, but that was 
a-plenty. Long before we landed I didn't care whether 
we stayed up or went down, whether we got there or 
didn't get there. I didn't care about anything. I was 
kinder miserable. I missed the mountains of Tennes- 
see more'n ever. 

We spent our first night in France in a little camp 
outside of Le Havre* We had to turn in our guns and 
get British guns. I had takened a liking to mine by 
this time. I had takened it apart and cleaned it up 
so often that I had learned every piece and could al- 
most put it back together with my eyes shut. The 
Greeks and Italians and Jews and Poles were improv- 
ing. They had stayed continuously on the rifle range 
for a month or two, and got so they could do shooting. 



OVER THERE 195 

They were fairly good pals, too. But I missed the 
mountain boys. I was the only mountaineer in the 
company. I was the largest in our platoon. 

We got our first gas masks in Le Havre. That 
brought the war a whole heap closer. I never did like 
those pesky gas masks. 

We travelled in box cars. They were marked, 
u Forty men or eight horses." One of our boys who 
was detailed to load the cars went to the Captain and 
said: "Captain, I loaded the forty men all right, but if 
you put the eight horses in too they will shore trample 
the boys to death." Ho ! ho ! 

MAY 22D 

Eu, France. Taken the train at Le Havre and 
come to a little place called Eu. 

MAY 24TH 

Floraville, France. We eat our Breakfast at Eu 
and then Hiked to Floraville, and we stayed at 
floraville a few days. 

Field Marshal Haig and his staff inspected one of 
our battalions here. The British commander made a 
right-smart impression on the boys. While he was 
with them he went and inspected one of the kitchens. 
One of the cooks was a great big fellow from Tennes- 
see, and the Field Marshal asked him if everything 
was all right, and he said, "No, everything is all wrong, 
most awfully all wrong there is no salt*" The Field 



196 SERGEANT YORK 

Marshal turned to the Quartermaster General, who 
was with him, and asked for an explanation. The 
Quartermaster said the two last salt ships were tor- 
pedoed and there was a shortage. The Field Marshal 
then instructed him to immediately send some salt to 
the American kitchen. That kinder tickled our boys. 

Our own General Pershing also inspected us. We 
were anxious to make a right-smart impression on him, 
because we knowed if we did we would get up to the 
front-line trenches so much quicker, and our boys were 
jes rarin* to go* General Pershing made even a better 
impression than Field Marshal Haig, and he seemed 
sorter satisfied with us. So you see here we were in 
France. And we were inspected by two comrnanders- 
in-chief and we got by all right. We shore were a 
different outfit to the rambunshus crowd of half-wild 
men that first got together in Camp Gordon, in 
Georgia. 

Anyone who thinks that soldiering is jes goin' back 
in again and fightin*, is jes plumb foolin' himself. 
Weeks passed and we never even seen a trench except 
the training ones. We never once heard the sound 
of guns. All we did was hike, and hike, and hike and 
then hike again. They shore kept us a-going hiking. 
It seemed as though they had sent us to France to 
kinder test out the strength of them-there American 
military shoes. 

JUNE 4TH 

Mons Babert, France. Hiked here and we stayed 
a few Days. 



OVER THERE 197 

And the boys were beginning to think by this time 
that we weren't a-fightin* outfit at all. We were jes 
sorter touring France on the hoof. Ho! ho! I 
didn't mind it much because I was used to hunting and 
tramping over the mountains. But them-there Greeks 
and Jews and Italians from the cities shore filled their 
shoes full of blisters. But they kept a-going jes the 
same. I'm a-tellin' you them boys were coming along 
right smart. I was beginning to get kinder fond of 
them. They were sorter human jes like the mountain 
boys I had knowed all my life. Of course, they were 
not as strong or as good hikers or shooters, but I was 
beginning to larn they had a few things about them 
which the mountain boys didn't have nohow. Them- 
there city boys shore nursed their feet, jes about as 
careful as I nursed my guns. 

JUNE (no date) 

Fressenneville, France. Went on to Fressenne- 
ville. 

JUNE (no date) 

Toul, France. Entrained for toul and we got to 
toul and got off the train. 

JUNE 20TH 

Lucey, France. Hiked to Lucey. 

Of course, of a night time if we was near a town, 
some of the boys got leave. Some of them got all 



I 9 8 SERGEANT YORK 

tanked up with vin rouge and cognac; and, being sol- 
diers, they was right smart when it come to finding 
them-there pretty French girls. Some of them shore 
knowed more about hunting and finding them, too, 
than I did about trailing coon and fox back there on 
the mountains at home. They were fuller of fight than 
ever. It was in them and it had to come out. They 
couldn't get at the Germans yet, so they sorter prac- 
tised out on themselves. There was a heap of Irish 
and Poles in our platoon, and one night in one of the 
cafes one of the Irish boys said he didn't believe the 
Poles could fight nohow. Ho ! ho ! That shore started 
it! They went at it with fists and belts. They turned 
that cafe into a No Man's Land, only worse, and we 
had to turn out the guard to stop it. I'm a-tellin r you 
there was nothin' mean or bad about the boys. They 
was jes sorter full of life. 

I didn't go into the towns much. I had put all of 
the drinkin' and fist-fightin' away behind me. I left it 
back home on the Kentucky line. I didn't have a drink 
all the time I was in France. I didn't have a fist fight 
or an argument. I didn't swear or smoke either. I 
wasn't any better'n any of the other boys. It was jes 
my way of livin', that was all. They did what they 
wanted to do. So did I. Our ways were different. 
We let it go at that. I did a heap of reading from 
the Bible. I read it through several times over there. 
I worked on my little diary. I was a awful slow writer 
and thinker. And though I didn't put much in it, it 
tuk up plenty of time jes the same. I used to go 
around, too, a little with Corporal Murray Savage*, 



OVER THERE 199 

About this time we were going in again for bayonet 
practice. We had to rush the dummies the instructors 
set up and stab bayonets into them and muss them up. 
That sorter set me to worrying agin. I knowed the 
time was coming when I might have to do the same 
thing to the Germans. And though I knowed now that 
we were fighting for peace, still it made me feel queer 
to think I might have to cut up human beings, I still 
didn't want to kill. I still did feel somehow that it 
was wrong terrible wrong for human beings to take 
each other's life. I don't know why I still felt like 
this. But I did jes the same. 

JUNE 26TH 

Rambucourt, France. We hiked a little ways and 
then taken the train for a short ride and then we 
got of train and hiked to Rambucourt and we stayed 
at rambucourt until after Dark and then we went 
up and took over the front line trenches for the first 
time. 

We were going In at last. We could hear the guns 
away in the distance now, jes like the thunder in the 
hills at home. We seed a right-smart lot of deserted 
trenches with wire entanglements, all snarled and 
mussed up. We seed gun emplacements half full of 
water. We passed an awful lot of graves, with little 
wooden crosses at their heads. I'm a-tellin' you that 
brought it home to us. And all the roads were sorter 
blocked up with troops coming and going and artillery 



200 SERGEANT YORK 

and transports. As we got up closer we could hear 
the rifles barking and the machine guns spitting, and 
soon the bullets started coming over. They were stray 
bullets. The Germans were firing in the front line 
ahead of us and they were missing the parapet and com- 
ing right back among us. It was the first time that we 
were under fire, and of course we were a little nervous. 
The officers told us boys that it was all right; that they 
were only stray bullets; that they would not injure us, 
and not to mind them. And one of thern-there Italian 
boys grinned and give as his opinion that it didn't mat- 
ter whether they were strays or not, that if they 
hit us they would do jes as much damage as if they 
was aimed at us. As we got right up close some of the 
boys began to duck as the bullets come over. And then 
somebody else 'lowed that it weren't no use ducking 
nohow, because you never hear the one that hits you. 
We went in and takened over the front line at night 
time. 

JUNE 27TH 

Montsec Sector, France. And we releaved the 
26th Div. Boys at night in the Montsec Sector at 
Rambucourt and we stayed there until the 4th of 

July- 

It was a quiet sector where they put new troops into 
training before sending them out to No Man's Land. 
The Greeks and Italians and all of the other boys done 
fairly well. They shore were turning out to be the 
bestest soldiers. I was often out on No Man's Land. 



OVER THERE 1 201 

I done done some patrolling. I handled an automatic 
squad. We were armed with French sho-sho rifles. 
They were sort of portable machine guns. They fired 
about eighteen shots without reloading. They were 
not much good nohow. They were big and clumsy. 
They were too heavy. They were not accurate or 
silent. You never could be shore you would hit what 
you fired at, no matter how good a shot you were. All 
you could do with them was make a lot of noise, and 
waste a heap of ammunition, and hope for the best. 
They weren't near as good as the sawed-off shotguns. 

We had a heap of big stuff from the artillery coming 
over and some gas, and we had to put on them pesky 
gas masks agin. The German snipers were always 
after us. They were good marksmen. They could 
bust a periscope 'most every shot. They knowed how 
to keep our heads down, too. The bullets was always 
coming over, humming and buzzing around our ears, 
jes like a lot of mad hornets or bumble bees when you 
rob their nests. 

I did a heap of thinking and praying at this time. 
And more'n ever I jes knowed I was going to get back 
all right. I believed in God and in His promises. And 
I knowed as long as I did that He would believe in and 
watch over me, and there one night In that old front- 
line trench, I wrote in my diary: 



JULY 1ST 

Montsec Sector, France. A few words on Chris- 
tian witness in war and why a Christian does worry. 



202 SERGEANT YORK 

Yet there Is no use worrying about anything except, 
the worry of So many Souls who have passed out 
into the Deep of an Unknown world and has left no 
testimony as to the welf air of their souls. There is 
no use of worrying a Bout Shells for you cant keep 
them from bursting in your trench nor you cant 
Stop the rain or prevent a light from a going up 
jes as you are half way over the parapet So what 
is the use of worrying if you cant alter things just 
ask God to help you and accept them and make the 
best of them by the help of God; yet some men do 
worry and By Doing So they effectually distroy their 
peace of Mind without doing any one any good. 
Yet it is often the religious man who worries. I 
have even heard those whose care was for the Sol- 
dier Soul Deplore the fact that he Did not worry. 
I have heard it said that the Soldier is so Careless, 
realizes his position So little, 

Up there in the front line I knowed as I had never 
knowed before what a comforting thing religion is. 
So I clung to my faith all the time. I read my Testa- 
ment everywhere. I read it in the dugouts, in the fox 
holes, in the front lines and everywhere. Hit was my 
rock to cling to ; hit and my diary. 

The trouble with our boys when we went into this 
quiet sector was they would want to go out on top of 
the trenches and start something. They was wanting 
to get into it and get it over. I knowed now that the 
Greeks and Italians and Poles and New York Jews 
were fighters. Ho! hoi As right-smart fighters as 



OVER THERE 203 

the American-borned boys. They didn't want to lay 
around and do nothing. And they would even go on 
top and get the Germans out. Once one of them come 
up to me right there in the front line and asked me, 
"Where is the war ?" 

They was always wanting to go over the top and 
keep a-going. They shore were ambitious. 

Well, we would stay in a quiet sector for a few 
days. Then we would pull out and hike off to another, 
and then another, until we gradually worked our way 
into the real fighting sectors. 

JULY 4TH 

Cormeville, France. Then we come out to Cor- 
meville and stayed there until July lyth. 

JULY I7TH. 

Rambucourt, France. Went Back in the Lines 
again and stayed until July 25th. 

JULY 25TH 

Rambucourt, France. We come out. 

AUGUST 2D 

Mandres, France. We went in again in the sec- 
tor at Mandres. 

AUGUST 8TH 
Mandres, France. Come out again. 



204, SERGEANT YORK 

While we were In these so-called quiet sectors four 
of our men were detailed to take the chow to the front- 
line outposts. It was night time, of course. They 
were given the necessary passwords. But oije of 
them, on the return, got separated and also forgot the 
passwords. This was serious. Then he done some- 
thing which sorter showed the kind of soldier he was. 
He waited quietly for about a half hour until another 
soldier come along. He then halted him in the cus- 
tomary way, advanced him, received the password, and 
let him pass by. He done pretended he was on guard 
duty and so done received the password and got back 
all right. He was a Greek and he spoke very little 
English, but that didn't stop him nohow. I'm a-telling 
you that's soldiering for you; that's using your head! 

The Greeks and Italians and Poles and New York 
Jews. Ho ! ho ! they were men* I was beginning to 
understand them* 



CHAPTER XXII 
ST . M I H IEL 

AUGUST l6TH 

Pont-a-Mousson, France. Went to Pont-a-Mous 
son and stayed there in the front until August 24th 

To we-uns all dirty and tired from being in the 
front-line trenches and hiking all over France, Pont-a- 
Mousson was a kinder earthly paradise. It is in the 
valley on the banks of the Moselle River. It was late 
summer, jes the time when the fruit is ready for pick- 
ing. The trees and vines were loaded with grapes and 
apples and everything. The gardens were all kept up 
nice, with everything kinder ripe and ready, and there 
was plenty of green grass and shade and cool, clean 
water. It was most hard for us to imagine that we 
were still in the war. The city wasn't mussed up at 
all. It hadn't been shelled nohow. We heard there 
had been a kind of agreement between the French and 
the Germans to leave it alone. So it had stayed there 
all by itself and unharmed for four years. We bathed 
and rested there. And got us some good fruit and 
laid out in the sunshine until we felt sort of re-made all 
over again. 

205 



2o6 SERGEANT YORK 

AUGUST 24TH 

Liverdun, France. Come out to Liverdun and 
stayed there until Sept. ist. 

SEPTEMBER 1ST 

Pont-a-Mousson, France. Went back to Pont-a- 
Mousson. 

When we entered the town this time we found that 
the French population had jes left before we arrived. 
Everything was left standing jes as it was. Even the 
tables were set and the food was still standing on the 
stoves. Some of us stole in and had the best food we 
done tasted for a long time. The beds were made; 
everything was clean and orderly. You see the French 
population had been done told that the drive was be- 
ginning, and they had lit out as fast as they could, 
only taking with them what they could tote in their 
arms. About this time the Germans started to send 
over some big shells. They done done a whole heap 
of damage to the nice little town and they done mussed 
up the orchards and done scattered the fruit all over 
the place. A little while later we heard the most awful 
explosion, jes as if an ammunition dump had been 
blowed up. We found out that our artillery done 
moved up some big naval guns. They were much big- 
ger than tractors, and most awful long. They shore 
let the Germans have It. We could hear the big shells 
whinin* and whizzin' over our heads on their way to 
Metz, which was fifteen miles away. 



ST. MIHIEL 207 

We were now getting ready for the St. Mihiel drive, 
which was to be the first real battle we were in, and 
the first major offensive for the American Army. It 
done opened with a most awful barrage from our big 
guns. It was the awfulest thing you ever heard. It 
made the air tremble and the ground shake. At times 
you couldn't hear your own voice nohow. The air was 
full of airplanes, and most of them American planes. 
There must have been hundreds of them. They were 
diving and circling around all over the place like a 
swarm of birds. We seed several right-smart fights 
away up there above us. One day we was sitting in 
a trench, looking up and watching, when one of them- 
there East Side Jews 'lowed that he might be killed 
in a airplane accident, but if ever he was, the airplane 
would have to light on him. For a few days before 
the attack we waited on a little hillside jes outside of 
Pont-a-Mousson, on the banks of the river. Then we 
moved up into the front-line trenches. We waited in 
them about a day and a night until the artillery done 
done its work, and it done done it right smart, too. 

SEPTEMBER I2TH 

St. Mihiel, France. And the Big American Drive 
started and we went over the top the night of the 
1 2th then we took a little town By the name of Nor- 
roy and went on to the top of a nother hill Beyond 
Norroy. 

Early on the morning of the twelfth the guns let 
down a most awful heavy barrage, louder than a thun- 



SERGEANT YORK 

derstorm. And at daybreak we went over the top. 
We cut our way through the barbed wire and advanced 
on the little village of Norroy. But fast as we went 
forward the Germans kept on moving backwards, 
faster. They jes wouldn't stand and fight it out. Our 
battalion was right in the thick of it, and some of the 
other companies got mussed up right smart, but ours 
never lost a man. I don't know why, but we didn't. 
I'm a-thinking the Germans were in too much of a 
hurry to take careful aim. There was a-plenty of 
machine-gun and artillery fire, but it didn't seem to 
find us. I done heard tell that it takes nearly a ton 
of lead to kill a man in a war. I kinder believe it. 
There were bullets and shells everywhere, but the boys 
kept on a-going. None of them fell. There was no 
holding that-there League of Nations of ours. They 
wanted to push right on and not stop until they got to 
Berlin. They cussed the Germans out for not stand- 
ing and they kept yelling at them to wait and fight it 
out. We continued from Norroy on to the top of the 
hill beyond until we got in advance of our own flank 
and the Germans were enfilading us. So we was or- 
dered by our Captain to dig in until some of the other 
troops got up. 

When we captured Norroy we mopped up the houses 
and went through the town looking for prisoners* A 
lot of our boys takened prisoner several barrels of 
wine. So they knocked the bungs out of them and 
drinked a whole mess of it. Then they were fuller 
of fight than ever. And there was one big house there, 
all locked up. It looked like headquarters, but when 



ST. MIHIEL 209 

we done surrounded it and stormed it we found it was 
a storehouse and it was full of Belgian hares. These 
hares ran all over the place and our boys done chased 
them. Tm a-telling you those barrels of wine and 
them-there hares shore demoralized my Greeks and 
Italians. And when we started back in the night one 
of the boys takened a milk goat that was captured and 
was leading it back to Pont-a-Mousson, And when the 
officer done called to him and asked him what he was 
doing with that goat, he answered: "Sir, I am jes going 
back to put a little cream in my coffee." 

When we dug in the hillside beyond Norroy we 
seen a little vineyard. We were very hungry, and 
them-there grapes jes natcherly made our mouths 
water, So we begun to slip back after the grapes, 
but the Germans had an observation balloon, one of 
those big sausage balloons, up in the air, and they seed 
us and directed the German artillery to tech us off. 
So we had orders not to go back there any more. But 
that night I decided to go back and get me some of 
them grapes. I jes stalked back and was keeping very 
quiet so I wouldn't be seen when a shell landed near 
and I jumped and ran and I done run right Jnto my 
own Captain, Captain Danforth of Augusta, Ga. He 
liked grapes, too ho ! ho ! and we both fled. 

The Germans threw a lot of gas shells into Norroy, 
and we had to wear our gas masks for several hours, 
I had be'en made corporal before this battle. So I 
led the squad. I kinder think they almost led me. I 
mean I was supposed to be in the front and they were 
supposed to follow. But no matter how fast I went 



SERGEANT YORK 

they wanted to go faster, so that they could get at the 
Germans. The Greeks and Italians, the Poles and the 
Jews and the other city boys were still firing pretty 
wild. They were still mostly hitting the ground or the 
sky. They burned up a most awful lot of Uncle Sam's 
ammunition. But they kept on a-going jes the same. 
They were that full of fight that wild cats shore would 
have backed away from them. 

The St. Mihiel offensive must have been as com- 
plete a drive and as well arranged as ever could have 
been by any general of any army. It was a great suc- 
cess. The feeling of the majority of the boys was one 
hundred per cent, for General Pershing. As a whole 
the Army was back of him, believed in him, and would 
follow him anywhere. They seemed to think as a gen- 
eral he was a right-smart success. After a few days in 
the front lines we were takened out to rest in a little 
valley jes back of Pont-a-Mousson. But I never did 
hear of that-there goat any more. I don't know 
whether the boy got the cream for his coffee or not. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
THE ARGONNE 

SEPTEMBER iyTH 

St. Mihiel, France. We come out to some woods 
and camped there and got us something to eat* 

SEPTEMBER 230 

St. Mihiel, France. We come on back to some 
more woods and then we stayed a few days. 

SEPTEMBER 24TH 

St. Mihiel, France. We started for the Argonne 
forest* 

We takened a little narrow gauge railroad to a 
place somewhere in France. We didn't know where 
it was. I don't think anybody except the officers 
knowed that. Here we come upon about one hundred 
old French buses. They were big and painted white. 
The drivers were Chinese and most of them spoke 
French. I done never seen Chinaman before, and I 
jes couldn't keep my eyes off them. Some of our boys 
afterwards done told the story, I don't know how true 
it was, that one of them-there Chinamen kept a-pes- 
term* one of our doughboys for a souvenir. The 
doughboy took a Mills grenade out of his pocket one 



SERGEANT YORK 

of them pesky little things. You pull the lever and in 
five seconds it explodes. Well, he pulled the lever and 
then handed it to the Chinaman and told him to put 
It to his ear and listen to it tick. Ho ! ho ! 

Them Chinamen were the awfulest drivers you ever 
seed They must have sorter had the idea they had to 
get us there before they even started. The way they 
done tore and bumped those old French buses over 
those old French roads was enough to make your hair 
stand up straight. I'm a-thinking we were in more dan- 
ger from them than .we were from the Germans when 
we were in the front line. Two of the trucks turned 
over, but nobody was mussed up bad. It now seemed 
to me that we had most all of the nationalities in the 
world around, and there were all them-there different 
races In my platoon. There were the American-borned 
and the foreign-horned boys ; there were the French 
and those Chinese drivers and the Germans over the 
way. Hit shore was a lot of travelling and meeting 
people for a mountain boy who never travelled more'n 
a few miles before he left home. 

The war brings out the worst in you. It turns you 
into a mad, fightin' animal, but it also brings out some- 
thing else, something I jes don't know how to describe, 
a sort of tenderness and love for the fellows fightin' 
with you. It's sort of clean, like a fire of pine logs on 
a frosty night. I had kinder got to know and sorter 
understand the boys around me. I knowed their weak- 
ness as well as their strength. I guess they knowed 
mine. If you live together for several months sharing 
and sharing alike, you learn a heap about each other. 



THE ARGONNE 213 

It was as though we could look right through each 
other and knowed everything without anything being 
hid. I'm a-telling you I loved them-there boys in my 
squad. I had forgiven them for their bad shooting. 
I had forgiven it if they drank and tore things up be-' 
fore going to the front. Anyway, that was their own 
business. It was no affair of mine. If they got hap- 
piness that way, it was all right with me. I guess they 
sorter figured they were going to be mussed up and 
maybe killed when they got into the trenches, so they 
figured they might jes as well enjoy things while they 
had the chance. If that's the way they figured it out, 
it was all right with me. If they cussed a whole lot, 
I don't think they meant it to be as bad as it sounded. 
It was their own way of expressing themselves; that's 
all. Even if a fellow doesn't drink or smoke or cuss, 
like me for instance, he has no right to find fault with 
others, provided they don't interfere with him* He 
has no right to pass judgment, and I didn't nohow. I 
kinder think away down underneath I sorter loved 
them for their weakness most of all. They were my 
buddies. That's a word that's only understood by 
soldiers who have lived under the same blankets, gath- 
ered around the same chow can, and looked at death 
together. I never knowed I loved my brother-man so 
mucli until I was a doughboy. I knowed men could 
be strong and rough, but I never understood before 
that they could be so tender and loving, and I jes 
couldn't baar to think of anything happenin' to them. 
It was too awful to think of them-there boys being 
wounded or killed. I kinder did a lot of thinking and 



SERGEANT YORK 

praying about these things as we moved out into the 
Argonne. Somehow, I seemed to jes know that we 
were going to get into it right, in them-there woods. 

OCTOBER 3D 

Zona Woods, France. We camped over night on 
a high hill in the woods. 

OCTOBER 4TH 

Argonne Forest, France. We had went on into 
the Argonne Woods where we stayed over night. 

The battle of the Argonne started the night of 
the 25th of September, but we were sorter in re- 
serve. We camped each night well back in the woods 
and moved up a little bit at a time. At first we no- 
ticed the woods hadn't been shot up much. We hadn't 
reached the main battlegrounds. But as we got closer, 
I'm a-telling you we knowed there was a war on. The 
woods were all mussed up and the ground was all torn 
up with shells. 

OCTOBER 5TH 

Argonne Forest, France. We went out on the 
main road and lined up and started for the front 
and the germans was shelling the road and airo- 
planes was humming over our heads and we were 
stumbling over dead horses and dead men and shells 
were Bursting all around me and then it was that I 
could see the Power of God helped man if he would 



THE ARGONNE 215 

only trust him. Oh It was there I could look up and 
say: 

O Jesus, the great rock of foundation 
Where on my feet were set with sovereign grace; 
Through Shells or Death with all their agitation 
Thou wilt protect me if I will only trust in thy Grace 
Bless thy holy name. 

OCTOBER 7TH 

Argonne Forest, France. We layed in some lit- 
tle holes on the roadside all Day that night we went 
and stayed a little while and come Back to our lit- 
tle holes and the Shells Bursting all around us. I 
seen men just Blowed up By the Big German Shells 
Which Were Bursting all a round us. So the order 
came for us to take hill 223 and 240 the 8th. 

It was raining a little bit all day, kinder drizzly 
and very damp. Lots of big shells bursting all around 
us. We were not up close enough for the machine 
guns to reach us, but airplanes were buzzing overhead 
'most all the time, jes like a lot of hornets. Lots of 
men were killed by the artillery fire. And lots were 
wounded. We seed quite a lot of our machine-gun bat- 
talion across the road from us blowed up by the big 
shells. The woods wete all mussed up and looked as 
if a terrible cyclone done swept through them. But 
God would never be cruel enough to create a cyclone as 
terrible as that Argonne battle. Only man would ever 
think of doing an awful thing like that. It looked like 
the "Abomination of Desolation" must have been. 



SERGEANT YORK 

And all through the long night those big guns flashed 
and growled jes like the lightning and the thunder 
when it storms in the mountains at home. And oh, 
my ! we had to pass the wounded. And some of them 
were on stretchers going back to the dressing stations 
and some of them were lying around moaning and 
twitching. And oh, my I the dead were all along the 
road and their mouths were open and their eyes, too, 
but they couldn't see nothing no more nohow. And it 
was wet and cold and damp. And it all made me 
think of the Bible and the story of the anti-Christ and 
Armageddon. And I'm a-telling you the little log 
cabin in Wolf Valley in old Tennessee seemed a long, 
long way off. 



CHAPTER XXIV 
THE ARGONNE FIGHT 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. So the morning of the 
8th just before daylight we started for the hill at 
Chatel Chehery. So before we got there it got 
light and the germans sent over a heavy Barrage 
and also gas and we put on our gas mask and just 
Pressed right on through those shells and got to 
the top of hill 223 to where we was to start over 
the top at 6 :io A.M. 

All day long on October 7th we laid out there In 
the rain and the mud along the main army road run- 
ning from Varennes to Fleville, and watching the at- 
tack of the First Battalion, which takened Hill 223 
in the afternoon. Shells were bursting all around and 
a whole heap of stray bullets were buzzing through 
the air. Airplanes were fighting overhead. It was all 
most awful. 

Through most of the night we laid out there, too. 
It was that dark you couldn't see nothing nohow. 
Lights were flashing from the gun fire. There were 
all sorts of sounds and noises. It was raining worse'n 
than ever. The ground was soft and mucky and all 
cut up. We were wet through and dirty and kinder 

217 



2i8 SERGEANT YORK 

tired. About 3 A.M. in the morning, the morning of 
October 8th, our Captain, Captain Danforth, comedo 
us and told us we were to move on to Hill 223, which 
was to be the jumping-off place for our attack, which 
was to be at daybreak. Our objective was the Decau- 
ville Railroad, which was about three kilometres to 
the northwest of the hill, and further on almost in the 
centre of the Argonne Forest. We were to bust that 
old railroad so as to stop the Germans from sending 
in their troops and supplies. With the Captain lead- 
ing, we marched over the Aire River on a little shaky, 
wooden bridge which the engineers had thrown up for 
us, on through the town of Chatel Chehery and on 
up to Hill 223. It was so dark and everything was 
so mussed up and the going was so rough that it was 
most awful hard to keep contact and to find the hill. 
But we done kept on a-going jes the same. We were 
marching, I might say floundering around, in column 
of squads. The noise were worse than ever, and every- 
body was shouting through the dark, and nobody 
seemed to be able to hear what anybody else said. 
We should have reached the hill before daybreak. 
But we didn't. It weren't nobody's fault. The going 
was too tough. So as soon as they were able to see the 
German artillery lit into us with a heap of big stuff. 
One of their shells bust plumb in the middle of one of 
our squads, and wounded or killed every man. They 
done laid down the meanest kind of a barrage too, and 
the air was jes full of gas. But we put on our masks 
and kept plugging and slipping and sliding, or falling 
into holes and tripping over all sorts of things and 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 219 

getting up again and stumbling on for a few yards and 
then going down again, until we done reached the hill. 
The First Battalion had takened it the day before, but 
they hadn't mopped it up. And there were some 
snipers and German machine guns left there hidden in 
the brush and in fox holes. 

And they sniped at us a whole heap. I guess we 
must have run over the top of some of them, too, be- 
cause a little later on we were getting fire from the 
rear. We were to go over the top at 6:10 A.M. and 
push on across the valley and work our way across 
the ridges to that-there old railroad. The Captain's 
orders was for two of our platoons to go over the top 
first and advance as a front wave with the other two 
platoons in support following about one hundred yards 
behind the front wave. I was in the left supporting 
platoon. Hit was the extreme left of our division and 
was supposed to keep contact with the Twenty-eighth 
Division, which was on our left, but we never did 
see anything of them all that morning. I guess they 
must have run into some awful tough fighting and been 
held up for a while. 

Well, at the zero hour, which was 6:io A.M., with 
fixed bayonets, we done went over the top, as ordered. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. And they was to give 
us a Barrage. So the time came and no Barrage 
and we had to go with out one. So we started over 
the top at 6 :io A.M. and the germans was Putting 



220 SERGEANT YORK 

their machine guns to working all over the hill in 
front of us and on our left and right. So I was 
in suport and I could see my pals getting picked off 
until it almost looked like there was none left. 

I don't know what happened to our artillery sup- 
port, but we didn't get none nohow, except from a 
lieutenant from the Third Battalion. He done stood 
near six-foot-six tall. And he come up on top of the 
hill, dragging what looked like a toy cannon with him. 
It was a trench mortar. He did the best he could with 
it, hut it didn't help much nohow. The Germans met 
our charge across the valley with a regular sleet storm 
of bullets. I'm a-telling you that-there valley was a 
death trap. It was a triangular-shaped valley with 
steep ridges covered with brush, and swarming with 
machine guns on all sides. I guess our two waves 
got about halfway across and then jes couldn't get no 
further nohow. The Germans done got us and they 
done got us right smart. They jes stopped us in our 
tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the 
heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we 
couldn't tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire 
was coming from. It 'most seemed as though it was 
coming from everywhere. I'm a-telling you they were 
shooting straight, and our boys jes done went down 
like the long grass before the mowing machine at 
home. Our attacks jes faded out. 

We had to lie down flat on our faces and dig in. 
And there we were out there in the valley all mussed 
up and unable to get any further with no barrage to 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 221 

help us, and that-there German machine-gun fire and 
all sorts of big shells and gas cutting us to pieces. 
There was scarcely none of our front wave left Lieu- 
tenant Stewart, who was leading the platoon in front 
of where I was lying, went down with a shot through 
the leg, but got up again and rallied the few men he 
had left and led them forward until he fell dead with 
a bullet through the head. I couldn't see Captain 
Danforth. He was on the other side of the hill on the 
right. I could hear shells and machine guns there, too, 
and I knowed he was getting it jes as bad as we was. 

The German machine guns had done stopped our 
attack. We jes couldn't go on. We could scarcely 
even lift up our heads as we laid flat on the ground. 
But all the time we knowed we had to get through to 
that railroad somehow. We jes had to. 

About this time we figured that the worstest ma- 
chine-gun fire was coming from a ridge over on our 
left front. We knowed then that them-there machine 
guns would have to be put out of action before the 
advance could go on. We also knowed that there was 
so many of them and they were in such commanding 
positions that a whole battalion couldn't put them out 
of action nohow by a frontal attack. I doubt if a 
whole division could get to them that way. But they 
had to be takened somehow. 

Our platoon sergeant, Harry M. Parsons, from 
Brooklyn, N. Y M done exposed himself again and 
again, trying to locate exactly where the machine guns 
over there on the left front were firing from. He 
hadn't no chance nohow of getting in touch with the 



222 SERGEANT YORK 

Captain. He had to use his own judgment. He done 
done it. He ordered the left half of our platoon to 
cra^d. back a little and try and work out way down 
around on the left and then push on through the heavy 
underbrush and try and jump the machine guns from 
the rear. He didn't know how many of them there 
were. He didn't know for sure where they were hid. 
But he figured it was the only chance. So three squads 
of us done dropped back and made our way around on 
the left. Sergeant Bernard Early was in charge and 
Corporal Murray Savage and Corporal William Cut- 
ting and myself each led our squads. The privates 
under us were : 

Dymowski 

Weiler 

Waring 

Wins 

Swanson 

Muzzi 

Beardsley 

Konotski 

Sok 

Johnson 

Saccina 

Donohue 

Wills 
So you see there were just seventeen of us. 

OCTOBER STH 

Argonne Forest, France. So there was 17 of us 
Boys went around on the left flank to see if we 
couldnt put those guns out of action. 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 223 

According to orders, we got around on the left and 
in single file advanced forward through the brush 
towards where we could hear the machine-gun, fire. 
We done went very quietly and quickly. We had to. 
We kept well to the left and deep in the brush. At 
first we didn't see any Germans and we were not under 
heavy fire. Jes a few stray bullets. Without any loss 
and in right-smart time we done skirted the left side of 
the valley and were over on the hill somewhere near 
where the German machine guns were placed. The 
heavy brush and the hilly nature of the country hid 
us from the enemy. We were now nearly three hun- 
dred yards to the left and in front of our own front 
line* When we figured that we were right on the ridge 
that the Germans were on, we done stopped for a 
minute and had a little conference. Some of the boys 
wanted to attack from the flank. But Early and me 
and some of the others thought it would be best to 
keep on going until we were well behind the German 
lines, and then suddenly swing in and try and jump 
them from the rear. We done decided to try and 
do this. We opened up in skirmishing order and 
sorter flitted from brush to brush, using all the cover 
we could and pushing on as fast as possible. We had 
now sorter encircled the German left end and were 
going away in deep behind them without them knowing 
anything about it, 

OCTOBER STH 

Argonne Forest, France. So when we went 
a round and fell in Be hind those guns we first seen 
to eermans with a Red Cross Band on their arm. 



224 SERGEANT YORK 

So we ask them to stop and they did not so some 
one of the Boys shot at them and they run Back 
to our right So we all run after them . . . 

They jumped out of the brush in front of us and 
run like two scared rabbits. We called to them to 
surrender, and one of our boys done fired and missed. 
And they kept on a-going. And we kept on after 
them. We wanted to capture them before they gave 
the alarm. We now knowed by the sounds of the 
firing that we were somewhere behind the German 
trench and in the rear of the machine guns that were 
holding up our big advance. We still couldn't see the 
Germans and they couldn't see us. But we could hear 
them machine guns shooting something awful. Sav- 
age's squad was leading, then mine, and then Cutting's. 
Sergeant Early was out in front, leading the way. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. . . . And when we 
jumped across a little stream of water that was there 
they was a Bout 15 or 20 Germans jumped up and 
throwed up their hands and said Comrade So the 
one in charge of us Boys told us not to shoot they 
was going to give up any way. 

. It was headquarters. There were orderlies, stretch- 
erbearers, runners, a major and two officers sitting or 
standing around a sort of small wooden shack. They 
seemed to be having a sort of conference. And they 
done jes had breakfast too. And there was a mess 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 225 

of beefsteaks, jellies, jams, and loaf bread around. 
They were unarmed. All except the major. And 
some of them were in their shirt sleeves. By the way 
they were going on we knowed they never even 
dreamed that there were any Americans near them. 
Of course, we were 'most as surprised as they were, 
coming on them so sudden. But we kept our heads 
and jumped them right smart, and covered them and 
told them to put up their hands and to keep them up. 
And they done done it. And we fired a few shots 
just to sorter impress them. I guess they thought 
the whole American Army was in their rear. And 
we didn't stop to tell them any different. Sergeant 
Early, who was in command of us, told us to hold 
our fire, as we had them, but to keep them covered 
and to hurry up and search and line them up. Just 
as he was turning around from giving this order and 
we were moving forward to obey, some machine guns 
up on the hill in front of us and between us and the 
American lines, suddenly turned around and opened 
fire on us. Early went down with five bullets through 
the lower part of his body and one through his arm. 
Corporal Savage was killed. He must have had over 
a hundred bullets in his body. His clothes were 'most 
all shot off. And Corporal Cutting was also all shot 
up. Six of the other boys were killed or wounded. 
That machine-gun burst came sorter sudden and un- 
expected. And it done got us hard. The moment it 
begun the German prisoners fell flat on their faces. 
So did the rest of us American boys who were still 
standing. You see, while we were capturing head- 



22 6 SERGEANT YORK 

quarters the German machine gunners up there on the 
hill seed us and done turned their guns around and let 
us have it* 

After the first few bursts a whole heap of other 
machine guns joined in. There must have been over 
twenty of them and they kept up a continuous fire. 
Never letting up. Thousands of bullets kicked up the 
dust all around us. The undergrowth was cut down 
like as though they used a scythe. The air was just 
plumb full of death. Some of our boys done huddled 
up against the prisoners and so were able to get some 
protection and at the same time guard the prisoners. 
Some others crawled under cover, or jumped up and 
got behind trees. I was caught out in the open,^a 
little bit to the left and in front of the group of pris- 
oners and about twenty-five yards away from the 
machine guns which were in gun pits and trenches 
upon the hillside above me. I was now in charge. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. So by this time some 
of the Germans from on the hill was shooting at 
us. Well I was giving them the Best I had and by 
this time the Germans had got their machine guns 
turned around and fired on us so they killed 6 and 
wounded 3. So that just left 8 and then we got 
into it right By this time So we had a hard Battle 
for a little while . . . 

But I hadn't time to give no orders nohow. There 
was such a noise and racket all around that I would 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 227 

not have been heard even if I had done given them, 
I had no time nohow to do nothing but watch them- 
there German machine gunners and give them the best 
1 had. Every time I seed a German I jes teched him 
off. At first I was shooting from a prone position; 
that is lying down; jes like we often shoot at the 
targets in the shooting matches in the mountains of 
Tennessee; and it was jes about the same distance. 
But the targets here were bigger. I jes couldn't miss 
a German's head or body at that distance. And I 
didn't. Besides, it weren't no time to miss nohow. I 
knowed that in order to shoot me the Germans would 
have to get their heads up to see where I was lying. 
And I knowed that my only chance was to keep their 
heads down. And I done done it I covered their 
positions and let fly every time I seed anything to 
shoot at. Every time a head come up I done k&ocked 
it down. 

Then they would sorter stop for a moment and 
then another head would come up and I would knock 
it down, too. I was giving them the best I had. I 
was right out in the open and the machine guns were 
spitting fire and cutting up all around me something 
awful. But they didn't seem to be able to hit me. 
All the time the Germans were shouting orders. You 
never heard such a racket in all of your life. I still 
hadn't time or a chance to look around for the other 
boys. I didn't know where they were now. I didn't 
know what they were doing. I didn't even know if 
they were still living. Later on they done said that in 
the thick of the fight they didn't fire a shot. 



228 SERGEANT YORK 

Of course, all of this only took a few minutes. As 
soon as I was able I stood up and begun to shoot off- 
hand, which is my favourite position. 1 was still 
sharpshooting with that-there old army rifle. I used 
up several clips. The barrel was getting hot and my 
rifle ammunition was running low, or was where it was 
hard for me to get at it quickly. But I had to keep on 
shooting jes the same. 

In the middle of the fight a German officer and five 
men done jumped out of a trench and charged me with 
fixed bayonets. They had about twenty-five yards to 
come and they were coming right smart. I only had 
about half a clip left in my rifle; but I had my pistol 
ready. I done flipped it out fast and teched them off, 
too* 

I teched off the sixth man first; then the fifth; then 
the fourth; then the third; and so on. That's the way 
we shoot wild turkeys at home. You see we don't: 
want the front ones to know that we're getting the 
back ones, and then they keep on coming until we get 
them all. Of course, I hadn't time to think of that. 
I guess I jes naturally did it. I knowed, too, that if 
the front ones wavered, or if I stopped them the rear 
ones would drop down and pump a volley into me 
and get me. 

Then I returned to the rifle, and kept right on after 
those machine guns. I knowed now that if I done 
kept my head and didn't run out of ammunition I had 
them. So I done hollered to them to come down and 
give up. I didn't want to kill any more'n I had to. 
I would tech a couple of them off and holler again. 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 229 

But I guess they couldn't understand my language, or 
else they couldn't hear me in the awful racket that 
was going on all around. Over twenty Germans were 
killed by this time. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. . . . and I got hold 
of a german magor and he told me if I wouldn't 
kill any more of them he would make them quit 
firing. So I told him alright if he would do it now. 
so he blew a little whistle and they quit shooting 
and come down and give up. 

I think he had done been firing at me while I was 
fighting the machine guns I examined his pistol later 
and sure enough hit was empty. Jes the same, he 
hadn't pestered me nohow. After he seed me stop the 
six Germans who charged with fixed bayonets he got 
up off the ground and walked over to me and yelled 
"English?" 

I said, "No, not English." 

He said, "What?" 

I said, "American." 

He said, "Good Lord!" Then he said, "If 
you won't shoot any more I will make them give 
up." 

I told him he had better. I covered him with my 
automatic and told him if he didn't make them stop 
firing I would take his head next. And he knowed I 
meaned it. So he blowed a little whistle and they 
come down out of the trench and throwed down their 



2 3 o SERGEANT YORK 

guns and equipment and held up their hands and begun 
to gather around. I guess, though, one of them 
thought he could get me. He had his hands up all 
right. But he done had a little hand grenade con- 
cealed, and as he come up to me he throwed it right 
at my head. But it missed me and wounded one of 
the prisoners. I hed to tech him off. The rest sur- 
rendered without any more trouble. There must have 
been about fifty of them. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. So we had about 80 
or 90 Germans there disarmed and had another 
line of Germans to go through to get out. So I 
called for my men and one of them answered from 
behind a big oak tree and the others were on my 
right in the brush so I said lets get these germans 
out of here. So one of my men said it is impossible 
so I said no lets get them out. So when my men 
said that this german magor said how many have 
you got and I said I have got a plenty and pointed 
my pistol at him all the time in this battle I was 
using a rifle or a 45 Colts automatic pistol. So I 
lined the germans up in a line of twos and got 
between the ones in front and I had the german 
magor before me. So I marched them straight 
into those other machine guns and I got them. 

The German major could speak English as well as 
I could. Before the war he used to work in Chicago. 
When the prisoners in the first trench surrendered I 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 231 

yelled out to my men to let's get them out. And one 
of my men said it was impossible to get so many pris- 
oners back to the American lines. And I told him to 
shut up and to let's get them out. Then the German 
major became suspicious and wanted to know how 
many men I had. And I told him I had a-plenty. 
And I told him to keep his hands up and to line up 
his men in a column of two and to do it in double 
time. And he did it. And I lined up my men that 
were left on either side of the column and I told one 
to guard the rear. 

Sergeant Early and Corporal Cutting then come up 
towards me. Corporal Cutting said: "I am hit and hit 
bad." He was wounded in the arm. He done had all 
the buttons shot off his uniform and there was a great 
big "X" shot in his helmet. Sergeant Early said: 
"York, I am shot and shot bad. What shall I do ?" I 
knowed by the look of him that he was very badly 
wounded. He was dazed and in most awful pain. I 
done told them they could come out in the rear of our 
column with the other boys. 

I ordered the prisoners to pick up and carry our 
wounded. I wasn't a-goin' to leave any good Ameri- 
can boys lying out there to die. So I made the Ger- 
mans carry them. And they did. And I takened the 
major and placed him at the head of the column and 
I got behind him and used him as a screen. I poked 
the Colt in his back and told him to hike. And he 
hiked. I guess I had him bluffed. It was pretty hard 
to tell in the brush and with all the noise and con- 
fusion around which way to go. The major done 




FACSIMILE PAGES FROM 

Throughout his war days Sergeant York kept a diary. At home 
holes and trenches at the front, he scribbled in and kept *t UP to 
of the original diary* he tells the story of his fight with the 




SERGEANT YORK'S DIARY 

in die training camps, on the crowded transports and in the fox 
date. In these two pages which are word for word reproduction* 
guna in the Argonne. 



234 SERGEANT YORK 

suggested we go down the gully. Then I knowed that 
was the wrong way. And I told him we were not 
going down any gully. We were going straight 
through the German front-line trenches back to the 
American lines. It was their second line that I had 
captured. We sure did get a long way behind the 
German trenches. And so I done marched them 
straight at that old German front-line trench. And 
some more machine guns swung around to fire. I 
told the major to blow his whistle or I would take his 
head and theirs too. So he blowed his whistle and 
they all done surrendered. All except one. I made 
the major order him to surrender twice. But he 
wouldn't. And I had to tech him off. I hated to do 
It, I've been doing a tol'able lot of thinking about 
it since. He was probably a brave soldier boy. But 
I couldn't afford to take any chance, and so I had 
to let him have it. There was considerably over a 
hundred prisoners now. It was a problem to get them 
back safely to our own lines. There was so many of 
them there was danger of our own artillery mistaking 
us for a German counter-attack and opening up on us. 
I sure was relieved when we run into the relief squads 
that had been sent forward through the brush to help 
us. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

Argonne Forest, France. So when I got back 
to my magors P.C. I had 132 prisoners. 

We marched those German prisoners on back into 
the American lines to the Battalion P. C. and there 



THE ARGONNE FIGHT 235 

we come to the Intelligence Department and Lieu- 
tenant Woods come out and counted them and counted 
132. We were ordered to take them out to Regi- 
mental Headquarters at Chatel Chehery; and from 
there all the way back to Division Headquarters and 
turn them over to the Military Police. We had such 
a mess of German prisoners that nobody seemed to 
want to take them over. So we had to take them 
back a right-far piece ourselves. 

On the -way back we were constantly under heavy 
shell fire and I had to double-time them to get them 
through safely. There was nothing to be gained by 
having any more of them wounded or killed. They 
done surrendered to me and it was up to me to look 
after them. And so I done done it. I had orders to 
report to Brigadier General Lindsay, our brigadier 
commander, and he said to me, "Well, York, I hear 
you have captured the whole damned German army." 
And I told him I only had 132. 



CHAPTER XXV 
OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 

I DIDN'T want to kill a whole heap of Germans 
nohow. I didn't hate them. But I done it jes the 
same. I had to. I was cornered. It was either them 
or me, and I'm a-telling you I didn't and don't want 
to die nohow if I can live. If they done surrendered 
as I wanted them to when I hollered to them first, and 
kept on hollering to them, I would have given them 
the protection that I give "them later when I tuk them 
back. But they wouldn't surrender, and there was no 
way out for me but to tech them off. 

Jes the same I have tried to forget. I have never 
talked about it much. I have never told the story 
even to my own mother. For years I done refused 
to write about it for the newspapers, and wasn't at 
all pleased when others wrote about it. 

But now that the story is coming out I want it to 
come out right, and I want everything brought out. 
Everything. There were others in that fight besides 
me. Some of them, Sergeant Early for instance, and 
others too, played a right-smart part in things until 
they were shot down, I'm a-telling you they're en- 
titled to a whole heap of credit. It, isn't for me, of 
course, to decide how much credit they should get* 

236 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 237 

But jes the same, I'm a-telling you a heap of those 
boys were heroes and America ought to be proud of 
them. 

So, I'm a-going to publish the documents and Fin 
a-going to do it right here. They speak for them- 
selves. 

I might add that if there are any differences in 
them it is kinder well to remember that no two people 
ever see the same thing alike. It is also true that 
people who are not trained to write down what they 
have seed and been through and most of thern-there 
boys were not trained that way ain't always in agree- 
ment when they write about the same thing. Jes the 
same, the documents give a right-smart account of the 
goings-on in the forest that awful morning. 

Most all of the documents are copied from the 
originals in the War Department in Washington, or 
in the possession of Major George Edward Buxton, 
Jr., the official historian of the Eighty-second Division. 

Here is the account of Captain Danforth, our com- 
pany commander, of what he knowed of the fight : 

At 6 A.M* on the morning of October 8, 1918, the 
2d Battalion, 328th Infantry, attacked from Hill 223, 
in the direction ten degrees north of west, with its 
objective, the Decauville Railroad, about three kilo- 
metres away. The battalion had moved into the 
Argonne sector with other units of the 82d Division 
on the night of October 6th and 7th. All day of 
October 7th we lay along the main Army road, run- 
ning from Varennes to Fleville, and watched the attack 



238 SERGEANT YORK 

of the ist Battalion, which in the early afternoon 
gained the height of Hill 223. 

About 3 A.M., October 8th, the regimental com- 
mander sent for the company commanders of the 2d 
Battalion and issued instructions for the attack of the 
battalion to be made from Hill 223 at 6 A.M. I was 
in command of Company G of this battalion and 
immediately upon receiving these instructions began 
moving my company across the Aire River to the 
designated jump-off line on Hill 223. 

I reached this hill at 5:50 A.M. and deployed my 
company for assault in two waves, two platoons in the 
front wave and two platoons in the supporting wave. 
The left support platoon was commanded by Ser- 
geant Harry M. Parsons, one of his corporals being 
Alvin C York. 

At zero hour we began the advance, moving down 
the slope of Hill 223 and across the five-hundred-yard 
open valley toward a steep wooded hill to our imme- 
diate front On our right was E Company, 328th 
Infantry; on our left Unit 5 of the 28th Division, 
though throughout the entire day we had no contact 
whatsoever with these troops on our left. 

Upon reaching about the centre of this valley we 
were stopped by a withering fire of machine guns from 
the front, from the unscalable heights of the Cham- 
procher Ridge on our right and from a heavily wooded 
hill on the left. From this point the advance was 
very slow, the men moving by rushes from shell hole 
to shell hole a few feet at a time. At some time dur- 
ing the morning the fire from the left flank slackened 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 239 

and we were enabled to gain the hill to our immediate 
front, capturing a great many machine guns and 
driving the enemy to the west. During the progress 
of the fighting across this valley, I was with the assault 
waves and gave no orders for the employment of the 
support platoons, which had been ordered to follow 
at three hundred yards. 

About noon I left the assault wave and with one 
runner returned to bring up my support platoons, 
running into a group of forty-four Germans in the 
edge of the woods just outside our left flank, which 
group surrendered to my runner and me without firing 
a shot at us. I sent these prisoners to the rear, located 
my support platoons, returned with them to the front 
lines, and at 4 P.M. continued the advance to the corps 
objective with the other companies of the 2d Bat- 
talion. This objective the Decauville Railroad we 
took about 5 P.M. With the handful of men that were 
left we organized a position and held it throughout 
the night of October 8th and 9th. 

On the morning of October gth at about ten o'clock 
Corporal York with seven men reported to me on 
the railroad. Corporal York, when questioned about 
his whereabouts and activities during the previous 
day's fighting, said that he had been sent with a de- 
tachment to silence some machine gun nests on the 
left of the valley, that this detachment had become 
heavily engaged, losing half its strength, and that he 
had captured about one hundred and fifty prisoners. 
He stated that all non-commissioned officers of the 
detachment had been killed or wounded, that he had 



SERGEANT YORK 

taken command and had shot a number of Germans 
during the engagement and that he had carried his 
prisoners from headquarters to headquarters, finally 
delivering them to the military police many miles to 
the rear. His statement to me on the morning of 
October 9th was the first time that I knew anything 
of his fight on our left flank and offered the best ex- 
planation of why the fire from that pgint had slack- 
ened on the morning of the 8th. 

After coming out of the lines I fully investigated 
this detachment's fight and recommended Corporal 
York for the Distinguished Service Cross and later, 
after a more careful study, for the Congressional 
Medal of Honour, 

E. C. B. DANFORTH, JR, 

* 

While Captain Danforth was fighting hard to lead 
the front wave forward, our own platoon commander, 
Sergeant Harry M, Parsons, was left in charge of us 
boys on the extreme left: 

State of New York, 
County of Kings. 

Harry Parsons of the City of New York and 
County of Kings, State of New York, being duly 
sworn, deposes and says: 

I was the platoon sergeant of the ist Platoon, G 
Company, 2d Battalion, 328th Infantry, 82d Divi- 
sion; we had no commissioned officer, and I was in 
charge of the platoon. The platoon was made up 
of Greeks, Slavs, Swedes, Jews, Irish, Germans, and 
Italians, all American citizens, of course. There were 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 241 

also a number of farmers and a few mountaineers, 
one of whom was Alvin C. York. On the morning of 
October 8, 1918, we marched through the town of 
Chatel Chehery, and up on to Hill 223, where we 
waited for the zero hour. Without artillery support 
we went over the top at about daylight. Our platoon 
was upon the extreme left flank of the division, and 
was in the second wave, about one hundred yards in 
the rear of the first. The Germans quickly opened 
on us with machine guns, securely entrenched in the 
ridges and brush on our front and left flank. Our first 
line was mowed down; Lieutenant Stewart was killed 
and the survivors were forced to dig in. The machine- 
gun fire was something terrible. If the advance was 
to be continued, somehow or other the machine guns 
would have to be put out; and I knew the advance had 
to be continued at all costs. Our company com- 
mander. Captain Danforth, was over on the right, 
on the other side of the hill, fighting against desperate 
odds. I had no opportunity of getting in touch with 
him and he had no chance whatever of getting over to 
us. But I figured at all cost the machine guns had to 
be silenced. It was an awful responsibility for a non- 
commissioned officer to order his men to go to what 
looked to be certain death. But I figured it had to 
be done. I figured they had a slight chance of getting 
the machine guns. So I made the decision and I 
now know that it was the wisest decision I ever made. 
I ordered the left half of my platoon, what remained 
of four squads, to deploy through the heavy brush on 
the left and work their way over the ridges to where 



242 SERGEANT YORK 

the German machine guns were firing and then at- 
tack the machine guns and put them out of commis- 
sion. Sergeant Early was in charge of the four sec- 
tions, and Corporal York, Corporal Cutting, and Cor- 
poral Savage were in charge of the squads. The thir- 
teen private soldiers were privates Dymowski, Wiley, 
Waring, Wins, Swanson, Muzzi, Beardsley, Konotski, 
Sok, Johnson, Sacina, Donahue, and Wills. Lead by 
Sergeant Early, as ordered, the men immediately ad- 
vanced through the brush on our left flank and dis- 
appeared. A few minutes later we heard heavy firing 
from the direction which they had taken; and shortly 
after the German machine-gun fire ceased. It was 
after this that Corporal York and seven privates re- 
turned with 132 German prisoners. Corporal York 
marched in front of the prisoners and was in absolute 
command. Unquestionably, the silencing of these 
machine guns played a tremendous part in our success 
in finally reaching our objective. 

HARRY MASON PARSONS. 

Subscribed and sworn to before 
me this the ist day of May 1928. 
Bessie M. Swan, Notary Public 
My commission expires on the 
2pth day of March, 1929. 

Here is Sergeant Bernard Early's own account of 
how he led us behind the ^erman lines : 

Bernard Early of the City and County of New 
Haven, State of Connecticut, being duly sworn, de- 
poses and says: 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 243 

As senior non-commissioned officer in charge of the 
left half of ist Platoon, G Company, 2d Battalion, 
328th Infantry, 82d Division, on the morning of 
October 8, 1918, I led what remained of our squads, 
totalling seventeen men, from the valley under Hill 
223 in the Argonne Forest around our left flank in 
an attempt to silence German machine guns which were 
holding up my battalion's advance to the Decauville 
Railroad which was our objective* 

My command was on the extreme left of our divi- 
sion. I led my men through the thick undergrowth 
about half a mile toward where we figured the German 
machine guns were. Then I decided to swing in behind 
and attack them from the rear. On account of the 
nature of the country the Germans were unable to see 
us, just as we were unable to see them. So far we 
had no casualties. When we were well behind the 
German lines, we surprised a German stretcher bearer 
who immediately ran and we trailed him through the 
undergrowth deeper in behind the German lines. 

We jumped a little stream and suddenly unex- 
pectedly discovered the headquarters of a German 
machine-gun regiment* There must have been at 
least one hundred Germans, including three officers and 
several non-commissioned officers. There were also 
runners, orderlies, and others. They were having 
breakfast and we completely surprised them. We 
fired several shots to intimidate them and rushed them 
with fixed bayonets. I was out in front leading them 
and, seeing the Germans throwing up their hands, I 
ordered my men to cease fire and to cover and close 



244 SERGEANT YORK 

in on them. I then ordered my men to line them up 
preparatory to marching them back to our P. C 

In the act of turning around issuing this order, a 
burst of machine gun bullets struck me. I fell with 
one bullet through my arm and five through the lower 
part of my body. I called on Corporal Cutting to 
take command and get the prisoners out and if pos- 
sible later on come back and get me. 

A little later Corporal Cutting was wounded and 
Corporal York took command. 

I was carried back with the German prisoners to 
our first-aid station. There I was operated on and 
some of the bullets were taken out and I was sent 
to the hospital. 

This statement was read to Bernard Early after 
being taken and he stated the same was correct. 

BERNARD EARLY. 
State of Connecticut ^ 
County of New Haven j 

New Haven, April n, 1928 

I certify that the above is the statement made by 
Bernard Early of said City and County of New 
Haven, State of Connecticut, to which he made oath, 
before me. 

LEWIS L. FIELD, 
Commissioner of the Superior 
Court for New Haven County. 



Here is the official affidavit of Private 
Beardsley; 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 245 

2d Bn. 328th Inf. 

82d Div. American E. F. 

Frettes, France, Feb. 21, 1919. 
Affidavit of Private Percy (1,910,246) Beardsley. 

Personally appeared before me the undersigned, 
Private Percy (1,910,246) Beardsley, first being duly 
sworn according to law, says that he was present with 
Sergeant Alvin C. (1,910,426) York, northwest of 
Chatel Chehery on the morning of October 8, 1918, 
and testified to the distinguished personal courage, 
self-sacrifice, and presence of mind of Sergeant Alvin 
C. (1,910,426) York, as follows: 

On the morning of the 8th of October, 1918, Ser- 
geant York was a corporal in G Company, 328th In- 
fantry, and I was a member of his squad. Our bat- 
talion, the zd Battalion of the 328th Infantry, was 
attacking the ridge northwest of Chatel Chehery. 
The battalion had to manoeuvre across the valley under 
heavy machine-gun fire which came from our right and 
left as well as in front of us. Very heavy fire came 
from a hill on our left flank. Sergeant Parsons was 
our platoon leader and he told acting Sergeant Early 
to take three squads and go over and clean out the 
machine guns that were shooting at our left flank. 
He circled the hill first in a southerly and then in a 
southwesterly direction until the noise of the machine 
guns sounded as if the guns were between us and our 
battalion. We went down the west slope of the hill 
into a ravine filled with heavy underbrush and there 
found two Germans and fired at one of them when 
he refused to halt. We were following the one who 



246 SERGEANT YORK 

ran and came onto a battalion of Germans grouped 
together on the bottom and slope of the hill. Those 
nearest us were surprised, and, thinking they were 
surrounded, started to surrender, but a lot of machine 
gunners halfway up the hill turned their machine guns 
on us, killing six and wounding three of our detach- 
ment. All three of our other non-commissioned offi- 
cers were shot and there was left only Corporal York 
and seven privates. We were up against a whole bat- 
talion of Germans and it looked pretty hopeless for us. 
We were scattered out in the brush, some were guard- 
ing a bunch of Germans who had begun to surrender, 
and three or four of us fired two or three shots at the 
line of Germans on the hillside. The German machine 
gunners kept up a heavy fire, as did the German rifle- 
men on the hillside with the machine gunners. The 
Germans could not hit us without endangering the 
prisoners whom we had taken at the very first. A 
storm of bullets was passing just around and over us. 
Corporal York was nearest the enemy and close up to 
the bottom of the hilL He fired rapidly with rifle and 
pistol until he had shot down a German officer and 
many of his men. The officer whom Corporal York 
shot was leading a charge of some' riflemen with 
bayonets fixed down the hillside toward us. Finally 
the German battalion commander surrendered to Cor- 
poral York, who called the seven privates remaining 
up to him and directed us to place ourselves along the 
middle and rear of the column of prisoners, which we 
assisted him in forming. When we moved out some 
Germans on a near-by hill continued to fire at us. 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 247 

Corporal York was at the head of the column where 
he placed two German officers in front of him. A 
considerable number of German prisoners were taken 
on our way back over the hill. Corporal York made 
them surrender by having the German battalion com- 
mander call to them to give themselves up. 

PRIVATE PERCY BEARDSLEY. 
Sworn to and subscribed before 
me at Frettes, France, this 26th 
day of February, 1919. 
Edwin A. Buckhalter, 
ist Lieut. 328 Inf. Bn. Adjt. 

Private George W. Wills, first being duly sworn, 
according to law, also signed exactly the same docu- 
ment, word for word. 

Here is the official affidavit of Private Joseph 
Konotski ; 

American E. F. 
Frettes, France 
February 6, 1919. 

Affidavit of Private Joseph (1,910,336) Konotski 
(his X mark). 

Personally appeared before me the undersigned 
Private Joseph (1,910,336) Konotski, who, first being 
duly sworn according to law, says that he was present 
with Sergeant Alvin C. (1,910,426) York, west of 
Chatel Chehery, on the morning of October 8, 1918, 
and testified to the distinguished and personal bravery 
and self-sacrifice of Sergeant Alvin C. (1,910,426) 
York, as follows: 



248 SERGEANT YORK 

On the morning of October 8, 1918, west of 
Chatel Chehery, Sergeant York performed in action 
deeds of most distinguished personal bravery and self- 
sacrifice. His platoon had been sent to the left flank 
of the assaulting wave, which was then exposed, to 
clear out some machine guns. Encountering a large 
machine-gun nest, all but seven men of his platoon 
were killed or wounded and all non-commissioned offi- 
cers, except Sergeant York, who was at that time a 
corporal. His comrades had lost hope but Sergeant 
York kept his usual balance and self-control. He 
rallied the men and closed in on the enemy, using his 
rifle as long as he could conveniently reach his ammu- 
nition. He then resorted to his pistol with which 
he killed and wounded no less than fifteen of the 
enemy. After this intense fight Sergeant York suc- 
ceeded in taking prisoner the battalion commander. 
Then, instructing his seven men, he took the re- 
mainder of the enemy prisoners in an exceedingly 
tactful manner. In lining the prisoners up preparatory 
to taking them to the Battalion P. C, Sergeant York 
displayed decided decision by placing the officers at 
the head of the column with himself next in line and 
the remaining men distributed in the line, making it 
impossible for the enemy to kill any of his men with- 
out killing a German* 

On the way in to the Battalion P. C. a number of 
the enemy made their appearance and were taken pris- 
oners. When Sergeant York arrived at the Battalion 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 249 

P. C. he turned over 132 prisoners, of whom three 
were officers, one being a field officer. 

JOSEPH KONOTSKI (his X mark) 
(1,910,336) 

Subscribed and sworn to before 
me at Frettes, France, this 6th 
day of February, 1919. 
Edwin A. Burkhalter, 
ist Lieut. 328th Inf., Bn. Adjt. 

Privates Patrick Donohue, Theodore Sok and Mi- 
chael Saccina, first being duly sworn, according to law, 
also subscribed to exactly the same document, word 
for word. 

The above two affidavits, together with the state- 
ments of Captain Danforth, Sergeant Parsons, and 
Sergeant Early have never before been made public. 
They are published In this book for the first time. 

Major George Edward Buxton, Jr., who was the 
first commander of our battalion, and he later on be- 
came divisional inspector, also took the affidavits of 
Privates Percy Beardsley, Michael A. Saccina, George 
W- Wills and Patrick Donohue: 

Hq. 82d Div., American E. F., France, 

26 January, 1919. 

Private Percy (1,910,246) Beardsley, Company G, 
328th Infantry, being duly sworn, made the following 
affidavit: 

On the 8th day of October 1918, I was a member 



2 5 o SERGEANT YORK 

of Corporal York's squad in G Company, 32 8th In- 
fantry. When we were sent under acting-Sergeant 
Bernard Early to clean out, the machine guns on our 
left, I was following behind Corporal York. I saw two 
Red Cross Germans and when they started to run, we 
fired at them. One of them stopped and gave himself 
up. We followed after the other German and about 
twenty paces from where we had first sighted these 
two Red Cross Germans, we ran into a bunch of 
Germans all together in an underbrush on the slope 
of the hill. When we appeared, Germans came run- 
ning out of the brush and machine-gun trenches in 
every direction. There seemed to be about one hun- 
dred of these Germans. Some of them held up their 
hands and shouted "Kamerad" and gave themselves 
up. A few shots were fired at us and a few men on 
our side fired back. After this, all the Germans in 
sight stopped firing and came in around us, having 
thrown down their arms and equipment. Before we 
could line them up in column and move them out, Ger- 
man machine gunners, whom we had not seen before 
this, commenced firing down the hill at our men. This 
fire came mostly from opposite our own right flank. 
We had six men killed and three wounded in a very 
short time. 

I was at first near Corporal York, but soon after 
thought It would be better to take cover behind a 
large tree about fifteen paces in rear of Corporal York. 
Privates Dymowski and Waring were on each side of 
me and both were killed by machine-gun fire. When 
the machine-guia fire on each side of my tree stopped, 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 251 

I came back to where the Germans were and fired rny 
pistol two or three times. I saw Corporal York fire 
his pistol repeatedly in front of me. After I came 
back from the tree I saw Germans who had been hit 
fall down. I saw German prisoners who were still 
in a bunch -together waving their hands at the machine 
gunners on the hill as if motioning for them to go 
back. Finally the fire stopped and Corporal York 
told us to have the prisoners fall in columns of twos 
and for me to take my place in the rear. 

This statement was read to Private Beardsley after 
being taken, and he stated the same was correct. 

I certify that the above is statement made by Private 
Percy (1,910,246) Beardsley, Company G 3 328th In- 
fantry, to which he made oath before me. 

G. EDWARD BUXTON, JR. 
Major, Inf., U. S. A., 

Division Historical Officer. 

Hq. 82d DIv., American E. F., France. 

26 January, 1919. 

Private Michael A. (15910,393) Saccina, Company 
G, 328th Infantry, being duly sworn, made the fol- 
lowing affidavit: 

On the 8th day of October, 1918, I was a member 
of Corporal Cutting's squad in G Company, 328th 
Infantry. When we were sent under acting-Sergeant 
Bernard Early to clean out the machine guns on our 
left, I was following behind Corporal Cutting. I saw 
two Red Cross Germans, and when they started to 
run, we fired at them. One of them stopped and gave 



252 SERGEANT YORK 

himself up. We followed after the other German, 
and about twenty paces from where we had first 
sighted these two Red Cross Germans, we ran into 
a bunch of Germans all together in an underbrush on 
the slope of the hill. When we appeared, Germans 
came running out of the brush and machine-gun 
trenches in every direction. There seemed to be about 
one hundred of these Germans. Some of them held 
up their hands and shouted "Kamerad" and gave 
themselves up. A few shots were fired at us and a 
few men on our side fired back. After this, all the 
Germans in sight stopped firing and came in around 
us, having thrown down their arms and equipment. 
Before we could line them up in column and move 
them out, German machine gunners, whom we had 
not seen before this, commenced firing down the hill 
at our men. This fire came mostly from opposite our 
own right flank. We had six men killed and three 
wounded in a very short time. I fired three shots 
when we saw the Germans. 

I was guarding the prisoners with my rifle and 
bayonet on the right flank of the group of prisoners. 
I was so close to these prisoners that the machine 
gunners could not shoot at me without hitting their 
own men. This, I think, saved me from being hit. 
During the firing, I remained on guard watching these 
prisoners and unable to turn around and fire myself 
for this reason. From where I stood, I could not see 
any of the other men in my detachment because they 
were hidden from me by the German prisoners. From 
this point I saw the German captain and had aimed 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 253 

my rifle at him when he blew his whistle for the Ger- 
man firing to stop. The whistle sounded like the 
whistle on a peanut stand. I then saw Corporal York, 
who called out to us, and when we all joined him, I 
saw seven Americans besides myself. These men were 
Corporal York, Private Beardsley, Private Donohue, 
Private Wills, Private Sok, Private Johnson and Pri- 
vate Konotski. The column of prisoners was then 
started and we moved out. I was guarding near the 
rear of the column. A number of Germans who did 
not give themselves up fired at us as we left. We 
never captured these men. 

This statement 1 was read to Private Saccina after 
being taken, and he stated that same was correct. 

I certify that the above is statement made by Private 
Michael A. (1,910,292) Saccina, Company G, 328th 
Infantry, to which he made oath before me. 
G. EDWARD BTJXTON, JR. 
Major, Inf., U. S. A., 

Division Historical Officer. 

Hq. 82d Div., American E. F., France. 

26 January, 1919. 

Private George W* (1,910,418) Wills, Company 
G, 328th Infantry, being duly sworn, made the fol- 
lowing affidavit: 

On the 8th day of October, 1918, I was a member 
of Corporal Cutting's squad in G Company, 328th In- 
fantry. When we were sent under acting-Sergeant Ber- 
nard Early to clean out the machine guns on our left, 
I was following behind Corporal Cutting. I saw two 



254 SERGEANT YORK 

Red Cross Germans and when they started to run, 
we fired at them. One of them stopped and gave 
himself up. We followed after the other German 
and about twenty paces from where we had first 
sighted these two Red Cross Germans, we ran into a 
bunch of Germans all together in an underbrush on 
the slope of the hill. When we appeared, Germans 
came running out of the brush and machine-gun 
trenches in every direction. There seemed to be about 
one hundred of these Germans. Some of them held 
up their hands and shouted "Kamerad" and gave 
themselves up. A few shots were fired at us and a 
few men on our side fired back. After this, all the 
Germans in sight stopped firing and came in around 
us, having thrown down their arms and equipment. 
Before we could line them up in column and move them 
out, German machine gunners, whom we had not seen 
before this, commenced firing down the hill at our 
men. This fire came mostly from opposite our own 
flank. We had six men killed and three wounded in 
a very short time. 

When the heavy firing from machine guns com- 
menced, I was guarding some of the German prisoners. 
During this time I only saw Privates Donohue, Saccina, 
Beardsley and Muzzi. Private Swanson was right 
near me when he was shot. I closed up very close to 
the Germans with my bayonet on my rifle and pre- 
vented some of them who tried to leave the bunch and 
get into the bushes from leaving. I knew that my 
only chance was to keep them together and also to 
keep them between me and the Germans who were 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIC?HT 255 

shooting. I heard Corporal York several times shout- 
Ing to the machine gunners on the hill to come down 
and surrender, but from where I stood, I could not 
see Corporal York* I saw him, however, when the 
firing stopped and he told us to get along the sides of 
the column. I formed those near me in columns of 
twos. 

This statement was read to Private Wills, after 
being taken, and he stated that same was correct. 

I certify that the above is statement made by Private 
George W. (1,910,418) Wills, Company G, 328th 
Infantry, to which he made oath before me. 
G. EDWARD BUXTON, JR. 
Major, Inf., U. S. A., 

Division Historical Officer. 

Hq. 82d DIv., American E. R, France. 

26 January, 1919. 

Private Patrick (1,910,305) Donohue, Company 
G, 328th Infantry, being duly sworn, made the fol- 
lowing affidavit: 

On the 8th day of October, 1918, I was a member 
of Corporal Cutting's squad in G Company, 328th 
Infantry. When we were sent under acting-Sergeant 
Bernard Early to clean out the machine guns on our 
left, I was following behind Corporal Cutting. I saw 
two Red Cross Germans, and when they started to 
run, we fired at them. One of them stopped and gave 
himself up. We followed after the other German, 
and about twenty paces from where we had first 
sighted these two Red Cross Germans, we ran into a 



256 SERGEANT YORK 

bunch of Germans all together in an underbrush on 
the slope of the hill. When we appeared Germans 
came running out of the brush and machine-gun 
trenches in every direction. There seemed to be about 
one hundred of these Germans. Some of them held 
up their hands and shouted "Kamerad" and gave 
themselves up. A few shots were fired at us and a 
few men on our side fired back. After this, all the 
Germans in sight stopped firing and came in around 
us, having thrown down their arms and equipment. 
Before we could line them up in column and move 
them out, German machine gunners, whom we had not 
seen before this, commenced firing down the hill at 
our men. This fire came mostly from opposite our 
own right flank. We had six men killed and three 
wounded in a very short time. 

During all this shooting, I was guarding the mass 
of Germans taken prisoners and devoted my attention 
to watching them. When we first came in on the Ger- 
mans, I fired a shot at them before they surrendered. 
Afterward I was busy guarding the prisoners and 
did not shoot. From where I stood, I could only see 
Privates Wills, Saccina, and Sok. They were also 
guarding prisoners, as I was doing. Later, when we 
were moving the prisoners out of the woods, I saw 
Private Moreau, but I do not know where he was 
or what he was doing during the fight. The men I 
have mentioned above were all members of Corporal 
Cutting's squad, and our squad had each fired at least 
one shot when we first saw the Germans and before 
Corporal Cutting told us to stop shooting. 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 257 

I was wounded slightly on the shoulder at the first- 
aid station, to which I helped Corporal Early, and con- 
tinued on duty until that night, when the doctor evacu- 
ated me. 

This statement was read to Private Donohue after 
being taken, and he stated that same was correct 

I certify that the above is statement made by Private 
Patrick (1,910,305) Donohue, Company G, 328th 
Infantry, to which he made oath before me. 
G. EDWARD BUXTON, JR. 
Major, Inf., U. S. A., 

Division Historical Officer. 

Captain Joseph Woods met me at Battalion Head- 
quarters, when I reported with the prisoners the morn- 
ing of the fight. Here is his account of it: 

2d Bn. 328th Inf., 
82d Div., American E. F., 
Frettes, France, Feb. 21, 1919. 
Affidavit of ist Lieut. Jos. A. Woods, Inf., U. S. A. 

Personally appeared before me ist Lieut. Jos. A. 
Woods, Inf., U. S. A., who made the following affi- 
davit : 

On the morning of Oct. 8, 1918, I was battalion 
adjutant, 2d Battalion, 328th Infantry. The Bat- 
talion P. C. had been moved forward from Hill 223 
to a hillside across the valley and just west of Hill 
223, the jumping-off place. We heard some heavy 
and almost continuous firing on the other side of our 
hill and in the direction taken by Sergeant Early, Cor- 
poral York and their detachment. Some time later 



258 SERGEANT YORK 

I personally saw Corporal York and seven privates 
returning down the hillside on which our P. C. was 
located. They had 132 prisoners with them, includ- 
ing three German officers, one a battalion commander. 
I personally counted the prisoners when Corporal 
York reported the detachment and prisoners. Cor- 
poral York was in entire charge of this party and 
was marching at the head of the column with the 
German officers. The seven men with Corporal York 
were scattered along the flanks and rear of the column. 
Sergeant Early and Corporal Cutting, both severely 
wounded, were being assisted at the rear of the 
column. 

Jos. A. Woor>s, 
ist Lieut. Inf., U. S. A. 
Sworn to and subscribed before 
me at Pratthay, France, 23 Feb., 1919. 
R. L. Boyd, Maj. A.G.D., 
Adjutant 8zd. Div. 

Here is another official check of his: 

27 January, 1919. 

I certify that I personally counted the prisoners re- 
ported to the P. C. of the 2d Battalion, 328th Infantry, 
by Corporal Alvin C. York, Company G, 328th Infan- 
try, on Oct. 8, 1918, and found them to be 132 in 
number. 

Jos. A. WOODS, 
ist Lieut., Inf., U. S. A. 
Asst. Div. Inspector. 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 259 

Here is Captain Bertrand. Cox's account of what the 
battlefield looked like just after the fight: 

2d Bn., 328th Inf., 
82d Div., American E. F., 
Frettes, France, February 21, 1919. 
Affidavit of Capt. Bertrand Cox, 328th Inf. 

Personally appeared before me the undersigned, 
Capt., Bertrand Cox, who made the following affi- 
davit : 

On the morning of October 8th, I commanded a 
support platoon of F Company, zd Battalion of the 
328th Infantry. Shortly after Corporal York and his 
detachment of seven men succeeded in capturing the 
greater part of a German battalion, I advanced with 
my platoon and passed the scene of the fight, which 
took place before this capture was accomplished. The 
ground was covered with German equipment and I 
should estimate that there were between 20 and 25 
dead Germans on the scene of the fight. 

BERTRAND Cox, 
Captain 328th. Inf. 

Sworn to and subscribed before 

me at Frettes, France, this 

26th day of February, 1919. 

Edwin A. Burkhalter, 

ist Lieut. 328th Inf. Bn. Adj. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 
(Continued} 

THE complete official record of the story has to 
include one more document. My own account as it 
was takened down at Divisional Headquarters a short 
time after the fight. I don't much care to publish the 
first part of it. But it is a part of the document and 
is an exact copy of the original, which is in the War 
Department in Washington, and I ain't got no right 
to leave any of it out. I have to publish it all or not, 
at all. So I have no choice but to put it all in. I 
might say that this is the first time that this document 
has ever been published. 

The records of the fed Division reveal no more 
extraordinary act of individual gallantry and achieve- 
ment than is accredited, after careful investigation, to 
Sergeant Alvin C , (No. 1,910,426) York, Co. G, 
328th Infantry. York is a farmer, 31 years old, whose 
home is located at Pall Mall, Tenn., in the mountain- 
ous and northeastern corner of the state. 

On the 8th of October, 1918. York was a corporal 
in G Company, 328th Infantry. This company was the 
left assault company of the 2d Battalion, which jumped 
off from the crest of Hill 223 just north of Chatel 
Chehery and attacked due west, with its objective, the 
Decauville Railroad, two kilometres due west. The 

260 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 261 

success of this assault had a far-reaching effect in re- 
lieving the enemy pressure against American forces, 
in the heart of the Argonne Forest. The local success 
achieved by this battalion was, in itself, of outstand- 
ing proportions. About 300 prisoners were taken and 
nearly 200 dead Germans left on the ground and 
material captured which included four 77*5, a trench 
mortar battery, a complete signal outfit and 123 
machine guns. The attack was driven through in spite 
of resistance of a very savage character and most 
destructive enemy machine gun and artillery fire. The 
battalion suffered enfilade fire from both flanks. 

The part which Corporal York individually played 
in this attack is difficult to fully estimate. Practically 
unassisted, he captured 132 Germans (three of whom 
were officers), took about 35 machine guns and killed 
no less than 25 of the enemy, later found by others 
on the scene of York's extraordinary exploit. York 
Is well known in his section of Tennessee for his re- 
markable skill with both rifle and pistol. 

The following story has been carefully checked in 
every possible detail from headquarters of this divi- 
sion and is entirely substantiated. 

Although Sergeant York's statement tends to under- 
estimate the desperate odds which he overcame, it has 
been decided to forward to higher authority the ac- 
count given in his own words: 

"Sergeant Harry M. Parsons was in command of a 
platoon of which my squad was a part. This platoon 
was the left support platoon of G Company, my squad 
forming the extreme left flank of the platoon. The 



262 SERGEANT YORK 

valley was covered by machine-gun. fire from the right 
[pointing at the map], from the front, and from the 
left front. Machine guns from the left front were 
causing a great deal of damage to our troops advanc- 
ing across the valley. Sergeant Parsons was ordered 
to advance with his platoon and cover our left flank. 
As the fire was very hot in the valley, we decided to 
skirt the foot of the hill on our left and thereby gain 
some protection. We had advanced a little ways up 
to about here [pointing at the map] when we were 
held up, by machine guns from our left front here 
[pointing at the map]. Sergeant Parsons told Ser- 
geant Bernard Early to take two squads and put these 
machine guns out of business, my squad, being the left 
squad, was one of those chosen. 

"We advanced in single file. The undergrowth and 
bushes here were so thick that we could see only a few 
yards ahead of us, but as we advanced, they became 
a little thinner. In order to avoid frontal fire from 
the machine guns, we turned our course slightly to the 
left, thereby working around on the right flank of the 
machine guns and somewhat to their rear, which 
caused us to miss these forward guns [pointing at the 
map]. As we gained a point about here [pointing 
at the map and designating a point somewhat in the 
rear of the machine guns], we turned sharply to the 
right oblique and followed a little path which took 
us directly in rear of the machine guns. As we ad- 
vanced we saw two Boche with Red Cross bands on 
their arms. We called to them to halt, but they did 
not stop and we opened fire on them. Sergeant Early 
was leading and I was third* 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 263 

"As I said before, we were proceeding in single 
file. We immediately dashed down a path, along 
which the Boche were running, and crossed this 
stream [pointing at map]. The Boche then turned 
to the right and ran in the direction from which we 
had come. When we reached the point where they 
turned, we stopped for half a second to form a 
skirmish line. I jumped about four paces away from 
a sergeant and we told the other men to scatter out 
because we thought there was going to be a battle 
and we did not want to be too close together. As soon 
as we formed our skirmish line we burst through the 
bushes after the Boche. 

"This little stream of which I spoke runs through 
a gulch into the valley. On either side of the stream 
there was a little stretch of flat level ground, about 
twenty feet wide, which was covered with extremely 
thick bush. On the east bank of the stream was a hill 
having an exceedingly steep slope. This hill was some- 
what semi-circular in shape and afforded excellent pro- 
tection to anyone behind it. Along the top of the hill 
were the machine guns firing across the valley at our 
troops. 

"We burst through the undergrowth and were upon 
the Germans before we knew it, because the under- 
growth was so thick that we could see only a few yards 
ahead of us. There was a little shack thrown together 
that seemed to be used as a sort of a P. C. by the 
Germans. In front of this, in a sort of a semi-circular 
mass, sat about seventy-five Boche, and by the side of 



264 SERGEANT YORK 

manding officer and two other officers. The Boche 
seemed to be having some kind of conference. 

"When we burst in on the circle, some of the Boche 
jumped up and threw up their hands, shouting 'Kam- 
erad. J Then the others jumped up, and we began 
shooting. About two or three Germans were hit. 
None of our men fell. 

"Sergeant Early said: 'Don't shoot any more. 
They are going to give up anyhow, 1 and for a mo- 
ment our fire ceased, except that one German contin- 
ued to fire at me, and I shot him. In the meantime, 
the Boche upon the hill with the machine guns swung 
the left guns to the left oblique and opened fire on us. 
I was at this time just a few paces from the mass of 
Boche who were crowded around the P. C. At first 
burst of fire from the machine guns, all the Boche in 
this group hit the ground, lying flat on their stomachs. 
I, and a few other of our men, hit the ground at the 
same time. Those who did not take cover were either 
killed or wounded by the Boche machine-gun fire, the 
range being so close that the clothes were literally torn 
from their bodies. Sergeant Early and Corporal Cut- 
ting were wounded, and Corporal Savage was killed. 
In this first fire we had six killed and three wounded. 
By this time, those of my men who were left had got- 
ten behind trees, and two men sniped at the Boche. 
They fired about half a clip each. But there wasn't 
any tree for me, so I just sat in the mud and used my 
rifle, shooting at the Boche machine gunners. I am a 
pretty good shot with the rifle, also with the pistol, 
having used them practically all my life, and having 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 265 

had a great deal of practice. I shot my rifle until I 
did not have any more clips convenient and then I used 
my pistol. 

"The Boche machine-gun fire was sweeping over the 
mass of Germans who were lying flat, and passing a 
few inches over my head, but I was so close to the 
mass of Germans who were lying down that the Boche 
machine gunners could not hit me without hitting their 
own men. There were about fifty Boche with the 
machine guns and they were under the command of a 
lieutenant. By this time, the remaining Boche guns had 
been turned around and were firing at us, and the lieu- 
tenant with eight or ten Germans armed with rifles 
rushed toward us. One threw a little grenade, about 
the size of a dollar and with a string that you pull like 
this when you want to explode it, at me, but missed 
me by a few feet, wounding, however, one of his own 
men. 

"I just let the Boche come down the hill and then 
poured it into them with my pistol, and I am, as I said 
before, a pretty good shot with the pistol. I shot the 
lieutenant, and when he was killed the machine-gun 
fire ceased. During the fight, I kept hearing a pistol 
firing from the midst of the Boche who were lying on 
the ground. This was evidently the commanding of- 
ficer shooting, as he was the only one in the crowd 
armed with a pistol, and all of his clips were empty 
when I examined them later. 

"When the machine guns ceased firing the com- 
manding officer, who spoke English, got off the ground 
and walked over to me. He said : 'English ?' I said ; 



266 SERGEANT YORK 

'No, not English.' He said: 'What?' I said: 'Amer- 
ican/ He said: "Good Lord.' Then he said: If you 
won't shoot any more, I will make them give up,' and 
I said: 'Well, all right, I will treat you like a man,' and 
he turned around and said something to his men in 
German, and they all threw off their belts and arms 
and the machine gunners threw down their arms and 
came down the hill. 

"I called to my men and one of them answered me 
from over here, another from over here, and another 
here (they were pretty well scattered) , and when they 
all come to me, I found that there were six left be- 
sides myself. 

"We searched the Boche and told them to line up in 
a column of twos* The Boche commanding officer 
wanted to line up facing north and go down through 
the valley along the road which runs by the foot of 
the hill, but I knew if they got me there it would be 
as good as they wanted on account of the machine guns 
on the opposite slope, so I said, 'No, I am going this 
way,' which was the way I had come, and which led 
through the group of machine guns placed here [point- 
ing at the map], which seemed to be outpost guns. 
We had missed this machine-gun nest as we advanced, 
because we had gone further to the left. 

"When we got the Boche lined up in a column of 
twos, I scattered my men along and at the rear of the 
column and told them to stay well to the rear and 
that I would lead the way. So I took the commanding 
officer and the two other officers and put one in front 
of me and one on each side of me;, and we headed the 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 267 

column. I did that because I knew that if I were 
caught on the side of the column, the machine gunners 
would shoot me, but that if I kept in the column, they 
would have to shoot their officers before they could kill 
me. In this manner we advanced along a path and 
into the machine-gun nest which is situated here 
[pointing at the map]. 

"The machine gunners, as I said before, could not 
kill me without killing their officers, and I was ready 
for them. One aimed a rifle at me from behind a tree, 
and, as I pointed my pistol at him, the commanding 
officer said: 'If you won't shoot any more, I will tell 
them to surrender. 5 He did and we added them to 
our column. 

"I then reported with the prisoners to the Battalion 
P. C. They were counted there and there were 132 of 
them. I was there ordered to deliver the prisoners to 
Brigade Headquarters, which I did, and returned to 
my company the next morning." 

It is further interesting to note that Sergeant York 
was a member of the Church of Christ in Christian 
Union. During the training days at Camp Gordon, 
Atlanta, Ga., he informed his company commander of 
his church affiliations, and was seriously troubled by 
the fact that one of the fundamental tenets of this 
faith is a pronounced opposition to war. This contin- 
ued to cause York the most genuine perplexity, al- 
though he carefully refrained from accepting the mili- 
tary status of conscientious objector, declaring that he 
proposed to obey all orders while a member of the 



268 SERGEANT YORK 

Army. His mental doubts were finally dissipated by 
his company commander in a long interview before 
embarking at Camp Upton, N. Y., at the end of which 
York stated that the purposes of American participa- 
tion were of such a character that he felt himself able 
to take his part with a clear conscience. 

Supplementary statement by Sergeant Alvin C. 
(1,910,426) York, Company G, 328th Infantry: 

"After the German captain had made the Germans 
remaining on the hill surrender and the firing stopped, 
Corporals Early and Cutting came up toward me. 
Corporal Cutting said: Tm hit and hit bad, 7 and Cor- 
poral Early said: 'York, I am shot, and shot bad. 
What shall I do? I told him: Tou can come out in 
the rear of our column with the other boys. 1 Private 
Donohue helped Corporal Early out to the edge of 
the woods, where they met a stretcher bearer from 
G Company with a stretcher, and Corporal Early was 
carried back to Chatel Cheherry, when the German 
prisoners carried him to the ambulance. Corporal 
Early was shot through the lower body. Corporal 
Cutting was shot three times in the left arm. Private 
Muzzi was shot in the shoulder. Corporal Cutting 
and Private Muzzi walked out themselves. No Ger- 
man wounded, as far as any of us know, came out with 
our prisoners. The wounded German lieutenant was 
brought out, I think, afterwards by German prisoners 
who went back for him. When we got back to the 
Battalion P. C., the prisoners were counted by Lieuten- 
ant Woods and Lieutenant Garner. Lieutenant Woods 



OFFICIAL STORY OF FIGHT 269 

told us to take them to the Battalion P. C. and Colonel 
Wetherill told us to take them to Brigade Headquar- 
ters at Varennes. Another group of prisoners were 
added to those we had and I turned over at Varennes 
208 prisoners to the Military Police, and a receipt was 
given to Corporal Clark, who had joined us after the 
fight was over. The prisoners which were captured 
and which were counted at the Battalion P. C. by Lieu- 
tenants Woods and Garner, I am told, amounted to 
132. I counted them roughly by myself and thought 
there were about 146." 

Here is the official list of the men participating in 
action of October 8th, 1919, capturing 132 prisoners. 



Savage 328th Inf. 
Dymowski Corp. Savage's Squad Inf. 
Weiler Corp, Savage's Squad Inf. 
Waring Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 
Wins Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 
Swanson Corp. York's Squad Inf. 



Early- 
Cutting 
Muzzi Corp. York's Squad Inf. 

York 

Beardsley Corp. York's Squad Inf. 
Konotski Corp. York's Squad Inf. 
Sok Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 
Johnson Corp, York's Squad Inf. 
Saccina Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 
Donohue Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 
Will* Corp. Cutting's Squad Inf. 



KILLED 




Corp. Murray 


(1,910,237) 


Pvt. Mary an E. 


(1,910,254) 


Pvt Ralph E. 


(1,910,415) 


Pvt. Fred 


(1,910,411) 


Pvt, William 


(1,910,224) 


Pvt. Walter E. 


(1,909,768) 


WOUNDED 




Sgt. Bernard 


(1,910,216) 


Corp. William S. 


(1,910,252) 


Pvt. Marie 


(1,896,622) 


SURVIVORS 




Corp. Alvin C. 


(1,910,426) 


Pvt Percy 


(1,910,246) 


Pvt. Joe 


(*>9i,330 


Pvt. Feodor 


(1,908,791) 


Pvt. Thos. C. 


(3,624,156) 


Pvt. Michael A. 


(1,910,393) 


Pvt Patrick 


(1,910,305) 


Pvt George W. 


(1,910,418) 



CHAPTER XXVII 
ABOVE THE BATTLE 

ABOUT ten o'clock on the morning of October gth I 
reported to Captain Danforth at the railroad. On ac- 
count of the long distance we had to go back from 
where we handed over the prisoners and the most 
awful rough nature of the country and the mix-up and 
confusion everywhere, it takened me 'most all night 
to get back to him again. The company done been 
all mussed up and there were only a few left, but they 
kept on a-going through everything, and they done 
busted that old railroad. The Captain asked me 
where I had been. I told him of the fight with the 
machine guns around on the left flank; of how the 
other non-commissioned officers had been killed or 
wounded; and how I had takened command and 
marched them prisoners away back behind the lines to 
Divisional Headquarters. He asked me why I hadn't 
handed them over at Battalion Headquarters and then 
pushed on and joined him. I told him that there was 
a whole heap of prisoners and nobody would take 
them from me and I had to take them all the way back. 
He asked me how many prisoners there were and when 
I told him one hundred and thirty-two, he looked at 
me with a funny-like expression in his face. He seemed 
kinder surprised. 

I had been away from Captain Danforth and the 

270 



ABOVE THE BATTLE 271 

company for over twenty-four hours, and I knowed he 
needed me most awful bad now. He needed every 
man he could get, because there was only a few left. 
Jes the same I had been doing a heap of thinking about 
the boys we had left behind in the fight. There was 
jes a chance that some of them might be only wqunded 
and still lying out there in pain and needing help some- 
thing terrible. I felt I jes had to go and look for them. 
So I asked the Captain if I couldn't take some 
stretcher bearers and orderlies and go back and look 
around, and though he needed me most awful bad he 
said it was all right, I could get the detail and go back. 
So I got me two stretcher bearers and led them back 
to the place where I done fought the German machine 
guns. When we got there the Salvage Corps had al- 
ready done come and cleaned up the place ; they packed 
up the equipment and takened it away. And they done 
buried the dead, our own boys, and the Germans. The 
ground there all around looked like the most torndown- 
dest place I ever had seen. There was an old canteen 
lying within a few inches of where I stood. It had 
eighteen bullet holes in it. There was a shrapnel hel- 
met a couple of feet away, and it was all sorter sieved, 
jes like the top of a pepper box. The ground in front 
and on both sides of where we done stood was all soft 
and torned up with bullets. The brush on either side 
was also torned up and there was a sort of tunnel cut in 
the brush behind me. Everything destroyed, torned 
up, killed trees, grass, men. Oh, my, it was a ter- 
rible sight. But we didn't find no wounded nowhere. 
We not only searched with our eyes, we searched with 



272 SERGEANT YORK 

our voices. We yelled, thinking that maybe someone 
was in the bushes. But no one yelled back. There 
weren't no wounded that we could see ; neither Amer- 
ican nor German. There weren't no bodies around 
neither. All was terribly quiet in the field. And I jes 
couldn't help thinking of the boys that only the day be- 
fore was alive and like me. Dymowski dead. Weiler 
dead. Waring dead. Wins dead, Swanson 
dead. Corporal Murray Savage, my best pal, dead. 
Oh, my, it seemed so unbelievable. I would never see 
them again. I would never share the same blanket with 
Corporal Savage. We'd never read the Bible together 
again. We would never talk about our faith and pray 
to our God. I was mussed up inside worser than I had 
ever been. I'm a-telling you when you lose your best 
buddie and you know you ain't never going to see him 
again, you sorter know how terrible cruel war is. 
There was nothing I could do now for Corporal 
Murray Savage or any of the other boys that done lost 
their lives. I could only pray for their souls. And I 
done that. I prayed for the Greeks and Italians and 
the Poles and the Jews and the others. I done prayed 
for the Germans too. They were all brother men of 
mine. Maybe their religion was different, but I reckon 
we all believed in the same God and I wanted to pray 
for all of .them. 

So we went back, and I remember the boys that got 
wounded, and was a-hoping and praying they would get 
well. Early got five bullets in the body* and one in the 
arm. And Cutting was bunged up right smart. His 
helmet was broken. The buttons were shot offn his 



ABOVE THE BATTLE 273 

uniform, and he was hit in the arm. Well, I had come 
through It all without even a hair of my head being 
harmed. It seemed sorter hard to believe that I done 
come through alive. Two men on both sides of me and 
two others right behind me were killed, and I hadn't 
been touched. I tried to figure it out how it come that 
everybody around me who was exposed done got picked 
off or wounded and that I alone come out unharmed. 
I have been trying to figure it out ever since. And the 
more I figure the more I am convinced that it wasn't 
no mere luck or jes an accident. It must have been 
something more and bigger than that. 

The officers and the experts who went over the bat- 
tleground afterwards, some of them several times, and 
who takened the statements of all of us who came 
through the fight, have tried to give their own explana- 
tions of how I come through. 

Some of them say that for fear of hittin' their own 
men who were prisoners the German machine gunners 
had to raise their fire and shoot high, and so the bul- 
lets done passed just a few inches over my head. I'm 
admittin' that that's a right-smart lot of reasoning but 
jes the same they didn't fire too high when they opened 
on us. They hit a whole heap of other boys all around 
me. They cut up the ground at my feet when they 
riddled that old canteen and shrapnel helmet. 

Others say that the German machine gunners were 
surprised and kinder rattled. They hadn't even 
dreamed that there were any Americans behind them 
or even near them. Then when we burst in on them 
they thought that we were the advance units of a big 



274 SERGEANT YORK 

American attacking force which done either got in be- 
hind them or surrounded them. And that made them 
panicky. And they sorter got mixed up and didn't 
know what to do. I'm admittin' that that's good rea- 
sonin' too. There can be no doubt at all but what we 
did surprise them. We takened headquarters with 
only a few shots fired. But jes the same the German 
machine gunners were quick and were used to being in 
tight quarters. These were veteran troops that we 
done run into. They had been in the war a long time 
and done fought through many battles. They knowed 
what it was all about. Then there was so many of 
them and they had such a whole heap of machine guns 
that it don't stand to reason that they all sorter lost 
their nerve and give up. I can't admit that nohow. I 
know different. They fought like a heap of wild cats. 
I mean the machine gunners did. They kept up a con- 
tinuous fire for several minutes. They killed and 
wounded a whole heap of our boys. They were sur- 
prised and some of them might have been panicky* 
But not all of them. 

Some of the officers have sorter suggested that I 
was the "right man in the right place." They done 
tried to make the point that I was a right-smart sharp- 
shooter; that I knowed how to handle weapons; that I 
could shoot equally well with rifle or pistol; that I 
could shoot from either hand, or from any position; 
and that this jes happened to be my favourite distance. 
They also claimed that I always was cool and delib- 
erate under fire. I ain't so foolish as to deny that I 
know a whole heap about guns. I do. I know, too, 



ABOVE THE BATTLE 275 

that I am a tol'able good shot. But I don't care how 
good a shot man is, hit ain't in the nature of things 
for one man with an army rifle and a pistol to whip 
thirty-five machine guns that can each fire over six hun- 
dred shots a minute; from a p'int-blank range of be- 
tween twenty and thirty yards. 

Some of them officers have been saying that I being 
a mountain boy and accustomed to woods and nature 
done all these things the right way jes by instinct, like 
an animal when it is cornered. There may be some- 
thing in that. I hain't never got much larnin' from 
books, except the Bible. Maybe my instincts is more 
natural than of men who ain't been brunged up like I 
was in the woods and in the mountains. But that ain't 
enough to account for the way I come out alive, with 
all those German soldiers and machine guns raining 
death on me. 

I am willing to admit that all of these explanations 
have a whole heap of truth in them. I am willing to 
admit that maybe I had all the breaks, and had them 
right. Jes the same, there was something else. There 
had to .be something more than man power in that 
fight to save me. There can't no man in the world 
make me believe there weren't. And I'm a-telling you 
the hand of God must have been in that fight. It 
surely must have been divine power that brought me 
out. No other power under heaven could save a man 
in a place like that. Men were killed on both sides of 
me and all around me and I was the biggest and the 
most exposed of all. Jes think of them thirty machine 
guns raining fire on me p'int-blank from a range of 



276 SERGEANT YORK 

only twenty-five yards and all of them-there rifles and 
pistols besides, and those bombs, and then those men 
that charged with fixed bayonets, and I never receiving 
a scratch, and bringing in one hundred and thirty-two 
prisoners. I have got only one explanation to offer, 
and only one: without the help of God I jes couldn't 
have done it. There can be no arguments about that. 
I am not going to believe different as long as I live, 
I'm a-telling you that God must have heard my prayers 
long before I done started for France. I'm a-telling 
you He done give me my assurance that so long as I 
believed in Him He would protect me. That's why 
when I bade my mother and Gracie and all my brothers 
and sisters and Rosier Pile good-bye before sailing for 
France I told them all not to worry, I would be safe, 
I would come back. 

I done settled it all with my God long ago before I 
went overseas. I done prayed and prayed to Him; 
He done given me my assurance that so long as I be- 
lieved in Him He would protect me, and He did. 

OCTOBER 8TH 

So you can see here in this case of mine where 
God helped me out. I had been living for GocJ and 
working in the church work sometime before I come 
to the army. So I am a witness to the fact that God 
did help me out of that hard battle ; for the bushes 
were shot off all around me and I never got a scratch. 
So you can see that God will be with you if you will 
only trust him and I say that He did save me 
Now He will save you if you will only trust Him. 







THE FAITH THAT MOVETH MOUNTAINS 

In this extraordinary entry In his war diary, scribbled the night 
after the fight, Sergeant York says that God helped him in hi fight 
with, the German machine guns. 



278 SERGEANT YORK 

After the armistice Brigadier General Lindsay and 
some other generals and colonels takened me back to 
the Argonne Forest and went up the scene of the fight 
with me. They measured and examined the ground 
and asked me a whole heap of questions- Brigadier 
General Lindsay asked me to take him out like I did 
the captured German major. And I did. And then 
the General said to me: "York, how did you do it?" 
I told the General that It was not man-power but hit 
was divine power that saved me. I told him that be- 
fore I went to war I prayed to God and He done gave 
me my assurance that so long as I believed in Him not 
one hair of my head would be harmed; and even in 
front of them-there machine guns He knowed I be- 
lieved in Him. The General put his arms around my 
shoulders and said very quietly: u York, you are right." 

I know, of course, that people will say that if He 
protected me, why didn't He protect the other Amer- 
ican boys who were killed, and the Germans, too ? He 
was their God as well as mine, and if He was a just 
and righteous God, why didn't He protect them? I 
can't answer that, I ain't a-going to try to. I don't 
understand the way In which He works "His marvels 
to perform." I ain't a-questionmg them nohow. I jes 
accept them and bow my head and bless His holy name, 
and believe in Him more'n ever. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 
THE ARMISTICE 

BUT the fightin' hadn't done stopped yet. There 
was some more big battles ahead, terrible battles. 
And I was only wishing and praying that a good God 
would bring all this man-killing desolation to an end. 

OCTOBER 9TH, 

Argonne Forest. Well now as we went on fight- 
ing our way through the thick forest of the Argonne 
woods we could hear the cryes of our boys who were 
getting shot and oh my we had to sleep by the dead 
and with the dead. But when we were seeing so 
many of our boys being shot all we could say is just 
to say as we seen our fallen Comrades Good by pal ; 
I don't know where you is camping now: 

Whether you've pitched your tent 'neath azure skies ; 
Or whether o'er your head the bleak storm winds blow 
I only know that when your final call come for you 
It almost broke my heart to see you go. 

But I trust pal that you was ready to meet that last 
call. Yes, and now you be carefull that the last final 
call don't find you not ready to meet your God in 
peace. 

279 



280 SERGEANT YORK 

OCTOBER IOTH 

Fleville, the Argonne Forest. We got to Fle- 
ville. 

OCTOBER I2TH 

Somerance, the Argonne Forest. We had got to 
Somerance and during this time we had lost heavy 
on our men and was still losing them as you know 
that you cant fight in war without losing men and 
the Germans was shelling us awfull with big shells 
also gas and the boys laying there that they couldn't 
burry. Oh my I cant tell you how I felt and when 
those big shells would come over and burst then I 
heard my comrades crying and mourning. All we 
could do was to trust God to protect us and look up 
and say: 

Good by old pal, your body sleeps heer 'neath the sod, 
Your soul I pray has gone home to God. 

But yet I cant know the greenwood tree that leads 
into the vale beyond. Not yet. So close by this 
pal, my solitary bunk I had to make to stay over 
night and oh how lonely how sad no tongue can 
tell. But yet God was with me. Is God with you 
if not please don't do as many others have done > 
Put it off to long. 

So we stayed in the front at Somerance untill we 
git releaved by the 8oth Div. boys. 

We stayed in actual fighting in the Argonne from 
the time we went in, which was the morning of Oc- 



THE ARMISTICE 281 

tober 8th to November ist. Over three weeks. Fight- 
ing in the front line all the time and through those ter- 
rible woods. And we were both mussed up right 
smart. The woods and us. Those old woods were all 
ruined. And we were all shot to pieces. There were 
not many of them-there Greeks and Italians left. But 
what was left were still fighting like a sackful of wild- 
cats. I shore did like those boys now. They were my 
buddies. Yes ; they were still burning up a most awful 
amount of ammunition. But they always kept on 
a-going. Always. The nearest I come to getting killed 
in France was in an apple orchard in Somerance in the 
Argonne. It was several days after the fight with the 
machine guns. We hed a very heavy barrage from 
the Germans suddenly drop down on us, and we were 
ordered to dig in and to lose no time about it. Some 
of us were digging in under an apple tree. The shells 
were bursting purty close. But we didn't take much 
notice of them. Jes kept right on a-digging. It's 
^anny, after you've been at the front a right-smart 
while you can almost tell where the shells are going 
to burst and what size they are. It Is a sort of sol- 
dier's instinct. And this morning they were close, but 
not close enough to scare us. And then they got closer. 
And we dug faster. I have dug on farms and in gar- 
dens and in road work and on railroad, but it takes big 
shells dropping close to make you really dig. And I'm 
a-telling you, the dirt was flying. And then bang! 
one of the big shells struck the ground right in front 
of us and we all went up in the air. But we all come 
down again. Nobody was hurt. But it sure was close. 



282 SERGEANT YORK 

NOVEMBER 1ST 

Argonne Forest. So we came out of the lines to 
a germans rest camp and there we got something to 
eat. . * . 

I was made a sergeant just as quick as I got back 
out of the lines. But, oh, my! so many of my old bud- 
dies were missing and we scarcely seemed the same out- 
fit. 

NOVEMBER 2D 

Argonne Forest. . . . And then we started out 
and hiked to a French camp. 

NOVEMBER 4TH 

(No place given). We loaded on French busses 
to go to French Camp. 

NOVEMBER 5TH 

(No place given). We got to a French camp. 



NOVEMBER 

Aix-les-Bains. I taken train for Aix-les-Bain. 
I had a furlough for 10 days. 

NOVEMBER 8TH; 

Aix-les-Bains. So I got to Aix-les-Bain and went 
to the Hotel de Albion and I stayed at this hotel 
from the 8th to the i6th and I went a round and 
seen some fine scenery I got on a motor boat and 



THE ARMISTICE 283 

went over to Itala and there I seen some good 
scenery. 

There was a bunch of us had been given a ten-day 
leave to Aix-les-Bains. We went down there for a 
rest. We had been in the Argonne for several weeks 
without any relief and were tired and worn out and 
went down there to rest during the ten-day leave. We 
were staying in private places. We jes went around 
seeing the historical places, the old Roman baths and 
up on the mountain, 

NOVEMBER IOTH 

Aix-les-Bains. I went to church. I think the man 
gave us a very good talk his subject was the angle 
helping the wounded to the aid station. And there 
I also seen the old Roman baths that they said was 
built 122 years before Christ. 

And then it all come to an end. All of this killing 
and destroying. 

NOVEMBER IITH 

Aix-les-Bains. And the armistice was signed. 
And they sure was a time in that city that day and 
night. Yes. say did you think that the armistice 
was sign on the nth month on the nth day and 
the nth hour of 1918. And a nother thing did you 
ever know that the war just lasted 585 days from 
the time that the President declared war a gainst 
Germany until the armistice was signed and did you 



284 SERGEANT YORK 

ever know that in this little short time of 585 days 
that the Americans was over here in France a hold- 
ing a 77 mile frount in the Argonne forest* 

I don't know that I can jes exactly tell my feelings 
at that time. It was awful noisy, all the French were 
drunk, whooping and hollering. The Americans were 
drinking with them, all of them. I never done any- 
thing much. Jes went to church and wrote home and 
read a little. I did not go out that night. I had jes 
gotten back there and were all tired. I was glad the 
armistice was signed, glad it were all over. There had 
been enough fighting and killing. And my feelings 
were like most all of the American boys. It was all 
over. And we were ready to go home. I felt that 
they had done the thing they should have done, sign- 
ing the armistice. 



CHAPTER XXIX 
P ARI S 

THE rejoicings which followed the armistice lasted 
for several days. I didn't take no part in them. I 
don't know why. I kinder think I felt it all so much 
that I daresn't let myself go. 

NOVEMBER lyTH 

Champlitte, France. Well, I'll go on so I 
stopped at Champlitte and the French had a dance 
that night and they had to go by my bed to where 
they was dancing and the girls would pull my feet 
until I couldn't sleep for them. 

DECEMBER 25TH 

Long, France. I went to see President Wilson 
and wife at Long where they had a review. So 
there was a large crowd there. I enjoyed myself 
very well But I didn't get any dinner So I was not 
enjoying a xmas dinner you see, ho ho. So I went 
back to my company that night and it was after 
dark. So Mrs. Wilson was dressed very nice and 
she had a smile on her face all the time. She was 
wearing a Smart Sfeal Skin Coat with a Big Fox 
Collar and a close fitting Seal Skin Toque with a 
bright red rose trimming on one side and a little 

285 



286 SERGEANT YORK 

bunch of holly at her throat. So she looked very 
pleasing and Mr, Wilson was wearing a large black 
silk hat with a light grey fur coat he also had a 
smile on his face So that cheered the boys to see 
Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and hear them talk, ho, ho. 

In January I begun to travel over France and talk 
to the boys. I was travelling in and out of my Division 
Headquarters something like six weeks. I travelled by 
motor cycle and automobile. I would jes go to a place 
and the boys would come around and I would hold a 
meeting and talk to them. I spoke in the Y huts and 
out in the open to the battalions and to the assembled 
troops on the ground. I got good representation every- 
where. Our division chaplain, Rev. C. Tyler, of Mil- 
waukee, often travelled with me. He was a nice man 
and a powerful preacher. I first talked to the boys in 
our Eighty-second Division and then I went to other 
outfits. 

On one of these trips they done drove me about 
eighty miles an hour on a motor cycle over those old 
French roads. It was asking too much of God, travel- 
ling like that. In front of the machine guns in the 
Argonne I couldn't protect myself. So I expected Him 
to look after me. And He done it and I come out un- 
harmed. But there was no sense rushing like mad 
over those old roads on a motor cycle. So I wouldn't 
do it. 

The boys were longing to get home. They felt they 
had done their jobs. The war was over. They were 



PARIS 287 

kinder restless. I was that way too. Now that there 
was nothing much to do I begun to get homesick again. 
I begun to think more and more of the log cabin in the 
Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf at home in 
Tennessee, and of my little old mother, and of Gracie. 
Oh, my! How slow those cold wet days in camp 
went by. There was nothing to do and so much time 
to do it in. I don't like fooling around like that no- 
how- I kinder think the waiting, waiting, waiting pes- 
tered me a heap more than the war itself did. It jes 
seemed as though that old ship to take us home would 
never come. 

FEBRUARY I2TH 

Prauthoy, France. I sit a Round all day didnt do 
anything. 

FEBRUARY I3TH 

Prauthoy. It was so cold and snowy that I never 
did anything but sit by the fire. 

FEBRUARY I4TH 

Prauthoy. Cold and snowy and never did any- 
thing. 

FEBRUARY I5TH 

Prauthoy. Cold and snowy and sit by the fire 
all day. 

FEBRUARY l6TH 

Prauthoy. I went to church. It was Sunday and 
a rainy day, and we had a nice talk. 



288 SERGEANT YORK 

FEBRUARY I7TH 

Prauthoy. I never done anything much for I was 
not feeling good 

FEBRUARY l8TH 
Prauthoy. I didn't do much. 
FEBRUARY 26TH 

Prauthoy. On the night of the 26th of February 
I taken the a vant and started for Bordeaux. 

At last we moved on to Bordeaux. 

(NO DATE) 

En Route to Bordeaux. I was on the train and 
it came an awfull cold snow storm about 3 P.M. 
So we was in box-cars and it was cold and snowing 
and we had no fire. So it was pretty tough. But 
that was better than sleeping in those old French 
barnes where the cows sleep in the parlor and the 
chickens in the dining room, ho I ho ! 

It was even worse in Bordeaux. Jes cold, stormy 
days with nothing to do but sit around and think of 
home. Of course we did some drilling and marching. 
And there were guards and reviews which somehow 
now that the war was over didn't seem the same no- 
how. There was neither strength nor seasoning in 
them. 

Once in a while though things did get a bit exciting. 



PARIS 289 

One night the officers had a dance in the Y hut. The 
privates were not allowed to go, but they done got 
tanked up on some of that-there French cognac. Then 
they sorter pushed in on the dance. They picked out 
most of the pretty girls; and the girls were kinder will- 
ing, too, ho, ho. And they sorter crowded the officers. 
I'm a-telling you that made them-there captains and 
lieutenants mad. They ordered me to call out the 
guard and get the boys off the floor. But that was a 
harder job than busting the Hindenburg Line. The 
boys hung on to the girls and didn't want to give them 
up or stop dancing nohow. The officers were just as 
determined to keep the dance private, that is for them- 
selves and their girls. So I sorter arranged an ar- 
mistice between them. I roped off that old dance floor 
and stationed the guards along the rope. So the of- 
ficers were able to dance at one end. And the boys 
kept some of the girls and danced at the other end. 

Later on in March I got me a leave pass and went 
to Paris. The first time, I didn't do much but hike 
round and see the sights. I done heard a lot about 
that-there opera. I had never heard of the word be- 
fore. All I knowed about it from what the boys told 
me was that it was music, a lot of them stringed in- 
struments playing together, so I hiked me to the place 
and bought a ticket and they done charged four dol- 
lars for a seat! I sat through it all right. I liked 
the orchestra, but I don't think I'd ever again spend 
four dollars to see another opera like it. I went out 
to Versailles and wandered through the palaces there. 
I went to the tomb of Napoleon. I went to where they 



290 SERGEANT YORK 

buried the unknown soldier but I didn't stay long be- 
cause it sorter made me sad; and I didn't want to be 
sad in Paris; but I was sad jes the same. Of course 
I could have gone out like a whole heap of the boys 
and fooled around with the mademoiselles and the vin 
rouge; and sorter tried to forget the war and them- 
there Germans I done killed in the Argonne. But I 
didn't drink and I had a girl of my own back home 
in the mountains. So I hiked around all day and at 
night time I jes got out in the streets and mixed in the 
crowd and then went home to bed. 

MARCH 28TH 

Paris. I rode on the Paris wheel and took a train 
ride down to Se Louis 14 Plait at night. 

I kinder think that bestest of all I enjoyed my ride 
on the Paris wheel. I'm a-telling you that when it 
started to go round and round with me on it and the 
sky and the ground all got mixed up I not only forgot 
the war I done forgot everything, ho ! ho ! 

I went back to Paris again in April. I was 'ordered 
to represent my division as a non-commissioned officer 
at the first meeting of the American Legion. That 
.was when it was formed. 

APRIL 7TH 

Paris. I arrived in Paris at 8.30 A.M. and 10.30 
A.M. was our meeting. I was there on time at the 
Hotel de Gabriel. So we had the meeting all day 
until 5.30 P.M. the meeting adjourned. 




by Underwood W Underwood 

ON THE S. S. OHIOAN 

Sergeant York as he returned from France after accom- 
plishing what was said to be the greatest individual feat of 
the war. 



PARIS 291 

So you see I'm a charter member of the American 
Legion. It begun right there In Paris, at the Hotel 
de Gabriel. The meeting lasted all day until about 
5.30 in the afternoon. I attended all the sessions. I 
jes knowed hit was going to grow into a big organiza- 
tion. It sorter seemed right that the buddies who 
fought together in France should have some sort of 
organization that would keep them together in peace. 

Once I got lost tramping round the streets. That is 
the only time that I ever got bewildered as to direction. 
Right in the middle of that-thar old city the streets 
are all sorter mixed up. They seem to have no begin- 
nings and no ends. And when they do have ends they 
sorter go plumb up against a blank wall. They call 
it a cul-de-sac. So I got lost. I tried to get rny direc- 
tion by the sun, but I could not see it. Ho ! ho ! I 
tried to remember some of the buildings. I couldn't. 
And I'm telling you I couldn't make heads nor tails 
out of the names of the streets. I didn't know where 
I was. All I knowed was I was in Paris. So I went 
up to a mademoiselle and I told her as well as I could 
that I was lost and would she be so kind as to tell me 
where my hotel was. She was a right-smart girl. She 
smiled and then takened me to a street car and put 
me on it and told the mademoiselle conductor where I 
wanted to go and to let me off when I got there. She 
sure did too. So you see I never takened any girls 
home in France but one of them had to take me home, 
ho, ho. 

One day some of us boys heard that the Queen of 
Roumania was coming in on the train, so we hiked down 



292 SERGEANT YORK 

to the station. And sure enough she come and when 
she seed us she smiled and waved her hand. I was 
fairly close to her. She looked very pretty and she 
sorter walked like a queen. She had on a black dress 
and a kind of black veil. 

APRIL STH 

Paris. I seed the Queen of Roumania. She is a 
very good-looking lady So I stayed in Paris until 
8.26 on the night of the 9th. 

I liked Paris all right. It was a right-smart city. 
Jes the same it sorter convinced me more than ever 
that cities don't mean much to me nohow. I knowed 
in my own heart that I wouldn't give up my mountains 
and the hunting and the shooting for all of the cities in 
the world. So soon as my leave was up I went back 
to the camp near Bordeaux. And I jes sat around 
there in the rain and the mud doing nothing and wait- 
ing for that-thar old ship to come and take us home. 
Oh, my! The days went by slower and slower. It jes 
seemed as if we would never get away from France. 
I'm a-telling you them were the homesickest days I 
ever had in my life. 

At last we got ready to sail. The boat done came. 
I'm a-telling you I was tickled. So were the boys. But 
when we got down to the wharf and begun to load 
there were so many of us the boat wouldn't hold us 
all. And, oh, my! I had to stay behind with sixty-six 
others and do some more waiting. That was pretty 
tough I'm a-telling you. But the next day another 
old boat came along and we done sailed jea the same. 



CHAPTER XXX 
HOME 

MAY IOTH 

ON Board U. S. S. Ohio. In the morning we 
went down to the docks and eat us a little and then 
we got on the U. S. A. Ohio boat at 2.26 P.M. we 
broke loose from the shores of France and by dark 
we was out of sight of land. 

MAY IITH 

At Sea. Sunday. Sick. We had awfull rough 
seas. 

MAY I2TH 

At Sea. Awfull rough seas. Sick. 

MAY I3TH 

At Sea. Awfull rough. Sick. 

MAY I4TH 

At Sea, Awfull rough. Sick. 
MAY I5TH 

At Sea. Awfull rough. 

203 



294 SERGEANT YORK 

We had about three or four days of storms and 
most awful rough seas. I was right-smart sick for 
several days. Had to stay down part of the time in 
my berth and part of the time on top of deck. I sure 
would have liked to see some trees or those old moun- 
tains. Oh, my, that sea ! I didn't feel like talking or 
doing anything but lying down and being left toFably 
alone. And then I knowed, too, that they were going 
to give me a big reception when I arrived in New 
York. They done wired out at sea. And that hed 
me worried. I would hev got out and walked if I 
could hev. 

MAY l6TH 
At Sea. Nice. 

MAY lyTH 

At Sea. Nice. 

MAY l8TH 

At Sea. Was Sunday we had services in the aft- 
ternoon. We Sing Jesus Saviour Pilot me and the 
reading was the first psam. 

MAY I9TH 

At Sea. Had a storm and the sea was rough. 

MAY 20TBf 
At Sea. Was nice. 



HOME 295 

MAY 2IST 

At Sea. Was pretty. 

MAY 22D 

Hoboken, N. J. At 2 P.M. I landed and the ten- 
nessee society had a five-day furlough for me to see 
New York City. So I stopped at Waldorf Hotel. 

Oh, my, I can't tell you how I felt when our ship 
steamed up New York Harbour and I seed the sky- 
scrapers sorter standing up against the sky. In the 
distance they looked jes a little like the mountains at 
home when you see them from a long way off. 

Oh, my, I was so homesick 1 

I jes knowed I would never leave my country again. 
I didn't want to nohow. I stood there in the front of 
the ship as we steamed up the harbour and when we 
passed the Statue of Liberty I sorter looked her in the 
eyes and I kinder understood what the doughboy meant 
when he said: "Take a look at me, Old Girl. Take a 
good look at me, because whenever you want to see me 
again you will have to turn around." 

I knowed, of course, that a committee from the 
Tennessee Society was going to meet my boat. And 
they did. They tried to make a most awful fuss over 
me. They seemed to think I done done something 
wonderful. I couldn't see it that way nohow. I done 
done my duty like most any other soldier would have 
done when he was up against the same thing. 

The Tennessee Society met me at the boat with a 



296 SERGEANT YORK 

can There was a right-smart heap of newspaper men 
there too and they made me stand around and have 
my picture taken. There were a whole heap of cam- 
eras. So you see I was under fire again. And they 
done questioned me. And by the time they had fin- 
ished writing about me in their papers I had whipped 
the whole German Army single-handed. Ho, ho. 
Those newspaper men 1 But they were very nice. 

They gave me a right-smart reception in New York 
City. They drove me through the streets in an open 
car; and the streets were so crowded we could only 
go slow. It seemed as most everybody knowed me. 
They throwed a most awful lot of paper and ticker 
tape and confetti out of the windows of those big sky- 
scrapers. I wondered what it was at first. It looked 
like a blizzard I didn't understand that it was for 
me until they told me. I thought that they did the 
same thing for 'most every soldier that came back. I 
thought it was a New York habit. And a very nice 
habit, too. 

They takened me to the Waldorf Astoria, where 
they had a whole suite of rooms for me. There were 
two beds in my room. Twin beds. That kinder 
tickled me. I didn't know which one to sleep in. So I 
tried them both. 

The Tennessee Society done give me a banquet and 
there were a whole heap of people sitting down to the 
big dinner. There were generals and statesmen all 
over the place. They asked me that many questions 
that I kinder got tired inside of my head and wanted 



HOME 297 

to get up and light out and do some hiking. There 
were a heap of speeches. They seemed to be haying a 
sorter competition saying nice things about me. They 
told me I was famous. And I thought to myself, if 
this is fame, having to stay at a big hotel with several 
rooms all to yourself and two beds to sleep in and a 
big banquet where there are so many people yoi* 
couldn't remember them nohow, then fame ain't the 
sorter thing I used to think it was, 

Of course, everybody was nice. But I'm a-telling 
you it was a tough corner for a mountain boy to be in* 
Between answering questions and kinder watching the 
people around me eat so I would know how to handle 
that old silverware without making too many bad 
breaks, I'm a-telling you I was busied a-plenty. But 
I got through it all right. I didn't know what all the 
plates and knives and forks and spoons were for. So 
,1 kinder slowed up and jes kept a couple of moves be 
hin'd the others. So I knowed what to do. In the 
middle of that-there old banquet I got to kinder dream- 
ing about home and the little log cabin and my mother 
and Gracie and them-there hound dogs of mine. I 
knowed I was to be with them soon, and I sorter 
couldn't think of anything else. 

Jes the same, everybody was nice and meant well 
and they all done their best to give me a right-smart 
time. '.- ' '' ; ' '. . ' ' .... ". \ . - 

Next day I hiked a-plenty all over that old city. So 
you see I was still hiking. I done more of that when 
I was in the Army than anything else. 



298 SERGEANT YORK 

I tried to get my mother over the long-distance tele- 
phone, but we couldn't get through. That made me 
homesicker than ever. 

They told me I could have anything I wanted in 
New York City. I got to figuring it out and I 
couldn't figure that I wanted anything special Hit's 
kinder funny that when you can have anything you 
want, you don't seem to want anything. That's life. 
So hit seems to me hit ain't having things that matters 
so much; hits the wanting to have them that counts. 
They kept insisting. So I thought I would like to have 
a ride in the subway. You see I thought it was right 
smart to have them tunnels under the ground and be 
able to go all over New York City that way, so they 
done got a special train and rode me all over New 
York City in the subway. I liked that, ho, ho. 

MAY 230 

New York City, I was looking at New York 
City. On the night of the 23rd I took the train for 
Washington, D. C. honorable hull had come to get 
me. 

MAY 25TH 

Washington, D. C. So I got to Washington this 
morning about 6 A.M. So we drove a car all over 
Washington almost looking at the city and I had 
the honor to meet Secretary Baker of war and shake 
hands with him. 

Congressman Cordell Hull takened me in charge 
and showed me all over Washington, D. C, He tak- 



HOME 299 

ened me to the White House to meet the President, 
but the President was done gone. So I met Secretary 
of War Baker. And we talked about the war. And 
he was most kind and considerate. I went to Congress. 
They takened me there on the floor of the House. 
And the members all come around me. And there was 
more questioning and a whole heap of cheers and ap- 
plause. By this time I was sorter feeling like a red 
fox circling when the hounds are after it. I was be- 
ginning to wonder if I ever would get back to my own 
home again. 

The next day I went back to New York City again ; 
and they takened me to the stock exchange in Wall 
Street. That didn't mean nothing to me nohow. A 
country boy like me jes couldn't understand what it 
was all about. Rifle-guns, hounds, foxes, coons, moun- 
tains, shootin' matches I understand these things. I 
belong to them and I'm a-thinking they belong to me. 
But money and big business were things I jes didn't 
understand nohow. The streets in that part of New 
York City are most awful narrow and plumb full of 
people. I figured it was sorter funny that people 
would be willing to crow'd together and work and live 
in such cramped-up spaces when there's such a heap of 
open country and grass and sky in other parts of Amer- 
ica. But then you see I was a country boy and didn't 
understand the city life. 

About this time they begun to pester me with a 
whole heap of officers to go on the stage and into the 
movies. They offered so much money that it almost 
takened my breath away. I thought to myself, 



300 SERGEANT YORK 

wouldn't I look funny in tights, ho, ho. Besides, I 
sorter felt that to take money like that would be com- 
mercializing my uniform and my soldiering. I knowed 
if I hadn't been to war and hadn't been a doughboy 
they never would have offered me nothing nohow. I 
also knowed I didn't go to war to make a whole heap 
of money, or to go on the stage or in the movies. I 
went over there to help make peace. And there was 
peace now. So I didn't take their thirty pieces of sil- 
ver and betray that-there old uniform of mine. I 
would have been interested in helping to make the pic- 
tures if I didn't have to be in it myself and if they 
would do it, not to make a heap of money /or them- 
selves or for me but jes to show what the boys done 
done over there, and also to show what faith will do 
for you if you believe in it right. But I knowed they 
weren't interested in that. They jes wanted me to 
show how I done killed the Germans in the Argonne. 
So I wouldn't have nothing to do with them nohow. 
They also offered me a heap of money to write news- 
paper stories and to sign advertisements. But I didn't 
want to do that either. 

I jes wanted to be left alone to go back to my begin- 
nings. The war was over. I had done done my job and 
I had done it the bestest I could. So I figured I ought 
to be left alone and allowed to go home to the moun- 
tains where I belonged. I sorter felt, too, that if 
they wanted to do something right smart for me they 
might help me to get a soon-go for home. The Army 
officers understood me and I understood them and 



HOME 301 

they sent me South to be demobilized as soon as they 
could get the papers fixed up. 

I'm a-saying right here that they treated me right 
smart all the time that I was in the Army, They done 
played the game with me and they played square. So 
far as I am concerned the officers and everybody con- 
nected with the Army done done the right thing by 
me. They were right-smart folk. 

In late May I got my transportation papers to Ft. 
Oglethorpe, Ga., and there I got my discharge papers 
and transportation home. But I can't tell you what 
I felt like when I got home in May, 1919. The moun- 
tains sure looked good to me. The mountain people, 
thousands of them, come from all over jes to say 
howdy. All of my big brothers were there and my 
sisters and my mother. 

As soon as I got back to the little old log cabin in 
the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf I went 
a-hunting not for coon, or possum or fox or squirrels 
I went a-hunting for Grade. I done found her too. 
And what I said to her and what she said to me and 
what we said to each other ain't nobody's business 
nohow. 

Then I went out on the mountainside where I used 
to pray and when it was all quiet and there was no- 
body around nohow, I returned thanks to God. He 
had given me my assurance that even if I didn't think 
it right I should go jes the same; and would be pro- 
tected from harm; and would come back without a 
hair of my head injured. I don't know what I said to 



302 SERGEANT YORK 

Him. I disremember. I don't know that I said any- 
thing* I jes felt. 

And, oh, my, what a joyful time I had with th em- 
there hound dogs of mine. I done set down and 
looked at them and patted them and they wagged their 
tails and licked my hands, and then, ho, ho, they bayed 
and sorter circled round, and sorter lit out for the 
woods; jes to sorter remind me that they hadn't been 
foolin' round nohow while I was away, and they still 
knowed where the coons and possums and the foxes 
were. 

In a few days I had the old uniform off and the 
overalls on. I done cleaned up the old muzzle-loader. 
It was all over. I was home. 




IN A PEACE-TIME SETTING 

Sergeant Alvin C York and his three sons in front of their 
home in the Valley of the Three Forks of the Wolf, 



CHAPTER XXXI 

A HEAP o' LARNIN' 

NOTHING seemed to have changed much. The lit- 
tle old log cabin was still there at the head of the 
spring and the water in it was a-running and a-singing 
the same as ever. The razorbacks were rooting for 
acorns and hickory nuts jes as before. Their bells, and 
the cow bells, too, sounded much the same. The dog- 
wood blossomed white and the red-bud pinkish-like, 
jes as they used to. Though I seemed to notice them 
more now. The hills were as they always were, blue 
and kinder dreamy. And the people hadn't changed 
nohow. They were putting in their crops, working 
from sunup to sundown. 

The same crowd of mountain boys and girls were 
to be seen at the store. The little church on the hill 
was doing tol'able well. Rosier Pile held his Sunday 
school the same and the kiddies larned their lessons 
and some of them fell off to sleep jes about the same. 

The war had come and gone. Millions of boys had 
been killed and wounded. Millions of dollars had been 
poured out jes like water. Homes all over the world 
had been desolated. Some of the old countries had 
been all mussed up and new ones had come up and 
sort of takened their places. The whole outside world 
seemed to have changed. But not our valley. Every- 
thing there was kinder the same. 

303 



SERGEANT YORK 

But I knowed, though, that I had done changed. I 
knowed I wasn't like I used to be. The big outside 
world I had been in and the things I had fought through 
had teched me up inside a most powerful lot. The old 
life I had lived seemed a long, long way behind me. 
It seemed to be a sort of other life in another world. 
I knowed I had changed. I was sort of restless and 
full of dreams and wanting to be doing something; 
and I didn't understand. So I sat out on the hillside 
trying to puzzle it out. 

Before the war I had never been out of the moun- 
tains. I had never wanted to be. I had sorter figured 
that them-there mountains were our shield against the 
iniquities of the outside world. They sorter isolated 
us and kept us together so that we might grow up pure- 
blooded and resourceful and God-loving and God-fear- 
ing people. They done done that, too, but they done 
more'n that. They done kept out many of the good 
and worthwhile things like good roads, schools, li- 
braries, up-to-date homes, and modern farming 
methods. But I never thought of these things before 
going to war. Only when I got back home again and 
got to kinder thinking and dreaming, I sorter realized 
hit. 

Then I knowed we had to have them. We jes had 
to. And the more I thought the more I kinder figured 
that all of my trials and tribulations in the war had 
been to prepare me for doing just this work in the 
mountains. All of my suffering in having to go and 
kill were to teach me to value human lives. All the 
temptations I done went through were to strengthen 



A HEAP O' LARNIN' 305 

my character. All the associations with my buddies 
were to help me understand and love my brother man. 
All of the pains I done seed and went through were 
to help and prepare me. And the fame and fortunes 
they done offered me in the cities were to try me out 
and see if I was fitted for the work He wanted me 
to do. 

Again the Devil taketh him into an exceedingly high moun- 
tain and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the 
glory of them ; and he said unto him, all these things will I give 
thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus 
unto him, get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, thou shalt 
worship the Lord thy God an4 Him only shalt thou serve. 

So He was tempted. So everybody since, who is 
called on to do good, is tempted* So I, an unlarned 
mountain boy, was tempted too. 

But I done come through it all all right. My 
prayers and the prayers of my mother and Pastor Pile 
and a whole heap of other friends were answered. 

So I talked to Gracie about these dreams of mine. 
She understood. She done always understood. So 
we done got married. Governor RIoberts, the Gov- 
ernor of Tennessee, done come down to our valley 
and performed the ceremony. Thousands of people 
come from all over Tennessee to see the goings-on. 
And the mountain people provided the vittles. They 
brought in goats and hogs and turkeys and slaughtered 
and dressed them right there on the hillside. They 
set up a table, the largest I ever seed, and they done 
piled hit up with all the meats and eggs there was and 
with sweet potatoes and cornbread and milk and jams 



3 o6 SERGEANT YORK 

and cakes and a whole mess of other things. We were 
married on the mountainside above the spring and* 
under the shady trees and with the blue mountains and 
green grass and the flowers all around. 

Then I begun what I felt was my life work. I went 
to the State Highway Department and asked them 
to build a road through the mountains. And they done 
done it. They built what we now call the York High- 
way right across our county. Then the other counties 
done noticed it and built roads on either end. And 
to-day we have a right-smart road running through 
this-here mountain country. And there were only 
mountain trails and old dirt roads that were no good 
nohow and creek beds here before. That was the be- 
ginning. 

Then I begun to work for a school, an up-to-date 
school in our county. We done needed it most awful 
bad. We only had a few schools here. They were 
all frame buildings, and some of them were well-nigh 
uninhabitable. There was only one high school. Very 
few of the teachers were college graduates. So, 
you see, we needed new buildings and up-to-date 
teachers and equipment most awful bad. So I raised 
about $15,000 myself and the state and the county 
each put up $50,000. That gave me $115,000 to 
build new schools. I wanted a modern, up-to-date 
vocational school, which later on could be sorter 
developed into a mountain college. The Board they 
give me couldn't see things the way I did. So I have 
had a most awful hard fight, a much worser one than 
the one I had with the machine guns In the Argonne. 



A HEAP O' LARNIN* 307 

The politicians and the real estate people tried to use 
me. The small-town bankers tried to get in on it. 
Jealous factions wanted to get a-hold of it and handle 
it their way. So it done got held up. And oh, my, I 
had a terrible time. But I knowed I was in the right. 
So I kept on fighting jes the same. I done got the old 
Board put out. I done got the State Board of Educa- 
tion to handle the promotion. The school is a quasi- 
state institution to-day. And hit's a-coming. At this 
moment we have two fine new school buildings with 
right-smart teachers and up-to-date equipment in Jim- 
town. And that's only the beginnings. 

As soon as I can get the money to make them self- 
supporting, and have proven that I can successfully 
look after them I'm a-thinking they're a-going to be 
handed over to me. And then I'm a-planning to sorter 
turn them into a mountain college for vocational edu- 
cation. I'm a-going to teach the mountain boys and 
girls the trades ; dairying, wood-working, carpentering, 
fruit growing, the breeding of pure-bred livestock, 
dressmaking, and so on. I'm going to have them in- 
structed in health and hygiene. I'm going to train 
them to be self-supporting. 

If they're too poor to pay their way I'm a-going 
to give them a chance to work their way through. If 
they live back in the mountains where the roads are 
too bad to get out I'm a-going to build good roads to 
them. I don't know of no part of America nohow 
that needs all of this worser than we do. In our 
county alone there are over one thousand boys and 
girls between the ages of six and eighteen that can't 



3 o8 SERGEANT YORK 

even read and write. And I'm a-telling you it's not 
tb.e!r f ault. 

Some of the boys and girls who are going to our 
two schools to-day walk two miles through the moun- 
tains out to the highway, where they catch the school 
buses and then ride fourteen miles to school; then 
after the school is over they have to return the same 
way. I kinder think that boys and girls who will do 
this day after day, week after week, right through 
the school year, want and deserve a chance to git 
larnin' most awful bad. 

Whenever I go away on a trip for the schools they 
meet me as soon as I git back and ask me haven't I 
got more money, so that they can get more larnin'. 
I'm a-telling you hit kinder gives me my assurance 
again that I am right, dreaming and planning these 
things for them. That ain't all nohow. I'm a-plan- 
ning playgrounds for the children, too, and libraries 
and a medical and nursing system. 

Of course, in such things as electric lighting, sewage, 
water supply, and up-to-date homes our mountain 
towns and villages are sorter away behind the times. 
But I'm a-thinking if I can bring larnin' to the children 
they will grow up and change all these things. I can't 
influence the older people much nohow. They're 
sorter set in their ways. But if I can get the children 
to school and to college, the rest will come. 

I ain't had much larnin* myself; so I know what an 
awful handicap that is. I'm a-trying all the time now 
to overcome that and improve myself. I ain't had 
much business experience neither, but I'm working* 



A HEAP O' LARNIN' 309 

hard to get that. I don't know much about finance* 
but I know I am honest and I am larnin' to handle 
money toFably. 

I am blessed with a whole heap of most loyal and 
powerful friends all over America; and I still have 
and always will have my faith in God. I know He 
will not fail to help me. So I'm getting along tol'able 
well. Hit's a-coming that dream of mine. I'm 
a-going some day to have roads all through these- 
here mountains; to have modern homes and all sorts 
of other improvements and sanitary arrangements in 
our towns and villages; and most of all, to have a 
heap of schools and a right-smart mountain college. 

I ain't going to show any favouritism nohow. I 
fought with Catholics and Protestants, with Jews, 
Greeks, Italians, Poles, and Irish, as well as American- 
borned boys in the World War. They were buddies of 
mine and I larned to love them. If there is any of 
them in these-here mountains we'll make a place for 
them in these schools. I'm a-going to give all the 
children in the mountains the chance that's a-coming 
to them. I'm a-going to bring them a heap o' larnia'* 



THE END 




1 36 028