Fountain in France, marking where dozens of CT soldiers died in World War I, focus of ceremony

Published: 19 April 2023

By Jesse Leavenworth
via the CT Insider newspaper (CT) web site

CT Memorial fountain

The fountain at Seicheprey, donated in 1923 by the people of Connecticut, commemorating the service of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and the lasting bonds between America and France. Courtesy of Christine Pittsley/Connecticut State Library

The fountain at Seicheprey, donated in 1923 by the people of Connecticut, commemorates the service of the 102nd Infantry Regiment and the lasting bonds between America and France.

In a column on the dedication of the Seicheprey fountain in 1923, an unnamed scribe for The Bridgeport Telegram wrote that the fountain “represents the love of Connecticut, the devotion to a cause in which France and America and Connecticut and Seicheprey stood as one.”

The rededication of a fountain, a century-old gift from Connecticut to a village in France where untested troops from Hartford, Bristol and Middletown fought and died during World War I, was set for Saturday, April 22.

The ceremony at the village square fountain in Seicheprey is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be live-streamed on the CT in World War 1 Facebook page. Christine Pittsley, who coordinates the Connecticut in World War I project for the state library, will attend along with uniformed members of the Connecticut Governor’s Horse Guard, relatives of Connecticut soldiers who fought at Seicheprey and French dignitaries.

A proclamation from Gov. Ned Lamont will be read, and the ceremony also will serve to memorialize the battle and mark the renaming of a local road for the 26th (Yankee) Division, Pittsley said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Donated to the people of Seicheprey in 1923, the fountain is inscribed: “To commemorate the service of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, a regiment of the American Army recruited from citizens of Connecticut, defenders of Seicheprey, April 20, 1918, in the firm belief that the friendship of Frenchmen and Americans sealed in this place in battle shall serve the cause of peace among all nations, this memorial is presented by the men and women of Connecticut.”

The war started in August 1914, but the U.S. did not join until 1917, an entry marked by patriotic fervor. At a rally outside Hartford City Hall on April 7, 1917, Mayor Frank A. Hagarty evoked Connecticut Yankees’ response to earlier alarms and sought to assure the nation’s leaders “that the spirit of loyalty, which filled the breasts of Hartford’s people in 1776 and 1861, animate us in 1917.”

Connecticut soldiers arrived in Europe early in 1918, among the first American troops to take positions on the jagged front. The attack at Seicheprey was designed to test the raw Connecticut regiment’s strength and willingness to fight. The battle started with a German artillery barrage, which lifted as 3,200 enemy soldiers armed with flamethrowers and explosives slipped through the fog and attacked. The fight was hand-to-hand in the trenches, and a 102nd company mess sergeant and his kitchen staff reportedly used cleavers and butcher knives against the German raiders.

The regiment lost 81 dead and 401 wounded, including some poisoned by gas, and about 200 captured. Although estimates ranged widely, most accounts agree that the Germans also suffered significant losses, as many as 600 casualties, including 150 dead, according to one report. A German field report concluded: “The American is most courageous individually and resists desperately to the last with pistol, knife and hand grenade; he is a considerable, cunning and ruthless adversary in close-quarters combat.”

Read the entire article on the CT Insider web site here:

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