A Soldier's Letter
I have written here, and here, and here and in a few other places about Capt. Elijah Worsham, who commanded the Machine Gun Company, 362nd Regiment, 91st Division during WWI. Worsham commanded the company from its inception until he led them in battle in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He had played football at Purdue, spent time in the Yukon Territory, joined the National Guard, and worked in sales before enlisting shortly after the U.S. entered the war.
Once in France, Worsham left the division temporarily when he was sent to Gondrecourt for additional training on machine gun tactics. While there, the 91st Division was sent to the front in a reserve role during the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient, before being sent north in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Worsham returned to his unit on September 24, two days before he went over the top with his boys. Of all the heroic characters in Fields of Friendly Strife, Worsham is the one I view as the hero of heroes.
A few months ago, an eBay search revealed the empty envelope shown above. It was addressed, self-censored, and mailed by Capt. Worsham from the training facility in Gondrecourt on September 7, 1918. The letter was written to a Miss Maybelle Ensign, addressed to her apartment on Hayes Street in San Francisco, a few blocks from the Hayes Street apartment my daughter rented last year. Since Miss Ensign had moved, the letter was forwarded to Maybelle’s new address in Tacoma, the city outside of which the 91st Division had trained at Camp Lewis.
The envelope was empty when I received it, so I tried to track down information about Miss Ensign to understand their relationship, but to no avail. How did they know one another? Which of Worsham's thoughts were revealed in the letter? At the time, Worsham was engaged to Corona Ghirardelli of San Francisco (yes, that Ghirardelli), so we can only speculate on Worsham and Ensign’s relationship. We can be sure that Worsham’s letter, mailed on September 7th in France, took several weeks to reach San Francisco before being forwarded to Tacoma. Miss Ensign likely did not receive the letter until October, but Worsham was killed in action on September 29th, 1918 under circumstances for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. Miss Ensign surely received Worsham's letter believing he was still alive, only to read newspaper reports on November 7th that he had died three weeks after the letter was written.
Worsham is, of course, only one of many who gave their lives for their country. Let us remember all who paid the full price this Memorial Day.
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