On September 29th orders came transferring the Division from the Third Corps to the Fifth Corps and calling on the regiment to proceed by marching to the north edge of the Bois de Montfaucon. At 8.00 P.M. the regiment started. The strength at this time was 68 officers and 3613 enlisted men.
Up to this time the division had been reserve for the Third Corps, the right corps of the three in the attacking American Army. The 80th, 4th and 33rd Divisions were on the front at the start of the drive. Following its transfer to the Fifth Corps (General Cameron), the Third Division was ordered to relieve the 79th (right) division of the Fifth Corps on September 30th, the Fifth Brigade taking up the attack from the 79th, Seventh Infantry on the left and Fourth the Infantry on right. On the left of the Division was the 32nd Division, which had just relieved the 37th.
After a night march through rain and deep mud over the torn ground of the old front line near Avocourt, the Regiment reached the north edge of Bois de Montfaucon at 5.00 A.M. An hour and one-half later orders came for the Seventh to proceed at once to conduct a daylight relief of the 213th Infantry, 79th division, at the north edge of Bois de Beuge. Passing through Montfaucon, the regiment found its only path across an open field, sloping down to the Bois de Beuge and absolutely exposed to enemy observation. Under orders to proceed immediately, the regiment marched unfalteringly across this slope, every company in squad columns. The shellfire was heavy and casualties frequent, but the Seventh took up a position at its north edge, with the 2nd Battalion in a clump of trees south of the main woods. Between the two was a narrow-gauge railroad. In a two-foot trench behind this track the regimental P. C. was established. The 3rd Battalion remained as Brigade Reserve in the ravine S.E. of Montfaucon, with the Supply Company.
Just north of the Bois de Beuge lies a small patch of woods. To this woods, which was reported clear of the enemy, Sgr. E. A. Rardon, Company “B”, led a patrol which has never been heard from since. On the night of October 1st, after the 2nd Battalion had relieved the 1st Battalion in the front line, this woods was occupied by Company “F”, but no trace of Sgt. Readon’s patrol was found.
At this time, and during the whole of the month following, the enemy’s superiority in the air made the conditions doubly hard for the Infantry. German aeroplanes came at will, dropped their rockets, and in a few minutes came a deluge of shells. The Regimental Headquarters on this railroad track suffered several heavy bombardments.
On the night of October 3rd/4th the regiment received orders to move to the sector next to the left, formerly occupied by the 125th Infantry (32nd Division) and attack, with the town of Romagne as the objective. In the night movement Captain Branton H. Kellogg, commanding Company “H”, became lost. His dead body was found days later over a kilometer to the north.
The attack commenced at 5.25 A. M., October 4th, with the 2nd Battalion in advance, followed by 1st Battalion, some of whose units came into the front line due to gaps left by the 2nd Battalion. This attack, passing over the Cièrges-Nantillois road, gained an advance of a kilometer and reached Hill 253, which eight hundred meters further on, stopped the attacking Companies.
At 4.40 on the same afternoon the attack was resumed. In preparation for its resumption, a smoke screen was set up to hid the movements of the regiment. This smoke screen was disastrous. It made a perfect target for German artillery and machine guns and caused only confusion in the attacking forces. Sever losses were inflicted on the regiment before the attack was even in motion.
The 3rd Battalion, Companies “I” and “K” in advance, attacked west of the Cièrges-Romagne road and the 2nd Battalion, together with Company “C” 8th Machine Gun Battalion and part of the 1st Battalion, attacked Hill 253 on the right of this road.
Parts of Company “G”, Company “B” and the 8th Machine Gun Battalion, reached the first slope of 253 but were unable to take the hill. Capt. Chickering returned to the regimental P. C. north of Cièrges to report his position. On his way back to his Company he and the runner with him disappeared. Reports of a wounded captain in front of the lines proved to be false, and it was not until he appeared late in November as a released prisoner of war that the regiment knew that he had been captured.
The 3rd Battalion advanced on the left to the reverse slope of another hill. Here a corporal and private of Company “K”, from their post on the crest of this hill, with an automatic rifle and a Springfield, created havoc among a group of Germans seen forming on the next hill for what seemed to be a counter-attack. These two alone broke up the formation, firing from their look-out until one was killed by a machine gun bullet. Next day, October 5th, the 3rd Battalion again worked forward. A small advance cost the life of Captain D. R. Henry, of Company ”M”, who had joined the regiment during the 2nd battle of the Marne and had been wounded at that time.
On this day, October 5th, Colonel E. L. Butts was transferred from the regiment and Lt. Col. Jesse Gaston, who had served as Major with the Seventh Infantry in the 2nd Battle of the Marne, was brought back from the 30th Infantry to command the Seventh. Lt. Col. C. W. Mason, who had joined the regiment after the St. Mihiel offensive, was transferred to the 30th Infantry at the same time. The Battalion commanders at this time were Majors Vestal, James and Sylvester. Three days later Capt. Cartter succeeded Major James in the 2nd Battalion.
A permanent position on Hill 253 was finally established on October 6th, when the 3rd Battalion attacked and took up a position on the hill. On the night October 7th/8th the 38th Infantry relieved the seventh on the front line, except Company “I”, which remained until relieved by units of the 32nd Division on the following day. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions returned to the ravine in which the Supply Company was stationed, the 1st Battalion remaining on the roadside south of Cièrges as reserve for the Sixth Brigade. On the following day the regiment (except 1st Battalion) was assembled in a deep ravine three kilometers southwest of Montfaucon as Division Reserve.
The Sixth Brigade now held the front line. On Octover 9th at 2.00 P. M. the regiment moved forward to support an attack by the Sixth Brigade, the 3rd Battalion and regimental P. C. taking up a position south of woods 250. The 1st Battalion was now to support the 38th Infantry and the 2nd moved up to the northeastern edge of the Bois de Cunel to aid in the attack of the 30th Infantry. This attack was made at 10.00 P. M., October 11th, by the 30th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, with all four Companies in line. The attack captured the German trench line on Hill 272, less than a kilometer south of Cunel, and the Battalion consolidated the position during the night, in the face of a terrific barrage in the early morning which killed Captain Charles H. Riggin. He had, with great skill and gallantry, led Company “E” through the whole battle of the Marne and up to this time in the Meuse.
Next morning, October 10th, the 3rd Battalion and Seventh Infantry Machine Gun Company advanced to the northwestern edge of the Bois de Cunel and attacked to the north, to take Hill 255, the western extension of Hill 272 which a Battalion of 30th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion held. The Machine Gun Company took and held the part of the hill next to the 2nd Battalion. The 3rd Battalion, led by 1st Lt. Otto Staehli, with Company “K”, reached its objective and routed a force of Germans found on the north slope of the hill. The success of this attack was due in large measure to the skilful manner in which Lt. Staehli led his company across a machine-gun swept valley into a ravine at the foot of the hill. When the advance was completed and the position prepared for defense, Lt. Staehli was killed as he was giving first aide to a badly wounded German prisoner.
The Division Commander told the troops that it was the capture of this ridge, Hills 255 and 272, just south of Cunel, which broke the Germans’ strongest defense system, the Kriemhilde Stellung. During the day, October 11th, the number of prisoners taken here was large, two groups totaling 128, surrendering to the 2nd Battalion in the early morning and many others later to both 2nd Battalion, 3rd Battalion and Machine Gun Company. The Seventh Infantry Machine Gun Company broke up one German counter-attack forming behind an old railroad, by holding off until the formation came into the open, when it poured a destructive fire into the enemy against which he broke and scattered.
The troops holding the line on this ridge during October 12th were the 3rd and 2nd Battalions, 7th Infantry, 2nd, 3rd and 1st Battalions, 30th Infantry, together with 3 machine gun companies. Until October 11th the troops were under the commanding officer, 30th Infantry, but before the attack on Hill 255, Lt. Col. Gaston assumed command of the line. The P.C. now was in an elephant-backed shelter in the Cunel Woods. Here Colour Sergeant George Knieps, in point of service with the Seventh the oldest man in the regiment, was killed when a shell mad a direct hit on the dugout in which he and one of the regimental runners were sleeping.
On October 16th the regiment was assembled at La Ville aux Bois Farm, a kilometer east of the Bois de Cunel. The ridge was turned over to the 5th Division, which attacked through the 3rd to the left of the Cunel road. From Ville aux Bois the 1st Battalion, which had been brought up from its position on the road south of Cièrges, was sent northeast toward the Bois de Forêt to support the 4th Infantry. On the following day, Oct. 16th, the 2nd Battalion, with 160 men, took over the position of the Fourth Infantry south of the Bois de Forêt.
On October 15th the 3rd Battalion, now commanded by Capt. A. R. Walk (Major Sylvester having been wounded), had been sent off on an independent mission by Major General Buck, Division Commander. The Battalion, plus a section of the Machine Gun Company, was to clear out the Bois-de-Poulterie, just north of Cunel. Taking up a position in the southeast edge of the woods in night of October 15th, the Battalion attacked next morning, penetrated three-fourths of the woods and swung to the right, in compliance with orders received after the attack had been launched. Position for the night was established at northeast edge of woods. By this time the strength of the battalion had been reduced to fifty men. Reinforced by two Companies of the 38th Infantry and machine guns, with 180 men, it attacked Claire Chênes Woods on October 15th. Claire Chênes Woods, which came into greater prominence three days later, is a rectangular strip of woods, a kilometer long and half kilometer broad to the west of which, separated by a narrow field, is the Bois-de-Rappes, about a kilometer in width and slightly over a kilometer in length. These woods are directly north of the Bois-de-Poulterie and of Cunel. The attack on October 15th pierced Claire Chênes, but could not hold the woods.
Colonel Morrow, taking command on October 18th, found the regiment under orders to take up a new position with one battalion on the line extending east from the Bois-de-Poulterie one and on-half kilometers, and the other two in support and reserve. In taking this position, the 2nd Battalion was placed in the line, with the 1st Battalion in support and the 3rd Battalion, withdrawn from its independent mission, in reserve at the Regimental P. C. at Ville-aux-Bois Farm.
On October 19th, Col. Morrow and Capt. Cartter (who was to command) were called to Division Headquarters, with Brigade Commanders, for conference on the attack on Claire Chênes Woods and Hill 299, called for by Field Order 61, G-3, 3rd Division, and Field Order 11, 5th Brigade. Returning to the regiment, he ordered the 1st and 3rd Battalions formed into a provisional company for the attack. When formed, this company had 301 men. In additions to this, two companies of the Sixth Engineers, one of the Fourth Infantry, two platoons of machine guns and a gas and flame unit, were available for the thrust forward.
At 7:00 A. M , October 20th, the attack on Claire Chênes was launched from the Bois-de-Poulterie. in two waves. Captain Cartter. with two platoons of the Provisional Company, was in the first wave and captured three enemy machine guns at the edge of the woods, and pushed on to the center, where several Germans were captured. Twelve men were left with Captain Cartter when he started on; two more fell. The Captain, a sergeant, a corporal and three privates reached the, northern point of the woods at 8:15 A. M. Here they waited in a shellhole until 11:45. Two more men were wounded by machine gun fire, leaving three with Captain Cartter, who withdrew to bring up the rest of the troops. He found the second wave, composed principally of Engineers, just entering Claire Chênes with the report that they had been stopped by friendly artillery fire. This detachment did not successfully occupy the woods, and it became necessarv to clear them again at 2:00 P. M.
C. O. 7th Infantry collected 150 men, both Infantry and Engineers, who were in the neighborhood, and at 2:00 P. M. started in personal command to take the detachment through the woods and clear them again of German machine-gun crews. In spite of severe losses from machine guns and minenwerfers, the party reached the north edge of Claire Chênes and posted strong points all around the edge of the woods, supported by 18 machine guns. Following the establishing of this line at 4:00 P. M. and the breaking up of an enemy counter-attack at 5:30 P. M. by a prompt counter barrage, the colonel located his own P. C. in the northeast edge of Bois-de-Poulterie.
Hill 299, toward which the Division had been looking eagerly for days as an Army Objective, now lay due east from the line along Claire Chênes . This was the goal to which the attack of the next day, October 21st, was to carry the regiment. The hill commanded all the ground nearby, and, once gained, the Germans must retire. Accordingly, Colonel Morrow gathered all troops available. One Battalion, 38th Infantry, one company, 4th Infantry, a detachment 7th Infaniry and a few gun crews of the 8th Machine Gun Battalion, took part in the attack. Starting from southeastern edge of Claire Chênes , the provisional battalion advanced, took Hill 297, a part of 299 just west of the main crest, and proceeded on to Hill 299, upon which a line of outposts was placed, with three machine guns from 7th Infantry Machine Gun Company. The front line now extended from the southwest edge of Claire Chênes all the way round the woods, through Hill 297 to Hill 299 and thence to Fourth Infantry, which soon advanced through the Bois-de-Forêt to the north edge.
Hill 299 was no more than taken and this general line established than the troops left to hold Claire Chênes came streaming back through the woods, reporting a strong German attack. No immediate support remained with which to defend the woods, but Colonel Morrow, Capt. Walk, Lt. Irvine and Lt. Brice, Regimental Adjutant, gathered together 16 runners and signalmen and at dusk started north through the woods, encouraging the men who were to be on the outpost and advancing toward the point at which the attack was rumored. Four prisoners were the only evidence of a German attack. The little party continued under shellfire to the north end of the woods, where the colonel again established the outpost line along the edges of the trees. Once more the new line was intact. For gallantry in action on this and the preceding day, Colonel Morrow was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was presented to him on the field three days later while the regiment was still in the front line.
The period from October 22nd to 26th was spent in consolidating the new line, which was soon extended to include the small woods north of Hill 29Q and southwest of Clery-le-Grand, and in patroling the ground in front. On the night October 27th/28th the regiment was relieved by the Sixty-first Infantry, 5th Division, and all units assembled with the Supply Company in the ravine one kilometer southeast of Montfaucon. Here the regiment remained until November 4th, bathing and drawing new clothing and equipment. During this period the Division remained in reserve for the Third Corps. Replacements to fill the depleted ranks began to arrive.
During the 28 days on the front line the regiment had lost 61 officers and 2180 enlisted men, of whom 10 officers and 188 enlisted men were killed, 31 officers and 1317 enlisted men wounded, 1 officer and 167 enlisted men missing, and 19 officers and 508 enlisted men sick from exposure and exhaustion. Of fourteen newly commissioned Second Lieutenants who had reported to the regiment on October 10th, only one was left when the regiment came out. But one field officer and three captains remained. The Second Battalion came out without an officer. Captain Walk was the only officer who started the campaign with a rifle company and survived long enough to be relieved with the regiment.
Of the ten officers killed, Captains Riggin, Kellogg and Henry, and Lt. Staehli have been mentioned. 1st Lt. Paul J. Sykes, Company , “B”, and 1st Lt. A. H.Williams, Company “D”,were also commanding companies when they were killed. 2nd Lt. O. B. Byam, of the Machine Gun Company, was killed by a sniper’s bullet in the head. 2nd Lts. J. M. Shimer, A. D. Weld, and Alex Davidson, three of the fourteen officers who reported on October 9th, were also killed in action. In addition, 1st Lt. H. E. Gormley died in the hospital of pneumonia contracted on the battlefield, and Major W. G. Langwill, 30th Infantry, who, until July, had been the respected and beloved Adjutant of the Seventh, was killed on October 12th, as he cheered at the sight of the prisoners whom the Seventh Infantry was sending back from Hill 255.
In the Meuse-Argonne campaign the regiment had remained continuously in the front line for 28 days, from September 30th to October 28th, except for l 1 /* days spent as Division Reserve. Starting the period with a costly daylight relief, attacking day after day with tremendous losses, opposed at the hinge on the western front by division after division of Germany’s finest troops, the Seventh Infantry played a part in the attack which broke the Kriemhilde Stellung at Hills 255 and 272. Never giving ground, the regiment, when relieved, had assisted in pushing over seven kilometers from the point at which the 79th left it. From the position at which the regiment took up the battle, looking up at the hills ahead, the Seventh turned over to its successor a position which looked down on a valley.
In spite of enormous losses in both officers and men, in spite of the hardships under which men had to live, in spite of the wearing away by the constant attacking, the regiment was able almost at the close of its period at the front to take part in the capture and holding of Hill 299, one of the strongest positions on the line. The War Record of the Seventh Infantry was closed.
On the night of October 31st, the regiment marched to the southern edge of the Bois de Hesse above Dombasle, from here busses took the troops to the Tronville area, whish was reached November 2nd. The regiment billeted in Loisey, Salmagne and Gery. Receiving replacements, officers and men. cleaning and intense training were the schedule during the two weeks in the area. Here the news of the Armistice on November 11th reached the Regiment.