BRISTOL - The cityâ€™s connection to the Battle of Seicheprey and the beginning of World War I was highlighted at the Memorial Military Museum Thursday night.
The event, â€śBristolâ€™s Participation in the Battle of Seicheprey,â€ť examined why the United States decided to fight in a foreign battle, on foreign soil, for a foreign nation - France - for the first time.
Eight men from Bristol were killed in the battle.
Carol Denehy, vice president of the museum, which is housed at Bristol Historical Society, addressed the question, â€śWhat was happening in Bristol?â€ť
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act that expanded the size of the Army.
This â€śmakes the National Guard a true reserve,â€ť Denehy said, and now subject â€śto overseas duty and service in period of national emergency.â€ť
Recruiting in Bristol then began to increase.
â€śThe building that we are in right now is Bristolâ€™s first high school. The total registration in 1917 in this building was 379,â€ť Denehy said, but those numbers diminished. â€śWe know one thing: Nobody moved out of Bristol. People were moving into Bristol,â€ť she added, largely immigrants coming to work in the factories. Bristol made a lot of money producing products for the Allies. Bristol Brass was producing shell casings, she stated.
A brass gauntlet shaped like an oversized bullet with floral pattern engraved on it was passed around to spectators. Denehy explained that it was an example of â€śtrench art, that would have been made by men in the trenches or POWs.â€ť
A large focus of the event was the 26th Division, or Yankee Division, of the National Guard, which had 73 men from Bristol, 23 of whom were born in the city, and fought in the Battle of Seicheprey.
Francis Coan, a professor at Tunxis Community College, said the men in the division were targets of machine gun and artillery fire on the western front.
â€śThe 26th was definitely a fighting division. It saw more time in the line than any division - 210 days in combat zones - and saw a lot of action, certainly Seicheprey,â€ť Coan said.
â€śIn July 1918, the counterattack at Seicheprey,, the division suffered about 5,000 casualties, out of about 28,000.â€ť
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at email@example.com or at 860-973-5088.