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Patriotic pieces from the Great War/First U. S. Soldier Dead Buried in France

< Patriotic pieces from the Great War

FIRST U. S. SOLDIER DEAD BURIED IN FRANCE

America's first soldier dead in the war have been buried. Their coffins were draped in the folds of the flag for which they died.

Comrades bore them to the center of a hollow square, formed by American soldiers and veteran French troops. From the massed ranks there stepped a French general. He walked straight to the three coffins, reverently hesitating at the first. Then he stiffened to the salute, doffed his cap, bowed, his face lined as though the mute remains before him were of his own children.

"Private Enright," he said softly, as he bowed before the nearest bier, "Private Gresham"—and he turned to the second—"and Private Hay"—as he turned still further to face the third coffin—

"In the name of France, I bid you farewell. Of your own free will, you left your happy, prosperous country, and took your place by our side.

"You fell facing the foe, in hard, in desperate hand-to-hand fight."

The general hesitated a moment, looked at each of the three flag-draped coffins, and then turned.

"All honor to them," he continued. "Their families should be proud to learn of their deaths.

"We of France ask that the mortal remains of these young men be left with us forever.

"We will inscribe on their tombs:

"'Here Lie the First United States Soldiers to Fall on French Soil for Liberty and Justice.'

"Passersby will uncover their heads to their graves; men of heart visiting the battlefield will go out of their way to bring their tribute of respect and gratitude.

"Private Enright, Private Gresham, Private Hay—in the name of France I thank you. May God receive your souls. Farewell!"

A great volley of seventy-fives crashed the final volley of farewell through the leaden, rain-soaked air. Then stalwart American soldiers, tears trickling down their faces, lowered their comrades' remains and covered them over with the soil for which they fought and died.