Henry Elmo DeLaney, Survivor of the H.M.S. Otranto Disaster

Grave of Henry Elmo DeLaney, City Cemetery, Nashville, GA. Image source: Searcher

Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the WWI soldiers aboard the troop transport HMS Otranto on October 6, 1918 when it was fatally damaged in a collision with the HMS Kashmir off the coast of Islay, Scotland. The transport had sailed from New York on September 25, 1918 carrying more than 1,025 American soldiers and crewmen as part of a convoy headed for the fight in Europe. Delaney and most of the Georgia soldiers aboard the Otranto had trained at Fort Screven on Tybee Island, GA.

Delaney was below decks, just finishing breakfast when the collision occurred.

The seriousness of the situation was not immediately apparent to the men, who were told to remain where they were.  But within 15 minutes, every was ordered to go up on deck. The  ship was beginning to list, and the lights went out. The men emerged into a gale force wind and the footing was treacherous on the wet decks. Henry Elmo DeLaney emerged on the “B” deck with other men of his company and took a seat on a bench near the hatch.  He was seated next to Joseph Eden Hewell, a soldier from Woodville, GA when they observed the British destroyer HMS Mounsey coming along side the Otranto,  the destroyer looking tiny in comparison to the huge troopship.

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When the destroyer maneuvered to get alongside, Capt. Davidson of the Otranto warned Lieut. Craven, commanding the destroyer, not to make the attempt. When it was seen that Craven would make the attempt anyway, The men were ordered to remove their shoes and heavy clothing…

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Captain Craven, standing on the Mounsey’s bridge as the two ships came within leaping distance, used his megaphone to encourage the men on the Otranto. He shouted over and again, as loudly as he could, “Jump men! Jump.”

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” As the Mounsey neared the side of the Otranto the men began to jump from thirty to forty feet from her decks…many of the men leaped too quickly and missed their reckoning and dropped between the boats. Some of these disappeared in the water, but others of them were caught and crushed to death between the boats and the lifeboats which had been lowered to act as buffers…Many of those who reached the decks of the vessel suffered broken bones or otherwise were hurt. Those who missed the deck of the destroyer went to almost instant death.

Delaney and Hewell stood at the rails of the doomed Otranto, and watched as their fellow soldiers leaped for their lives.

Delaney observed they had better jump, too. The rough seas were crashing the ships together and men who lept with ill-timing were crushed between the hulls or plunged through to the frigid waters below. First DeLaney then Hewell managed a safe landing on the deck of the destroyer, and were taken to Belfast, Ireland along with nearly 600 other survivors. Hundreds of others stayed behind with the Otranto and went down with the ship when she broke up on the rocks off the Isle of Islay.  Hewell later wrote a journal about the final voyage of the Otranto (see Hewell’s 1918 Journal.)

The overloaded Mounsey precariously made way with the survivors to Belfast, Ireland where the American Red Cross was  waiting for their arrival. Not knowing when or where the disaster would come, The American Red Cross had prepared in advance for disaster.  Of those who succeeded in leaping to the deck of Mounsey, some perished from injuries or exposure and were buried in Belfast, Ireland.

Many, many bodies washed ashore on Islay, Scotland and were buried in mass graves. Berrien men among the hundreds of Otranto dead  included  Benjamin F. McCranieJim Melvin BoyettJohn Guy CoppageHiram Marcus BennettLafayett Gaskins,  William C. Zeigler and other men.  Early Steward of Nashville, GA was among the very few who washed up on the rocky coast of Islay still living.   The lost Georgian soldiers would later be honored in the Georgia WWI Memorial Book, (SEE Also Ray City, GA Veterans of World War I), and Berrien County, GA would commission the first monument to commemorate American soldiers killed in the Great War.

After recuperation, Henry Elmo DeLaney was sent on to France where he was assigned on December 3, 1918 to Battery F, 57th Artillery, Coastal Artillery Corps.

WWI service record of Henry Elmo Delaney

WWI service record of Henry Elmo Delaney

Battery F, which had seen heavy fighting in the Meuse Argonne, had been “ordered back to Brest, France to prepare for embarkation back to America.

1st Lt. Charles J. Foley, of the 57th Artillery reflected :

All operations having ceased, we were assigned to Doulevant to prepare for our return home. Property affairs were settled and the regiment proceeded to the camp at Brest for Embarkation. It might be well to state that we knew of no other ports from which we would prefer to sail, but not desiring to disappoint the A.E.F. officials by selecting any other route, we accepted their invitation and submerged ourselves in the mud of camp Pontenazen.

Camp Pontanezen was most likely where Henry Elmo DeLaney caught up with the 57th Artillery CAC. Camp Pontanezen  at Brest, France, was the point from which American soldiers were returned to the United States. Sergeant James L. Grace, Battery D,  57th Artillery CAC called Pontanezen “ a camp of mud and water. We were put into tents; where we remained until the 29th of December; 1918.

WWI Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France

WWI Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France

CAMP AT BREST

        Here we have a great port of embarkation for American soldiers. At times 80,000 men were camped there, the harbor crowded with shipping. In the early months after we entered the war, when everything had to be done with a rush and we were new to the job, conditions were very bad at Brest. As we see, it is a dismal, unattractive spot, cluttered with buildings, railway spurs, and raw, stark barracks. It rains most of the year at Brest, and the roads, firm underneath, are coated with slippery, semi-fluid mud which endless lines of motor trucks whirl viciously to every side. There is nothing to see but dismal wet barracks or soaked the bedraggled tents. At first, thousands of our boys had to camp in these tents, sleep on the damp ground, wade interminably through thick, sticky mud. One who had the misfortune to be at Brest in those days will never forget the place.
       But American energy and enterprise transformed Brest before the war ended. Enough barracks were built to accommodate everybody, board walks were laid everywhere. The camp was made as comfortable as a camp could be in such a moist climate.
       Brest is at the head of a magnificent, landlocked bay on the northwest coast of France. For centuries it has been a great port, Richelieu, in 1631, constructed the first wharves that were built there. It is the capital of one of the five naval arrondissements of France. There are gun factories, great workshops, magazines, docks and yards, employing thousands of men.

From the docks at Brest, the men were ferried by lighters out to the waiting troop transport USS Huntington.

Troops on board the lighter Amackassin, waiting to board Huntington for their passage home from France, 1919.

Troops on board the lighter Amackassin, waiting to board Huntington for their passage home from France, 1919.

 

US Naval History photo of the USS Hunting underway, circa 1919. The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Amistice ending WWI.

US Naval History photo of the USS Hunting underway, circa 1919. The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Armistice ending WWI.

The regiment embarked from Brest for New York on January 2nd, 1919, on the United States Cruiser “Huntington.” The Huntington had served on escort duty to defend convoys of transports ferrying the dough boys to Europe.

After the Armistice was signed Huntington was converted into a troop transport and assigned to Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet.  Huntington next sailed for France to bring home veterans of the European fighting. She departed New York 17 December, arrived in the harbor at Brest, France on 29 December 1918. On 2 January 1919 she embarked over 1,700 passengers the bulk of which was the 57th Artillery who had seen much action while in France, to New York [arriving] 14 January.

 

Devine services on USS Huntington's quarterdeck, while transporting troops in 1919. Henry Elmo Delaney and the other soldiers of the 57th Artillery CAC were among the first contingent of troops to be transported home by the Huntington.

Divine services on USS Huntington’s quarterdeck, while transporting troops in 1919.

The cruiser USS Huntington was converted to a troop transport following the signing of the Amistice ending WWI. Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the 1,700 passengers on her first voyage as a transport returning from France. The ship made five more voyages to France and return, bringing home nearly 12,000 troops, and terminated her last voyage at Boston 5 July 1919.

Henry Elmo DeLaney, of Berrien County, GA, was among the 1,700 passengers on Huntington‘s first voyage as a transport returning from France, January 1919. The ship made five more voyages to France and return, bringing home nearly 12,000 troops, and terminated her last voyage at Boston 5 July 1919.

Delaney’s voyage back from France was uneventful with only two days rough seas and the usual amount of seasickness among the troops of the 57th Artillery CAC. Lieutenant Foley observed, “As we caught the first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and heard the shouts from the Mayor’s Committee of Welcome we decided that there is but one country on the face of this earth-The United States Of America.”

Hoboken, NJ welcome committee greets WWI troops returning from France.

Sergeant Grace recalled,

 We arrived safely the morning of the 14th of January; 1919; docking at 9:35 A. M. at Pier 5 Hoboken, N. J. We immediately disembarked and entrained for Camp Merritt; N. J.;

Americans glad to be home - awaiting trains for demobilization camp, Hoboken. This is the WWI Port of Embarkation now serving as the Port of Debarkation. U.S. Army soldiers are waiting to board a train. The men are just east of the Headquarters, apparently between piers 3 and 4.

Americans glad to be home – awaiting trains for demobilization camp, Hoboken. This is the WWI Port of Embarkation now serving as the Port of Debarkation. U.S. Army soldiers are waiting to board a train. The men are just east of the Headquarters, apparently between piers 3 and 4.

These Americans, thousands of them, standing about holding aluminum drinking cups are waiting for their first meal on United States soil after a period of overseas service. Their packs are lying on the ground, all of them made up in the regulation fashion but for the present discarded until the much more “important” business of eating is over.

Behind that freight car which is being loaded with regimental baggage, you can see the Military Post Office of Hoboken and the low building next to it is the office of Headquarters, Port of Embarkation.

The building on the top of the hill is one of the Stevens Institute group, and beneath it you can see the side of the Hudson Hut, one of the Y.M.C.A. buildings that catered to the comfort and needs of the men just returned from overseas.

Before the Armistice only 15,000 men had been returned home, and a constant stream of men had been going overseas. The condition had to be reversed after the Armistice. This work of bringing back the men was carried on very expeditiously and in three months’ time more men had been brought back and mustered out of the service than the entire number mustered out after the Civil War.

 

WWI soldiers home from France arriving at Camp Merritt, NJ

WWI soldiers home from France arriving at Camp Merritt, NJ

Sergeant Grace continued,

Arriving there [Camp Merritt] at 2:30 P. M. and going into barracks for the time being. At 3:30 P. M. dinner was served and at 7:10 supper was served and at 8:50 P. M.  we went to the delousing station and all hands were deloused; and God knows we needed it. Delousing process completed about ten o’clock and we turned in for a much needed rest.

A few weeks later Battery “F” was demobilized at Fort Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

After discharge, Henry Elmo DeLaney returned to South Georgia.  In February, The Sparks Eagle reported he was taking up his previous position with the railroad.

The Sparks Eagle reports the homecoming of Henry Elmo Delaney.

The Sparks Eagle reports the homecoming of Henry Elmo Delaney.

By 1920, Henry Elmo DeLaney had relocated his family to Willacoochee where he continued to work as section foreman for the Georgia & Florida Railroad. The DeLaneys made their home on South Railroad Street.

By the 1930s, the DeLaneys moved to West Palm Beach, FL where Henry worked as a railroad inspector.

 

May 27, 1937 death certificate of Henry Elmo Delaney, survivor of the Otranto disaster of 1918.

May 27, 1937 death certificate of Henry Elmo Delaney, survivor of the Otranto disaster of 1918.

Henry Elmo Delaney died of a stroke on May 27, 1937 at age 43. In death he returned to Berrien County, GA. He was buried Sunday, May 30, 1937 in the City Cemetery at Nashville, GA.

Obituary of Henry Elmo Delaney, SFB, June 3, 1937

Impressive funeral services for Mr. Henry Elmo Delaney, 42, were held last Sunday afternoon from the Nashville Methodist Church, conducted by the Rev. J.A. Rountree in the presence of a large number of relatives and a number of local people. The speaker paid a nice tribute to the deceased and impressed those present. Interment followed in the City Cemetery, with the Giddens Funeral Home in charge of the arrangements. Pallbearers were legionnaires members of Otranto Post and were as follows: Messrs J.R. Bennett, O.L. Tyson, Gus C. Vining, Buren Griner, A.E. Alexander and Mark Sutton. Mr. Delaney passed away Thursday morning in the Veterans hospital in Augusta, where he had been confined for several months. The body arrived in Nashville Saturday afternoon and was carried to the home of Mr. & Mrs. S.J. McLendon, parents of his widow.

He was born and reared at Swainsboro, GA, the son of the late J.N. Delaney, who was an engineer on the Georgia and Florida Railroad for many years. His father was born and reared in Ireland and came to this country as a young man.

Twenty-three years ago he was married to Miss Rose McLendon, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. S.J. McLendon of Nashville. At that time the McLendons were residing at Swainsboro.

Surviving besides his widow are two sons, Elmo, Jr. and Jack, also a half sister, Gertrude Evans of Miami, Fla. There are also three cousins, Messrs John, Mark, and Tom Hall of Swainsboro. Out of town relatives attending the last sad rites included Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Dorsey of Augusta, Mr. & Mrs. J.A. McLendon, Mr. & Mrs. W.D. McLendon, Miss Mae McLendon and James Underwood of Swainsboro; Mr. & Mrs. A.H. Martin Vegue, Mr. & Mrs. Fred N. Tittle and Mr. & Mrs. Dave Hughes of Miami, Fl.; Mr. & Mrs. J.A. Coleman, Miss Frances Coleman, Mrs. Ben Gunner, Mr. Robert Moxley, Mr. & Mrs. Wade Moxley of Valdosta.

–Nashville Herald–

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Berrien Minute Men On the Square

Before the Civil War, some 32 percent of the population of Lowndes and Berrien County, Georgia were enslaved African-Americans.  In neighboring Thomas County, 51 percent of the people were enslaved. These numbers paled in comparison with the slave population of the coastal counties, where as much as 86 percent of the population toiled in bondage on the sea island cotton and rice plantations of Georgia’s tidewater.  In all, the State of Georgia estimated its citizens owned  three billion dollars worth of slaves.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed the Berrien Minute Men, a company of 103 volunteer infantrymen. Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, GA was the military leader of the community and a slave owner. He had served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

The Berrien Minute Men drilled and paraded in the local communities before being called up for deployment. By May, 1861 newspapers reported, “the county is alive with volunteers, and all eager for a fight with the Abolitionists. Our citizens have liberally contributed funds to equip and prepare for service the poor men connected with the companies, and also to supply with provisions and clothing the destitute families of those who shall enter the service.

In 1888 a visitor to Nashville, GA met with surviving veterans of the Berrien Minute Men. A brief passage on their reminiscences was printed in the Atlanta Constitution.

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA
About the Illustration: The Berrien Minute Men of the Georgia 29th Regiment in an 1861 pre-deployment ceremony at the Nashville, Georgia courthouse square. The mounted officer depicts Captain Levi J. Knight (1803-1870) a prominent leader in the area and retired major general of the Georgia militia. The building in the background represents the Berrien County Courthouse, the only known structure from Civil War era Nashville, GA which is documented in photographs. The balcony shown on the courthouse was actually not present until the building was converted to a hotel in 1898. Illustrator: Alan H. Archambault. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

The writer of the 1888 news clipping recalled the company of men in their uniforms on the courthouse square.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

Atlanta Constitution
Friday April 6, 1888. Pg. 2.

A Brave Band of Men.

Berrien Correspondence Quitman, Ga., Herald.  May the brain that dictates and the hand that indites this sentence be paralyzed if we ever forget our friends and comrades in the days that tried men’s souls. From this county went forth the “Berrien Minute Men” to battle for the lost cause. They were the finest body of men we ever saw in line, and they belonged to the old Twenty-ninth Georgia. Twenty-five or thirty of them on the right of the company were over six feet high. They wore a grey uniform, cut on the claw-hammer style, with a black breast, and trimmed with large gilt buttons. They were a dangerous looking set, and truer, braver, manlier hearts never beat beneath the confederate grey.

Where are these stalwart forms now? We did not see them on the courthouse square at Nashville, where they once mustered so bravely.

Alas! nearly all of this gallant band have passed over the river and are resting under the shade of the trees. We met Henry Knight, John Knight, Lacy Lastinger, Jim Roberts, Jack Parrish, Frank Parrish, and a few others that we knew in the long ago, and we were welcomed, aye, thrice welcomed.

 

About the Courthouse

According to the Berrien Historical Foundation, the Berrien Courthouse was a two-story wooden structure that served the county’s judicial needs from 1858 until around 1897.  The courthouse occupied the square in Nashville, on lands purchased from pioneer, Daniel Griner, and chosen by a commission appointed by the Judge of the Inferior Court.

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

When the present brick courthouse was to be constructed, the two story wood structure was purchased by Dr. William Bryan Goodman, who moved it to the northeast side of the square and converted it into a hotel.

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

At the entertainment given by Dr. and Mrs. W. B. Goodman in Nashville Thursday evening last, at which a voting contest for a name for the new Nashville hotel was held, about $20 was realized for the Nashville Methodist church fund. The name “Hotel Hansell,” was selected, in honor of the Southern circuit’s veteran judge.

October 25, 1901 Tifton Gazette reports Hotel Hansell under new management.

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William C. Zeigler

William Charles Zeigler, a resident of Berrien County, GA, was among the victims of the Otranto tragedy in the closing days of World War I.

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William Charles Zeigler of Berrien County, GA was a victim of the Otranto disaster in the closing days of WWI

William C. Zeigler grew up in Lowndes and Berrien county Georgia. It appears that he had a difficult boyhood. He was a son of Jesse William “Jake” Zeigler and Lula Tyson, born October 25, 1889 at Blanton, Lowndes County, GA.   His mother suffered from mental illness and allegedly mentally and physically abused his father before abandoning the family.

For the 1900 Census, the family was enumerated in Berrien County, GA in the 1487 Georgia Militia District, the Sparks district.  William was then ten years old .

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler

1900 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in the household of his parents, Lula Tyson and Jesse W. Zeigler.  https://archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu180unit#page/n190/mode/1up

Although court testimony later assert that Lula Tyson Zeigler was institutionalized about 1898,  it appears from the census records that she was still with her family in 1900 and was sent to the Georgia State Sanitarium at Milledgeville, GA shortly thereafter. 

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, ca. 1870-1899 (later known as Central State Hospital). Lula Tyson Zeigler became an inmate of the institution some time prior to 1910.

After the institutionalization of his mother, William C. Zeigler continued to live with his father and siblings near Lenox in Berrien County. They were enumerated at Lenox, GA in the Census of 1910. Lenox is situated about 7 miles north of Sparks, GA on the route of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father's household at Lenox, GA.

1910 Census enumeration of William C. Zeigler in his father’s household at Lenox, GA. https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n774/mode/1up

At the time of the draft for World War I, William Charlie Zeigler  was 27 years old. He gave his home address as Sparks, GA,. He was still unmarried and listed his occupation as farming in the employment of his father. He registered for the draft for WWI on June 5, 1917.  His physical description was medium height, slender build, with grey eyes and light hair.

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

WWI draft registration of William C. Zeigler, June 5, 1917, Berrien County, GA

On  July 16, 1918 William Charlie Zeigler was inducted into the Army, along with other Berrien county men at Nashville, GA.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

WWI Inductees at Nashville, GA Courthouse, 1918.

The men boarded a train at Nashville, GA.  William C. Zeigler along with Early Stewart, Benjamin F. McCranie, Jim Melvin Boyett, John Guy Coppage, Shelley L. Webb, Hiram Marcus Bennett, Lafayett Gaskins, Ralph Knight, James Grady Wright, James M. Deloach and other men of Berrien County were bound for training camp at Fort Screven, GA.

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

July 16, 1918 induction of William C. Zeigler into the US Army during WWI

Colonel Archibald Campbell confirmed the arrival of the men at Ft. Screven, GA on July 19, 1918.  Fort Screven, on Tybee Island, GA was a part of the U.S. Atlantic coastal defense system and served as a training camp. The fort’s six batteries of coastal artillery defended the port of Savannah, GA.

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven, WWI, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/gastudiesimages/Title%20Page.htm

Fort Screven in 1917

Fort Screven in 1917

After training, the men were sent to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, N.J.  The Embarkation Service reported the steamship Otranto sailed for England from New York, N.Y. on September 25, 1918 at 12:40 P.M. with 699 military passengers, including the men and officers from Fort Screven, GA.

But the troop ship Otranto went down on October 6, 1918  off the coast of Islay, Scotland after a collision with the SS Kashmir. The Army could not immediately produce a list of the soldiers who were on board. It was not until October 18, that a passenger list for the Otranto was finally cabled to General Harbord in Europe.  The name of Zeigler, William C. 2595855 Pvt. was on the list.

Ray City and Berrien County, GA paid a heavy toll in the disaster. Among the hundreds of Otranto dead were dozens of soldiers from Berrien.  For weeks news of the disaster trickled into American newspapers. Facts were sketchy at best –  In some cases, soldiers who perished in the sinking were incorrectly reported as survivors. It would nearly two months before the names of the lost were known to the folks at home…

A number of soldiers, including James Deloach were rescued by the heroic efforts of the HMS Mounsey, first to arrive on the scene.  Many others went into the sea and were lost forever. Only a slim few who went into the water survived the swim to the Isle of Islay, Scotland. The bodies of 489 soldiers washed up on the coast  where the ship went down.

William C. Zeigler, of Berrien County, GA was among the dead recovered at Islay. He and the other American dead from the Otranto were buried in the little churchyard at Kilchoman in wide graves accommodating twenty bodies each.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims,Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occured October 6, 1918. Among the dead were two soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight.

Military Salute to Otranto Victims, Kilchoman Cemetery, Island of Islay, Scotland. A military salute being fired over the mass graves of American troops killed in the wreck of the Otranto which occurred October 6, 1918. Among the dead were soldiers from Ray City, GA, Shellie Loyd Webb and Ralph Knight, and William C. Zeigler of Sparks, GA.

William C. Zeigler and the other Otranto victims lay in the Bivouac of the Dead at Islay for nearly two years.  In June 1920, the Graves Registration Service made the decision to bring the bodies home, and exhumation began on July 1, 1920.

William’s body was transported on the U.S.A.T. Antigone arriving at Hoboken, August 7, 1920, from Southhampton, Brest and Liverpool.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

After the war, William C. Zeigler and other Otranto dead were transported back to the United states aboard the U.S. Army Transport ship Antigone, photographed here during the war while in service as the USS Antigone troop transport.

According to the New York Times, Antigone carried the largest number of coffins brought home on one ship, 1,575 dead soldiers. “The dead were landed at Pier 4, Hoboken, where preparations were completed to forward the bodies to their last resting places in home cemeteries, as has been the custom with all returned dead soldiers.”  There was no ceremony or funeral observance at the pier, as that detail of honor was rendered when the bodies were consigned to their temporary graves in foreign lands.

William’s father elected to have his son’s final interment at Arlington National Cemetery.  The body was accompanied by a guard of honor on the final journey.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

World War I service record of William C. Zeigler.

The re-internment of William C. Zeigler occurred August 20, 1920 at Arlington National Cemetery.  In 1934, a headstone of marble from Tate, GA was ordered for his grave.

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Arlington Cemetery internment record, William C. Zeigler

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as

Grave of William C. Zeigler, Arlington National Cemetery. (The middle initial is incorrectly engraved as “O”) Image source: Paul Hays.

†††

After William C. Zeigler died, his father finally filed for divorce from his mentally ill mother. By this time she had been institutionalized for nearly 20 years.  It was an unusual case; as a mental patient, Lula Zeigler was  deemed not responsible for her actions.  Therefore, any cause brought for divorce  could only be valid if it occurred prior to the time her mental capacity was diminished.

The divorce case was reported in the Valdosta Times:

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

April 4, 1919 Tifton Gazette: Jesse Zeigler files for divorce

Tifton Gazette
April 4, 1919

Unusual Divorce In Berrien.

Husband Asks Separation From Wife Who is Inmate of the State Sanitarium

        Most unusual grounds are given as a reason for securing a divorce in a suit which has been filed in Berrien county.  It is believed that no similar case has ever been filed in the state says the Valdosta Times.
        Mr. Jake Zeigler has filed papers asking for a total divorce from his wife,  Mrs. Lula Zeigler, charging that she treated him in a cruel manner some years ago.  The unusual part of it is that Mrs. Zeigler is now an inmate of the state sanitarium at Milledgeville and has been there for several years, with the prospect that she is a permanent inmate.  It is charged in the petition for divorce  that the cruel treatment occurred before she became an inmate of the sanitarium.
         When the case came before Judge Thomas last week, it being so unusual he passed it until this week.  Judge Thomas designated Solicitor C E Hay to act as attorney for the defendant in the case and also named Rev. L L Barr, pastor of the Nashville Methodist church, and Rev. Jackson H Harris, pastor of the Nashville Baptist church, to act as representatives of Mrs. Zeigler, who could not appear for herself in the hearing.  The designation of these representatives by the court is for the purpose of seeing that the defendant, unable to help herself, may have a fair and impartial consideration of the case from every standpoint.
        Later:  The demurrer prepared by Solicitor Hay in the divorce case of Zeigler vs. Zeigler was sustained, and the case will go to the Supreme Court, says the Nashville Herald.

Reverend Lewis L. Barr, who represented Mrs. the interests of Lula Tyson Zeigler, had served as the second pastor of the Ray City Methodist Church from 1911 to 1915. The case of Zeigler v. Zeigler et al was referred to the Georgia Supreme Court:

Zeigler v. Zeigler et al. (No. 1384.)
(Supreme Court of Georgia. Nov. 14, 1919.)

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Divorce  27(18), 37(5) – Pleading; Cruel Treatment; Desertion.

In the petition for divorce it is alleged: Petitioner and defendant were married in 1889.  Defendant was adjudged to be insane, and was committed to the Georgia State Sanitarium for insane persons in 1898, where she has since been confined as an insane person. In September 1899, defendant struck petitioner, thereby inflicting a serious wound upon his person.  “From October 1, 1897, until May 1, 1898 defendant continued in a constant state of quarreling and cruelly treating petitioner until such conduct became unbearable; and defendant, without cause on the part of the petitioner, left him and remained away until she became insane.”  Petitioner was without fault during the time he and his wife lived together. “Petitioner did not directly or indirectly condone the treatment of his wife, nor did the relation of husband and wife ever exist after she became in the rage and left him without cause.”  Held, that no cause for a divorce was set forth in the petition, either on the grounds of cruel treatment (Ring v. Ring, 18 Ga. 183, 44 S. E. 861, 62 L.R.A. 878; Stoner v. Stoner, 134 Ga. 368, 67 S. E. 1030; Black v. Black, 101 S. E. 182, this day decided), or on the ground of desertion (Civil Code 1910, 2945), as it appears from the petition that defendant was adjudged to be insane within less time after the desertion than three years, and has since remained insane, and therefore not responsible for her acts during that time.  Accordingly, the court did not err in dismissing the petition on general demurrer.

Error from Superior Court, Berrien County; W. E. Thomas, Judge.

Suit for divorce by J. W. Zeigler against L. M. Zeigler. Petition dismissed on general demurrer, and plaintiff brings error. Affirmed.

J. D. Lovett and Story & Story, all of Nashville, of plaintiff in error.
Clifford E. Hay, Sol. Gen, of Thomasville, for defendant in error.

FISH, C.J. Judgement Affirmed, All the Justices concur, except ATKINSON, J., absent.

Jesse William Zeigler, father of William C. Zeigler, died June 6, 1924. He was buried at Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Jesse W. Zeigler, Long Bridge Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Lula Tyson Zeigler, mother of William C. Zeigler, died August 22, 1958 at Central State Hospital (Formerly Georgia State Sanitarium) at Milledgeville, GA.   During her time at Central State Hospital, the institution became known as the “world’s largest insane asylum,” housing some 13,000 patients with mental illness. According to an article in Atlanta Magazine, “Doctors wielded the psychiatric tools of the times—lobotomies, insulin shock, and early electroshock therapy—along with far less sophisticated techniques: Children were confined to metal cages; adults were forced to take steam baths and cold showers, confined in straitjackets, and treated with douches or ‘nauseants.‘ …The thousands of patients were served by only 48 doctors, none a psychiatrist. Indeed, some of the “doctors” had been hired off the mental wards.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the hospital grounds, including patient Lula Tyson Zeigler. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

Some 2,000 cast-iron markers at Cedar Lane Cemetery commemorate the 25,000 patients buried on the Central State Hospital grounds, patient Lula Tyson Zeigler among them. The markers, with numbers instead of names, once identified individual graves but were pulled up and tossed into the woods by unknowing prison inmates working as groundskeepers to make mowing easier.

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