Drummer Benjamin at Marine Camp, Wryly Roasted in the Summer of 1910

marine fin

marine back fin

Say, Benjamin

you think your just the thing, but you’ve got a long road to travel yet. You certainly can throw the Bull-far, but you can’t throw it in Stoneham. They’d ought to build a little dog house for you and keep you chained there as your not fit to be let loose.

They say,  don’t be cruel to durn animals so I guess I’ll ring off. Oh! You pie-face.

Take this as a compliment

This wry note, written to sound intentionally insulting, actually holds a sense of exulting. I’m imagining one of ‘Drummer Benjamin’s’ buddies sitting home in Stoneham, penning the note to his friend who had taken a path that led him away from the comforts of home to Marine Camp, where he would become a United States Marine.

Neither of these young men could have imagined that in just three years after this card was sent a military engagement called ‘The War to End all Wars’ (World War I) would occur. Was Benjamin there among the Marine troops serving in the conflict?

During World War I veteran Marines served a central role in the late American entry into the conflict. Unlike the Army, the Marine Corps had a deep pool of officers and NCOs with battle experience, and experienced a smaller expansion. Here, the Marines fought their famed battle at Belleau Wood, creating the Marines’ reputation in modern history. While its previous expeditionary experiences had not earned it much acclaim in the Western world, the Marines’ ferocity and toughness in France earned them the respect of the Germans, who rated them of stormtrooper quality. Though Marines and American media reported that Germans had nicknamed them Teufel Hunden as meaning “Devil Dogs“, there is no evidence of this in German records (as Teufelshunde would be the proper German phrase), it was possibly American propaganda. Nevertheless, the name stuck.[34] The Corps had entered the war with 511 officers and 13,214 enlisted personnel, and by 11 November 1918 had reached a strength of 2,400 officers and 70,000 men.[35]

Benjamin was a drummer – as such, his job was not just to march and play music, but to also sound the call to battle and to provide the other signals of direction within the battle the soldiers would need in order to capably perform their duties.

The history of the unit can be traced to the early days of the Marine Corps. In the 18th and 19th centuries, military musicians (“field musics”) provided a means of passing commands to Marines in battle. The sound of various drum beats and bugle calls that could be heard over the noise of the battlefield signaled Marines to attack the enemy or retreat. Through the 1930s, Marine Corps posts still authorized a number of buglers and drummers to play the traditional calls and to ring a ship’s bell to signal the time.

I have my own note to write to Benjamin. Here it is:

Dear Benjamin,
It is now almost one hundred years since your buddy wrote to you that summer at Marine Camp. It’s clear how very much he thought of you, even though he did call you a pie-face! I wonder what happened to you . . . whether you stood in the midst of battle, whether you saw distant shores then returned home with stories of the lives, the people, and the foods of other places your friends and family might never see.

I can’t know that, but I can do one thing. I can bake you a pie.

And so I shall, and tomorrow if you happen to know about all this somehow mysteriously, come back to this page, and there it will be for you.

What’s that you say? What flavor?
You’ll just have to wait and see!!




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