Sunday, May 24, 2020

Memorial Day - Remembering Corporal Everett Bates (1895 - 1918)

Two years ago, I published an article on the Tabor Cemetery. One of the graves I visited at the cemetery was that of Everett Robert Bates, a young Needmore-area farmer who died in World War I. Although all war deaths are tragic, his seems particularly so to me. Why? In addition to his youth and the impending birth of his first child at the time of his death, Everett died in the waning hours of the war, quite literally. He perished sometime between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day - the very day upon which the war ended. As Memorial Day is nigh, I felt that a remembrance of this brave young man was in order.
Everett Robert Bates (taken September 26, 1917)
Source: David DeHart
Everett Robert Bates was born in the Needmore section of Swain County on September 27, 1895, the fourth child (of at least 13) of William Jefferson and Sally Jane Levinia (nee' DeHart) Bates. Little is known of his young life but it may be assumed it was the typical life of a child of rural Swain County during that time. He likely attended either the Hightower School or the White Oak School as a youngster, as the 1910 census reveals him to have been able to both read and write, and probably attended one of the churches in the area - perhaps Maple Springs or Brush Creek. He appears to have farmed for a living during his brief adult life. In 1917, the 'Great War' in Europe came knocking upon the doors of the young men of Swain County and Everett was required to register for the draft. His draft card (dated June 5, 1917) reveals that at the time, he was single and working as a farmer for Charles Rastus Browning in the Needmore area. He married Lillie May Marr (1899 - 1978) just 3 months later on September 26th. 
Everett Bates draft registration card
Source: and
Everett Bates and Lillie Marr (top row) on their wedding day (September 26, 1917).
Seated in this picture are Lillie's sister Nell and Everett's friend Columbus 'Lum' Winchester.
Source: David DeHart
It is almost certain that Everett and Lillie's marriage occurred when it did due to his being 'called up' for duty. For though he had tried to claim exemption from the draft due to disease, his number had been pulled and he left via train for Camp Jackson in South Carolina, just days later on October 2nd. He was enlisted in Company I of the 321st Infantry Unit (the 'Wildcats'), 81st Division of the U.S. Army. Over the next nine months at Camp Jackson, he actively trained for near-certain deployment to the Western Front in Europe. He appears to have had the chance to return home at least once during his training, as Lillie became pregnant in the spring of 1918 but on July 31, 1918 he embarked on the 'City of Glasgow' to go to Europe with his fellow soldiers, never to return alive. 
The 'City of Glasgow' - the ship which transported Everett Bates to Europe in 1918.
It was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland one month later.

Everett Bates embarkation record
Source: and
The activities of Everett's division during the three months prior to his death are recorded elsewhere (link below) and in the interest of saving space, I will not detail them here. However, we are exceptionally privileged to have access to the diary of another soldier in the 321st, who wrote in great detail about the events that transpired on the date of Everett's death at the Battle of Moranville in France. The full diary is located at this link, but I have excerpted small bits and pieces to provide the reader some idea of the awful realities that Everett faced on that last day of his earthly existence.

'About 5 o'clock (am) we walked around and looked at the sleeping company in their little shell holes, every one in a shell of his own. I wondered how many of them would be living at noon that day and I thought how hard it would be to arouse them from a peaceful sleep to go out to kill and be killed. At this time we called the men....the men rubbed their eyes and tightened their belts for there was no water to wash their faces or food to fill their stomachs. The men took it good naturedly and prepared to go over the top.....
The high explosive shells were falling just as though it was raining them from above....we could hear the continuous ring of M.G. (machine gun) fire and every now and then a man could be seen going to the rear carrying a bullet pierced arm or limping back on a leg that had been shot...nothing could stop us as long as life lasted for our orders were to take Attain or die trying. 
We were lost in a fog and wading water waist deep.....we rushed on for some distance and found that we were caught in a trap.....we fought there for some time in the marsh up to our waist and the coldest water I ever felt. We were in an awful fix in a trap sure from all sides and our men were being killed by the M.G. from the front and a box barrage from the rear......Our scouts were out in front of the front wave about 40 yards and the fog was so dense that we couldn't see them at all but we knew very well when they came in contact with the enemy for they opened up with what seemed us a thousand M.G. and a few 77s#'s which they shot whiz bangs point blank at us......
At seven minutes to eleven a runner came up to the Capt. out of breath and handed him an order. I had no idea what the order soon as he read the order he called two runners and told them to go to the platoons and give them orders to cease firing at eleven o'clock. At 11 a.m. we ceased firing and the Germans jumped up, threw their rifles down and came running to meet us....We spent the rest of the day gathering up the dead and wounded of the field and they were plentiful. We hauled many loads of dead bodies up and buried them in a hole dug like a long ditch. The men were laid close together, side by side, and covered up...... 
The Germans celebrated all night long by sending up flares and lights from the trenches and they were so glad they wouldn't sleep at all but we were perfectly willing to rest and sleep.'
Thomas 'Jack' Pinkney Shinn, Co. B, 321st Inf., 81st Div., U.S. Army 

Chaplain B.S. Vaughn presiding over the mass burial of the dead at Moranville on November 12, 1918. The graves are marked by small slabs of wood. Everett was one of the deceased soldiers for whom this service was given.

Everett was originally interred among this sad line of deceased soldiers described by Jack Shinn. It is not known how his demise was conveyed to his wife and family, though it is almost certain they received the news via telegram. His death was announced in the Asheville Citizen-Times on December 10, 1918. 

'America's Honor List'
Source: Asheville Citizen Times, December 10, 1918
On February 27, 1919, Lillie gave birth to Everett's child, a son that she named after his father. Sadly, however, Everett Robert Bates Jr.'s life was to be cut tragically short as he died on January 1, 1921, of meningitis. Lillie, no doubt devastated by the loss of both her husband and son in such a short period of time, married James Floyd Cunningham just a few months later in March.

Everett Sr. remained in France until  July 1921, when his body was repatriated to the United States (unlike many of his comrades, whose bodies remain buried in foreign soil). He was interred in the Tabor Cemetery near the grave of his son. It is a peaceful and beautiful place for his eternal repose, in the mountains of home - far removed from the horrors of the battlefield upon which he died. 

Everett Bates repatriation documentation

Tombstone of Everett Robert Bates, Sr. (Tabor Cemetery)
Source: Felicia Mashburn on
Sadly, for every Everett Bates, whose life is being honored in this article, there are millions more soldiers who were killed in action whose incomplete lives have been long-forgotten over time. Each of them was an Everett with their own story- full of life, with families and friends they loved and who loved them, with plans for a future that they would sadly never see come to fruition. As we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th, I would encourage my readers to each take a moment to remember all those soldiers who gave their lives for the freedoms that we and our fellow men around the world enjoy and take for granted. May you each have a blessed holiday.

Notes to the reader: 
  • For those interested in learning more, a full-text file of the book,  'The History of the 321st Infantry' may be found for free at this link
  • The excellent movie, '1917', was released early this year. It won rave reviews for its depictions of the horrors of the Western Front during World War I - I highly recommend it. 

Asheville Citizen-Times, December 10, 1918
David DeHart