IN nearly three dozen camps across America like
this one, men were being trained and over time,
equipped. Camp Sevier lacked any comforts of
home, it was rigorous, cold and crowded, but in his
letters Edward never complained.
His letters reveal a lively back-and-forth about a
number of young ladies. He references fun times he
and a friend had at Wrightsville Beach. Edward had the gift of
communicating his thoughts in his writing. The letters are eloquent, humble,
nearly unfailingly positive, and highly endearing. Through them we learn of his fierce patrio-tism,
deep and abiding love of and devotion to family, and heroic commitment to his fellow soldiers.
Every now and then Edward’s letters contained tidbits of leave time experiences and interaction
with locals. Some contained the responses to questions posed in previous letters by family members,
or responses to news of friends, births, sicknesses, college, marriages and deaths. He wrote to his
siblings, nieces and nephews, always encouraging them in whatever endeavor they were occupied in.
He began most letters with “Dearest,” closing with “Your Devoted Son,” “Devotedly, Edward” or
“Devotedly Brother.” Most of the letters were to his stepmother, Mary Benthall Brooks Hardin, and
his oldest sister, Lauris (Mrs. Thomas C. Darst of 508 Orange Street, Wilmington).
Edward Hardin entered the Army as a private but was continually promoted, achieving his goal of
making 2nd lieutenant before reaching the battlefields. His unit was the 2nd Corps, 30th Division
(known as “Old Hickory”), 60th Brigade, 120th Infantry Regiment, 115 Machine Gun Battalion,
Company C. Making up the 30th Division were National Guard troops mainly from North and
South Carolina and Tennessee, augmented by draft troops from the same states as well as Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.
At Camp Sevier with the 115th Machine Gun Battalion, Edward became proficient in knowing
every part in the four basic machine guns used on the field of battle by touch and could reassemble
any of them while blindfolded. After mastering the 1,763 parts he was promoted to instruct others.
Edward and his company left Camp Sevier in April 1918, traveling by train for 34 hours to New
York before the 10-day troop ship Atlantic crossing, landing in Calais, France May 18 and began
training in southeast France.
Above: “The “Old
Hickory” 30th Division
patch and commenda-tion
by Field Marshal
Sir Douglas Haig, a
Scottish senior officer
of the British Army
who commanded the
Force at the Western
Front through the war’s
end. Top, right: Edward
Hardin’s 115 Machine
Gun Division pin with
its crossed rifles. 34
WBM november 2019
Gunners of 119 American Infantry Regiment, 60th Brigade, 30th Division, in a trench in the Watou,
West Flanders, Belgium, firing a Lewis machine gun July 9, 1918.