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Archie Bowman Should NOT Have Died on 11-17-1918

In 1882 Jasper Bowman married Christina Suesdorf.  Jasper was 32 and Christina was 18.  They lived on a farm in St. Charles County not far from the village of Hamburg*.  Seven years after they married, they had their first child a daughter named Maida.  Then came two sons; Melvin and Archie (Archie was born 4-23-1894).  Then another daughter Della.  Jasper died in January 1908.  Melvin was 17 when his father died, and Archie was 14.  They worked on the farm all of their lives.  Neither boy had finished grade school.  They kept the farm going while their father was sick and after he died. 

Melvin married in 1915.  He brought his wife to the family farm.  Archie had a sweetheart and may have married her except that World War I intervened.  Archie went into the Army.  He was placed in the Infantry and given orders for Europe.  His sweetheart wanted to get married before Archie shipped out, but Archie said, no he didn’t want to leave her a widow.  Archie didn’t expect to survive the war. 

Archie was in Company A of the 356th Infantry Regiment of the 89th Division.  Archie was involved in the last great battle of the war, the Meuse-Argonne offensive.  In the month-long battle, the Allies fought their way through the Argonne Forest and up to the Meuse Valley before finally reaching the heights above the railroad town of Sedan.  The Americans then stopped their advance and on November 10th the French were given the honor of taking the city.  The next day, the war ended.  The Armistice took place on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.

Archie was wounded the NEXT DAY.  The details and circumstances are lost in the fog of history.  It was perhaps a chance encounter somewhere in the Argonne Forest between groups of soldiers that had not yet gotten the word the war had ended.  Perhaps Archie and his buddies were celebrating and some German sniper, unaware of the armistice fired the last shot of the Great War at the unsuspecting Americans. 

What is beyond speculation is that Private First-Class Archie Bowman was wounded the day after the war ended.  He died five days later.  He was 24 years old.  He was buried in Meuse France. 

In spring of 1921, Archie’s body was returned to this country.  It was an option the Army gave to the families of fallen soldiers.  Christina Bowman wanted her son brought home.  Christina wanted Archie to be remembered.  Archie was reburied in a family plot in Thomas Howell Cemetery not far from where he had grown up.  A minister from the Evangelical Church of Hamburg presided.  There was a 15-gun rifle squad to fire a salute.  More than one-hundred men from the American Legion Posts of Augusta, O’Fallon, St. Peters and St. Charles attended. 
Christina died in 1939 and was buried next to her husband Jasper and her youngest son Archie.  Melvin died in 1971 and joined his family in the cemetery.  The cemetery is next to Highway 94.  There is a stoplight near the cemetery.  Perhaps you have noticed the small cemetery with a life size statue of a soldier near Francis Howell High School?   Christina didn’t want the world to forget about the farm boy who should have made it through the war. His tombstone reads, “He Gave His All for Democracy.” 

Archie is honored and remembered at the St. Charles County Veterans Museum.   

*Hamburg was a small town in St. Charles County near Weldon Springs.  Hamburg was one of three towns along with Howell and Toonerville that were evacuated in 1940-1941 as the area was taken over by the U.S. Department of the Army to build the Weldon Springs Ordinance Works which manufactured TNT and later Uranium.  

 

Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at info@stcharlescountyveteransmuseum.com or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.


 

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