Monday, February 25, 2013

The Courageous Men of the 104th Infantry Regiment

Detail of Richard Andrew’s  “Decoration of the Colors of the 104th United States Infantry,”
painted in the State House in 1927.
If you’ve ever visited the Massachusetts State House, you’ll know the halls are filled with wonderful works of art.  Portraits, plaques, murals, and sculptures throughout the building all pay homage to notable people and events in Massachusetts history.

A large mural on the third floor features a group of WWI era soldiers standing with two flags.   The men are from the 104th infantry regiment of the 26th “Yankee” Division, and in this painted scene they become the first American military unit to have its colors (flag) decorated by a foreign government.

French corps commander General Fenelon Passaga awarded the decoration for the unit’s exceptional bravery during the Battle of Apremont on April 20, 1918.  “I am proud to decorate the flag of a regiment which has shown such fortitude and courage,” he said.  “I am proud to decorate the flag of a nation which has come to aid in the fight for liberty.”

Almost 10 years after the decoration ceremony, a reenactment was held at Camp Devens in  Ayer, Massachusetts. 
This photograph of the scene served as inspiration for the mural.

Julian T. Martin of Company L,
104th Infantry Regiment.
The State Library of Massachusetts is proud to own a collection of over 8,000 portraits of World War I soldiers from the Yankee Division, including many men from the 104th infantry.  Part of the collection was recently uploaded to our digital repository, and anyone can browse the online collection for soldiers with last names from O to Z.  Click here to see the DSpace collection of World War I photographs, or visit the State Library’s Special Collections department to request to see photographs in person.   The Library also has many materials on the history of the Yankee Division, including select regimental histories, newsletters, newspaper clippings, calendars of record, and more.

The mural of the 104th Infantry Regiment is located on the third floor between the Senate Leader and Senate Clerk’s offices, opposite the entrance to the House of Representatives.  The State Library is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.

Bianca Hezekiah
Reference Department