Private First Class Milburn Moffitt, Service Number 1307930
Milburn was born on 18 October 1899 in Magnetic City, now known as Buladean, Mitchell County, North Carolina. He later moved over the mountain with his family to Hampton, Carter County, Tennessee. Milburn was working as a farmer when he and two of his brothers enlisted in the Tennessee Army National Guard at Hampton on 18 July 1917 and was assigned to Company E, 3rd Tennessee Infantry Regiment based at Hampton. Milburn stated his age as 18 years and 8 months when he enlisted, but was in fact only 17 years and 8 months old.
Just seven days later they were activated and called into Federal Service by the President on 25 July 1917. Company E as were all the other companies in the 3rd were now preparing for active duty and getting ready to deploy. That word soon came and they were to deploy to Camp Sevier, Greenville, South Carolina to form the new 30th Division. The 3rd arrived Camp Sevier on 8 September 1917. There they would join units from North and South Carolina, as well as those from Tennessee to form the core of the 30th Division, later known as the Old Hickory Division in honor of General and President Andrew Jackson.
General Order No. 4 dated 12 September 1917, Headquarters 30th Division brought about a big change for Milburn and the 3rd. They were reorganized into the 117th Infantry Regiment under the 59th Infantry Brigade and Milburn stayed with Company E, 2nd Battalion, as did his two brothers.
Milburn departed Camp Sevier on 5 May 1918 with Company E for Camp Mills, Long Island, New York to await transportation overseas. He along with others were given leave and for days afterwards and on the ship nursed sore necks from the hours they spent looking at all the tall skyscrapers of New York City. After boarding the SS Northumberland in Brooklyn, New York, they set off for Liverpool, England on 11 May and arrived on 23 May. After disembarking the ship he and the four infantry regiments of the 30th Division boarded troop trains and were taken to the port cities of Dover and Folkestone for the channel crossing over the next couple of days. He and his company arrived the port city of Calais, France on the 26th. As the 30th Division piecemealed into France just as they had done into England, they were taken to Audruicq by train and marched the short distance to the various towns and villages known as the Eperlecques Training Area in France. Milburn was billeted with the 117th at Nortbecourt and began Phase “A” Training with the British 39th Division on 10 June 1918.
Phase “A” was to be completed on 10 July, but was extended to the morning of 16 July. Phase “B” began the same day for the 30th Division with a three day march into Belgium. Upon arriving the Poperinghe Area, the 117th was billeted in one of the numerous camps and were intergraded over the next month into actual battlefield operations and trench warfare conditions with active combat units. Phase “B” was completed on 10 August and Phase “C” the last training phase was cancelled and the 30th were declared combat ready. Operational orders came in on the 14th and the 30th Division was to relieve the British 33rd Division starting the night of 16 August in the Canal Sector near Ypres, Belgium. The Ypres-Lys Offensive began on 19 August 1918 and the 30th would be in the thick of the fighting to the very end of the war.
Milburn and the 30th were given a breathing spell after being relieved from the Ypres-Lys Offensive on 5 September and were entrained to the St. Pol area. Company E and the Supply Company of the 117th were billeted at Croix, France to resupply, do some more training and get a little rest from all the heavy artillery explosions. On the 17th the 30th Division made the move to the Puchevillers Area where they would come under the control of the 4th British Army on the 21st as would the American 27th “New York” Division to join in the Somme Offensive, also known as the One Hundred Day Offensive.
Milburn was killed in action on 8 October 1918, the first assault day of the Battle of Montbrehain while engaging German Forces at Premont. He participated in two Unit Campaigns: Ypres-Lys Offensive in Belgium and the Somme Offensive in France. Milburn also fought in the Battle of Bellicourt on the Hindenburg Line. He was first interred at the British Military Cemetery at Fricourt, France and later moved to the Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France.
After his parents decided that Milburn should come home, he was disinterred and sent to Calais, France were he sailed home aboard the United States Army Transport “Somme” on 27 February 1921. Milburn arrived Hoboken, New Jersey on 14 March for his last leg home. His parents first requested he be returned to Buladean for reinterment, but reconsidered and Milburn was interred at the Mountain Home National Cemetery, Mountain Home, Tennessee in Section A, Row 14, Site 2 on 19 April. 1921.
Milburn’s the son of William M. Moffitt and Sarah Emaline “Sally” Rominger. His older brother James Jessie Moffitt and his younger brother Robert Hobart Moffitt also served in Company E, 117th. Robert was wounded in action and he like Milburn fibbed about his age when enlisting at age 16 years and 6 months old to be with his brothers.
–Submitted by Allen D. Jackson, USAF (Ret) Historian, Johnson City/Washington County TN Veterans Memorial Foundation
In family picture below, in uniform left to right back row: James, Robert, Milburn, and Arthur with a big chew of tobacco in his jaw. Photo courtesy of Allen D. Jackson.