Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Scope and Content
The typed transcript of the World War I correspondence of Lawrence Sutton was donated in 2003 by Jonathon R. Sutton, who edited and transcribed the letters.
Born in 1890, Lawrence Sutton was the only child of Joseph and Rebecca Sutton of Grover Hill, Paulding County, Ohio. Joseph and two brothers operated a threshing machine, lath mill, commercial wood buzzing rig, and a cider press. Their father Jacob Sutton had migrated east from Indiana to settle in Ohio’s last frontier, the Black Swamp. Lawrence worked as a thresher man with his father and uncles until his entry into the United States Army.
In October 1917, Lawrence received training at Camp Sherman located in Chillicothe, Ohio. He remained at Camp Sherman until late May 1918, when he was ordered to Camp Merritt in New Jersey. Within a month, Lawrence shipped out to England with the American Expeditionary Forces as part of the 329th Infantry. Sometime before July 15th, Corporal Sutton had crossed the English Channel and was stationed in Economy, France, the headquarters of the 329th Infantry, located southwest of Paris.
Sutton never saw action, but remained at the 329th Headquarters where he was assigned to the shooting range. He returned to the states in January 1919 and was honorably discharged later that month from Camp Sherman.
Scope and Content
The transcriptions consist of more than 100 letters written by Corporal Lawrence Sutton to his parents in Grover Hill, Ohio, between October 6, 1917 and February 9, 1919. Several letters written to Sutton by his comrades after the war are also included in the transcriptions.
A frequent correspondent, Sutton provided details of military life at Camp Sherman, including military training, clothing, food, health concerns, facilities, weather, and camp life with his comrades. Sutton gained experience with rifles, machine guns, light artillery, and trench mortars.
Raised in a religious home and isolated from urban influences, Sutton frequently expressed amazement at his comrades’ activities such as card playing, gambling, drinking, and cursing. Sutton also commented on his comrades’ racial and ethnic prejudices. In March 1918, Sutton noted that "all the foreigners" were selected from his company for overseas service. Sutton also suffered during outbreaks of communicable diseases including scarlet fever and mumps.
While on duty in France, Sutton was a keen observer of his surroundings, providing his parents with details of life in the French countryside. While Sutton found the French people friendly and helpful, he noted their primitive farming methods, agricultural implements, and housing. He also commented on the kinds of crops and tilling and harvesting methods that varied greatly from those of farmers in Northwest Ohio.
Although Sutton was frequently bored at headquarters, he was not eager to see combat, however, military life had brought maturity and confidence. Sutton declared that it had taken "that backwardness out of me." He felt comfortable commanding and training troops at regimental headquarters. He became an expert marksman and demonstrated proficiency with mortars and machine guns. Sutton mingled easily with his comrades, developing particularly strong friendships with men from southern states. He found their accents, humor, and openness appealing.
Sutton remained interested in the daily life of his parents and the people and events in Grover Hill. He felt fortunate to have remained with two of his fellow townsmen during his entire military service. Although his return to the states took seven days, Sutton was grateful for fair weather and the warm reception as the returning troops entered New York harbor. Lawrence Sutton returned to Grover Hill where he took up farming and enjoyed a close relationship with extended family members. He died in Grover Hill in 1972.
1. Pages 1 - 6
Introduction by Jonathan R. Sutton
2. Pages 7 - 93
Transcription of correspondence
3. Page 94
Transcription of letter of C. W. Hudson
4. Page 95
Photocopy of Lawrence Sutton letter and envelope, dtd. October 11, 1917, 4 pp.