After an exchange of words with his father and an undisclosed dispute with the local sheriff, Carson J. Dale (1888-1916) abruptly left his home in Wiggins, Mississippi and headed to England to join the fight in WWI. Under the guise of being Canadian, he joined the 1/6th Gloucestershire Regiment. Months of rigorous marching and drills with the regiment left him weary and disgruntled. In a letter home to his sister, Carrie, Dale asks her to send proof of his American citizenship so he can be discharged. Moreover, he threatens desertion or even suicide, seeking any means to escape the mundane lifestyle of the English army. These tactics and threats did not change his circumstances; he was soon deployed to France.
Dale had longed to fight but his attitude changed once he witnessed the horrors of war in France. Though the letters from France were infrequent, they make apparent how radically war altered his perspectives. In the letters, he expresses thoughts about religion, his wishes to see family again, and his general concern that his twin brother have a better life than than what Dale chose for himself. They offer a sense that Dale felt he would not make it out of the war alive. A letter from a fellow soldier reveals that Dale had premonitions of falling in battle. On July 23, 1916, he died in the Battle of Somme, close to the German trenches. A newspaper clipping of his obituary can be found in our Digital Archive.
Carson Dale’s letters home during WWI are a great addition to the manuscript collections in the SCRC. They are a part of Dale Family Papers, 1915-2001. The collection is sure to be valuable for researchers interested in World War I.
Dale Family Papers, 1915-2001. Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library. Mss. Acc. 2014.081.
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