Guide to the Joseph Davis Pridgen Papers, 1917-1950s (bulk 1917-1919)
Supply sergeant with American Expeditionary Forces in World War I and native of Durham, N.C. Chiefly letters written by Pridgen while he was with Company M, 120th U.S. Infantry, 30th Division of American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. He was located at Camp Sevier, Greenville, S.C., and in France. Two of his notebooks read "Engineers Candidate School" and indicate he was trained in mining, field fortification, military bridges, and camouflage. They contain detailed penciled drawings which include dimensions. Collection also contains military papers, memorabilia, ephemera, and legal papers relating to Pridgen's automobile dealership.
- Collection Number
- Joseph Davis Pridgen papers
- 1917-1984 (bulk 1917-1919)
- Pridgen, Joseph Davis, 1894-1980
- 1 Linear Feet, 300 items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
Chiefly letters written by Pridgen to his mother, father, sister, and an occassional family friend while serving with Company M, 120th U.S. Infantry, 30th Division, commonly referred to as the Old HickoryDivision, of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.
Letters of August 1917 through May 1918 primarily describe his life at Camp Sevier: meals, discipline, pay, his duties as supply sergeant, and the arrival of new conscripts. He also describes several episodes of desertion, a measles outbreak and resulting medical quarantine, and soldiers suffering from pneumonia and spinal meningitis. Other topics include occassional trips into Greenville and Spartanburg where he and other soldiers were hosted by local families, attended picture shows, including Birth of a Nation,, and fraternized with other soldiers.
Letters of May 1918 through July 1918 describe preparations for his division's embarkation to France. He notes the transfer of his division to Camp Merritt, New Jersey and stops along the way in Washington, D.C and Philadelphia, PA where Red Cross women handed out post cards, fresh apples and cigarettes to the troops. He also describes nights out in New York City, NY and a visit to the Kinney-Duke branch of the American Tobacco Co. with other soldiers from Durham. Letters of July 1918 warn recipients of future cencorship of letters. There is also a postcard of July 1918 with an image of his division's transport ship and date of embarkation.
Letters of August 1918 through November 1918 describe active duty in France. Due to censorhip of letter content, most letters are relatively consice and his exact whereabouts are never disclosed. However, he does describe his duties behind the lines assisting a mess sergeant, transportation of food to soldiers at the front, some references to conditions, and, due to the potential presence of German aircraft, a strict lights-out policy after dark. He also briefly describes duties at the front including a nineteen day stint in the trenches and the deaths of several soldiers including a friend from Durham. He also describes coursework at an engineers training school where he completed classes on camouflage, gas, mining and pioneering, and bridging. His notebooks from these courses are present in the collection.
After the armistice his letters touch on a variety of topics including descriptions of holiday dinners in camp, his transfer out of the 30th Division, rumors surrounding which divisions will sail home first, and the influenza outbreak in the United States. After his division's transfer to Le Mans, France prior to embarkation he describes his anxiousness to return to the States, his observations of French people, attending a baseball game and his disillusionament with the Y.M.C.A., noting the arrest of two staff members for stealing money.
The collection also contains some military papers and ephemera including several General Orders, cartoon clippings from a Camp Sevier newspaper--one of which depicts Pridgen, assorted print material including a pamphlet on recent military operations, divisional shoulder patches, and a tag with Pridgen's name and division number. Also present is a small amount of legal and financial papers relating to Pridgen's automobile dealership opened after the war and assorted clippings from World War I and several documenting post-war commemorations.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Joseph Davis Pridgen Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Joseph Davis Pridgen, Jr. was a native of Durham, NC. Prior to his enlistment, Pridgen worked as a teller at First National Bank in downtown Durham. In the service, Pridgen was a supply sergeant with Company M, 120th U.S. Infantry, 30th Division during World War I. Along with soldiers from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, Pridgen trained at Camp Sevier outside of Greenville, South Carolina from August 1917 until his Division's embarkation to France in May 1918. After the war Pridgen owned and operated an automobile dealership in Durham.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Pridgen, Joseph Davis, 1894-1980
- United States. Army. 120th Infantry, 1917-1919. 30th Division, Company M.
- United States. Army. American Expeditionary Forces
- United States. Army -- Soldiers -- Correspondence
- Fortification, Field
- Military engineering -- United States
- Soldiers -- Correspondence
- Soldiers' writings, American
- World War, 1914-1918 -- France
- World War, 1914-1918 -- United States
- World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, American
The Joseph Davis Pridgen Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 1983.
Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, May 2011
Encoded by Kimberly Sims, July 2011
Updated by Josh Larkin Rowley, October 2011