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The Way of Duty, Honor, Country

The Memoir of General Charles Pelot Summerall

Charles Summerall

Publication Year: 2010

After graduating from West Point in 1892, Charles Pelot Summerall (1867–1955) launched a distinguished military career, fighting Filipino insurgents in 1899 and Boxers in China in 1900. His remarkable service included brigade, division, and corps commands in World War I; duty as chief of staff of the U.S. Army from 1926 to 1930; and presidency of the Citadel for twenty years, where he was instrumental in establishing the school’s national reputation. Previously available only in the Citadel’s archives, Summerall’s memoir offers an eyewitness account of a formative period in U.S. Army history. Edited and annotated by Timothy K. Nenninger, the memoir documents critical moments in American military history and details Summerall’s personal life, from his impoverished childhood in Florida to his retirement from the Citadel in 1953. From the perspective of both a soldier and a general, Summerall describes how the very nature of war changed irrevocably during his lifetime.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: American Warriors Series


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pp. i-ii

The Way of Duty, Honor, Country

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Editor’s Note

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pp. vii-x

"About 1950, as an octogenarian, Charles P. Summerall recorded his memoir with a pencil on yellow foolscap, titling it 'The Way of Duty, Honor, Country.' According to his grandson, Dr. Charles P. Summerall III, of Charleston, South Carolina, the general wrote it largely 'as a diversion without a plan to publish.'1 After Summerall’s death, his son typed the manuscript—single spaced, 185 ..."


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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: Charles P. Summerall in History

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pp. 1-6

"Charles P. Summerall, a son of the poor rural South from the post–Civil War era, entered the army before the last of the major battles with the Plains Indians, served on active duty as the army adjusted to its growing role as guardian of American insular possessions, and the global stage as a participant in a European war. His active duty ..."

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Chapter 1: The Rock Whence I Was Hewn

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pp. 7-9

"I have no records of the original Summeralls in America. By family tradition, it is known that Thomas Summerall went to Florida lived in south Florida by raising cattle and shipping them to Cuba. and settled at Blount’s Ferry on the Suwannee River in Columbia County, Florida. Here, he acquired a plantation, owned slaves, and ..."

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Chapter 2: The Pit Whence I Was Digged

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pp. 10-13

"When I was born in 1867, the South was in the throes of Reconstruction and what has aptly been called the Tragic Era. Without the slaves, the plantations were useless. The most extreme poverty and widespread suffering prevailed. On leaving Blount’s Ferry about 1870, my father moved to Providence, Florida, about sixteen miles from Lake City, where he tried to operate a wheelwright shop. ..."

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Chapter 3: “And David was wise in all his ways and the Lord was with David”

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pp. 14-22

"On reaching New York, I went to the clock of the riverboat Mary Powell, where the agent asked me if I wanted a return ticket. I told On June 11, 1888, I reported to Lieutenant W. C. Brown,1 the U.S. Military Academy adjutant, and was sent to Captain Spurgin,2 the quartermaster, to pay the deposit of $65.00 required of candidates. I had only about $20.00, and I told him that I would pay the rest later. ..."

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Chapter 4: “We bid farewell to cadet gray and don the army blue”

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pp. 23-34

"A new life now dawned not only for me but for my impoverished family. It did not occur to us that my salary of $116.67 per month as a second lieutenant was not to be used for the benefit of all. This, to us, was great riches. We had never dreamed of anything like it, and it meant what we had never known—security. I knew nothing of what my living expenses in the army would be, but I determined ..."

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Chapter 5: Remember the Maine

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pp. 35-38

"The post had arranged for a large dance on the night of February 15, 1898. I was on the hop committee. We had invited the navy officers Then the country was electrified by the news that the battleship Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbor.2 We discussed whether to cancel the hop or to ask the navy whether they would come, ..."

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Chapter 6: The Little Brown Brother

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pp. 39-47

"Early in 1899, the Philippine insurrection became serious, and Reilly’s Battery was ordered from Fort Hamilton to Manila.1 Captain H. J. Reilly, who was in command, requested my assignment to the battery. I was relieved as aide to General Pennington on March 2, 1899, and joined the battery en route at Ogden, Utah. Thus, a new ..."

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Chapter 7: The Land of the Dragon

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pp. 48-60

"In 1900, the uprising that broke out in China to expel all foreign devils startled the world.1 International naval contingents in the region were reinforced by troops from several nations. The United States sent the Ninth Infantry and a regiment of marines from Manila as part of an allied expedition that tried to reach Peking. When the ..."

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Chapter 8: Back to Manila and Home

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pp. 61-64

"In May 1901, orders came for the battery to return to Manila. When we marched away, a large contingent of British officers, including General Gaselee,1 the commander, rode several miles with us. Colonel Wint,2 who commanded the column of artillery and cavalry, did miles from Tientsin, thinking it too far for the men to walk to the ..."

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Chapter 9: The Land of the Midnight Sun

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pp. 65-70

"Early in April 1902, I received a telegram to send a company of men to Skagway, Alaska, by the first boat. I was able to embark the Thirty-second Company, Coast Artillery Corps, the next day. Later, Skagway. Again, I caught a boat and left on May 11. Our baby was expected in June, and I was compelled to leave my wife with only ..."

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Chapter 10: The Coast Defenses

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pp. 71-74

"We reserved transportation on the steamer to Seattle for September 22, as the day the ship had brought an infantry battalion to Alaska. The weather was cold with high winds and sleet. When we reached the ship at night, we found that the train had also brought the riff-raff from Dawson who had left the Yukon on the last steamer..."

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Chapter 11: The Caissons Go Rolling Along

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pp. 75-81

"Early in August 1903, I received a telegraphic order to assume command of the Third Battery Field Artillery at Chickamauga Park Georgia, and march it to Fort Myer, Virginia. We shipped our furniture around Cape Horn to Philadelphia but went ourselves by railroad stateroom across the continent because of my sick wife and baby. The legacy of $500 left me by Mr. Winfield Jones was all that ..."

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Chapter 12: To West Point

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pp. 82-87

"Without warning, during the summer of 1905, I was ordered to duty as senior instructor of artillery tactics at West Point. I reported there on August 21 and was able to choose an excellent house at the south end of the post next to the old Kinsley House. My family joined me a week later. When I left them at Fort Myer, they stayed with a ..."

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Chapter 13: To Texas and Fort Myer

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pp. 88-96

On March 11, 1911, I was promoted to major. A month later, I departed West Point to assume command of the Second Battalion, Third Field Artillery, whose station was at Fort Myer, Virginia, but the unit was then at San Antonio, Texas, as a part of the Maneuver Division.1 It was with deep regret that I left the artillery detachment at West Point, then at its highest state of efficiency and morale. The ..."

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Chapter 14: The War Department

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pp. 97-100

"On September 4, 1914, I reported to the War Department as assistant to the chief of the Militia Bureau in charge of the field artillery of the national guard. The War Department budget was being completed, but I managed to have it include $600,000 for horses for the national guard field artillery. The idea was ridiculed, but I believed that I could make a good defense before the Committee on Military ..."

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Chapter 15: The World War

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pp. 101-108

"Toward the end of June 1917, the War Department informed me that I would go to England and France as a member of a commission to study the types and the employment of field artillery.1 The chief of staff2 sent for me and in great secrecy handed me a letter addressed to 'General John J. Pershing. For his eyes alone.' He told me to be ..."

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Chapter 16: Over There

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pp. 109-125

"Early in September, the War Department appointed me a brigadier general and ordered me to take command of the Sixty-seventh Field Artillery Brigade of the Forty-second Division at Camp Mills, Long Island. I assumed the command on September 5. The brigade consisted of the 149th Field Artillery, National Guard of Illinois, Colonel Henry J. Reilly1 commanding; the 150th Field Artillery, National ..."

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Chapter 17: Soissons—the Decisive Battle of the War

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pp. 126-132

"There can be no doubt that during the Battle of Soissons the heroic advance of the First Division, in spite of unprecedented losses and the most determined resistance of elements of eight German divisions, turned the fate of the war.1 The First Moroccan Division on its right had to be relieved after twenty-four hours, while the Second... "

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Chapter 18: Recovery

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pp. 133-134

"As much as it had suffered, the First Division had little rest. Beginning July 23, French trucks conveyed the foot troops as rapidly as possible to the Saizerais sector in Lorraine on the left of the Moselle River, where they relieved the Second Moroccan Division during the last days of July and the early part of August."

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Chapter 19: The St. Mihiel Salient

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pp. 135-136

"The front assigned to the First Division for the attack was the old Toul sector that it had first held. The terrain was familiar. The division assembled in the Forêt de la Reine, and units were rehearsed in their parts. Our objective was the angle of the salient, just as it had been at Soissons. We were to penetrate the enemy’s position and ..."

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Chapter 20: The Second Phase of the Meuse-Argonne

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pp. 137-179

"On the night of September 19, the foot troops moved by trucks and the mounted troops by marching to the area near Verdun and were placed in reserve in the Third Corps. The First Division received orders to attack a very strong Austrian division in front of Verdun, and we prepared accordingly. The great Meuse-Argonne offensive ..."

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Chapter 21: The Adriatic and Peace

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pp. 180-184

When the Fourth Corps was demobilized, I was transferred to Koblenz. But I had been warned that I soon was to go to Warsaw as head of a mission to Poland. But then one afternoon I received a telegram to report to the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at the Quai d’Orsay1 in Paris the next morning at nine o’clock. I drove nearly all night and reported as directed. The members of the ..."

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Chapter 22: Home and the First Division

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pp. 185-190

"Early in September, we received orders to return to the United States with General Pershing on the Leviathan,1 sailing from Brest. I obtained permission to bring my French aide, Lieutenant Gouin,2 with me. Bartolucci told me that he had been appointed assistant naval attach

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Chapter 23: Camp Dix, New Jersey

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pp. 191-192

"The First Division was transferred in September 1920 to Camp Dix, New Jersey, which I reached on the twentieth. In Louisville, hundreds of the officers and men had married Kentucky girls. But there were no quarters for families at Camp Dix, so our first task was to convert a number of barracks into family apartments. This was ..."

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Chapter 24: Hawaii

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pp. 193-200

I was ordered to the command of the Hawaiian Department, and my dear wife and I, accompanied by my two aides, Liutenants Forster1 and Giles,2 left Camp Dix June 30, 1921. I was succeeded in command of the division by Major General David Shanks,3 who had commanded the port of embarkation..."

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Chapter 25: Return to the States

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pp. 201-204

"After three years in the islands, the War Department issued orders relieving me of command of the Hawaiian Department and ordering me to assume command of the Eighth Corps Area with headquarters at San Antonio, Texas.1 About a month before the expiration of my tour of three years in Hawaii, I began receiving letters from a man in San Francisco who said that he was a veteran of the Sixteenth Infantry of the First Division in the World War."

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Chapter 26: From Texas to New York

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pp. 205-209

"Pursuant to orders of the War Department, on the retirement of General Robert L. Bullard, I left Fort Sam Houston on January 11, 1925, and assumed command of the Second Corps Area with headquarters at Governors Island, New York City, on January 16. At a large banquet for General Bullard in New York, I tried to pay suitable tribute to him."

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Chapter 27: Chief of Staff

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pp. 210-231

The announcement of my appointment by President Coolidge as chief of staff of the army was received by the press, the country, and the army with general approval. While I had never felt ambition for advancement, my dear wife and I were deeply gratified. Many letters came from old friends, and editorials in the papers ..."

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Chapter 28: The Wanderer’s Return

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pp. 232-233

"In reaching Jacksonville the next morning, Senator Fletcher1 and a few friends met the train. We reached our home in Eustis, Florida, in the afternoon. A comfortable boardinghouse was available, and we stayed there while the home was being repaired."

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Chapter 29: The Citadel

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pp. 234-246

"On my visit to the Citadel in January 1931, I asked the chairman of the Board of Visitors1 if my decisions on matters of discipline would be final, and he assured me that they would be. I would not have gone otherwise. When I accepted the appointment as president, I requested the War Department to change the orders of an officer ..."

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Chapter 30: The Men Who Influenced My Life

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pp. 247-252

"Of course, my father, my example and guide in childhood and boyhood, shaped my ideas and conduct in the largest measure. He was practically self-educated. I never heard him refer to going to school. He had a fine mind and was well informed on medicine, law, business, and many skills like wheelwright work, carpentering,..."


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pp. 253-288


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pp. 289-292

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pp. 1-330

...a graduate of West Point, Charles Pelot Summerall (1867–1955) launched a distinguished military career fighting Filipino insurgents in 1899 and Boxers “This book will give readers a long-overdue exposure to Summerall’s accounts of the many fascinating events of which he was a part, as well as an equally overdue window into the mind and character of this important American figure.” author of Doctrine Under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813126197
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813126180

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: American Warriors Series

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Subject Headings

  • Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina -- History.
  • Summerall, Charles Pelot, 1867-1955.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • United States -- History, Military -- 20th century.
  • United States. Army -- Officers -- Biography.
  • United States. Army -- History -- 20th century.
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