North Danville's Ben Clifford
A country poet and World War I soldier
By Sharon Lakey
via the North Star Monthly magazine (VT) web site
There is a story in North Danville that has held a warm spot in my heart for many years. Ben Clifford, an old country poet, walked the back roads of North Danville and left his handwritten poems in neighbors’ mailboxes.
Shirley Langmaid was a recipient of a number of them, and she passed a folder of them on to the Danville Historical Society. They have been tucked away in a file cabinet until recently, when it was decided that Ben’s poems should see the light of day at the upcoming July 4th celebration in North Danville.
I pulled the file; I actually read the writing. It is handwritten in a beautifully slanted script. One particular piece surprised me. Instead of poetry, it is written in prose. In content it details one day at the end of WWI. It is the only first-hand account of the war that I’ve encountered here in my nine years on the job. It especially intrigued me when I was able to verify his story by following his words to actual events recorded by history.
Ben gives us an inkling of the reality of that war, a stark memory that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He titled the piece “Our Nation’s Progress,” and wrote it under the pen name Daniel Boone.
They say old age lives in the past. If so, there must be another old boy that remembers that cold bleak day of Dec 24, 1918 when the 102nd Machine Battalion, a unit of the old 26th Yankee Division traveled all day with the old Hotchkiss mule-drawn gun carts and caissons to reach a little village near Paris where they were to stay overnight. The men had the privilege of sleeping on the dirt floors of the barns, giving the little cooties a chance to warm up and travel at a tremendous pace over your body. There were two kinds looking for the best location. The mules stayed out in the lot, lying down in the clayey mud for which that country seemed famous.
As luck would have it, Christmas was bright and sunny. The President of the United States was up in the reviewing stand under the magnificent stove pipe hat. It seems he had called for the Fifth Liberty Loan drive back home, the proceeds which we understood were donated to the French government, possibly as a tribute to Lafayette, who helped this country gain its independence.
On Dec. 25, President Wilson reviewed the troops at Hume, France, a location near Paris. He had signed the Armistice in November. He climbs out of a vehicle, jovial, wearing a fur coat and top hat and walks a boardwalk to a reviewing stand where he is to speak. A 35mm film clip of him in action can be accessed on YouTube. A local typewritten Souvenir book in our collection identifies two Liberty Loan amounts given from the Town of Danville. “The subscriptions of the people of Danville to the First Liberty Loan amounted to $53,500. and to the Second Liberty Loan, $90,950. a total of $144,450.” (It doesn’t mention the Liberty Loans beyond that.)
Read the entire article on the Northstar Monthly web site.
External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.