Thursday, January 5, 2017

Varlourd Pearson

Distinguished Service Cross Award to Varlaurd Pearson

Headquarters 35th Division, American Expeditionary Forces,
October 17th, 1918.
(General Orders, No. 83. 

The Division Commander takes great pleasure in citing in General Orders the following-named officers and enlisted men for gallantry in action during the six days' battle from September 26th to October 1st, 1918.

Sergeant Varlaurd Pearson, Company I, 137th Infantry.
Although wounded by machine gun fire September 30th (sic.), displayed excellent leadership in handling his platoon, which he kept well organized, and succeeded in dislodging several machine gun nests.

By command of Major General Traub

Reminiscences of the 137th U. S. Infantry Regiment, Compiled by Carl E. Haterius, 1919.

For an update on the battle, see the Morrow of Big Things.

Varlaurd Pearson

I know little  about my grandfather's cousin, Varlourd Pearson. Until a few weeks ago, I did not know that he and my grandfather were both soldiers who fought in France during World War I. My grandfather came home from the war. Varlourd is buried in France.

To an Athlete Dying Young by A. E. Houseman

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose...
Poem is finished at the end of this blog post.


The only photograph of Varlourd reveals a well-groomed and serious young man with dark hair and eyes. My grandfather never mentioned his name, though they were close in age. My grandfather did speak of the family farm, of playing Indians down by the river, of watermelons for nickel, and a childhood full of adventure.

Varlourd Pearson
Varlaurd (Varlourd) Pearson, (1898 - 1918) was born on a farm in Tallapoosa County, Alabama. He was one of nine children of “General” Charles Lafayette Pearson and Zenia Blasengame. It is likely that he was educated at Emory College in Atlanta, before going to Kansas Agricultural College (Kansas State University).

When the United States entered the First World War, he enlisted in Manhattan, Kansas, with Company I, 137th Infantry Regiment. His company was sent to France and saw action on the front near Verdun during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. They were ordered to assault Vauquois Hill, which was defended by units of the German Third and Fifth Armies

Sergeant Pearson was killed in action on September 28th, 1918. He posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's second highest medal.

Family Photo

This is a family photo of Varlourd (second row to the right) with his father, several brothers, and his sister Annie (Zenia). Missing is an image of his mother Zenia. An educated guess is that the photo dates around 1910.

Charles Lafayette Pearson (center) and children

[Older brother, Nevels Pearson (upper left) also enlisted in the army.]

Vauquois Hill

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive offensive began with a barrage on the night of September 25th and an early morning assault on the 26th.

Varlourd and his company faced the enemy at Vauquois Hill. Before the war, this was a tiny hillock overlooking the town ow Vauquois. French and German units fought for control of the strategic hill, totally obliterating the town. By September of 1918, the Germans were well entrenched in the honeycombed hill.

A surviving soldier of Company C described the assault that took place on the morning of September 26th.

September 19, 1918. Proceeded by truck to Foucacourt, Meuse. September 20, 1918. Marched to woods near Auzeville.

September 25, 1918. Left at 7 pm and marched into position between Aubreville and Vauquois Hill. On our way up the whole sky to the north and northwest blazed forth with the fire of heavy guns laying down a barrage which was to start the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in just a few hours.
September 26, 1918. …Went over the top at 5:30 am. We captured Vauquois Hill early and proceeded northwest toward Cheppy, to a point just short of Charpentry.

Battle lines, Sep 26, 1918, Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Cheppy, France

September 27, 1918 - The 28th Division on our left was having tough going through the heavily wooded Argonne Forest, and this began to expose our left flank to crossfire, and this forced our main direction more and more to the west and northwest. Our men assisted the 28th Division at Varennes and Montblainville. On this day we overran Charpentry and Baulny, and came out on higher ground beyond to the north.

September 28, 1918 - We had to repel a counterattack early this day, and thereafter followed the day of our heaviest losses in casualties as we pressed toward Exermont with our left flank increasingly exposed to crossfire. Our front became almost a salient into the enemy line and we suffered grievous losses all during the day.


Varloud Pearson was killed in action near Exermont.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Sergeant Varlourd Pearson (ASN: 1449077), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company I, 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division, A.E.F., near Baulny, France, 28 September 1918. Though wounded three times by shrapnel and machine-gun bullets, Sergeant Pearson refused to be evacuated and continued to lead the advance of ; his platoon, remaining in command for several hours till he received a fourth wound which proved fatal. General Orders: War Department, General Orders 95 (1919).

 The finish of A. E. Houseman's poem To an Athlete Dying Young


Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.