By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
6:26 PM EST, January 10, 2013
The drivers whizzing along Redwood Street through the heart of the city's old business district, which was once lined with brokerage houses, banks, the stock exchange and the old Merchants Club, probably have no idea for whom it is named.
Late last year, James Carl Nelson's book "Five Lieutenants," which told the story of five Harvard men who fought on the Western Front during World War I, was published.
One of those men was George Buchanan Redwood, a newspaperman and editor who worked for the Baltimore News and was a member of the Harvard Class of 1910.
When he was killed in action in 1918, Redwood became the first Baltimore officer to lose his life in the conflict.
Nelson writes that no other American college or university provided more troops to the war effort than Harvard — more than 11,000 of them would experience some combat — and 375 would lose their lives in the trenches and mud of the Western Front.
Redwood, the son of Francis Tazewell Redwood, a prominent figure in Baltimore's banking and brokerage circles, and Mary Buchanan Coale, was born in 1888.
After graduating from Harvard, Redwood went to work for Moffett-Lynch Advertising and later joined the staff of the Baltimore News.
He attended officers' training camps — mainly with other Ivy Leaguers — at Plattsburgh, N.Y., in 1915 and again in 1916.
"He had longed for war his whole life, ever since he had spread his lead soldiers on the floor of his parents' home and marveled at the pomp and panoply of his arrangement; and the war had waited for him, even as he puttered in this job and that for seven years following graduation from Harvard in 1910," writes Nelson.
Redwood was called to active duty in April 1917, and he sailed that September from Hoboken, N.J., in a convoy bound for France that also included two other Harvard men — William Otho Potwin Morgan and George Guest Haydock.
In mid-October, he joined the 28th Regiment of the Army's 1st Division, and in a letter to his friend, Stephen Luce, mentioned another Harvard friend, Richard Ager Newhall. "By the way, there is another Reserve officer attached to this regiment whom I have seen a good deal of and who asked me to give you his regards when he heard that I was writing to you," he said.
Under cover of night, Redwood, a scout who was fluent in German and a known risk-taker, would lead a small party of fellow soldiers from the trenches and cross into no man's land looking for any kind of useful intelligence.
At Cantigny, France, Redwood's luck ran out.
On May 29, 1918, he was hit in the shoulder by an enemy bullet. After it was dressed, he returned to the front, where he was wounded in the jaw, this time severely.
Redwood, who insisted that he was going to die with his men, nonetheless headed back to the front, where he was killed by an artillery shell.
He was 30.
A private wrote later that Redwood's body had been "picked up by soldiers of his command. … There was a hole above his right temple and a piece of shrapnel through his heart."
He was buried near a quarry, his grave marked with a propeller from a crashed German airplane that served as a cross and two French 75 mm shell casings. Small stones were carefully arranged to read: "Gone but not forgotten."
In a letter to his brother in Baltimore, Lt. Neilson Poe, who also had been in the fighting at Cantigny, wrote that Redwood's regiment had lost a "mighty fine officer," reported The Baltimore Sun at the time. "He was very brave and had made a great record over here."
Nelson writes that Redwood "so willingly sacrificed his life — not so much as a martyr but as an example."
"At thirty he has passed away with a record which few men twice his age can equal," said an editorial in The Sun. "And the record is peculiarly beautiful, inspiring, and touching, even to this day when heroism has become a commonplace of daily life."
Redwood was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the American Distinguished Service Cross. In September 1918, the Baltimore City Council unanimously voted to change the name of German Street — a name that was not popular during the war — to Redwood, to honor the fallen hero.
A tablet dedicated to his memory in the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation in Guilford reads: "A Crusader Blameless and Without Fear." Redwood's personal papers are in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.
Haydock was killed in the same battle, and Newhall, who had been shot three times, stayed on the ground for 40 hours while the battle raged until he was able to stagger to his company's lines.
Upon reaching them, he was told that his friend Haydock was dead. Newhall, whose arm remained crippled for the rest of his life, became a professor of history at Williams College.
Of the five Harvard men Nelson profiled, Newhall was the last to die, in 1973.
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