BALTIMORE REMEMBERS WWI dead honored quietly, profoundly

Newspapers delivered on Baltimore doorsteps the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, exclaimed one word: "PEACE!"

A 2:45 a.m. Associated Press dispatch from Washington stated, "Armistice terms have been signed by Germany." The Sun put out a 3 a.m. edition and used three-inch-high type to tell the story that the World War was over.


The war had a profound effect on the city, which supplied the bulk of the 50,000 troops from Maryland who served in the conflict. In the next few months, residents sought ways to console themselves with the death, the injury and anguish the war brought.

How many people who travel along Argonne Drive in northeast Baltimore realize the thoroughfare was named for what is today a beautiful forest in eastern France that was the scene of thousands of casualties -- and the war's worst toll for Baltimore's young men in uniform?


Plans to name what was then a new street after the Argonne campaign were announced shortly after the Armistice Day celebration of November 1922. This was the first street here to take the name of a World War I battle.

Redwood Street in downtown Baltimore's old financial and warehouse district had been called German Street for more than 100 years. But during the conflict, its name was changed to honor George Buchanan Redwood, a resident of 918 Madison Ave., who was killed in action May 28, 1918, at Cantigny, France.

Redwood was the first Marylander killed in France. His death caused a flurry of patriotic sentiment.

Nearly 75 years later, there are still places where the events of the First World War are not forgotten. One is the War Memorial Altar at St. Luke's Episcopal Church at 217 N. Carey St. in West Baltimore, just off Franklin Square.

George Sherman, a parishioner who lives in the same neighborhood, keeps the taper lighted on the altar at all times.

"I keep the candle going to honor St. Michael the Archangel," he said as he took a short break from polishing the elaborate brass candlesticks that are used at Sunday services at this fine old house of worship.

The altar is backed with a large painting of Christ, the Good Shepherd, holding a fallen World War I infantryman. The oil painting is the work of longtime Dickeyville resident and mural artist R. McGill Mackall, who served in major Allied engagements, including the Meuse-Argonne, the Marne and Champagne areas.

Mackall's painting, which combined the themes of death and salvation, was exhibited at the art gallery in the Peabody Institute before it was moved to its permanent home in St. Luke's.


The artist later won the commission to paint a much larger work, the mural that today hangs in the city's War Memorial Building at Gay, Lexington and Fayette streets. The War Memorial is the city's largest tribute to the First World War, just as Memorial Stadium honors the memory of those who fought in the Second War.

Baltimoreans filled the ranks of an infantry regiment, the 313th of the 79th Division. Its Company A was mostly East Baltimoreans; Company F drew heavily from the old 10th Ward, a section south of Green Mount Cemetery. It was known as the Irish Fusileers. There were favorite companies from neighborhoods in South, Northwest and West Baltimore.

Many never came home.

The city has reminders of the war in schools and neighborhoods.

A City College tablet recalls the 1,167 Collegians who served during the conflict. There is another tablet on Waverly's 34th Street near the site of public School 51.

John H. Raspe, a landowner in the section once known as Raspeburg, gave a bronze to "Our Boys" at what is today known as Overlea. There's a Grove of Remembrance near the Zoo in Druid Hill Park. The trees there were dedicated Oct. 8, 1919, when Baltimore was host for a convention of Gold Star Mothers.


In Hamilton, in Northeast Baltimore, there is another small reminder of the toll the war took in Baltimore. Tucked away in the north wall of St. Dominic's Church, Harford Road and Gibbons Avenue, is a stained-glass panel depicting a religious sister, a Daughter of Charity, holding a fallen doughboy. In the background, the flames of war consume a French farmhouse.

The window's base contains the simple motto, "Parish," a reminder of the many Hamiltonians who answered the call to arms.

On a clear November afternoon, light falls through the window's rich colors to remind a visitor of that toll.