By Tanya Whitney, Army
Writing Type: Prose
Lorenzo Hamilton was 24 years old when he was drafted into the Army. He had requested an exemption as an only son so he could stay to take care of his widowed mother, but that was denied. Yet others had been granted the exemption even though they were not the only son.
So off to basic training Lorenzo went with a group of soldiers just like him. They had a separate send-off from other soldiers from the town. They were sent to a camp in the South but were unable to go into town as other soldiers could. Lorenzo probably wanted to be an infantryman and fight in the war like his father before him. His father had been an infantryman serving with Union troops in the Civil War and had seen action in several battles.
Once training was completed, Lorenzo, along with his fellow soldiers, was sent overseas to France. Lorenzo, like many others of his background, was assigned to a service battalion. He and his soldier buddies hoped they would have the opportunity to fight for their country, but Lorenzo and the others weren’t allowed to fight. Black soldiers were not allowed to mix with the white army. So, Lorenzo and his company were sent to perform manual labor such as digging trenches, filling trenches, burying bodies and other tasks deemed fitting for his race at the time.
The French Army, however, had requested more troops from the Americans. They didn’t care about skin color, only about whether the men could fight. Lorenzo took a chance and volunteered. He was assigned to a trench mortar battalion. Lorenzo never had the chance to fight, however. By the time Lorenzo arrived to serve with the French Army, the armistice had been signed, and fighting had ceased.
A month or so later, Lorenzo became sick and was sent to a French hospital. Lorenzo Hamilton died on Dec. 19, 1918 in France of pneumonia. He never got the chance to fight for his country, his race or his freedom. His service was only acknowledged by his headstone.