1879-1937; bulk: 1890-1931
Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the papers of Clarence Ransom Edwards, career military officer and commander of the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I, including correspondence, speeches, reports and bulletins, writings, printed matter, volumes, and other papers.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on January 1, 1859, Clarence Ransom Edwards was the son of William Edwards, a prominent wholesale grocer, and Lucia Ransom Edwards. His uncle was famed Union Civil War hero Oliver Edwards. Clarence Edwards decided early on a military career, attending Brooks Military Academy (Cleveland) and West Point. At West Point, he excelled at athletics, but finished last academically in a class of 52 in 1883.
Commissioned a second lieutenant, Edwards was given a tour of duty in Indian territory at Fort Union, New Mexico. His regiment was then transferred to Fort Porter in Buffalo, New York, where he served intermittently from 1884-1890. For two years, Edwards commanded the guard at the grave of the assassinated President James A. Garfield, 1884-1886.
After his marriage to Bessie Porter of Buffalo in 1889, he was assigned to the isolated outpost of Fort Davis, Texas. There he acted as post adjutant and gained a reputation as an expert rifleman. In 1890, he became a professor of military science and tactics at Fordham University. Three years later, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he joined the Military Information Division of the adjutant general's office in the War Department. From there, Edwards returned to Texas, where, among other duties, he was in charge of Seminole Indian scouts.
With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, First Lieutenant Edwards was ordered to New Orleans to be mobilized for the fighting in Cuba. Promoted to major and adjutant general of volunteers, he was sent instead to Montgomery, Alabama, where he became adjutant general of the 4th Army Corps. Soon thereafter, Edwards was made adjutant general and chief of staff for General Henry Ware Lawton. He accompanied Lawton to the Philippines and served in campaigns against the Spanish at Santa Cruz, San Rafael, and Guadalupe Ridge. After Lawton's death in battle in 1899, Edwards returned home to become chief of the Customs and Insular Division (later the Bureau of Insular Affairs) in the War Department. In this powerful post, Edwards was in charge of the civil affairs of the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and the Panama Canal Zone during his twelve years of War Department service. In the same period, he was promoted successively to colonel and brigadier general.
From 1900-1912, Edwards traveled extensively to the Philippines and the West Indies with Secretaries of War William Howard Taft, Jacob McGavock Dickinson, and Henry L. Stimson. He became particularly close to Taft, with whom he had also worked when the latter was governor of the Philippines.
In 1912, Edwards was assigned to regular army duty. After commanding the 6th Brigade at Fort D. A. Russell in Wyoming and Texas City, Texas, he was sent to Hawaii to command the 1st Brigade. In 1915, he was ordered to Panama, where he showed considerable skill organizing troops in the Canal Zone and devising a complicated plan for the zone's defense.
After the American declaration of war on Germany in April 1917, Edwards went to Boston to organize the defenses of New England as head of the Northeastern Department. In August, he was given command of the 26th Division and authorized to gather National Guard troops from New England. He took his division to France, where they saw action against German forces at Chemin des Dames, Bois Brule, Seicheprey, Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, and the Argonne Forest.
Despite the Yankee Division's overall success in battle, General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, felt that Edwards, who often criticized his superior officers within hearing distance of his men, was somewhat unmilitary in style and did not push his men hard enough. As a result, Pershing relieved Edwards of his command and sent him home, ostensibly to train new divisions for the fighting just 17 days before the armistice. Edwards continued to hold a grudge against Pershing, and his removal became a cause célèbre for veterans and politicians in New England. For a time, the general was mentioned as a possible gubernatorial and presidential candidate.
From 1918 to 1920, Edwards again headed the Northeastern Department. Other than issuing an alert during the Boston police strike of 1919, he had little of real consequence left to do. After his promotion to major general in 1922, he retired from the army and lived out his retirement at "Doneroving," a farm in Westwood, Massachusetts. The general remained in touch with many members of his former Yankee Division and continued to push for official recognition of the division's accomplishments in battle. He was especially active in the movements for universal military training and against prohibition in the 1920s. He also served as chairman of the board of his father's Cleveland business and was a strong proponent of airship commerce. He died from complications resulting from an intestinal obstruction on February 14, 1931.
This collection consists of the papers of Clarence Ransom Edwards, career military officer and commander of the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I, including correspondence, speeches, reports and bulletins, writings, printed matter, volumes, and other papers. The papers in this collection deal with Edwards's service as chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, 1902-1912, in the War Department, Cuba, the Philippines, the operations of the 26th (Yankee) Division in World War I, General John J. Pershing's removal of Edwards as division commander, and Edwards's advocacy of universal military training and his opposition to prohibition. Among the correspondents are Edwards's wife Bessie Porter Edwards, John W. Hyatt, W. Cameron Forbes, James G. Harbord, Hunter Liggett, William Howard Taft, and Leonard Wood.
Gift of the Clarence Ransom Edwards estate through John W. Hyatt, 1932. Additions from Ginny Hale Ridabock, November 2014.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Correspondence, 1890-1931
This series contains Edwards's general correspondence, including papers related to his work as chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, 1900-1912; his World War I service; and the aftermath of his dismissal. His most frequent correspondents are Leonard Wood and William Howard Taft. Other correspondents include: Winthrop Murray Crane, J. M. Dickinson, W. Cameron Forbes, Archbishop John Ireland, Henry Cabot Lodge, Orville H. Platt, Elihu Root, Francis E. Warren, John W. Weeks, and military leaders Henry T. Allen, Tasker H. Bliss, William C. Gorgas, James G. Harbord, Hunter Liggett, Frank McIntyre, and William S. Sims. The series also contains a number of letters of Major John W. Hyatt, a close Edwards aide, but only a few letters from John J. Pershing to Edwards. Most of Edwards's correspondence to and from his wife, Bessie Porter Edwards, is located in the undated material in Box 1.
II. Miscellaneous papers, 1881-1937
This series contains Edwards's biographical notes; his speeches on military and political matters; copies of army correspondence, bulletins, memoranda orders, and reports, mostly pertaining to the operations of the Yankee Division; similar material related to the Philippines and Panama; army lectures and instructions on subjects ranging from trench to chemical warfare; and a large collection of pamphlets.
A. Army correspondence and reports, 1917-1919
This subseries contains army correspondence related to the movement of the 26th Division and liaisons with French, English, and other organizations; a history of the 26th Division, including reports of staff officers and division, brigade, and regimental commanders; reports on German propaganda and fraternization with the enemy; commendatory letters to Edwards; miscellaneous printed material, including casualty figures, 1918; and General Pershing's report to the secretary of war, 1918-1919.
B. Essays, addresses, and other writings, 1912-1928
This subseries contains Edwards's essay on the "Preparation of Youth for Citizenship" and his speeches welcoming General Pershing to New England, 1920, and endorsing the repeal of prohibition; the draft of an Edwards bill for army reorganization; and miscellaneous other writings and speeches.
C. Subject files, 1899-1930
This subseries contains correspondence, memoranda, reports, printed material, lectures and addresses, bulletins, orders, and other papers on a variety of subjects.
Included are lectures on camouflage tactics, tank and trench warfare, and other subjects.
Included are by-laws and other papers of the YD Club, the Boston chapter of the Yankee Division Veterans Association.
D. Printed matter, 1881-1937
Miscellaneous printed matter, 1881-1931
Included are Army troop rosters, speeches, and copies of legislation related to military spending and preparedness.
Included are issues of Brazilian American, Harvey's Weekly, the Independent, and other magazines.
Included are pamphlets alleging an international Jewish conspiracy.
Included are reprinted speeches on financial and labor questions.
E. Pictorial matter, 1910-1929
This subseries contains a small number of drawings, postcards, and miscellaneous other items.
Note: Photographs have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives. Artifacts have been removed to the MHS Artifacts Collection.
F. Additions, 1925-
Gift of Ginny Hale Ridabock, November 2014.
One folder of additions includes a printed speech by Edwards to the U.S. House of Representatives and a message sent to Edwards at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
III. Bound volumes, 1879-1931
This series contains an account book of Edwards as a West Point cadet, 1879; a volume of drawings of various styles of army uniforms, 1908-1909; a program for the inaugural of President Taft, 1909; a copy of Edwards's detailed brief entitled "Project for the Defense of the Panama Canal," 1917; a journal of operations for the Yankee Division and summaries of army intelligence, 1918; an instructional manual on aspects of naval warfare, 1918; a copy of the Civil War recollections of Oliver Edwards; and an undated photograph album.
Note: This volume has been removed to the MHS Photo Archives.
IV. Oversize materials, 1892-1930
This series contains certificates documenting Edwards's military commissions and his other honors and organizational memberships, as well as a number of maps of France, some of which plot in detail the 1918 movements of the Yankee Division.
Note: The maps in this series are located in extra-large oversize.
Included are Edwards's commissions as first lieutenant, captain, lieutenant colonel, brigadier general, and major general; his appointment as chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs; honorary degrees from Boston College, Fordham University, and the University of Maine; cartoons depicting General Edwards; honorary memberships in the Charitable Irish Society, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other organizations; miscellaneous banners; and a certificate for the French Croix de Guerre awarded to Edwards in 1919.
This folder contains blueprints and a large number of World War I military maps of France.
This folder contains a large World War I situation map in 7 parts plotting the movements of the 26th (Yankee) Division.
Clarence Ransom Edwards papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.
Materials Removed from the Collection
Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives.
Artifacts have been removed to the MHS Artifacts Collection. These consist of a carved ebony cane given to Edwards by W. Cameron Forbes, governor general of the Philippine Islands, in Aug. 1910; a dagger and scabbard connected to Filipino counterinsurgents in the Philippine War, 1899-1902; and an incense burner made from a silver 1916 Peruvian one-sol coin.