The Little Lead Soldier (Hardcover)
The Little Lead Soldier" Hugh Wise, III
We are delighted to have Hugh Wise's new book "The Little Lead Soldier" here at Explore Booksellers. Hugh is an author, an historian of extensive study and merit and a long-time member of our local community. "The Little Lead Soldier" tells the story of Hugh's grandfather, the late Colonel Hugh Wise, and his decorated service in the European campaign in World War I. This story is related to his son (and us) under the auspice of a small toy soldier given to the Colonel by his son, Hugh, Jr, to act as a intermediary and correspondent during the Colonel's service in the war. Colonel Wise, through the voice of the Little Lead Soldier, maintained an extensive correspondence with his young son recounting the Colonel's experience of the Great War in his capacity as the commander of the 61st Infantry Division. This division was involved in two extremely important campaigns in France, St. Methiel and Meuse-Argonne. The Meuse-Argonne offensive itself was, after four long years of continuous assault, credited with breaking the will of the German forces and leading directly to the Armistice of 11 November 1918. One of the very first engagements of the 61st under the command of Col. Wise, an assault on the German's entrenched position across "No Man's Land' (a term the Colonel eschewed for, he said, "There is no such thing as No Man's Land, that is ours and we are going on it when we please...") to bloody their noses and take prisoners for battlefield intelligence, won Col. Wise the Croix de Guerre for battlefield command and maintaining the "...very high morale of his troops by his beautiful courage and his great cold-bloodedness in the moments of danger," as well as his "energetic attitude".
Col. Wise's account of the life of a soldier in the trenches of the Great War, the various battles assaults and defensive operations alone would make this an interesting and compelling work of history. The Colonel, in the voice of the Little Lead Soldier, gives a riveting narrative of the "on the ground" action involving the 61st Infantry and beyond. He recounts the general atmosphere of camaraderie and bonhomie, not to mention the deep respect, amongst the international forces, shared by soldiers and officers alike. I particularly enjoyed the way that the the Little Lead Soldier would attempt to "speculate" on the moods and emotions of the Colonel in his correspondence to Hugh, Jr. I thought it a wonderful device that allowed Col. Wise to share some of his deeper thoughts and feeling without appearing to be overly emotional or concerned (at one point the Little Lead Soldier said he thought he saw the Colonel "wiping away tears" but couldn't be sure.
The author also shares the correspondence of his grandmother's. Her hopes and fears, her struggles raising a family during war-time privation and insecurity, and her unyielding devotion to the Colonel and their family. As narrator, Hugh,III, fills us in the on wider war, the Big Show, as it were, with astute analysis and historical context. His voice adds a level of circumspection and historical perspective that rounds out the reportage from the Little Lead Soldier and the ruminations of the Colonel to create an excellent narrative history. All in all this is a ripping good read that is exciting, evocative, and educational. Mark Billingsley— Mark Billingsley
Arriving in France in April 1918, Col. Hugh D. Wise, commander of the U.S. 61st Infantry Division, held a precious object. It was a toy soldier given to him by his six-year-old son, Hugh, Jr. The boy had asked the little lead soldier to write him with news of his father. The colonel saw action in two of the most important campaigns the Americans fought, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, and the little lead soldier dutifully assured a boy thousands of miles away that his father was safe: "The men had been shelled, gassed, and raked by machine guns constantly: and undergone several intense bombardments; and made a difficult though successful attack; and had resisted a fierce counter-attack. They had dug trenches, moved, and dug again. All this time they had been without shelter, exposed to a cold driving rain and without warm food--They were wet, chilled, and tired when called upon for even greater ef-forts but they responded with the energy and spirit of fresh troops." A treasured family heirloom, these wartime letters are presented for the first time along with letter from Colonel Wise to his wife, and engrossing historical context provided by his grandson, Hugh D. Wise, III. The Little Lead Soldier: World War I Letters from a Father to His Son is a remarkable story of how a father performed his dangerous duty while keeping a promise to his boy.
About the Author
Hugh D. Wise, III, graduated from Princeton University with honors in history and received a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He also served in the Peace Corps in Brazil, where he was guest lecturer in American history at Universidade do Brasil and Universidade Catolicado Rio de Janeiro. He is a trial attorney, residing in Aspen, Colorado.