A Brother in Arms: Charles Coffin Gurley

Charles Coffin Gurley, Co. K, 8th Mass. Infantry

One of Sam Avery’s younger brothers-in-arms and fellow “K Boy” was Charles Coffin Gurley. Charles was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, and after finishing school had obtained civilian employment as an express deliveryman. At the age of 19 years old, Charles entered the service on July 15, 1913 and enlisted in K Company, 8th Mass. Infantry at the Somerville Armory. Charles served in K Company along with Sam near El Paso, Texas during the Mexican Border Campaign from the time the Massachusetts Brigade arrived in early July, 1916 until he was furloughed on August 5, 1916 and returned home.

104th Infantry DUI

When the 8th Mass. Infantry was largely dismantled and integrated into the 26th “Yankee” Division in August 1917, Charles was assigned to the Machine Gun Company of the 104th Infantry Regiment while Sam was assigned to the 103rd Infantry Regiment (see the 26th “Yankee” Division Page for more information.) As fellow members of the 52nd Brigade, Charles and Sam shared the same hardships, discomforts and dangers as they occupied the same Sectors during 210 days of continuous combat during 1917-1918.

The men of the 104th Infantry saw some of the heaviest fighting and suffered the greatest number of casualties experienced by the 26th Division while “Over There”. As Sam himself would say, the former members of K Company “gave a good account of themselves” in battle: Following heavy fighting during the month of April in the Toul Sector, the 104th Infantry received a Unit Citation on 4/16/1918 and was also the first American regiment to receive the Croix de Guerre (French Medal of Honor or “Cross of War”) on 4/28/1918. Charles himself received a copy of the Citation signed by Gen. Clarence Edwards which reads as follows:

“I have read with much pleasure the reports of your regimental commander and brigade commander regarding your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on April 2-14, 1918 while attacked by superior numbers under heavy enemy fire {Toul Sector} and have ordered your name and deed to be entered in the record of the Yankee Division.”  -C.R. Edwards, Maj. Gen. Commanding 26th Division.

At some point (probably during the month of June, 1918), Charles sustained a leg injury and presented the common signs of gas exposure. He was confined to a Base hospital for three months before returning to his Company prior to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October. He was gassed again in the Argonne Sector, but appears to have remained in the line until the end of hostilities.

Like Sam, Charles ultimately managed to return home to America safely and without wounds as one of “the originals.” Along with the other members of the 26th Division, Charles received an Honorable Discharge at Camp Devens in late April, 1919 for “Honest and Faithful Service,” and was issued a travel allowance back to Somerville where his adventure had begun.

Pvt. 1st Class Charles Coffin Gurley, #70747


(Information and photos courtesy of Michael Rottler-Gurley)

Published on March 11, 2010 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

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