News from Adair County
Editor Barksdale Hamlett and the Sinking of the Tuscania
On February 5th, 1918, the Tuscania, a liner which had been in use as a troop carrier since the late summer of 1916, suffered a direct hit from a torpedo fired by German U-Boat (submarine) UB-77. Two hundred-thirty of the some 2,000 troops and crew aboard were lost.
Among those eventually reported as survivors were Campbellsville native Francis Caldwell and Marion County native Carl Overstreet, both of whom had ties to Adair County.
The following article appeared on page one of the February 13, 1918 edition of the Adair County News.
Francis C. Caldwell, of Campbellsville, and Carl R. Overstreet were on the ill-fated ship, Tuscania, which was sunk last week by a German submarine. The last report is that one [sic] hundred and one United States Soldiers were lost. It is hoped that the two Kentucky boys mentioned were among the saved.
The mother of Francis Caldwell, before her marriage, was Miss Annie Read, of Columbia. Carl Overstreet was a former student in the Lindsey-Wilson school, and his home was Bradfordsville.
Later.--Francis Caldwell wires his brother, Reed, who lives in Campbellsville, that he is among the saved.
In the same issue of the News appeared two stirring op-ed pieces by Editor Barksdale Hamlett. The first of these was written shortly before word of Caldwell's survival reached Columbia.
The fate of the Francis C. Caldwell who was on the great British ship when she went down last week, a victim to the German submarine, is not yet known. The list of Americans was lost when the ship was sunk. It is believed that approximately 200 American soldiers were lost.
But, whatever the fate of Caldwell, his home people, while anxious to hear of his hoped-for safety, will be prepared for the worst, if it is later known that he was one of our American soldiers who, when the ship was struck, went calmly to his post, bravely awaiting his untimely but glorious fate, and did his "bit," chiming in with the other heroes of this event while the national anthems of the Anglo-American allies were sung.
Later--Francis Caldwell writes his brother, who lives in Campbellsville, that he is among the survivors.
The second of the Tuscania-related op-ed pieces was pure Hamlett -- fiery, in-your-face, unabashed patriotism.
The sinking of the Tuscania with the loss of more than one hundred American soldiers is already being used as good propaganda by the Pacificist and Pro-German. If two thousand instead of two hundred had died, the true American and the real patriot would be the greater and more nobly inspired to get ready for the colossal sacrifices that are yet to be made for the freedom of mankind for the democracy of the world.
Our only regret for these boys is that they were not permitted by fate to die on the goal line that they were as men and patriots pressing forward to.
Let us at home, dedicate as their monument, the American Flag, and write "Freedom" for their epitaph. Their posthumous wishes if they could be interpreted, would inspire more sons of America to go with gladness and pride to this burial spot on the fields of our country's glory and our country's honor.
At least one reader took offense at Hamlett's editorial and canceled his subscription to the Adair County News. Editor Hamlett used that as a bellows to stoke the flames for an even hotter bare knuckles op-ed in the February 20 edition of the News.
We lost our first subscriber last week. He is a pacifist. Not so bad as the Parson down at Murray, but sufficiently so to object to our editorial expression last week about the sinking of the Tuscania and the shedding of American blood German murderers, whom such lily-livered people, by their uncompromising utterances, unwittingly aid and abet.
We were not given the privilege of going to the trenches of Northern France to fight them, but we are endeavoring to give them the shot of our best battery, here at home, and thereby, do our "bit." We are expecting to neither hold nor increase our circulation in Germany and Austria-Hungary. America is big enough for us.
The Feb 20 edition also carried a brief first page note about Carl Overstreet, the other Kentuckian on the Tuscania.
Carl Overstreet, of Marion County, a former student in Lindsey-Wilson, this place, was on the Tuscania, but he was saved.
"The Parson down at Murray" referred to the Rev. H. Boyce Taylor, long-time Baptist minister at Murray and outspoken Pacifist.
Francis C. Caldwell was the son of James T. Caldwell & Annie Read Caldwell. Annie was the daughter of Rev. Henry Clay Read, of Lincoln/Boyle County, Ky., and Adair County native Ada Sophia Frazier Read, of Columbia's well-known Burkesville Street Frazier family. In his Historical and Biographical Sketches of Adair County, Judge H.C. Baker wrote of Annie Reed Caldwell's father and grandmother:
In 1856 the Presbyterian church building was erected in Columbia, the ground being donated by Mrs. Kitty A. Frazier*... Dr. John Lapsley McKee was then pastor of the church, having been called to its charge the preceding year...He was succeeded as pastor by Rev. H.C. Read, who died in 1863. (* Catherine Ann, nee Brawner.)