Some fallen heroes served their country for years before being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. Others make that sacrifice in the first several weeks or months of their service. Some, like this fallen hero, never survive their first taste of combat.
The ancestors of Russell Andreas (1894-1918) settled in Tuscarawas County in the first decade of the 1800s with the arrival of Peter Andreas (1782-1864). Peter established himself initially in Dover Township where he married Nancy Miller (1788-1861) in 1811. Peter and Nancy had numerous children between 1813 and 1848, making the Andreas name a common one in the areas historical records. One of their sons, John Andreas (1813-1893), married Sarah Sherretts (1813-1891) in 1834 and started his family on a farm in Dover Township. John and Sarah took after his parents, welcoming over a dozen children during their marriage.
One of the 12 children was John Wesley Andreas (1844-1922) who grew up, like his siblings, working on his family’s farm. After John W. Andreas’ marriage to Saretta Copeland (1852-1898) in the fall of 1870, the couple moved to Dover and John started working as a coal miner. John and Saretta’s family was made up of eight children born between 1871 and 1893. Saretta succumbed to an extended illness in 1898, leaving John to raise the youngest children himself at their home on Front Street in Dover.
John W. Andreas changed trades between 1880 and 1900 and was working as a lather (applying plaster lathe to buildings). The youngest child of John and Saretta, named Russell Andreas (1893-1918), worked as a green house laborer after finishing his schooling. Sometime after 1910, Russell joined his father in the lathing trade as well. When the war in Europe appeared on the American horizon, and Russell was required to register for the draft, he was still working as a lather and lived on Sycamore Street in Canton.
An examination of the official documents related to Russell Andreas’ early service indicates there may have been a falling-out between Russell and his father. Russell makes a point on his forms of listing his sister, Laura Myrtle Andreas (1879-1953), rather than his father as his next-of-kin. Russell was drafted in May 1918 and, along with other Ohio draftees, was sent to Camp Gordon, Georgia to join a replacement regiment for training. Private Andreas trained at Camp Gordon before being transported to Boston, Massachusetts and embarking for Europe. The men of replacement company number 49, including Private Andreas, boarded the HMAT Beltana on July 24, 1918 destined for France.
Upon his arrival in France, in August 1918, Private Andreas was assigned to G Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. The 1st Infantry Division was holding the allied line just northeast of the French town of Xivray-Marvoisin, preparing for an assault of German positions opposite them. This assault, that became known as the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, was designed to eliminate a German salient. The planners of the offensive scheduled it to begin on Thursday, September 12, 1918.
When the whistle blew and the order came to go “over the top” the men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, including Private Andreas, answered the call. Private Andreas had no sooner left his trench when a German artillery shell exploded near him, killing him instantly. He was initially buried in a local cemetery in Xivray-Marvoisin and then reburied in the St. Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiacourt, France. Private Russell Andreas’ remains were returned to his family in July 1921 and he was laid to rest at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dover.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.