This fallen hero’s parents immigrated from Europe in order to provide a better life for their future children in America. Unfortunately, one of their sons would return to a Europe at war and make the ultimate sacrifice.
Celeste Mattevi (1868-1940) was born in the southern part of the province of Tyrol in what was then called Austria-Hungary. The majority of residents in that part of the province were of Italian ancestry and the principal language of that area was Italian. Celeste worked as a miner in Tyrol, though exactly what he mined is unclear as are a number of details about his early life. The historical records easily available often offer conflicting or confusing information, not surprising given the language barriers and record-keeping of the time.
The first indication of his immigration to the United States appears in a 1898 list of passengers arriving in New York aboard the SS Normandie. That record lists that he first arrived in the United States in 1890 and that he was returning “home.” Home at that time was apparently in the coal mining area of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania around the town of Hazelton. The record also states that he was already married to his wife, Diomira Pretti (1868-1965), at this time. Later census records document the year of Celeste and Diomira’s marriage as occurring in 1892. That said, the same census record reports Diomira’s immigration to the United States as having occurred in 1893. Given that there are other records of Celeste returning to his native country, it is probable that the two were married in Tyrol on one of his trips back to his native country.
Based on the 1910 census record it is known that Celeste and Diomira lived in Pennsylvania in the early 1890s where their first two children, including their eldest Victor J. Mattevi (1894-1918), were born. They must have returned to Tyrol sometime in late 1895 or early 1896 because their third child’s birthplace is recorded as Austria-Hungary. The family eventually settled in Wainwright, Tuscarawas County by the time their fourth child was born in 1903. Celeste found work in the nearby coal mines and the children attended the local school.
Victor worked in the coal mines from an early age, likely as soon as he was able, and both he and his younger brother are listed as coal miners on the 1910 census. Two years later Victor accused one of the foreman at a Wainwright coal mine of assault and battery after he claimed that the foreman struck him for disobeying an order. The court found in the foreman’s favor however and Victor was required to pay court costs. Victor eventually moved to a rooming house in New Philadelphia and was living there when he registered for the World War One draft in June 1917.
The wait between Victor registering and being drafted was less than a year when, in May 1918, his number was called. Victor, along with 160 other men, were boarded onto a train to take them to training at Camp Gordon in Georgia. Apparently Victor must have had some musical training or ability for, after arriving at camp, he was given the rank of Bugler. A Bugler was responsible for playing the various calls and commands essential to the movement of large numbers of troops in camp and on the battlefield, often under hostile fire.
After the completion of their training, the recruits from Camp Gordon were transported to New York, boarded onto the RMS Orca, and shipped to the European theater. Upon arrival in France in late July 1918 Bugler Mattevi was assigned as a replacement in Company M, 109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division*. He joined his new unit just in time to take part in the Aisne-Marne offensive that lasted until the first week of August 1918. The 28th Infantry Division suffered 1,969 casualties during the offensive, including 300 killed.
Following the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the 109th Infantry Regiment took up defensive positions near the French village of Fismes. The troops did not have long to rest when, less than two weeks later, they began the Oise-Aisne offensive to push the German withdrawal even further. After crossing the Vesle River the men of the 28th Infantry Division, on September 5, 1918, attempted to take a plateau to their front. German fire made the advance slow and deadly and the Americans advanced less than a mile. American casualties were high and among those killed was Bugler Mattevi.
The Mattevi family did not receive official notice of their son’s death until December 1918. Bugler Mattevi was initially buried in France and it would not be until June 1921 that he was returned home. Bugler Victor J. Mattevi was laid to rest in Cavalry Cemetry in New Philadelphia on June 12, 1921 with full military honors.
* Bugler Mattevi’s headstone erroneously lists his divisional unit as the 83rd Infantry Division (likely due to the number of Ohioans that served in that unit) however, all of the official records list him as serving in the 109th Infantry Regiment which served as a component of the 28th Infantry Division.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.