Washed Day Clouds was born Aug. 9, 1900, in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., New York. 1 His early life and family are unknown, but his headstone indicates he was Native American. Constructed in Cattaraugus County in the late 1800s, Salamanca is the only city in the U.S. that lies completely within a Native reservation—the Seneca Nation Territory.2
The Seneca Nation has five reservations in New York—Cattaraugus, Allegany, Oil Spring, Niagara, and Buffalo. The City of Salamanca is in the Allegany reservation. The Allegheny Reservation Native American residents are primarily members of the Seneca tribe.
Many Native American children at that time were taken from their families and installed in American Indian boarding schools. These boarding schools were first established by Christian missionaries of various denominations. The missionaries were often approved by the federal government to start both missions and schools on reservations.3 This could explain why family information could not be located and why, on his military transport passenger list, a Rev. Harry Baker was listed as his emergency contact.
The 11th Field Artillery Regiment was constituted on June 3, 1916, in the Regular Army at Camp Douglas. 7 After the U.S. declaration of war following the sinking of RMS Lusitania, 10 officers and 200 enlisted men of the 6th Field Artillery were transferred to the newly formed 11th Field Artillery. These numbers were supplemented by draftees from New York, Ohio, Missouri, and California. Washed Clouds was from New York. The 11th had 63 officers, 1496 enlisted, and 24 guns. In April 1918, the 11th was ordered to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where it became part of the 6th Field Artillery Brigade, 6th Division. There, they began intensive artillery and combat training in preparation for overseas assignment.
On July 14, the 11th, including Washed Day Clouds, boarded military transport ships, Clouds on the Caronia, at Headquarters Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey, sailing to Brest, France. He is listed on the passenger list as part of Battery “B”, 11th Field Artillery. His residence was Lackawanna, New York. A friend, Rev. Harry Baker, was listed as his emergency contact. 8
The 11th was transported by train for training at Camp du Valdahon in France, drilling on 155mm Schneider howitzers, practicing night firing as well as conducting transportation and gas drills. 9 It was during this training that the 1918 influenza epidemic hit the unit, killing more men than would be lost in combat. The epidemic eventually claimed 57,000 soldiers of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). On October 22, the 11th left Camp du Valdahon and arrived in the Argonne Forest, west of Verdun.
The 11th received orders to leave the 6th Division and report to Avocourt, where it was attached to the 58th Field Artillery Brigade, 33rd Infantry Division, giving support to the 89th Division. The regiment fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, saw its first action on October 26 at Rémonville, and participated in the largest artillery barrage of the war on November 1.
Meuse-Argonne was the bloodiest battle for the Americans. The forty-seven-day battle involved 1.2 million American soldiers. Artillery units fired more rounds than the entire Union Army during the American Civil War.10 About half the total AEF casualties occurred in the Meuse-Argonne. American victory was made possible by the aggressiveness and skill of the 11th Field Artillery. The unit did lose 12 men, with 45 wounded during the battle of Meuse-Argonne.
With the war over, the unit began an eight-day march to rejoin the 6th Division near Dijon on December 9, where it remained for five months before reporting to Brest to begin the journey home. On June 3, the 11th sailed for the United States on board the S.S. Mount Vernon and arrived in New York on June 10, 1919. 11 It then went to Camp Mills where some of its soldiers were discharged. Washed Clouds was discharged from the Army on June 19, 1919. 12
On June 2, 1924, U.S. Republican President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, which made citizens of the United States of all Native Americans born in the United States and its territories, and who were not already citizens. Prior to passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U.S. citizens.13
Washed Day Clouds died Jan. 26, 1962, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; however, no information could be located about his life between the end of his military service and his death, other than that he was a laborer and resided at 609 W. Madison St., Chicago.14 He was buried in the Rock Island National Cemetery on February 1, 1962.
4 Washed D Clouds military record Veterans Admin Master Index 1917-1940 – U.S Veterans Bureau Form 7902 Index Card
5 Washed D Clouds’ memorial page – Honor Veterans Legacies at VLM (va.gov) – Burial location and photo of headstone. Washed D Clouds’ memorial page – Honor Veterans Legacies at VLM (va.gov)
11 Fold3 WWI Transport Service Incoming Passenger List
12 U.S. Veterans Bureau Form 7902 Index Card – Master Index 1917-1940
14 “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998,” database, FamilySearch