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Biography of Matthew Hugh Chism

Ennis, Texas

Hugh Chism was a private in the United States Army. He enlisted in the army in May of 1918, while a resident of Ennis. He received six-weeks of basic training at Camp Travis, which was located five-miles northeast of downtown San Antonio, and shared a common boundary with Fort Sam Houston. Camp Travis was named in honor of William B. Travis, a hero of the Alamo. On August 25, 1917 the 90th Division was activated at Camp Travis, and initially composed of men from Texas and Oklahoma.

Chism was assigned to Company D, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division while at Camp Travis. Following basic training, on June 13, 1918 units of the 359th shipped out to France. And when the 90th Division landed, the artillery brigade was sent to a training area near Bordeaux, and the remaining troops were moved by train to the Aignay-le-Duc training area northeast of Dijon. The 359th was garrisoned at Recey-sur-Ource, and trained in the area for six-weeks, eight-hours a day. In August Chism’s unit was deemed ready and sent into combat. Chism fought in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operations. He was mortally wounded on the morning of November 1, 1918, and died of his wound on the same day. He was 25 years of age.

Private Chism was first buried on November 2 on the battlefield. His body was later exhumed and reburied in the American Cemetery in France.

Hugh Chism was the son of the Rev. J. W. Chism and Fannie Campbell Chism. He was born at Pilot Point, Texas on June 24, 1893. His mother died in 1906, and his father remarried. His stepmother took the place of his mother, and reared him as her own. He had two brothers and four sisters.

On Sunday, September 25, 1921 at 2:00 p.m. a reburial service was held at the First Methodist Church in Hillsboro, Texas for Hugh Chism. It was held under the auspices of the Robert E. Vaden Post, American Legion. Elders Joe S. Warlick of Dallas and T. W. Phillips of Fort Worth, ministers of the Church of Christ, conducted the religious service, and J. W. Acuff of Waco was in charge of the music. Final interment was at Ridge Part Cemetery with full military honors.

Mrs. J. W. Chism received the following letter from her son in October. It was written on September 18, 1918, somewhere in France:

Dear Mamma and All:

How are you all, Fine, I hope. I am O.K. We are just back from “over the top,” and our captain, Captain Fisk, is back with us safe and sound.

Bernie Warlick was transferred to the “Stars and Stripes,” that is a newspaper for the A. E. F. boys. He was transferred just before we went over the top. So I guess Uncle Joe will be better satisfied about him now, as he was worried about him before.

This leaves me fine and dandy. I received several letters while I was in the trenches this time, and I tell you they do help out, too.

Lovingly, your son,

(signed) HUGH

Pvt. Matt H. Chism, Co. D, 249th (359th) Infantry, A. E. F. France

Private Chism’s last letter home was dated October 30, 1918, somewhere in France:

Dear Mamma and All:

Hello! How is everything this a.m.? Fine I hope. We are doing fine, the sun is shining this morning, so we don’t know how to act over here. But you will see in a few days what sunshine does for the boys in O.D.

Tell Sister Jackson I received her two letters and was glad to get them; and that I will write her as soon as I can get time. But she has lots of time, so she can keep on writing.

Where is Dad now? I have not had a letter from him in several days, and have not written him for longer than that. But tell him that I haven’t forgotten him, and that I like to get letters from him; so don’t get sore.

Well, I have no news, so will close so as to get this in the mail.

Bye, bye,

Your son,

(signed) HUGH

Pvt. Matt H. Chism, Co. D, 359th Infantry, A. E. F.

On November 26 the Rev. J. W. Chism received a telegram notifying of his son’s death. On the same day, he wrote Hugh's commanding officer, Captain William Fisk, and on December 26 Captain Fisk wrote the following letter from Crov, Germany:

My Dear Sir:

Your letter of Nov. 26th received the 24th inst. It is my sad duty to inform you that the news you received of the death of your son, Pvt. Matt H. Chism of my company is really true. I well remember the time you visited your son and myself at Camp Travis, and it grieves me very much that I am not able to return your son to you the same boy that he was when you entrusted him to my care. He was a most excellent soldier, always ready and willing to perform any, and all kinds of duty. He had served continually with my company since his arrival in France; and to the best of my knowledge was never absent from any duty.

I remember you speaking of his being injured some years ago and that it might bother him in carrying his pack on long marches, but he never complained. He was with his company in all its marches and battles, which were many.

On November 1, at 5:30 a.m. we went over the top from a position we had been holding for several days, the enemy lines were only about 300 yards away. We were to drive the enemy from his position, and gain a hold on a ridge some 2,000 yards away. We met considerable resistance from the start, but kept pushing on taking one enemy machine gun after another, and when under a heavy machine gun and artillery fire your son was hit by a machine gun bullet which penetrated the right side of his neck, and as he was lying down at the time the bullet passed downward and lodged in his chest. I was some 200 yards from him at the time and did not know of his being hit until late that evening. This happened about 9:30 a.m. My first Sergeant Marvin M. Wynne was with, or near him at the time and gave him first aid, and advised him to report to the first aid station, which was at that time only a short distance to our rear. He walked back to the station, and died shortly after reaching there.

The wound bled very little and death was caused from internal bleeding. Sergeant Wynne states that he asked your son if the wound pained him much, and he said, “No, only it is very difficult to breathe.”

There were a great many wounded men at the station when your son died, but so far as I have been able to determine there were none there at the time who knew him. He was buried on the battlefield by our Chaplain on the day following his death.

I am enclosing a map of the sector over which he fought, and have indicated there on the approximate place where he fell, and also where he was buried. It is very hard indeed for me to find words to express my sympathy to a father who has lost his son, but it was for a noble cause that he gave his life. Several of his comrades are resting near him, including one of my lieutenants.

Accept sir, the deepest sympathies of his comrades who will forever cherish the memory of those who have fallen on the field of honor.

Sincerely your friend,


Captain, 359th Infantry

Private Matthew Hugh Chism is listed on the Ellis County Veterans Memorial.   

"We Were Soldiers Once, and Young" by Perry Giles

The picture and bio information are courtesy of Perry Giles, Giles Monument Company, Waxahachie, Texas.

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