Monday Memories: WWI Soldier Frederick Dunsford
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
The start of a new week on the Folklife Center Blog usually means that it's time for Musical Monday, where we feature videos from our series of Live! Folklife Concerts. Today, though, I thought it might be nice to share a portrait from our new collection of glass plate negatives (which so far have been providing us with a fascinating glimpse into the history of our community). Each negative we scan brings a new face to life, and each face comes with a story. Welcome, then, to our first installment of Monday Memories. Meet Frederick Dunsford.
With 24 boxes of glass plate negatives to unpack, clean, scan, catalog, and safely house, there really isn’t time to delve too deeply into the rich lives of every single person in these portraits. Sometimes, though, an image is too striking, too flat-out enticing to resist. Such was the case with Frederick Dunsford of Elizabeth Street in Hudson Falls. We see a young man, proud and probably more than a little nervous, sitting in his U.S. Army uniform as World War I rages, and we simply have to know how the story ends. Does our hero get deployed? If so, does he survive the absolute carnage of trench warfare? “Well,” I tell myself, “maybe I do have time for a little research after all. Just enough to see how Mr. Dunsford fared in the end. The rest of the negatives aren't going anywhere."
As it turns out, Mr. Dunsford did end up being sent overseas, and newspaper articles about his service mention places like Château-Thierry, the Marne and Meuse Rivers, the Argonne Forest, and Grandpré—places now considered sacred for the sacrifices made there; places that often evoke images of endless fields of headstones. Happily, though (and somewhat miraculously), they did not spell the end of the line for our Hudson Falls hero. He took a machine-gun bullet through the hip while storming Grandpré in October of 1918, spent some time recovering in hospitals in France and New York City, and ultimately returned to his beloved home town (with a slight limp) in January of 1919. The Post-Star published a first-hand account of his military experiences in its February 12, 1919 issue, which ends with Frederick making the following droll observation: "I must say that Hudson Falls looks better to me than the small town battlefields of France."
This was just the kind of ending I’d hoped for last Friday, back when the portrait of a wide-eyed G.I. first appeared on my computer screen. Fingers crossed that this project brings a few thousand more such stories of hope to light!