Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Frozen Rock Notes

During the Civil War, Confederate troops fled across the ford at Frozen Rock in an effort to flee Union forces then making a drive to retake Fort Gibson.  Two dozen bodies of Rebel soldiers were found dotting the ridge at the end of hostilities.

A year after the end of the war, a Saint Louis book[1] reported that Frozen Rock was six times as likely to be a steamboat destination as was heading for Fort Gibson.  Merchants were advised that Frozen Rock was located 714 miles above the mouth of the Arkansas River on the Mississippi.

[1] Annual Statement of the Trade and Commerce of Saint Louis for the Year 1865.  By Merchants' Exchange of St. Louis, p. 17.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Local Dentist Was War Hero

The US Congress declared war on Germany and their allies on 6 Apr 1917.  Ten days later, Dr. Otto L. H. Hine volunteered for military service.  This was almost exactly two years since he passed the Oklahoma licensing examination and began practicing dentistry in Muskogee.

His volunteering effort sent him to Oklahoma City where he took an oral exam and passed.  Shortly afterwards, he was sworn in as a First Lieutenant in the US Army’s Dental Corps Reserves.

In the middle of July he was drafted into active duty.  He spent the rest of 1917 in uniform awaiting orders for debarkation for the European Theater.  He served in the Second Battalion, 139th Infantry.

This is Lt. Hine in a more peaceful moment.  However, the war in France was a brutal one of attrition as each side tried to wear its opponent down to the point that they gave up.  Trench warfare caused horrendous losses on both side.  The infusion of American soldiers shifted the balance of power to the British-French-American side.

No Man’s Land existed between the trenches.  When the whistle blew to send GI’s out of their trenches, and “over the top” into No Man’s Land, they entered a zone that was raked by machine gun fire and exploding artillery shells. 

Naturally, chaos regularly ensued as soldiers tried to avoid being killed while advancing forward.  One time, Lt. Hine became lost.  Another time he found himself in the vanguard of the attack and he captured 32 German soldiers.

On September 29th, this Muskogee dentist followed the advancing 139th Infantry into No Man’s Land.   He was assigned supervision of a field first aid station located at Chaudron Farm.  There wounded soldiers received basic treatment before being sent to hospitals behind the front line.

Finding German resistance to be too great, American troops were withdrawn in this area leaving only 25 American infantrymen to protect the aid station. This aid station with 94 wounded soldiers happened to be very far forward and soon became the focus of German gunners.

At great personal risk, Lt. Hine returned through No Man’s Land to American trenches about 2:00 in the morning of the second day.  Reporting the danger wounded American soldiers faced, he requested artillery fire from the 129th Field Artillery to prevent the Germans from overrunning the aid station.  Otto returned to the forward aid station, again having traversed the deadly terrain called “No Man’s Land.”

The American artillery barrage to suppress the Germans lasted nine hours.  It took that long to carry those wounded soldiers back to the American trenches.

Lt. Otto Hine’s account of these events became a footnote in Jay McIlvaine Lee’s 1920 history of his service during the war.  But to the men whose lives he saved, Lt. Hine was their hero who deserved more than a reference at the bottom of a page.

In July, 1919, the US Army agreed with these wounded men and awarded Capt. Otto Hine the Distinguished Service Cross.  The DSC is given to soldiers who at great personal risk in combat, performed gallantly.  It is ranked next under the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Dr. Otto Hine returned to Muskogee.  Two and a half years after volunteering for service, he restarted his dental practice.  He was Dr. Ted Hine’s father.