A Journal of the Great War: The Critical Edition
by Charles Gates Dawes
Published by the Evanston History Center
in honor of the Centenary of World War I and the “Year of Dawes”
Watch the book’s “trailer” here
A critical edition of Charles Gates Dawes’ A Journal of The Great War, edited by Jenny Thompson, with two new essays that explore the broader story of Dawes’ war experience is now available.
First published in 1921, A Journal of the Great War provides a fascinating glimpse into the challenges faced by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during the United States’ 18-month involvement in World War I. Dawes’ journal, written while he was stationed in France from August 1917 to July 1919, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the power struggles and political maneuvering that took place among American and European political and military leaders as they sought to fight the war as an allied force. Part document of life in wartime France, part war diary, and part mentation on the means of exercising power, Dawes’ journal is a unique contribution to the literature of World War I.
In July 1917, at the age of 51, Dawes sailed for France as an officer with the U.S. 17th Engineers. At the time, Dawes’ enlistment made headlines. He was hailed by the press as a “soldier banker” — one of the wealthiest men in the country to join Uncle Sam’s army. Dawes was indeed a wealthy man; he was president of the Central Trust Company of Illinois, a bank he founded in 1902, and, along with his brothers, he also ran numerous investments and companies. When he sailed for France, he left all that behind.
Once in France, Dawes was appointed General Purchasing Agent in Europe for the AEF by his friend, General John Pershing. Stationed in Paris for the duration, Dawes served as Pershing’s confidant throughout the war, consulting with the American general as Pershing deployed more than two million American soldiers into battle. Meanwhile, Dawes oversaw a massive operation to acquire and distribute supplies for the war effort. Working closely with Pershing, Dawes would soon develop the Military Board of Allied Supply, a means to coordinate supply among the Allies. Dawes’ stunning achievement to bring about and manage this alliance — and the political drama that unfolded behind it — is documented in A Journal of the Great War.
The edition includes two new essays written by Jenny Thompson. They are drawn from the resources of the Evanston History Center and the Charles G. Dawes archive at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Libraries, Northwestern University. The essays provide a broader picture and analysis of Dawes’ war service, his motivations for service, his family’s experiences during the war, and the impact the war had on him and his postwar career.
The book is available on Lulu.com. The price is $25, plus shipping. All proceeds benefit the Evanston History Center. 508pages, with photographs.