GHS Logo

Wartime Experiences

J. Alden Twachtman (1882–1974)

J. Alden Twachtman, image from History of the 103rd Field Artillery (Twenty-Sixth Division, A.E.F.), World War 1917-1919 by W.F. Kernan and Henry T. Samson.

Twachtman was an officer in the 12th Company of the Connecticut National Guard and captain of Battery F when it was sent to the border to track down Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and his men in 1916. He was promoted to major and put in charge of Batteries E and F before departing for France in 1917. Twachtman was commended for his work in the Second Battle of the Marne and was awarded an Army Distinguished Service Medal.

Writing Case belonging to J. Alden Twachtman, c. 1917. Greenwich Historical Society, William E. Finch, Jr. Archives. Gift of Arthur P. Twachtman.

The son of the American Impressionist John H. Twachtman, Alden Twachtman lived with his wife and children on Round Hill Road in Greenwich. Also an artist, during the long waits between battles, he sketched scenes of daily life in the military and war-torn landscapes.

Twachtman was a beloved leader as evidenced in period accounts. After the War, he championed veterans' rights through political cartoons published in Life magazine.

Orderly, J. Alden Twachtman and "Hannah," 1917. Written on back of photograph: "Boxford Mass. Before sailing on S.S. Baltic to Liverpool England en route to Le Havre France R.R. to Coetquidan. Brittany for training with 155 Howitzer French Instructors." Photograph. Greenwich Historical Society, William E. Finch, Jr. Archives. Gift of Arthur P. Twachtman.

Letter to Son Eric, May 15, 1918. Greenwich Historical Society, William E. Finch, Jr. Archives. Gift of Arthur P. Twachtman.

In this letter to his son, Twachtman described what he had drawn: "German machine came over and directed the fire of a battery on one of my batteries and the shells came very close. Then he saw some of my men pushing a little hand car of shells across a field and he turned right up on his nose and fired on them with his machine gun."

It is extremely unusual when the wartime experiences of an individual horse can be traced. Such is the case with Hannah, Twachtman's cherished steed. She accompanied him to the Mexican border in 1916 as his personal mount. The following year, Twachtman and Hannah were stationed in Connecticut and Massachusetts before both were assigned to go to France. During shipment, Hannah was lost. Twachtman never gave up hope of finding her, but realized chances were slim. Two months after the armistice, he happened to see Hannah, who was in a pack of wounded horses on their way to the veterinary hospital. It turned out that she had been part of the 26th Division throughout the War and had been badly wounded three times. She was shipped back to the United States and, after spending six months in quarantine, returned to Greenwich in 1920.