Honoring Wayne County’s WWI Dead: Andrew Best

Died November 11, 1918

Andrew Bass photograph, News & Observer, October 18, 1919
Photo from the October 18, 1919 issue of the News & Observer.

Andrew Best was born in Goldsboro on November 30, 1886, the son of Spicie Annie, a laundress. The family lived at 513 Denmark St.

The 1916 city directory lists Andrew’s profession as laborer, a catch-all term for manual laborers.

The 1910 census lists that he was married to Mary and they had a son named George, born about 1909.

Andrew was inducted into the US Army on March 30, 1918 in Goldsboro. He was assigned for training to the 161st Depot Brigade at Camp Grant, Illinois, one of the largest training camps for black soldiers during World War I.

On April 22 he was transferred to Company E of the 365th Infantry, part of the 92nd Division, the only active black fighting division during the war. The 92nd was nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers”, a name given by Native Americans to black soldiers serving in the American West during the 19th century.

His unit left for France on June 10, 1918 from Hoboken, NJ aboard the transport ship Agamemnon. Originally built as the German liner SS Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1903, it was seized by the US on April 2, 1918, four days after America’s official entry into the war.

By the end of the war, the 365th found itself at Bois Frehaut (Frehaut Forest/Woods) near Metz in northeastern France. The town had been held by the Germans for most of the war and for the last days of the conflict they let loose a furious artillery barrage on nearby Allied forces. Major Warner A. Ross, a white officer with the 92nd, recounted those final days in a book written soon after the war.

And still the bombardment continued with­ out a pause. It seemed to me that almost all the big guns that side of Metz were firing on Bois Frehaut and the old no-man’s land just behind it. And I learned afterward that they were, for we were the only ones that had taken and were holding any special territory…Shrapnel and high explosive contact shells of all sizes fell on all parts of the area…Just before dark on the tenth he [the Germans] began throwing over great quantities of gas and continued to mix it in all night long. They seemed determined to run us out or exterminate us.

Andrew Best, WWi service card          Andrew Best, grave, Arlington National Cemetery

Above: Service card for Andrew Best (left) and grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sometime on November 11 Andrew Best died from injuries sustained in this battle. It is probable that he was hit by German artillery.

Like other Americans killed during the war, Andrew was laid to rest in a temporary grave. In 1922 his remains were transferred back to the United States aboard the United States Army Transport ship Cambrai. From Brooklyn his body was moved to Virginia and laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Previous Wayne County WWI posts:

Miles Faison Harris
Charles Rom Hardesty
Ezra Alphonso Mayo
Grover Summerlin
Camp Royster, Wayne County Fairground
John Burt Exum
Boys Battalion, 1905
Remembering the Forgotten Dead of a Forgotten War
The Ultimate Spin Job: US entry into World War I
North Carolina National Guard on the Border
World War I & North Carolina: 30th Division, 119th Infantry

 

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