Friday, September 13, 1918: A Chance Meeting of two cousins in France during World War I

Louis Rockwell on his first day in “Uncle Sam’s uniform”

95 years ago on this date St. Charles resident Louis Rockwell was a Second Lieutenant with Company B, 2nd Engineers serving in France during WWI. His cousin, Thomas Farnsworth, was a First Lieutenant and pilot with the 96th Aero Squadron, also serving in France. The following is a transcript of a letter written by Rockwell to Farnsworth’s parents about a chance meeting of the two cousins. The transcript appeared in the October 17, 1918 edition of the St. Charles Chronicle...

"I was lying in reserve with a platoon on the edge of Bois Du Fay about twilight Friday afternoon, September 13, when the whir of four aeroplanes overhead attracted our attention. After some maneuvering the American plane climbed above the three German planes, and then, when directly overhead dived straight down and the purr of the machine gun could be heard mingled with the buzz of the motor. One of the German planes (word obscured by a tear in the newspaper) and then fell to the earth... (the next two lines of the letter are missing due to a tear in the newspaper)...German lines. Suddenly our American plane careened, and the observer - or one of them - fell out. Who the poor fellow was I never found out.

The plane was seemingly about to drop out of control when it was righted again and guided in an unsteady spiral groundward. It was quite evident that the machine was in distress and the pilot could not keep it upright. However, he succeeded in bringing it to a safe landing, but in the woods.

I was so impressed with the man’s gameness and afraid that aid would not reach him quickly that I broke army rules and left my platoon to search for him.

I found him not far back. Was the first to reach his side, and as I stooped to pick him up I recognized Thomas. He was very badly wounded, but the noble spirit in him would not give up. ‘They haven’t get me yet’, were his only words - but ‘they’ had. It was Tom’s last flight. He died two hours later in the hospital.

Have left a personal request that his grave, which will be in the vicinity of Jaulny, be especially marked, and that you folks be notified of its exact location. He had no personal effects, not even his watch upon him, and his organization will send these things to you.

If you knew the value of such sacrifices as this one to the men of America over here you would feel that your loss was as highly recompensed as such losses can be.

Tom lived efficiently and died gamely in a crisis.


Louis Rockwell
Second Lieut. Co. B, 2d Engrs."

Rockwell was the grandson of St. Charles Mayor, H.T. Rockwell and the nephew of Harriet Rockwell Baker. Thomas Farnsworth was the grandson of Civil War General John Farnsworth.