The Catholic University of America

Aug. 27, 2009

Archives Launches Digital Collection of Correspondence from World War I Soldier

Robert Lincoln O'Connell (CUA Archives)

Correspondence and other items of an Irish Catholic soldier who served in the United States Army during World War I are the subject of a new digital collection created by The Catholic University of America Archives.

Robert Lincoln O'Connell trained as an Army engineer in Washington, D.C., before he was sent to France and Germany, where he repaired roads and built trenches, dugouts, command posts, foundations for heavy weapons, observation posts and wire entanglements.

Along with photographs and various military items, the collection features letters, postcards and a telegram from O'Connell to his family in Connecticut, detailing his training and experiences overseas.

"Welcomed by big crowd of women, girls and middle-aged men," O'Connell wrote upon arriving in France in August 1917. "Dozens of wooden sheds, 50 men per. Lots of German prisoners working around camp."
Items in the collection were donated in 2006 by O'Connell's nephew.

Digital versions of the correspondence and other items can be found by clicking here. To view details on what is included in the collection, see the online finding aid created by the University Archives.

"There are many stories, like that of Robert O'Connell, that are quintessentially American in the general sense, while also representing a slice of Catholic Americana," explains associate archivist John Shepherd. "O'Connell's experiences depict the struggles and coping of a soldier and his family as they dealt with the stress and separation of war time. The collection is a treasure trove that is now widely accessible both online and in actuality at the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives."