Edward Hardin joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1917 when he was 24 years old. Despite getting expelled from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for fraternity pranks that involved laxative-laced hot dogs and cows inside buildings, the native Wilmingtonian earned his undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical chemistry and a graduate degree in Pharmacy by 1914. Both before and after World War I, Edward worked as a pharmacist at his family’s business, Hardin Pharmacy.
He spent eight months in training camp at Camp Sevier, South Carolina during a brutal winter in 1917; he also wound up quarantined on “Measles Hill”. Finally, he shipped out as Lieutenant Hardin to Calais, France in the spring of 1918. He fought in the trenches during the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium and assaulted the Hindenburg Line, a German underground tunnel system for moving troops, tanks, and supplies.
One of his friends dies in his arms. The gore and death to which Edward Hardin is exposed enters the narrative in his letters home. He is injured in late October of 1918 and heads to a hospital in France. He recovers, returns to duty on November 8th, and the Armistice is signed three days later.
As the Centennial of World War One approaches, the letters Edward Hardin wrote to his family become our portal into his experience. More than 150 letters chronicle his metamorphosis from an educated but sheltered young man into a person who becomes intimate with killing, death, and ruin.
Edward Hardin Hawfield, the namesake and grandson of Edward Manning Hardin. He compiled and transcribed the letters.