Pvt. John Fredrickson and the 54th Pioneers

Item of the Week:

Here is Private John Fredrickson’s handwritten poem about his unit in World War I: Company L of The 54th Pioneers, who were cross-trained in combat engineering and infantry tactics, and often were responsible for building the roads for their fellow troops – all while under heavy bombardment.

The Pioneers, Private John Fredrickson. Rice County Historical Society Collection.

Apparently the Pioneer Infantry units were often overlooked in stories about the war, and Fredrickson felt the need to laud their efforts when he wrote:

We read about the dough boys and their valor, which is true,
And of the valiant part they played for old Red, White and Blue;
We read about the H.F.A. [heavy field artillery] and their ever roaring guns,
Also the heavy part they played in blowing up the Hun;
The Infantry, the Cavalry, the hardy engineers,
But we never read a single line about “The Pioneers.”

He continues:

The Pioneers, Private John Fredrickson. Rice County Historical Society Collection.

He sums up his work in this way:

We didn’t really fight the battles,
Nor really chase the Hun,
Our bit was just to keep on working,
And not to shoot a gun.
But tell your friends and neighbors, Frank
We helped old Bill’s retreat
For every road was fixed for loads
For troops and trucks and tanks.

Read more about Pvt. John Fredrickson and see his photographs in his war service record on the Collaborative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *