Voices of the Past: CPL Robert Race
Born: January 14, 1895
Died: August 07, 1918, aged 23
Location: Soldier's Triangles, Old Section E
As we begin the New Year, we are pleased to bring attention to Corporal Robert Race. Mr. Mark Race, a distant relative of Robert's, reached out to us recently. Based on his family's genealogy project, he knew Robert was buried within the "Soldier's Circle," which was noted on Robert's official military "Record of Burial Place of Veteran."
We were concerned that Robert's name had somehow been omitted during the Circle's continued restoration project. With some sleuthing, Ellis Michaels and Christine Schott were able to confirm that Robert is buried within the Soldier's "Triangles," areas between the roadway and the Circle itself.
Mark shared Robert's incredible story with us, and we wished to in turn share it with the Community. Much of the following information was gathered by Mark during his genealogical project.
Robert’s parents, Joseph Sibley and Maria Hall (Redman) Race, came to the United States in 1884, hailing from Bishop Auckland, Durham, England. Their Immigration records were lost to a fire on June 15, 1897 at Ellis Island, New York. Passenger listings state that they arrived on the ship RMS Etruria. They settled in Highland Station on Biddle Avenue.
Joseph and Maria brought with them five children, all born in Bishop Auckland; John William, Elizabeth, Richard Redman, Esther, and Thomas. In the years that followed their arrival, six additional natural-born children joined the Race family; Margaret, George Edward, Mary Jane, Robert, Joseph Howard (Mark's grandfather), and Edward Walter. Mary Jane died of typhoid fever at the age of 14; and Richard Redman and George Edward passed in 1911 and 1914, respectively, of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Like many European immigrant families of the late 1800's, the Race's were made up of simple, honest, and hard-working people. They were not rich, and worked as coal miners and laborers, occupations common to the growing Homestead area. Robert, along with his brothers, were employed by Homestead Steel Works, where they worked as inspectors, boiler makers, and engineers.
Robert registered for the military on June 05, 1917, and was enlisted into the US Army on August 03, 1917, at the age of 22. He was trained in Gettysburg, PA, and was assigned to Company C, 58th Infantry. He was not married at the time of his enlistment. His registrar's report described him as tall, of medium build, and having blue eyes and light brown hair.
Robert was present at the Third Battle of the Aisne, (Picardie, France) a subsidiary of the German Spring Offensive, which was a massive surprise attack led by the Germans trying to capture the Chemin des Dames Ridge. During this attack, German artillery rained down on Allied forces, fracturing their front line and allowing for a rapid advance towards Paris by nearly 34 miles. By the conclusion of the battle, the Allies had successfully halted the Germans' advancement at the Marne River.
He died in France on August 07, 1918, of wounds received in action the day prior. His death was reported in the "Early List," printed on September 13, 1918. He was among twelve who perished from their wounds, and one of 338 reported dead, missing, or severely wounded of that listing alone.
His mother was presented with a Gold Star pin on June 13, 1919, at a meeting of the Mothers of Democracy, Roosevelt Unit No. 20, at the Roosevelt School. Rev. Gilbert A. Condit conducted the service, and talked about the courage of the men who had sacrificed their lives. He urged those in attendance to maintain the standards set by President Wilson looking towards peace and reconstruction.
It took nearly three years for his remains to be returned home from France. The War Department announced on Monday, August 29, 1921, that the remains of 23 soldiers, including Robert, would arrive at Pittsburgh's Union Station the following morning at 9 AM, traveling from Hoboken, NJ. These men were all inhabitants of the surrounding Pittsburgh areas. His remains were released to his mother, Maria.
According to his Pittsburgh Press obituary, a 2 PM Funeral Service took place at the St. Matthew's Episcopal Church of 10th and McClure Avenues on Saturday, September 03, 1921. He was interred afterwards with military honors. The obituary respectfully invited members of the Mothers of Democracy, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and American Legion of Fifteenth Ward to attend the services.
With the exception of George Edward, every brother of Roberts enlisted with the Armed Forces in both WWI and WWII. Two of his brothers, John William and Joseph Howard, enlisted within a month of Robert’s death.
Robert is joined throughout the grounds by his parents, Joseph and Maria, and siblings, Richard, Esther, George, and Mary Jane, along with other aunts, uncles, and cousins. Robert's remaining siblings are interred at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills.
Mark Race has created and curated many Find-A-Grave entries of burials throughout the Homestead Cemetery, and has kept a detailed account of the Race family memorials. We thank him for his diligence and for reaching out to us with Robert's story!
Information gathered from:
Special thanks is given to Mark Race for his wealth of family information.
"American Casualties," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 13 Sep 1918, p. 8.
"Funeral of Corp. Robert Race," Pittsburgh Press, 04 Sep 1921, p. 47.
"Gold-Starred Pins Given Four Mothers," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 14 Jun 1919, p. 2.
Hart, Peter (2008). 1918: A Very British Victory, Phoenix Books, London.
"Homestead Boys Killed." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12 Sep 1918, p. 3.
"Race," Pittsburgh Press, 01 Sep 1921, p. 24.
"Veterans' Bodies are Scheduled to Arrive Here Today," Pittsburgh Daily Post, 29 Aug 1921. p. 10.