Curtis G. Redden

Curtis Redden

Photograph of Curtis Redden

Curtis Redden was not a student, but a beloved Knox faculty member that gave his life in Germany during the war.

Redden was born on February 8, 1881 to Sarah and William B. Redden in Danville, Illinois, but is mostly hidden from record until he rose to prominence at just seventeen as part of Battery A of the Illinois Field Artillery, which fought with great success in the Spanish-American War in the final years of the 19th century. After participating in the Puerto Rico expedition, he received honorable discharge upon his battery’s return to Illinois on November 25, 1898.

After that war, he attended the University of Michigan, where he studied law. Redden also was recognized as a talented football player on the University of Michigan team in 1901, a team that squashed Stanford to start the New Year’s football tradition, the Rose Bowl.  Redden came to Knox in the fall of 1915, accepting a position as line coach for the football team and a year later he was heading up Knox’s baseball team as well.

After war was declared in April, Redden left Knox in 1917 to recruit more troops for his former battery. He was promoted to Major and again promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 149th Field Artillery, part of the Rainbow Division. He fought in a good number of battles in France, but sadly lost his life to pneumonia in Coblenz, Germany on January 15, 1919. The Danville, Illinois courthouse square is named in memory of him.

Part of one of Curtis Redden's letters home was published in a Galesburg newspaper on April 29, 1918:

"This is a beautiful time of the year in France. The weather has settled and the country is bursting forth in all the glory of springtime. As I ride through the country I see any number of people at work in the fields. The people are all women or small boys and it is they who till the fields under conditions that would prove disheartening to an Illinois farmer.

The draft is furnished by cattle, or cattle and horses, it being a common thing to see a horse and a cow hitched in teams to a plow or harrow. France will never be able to repay her debt to the unhallowed peasant women within her domain. If the Illinois farmer could see what I have seen within the past few hours, I am sure he would tighten up his belt and make a firmer resolve to farm as he never farmed before to help free the Allies in this struggle for equality and humanity.

In America we rely on our men to do this work; here there are no men, and the daughters of France are supplying the deficiency.

I would like to tell you of the experience we had at the front, but its too big an undertaking. You can feel those things, but some way or another you can't talk about them. I have wondered why this war has not furnished a field for our poets and writers, and since nothing of note has been produced, I drew the conclusion we had no writers of note. My views have changed, however, and I have begun to realize that its beyond the power of even the skilled to put in words the emotions, passions, and vivid, startling transactions of the firing line.

Our regiment acquitted itself very well indeed, and is fit to be called Illinois' own. Our casualities were quite heavy, and the burial parties were too numerous, but it's a condition to be accepted, and I suppose we will accept them time and again before this war is over. 

Seibel and Nicholson [Glee Seibel and Charles Nicholson of Knox College] escaped without injury and did their duty well. I did not come across them personally, as I am in another batallion [sic] now, but their battery did heroic work. these men are all made of the same metal and throughout it all I did not observe a whitened cheek or a quaking limb. I said I wouldn't write about it, and here I am getting a running start.

Wish I could drop into Galesburg for a few days, but from recent reports it begins to appear that it will be a long time before I see the Home Land again. It's another condition to be accepted - another sacrifice in this world of sacrifice - so why lament?"