From World War I Document Archive
File:RICHARDSON.GIFRichardson, Corbett. (1899-1918).
The third of seven children, Corbett Richardson was born in 1899 to Martin Van Buren Richardson and Mary Elizabeth Herrell Richardson. Martin Van Buren Richardson, a Confederate Civil War veteran, died before Corbett Richardson reached his tenth birthday. His father's death made it a necessity that Richardson go to work at a very young age to assist his mother in raising the family. Richardson's spent his early childhood and adolescence in the Oak Grove, Monroe and Alpine communities of Overton County obtaining a limited education.
On July 4, 1917, Richardson enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard. On July 18, 1917 the War Department issued General Order Number 95 forming the 30th Infantry Division better known as the "Old Hickory Division." The division included National Guard units from Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina that entered federal service on July 25, 1917. Many of the division's units served on the United States-Mexican border in pursuit of Pancho Villa during the period between 1915-1917.
Richardson along with members of the local Guard unit reported to Camp Sevier, South Carolina to commence training. Training proved difficult due to the lack of equipment. Soldiers used wooden sticks to simulate rifles while artillery crews used pine logs. Additionally, in November of 1917 epidemics of measles, pneumonia and spinal meningitis swept through the division placing entire units into quarantine. Many recruits died of these diseases in the fall and winter of 1917-1918.
Assigned to the 119th Infantry Brigade of the 30th Infantry Division, Richardson embarked with his unit to Europe. First arriving at Liverpool, England for consolidation of the units then the division minus the artillery brigade entered the continent of Europe via the Port of Calais, France. The division became part of the American II Corps and subsequently attached to the British Army in northern France. In June of 1918, the division began training with the British Army and exchanged their weaponry for British issues. Less than a year from the date Richardson enlisted in the National Guard, he and others like him entered the trenches with the British in Belgium on July 2, 1918 to receive training in trench warfare.
On August 31, 1918, the 119th entered combat for the first time in the canal sector between Ypres (Leper) and Voormezeele in Belgium. Between August 31 and September 3, 1918 the 119th along with the 120th (a sister brigade in the division) captured all of their objectives including Lock Number Eight on the Ypres Canal, Lankhof Farm and the village of Voormezeele. The division left the line on September 3 and went to the St. Pol area for rest and refitting. On September 20, the 30th Division arrived in the Gouy-Nauroy sector, reassigned to the British Fourth Army the division prepared for participation in the Somme Offensive of 1918.
After two days of artillery preparation by the British, including approximately 30,000 mustard gas shells, the 119th and the 120th began an attack on the Hindenburg Line near Bellicourt, France on 29 September 1918 at 0550 hours. In the fog and smoke (the division's after action report records the fog and smoke reduced visibility to less than five yards) of the early morning battle, a gap in the line developed between the 119th and the adjacent unit of the U.S. 27th Division exposing the left flank of the 119th brigade and the 30th Division. The Germans seized the opportunity and made a counter attack into the gap. The 119th defeated the counter attack and continued the advance. By 0730 hours the 30th Division broke through the Hindenburg Line and two hours later liberated the village of Bellicourt, France.
Richardson and several other Americans were killed during this action. Two of Richardson's comrades (and fellow Tennesseans) from the 119th Infantry Brigade received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their deeds during this action. They were Milo Lemert (posthumously) of Crossville, Tennessee and Joseph B. Adkinson of Egypt, Tennessee. Richardson is buried at the Somme U.S. Military Cemetery (Plot B, Row 28, Grave # 4) in Bony, France.
Many of Richardson's relatives still reside in the City of Livingston and Overton County. Few of them have had the opportunity to visit his final resting place in France.