The 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th ‘Rolling W’ Division, was established at Camp Funston, Kansas on September 5th, 1917. The initial strength was 2,974 men, all draftees from Kansas, so the regiment was named ‘The All-Kansas’. The 89th division was under the command of Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood (1860-1927), the famous Apache fighter, the former CO of Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba and who, along with Teddy, had been a spokesman for the ‘Preparedness Movement ’in the U.S. and one of the founders of the ‘Plattsburg’ Camps for the training of future officers in 1916.
Over the course of the next few months we will follow the progress of the All-Kansas men as chronicled in the History of the 353rd Infantry Regiment, 89th Division, National Army September 1917 – June 1919, by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921.
Kansas Hymn – Dedicated to the “All-Kansas Regiment” – 353rd Infantry
Words and Music: Lillian Forrest
©March 4, 1918 by Lillian Forrest E 418751
O Kansas, ’tis of thee,
Sunflower State so free,
I sing in praise;
State where brave soldiers fought,
State where homesteaders wrought,
For all thy domain sought,
In freedoms ways
Thy goal is starward still,
Upward through any ill,
Standing the test;
Thy faith when storms smite thee,
Or when wrongs dare to be,
Aimed at thy loved country,
To fight thy best.
Thy colors to the world,
For equal rights unfurled,
Never shall cease;
May thy great past show thee,
Thy best days yet to be,
Kansas and Liberty,
Peace, lasting peace.
Lillian Forrest (1869–1950) was the daughter of Joseph (1840-1875) and Elisabeth (Ehrhardt) Forrest (1840-1920), both of whom were from Macon Co. Illinois.
There’s some mystery about Lillian’s birth year and place of birth. Starting with the 1930 U.S. Census she is reported as having been born in Kansas in 1873 and her gravestone bears the dates 1873 -1950. However, she was recorded on the 1870 U.S. Census as 1 year old, and the family was living in Pratt County Illinois.
At some time before 1875 the family moved to Vicksburg, Jewell County Kansas. As an adult Lillian lived in nearby Jewell City. The U.S. Census records consistently report her occupation as house to house sales. There is no record of a marriage. Lillian wrote articles for the weekly newspaper The Jewell County Republican, and penned a history of Jewell County, but there is no record of any other music composed by her.
In 1915 Kansas Governor Arthur Capper started a movement to proclaim an official state song. There were non-binding contests and bills were introduced in the legislature in 1916, 1921, 1923, 1927 and 1945. Early in this process Lillian’s Kansas Hymn was in the running, competing with My Golden Kansas, Hymn to Kansas and The Call of Kansas. However, the ultimate winner was Home on the Range (original title: My Western Home) which became enshrined in statute in 1947.
In the final go-around, Lillian’s piece didn’t stand a chance. Considered a classic western or cowboy song, performed by Bing Crosby (three times), Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson and even Bugs Bunny (among many), Home on the Range was written in 1872 by a Kansan about his sod house near Smith Center..
The All-Kansas regiment had a hot war, fighting in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives. The regiment was inactivated in May 1919, then constituted in the new Army Reserve on June 24th, 1921. No longer exclusively Kansan, it had units from Nebraska and South Dakota as well. Recalled to active duty in 1942, the 353rd fought in the later stages of WW2 in Europe. It was inactivated in December 1945.
Since 2004 certain training battalions have been badged to the 353rd Infantry, the most recent of these being the 3/353rd, currently based at Fort Polk. LA.