Most people know Louis Bromfield from his books or agrarian work at Malabar Farm. But before he achieved notoriety in these fields, Bromfiled was a local boy from Mansfield, Ohio, who graduated from Mansfield High School in 1914 and soon after enrolled in Cornell University. Louis Bromfield was born, Lewis Brumfield, on December 27, 1896, to Charles Brumfield and Annette Coulter. His father, Charles, would often change jobs and invest in ventures that rarely paid off, leaving the family often struggling to make ends meet. His mother Annette, or Nettie, lived through her children, pushing young Louis to become a writer and his Marie to become an accomplished pianist. Louis would enroll in Cornell to study Scientific Agriculture in the hopes of returning home to save the family farm, where he spent much of his youth with his grandfather Robert Coulter. Louis had to return home when his father was forced to sell the family home in Mansfield and move to the family farm. This too proved a failure, and Charles was forced to sell the family farm and returned to Mansfield. Louis would re-enroll in college at Columbia University, this time studying journalism.
While at Columbia Louis would apply to be in the balloon observation corps to assist the British during World War I. He would drop out after a month and join the Columbia Ambulance Service aiding the French Army. Two months after war was declared by the United States Bromfiled enlisted in the United States Army. In Thomas Bachelder’s new book Soldier Boy: Louis Bromfield, Letters Home from World War I, 1917-1919, he showcases letters Bromfield wrote to family and friends over a hundred years ago. These letters show the war, that was supposed to end all wars, through the eyes of a young twenty-one year old man. The letters detail Bromfield’s camp life before leaving for the front, his time in France driving driving an ambulance, and his activities after the war ended.
Bromfield in WWI uniform
Join Thomas Bachelder virtually as he discuss excerpts from letters Bromfield wrote home to family and friends during his time in the First World War on August 19 at 6pm. Registration is free and can be found on the MRCPL website here.
- Bachelder, Thomas. Soldier Boy: Louis Bromfield, Letter Home From World War I, 1917-1919. 2021.
- “Ambulances on their way to Villers,” The University of Michigan and the Great War, accessed August 14, 2021, http://michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu/greatwar/items/show/487.