Much as been written about Brigadier General Charles Doyen of the United States Marine Corp. I will try not to repeat what other people have stated about him, but rather mention the more personal events that are not as well known.
Brigadier General Charles A. Doyen had a long and varied career, but perhaps is best known for having commanded the first detachment of Marines to land in France during World War I. He also was the first person to receive the Navy’s Distinguished Service Award. It had been newly created and was posthumously awarded to him on 7 March 1919 at Washington D.C..
Charles Augustus Doyen was born 3 September 1859 in Concord NH, son of Edward Nevins & Mary Elizabeth “Molly” (Tucker) Doyen. His father Edward Doyen was a carriage builder in Concord NH and late in his life a store clerk. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Charles is shown living with his family in Concord NH at 132 Spring Street. Charles had two siblings: 1) Harry Edmond Doyen, born 8 Nov 1865 Concord NH, died 19 Nov 1952 in Goffstown NH (Hillsborough Co General Hospital, Grasmere). He married 8 Nov 1893 in Boston MA to Alice M. Gordon, daughter of Edward F. & Eunice C. (Hook) Gordon. He was a bookkeeper at the time of his marriage. / and / 2) Frank E. Doyen, born 5 Oct 1852 in Concord NH. He died 17 Feb 1900 in Concord NH and is buried at Blossom Hill Cemetery. He m. Ann Etta “Annetta” Johnson, daughter of Gilman B J Johnson.
What is little known is that Charles A. Doyen was a direct descendant of Francis Doyen one of the first settlers of Pembroke, New Hampshire. Francis Doyen had previously been living in Penacook (Concord) New Hampshire where he had been indentured to Capt. Ebenezer Eastman until he was 21 years of age. Francis Doyen was among the forces of Capt. John Lovewell’s Expedition in 1724 [as Francis Dogen].
Charles Augustus Doyen was admitted to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis MD on June 21 1876, aged 16 years 9 months. In 1880 he participated in the summer cruise attached to the U.S. Practice Ship Constellation, as 1st class cadet-midshipman. He was ranked #20 in annual merit in 1880, and in 1881 he had moved to #19. His highest merit of 9 was in electricity, followed by 12 in theoretical navigation. He graduated from the Academy in 1881 [not 1883 as is shown in some biographies].
His career had many illustrious moments, but not all of them were outstanding. According to the Marine Corps Association and Foundation, in its magazine, Rocks and Shoals, “On July 4, 1901, Major Doyen, then a Fleet Marine Officer of the North Atlantic Fleet, underwent medical treatment on the battleship USS Kearsarge (BB-5) for the effects of an “alcoholic debauche” ashore. On July 26, he was tried by general court-martial and found guilty of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.” He was sentenced to the loss of two numbers in rank and a public reprimand by the Secretary of the Navy.” President Theodore Roosevelt later pardoned him due to a request by the Secretary of Navy so that Doyen, restoring his seniority so he could be promoted to lieutenant colonel.
“In the Summer of 1881, three New Hampshire boys, Charlie George and Charlie Doyen of Concord and John W. Weeks of Lancaster came home for a furlough from the United States Military Academy at Annapolis, where they had just completed their course of study. In those days a two-years’ tour of sea duty followed graduation from the academy and must be completed before the midshipmen became ensigns. All three of the New Hampshire boys did their sea duty together on the U.S.S. Richmond in the Pacific, the South Seas and on the China coast; but as it turned out not one of them ever received his commission in the United States Navy. When they returned form their cruise they found that because the very small United States Navy of that time had become over-officered, an act of Congress had been passed providing that only the first third in standing of each class graduated from the National Naval School should be made officers in the Navy. It so happened that not one of the New Hampshire boys was in this favored third.
Doyen was the highest in rank and secured a place in the United States Marine Corps. Now he is Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen, U.S.M.C. recently named to head the Marine Corps section of the first United States expeditionary force to France. He has been service in all parts of the world, notably in the Philippines and has made a record of which his native city of Concord is justly proud. His aged mother here is looking forward to a visit from her son before he leaves for France.
Doyens classmate, George through the influence of William E. Chandler of Concord, then Secretary of the Navy under President Arthur, received a commission as lieutenant in the Army and when he died in 1915, was Major Charles P. George, U.S.A. retired. [He died 25 August 1915 at Fort Bliss, Texas and is buried there in Fort Bliss National Cemetery].
The third member of the trio, John W. Weeks of Lancaster, did not succeed in getting a place anywhere in the United States Government Service, so he went down into Florida and worked as a surveyor for two years. There he met the daughter of the late John G. Sinclair, another very prominent Democratic leader in New Hampshire, once the candidate of his part for Governor. Young Weeks married Miss Sinclair, came back to New England, founded the firm of Hornblower & Weeks and is now United States Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts. [Later from 1921-1925 John W. Weeks served as the 48th U.S. Secretary of War].
When young Weeks, George and Doyen were together in Concord on that Summer furlough 36 years ago they “had their pictures taken” by a local photographer and the result has been carefully cherished by Maj. George’s brother, John P. George, who, with their sister, Miss Annie George, lives in the old homestead on North Main St in this city. “
A few years after his graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Charles Augustus Doyen married first on 27 Nov 1883 in Allenstown NH to Laura Bell “Lula” Dennison, daughter of Harvey & Mary J. (Putnam) Dennison. She died in 1886 and is buried in the Doyen family plot in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH.
He married 2d) 16 Nov 1892 in Boston MA to Claude Fay, daughter of William Wirt & Julia Griswold (Phelps) Fay. She was born 27 Nov 1871 in Annapolis MD and died 1943 in Annapolis MD. They had 2 children: Ruth Alice (born 1894 who m. Jason McVay Austin) and Fay Elizabeth (born 1901 who m. Ensign Felix Leslie Johnson).
Brigadier General Charles Augustus Doyen, died of influenza on died 6 October 1918 at Quantico, Virginia and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 5, Lot 7030.
On 26 July 1919 the torpedo boat destroyer Doyen was launched at the works of the Victory Plant in Squantum (Quincy) Massachusetts. The boat was named for Brig. General Doyen. The Doyen was named and christened with the customary bottle of champagne by his daughter.
Also in 1919 the City of Concord renamed City Hall Park as Brig. General Charles A. Doyen Park in his honor, and a monument with inscription was installed. 99 years later the park no longer exists (removed to create a parking lot). The monument itself was removed to the Pitman Street side of the building (kudos to whoever had the foresight to place it in a safer location).
Spring of 1918: Marines in the Trenches of France [Leatherneck, Magazine of the Marines]
Austin Archives, a Blog by Nancy Austin, Ph.D., great-granddaughter of Brig. Gen. Charles Augustus Doyen.
Arlington Cemetery: Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen. United States Marine Corps. (photographs and brief bio)
Video: General Charles A. Doyen Inspects the 5th Marine Regiment in Damblain France.
[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I. Look here for the entire listing].