Today, let’s learn a little bit about Benjamin Feeney, one of Ossining’s own who made the greatest sacrifice in World War 1. (But no, he is NOT the Feeney after whom Feeney Road is named after. It is actually named after Ensign Mary Feeney, a U.S. Navy Corps nurse. See this post here.)
Benjamin K. Feeney was a Private in the 165th Infantry, Company L. He died in a German prison camp on August 7, 1918 from wounds received in battle on August 1, 1918.
Now, the 165th Infantry Regiment had originally been known as the 69th Infantry Regiment, but for reasons known only to the Army, it was renamed the 165th in July of 1917 and became part of the 42nd Division. Because the 42nd was comprised of National Guard units from many states, then-Major Douglas MacArthur noted that the “42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other.” Ever after, the 165th was known as the Rainbow Division.
Fun fact – as the 69th Infantry Regiment it was known as the “Fighting 69th”, a nickname supposedly given to it by Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. Its Armory still stands at 26th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York City and has had a storied history I won’t get into here. But you should definitely Google it.
Also, here’s another fun fact: Father Duffy (of the statue in Times Square, right where the TKTS half-price ticket booth is located) was the regimental chaplain for the Fighting 69th. Poet Joyce Kilmer (you probably know him from the poem “Trees” that begins “I THINK that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree”) was also a member of this regiment and was killed on July 30, during the Aisne-Marne counter- offensive, just a week before our Private Feeney died.
Now, I’m not going to get into the weeds about the Aisle-Marne counter-offensive, or the Battle of Second Marne as it is sometimes called, to distinguish it from the first Battle of the Marne that took place in 1914. However, the fact that there are two battles of the same name on basically the same bit of land four years apart tells you something about what deadlock this World War was.
But I will note that this battle was Germany’s last major offensive of WWI and that it signed the Armistice about 100 days later, so this could certainly be seen as the beginning of the end for them. Some even think that the German infantry was decimated by the so-called “Spanish flu” and this contributed to their crushing defeat.
But back to our doughboy, Benjamin Feeney.
According to the 1905 census, Private Feeney was the son of Coleman and Bridget Feeney and born in about 1890. He lived on Revolutionary Road with his parents and at least seven siblings.
On November 6, 1917, as a member of the National Guard incorporated into the 165th Regiment, he traveled to France, on the troopship Ascania, departing from Montreal, Canada.
According to the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985  Private Feeney took part in several major engagements in France: Rouge Bouquet (in March 1918.) Poet Joyce Kilmer was also in this battle and wrote a poem called Rouge Bouquet in memory of their fallen comrades.
Other battles in which poor Private Feeney fought in were in Baccarat (April 1918), Champagne (June 1918), and Chateau Thierry (July 1918). I realize that these last three sound like a vacation, but they were brutal, trench-based conflicts that make “All Quiet on the Western Front” seem tame.
His final battle was the Aisne-Marne Offensive whose objective was to cross the Ourcq River and force the Germans to retreat (Read this if you want a deeper dive.) While the Allies were, as previously mentioned, successful, the 165th suffered a 42% casualty rate. Our poor Private Feeney was one of them.
His record notes “captured August 1/18, released, death at Limburg, Germany of wounds received in action.” He was likely held at Limburg an der Lahn, a large German POW camp, in the days before he died.
He was buried at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Seringes-et-Nesles, France.
(And no, Feeney Road in the Town of Ossining is NOT named after him. It is named after Ensign Mary Feeney, who also died in World War II.)
RIP Private Feeney.
 The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 379