Frederick A. Pottle
Fort Slocum. Enlistment.
FOR the majority of its members, the history of Evacuation Eight begins with memories of Fort Slocum. The original company included men from all the states east of the Mississippi, and some few farther west, but by far the greater portion came from the North Atlantic states. Evacuation Eight, therefore, showed from the first unusual homogeneity of experience. Our starting from Fort Slocum was in itself symbolic, for Slocum was the northern depot for voluntary enlistments, and every man of the original company was a volunteer. In our early days we were perhaps too proud of the plain "U.S." collar buttons which denoted our status, and used to flaunt them (as we hoped, cruelly) before all the newly arrived companies of drafted men. But when our numbers had been swelled by recruits from the National Army, the National Guard, and, finally, by old-timers who were in the army before the War, such distinctions became meaningless, and we laid them aside long before the official order abolished them. At the very beginning, however, our consciousness of being volunteers was most important in developing an unusually strong esprit de corps.(1)
Fort Slocum at the end of 1917 had not forgotten that it was a pre-war regular-army post, and still maintained the Spartan atmosphere and methods which the new camps had found it safe to discard. A recruit going through Slocum at any time would have found his initiation into the army trying, but in December of our first year in the War the experience was little less than a nightmare. Late in November, 1917, an unexpected avalanche of enlistments had overwhelmed the post. Thousands of men were hastening to make voluntary enlistment before the new draft law went into operation. From recruiting stations all over New England and the Atlantic states they poured in in such numbers as to cause a really serious problem of housing. Slocum had a new experience, that of seeing men standing in line begging, of their own free will, to be taken into the army. They stood there for days, in a line that could actually be measured in miles. Fort Slocum is on a small island in Long Island Sound, with limited barrack room. Moreover, the system demanded that new men should not be admitted to barracks until they had gone through the machine. The hordes that could not be cared for were consequently dumped in the nearest city on the mainland, New Rochelle, to find such accommodations as they could. The citizens of New Rochelle met the emergency in a way that won the undying gratitude of thousands of disheartened boys. They took us into their homes, converted churches and other public buildings into dormitories, and provided food freely and generously. Though we all hated Fort Slocum, we usually tempered our invectives with a word of affection for New Rochelle.
It is hard to imagine how the conditions under which we entered the army could have been made more cheerless and disheartening. Most of us were young, and had come to this experience with absurdly high and romantic ideals. We had left home in the holiday season, many of us for the first time in our lives. Under such circumstances the stoutest of heart would have felt homesick, even though surrounded by kindness and consideration. And to all this was added the most acute coldness of weather. Fort Slocum, being on an exposed island, would be at best bleak in winter. But the winter of 1917-18 was one of the severest in the history of the post. The salt water of the harbor froze solid, and temperatures of fifteen below zero, accompanied by wind and blizzard, were common. The new barracks were flimsy structures of wood, with floors high above the ground, the space underneath being entirely open for the wind to howl in. The air within might be somewhat tempered by stoves, but those dreadful floors were always of the temperature of ice.
There is a sickening finality about enlistment, an extinguishing of one's own personality as definite as through suicide. As one looks back now, those months in the army seem only an episode, but to the man just entering them, with no assurance whether it will be for a space or forever, the vista of hopeless days before him is appalling. To this is added an indescribable sense of degradation. Those who have been through an unusually brutal hazing in college know something about it, but not much, for the college crowd, with all its brutality and obscenity, is still a picked crowd. The army is anything but a picked crowd. It is the great general average of a nation, a state which men speak of with unction, but fortunately seldom experience. Ordinary human intercourse moves upon a higher level of culture and reticence than we ordinarily realize. To come unawares upon the frank grossness, the filth and depravity, the moral meanness of man, is at any time a disheartening experience; but to go through the experience in Slocum was the refinement of misery. Of course, we were all to blame. In common misery men might be kind to one another, but at Slocum we were absurdly hardboiled. We believed that every other man we saw was old and hard and wise in iniquity, and in self-defense pretended that we too were above doing a decent act, or speaking a decent word. What surprises we had when we later found our Apache companions to be, like ourselves, students, clerks, druggists, and respectable artisans!
Generalities have no power to recall to the imagination the impressions of such experiences. Let us rather review the authentic record of one man of these thousands, in the hope that it will be typical. He came late, after the worst of the rush was over. It was, indeed, Christmas Day (of all days in the year!) when he arrived in New Rochelle and went down to the landing with a few other recruits to wait for the launch from the island. In the train coming down he had felt like other people; there the many men in uniform seemed exotic, interesting because unusual. Here he is keenly conscious that his civilian attire marks him as a "rooky," an outsider, a being worthy of contempt and ridicule. His clothes had formerly suited him well enough, but now they have suddenly become conspicuous and offensive. Few men---four, in fact---are going through on Christmas Day. The weather is cold, bleak, and cheerless; everyone sneers and glowers. On the pier is a toilet room full of broken glass and the stench of whiskey. . . . On the other bank he stands a moment, looking back. He is still free to go, but he knows that now he is really as much in the army as though he had already donned a uniform. In crossing that little stretch of bitter icy water he has made an irrevocable decision. Before him are days, months, perhaps years, of a new and terrifying existence, of separation from family, home, from accustomed routine of life and the career which had begun to shape itself. How long will it be? There comes over him a sickening conviction that it will be a long time, and he wonders painfully why he ever chose to do it.
But the little band is moving, and he must move with it. It is a relief to be freed from such reflection, to follow the guide blindly, without thought, while the new scenes flash through his mind in disjointed and unharmonized sequence. They tramp along the road which winds up from the water to the buildings. A shivering gray squirrel comes bounding over the frozen ground, begging for peanuts. They pass a placard with something on it about the Young Men's Hebrew Association. A heavy two-wheeled cart filled with refuse lumbers to meet them; behind, two sullen, dirty men in blue denim overalls, their haggard faces unshaven for a week, shuffle along with ashamed, downcast eyes, glancing furtively sideways. Behind them, cleanly shaven and trimly erect, march two other men in fitted uniforms, rifles on shoulder and bayonets fixed. An electric thrill passes through the little group of recruits. Prisoners! Convicts from the guardhouse! They get out of the way, entirely off the road, to give the prisoners plenty of room. These heavily guarded men, they fancy, must be ruffians of national repute, certainly capable of homicide. It will be only a day or two before they learn that those prisoners, with their furtive looks, their unshaven faces, their crushed self-respect, are only lonesome boys like themselves, and that their terrible crime consisted in overstaying their home leave a few hours.
The recruits follow along the driveway, past permanent heavy buildings of brick. Around one building sentries with fixed bayonets pace; there are bars on the windows through which men call insultingly to the newcomers. This is the guardhouse. At Slocum even the prisoners sneer at the recruit. Nearly at the end of the row is the main administration building, the hopper of the machine into which all the recruits must be fed. There will be, it seems, no examination this Christmas Day; the men are only registered and told to report the next morning. The registration would be funny if one were not himself being registered. In the days just past, when the queues of recruits stretched entirely across the island, an ingenious device of branding had been invented for keeping the men properly in line. The four men now are lined up and the routine solemnly carried out, though they are all directly under the eyes of the registering sergeant and his assistants. Our man is marked on the hand with a large "4" in iodine; this is to show the examiners that his place in the line is fourth. He sees the transfer of the papers which hand his body over to the keeping of the Government. There is a irregularity about them which puzzles the sergeant, but which the recruit thinks he understands. His timid remark of explanation is utterly ignored. After some minutes the sergeant manages to arrive independently at the same conclusion. Our friend is assigned temporarily to a barrack and told that, as it is Christmas, he will be left to himself for the remainder of the day. He picks up his suitcase and hunts up the barrack. It is empty and deserted save for one other white man and two negroes. A large detachment has just been sent south, and, as many men are home on leave, the camp is somewhat depleted. There is no fire in the stove; the two-tier bunks seem to his civilian sensibilities to be dangerously dirty, and he hardly dares to select a bed for fear he will be taking one already appropriated. He is cold and lonesome and sick at heart.
A bugle blows for mess, one of the few army calls he has heard before. He follows the white man and the negroes in the direction of the bugle. The big general mess hall on the top of the hill is being besieged by men They have formed a double line, stretching back several hundred yards, laughing, jostling, clashing their mess kits, jeering at the rooky as he parades past with flaming cheeks and downcast eyes. At last he reaches the end of the line, but in a moment so many more me have come that the end is now the middle. He essays a word to his neighbor, who is in civilian clothes, and get a grateful look. The line moves faster than one would expect. It passes by jerks up a flight of broad steps, through a wide door. Inside are row upon row of long tables, with men rushing about everywhere to find seats. In this mess one does not file past the counter, cafeteria style, to get his food; instead, the food is put on the tables in large boilers and one shouts and grabs for it. Our recruit finds a seat at last---at the very end of the table. Men on both sides are ravenously grabbing for this and that, shouting and eating at the same time, frankly without manners. Manners are a thing of the past. He finally manages to amass on his plate a collection from the various viands that fill the boilers. It is, he is informed, a special dinner. It sickens him. A lump is in his throat; he does not want anything to eat. He manages to cram down a few mouthfuls, but with grave misgivings. Dinner is over. The men are rushing out a rear entrance with their greasy dishes. He follows. Behind the mess hall are great rectangular tubs of water, through which steam passes, or is supposed to pass; one scrapes his dishes over a garbage can, and then washes them in the tub. Many of the men have too obviously neglected to scrape their plates. Hunks of chicken and potato float in the tepid water, which already begins to resemble in consistency the contents of the boilers from which he has just been served.
He knows no place to go except the barrack, dirty, deserted, unbearably cold. He writes a letter home in assumed high spirits, the numbness of his fingers cutting it short. From the end of the barrack he hears voices of two men in conversation and sees light shining through the crack of a door. He goes thither, and with some hesitation opens the door. He finds himself in a small orderly-room, with two or three neat bunks, cheerful with light, and warm with the heat of a stove. Two uniformed men, noncoms, are chatting. They speak no word to the man in civilian clothes. They do not order him to go, but he is not welcomed. He wonders whether he is infringing upon military etiquette. The conversation goes on, a flow of obscene reminiscence. "An' I said to that nigger wench in Atlanta, 'Honey -----' " He essays a timid remark. No one answers him. The situation becomes intolerable. He retreats back into the chill and dirt.
Where, he wonders, can everybody be? He has heard of the Y.M.C.A. building. It may be they are there. He inquires his way and soon is inside the "Y." Ah! The first lifting of the heart for many dreary hours. Here is light, warmth, decency, civilization. Men sit quietly at long tables writing letters; others play games and chat and smoke. Men here are kind to each other, but one has disquieting experiences. At the desk, as he comes in, he sees a stern gray-haired matron with a pile of khakibound New Testaments. He thinks, somewhat sentimentally, that it would be a good thing to have a New Testament; perhaps in the army there may be time to read it. He asks for one. It is handed over, with a query "Are you a Christian?" He is fixed by the stern eyes. "Are you a Christian?" He mumbles something about being a church member. "That does not prove anything at all. Is your heart right with Jesus?" The lady is hard and vulgar and unlovely. He carries back to his bench the New Testament, which he is sorry he asked for, and goes futilely over in his mind the smart replies which he might have made.
Supper is a repetition of dinner, but the food seems, if anything, more distasteful. From his messmates he hears that the Red Cross is to give a Christmas entertainment for everyone in the drill hall. He goes, expecting little, but is pleasurably surprised. The entertainment is jovial, well meant, some of it excellent. And afterward Christmas packages are given out---to everyone. He is incredulous. A package for him? Yes, from the Red Cross, for him and five thousand other soldiers. The package is generous in size; it contains fruit, candy, playing cards, writing materials, and tobacco. He does not smoke but resolves to learn the habit at once in order to show his gratitude to the kind people who provided the package. Their names are inside, Jewish names apparently, residents of New York City. He writes a grateful letter in his cold and dimly lighted barrack. It is midnight; he undresses, shivering, and puts on his pajamas, conscious of the covert smiles of the negroes. After that night he will sleep in his underwear for eighteen months.
The next morning he reports for the dreaded examination. It turns out not to be so dreadful after all. The examiners, though in uniform, are kindly. He suddenly realizes that, in spite of their shoulder bars, they are only doctors. The assistants are not all so pleasant. They are newly enlisted men like himself, detailed for this service day after day. On the days of the great rush they have learned to work like machines; now they keep up their high pressure technique with this absurd line of four going through. The examination is not all in one place but in several buildings, upstairs and downstairs. He sits waiting on a bench in a corridor. Then the routine begins; men push him from table to table , from room to room. Teeth, ears, and eyes are examined in a large, square, sunny room on the first floor. Then upstairs for finger prints and papers. Men crush his fingers on a glass plate smeared with printers' ink, and then thump them on paper. He is shown a glass dish of clear liquid to wash off the ink. He thrusts in his fingers trustfully; it is kerosene, and he stands grinning ruefully, shaking his fingers with nothing to dry them on. Then the more trying ordeal of heart, lungs, and feet. He strips naked in a large, cold, drafty room, and hops around the circuit of the walls, first on one foot, then on the other. He stops before the appraising scrutiny of an officer with a stethoscope. "Raise your arms over your head." "Bend over." He flinches as the cold eye searches his nakedness, recording his scars and moles.
There remains only the final ordeal of vaccination and typhoid inoculation. Vaccination, he knows, is nothing, but inoculation he dreads. The thought of a needle thrust half an inch or more into his arm is alarming. He tells himself that it is only a pin prick, nothing to worry about, but his disquiet is not in the least decreased. The line pushes him forward irresistibly. Vaccination is over in a moment. The attendant passes a platinum needle through a flame and makes with it four crisscross scratches on his arm. He can hardly feel it. Now for the inoculation. The recruit in front is white; as he moves up to the man with the needle he suddenly crumples up in a faint. The attendants show no concern at an occurrence so frequent. Our recruit's arm is dabbed with alcohol on a swab of absorbent cotton. He passes a little beyond the man with the needle. He feels a sharp sting in the back of the arm; the needle goes in still farther. All over. It was not much, after all, but he will dread it the second time just as much as the first.
He has been examined and accepted and is now ready for the final rite of taking the oath---the ceremony toward which all this has been leading. He had thought more or less about that ceremony, had dwelt in anticipation on that thrilling moment when, beneath the folds of a starry banner, with an open Bible somewhere at hand, he would dedicate himself to the service of his country. The swearing-in turns out to be very informal and not at all thrilling. A group of half a dozen men in civilian clothes stand before a lanky medical officer. There are no flags or Bibles. "Do any of you p----abed? Hold up your right hand. You do solemnly swear t' you will obey t' president United States ----" "I do," all together.
After dinner comes the gradual accumulation of equipment. Our soldier is lucky. Many men spend weeks at Slocum without a uniform. It is bitterly cold outdoors, these new soldiers are soft from civilian life, and feverish from typhoid inoculation. A soldier has to have a great many things to make up a complete outfit---underwear, socks, shoes, breeches, shirt, jacket, leggings, overcoat, hat, knapsack, mess kit. Hundreds of men stand in single file and wait hours, shivering in the intense cold, to get shoes. Nothing but shoes. Then another line, and just as long a wait, to get overcoats. They stand in line two hours more in the moonlight after supper to get new mess kits, their feet freezing. Nothing to do but stamp and beat their hands and wonder how such an organization is ever to make the world safe for anything.
What a difference the uniform makes! Man's greatest desire is not to be conspicuous, but to conform. Is there any misery more acute than that of feeling your clothes are wrong? The man in civilian clothes in a military camp is an outsider, a poor uninitiate, a stupid fool. It is not merely that others think so; he thinks so himself, and shows it in his face. But an hour afterward, when he has assembled and put on an ill-fitting uniform, witness his self-confidence, his air of experience, his swagger. It cut him to the heart when the men in uniform sneered at him; now his chief delight is to hunt up the new men and sneer at them. "The army," Oldhauser used to say, "is only a miniature world without shame." The statement is profoundly true. The army is really no worse than the society which created it. It is simply unashamed.
At Slocum the recruit had no taste of military drill, but became an expert at "soldiering" in the esoteric sense. The camp was merely an enlistment depot for men in all branches of the service. Recruits came there, were examined, and, if accepted, given partial equipment and kept on the island until there were enough men of that branch of the service to form a detachment to send south to one of the training camps. Of training in the proper sense there was none. But there was plenty of work to be done, and the men had to do it. Men were needed everywhere for dirty and disagreeable jobs. As there was no company formation, indeed only the loosest form of organization by barracks, no regular details for the day were posted, but the noncoms ranged about with lists calling for a certain number of unspecified men, seeking for the recruit who had not learned the ways of Slocum. If you stayed in the barracks you were sure to get caught, for the noncoms always went there first. It was risky to go to the "Y" in the daytime, for you really had no business to be there. Moving about at random outdoors in the cold was even worse than working. Besides, you always had the dreadful feeling that if you got far away from your barrack, through which alone you could be reached by those in charge, something important for you might turn up and you might be missing. A detachment, you thought, might suddenly go south and leave you at Slocum all winter. The ideal place for retreat would have been one near the barracks, where men had a reasonable right to go, and where they could be safe from detail-hunting noncoms. There was, unfortunately, no such sure haven of refuge, but the latrines filled the requirements better than any other place, and were consequently always crowded. They were also the seminaries of post gossip and rumor. A "latrine," we learned, was not only a building, but also the name for any particularly exciting but quite unfounded rumor emanating therefrom.
Although there was no drill at Slocum, there was a great deal of standing in formation to hear one's name called. "Calling over" seemed to be the chief occupation of the place. Once the army captured its man it was clearly---and perhaps properly---afraid it would lose him. Ten times a day in each barrack a bugle would blow, and a sergeant would roar, "Out on the sea wall! " Thereupon the men were supposed to line up on the sea wall behind the barrack and answer to their names to assure the authorities that they had not yet managed to desert or get lost. Half of such formations were mere ruses of the noncoms to collect a detail for some especially dirty job. It was always a thrilling speculation whether you dared disregard the summons or not. All the noncoms at Slocum were hard-boiled, roaring oldtimers. One of them we all remembered as the loudest of the lot---Knoblock, sergeant of Barrack 51 M.D. He had pneumonia after we went south and we heard that he died, but none of us believed it.
On December 27, 1917, the first step was taken toward the formation of Evacuation Eight, though no one at Slocum had heard of such an organization. On that day was posted a list of men who were to be sent south to a medical training camp, Camp Greenleaf, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. That list included the names of the majority of the members of the original company. The outgo was set for Saturday, December 29. Nothing short of a chance to go back home with war and the army forgotten could have seemed so glorious to the fortunate men who found their names on that list. In the first place, it meant release from the killing cold of Slocum for a place which promised to be much more comfortable. Being northerners, we pictured Georgia as enjoying, even in midwinter, the climate of a terrestrial paradise, where watermelons were always ripening under sunny skies, and orange trees held out their fruit to the passing soldier. Perhaps even more alluring was the thought of escape from the awful anarchy and monotony of the shiftless existence of Slocum---day after day and week after week with no regular work, no definite prospect, no feeling of getting anywhere.
The twenty-eighth was spent in feverish anticipation of the exodus. We stayed in our barracks, going over our equipment and packing it fifty times to be sure it was in order. We were convinced that if we were short a spoon we should be turned back to stay in Slocum. All our scruples against theft broke down in the face of such a possibility. Mutual depredations were so common that we felt the only safe course was to put on our backs as much of our equipment as possible, and sit down and watch the rest. That night none of us slept much.
At four o'clock in the morning of one of the shortest days in the year, we were routed out---out on the sea wall, into the dismal bleakness and blackness of two hours before sunrise of a midwinter day with a blizzard brewing. The wind, swirling up from the harbor ice and salt water hardly less cold, bit and stung bodies not yet inured to such violence; set teeth chattering, and reached for our hearts with its dispiriting chill. We ate breakfast, not in the general mess, which was not yet stirring, but in a small unheated shack with counter and trestle tables, where the steam from hot dishes rose in blinding clouds under the lanterns, and we stamped our numb feet on the floor, trying to still the chattering of our teeth long enough to gulp down a few swallows of boiling coffee. Then back to a cold unused barrack for a second roll call---over an hour more of suspense and icy torture---then out into the outside cold to stand in line for blankets---minutes after minutes of slow chilling of the blood---and, finally, down to the wharf, on the most exposed part of the island, to wait for the steamer to take us to Jersey City. By this time the blizzard had broken, and the snow was swirling in blinding clouds, driven on by a wind registering fourteen degrees below zero.
We were utterly unprepared for such an ordeal. Three months later we might have gone through the experience without mishap, and even with little discomfort. But at that time we were all soft, many of us were still feverish with typhoid inoculation, we had already been subjected to four hours or more of intense refrigeration, and we were insufficiently clothed. The American Army provides no headgear that will cover the ears. The campaign hats which we had been issued would probably have furnished an ideal protection from the hot sunshine of Cuba and the Philippines, but they were not much good in a swirling blizzard at fourteen degrees below zero. Some of us saved our ears on that memorable day by knitted helmets provided by solicitous parents. Some of us had scarves in which we could muffle our faces. A few braved the sneers of the noncoms and swathed their heads in bath towels. But most of us offered our ears to the blast. We wore thin dress shoes, cotton socks, and canvas puttees. Our overcoats---the one serviceable winter garment we possessed---were mainly of the new short-cut variety which left the legs exposed below the knee.
We arrived at the wharf and lined up---no boat in sight. It occurred to the officers that they would have time for another complete roll call. The roll call began, but proceeded slowly, for officers and noncoms were unobstrusively but steadily slipping away to the shelter of nearby buildings. Almost an hour we stood fronting the blast in jagged wavering lines, stamping, beating our arms, holding hands to our ears. Then here and there men began to fall, overcome by the cold, literally frozen unconscious on their feet. The first man to collapse created something like a sensation. Men who do not realize how near they are to the same condition stare in amazement and anger as he is carried off by his companions. But now they begin to fall on all sides, suddenly crumpling up and toppling over without a second's warning. One man falls heavily backward, striking his head on the icy ground. The officers and noncoms have now nearly all gone inside. Suddenly, above the moan of the wind, is heard the sound of a roaring voice, loud, passionate, profane. It is, so the whisper runs, "The Colonel," and he is telling our officers in no uncertain terms to get us in out of the cold. If I knew the Colonel's name I would record it here with dithyrambs of praise, but simply as "The Colonel" he flashed into our lives, and then blazed out again in a gorgeous flare of curses. He was a good man.
The nearest building is the "Y" and its annex. We all rush thither in a mob. No more formations or formalities. We don't care now whether we get to Jersey City or not; our immediate desire is to get out of the cold before we freeze to death. Rumor says that fourteen men collapsed with the cold, and later adds that the man who struck his head on the ice died from the injury and exposure without regaining consciousness. The number of fourteen who collapsed cannot have been greatly exaggerated, but we hope the rumor of death was unfounded. Yet it is certain that more than one man eventually did die from colds and pneumonia acquired that day.
The "Y" is not a military building, and of course cannot be used indefinitely as a dumping place for troops. But for a short space we sit there in the warmth, enduring the agony of thawing ears and toes, utterly crushed and miserable. The Y.M.C.A. secretaries meet the emergency nobly. Again from the atmosphere of stupidity and brutality we pass into the air of friendliness and cheer and decency. And then we are swept out of it, over to the drill hall , to wait there for the belated boat. The drill hall is not as bad as we expected. It is cheerless and bare and only casually provided with seats, but, thank heaven, it is warm! What are seats? We slump down on the floor and lie half-dozing in utter apathy, aching in the delicious but exquisitely painful warmth, conscious only of what a dreadful thing cold is.
Dinner time, afternoon, supper. Still no boat. If it hadn't been for the Colonel they might have let us stand out there all day. It is time to go to bed, but we can't sleep in the drill hall. Empty barracks are hunted up; there are no cots, but mattresses can be put on the floor---that icy floor, with the wind whistling up through its cracks. We lie down with all our clothes on, hugging one another for warmth. The dawn of Sunday the thirtieth calls us up again, this time at five. Mess, then the inevitable calling over in an empty barrack, then the drill hall again. Today the atmosphere of apathy has somewhat gone. We voice shrill complaints and pour forth the bitterness of our disillusionment in cursing. We are all very near to weeping with misery. Dinner, and still no boat. We have given up all hope of getting away today---of ever getting away. This sort of thing may go on for weeks. They don't know where the boat is. Perhaps there never was any boat. They get us to enlist with sentimental propaganda and then let us die of wanton neglect. We are sick and sad and sore; our ears and toes are frostbitten, and we all have horrible colds. We shall probably all die here. Nobody cares. For the first time in our lives we face blank and utter despair. We are caught and helpless in a machine which threatens our very lives, and there is no way to escape.
Incredible announcement! The boat is really and truly in. At about two in the afternoon we file down to the wharf again, thirty hours after our first appearance there. Another surprise! There is no roll call on the wharf. We are actually hurried aboard with no standing in the cold. The boat is small, and there are nine hundred men in the detachment. We fill every nook and cranny of the interior, jamming the corridors, sitting on every available inch of floor space in the cabins. If the boat should sink, not one in ten of us could fight his way to deck. We don't care much. Anything but freezing to death at Fort Slocum. And as we draw away from that terrible island, each of us knows in his heart that, though the months ahead may hold many bitter and painful experiences, they will contain nothing to match the accumulated and unalleviated. horror of Fort Slocum.
Fort Oglethorpe. The Tents.
THINGS move rapidly now. We are out of the steamer and marching through a corner of Jersey City to a railroad terminal, where the lights are already struggling with the early dusk of a December evening. A special train of Pullman coaches is waiting for us. They have straw-matting seats, and seem never to have been luxurious; they are now old and dingy and poorly lighted, and all the berth curtains and other frippery have vanished. But did any one of us ever, in all his life, pass three days of such unalloyed bliss as on that train? Three men only occupy a section. There is plenty of room for everyone. And it is warm, oh, so heavenly warm! Nothing to do but sleep warm and lie abed late in the morning, to recline on the cushions and read, or watch the strange country roll past the streaked pane.
Our route lay by way of Albany, Buffalo, and Cincinnati, but it was not until the second day of the trip---New Year's Day---that we began to notice the country much. We were then in Kentucky, and few of us had ever been so far south before. What surprised us most was still to see so much snow. There was plenty of it in Kentucky, covering the gently rolling fields of corn stubble, where the shocks of bleached cornstalks still stood, their heads bowed like the sheaves of the brethren around the sheaf of Joseph. The countryside passed by like a smoothly flowing dream, as we lay back and dozed, or played cards and nursed our colds. I remember particularly only one bit of scenery, and that too in Kentucky. We ran across a river deep down in a narrow gorge with incredibly high, almost vertical, walls of naturally sculptured rock. Alongside the river ran thin little ribbons of farms, not more than a few hundred feet wide, fenced off into exquisite little plots, dotted with toy houses and animals, and occasionally the toy figure of a man, looking up at our train as it roared across the trestle.
At about ten on the night of January 1, 1918, we pulled into Lytle, Georgia, the railroad station for Fort Oglethorpe. We expected to be required to detrain at once to seek a new and uneasy abode in the dark, but much to our surprise were told that we might spend one night more where we were. Consequently, it was in the early forenoon of January 2, 1918, that we had our first view of Camp Greenleaf, where we were destined to spend four of the most memorable months of our lives. At ten in the morning, after eating breakfast on the train, our small detachment started its hike of some three miles to the corner of the camp reserved for us. We must have presented a sorry spectacle. Apart from our army uniforms we looked about as military as a troop of gypsies. Our blankets were rolled and slung baldric fashion over our shoulders, our knapsacks were of all varieties of style and issue, we all carried civilian hand luggage---suitcases and most unmilitary bundles ---and far too many of us had our ears swathed in gauze bandages.
The section of Chickamauga Park where we were to take up our abode lay, as I have said, at some distance from the station. Our way thither took us across the greater portion of the old battlefield. We had studied in grammar school about the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, and the campaigns of Chattanooga and Chickamauga, but none of us, I fancy, knew beforehand that Fort Oglethorpe was situated in that historic region. The original Fort Oglethorpe had been a cavalry post of the Regular Army, with permanent wooden barracks, post hospital, canteen buildings, and officers' homes lined up around all four sides of a great open square. From it as a nucleus, since the entry of the United States into the War, there had spread out through the great park vast areas of temporary encampments, until at the beginning of 1918 the post was said to contain twenty-five thousand men of various branches of the service, including large Infantry and Medical Officers' Training Camps. Camp Greenleaf, the largest section, was entirely of medical troops.
Of this we then knew absolutely nothing. The sights that met our eyes on that first hike to camp were wholly new and largely inexplicable. The country was not prepossessing. It appeared to be flat, barren, and dreary, the soil a stiff yellow clay, covered thinly with freshly fallen snow, the trees scrubby hard pines and scrubby brown oaks repeated endlessly. The air was not warm. There were no orange trees nor watermelons. Georgia, like New York, was having the coldest winter for years, and Chickamauga, being elevated, is at best chilly in winter. The Sunny South, we saw, was not going to be so sunny after all. It was perhaps a good thing that we did not know that the worst of the winter was still to come.
Our second disillusionment was the mud. Before we left Camp Greenleaf it was hot, torridly hot, so that we forgot somewhat the bitter cold of our first month there. But we never forgot the mud. Just as Slocum is synonymous with blizzards and fourteen degrees below zero, so Oglethorpe means mud, yellow clay mud, deep, viscous, interminable. It was not so bad that January morning, for the ground was thawed only on top, but, even so, it was the worst mud most of us had ever seen. It stuck to the soles of our shoes, one layer after another, balling up our feet to the size of hams.
We marched out from Lytle station, past barracks we were later to occupy, down a long, straight, fairly hard road, with numbers of great monuments rising on the right; one, which we came later to know as the Georgia Monument, a massive column overtopping all the others. At brief intervals we passed trim metal signboards, lettered in white on black, telling what action in that long-ago battle had been fought at that point. Signs and omens, but at the time we did not perceive their meaning. We come to the Y.M.C.A. Auditorium, a monstrous barn-shaped building of the usual red and green, the "Y" triangle at its gable peak. Beyond, on the left, rise the permanent buildings of the old Fort Oglethorpe; on the right we pass the post theater and canteen stores. Behind them are the wooden barracks of the 11th Cavalry. We turn in to the right. The road we are now marching on soon dwindles into a new dirt track, narrow and unbelievably muddy. The wooden barracks give way to brown pyramidal tents, acres of them in parallel rows. Can it be that we are going to live in tents, with snow on the ground?
More marching and more misgivings. Then we come out at the end of our company street, and see where we are to live for the next five weeks.
It is a typical temporary summer encampment. At the upper end of the street (a bare expanse of sticky clay which apparently never knew the caress of a blade of grass, and which we shall soon be going over on hands and knees freeing from cigarette butts and other more questionable rubbish) stands the mess shack, a rough wooden structure with dirt floor and walls boarded only part way up, the rest open to the weather. For furniture it boasts two rows of trestle tables, with plank seats, and a counter at one end, behind which are the stoves and other paraphernalia of the kitchen. In the opposite end a small room is partitioned off, reached by an outside door. This is the officers' mess, a sanctum penetrated only by their mess orderlies. Outside is a wood pile of scraggly logs of green hard pine, and the incinerator, a shallow pan filled with incredible mixtures of boiling garbage, supported by a fireplace of rough stones, green wood smoldering sulkily under it. There are outdoor trestle tables for the dishwashers, and faucets for water. The whole area around the incinerator and the water taps is one expanse of deep, liquid mud, trodden and splashed about endlessly by hundreds of passing feet. Sloping down from the mess hall runs the company street, a shallow ditch on either side, lined with a double row of brown tents with crooked stove pipes protruding from the peaks. The vista is closed by the latrines, movable wooden seats over a pit, roofed with canvas in concession to the weather, but open on all sides. No washroom. No warm water. No place of any sort for bathing. One cursory glance sums up all the conveniences of the place, except one. After supper each night a row of galvanized iron cans is moved out into the middle of the street, but they coyly disappear early the next morning.
Arrived in camp we immediately go to work. A noncom counts us off in groups of five or six, and assigns a tent to each group. Some tents are already up, others must be pitched. We get our first view of the interior of these nomadic dwellings. Some of them have wooden floors, but more have only the bare clay, already deep in mud. Around the low walls are iron cots, placed head to foot; six line the entire wall space, leaving an open square in the center. In the middle is a camp stove, merely a cornucopia of sheet iron, tapering to fit a stove pipe which passes out the peak of the tent. There is no other furniture of any sort. We are given cotton ticks to fill with straw for our beds; some of the straw is decidedly wet, but otherwise it makes a very comfortable mattress. Our gear must be disposed somehow. It is cold; if we want fire we must cut our own wood, and there is only one ax in camp. We must take a few minutes to get acquainted with our tent mates. Consequently, it is near evening before we learn from a group gathered at the latrine that at last we belong to a permanently organized outfit, Evacuation Hospital No. 8.
I doubt whether any of us had ever heard the term before. Was an evacuation hospital ever mentioned in a war story? But whatever an evacuation hospital might be, it was heavenly bliss to know that you were no longer a casual. The company had been created on January 1, 1918, with a nucleus of men from southern and central camps. To these was added a small and lugubrious band who had been in other units at Oglethorpe (principally Evacuation Three), but who, by sickness, overgenerous Christmas leaves, or other ill fortune, had missed their companies when they left for France. Our larger detachment of 125 from Slocum temporarily completed the enrolment. Evacuation hospitals were then being organized with the pre-war strength of 179 men and 16 officers,(2) our officers (with one exception) all being M.D.'s, most of them drawn from the M.O.T.C. at Oglethorpe. They came from many parts of the country, but the southern states perhaps furnished the larger number. There were no nurses, for the evacuation hospital as then constituted did not contemplate the inclusion of female personnel.
It was nearly noon when we arrived in camp. By the time we went to bed that night we had a complete working company organization, and a full program arranged for the coming day. Before dawn we were at work on our regular routine for the next four months. . . .
At ten minutes before six in the morning the camp is still deep in slumber. It is dark, for the sun will not be up for some time yet. Suddenly from the end of the company street peal out the rapid, cheerful, hateful notes of "first call." Reveille is popularly supposed to be the detested call which rouses a soldier from his slumbers. As a matter of fact, when reveille blows he must already be up, fully dressed, and standing in his proper place in the formation in the company street. First call is actually the signal that summons the soldier to everything disagreeable. There is now no time for loitering, for delicious moments of half slumber. Tired bodies automatically jerk themselves up, drag themselves out of the warm embrace of the blankets. Underwear is already on, and shirt and breeches present few difficulties. But shoes and canvas leggings take time to lace, especially when soggy with clammy mud, for too many of us went to bed without cleaning our footgear. The army overcoat is a splendid garment, for it will hide a great deal of sketchy dressing. Later on, when the mud gets so bad that rubber boots are permitted, we shall sometimes take a chance on appearing at early formation with no more clothing than the boots on our bare feet and the overcoat over our underwear. We struggle sleepily out into the company street. Platoons are forming, men stumbling into their places in front or rear rank, straightening out the lines. The top sergeant faces the lines with a lantern. Corporals and sergeants stand by with their lists and flashlights. Six o'clock, and the rapid notes of reveille ring out from the head of the street. Woe to the man who is not now in formation. "Ten-shun! Right dress! Front!" The roll is called. One noncom after another reports to the top sergeant, "All present or accounted for." The officer of the day arrives, somewhat tardy, and sleepily yawning. The top sergeant carefully prepares to do an about face, but manages to trip himself up. He salutes. "Sir, all present or accounted for." "Dismiss your men." "Ten-shun! Dismissed! " Later, when the sun rises earlier, the order will be, "Fall out and police the company street!" Thereupon, under the eye of a vigilant noncom, we will range over the mud, gingerly collecting with our bare fingers whatever refuse has been thrown there during the day. This morning, however, like an echo of the top sergeant's "Dismissed!" come the glad strains of mess call. The street is instantly a swarming mass of men rushing to their tents for mess kits. The man who gets his mess kit and reaches the mess-shack door first will be fed first. The others will eat in the order in which they arrive. In a wonderfully short space of time the line is formed, a queue stretching the length of the company street. We stand in single file, restlessly treading to keep from bogging down in the mud, advancing, so it seems to us, imperceptibly. Noncoms arrive and go defiantly to the head of the line. Groans of protest arise, but to no avail. Now we are in the dim interior, where flickering candles cast a misty glow through the steam, and huge, vague shadows dance about. We thump our mess kits down on the counter for the cooks to fill. The bottom dish is generously filled with oatmeal porridge and watered evaporated milk; on the shallow cover we receive bacon or sausages. We balance dish and cover in one hand (no easy feat) while our cups are filled with steaming black coffee from a galvanized iron can. The cup, too, is a ticklish contraption. It has a folding handle fastening with a clasp which has a disconcerting trick of letting go and deluging one's feet with hot coffee. We find places at the rough tables, lifting our feet up from the bare ground, wrapping our overcoats close, for the sides of the shack are open to the weather.
Breakfast finished, we file out of a rear door and wash our dishes in two pails of water beside the mess hall. The first pail is full of soapy water, the second, of clear, and a cook or K.P. stands by to see that the dishes are decently scraped before they go into the pail. We now have a few minutes to tidy up ourselves and our tents. Sick call is blown before the dispensary door (a wall tent halfway up the company street); we can go to get iodine painted on the outside, or compound cathartic pills administered on the inside. Very little else. Men are sometimes sent to the hospital with a well-developed case of pneumonia or bronchitis, but minor indispositions receive little sympathy. At seven o'clock it is fairly light, but still gray and bleak. The sun does not seem really to get to work these days before noon. First call again; we fall in for our first drill. It opens with setting-up exercises, which prove to be rather good fun. Then follows a painful session of initiation into the mysteries of right face, left face, about face, right dress. Then something a bit more complicated---marching formations, right by fours, on right into line, fours right, etc.(3) Thus we spend two hours in absorbed attention. The men are awkward and slow of comprehension. Some noncoms are impatient, sarcastic, brutal; some kindly but insistent; some merely stupid and loud voiced. Down here below the tents where we are drilling the ground is beginning to thaw. Our feet, which were cold at breakfast, are now warm. Drilling is good exercise. At nine o'clock we line up again in the company street and are dismissed for "lecture."
For this rite we split up into small groups in the tents, an officer with each group. When he enters we stand at attention until he says "At ease." We are given copies of a large red textbook, Mason's Hand Book, the Bible of the sanitary troops. We gather by cursory examination that it was written soon after the Spanish-American War, and has largely to do with post-hospital work in peace time. The author has never heard of high explosive, gas gangrene, or poisonous-gas warfare. We put in weeks prattling of pills and cauteries and poultices. As far as I can remember, we learned in all those lectures only one thing of the slightest practical value. That was the art of applying bandages.
At eleven o'clock the lecture is over. We have until twelve to ourselves. Dinner at twelve; drill, one to three; lecture, three to five; supper, I think, at five-thirty. And then the soldier's work day is over. He will probably cut some green pine for a fire, and then go to the "Y" At the "Y" will be an entertainment, books, magazines, games, writing materials. It is not so much these we seek, perhaps, as the warmth, the brightness, the cheerfulness, which link us with home, and give silent solace for the exasperations of the day. At eight forty-five we must start back, for our camp is a long way from the "Y," and call to quarters blows at nine-fifteen. Our tent mates have nursed the sullen chunks of green wood into sooty flame, and the interior of the tent is warm and glowing with candle light. We ease off our soggy boots and leggings and scrape off the mud that clings like sticky dough. Ten o'clock; everyone should be abed and lights out. Taps. Instant dreamless slumber.
This is a typical day of camp routine, but by no means everyone has followed the schedule. Before first call, six or more unfortunates crept out of bed and went on kitchen police. They have pared bushels of potatoes, ladled out gallons of food, and washed dreary stacks of square tin boilers in greasy cold water, standing meanwhile in liquid mud to the ankles at the outdoor table by the incinerator. They began their toil before dawn, and it is long after dark before the cooks let them go. "K.P." is for good reason the most hated detail in the army. Another group has been standing guard all day, two hours on and four off, marching solitary and monotonously back and forth on an assigned portion of the circuit of the camp. They will continue tramping all night. In good weather it is not a bad job, though lonesome. Another detail has been initiated into the ritual of tidying up the latrine. There have been special details to get wood, to go after quartermaster's supplies, to do this, to do that. Soon many small details will be going daily to the post hospital for special training in the wards, the offices, and the laboratory. In all perhaps not more than two-thirds of the company are out for drill each day.
On Saturday, January 5, three days after we reached camp, we are given our first inspection. Everyone is ordered to line up in the company street, utterly spick and span, as though mud had never been heard of. If one has a tent floor it must be swept. There is only one broom in camp, but desperate men find that much can be done with a whisk broom. All the equipment a man does not wear on his back must be spread out on his cot; blankets neatly folded and piled at the head, sewing kit, extra underwear, socks, shirt, and shoestrings neatly laid out in regulation order below. At nine we assemble in the company street, anxiously lined up in two long files by the noncoms. We are recently shaved, our uniforms are brushed, our leggings are freshly scoured (with salt to turn them white, bleached leggings for some strange reason being considered more dressy), and our shoes highly polished. "The Captain" (he is anonymous in my sources but I suppose it was Captain Dale) parades with his adjutant and the top sergeant slowly along front and rear rank, closely scanning each man. Woe to him who has not shaved, or whose overcoat lacks a button! No opportunity is given for excuses. The sergeant gets your name, and you go on K.P. for a week.
Saturday inspection is one of the best things the army has ever discovered. That first one did more than anything else could have to restore the morale which had evaporated at Slocum. When we arrived at Oglethorpe we had no ideals left, and only one passion---to keep alive. We thought no more of cleanliness than does a wolf in a hard winter. Our faces went unwashed (especially now that we had nothing but ice water for bathing), and our hair was allowed to tangle. So quickly does culture fail when one gets down to the bare necessities of existence. But the preparation for our first inspection brought back all our latent pride. After that we kept ourselves and our equipment as clean as our circumstances would permit, and, although we grumbled at inspection, we secretly liked it.
After inspection was over on Saturday the rest of the day belonged to the soldier, if he were fortunate enough not to be on some detail. It was easy to get a leave to visit Chattanooga over Saturday night, returning before Sunday night. Few of us, in civilian life, would have seen anything attractive in spending a night in Chattanooga. But now that we were in the army such excursions were paradise. In the first place it meant that for twenty-five cents one could get a warm bath at the Y.M.C.A. and change his underwear. Then, for a day, he was a free man, with no military obligation save to salute all the officers he met. He could (so far as his purse permitted) eat wherever he chose. He could sleep in sheets and lie abed as late as he pleased.
On that first Saturday, to those who were not on K.P., the army seemed perhaps to be becoming tolerable. But that night winter weather broke, and the long spring rains set in. Those of us who were marooned in camp were awakened in the middle of the night by the roaring of thunder and pelting of rain. The tents which we had eyed so suspiciously had a chance to prove their worth. They failed miserably. Many of them were old, but all, I suspect, were of poor quality. The great drops began to gather and fall, striking us in the eye or ear with uncanny precision. We rose shivering, bare feet in the mud, and shifted our cots. It made little difference, for the tent roof leaked everywhere like a sieve.
The interior of our tents, when we crawled out that morning, was depressingly dank and cheerless. But out doors! The rain had dissolved the frost in the ground, and the mud, formerly stiff and viscous, had thinned to the consistency of pea soup and was getting thinner every minute. In the company street it was bad, but out in the main roads, where trucks and mule teams kept it stirred, it was worse. When we went to the "Y" that day we found ourselves forced to wade a quarter of a mile through liquid mud up to or over the ankles, mud sluggishly but unmistakably moving down the slope with a current like a glacier, and almost as cold. We still wore thin dress shoes, the soles of which (through too close proximity to the stove when we tried to dry them evenings) were already in bad shape. Before we were issued our heavy trench shoes some of us were walking with bare toes in the icy mud.
That Sunday gave us a good taste of the depressing experience of sitting for hours in a leaky tent, partially protected from the rain, but unable to find any spot actually dry. We all had colds which we had brought from Slocum. From head colds they rapidly developed into varying degrees of bronchitis. We coughed and conversed in hoarse whispers. Some of us lost our voices entirely.
Our second inspection was less auspicious than the first. On the night of Thursday the tenth a heavy snowstorm began. The snow soon changed to sleet, with a high wind which blew down some of the tents. To erect a pyramidal tent at any time is no easy matter, but to crawl from under the icy folds of the canvas, barefooted and clothed only in one's underwear, put up a tent in the dark, with howling wind, rain, and sleet as accompaniment, is a thing to remember. By morning the sleet had changed to a pouring rain, the heavy incessant rain of a spring cloudburst. Drill was out of the question. The tents leaked miserably. We rolled up our bedding, threw our overcoats (we had as yet no ponchos or slickers) over the pile, huddled around the sulky fire, and soaked all day. Green pine, even when it can be made to burn at all, does so only with the production of a weight of soot about equal to that of the wood. The soot, beaten down by the rain, clogged the stove pipe, giving us the choice of being suffocated with smoke, putting out the fire, or clambering up over the top of the tent to beat down the obstruction. At eight in the evening the rain suddenly stopped, the thermometer dropped twenty degrees, and a high wind rose. Everything that was wet---and everything was wet---proceeded to freeze. When we were turned out by the bugle on Saturday morning we found every article of clothing we had not worn to bed stiff with ice. Our overcoats, which we had been using for covering, were like planks. Some of us could not bring any of the buttons to meet the buttonholes. And the. thermometer stood at four below zero.
At eight-thirty we had to stand general inspection. Under such conditions the company commander had to be lenient. Our frozen overcoats stood rigidly out like garments stolen from statues, and we had pulled off half our buttons in the vain attempt to reduce them to subjection. But we got by somehow. After inspection half the company escaped to Chattanooga. But woe to the remainder! By one of the remarkably frequent coincidences of army life, there was not a stick of wood in camp, and no one was sent to get any. The water pipes had frozen, and water had to be carried by hand in G.I.(4) cans a distance of nearly a mile. And on Monday afternoon it began to rain again.
The routine of mud, bad weather, drill, lecture, and detail, went on with little interruption until January 20, our third Sunday in camp. That afternoon the men returning from Chattanooga or from work at the hospital were told by the guard on the confines of our camp that we were under quarantine. Otis Smithers, a blond, quiet, likable chap from Vermont, had been sent to the hospital delirious with an illness which proved to be spinal meningitis. The whole company was consequently quarantined indefinitely to the company street, though we were to be permitted to drill near the camp, at a safe distance from the uncontaminated units. On Wednesday night (January 23) Smithers died, without having regained consciousness. His was the first death in the company, and for that reason the most memorable. But only a little later on the same night, another of our men, Harrison Ward, died in the hospital of pneumonia. Ward had known that he was sick, and reported at sick call. Unfortunately, he had been cast for guard duty that day, and the officer who held sick call told him he had a cold and ordered him back to work. On the night before he was taken to the hospital (being probably already delirious) he had crawled up the outside of the tent in his underwear to beat down the soot from the stovepipe. The officer in charge of insurance tried to make some reparation by helping him to sign an application for $10,000 of life insurance on his deathbed. Poor Ward did not seem to be greatly impressed, and could think of no one to name as beneficiary except an aged grandmother. He was older than most of us---perhaps thirty---and something of a religious crank. I remember he made us all hate him by talking about the goodness of God. He used always to say grace aloud before he ate. Possibly he was the only man in the whole American Army hardy enough to persist in the practice.
The quarantine brought bad weather with it. It snowed nearly three inches on January 20, and the snow, as usual, turned, the next day, into sleet and rain. We had now been issued ponchos, but we found that, although they made excellent waterproof coverings for our beds, they were not remarkably effective as garments. A poncho is simply a rectangular sheet of waterproofed material, with a hole in the center to put one's head through. When on, it drapes one's figure in fetching folds, and is just long enough to run the water in streams into the tops of a pair of canvas leggings and thence into one's boots. That night the men on guard were literally frozen into their ponchos. The steady fall of sleet covered all the folds with a sheet of ice, so that when a man tried to salute, he found his arms pinioned to his sides. As he plodded along, he could watch the icicles descending around his hat brim. The next day the ground was covered with icy slush. Our shoes---still the dress shoes we had been issued at Slocum---were soaked through. Wonder of wonders! On that very day every man in the company was issued two pairs of new shoes, trench shoes and dress shoes. How wonderful those great hobnailed hulks of rough leather seemed to us! Only Doc Carter, who wore, I believe, thirteens, was disappointed. After standing in line nearly the whole of the afternoon, he learned that, although there were plenty of shoes, there were none large enough for him. "They ain't got nothin' but boys' sizes," he complained.
Another bit of daily ritual had been added by the quarantine, prophylaxis against the meningococci. We are all lined up before the dispensary tent, and enter in lock step. "Open your mouth! " A swab of cotton on a wire is thrust down our throats until we gag. "Tip back your head! " Swish! Swish! up each nostril. "Spit it out. Open your mouth again. Wider. Now say a-a-a-a." Gagged again. The spray tastes like chloride of lime, of which, in fact, it is made. That was our introduction to Dakin solution, which we were later to see used by the hogshead. From our first lot of cultures, twenty-two were reported to be suspicious. The twenty-two unfortunates were recultured, and the spraying kept up. On Saturday the twenty-sixth, of the twenty-two cultures nine were reported to be still suspicious. The unlucky nine (Top Sergeant Hennion being among the number) were promptly segregated and installed by themselves in cavalry barn E38, a sort of out-ward of the general hospital.
The temporary departure of our top sergeant coincided with the arrival of our permanent commanding officer. Some time during the week of January 21, Lieutenant Colonel James F. Hall assumed the command of the company, which he continued to hold until it left Germany to return to the United States. Saturday, January 27, naturally demanded an inspection of unusual thoroughness. The violent storm of the first of the week had been followed, in true Georgia fashion, by clear, hot, sunny weather, so warm that we began to drill in shirt sleeves, and seldom found occasion to wear blouses or overcoats. At noon the days began to be uncomfortably hot. The heat took what remained of the frost out of the soil, and the mud went down to incredible depths. It was said that an officer got so mired in a nearby company street that he had to be pulled out of his boots. The men in the mule-driven ambulance company beside us gave up trying to cross their streets on foot. Under such conditions it was somewhat difficult to meet the first inspection of our new commanding officer with highly polished dress shoes and clean leggings, but we did it, and apparently to his satisfaction.
Our tent inspection now regularly included every week what in the cheerful slang of the army is referred to as a "short-arm inspection," that is, an individual venereal examination of each man by one of the officers. It got to be so much a matter of habit that we thought little about it. At least once at Fort Oglethorpe and several times in France the inspection was held in the company street. But in the beginning nothing seemed so degrading, so outrageously indecent, as to be forced to submit to such an examination in the presence of one's tent mates or of an entire barrack. Yet it must be admitted, I think, that the American method of handling the difficult problem of incapacitation of troops by venereal infection is the best that any army has worked out. It consisted in providing easily accessible prophylaxis for men who had exposed themselves to infection, and in enforcing the use of such prophylaxis by regular and rigid individual inspection, with very severe penalties for men who contracted venereal disease.
The meningitis quarantine was lifted on the afternoon of Sunday, February 3, and we were freed again for the old routine. That week, however, we had a new experience---the gas mask. The whole company was put at gas drill, consisting of lectures by a special officer, exposure to tear gas in a gas house, while we all sat solemnly and wondered whether the gas were really turned on or not, and finally, regular marching drill. The idea of drilling in gas masks was more or less thrilling; the actual experience, horrible. As long as one can sit in perfect quiet, the mask is not uncomfortable. But when men new to such contraptions move vigorously, and breathing becomes more rapid, their first experience is suffocation. Half of the discomfort is due to nervousness, but that makes the sensation no less painful. A clip shuts off your nose completely, giving that unpleasant feeling of suction which you experience when you try to swallow with the nose held tight. Every breath of air must be pulled in through a can of dry chemicals. A rubber sack covers the face, and you see the world dimly through great misty goggles. Only the ears are uncovered, feeling strangely naked and exposed. It is remarkable how a gas mask seems to isolate you from the world, and shut you up in a cage by yourself, though you move side by side with your fellows, and are actually restrained only from speech with them.
About the first of the month we signed the Day roll, and on February 5 received our first pay. The few dollars we received seemed the most money we had ever had in our lives. A private soldier's pay is thirty dollars a month. But practically all of us were paying back to the government between six and seven dollars a month of this for insurance, and were remitting home fifteen to twenty dollars a month as allotments. This left not much over five dollars a month for spending money. We had been penniless almost since the day we arrived at Oglethorpe. Canteen checks, issued by the company office against our pay, helped somewhat, but one could get only five dollars' worth, and, in our first burst of extravagance, that went almost overnight. What we craved was extra food. We were being adequately fed, but the outdoor life and vigorous exercise were building up muscle in an astonishing manner, and, no matter how much we ate at meal time, we were ravenously hungry before the next meal. Later on, our army fare became an abomination. Put I doubt whether any one of us, in his whole life, ever ate anything with keener appetite and finer relish than those coarse meals issued in the old mess shack during our first month at Oglethorpe. We craved especially sweets: candy, cake, and the like, craved them so that our pittance went in no time. Most of us were soon in a chronic condition of owing all our pay before we received it. We borrowed from the successful crap shooters, who served as banks which ultimately attracted all the unspent cash of the company. To one whose knowledge of this game is that of a spectator, craps seems the most uncomplicated and nonintellectual of all amusements. As long as everybody plays fair, it seems to be pure chance, without the slightest opportunity for skill or mental exercise. Yet perhaps no game ever invented casts such a hypnotic spell over its devotees. It is a common sight in the army on pay day to see men coming on the run from the company office, so eager to get into a crap game that they do not even stop to put their money into their pockets, but run waving it in the air. In a few minutes they usually emerge in a stupor, completely stripped. Our company, like all others, contained several unnaturally lucky artists with the bones, and on pay day they always reaped a plenteous harvest.
Almost from the day we moved in at Oglethorpe, rumors began to circulate as to the date set for our departure. Our training, we were assured, would not last more than five weeks at the most. We might even be sent across by the first of February. At first these rumors were given out by the officers themselves, and had every appearance of being official. By the first of February they became so strong and circumstantial that we were all convinced. The fifteenth was the day set. We were sure to be sent north by the fifteenth. Many of us wrote home and stopped our mail. We did not go north on the fifteenth, nor for several weeks thereafter, but on February 10 we did move. Although this move was not the momentous one we had expected, it caused such a change in our way of living that it demands a new chapter.
Fort Oglethorpe. The Barracks.
ON February 9 we were told that the next day (a Sunday) we should move into barracks formerly occupied by a battalion of Field Artillery that had just left for the port of debarkation. We were not highly pleased. Our camp had of late been made more comfortable by the installation of electricity, and the weather had become mild enough to make living in tents pleasant. It still rained a good deal, and the mud was deeper than ever, but the rain now had the gentleness of spring showers. By day we heard the crows cawing, and at night the cheerful music of the frogs. It was actually hot in the middle of the day, so hot and bright that we regularly rolled up the sides of our tents and set our bedding out in the street to air.
Moving day in the army is always Sunday, because by putting such extraordinary events on Sunday you avoid interrupting the regular routine of drill. It took us nearly all day to transfer our equipment, which included all our cots and bedding besides the paraphernalia of the office and kitchen. Some of it was carted by mules, but more of it went on our backs through the mud. By five o'clock we had everything unloaded and in its place, and got a moment to look about. Our new quarters were really a great improvement over the tents. The mud here was not nearly so bad. The barracks were light, airy, and water tight. We had an excellent mess hall--- clean and attractive. And at last we had latrines with plumbing---shower baths with hot and cold water, and troughs for washing our clothes. We began, in a sneaking way, to enjoy being in the army.
The transfer to barracks made one important change in our company life. Hitherto we had lived in more or less isolated groups of eight, without getting to know the other members of the company very intimately except at mess. Now that thirty-six of us were assigned to a barrack, we made more friends, and our company spirit grew. The barracks (there were five of them, strung out in two parallel rows) were long, unpainted, shed-like affairs built on wooden piles which lifted them two or three feet from the ground. In the center of each side was a door, reached by a flight of steps, and within, directly between the doors, a large pot-bellied coal stove stood in a shallow box of ashes. There were electric lights, and by day the interior was well lighted by a row of windows which occupied nearly half the wall space from the height of one's waist to the eaves. Our cots were lined up, all the way around the walls, side by side with narrow spaces between. The mess hall was exactly the same kind of building, with one end fenced off by a counter, behind which were the stoves. The company office occupied a separate room in the end of one of the barracks. Our company street---the lane between the two rows of barracks---was an expanse of clay as bare as that we had left, but considerably less muddy.
Our daily routine now became more regular and also more strenuous. We were called out at five-thirty, and policed the company street immediately after first roll call. Then we washed up and went to breakfast. After breakfast a few minutes were allowed for tidying up cots and rolling packs before we were assembled for marching drill, which now lasted four hours instead of two. Generally it began with a hike of several miles with full packs on one or other of the excellent macadam roads that stretched out through the park in all directions. However monotonous the drill might become, these hikes, after we had got over the first difficulty of carrying a pack, were always a delight, because the country was now so beautiful and every day increasing in beauty. The trees were in full leaf, and the hillsides, which earlier had seemed to be only scrubby wildernesses of oak and pine, had transformed themselves into bowers of dogwood, ivory-white clouds splashed here and there with the rich crimson of the red-bough. Under foot the ground teemed with lupine and phlox and those large scentless violets which the natives call "Johnny-jump-ups"; the hedges were fragrant with honeysuckle, and the orchard slopes pink with the bloom of fruit trees. The hike always ended in one of the open fields near the camp suitable for pitching shelter tents. Since Saturday inspection now included an inspection of tents and equipment in the field, as well as the going over in the company street, we were daily drilled for perfection in that rite. A "pack" is a compact cylinder made by rolling up, within your shelter half, your blankets, change of underwear, socks, toilet articles, and the pole, rope, and pins for the tent. The old medical pack was long and slender as compared with an infantry pack, and was bent like an inverted square U over the top of the ration bag and fastened there with rawhide thongs. Straps from the ration bag came over the shoulders and snapped into a broad webbing belt filled with first-aid supplies, from which dangled a hatchet in the place where an infantryman has a bayonet. The pack was awkward in appearance, and hard to carry because it was pitched too high on the shoulders. An infantry pack of greater weight can be carried with much less discomfort. The first step in the inspection was to pitch the tents. I suppose everyone has seen a "pup tent" at some time or other, but he may not have realized that in the army it is a shelter for two men. Each soldier carries only half the tent, and must pair up with another. The two shelter halves button together at the ridge, the tent being supported by two jointed poles, which are anchored by guy ropes. The front end is open to the weather; the back end closes in a peak, which, with the sides, is pegged down to the ground with aluminum pins. We were supposed, within two minutes, to get the tents up, not only pitched properly, but all in line, to have our blankets folded and spread out in the front of the tent with the clothing neatly arranged on them, and be standing at attention when the colonel started down the lines on his tour of inspection. When we pitched tents merely as drill, the officer in charge usually ordered us to pop into the tents and out of them, like woodchucks, until some unfortunate kicked down the pole of his tent and got a black mark. At the drill field we now did our calisthenics all together instead of by platoons, and spent most of the time drilling in company formations, executing elaborate maneuvers in columns and lines. By eleven-thirty we were back in camp, hot, dusty, and tired, with a few minutes to clean up and rest before dinner.
At this time we were being very well fed. For instance, on Washington's Birthday (one of the three army holidays), the menu was recorded in a letter home as follows: "Turkey with oyster dressing, creamed turnips, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, bread, butter, and coffee." This was a special meal, but the daily fare does not look so bad when compared with it. We had for breakfast, as another letter testifies, a cereal: oatmeal, cornflakes, or grape nuts, with sausages, fried potatoes, or (occasionally) pancakes with syrup. Milk was always the evaporated variety, watered; I do not remember seeing fresh milk served at any time that I was in the army. For dinner we had beef stew, or fried beefsteak, or beans baked in a shallow pan with bacon and tomato sauce; for dessert, bread pudding, rice pudding, stewed prunes, or dried fruit cobbler (pie made in a large baker with only a top crust). Supper was much like dinner, with macaroni and cheese a frequent dish. Coffee was served with all three meals, and we had all the sugar we wished at a time when the civilian population was being pretty severely stinted. But our feeding was too lavish to last. Before the end of February it was reported that Greenleaf was one of the most wasteful camps in the United States. Orders were issued that henceforth it would be a misdemeanor for any man to throw away more than six ounces of food a day. For a time our plates were inspected at the garbage pail, and we were warned that anyone detected in wastefulness would have his mess kit set away with whatever was in it, for him to eat before he got anything else. The inspection soon lapsed, but we were never thereafter fed so well.
At one we went out again for drill, marching from the company street together, but dividing into platoons as soon as we were out of quarters for litter drill, practice in lifting and carrying wounded men, occasionally for improvised track meets. Litter drill sounded exciting, but turned out to be rather ridiculous. Before this war, medical troops were classed as noncombatants, and carried no weapons. In practice it proved to be impossible to preserve such distinctions. In France we always wore large automatics when we walked guard, though I think we never had any instruction as to the proper way to handle them. In medical regulations a litter drill had been worked out which had taken over from rifle drill all the motions that could be performed with a folded litter. We shouldered litters, presented litters, stacked litters. The bare litters with the straps slung over the bearers' necks looked something like the trays on which street vendors display their wares.
The lectures were considerably abridged and pretty haphazard. Much of our afternoon drill period was spent in "soldiering" pure and simple in the fastnesses of the thickets where we had withdrawn, ostensibly for intensive drill in lifting wounded men or in applying bandages. For long silent moments we lay on our backs in the checkered sunshine under the trees, gazing up at the flecks of blue between the leaves, listening to the warm sleepy hum of bird and insect life about us, and thinking of home, or trying to imagine what the war over there was really like, and to convince ourselves that we should soon be there. At five we were back in camp to get ready for battalion retreat at five-thirty. That gave one a thrill; it was like having inspection every day, but was even more exciting because it brought our company into direct competition with the other outfits around us. . . .
We line up in our company street, washed, brushed, and polished, and march at attention to the parade ground, a gently sloping hillside beyond our barracks, along the Dixie Highway. The side of the great square on the road is lined with officers' barracks; the opposite side closed off by long wooden cantonments. Near this side stands the flag pole. A dozen buglers are now lined up there with the officer of the day, and a detachment from the guard waits to pull down the flag. We march in, hoping we are making a finer spectacle than any other outfit, and line up in our allotted space against the officers' barracks, directly opposite and facing the flag. The other companies arrive, until this whole side of the square is filled with long parallel ranks of men standing at attention. The bugles begin a strain sacred to retreat; the command is "Parade rest!" In unison all the parallel lines slump forward as right feet are advanced; arms come forward, and hands clasp loosely. The buglers finish the preparatory strain. There is an electric pause. Then the command comes sharply, "Attention! " We stiffen like wooden soldiers, the buglers blow the staccato notes of "To the Colors," and the flag comes slowly down, the officers meanwhile standing at salute. Now the flag is down and the buglers strike up one of the few marches a bugle can play ("You're in the Army Now"), and the companies one by one dissolve into columns of fours, march around the top of the square, form in lines of platoons again, and come sweeping down past the officer of the day. There are sixteen men in each line, and, as it passes in review, it must be straight as a string, every foot lifted at precisely the same instant, every muscle moving in the same rhythm. The officer in front of the platoon salutes, and we do "Eyes right." Now we march right by fours into a column again, and so back to the company street, where we tell each other how much better we did than Evacuation Four.
After supper we could sit in the barracks, chat, play cards, and read, or go to "Y" 31, close at hand, to write letters comfortably and unmolested. There was usually some program of entertainment, often good. If we wished something more ambitious, we had frequent opportunities to see entertainments in the large auditorium, all free. The post theater provided good moving pictures at reasonable prices. But in such weather and in such a place it was better to be out of doors. During those days we made the most perfect friendships of our lives. Men in the army are freed from the reticences and restraints of civilian life in a community where everybody knows them. All the members of a company are potential friends because they are living the same life, cherishing the same hopes, and facing the same difficulties. There are few incentives for insincerity and self-seeking. Night after night we strolled about through the park in the moonlight, hardly conscious of the silvery beauty of the dogwood or the white glint of marble columns through the trees, absorbed in the communion of unreserved speech or the understanding silence of youthful friendship.
By call to quarters (nine-fifteen) we are in our barrack unless we have permission from the barrack sergeant to be out until ten. The calls blow: call to quarters, tattoo, finally taps. We are all in bed and the lights are out. Absolute silence is supposed to reign until first call next morning, but it seldom does. Frank Roy is a ventriloquist; he entertains us with what sounds like a quarrel between two drunken men under the window outside. Sergeant White, alone of all the inmates of the barrack, does not know of Roy's accomplishment, and shouts for silence. The noise continues, with the addition of insulting remarks about sergeants. Sergeant White crawls out of bed and goes grumbling out to find only brilliant moonlight and nobody in sight. Or, perhaps, soon after the lights go out, and everyone is nearly asleep, a plaintive voice, clear and distinct, but impossible to locate in any particular bed, announces, as though in continuation of a long argument, "All I say is, a white man is as good as a nigger any day if he behaves himself." Bang! the belligerent Southerner with the weak sense of humor is out of bed square footed, looking for a fight.
I find, as I look back over our war months, that I am more likely to become sentimental in writing about the period of our first weeks in the barracks than of any other time, except the few days we spent at Coussey and Sionne. While we were in the tents, life was still raw and uncomfortable; after we went across, we generally saw too much of suffering and horror to allow us to become sentimental. Later on in the barracks we became bored and discouraged. But over the earlier part of our days there there hangs in my memory a very pleasant feeling of youth and vigor and abounding health, of strenuous exercise keenly enjoyed for its own sake, of keen appetite, of sun and heat and the smell of spring flowers. We were homesick, and we thought we were wretched, but our nostalgia had a romantic and delicious flavor very unlike the grinding pain we knew later when we spent our second Christmas away from home.
As I have said before, not all the men of the company spent the day in the typical routine of drill that I have described. An increasing number went every day to the post hospital to study the care of patients, to study in the laboratory, to master the details of the intricate system of reports which the army required the office force to keep. But the numbers at drill were not diminished, because our company had been enlarged. We had been organized with the regulation number of enlisted men for an evacuation hospital---179. But it had become apparent to those who were studying the situation at the front that such an organization was too small to carry on the complicated work demanded by the conditions of modern warfare and modern surgery.(5)
Since we left the tents, all that section of the camp had been filled with men of the National Army, and great areas of new tents had been erected to accommodate the vast throngs that were steadily pouring in. On March 20 twenty men from the National Army were added to our company, the first of the many additions which ultimately gave us a permanent personnel of over three hundred. It would be a pious falsehood, but still a falsehood, to say that this addition at first met with our approval. "I'm afraid," says a letter, "they'll have rather a hard time, for there is a lot of feeling among the men over it. They seem a good bunch, too." The fear proved to be unwarranted. Before a month had passed, the new men had come to be considered as much a part of the "original outfit" as any of us, which I think was not quite true of the many additions we received in France.
On Saturdays and Sundays our choice of entertainment was no longer restricted to a trip to Chattanooga. We had a source of amusement and exercise at home: a company baseball team, in fact two teams, the members -being excused from afternoon drill for the necessary practice. We could make the memorable trip to the top of Lookout or Signal Mountain. I have before me several descriptions of the view from Lookout, but I shall pass over them, because the experience is (fortunately) not restricted to men in the army during 1918.
Having thus sketched in a general fashion the character of our months at Oglethorpe, I shall finish by appending a brief chronicle of remarkable events. The first was another quarantine. On February 14, Corporal Graham of Barrack C was taken to the hospital in an advanced stage of spinal meningitis. The whole company was again quarantined, and the men of Barrack C confined to quarters. On the tenth, five men were isolated as suspicious, and the general quarantine lifted. No other cases developed, and Corporal Graham finally recovered and returned to the company in plenty of time to go to France with us. Our observance of Washington's Birthday has already been referred to. The whole company spent February 27 pitching tents for the vast detachments of drafted men who were rapidly filling in the vacant space between our old camp and the new. The new tents were of white canvas, new, and looked as they went up like a rising army of toadstools. According to a letter, "the Colonel complimented our company as being the best in the battalion at tent pitching. We put up eighteen while Headquarters Company put up six." This gave us a fine grievance. We pitched our own tents; the drafted men had it done for them---by us. On February 28 we held a muster, inspection both in the street and in quarters, turned in our nondescript mess kits for the regulation issue, received slickers in place of our ponchos, and were given our first set of personal identification tags ("dog tags"). Something was wrong with them, and they were later replaced. There were two of them, plain aluminum disks, stamped on one side with our names and our numbers on the company roster, on the other with our army serial number. Our numbers were all in the range 753,700 to 753,900, indicating that we were well within the second half million of enlistments. On March 3 we were given our first inspection with packs, and on this same day Evacuations Four and Six left for Allentown.
But the most memorable event of our twelve weeks in the artillery barracks was the inspection of the post held for Surgeon General Gorgas on Monday, March 11. The departure of Evacuations Four and Six had made us hopeful that we might be moving soon, and we were assured that if we made an unusually good showing in this great review we should be sent to France at once. The whole week of the fourth we spent in strenuous preparation. For a description of the review itself, I shall fall back on a letter written immediately after it was held.
"Our company was divided into six platoons of about twenty men each. First came Capt. Bruggeman, Lt. McCall, and Lt. Chaffee, all on horseback; then Sgt. Bowman (a tall, handsome, young fellow) as right guide, and then the company in a column of fours. We marched to the field with the other units, companies and companies of us, a long, thin, silent, brown column, arms moving in cadence, and thousands of feet sounding in unison. The review was held on the field in front of the German detention camp. The prisoners, hundreds of interned enemy aliens, were grouped behind charged barbed-wire fences, watching us parade past. The detention camp is at the top of a slope, and affords a full view of all the maneuvers. The field was really two gently sloping hillsides, with a level space between. The slope facing the detention camp was completely covered with automobiles; in the center, at the edge of the level space, stood General Gorgas's car, showing its red flag with two white stars. The reviewing party stood directly in front of it. . . .
"As we come to the field, we mount a rather steep pitch with no trees or buildings behind, so that the road seems to run off into the sky. The column mounts it; figures are silhouetted sharply against the blue, drop out of sight, are replaced by others, which in turn disappear, like a ribbon running over the edge of a knife. Now we see the head of our own column: Capt. Bruggeman and his horse against the sky, Lt. Chaffee against the sky, Lt. McCall against the sky. And now I come to the top of the pitch, drop over, and the whole terrain spreads out before me. We are marching in column. When we reach our allotted space on the hillside, the first platoon does fours left and marches to the front; the second platoon uncovers and does four left, until from a long column of fours we are transformed into six parallel rows. Now we are facing the General and tiers of automobiles across the valley. The adjutant spurs by: 'Guides--out!' 'Right-dress!' 'Guides---post!' 'Pass in review! First company, first platoon, fours right -march!'
"But you understand there were companies and companies of us, all along the hillside, and it was a long time before our turn came. All the time we stood rigidly at attention, motionless as toy soldiers, in perfectly straight even lines. Now the columns of platoons are swinging past the reviewing stand, end on to us and the General, most of them straight as a string, all the arms and legs moving as if parts of one machine. The M.O.T.C., for all its serge uniforms and leather puttees, gets off badly. We can do better than that.
"I suppose I stood half an hour at attention, but I didn't realize it. Then, 'Column of platoons, first platoon, fours right---March!' and so on for all six platoons. We are now in a column of fours again. We march down to the end of the field, across the end, then form in our column of platoons and swing down towards the General, feet, arms, bodies, and souls doing their best to keep in time, in line, and all the lines parallel. We are at the place. 'Eyes---right!' Our platoon commander salutes, and, in the instant in which our heads are turned, I see a line of about twenty officers, in the center a kindly-faced, smiling old man with a white moustache---General Gorgas. Beside him is a major whom I recognize from his pictures as Charles Mayo of the famous Mayo Clinic, some English officers, and two remarkably handsome young French aviators in light blue uniforms with caps cocked on one side, smiling and debonair. From the crowd in the automobiles comes a burst of applause. Our lines must have been straighter than straight. And so, 'Front! Right by fours---march!' and the review is over for us."
We were never thereafter so enthusiastic about the purely military side of the army. The noncoms (who for weeks had been calling us "Boy Scouts") hung a blue ribbon on the bulletin board, and went so far as to express satisfaction. We were convinced that we were the best drilled company in camp, and it seemed to us certain that another week would see us on the way to France.
Easter came on March 31. "We are all in hopes," says a diary, "of being up North by next Sunday, and seeing Easter Sunday at home." The hope was extravagant. The same diary records on Thursday, March 28, "This is Jewish Passover, and to celebrate we are eating roast pork and matzoth bread. To-day, sausage; and tomorrow being Good Friday, we shall probably have hot cross buns, matzoth, roast beef, and ham." Probably we did; the only change in routine of which I have a record is that the usual Saturday inspection was omitted on March 30 and held on Easter Day.
During the first and second weeks of April the weather suddenly became cold again with a flurry of snow on April 10. The dismal weather seemed to us like the expression of our dismal spirits. "It still stands cold tonight," says a letter, "and a wretched gray day it has been. Oh, I am so sick, so unutterably tired, of drilling just to kill time! We hear all sorts of rumors: that we are going to Hoboken, to Allentown, to Galveston; that the company is to be broken up to drill drafted men; that we are to be transferred to a Base Hospital and not go across at all! " On the sixteenth an unexpected review was held for "Colonel Talbot," whoever he may have been. "There were," a diary records, "an English officer, ten rear-admirals, and several other high officials. No. 8 men didn't seem to care much about making a showing, and had no spirit at all. Not even a review seems to stir them." Another member of the company, who wrote a chronicle of a dozen pages on the review held for General Gorgas, mentions this review casually in a sentence, and adds, "Days are terribly tedious here now."
On April 18 we were ordered to take over various barracks near ours which had been left empty by outgoing troops. Our barrack groups of thirty-six were cut down to twelve, but the change had hardly been effected before we were told that we should leave our quarters entirely for a new location near Lytle which had been formerly occupied by the 6th Infantry. At eight-thirty on April 20 we were inspected by Captain Chaffee, and then got ready to move. By noon everything was packed, and immediately after dinner we hiked in a light drizzle of rain some two miles and a half to our new quarters. The new barracks, besides being in every way as comfortable as the old, were infinitely more attractive, being situated in a grove of large trees, with a Y.M.C.A. (No. 26) only a step or two away.
This second moving was disconcerting. We could interpret it only as meaning that we were not to go across for some time, and might have to stay where we were all summer. We began to think we didn't much care. Our new quarters were most comfortable, and the officers had given up the attempt to make us work hard.
On April 22 we furnished the entire guard for our new camp, forty men. Walking post through the moonlit forest while the calls blew one after another was a memory to cherish. On April 23 Sergeant Rafferty furnished a diversion by going to Chattanooga and getting married. He was, as far as I can recall, the only member of the organization who was married during the period of our service.
About the twenty-sixth it became clear that very definite measures were at last being taken for our departure. On Saturday the twenty-seventh we were subjected to an unusually severe inspection, not by our own officers, but by the Commandant of Camp Greenleaf himself. He proved to be an elderly person with a walrus mustache, Col. H. P. Birmingham, Retired, with service bars and ribbons obscuring the greater part of his uniform. As we stood at attention, he walked along the ranks, occasionally kicking our feet or thumping our chests. Men not accustomed to such insults naturally gasped with surprise and anger and looked down to see what was happening. When they did, the old Colonel chucked them sharply under the chin and lectured them on the meaning of the word "Attention." His bark, I fancy, was worse than his bite, for he passed us. The inspection of equipment and military bearing was followed by a thorough physical inspection by our own officers.
The last two days of April we spent in excited preparation for departure. We scrubbed every article of clothing we were not wearing, and waited impatiently for our washings to dry so that we could pack our barracks bags. The physical examinations were finished, and our baggage began to go to Lytle. On the morning of May 1 we were up early without any urging by the bugler, getting our personal equipment ready to move at ten. We rolled our packs, stuffed our barracks bags, and finally dumped the straw out of our bedding sacks. At ten o'clock we started, wild with delight, to march back toward Lytle over the road which we had so dolefully trod in the opposite direction four months before.
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