Written while on duty with






with accompanying notes





by Reeder Miller




The following bits of letters and comment were written by me during my service at home and abroad in the Army of the United States while at war with Germany.  The letters were written under many strange circumstances; in camps at home, on trains and transports, on the march and in billets in France.  Due to the strict censorship on foreign service activities, they were not always clear and therefore, in this compilation, I have supplied the necessary data, to the best of my recollection, to make them of greater interest to those who follow my fortunes on that adventurous journey.


            //original signed//

Reeder Miller


Honesdale, Pennsylvania

May, 1919




Re-typed exactly as the original appears by Reeder Miller’s grandson, Andy Miller.  millercw3@aol.com  - Ultimate ownership reside with Miller family.



Letters are typed in “Courier” font.


Notes are typed in “Times” font.


Left Honesdale at 3:15 p.m., Monday, August 5th, 1918, to join draft contingent at Scranton, bound for Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina.  Met the rest of group at the station there at 6:00 p.m.  A great crowd was there to see the boys off; but no one known to me.


At Wilkes-Barre we changed to Pullman sleepers for the long ride into the South.  Weather fine, but hot as can be.


North of Washington, DC

August 6, 1918

12:50 p.m.


Still heading South.  Hot--but you know me, Al.  Can’t write a letter here, the darned train jumps too much.  Everyone feeling fine and anxious to get to camp.  It has been very uncomfortable traveling.  More later.


Spencer, NC

August 7, 1918

8:10 a.m.


Still on our way--150 miles from Spartanburg and the camp.  Cooler today, but it will be warmer.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 7, 1918

9:45 p.m.


Arrived at 5:00 p.m. and registered.  Attached temporarily to Company B, 58th Pioneer Infantry, for quarters and rations.  Looks like a good camp.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 8, 1918


Well, now I can draw a full breath and write just a short letter for we have been so busy that I can hardly snatch even a few minutes for the purpose.

We reached here yesterday at 5:00 p.m. and were immediately assigned to the 58th Pioneers, until examined and sent to permanent organizations.

At reveille in the a.m. they asked whether any of us had any previous military service.  Not scenting a rat, I stepped out with about ten others.  We were placed on guard duty!  The joke was on us alright.

I was put on the mess-house post with a club instead of a rifle for persuasive purposes.  Was relieved later to be made squad leader or acting corporal in a tent with seven long, lean and rangy South Carolinians who act like lost sheep.

We will be examined tomorrow and then quarantined for two weeks.  Have to fall in now so more later.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 9, 1918


They marched us a mile three times today for medical examination and each time we were not on the list.  Some organization!

It is broiling hot down here, 105 or a 107 degrees since arrival.  It knocks the boys out, but does not seem to affect some of us, I have not felt any ill effects as yet.

There are about 40,000 men here and the camp is probably as big as the City of Buffalo.  We are not allowed off the company street but as soon as the ban is lifted, I will be able to get around more.  I haven’t been able to get to a Y.M.C.A., etc., due to the quarantine.

Spartanburg, what I could see of it from the train, is a pretty little city, but deliver me from the people.  Luckily our officers are fine fellows from the North and we all like them.  As soon as we are out of quarantine we will be assigned to different regiments.  I am trying to make the anti-aircraft batteries or field artillery, both branches being available here.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 10, 1918


Another broiling hot day.  Last night we had a wind storm that blew up the dust until you couldn’t see the next tent.  We had a job holding them down.

After making three trips to the infirmary yesterday for medical examination, we finally connected on the fourth.  I passed without a thing against me.  About thirty percent were turned down, but they were Southerners.  They gave us a shot in the arm for typhus and vaccinated us also.  We get two more injections of anti-toxin before we are released from quarantine.  We haven’t had any drill yet, but it’s coming to us.

Please don’t worry about me for I can go through with this despite the change from the recent past way of living.  We are existing like hoboes, but it’s all part of the game, I suppose.  At any rate, I haven’t heard anyone deny that Sherman was right.  As soon as we are given our equipment and assigned to regular outfits it will change for the better.  The eats are fine, no kick coming there.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 12, 1918


Just came in from drill ground after an all-afternoon session and believe me it was hot.  They told us today that this camp, which holds about 40,000 men, would be cleared out this month to make way for the organizing of a Russian force to go into Siberia.

We took the “brain test” this morning--a sort of psychological and mental exam.  I don’t think I had anything wrong, but it sure would be a joke on me if it turned out that way for I’d probably be put on permanent K.P.  They told us our future in the Army depended on our rating in this test.  It is done to weed out the illiterates and “nuts.”

Must fall in for mess now, but more later.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 14, 1918


More news!  A very distinguished-looking artillery captain popped into my tent tonight right after mess and informed me that I was to be his Sergeant-Major.  Imagine my surprise.  It was Frank Stanton of the 4th Corps Artillery Park.  His outfit is waiting for about 800 men to complete their force and then they pass overseas.  I’m tickled to death to think that I am going into artillery and overseas so soon.  I expect to leave here to join him very soon.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 17, 1918


My vaccination didn’t take, so this a.m. in company with others, we had a second dose and another inoculation.  We are now appointing a Ways and Means Committee to devise a method of getting even with the Medicos.  My arm is as sore as a boil--but, “We’re in the Army now.”

We were to have received our outfits last night but at the time of writing, only forty or fifty of the men have received them.  Five men collapsed at Retreat tonight from the effects of the inoculation.  I have an awful headache myself, but alright otherwise.  It was an extra heavy dose, I guess.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 26, 1918


We are getting the morning off because our third and last inoculation and vaccination on Saturday was the worst of all of them all, so I am putting in the time to good advantage.  I feel alright myself, but a lot of the boys are still dopey and flat on their backs.

Yesterday, Sunday, I went into Spartanburg for the day.  We tried to get a jitney in but they were all crowded, so we hiked the five mile in the dust.  The town is about as large as Allentown, PA, and really very interesting.  A typical Southern city, old homes such as you read about and all that sort of thing.  The War Camp Community Club is quite comfortable and convenient.  They had a band concert in progress while we were there, served soft drinks, had easy lounges and writing tables, etc.

We walked around a while and then had a fine supper--fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, jellied salad, vegetables, home-made cake, iced-teas, etc.  It was some stuff after our camp grub.  We had to resist the temptation not to wash our own dishes and cutlery and we were a bit overcome at the sight of a table cloth and napkins, but we enjoyed the meal even though there was no dust in the food.

We ran the guard coming home with some fake passes which I had made out myself, but they never troubled to look at them, so we were safe.

We have a hundred and fifty German “sub” prisoners here in a stockade.  They are treated as well, if not better than, the American boys.  Only they are confined to their own area behind 13 feet of barbed wire with guards all around them.  They are a villainous looking lot and not at all like the Germans we are used to seeing.  Two of them escaped the other night while I was on guard, but were picked up by Post No. 9 on our second relief, about half a mile from my post.  I wish I had been the lucky fellow, for they gave him a month’s leave for not passing them.  The guard here is really very lax except around important posts and buildings.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 27, 1918


Just packing up my old kit bag to move over to the 4th Corps Artillery Park, my permanent organization from now on.  Several other Scranton men are going with me, so I’m tickled to death over the new order of things.  This is just a brief note, for I am in haste.  Don’t write until I give you a more definite address.  That unit is already to go and unless you know just how to locate me, I may not get your letter on this side of the sea.


Camp Wadsworth, SC

August 28, 1918

Headquarters, 4th Corps Artillery Park, U.S. Army


This is in haste, but will explain later.  Don’t send any more mail here for we are about to entrain for the post of embarkation.  Be on the lookout for word from me so that you can come to camp if I am unable to get a pass.  I want to see all of you before I go, for no one of us knows where this is going to end, or how.  More later, but be prepared.






For several days before we left Camp Wadsworth, our regimental area was put under double guard.  No one was allowed to leave the immediate vicinity, mail was held pending our departure for the port and no one was permitted to send telegraph or telephone messages to the outside world.  From this time on, our movements were as a closed book.  The exact date of our departure was unknown to all except the Colonel and his staff.


On the afternoon of the 30th of August we were called out for an inspection of overseas equipment.  We had already been ordered to dispense with all but Government-issued property due to penchant some men have for carrying more than an ox can budge.  We were, however, advised that each man might place a small parcel of personal belongings, such as Red Cross sweaters, extra woolen socks, etc., in organization boxes to be carried as company baggage.  Accordingly, we made up our parcels and stowed them away in a rifle box which we of the Headquarters company had devised for the purpose.


At 2:00 p.m. we fell out for inspection in full equipment.  Much to our surprise we were immediately ordered to march to the trains and by 3:00 p.m. the organization was on its way to France and the Front!


Upon Arrival at Camp Merritt, NJ, after a trip which had been one continuous ovation, we were put to work that Sunday afternoon, the 1st of September, drawing our woolen overseas clothing.  As I was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major while on the train coming north, I was scheduled to go aboard the transport that same night with the Colonel, the Adjutant and the Medical Officer.  On Monday morning at 3:00 a.m., the four of us boarded a truck which was following the 51st Pioneer Infantry and traveled with that unit on the six mile hike to Alpine Landing on the Hudson River.  It was a ghostly ride in the moonlight.  At intervals we stopped to pick up an exhausted trooper, new to his heavy pack and sleepy beyond description, letting him ride the truck until he came to.  The march resembles a hasty retreat, for the green troops threw away their emergency rations of hard tack and canned beef to lighten their loads; for miles the road was strewn with articles of all description.


At Alpine Landing we boarded the river steamer and proceeded to Hoboken, NJ, where the infantry troops disembarked.  We continued on across the river to the New York side, landed at Pier #59 and in a few minutes were aboard the Royal Naval Reserve ship “City of Marseilles,” a passenger liner formerly plying between English ports and India, but lately pressed into service to transport our American Army to the European battlefields.  She was an 8250 ton boat with a reputation as a submarine fighter having had several encounters with them in the Mediterranean while carrying British troops to Mesopotamia.


She was a good sea-worthy ship with all the appliances necessary for safe-guarding a transport.  When our troops came on board the next morning, they all eyed with evident approval the stern 6-incher and the mine-cutting paravanes.  I had a fine second-class state-room on the port of the main deck.


Our convoy consisted of about twenty-two vessels, freighters and transports, an escort of two destroyers and the British cruiser “Cumberland” which led the way.  Our departure was timed for 10:00 a.m. on the third, but delays resulted in putting off the hour until late afternoon.  We finally cast off at 4:30 p.m. and proceeded down-stream to a whistle accompaniment from all the boats in the harbor.  It was fairly deafening and continued for quite a while.  It made the boys feel good although they watched Miss Liberty with a vague apprehension, wondering when they were going to see her again.


In the lower harbor, the convoy was forming when we hove in sight.  The sailing formation consisted of three columns, the ore-boats and freighters on the outside and the transports in the center.  This as an added protection to the latter in case of submarine attack.  The destroyers plied continuously on the outskirts, to the front and rear, never stopping their constant vigil while the cruiser steamed directly ahead of the line of transports.  We seemed to have the position of honor directly behind her.


It was a wonderful sight to watch the convey swing into line and start the long voyage across those dangerous seas.  An escort of sea-planes and a Blimp dirigible followed us a little way but soon turned back.  Before we were aware of the fact the land was out of sight and each one settled down to his own thoughts and to making things as comfortable as possible for the trip.


The voyage across was monotonous and uneventful.  We did not sight one vessel not of our convoy during all those days.  On the fourth or fifth day a Canadian convoy of American troops caught up to us, by pre-arrangement evidently, for we had only been steaming at half-speed for a full day.  It consisted of ten transports and two destroyers, also a wicked-looking cruiser whose name we did not learn, but relieved the “Cumberland” and lead us the remaining days of the trip.




At Sea

September 8, 1918


That was a rather hurried departure and Goodbye, but the best I could manage under the circumstances.  I was hoping that perhaps we would be at the port long enough to get a 24 hour pass, but it did not materialize.

So far we have had fine weather and a pleasant voyage.  Our transport is going to land us in England, but our exact location, I do not know.  Address me at Headquarters, 4th Corps Artillery Park, American Expeditionary Forces, and it will reach me.

Sometime if we remain in Dad’s country long enough, I would like to make a trip to the places and the people he has told us of and in that event, their exact addresses would come in handy.  You might put that information in your next letter.  Just how long we will be in England and the possibility of getting such a leave are things beyond my power to predict, but if the opportunity should ever present itself I should like to meet his people.

I sent home some things from Wadsworth which we were not permitted to carry.  Tell Mother it knocked me out to part with the things she gave me for my birthday, but “c’est la guerre!”

I know Mother in Kansas City was disappointed in not seeing me at Wadsworth, but I prepared them all for a hurried departure in several letters I sent home so I could not do more unless I had known definitely when we were leaving; which was impossible.  Our traveling was the swiftest I ever saw troops perform.

Tell Dad I can’t get used to the tea-for-breakfast stunt aboard this boat, but I suppose we’ll meet it again later on when we land and in that event I guess I’ll have to put my U.S.A. tastes in my pocket until the little fuss now on our hands is settled.  There is a great deal more to be said, but the censor is on the job with this one, so we’ll have to wait a while for a real heart-to-heart talk.

I haven’t been sea sick yet, and this is our sixth day, but I’m not crowing for our worst weather is no doubt just ahead.  This will be all until we land so more later.






On the second day out from Liverpool, the port for which we were headed, a flotilla of American destroyers came prancing out at full speed, circled around us like school-boys and finally settles down to combing the seas in all directions for the wake of a periscope.  It was an inspiring sight to see our own Navy on the job.  We all felt greatly relieved when they came up over the horizon.  During the night we steered some sixty miles up the western coast of Ireland, turned around in a complete circle again and sped past the southern point of the land in to the Irish Sea before dawn and were well up in the running when the sun rose.  This movement was meant to fool the subs, but just how far it succeeded, one cannot say.  At any rate, they didn’t get us, although our Captain told us later at Liverpool that three of the pirates had been following us when the American destroyers met us outside, but did not attack due to their speed in coming out to us.  When asked how he knew this to be a fact, he explained that they used the underwater telephone and knew that a U-boat was in the vicinity.  When we heard about this, we were leaning over the rail watching the shore activities along the Liverpool waterfront, and I, for one, was glad to be there when told about the peril which we escaped.  A vessel, the “Galway Castle,” bound for Cape Town, Africa, was sunk with loss of close to a thousand lives, twenty hours before we passed over the self-same spot in the Irish Sea.  This was too close for comfort.  Even though on the trip across we were not permitted to lace our shoes and had to wear a life preserver all the time, our chances of being picked up after a row with a U-boat were about as slim as a North Seas fisherman’s.  Frequent boat drills were held, and no lights were shown at night, but at the same time I have little doubt that, despite all the precautions taken, the Huns knew where we were and would have put many an American soldier in Davy Jones’ locker could he have sunk a torpedo in any of the boats.


After swinging anchor in Liverpool Harbor for two days, we proceeded up the Mersey to the first lock of the Manchester ship canal, dismounted to top masts and funnel, and started the 40-mile trip up the Canal to Manchester.  At this initial lock, we were treated to our first sight of American aviators flying over foreign soil.  Nearby was the largest training field in England for our cadets and the air was full of fliers while we were there.  When they spied the first American troop ship going through the canal, they came down in flocks, circled all around us and in one particular pulled off some real battle-flying that stood our boys on their heads trying to keep an eye on him.  It was a beautiful spectacle and gave us an advance show of what was to become very common later.


The ride up the ship canal was interesting to a degree.  Imagine going through the heart of England on a steamship and you will have an idea of the sensation which was ours.  The country was as beautiful as any in the world and perhaps more so for every inch of land seemed to be under severe cultivation.  The cities through which we passed, Runcorn, Walton, Cadishead and others seemed all too busy for war-time especially in a country which had seen four and a half years of it, but the majority of the factories seemed to be munitions plants or ship-ways.






Somewhere in France

September 23, 1918


As you will see by the above, we are now in France.

How can I ever describe to you this wonderful trip?  Words cannot do justice to it, I will just have to wait to tell you about it.

At the Port of Embarkation in England we were met by a British military band playing American airs.  If you knew where we landed you would say it was a coincidence.  What a wonderful feeling it gave us to be in that place.  We were the first organized body of American troops to parade the streets of that ancient city.  And what a welcome that “reserved, dignified” people gave us!  They lined the streets and threw cigarettes, chocolates, etc., to the boys.  They seemed glad to see us.  We felt like amateur crusaders though for in that crowd many had suffered, some had fought and all had lost someone--given to make our job easier.  This landing was the best feature of our trip up to that time.

From there we proceeded to a port to embark for France.  The ride through England was wonderful.  Give an Englishman some brick and tile and he will build a home of surpassing beauty and charm and then enclose it in a garden the like of which you will never see anywhere else in the world but in England.  I am dead in love with this country.

At the French port, after an uneventful trip across the Channel, we again proceeded through the streets and were given an enthusiastic greeting by the French.  It is great to feel that you are welcome.  The people are shy at first but later warm up to you and seem to be glad we are here.  But France has suffered

Even the little I have seen brings home that fact in a way that no amount of writing can.

From the port where we landed we journeyed here after a few hours of rest.  The place in which I am writing this letter was built by Napoleon I and at this moment populated by American artillery men.  We were introduced to the “Chevaux 8, Hommes 40” stuff on the way down.  A self-respecting American tramp would turn up his nose at some of our tricks, but we pack up our troubles in a bully-beef can and smile just as though we liked it.  When I get home I won’t like a bed that has a mattress or a meal without a chance to sit on the floor and dine as we do here.  I’m getting so hardened to the game that it is becoming real sport and taken with that spirit.  It is a “court martial” offense in my company to speak about home-comforts like wives, chocolate, cakes, ice cream, real coffee, etc.  Don’t be surprised if I insist on eating out of my mess kit at the table or with only a spoon; it really is a habit now to like it all.

I have been trying out my menu French on the natives with dire results to my vocabulary and the respect of said natives.  On the march to the British rest-camp at the French port where we landed, a Belgian soldier walked along beside me for a while.  When there seemed to be no end to the march, I asked him, in my poorest and purest French, how many kilometers it was to the camp, he answered me in perfect English “about ten minutes more to go, Yank.”

The boys think they are the first English-speaking soldiers to land in France, I guess, and I was no exception to the rule at that time.  Most of the people have a smattering of English and by introducing a few stock phrases in French, I have no difficulty in getting what I want.

News from the Front is encouraging and we look for a quick and successful ending.

I’ll appreciate home more than ever when I get back (if that were possible) but everyone here is out to win the war and that quickly.  We have been doing some traveling, but my eyes and ears have been open wide and when I get back we’ll gather around the old fireplace and talk it all over.






The landing point mentioned above was Manchester in England.  We entrained there for Southamton with the intention of spending a few days at Romsey, but after a great ride through the best country in England, passing through Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Oxford and Winchester, we were informed when we arrived at Southamton that we were scheduled to sail for France the next day and would have gone then only because the fact that another Artillery Park had taken our boat.  Accordingly, we slung our packs, about-faced and trudged off in the rain through the city and up to the British Rest-Camp in Bitterne Park, formerly a public park, but now a quagmire from the trampling around of a few thousand doughboys.  We were soaked to the skin during that march and without any place to dry out our things, we were quartered in tents, twenty-five men to a tent, and slept in the rain and wet clothes that night.  I awoke during the night to find a stream of water from the roof dropping into my hip pocket!  It was some place and we were all glad when dawn came and we could all see our way about.  Without time to dry or shave the next morning we formed again, marched down through the city again and went aboard the steamer “Harvard,” formerly plying between New York and Boston with her sister ship the “Yale,” but now being used for the swift transport of troops across the English Channel at night.  We put out from Solent at about 5:00 p.m. and went slightly south until we reached the southern point of the Isle of Wight and then turned directly across the Channel for the Port of LeHarve, France.  Again we were lucky and sighted no hostile craft.  The steamer, having a credited speed of twenty-six knots per hour, fairly flew over the water and brought us into LeHarve at about 12:30 a.m.


Disembarking at this port, we marched through the city northward to the harbor road, past the Belgian Parliament buildings, up a very steep hill overlooking the Channel, but out of site of the city.  While standing on the docks at LeHarve, our boys were treated to their first grim lesson of war.  A long British hospital train containing seriously wounded men who had gone “over the top” only the previous morning drew in past us to be sent to England.  The Tommies able to lift their heads and hands smiled and waved to us, but they were a bloody-bandaged crew and some seemed bound for “that eternal Blighty where they serve angel-cake three times a day,” as one fellow who stood by my side put it.  Our men were a wee bit more serious when they strode out of that place in the morning.


At the rest-camp, we had time to change clothing and have a good meal and bath.  Tents were sand-bagged to prevent splinters from air bombs spreading too far, but they made excellent pillows and that night we all had a good rest.


The next day we marched back through the city and after the usual hot argument as to the proper division of rations, we entrained with the major portion of the jam and the rest of the gang at our heels.  We managed to hold on to the stuff and presently were sliding out of the station; bound for the south of France.  French freight cars are not conducive to rest.  They are not equipped with air brakes and as a result, when they take up slack on a troop train consisting of maybe forty cars, forty men to a car, the man who does not get a hob-nailed boot in his face or a rifle barrel under his ribs is lucky, very lucky.


We passed through Vendôme, Bretigny, Versailles (from which station we could see the Eiffel Tower in Paris) Étampes, Orleans, Tours, and we were hauled out at 3:00 a.m. at Angoulême, Charente, three days later.  The proceeding letter was written in the riding hall of the Institute d’Artillerie, founded by Napoleon I.


After the resting, as it is called in the Army, we hike it into the country some fifteen kilometers to a little comic opera village named Montignac, and went into billets.  This town had never before had troops billeted in it and we were quite a novelty to the peasants who treated us fine.  The place resembled the scenery quite commonly believed by American comic opera authors to be typical of South American towns.  It is all light and color, that part of France and far from the devastated districts.






October 1, 1918


In looking up at the orders of the AmEx Forces, I see that troops in the rear areas can give the name of the nearest big town where their mail is received.  In our case it is Angouléme, Charante; you’ll find it on the map.  Do not address me to that point, however, as we are due to move any day right up to the Line; in that event your mail would go all over France before it reached me.

There is some amusing incident cropping up each day.  This afternoon, one of the boys and myself made some fudge in a billet occupied by the officer’s mess.  This candy is unknown to the French for the word means something totally different in their vocabulary.  After much pumping with a bellows over a charcoal brazier, the stuff boiled and turned out very well.  The folks set the table with cups and bread thinking we were going to have cocoa, which we had made the day before.  Their surprise was genuine when the dope hardened and I explained that it was “American bon-bon.”  I wrote the recipe in French for them, so much sucre, cocoa, lait and beurre.  They pronounced our fudge a great success, but, like the French, it may have been only politeness on their part.

The sugar it contained we picked up in England.  That is a story all of its own.  It seems that while we waited to form the column at the rest camp on Southamton heights, I stood in front of Headquarters getting my attachment in line.  Directly across from us was a British mess shack, by the door of which stood a burlap bag.  My eyes happened to stray in that direction at a moment when one of the cooks came out for sugar and when I saw what the bag contained, discretion was over-ruled by appetite.  So, when a certain husky private of the Headquarters company staggered up the gag-plank of the Channel steamer at the docks later on, who could have told at first glance that he was carrying, in addition to his pack, a load of sugar some twenty-five pounds in weight?  Once aboard the steamer and the train in France, I placed an armed guard over the sugar for, even though it was only a few pounds, it is like gold dust over here and we were taking no chances.  You would die laughing if I could tell you of how the bunch watched that sugar all the way down here.

It is still like summer here, the roses are blooming, the grapes are just ripening and one would think it August back home.  Makes me wish for Honesdale and the hills.  By the way, the Allies are pounding the Huns it may be a reality sooner than we think.

I am writing this letter by the light of an ancient candle lantern which I bought in Angouléme.  Talk about the primitive!  They had electricity in this town once upon a time, before the war, but now I guess the coal goes to the munitions plants and we make the best of it.  They put us to bed at 8:30 p.m., so if this letter ends suddenly, you’ll know that the call to quarters has sounded.

The eats so far have been fine, enough and plenty for anyone.  I can’t complain of anything in this man’s army--yet!  Personally, it has been a big vacation and I know I am in better health than I have been before.  Perhaps the winter will make me change my mind, but we’ve had overcoats, gloves, winter clothing, etc., issued to us, so I don’t think we will mind the coal much.  We’ll get hardened to it.

No mail has come since we left America.  It sure is hard not to hear from you all, but “c’est la guerre.”  Some day the courier is going to come in and dump a bushel into my lap and then you can bet there is going to be some celebration.


Montignac, France

October 2, 1918


Through the kindness of the Colonel and Captain Stanton, I am enabled to enclose herewith permit for a Christmas box.  Not everyone can get these, so I feel pretty good.  It is necessary to present this at the post office in order to have a package accepted.

I need so many things, I can’t begin to think of them all.  I could use a couple more pair of those knitted socks and as “Prince Albert” is not to be had over here, I would enjoy a pipe full of it again.  The two boxes you gave me for my birthday lasted me until I reached France.  You could put in some bricks of that thick milk chocolate such as we bought in Scranton, for the stuff is very scarce in France.  In this game, sugar is nothing more than fuel and you would be surprised to see how a cold stick of chocolate will warm you up on a cold day.  I could use a lot of other things, but they aren’t as necessary as the above articles.  You might put in one or two of your corn muffins.  Now, please, don’t laugh!  I’ll soak them in some army coffee and imagine I’m back home on Christmas day.  The long ride won’t hurt them, at least in my estimation.

In the Paris edition of the New York Herald, we read today of the  Bulgarian collapse and the critical position of Germany, also about the great successes of our boys up in the line.  Now we are beginning to think that it will all be over before we can get a crack of them.  I’d hate to have that happen after all the trouble we’ve had in getting here.


Montignac, France

October 3, 1918


And still no mail from home.  They tell me that newly-arrived units are out of luck on that score because it takes so long for it to catch up to them, but it’s a poor excuse, I think.  Well, when it does come, that will be a big day.  It’s the hardest thing of all to bear, this being without word from you.

We are billeted now in a typical French village.  We marched out the next day through the beautiful country side.  The hills and meadows are covered with vines and right now the grapes hang in great bunches for it is harvest time.  This part of France is truly wonderful.  We have a feast of grapes at every meal and let me say here that there are no grapes anywhere else in the world like those of France.

The men hit the wine pretty hard at first, especially cognac, but there being no sucre in France this year for the vintage, wine is very sour like vinegar.  Naturally I had to sample it for the novelty of the thing, but once was enough.  It is not for Americans.

The village is like a scene from a comic opera back home.  White stone houses with red-tiled roofs, geese and chickens parading the streets, quaint old wagons, beautiful vistas of poplars, etc., and the picturesque peasants who do not seem to have felt the war much in this vicinity.  The roads are wonderful, hard and straight for miles and miles.  The scenery is like a Maxfield Parrish painting.  We, the regimental non-commissioned staff, have organized a small mess of our own and have been dining at the old Inn on superb provincial French cooking, of which there is none better in all of France.  The curious furniture and fixtures date back through the centuries.  Were we dressed like the three musketeers, the scene would be complete, but as we are only seven hard-boiled American artillerymen, it rather jars to hear our slang in such a perfect setting.  It is a great trip, and my only regret is that it isn’t peace time so I could have you along to see it all.

We are in quite comfortable quarters.  We don’t have an apartment in the Ritz, but c’est la guerre.  By the time I get an answer to this letter we will be up in the Line, I think.  Don’t worry, though, for something tells me that I will be in Honesdale again despite the Hun.  I am in good health, gaining in weight and now that we are getting hardened to the game I do not mind it very much.  I am impatient for our outfit to move up to the line and get it over with.  This suspense is worse than the other thing the old-timers tell me.  Well, here’s for luck and then some.

My French is improving.  By the time I get back I expect to be able to parlez vous in fairly good shape.  Our grammar, of course, is atrocious, likewise our vocabulary, but I have been able to get whatever I want and that with little trouble.  The French are good listeners and patient instructors.  Madame of the Inn leans across the table at night and with tongue, hands and shoulders, makes me donnez vous for everything in sight to add words to my stock and the right pronunciation.

Their coffee is abominable, so last night we made some cocoa on her stove before an admiring audience.  When we attempted to drink it hot with our meal there was quite an uproar.  It just isn’t done, I suppose.  Fruit is very scarce in France this year, so grapes are the only dessert.  The good French bread is the best I have struck since leaving Camp Wadsworth.  If it’s supposed to be war-bread then Mother need not worry much about the French population starving.  Their war-bread is better than ours in the States.


Montignac, France

October 6, 1918


I see by a new order of the A.E.F. that arrangements have been made for a particular kind of coupon paster for Xmas packages this year and that only boxes 9”x4”x3” will be accepted for delivery to the men.  I do not know whether this will conflict with Colonel Prince’s order which I sent you but until you hear differently, go right ahead.

Today is some sort of a fête day here and everyone is out in his or her best bib and tucker to look them over.  The merchants have pitched their tents and stands all over the plaza and have everything from suspenders to postal cards for sale.  It’s a typical old world scene and quite a novelty to us.

This morning two other sergeants and myself walked out into the country after grapes and the English walnuts which are very plentiful in this part of France.  We found one vineyard where they were gathering the fruit.  The frost had made it necessary so everyone was out taking great loads to a cask in the middle of the yard.  The grapes were as large as hot-house grapes, similar in color to our Concords, but as sweet as could be, with a most beautiful bloom.

The size of them impressed me; they were as large as prunes.  We were treated very cordially by the owner and his helpers.  The vines are grown four or five feet apart and not allowed to rise higher than three, but the vine that results from such treatment will yield ten or twelve large bunches.  It is unlike anything I have ever seen and my description hardly does it justice.  By French, English, and facial contortions I have endeavored to explain to them how grapes are grown in Western New York and the different methods employed by the French and lés Yanks.  I had an interested audience, you may be sure.

When we left, they loaded our arms and caps with big bunches and seemed unable to do enough for us.  It was a most enjoyable morning.

Here in this village, we get Paris editions of the London Daily Mail and New York Herald, sort of connecting links with the outer world.  We hear little about the war from the French.  Either they are tired of talking about it or they don’t like to.  The news these days is good.  It looks like the beginning of the end.  I hope we get up there before it is all over.

Our boys continue to get along fine with the natives.  I saw a wonderful example of discipline, or whatever else you may want to call it, today.  In one of the billets here there is a court-yard surrounded by a wall.  Along the top of the wall runs a grape-vine with big bunches of fruit hanging into the court-yard within easy reach.  The nearest other grapes are out in the country.  These on the court-yard wall have been hanging since we came--untouched by American hands!  I like to compare our methods with those of the Hun.  The grapes on the wall with hang there until their owner picks them.  Is it any wonder the French are our friends?

Our stay here draws to a close.  We will be glad to move though for the inaction of life in billets is very trying.  Last night we sat up before our wood fire to watch the clock be turned back an hour.  The fire turned my thoughts to another some thousands of miles away, but which I know was burning just as brightly as when I last saw it.  This is all for now.


Montignac, France

October 10, 1918


Still in the same place and no mail from Home.  The boys are all getting peevish about it.  We live from day to day looking for the courier.

I am enclosing another mailing slip for knitted things and in connection with it have a confession to make.  When we left Camp Wadsworth we were not permitted to carry anything except regulation issued stuff.  However, we packed a box with sweaters, toilet cases, extra knitted things, etc.  In this box I put my Twinplex razor strapper, those extra pairs of sox and the Fabrikoid kit.  All the others did likewise in order to prevent our stuff from falling into the hands of the dock inspectors who looked us over before boarding the boat.  The box went along with us throughout the trip in good shape until we landed at LaHarve.  Here, on account of the shortage of French freight-cars due to great troop movements on the British front, the port officials took all our regimental baggage which was against the rules.  In the shuffle they also took all our medical supplies and later I’ll tell you the result of this.

We have been unable to duplicate our sweaters and things, so here we are, far from a YMCA or Red Cross and altogether out of luck, as it were.  I would have rather been torpedoed than lose those things you made for me.

The news from the front is encouraging but the outfit here is hoping that no one back there, the President especially, will spoil the final victory with an inconclusive peace.  We feel that the Germans are up to some more of their tricks and the only way to end it is to lick them properly.  We all want to go home as soon as possible, but not at such a price as the Hun has offered.  Our Yankee army is coming home with a scalp or not at all.


Montignac, France

October 12, 1918


As you know from my other letters, our outfit is ready to move up to the line.  They are just like a bunch of bull-dogs straining at the leash.  The French begin to sense the victory in the air and are growing more optimistic every day.

Tell Dede that our billet looks like the stage-setting of the “Shrapnel-Dodgers” which we saw at Poli’s last winter.  The regimental non-commissioned staff have the second floor, a large single room with a great fireplace.  Guns, uniforms, kit-bags, cartridge-belts, blankets, boots and all sorts of equipment decorate the walls and floor.  The ingenious contrivances to heat water for shaving and to light the place at night would afford you many moments of fun, but to us they are only too serious and subjects of sober thought.  Being the ranking non-com, I appropriated the corner with a cupboard and in this I keep my toilet articles and such things as I use every day.  It took us a while to get settled, but now it is quite comfortable.  When you reach that stage in the army, though, it is usually then that they move you, so we are expecting to get away any day now.

Big Ben has been superseded by the bugle.  I am up early in the morning, eat heartily, and will be, as Dad says, disgustingly healthy when the final mustering call sounds.  Then it will not be “squads right” or “squads left” but “squads west” and at the “double” and it will seem good to be home, too.


Montignac, France

October 16, 1918


Still no mail from home since landing.  We have made complaints, inquiries, etc., but cannot seem to locate it.  Somewhere along the line of communications, there is a whole pile of it waiting to be discovered.  It seems inexcusable, but that is the army for you.

We are still in the same place from which previous letters were mailed, but we expect to be paid tomorrow and move up to the line the next day.  We have received practically all our equipment for active field service up there and have been hard at it to get my headquarters bunch drilled in the things.  There is no excuse for any man getting damaged if he obeys orders and doesn’t get careless.  In the gas bombardments they say there are two kinds of soldiers--the quick and the dead; we have given this a great deal of study until every man in the outfit can get his mask on in a bit better than five seconds.

Last Saturday I walked out into the country with a couple of men.  Along the road we met an old French woman wheeling a barrow full of garden truck.  We stopped to talk, and finding that she was going our way I picked up the barrow handles and started off for her home.  Can you see the picture?

When we arrived at the home--a typical French farmer’s abode--she invited us in for the usual glass of wine and handful of walnuts.  The place was all of stone surrounded by a high stone wall, the courtyard formed seeming to be both barnyard and front lawn.  The French farmer is not communistic to the extent that he trusts his neighbors, hence the wall, or maybe it is a survival of the days when marauders were common and stone walls the only first line of defense.  At any rate, all French farmers have their places enclosed in such a manner.

During the conversation which you can imagine was of a varied sort, Williams happened to ask whether she had a son in the army.  There followed the inevitable tears and the bringing forth of his picture--he fell a La Fere in the first rush of the Hun in 1914.  She also brought forth her daughter’s picture.  She was a Red Cross Nurse in Paris at the time, having served through the war.  The picture was taken with two other nurses, an American and an English. She is quite proud of that picture symbolizing as it did the alliance of the great powers in the war for humanity.

When we departed, she filled our pockets with walnuts.  We gave her a packet of chocolate.  With many farewells, we went our way, a bit more sober than when we arrived.  Asking about the sons hereafter is a forbidden subject.

I’m awfully hungry tonight.  I can’t help not always liking the army grub.  When I sit down on a fence-wall or curbstone with my mess-kit full of “slum” I can’t help but think of all the things you used to have; the baked ham, the superb coffee, the strawberry shortcake--will you ever forget them?  And I haven’t had a cup of tea with lemon since I left home.

This letter is poorly written.  I have been shivering a bit because our candle and the fire are going out.  You are still sound asleep (it must be about 4:00 a.m. American time, now).


Montignac, France

October 17, 1918


This was the big day.  The courier came reeling up the road with his side-car weighted down under eight sacks of mail! Believe me, I was tickled to get my share.  I received ten letters from you, one each from Mother, Dad, Lou, Sis, the editor of the Telephone News, and Captain Stanton showed me one from E.G. Simons, so you can believe me when I say that this was one big day.  I have just finished reading them a second time.  It seems that we were expected at the front immediately after our arrival so our mail was sent to LaValdahon, up near the Swiss border.  Our plans had been changed, however, and that confused the mail service.


Toul, France

Bautzen Barracks

October 21, 1918


Well, here we are--right in the back of the front--waiting for something to happen.  Another trip of three days in “Chevaux” Pullmans we pulled into this place which was the first American combat base in France and now is under airplane fire most of the day.  Of course, I can’t say where we are, but we are close enough to hear the guns and see the flash on the horizon.

While we were detraining in the yards, a playful Boche plane came over to welcome us in their peculiar way.  He started to hand us his full assortment when directly over our heads.  We haven’t discovered any casualties as yet, nor just what his objective was, but the anti-aircraft guns started after him and a couple of our planes went up to drive him to cover, which they did.  It was a nice welcome for us green troops, but the men behaved as well as could be expected of Americans.  They grabbed their steel hats and crawled back into their cars or under them, disregarding the fact that bombs would go through those cars like butter.  It was the Colonel’s fault though, for the order came from him.  A few of us slid into a dugout on the side of the hill where we had a good view of the doings.  A few minutes after he was driven off we formed again on the station platform to march off to barracks.  We had no sooner done this than he literally dropped out of the sky and let go with two more bombs.  But this time he kept right on going and when it was discovered that none of the men were hit we finally got away without any more annoying incidents.  It was interesting though, for it gave us a taste of what was coming.

We are billeted now in an old French barracks on one of the hills overlooking the city, but I do not think we will be here very long.  I will write at greater length when I have more time.  Meanwhile, don’t worry.






Our trip up to the American base at Toul was not very interesting although we went nearly across France to get there.  We were at first ordered to go to St. Quentin, then when we were entrained at Vars, below Montignac we received a wire from General Headquarters sending us to Clérmont-sur-Marne, but on the way there we were again ordered to head for Toul in anticipation of serving in the proposed drive on Metx, then being organized.  We went through Tours, Orleans, Sens, Montargis, Troyes, Langres and thence to Toul, arriving there in a dense fog in the morning after three days and nights in freight cars.  I made this trip rather comfortable though by appropriating the cupola on a steel car where I could place a straw bed tick on some bully-beef cases and with a copy of “A Tale of Two Cities,” I found things fairly pleasant.


At Toul were many troops, mostly artillery.  They were unloading big guns, ammunition, stores, etc., preparing for the big offensive that was to end the war.  We were greatly tickled to hear about this for it was like coming into a show to witness the last act and climax.  It was a scene of great activity, what with gasoline tractors pushing and snorting over some big pieces of artillery, mechanics tinkering with airplane parts and all the while the sharp distinct crack of the artillery at the front laying down a barrage.  The big guns were in the woods just to the north of the city at that time plugging away at the German defenses north of Thiacourt.  I found out later that town was our ultimate destination.


Toul is one of the oldest cities in France.  It is built in a circle of hills, which are fortified.  The center of the city proper is surrounded by a great bastion and moat, designed by Vauban in years gone by.  France, living in terror of the Hun, has fortified all this frontier.  Toul is a concentration point.  Here are some forty big barracks all over the hills, capable of housing an army corps on short notice.  Narrow gauge railroads ran from the city to the fighting front.  I secured a pass to go into the city the day after we arrived and was struck with the age of the place.  It seems the oldest place in France that I have seen.  Its cathedral is the showplace of the city.


The second day after our arrival we shouldered our packs on the last long hike which was to bring us under the range of the enemy artillery.  The gayety with which the boys had so far conducted themselves became less noticeable on this bright October morning.  There was a sober set to the faces, a serious tone in the voices which I had never noticed before.  They were plainly nervous and watched each other to see how they were taking it.  It was not fear that prompted this, for American troops do not show that trait like others, even though the bravest troops all always scared going into action.  It was a resigned air, as though the worst was going to happen even though they were not afraid.  I saw more Bibles that morning than I thought the outfit possessed.  It was comical and pathetically funny to see the boys handing each other notes to be sent to their families should they go West.  But when they struck out for the Line, they started singing “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here” and one would have thought they were going to a ball-game instead of into the bloody sector just ahead.  That was the American all over.  He went into battle just as he went to bat back home--with the same contempt for the pitcher, as it were. He may have viewed it rather seriously at first, but once started they never stopped.


We hiked along the hard rock road north of Toul through Boucq, headquarters of the Fourth Army Corps; Langley, still bearing marks of German artillery fire; Lucy, where the French third line trenches were stretched for miles as far as the eye could see, twenty to thirty feet wide and practically impassable, barbed wire stretched in abundance and all guarded by aged sentries of the Territorials.  At mid-day, we halted on the open road, stretched out and ate our rations, washing it down with some sweet red wine or water as the taste called for.


While we took our rest there by the road, planes were swarming over-head, bound for the German side or winging their way back to their several Headquarters.  At intervals, a stray enemy shell plopped into a field off to our left, some hundreds of meters. Evidently their airmen had a battery searching for us, but the guns were far in the rear, judging from the calibre and poor marksmanship.  The Colonel did not think it worth while to take to the brown fields where we would have been less conspicuous.  We were soon on our way, gas masks at the alert and steel helmets settled on firmly.


At night-fall, we took possession of an old monastery where some troops had been billeted before and now held by a detachment of Italians.  They didn’t take kindly to our putting them out and no one would have thought the two outfits were allies, fighting the same enemy.


We made our headquarters in the banquet room, a beautifully paneled room of walnut and tile, with several good pictures painted on the walls.  We were all pretty well tired-out from the long hike, but sleep was out of the question, for the batteries were banging away only a short distance from us in the woods, ranging the city of Metz for the big drive.


These guns were 16” naval rifles, throwing a shell weighing 1,800 pounds to a distance of 30 miles.  Their report was hardly less than the burst of the shell and the old building rattled every time they went off.  The Huns were not silent while our guns were doing this, but their poor marksmanship, while fine for the batteries, was not so nice for us.  Several stories came our way during the night, one carrying off the corner of our monastery and busting up the place a bit more.  The typewriter on which I was writing during the evening, after a short sleep, was knocked to the floor by the concussion and busted to bits.  This business was too close for comfort.  Strict orders were issued to show no lights, but the enemy must have been able to see in the dark, for he kept right on throwing over his hate.  We were all glad when morning came to see the naval guns being hauled farther to our right.


This day the Colonel and Adjutant went closer up to the line, to report to Headquarters, taking me along with them.  I rode the front seat of their Dodge car with the chauffeur.  On the way I fell to speculating as to just how four able-bodied men were ever going to get out of that machine if the Hun started to shell the road in a hurry.  The fact that the body was made with thin aluminum and wood did not add to our comfort.  I took some consolation from the fact that with the exception of the Colonel, none of the others had ever been in such a position either, so I decided that I probably was not the only one who was scared.  This is the most unusual feeling, going under fire.  But it seems to be only momentary for as soon as we reached Headquarters, and I was taking down stuff for the officers, I forgot all about the Hun gun-fire and was all business.  This Headquarters was in the town of Seicheperey, where our marines and 26th division had fought a drawn battle with the Hun a few short months before.  Now he was just over those hills toward Thiacourt, waiting for the chance that never came to push us back.


Seicheperey was a dust heap, only the cellar of one of the buildings being used as shelter for this headquarters.  It was a scene of great activity.  My only recollection of any of the officers centered around Major-General Muir, commanding the Fourth Army Corps at that time and later the 28th Division.  He was about the busiest man of the lot and a typical dynamo of energy.  His interview with the Colonel lasted less than ten minutes, but in that time he covered all questions concerning us, transport, rations, billets, supplies and all the other necessary items.  When I left it was with a whirling head.  Never had I seen such a worker.  Undoubtedly, the stress of battle had much to do with his methods, for I heard the Colonel say that he had known him in less strenuous times when he was quite different.


On our way back to billets, we came to a road that was being heavily shelled at almost exact intervals.  The Colonel was in a hurry, so rather than wait he ordered the driver to put on all possible speed and at the next lull in the firing to cover that space as fast as the old car would make it.  To me it seemed as though the firing never did cease, but we crossed that stretch at about 65 miles per hour.  For a green driver, the Texas boy was improving some.


We were scheduled to lay in billets for a few days, until our turn came to go forward.  From the transport movement I judged that the troops were being concentrated for the big move on Metz.  Our own part would be to feed shell to the fighting batteries and gun-crews if any sections were knocked out.  The prospect of real fighting put the men in good humor.  There was not as much grumbling as is usually the case when inactivity is the order of the day.


Our days and nights were made hideous by the gunfire of our own batteries and the enemy’s arrivals.  We were bombed by their night-flying planes and three of the boys went West from some gas-bombs which were dropped on them from the sky.  For green troops, the men behaved excellently, there being very little complaining and no A.W.O.L. men.  This last was a good record considering that even veteran organizations have a certain amount of straggling to contend with from the enlisted personnel.





At the Front

October 29, 1918


Have just been advised by the Adjutant that I have been selected by the Colonel to go to the Officer’s Training School for the field artillery at Saumur.  Special Order No. 129, 4th Army Corps, signed by General Muir, covers my transfer.  It is going to be hard plugging at the school, but I am going with the firm idea that I can qualify.  It will cost something to get started, too, but I can negotiate that, I guess.  It is hard to leave the outfit just as we are getting into the thick of the fight, but it means advancement, and many other things and I think it would be foolish to turn down the opportunity.






The day after receiving the above order another sergeant and myself packed our kits and rode in a motor truck to Toul.  We had to stop at Boucq for endorsement and travel-rations money.  General Heintzleman had superseded General Muir as commander of the Fourth Army Corps, and his headquarters at Boucq was in the same Chateau used by his predecessor.  We only stopped here a few minutes then returned our trip into the city.


At Toul we went to a barber shop and had a shave and wash-up.  I then went to the YMCA, and had my first hot bath in five weeks.  I’d had the same clothes on for a like period.  No tramp would have given me a second look, I fear.  At the railway station we checked out our travel-order, received two foot transport orders and put our luggage in a first class carriage.  A stick of chocolate to the femme de chemin-de-fer did the trick and we were all fixed for the first stage of our journey.


My traveling partner, Sergeant Beckner, then decided he was hungry after the appetizing effect of our baths, so I volunteered to rustle the grub while he watched our packs to see that no one threw our stuff out and put theirs in.  I went across the very modern train platform of the station to see where the eats could be had and spied a fruit stand across the plaza.  Here I loaded up with grapes and apples and started back to the train through the waiting room.  I had barely reached the center of the plaza when the air-raid siren started to blow.  The crowd looked skyward, and there sailing a few thousand feet up, directly over our heads, was a Boche plane.  The anti-aircraft batteries posted all over the nearby hills started to fire and several of our airmen went up to give battle to him.  I continued on through the waiting room to our train, and had just put the things through the window to Sergeant Beckner, when a fearful crash nearby made him draw his head in and make me wish that I was in there with him.  Our enterprising Hun had, after many months of effort and loads of expense, blown up the city gas-works only 100 feet outside the railroad yards and about the same distance from our train.  This was a nice good-bye to the front, so we thought, but our satisfaction was short-lived, for we had pulled down the track only a short distance near our aviation field when through the dusk came some more raiders eager to hand the Americans another bunch of explosives.  Our train was stopped near the field and all lights put out.  This added to our view of the affair and we had a wonderful pyrotechnic display for another hour.  And this was our last contact with the enemy during the war.  If we were displeased over this feature of the trip, it was in evidence.


At Langres, we were informed by the Military Police that we would have to stay over there until the next day at 5:00 p.m..  This was bad news for we thought we could go on without a stop to Saumur.  There was nothing to do but make the best of it, so we hauled our packs over to the casual barracks and were soon asleep.


The next morning, after a glance at the kitchen, we decided that it was better to miss a meal there than to chance it, so inquiring our way, we started for the town proper.  Had we known just where this was going to land us, we might have changed our minds.  Dede’s brother, Nelson, however, was supposed to be in the Engineer’s school here, or was from my last information by mail, and I was anxious to see him.


Langres is an ancient city founded by the Romans and, following the nice little traditions of that great Empire, had been built on about the tallest hill in France.  In the war of 1870, the Germans streamed past this strong hold studded with forts, because it was considered to be impregnable with such defenses.  A cog-wheel railroad winds around the hill for many kilometers to reach the summit on which the town perches, but we did not discover this at the time of our visit because of the fact that on the morning of our climb, a dense fog hid everything from sight.  If we had known where the place was, I think we would have followed the example of the Germans in a former war, and streamed past it.


When we followed the road, it seemed to go in every direction, so we finally abandoned it and started straight up.  This was it was shorter, but it took us an hour to reach the town.  The elevation of this place must have been at least 2,000 feet, and it stood up from the surrounding plane like an ant-hill in the desert.  Aside from the army schools and a few public buildings, there was little to see, and after a shave and a meal we descended to the station to resume our journey to Saumur.


The ticket we had read “via American Special” to Tours.  The idea of staying in Langres until 5:00 p.m. did not appeal to me, so after finding that we might catch a train by way of Paris at 11:00 a.m., I went outside, drew out my trusty fountain pen, and made the ticket read “Via Paris.”  We climbed aboard when she came in, took the best first class carriage and after a fine ride over a portion of the First Marne battlefield, we reached the Capital of the World at 5:30 p.m..  It was raining and very dismal.  This did not depress us very much and after trying our menu French on a cabby, he drove us to a hotel which a signalman at Langres had recommended.  This proved to be the Hotel des Deux Gares on the Rue Faubourg Street, Denis, a most hospitable hostelry.


After a wash up with real hot water and a counting of funds, we decided that we could risk a meal in one of the great cafés, with all the trimmings.  Of course we were doomed to disappointment in this respect, for these places are not what they were before the war.  We found an excellent place next door to the hotel, the Restaurant Chartier, where we secured a fine meal for six francs each, with a glass of Grande Mousseaux to top it off.


Following the supper we strolled around a bit, but the blued street lamps and drizzling rain took all the spirit out of the thing and we soon adjourned to the warm lobby of the hotel.  here we made a find of the night though, for we met a sergeant of the original Princess Pats, decorated with the British Military Cross for gallantry at Ypres and Hooge.  He was a modest sort, but he told us in a straight business-like manner just what he had seen.  There was no boasting about his speech, it was an effort for him to talk.  He was only about 24 years of age and his hair was white as snow.


We sat up until late, then plunged into the first bed I had slept in since leaving the ship on which we crossed the Atlantic.  It was an indescribable luxury which we didn’t try to analyze, simply dropped off to sleep with visions of home and comforts of former days.


In the morning, we started for the Gare de l’Est, but upon arrival there at 7:30 a.m., were told by the R.T.O. that we were at the wrong station, that we should take the Tours train at the Gare d’Orleans at 9:30 a.m..  We both decided on the spur of the moment that here was our chance to see more of the great city, so we hailed a passing taxi, piled our junk and selves into it and started out.  I instructed the driver to take us through the principal streets and finish up at the Gare d’ Orleans by 9:15 a.m..  After a delightful spin around town and a wild dash down the Boulevard Beaumarchais, we pulled up at the station, had our order de transport punched, stamped, viséd and practically obliterated with ink, and finally climbed aboard a first class carriage on the Paris-Bordeaux Express, one of the de luxe trains of France, which boasted few during the war.





En Route

November 2, 1918


My French is improving, but I am a long way from being a conversationalist.  On this train bound for Tours and Saumur, we are in a carriage with an Alsation refugee accompanying a boy who looks like Ned, as I remember him, a French commercial traveler, a Parisian pedagogue has given me a few pointers on pronunciation, and a woman with two children who spent eight years in England and who has proven to be an “ace” in helping out.  All together, we are enjoying the trip.






Saumur proved to be a city of some 25,000 people, very clean compared to most French cities.  It is situated in the Loirs River Valley, about forty kilometers west of Tours, in the heart of the chateau country.  It is a district famous for its champagne and horses.  The landscape is the most beautiful in all France.


The artillery school occupied the buildings which had formerly been the French cavalry school, founded in 1767, by the King and used up to the time the United States came into the war as a training academy for the officers of the French Army.  During peace time, it was considered the greatest of its kind in the world, officers from all the armies of the world attending as students.  Among its graduates was Marshal Ney and Marshal Kellerman; Berthelot, Napoleon’s favorite general, and others too numerous to mention.  There are eleven great riding halls, each large enough for one troop of cavalry to drill in.  The one to which I was assigned was Marguerite, built in 1778.


The main building was shaped like an elongated “H” the western court of which was known as the Cour d’Honneur.  This faced the Chardonnet, the great riding plain upon which a whole regiment of cavalry could maneuver at one time.  When the place was taken over by the Americans as a school to train men for the artillery branch of the service, a number of small wooden barracks were built on the western end of the Chardonnet.  Here we had our classes and practical work in radio and kindred subjects.  For drilling with the 75’s, we used the Chardonnet where a couple of batteries could get around at one time.  Equtation was followed in the riding halls, lectures in the main hall of the original school-building where we were also quartered three men to a room, and firing practice we had on the range at Fontrvault, about seventeen kilometers up the river from Saumur.


In point of resources, the school was better equipped than any other in the States or Europe.  The facility was composed of French officers with American officers for supervisors. The latter were more to maintain discipline than anything else.  Many brilliant Frenchmen were sent here as professors; among them, Captain Pozzy, a mathematical genius and Captain Dreyfus, who figured out from the shell fragments, just what kind of gun the Germans had used in their long-range shelling of Paris in 1918.


Colonel Conrad of the French Army headed the French personnel and Brig.-General Irwin of the U.S. Army was in charge of the school.  The student body was divided into sections of twenty men each for instruction purposes, twelve of these sections comprising a company for discipline and drill.  There were about eighteen hundred men in the school nearly all housed in the main building.  I was assigned to section one, division A, second floor, south wing.


The schedule called for reveille at 5:45 a.m.  At this hour we fell in by divisions in the Cour d’Honneur, reported to the section chief who was one of our section drawn in turn each week, he in turn reporting to the division officer, likewise one of us taking the part of a company commander, who reported to the officer of the day.  After this, we marched to mess in the halls in the rear of the building.  At 7:00 a.m., we again fell in and marched to our first drill or class, a period of one hour and fifteen minutes.  Two more followed and at 11:45 a.m. we were at liberty until noon.  Mess followed and at 1:00 p.m., we again fell in for the afternoon classes which lasted until 6:00 p.m.  Quite often, the whole afternoon or morning would be devoted to service with the guns in the field or practical topography.  At such times, we rode horses, motor trucks or bicycles as the case might be, or the nature of the work required. In this manner we were enabled to see a great deal of the surrounding country.


After supper we were at liberty until 8:00 p.m.  We could go down to town or roam around the grounds or visit the YMCA, which had formerly been a luxurious chateau.  We had to be in our rooms studying at 8:00 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. the lights were turned out.  No one complained about this very much, though, for after the strenuous days work with the guns or horses or a long bicycle ride, we were only too glad to get into bed.  The schedule was a hard one but the necessity for quick training to fill the depleted ranks of artillery at the front, did not permit for a long course, although two years of the usual West Point or Sandhurst course were tucked into three months at Saumur.  A high standard of scholarship and discipline was maintained nevertheless and during the first week or two many men were dismissed for the laxity in drill or study.  We found the French officers very efficient, although their knowledge of English was faulty.  This led to many funny incidents, but on the whole they handed on to us the intricate secrets of the French artillery in a manner which only they could.


The furnishings of the school buildings were most crude.  When we took over the place there was no plumbing installed nor stoves in the barracks-rooms.  How the Frenchmen in peace-time ever stood the cold was beyond us to understand and yet they did.  The main study hall on the second floor of the old building was the same in which Berthelot, Ney and Kellerman had studied as young officers.  It was some consolation to think that perhaps the great marshalls-to-be had shivered and blown on their fingers just as we were doing.




Saumur, France

November 10, 1918


The morning papers say the Kaiser has abdicated and Germany has risen in revolt.  So this is the finish.  No doubt the German envoys at Foch’s headquarters will have accepted terms of surrender by this time.

Now that it seems to be all over, I have lost interest in the whole affair and my thought now is to get back home again and the quicker the better.  It has been a dirty, mean business, this war, and when I take off my khaki this time, I never want to put it on again or think of these days.  The work here at the school has been interesting and I find only the mathematics to be hard.  Of course, I am working hard to succeed, but the stuff is coming faster each day.  Sometimes I think it will overwhelm me and then again I surprise myself by my efforts.

I wish you could see me ride the horses.  Great stuff!  The topography, 75 drill, telephone, radio and ballistics I can eat up, also materiel and ammunition, but that darned math may yet put me hors de combat.

However, the commission does not loom up as big as it did when I started down here, for now, as I said before, all the boys can think of is to get home in a hurry.  That quick return will be recompense for all the hardships and anxious moments “up there” which are brief but everlasting memories.  Personally, I don’t care whether I come back a “loot” or a buck private, just as long as it happens in a hurry.


Saumur, France

November 16, 1918


Finis la guerre!  Isn’t it too good to be true after all these years?  And it seems like a flash, before we could get our bearings.  Now I will surely get home to you soon.

Last Monday morning--the 11th, wonderful day--we were assembled in the Salle Carnot for a lecture on topography by Captain Pozzy of the French Army.  Just as he was about to begin, a messenger came down the aisle with a radio-gram caught by the school wireless.  The Captain had a broad grin on his face as he read the following:


“The armistice was signed this morning at five o’clock, French time, Germany agreeing to all articles.”


And then you should have heard the howling as those 1,800 husky Americans let ‘er go full blast.  We cheered and laughed and cried--I know my own eyes had a suspicious film of moisture--and then we gave old Foch and Pershing, Wilson, France, England and L’Amerique some more hurrahs.  It was a great day.  Of course, it busted up school for that day and we were given the evening off and Tuesday afternoon.

You should have seen the French people carry on.  They simply went wild, raced up and down the street waving French and American flags, shot off firecrackers and generally raised Cain for more than three days without a let-up.  It was some time.

And now for home--home, sweet home.  Studies, drill and everything have gone by the board this week and all we can concentrate on is how to get home at once.  The rumor is out around now that if this class is continued and graduates in February, that the men commissioned will be kept in France for garrison duty till the last contingent leaves.  Of course the man who voices such things around here is taking his life in his hands.  The majority of the men don’t give a rap for the bars now.  They mostly want to get home and into civil life again away from the thought and practice of blood-shed and the hardships which the folks back home will never understand, for one has to go through them to realize what they mean.

I am well and strong, so don’t worry about me, the war is over.  One little accident happened to me last week but it didn’t hurt anything to speak of except my pride.  The horse I was riding took fright at something on the field and neatly landed me on my nose and shoulder.  It didn’t incapacitate me, for I grabbed him again and rode home but, believe me, I was as stiff and sore for a week as anyone could be.  Later on I took a few more on the tan-bark in the riding hall, but that is like playing football, and one doesn’t mind it.  We all have to pick this and ourselves up by degrees and if I do say it, I am gradually getting along as a rider which is absolutely necessary in field artillery work.

This morning we went to Conde for field service on bicycles.  It is about 15 kilometers up the Loire River.  On the way back I went to make an individual reconnaissance and when I came back, the rest had gone ahead.  I then took my time and ran along slowly to ease up my stiff joints and enjoy the scenery which is truly wonderful in this valley.  I stopped at Chateau Souzay, which Marguerite of Anjou occupied.  It nestles in the side of hill,  the finest little place I have ever seen.  I wish you could be with me now to see all these things; the curious village built in the cliffs,  like the old cliff-dwellers occupied , where the houses have fronts like city homes and the backs are built into and of the chalk cliff,  a one-street town that stretches along the river for some twenty kilos,  of the Chateau of Saumur,  with its curious dungeons,  torture-chambers,  wonderful tapestries, etc.  This part of France is rich in historical associations and relics of a civilization that was gone before our own country was discovered.

One of the men here was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross this morning on the Chardonnet.  He brought in a wounded officer under fire.  It was a very impressive ceremony and the whole battalion turned out to do him honour.  We had to drill for about an hour to get the stuff properly by the time the review came along, but when we did pass the delegation of French, English and American staff-officers we made a very good appearance.  I talked with the boy who get the Cross later on.  Seems he and a detail were in charge of a dump close up to the line with one officer in command.  The Hun spotted it and dumped some H.E. shells into it, setting it afire.  The officer was trapped in the center of the dump.  The soldier went in and got him, put him on his shoulder and brought him out in time to save his life.


Saumur, France

November 25, 1918

Nothing new today.  We will not receive commissions for going through here, so we are told today, and those who finish will be returned to their outfits.  Personally,  I think the whole thing will bust up shortly and in that case the least they could do for these men, who deserve some consideration, would be to ship them home as a unit.

I see in the papers that demobilization has started in the States.  We are all predicting that the conscientious objectors and such like will be given first consideration and sent home at once while the boys who did the real work over here and are quite willing to go home will stay in France for the balance of the winter to repair the French roads, etc.

But don’t worry, I’ll be home soon and then it will be all the better for the waiting and hoping.




The armistice automatically stopped the awarding of commissions.  When this news struck the school a great howl arose and the men were unanimous in asking that they either be sent home at once or returned to their outfit to spend the rest of the time with the men they had fought with.  After such hesitancy on the part of the commandant we were informed that we were still in the U.S. Army, that we had all been in that army long enough to know what discipline meant, that we were going to stay in the school until they saw fit to close it and that the high standard of instruction, scholarship and discipline would be maintained.  If we doubted this we were informed that there were several picket lines in the vicinity also a good sized wood-pile where we could work off our grouch in event that we did not care to study.  Such talk, of course had the opposite effect.  The men were made wary; they still meant to take things easy and at the same time endeavor to stay in school and avoid the punishment which later was forthcoming in several cases.


The meeting broke up in disorder, the men vowing that it was this worst treatment any body of men had ever received at the hands of the army and that the future boded no good for the school..  We were all very much disappointed at the prospect of spending three months there with nothing to show for our efforts and from that day on the men took no interest in the courses.



Saumur, France

November 28, 1918.

Your scrawl of some weeks ago came when I was in a particularly unpleasant place so I really didn’t digest its burden of wit and intellect to the fullest extent but today, when I’m reading all the best sellers, I went through it again and decided that it merited an answer.  I wish I could be there to fight with you instead of doing my part in the Battle of Saumur (pronounce it Somewhere) but when next Thanksgiving Day dawns I’ll be able to tell you how we did it in France.

I suppose the folks at Honesdale have told you that I am trying to emulate your friend John in the artillery,  So I, too, can wear a Sam Brown belt and half a mustache.  It’s all right only the emulating is all over, the War Department having decided that having enough second-rate officers already, the best way to cut down the number was to abolish the custom.  So here we are, at an O.T.C. for the field artillery Where they do not give commissions.  Therein are we to be distinguished from all others.  The armistice was a great thing, the only one we are likely to have this season, but it placed us in a most embarrassing position for we are likely to return to America officers but not officers.  Oh, well, Sherman was right.

I suppose John is quite piqued to think that with his West Point ticket he was unable to get across the pond and mix in with us.  Tell him, pray do, that he missed nothing, absolutely nothing, and that he should be quite pleased to regard the Battle of Oklahoma as sufficient.  I’m cured.



Saumur, France

November 28, l918

Yesterday was another lucky one for me for seven of your letters came, two from Kansas City. and one other, so this morning I cut all my classes to answer them.

When I opened one of them I thought I smelt onions and after reading through came upon your description of the dinner with roast duck and creamed onions.  I’m trying now to determine whether they were long-range onions (like the German gun) or whether I was just a victim of my overly-zealous olfactory nerves.  But wouldn’t I have done justice to that meal?  I haven’t had a decent meal since I left home, except the supper in the Restaurant Chartier, Paris.  But soon the transports will lift their way across the wide Atlantic and then just wait, I’ll make a raid on the nearest quick lunch that will make any dough-boy envious.

I have been unable to get a photo taken since coming to France, for somehow or other the photographers are scarce and when one is found he usually wants a small fortune to take a Yank’s picture.  I had decided to wait until I got back home to have it done.  Tell Dad the little hats are pretty fine at that because your tin helmet goes right on over them with no lost motion between you and Fritz’s shrapnel.  The brown derby was a good suggestion though because the Boche would think a tank was coming and beat it for all he was worth.  Tell Dad I have seen some derbies over here that were worn in all seriousness and they ran his a close second.  I bought a new hat for myself while at Toul shaped like the Belgians.  I didn’t like the peaks so I poked them in and secured quite a cute effect.  It is really a sensible shape however as the band comes down over your ears in cold weather.  So much for hats!

The cold weather is on, too, in full swing and its beastly. I’ll be glad to get back to the bracing U.S.A. cold instead of this chill, damp cold of France.

Now that the censorship begins to lift a bit I can tell you more about my travels.  My stay in England was very brief--a matter of only a few days--but I saw enough of it to like it immensely.  Wasn’t it a coincidence that Manchester should give the greatest welcome we received anywhere along the line?  Ask Dad if Walton, Runcorn and Cadishead sound familiar.  I spent the night at the latter place.  Oxford, what I could see of it from the train and a short walk near the station, was very beautiful.  So was the South Downs country.  The long glide from Winchester to the sea is through a stretch of the most beautiful country in all the world!

I am so glad to hear that you all are well fixed for the winter and that the new arrangement is working out well.  I hope to get back in time to see it myself.  You all are to be congratulated on your ingenuity.  And won’t a real bed feel good when I do get back?  Before I came down here to the school we were hitting the worst sort of going, sleeping in the mud without even a shelter tent over us, eating bully-beef and hard-tack day in and day out until I was afraid I began to look like a steer, no water to drink or fit to drink, only coffee and that only in name, etc.  I’ve had about enough of this game to last me the rest of my days.


Saumur, France

Thanksgiving Day, 1918

Well, this has been some day.  The rain is pouring down like a torrent and standing in puddles the way it used to around the corner of 902 Church Street.  I can’t figure out yet why the Kaiser was so crazy to grab this country.  I know that if he had ever reached this locality he would have been content to call it a day.

The four of us, Mac, The Dago, Old Kirk and myself decided that for one day we would forego the mess here--and it is that--and eat elsewhere, so we trooped downtown and bought some real loaf, pickles, jelly, cheese, and by diplomacy and pigeon-English, I persuaded a frightened little French woman to part with a great big loaf of bread (strictly against the law without tickets).  Then we cane back to the room and ate our Thanksgiving Dinner.  Oh, well, what we lacked in sumptuousness we made up for in conversation, which was comprised to a great extent of criticism of our august Government in sending us here and the French people for our being here.  When we exhausted the subject we smoked cigarettes and damned the Kaiser.  All in all, it was not the most prepossessing dinner I ever sat into, but by dint of the remembrance of last year’s feast and next year’s banquet I struck an average which will console me for this time.



Saumur, France

December First, 1918

This is another dull day, like all Sundays in the Army.  I am putting the time to good advantage however by writing to you.  Units of candidates are leaving here for Bordeaux every day and others are passing through.  It looks like a voyage very soon for us.  The Stars & Stripes published a lot of dope on the subject in the last issue and if all is true I may be with you by February 1, l919.

Yesterday we went out for field service with the guns.  The objective was Distre and it was my job as reconnaissance officer, to find the battery positions.  Had to wade up to my knees in mud from le Coudray-Macquard to Courchamps cross-country, make a panoramic sketch similar to the enclosed sample, send back directions to the Battery Commander and see that the telephone connections were put in shape for immediate use.  It is all very interesting work and could be my delight at any other time but--the war is over and now it all seems so foolish and wasteful to be trampling down the poor peasants’ cabbages and farms to get our guns into position, teaching the science of war, when the one we just helped to finish is supposed to have been the last.

Whenever I am out alone like that my mind begins to dwell on such thoughts and pretty soon I am a few thousands of miles away, free from artillery and the practice of theoretical blood-shed, back home with you all.

Remember how I liked apples when I was home?  Last night I went downtown and saw some nice ones in a window--French apples.  I bought one.  I figured it up afterwards and those apples were selling for $22.40 per bushel--to United States soldiers.  Bananas are 15¢ each, other things the same way.  The French may be slow but they are getting rich on the American Army.  The high prices to us are not due to a lack of food, for right here in Saumur there seems to be an abundance of it.  The truth of the matter is that prices are trebled at sight of a khaki uniform.  They say we won the war, but, oh my, we are paying our little bill.




The field service above-mentioned was a regular feature of the course.  The boys looked forward to it with a great deal of interest for study in the classrooms was almost impossible due to the cold.  Out in the open we felt better and could keep moving, especially if we were mounted, which was usually the case.  On the day before, we would have handed to us a slip explaining the proposed problem, the duties of each of us and the time schedule.  As all this work is synchronized things must move smoothly or the whole system breaks down.  The next morning, in the dark hours of  dawn, we would draw our mounts at the manége, form our column and with the guns rumbling over the cobbles of the town, move out to take up the problem.  It was hard work. The day that I was drawn as Battery Commander, the object of the work was to get a flash-defilade position in front of Breze, in time to open fire at dawn.  This place happened to be about 15 kilometers from Saumur, on a thickly wooded hill, a beautiful position in itself, but a hard one to attack, under the conditions imposed upon me by the schedule.  However, the one thing fatal to all plans of the kind is delay, so with a great deal of grumbling we picked our horses, I patched up the staff and away we went, as confident as field marshalls.


With a pocket-flash and my rain-coat across the pommel of the saddle I managed to keep an eye on the road and map, through out the ride (one must be familiar with the road, as well as other things) and finally I came to a point where, by the map I decided a good battery position lay.  It was directly in back of the hillock upon which the Moulin de Sammousay had stood some few centuries ago, but which was now only a barren hilltop, approached by a sunken road, the thing we were in need of that frosty morning.  After a hasty survey of the situation and references to the map, I held a council of my staff , who bore out my contention that this was the most favorable spot in the surrounding terrain.


I sent back a runner to have the guns brought up, but the telephone detachment to work putting in an observation post, sent the visual signalers to relay word to the school that we were about to take position at such a point and would be ready for inspection in one hour.  The answer was flashed back O.K.  And as soon as the guns were brought up, placed in position and laid, we all sat down and started a game of black-jack.


Sometimes this worked out very well.  At others we might tramp around in the rain for hours, up to our hips in mud, waiting for the inspecting officers to come up or else be unable to solve the problem in one try and be forced to go all though the thing again.  Conditions were imposed that made the work as nearly as possible like that at the front but while we never fired except at the range, the hardships were never simulated, they were real.  We many times spent an entire day in the saddle, in all kinds of weather, doing topographical work or field service .  As gun crews were made up from candidates, it fell to our lot to get the guns in battery when a place was picked.  Quite often this would be a bog or marshy spot, in underbrush or woods, and the amount of cussing indulged in at these sessions would have driven a mule-driver to death with envy.  I recollect once a position that was picked in a fringe of woods that had burned over during the fall.  They were thick with twisted vines and shrubbery, a veritable trap for cavalry or any other mounted unit.  The bonehead who picked this spot gave the order to place the guns in battery rear, pointing from the fringe of the woods.  This we did but the whole place was thick with charred wood,  soft and chalky to the touch, and we had not been working there more than ten minutes before the whole crowd looked like a bunch of niggers.  One can imagine the howl that went up.  And then we had to crouch in the stuff and simulate loading and firing the piece.  This was the limit of our patience and the men soon began to burlesque the thing.  It looked more like a minstrel show for some of the boys were covered with the charcoal until they were actually black in the face.


Old Kirk and myself went out of the scene by pretending to get our canteens on the caissons but actually we went over the hill to the nearest farmer’s abode and sat around the kitchen fire, telling the farmer and his open-eyed family what a wonderful place l’Amerique was, and we could do justice to the subject at the moment.  After the usual glass of red wine and handful of walnuts we rejoined the batteries unobserved.



Saumur, France

December 20th, 1918

Have just finished a bout with the “London Sketch” and the “Tattler” so look out, I may quote some of their post-war jokes.  Since the kings of Europe and that citadel of opprobium, W.W., have taken to hanging around this country one feels capable of doing the hardest kind of work.  Please don’t use this as ammunition to hurl at Dad, he’s not a bit responsible for what some of those Fleet Street people call humor.

Have just received a letter from Dede dated November 13, containing your opinion of armistices in general and this one in particular.  Also she mentioned the fact that you had forwarded my letter.  Thanks, I’ll bring you a Big Bertha for a paperweight.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that the States had them all beaten when it came to a matter of speed but the way in which they beat the world to the armistice news by four days is moving a bit, I’ll say.  It caused a good laugh over here, but we needed one, so why quibble over a matter of four days, we don’t have an armistice every day.  Now that the watch on the Rhine has been supplanted by Big ~0n and the folks at home can eat white bread again, there doesn’t seem to be very much for us to do except to repair to our ancestral haunts and kill the obese calf.  And believe me, that will be Rome grand day.  I’ve sunk a tooth in some of the best eats of this land and also had my share of horse meat, etc.  (stopping only at snails and toads) and take it from your other brother, only the hands across the sea know how to cook.  Be proud of the fact that you are an American for all the rest of the world can never equal the land of apple pie and turkey




Christmas at Saumur was a dismal season.  We repeated our appeal of Thanksgiving Day to the Commandant to have a bit of a special dinner, but the thing fell through.  I had mine in the hospital, going in with the usual winter case of pleurisy.  I was discharged the day after Christmas and went back to the old grind with renewed vigor.



Saumur, France

January 2, 1919

Well, here is another year, brighter and better, let us hope than the one just gone.  In some respects 1918 will always live in our memories but there are weeks and months in it that I want to forget when I get home.  And home means a great deal to us now.  I think I’d go to Spain if the old restraint of law and order was not so strong.

There is some kind of rumor going around that the married men here would go home first but I’ve heard so much of that now, that I place little faith in it.  We are rounding out our ninth week of hard, grueling field service and study and the boys are all willing to leave this awful French winter weather at any time.  They are for keeping us here though, so I guess we’ll go on to the finish.  We made out alright so far, more through luck than anything, but I would leave here tomorrow if they would send me to Bordeaux, Brest or St. Nazaire for transport to the States.

In one of your letters you say you are anxious to see me in a uniform.  I think you’d be disappointed for I’m not of a prepossessing appearance this morning at least.  You will see by the photo I sent that we look like a lot of hoboes.  This morning the only thing that looks good is your sweater.  I’m still wearing the pants they gave me at Camp Merritt, and they show their age; my puttees are streaked with chalky wet clay clear to my knees and my shoes are hard to find in the mass of mud that clings to them.  All in all, I don’t look like the man you took for better or for worse, but never mind, wait until I reach home.  In a few hours, I’ll shed my khaki hide so quickly that you won’t know me at all!  Oh, for a clean shirt and a suit of thin clothes, and imagine wearing a coat that doesn’t require all your spare time to keep the pockets buttoned up and the officers from criticizing.

MacDowell, another fellow and his brother and myself spent New Year’s Day out in the country.  You know, this is the famous chateau country of France, and all around here are many interesting places.  We took the train to Montsereau,  arranged for dejeuner (consisting of poulet, pomme de terre frites, fromage, cafe au lait, salad, chateau-briand, etc., my favorite meal over here), in which we spread ourselves once in a while for the mess at the school is terribly bad.

After dinner, we left the Maison de la Lion d’Or, as it is known, and struck out into the country.  We stopped at the ruins of the Chateau de Montsereau, occupied at one time by Henri of Navarre, and at the church at Condes.  The former was built about 1440 A.D. and is a picturesque old ruin.  We climbed all through and over the place.  It is an excellent example of the architecture of those days. Later we continued on to Condes and visited the old church where St. Martin was buried, and still lies, in 397 A.D.  It is an interesting old place and worth the walk.  The dinner and good time we had, which cost us 36 francs, was all worth it for now we’ll live on corned-willy and horsemeat for a few more weeks.  Never thought I could eat horsemeat, but it seems that when you are hungry you can eat anything.  These mess-sergeants are getting rich over here. 



Saumur, France

January 10, 1919

Things are about the same here, we finish in a few days.  If I get through at all it will be by a narrow squeak, for my math has been the hardest thing to master.  In other subjects though, like execution of fire, observation of fire, field-service, radio and telephone work, materiel, etc., I’m alright, but I’m afraid of the math.  I haven’t worried my head about it for some time, but on the last exam they usually shoot something entirely different at you and that’s what I’m on the watch for.  Our finals come either this Saturday or next Monday and that will tell the story.  I’m putting in some good licks at the books though and am pretty confident that I can beat out a 70, which is a passing mark.  My other marks will qualify me even if I fall below that figure but I’d like to be able to make it without a low mark.

No one seems to know what they will do with us when the school closes.  We were told today that the General was up at G.H.Q. trying to make arrangements to move what is left of the school back to the States in a body, but we’ve heard that story too often to believe it.

The other night at about 12:00 p.m., I had just settled down for a snooze when the bugler busted out with the army fire call, that blood-curdling wail, than which there is nothing more soul-thrilling in all the repertoire of Orpheus.  In the army it is a serious offense to sleep through a fire-call or the call to arms, so we all jumped up and threw on our shoes in a hurry. With me leading the section with the only flashlight handy at the time, we dashed across the Chardonnet and on down the stone walks of the street, our hob-nailed shoes giving a good imitation of a battery going into action.  When we arrived at the scene of the blaze, it turned out to be a real fire, two large buildings already in flames and threatening the eleventh century church of St. Pierre.  That wild dash through the night took me back to the time we raced to the fire in Honesdale, but this thing was a scream.  The Frenchmen would come running to the fire with great gusto, take a look at it and then run home again to put on their shiny brass helmets before taking a hand.  By the time they had organized, the American soldier boys had grabbed all the buckets and hand pumps and were fighting the flames in real American style from the roofs of buildings and walls nearby.  We soon had the fire under control thanks to a bucket brigade of some five hundred Americans.  We went to bed again at 4:00 a.m.--reveille at 5:45 a.m.!



Mareuil, France (Loire-et-Cher)

January 15, 1919

Since writing the foregoing letter we have finished at the school and left.  We went first to Angers but from there were re-routed to St. Aignan, were left to lie in the mud of that hell-hole for three days and nights and then forwarded to Mareuil which is a paradise compared to the former place.

In the final exams I passed successfully in all but B.C math.  However, I had a 68 which with the other marks, put me over the top and qualified me for a commission.  I would have been made a telephone officer in some battery at the front if the war had continued but now it’s home for us and little we care whether there ever was a war.  The “Battle of Saumur” was about hard enough for us.



Mareuil, France

January 18, 1919

Our outfit here is composed mostly of candidates from the school waiting to be sent home.  There are only five officers to the 600 men, so we are acting as officers to the outfit.  It is great sport, but rather dull at times.  We have very comfortable billets and the town is small.  St. Aignian, three kilos away,  is the big embarkation point for troops fitting out to go home to America, and the thought always makes us feel better.  My billet is also used as the infirmary, the medical sergeant and myself living in grand style.  Our room is a great-beamed ceilinged affair with two massive cupboards reaching from the floor to the ceiling on two sides of the room.  There is a fire place big enough to put our library table in, with a crane, bellow, tongs, etc.  It is all very comfortable.  We have an old table of walnut, a red tile floor,  pewter candle sticks to give the light when we dine in the evening.  Can you see the picture? Of course we have our rat, too, no billet being complete without one, but he is a good sort and never bothers us much.  If we remain here I’m glad we have such a comfortable place.  The weather is mild, no snow or ice, yet it rains enough to make it just a bit raw.  We usually go around in the daytime without our overcoats.

I put in for a leave the other day and if it comes I will go to either Aix-le-Bains or Nice.  If we are to be here long I might just as well see the Riviera while I have the opportunity.  It will cost only a few dollars, special rates for American soldiers making it a cheap trip.  They are offering trips of three days, exclusive of traveling time also, and if it is possible to get one, I might change and go to the city of light.

We are just marking time now waiting for the transports to sail.  It seems to good to be true to think that we will soon be back in the States again where people are civilized.  This country may have been wonderful in peace-time but it will take years for them to reconstruct their former status to a point where Americans could enjoy themselves in company with them.



Mareuil, France

January 22, 1919

Nothing new to report since my last letter.  We found out that the old command is still in this country and is slated to go into Germany with the Army of Occupation.  I have written the Adjudant to let me know when they are moving to the Port of Embarkation.

We hear all kinds of rumors here about going home but one can’t believe them until it actually happens.  Suffice to say, we are all fed up on army life and will welcome a change.  You will see by the “Stars & Stripes” which I sent home that only about 100,000 per month are being shipped home in security where 300,000 per month were shipped over here during the war, despite the submarine menace.  What’s the matter with the people back home?  England can show them something in the way of demobilization.

We are fairly busy here but nothing compared to the work in the old Headquarters outfit of the 4th Corps.  However, it’s better to be busy now than idle for then you can’t think too much of home.  We just plug along and hope for the best and a quick return.



Mareuil, France

January 27, 1919

Should this letter appear to have been written by a delirious or half-demented person just blame it on G.H.Q. for WE ARE ORDERED HOME!  And best of all,  we are to be on our way in about ten days or two weeks!  Well, I’m so flustered I can hardly contain myself, so please excuse this scattering of facts.  I think I’ll go out and lick a French gendarme just to let off steam.

We are supposed to make up our payrolls and records this week and our passenger lists next week and from all appearances, we will be on our way about February 8th or 9th.  If we get away on schedule we should be in the States about ten days later for units going home are not detained long at the base ports.

It’s rather slushy and snowy here today but it can’t dampen my spirits after the kind of news the Battalion Sergeant Major brought with home from St. Aignan.  I’d send him to town every few minutes during the day if he could bring such news on every trip.  I’ll hold this letter until I’m absolutely sure of these latest facts.

Have changed application for leave from one to three days (not including traveling time)to visit Paris.  It will be great to get that, return here and move out with the bunch for home.  Oh, boy, ain’t it a grand and glorious feeling when you can almost see the shores of Sandy Hook and Coney Island!



Hotel Tuileries, Paris France

February 1, 1919

My second visit to Paris!  Oh, how I wish you could be with me to see it all.  The first time I came here there was such little time available in which to see the capitol of the world that I never really considered it a visit for then the street lamps were turned low and painted blue, the dull rumble of the German guns was distinctly heard in the east, the war was on and we were part of it and no one was thinking much of pleasure trips.  But yesterday and today I have been going around every minute.

Three of us got the first three-day passes issued to troops in the south.  We came by way of Tours, put up there between trains at the Red Cross Canteen, climbed into a first class carriage at 2:00 a.m. and found myself in a compartment with several others who were indistinguishable in the darkness.  When we were pulling into Paris, the Gare d’Orleans, the dawn came up and I found to my great surprise that I had been riding in the same coach with a French Brigadier General, Captain of Artillery, Major of Infantry and two other ranks which I could not make out!  They were polite enough not to ask me who or what I was and took my black bands and the statement that I was a “Third Lieutenant”, Field Artillery, with evident belief.

We put up at the above mentioned hotel which is conducted by the American Red Cross and real American women--God bless them--the best ever.  We have a fine room, real beds with sheets--Oh, Boy--and the only expense is 75 centimes, about 15¢ U.S. money, for each meal. It is wonderful how they care for the boys.

Yesterday, after checking in at the Provost Marshall’s office in the Rue St. Anne, we walked around town, saw the Place de la Opera, Place Vendome and the great bronze column made by Napoleon from captured cannon, strolled along the Rue de Rivoli and many other famous boulevards.  In the evening we saw the Parisian’s latest idol--Madame Marnec in “La Reine Joyeuse” at the Theatre Apollo.  She is a French and a Parisienne--can I say more?  The song by the same name is great and we must try to get it in New York when I get home.

Today we set out in earnest.  We went along the Rue Royale to the Madeleine, that perfect replica of Grecian architecture.  From there we went on past the President’s home , the Eleysee Palace, thence along the Avenue .Alexandre the Third , across the Champs Elyseé , past the Grande Palais and La Petite Palais to the Alexandre the Third Bridge, a most beautiful structure. 

This bridge was named after and dedicated by Alexandre the Third of Russia, on the occasion of his visit to Paris in the ‘90’s.  From this bridge, which is a work of art, one gets a great view of the Seine.

We crossed over and passed along the Esplanade des Invalides to the building where rests the ashes of France’s great warrior-emperor-Napoleon.  Admittance cannot be had until Sunday but the courtyard and corridors ware open.  Here were some souvenirs of the war.  Two giant baskets of aluminum lattice-work attracted our attention; they proved to be complete gondolas from one of the Zeppelin airships brought down in France, even the engines had not been damaged.  Here also was Guynemer’s Red Stork plane in which he brought down fifteen of his many Huns.  I can’t do justice to all these places in a letter anymore than one can see Paris as we are seeing it--in three days.

From the Invalides we went down the Rue de Bordonnais to the Eiffel Tower, standing by the Seine.  It is under heavy guard on account of its wireless equipment, but one can get close enough to it to realize the height of the first great steel arch.  Across the Seine we could discern the Trocadero, a most impressive building and which gives one an idea of just how thoroughly the French build.  We crossed over the Pont d’Iena and went through the great terraced gardens of the  Trocadero to get some postals in the corridor of that building, then took the tram in the Place Trocadero to the Place  de La’Etoile where the Arc de Triomphe stands, Napoleon’s tribute to his own genius.  This great pile is a Wonderful piece of sculpturing and most impressive.  Here we ran into a stranded Army nursing Corps girl looking for the Hotel Wagram.  Having seen the sign on the Rue de Rivoli, we told her we could guide her to it so away we went, three doughboys and a pretty Army nurse.  Strictly against the rules for her to be seen with us on a sight-seeing trip but after finding out her reason for being in Paris I could well understand how a little thing like breaking the rules would hardly annoy her.  She was after a pass from her Corps Commander to go to Coblentz to visit her brother in the Army of Occupations!  Imagine this frail American kid taking a voyage like that, at all hours and under all manner of conditions!  She was game though, and after a delightful walk down the Champs Elysees, that wonderful boulevard of Parisian life, we left her at the door of the Hotel.  From here we went back to the Place de la Concorde to view the obelisk, the captured German guns of all calibres, a Hun tank and the monuments surrounding this great civic centre.

Would you say that we were on the go?  I’m so tired tonight and that was only the morning trip!  So this is Paris!

In the afternoon I went to the Grande Magazin de Louvre and sent you and the baby a little birthday present from Paris!  We are making this trip on a shoe-string but I was determined to send you something if I didn’t do another thing all the time I was here.  I sent you a col jacuette and the baby a pair of little knitted sandals.  The former are being worn considerably here, that style especially.  The latter I chose in plain white for I can’t tell what colour will be popular by and by.  I know you’ll like them.

After sending them off by parcel post, insured, I left the boys and went to spend the afternoon in the Louvre, that vast treasure house of the world’s offering to art.  How can anyone write of it, how can mere words describe that which only the heart and soul can know?  I didn’t see everything, one can spend a lifetime there and still see only a part.  One hall I came to led to a vast arched room and there, in all her grace and beauty, apart from the rest as befits a queen, stood the original of all the copies I have seen of the Venus de Milo.

Against an elegant arch of black velvet she stood out like a crescent moon against the sky, every curve and feature a poem   in marble.  I sat down upon one of the velvet lounges and gazed and gazed, it was so exquisite.  I shall carry the memory of that moment with me to the end of time.  There are other treasures in this wonderful collection of the beautiful but none to compare with her.

On my way to the hotel, I went into the Royal Church, opposite the Bourbon wing of the Louvre, where Marie Antoinette and her sister queens of Francs worshipped.  The windows of stained glass are simply wonderful.  One in particular is made of fragments of others smashed in the mad days of the Revolution by the furious mobs.  The present one was put together without any particular design but it is as beautiful as a Persian rug, a mass of soft, pale blues and violets with here and there a dash of crimson or gold.

I wish you could be here to see it all, to view these great boulevards and buildings, to see the tide of people from all the corners of the globe, the life and vivaciousness of .the French--truly one must see Paris to know France.  Today we counted the uniforms of different nationalities represented on the Allied side and the sum came to seventeen.



Paris, France

February 2, 1919

We started this morning to see Notre Dame.  As luck would have it, we stumbled into one of the rare services, Cardinal Amette ordaining some priests, a very special occasion.  The great organ was playing as we stepped in and truly it was enthralling.  Somewhere in my dreams I have heard such music but only here could one hear it in reality.  The place is so vast and the arches so high that even our nob-nailed boots did not set up an echo, which I greatly feared they would.  The windows are superb, the best I have seen in France.  The ceremony was largely attended and most impressive.  The place is surely one of man’s masterpieces, even though its surroundings are wretched.  Coming out we dropped some sous into the box provided for the purpose, the funds of which are to go toward the erection of a monument of Jeanne d’Arc in the plaza fronting the church.  This spot is so poor that we deemed it well worth a few sous to help in the work of improving it.

From the cathedral we walked along the Avenue St. Michael,  into the Latin Quartier , home of Bohemians.  It is not much to see for it must have changed considerably since the war.  After a few minutes walk we came to the Cluny Museé, which was closed.  I would have given a great deal to have seen the inside of this quaint old place; it has a wonderful little park surrounding it and is said to contain many wonderful pieces of antique art.  It will have to wait though, I guess, for we are here only three days.  We continued on to the Sorbonne and the University of Paris, which reminds me so much of Columbia.  We passed on to the Pantheon,  a most remarkable building.  In the front of it we stood face to face with Rodin’s “Thinker.”  One must see this to appreciate it.

From the Pantheon we went on down along the Rue Les Escoles to the Boulevard St.Germain, one of the best streets in the city; through another side street to the banks of the Seine, across to Bridge of Henry the Fourth, past the Church Royale, down the Rue de Rivoli and to our hotel on the Rue de Hyacinthes.  It was a long walk, about seven miles, but one that will never be forgotten.  The boys are getting peeved because I always want to walk instead of ride but who would throw away such an opportunity to see Paris in such a way?

After dinner we returned to the Invalides, as yesterday they had not removed all the sand bags and other works designed to protect the place from bombs and shell-fire.  We reached the tomb by way of the Tuileries Gardens, over the bridge, past the Chamber of Deputies and the Quai d’Orsay where Wilson and the Peace Commissioners are sitting (they didn’t come outside to greet us).

The French worship the Little Corporal’s memory with good reason, I think, for he gave them their first great works of art and their liberty of thought and action.  In return they honour his resting place with the most magnificent building I have ever been in, one that perhaps has no equal anywhere else in the world.

The interior work is of marble and gold, lit by windows of immense size which admit by clever arrangement, a pale ethereal light, hazy blue and soft.  As one comes in the door their sight meets a vast altar of black marble from the Vosges Mountians, trimmed with gold.  This stands over and beyond the well which encircles the sarcophagus below, in a sort of nave, on either side of which concealed windows throw a pale amber-like glow upon the altar.  This lighting arrangement is wonderful, it is like a dream-thing.  And the great arches and vast dome make one feel so small.

In the centre, beneath the dome, stands the sarcophagus of brownish-coloured marble- where the great soldier sleeps.  As we look down from the marble wall running around the well it seems a small block of stone but when you go downstairs, through the portal made of bronze from the captured cannon of Austerlitz, and walk around the colonnade from which are draped the battle-flags, it is some eighteen feet from the floor to the top of the sarcophagus.  The size of things in this building are most deceptive.  In the four smaller naves are the sarcophagi of Bertholot, Napoleon’s favorite General; Jerome Napoleon and one other, whose name has escaped me.

In the lobby I bought some cards and then we went back to the Louvre on the street-cars.  That is one more thing that Paris can boast of, her streetcar system.  One can ride in any direction as long as one pleases for about 20 centimes (about 4¢ U.S. money).

On the way to the Assistant Provost Marshal’s we took the metro tube, just as modern as our Subway in New York.  We had to change at the Bastille station.  On the platform of this station a round wall juts out from the side, around which there is a brass railing.  This old wall was one of the original turrets in the old Bastille which the mob pulled to pieces in the Revolution.  It is now below the street level, but about four feet of it is visible at the point where the tube-builders unearthed it.

They say that if one walks around or only stands still on the Rue de l’Opera for a little while, one will see someone they have heard of or know.  Coming back along this famous boulevard I met Captain Huston, the doctor of the 4th Corps, who saved my life at Montignac when I lay ill with the influenza.  He was passing through Paris on his way to England.  I was real glad to see him for he was the first of the old crowd I have met with since I left them up in the Line.  He said Captain Stanton had left and was on his way back to the States.  I left the Doctor with regret for he was really one of my best friends in the 4th Corps.  He saved my life when I lay ill for a week with the flu in a filthy old French billet at Montignac, and again when we left New York.  I was hit pretty hard with the dysentery.  I crawled up to his stateroom that night and after giving me two hypodermics and some other medicine, put me to sleep in his own berth.  He is a real man.





Sunday evening and Monday morning we spent in just strolling around without any definite object in view.  We went along the Rue des Italians, that street, or boulevard, where you can see everyone and his brother with a girl on his arm.  The girls vary in their evident means of livelihood, but they are invariably pretty and very talkative.  We wrote some letters from the American Exp. Company’s office back of the Opera, visited Brentano’s, went through a few more of the great department stores, sat in some of the cafes and drank very excellent Dutch chocolate with little cakes (all except one of which is appetizing), taking in the sights and sounds of Paris.


Monday morning we browsed around the famous book stalls that line the left bank of the Seine where one can see many wonderful bargains and rare specimens.  If I only had a few dollars to bring something to everyone from the place!  From there we walked along the Rue de Rivoli where seemingly one can buy anything from a coffin to a candle-stick.  For three solid miles this street winds along the Louvre and shops of all descriptions, and some beyond that, do a thriving business.


Monday afternoon we packed our musettes and took the metro to the Gare de Orleans, bound back to St. Aignan.  Our trip to Paris was at an end.  We must have walked at least twenty miles every day and in that time covered more than the usual tourist sees in a month, according to the guide-books.


We left Paris at 2:30 p.m., got into a first class carriage and was not thrown out by a happy thought of the conductress who put us in a compartment, drew the shades and promised to put us out at Tours.  No officer could see us with the shades drawn so we were sitting pretty, as the dough-boys have it, and all for a box of American chocolates which I had thought to put into my musette at the Hotel.  This is my emergency ration when traveling in France for its judicious use will take you further than a ticket.


Arrived at Tours at eight p.m.  We found that the Y.M.C.A. was the place to eat, but the A.P.M.  told us to report back to the station in an hour to march to the barracks at the American camp outside the city.  Once before we had all had a taste of this kind of thing so we determined that we would try other lodgings if the opportunity came, despite the A.P.M.  After supper at the Y.M.C.A., we launched forth in a search for rooms at one of the hotels.  To our great indignation they were all filled, at least those that might have accommodated enlisted men.  There was one other but it was for officers.  We held a council of three and decided to tackle the officers hotel in the Plaza and push our black candidates bars for all they were worth.  So up we marched as bold as brass and entered the brightly lighted lobby.  The place was half filled with a scattering of brass and silver “leaves” and a few “eagles” but we reached the desk without saluting anyone.  Here we encountered Madame; behind her barricade of wooden desk she looked as formidable as a machine-gun.  We inquired the price of rooms.  “Dix francs”, says she “pour les officiers!” “Ah,” says we.  “Je sui officers” all in a chorus, and pointed to our black sleeve stripes and hat bar, smiling all the while.  And to clinch the argument I explained in what might have been French that we were “Lieutenants, de la troi classe” and to this day I do believe I was way off the track but she turned the book around with great gusto, we signed our names and put down after them “third lieutenant”, received our room checks and in due time were under the blankets, despite the A.P.M. or a conscience slightly strained.




Tours, France

February 4, 1919

Your memory for history is probably better than mine so you will remember that this city will always be associated with the name of Jeanne d’Arc for it was here that she fought one of her great battles.  Only a few short hours ago I stood beneath the great vaulted arches of the cathedral where the girl-conqueror worshipped, and my eyes opened with wonderment as I gazed at the beautiful rose-windows, reflecting all the colours of the rain-bow.  It is simply a dream in stone and glass.  The delicate carving of the spires and arches is as perfect as human hands can do and I dare say that no humans exist who could duplicate such things. On the side of the church there is an old cloistered garden where old men in the robes of the church walk in meditative moods, the stones beneath their feet worn in furrows from the foot-prints of centuries.

We are leaving here this afternoon for Mareuil to reach which we have to hike six miles from-St. Aignan.  It is beginning to slush up a bit so I guess we will have a bit of rough walking.


Mareuil, France

February 7, 1919

After a more or less dismal ride from Tours we reached the end of our Paris trip at 11:00 p.m., tramping through the rain and slush from St. Aignan to Mareuil.

I wanted to see Paris without the sand-bags and blue street-lights of war-time for probably never again will I see France after I leave it this time.  We had to hurry to see what little we did but I made the boys go at it in the best way--on foot.  They grew real peeved at my pace but every moment was precious.  We did not have any money to spend so we had to make it economically, too.  The Government paid our transportation part of the way and our meals only stood us in two francs a day.  These costs and the things I sent you stood me in about 50 francs, about $8.00 as the exchange is now.  Imagine trying to see Paris in three days on $8.00!  And yet I had more fun just footing it around to the places of historical interest than I would have had with a full purse and an opportunity to spend it freely.  How many visitors to Paris ever see the Cardinal of France at a service in Notre Dame or are in the city during the sessions of the world’s most important peace conference? Historically speaking, the opportunity of making the trip was too strong for even my parsimonious spirit.


Mareuil, France

February 10, 1919

Another clear, cold day but glorious weather for once at any rate.  Your wristlets and sweater come in handy these days, I can tell you.

I have an orderly now who has attached himself to me, a little bugler, who takes care of me and my things in great shape.  I strongly suspect that he hopes for a cushy job around headquarters but if he continues to serve as he is doing now, I can overlook his strategy.  He has been in the army for ten years and acted as dog-robber for officers during eight of them.  He gets me flap-jacks in the mornings even if he has to row with the mess-sergeant to do the stunt, sees that I have hot water to shave with, goes up the road to “parley voo” with the French woman about my laundry and stands by to see that she doesn’t rub holes in the flannel shirts, brings me hot coffee and jam at night when I am working late at Headquarters and washes up the mess things afterwards.  In fact, he’s a jewel.  I’m going to give him a good recommendation when we part.  You would die laughing to hear him tell how he wheeled the baby carriages around the reservation at Ft. Monroe and acted as butler for Captain (now Brigadier General) Hines of Coast Artillery.  He is a little dried-up, wizened chap of the old army type but can blow “Taps” at night in a manner to make you weep.  I’ll part with him with regret when the time comes.

Wish you could be here to see the airplanes.  They are so common in this country that even the peasants have ceased to pay much attention to them when they are going over.  It’s a pretty sight to see one come spiraling down over our headquarters, a few thousand feet over us, drop our daily mail sack and then zoom upward to go to the next place.  They even inspect the road details in planes!  We never pay much attention to them anyway.  Quite often a large flock passes over for all the world like a swarm of bees.


Mareuil, France

February 11, 1919

We had a minstrel show last night under the direction of the K. of C. secretary.  The talent was all drawn from the unit, the theatre was an old French barn and the costumes a triumph of the foraging art.  I wish I could tell you in detail of the little tragedies and comedies of life involving the matter of costumes.  We sent out details with an interpreter to plead with the natives for dresses, coats, hats, etc. and never in all my life have I seen such a conglomeration of outfits.  Just one will suffice to illustrate.  He had a miniature high hat atop of an exceedingly black face; for a coat he wore a French bugler’s tunic which an apprehensive widow parted with only after the C.O. assured her that it would be returned in good order; his trousers would have done credit to an English coster boy, they being composed of a brilliant plaid with pearl buttons down each side.  To complete the rig he wore a pair of officers boots with spurs!  Bert Williams in his wildest flight of fancy never conceived anything half as wonderful.  And the rest were just as good.  The queer part of it all is where did the clothes come from?

It was pathetic to see with what ingenuity they had contrived the stage and footlights, wings and drapes.  Truly the American soldier is nothing if not adept at making the most of what is at hand.  The orchestra consisted of a battered old piano and the black faces were supplied by a liberal use of burnt cork and bacon grease from the mess hall.  They didn’t kick much about putting that mess on their faces; one of the boys said it was just as good as cold-cream except for the smell! It was some show.

Here in our headquarters office we have a fine big fire-place and what do you imagine they use for andirons?  Why, they have two bars of iron to hold the logs and on the ends facing toward the room are two statues, one representing Alsace and the other Lorraine, the native costumes of those provinces being clearly defined for the little statues are women.  And all over France for forty odd years they have used such andirons.  A pretty sentiment, isn’t it?  There they are, on the warm hearth-stones of France, always in sight, warm to the touch, never out of the memory of the French people from whom they were taken and so lately recovered.  That is the French of it!  And I have offered Madame most anything if she will let me have them to take home for to me they are the one souvenir of the war.  Never again will France sit and dream before the open fire of the “lost provinces” under the tyrant’s heel for now they are hers for all time.  And Madame refuses my offer, torn between gratitude and love of country.  But I have hopes and may perchance persuade her to part with them that they may grace the hearth-stone of one who came three thousand miles across the sea to restore them in reality to the Mother Land.




At 2:30 a.m., February 15, 1919, I was blissfully sleeping in my nice warm bed when a thumping and hammering on the stout door awakened me.  After unlocking the latter, old “Music” (my self-appointed orderly) fell into the room and began to pump my right arm.  After a good deal of cussing he finally told me that the Adjudent had sent for me to get Headquarters busy at once on the records of about 200 men who I was to take to the camp at St. Aignan for transportation to the States.  Anyone who has read this record so far will understand that the grass had no chance to grow that night, at least.


We fell too with the best of spirits and by 8:00 a.m., had them all fixed up and, in column of squads, I gave them the “Let’s go” signal and we were on our way at last back to the States.


At St. Aignan I turned my outfit over to the camp commander and was assigned myself to a tent away up in one corner of the camp.  This camp, by the way, needs a little explaining.  In the first place, the officer who picked such a site should have been court-martialed at once.  The land was old vine-yard soil, very soft, in the bottom of a damp valley and every little mist left it like a quagmire.  Men died in this place of spinal-meningitis and the next occupant of the bunk-house or tent slept in and used the same blankets that the former man had owned and without being fumigated.  The mess facilities were so poor and inadequate that many men,  including myself refused to eat there and were dependent upon their own resources for sustenance.  As a consequence,  illnesses were the rule and not the exception.  Water taps were scarce in the camp and usually a long distance from the men’s billets.  Duck boards had been laid down in profusion to enable one to keep out of the mud but they were hardly a drop in the bucket in a camp where there were 20,000 men and accommodations for not more than 8,000.


During my eight days at this camp before entraining for the port of embarkation I lived on stick-chocolates, sardines, hard-tack and soup-cubes.  With the other men, we could prepare these in our own tent without going out to wallow up to our shines in mud, waiting in a mess-line for a lot of stuff that even the French peasants wouldn’t take home as garbage to their pigs.  There were also medical cases here that would have roused the indignation of a forgetful nation back home.  One man in my own tent had a machine-gun bullet embedded in his ankle, had been sent to this camp in December, l918, for return to the States as Class C casual--unfit for even light duty and here it was February 20, 1919, and he was doing guard duty, standing on his feet for two hours at a time!  When he left for home I do not know but he was still there when I left, still doing duty as a kitchen-police hand, having fallen in a dead faint while on guard duty.  I came home with another case almost similar who had the same story.  The wonder is not that the men lived at all but that they lived and smiled!  If ever a case of military injustice was done to the men of the A.E.F., it was on that bleak and bitter plain at St. Aignan, not mis-named “Camp Agony” by the American boys who suffered and died there.


For the next few days after arriving there I had nothing to do but roam around and observe things but this growing too much for even my hardened stomach I drew a few books at the camp Y.M.C.A. and stuck to my bunk.  On the 20th I was called out to take charge, as acting first sergeant, of the Pennsylvania Casual Company #1904, being organized for return to the States.  We herded together in one long bunk-house and a few nights later I sat up all night to pay them and clothe them.  On the 23rd a Lt. Walsh of Cumberland, New jersey, was assigned as Company Commander.  On the 25th of February after a long wait in the rain and mud, our packs slung and all tight, we boarded our train for Marseilles on the Mediterranean.  A few first class coaches had been attached for the officers but one was left over and into that I climbed with a few of my friends of the camp.  So we were off at last after suffering the tortures of an eight day sojourn in that desert of mud and muck.


During the night we passed through Dijon and by noontime were going through Lyons, that great city of Southern France.  From there on we went through the valley of the Rhone, some of the most beautiful country in France unfolding before us.  Here the climate changed and from the cold and dreariness of the north we passed to sunshine and flowers , peach blossoms and the sweet green grass of the spring-time.  It was such a relief after those terrible days up north.  We pulled up at a place called Miramas which stuck in memory as a summer resort of France.  Here we had a chance to get out and stretch and enjoy the sun which was actually shining and felt warm on our faces!  Grace de Dieu,, we thought the sun was gone forever when we were up north.  Leaving Miramas was a blow to our feelings for we wanted to stay in the sunshine.  We skirted a town named Istres, where the French Government maintains a great flying field.  Here there were planes of every kind and more in the air than we could count.  It was a vast plain some seven or eight miles square and as level as a billiard table.


Just beyond this point, as we rounded a hill, away off in the distance I saw the glint of the sun on the waves and later the deep turquoise of the sea.  Marseilles at last!  The point from which we first saw the Mediterranean was Fos-sur-Mer and the name will always live in my memory.  We were soon passing along the sea coast, going eastward to the port.  We were enchanted by the panorama that lay before us; the deep blue sea, the vessels in the distance, the wonderful little coves along shore where tiny little terra cotta homes were built in groves of pine and olive trees, and the dazzling white rock of the Mediterranean countries.  We arrived at Marseilles at noon.  This was a sunny place and quite a hustling town.  It struck me more favorably that way than any other I had seen.  While trailing our way up through the city to the rest camp I heard one of the boys say “Look at the dust!” and glancing around saw him kicking the white dust up in little clouds and sniffing it like a hound.  It was some time since the bunch had been in a place dry enough to produce dusty roads!


We were only held in the rest camp until seven o’clock.  Meanwhile the officer and myself went into town to dig up the censor in order to send home a cable but after searching all over we had to give up and take a chance on sending one before the boat left.  We had a good chance to see the City which is one of the most progressive in all France.  It is a strange mingling of east and west, one sees all races and colors in the streets, a bit of the far east and Africa.


That night at seven o’clock we marched down through the streets with full packs but oh, they did seem so light this time!  Homeward bound and the ship in the distance.  The bunch struck up “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s all Here” and all the old favorites and one could feel the lessening of the pressure that had been constant all the days we spent in France.  Our boat proved to be the 22,000 ton liner “President Wilson” formerly the “Kaiser Franz Joseph the First”, an Austro-Hungarian liner, interned at Trieste when the Italians captured that city.  She was newly fitted, had never carried troops before, had lain in the harbor at Trieste for four and a half years waiting for the war to end.  She was fitted up like a palace and sure looked good to us.  I was in bed and asleep a few hours later, hoping to wake up and find ourselves at sea.  However, we didn’t leave until mid-afternoon, passing out through the narrows, the beautiful panorama of the harbor astern, the Island of Monte Cristo to star-board, the great stone citadel on the mainland to port.  My last view of France was from the stern of the vessel, as the sun was sinking into the sea ahead of us.  The tiny dot on the northern horizon which we could see long after the rest had faded was the church that stood on the highest hill beyond the city.  And soon that too was caught in a gathering mist and France was a thing of the past.  We turned our faces to the western world, a great relief in our heart



S.S. President Wilson, At Sea

March 2, 1919

I am writing this in my stateroom aboard the “President Wilson” of Trieste, lying in the harbor of Gibraltar, and when you receive this I will be once more in the land of Old Glory.  How I wish you could be with me to enjoy it all!  We had a wonderful trip down from Marseilles in this fine warm weather.  It’s such a relief to ride in a brightly lighted ship at night, with no submarines to worry about.

The ride on the Mediterranean for two days was great, the sea was like a turquoise gem, smooth as a mill-pond.  Yesterday we sighted a big whale to starboard, not more than thirty yards from the ship’s side, swimming along and spouting just the way the pictures have it.  It was quite a sight but the ship did not linger to let us enjoy the show.

This morning I was up early to view “Gib” as we came into the harbor after skirting the coast of Africa.  The rock is a great massive mountain of solid rock, stark against the sky.  It is the colour of limestone and rather porous as I found later,  I told all the boys to watch for Prudential’s sign on the top of the mountain but somehow they couldn’t find it.  Guess they removed it during the war.  We are lying here in the harbor waiting to coal at the South Mole.  I may get shore leave tomorrow, Monday.

I’m sorry I couldn’t get a cable off to you before I left France .  I did my best with the officer to get to the censor at Marseilles, but like all censors he was not to be found.  I’ll telegraph on landing at New York, however, so you’ll get it before this letter arrives.  We are told that this boat can make New York from here in seven days so I may send you a birthday telegram.



6:00 p.m.

Well, my shore leave materialized and now, after a redletter day, I am stretched out in a steamer-chair on the upper stern-deck, writing this to you, and in between pages, watching the sunset over the African hills.  It has been a never-to-be-forgotten day.  “Gib” is a bit of the old world with a touch of modernism which our good friend Johnny Bull supplies.  One sees Arabs and Algerians go along the quaint little streets, with donkeys loaded with oranges, dates, silks, etc.  The Arabs are barefooted--it is summer here now and very picturesque in their burnoosé and red fezs.  Spaniards with brightly colored shawls, smart British officers with their swagger sticks, all nations and races are represented.  It is a riot of color and atmosphere such as one cannot find anywhere else in the world for this is a stopping-off place for all the vessels and travelers going and coming from the far corners of the earth.

We bought something but that is a secret so you’ll have to wait to know.  I’ll tell you one thing, I did bring with me from one shop--a little Indian silver napkin ring for the baby brought by her Dad from Gibraltar.  It was too good a souvenir to pass up.  I also bought myself a cane made of some strange African wood for two shillin’.

This morning one of the Sergeants and myself laid in a supply of oranges for the trip.  One hundred and eight for a dollar! And you are paying probably sixty cents a dozen in the States now, fancy that!  We took them in through a port hole in my stateroom for the Colonel forbade us buying anymore since the boys started to pelt the “spiggoties” with them yesterday.  We didn’t get caught at it so now in my rain coat under the bed we have a supply for the dreary days ahead.



March 4, 1919

Ashore again today.  It’s so pretty here one cannot resist the temptation to stroll through the various little streets and gardened walks.  I went alone this time to enjoy it at my leisure.  I went along the Rosia road, that exquisite street which the officers of the garrison occupy.  It is lined with little cottages, rare tropical flowers all strange to me but very sweet and wonderful after the drab days in France.  It is very warm today and pleasant, even the butterflies are out.  After seeing the balance of the town, the naval shops, the monuments and the parade grounds, I walked along the beach near Europa Point.  And while here, let me explain something that no doubt every one is not aware of.  The pictures which you see of Gibraltar would lead you to believe that the highest point of the rock is that towards the straits.  Especially does that of the Prudential give one that impression.  This, however, is not the case.  The lowest point of the rock is the part at the straits, called Europa Point, and the highest part is the side nearest to Spain and facing north.  There is a broad parade ground and barracks at the foot of the rock on Europa Point big enough to hold a division on parade.  So you will see that the rock could not be a precipitous cliff at the place .  The ground goes up on a steep, but easy angle to the highest point, about 2,500 feet, where it is an abrupt cliff facing the neutral strip of ground and beyond, the Spanish territory.

Through the South Port, as it is called, I came to the bazaar in full swing.  Here one can buy all manner of things from Africa and the orient, as well as Spain and the Canaries, the Azores and Madeira.  Bright silky things from the hands of Moorish women, bizarre rings and jewelry from India, Egyptian stuffs, Arabian and Algerian things, all in great profusion, a mass of colour, shape and form.

There are a bunch of our sub-chasers here in the harbor for repairs, en route to the newest of our possessions, the Virgin Islands.  They have been on duty at Corfu and the Adriatic Sea during the late unpleasantness.  The jackies are fraternizing freely with the dough-boys and tonight we had several of their warrant officers and C.P.0.’s at our non-com’s mess.  It has been another big day, but the last as we are pulling out after supper.  They have practically finished coaling now.



S.S. President Wilson, at sea

March 6, 1919

We pulled out of Gibraltar Tuesday at 6:40 p.m.  The ride through the bay and into the Straits was too fine for words to describe.  We passed by the Spanish town of Algeciras, where Kaiser Willie tried once before to get his hat into the ring but didn’t succeed--that time.  The next try was successful, for us, but not for him.

The little town looked like a bit of ivory lace on emerald velvet, a little gem of fantastic coloring.  Then on through the Strait, past Tangier on the African side and out into the broad Atlantic.  And so far the trip is very uneventful.  The Y.M.C.A. as usual has blundered.  On the walls of all the Y’s in France there is a sign that says “Don’t take any books to the ships,  there will be plenty on board.”  So we took them at their word, which we shouldn’t have done, in the light of previous experience, and took no books along.  Result: 1,500 troops aboard a vessel and no books to read, no games to play and the days so monotonous one feels like starting a fight just to let down a bit.




The voyage from Gibraltar was uneventful.  We passed the Island of San Miguel, of the Azores group at six o’clock on the morning of the seventh of March.  It is quite barren in appearance but we passed close enough to see a town and the cattle on the hills but nothing else of interest.  We buried a man on the night of the 10th, who died of pneumonia.  Very sad affair and most depressing.  On the afternoon of the 13th, as I was pacing the upper deck, one of the ship’s officers came along and pointed out to me something I had been watching for but could hardly see even when he directed my gaze.  It was a low-lying strip of gray smudge on the port-bow, something like a cloud but before I knew it was not something told me that this was Home--Home at last!  The low-lying coast of the Jersey Shore and presently off to my right the tall wireless tower of the Rockaways came into view.  We were at last in the Ambrose Channel, the mist lifted and there stretched the Land of Home.  Only the traveler who has been away for long from his native shore can describe my feelings at that moment.  One of the boys came running up to me with great salt tears in his eyes and, in a state bordering on hysteria, began to pound me on the back.  Our officer, too, ever silent and moody, came along the deck to gather the men together for orders.  And in his eyes I saw a film of moisture!


Then we passed up the harbor.  What a welcome!  The bands on the boats of the Mayor’s Committee, the tooting ferries,  the hoarse bellowing of the liners, a mad inferno of noise.  The next moment from out the thin mist hove the great statue,  that symbol of home and all it meant to us--Miss Liberty.  It was worth it all to be able to say we were Americans!  The days of hardships and worse were over at last and we were for home again in the land for which we had tried to do our best.


And this ends my story.  I was discharged one week later, at Camp Dix, New Jersey after a few days spent at Camp Merritt, New Jersey, where we went through the de-cootieizing process and brushed up our knowledge of the United States tongue, how to eat with civilized implements at the table and not to shy at trolley-cars.


I arrived home at Honesdale March 22, 1919, and one may judge of how happy I was to be there once again, sound in mind and body.


There is much more that I could write here about Army life,  both of a critical nature and not a little of praise, but I am content to let Time be the judge of my own thoughts on some phases and much more are better left forgotten.  The fact remains that, all things to the contrary, the German Empire is no more and peace of a sort Reigns in Europe.