December 1918

With-John

December 1/18

We have a new Colonel, Hunter B Nelson, a fine old man and wonderful soldier. Had our Thanksgiving dinner tonight: turkey, oysters, soup, apples, nuts, pie, etc. Some dinner—to say nothing about the different kinds of wines.

There is one more thing that we have to be thankful for—orders received today were that our division would move to port of embarkation for U.S. at once. Think of it. Almost too good to be true.

Dec-1December 4/18

Further orders received on the 2nd stated that we would move on the 5th by marching to Maron between Nancy and Toul, and there entraining for La Mans, which destination was temporary to our embarking at Brest. There was considerable work for me to do preparatory to leaving, and it has resulted in my working overtime. The old house in which I am billeted and which is also regimental headquarters was once a beautiful home owned by German people. We have taken over the entire place.

Today has been one I shall long remember. About 10 a.m. Capt. Sweitzer, Capt. McCarty, Majors Simmons & Ross and myself got permission, hopped a freight train and went to Metz.

Well this old place is about 27 kilometers away but the amount of traffic and the nature of train made traveling mighty slow. It took us about 4 hours to make the train which in the states would have taken about ½ hour. I was perched up on top of one of these funny old French box cars. Immediately below me on a flat car was about 25 barrels of French wine going to the soldiers up ahead. One of the barrels had been tampered with—so I had a good sample of the wine. This train took us thru’ a country where there had been exceptionally hard fighting—one particular woods we went thru’ over 40,000 Frenchmen lost their lives. The town of Pagny was completely ruined. It gave us an opportunity of seeing the Boche defenses from behind and particularly in the country where we had been fighting.

“This train took us thru’ a country where there had been exceptionally hard fighting—one particular woods we went thru’ over 40,000 Frenchmen lost their lives.”

We had a good chance to look over the old city of Metz and I must say it is one wonderful place, quite the best I have been in since leaving the States. There was less evidence of want. The supplies in the stores, the appearance of the children and people were far better than any French city. The people were crazy with joy, a parade of French soldiers created wild excitement, the statues of the Kaiser Frederick the Great and others had been utterly destroyed. It was a wonderful sight and well worth the effort of going. We fortunately obtained a ride back in a machine.

December 5/18 

The regiment moved out by marching early this morning for Liverdun. I proceeded with a truck train of supplies direct to the rail head.

Maron. Went by the way of Nancy, arrived that afternoon and got located in a billet over baker shop. Couple of pretty little French girls in the house but don’t expect I’ll be able to do much good. Pretty poor town, nothing but the railroad and the Moselle river in the place. Expect the regiment in tomorrow and that we will entrain about 12.00 noon.

December 8/18 

Dec-8Still at Maron. Orders for entrainment were changed at the last minute. I am here with detachment of about 60 men, remainder of regiment at Liverdun. I have nearly all of the regimental property that has to be guarded and as our regiment probably will not leave until the 12th I may be here with this outfit until then. Have been attached to Col. [Parrot’s?] of 366th, mess. Fine bunch of officers. The Brigade commander was in for dinner today. Took a walk today up toward the prison refugee camp. Many prisoners just back from Germany and some pretty sorry looking men.

December 12/18

Well I seem to be planted at Maron for an indefinite stay, it sure is a forsaken ole, and those old trains can’t come too soon to move the Division. Met a very attractive little French girl here yesterday—don’t know her name. (Her) folks seem well to do, they formerly lived in Nancy but their home was wrecked by aeroplanes and they moved here. Very petite & [unclear], quite the most attractive little mademoiselle I have met in France. Numerous orders about our departure but nothing definite. Took the detachment on a long hike down the Moselle river towards Toul, was a beautiful day and wonderful scenery along the valley.

The Moselle River in Liverdun.

The Moselle River in Liverdun.

December 15/18 

Yesterday went to Liverdun in machine and remained there with regiment last night. Received orders while there that we would entrain the 15th so returned to supervise distribution of property. Liverdun is rather pretty but crowded with soldiers. Hunted all over town for billet, nothing doing, finally located one extra bed in room with French officer, pulled in and went to bed. In middle of night woke up and Frenchman having h— of a time, sick as a gassed patient. Found he had been sick for week with grippe and ‘flu.’* He couldn’t stand the door or window open—place as hot as everything so I decided to vacate ‘tout suite.’ Got up and dressed and roamed around streets looking for place to lie my head. Finally located house McCarty lived in, opened door and walked plumb into the Madam’s room who was in bed. Sure was in the wrong, finally explained myself in my poor French after a decidedly embarrassed half hour. Slept with McCarty the rest of night.

Received 23 letters from the States. From almost every one I knew it seemed [spent might pleasant two hours?]. I am sick of this country and mighty willing to get away back to God’s country. Beginning to feel like one of my men who said, “If I ever get to look the Statue of Liberty in the face again, I never want to see anything but her -rear- again.”

*Likely Spanish Flu, which was quite active around this time. In all, the disease killed between three and five percent of the world’s population. Cap is lucky he didn’t catch it himself.

“If I ever get to look the Statue of Liberty in the face again, I never want to see anything but her -rear- again.”

Spanish Flu mortality rates 1918 - 1919.

Spanish Flu mortality rates 1918 – 1919.

December 20/18 

Our train pulled into Maron on the morning of the 16th. It was a real American train. The only thing French about it were three French coaches for officers, the remainder were American box cars—and they certainly did form some contrast to those little dinky French cars—and a Baldwin locomotive. Made one think sure enough he was bound for—HOME. The trip was uneventful, thru’ a country which similar to that which I have seen before. The general route was thru’ Toul—Neufchateau—Blois La Mans. We were three days on the road, and sleeping in cold uncomfortable box cars was anything but pleasant.

Arrived at Ambrières at 10.30 p.m. on the 19th, remained in cars until next morning and then marched to respective billets. The regiment is scattered among five small towns in this immediate vicinity. The Colonel, Capt. Sweitzer and myself are billeted in a fine old chateau overlooking the town and river. Capt. Sweitzer and myself have a beautiful room which is exceptionally modern for France—twin beds—hard wood floors—open fire place and the like—everything but a bath—funny these people over here don’t believe in them, even the best houses are minus them.

Dec-20

Today, Saturday, was market day and it was quite an unusual sight, streets crowded with open markets—country people in their long flowing black robes out in force. Our band gave a concert this morning—created quite a sensation.

Are taking our meals in the Le Compte Hotel—real French cooking, served in French style and very good.

Have a new orderly, [Pot Surgeon?]. In Maron my old orderly whom I have had for some time got drunk and disorderly and I had to put him in the Guard House. Was a crackerjack orderly—always knew what to do—an old ex-jockey (who) has ridden for some of the stables in the States and on some of the horses that I have lost a few bones on. Rumor has it that we will remain here about a month until we are reequipped and reorganized—then to Brest or another seaport and then home.

Dec 26/18 

I feel that I must take a few minutes this morning and endeavor to write of my experiences and how I spent Christmas Day. Since my last writing on the 20th we have all been exceptionally busy trying to get settled in our new location, Ambrières. It really is an exceptionally pretty little town and affords some very good accommodations. It is the first time there has been troops located here since the out-break of the war, and the townspeople are anxious to please and quite elated over having American soldiers.

Christmas Day dawned, snowy cold and disagreeable. I had to get up early to take care of some 75 casuals that had reported from the hospital. They were to be assigned to the various companies.

Some days ago I had been detailed on a board to arrange a suitable Christmas program and our efforts was to be shown at the Boys school house at 10 a.m. The program included message and prayer by chaplain, selections by band, quartet, dancing, a couple of sketches, boxing and a marathon race. During the entertainment the sun came out and the remainder of the day was beautiful.

Officers of the 79th Division. Meuse, France. Christmas, 1918.

Officers of the U.S. Army 79th Division. Meuse, France. Christmas, 1918.

In the afternoon Major Simmons, Capt. Sweitzer and myself took a long walk in the country. I nearly broke my neck attempting to get some mistletoe for a few decorations on our table. M Guignard, our interpreter, had made all the arrangements for a elaborate Christmas dinner which was to be prepared by the French lady at the Hotel Le Compte. Dinner was at 7 p.m. and some wonderful dinner it was—started in with soup, next course lobster, potato salad, with necessary dressing. Next stewed hare cooked most wonderfully. Next roasted turkey, potato dressing and fixing. Next chocolate blancmange, cake, etc. and ending up with nuts, figs and the like.

The whole dinner was served in a most elaborate style with wonderful wine, champagne, and liquors. It was a great success, everyone happy and in good spirits—even the Colonel wanted to name his little boy after me when I proposed a toast to his good health.

“The Colonel wanted to name his little boy named after me when I proposed a toast to his good health.”

December 31/18 

Dec-31Tonight is New Year’s Eve. My thoughts stray back to what I was doing a year ago tonight—what a difference. Then, it was hard to tell what might happen in the next year, but now it is all over and we may again be trodding the normal walks of life.

Mighty wet & cold. Weather in France very disagreeable in winter, no snow but continual rain. Received 2 boxes sent from London, one containing cigarettes the other chocolates, both mighty good. Have not heard from my box from home, altho’ there has been some 50 sacks of package received at the Regiment. Read G.O. 230 G.H.Q today, not a chance of any Personnel Adjutant getting out of Army for some time—Bad news—probably want to keep us in until everything is thoro’ly checked. May get Court-Martialed in this d— Army yet. Went to the 366th Inf Hq. today to sit on an efficiency board of a 1st Lt. Traveled about 60 miles in machine—beautiful country this Brittany. Our little old French lady is preparing a big New Year’s dinner for us tonight—expect a wild and glorious time—details later.

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