Sunday, December 23, 2007

Plum Duff, Sea Pie, Porpoise Liver, Dandyfunk and Lobscouse

On October 5, 1849, Ezekial I. Barra was among 31 passengers aboard the "Samson" headed out of Philadelphia for the gold fields of California. In "Tale of Two Oceans," published in 1893, Barra recounts the lengthy journey around Cape Horn to San Francisco. It’s a remarkable telling of the adventure that vividly recounts life aboard a sailing ship in the mid 19th century. I was particularly curious about the meals provided to the crew and passengers.
First Dinner at Sea
Gliding down the Delaware river, Barra recounts: "At one o’clock the first dinner of the voyage was served. It consisted of roast beef, roast pork, boiled cabbage, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, stewed tomatoes and rice pudding. ... candor compels me to say that it was the last one we enjoyed of the kind during the voyage, for after that our fare consisted of salt beef, salt pork, beans, rice, codfish, mackerel, and potatoes while they lasted, which was about one month. Twice a week we had plum duff with raisins, the duff is composed of flour, lard, raisins, saleratus (baking soda) and water, with eggs mixed in when they can be had. When well mixed it is put into a canvas bag, wide at the top and very narrow at the bottom, boiled two hours and then turned into a platter and served with wine sauce when it can be had, or else with vinegar, butter, sugar and water boiled well together and thickened with flour and flavored with nutmeg. On other days we had boiled rice, with sugar, for dessert."
Making a Sea Pie
Later, following a three-day storm, Barra writes: " ... on this day, the cook exerted himself and prepared a sea pie for our dinner. A sea pie consists of onions fried brown, lean pork cut in small pieces, potatoes cut in quarters and the all simmered together; then make dough enough to cover all sides of the baking pan; and after the sides are covered, put in the filling to stew, season with tomato ketchup an pepper, sprinkle in a little dry flour to thicken it, and cover the pan with a thick crust and put it in the oven for two hours. In the absence of chicken or fresh beef, this is a very palatable dish. Beside the pie we had a large plum duff."
Porpoise Liver and Bacon
"November 15th. We are now having light winds, Lat. 18 12 No., Long 30 22 W., weather warm. We are daily approached by schools of porpoises and they would often sport around the ship and come right under her bows. We had a sailor that had once been on a whaling voyage in a schooner from Provincetown, Cape Cod, and he claimed to be a good harpooner. The chief mate caused a harpoon to be rigged and used a coil of rattling stuff for a line; it was placed in the waist, on the lee side, and the end passed outside the forerigging to the bow, and lashed to the harpoon. When everything was ready the whaleman, whose name was Amaziah Nickerson, took the harpoon, went out to the martingale and lashed himself to it, so as to have free use of his hands, and stand ready for a chance to strike a porpoise. The chance soon occurred, for a porpoise came within range and Amaziah threw the harpoon with such force and precision that it passed clear through the body of the monster. As soon as the porpoise was stuck the mate ordered the helm to be put hard down and eased up the head sheets. In the meantime the porpoise was struggling fiercely, but without avail. The struggle soon ceased and the porpoise was hauled alongside. Amaziah was placed in the bight of a rope and lowered over the side; he then placed a running bowline over the flukes of he monster and it was hoisted on board with a watch tackle. When it was stretched on deck all the passengers gathered around and all of them expressed unbounded wonder at the sight of the denizen of the mighty deep. Its weight reckoned to be about three hundred and fifty pounds. Sailors often call them sea hogs. The monster was immediately opened and its liver taken out. It was then 9:30 a.m. The captain ordered the cook to prepare the liver for a special luncheon for the ladies and have it ready by eleven o’clock.
The cook cut the liver into slices and washed it with salt and water, after which he wiped it dry, dredged it with dry flour and fried it with slices of bacon. The odor of the frying liver and bacon that issued from the galley carried the memory of the young passengers from the interior of Pennsylvania back to their father’s farm in hog killing time, and excited their gustatory organs to such a degree that it caused the saliva to exude from their mouths and trickle down their chins in tiny rivulets. The eight ladies on board enjoyed the novel dish of fried porpoise liver and bacon and declared it was the most delicious morsel that they had eaten in many a day. Then the body of the porpoise was stripped of blubber, which was tried out for oil for the forecastle lamps, and the meat was cut into strips, parboiled in salt and water and wiped dry. After this it was mixed with a small proportion of salt pork and chopped fine. It was then seasoned with dried sage and summer savory, pepper and salt and rolled into small balls, covered with dry flour and then fried in a pan of hot fat, and served piping hot. It must be said that to us it tasted as palatable as a dish of Fulton market sausage meat ever tasted to us when in New York. We all liked it so well that when the supply – which lasted two days – was exhausted we, like Oliver Twist, asked for more of the same kind. The French passengers were so well pleased that one of them sent a bottle of brandy, by the cabin boy, to Amaziah as a reward for his prowess. After this feast everything moved along in the old groove."
Fried mince turnovers
Following the visit of King Neptune and the initiation of 12 passengers into the Realm of the Sea, awarded to those who cross the equator for the first time, Barra writes:
"During the afternoon I noticed that the two cooks appeared to be extra busy. The steward told me that Stanwood had given him one of the four bottles of cognac, therefore he was gong to reciprocate by giving the sailors a treat of mince turnovers for their supper. Mince turnovers, on board of ship, are made of salt beef, chopped fine and mixed with three times the quantity of boiled dried apples, a little dried orange peel, allspice, and molasses to taste, and a taste of vinegar. Dough cut into small sections after it is rolled thin. Put one spoonful of the mince in each section, bringing the edges together, put each one in a frying pan, filled with hot fat, and fry them brown. When one side is fried, turn the pie over – hence the name "fried turnovers." In the absence of luxuries on board of a ship such simple dishes are a great boon to the sailor."
‘Dandyfunk:" Not a high-toned dish
On the last Thursday of November – Thanksgiving in some countries – the sailors "got one kit of beef, one kit of pork and one bake-pan full of dandyfunk."
Barra explains: "Dandyfunk is a dish composed of navy biscuit soaked in water, mashed with a pestle, mixed with fat taken from the coppers in which the meat is boiled, sweetened with molasses and flavored with allspice, then put into a pan and baked in the oven. It isn’t a very high-toned dish, but in the absence of something better, it is very palatable to a sailor."
Lobscouse: ‘Fit For the Gods’
After changing ships at Rio de Janeiro, Barra discuss the fare offered aboard the "Urania:"
"Our daily fare in the forecastle was passably good. As the captain had supplied a large stock of potatoes, we were enabled to have plenty of salt beef hash, as well as a good dish of lobscouse for breakfast.
"Lobscouse is a sea dish and is made of one onion cut and put into a gallon water, a dozen potatoes peeled and cut into quarters, four cakes of navy bread soaked and broken up. Boil for half an hour. Cut up salt beef into small square pieces equal to one-third of the whole mass, and boil again for half an hour. Then add pepper to taste and add, when about to be taken up, a half cupful of thickening. On a cold morning it is a dish ‘fit for the gods!’ Just try it."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A History of the Fourth U.S. Infantry 1796-1920

By Capt. R.G. Emery (formerly of the 4th Division)
Published in the April 1942 issue of Esquire magazine

Colors Lost and Then Won
A colonel of the Fourth once married a lady with more erudition than insights into things military. At a post party one evening, she regaled the delighted ears of a number of officers of other regiments with the following tidbit gleaned from her research. “Did you know,” she swaggered, “that the Fourth is one of the very few of our regiments whose colors are on display in the Tower of London?”
That story caused more than one cracked noggin in garrison towns on a payday night. And it is still, by War Department order, a base calumny. A Fourth Regiment of Infantry did lose its colors to the British at Detroit in 1812 but not this one. That regiment, originated in 1808 , is now the Fifth. The present Fourth can claim battle streamers by the mile but none won before May 17, 1815.
An organization was mustered in Sept. 4, 1792, as “The Infantry of the Fourth Sub-Legion,” and fought at Miami Rapids in 1794. In 1796, it was re-designated the Fourth Regiment of Infantry but in 1802 ceased to exist. A new Fourth fought lustily for William Henry Harrison at Tippecanoe and, in 1812, was with General William Hull’s ill-fated army. At the culmination of this campaign, at Fort Detroit, Hull surrendered his entire command to an inferior force of British and Indians without pulling a trigger. President Monroe, mitigating the court-martial sentence that Hull be shot, ruled: “The rolls of the Army shall no longer be debased by having upon them the name of Brigadier-General Hull.” Still none of it could help the Fourth get back its colors, which found their resting place in the Tower of London.
But the remnants of that Fourth Infantry were combined after the war with those of five other regiments (9th, 13th, 21st, 40th and 46th) to form the Fifth. It was then that the War Department decreed that “the brilliant history of the Fourth Regiment from 1796 to 1815 “was to become the property of the Fifth. At about the same time, a few odds and ends of the 14th, 18th, 20th, 36th and 38th were lumped to form the new Fourth.

Battles With the Creeks, Seminoles
The Creeks and the Seminoles were threatening disturbance in the South and the new regiment was bequeathed responsibility for the Southern frontier, then at some point now included in Georgia and Alabama. There they chased the elusive savages and died of choler with equal obstinacy. The death roll of one company for one year also includes casualties from five diagnosed types of fever. The same death roll has the entry “Intemperance” after two more of its names.
In orders No. 15, Western Army, August 28th, 1832, General Winfield Scott states: “The senior surgeon recommends the use of flannel shirts, flannel drawers and woollen stockings,” but the Commanding General, who has seen much of the disease (cholera) knows that it is intemperance which generates and spreads the calamity and that, when spread, good and temperate men are likely to be infected. He therefore peremptorily commands that "every soldier or ranger who shall be found drunk or sensibly intoxicated, after publication of this order, be compelled, as soon as his strength will permit, to dig a grave at a suitable burying place large enough for this own reception, as such grave cannot fail to be wanted for the drunken man himself or for one of his drunken companions." This order is given as well to serve as a punishment for drunkenness as to spare good and temperate men the labor of digging graves for their worthless companions.”
When not digging graves, the Fourth built posts along the border. A letter of General Lorenzo Thomas says: “Each company built its own double block of logs and a house of one story (logs) for officers’ quarters. The troops also sawed the boards for flooring, rived the pine shingles for roofs. In truth, the troops did the entire work, the quartermaster department only furnishing the few tools to work with, the nails and other hardware. Scarcely a nail was used to secure the shingles, they being hung on the rafters with wooden pegs. The spaces between the logs were chinked with moss and clay and afterward the whole was white-washed. This was the mode of creating quarters by the Infantry arm in those days, at scarcely any expense to the government.”

Outwitted by Osceola’s Braves

The Fourth did not get down to really serious business with the Indians until 1833. In December, the line of communication and supply to one of the boarder stations, Fort King, was cut by Osceola’s Seminoles. One hundred artillerymen from Fort Brooks under Major Gardner were ordered to re-establish contact. At the last moment, Major Gardner’s bride of a few weeks fell ill. Captain and Brevet-Major Francis Dade of the Fourth gallantly volunteered to go in his stead. Gallantly, because post gossip had it that it had been a fair wager as to whether the lady would becomes Mrs. Gardner or Mrs. Dade.
Major Dade’s offer was accepted and he joined the expedition with eleven men of B Company of the Fourth. The march was begun on the 20th of December. On the 28th, after a cheerless Christmas on the trail and still forty miles short of Fort King, Major Dade ran his little column into a trap of the wily Indian, Osceola, left. The only survivors of the affair were three badly wounded privates who reported the command had fought stubbornly from eight in the morning until five at night when, their ammunition exhausted, they went down, outnumbered and out-generalled, under Seminole hatchets.
As late as 1891, Colonel Granville Heller wrote a friend: "Since the unfortunate termination of Major Dade’s expedition it has been the custom of the Fourth Infantry not to volunteer for any service. The officers and men always have the readiness and willingness of any service required of them but all details, whether of a dangerous nature or in daily routine are allowed to be made from a roster in the office of the regimental adjutant.” Period.
The Regiment chased the Indians hither and yon with greatly increased enthusiasm after the Dade affair. By 1837, they had caught up with them and Osceola was on his way to the cell at Moultrie (South Carolina) in which he would remain until his death (Jan. 20, 1838).
That fall, the regiment was moved to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to enjoy its first taste of garrison service. But in ‘44, the outfit moved again, by way of New Orleans, to join Zachary Taylor’s Army of Observation at Corpus Christi, Texas.

From ‘Observers’ to Fighters
The Army of Observation very soon became the Army of Occupation. It was a very good army. The officers were regulars who had spent practically all of their professional lives on active service and the enlisted men, drawing a base pay of seven dollars of month, were in ranks either because they were patriots or because they just liked it.
And old “Rough and Ready” was not the man to let a bright sword rust. Grant later remarked: “I do not believe that a more efficient army, for its numbers and armament, ever fought a battle than that commanded by General Taylor in his first two fights on Mexican soil.”
Later, at Monterey, the regimental band of the Fourth found their role of spectators no longer supportable and, throwing away their instruments, they rushed a Mexican light battery, seized it, and swung it up their fleeing enemy. According to the official citation, the breast cord of honor given them and their successors was made red, the Artillery’s color “ . . . to show that they were as expert artillerymen as infantrymen.”

Lieutenant U.S. Grant, left, was with Taylor’s army that winter after Monterey. He did not join the 4th itself (as Quartermaster) until the next November. During the months of inaction at Victoria in early 1847 – while Taylor was staying as far away as he could from his political rival Winfield Scott – some of the officers of the army formed a theatrical society. The young Grant, not yet quite so "beavery," it is hoped, played most of the principal feminine roles. His leading man was usually Captain Robert E. Lee of the Engineers.
After the Mexican War, the regiment was ordered to the West Coast, crossed the isthmus of Panama, on the way and finding that two weeks of Isthmian cholera and Chagres fever were more disastrous than two years in the field. Of the 1,100 officers, men and camp followers who sailed from new York on the “Ohio” on July 5, 1852, 107 died in route.
In the West, the regiment scattered and put again into practice “the mode of erecting quarters by the Infantry arm.” The list of posts they built and campaigns they fought is as long as the history of the West. However, the company journal and correspondence book of G Company, sill in G’s possession, shows that company administration during those glamorous years was principally concerned with the quality of tobacco ration and unhallowed liaisons between lonesome soldiers and the regimental laundresses.

The San Juan Imbroglio
There was one incident of the fifties which is illustrative of these pre-blitz days. It rose from the so-called San Juan Imbroglio. In 1859, General Harney ordered the occupation of San Juan Island as a part of the territory of the United States. Three companies of the Fourth and one of the Ninth did the occupying. The British commander, fortified by five men-of-war and 2,000 soldiers and marines, disagreed with General Harvey’s geography. One hundred sixty-seven British guns aboard the five ships were trained upon the Fourth Infantry camp when, in the lull before the first gunner’s match was lighted, an officer of the Fourth was invited to an official party of courtesy aboard the flagship. During the casual professional conversation around the punch bowl, the American made a remark concerning a battle in the war between the Austrians and Napoleon III’s Franco-Sardinians, which was then in progress. The British admiral heard it. “I presume,” he asked, “that you refer to the battle of Magenta, Major?”
“No, sir. I spoke of the second engagement of the campaign, some weeks after Magenta.”
“Hmm. And how have such late advices reached you?”
“By courier from our Department of State, sir.”
It was then September, 1859. Magenta had been fought June 4th. To the British, the conclusion was obvious and upsetting. Evidently, news which reached the Americans from Washington was considerably fresher than that which England could furnish her Pacific fleet. With the memory of Pakenham’s bloody losses at New Orleans, in a battle fought after the war was ended, fresh in their minds, the British decided to wait.
As it happened, the English commander was really the best informed man on the scene, as the subsequent arrival of General Scott with orders which vetoed Harney’s decision provided. The San Juan troops were quietly withdrawn, but without bloodshed. If the Fourth Infantryman had felt that he needed any further poetic justification, it was given him by news which finally came from Italy that there had been another battle after Magenta.

Adding To Its Civil War Colors
Of course, the Regiment took time out from its pioneering to add twenty or so Civil War battle streamers to its colors. It saved Wood’s and Tidball’s batteries at Gaines’ Mill; held Sharpsburg bridge at Antietam, and it was rear guard at Chancellorsville. By the time they fought through the Wilderness to the breastworks at Petersburg, a lieutenant, George Randall, was commanding as senior officer still present for duty.
The phrase is reminiscent of another Civil War experience of the Fourth worth repeating, only because of the manner in which it was recorded. Major Delezior Davidson commanded at Gaines’ Mill but the task of officially reporting the engagement fell to Captain Joseph Collins, who writes briefly, even daily: “... at eleven o’clock Major Davidson retired to the rear and has not been seen since.” However, the major was seen again – at his court martial, which cashiered him.
After Appomattox, the Fourth returned to the West, now to Fort Laramie, Wyo., in 1869; the 30th Infantry, organized in 1866, was consolidated with the Fourth and the regiment retained the designation, Fourth. At one time in ‘71 it went back to Louisville to be split into small detachments to chivvy moonshiners about the Kentucky hills for a year. It was West again in time to serve under General George Crooks on the Rosebud. (The Battle of the Rosebud in June 1876 pitted the Lakota Indians in Montana vs the US Army.) And in ‘92 and ‘93, Colonel Robert Hall led it out to escort Jacob Coxey’s Army through Washington and Idaho. Rather, to stand guard over railway rolling stock until Coxey’s Army had gone by. (“Coxey’s Army” was actually a large group of unemployed railroad workers protesting governmental policies following the economic panic of 1893.

A Return to Cuba
Then someone blew up the “Maine” and the Fourth shouldered its muskets again. It was at El Caney and at Santiago. It learned again that fever was worse than bullets, disease decimating it for the third time in its history. There was still trouble in the Philippines and the regiment was shortly on its way “by way of the Suez Canal,” except for some artillery which assisted the Navy in our Algerian difficulty. The Fourth believes it is the first Army regiment to cross the Atlantic.
Civilizing the Insurrectos with a Krag and bringing the heathen light in one way or another, plus two brief stations at home kept the outfit busy until 1914. ‘Fourteen caught it on this side of the Pacific and handy to join Major General Frederick Funston on the Vera Cruz expedition. The coconut trees around Los Coces station might have been the same ones under which the regiment had bivouacked when Winfield Scott placed it in that selfsame spot 67 years before. The Vera Cruz expedition returned the and the Fourth went to the 3rd Division in ‘17 in time to make its second trip across the Atlantic. It was blooded at Chateau Thierry and fought on the Marne and at St. Mihiel. Afterward, it added the crossing of the Rhine and a winter in Germany to its historical itinerary.

Remembering the Fourth
The Fourth is not our oldest regiment – the third Infantry Regiment being the oldest – but its list of battles is the longest. (The unit is credited with participation in 45 campaigns.) The decorations on its colors show that they have been planted upon the ramparts of the nation, and taken up with honor, more times than any others. Grant stood beneath those colors, and Sheridan and Taylor. It is those battle streamers and the men who gained them that make the soul of a regiment. And the soul of a regiment is not at all an intangible thing.
Some youngster of the Fourth one day will feel a pretty solid presence around him when he needs it the most. Colonel Bill Foster, who held the hummock at Okeechobee, will be there; and Lieutenant Johnny Gore, who climbed the wall at Chapultepec; Captain Hiram Dryer, who stood to fire three volleys at thirty yards into a Confederate brigade at Second Bull Run, will be somewhere close, and so will Captain Frank Andrus who called his shots at Santiago from the top of the parapet.They were men who never gave up a battlefield. And they won’t be there to see it begun in our time.

For the most comprehensive history of the regiment’s early days (from 1796 to 187), read “Organization and Movements of the 4th Regiment of Infantry” by Capt. William Powell and published in 1871. It can be seen on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Antiseptic Baby (?)

I often buy boxes or folders crammed with old paper stuff -- maps, letters, photos, postcards, advertisements, programs. My initial examination is rather cursory but when I get the material home, a closer look often yields some fascinating stuff. And some is just plain weird. Take for instance, the four-page mimeographed folder of nine songs. The one that caught my eye is labeled "The Antiseptic Baby." I have no idea of its origin or meaning and Google was no help. I leave it to you to help me out. Here it is.
(My original post, copied from an old folded mimeograph sheet, had some errors which were brought to my attention by an alert reader. This is the correct version, with the proper title.)

"Strictly Germ-Proof"
(aka: "The Antiseptic Baby" )

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when a Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised; -
It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn't Sterilized.

They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
and washed it in permanganate and carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
and 'lected him a member of the Fumigated Band.

There's not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his daily rations from a Hygienic Cup -
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

Prophylactic: disease preventing
Permanganate: a salt of permanganic acid
Carbolated soap: a salt of carbolic acid
Micrococcus: Spherical bacterium usually found on the skin of animals
Iodoform: compound of iodine used as an antiseptic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our Changing Language - Through Autographs

There was a time – before iPods, cell phones and text messages --when people actually wrote to each other by putting pen to paper.
And there was a time – on a birthday or the end of a school year or upon a graduation – when relatives and friends would congratulate each other on their achievements through an autograph book. Or they would just wish to offer words of encouragement and friendship.

These simple little books of blank pages would often become filled with kind and generous sayings. But where did the little poems and bits of doggerel originate? Were they bits of poetry learned in school or church? Or were they adages dreamt up by their authors? Or were they sayings handed down from adult to child?

No matter. They are recollections of a time when people were willing to express their affection on the written page. Here are some plucked from a collection of autograph books from the late 19th and mid 20th centuries. Some are clever, generous, insightful, mysterious, puzzling – even a bit sexual -- and some humorous. And a few encourage the book owner to get married. Another few seem to find solace in meeting in the afterlife. Still, most of them beat the crap out of “Have a nice day.”

Here we go:

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene,
First in your album,
First in your thoughts.
Last to remember
And last to be forgot.
Your school chum, Blanche K.

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
I love you that’s my business;
You love me that’s your business
We love each other that’s our business
Let’s be more business-like.
Your friend, Katherine

Mason City, Iowa, 1883
Dear Sister
May all your years
In joy be passed
And each prove happier
Than the last.
Your brother William

Sacramento, 1921
Dear Irene (Courtright):
Irene now
Irene forever
Courtright now,
But not for-ever.
Your school friend, Mary G.

Reardan, Wash, 1908
Dear friend
When you get old
and cannot see
Put on your specks
And think of me.
Your friend, Lucia

Spokane, Wash., 1910
Dearest Amanda
There’s a place for me in your album
There’s a place for me in your heart
There’s a place for us both in Heaven
Where good friends never part.
Your most sincere friend, Laura

Waukon, Wash., 1905
Dear Amanda
I like the sun,
I like the stars.
I like the rolling sea
and best of all, I like you.
Your schoolmate, Laura

Reardan, Wash., 1908
May your life by like an arithmetic.
Your sorrows divided
Your fevers subtracted,
Your friends multiplied
Your joys added
Is the wish of your friend, Horace

(Here’s another version)
Waukon, Wash., 1904
Dear Amanda:
May your life by like an arithmetic:
Your joys added,
Your sorrows subtracted,
Your friends multiplied
and your enemies divided.
Your school mate, Lulu

Waukon, Wash., 1905
Dear Amanda:
The bravest are the tenderest;
The loving are the daring.
Your playmate, Henrietta

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
Little hugs and kisses
Has changed many a miss to Mrs.
Mary E.

Forest City, Iowa, 1909
Dear Mama
May there be just clouds enough in your life to cause a glorious sunset.
Your daughter, Lilly

(Here’s a different version)
Neora Springs, Iowa, 1884
May your life have just enough shadow to hide the glare of sun.
Yours, Lollie

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene
Irene is your name,
Single is your station.
Happy be the man
that makes the alteration.
Your school friend, Thelma

Sacramento, 1930
Dear Irene
When you get married and live upstairs,
don’t come down and borrow the chairs.
Yours truly, Myrtle.

Clear Lake, Iowa, 1884
This world is but a bubble.
There’s nothing here but woe,
Hardships, trials and troubles
No matter where we go.
Ever your friend, Cora

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene,
In the storm of life
You need an umbrella.
I hope you have to uphold it
For a handsome you fella.
Your botany friend, Minnie

Mason City, Iowa, 1883
Friend Jsesie:
Some friends may wish thee free from care.
Others (may wish thee) joy and wealth
Some may wish you blessings, rare long life and perfect health.
My wish for thee is better by far than all others,
When you from this world depart, your soul may rest in heaven.

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene
It would be vain in life’s wild sea
To ask you to remember me
It will undoubtedly by be my lot
Just to be known now and then.
Amy S.

Sacramento, 1926
Two in a hammock
Ready to kiss
But in a jiffy
They went like sith.
Your botany friend, Rena

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene
Rena had a little lamb;
Her brother killed it dead.
Now she takes the lamb to school
between two hunks of bread.

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
Here’s to the flames of Heaven
Here’s to the flames of Hell
But darn the boy that will kiss a girl,
Then go around and tell.
Your friend, Helen

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene
When Cupid shoots his arrow,
I hope he “Mrs.” You.
Your friend, Hattie

Luton, Iowa, 1930
Dear Sis:
If you could look into my heart
and see the love that’s there
Then turn it into money
You would be a millionaire.
Your sis, Jen

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
I wish you luck.
I wish you joy.
I wish you first a baby boy.
When his hair begins to curl,
I wish you then a baby girl.
Your friend, Louise

Mason City, 1883
Friend Jessie
As gold more brilliant from the fire appears thus,
Friendship brightens by the length of years.

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
Life is like a deck of cards.
When you’re in love, it’s hearts.
When you’re engaged, it’s diamonds.
When you’re married, it’s clubs
And when your dead, it’s spades.
Your friend, Helen

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene
Yours till the “Dead Sea” comes to life.
Your botany chum, Maryellen

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene,
In the golden chain of memory,
Save one little link for me.

Sacramento High School, 1926
Dear Miss Irene:
One sunny morning in May
I sincerely sign my name.
Don’t forget the little Japanese girl
who doesn’t know anything.
Daisy Fujita

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene:
Some write for joy,
Some write for fame.
I write only to sign my name.

Reardan, Wash., 1900
Dear Friend
Remember me and bear in mind
A good true friend is hard to find
And when you find one good and true
Change not the old one for the new.
Your friend, Lula

Sacramento, 1926
Dear Irene,
As sure as grass grows around the stump
You are my darling sugar lump.
Your friend, Ada

Reardan, Wash., 1899
Dear Friend
When on this page you chance to look,
Just think of me and close the book.
Your friend, Omar

October 20, 1930
She’s big but cold and wears a sweater
Nevertheless boys,
You’ll have to go some to get her.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

We Hear From An American Soldier in Siberia in 1919

Letters from
Pvt. John D. Rudech
Company C, 31st Infantry Regiment
A.E.F., Siberia


The 31st Infantry Regiment was formed in The Philippine Islands in August 1916 from cadre of the 8th, 113, 15th and 27th Infantry Regiments. The 1st battalion was formed at Regan Barracks, the 2nd at Camp McGrath and the 3rd at Fort William McKinley. It bears the distinction of being the first organization created under expansion of the US Army under the National Defense Act of 1916.

On Aug. 13, 1918, the 31st sailed from Manila to Siberia. Its mission was to prevent Allied war material left on Vladivostock’s docks from being looted. Arriving in Siberia on Aug. 21, the regiment was broken into various detachments and used to guard the Trans-Siberian railway, as well as 130 kilometers of a branch line leading to the Suchan mines.

For the next two years, the 31st and its sister, the 27th Infantry Regiment, fought off bands of Red revolutionaries and White counter revolutionaries that were plundering the Siberian countryside and trying to gain control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. They also dissuaded their 40,000 Japanese “allies” from taking control of Russian territory.

The regiment suffered its first battle casualties on August 29, 1918, in action near Ugtolnaya. During the Siberian deployment, 30 soldiers of the 3st Infantry were killed (including one officer) and some 60 troops were wounded in action. In addition, a large number of troops lost limbs due to frostbite. For its service in Siberia, the 31st Regiment became known as “the Polar Bear regiment,” adopting a silver polar bear as its insignia. In April 1920, the regiment returned to Fort McKinley. There is much information on the internet concerning this little-known area of action.

The letters, dug out of a box of post cards found at a Sacramento flea market, are addressed to Mrs. H. J. Smith, 2930 J St., Sacramento, Private Rudech’s sister. It appears from the letters that Rudech’s family was involved in the local ice business, an irony concerning where he would be assigned. Readers can gain little insight into Private Rudech’s duties but can read between the lines as he becomes increasingly unhappy about the political situation that is keeping him from home. The letters start about three months after arriving in Vladivostok. In the final available letter Pvt. Rudech still has another year of service in Siberia.

October 29, 1918

Dear Sister
I am still located at the same place. Conditions remain about the same, except the weather which is getting pretty crimpy. I expect in a few days that they will issue us some warmer outfits. The caps that we will get look something similar to what those English sportsmen wear. They are very warm and comfortable. Before long, we will have enough wearing apparel on us to look like a brand new Christmas tree. But we won’t kick, for we will sure need all we get. For this weather sure has some kick to it. But we should worry, we are all prepared for it. How do you like my writing material. Some fancy stuff. What do you say. But it is just like sand paper to write on. It is made in Japan. I was over in town yesterday, which was Sunday, and took in the sights, and finally wound up at the YMCA, as usual. Before our trip across the bay, which takes us about fifteen or twenty minutes, to cross. We get across on a little flat bottom boat called a sand pan, propelled by Chino or Chinaman with a sort of a paddle which he operates from the rear of the boat. Which is surprising is the speed he can make. We always stop at the YMCA and get our glass of tea, everything is served in glasses. Now I mean tea, for I have been strictly decent ever since I left. I have tasted only one drink of booze. And that was some of this Vodka, just to see what it tasted like, and believe me it sure is some high powered stuff. When we go to town we have our tea and cakes. We have some pretty nice chickens, who serve the tea and cake at the YMCA. All the above statement is true, no fooling.
Brother Jack
Pvt. John D. Rudech
Co. C, 31st Infantry, AEF Siberia


Nov. 26, 1918

Dear Sister
I suppose this letter will reach you about Christmas so I might as well begin saying my Merry Merry Christmas, which I sincerely hope you and family will have. I wrote a letter to Ma yesterday and I would have written you this one if I had the required time. But what is the difference, a day or two. Especially over here. This letter I am writing today might beat the one I wrote yesterday. I really haven’t much news at the present time, outside of the fact the weather is getting colder, and quite frequent snow storms occur. The last storm was about five days ago and the snow still lays on the ground, in about the same depth as when it stopped. So you can imagine how the atmospheric conditions are. There is ice everywhere. The fellows go ice skating when they get a chance. It’s great sport. Our present location is in a very hilly and rugged country so when we go on expeditions of any kind, you can imagine how the walking is over ice and snow on the ground. It is some different from walking on Sac’s level and flat street streets. But I am enjoying it at that. Perfectly content considering the general circumstances. Of course, I would not care to stay here over three or four winters. The conditions here in Russia are still in a mixed up affair. Not really serious but sufficiently so to keep us here for some time yet. The war in general is practically over. We know that. So there is hardly any possibility of anything big pulled off, from all indications. How is Herb? Tell him I would write him a letter too but I have told you about everything I know at the present time, so write and let me know what the interesting news is. I am feeling fine and full of pep.
From your brother Jack
c/o Depot Quartermaster,
San Francisco, Calif.


Dec. 29, 1918

Dear Sister
A few days ago I received a couple of letters from you. One dated Nov. 9 and other dated Nov. 15. Both arrived at the same time. And I surely was glad to hear from you. The mail from home has been few and far between. But it seems as if everyone took the notion to write to me at the same time for I sure got a bunch in the last batch, something like eight or ten. And that has been about a week ago. And today has been my first real chance to answer any of them. I know real well I won’t be able to answer all of them today for that requires time. So yours is the first one I undertook to answer. And I am almost sure I will be able to write this one without being disturbed. For this is Saturday afternoon and as a rule, we have that much time pretty much to ourself. You mentioned in your letter about that box of good eats that you and Pa fixed up for me. Well I received it Thanksgiving morning. And I sure well cleaned up on it. And I sure appreciated it and want to thank you for it very, very much. I am glad to hear that you and Herb and the rest of the folks are well and escaped that epidemic. It never has reached here that I know of. I have heard of some cases in Japan, which is not very far away. Only about an eighteen hour run. You said something about Ma being worried about me going in swimming in the bay. Well, she need not worry now, or for some time to come, for that said bay and every one of them are well frozen up and thick enough to hold up a railroad train. And that is one reason for me writing in pencil – for my ink is all frozen up. But I probably will be able to thaw it out so I can address the envelope. Evidently you have been inquiring as to how many letters I have been writing. (Some nosey, huh?) Well I received them, post cards, and also them silk handkerchiefs from Ma. Which was very nice and really too much finery for this man’s game I am in. And I also received some newspapers from you. Which news I sure read even down to the advertisements. As to leaving here, I haven’t the least idea. There isn’t any indication of it yet. We will probably be here for some time yet. Our Christmas feed was fine, everything from soup to nuts. We had turkey, chicken, pork, mashed potatoes, two or three kinds of vegetables, two kinds of cake, two kinds of pie, plum pudding and coffee with cigars and cigarettes on the side., The only thing we lacked was wine, which I kind of missed, especially for Christmas.
(Pages now written on YMCA letterhead)
You will have to pass it to me for I have been on the water wagon ever since I left. Not because I have to, for I sure can get it and plenty of it and powerful stuff at that. But none for me. No fooling. And after our feed, we entertained about one hundred and fifty of the children of the neighborhood where we are located. We had a Christmas tree and gave them a feed which they never had in their life. For they sure did dig into it. And it makes a fellow feel good when he sees anyone enjoying a feed when they appreciate it. And after they got enough eating, they gathered around the Christmas tree and entertained us with singing. And before they left, we gave each one a pair of mittens and a big bag of candy. Most of the kids were chaperoned by their school teachers. Some chickens among these school marms over here. Well that entertainment was put on and paid for by us fellows in “Co. C” alone. I also received a letter from Herb and was sure glad to hear from him. He states that Dehn was considering to put up some kind of respectable living place. That will be great if he does, for it sure will increase the business. You can tell him the ice business would not be a very profitable business over here. For you can go right out of your backdoor and cut any size cake you want, from one pound up to many tons. I was very sorry to hear that Bert McDowell died. He was a good fellow. I surely sympathize with Herb for the long hours he has to put in, for that is a grind day in and day out. But I guess Sherman was right when he said “War is Hell.” If they keep on passing and making nationwide restrictions, like they have, I don’t know but what a fellow is just as well off over here from I can see. At least the civilians over here can eat and drink what they want. Well they said war is hell. But I think the biggest part of hell comes after the war is over, from all indications. Tell Fritz Stussey I received his greeting. And I wish to extend him mine. And also Fred Polk if you ever see him. Well I will close and state that I am feeling fine and in the best of health. With love to you and Herb,
Your Brother Jack
Pvt. John D. Rudech
Co. C, 31st Infantry, AEF Siberia
Via San Francisco, Calif.
PS: A little change in the address.


February 2, 1919

Dear Sister:
I received a letter about a week ago and sure was pleased to hear from you. I would have answered it sooner, if I had the necessary time. You have complimented me for laying off the booze. Well I am still on the wagon. Bur I sure long for a taste of good old Yankee booze. They have booze here, what they call vodka. But from what action it has on the other fellows, I don’t care for some. It sure is fire water, high powered stuff. No fooling. You have asked me if I am bothered with the chilblains. I am at times, but not any worse then I was at home. But see what I wear on the feet and then they get cold at times. I wear two pair of heavy wool socks, a pair of heavy field shoes and a pair of overshoes; sometimes in place of the field shoes I wear a pair of heavy arctic socks, also the two pair of heavy woolens with a pair of Indian moccasins. So you see this is a very tropical climate. The tide in the bay went out six weeks ago and froze on the way out and hasn’t returned yet. The ink freezes in the bottle indoors at times. So we have to thaw it out when we wish to write a letter. Some country. They have plenty of room for scenery here, but somehow or another forgot the scenery and left nothing but the room. We had another blizzard a little over a week ago. They are sure fine, you had ought to go through one for it sure is worthwhile. It makes a fellow appreciate God’s country when he is in it. It’s kind of hard to write this side of the sheet so if you can’t make it out don’t blame me. I was very sorry to hear Aunt Mary passed away. But it is the unavoidable. Uncle Tom must feel bad. I received a card from Aunt Sarah and a card and letter from Herb’s father so I wrote them both a letter last week. I was sorry to hear that Mr. Beaver lost one of his eyes by an operation. But he claims he feels much better since it has been done. So that is a whole lot.
(end missing)


Feb. 23, 1919

Dear Sister
Rec’d your letter of January thirteen and was mighty glad to hear from you, and to know that all of you are well; and also received some newspapers you sent me which I enjoyed very much. It sure seems good to read the news from home, even if it’s a little stale. For even at that, it’s got it on this local news. We get a paper from Japan about three times a week. It’s called The Japan Advertiser. Its fairly good, considering . We sure get a variety of newspapers from nearly every important center in the U.S. Different fellows get their paper from their home town, so we swap with each other. So if there is any important news pertaining to us, especially some that has been proposed, we know by the time we receive the news here in a newspaper, the proposition is already in effect. Some consolation anyway. In my last letter two I mentioned that we expect to move towards home next month. Well I am not so certain as to where we may go. It looks as if we might move next month, either farther in, or towards home. But it looks now as we might do the former. But I hope not, for I think it’s about due time to leave this neck of the woods. For as far as I can see, this affair over here is none of our business. You have asked me if the chillblains bother me. It’s surprising they haven’t bothered me as much as they did home. I guess this life is making me tuff. Well what I have seen already, and went through is enough to make anybody tuff, not only in physique, but also in manners and expression. You asked about the cake you sent me; it was in fairly good shape when it arrived here and sure tasted good. That was too bad about Bessie Flint. That flu stuff must be hell. And the Horrell’s are sure having their share also. We have been pretty lucky in our company so far. If I remember right I mentioned in the last letter to you about us being in quarantine, for measles and mumps; well they lifted that ban a couple of days ago. Which was surely greeted with cheers. One of the fellows just brought me news that he had read in today’s paper. By God it sure looks like we are going to be the goats in this affair. I thought I came into this Army because we were in war with Germany. They have been defeated. Now what has this situation got to do with us. It sure is “hell” when a man has got to give up his own business to make some for somebody else. “Ah, what’s the use.” A man will be a regular tramp when he gets released from this affair. Well, so far as my health is concerned, I am feeling fine. Hoping you and Herb and family are in the best of health.
Love, Your Brother Jack


March 16, 1919

Dear Sister
A few words to let you know that I am still here and enjoying myself. I haven’t much to talk about although this whole layout over here is a comedy as far as I can see. It is about due time to be leaving this neck of the woods. Believe me that phrase is surely appropriate for this occasion. All the fellows are getting thoroughly disgusted and quiet a bunch of them are doing something and going to the guard house. Now I don’t know who gets punished in this kind of deal. For us fellows, who try to do right, have to do double duty, that is, do our own and do theirs too. But, it’s a good world if you don’t weaken. For the last month, when we had nothing else to do, we have ben cutting ice off the ponds and storing it away, who for I don’t know. It is fairly good ice, and frozen about three feet deep. We have filled most of the storehouses around our locality as far as I can see. But they will find more for us. No fooling. I guess the ice game will follow me wherever I go. But at that I would rather do that then most of the other monotonous stuff we have to do. I sent you an issue of our regimental paper about a week ago. I hope you will enjoy it. It contained quit a bit of bull in it. The weather here is fairly good considering snow storms occur quite frequently. But not very heavy. Of course it is cold. But I don’t mind that. For I think this would be a very unhealthy country if it would be otherwise. How is Herb?. Tell him that I can furnish all the ice he needs this summer and also enough to furnish all the ice companies in California if need be. Well here’s love to you and Herb.
Your brother Jack

PS: I haven’t received a letter from you for about a month.


Feb. 15, 1919

Dear Sister
A few lines to let you know that everything is OK with me, outside of the fact that we are confined at the present time, and for some time to come, due to the quarantine, for mumps and measles. My bunky and about fifteen in the same platoon as I have gone to the hospital in the last three weeks for mumps. And I don’t know how many more have gone from the Company. But it is not serious. I haven’t mentioned anything to Ma about it. So, if I were you I wouldn’t mention it either. It looks as if we might get away soon from here, in about one more month. It seems as if they have come to some conclusion with the Bolsheviks where they have agreed to be decent. Well I hope it is so, for I sure have seen all of this country that I care to see. I received a letter from Ma and Pa yesterday and they say Matt is home. I suppose there is quite a (few) fellows returning. Well, I hope our turn will be very soon. For I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t . The weather is real good now. It’s beginning to feel like spring. How is Herb feeling. Did he get that kink out of his back yet? Is he still working it alone; if he is he sure deserves a medal of some kind. I am feeling fine and dandy as far as all is concerned. I am writing this letter by candle so if you can’t make out some of it, you will know what the reason is. So here is hoping that you and Herb are in the best of health.
Your brother Jack


April 19, 1919

Dear Sister

It has been some time since I last heard from you. So, even though my time is limited I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am still in existence, and in good health, even if I am not in the best temperament. This letter will have to be short and sweet. It is getting so, that we can’t write what we want. So I am not going to bull you and tell you how nice things are here. The weather is getting a little better and warmer, but we had considerable snow lately and it’s that wet kind that melts within a short time after it falls. How is Herb and the business getting along. It’s a cinch I am going into another year of this game. When we get away from here is another mystery to us. For there isn’t any indication of us leaving for sometime. If I can be given a good sound reason about our staying, doing the U.S. any good, I am willing to stick it out until hell freezes over. But not the way things are. We, you or no one else knows what good the U.S. will derive over our force staying in this land of filth and disease. Where the pigs, goats, dogs and in fact the whole barnyard menagerie, promenade in the kitchen or any other part of the home with the family. So I think it is about due time for the peace conference to cut out that League of Nations stuff. Which will be a detriment to our independence. And make some kind of peace and get us out of this land.
So here’s love to you and Herb,
Your Brother Jack


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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