Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Letters of Lieut. Ralph K. Blasingame

A review for General Godfrey Irving, temporary commanding officer of the 5th Australian Division. Lt. Blasingame writes: "The two leading sections is my platoon and was especially commended by Colonel MacDonald, inspecting for the General."

(Introduction: Here we have a set of 10 letters from Army Lt. Ralph Blasingame of
Chico Calif., as he reaches Europe in January 1918. Among his concerns for his family – including brother Harris on duty in Camp Lewis, Wash. – are bits of information from a very acute observer about his activities away from the actual battle front. )

From California to 'Over There'
On letterhead of the RMS Baltic.)
Jan. 11, 1918
Dearest Mother:
When you receive this I will have arrived safely "over there" and any worries you may have had will have cause to cease.
My stay in New York while short was very delightful as a result of the many kindnesses of new found acquaintances. To them I shall always be grateful.
Should Mrs. Frances Johnson or her daughter Amelia ever go to Chico, I know you will remember them.
New York is full of Jews, one dollar bills and a shortage of coal but for all that it is quite wonderful and worth the visiting.
How have you been? I hope that aren’t experiencing the rheumatism you generally have in the winter and I’m mighty thankful you haven’t this sort of weather to put up with.
We are very comfortably located however with plenty of warm clothes and you must know that I’m all OK and enjoying every bit of it.
The government is handling things so nicely that one could not be anything but cheery and I hope when you hear the dreary tales of some that you think of the yowls the come from the Border (?) and which were mostly founded on homesickness.
Have been very busy, otherwise would feel ashamed at not having written oftener. The stores here are great and it is a pleasure to shop in them - only wish that one of them was located in Chico; it would be fine.
I’m about to write a bunch of friends so will close, sincerely hoping that you are enjoying good spirits and health the things that ease my nightly offering.
Lots of Love
PS: My address is
Lieut. Ralph K. Blasingame
c/o Postmaster New York City, NY
Expeditionary Force
1st Lt. F.A.R.C. Unassigned
Please give this to my friends.
* * *

Meeting well-known shipmates
(Undated but most very soon after his arrival in France; say January 1918. Written in ink on two pages; first pages missing.)
The weather here is very clear and Lordy but it is cold. I can’t recall a time in my life before when I was as cold as I have been over here. It is doing me lots of good for I’ve gained eight pounds and feel very good. . . look good too.
We get very good food and as much as we need altho sometimes a person can’t help but think of some of the home things. I hid some of the cakes and candy in my trunk and just ate them last week from the box I got at Sacto (Sacramento).
It is very hard to get American cigarettes and the French ones are vile. I have a good stock in my trunk that will last for a month and I hope conditions change by then.
We’re situated in a very beautiful part of France and while we are too busy to make a detailed survey we see lots while working. I have been over quite a bit of England and France and just this week got located permanently.
Got a little thrill in the Tuscania (see below) mix-up. Had charge of the watch on the big nite but couldn’t see anything.
Our pay is being held up due to a shortage of vouchers but find it to my advantage as I will save more that way. Will be expressing it home when paid.
Met Irvin A. Cobb (see below) the writer on the way over and got well acquainted with him. He’s very funny and better conversationalist than he is a writer. Also met a Mr. Bouron, a member of the English Food Control. They are trying to get onion seed through S. F. Brokers and need them very badly. Also met Mr. Leslie, another member, and a very famous Englishman. I told him that Ennis Brown Co. was a good outfit to do business with and where he could get hold of you. They were all very nice to me and asked me to visit them in England.
Just had a call for war, will be writing again this week. There’s nothing ever happens here so don’t expect anything startling.
Love, Ralph
Post Office 718, A.E.F., France
Note: The Tuscania left New Jersey on Jan. 24, 1918, with 2,013 American troops and 384 crew. On Feb., 5, a torpedo from U-77 struck the ship. Troops were recovered by destroyer escorts but 230 people, mostly crewmen, died.)
Note: Irvin S. Cobb (1876-1944) was an American author, humorist and columnist who wrote 60 books and more than 300 short stories.
* * *
Cavalry training takes hold
(On YMCA letterhead with imprint: "On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Force.")
Feb. 1918
Dearest Mother
After many days of very hard work I again find time for a few lines. I have not been able to write anyone but you but I expect to be able to write my friends soon.
Have been traveling very much lately and between trains, motors, bicycles, and horses have been over considerable territory which for the most part have been very interesting. At last I am located for a period of time in one certain place and will be able to regulate my affairs.
My room is in an old chateau and it is beautiful. It is equipped with electric lights and a steam heater which doesn’t work altho it is very much needed. At present this difficulty is overcome however by a fireplace which makes it very pleasant in the evening while the fire lasts. It is very cold in the mornings here and as this building is of stone and hardwood I know you can imagine how I like getting up in the morning in such a place.
It is necessary to keep long hours here and the day is very full. Most all of us will look forward with pleasure to the week’s rest that comes in three months.
I have a very good boarding place for most of my meals and for my board and room I must pay something over two hundred francs, or about $50. I like the food and am getting fat on it.
Lt. Blasingame on La Bero.
The water here is not good and we drink wine and chocolate almost entirely. The coffee is very poor and I have never seen any tea altho I am living happily without them.
I have a riding lesson every day and enjoy it very much as I have a very fine horse. I also ride into the country quite a bit on a bicycle, an extinct sport in America.
The environment of this particular city is wonderful and I wish you could see it. There is a body of water spreading away under my window and I go out on the balcony and look across it each morning; it presents such a beautiful sight.
How is Paul? I think of him often. I certainly hope and pray that he may get well.
Do you hear from Harris? I would like for him to be with me for it would do him so much good in years to come. Give both he and Paul my love and say I will write at the first opportunity.
How have you been? I wish you were here for I am sure this climate would keep you feeling fine, it is really wonderful.
Tell the folks and friends I would be ashamed for not writing if I was not so busy. Will write them all soon.
Love to all, Ralph
Post Office 718
American Expeditionary Force

* * *
Early use of Daylight savings time; those mercenary French
U.S.P.O. 718, A.E.F.
March 14, 1918
Dearest Willette and Mal:
Just one month ago today, your wedding and Mal’s birthday anniversary, I arrived in this locality and it looks like good fortune favored me for we will be here for two months more at least. It is quite peaceful here and now that the weather is good we are enjoying a blissful existence.
Last week it was snowing and very cold but now it is very warm and generally nice altho we expect some rain anytime. The spring they have here is very mild except for a light frost in the early morning which is not enough to keep the blossoms back. The daylight is increased too and the sun doesn’t go down until 4:30 p.m. We like that part of it but it makes the day longer.
They do not separate the day here at noon but count the hours straight through which makes one-o-clock the 13th hour, 2 p.m. 14th, 3 p.m. 15th and so on up to 24. Also they set the clock up to increase the daylight for working purposes. March 9th they moved up one hour and it does save lots of time.
The French people are very mercenary as a general rule and I have decided to spend as little money with them as possible. They make no pretense at being otherwise when you catch them. Frankly I am very much put out with the shop keepers anyway for they certainly take advantage of every opportunity to cheat the American boys.
We are getting lots of action with the guns and I have gone in, in place of a gunner and fired quite a few shots. Just after a change of position the other day I sat in the gunner’s seat and the gun bucked pretty bad skinning my elbows and knees. The ground is very soft and it is necessary to put in platforms for the guns to keep them from sinking out of sight.
The equitation continues with fewer accidents which indicates that we getting better. I have a fine calloused seat and enjoy it more than ever.
Benson and I have moved and have a much better layout. We have two rooms now and use one for a clean-up place and the other to live in.
I would like to tour the this country in and out in peace time. It is so pretty in the spring and from the outside. The roads are marvelous for good weather travel and there is no traffic. Everything is along the road too and very convenient to use. They rebuild everything over here with a fine disregard for modern improvement.
A pile of manure marks the doorway of each rural doorway and it is more carefully guarded than the wood, altho both are treasured possessions.
I have just recovered from an eye infection which wasn’t very bad altho it made them look like sin. The Lt. Dr. that cared for it was very good and fixed it up without my going on sick report. Going on sick report generally necessitates no duty so we fixed it up with ??? on the outside. I got dust in my eyes and the whole country has been so liberally manured that the infection most likely came from that.
Authority permitting, I am sending Mae a cigarette torch made from the remains of a German belt buckle and shell fragments. The crippled artisan that made it almost ruined it by putting his regiment number on #13. They are very strict about medals being exported and I’m trying to get a jewelry classification on it.
The Belgium Burgomeister’s wife who resides close by was very attentive during my eye trouble and having been a Red Cross nurse gave some valuable help at the right time. There aren’t any American nurses here and that didn’t cut out the sympathy. She’s fat, forty and Belgium Blond (like Sis). Dirty fingernails didn’t spoil the good intentions and they are quite ?? over here.
How are the girls? I think of them every day and will be sending them something next express day. We can’t send packages every day or it would interfere with regular business.
How are the Haworths and the Phillips, Radcliffes and all the neighbors. Give them my best.
Also don’t forget to remember me to the Merrys, Cronny and Eva Mae. I intend writing them soon. I hope Cronny is having a better time of it than before.
I dream of Paul every other night and it worries me some. I sincerely hope he has that one opportunity in a million of getting well. If he had only received this sort of training he might never have been pulled down. I certainly shall advocate lots of physical training hereafter.
How is poor Mid? I wish for her sake that he could be more agreeably located.
Tell Mother she could have a swell time here going over these old chateaus. They are wonderful in some ways but having resided in part of one, I’ll take the modern ones. Knowing her fondness for examining old things, I often think of her when going in and out of the old roost.
Must do some studying so adios with much love,
* * *

A postcard of Chateau de Villegenis; Blasingame's room is marked with an "X."

A plea for coffee, cigarettes
U.S.P.O. 718 A.E.F.
Sunday, March 18
Dearest Mother
Today, Sunday, finds me in very good health and spirits and I hope you and the family are as well.
Benson and I moved today and have a very good room which is much closer to our work. It is also warmer than the other one which makes it all that could be wished for.
Explosions no longer furnish a thrill for us and our ears are adjusted to the noise. Nature certainly proved as well in every way. Our ears are filled with wax which comes in as fast as we wipe it out. We use a little cotton too, in addition to nature’s provision.
I filled in on a gun crew yesterday and had lots of fun. The ground is very soft from rain and snow which makes it a very poor seating for the guns and as I went on just after a change of position in the first that furnished a good ride before the trail spade became imbedded . The ground is so soft that is necessary to furnish a platform on change of position every 8 or 10 shots.
We are using quite a bit of trench material and they are certainly fine guns. I fired 40 shots in short order yesterday without any apparent heating of the gun which is remarkable.
The weather has turned off beautiful in the last couple of days and it is certainly appreciated. Only the early morning frost keeps the blossoms back and the middle of the day is wonderful. Violets are coming out and when on reconnaissance little boys come out with small bunches that their mother has put up for us. These little fellows are very bright and pick up English very readily. All of them can say "good morning" and is it is necessary to say "hello" to a thousand of them every day.
I had a slight infection in my right eye but it is gone now. The Lt. Dr. here is very good and knocked my infection in quick order. I was out on a motor trip and got dust in my eye from the machine ahead which mostly caused the infection. They manure the ground liberally here which makes infection from dirt more liable. When I get a scratch I paint it with iodine and the "new skin" to keep out infection.
I am learning considerable about riding over here and like it very much as I progress. If determination counts, I will be the best horseman they turn out. We are hurdling a bit now but just ordinary. Before we have finished we must go over a hedge and ditch and all sort of obstacles. Margaret Stuffer would like it because when one horse tires out you get another. They don’t figure to spare the horses and spoil a rider.
My dog hasn’t arrived yet but I have a good place to keep him on his arrival. We have a big washroom adjoining our bedroom which will make a good dog house.
We are doing a lot of reconnaissance work and it is fine. The outdoor part is the most attractive part but I am getting interested in sketching and tiny bit more professional at it.
Was examined by the Board on something that involves very high forms of mathematics and didn’t do very much. Thank the Lord I have a chance to bone up a bit. I have made up my mind to do my best but they know the extent of my math before sending me over from previous inquiries.
I am getting Bob a ?? and an identification bracelet which I will send the first time I get to town. That is, the town where I have them. Will get you some gloves like I wear as they are very good looking and much warmer that all the heavy things you can pile on.
They (the YMCA) have a very nice old lady name Mallow. She is solicitous about our health and habits and mothers us around in a good fashion. I like her very much she is so agreeable and ??? without a degree of partiality. She makes chocolate and coffee for us quite often and it is much better than that which we have.
If Anyone wants to send me anything tell them to send Hills Bros. Coffee and cigarettes. Also if Bob has lots of chocolates, one or two them will do.
Have been paid but can’t get to a place to send it home. Will be able to this week tho. We get enough francs each month to live on that we could live in France for years on them. I flashed a 1,000 franc note on a store woman the other day and she almost fell away in a faint.
I wrote Margaret a letter last week and suppose she will send it up to you.
Must get some shut-eye for the good of the service so adios my dear with lots of love to you and the sisters.
Note: "Bob" reference is Roberta Blasingame of Chico, Calif., a sister.
* * *
Using a 75mm gun as a 'heater'

April 5, 1918
Dearest Mother:
Your letter of March 6 came today and I’m very happy. I hadn’t received any before, except the one Dorothea M. wrote me and you can’t imagine how relieved I was to get this letter. I didn’t know myself till tonight but my spirits are so high tonight that it must have been that. I hadn’t any idea of how you were except what I assumed from the fact that you addressed Dorothy’s letter.
Was very glad to know Bob was again OK. I thought of her injured leg often and hoped it wouldn’t result seriously. I begrudged her hot irons when I was home and hot water bottles also, but since arriving over here have experienced two nights when I would have traded my extra shirts for one. Tell her if she intends joining the signal Corp she had but take advantage of them while she can. There are some over here. Next winter I intend warming up a 75 and by firing an evenings salute to the gun and taking it to bed with me.
I read the clippings with interest and you will be doing a kindness by enclosing some each time for I have always been glad to get them.
One of them recalled my letters from Harold Bishop and Mrs. Davis and for fear my other letters have gone astray will say I was unable to present them, much to my sorrow. I did however have a nice visit in England and liked it very much. I met some fine Britishers, too, among them being J. H. Bowron of the English Food Control, a Mr. Leslie also of the Food Control and several Army men. I met Major Bishop, the English ace (Aviation) and Major, and Major (Hugh) Nevin of Princess Patricia’s Own. I say Princess Patricia’s own because the English aren’t crazy about the term Princess Pat’s.
Also read Skinny Birmingham’s letter with interest. He is not far from here but I have ben unable to get over where he is. I have seen Fred A. twice on the side and could understand his writing regularly. Fortunately he had not been assigned up until then and had a few minutes in which to write. He is in the Art. (artillery) and kept so busy that it is impossible to write often. I have written each of the sisters once or twice at least from each stopping place and they should be getting them soon.
I had another letter from Willette which was very interesting. It came with yours and I felt that too many good things were happening at once. She told me of Melborne joining the Army and I was glad to know of it. He will be advanced in something worthwhile when the war is over as aeroplanes are quite the thing now. We have a much superior air force to that of the Hun and they are doing pretty work at present.
War is becoming a very scientific practice and anyone coming over here will be advanced when it is over. I would like to detail our work to you it is so very interesting but will have to wait until I get home.
I am still living a peaceful life and have but one advantage in living over here and this being able to see and know the Hun’s frightfulness and get early news from the different battles. I couldn’t wish one thing more than the complete defeat of the Hun’s entire forces. They are getting a good trouncing now altho they look good on paper.
Benson and I had a two days permission at Easter time and spent it looking over the country. We visited some very interesting places and had an enjoyable time. Will send some pictures, censorship permitting . We also had some very good meals. We get the same thing Birmingham spoke of except I think the price is a bit high. They don’t seem to have conscious stricken behavior so guess it is all right.
I have had a bad cold recently and a slight attack of tonsilitis but nothing serious. It was from change of under clothes I think as I have gone back to BVDs with the coming of good weather. Weighed myself the other day thinking that with light clothes I would lose what I had gained but continued fat. I was surprised to find I had gained more as I weighed 170 with all the clothes off. I’m getting to resemble Don more every day. Tell him I will write him my next permission.
There is one cloud on Benson’s and my horizon and that is, we are to lose our striker. He is a young Frenchman and goes in the draft tomorrow. He is quite tickled and joins others of the same age in parading the street singing battle songs. They don’t appear to be much affected here by attrition as he and others are quite old enough to go.
The spring is opening slowly but very kindly which makes us all feel very good. We are getting the necessary rain along with the sunny days. And while we don’t like the rains so much, they are tolerable. This is a beautiful country now but there is no country in the world that surpasses Chico in the spring. I am so convinced of that that many of the officers call me Chico.
Perhaps you would like some details of my trip over. It may be had in part by your reading Irvin Cobb’s article of March 9 Sat. Evening Post. I saw a little more of it that he did having been in charge of the Watch that evening. I didn’t see the Post but heard someone say it was in there and he was on my ship.
(See Letter No. 2)
How is the family? I think of them all often. I think of Harry and his car at this particular season for it would be swell to go queening in when all the world is young. Tell Ted that we have most of the ball players over here and that we need some good managers. Several I have seen know Ted very well.
Was sorry Laureen had to send you my bill but don’t let these worry you for they will be cared for as soon as I can get money orders for them. You might write any of them that send bills there saying I have not forgotten the obligation but many things interfere with a more prompt mail service and that they must be considered. I hope the folks at home don’t become impatient with the Army service for it is wonderful, everything considered. Things are much better here than they were in Arizona and our Gen. is a bear for organization.
We get efficiency evaluations right along and I sincerely regret the way I misused my opportunities in high mathematics. I hope it doesn’t cause my downfall and don’t
think it will but it takes lots of hard graft to keep up. The average citizen has no idea to what extent war has been developed. It is bringing all sorts of inventions out that will prove very valuable to the people at large once it is possible to disclose them.
I must get to work now but will write whenever possible and hope to hear from you often. Remember me to Bucknells, Ben Crouch and all of the friends and say I will write them as soon as time develops.
Love to all, Ralph
PS: New Address
c/o Army Artillery Headquarters
Note: Major Billy Bishop of the Canadian Royal Flying Corps, was credited with destroying 72 enemy aircraft. The Germans nicknamed him "Hell’s Handmaiden."
* * *
Lt. Blasingame aboard Cynquire.

Worries about flu on the home front
(Undated letter; typewritten single page; first pages missing.)
Enclosed is a picture taken of me day before yesterday by Capt. Hibbert and I think it is pretty good. He took it with my camera but the sun made me squint something fierce. I didn’t get one of the orderly and horse but will send one as soon as they are finished; also one of me on my first string mount which is a dandy. My first horse is called Cynquire and has a pedigree too long for reading; the other is call La Bero and was also from a fine old gang. Cynquire is the big bay and La Bero is the chestnut sorrel with the blazed face.
I am sending Margaret Stauffer some of the pictures also because she will like them if they have horses in them. She writes me wonderful letters in fact, the best ones I rhink. She never says anything about the family but Harris tells me all about Ben and his doings.
Our major has been made a Lt. Col. which is just for he is the best officer in our outfit in my estimation. His men come first and altho he is hard goer his heart is the in the right place. It is too bad that they all aren’t just like him.
One of the Lts. from the other battalion was here visiting with me yesterday and he tells me that they all lost all of their equipment in the last fracas. That has been the bane of my existence over here, getting new equipment to lose. Most everyone had the same luck however and I am not alone in distress. My field glasses and gas mask I kept with me and they are quite safe but all of my other instruments went up the flue.
I was quite alarmed to hear of the numerous deaths in Chico from the flu, especially when I learned that was your trouble but then along came Bob’s second letter saying that you were once again OK .... We had many men sick with it but didn’t lose a one and I haven’t heard of anyone dieing with it. It seems a shame that they can’t have some cure for it.
Barney Hoskins wrote me from over here the other day and told me that George (Tuffy) Rieff was in my outfit but I have been unable to find him after a careful search. I handled the replacements for the Brigade in one fracas and may have had Tuffy then but didn’t see him as there were any number of them. He isn’t with the old outfit either as I inquired for him there too. Hoskins writes that LeRoy Williams and Art Waltz’ wife were married and that Stotts and El were about to tie up. They are welcome to each other.
The daily papers we are getting here from the States seem to be detailing the war in general and if we don’t get home soon we will have nothing to tell. The men are anxious to get home but behave very well about it. These poor fellows here were denied a chance at the Front and just because they were so good, too. They were chosen to instruct the Candidates for three months. And did it so well that they kept them for three hitches. They were all worried about it too but we know what they would have done if they had been up there.
I am OD again tonight and must make a tour of the posts so goodnight my lovers with beaucoup love to all.

* * *
A long day in the saddle
(Undated, but most likely early fall 1918.)
Alors Mon Cherie Mere:
You mustn’t worry if my mail seems a bit irregular from now on because we have loads of work to do and it requires lots of my physical energy which in turn requires so much sleep. I know you won’t worry too because how can you with such a pretty little nurse. Tell Miss Elizabeth I love her deeply for taking such good care of my mother, and will always be in debt to her. Also give Capt. And Mrs. G my very best.
How is your health? I hope it is good and stays good for as you suggested in your last letter, a short time will find me home again and it wouldn’t do for you to be ill during the celebrating.
Those pictures you and Bob sent were swell and gave me something to stick in a frame I have. I framed the one of you and Elizabeth fooling with Bob’s cat. That’s a rotten cat by the way and when I get home with my German shepherd he’ll have to do some climbing around. I don’t see how you put up with him but from the pictures take it that you fell for this one, too.
Minnie’s letter and Don’s present arrived OK and I’m saving the handkerchief to put in my sock Xmas eve. Tell Don I’m very grateful and will bring him a Hun souvenir from Belleau Wood near Chateau Thierry. My box hasn’t arrived yet but it will . I don’t want it before Christmas anyway,.
It’s a wonderful feeling to know what a peach of a bunch of sisters I have. They all write as regularly and interestingly that I almost feel ashamed but I know they will excuse me.
Just for example so you may know a few of the things I have to do, here is a program. At seven each morning I must have my battery or rather our battery ready to march at 7 a.m. for service d’campaign or field service. The horses must be fed, housed, groomed, watered, fed and harnessed before this time so we get up all hours. This lasts until 5 p.m., then it is grooming, feeding, etc. all over again, plus cleaning of harness. On the side, I am preparing defense for a prisoner who I am defending before a special court., see to requisition of supplies, look over paper work, repair stables which are in bad shape, and once a week do a hitch as O.D. and that’s plenty for me. I am in the saddle about 8 hours per and find it doesn’t hurt my side - in fact it strengthens it.
The weather here is abominable, the rain never lets up and the mud is terrible. The horses sink to their hocks and the guns to their hubs every time we leave the road and then we have plenty to do, which is often. Io expect to tell you in my next letter that our camp has been flooded because we are on an island and both rivers are out of their banks below and above here. Lt. Moore and I are OK, however, as we live in a house just outside of camp and it is swell. We have a nice fire and manage to keep dry and warm in spite of the elements.
Suppose that you are getting some rain at home now that duck hunting is on full blast. I’ll be home for trout season you bet and deer season also. Can hardly wait altho we got two wild boars here last week. They are small but OK and we are to have them Xmas at the Battery Mess.
Haven’t heard from Harris this week but expect a letter any time as he is very regular with his correspondence. Can hardly wait for final results of his family venture. Don’t give a ____ whether it’s a boy or girl; either would be OK.
Well, Mother dear, must close as I am writing Harris so adios with beaucoup love . Also love to sisters.
* * *
Thievery on the front
Saumur, France,
December 6, 1918
Dearest Mother and All:
It has been some days since I had any mail but the last bunch I had makes me feel that I owe numerous letters to you all. There is absolutely nothing of interest happening in this place and it makes writing very difficult unless we tell of the camp details and they aren’t interesting to civilians.
Suppose you are having the usual December weather at home which calls for lots of rain. Here it has been very nice for the last four days except for a disagreeable mist that hangs about every morning. The sun went out nice and warm this afternoon so I had a bath and promenade on my horse.
Now that war has been called off we have some wonderful horses and each day finds us riding a couple of hours at least. The US Government bought the thoroughbreds that formerly belonged to this school and we had our pick of them in order of rank. I have been using two and hope to get home with one of them. They are certainly wonderful horses the of the Arabian type. They are very nervous at present due to the fact that they have been brought up in a riding school and they don’t know what it is to be taken out on the roads where we encounter automobiles, etc. They are sensible animals however and getting used to outdoor life. My side won’t stand any trick stuff just yet but the other officers are on the steeplechase course every morning showing what their horses will do.
It seems a shame to burden you with any of my minor troubles but you may as well know about them for they are only serious in one way. I have lost all of my equipment and I can’t help but think it was stolen enroute here. My bedding roll or the remains of it came in the other day and I would much rather have lost the whole works than to have seen what was left of it. Thank the Lord they didn’t take my mattress but that was about all that was left of it; they also left a Hun cartridge pouch but took some others just like it plus other trinkets. My orderly at the front was a dandy at rolling the outfit up and I know that it was shipped in good condition but it was a sorry wreck when it arrived here. All of my clothes went too.
Our work is slackening up some and we aren’t as busy as formerly which makes it a bit better for the men who have worked hard and faithfully. I am especially glad for we will now have an opportunity to get them in fine shape for the Reviews that we will most certainly have when we get back. It is hard to say then that will be but it isn’t far off.
Suppose Harris will be getting home soon now to family. They have asked most of us if we wanted to remain in the army or not and I said that I did. I would hate to go home if I could relieve any of the men who went thru the last month of the fighting when I was in that wonderful hospital. They certainly deserve every possible favor for they caught ----.
If you try any more of that flu stuff I don’t know what I will do with you. Bob writes me that you aren’t the best patient in the world as you insist upon eating and drinking everything on the list. I don’t blame you for eating because it had me out of bed and back to work long before they said I would be out. You must take good care of yourself because we will have lots of chasing about to do toot des suit.
Some of the Xmas packages are coming in and the Capt. allowed them to be distributed as they arrived and in that respect I disagree with him for I think they should be saved until Xmas day for they would enjoy them that much more. Of course in this manner of letting them out as they arrive we avoid a rather spare few feeling of the men who might not get theirs on time,
(No signature)
* * *
An equestrian challenge
APO 795 A.E.F. France
February 22, 1919
Dearest Mother and Bob:
It has been some days since last I wrote but they have been very busy ones that did not permit it. We are doing about 5 hours of mounted drill daily now in addition to instruction in different things for the men and it not only takes up all of our day time but we must study some ourselves.
The weather here has turned off warm and nice and besides a little rain about everyday it is OK. The ice and snow have disappeared and we are living quite comfortably.
Hope you are all in good health etc. We haven’t had any mail for a week or more and don’t expect any for sometime and I am expecting a whole bag full soon. Tell Ted he mustn’t let the winter weather get him down because we will be on for some duck shooting next winter. Hope Ted is well and going by now.
The enclosed pictures are of our stable area, my two horses and orderly, my pup at one and a half months old, and a little French girl who I talk with to improve my French. The girl’s name is Theresa Fontaine and they live quite near the stables. She speaks English very well and I learn a word or two every day when she is home from school. There is a little American girl here that comes by with this one that is the step daughter of a French officer. Her family lives in the east in the states. My pup is quite large now and tonight had a first rate trimming from yours truly because he wouldn’t mind. Now he is sulking down with the horses. He is exactly like a young coyote altho he is as large as the average grown one now. He eats enough for a soldier three times a day and shooting up like a weed. They are very sensitive dogs and as stubborn as mules but I think American treatment will make a dog out of this little Hun.
The other picture is a flame thrower demonstrating liquid fire. This is terrible stuff as you may observe and while it was not used very much at the front there were times when it was necessary. This particular apparatus is controlled but the Boche apparatus was as dangerous to himself to use if he happened to be wounded as it would continue to spout regardless of where it was pointed.
Lt. Slensby and myself are drawing up a challenge to the entire A.E.F. for a high jumping contest and general field meet with horses and we expect to win it easily. His horse jumped six feet with him up the other day from a tan bark takeoff over a foot deep and on soil ground will have no trouble in going 7 feet. Slensby is the best rider for jumping that I have ever seen and we are going to include all of the Allies in this challenge. My horses are a trifle over average in most everything and we have some others that are good for any distance in a running race. When the Cavalry School at Saumur broke up we got the pick of the horses and believe me we have some dandies. My orderly rides a better horse than many a poor general ever had at the front or any other place for that matter. C’est la guerre. Every division is having a horse show here now but we haven’t entered as yet because when the different generals see our horses it will be fini horses so we are delaying as much as possible so that we can step out just before going home.
Here is the end of the sheet and nothing of interest to write about so will close with love to all.
* * *
Destroyers on the Canal
(On American Red Cross stationery.)
March 3, 1919
Dearest Mother and Bob
Had numerous of your letters yesterday, most of them telling of the 6 letters returned. I think the dates were for the later part of January. Was glad to learn you were both OK once more and hope you don’t get down again.
At present my baggage is located in Gerauvilliers, a small village 5 kilos east of Gondrecort, but yours truly is at Toul, and just now waiting for Geo. Malloy to come down and see me. I phoned him that I was at the Officers Rest Billet but he was not there so left a message with someone out there.
The other Sunday, I was officiating at a foot-ball game at Saumur and the visiting team put in a new man; the new man was Cussick Malloy so when I talked with him he told me that George was here. Today I had an ammunition train out and stopped over here for the night. I hope Geo. comes down.
Saw a strange sight today - 3 British destroyers here at Toul. Look on your map and you can imagine how queer it really seemed to find 3 miniature battleships steaming alongside the road. It merely goes to show how complete the European Canal system is. There are places where this particular canal passes over the Mouse River on a bridge, too. The canals are continued from one water system to another by tunnels and bridges and this particular one connects the Marne and the Rhine.
My automobiles are without headlights and I was forced to stop here for the night, as my load is ammunition already fired and it would hardly do to go over a bank with it.
The weather while rainy is somewhat better than usual as it is not so cold. Today was really quite warm and nice except for a drizzle of rain.
We have lots of work to do here and it keeps one busy all of the time. The work has let down a bit this week but we have so much cleaning to do that the task seems endless.
Had some letters from Harris too the other day and of course he pats himself on the back about Dean. I hardly blame him.
My pup is growing so fast I don’t know what I will do about him when I start home. He had a battle with a cat yesterday and came out OK.
Gee but I am itchy. I think I have everything from scabies to lice since sleeping in the French house last night.
Geo. hasn’t shown up yet and it’s getting late for me as I must be up at 4:30 tomorrow, so love and good night. Ralph
No signature

Monday, March 3, 2008

More 19th Century Teen Autographs

The following autographs are supplement to those in the Post below, "Our Changing Language - Through Autographs." These date from 1885-87 and are addressed to Louie Willits of Liscomb, Iowa, and seem to have been penned by teenagers. In a few cases their thoughts are incomplete or they became hurried in leaving their notes. Or, it may be that 123 years ago, teenagers had different ways of expressing themselves.

Initially, I believed Louie a boy to be;
On second thought, I see Louie was a she.

Dear Louie:
Nothing gratis is easily won.
Your Friend and School Mate
Nettie Armstrong
PS: Remember our slay (sic) ride.
Friend Louie
So thou sweet rose bud young and gay
Shalt beauteous blaze upon thee,
And bless thy parents evening ray
That watched thy early morn.
Etta McEarly

Remember me when this you see;
Put on your eyes and think of me
Ola Detrick
Dear Louie
Remember me and always be true.
Nettie Middleton
PS: True and wise, you’re never despised.
Lock up thy heart,
Keep safe the key,
Forget me not
Till I do thee.
Your friend,
Maud Elliott
May your joys be as deep as the ocean,
And sorrow as light as the foam -
Is the wish of your friend,
Gertrude Wilkey
Friend Louie:
I will not wish you all sunshine,
As many other has done;
But just enough sadness
To soften the glare of the sun.
Ever Your Friend,
Nellie Tripp
Friend Louie
When in the grave my head doth lay,
Beneath the cold and silent day
And just one story is left to tell
Of one who loved you true and well.
Your Friend and Schoolmate,
Maggie Elliott
To Louie
Remember me early,
remember me late
remember the boy
you kist at the gate.
Edie Speicher
Dear Louie
Roses are red and roses are yellow and
you are the girl that stole my fellow.
Your Friend,
Iva Elliott
Friend Louie
It has not been long
Since we, as stranger, met.
The sun of friendship has risen;
O, may it never set.
Nancy Miller
Friend Louie:
What’s in your mind let no one know,
Not to your friend your secrets show;
But if your friends become your foe,
Then every one in your mind will know.
Mary Miller
Dear Louie:
The path of sorrow and that path alone,
leads to that land where sorrow is unknown.
Coda Johnson
PS: Remember the 1st of May, 1886.
(This note was written May 26, 1886.)
Remember me is all I ask,
I have no other claim.
But if remembrance be a task,
Think only of my name.
Alice Starks
Dear Louie,
Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again;
Wisely improve the present, it is the thing;
Go forth to meet the shady future without fear and with a brave heart.
Ever your friend,
Isabel Trease
Dear Louie:
When the distant sun is setting,
When your mind from care is free
And of distant friends you’re thinking
Will you sometimes think of me.
Your friend
Coline Murdock
To Louie:
Sailing down the stream of life
in your little bark canoe,
May you have a pleasant ride
with your room enough for two.
Etta Heiffner

Sunday, March 2, 2008

An Updated Post on the Sailor's Inventory

By a roundabout path, a reader who apparently has had some experience defining early letter writing, comments on the possible identity of the ship's officers who took the inventory on the deceased sailor's possessions (See post "Aboard the Brig Grey Hound" below).
He says the second word pictured appears to be "suppos'd." That works for me.
He remarks that the phrase "on Turks Island" looks like it was added as an afterthought. Likely, but less of an afterthought than a reckoning of the ship's position, there being a time difference between the seaman's death and the inventory.
My reader goes on to remark that the Captain's name looks like "Nodin" or "Nodan."
Further, it looks to him like the document was signed by one "Hippiarto Wharton." (This most likely would have been the ship's second in command, or the purser.)
I sincerely thank the reader for his input and will continue my searches in an attempt to identify the type of ship, what it was doing in the Caribbean in 1815 and perhaps to learn more about its travels and adventures.
To further aid in attempting to read that portion of the inventory, I have added illustrations of the complete inventory. Please excuse my inability to make clear, contrasting copies.