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´╗┐Title: At Plattsburg
Author: French, Allen, 1870-1946
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "At Plattsburg" ***




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New York
Charles Scribner's Sons

Copyright, 1917, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Published April, 1917




To describe military scenes is always to rouse the keenest scrutiny from
military men. I write this foreword not to deprecate criticism, but to
remind the professional reader that, while the scenes I have described
are all from experience, the aim in writing them was not for technical
exactness, often confusing to the lay reader, but rather for the purpose
of giving a general picture of the fun and work at a training camp.

Nowadays we are making history so fast that readers may have to be
reminded that last summer occurred the mobilization on the Mexican border
of most of the regular army and many regiments of the National Guard, a
fact which considerably affected conditions at Plattsburg.

The "Buzzard Song," which my company used with such satisfaction on the
hike, was written by a camp-mate, John A. Straley, who has kindly allowed
me to use it, with a few minor changes.

                                                           Allen French.

Concord, Massachusetts,
  April 3, 1917.



                                   On the train, nearing Plattsburg.
                                           Friday morning, Sep. 8, 1916.


Though you kissed me good-by with affection, you know there was amusement
in the little smile with which you watched me go. I, a modest citizen,
accustomed to shrink from publicity, was exposed in broad day in a badly
fitting uniform, in color inconspicuous, to be sure, but in pattern
evidently military and aggressive. What a guy I felt myself, and how
every smile or laugh upon the street seemed to mean Me! The way to the
railroad station had never seemed so long, nor so thronged with curious
folk. I felt myself very silly.

Thus it was a relief when I met our good pastor, for I knew at the first
glance of his eye that my errand and my uniform meant to him, as they did
to me, something important. So strong was this comforting sense that I
even forgot what importance he might attach to them.

But fixing me with his eye as I stopped and greeted him (being within
easy hurrying distance of the station) he said in pained surprise: "And
so you are going to Plattsburg?"

Then I remembered that he was an irreconcilable pacifist. Needing no
answer, he went on: "I am sorry to see that the militarist spirit has
seized you too."

Now if anything vexes me, it is to be told that I am a militarist. "Not
that, sir," said I. "War is the last thing that I want."

"Train a man to wield a weapon," he rejoined, "and he will itch to use
it." I think we were both a little sententious because of the approach of
the train. "Your argument is, I suppose, that the country is in danger?"

"Exactly," I replied.

He raised both hands. "Madness! No one will attack us."

I refrained from telling him that with so much at stake I was unwilling
to accept even treaty assurances on that point. He went on. "The whole
world is mad with desire to slay. But I would rather have my son killed
than killing others."

He is proud of his son, but he is prouder of his daughter. Said I, "If
war comes, and we are unprepared for it, you might have not only your son
killed, but your daughter too."

Horrified, he had not yet begun to express himself on the impossibility
of invasion, when the train came. So we parted. To tell the truth, I am
not sorry that he feels so: it is very ideal. And I regret no longer
having my own fine feeling of security. It is only a year or so ago that
I was just such a pacifist as he.

If I in my new uniform was at home a curiosity, when I reached Boston I
found myself merely one among many, for the North Station was full of
Plattsburgers. There is great comfort in being like other folk. A thick
crowd it was at our special train, raw recruits with their admiring
women-folk or fun-poking friends. The departure was not like the leaving
of soldiers for the front, such as we saw in July when the boys went to
Texas. We should come back not with wounds, but with a healthy tan and
much useful experience. So every one was jolly, except for a young couple
that were walking up and down in silent communion, and sometimes
furtively touching hands--a young married pair, I thought, before their
first separation.

We were off without much delay, a train-load wholly of men, and all
greenhorns. For all of us had nice fresh crinkly blouses, and olive-drab
(properly o. d.) knees not yet worn white (as I have seen on returning
Plattsburgers) while our canvas leggings were still unshaped to our manly
calves. Our hats were new and stiff, and their gaudy cords were bright.
And we were inquisitive of the life that was ahead of us, readily making
acquaintance in order to compare our scraps of information. Dismay ran
here and there with the knowledge that the typhoid inoculation required
three weekly doses. Thank goodness, that is over with for me. We tried to
be very soldierly in bearing, evidently an effort in other cases than
mine. One fellow had his own gun along; he wanted, he said, to make a
good score on the range. So I had my first chance to handle an army

You know that when I left, you had been worrying as to how I should stand
the strain of the coming month's work. I will admit that I have been
wondering about it myself. I have worked very hard for the last few
years, practically without vacation, in order to marry as suited Vera's
ideas. And then, two years after she had said Yes, and when my earnings
ought to satisfy any woman, began the complex strain of the breaking of
the engagement--the heart burnings, the self-searching, the difficult
coming to an understanding. And now that she and I have parted friends,
with both of us quite satisfied, I have been realizing how much run down
I am, so that it has seemed quite possible that Plattsburg life might be
too strenuous for me. But a good look at my companions has made it clear
that I can stand up with the average of them. A fair number of them, to
be sure, are brown and seasoned by the summer. But quite as many are pale
and stooped from desk work, or pasty from good living. If I fall out, I
shall have plenty of company.

I write this letter while the train is approaching Plattsburg. When I
woke this morning we were at a standstill in some railway yard, and
beside us was standing another train, labelled like ours, doubtless
carrying the New York men. It drew out ahead of us, and I suppose its
inmates are now debarked, and gawking about them as presently my
companions and I shall gawk. Tonight I shall write again. Affectionately



                                     On the Train to Plattsburg.
                                              Friday morning, Sept. 8th.


It is unlucky that both of our cars were out of order just when I was
starting for Plattsburg. For the train has been very hot and stufy, and
so crowded. I tried once more to get myself a statroom, but when the
agent said I should have to be with three other men, then I just gave up,
and got the porter to make up my upper birth early, and climbed into it
though I wasn't sleepy at all. But it was something to get by myself and
be a little privat.

I spoke to a few of the fellows, but I couldn't make much out of them.
One had never been to college, and another knew nothing of automobiles,
and another began talking about the drill regulations, but you know I
never even bought the book. The whole train was one big smoking car, and
some fellows near me were very noisy over a game of poker.

I suppose I shall mannage to get along with these fellows, because I know
I must if I want what father promised me, and if the fellows at the
Casino aren't to laugh at me. But so far as I can see, everyone on the
train isn't at all my kind. Father doesn't understand how I feel about
fellows who are not in our set. I don't look down on them, you know, for
I'm sure most of them are very nice fellows of their sort. But I never
knew anyone of their kind before, and what am I to talk to them about?
Its all very well for father to say that I can get something worth while
from every man I meet; but he's a business man, and so he's used to them.

You mustn't think I'm unhappy if I say I shall miss you and shall hate to
be confined by the camp regulations. I'm not going to back out for father
and cousin Walt have put it up to me to see the thing through and though
I'm kind of used to disapointing father I don't intend that Walt shall
think I'm sandless.

But when the camp breaks up you must be sure to be here, with the
Rolls-Royce, to take me home. I don't think I could stand another trip
like this. Love from,



                                                Plattsburg Camp.
                                                Friday evening, Sept. 8.


I had scarcely finished my letter of this morning when the train began to
slow down, and then drew up alongside a wide and gently sloping field,
while on the other side was the lake. With our luggage we poured out into
the field, evidently our training ground, since beyond it were tented
streets, with some big open-sided buildings that doubtless had some
military use, since we saw rookies going in and out. In haste to get our
share of what was to be had, we consulted the printed slips handed to us
in the train.

"On arriving at camp: First, Carry your hand baggage to the Y. M. C. A."

Where was the Y. M. C. A.? There was no building standing near of even
so much as two stories. There were tents and there were shacks, but even
when we came to a street busy with electrics, automobiles, motor trucks,
and foot passers, nothing of any size was to be seen. But as I followed
along with the rest, noting that almost everybody we met, from the riders
in the autos to the drivers of the trucks, was military, I saw a skeleton
structure, tar-paper-roofed, and bearing the magic letters for which we
were looking. There regulars--artillerymen with red-corded hats--received
our bags through the open frontage and stored them alphabetically.

"Second. Go to the mess-shacks for breakfast."

We went. We breakfasted. The mess shacks were those other open-sided
buildings on the drill-field which I had already seen; their
construction, being merely tarred roofs on posts and walled with mosquito
netting, promised no elegance of fare. Nor was the fare elegant: milk,
coffee, cereal, hard boiled eggs, bread, butter, a bruised apple. The
milk was of two kinds, real and canned. Used in the coffee, or with sugar
on the cereal, the canned milk was good enough as poured from a hole
punched in the container; but a wise man near me prophesied that I should
not like to drink it when diluted. Flat, he said. Tasted like chalk.
Doubtless it was chemically correct, but (you see how scientific he was)
the metabolism of the body despises chemical synthesis, and for real
nourishment the palate must be satisfied.

"Third. At once after breakfast go to the Adjutant's Office and enroll."

So we stood in line, and when on nearing the window of the office I heard
the Adjutant say to a predecessor, "Where's your thirty dollars?" I got
out my greenbacks and presently paid them in, twenty-five for our
maintenance at camp, five to be returned if during our stay we had not
damaged any of Uncle Sam's property. And since the adjutant assigned me
to a company, I began to feel that I was getting somewhere.

"Fourth. Exchange your baggage checks for camp claim checks."

None of that for me. I had known enough to bring but a large suit-case,
leaving behind everything that I could persuade myself was unnecessary.
There was a memorandum on the printed slip to the effect that trunks and
other large pieces of baggage would be stored at the post barracks, where
owners could visit them on Sunday mornings. A sad weekly ceremony for one
who had to choose from an excess of luxuries!

"Fifth. Report to the officer commanding your Company."

I did not find him. Though again I stood in line, this time with men with
whom I was to associate, those to whom I reported in the Orderly Tent at
the head of H company street were but sergeants and volunteers like
myself, though men of more experience, as I could tell by their weathered
uniforms and faded hat-cords. They filled out a card concerning me, led
me to the tent pole, and measuring my height with a crude but effective
instrument, announced "Tent Eight."

"Sixth. Bring your hand baggage to your tent."

So I brought it from the Y. M. C. A. Now the topography of the camp is
thus. Just within the enclosure, and parallel with the street outside,
runs the officers' street, their tents along one side of it, each with
its little sign bearing the occupant's name. From the other side, toward
the drill ground and the lake, lead away the company streets with double
rows of khaki tents facing each other. All were on a thin and barren
soil, where between the tents some few weeds straggled, while everywhere
else men's feet had killed all growth. No! For in front of one of the
tents, under the protection of its ropes, grew a half-dozen thrifty pansy
plants, all in bright bloom. But elsewhere all was brown sand that looked
as if it might blow dust in clouds, but which also, I was glad to see,
looked as if it might absorb all ordinary rains. The street, about midway
of its length, rose a little, then dropped, and straddling this ridge I
found Tent 8, in the best possible position should the weather turn wet.
As I entered, stooping, I peered about the shadowed interior.

The dry floor was ploughed into holes and ridges by the feet of the last
occupants. One man, bearded and grizzled, was sitting on a cot in one
corner, exploring the interior of a big blue canvas bag; a professor or
doctor person, who gave me one keen glance, briefly said "Good day," and
went on with his occupation. A second bed, already neatly set up and
equipped, stood in another corner. Its owner, lithe and keen, a fellow of
about twenty-five, was watching a third, man-sized but boy-faced, who was
struggling with a cot in its chrysalis stage, being apparently quite
unable to unfold it. I knew the lad at a glance, young David Ridgway
Farnham 3d, whose cousin Walter was in my class, to whom I was best man,
as you remember, some five years ago. Now young David has been the
laughing stock of the family, spoiled with riches and an indulgent mamma.
Walter told me that many tutors, on princely salaries, just managed to
get him through Harvard this year. And here he was at Plattsburg!
However, he couldn't know me, so I disposed my things in a corner.

The lithe and keen person seemed lither and keener at second glance. He
was of a splendid blond type, with flashing blue eyes; everything about
him was perfectly straight, his backbone, his nose, his close-cropped
fair hair, the thin-lipped mouth, the drop of his chin, and even the
precipitous fall of his high cheek-bones. He had not noticed me at all,
so intent was he on the struggles of young Farnham. A very efficient
person he seemed, and immediately proved it. For Farnham, with that
appealing helplessness which I remember in him as a charming child (you
know that with his brown eyes, curly hair, and rosy skin he's as handsome
as a girl) looked up at his watcher. He immediately said: "Bend the leg
the other way. Now the next one. Now spread the whole thing out. Now
spring those two cross-pieces into place." But even then, though the cot
had gained a recognizable shape, Farnham was still baffled. His hands
were soft, and so were his muscles. "This way," said the other after a
moment. And sitting on the cot, with his feet he forced the cross-bar at
one end into position, then swung about and put the other one into place,
and the thing was done.

"Thanks," said young David, politely but not warmly, in a way that showed
how used he is to being waited on. "Have a cigarette? I suppose we
shall--er--room together. My name is Farnham."

"Mine is Knudsen," said the other. And then I appreciated the cause of
his blondness.

"I'm from Harvard, class of 'sixteen," said young David. Well-grown as he
is, I couldn't help thinking of him as young.

"I'm from Buffalo," said Knudsen shortly. "I run a foundry there." His
blue eyes were unwavering and quite expressionless as he looked Farnham

"Farnham? Farnham?" said the man with the short pointed beard. The others
turned and looked at him. "I remember now. You were in my section in
English A, your Freshman year."

"Oh," said young David. "Professor Corder. Of course. How de do? I
remember that you flunked me."

"But you got through English D after two tries," said Corder. "Such is
college life."

As none followed up the subject, I asked where they got their equipment.
On their direction I went to the store-tent at the head of the street,
where on the strength of my signature an obliging regular intrusted to me
various listed articles, which I lugged to the tent.

This domicile is in the shape of a pyramid on a three foot wall, about
sixteen feet on a side, the whole supported by a solid post held by an
iron tripod. The tent contains eight beds, the corporal's always to the
right of the entrance, the others in a mystic order which I will not
bother you with. As yet we did not know how we were to fall in, but I set
up my cot modestly among the rear rank, put under it my suit case, laid
on the cot a mattress and pillow, properly cased in light duck, and
garnished the whole with three blue blankets which promise comfort in
this September weather. And then I dove into the blue bag.

First on the list, a sweater, o. d., like all the outfit, and very heavy.

A poncho. A rubber oblong with button-holes along three sides, and a
slit, provided with a collar, less than halfway down the middle.

A shelter-half. That was the strangely shaped piece of brown duck, in
pattern something like a big old-fashioned kite, with unsymmetrical
button-holes and loops of rope.

Five tent-pins. Aluminum, ridged and bent.

A pack. A queerly outlined piece of canvas, provided with straps of
webbing, wider or narrower, with buckles, rings, and a big pocket. Its
attachments numerous and incomprehensible.

A cartridge belt. Easily recognized, with its many pockets and numberless

A first-aid kit. In a sealed tin box, buttoned in a pocket attached to
the belt.

A canteen in a cloth case. Not flat and circular, but solid and bulky.

A bacon tin. Hm--a small box?

A condiment can. A double ended contraption, in one end of which had once
been powdered chocolate.

A meat can. An oval sauce-pan, with a lid over which the hinged handle
shuts down.

A knife, fork, and spoon.

I stuffed them away again, shed my blouse, as I saw the others were
doing, and was therefore ready when, our squad having filled up, the call
came for us to fall in. Out into the street we tumbled, each of the dozen
and a half tents furnishing a squad, the squads falling in according to
number. The sergeants formed us, got us into column of squads, and
marched us away down the public street, where military persons of all
kinds went by, from lone privates to officers driving automobiles, and
where the only notice taken of us was by civilians in motor-parties, who
came to see our zoo.

So here I was, for the first time in my life marching in the ranks, like
any private not knowing where or why. For a quarter, a half, three
quarters of a mile we went at a quick pace on the macadam, till my soft
tissues knew what was meant by the "hammer, hammer, hammer on the hard
highway." And my misery had plenty of company. The man in front of me, a
bulky person, was wringing wet, and I saw another fellow with the sweat
actually dripping off his chin. It was a welcome relief to turn in at a
big gate, pass between brick buildings, and come onto a great grass field
across which we marched directly toward a building with a long portico,
on which the sight of rookies waiting promised us rest. Very willingly we
broke ranks at command. We learned from our predecessors that we were
there for physical examination.

When our turn came at last it was all very brisk and business-like, and
soon I was passed as being sound in body and feet. With most of us the
ordeal was equally successful; but one poor chap sat melancholy in a
blanket, waiting for a second test. Then I straggled back to camp with
Professor Corder, who confessed himself just under the age-limit of
forty-five. In spite of his successful examination he acknowledged a
little anxiety as to whether he could stand the work; has coddled
himself, he acknowledges, for years; worries about the effect of woollen
stockings: I imagine that most men of his age here have some such

When enough of us had dribbled back to camp we were again assembled, and
were taken down to the drill-field by the sergeant. And there for the
first time in my life I saw a West Pointer at his work. He appeared from
somewhere, and the sergeant handed us over to him. A tall and lithe
fellow he is, so graceful that not even his military carriage can
disguise it. He has an olive-dark skin, hair that curls at the temples,
black eyes, nose straight and thin, and lips curving like a woman's. Give
him the drooping mustache of older days, and what a romantic figure he
would make! I knew him at once for a Southerner, from his coloring, his
physical beauty, and a slight trace of languor, real or affected.

But he knew his business. There is an uncertainty about the sergeants, as
thinking "Am I doing this right?" But though he looked at us out of eyes
that were a little sleepy his tenor was clear as a silver bugle, and (if
you can excuse the mixture of similes) it snapped like a whip. No
hesitation, nor even any thought as to what he should do next. We
straightened at the first command he flung at us, and in three minutes we
were working to please him. The position of a soldier! Was there the
slightest spark of amusement in his eyes as he described it to us, as if
to say "You mob of clerks and manufacturers and professional men can't
really take this position"? I never "lifted and arched" my chest so
thoroughly. Did he intimate as he gave his other commands, "You men may
play at doing this, but really it takes a soldier to succeed"? If this
was his meaning, certainly it put us on our mettle. What he gave us were
the facings and the steps and marchings, the simple movements by fours,
guiding and dressing. When we blundered, there was his little concealed
smile to make us swear to do the thing right next time. As we marched he
kept pace with us, and then all his languor was gone. His step was
springy, his arms swung, his eye roved up and down the line, and he
snapped out his "One, two, three, four!" each like a little pistol shot.
Remarked Corder, beside me, "His time is absolutely perfect--do you
notice?" I had noticed. The sergeants tried to imitate his counting, but
compared to him they were hoarse and spiritless.

And he was only our lieutenant! The first sergeant called him such, in
answering a question; and then I noticed the single bar on his collar.
What would the captain be like?

The bugle blew Recall, and it was very welcome. We were marched back to
the company street and dismissed. My rear rank man was one Pickle, a
hardware clerk from a town in central Pennsylvania, who never in his life
saw a big league baseball game, and yet can tell you the names and
records of all the chief players, especially of the Brooklyns, for which
club he is a rooter. He said of the lieutenant: "One of those wiry
wonders, Tireless Thomas of the Training-field. Doesn't he never remember
that we are flesh and blood? Me for my little cot!" Following his
example, more than half of the squad lay down till roused by the news
that our rifles were being served out. So we flocked out in haste to get
what would give us lamed shoulders and tired arms. Being thus roused, I
next went for a swim in the lake, which was stony and cold and altogether

The lieutenant had us out again in the afternoon, us and the guns.
Consequently we were put through the manual of arms until the anticipated
lameness is now a reality, not only of the arms but of the whole body. I
find it is not enough to shift your rifle according to prescribed
motions; it must be snappy, and in cadence. "Like a clock-work," muttered
Pickle in despair. And it is a crime to drop a rifle. Its first
commission roused our lieutenant from his languor. "Who dropped that
piece?" he thundered. Then he outpoured contempt. "There'll be glue on
little Willie's fingers next time, sure," whispered Pickle.

Tired at the end of the day, I yet feel virtuous, having devoted to my
country a pound of my flesh. I write by lantern light in the tent, there
having been no conference tonight on account of rain. Most of the squad
are away, exploring the city; but Corder is already abed and sleeping--
"as insurance," he said to me, explaining his middle-aged caution. I
shall follow him soon. Good-night from


Postscript, written Saturday morning at 5.30, waiting for breakfast.

We have in our squad one Randall, a person of recent Yale
extraction--though (having good Yale friends) I don't lay it up against
the college. Yesterday he established his bed in the corporal's place,
which so far the rest of us had modestly avoided; and he fell foul of
young David ten minutes after he had come among us. The two are evidently
the youngest of us, with "college" sticking out all over them, and so
might naturally draw together. But there is a still more natural
antagonism between them, of the thoroughbred for the mongrel. For young
Farnham, in spite of his effeminacy, has the instincts of his ancestors;
and Randall, in spite of a magnificent physique, carries round with him
something that says to David, "Don't trust him!" What makes personality?
I declare I cannot put my finger on the thing that makes me sure that
Randall is yellow; but David has seen it, and has drawn back from it.
Ninety-nine Yale men may slang Harvard, and the Harvard man will take it
in good part--and _vice-versa_; but Randall is the hundredth, and he said
a few things that made David tremble, not with anger but with disgust.
"Have a cigarette?" asked Randall at the end. "No, thanks," answered
David.--"Oh, he doesn't smoke!" cried the other. "I do," said David, and
lit his own cigarette. I'm sorry for it. Probably Randall can make David
pay for this declaration of war. Yet I'm glad too. And you should have
seen Knudsen's eye flash, and then soften as he looked at the young

War has been continuing these last few minutes. In the most ridiculous
way David, after his shower bath, messed round with a shaving brush and a
piece of soap, trying to get a lather on his face. Randall saw it first,
and with roars of laughter called our attention to him. Corder, who
instantly understood, quietly twinkled; but Knudsen wrinkled his brow at
the boy. "Have you never done that before?" he demanded. Said innocent
David, "I forgot to get my man to show me." "Your _man_?" asked Knudsen.
"His valet!" screamed Randall, overcome with the humor of the situation.
Knudsen, never having been acquainted with the Harvard Gold Coast, showed
in his keenly intelligent face first amazement, then disgust, then to my
pleasure a kind of pity. In a moment he had both brush and soap in his
hands, and soon plentifully lathered David. The boy then took his razor,
one of the old style, and immediately gashed himself.

With indulgent impatience Knudsen took the razor, sat the boy down, and
muttering to himself that he'd never tried this job before, skilfully
shaved one half of David's face, at each moment explaining the use of the
weapon. "Why didn't you get a safety razor?" he demanded. The lad
answered, "My cousin Walter uses this kind." I remember that he used to
idolize Walt, as all the younger fellows did; if he still has some of the
feeling there's hope for him. Knudsen made him shave the other half of
his face himself--a botched job, but still David finished it. Randall
remarked that safety razors were best for girls, and when David finally
emerged fresh, pink, and handsome in spite of his wounds, Randall said,
"Now you're yourself again, Miss Lucy."

The boy's face is very sensitive; I saw that he was more hurt than angry,
and he flushed deeply with the pain of it. It was Knudsen who was angry,
but he said nothing. Corder still watched quizzically. I know that the
title will stick. It is not ten minutes since the word was uttered, and
we are already taking it up as David's name. Randall uses it flagrantly,
the rest of us as a matter of course, all except Knudsen. "Come on,
Lucy," he said just now when the first call for assembly sounded, and
with his hand on David's shoulder he went with him into the street,
protectively, I think.

I shall close this and send it off. Again love from



                                         Saturday, Sep. 9, 1916.
                                      At the Y. M. C. A. Nearing 9 P. M.


My tremendous postscript of this morning has somewhat led me out of the
order of the day. I found myself awake at reveille, and rolled willingly
out of bed. At the spigot, the one and only article of convenience at the
lower end of the company street, I found a helpful comrade who gladly
soused me from a bucket, and the day was begun. Back in the tent I found
the fellows slowly coming to consciousness, all except that accurate and
careful elder, Corder, who was dressing with great preciseness after a
shower bath, and was calmly pleased at having no particular symptoms of
old age to report. He and I have a valuable distinction as the only men
in the squad with foresight enough to have been _typhinated_, worth while
on this day when the others must submit to inoculation, if they want to
run no risk on the hike. Then David's shaving, as described. It was cold
when we finally turned out, and our humane lieutenant, placing himself on
a table at the head of the street, while we in open formation faced him,
put us through setting-up exercises that warmed us sufficiently to brave
the chilly mess-shacks for our breakfast.

It was there that David found me out. He first got my given name,
Richard. Then he made me acknowledge that I was in Harvard, 1910. At the
next pause he said, "My cousin Walter Farnham was in that class." "Yes,"
said I, and talked to the man on my other side. That stumped David, that
anyone should know his cousin Walt and not be eager to talk about him. He
did not approach the subject again till he and Knudsen and I and Corder
were together in the tent. Then he put it right up to me. "Weren't you my
cousin's best man?" "I was," said I, and Sick Call having just blown, I
went out, saying that I wanted to see who answered it. I know Knudsen and
Corder looked at me hard; as for David, he cried out, "Oh, I beg your
pardon!" I have reasoned out that with his delicate social perceptions
and the stock of gossip that his mother supplies him with, he must have
concluded that I was not in the mood to talk of weddings; but the real
fact is that I don't intend to be enlisted as his nurse. As for the other
side of it, I know I can depend on him not to tell the others about Vera
and me.

When I came back, it being about time for drill, I found him explaining
that while of course he'd not had his "man" at college, he always used a
barber there. The man, I'm sure, was with him at all other times. Then
when we fell in I heard a fellow from another squad call David Lucy. That
was Randall's doing. Presently it will be all up and down the street. But
Randall will be the only one to have any feeling about it. With the
others now it is a matter of course, even with David himself.

Our morning's work began on the drill-field, with its open drainage
trenches yawning for our feet and its scattered mounds to stumble on. Gay
work, this learning to walk in the right place, stand in the right way,
toss your nine pound rifle about as if it were a straw, and all with but
a moment or two for thought between the first order and the second. Even
Pickle was silent this morning, intent like the rest of us on his job. We
are all so green that, except for the occasional old-timer, no one was
giving his neighbor any advice.

Then on a sudden we were tested. "All who have had any previous
experience" were required to step one pace to the front. There were not
many of them. Then "all who wish to be corporal," or words to that
effect. With about half the company I took the forward pace. The
lieutenant separated these goats from the humbler sheep, sent us under a
sergeant to another part of the field, and himself took charge of the
remainder. The sergeant divided us up into twos and set us by turns to
drilling each other, evidently to test our knowledge and our ability to
give commands.

Pickle was my victim, or I was his. We eyed each other doubtfully. "You
begin," said I. "No, you," retorted he. "Gee, what a gink I was to think
I wanted to be corporal!" So I tackled the job; and of course, not being
used to it, I made long pauses between the commands, gave them wrong,
could not assume a proper military accent. It's not so easy. I have
heard, in the armory at Boston, a militia captain (_captain_, mind you!)
give the command "Attention!" in three different ways, continually
experimenting. So how could I, for the first time in my life, rap out my
orders like a veteran? What we had to do was absurdly simple; but poor
Pickle, when I balked, succeeded no better than I, so finally we fell to
consulting each other about it and became idle, like other groups that we
saw. Then came our way another pair, who being as experienced as we are
green, speedily took us in charge and manhandled us almost as skilfully
as the lieutenant. I presently saw our West Pointer observing the
drilling groups, and with him another with two bars on his collar, the
same erectness, and the same natural air of knowing his business. The two
were like farmers judging cattle, disposing of each one with swiftness,
taking rapid notes, and then herding us together into our original ranks
for a final shaking down. The captain disappeared, but I hoped he was to
be ours, for though I had had but sidewise glimpses of him, there seemed
a fine frank openness about him that I liked.

Sure enough, in the afternoon he appeared in this wise. The company was
assembled and marched out onto the highway, where we stood in double rank
with our hats off, for a final sizing up. I heard a new voice, deep and
powerful, at the further end of the line; then along he came with the
lieutenant, rapidly sizing us up, counting us off, thrusting in a new man
here and there, the new men to be our corporals. Randall disappeared into
another squad, and we have now as corporal one of those two who drilled
Pickle and me this morning. There are these others of us: Pickle, Corder,
Knudsen, Lucy, Clay, a handsome young Southern medical student, and
Reardon, a grocer's clerk from a little town in Connecticut. Our corporal
is Bannister, manager of the routing department, whatever that may be, of
a tool-making establishment near Detroit. For a mixed crowd, of ages from
grizzled Corder down to the very new graduate, what could be better? The
captain, having put us all in place, called us to attention without any
fuss, and stated that the new Number Four men were to be our squad
leaders "until such time as other men proved themselves to be better.--So
go to it," he added grimly. Then he marched us back to the street, where
the tents were all freshly numbered with chalk, and dismissed us to put
our beds in the proper order.

Since military regulations cover the positions of beds in the tent,
almost every man had to shift his place. A genius discovered that this
was a good time to begin with a level floor, the idea ran rapidly from
squad to squad, and presently the street was filled with piled cots and
heaped baggage, while from each door came clouds of dust. Our floor
levelled, taking care to preserve the pitch of the ridge that runs
through it, we moved in again, even before the dust was settled. As I am
Number One of our front rank, I bunk to the left of the door; peer around
the opening, and you will see my feet. Our rifles and bayonets we keep in
a gun rack that leans against the tripod of the tent-pole; and our
surplus clothes we hang from a square frame that is suspended higher up.
These two conveniences are squad property, being bought at a dollar each
from a Jewish-looking gentleman who offered them for sale, their evident
usefulness forcing the bargain. As they are most roughly built of light
lumber, and have plainly served in each of the previous camps this year,
there is good profit to the speculators who supplied them in the first
place, and who gather them up when they are abandoned at the breaking up
of each camp, only to sell them again. The tax on the squad is not great,
but I wonder why the camp management allows outsiders such princely

Feeling energetic, I began digging out the old ditch that surrounds our
tent, to make it better able to carry off water in the next storm.
Knudsen insisted on doing his share, then Corder took the spade from him
for the next side. When Pickle, who was standing ready, said "_You_ don't
need to work," Corder asked plaintively, "Do I seem as old as that?" So
he was allowed to do his stint. Lucy placidly watched us.

Then, it being yet early afternoon, the typhoid candidates, more than
half the company, were gathered up and taken away to be punctured. The
small remainder of us were taken to the drill field and were delivered to
the sergeants, apparently that they might show their mettle in the
presence of the officers. Now you know that every calling has its tests
of a man; in this soldier business the first lies in the ability to stand
up and give your orders with such confidence in yourself that your men
shall feel confidence in you. There were two of the sergeants that I
noticed for their difference in this respect. The one was sunburned,
tall, and lean; his brows jutted, his eyes under them were steady and
sharp, his shoulders were square, and he had a very firm pair of
bow-legs, which in some men is not displeasing. He knew his job; his
voice rolled like the deep notes of an organ; we knew what he meant for
us to do, and we did it. The other man was narrow and chicken-breasted,
his long legs weak, his smile a smirk, his pronunciation so affected that
we disgraced him because we blundered from pure lack of comprehension.
Why is it that men's outsides so often correspond to their innards? And
how did the latter of these two get his job? I suppose he has done some
service to warrant his sergeant's stripes.

Corder and I went to the lake to swim. He interests me by the careful
study of his condition; is afraid that some sign of old age will develop
to send him away, and is almost boyishly pleased to find himself able to
do all the work. "And I hope," said he, "that I shall learn to stand
straighter. One feels a certain pride when in uniform, and I try to fill
mine out, if only to escape hearing some youngster say, 'Gee, get onto
that hollow-chested professor chap as a rookie!' But it's hard to keep
straight." The prime of life, he said to me again, isn't so very prime.

When we came back the street was full of invalids. Army serum must work
quick, for half the arms of the inoculees were lame, and when I
thoughtlessly touched Pickle on the shoulder he howled. "The guy that
counted out my half billion bugs," said he, "must have thrown in an extra
hundred thousand for good measure. And they're all working overtime." At
Retreat there was some difficulty in coaxing arms into blouses, and a
number of men asked to be excused from evening duties for the sole
purpose of lying upon their couches and staring at the canvas.

The rest of us marched to our first conference, on the slope of the drill
field below the furthest mess-shacks, where we were massed in a
semi-circle. It was an interesting sight, a thousand men in olive-drab
slowly blending with their background as the dusk grew, yet with the
faces of most of them showing up in the coming moonlight. Behind the
speaker were the lake and the mountains, with the moon just beginning to
glimmer on the little waves. It was the General himself who addressed us,
welcoming us, speaking briefly of the purpose of our coming, expressing
confidence that we would work as hard as our predecessors: a fine
man-to-man address. I could not help thinking of a German general that I
once heard speak to _Einjaehriger_--stiff, short, and unapproachable.
Wood was stimulating, and made us readier for our duties.

The moon was brighter when we got back to the company street, and someone
had lighted a fire at its head. Here a hundred of us, including some of
the invalids, packed together in a circle around our new captain, while
he spoke to us briefly. I had a good view of him. Shorter than the
lieutenant, yet still a tall man, very strongly made, he spoke, like the
general, as man to man, and the least thing he appeared to expect was any
difficulty with us. He told us that the work was hard and tiresome; he
would make it as easy as possible, but he knew we were there to work, and
we could depend on him (without a twinkle) to give us everything that was
coming to us. His tent was right at the head of the street; he wanted us
to come to him at any time for any question; it was his business (and
again no twinkle) to make our minds as well as our bodies comfortable.
Thus I get the impression that he is something of a humorist, yet also
that his chief trait is aggressiveness. I cannot tell you why, for all
was spoken with a quiet voice, even with a certain gentleness that
disguises what I am sure is the basic character of the man. Knudsen felt
it too, for as we walked away from the conference he said: "The captain's
a scrapper."

"He's a Southerner," said Clay with satisfaction. It had been plain in
his accent.

This letter, begun Saturday night, I finish Sunday morning. Send me,
please, a dozen clothes pins, to keep my washing on the tent-ropes.
Pickle hung up his wet towel today, and had to chase it into the next
company street. As everywhere is the same black sand, you can imagine its
condition, likewise that of a moist cake of soap when you accidentally
drop it--excellent for scouring, but not good for other cleaning purposes
until its new covering is dissolved away. Send me also some paper napkins
folded; the supply at the mess-shacks sometimes gives out.

A bit of character. Lucy was looking this morning rather helplessly at
his silk pajamas, and wondering where he could get them washed, when
there entered the tent a handsome and stalwart regular. "Washing?" he
inquired respectfully. "Oh," asked Lucy hopefully, "are you an agent for
some laundress?" "No," said the man, "I wash them myself. I guarantee to
return everything tomorrow, properly done." The boy was not merely
surprised, but almost shocked. "_You_ do the work?" he asked. Then his
native kindness came to his aid, and he was about to bundle all his
clothes into the fellow's hands, when Knudsen said, quietly but very
pointedly, "When I'm here at camp I wash my own clothes." David flushed
quite pink. "Then I think I'll do the same."

"It's good for him," said Knudsen to me afterward. "It's good for him to
be called Lucy. It's good for him to learn to shave himself with that
razor. I was going to tell him to buy himself a safety razor, but thought
I'd better not."

I'm glad I left David to find his own nurse. Knudsen manages him with
certainty. On the other hand the boy likes him immensely, even though the
taciturn Swede does but a small share of the talking when they are
together. He is a foundryman, had a hard struggle to establish his
growing business, and has in consequence a fierce outlook on the world,
as one who at any time may have to fight for his own. David, by
persistent but most tactful questioning, has brought out two salient
facts in his biography. Knudsen is first the son of an immigrant, talks
Swedish in his home, has none of the American background which to David
is a man's birthright. And second he is a college man, from Hobart. Over
these two facts the boy is sadly perplexed. Legally, Knudsen is as
American as the rest of us--but can he be? Socially he is also all right,
since he is a college man--but after all can you call Hobart a college?
Don't blame David. It's not his fault if he's narrow-minded.

I shall close and mail this letter now, and at the first convenient
opportunity shall begin the next. I foresee that my letters to you will
be practically a continuous performance. Love from



                                               Plattsburg Training Camp.
                                         Sunday, Sept. 10, 1916.

Say, Tony, what a mutt I was not to get myself jabbed for typhoid before
I came here! It would have been worth the money. Today my arm feels like
a hornet's nest, with roots up into my shoulder and down my ribs. And my
head is light and wavy--that's fever. I saw one guy keel over stiff when
the doctor stuck him, and the poor corp of our squad says he'd swap jobs
with his rear-rank man if he could only feel like a boy again.

They feed you here with food that's like ourselves, coarse and plentiful.
I'll never again call sister's doughnuts sinkers; wish I could see any
kind of a doughnut. The table china is delicate French--nit. The waiters
are in livery. The man with a long reach will grow fat while others
starve. Take care not to spill anything; it may fall into your hat that
hangs under the table. Iced tea should be iced and should be tea; milk
should be milk. When you see a thing that you want, ask for it; the
platter will get to you even if the food don't. Elbows on the table are
comfort but bad form, same as at home. The men that stay longest at table
take pains to tell you that they eat slow. Eat first whatever is handiest
when you sit down; why be idle while your soup is coming?

It's considered impolite to drink at the company spigot, but there's no
rule against cleaning your teeth there. The best way to rinse your
stocking after soaping is to hold it over the nozzle like a bag, and
squeeze it while the water runs through. It takes so long to get hot
water here that you'd better learn to shave with cold. I never before
made my toilet out on the sidewalk, but a fellow can get used to

You may talk of being chambermaid to a cow, but it's worse being groom to
a gun. These rifles have been in use all summer, and they're all et up
inside. They're like fat men, they sweat. Then they rust. Put in some
dope and swab the barrel, then take twenty-five dinky little squares of
cotton flannel and run them through, and the last will be just as dirty
as the first. Let it go at that, and put in some oil, and say Damn.

It takes three lacings below the knee to get yourself dressed, and three
unlacings to get to bed, unless you want to be a real soldier boy, and
sleep in your clothes. And only two hooks in all these lacings--the rest
eyelets, eyelets. The cartridge belt has ten pockets; I found a clip of
blanks in mine, and am keeping it to celebrate with. The proper way to
draw your bayonet is not to cut your ear off. They tell me it's been
done. The outfitter lied to me. He sold me a tight blouse because we wore
our sweaters over them, and here it's against the rule and my sweater
will never go under the blouse and I'll freeze to death. Never believe
anybody that says he knows.

When the horn blows pay no attention. It's the top sergeant's whistle
you've got to jump for. If you want to know what to wear don't ask him;
the lieutenant will change the order and the captain will change it
again. Ask the major, unless the general happens by. Always salute unless
you happen to be smoking; if you have a pipe in your mouth, don't see
him. Fall River!



                                        Sunday evening, Sep. 10th, 1916.


I had no sooner closed this morning's addenda than I had to prepare for
the bugaboo of tent inspection. A good bugaboo, of course, as at home it
always pays to have visitors, we redd up the house so carefully. Our job
this morning was not only to have the tent perfectly neat, but also to
have our kits laid out on our beds according to regulations. One blanket
was spread over the cot, the others were folded at the head, and on them
the sweater and pillow. At the foot were folded the poncho and shelter
half; then all the equipment was spread out. Under the head of the bed
was the blue barrack-bag and the suit-case; under the foot the shoes.
Then we stood in line in front of the tent, and watched while the
lieutenant, coming from tent to tent, left each squad in a state of
despair behind him. To cheer us, someone at the sergeants' tent started a
victrola, but a snap from the lieutenant ended that diversion. Result of
it all: we were told to inspect a certain bed in Tent One, fold our
blankets and ponchos _right_, and lay out our equipment according to a
sacredly prescribed order. A meek procession filed in and out of the tent
for the next half hour.

It appears that blankets must be folded in a certain manner and laid in a
certain way, so that the inspector can see at a glance whether the proper
number of them is present--that none are in hock, I suppose. The manner
of folding ingeniously insures that on making the bed at night the
blankets must first be entirely shaken out; ditto in the morning. Some
sanitary martinet evolved that scheme. We are told that a fourth blanket
will be served out to us. Folded double lengthwise, four will allow seven
thicknesses over us and one below, or any other proportion, according to
the temperature. Sleeping as I do with the tent wall looped up, I shall
be glad of the seven thicknesses.

Cleanliness being next to godliness, many of the men washed clothes
instead of going to church. A little daily washing in this fair weather
keeps a wardrobe always ready for service. It's simple if you combine
your laundry work with your swim.

Bannister, our corporal, got us out on the drill field this afternoon for
squad practice. But as even he is new to many of our evolutions, instead
of monarchy we found democracy, so many of us had something to say. Part
of the time Knudsen gently but firmly managed the squad; we taught each
other how to stack arms; and finally from one argument we could only be
rescued by appeal to the drill regulations. We knelt around the little
blue book, while the opponents of two apparently conflicting ideas
eagerly debated, until of a sudden each saw the other's point, and
discovered that they meant the same thing.

Coming back, we found ourselves heading obliquely toward the company
street, with a half turn to make in order to enter it properly. Corder
suggested that the command should be "Left half turn," but Reardon
contended for "Half left," and at the proper moment the corporal gave
that order. Naturally there ensued at the tent another debate, everyone
putting in his oar, until by the book the Old One proved that while for a
company in column the command should have been "Column half left," for a
squad "Left half turn" was correct. A mixing business, this learning how
to fight for one's country.

Said I to Corder, "You'll take Bannister's job away from him if he
doesn't look out." He laughed. "No," said he. "I like to admire the
scenery rather than attend to business, and I'm a dreamer anyway. But
watch Knudsen. He's a soldier type, and unless I'm mistaken he's had some
training, though he doesn't claim it."

Word has gone forth that we are to go through the drill regulations at
the rate of some forty paragraphs a day. So there is much study up and
down the street, and that not merely on the part of would-be corporals.

This letter is finished under difficulties, for the lantern goes out
every few minutes, as four of us cluster around it with our pens and
paper. A puff, a pop, a flicker or two, and it's out. Then laughter,
curses, two or three failures to light the wick, and we're off again for
another short spell. Clay promises that we shall have no trouble with the
lantern after tonight. Some squads have clubbed together to buy acetylene
lanterns, which illuminate the tents most brilliantly; but the cost is
seven dollars, and though our squad has mentioned the luxury, it is
evident that most of the men wish to avoid the extra expense. Though of
course I could buy the thing as a present to the squad, I think it would
rather mar our present feeling of equality. Moreover, there was a trifle
of an explosion in Tent 13 early this evening, after which the new
lantern was thrown away as junk. If I should come again, I should bring
some compact lighting contraption. Meanwhile the little flashlight is
good for searching in one's suit case, and there is always a table and
electric light at the company tent, close by the captain's.

Good-by, with love from



                                                 Monday, Sept. 11, 1916.


I began my day with my usual bucket from the tap; there are always early
birds to serve me, and my helper this morning said it made him feel
virtuous just to souse me. I prefer this to the shower baths, which are
much further away. A very few go early to the lake and make parade of it;
said one to his corporal yesterday, finding him crawling from his bed
into his clothes, "My God, man, don't you ever bathe?" But the poor
corporal was still shaking with his typhoid.

Clay, who was up early on mysterious errands in the dusk, has just
brought in boards to lay in front of his cot. Reardon asked, "What are
you going to do on the hike? You'll have to put your feet on the ground."
But Clay evidently likes a bit of luxury, and when he gave me his surplus
boards I found I liked it too, for I prefer keeping my feet out of this
sand, which has a creeping quality and gets everywhere. Out in front of
the tent there had appeared a bench. "Hi!" cried Bannister, "where did
that come from?" Clay said nothing, and Bannister, who appreciated the
new convenience, thought it best to ask no more. I, with a mind on
further conveniences, suggested that we club together for a bucket for
our washing. Clay offered to get this without cost, but late in the
afternoon reported failure. "I couldn't get one, though I looked in every
tent in the other companies." Then he missed our new bench. "Where has it
gone?" he demanded. Corder answered dryly, "Back to its original owners,
I suppose." But the lantern works better tonight, as the fellows all
remark, avoiding mention of the fact that it has a somewhat different

This morning we had our first drill in calisthenics. We were spaced in
very open order, advised to take off our shirts, and Captain Wheeler, a
magnificent figure of a man, strong as an oak in spite of his gray hair,
stood on a platform and put us through exercises that searched out, so
the boys agreed, muscles that you didn't know you had. You get a new idea
of the "position of a soldier" after he has shown it to you. "Oh, no, no,
no!" he cried when first we came to attention at his command, his voice
rolling away over the lake into infinite distance. And then he made us
try to show that we were proud of our uniforms.

This afternoon's platoon drill, under our lieutenant, made me very sure
that, though I already feel as if I had been here for weeks, I am not yet
master of my work. The drill kept me thinking. As it is no pleasure to be
publicly called down, I am all the while trying to make no mistakes. A
fellow must instantly--instantly!--know the difference between "Platoon
right," for instance, and "Right by squads," even though the commands may
not have been given for an hour. And one must know it whether corporal or
not, for half the time the corporals do not yet know it themselves, and
either mumble their commands or are silent, so that they are no help. And
even if a fellow knows what to do, but lags in the doing of it, then he
is likely to put the whole line out. Further, freight trains rumble by at
the bottom of the drill field, the wind whistles in your ears, other
officers near at hand are shouting commands to other platoons, and so you
are likely not to hear a command at all. But on the whole I think I am

The short time that we had with the captain was enough to prove that he
is, as Clay claimed, a Southerner, if only from his use of the word
_like_. As we came down from the right shoulder, he said, "Don't climb
your rifle lahk it was a rope." And at Present Arms, "That man is holding
up his piece lahk it was a Christmas tree." "Swing your arms," said he,
"lahk you were proud of yo'selves!" Other little localisms slip in. When
a man had explained a question that the captain at first did not
understand, he said when he grasped it, "Oh, Ah see; Ah didn't locate
yo'." But it is a pity to misspell so broadly. The differences of accent,
though evident, are slight and pleasing, even musical.

Love from,



                                           Plattsburg, Monday, Sept. 11.


You will want to know, now that I have shaken down into this life, how on
the whole it suits me. I feel as if I had been here a fortnight, such
being the power of routine. You know I am among perfect strangers, for
though Nelson is in my company, I see very little of him. We actually
have not looked each other up since Saturday. And though Watson of the
Philosophy department and Jones of the Library staff are both here, they
are in other companies, and the best I have done is to pay each of them a
hurried call. The real life is the life of the squad, and I find myself
among interesting fellows.

The work is not too hard, for the officers give us periods of rest, and
we are gradually hardening up. I live very cautiously, always change my
stockings and rest my feet whenever I come off the drill-field, and
whenever I can I lie down for a nap. But I am getting so lively that I
find myself tempted to ignore these precautions, and hope that before
long I can take not only the work but the fun as it comes. The excellent
stockings which you knit for me are not too heavy nor too hot; you were
wise to mark every thing that I wear, as in this camp articles of
clothing very much resemble one another. My sewing kit, with all its
threaded needles, called out the wonder of the corporal the other day,
and the whole squad stood around and admired it.

I hope in time to attain a more military carriage, but it is a hard fight
with habit. I wish I were as springy as these boys around me; even as I
work the fat out of my bacon, I don't find myself perfectly elastic. For
I get a bit stiff in the knees from long standing at the manual; and as
the evening chill comes on I find it gets more into my joints than I
like. And so I am watching the development of a problem with which I,
that is, my mind, can have very little to do. Question: shall I get
stiffer as the days grow colder, until on the hike they will discharge me
as an old man; or will it all work off as I get used to the exercise,
until I am limber? It is really a very serious matter, my dear, this
being forty-five years old. One should turn life into a profession, and
study how to become young. There are a number of men of my age or older
here at camp, and I find we all have this same preoccupation, and very
eagerly ask each other how we are getting on, and give advice. And the
hike--that looms ahead of us all as an ordeal which we are afraid we
shan't pass.

I never tire of the view from our drill field. The mountains are never
twice the same, and the lake is quite as changeable; they vary their
aspect every hour from morning to evening. We are lucky just now in our
full moon, to light us about the unaccustomed streets. In contrast are
the ugly tents, which yet have a romantic interest in their possible
warlike use, and in their perfect uniformity, which is so forbidding that
it becomes interesting. And for one who has come from a skirted sea-side
resort, it is not unpleasant to see around me nothing but men, men, men.

Your letters make me feel easy about the family. We are very lucky that
Mildred did not get a bad fall when the handle of her bicycle broke. Tell
Florence to make a proper distinction between _to_ and _too_, and to form
her capital Cs more carefully. Little Elinor's letters are much admired
in the whole tent. It must be about time to pick the Gravenstein apples.
Tell Robert to handle them as if they were eggs.

You see I am well. Do not worry about me. Love to all the youngsters.



                                      Plattsburg, Tuesday, September 12.


Today we have had something new. We have so far been drilling in close
order formation, so called because we always maintain our front and rear
ranks together as such. This order has two purposes, one for parade and
review, the other for quickest marching to any given place. But for
fighting, which after all is our real purpose, the close order must be
discarded in favor of extended order, which you will understand better if
I call it skirmish line formation. Here front and rear rank form in one
long line, in order not to do damage to each other in firing.

Our drill field at the camp distinctly has its drawbacks. Across part of
it are open drainage ditches; and another part, where no ditches are, is
a slippery bog after any rain. Drilling on such a field distracts you
between the natural desire to pick your footing, and the officers'
constant command to keep your eyes up. We are told that the city of
Plattsburg is very generous in providing this ground, and doubtless it
was to begin with; yet I wonder if after two very prosperous seasons, due
to our presence and our visitors', the city couldn't afford to put a few
hundred dollars (it would cost no more) into finishing draining the field
with tile, and filling the ditches in. That would give us good dry ground
and firm footing.

At any rate, it was a relief to be marched this morning to the military
post, to practice our new formations on its great smooth field. The
parade-ground is a wide level space by the edge of the lake, and on the
inner side is a long row of the married officers' houses, all exactly
alike, yet with shrubs and vines not unhomelike. I saw three children at
one place, two at another, plus two nursemaids; but as a whole the houses
look deserted, as they are. For all our regiments of this department are
on the Mexican border, and while papa is away it is natural for mamma to
take the babies to visit grandpa, if indeed she doesn't go to the border
too. As a consequence of this absence of the infantry regiments, we are
ministered to here by some companies of coast artillery, which are
useless to the government in this crisis, and so are unwillingly serving
here as cooks, waiters, and equipment orderlies. Our officers are scraped
up from everywhere, the captain of my company even coming from Panama.
Unless they can persuade themselves that there is to be no more fighting
in Mexico, they must hate to settle down here as mere missionaries of the
preparedness movement.

Well, we were taken onto the field, and were given our first dose of
skirmish drill. The captain explained how the squad should do the
expanding movement on which the whole is based. "Being at a halt," as the
regulations are fond of saying, the corporal takes position three paces
in front of his Number Two man, extends his arms as a signal or gives his
order, and the men at a run take given positions on a line with him. A
corporal and his squad being ordered to illustrate this for the benefit
of the rest of us, the corporal forgot to stand fast, and so away the
eight of them went, heading directly for the lake, the captain watching
them with amusement, the rest of us snickering. Over the edge of the
bluff they went, we heard crashes in the bushes, and presently, when the
rest of us were beginning our demonstration, we saw the sheepish return
of our lost squad. No one in our company will ever now forget that when
we begin our deployment at a halt, we advance those three paces and no

You see now the real value of the corporal. He is of use in close order
formation, yet there, with a little drill, the company could get along
without him. But in extended order he is in independent command of the
squad, takes his orders from his superior, translates them according to
circumstances, and separately leads his little bunch of men to the place
where they are to deploy. Moreover, since his problem varies according as
we are marching or at a halt, in line or in column, and according as we
are to guide centre, right, or left, the corporal needs (we proved it
today) to have a cool head and a firm hold of his men. In one case we go
forward, in another we march to one side before deploying, in still
another we make a letter S, going backward and then forward again. There
was a wonderful confusion this morning, with all of us greenhorns trying
to learn this new work. Moreover, since we are volunteers, and men of
intelligence, and by this time pretty well acquainted, every man of us
thought he understood everything, and was bursting to tell the others how
it should be done.

And then began to appear which of our corporals were corporals indeed.
Some squads were little Babels, each man uttering forth his voice, with
the poor squad-leader either vainly trying to make himself heard, or
silently trying to make his own ideas square with the contradictions of
the other seven. Other squads may have been repressed volcanoes, but
still they were repressed, with the corporal making his mistakes in his
own way, but learning by blundering how the thing should be done. As for
Squad 8, Knudsen was guarding the corporal's peace of mind. Once when
Bannister had mistaken the order, and I burst out with a whispered "Too
far!" Knudsen snapped at me, "No speaking to the corporal!" Now since
once or twice he had given advice, that was a touch too much; but I
caught a significant twinkle in Corder's eye, and held my peace. I shan't
soon forget the puzzled expression on Bannister's round, honest face when
he found himself many yards out of the way, and his involuntary "Whoa!"
Then Knudsen quietly took charge of us, and led us where we belonged.

"This is going to be interesting," whispered Corder to me. "Remember what
I told you."

In the afternoon, among other drill work, we were taught how to make our
packs. The strangely shaped piece of webbing which I once tried to
describe to you, with all its straps and hooks, is a haversack worked out
by a commission headed by a Major Stewart, who evolved this Stewart pack,
the lightest by many pounds of any army pack in the world. Now give
attention. On the ground you spread your poncho, rubber side downward. On
it you lay your shelter-half and fold it till it too is an oblong,
smaller than the poncho. Next you fold one blanket thrice and lay it with
its stripe lengthwise of the poncho. Lay on it your tent-pegs, rope,
bacon box and condiment can, a change of underclothes, your soap and
razor, tooth-brush and towel. Lap over it the edges of the poncho and the
shelter-half. Now roll this from the blanket end, packing tightly; and
when you approach the end of the poncho, fold eight inches of it toward
you, and into this pocket work the roll. Thus you have made a tight
waterproof sausage, firmly enough packed to be thrown about without
coming open. The first stage of making your pack is now finished.

The roll is now, by means only to be learned by actual doing, to be
strapped to the haversack, which also carries the bayonet and, in its big
pocket, the meat-can, knife, fork, and spoon. The pack is next, by its
complicated straps, attached to the belt, and the whole is put on like a
vest, the arms through its broad straps. These should be so tightened
that the top of the pack comes well above the level of the shoulders, so
that the straps will not drag and cut. The belt is buckled in front, but
should be loose enough to hang over the hips. Thus the whole weight of
the pack and belt is carried by the shoulders, which are braced back as
by the old-fashioned shoulder brace, leaving the chest free for
expansion, and carrying no weight.

The pack weighs about eighteen pounds, the belt (with full canteen and
cartridge pockets) another eight, the rifle nine. Thirty-five pounds, for
light marching order, is much less than any other army than ours is
blessed with. And this outfit is to be, as our captain grimly remarked
today, our constant companions. Oh my poor back!

I know it will be hard to read this letter, my hand shakes so. This is
because all this morning I carried my rifle "at trail," which means that
I gripped it a foot from the muzzle and carried it with the butt just off
the ground, the butt constantly exercising a heavy leverage on the wrist.
Naturally I am lame.

Your letters come daily, which saves me much anguish. At each
distribution of the mail there is much quiet disappointment, which later
is very likely to express itself in the tent. Said Reardon today, the
silent man of the squad, "I'm going to write a letter home that will
raise hell." Bannister, whose wife had missed a day, remarked gravely,
"I'll have to say something to her." And Pickle came into the tent mad,
savagely remarking, "If I don't get a letter next mail, I'm going home."
Luckily it came.

But yet the men don't always sympathize with each other. Clay was
bitterly complaining of his luck. Said Knudsen, "But man, you can't
expect an answer to your letter yet. It had to go to Maryland." Then
Bannister, taking his mind from his own disappointment, added, "And great
Scott! look at the letter you writ. It was so long that she would need
three whole days to read it in, before she could begin her answer. And as
to your writing such an amount to your mother--!" "It was only eight
pages," said handsome Clay, blushing. Bannister had no mercy. "Only eight
pages? Man, it was a young novel! To your mother? Your grandmother, more
likely." Clay was silenced.

Our fourth blankets are served out, and we sleep very snug. Food is the
same, wholesome but not delicate. David and Pickle, having each a sweet
tooth, buy rather freely outside, and David occasionally slips away for a
hotel meal. As a consequence, they sometimes need doctoring. The rest of
the squad, whether from economy or on principle, stick to the daily mess
and are well. Love from



                                         Plattsburg, Wednesday, Sep. 13.

is you know who at plattsburg and why i thought i saw her here today am
well love



    Postscript, written at the top of the first sheet of the letter

I have just sent you off this telegram: Is You-know-who at Plattsburg,
and why? I thought I saw her here today. Am well. Love.

                Second postscript, written in the margin

I find I have written you a letter that will show you my difficulties in
getting time to write. It is merely typical of my usual day.


I begin this letter in the tent at about 5.30 in the morning, expecting
the first assembly, yet trying to snatch a little time while the rest of
the camp is still dressing. My hand no longer aches, but the wrist is
plain stiff from yesterday's exercise at trail. I have just conned over
fifty paragraphs of the drill book, getting up early for the purpose.

Free time is scarce. When the captain yesterday told us to put fifteen
minutes a day on our study of the rifle, and especially in learning to
squeeze (a mystery which I will expound to you when I myself have
mastered it) the whole company groaned. Our time is so cut up that it is

(_The bugle and the whistle! Five minutes for assembly._)

hard to find many minutes at a stretch which you can devote to any one
thing. And yet I think it quite right that yesterday, after returning
from the open order drill, squad after squad of us should of our own
accord go down to the drill field and practise the new tricks, especially
in preserving the squad formation while following the corporal over
whatever ground and through whatever angles. Those fifteen minutes will
help us today. Bannister tends quietly to his job, an amusing fellow with
his little imitations of a farmer (which some day he means to be), his
chuckling Yankee wit, and his interest in telling all about his wife and
children at home.

Speaking of corporals, Corder has brought out new facts regarding
Knudsen. Yesterday, when the tent was empty but for us three, Corder
stopped Knudsen from going out while at the same time he beckoned to me.
Lucy, coming in just then, stopped and listened also. "Knudsen," said
Corder, "you've drilled before." "Not infantry drill," answered Knudsen.
"Recently?" demanded Corder. Knudsen admitted, "All last winter with a
troop of cavalry." "Then why," demanded Corder, "didn't you say you had
had experience, and try to be a corporal yourself?" "Because----"

(_Bugle again, and half an hour for breakfast. Having a little time
before morning drill, I go on._)

"Because," said Knudsen, "I didn't want to be corporal. I came here tired
to death from a long hard worrying year in getting that factory of mine
in good running order. I don't want to have anything more to do, for the
whole of this month, with managing a stupid gang of men." "Thanks!" said
Corder and I together, and we bowed as if we had been drilled to do it,
exactly together. Knudsen was rather taken aback, but he laughed and
apologized. "You ought to be corporal of a squad," said Corder. "Do you
want to get me out of this one?" demanded Knudsen. "Bannister is all
right. I tell you I'm here for a rest, and I want to escape the captain's
notice." We promised (_Bugle!_) to help him keep in his obscurity. Lucy
stood silent, but full of admiration.

(_Sergeant's whistle, and Pickle comes running in. "Make up the packs
without the ponchos!" Good by for the present._)

(_Four hours later, after skirmish practice in the roughest kind of low
underbrush, in which I nearly lost a legging, and wished for a pair of
wooden elbows._)

The company was split in two this morning, those men who had used
high-power rifles being taken away by the captain, whose specialty is
shooting, while the rest of us went with the lieutenant up the Peru road,
and turned into an old overgrown blueberry pasture. Luckily there were no
blueberries, for whenever we threw ourselves flat we should have squashed
more on our clothes than we should have had time to eat. Bannister being
with the shooters, we (such as remained of our squad) were put with a
neighboring corporal who did not know his business, and

(_Forty minutes for mess. After a cigarette, I am trying to snatch a few
minutes now_)

and speedily had the lieutenant "bawling us out." So very quietly, but
very firmly, with Corder again winking at me in perfect delight, Knudsen
took over corporal and squad, and managed us in an undertone from his
position of number two. He kept the squad together, told the corporal
when to spread it out, and that innocent person willingly gave himself
into Knudsen's hands. We had plenty to do in a series of

(_Bugle and whistle. Off for afternoon drill.--Now at 3.24 P.M. after
learning to pitch shelter tents_)

imaginary attacks, sometimes in showers, and we steaming in our ponchos
or shivering without them, ploughing through the wet bushes or throwing
ourselves flat in them. Then, from whatever positions we found ourselves
in, we had to "simulate firing" at an enemy until my neck was lame from
trying to hold my head up, and my elbows were sore from their rough
lodgings. The corporal was perfectly docile, and Knudsen even hooked his
fingers in the back of the man's belt and pulled him here and there.

(_Sergeant's whistle, and again Pickle comes diving into the tent.
"Undershirts only, for the sun's out hot. Take your towel if you want to
swim." That means calisthenics.--After forty minutes._)

Out we went to the drill field, took off (most of us) our remaining
shirts, and were put through nine hundred exercises till we dripped,
while ladies in their automobiles watched us from the top of the slope.
Hope they enjoyed it. When it was over we were dismissed where we stood
and streamed yelling to the beach, where we found Champlain, at the hot
end of this changeable day, able to repay us for all our sufferings.

Well, to finish the corporal story. The squad were perfect lambs in
Knudsen's hands, none daring to bleat, while all around us the other
squads were disputing in undertones and going wrong amid storms of
discontent. When we had got back to the tent, and had lost our emergency
non-com., Knudsen began to praise him for an excellent corporal. "He was
good so long as you had him in charge," said Corder. "Especially good on
that last deployment when you yanked him into place. If you don't want to
be promoted, man, let your superiors blunder, and don't correct them."
"The lieutenant wasn't looking," answered Knudsen meekly.

Now about (_call for supper_) about that telegram (_call for regimental
conference. I am now at the company tent waiting for the captain's
conference._) about that telegram of mine. _Where is Vera Wadsworth?_ For
when we were on the parade ground at the post this afternoon, learning to
pitch our shelter tents (which is another complicated affair, the
explanation of which I will reserve) we found ourselves deserted for a
while by our mentor the lieutenant, and were at the mercy of green
sergeants, who knew something, to be sure, but in whom we had no
confidence. Someone discovered him,--Pickle. "Gee," said that exponent of
classic English, "spot the lieutenant with a skirt." And there he was at
a distance, in talk with a tall girl, handsome, unless I miss my guess,
and Vera herself, if I have any knowledge of her figure, and of a certain
hat and parasol she lately affected. Quite at home there too, without a
chaperon, on the walk in front of the officers' houses, and without a
waiting automobile that brought her or would carry her away. What could
bring her here? Were her military relatives at this post? At any rate, I
thought they were now at the border. I hope it wasn't she; but the
lieutenant, as he returned to us, smiled as men usually do as they think
of Vera. Look up her whereabouts and let me know.

I see the captain coming to conference. Good night,


SEPTEMBER 14, 1916

she is taking charge of her cousins children at the plattsburg post am
writing mother.


                                               Thursday, Sept. 14, 1916.


Your telegram, reaching me, made me uncomfortable at first. However, I
don't suppose I shall meet Vera, so I shall put the matter out of my

Last night there was a rain, which wakened me as it came down pretty
heavily. Knudsen, with a groan, got out of bed and put on his poncho.
"What is up?" I asked, whispering; and he, likewise trying not to wake
the others, answered, "Rain is coming in. Must fix the tent-cap." So I
got up and helped him. I did not tell you, I think, that the tent is open
at the top like a wigwam, providing perfect ventilation; but when the
rain comes in it wets the clothes hung around the poles, and also the
rifles. But a canvas cap, which in fair weather is laid back, may be
dragged over the opening by ropes hauled from below, and Knudsen and I
managed to close it. Maybe you think it was fun, falling over the
tent-ropes in the windy dark.

By daylight it was raining still, and we were ordered out in our ponchos
for the assembly. Poor Lucy has so far always been helped into his, and
stood looking at it hopelessly. "Which side is front?" As usual, Knudsen
came to his help. "The long side. No, that's inside out. Don't you see
the collar? Button it under your chin. Now button the sides of the lower
part round behind you. Fix the two remaining corners to hang down over
your hands. Now you're good for anything that may happen all day."

"All day?" demanded poor Lucy. "Do you mean to say we'll drill in the
rain?" "Shall we sit and suck our thumbs here?" demanded amused Pickle.
Knudsen, more subtle, merely remarked, "Oh, damn the weather!" and Lucy
stiffened as he got the idea that the rain wouldn't hurt him.

He is really improving. Daily he manfully shaves himself for practice
(every other day would be enough) and his early wounds are healing
nicely, while he has none of recent date. The poor lad's hands are pretty
sore from handling his gun. The captain halted before him the other day
as we were doing the manual, and fixed him with a cold eye. "Hit that gun
harder," he said. "You can't hurt it with your hands." David faintly
smiled, and now he is trying to callous his palms.

We ate our breakfasts in our ponchos: there is no place to hang them up,
and they make very good bibs. And in our ponchos we marched; they covered
the packs, making us look like pedlers, or as Knudsen said, like camels.
We kept our rifles dry under them, but were not long dry ourselves, for
these service ponchos not being exactly waterproof, soon wet through at
the knees, or wherever else we rubbed as we marched. I am therefore
rather envious of David's fine new poncho, of best rubber. If I come
again I shall have one of my own--a poncho, remember, and not the
civilian rubber coat with which some have supplied themselves.

They marched us this morning first to the post gymnasium, and there we
sat in a great half-circle while Major Stewart explained to us the
history of army packs, and some facts about the one that bears his name.
Our men in other wars have abandoned their packs on entering battle, they
were such encumbrances in skirmishing. In the battle of San Juan
thousands of packs were dropped by the roadside, and the men finished
their fighting without rations. But the new pack may be worn both in
marching and in shooting; further, on expecting battle the rolls may be
made short, and then are strapped to the lower part of the haversack.
This part, on drawing out a leather strap, falls to the ground, and the
men go forward lightened of the heaviest part of their burden, but yet
carrying food enough for the day's work. At its worst the Stewart pack
is, compared to the old blanket roll, many pounds to the good.

And yet, mother, though wise Mr. Bryan has bragged of our ability to put
an army of a million men into the field overnight, of the few thousands
at the border a fair half are still equipped with the old pack. Is the
rest of the million to be proportionately well fitted out?

In order to show that the pack will fit anyone, the Major called for the
tallest man in the regiment. A strapping big fellow of perhaps
thirty-five got up and stepped confidently onto the platform, amid the
cheers of the crowd, and the Major prepared to strap the pack onto him.
But I heard from behind me various urgent cries of "Go on up!" and a fine
young fellow, straight as a lance, walked round the seated men, and also
stepped upon the platform. Though much slenderer than the other, the
newcomer was a good inch taller. A roar of applause came from the
regiment, and the first man, understanding, laughed and stepped down.
Then he turned back and spoke to the younger man, evidently asking his
height. "How tall? How tall?" demanded the crowd, and the young fellow
held up six fingers, indicating six feet six. A similar scene occurred
for the shortest man, a thin little fellow getting the honor; then a
third aspirant, being evidently taller, was laughed back. But what struck
me was the reception given a head-headed, round-headed, roly-poly little
mustached fellow, who hesitated near at hand. The crowd instantly
nicknamed him. "Come on, Cupid, and measure yourself." But Cupid had his
doubts, and so retired.

The lecture being over, luckily so was the rain; but the captain took us
out on that rolling country that flanks the Peru road, and gave us a
fight with an imaginary enemy, through wet bushes, across a dump, over
and among little sand and gravel pits, finally ambushing with great care
an innocent Catholic cemetery. As we did this badly, on our advance
exposing ourselves to the fire from the ornamental statuary, we had to do
it over again. It was difficult practice, keeping in line; but it was
fairly exciting to throw yourself, at command, flat on your face wherever
you happened to be. I thus gained intimate acquaintance with a pile of
tin cans, a scrub hard pine, and a big hill of black ants. As the proper
method of moving sideways, when in skirmish line, is to roll, I rolled
away from the latter position, not to the betterment of my poncho.

This afternoon, again in rain, we marched to the gymnasium once more, and
the building not having been ventilated, found the air very oppressive
after our hearty dinner. The captain talked to us of the rifle and its
use in target shooting; but conditions were against him, for it was a
very sleepy crowd that listened. I found myself drowsy, men were nodding
all about me, and Corder declared that he had 247 distinct and separate
naps. But it was necessary to rouse when we were required to adjust our
slings and take position for snapping at a mark. The sling is the strap
of the gun, which when fitted to the upper arm, and the arms and body
braced against the pull of it, in some mysterious way gives steadiness.
Our calisthenics were partly devised, I am sure, to help us take the
contortionists' attitudes necessary for this graceful exercise. But
nothing, not even our skirmishing, prepared my elbows for our final stunt
of throwing ourselves prone on the hard floor, and in approved
target-shooting posture snapping ten shots at the third button of the
captain's shirt, while the lieutenant counted ninety seconds by his

Returning, we found that rifle-inspection was scheduled, with a special
warning that the captain was not satisfied with the way we kept the guns.
So we got out our single cleaning-rod and passed it from cot to cot, with
the nitro-solvent and the oil, and such few patches as yet remained to
us. For no amount of them will satisfy one company, or even one squad,
and we are always short. The rifles cleaned, we policed the tent, making
it absolutely neat. Now such are the acoustic properties of these canvas
dwellings that we can hear what goes on in our neighbors', and so it
happened that we heard, from tent 6, Randall's controversy with the rest
of his squad. It is seldom that one man will talk down seven, but we
heard the whole of his obstinate defense, how that he hadn't known that
he was tent-policeman for the day, that no one had policed the tent
yesterday, or eke the day before, that it was a sin and a shame to make
him do other men's work, that especially in the matter of the smoky
lantern, which no one had cleaned since the opening of camp, it was wrong
to make him bear the burden of accumulated neglect. Some of us chuckled
at all this, but at such a clamor raised for the purpose of escaping duty
David listened soberly. "He works very hard to avoid work," said the boy,
whose good manners will not let him evade any duty which he clearly
perceives--though I will admit that his perceptions are still rather

The row died down, we heard the rattle of the lantern, and then Randall's
voice. "I was only jollying you." No answer, but still the lantern
rattled. "I'm willing to do my share of the work." Still no answer. "Oh,
well," said Randall finally, "if you feel that way about it, give me the
lantern. I'll clean it." We heard the corporal's voice. "I've got it
nearly cleaned. And you can squeak out of your work, Randall; but just
the same, we've got our opinion of you."

I thought the corporal had the best of it. It is no small penalty to
carry around the squad's opinion of one's shortcomings.

At inspection time the rain was heavy, and word was passed to wait for
the captain in our tents. For this we blessed him, seeing no fun in
standing in line in the street; and Lucy found that after all the weather
is considered in the army. When it was the turn of tent 8 we lined up
facing each other, and the captain, stooping to get his hat safely
through the door, came in between our two lines. He said "Just give me
your guns as I'm ready for them," a deceptively mild beginning, we
feared, knowing how sharp he could be. But at the fourth gun he said,
"The rifles are not so bad." I handed him mine, breech open, hoping that
it was up to the average. He tried to look down the barrel; then when he
snorted I declare I felt like a boy before his schoolmaster. But to my
relief he laughed, took from the muzzle the plug that I had put there in
expectation of a long wait in the rain, looked through the barrel, and
passed it. When he left he told us to turn out for Retreat with ponchos
only--for which again we blessed him.

As the absence of conference, on account of rain, gives me extra time, I
shall write a dissertation, not on roast pig, but just on pig, in other
words on table manners. Our company has a corner of one of the mess
shacks, into which we are marched. When first we came our method was to
stand, hats on, by our places, where our cups and plates were waiting
upside down. At the command "H Company, take seats!" (and much merriment
a sergeant once made when he commanded "Be seated!") we took off our hats
very decorously, hung them up (whether behind us on the walls or in front
of us under the tables) sat down, turned over our plates, and reached for
the dishes. Now some tables, or sections of tables, still maintain this
lofty standard of good breeding, by the sheer fact that the most of the
men are well bred and the rest are ashamed not to be. But where the
proportion is reversed degeneration is rapid. The men furtively hang up
their hats and turn over their plates before the order, and if a bunch of
them take to doing this, there appears to be no remedy for it. "It's up
to you," said a sergeant to us on the first day. "You can be gentlemen,
or you can be the other thing."

So it is after we are seated. Certain actions are natural, as determined
by the fact that while there is plenty of food, there is never on the
table at one time enough of any one thing. (A few more dishes and
platters would apparently remedy this.) Further, we haven't time to wait.
So we begin on what happens to be in front of us, cereal first at one end
of the table, fruit first in the middle (if there is any!), eggs and
bacon further along; thus by degrees we work through the bill of fare.
And this is not improper.

But when the fellows take to laying in supplies of whatever is within
reach, and surrounding themselves with plates heaped with the substance
of future courses, it is first unfair and next demoralizing. If one man
hogs the available supply for merely later use, he teaches his neighbor
to do the same in self-defense. And so you can watch the proof of the old
copy-book motto concerning evil communications.

A word concerning reaching at table, for your guidance, my dear mother,
when next you find yourself at a table d'hote. I calculate that for this
method of helping one's self there is a wrong way and a right. Imagine
yourself beside a busy person beyond whom lies the wished-for dish. If
you reach with the arm nearest the dish, your arm goes across your
neighbor's plate, a fact which my neighbors have frequently proved to me.
But if you reach with the arm furthest from the dish you will not cross
his plate, your body swinging your arm in over the table. I come to this
interesting social discovery rather late in life, on account of the
excellent table service to which you have accustomed me.

There goes the warning bugle. If I am not safely tucked up in my little
bed at taps, the sergeant will say "Tut! Tut!" So good night.



Your telegram, my dear, dear Dick, I have just replied to, and will now
add such facts as I know concerning Vera's going to Plattsburg. What I
can tell you comes through her sister Frances, with whom I have always
been more intimate than Vera, even when you two were engaged. And Frances
has come several times to the house, now that you are gone. I asked her

If the breaking of your engagement was a blow to your pride, my dear boy,
think what it was to Vera's. I don't know anyone prouder than she. And to
publish the fact that you two had changed your minds--! She wanted to go
away, but the Wadsworths are nearly as poor as they are proud, and she
didn't feel justified. Then there came a letter from her cousin Dolly,
who married that handsome Captain Marsh and was stationed at Plattsburg.
Dolly's husband is now on the border, and Dolly could stand the
separation no longer. She was going to Texas, and one of the cousins must
come to Plattsburg and take charge of her house. The children wouldn't be
a burden, because there was the very capable nurse who had taken care of
them since they were born. And old Colonel Marsh wouldn't be a bother,
having a certain routine which got him through his days very well. Of
course it would be very dull with all the officers away from the post,
and those at the instruction camp constantly busy. But one of the sisters
must come and relieve her, or Dolly would go mad. She is all bound up in
that husband of hers.

It was plain that she expected Frances to come, being so domestic, and so
old-fashioned-womanly. But Vera, you know, in spite of her suffragism and
her feminism has always been kept by her father from having anything to
do, and so she had nothing to occupy herself with just when she needed
occupation most. So she declared that she must go, and of course Frances
let her. "But you know," said Frances to me, looking up from her sewing
with a little twinkle, "I know Vera will be in hot water with the old
Colonel from the first, she is so out of sympathy with war, and the
military life, and all it has (or hasn't) to offer women." That's her sex
independence, you see.

Vera can't know that you're there. She went just before you so suddenly
made up your mind to go, and Frances hasn't written her of your going. I
told her I shouldn't tell you, and begged her not to write Vera. And
unless Vera recognizes you, which isn't likely, she will know nothing of
your whereabouts.

It is odd that David Farnham is in your squad, and amusing that I should
have seen his mother only yesterday. She never was so proud of anything
in her life as of the fact that he is at Plattsburg. So she has become a
perfect nuisance to her friends, talking of him so. I met her at a
Bridge, and she was crazy to see me, David having written her that you
two are together. So she got herself put at my table, and our two
partners were furious, because the game dwindled away to nothing, she
talking of David all the time. You would have thought that he was the
whole army and navy of these United States. I was at first quite
frightened that she would ask me your opinion of his fitness. But not at
all; that was quite settled in her mind. She talked about his deciding to
go, and how he made her see that it was the best thing for him and for
the country--and there is a story to that, because it was her husband
that insisted on her letting David go, when she would have kept him. And
she talked of his equipment, how horrid it was that he couldn't dress
like the officers, especially his legs, they are so handsome; but he
wasn't allowed to wear puttees or leather leggings, but must wear those
canvas things. And she gave him everything new; she even mentioned those
French silk pajamas that so amuse you. And then she was indignant that he
was not at once made a lieutenant, or something. And the men in his tent,
except you, Dick, are of no social standing whatever. Of course she
hadn't heard of his being called Lucy. She was so satisfied that I wanted
to tell her. Do write me more of him.

                                               Lovingly          MOTHER.


                            Before morning drill, Friday, Sep. 15, 1916.


Our good Lucy is a different lad from the one that landed here a week
ago. Did I tell you that he has come to the heroic resolution to clean
his own gun? I suppose the strongest factor in that is his detestation of
Randall. It's quite common here for fellows to get the regulars to clean
their guns, and there's more to be said for that than for many other
indulgences: at least it's better for the rifles. The regulars drive a
good little trade of this kind, and David has twice sent out his piece to
be laundered, as it were. But I know that he perceived that the sentiment
of the squad is against it, and I think he's sensitive enough to
understand the reasons. We're all here to learn to be soldiers, and
taking care of his gun is a pretty important part of a soldier's job. And
then we're an economical crowd. David and I are the only ones in the
squad that didn't have to pinch a little in order to get here; even
Corder spoke recently of the expense as something unwelcome. So it's
really rather bad form to pay for outside service. Yet for all that,
David couldn't quite bring himself to do the dirty work.

So when a regular came to us yesterday, before inspection, and asked for
guns to clean, David began to get his gun out of the rack. He looked a
little uneasily at Knudsen, but the Swede wouldn't see it; he kept
squinting through his own piece. The regular, to make matters sure, said,
"Mr. Randall told me you'd give me your gun. I always clean his." With
the funniest little set of his jaw, as if he didn't quite know how to do
it, David reached for the cleaning rod. "Well," he said, "Mr. Randall is
mistaken. I clean my gun myself." Then he sat down beside Knudsen, as if
sure that the other would teach him--in which he was right. His dirty
hands at the end were a sad sight to him, and yet I think he was proud of
them too.

This morning Randall, who hasn't learned (and I question if he ever will)
how unwelcome he is in our tent, came in to brag a little--and of what!
There stands to the south of us a big hotel whose bulk is visible from
the camp, a strong temptation to all our luxurious budding Napoleons.
Randall was there last night, and came in to tell us what he had to eat.
Particularly he enjoyed, he said, the fresh asparagus tips. Pickle's envy
overcame his dislike, and he had nothing to say. But David's eye gleamed.
"Fresh asparagus tips?" he asked. "Scarcely that." "Indeed?" demanded
Randall. "I know asparagus when I eat it." "But not fresh asparagus,"
countered David. "It's not to be had in September. Canned tips, Randall,
that's all." And Pickle, in his relief, cackled aloud.

I have of late told you so little of our officers that I must say
something about them here, of officers as a class, and ours in
particular. We are at the stage of theoretical conferences--after the
regimental meeting each night on the drill-field is a company conference
at each company tent, where the non-coms are expected to go, and where
all others are invited. Consequently the captain or lieutenant has forty
men there each night, crowded close around the table and packed at the
open side of the tent. We are learning the theory of field skirmish work,
with a glance at the method of advancing by road into an enemy's country.

And I must say that our officers have at their tongues' ends the whole of
the principle that is embodied in that strange little book, the drill
regulations. As soon as you have got beyond the mere parade-ground work
(and that is all the civilian ever sees) the book brings you to a region
where nothing else is considered than the one thing, attack, attack,
attack. There is something very grim and inexorable in this primer of
war, this A B C of the principles of destruction. And if the innocent
little pocket manual contains a codification, so condensed as to be
amazing, of the ways to slay your enemy, the officers are ready with
every possible amplification of its dry paragraphs. Get forward, always
get forward, is their intention. Make your fire effective, make it
destructive, make it overwhelming. With word, with blackboard plan and
section, with theory, with practical illustration, each night they lay
before us some new field of this really awful knowledge. We study it
eagerly. Two years ago I should have been horrified at these doctrines
that they preach. Today I regard knowledge of them, by a sufficient
number of able-bodied men, as the great need of the country.

So much, dear mother, of things which to speak of in detail would only
pain your kind heart. As to the men that teach us, I can say that they
improve upon acquaintance. Each of them, the captain and lieutenant, has
his own way of teaching. In the lieutenant a coolness of statement that
seems to imply a calm unshakableness, as of one who has measured all
risks and sees that they amount to nothing. In the captain equal
clearness but more fire. Both see that the only safety is in attack. They
answer our questions quite differently, the lieutenant with a crisp
completeness that leaves nothing to inquire but much to ponder on, the
captain with an illuminating phrase that humanizes everything and brings
instant understanding. Their men will go wherever they send them in a
fight, for the lieutenant because they know he must be right, for the
captain because they feel it.

We never, I think, can know the lieutenant very well, because of that
quality which I saw in him at his first appearance before us, an
aloofness that taunts us into the determination to please him. The
captain I am sure we know already, a worker, a driver, but one who shows
us that he understands our mistakes by the very keenness of his irony. "I
have found you men to place the hip anywhere between the armpit and the
knee. So I will place it for you at the watch pocket. That is your
official hip, gentlemen." "Yes, skirmishers in Europe are now wearing
steel helmets. But if you men don't better learn to keep under cover you
won't need steel helmets, you'll need battleships." "You can't take too
many precautions in the use of your guns. In this game with me out in
front, I'm an advocate of safety first."

The men like him, but more than that, they respect him. You know, mother,
that I can tell something at first hand about learning one's job. But
these officers put the average civilian to shame. I doubt if there is
stronger professional feeling, or a higher standard of professional
achievement, anywhere in the world. If all the other officers are like
our two, West Pointers are a formidable body of men.



                                                           Sep. 6, 1916.


You can't imagine what a relief it is to be where there are no men. That
may seem to you a curious statement, for here there are practically no
women at all, and nothing but men in the landscape from morning till
night. But there are no men buzzing about. It was disgusting to me that
no sooner was my engagement to Dick broken than the rushing recommenced.
I am so glad to be where no one pays me any attention at all. The place
will be flooded in a few days with a thousand new rookies, but they will
be nothing else to me than trees or bushes, and I can still have peace.

There are ladies here whom I have met, and shall meet again. Only I feel
no interest in them just now, except that the two I am likeliest to see
most of are such as always rouse my pity, overburdened with the cares of
children and a social position on a small salary. And the money of one of
them has just stopped coming in because her husband, at the border,
allowed an emergency purchase which the auditing department at Washington
will not pass. You know that in such a case the officer's pay stops until
the deficiency is made up or the matter is explained. No one questions
his honesty, but his wife and children suffer. And a man will ask a woman
to take that risk with him!

The Colonel is the nicest old gentleman, very courteous. There is no
doubt that army officers have delightful manners; he begs my pardon every
time he lights his pipe. Cannot afford cigars, of course. And threadbare,
but very neat. But what is the use of courtesy and self-denial if you
believe in war, make war your business?

He and I have had it out already. Neither of us made the slightest
impression on the other. His argument is the old one: be prepared, and
people will let you alone. He cannot be made to see that if a man has a
gun, or a nation has an army, the temptation to use it will some day
become too strong.

I haven't given him my opinion of the army as a profession _for women_.
He always ends our discussion with a charming compliment. But I am aching
to point out to him the condition of the house we live in, where the new
has all come off of Dolly's wedding presents, the chair covers are
wearing out, holes are coming in the napkins, and there is no money for
replacements. How Dolly could pay for her trip to the border, or keep
herself there, I can't think. Suppose the children are sick!

Oh, my dear, I am so weary of genteel poverty! Why couldn't I have
married Dick? He worked so hard, and got himself such a fine position,
that we should have been so comfortable! And then we had to conclude that
we weren't made for each other. I do so regret it, and yet there was
nothing else possible. Perhaps I'm not made for marriage after all.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                                                         September 12th.

The town, as I told you, is flooded with recruits, of the amateur
variety. But our post is a little oasis all by itself, and except that
they come and drill on the parade ground, they do not come near us. Did I
tell you that out in front of the house, merely across a driveway, is
this great field where the training companies manoeuvre morning and
afternoon, and where they occasionally have regimental or battalion
drill? Luckily our small piazza is all grown over with vines, so that I
can sit outside for the air and yet not myself be seen. The old Colonel
watches it all with the keenest interest, tells me what they do and what
they fail to do, and I am even learning the meaning of a few military
terms. He approves of the way in which the new men learn, and is very
proud of what they are achieving. But it has got so with me that I pay no
more attention to the drilling men than to automobiles going by. And when
their hours are over the place is almost as deserted as before.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                                                               Sept. 13.

I am rather annoyed by the fact that now that the training camp is
settling into its routine, its officers--the unmarried ones--find time to
come calling on the Colonel. Of course the dear old man is delighted to
see them, and doesn't tell me that he has helped to spread the report
that an eligible young woman is staying with him. I wish he hadn't. For I
have found out that military men are twice as bad as civilians. They are
aggressive by nature, or they wouldn't have chosen the profession; they
are aggressive by education; three minutes after they are introduced they
begin a flirtation. There is a lieutenant Pendleton here for whom I am
sure I am the twenty-seventh, so skilful is he in his operations. I have
known him two days, and I expect him to propose tomorrow. There are three
others who are only a day, or at most two days, behind. You know them,
the dashing, fascinating kind.

Another officer, Lt. Pendleton's captain, named Kirby, I cannot quite
make out. He doesn't make love; he discusses tactics with the colonel.
Yet he comes quite regularly, and keeps me in sight. He seems grimmer,
more tenacious than the others; I'm glad he gives his time to the Colonel
rather than to me. His voice has a curious quality, a most unmilitary
gentleness. Pendleton, when he gets you in a corner, purrs to you alone;
yet you feel that he has claws. His voice rings on the parade ground; I'm
sure of it. I can't make out what Captain Kirby's would sound like. There
is a deceptive sympathy to it, deceptive because I feel in him much
purpose. When an army officer can't flirt he either likes his profession
too little or he likes it too much.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                                                                Sep. 14.

This morning, on our little porch, I was sitting sewing behind the vines
when Captain Kirby came marching his company onto the parade ground
before the house. And then I learned what his voice was like, my dear.
Not gentle at all; very deep, very strong, curiously resonant, as if he
were shouting through a trumpet. And how do you suppose he treated his
men, so many of whom are gentlemen, or older than he, or earning bigger
salaries. Like schoolboys! I first saw him when he was standing out in
front of them, holding in his hand, swinging by the strap, a rifle that
he must have taken from one of them. Said he: "When you're at route step,
I want you not to carry your guns like suit-cases. You aren't a gang of
porters. If I had the money I'd tip you all; but cut out this red-cap
stuff. And don't carry it _so_." He put it across his shoulders, pointing
right and left. "You'll put out the eye of the man on your right, and
bash the ear of the man on your left. Now remember, Nature is a great
provider. She has made shoulders specially for the carrying of rifles.
Carry your rifle on one shoulder or the other, or hang them by the straps
from one shoulder or the other. And by no other way." As if they had to
obey him in every little thing!

Then he worked them! Nothing satisfied him. At each mistake, a blast of
sarcasm. He spoke of the "accordion-pleated line." He gave a fling at a
lost corporal: "As soon as we recover our derelict flanking squad, now
about a hundred yards ahead." The men came slinking back. He withered one
individual. "That belt is on exactly right. Except that it's upside down
and inside out, it's exactly right." At whatever distance he went, I
could hear every word. And whenever the company came close, I could hear
the men in the ranks, murmur, murmur, murmur. You can't treat such men
so. Of course they're disgusted with him.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                                                                Sep. 15.

Such a humiliation today! And such a discovery! I suppose you didn't tell
me that Dick was here because you thought I'd prefer not to know it.
We're perfectly aware of each other's neighborhood now. This is the way
of it.

This afternoon, being tired of the continual drilling on the parade
ground, I slipped away before it could begin, and leaving the Colonel at
his nap, went walking out a gravel road that I've for some time wished to
explore. It took me along a rather desolate tract of scrub land, with
nothing ahead but the distant Adirondacks; so at last, seeing a little
hill to the left, I thought I'd try if I could see the lake from it, and
perhaps sit there awhile in quiet. I struck out across this piece of very
desolate country, with little bushes growing but no grass, not good for
pasture nor for anything but one purpose which I didn't then suspect.
Soon I found myself walking along a ditch which kept cutting me off from
the hill, a ditch in the driest of sandy land and as deep as my chin, all
shored up with cut poles, or sometimes with plank, or with bundles of
twigs, or with willow basket work. And then I saw it was a trench!

The Plattsburgers must have made it. It ran all about, experimentally. It
had here a shelter of sandbags, there a dugout, there a kitchen. It was
made in different ways to show how to use material, I suppose. Really it
was very clever. And then when I came too near it at one place, to study
it, the rotten wood gave way with me, and so as not to have to fall I was
forced to jump, right down into it. And there I was! When I tried to get
up at the half-broken place, I was overwhelmed by a shower of sand.
Everywhere else the walls were too high for me to climb out. So I took to
walking along it, and it twisted all around, with passages like a maze,
but nowhere a place to climb. At one corner I met a horrible great snake,
helpless down there too. But it went one way and I went the other, till I
came to a little niche with a cover overhead, and a loophole looking
along the waste of scrub. Outside a little sign said, "Machine-gun
emplacement." And there I stood looking out for a sign of help.

Then I heard Captain Kirby's voice, no one could mistake it, and I was
relieved till I understood what he was saying. "Less noise, men! You
couldn't creep up on a dead tree that way. It would hear you coming." The
horrible thing had all his hundred and fifty men there, and in a moment I
began to see them, little glimpses of olive-drab pushing through the
bushes. I heard his voice again: "By squads from the right!" then
corporals' voices, then the rushing of men, then more corporals and more
rushing. All the time, from nowhere that I could see, came a continual
clicking--the absurd creatures were pretending to fire on the trench
where I was standing. I began to get more glimpses of men running stooped
and throwing themselves flat, heard the captain's war-horn, and a little
further away the lieutenant's voice like a bugle.

For this sort of playing soldier I suppose it was really pretty well
done. I knew they were all the time coming nearer, but I couldn't get
anything but glimpses of them. And after a while I knew they were behind
a line of bushes some fifty yards away, where I heard their continuous
clicking; but they showed only an occasional hat. Then I heard the
captain's voice, "Front rank, simulate fix bayonets!" and in a moment,
full of sarcasm: "Don't draw that bayonet! I said _simulate_. Don't you
understand the English language?" The clicking kept up at only half rate,
and I saw a few rifle muzzles; then the rear rank pretended the same;
then I heard the order, "Prepare to charge!" And it was all dead silence.

There was nothing that I could do but peep through my loophole, and think
how silly it all was. I heard a roar from the captain, an outburst of
yells, the crash of the bushes, and--there was the captain coming like a
bull, and a long rank of men rising behind him and rolling on toward me
in a wave. Oh, Frances dear, there is something awful about brute force!
I felt the ground shake, the noise of the shouting seemed to burst my
ears, the faces in front of me were like those of angry demons. I'm
ashamed that their toy soldiering was so real to them that it [the word
_frightened_ evidently crossed out] was too much for me, and I turned
away and put my hands to my ears.

Then it was all over. I heard them crying "Halt!" and walked out into the
open trench, to see a line of men laughing and panting just above me.
Only a few saw me at first; the rest were saying "That was some charge!"
and similar self-praise. I said, "Will you please help me out?" The men
nearest me were very respectful. One leaped down beside me, laid down his
gun, and held his hands for me to step in, a blond man, a real soldier,
with flashing blue eyes. Half a dozen hands were held for me above, and
the captain came pushing in to help, with such an anxious face! But I
heard someone say, "Give me your hand, Vera!" and there was Dick! He and
the blond man had me out in a moment, and Dick took me through the line
and got me quickly away toward the road I had left. I sent him back, but
he would not leave me till he was sure I was all right. He was very
handsome, and grave, and respectful. And oh! wasn't it all stupid? I am
disgusted with the whole Tenth Training Regiment, but more disgusted with


... The fellows' eyes popped as I took Vera through the line. She _is_ a
stunner! I saluted the captain when I went back, and he did not ask me to
explain why I took so much on myself, though the lieutenant, who came too
late, I think was furious with me. We yanked Knudsen out of the trench,
and the captain, forming us instantly, marched us away in the direction
that Vera didn't take. When he gave us rest she was clean out of sight,
and we lay down in the bushes and loafed for a while.

Nobody in the squad asked me a question. Young David's face was a study
in ignorance, but of course it was he who let the others know that I was
to be let alone. From his squad Randall began to throw remarks at me, but
Pickle turned on him very savagely. "Oh, yap, yap, yap!" Captain Kirby
when he went by looked at me very intently, and I looked straight back at
him. But I couldn't look at any of the other fellows. Curious that a man
feels so self-conscious. You women know how to pretend, but few of us
seem to manage it.

Yet I wasn't sorry it came about so. The squad stands together on
anything that happens to any one of us. I felt proud to belong to it.
When we marched back and had got to the main road again, the captain
disappeared; it was the lieutenant who got us to camp and dismissed us
there. I knew where the captain went when after this evening's mess I was
ordered to go to his tent. He was writing there, and turned round when I
_scratched_, which is a little way we have in the army, as there is no
way of knocking. I saluted.

"Oh, Mr. Godwin," said he, returning my salute. "Miss Wadsworth sends a
message. You're to come to see her this evening, after general

"I was planning to go to company conference, sir," said I.

I suppose she knew I would say that, for he was ready for me. "She made
it an order, Mr. Godwin," said he, very gravely.

"Very well, sir," said I, saluted again, and left him writing--or
pretending to. I suppose she's got him, like the rest of them.

When I called on Vera we were very proper, and very old-friendly, and
radically different in our ideas, as it seems destined for us to be. I
told her how much I liked the training, and she said how much she
disapproved of it, and so we passed the time. Once she insisted on
telling me all about what her sister Frances is doing now. Then officers
began to come in, and to chat with the old colonel in the next room, and
glance through the door at us, as if saying, "When is that dam rookie
going to go?" So I left. It was nearly time, anyway, for me to be tucked
up in bed like a good little boy, and leave the field to my betters.



                                             Saturday evening, Sept. 16.
                                            At the company tent.


We have just come back from general conference, a nightly occurrence
except in bad weather. Tonight, because it was cold, the men went
grumbling and tardy, having put on sweaters under their blouses, and the
wise ones, on account of the recent rains, bringing something to sit on.
In default of anything better a legging will do, slipped off when we are
on the ground. Our speaker tonight told us of army law, too technical for
me to make it interesting to you. Some speakers have hard work in making
their subjects interesting to us, not that these are dull, but that the
speakers are. Said Corder to me after one such, "When I was a Sunday
School superintendent I let no one speak to the school that hadn't
something to say." Yet on the whole I am surprised how well the officers
can give us the gist of their subjects.

Our best speaker so far (excepting always the General, who has a way of
getting at us that explains his success) was a youngish doctor, who gave
us a plain talk concerning personal hygiene. When he spoke of
cleanliness, briefly referring to it as a matter of course, I thought of
a man whom I had seen on the beach that afternoon, Wednesday, looking at
his feet and exclaiming in disgust: "Look at them! And I washed them
Monday morning!" Some of our lads, who come here with expenses paid by
their employers, have a little to learn in this particular.

But to return to our doctor. He was very jocose, expressed himself in
perfectly decent men's slang, and kept us laughing _with_ him all the
time, while at the same time he drove home his advice. And yet it was
very striking how once, not disrespectfully, the men laughed _at_ him.
While speaking of our diet he said, "I advise you to eat freely of the
excellent fruit provided at the camp table." Now with us fruit, cooked or
raw, is almost lacking, and nothing exasperates me quite so much, when I
remember the wonderful apples that were just ripening at home, as to see
the small bruised insipid fruit that they serve us here. So the men began
to laugh, quietly at first; but the laughter rippled from one end of the
crowd to the other, and then rose in waves, and then boomed louder and
louder, in one great hearty roar. Whether or not the doctor saw the
point, it was worth taking.

Today we went on outpost duty, posting our squads at proper vantage
points along the further edge of our old familiar field, beyond the
trenches where Vera was trapped. The lieutenant took us out, explaining
as he went, dropping a squad on every-other rise of the ground, and
leaving its corporal to post his men. Soon we were strung out along half
a mile of rough country, a railroad in our front, and beyond it the
enemy's territory. Looking from our vantage-point it was hard to suppose
that the barren pasture was hiding all our men. Of them we saw but two,
an advance post lying on the hither side of the railroad embankment,
peering over the top, and our squad's own foremost man at his place where
he could command a railroad cut. The rest were hidden in little hollows,
in scattered clumps of pine, or in patches of scrub oak. After a while
along came the visiting patrol, directed by each squad onward to the
next, and so covering the whole front. And last came the captain,
inspecting each post, and when he was satisfied, sending us back with
orders to pick up the rest of our platoon and re-form by the trenches. An
incident of this short march. Randall, when we routed out Squad Six,
produced his last cigarette. His front rank man asked him for half. "No
one divides a cigarette," said Randall, borrowed a match from the man,
and lighted the cigarette himself. Our Lucy, after watching this in
silent amazement, took out his cigarette-box, found he had but one smoke,
and handed it over. Really, if he becomes a man Randall should have half
of the credit.

This afternoon we have at last made a beginning on another part of our
work, the use of the rifle. Some few days ago the captain called for
those of us who had used high-powered rifles; he has since been weeding
them out, till he has a couple of dozen of them to use as coaches. Today
we went "on the galleries," which is a convenient phrase for the use of
small-bore rifles against small targets at short range. At the bottom of
the drill field we hung on wires small wooden frames on which were tacked
paper targets; behind was the low railroad embankment, behind that the
lake. Our rifles were in every detail like the service pieces, except the
smaller bore. We used dummy cartridges as long as the gun usually
requires, but so made as to receive much smaller cartridges, carrying
weak charges of powder--if you understand the lingo, they were "22
shorts." One gang of us was kept at work perpetually loading these
gallery cartridges, and assembling them in clips of five; another gang
was steadily tacking new targets on the frames; and bunch by bunch we
were moved from these duties to the more interesting one of shooting the
cartridges and spoiling the targets.

Since our recent talk in the gymnasium we have been practising, at all
odd minutes, how to hold and sight the guns, and how to pull the trigger.
Never before coming here had I heard of the _squeeze_, in which (of
another kind) all army men are popularly supposed to be proficient by
nature, but which here is technically a special study. The greenhorn
naturally supposes that all he has to do with the gun is, like Stephen in
the classic rhyme, to "p'int de gun, pull on de trigger." But since the
ordinary pull is a jerk that affects the aim, some genius has invented
the new method. So we are taught first to grip the small of the stock
with the full hand, the thumb along the side, and with the forefinger to
take up the slack of the trigger till it engages the mechanism, and then
to take a little more, till presently the gun will go off. At this point,
while using the sling to secure a good aim, the shooter should squeeze,
that is, he should slowly and steadily contract his whole hand, all the
fingers together, till in a moment--Bang!

It sounds so easy!

On the galleries, then, we were tested for our understanding of this new
art. The size of the target and the distance, considered in relation to
the power of the two rifles, were about equal to service conditions at
five hundred yards. The weight and size of the gun made the test a fair
one. We tried out the two chief postures, sitting and prone, and had both
slow and rapid fire, or as the captain prefers to say, slow and

These are summaries and general facts. Personal details are: long service
in the two gangs, long waits for my turn, and five minutes with the gun.
"Be sure to shoot on Number Twelve target," warned the coach as he helped
me adjust the sling. "Now get your position right. Now put in the clip.
And now remember your squeeze." I was trying slow fire, handling a gun
for the first time since I was a boy. "The top of the U of the open sight
an inch below the bull," chanted the coach. "But the bullseye," I
complained, "dances all about." "Of course," said the coach. "Make it
dance less, hold as steady as you can, squeeze when the front sight is
under it.--There, you jerked!" So I did, but I squeezed a little better
as time went on, till I was pretty sure I was doing all right. The gun
didn't kick, and by my tenth shot I was fairly steady. I gave up the gun
after making sure it was empty, waited till all the rest had finished,
and at the order we walked forward with new targets, hung them in place
of the old, tore ours off the frames, and gave the frames over to the
tacking squad, while at the same time trying to compute our scores before
we filed up to the captain.

I was amazed and disgusted to find that three of my shots had missed the
target quite. To the captain, as he studied my target, I expressed my
mortification. "What target were you shooting on?" he asked, in the lingo
proper to our trade. I answered "Number Twelve." "Three shots shy," said
the captain, "and here's Number Fourteen lacking two hits. Where's Number
Thirteen?" "Here, sir," said Bannister, "and there's fifteen shots in my
target." "Then three are mine," said I. "And two are mine," said Number
Fourteen. My shooting hadn't been very good, threes and fours, with only
one bull. Bannister had nine bullseyes, some of which I may have made;
but he was privileged to count all the best shots on his score.--I know
now a little more about target shooting than merely holding the gun.

Tomorrow we are to have more of this, although it is Sunday. The captain
has given us our evening to ourselves, and has asked us (_asked_, you
notice, for our Sunday afternoon is our own) to give him the time
tomorrow. He has the reputation, I am told, of always making his company
the best at rifle shooting. And if he works us, he is also working

This spell of cold weather which has followed our rains and is going to
make life quite different for us, has this evening driven everyone from
the company tent except myself, who sit here wrapped in a blanket to my
waist, finishing this letter. There has been a very pleasant little group
of us here, using each other's ink, interrupting our work to stop and
chat, showing each other our photographs. And perhaps I had better
explain why it is that I have appeared in two or three of the camp scenes
which I have already sent you. There is here an official photographer,
who sends out camera men to take us in all sorts of occupations--on the
skirmish line, on parade, cleaning our teeth or our rifles, marching,
skylarking. The pictures are all of the post card size, and in due course
are exhibited at the studio, where we go and inspect and buy. He is
always out of pictures of lieutenants, captains, the general, and other
popular subjects. But by perseverance and patient waiting one can
accumulate a record of his life here. Luck will put a fellow, on an
average, into a few groups a week, as you see in the ones I have sent

I am shivering. The captain has promised us another blanket for tomorrow,
and there are rumors of an issue of overcoats. At this rate we shall need

Love from



                                                Sunday evening the 17th.


Not a minute for writing all day, and yet I have been idle, idle, idle.
My own personal work began very early, for I got up about quarter of
five, took my shower-bath in the shivering dawn, and then, while the camp
was just beginning to stir, and when I had the bucket and spigot to
myself, I washed out shirt, underclothes, stockings, handkerchiefs, and
pajamas. The water was painfully cold, and often I had to stop and warm
my hands in my sweater. But I got the work done, and hung the clothes on
the lines, knotted together, that are used to regulate the caps on tents
8 and 10. The clothes-pins were most useful, for the wind blew strongly
all day, and many a piece of laundry went sailing off to leeward.
Inspection compelled me to take the things in once, but I got them out
again, and in the evening I had the pleasure of putting on again, dry,
the pajamas that I washed in the morning. I never should have been able
to fold them properly for stowing away.

Our inspection was very formidable this morning, for the major was
expected, and the captain came down the street, and in his mildest voice
gave strictest orders. Washing was taken in, extra clothes were taken
down from tent-poles, and tents were made perfectly neat inside and out.
I was tent-policeman for the day, but my job was light, for everyone was
concerned to have the place look well, and picked up round his cot,
borrowed the broom and wielded it, and laid out his kit in the best of
order. From the next tent we heard Randall in his usual controversy with
his squad, refusing to help his neighbor roll up the walls of the tent,
and loudly complaining when his washing and his rubber coat were thrown
on his cot with orders to put them out of sight. But in spite of himself
he was compelled to share in the housecleaning. Outside, the street was
policed of every cigarette-butt and scrap of paper, and then the two
police squads, with rakes and brooms, went down the whole length of it
and made it as orderly as a garden walk.

Then at command we lined up outside the tents, dressed in two lines down
the street, facing each other. Down this aisle came the Major, glancing
keenly about, and peering sharply into each tent. Of our corporal he
asked if we had blankets enough. Captain Kirby came next with the first
sergeant, and carefully inspected each tent. Then he called us all
together in a circle, said that the major had been unusually pleased with
us; a man of few words, he has seldom praised a company so heartily. This
set us all up. Then the captain, for his own part, gave us his thanks,
told us we'd done well, and apologized for working us so hard. "I know
you hate me like the devil for it," he said, "but you're coming on
finely." And he sent us to the galleries for more practice. We went in
some surprise at his opinion of himself. "Hate him like the devil?"
exclaimed Corder. "The devil we do!"

The waiting on the drill-field became very tedious. So poor is our
equipment that we have but eighteen gallery rifles for our hundred and
fifty men, and it was nearly an hour before I got my first try. My score
this time was the reverse of yesterday, for I got fifty-four out of a
possible fifty, one hundred and eight percent! That was because there
were thirteen holes in the paper, someone having presented me with the
extra three. Counting all the best shots as my own, my official score was
42; yet none of the shots were outside the second ring, and at worst my
score was 39.

In the afternoon my pride had a fall, for after the same tedious wait I
fired my ten rounds at the target. This time I fired prone, both clips
within two minutes. This position, flat on my belly with my legs apart
(in our close quarters it was difficult not to kick my neighbor, and
destructive of aim to have him kick me) with my elbows under me and the
gun, and my head bent back, is in itself hard enough to maintain during a
single shot. But for rapid fire the process is thus. After the first shot
the gun is kept at the shoulder, the muzzle slightly lowered and turned
aside to give the right hand a chance to work; I grasp the bolt handle,
turn it up, pull it back full length, shove it sharply home, turn it
down, and thus have reloaded. Then again I must sight the gun, be sure
not to cant it, be sure not to have my eye too close to the cocking
piece, must get the sights right, hold steady, and squeeze. All this on a
ten seconds' average. After the fifth shot there is a change, for the gun
must be taken from the shoulder and the fresh clip inserted. Then five
more shots at the same rate. No wonder that, though all these days I have
been hardening my elbows and toughening my neck, at the end of my ten
shots I fell over gasping.

And my luck was bad. First my clip would not go easily into the gun, and
made me feel hurried. Next a cartridge jammed, and lost me ten seconds.
Then out of the ten cartridges four missed fire, which put me off my aim.
My coach was ready with more, but they had to be loaded singly, and I had
time to fire only a total of eight, making a miserable score of sixteen.
The captain, after briefly scanning my target, told me that I was aiming
too low. After another long wait I had another chance; but this time I
was thoroughly chilled by the wind that had been blowing through us all
the afternoon. Then the worn cartridges and the old breech mechanism
behaved badly again, and though by following the captain's hint I did
better, making 27, it was very unsatisfactory. The officers hope for
more, and new, gallery rifles. Without them it is difficult to give us
good preliminary practice. For all this, you know, is to get us ready to
shoot with the service rifle.

Many of us came shivering off the field, and huddled in our tents with
our new extra blankets around us till we warmed up again. But very few of
the men failed to turn up at this volunteer practice, and to stay it
through on the chance of one more round. In the whole company there were
but six who slipped away to pleasures in the town. One of them was

I am warm now, and fed. Love from



                                   Monday the 18th September, 5.40 A. M.
                                         On my cot, while the others
                                             sit about and chat.


The reason why the others sit and chat, and why I have time to write, is
this. Young David, fresh from his shave (which he has learned to do at
speed, and without injury, and is very proud of) came into the tent and
said: "We have ten minutes for making up our packs before mess." "Lucy,"
said Knudsen, "there's a chance of showers. Why do up packs that we may
have to undo again?" So David is polishing his shoes (likewise a new art
with him) and Pickle is sewing on a button, and they all are talking,
while elsewhere, chiefly in the street, the men are making up their packs
for the morning's work that is sure to require them. And now comes in
Bannister, chanting "Soupy, soupy, soupy!" It is time for mess.

--And now, forty-five minutes later, the whole company is at work over
the packs, most of the squads grumbling, but we very happy, for it is
showering in a dispirited way, and the order is, "Ponchos out of the
packs!" Wise Knudsen, and fortunate Squad 8! Now the next question is,
where to carry the ponchos--in the two lower straps of the pack?
Everybody gives everybody else his opinion. The word comes down the
street, "Carry them as you please." So mine is looped in the strap that
supports my belt, and the pack is slung. And while everyone else is
adjusting his pack, or dropping the sides of the tent near his cot, or
loosening the tent guy-ropes, I scratch this.--Now the bugle, and the
whistle, and the last hasty running and calls, and in a moment we shall
be assembled, each with ten blank cartridges in his belt (the first time
we have had them) and shall be off in the drizzle.

                                                Evening. In my OVERCOAT!

But it was not many minutes before our ponchos were on, for the day was
"open and shut," and sometimes it opened pretty wide. In our full
equipment, ponchos over everything, we turned off the main road, went by
new and strange ways, and found ourselves for the first time on the
range, where we lined up at the 600 yards mark. As we looked toward the
butts the scene was very picturesque.

The field was level, rising at the further end to a low ridge, below
which stood the targets. These, seen through the drizzle, were but great
squares of pale tan color, only slightly relieved against the wet sand
bank. In the middle of each of them I could just see a black dot. Between
us and them, three hundred yards away, was extended a dark line of men,
with here and there a smoking fire around which groups warmed themselves.
From the thin line came irregularly spurts of smoke, and the spattering
of rifle shots. It reminded me of an old picture of the field of
Antietam, spiritless in itself, but here made alive by the movement, the
noise, the drifting smoke, and the gray monotone. I watched it while the
captain explained tomorrow's work; then, glad that today had not fallen
to our lot, we marched on, taking up our route step in the soft sand of
an old railroad bed.

We were glad of our ponchos when the rain increased. As it poured down
heavily we were a disreputable lot, all streaked with the wet, our hats
slouched, our ponchos bunched in every direction with elbows, packs, and
rifles. The rubber turned the cold wind and shed most of the rain; but as
before, where our knees touched the ponchos the water came through, and
wet us finely. Then the rain stopped and the clouds became thinner, but
the wind remained cold; and when the captain slowly led us along the
specimen trenches, explaining as he went, we all got pretty well chilled
for lack of motion. I looked at David and saw that he was turning blue.
The only mental relief came when we arrived at the shelter where a few
days ago we found Vera.

Corder looked at the sign in front of it, and read it out. "Machine gun
emplacement! Very appropriate!"

I couldn't help smiling, nor could the rest, except David, who for
politeness tried to be blank, and thoroughly warmed himself by the inward
struggle, turning quite red. When the captain got us back to the road and
"fell us out" (note the idiom!) we had calisthenics, with pushing matches
that put warmth into us. And then we marched in skirmish line through low
bushes for half a mile, till the captain lined us up for blank cartridge

We had struck another part of the same abandoned railroad, from which was
plainly visible, at perhaps two hundred yards, the gable of a deserted
shack. The captain sent to it a couple of men, who tacked up a target on
it. Then first the coaches, our experienced riflemen, and after them the
platoons one by one, came forward, every man being ready with his two
clips of blank cartridges. The slings were adjusted, each line as it came
up loaded with the first clip, and at the command "Targets--up!" threw
itself flat, took position, and began to fire. The lieutenant called out
the ten second intervals. Proper firing would bring the exhaustion of the
first clip at about one minute. Then the second clip would be inserted,
and should be finished with the second minute.

I cautioned my coach to remind me to keep my eye away from the cocking
piece, and after testing sling and ground, threw myself down and got into
position at the word. Well, it wasn't difficult to fire; though the noise
of the gun was much greater than that of the gallery rifle there was no
recoil; and I tried to be as steady as possible in aiming and squeezing.
The bullseye was the silhouette, life size, of a man lying prone and
firing at me. Instructions were to aim at the bottom of the target, about
a foot below him. The crack of my neighbor's piece, very loud and sharp,
was the most uncomfortable part of the performance, and I shall shoot
tomorrow with cotton in my ears; many decided likewise. I plugged away
steadily, the ammunition worked well, and I finished my second clip with
about fifteen seconds to spare. Then I stood up and brushed myself, with
no one to prove that I had not made a perfect score.

One hundred and fifty men shooting ten rounds each--that meant 1500
shells left on the ground, with 300 clips, all of brass. I noticed some
rather untidy figures, emerging from the miserable little shacks that
dotted the scrub, slinking through the brush in our direction and
gathering on the flanks of our firing line, eight or ten men and boys and
girls, one of the latter carrying a baby. Near me Captain Kirby cursed
them under his breath as "human buzzards," and I understood that these
camp followers had not gathered merely to admire. As soon as the last
platoon filed off the ground, these persons slipped forward, and began
eagerly to pick up the treasure that lay scattered there. With brass at
twenty-five cents a pound, war prices, they made enough, scratching in
the dirt, to keep them going for the next week or so.

Back to camp then, still glad of our ponchos, for though there was no
more rain the wind was steadily colder. Then the job of cleaning, with
one rod per squad, and patches always few, our fouled rifles.

This afternoon we were taken to a neighboring field, where in limited
area are samples of most of the military engineering devices approved by
moderns. Three officers of the engineers in turn took charge of us, and
showed us bridges, roads, entanglements, dugouts, rifle pits, hand
grenades, trench mortars (with real bombs!) and finally the mysteries of
map-making, which for me are practical mysteries still. Some glimmer of
an idea I now have of how a man with a watch and compass, a sketching
board and paper, can make a working map of country entirely new to him;
but I never could do it myself. Calisthenics next, as almost daily; and
then instead of being dismissed for our swim, which none of us wanted in
such cold, we were marched back to the company street, where a line soon
formed at the store tent, and a magic word was passed from squad to

Overcoats! Overcoats? Could we believe it? But a figure separated itself
from the crowd at the head of the street, and came strutting toward us.
An army overcoat, o. d., and above it the grinning features of a fellow
whom we knew well. It was true! And quickly we ourselves got into line,
coming at last to the tent, where without considering sizes the overcoats
were handed out just as they came. After which men went up and down the
street swapping, the little fellows with 44s calling out for 36s, and the
big fellows demanding 44s. I soon exchanged my 38 for a 42, and now, at
the camp tent, am comfortably writing in it. It holds me sweater and all,
blouse too if necessary; it can cover the ears and comes well below the
knees. Mysteriously--for I don't understand these things--it has the
military cut. I never felt so swell as when I first buttoned it on.

There has been no general conference on account of the cold, our captain
being the only one brisk enough to get overcoats for his men. But company
conference is now due, and I see the captain coming. These nights on the
rifle, always the rifle.

Love from



                                   Plattsburg, Tues. the 19th September.


We have had a long day on the rifle range, slow fire at three hundred,
five hundred, and six hundred yards, working for a total of 50 on each
target, and a possible grand total of 250 when, some other day, we have
our two tries at rapid fire. The work was hard for some of us, the
coaches and scorers, exciting for the rest. The captain worked hard from
first to last, trying to make it possible for us, with our slight
preparation, to qualify as marksmen, with a total of 160, or perhaps even
to do better, as sharpshooters scoring 190, or as expert riflemen with
210 points. Our new overcoats, for which we have him to thank, saved the
lives of many of us, for there was the keenest little north wind blowing.
I lay down in mine once, and slept very comfortably; and all the fellows
were grateful for the protection. There isn't a man in the company that
hasn't done his best today for the captain's sake, if not for his own.

Our company were waked a little early, and were extra prompt to
breakfast, which was extra good (eggs and bacon!)--again the captain's
foresight. He started us promptly for the range, surely the oddest sight
that we have presented so far. In front went a huddle of men with
benches, chairs, and tables, lamps for blacking the sights (lest they
glitter and confuse the eye), the captain's megaphone, and the
ammunition. We followed at route step in our greatcoats, some of us
carrying ponchos, and except for our rifles and belts, no other
equipment. Discipline was relaxed today, for the captain, hopeful of good
scores, was as gentle as a lamb.

Of the three dozen targets we had twelve for our share, and companies I
and J used the remainder. In front of our section of the line the company
flag was set up, the benches were placed, the scorers took their seats,
the platoons were ranged for their turns. Companies I and J came marching
on, and before very long we were rapidly getting used to the orderly
disorder of the range. The coaches were called up for their opening try,
and suddenly I heard the order for the first round to begin. The shots
began to rap out, sharp and heavy.

Behind each set of three targets a platoon was stationed. The men stood
and watched, or sat and waited, or lay and tried their squeeze.
Orderlies, sergeants, and platoon commanders hurried to and fro. Loretta
came to our group and said "Don't stand there, men, like a flock of
sheep"; but when we paid no attention, faded away. The Captain's powerful
voice was every few moments heard: "Another man here on target 36.
Fleming in hospital? Then send up the next man. We must waste no time."
"Ammunition here at No. 27." "Every man ready with his score card and his
score book." In but a few minutes the firing, which at the first was so
noticeable, became a commonplace, yet it was worth listening to. From
along the line came scattered reports, like the blows of a heavy rod on
very heavy carpet, now slowly separate, now close together, now sharply
double. In answer the whip-like echoes slashed out from the woods. The
drab men stood, or sauntered, or hurried; the figures of the shooters lay
prone, each with an eager coach crouching over him, correcting his
position, urging steadiness, repeating "Squeeze! Squeeze!" Behind the
line sat scorers at their wooden stands, behind them the first sergeant
received the records. The company flags, marking the line beyond which
the waiting men might not advance, flapped steadily in the breeze.

And in front of all, three hundred yards away, stood up the gray
sandbank, the stopper of the bullets. Some shots went over, to land in
the distant woods beyond, whose encircling signs warn all wanderers to
keep out. "There are hornets in those woods today, gentlemen," said the
captain yesterday as we passed beyond the range. "We will keep away."
There are thirty-six blackboards numbered in order, and between them are
the great targets of manila paper, with their circles and the heavy spot
at the centre. As a man shoots his target sinks, its mate immediately
rises in the same spot, and then upon its face appears, moved by the
markers concealed in the pit below, the record of the shot. A red flag
slowly waved--a miss!--a black cross on a white circle, a red disk, or
best of all, a white disk that obliterates "the bull." The scorers
interpret. "A four at three o'clock," "a three at nine o'clock," "a clean
five, high up," "a nipper four at twelve o'clock," and with a little
chuckle, "a ricochet five!"

Over it all, behind the butts, against the low clouds, rose a silent blue
hill, one of the distant Adirondacks.

In spite of our new greatcoats it grew chilly waiting. I took my time,
wrote notes of this for you, listened, watched. At last I was called to
the bench among those whose turn was next. There at the smoking lamp I
blackened my sights, and then carefully laying the gun on the rack I sat
down, still in my greatcoat, and while others fidgeted with impatience,
or shivered in their sweaters, I remembered that after all I was only a
civilian, and remained calm.

My name being called at last, I went forward to the little rise where,
beside a white stake, I was to shoot. I adjusted my sling and lay down to
the left of the stake; to the right was Lucy, tense and pale. My coach
was a stranger; his was good Clay. My coach tried in vain to get me to
take the position he preferred; it hurt and strained me, and he gave up.
As I slowly got the position I was used to, working my elbows into the
sand, bracing my toes, keeping my body close to the ground, my left hand
twisted in the sling and supporting the barrel, my right at the trigger
and stock, and my cheek at the butt, to my left a rifle heavily spoke,
and in spite of cotton my ear rang. Then Lucy shot. I heard the scorer
say, "Mr. Farnham, a miss!" and I chuckled as I prepared to shoot.

My coach knelt over me and repeated "Squeeze!" I got the sights in line,
the bull in place above the front sight, which was--or should have
been--on a line with the top of the U of the open sight, for I was afraid
of the peep sight. "Are you shooting on twenty-eight?" asked the coach. I
verified the number of my target, then tried to hold the wavering muzzle
steady, and for the first time tightened my hand-grip on the trigger of a
rifle capable of killing at two miles. It jumped sharply in my hands, I
saw the red flame at the muzzle as I heard the report, and felt myself
kicked smartly in the shoulder. Then, spent with all this tension, I
relaxed my grip and collapsed on my face.

There was a discouraging pause as I lay, waiting to hear the hit
announced. Then the scorer cried "Mark Twenty-eight!" The man at the
field telephone repeated the order. I knew the fact--at the butts the
marker had not heard over his head the ripping crack of the bullet, and
had to be told that I had fired. I imagined the slow waving of the red
flag. Then I heard the scorer briefly announce, "Mr. Godwin, miss!"

Well, I shot two more shots, both on the target, but both poor. My coach
did not seem able to help me. Then Clay, who in spite of his work with
Lucy had kept an eye on me, spoke in a low voice to my coach, who rose
and departed. In a moment the captain came, a great relief to me,
depressed with such failure. He looked at my score, asked a couple of
questions as to my sight and aim, took the gun and adjusted the sights,
and stayed to coach me himself.

But this was not Captain Kirby of the drill field, abrupt and peremptory.
He knelt beside me, coaxed, encouraged, purred. "Now, Mr. Godwin, this
time you will do better." And actually I did, a four at seven o'clock.
Once more he adjusted the sights and gave advice as to aim. "And
squeeze!" he said. "Squeeze!" I made a five at six o'clock--only a
nipper, but still a bull! Someone else coming for him, he left me with a
"See, you're shooting better!" And I believed him.

That is what he was doing all day, correcting, advising, giving
confidence. Every man after shooting brought his score-book to him, and
was told how to improve his work. But it was too late for me to make a
good score on this target: I made but twenty-two. Yet other men did
worse, nine, eleven, and even four! Corder, disgusted, reported a twenty.
Knudsen was quietly pleased with his thirty-nine. Then I hunted up David,
and found him just as Randall approached with a "Lucy, what did you
make?" David acknowledged a twenty-one, and Randall gloated over his own
forty-two. When he had gone, I said "He ought to shoot, being pure
animal. He has no nerves."

"Hasn't he?" demanded David, meaning, "I know he has." But he would say
no more.

I found that the men with low scores were more troubled about the effect
on the company total, and the captain's record, than they were for their
own credit.

But as for this game of shooting, it is certainly a test of nerve.
Nothing else can quite equal it--the strain to get position, to line the
sights just right, to hold steady, and then to squeeze. By me on the
firing-line the irregular shots were loud and startling, and people were
talking and calling all around. Golf, with its reverence for the man
about to play, is mild compared to this. The nervous strain of firing is
greater, the bodily shock is abrupt and jarring, you have no real chance
to make up for a miss by later brilliance or by any luck. No, golf
teaches patience and it requires poise, but--as played by the ordinary
man--it is no such game as this.

And as between the experts, target shooting is still the bigger sport.
The knowledge and judgment required to meet the varying conditions, the
steadiness demanded, the fact that the rifleman is preparing himself to
meet his country's greatest emergencies--these put golf (and you know I
have loved the game) into the lower place.

I put on my greatcoat again, took the nap that longed to be taken, and
then, refreshed and more confident, went to my next turn.

This was at five hundred yards. If you will consider that I was shooting
from our house across the meadow, across the railroad bridge, at a circle
twenty inches in diameter (about the size of our largest pewter platter)
you will understand my task. But I was fussed to begin with, for someone
had taken my rifle from the rack, and I had therefore not blacked the
sights, nor adjusted the sling, of the one that I hastily borrowed. As I
came to the stand I was met by an artillery corporal, evidently a kind of
super-coach, who curtly ordered me to do the one thing and the other, and
hurried me to my place. I told him how the captain had wanted the sights
set for this distance; I had put them so. "That doesn't go here," he
said, readjusted them himself, and ordered me to lie down. He was so
overbearing, and I was so uncertain of my rights, that I took my position
and fired my shot. A miss! He blamed me severely, and in general treated
me like the dirt under my feet. At my next shot, a poor two, he said,
"There you go, thinking you know all about it, and jerking your trigger
again." I said, "On the contrary, I'm not used to the pull of this
trigger, and the gun went off before I expected." From that time on I
paid no more attention to him, and perhaps from my manner he saw that it
was just as well to let me alone; but he attacked the other man on this
target, who feebly protested, and who made a wretched score. My score was
coaxed along by our company coach, a nice chap named Haynes, who was most
interested and sympathetic. As for me, the artilleryman vexed me so that
I shot to kill _him_, and by imagining him at the target made a

It was an entirely new sensation, to be so bedevilled by such a man, and
to know that in wartime I could not reply. When at noon we were marched
back to camp and dismissed I sought out Haynes and asked, "What is your
opinion of that artillery coach?" Said he, "I'm going to speak to the
captain about him." "Thanks," I said. "You'll save me the trouble." And
when again I came back to the post in the afternoon, though the corporal
was there, he was very quiet and good.

This incident makes me doubt the value, for such volunteers as we, of the
regular non-coms whom they hope to have here next year, if by that time
the troops are off the border. What help could such an overbearing
conceited drill-master, with no inkling of our difficulties or our point
of view, give to such a squad as ours? Would he last a week out of
hospital, or we a week out of arrest? No, give us a Plattsburg veteran of
one camp as corporal, and appoint as sergeants those who have served two,
and we shall come on faster. Further, more men would thus be trained for
responsible positions.

In the afternoon we shot at 600 yards. We now had sandbag rests for our
left hands (not for our guns) and once more the captain showed his
foresight. He had us bring intrenching shovels and a dozen new burlap
bags, and soon we were provided with the best sandbags on the range. I
had the same nice little Haynes who had coached me on my second target.
Unsatisfied as I still am with my showing, I think he drilled into me
some idea of my errors, and my score again improved, standing at forty. I
feel better than if it had wavered up and down, even if the total had
been the same, and can reasonably argue that if the captain kept on
increasing the distance, say to 2000 yards, I should make a perfect
score. But many men, I find, did their worst at this distance, Randall
ending up at 24. Lucy has pegged steadily along, and got into the

The supper-tables buzzed tonight as never before, every man having his
tale to tell, generally a tale of woe. Poor Knudsen is very sore, as his
last shot went into his neighbor's bullseye, and though the neighbor had
finished shooting, the shot could not be credited to Knudsen. There are
many other stories of misses that spoiled the score, and on the other
hand when a man has made a ricochet hit he is not inclined to brag of it.
Even those who from my point of view did very well are a little inclined
to grumble; and the only really satisfied man is Percy of Squad Nine, who
holds today's record.

Concerning Knudsen's miss, I now have the whole story. He had as scorer
an artillery sergeant who read the flags through field-glasses, and was
an unusually long time in scoring the last shot. At last he said "A
bull," and scored a five, which gave Knudsen a perfect record; but he,
suspecting something, made the man admit that the bulleye was in the
wrong target. Knudsen changed the score himself, a bit of personal
heroism that roused the wonder of Pickle, who told me the tale, and ended
"Chee, I couldn't a done it!"

Here is a story of Lieutenant Pendleton, told me by a man who watched the
incident. Our top-sergeant was scoring badly at six hundred yards, and
the lieutenant said, "Let me try your gun." So he lay down, and without
putting his arm in the sling, rested the gun on the bag, drew it tightly
into the shoulder by a hand-grip of the strap, and fired. It was a "two
at one o'clock," which means that the shot struck the outer side of the
target about the line, on a clock face, between one o'clock and the
centre. "Your sight is too high," said he, and corrected it. Then he
tried again, and got a "three at three o'clock," which means that he
struck on the level of the bull, but still out at the right. "You must
correct for windage," said he then. "I'll give her one and a quarter." So
once more, with the same rest and grip, he fired. Before the targets
could be changed and the shot marked the lieutenant got up, gave the gun
to the sergeant, and walked away, saying, "That's a bull's eye. You can
depend on that sighting, sergeant." Then the scorer called the shot. A
bull's eye it was, and the sergeant went on to shoot a string of them.

There is some pleasure in being drilled by such men as our officers. I
wish you could see the lieutenant on parade, in his best clothes, which
somehow are more becoming to him than the undress uniform, in which Kirby
shows best. Watch Pendleton walking with his springy, tireless step,
always with his eye on us. A dandy he is then, but one of the fighting
dandies, an athlete in good training, and a man that knows his business.

Our day was so completely taken up by the shooting that at the end it was
too late even for Retreat, and we in the middle of our washing up watched
the other battalion at parade, stood at attention while the band played
the Star-Spangled Banner, and saluted at the end. I have spent much of
the evening writing; and now, the first call having blown, the camp is
getting ready for bed. In the inner company tent I am left alone, the
other letter-writers and diarists having drifted away. In the outer, open
tent, where the conferences are held, three men are sitting at a corner
of the big table, still discussing their scores, their rifles, the
squeeze, the kick, the serious mistake it is to cant the gun. And here is
a fact for you. Captain Kirby declares that the rifles do not kick, and
in his own case he is probably right. But I got today a very sharp recoil
each time I fired, so that by noon my arm was lame to the elbow, and my
shoulder sore. I expected much difficulty in the afternoon, and the first
shot hurt consumedly; but whether or not I learned to hold the rifle
better, or whether the gradual toning up of my muscles is accustoming me
to what comes, the rest of the kicks seemed to act as a sort of massage,
so that I forgot about them, and tonight I am entirely free of lameness.

Outside, at the head of the company street, the fire is gradually dying
down. Wood is always provided for it, a hole is dug, the men feed it as
long as they please, and in the morning the police squad, I suppose,
smooth the ground. On benches or on the ground the men sit about the
fire, sing, discuss, or chat in groups. There is in the store tent an
easy chair made of rough lumber and sacking; when the captain can be
induced to stay after conference the men bring it out, seat him in it,
and make him talk. On his own doings he is silent, but on the work of the
camp, the formations, drill, skirmish work, patrolling, outpost duty, and
especially just now the ways of his beloved tool, the rifle, he has much
to say. Around him are men often much older than he, others who in civil
life command several times his pay, fellows who have every luxury at
command, as well as chaps bred and indeed wedded to the most peaceable
pursuits. But they all are here for a purpose; they never talk patriotism
but they all act it; and everything he can tell them that bears on their
efficiency as soldiers they will pump from him if they possibly can. It
is fine to see how they recognize in him complete mastery of the subject
that occupies us all, and how they sit at his feet for instruction.

But he has left us nearly half an hour ago, and the groups that remain
are slowly separating, as one by one the men go to their tents. I can
tell you just what is happening in ours. The lantern is lighted and
hanging on the pole. Clay is probably finishing a letter to his "mother."
Bannister is doubtless already abed, but ready from his cot to add a
sleepy jest to the quiet talk that is slowly going on. Reardon is putting
the last stamps on the sheaf of post-cards that he daily sends, for he,
you must understand, has more correspondents at home than any of the rest
of us. Rather big and burly, the quietest of men, with a very active eye
but very intensely committed to the minding of his own business, I know
him to be the most popular man in his own little town, where as the
managing clerk of the grocery he knows every man, woman, and child in the
place. He knows the taste of each, what he habitually needs or demands,
whether to trust or require cash. He gets through his day without a clash
with anyone. And knowing both his customers and the market he looks after
the needs of the town, warns of a rise in prices, calls attention to
special bargains, advises to lay in a stock of this or that. They miss
him now that he's gone; I know it by the pleasure he takes in the letters
and post-cards that come daily, bits from which he cannot help reading
out to us--from the Civil War veteran who half believes in Plattsburg,
and half doesn't; the drug-store clerk that has to go off on his vacation
alone; the "boss" that has nothing personal to say, but quotes the market
changes; the neighbor who doesn't quite venture to trust to the post the
doughnuts she wishes she might send. And nightly Reardon sits on his cot
and writes in the dim light careful answers to every message.

Lucy and Corder are putting themselves to bed most systematically, Corder
because of his middle-aged habit, Lucy on account of that aristocratic
cleanliness in which he has been scrupulously bred. They have their
system and their order, the toilet, the costume, the making of the bed,
all very careful and precise. Knudsen, still dressed, is lolling on his
cot and jollying; this is the time of day when he most comes out of
himself, and I know that presently when I approach the tent it will be
his ringing tenor that I shall hear. He is poking fun at the others,
cursing that last shot on the range, interrupting Reardon and Clay in
their writing, philosophizing on his favorite subject, baseball. Yet if
you get a little closer to him you find that he has interests that it
takes a little coaxing to disclose: religious convictions that he has
changed with his growth, curious hard business experiences that make him
declare that he is a self-seeker, while you have only to watch him with
Lucy to know that he is not. Yet he sedulously knocks and batters at
every feminine quality that the boy discloses, and will exaggerate any
statement if he thinks you suspect him of tenderness.

I shall presently make a dash, for the tent, snatch my tooth-brush and
make for the spigot, and bring back a basin of water for my feet. Then
Knudsen will bestir himself and race me for bed, at the same time that
Reardon lays by his pen and accepts our warning. We crawl between the
blankets, nine over us tonight. I shall put my poncho over me next, and
my overcoat on that, and with the tent-wall looped up shall be
practically outdoors.

Last of all Pickle will come slipping in from some rendezvous with
friends. He sleeps in his clothes, minus shoes and leggings, and he is
likely to be curled up before I am.

And then float to us the notes of Taps. "Love, good night. Must thou
go...?" It is the signal. The last one of us puts out the lantern, and it
is soon "Good night, boys," and silence. Usually I go to sleep at once;
if not I soon hear the feet of two of the sergeants in the street and see
the gleam of their lantern. They come from tent to tent, enter ours and
throw the light on each cot, and pass on. Often I hear from the
neighboring tents a sleepy "Good night, sergeant," but never yet the
question "Who sleeps in that cot?" A high average, then, of obedience to
the rules. The men are here for business.

I have lingered almost too long. Good night!



                                           Plattsburg, 20th Sept., 1916.


It promises today, Wednesday, to be showery once more, so we are making
up our packs with the ponchos out, ready for use. Post-mortems of
yesterday's scores are still going on. The boys are all well and lively,
except that I have just passed Randall standing gloomy at the door of his
tent, feeling very much insulted because someone at breakfast called him
a grabber. Apart from him the street is humming with talk, as the boys
make up their packs upon the hard-trodden sand.

It is a very amusing thing, this confusion and talk of the street, as men
on errands make their way among the kneeling figures, the police squad
tries to do its work, the sergeants pass, and jokes or criticism are
bandied about. We are becoming very well acquainted, except for those who
have not the habit of noticing their neighbors. There are a couple of men
who have for ten days sat opposite me at table, and yet do not know me
when we meet outside. But most of the men are very companionable.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the opportunity has not been very
great. Unless a man is Number One or Number Four in his squad, he is
likely to be swallowed up by it. I have felt very fortunate to be Number
One, for in all formations in line I stand beside a man of another squad,
and whenever we fall in or stand at rest I chat with them. Since
Bannister has neglected the advice, given by the captain, to shift the
men about, I am glad that I have had this advantage, and am more lucky in
getting a wider acquaintance than is possible to some of the others. For
as you have seen, we eat together, march together, dress and sleep
together, the squad being the unit on which everything is based. Captain
Kirby has said that when we rest on the hike squads must sit down
together, so as to waste no time in falling in.

But the shooting has done a great deal to break down this isolation. It
was impossible, on the range or the gallery, to keep the squads together,
whether in shooting or in waiting. The men compared their scores,
explained their mistakes, gave advice, and fished for sympathy, with
everyone they met. Men in squads widely separated in the line got quite
chummy over their misfortunes, and grew friendly in encouraging each
other. The scorers and especially the coaches met many new men. So at the
table and the camp-fire the talk is now much more personal, and I think
that from this time on the company will be more of a unit in feeling, if
not more in unison in drill.

On this last point Captain Kirby is certainly unanimous. The shooting,
with its necessary disorder, has got us out of our habits of snap, and
today we have been put through a course of sprouts that has taken away
any conceit that we might have had. This morning he gave us ten rounds of
blank cartridges and took us out into our usual ground, the Peru road and
the fields adjoining. First, in anticipation of tomorrow, by platoons we
were given rapid-fire practice, sitting and firing our ten shots at a
count of ninety seconds. To our delight, it being a little windy, the big
paper target had to be held by a couple of the sergeants, one of them
being Loretta, at whom most of us aimed. (Some day I shall find time to
tell you about him.) This practice was valuable to me, helping me with my
squeeze. It was amusing to watch the other men fire (cool and clever, or
nervous and clumsy) and to listen to a little echo close behind our backs
as we waited, like a bunch of firecrackers going off all by itself.

And an incident. Before leaving the ground I gathered up ten shells and
some clips, to practice with at camp. After Recall I went to the end of
the company street, made up my clips, and had nearly finished simulating
the shooting of the second one, when we were called for calisthenics, and
I came running, and put away the gun. When later we fell in for parade,
and were given "Inspection arms!" on my opening my rifle a shell flew
out, right at the feet of the first sergeant, much to my disgust. When
later still I came back and found it, I discovered it to be not an
"empty" but a "blank," which someone this morning must excitedly have
pumped out of his gun unfired, and left lying for me to pick up. Lucky I
didn't fire it in practising at the foot of the street!

But it shows that I am still a greenhorn if I will put away my gun with
anything in it, even though I had supposed it to contain but an empty
shell. I don't intend ever to do such a thing again. There is another
trifling mistake we are liable to, as illustrated today. Halted at
"company front," that is, with the two ranks in long lines, the captain
ordered us to load. At the command the men half turn to the right, but
keep the rifle pointing forward and up; the rear rank men also come close
to the front, so that the muzzles of their guns are in advance of the
front rank men. Standing thus they open the breeches of their guns,
thrust in the clips, shove the bolt handle forward and turn it down--and
then somebody's gun goes off! So you see why the rear rank men have their
guns where no one will be hit, and why the captain stands off at one
side. My, but he read us a lecture this morning! "Who let off that
gun?--Mr. So-and-so, some blunders are crimes. That was one!" And a few
more well chosen words. One hundred and forty-nine of us were glad we
hadn't made that little slip.

After our firing the captain broke the company into two, and took my half
himself. Then he proved to us that in skirmish drill we had forgotten all
we had ever known, briefly expressed his opinion of the corporals, and
splitting us into squads, told the sub-squad-leaders to take command. Now
Reardon, who has drilled at Number Four in the rear rank since the
formation of the squad, is by virtue of that position the corporal's
substitute, and he manfully tried to lead us. I saw in a moment, first
that he knew twice as much as I about the drill regulations, second that
never before having given an order, he could not do himself justice.
Further, with the captain in that mood every man of us was scared. So
presently the captain, after a few beheadings in other squads, came and
watched ours for a minute, sent Reardon to his place in the ranks, and as
his eye roved over the rest of us, picked me out, probably as being the
only one whose name he knew. "Mr. Godwin, put the squad through the
skirmish drill!" A bad five minutes! I can order men about _informally_,
and I knew what I wanted done in this case, but to give the order in the
precise words of the drill book was more than my memory could compass. It
was very interesting, even quite exciting; continually I racked my brain
for something to do next in which I should not make a fool of myself. We
got back into company formation after a while, and the captain tried the
line in a skirmish advance; then abruptly he put all the corporals back
into their places, and my little reign was over.

I should like, as anyone would like, to be corporal. Yet I should not
make a good one, being nowadays in an absent-minded state and likely to
fall into fits of brooding from which I could not give my orders
correctly or promptly. I wonder if the captain will find out Knudsen. But
it is right that Bannister should remain corporal, for he is daily
improving in the work.

Nor can it be at all easy for our two officers to find, in the midst of
all their work and among so many men, the one man in every eight capable
of leading the squad. In the early stage of the school of the soldier it
was not difficult to find those men who could best handle their guns and
drill others in the same simple art. But such a test, even if mentally
sufficient, does not take in the moral qualities necessary for the
handling of eight men, keeping them up to discipline, seeing that they
understand and are at all times ready for their work. Experienced
sergeants might make this quickly possible, but our sergeants, even when
they have been here before, are mostly very new to their duties. I take
it that the captain and lieutenant are doing as well as they can.

In the afternoon the captain formed us in the street and drilled us in
the manual, then took us down on the field and explained battalion
parade, after which he put us through and through and through its simple
evolutions, we blundering all the time. We had merely to march in line,
to march in column, to halt and bring our rifles down together, and to do
the customary movements of the manual in unison. But try as we might, we
couldn't please the captain. For my part, I was as scared as a schoolboy,
fearing to make some slip. But such little ones as I know I made passed
unnoticed; in fact, our part of the line attracts very little of his
attention, so I conclude we do fairly well. Yet in the picture which I
send, of the captain looking at our squad as we march company front, the
camera has caught Squad 8 in a great mistake. The sun, as it lies exactly
along the line of the company, with only the right hands and knees in
full light, shows my part of the line pushed wholly forward out of the
shadow, and the Captain looking at us in disgust. His attitude shows his
fighting quality. "The scrappiest captain in the army," says Knudsen. So
often he has to look back thus and warn us: "Steady!" or "Guide!" or
"Hold back on the left!"

How little you as a spectator would get of what goes on in the ranks on
such an occasion as today's final parade! Suppose you were where I so
often wish you, at the top of the slope above the field, which in spite
of certain unevennesses would look to you fairly level. You would see the
band march down and take its place in the left corner; then away to your
right the companies would appear in their separate columns, and perhaps
you would think they were very interesting as they halted and waited.
Then when the major came and took his stand below you, the music would
strike up, and the three companies would march straight onto the field,
along the bottom of which they would one after another swing into line
and stand in apparently beautiful order. Then an adjutant with a clear
high voice would give orders, and the men would present arms, come to
attention, and then to parade rest. In this position they would remain
while the band, playing a march, would go down the whole line and back
again, the music, when they were once more in place, abruptly stopping.
Then the officers would gather and march forward in line, they would
return, the major would call a command, and the companies would all break
into squads, the rifles coming to the shoulders. To the right they would
pass, turn up the slope, and then one by one would again swing into line
and pass, with more or less beautifully wavering fronts, before the
major. The first two companies would evoke applause from the spectators;
the third, in which you would see a familiar face, would rouse none--and
though you might clap your best, in this case you are but a ghost, and no
one would hear you. Then the companies would for last time break into
squads and so would march off the field. And you would sigh and think,
"Isn't it fine?"

Well, you would never get the true inwardness unless I told you. It went
this way.

Down out of the street we marched into the field, I a small part of a big
machine, very much afraid that I might make some blunder. The men's feet
thudded in unison on the sod, and to each tramp came the rustling echo of
our stiff breeches, always an accompaniment to us as we march in good
order. We waited, we marched forward to the music, we heard the captain
give his first order--to the guides, I realized, not to us--but then came
"Squads left--march!"

I swung to the left, the men in front of me marched to the right. Just
grazing the last of them, as these rear-rank men filed to their places, I
stepped into my position in the front rank just as the corporal finished
counting "Six" below his breath, and at "Seven!" the whole line, which
had been waiting for us Number Ones to complete it, strode straight
forward. "Company--!" and we took this last moment, each out of the
corner of his eye searching to the right, to get in good line. "Halt!"
Low voices counted "One, two!" and the halt was completed. "One, two,
three!" and the pieces were at the order. The captain commanded
"Right--dress!" and we edged forward, our heads turned to the right, to
align the rank.

Such eager work we make of it--"Forward on the right--back in the next
squad--Frothingham, you're too far forward--tell Neary to get back!" Such
commands, all under the breath, run up and down the line. At last we are
in place, the Captain says "Front!" and takes his place before the middle
of the line, facing away from us. But he says in reminder, "The next
command for _you_ will be Parade Rest."

Alas, Lieutenant Pendleton's high tenor (he is the adjutant for the day)
calls "Guides--posts!" We knew--we ought to have known--the order; we had
been warned to ignore it. But some of the men come to parade rest. The
captain hears, though he cannot turn to look. "Stupid!" he hisses. "As
you were!" Then comes the command for us all, "Parade--rest!"

It was very comfortable, waiting while the band marched up and down. We
were not much stirred by this; we knew by heart all the few tunes; we
thought the drum-major very tiresome with his bent head and his elbow
jogging for the time. But there was, above the ugly mess-shacks straight
in front, the finest sunset to look at: angry clouds to the right, to the
left wide reaches of pure blue, with tiny white clouds stretching in rank
to infinite distance, and in the middle the yellow glow of fire behind
broken masses, through which shot, not beams of light, but rather, it
seemed, wide bars of shadow.

The captain, as we thus stood at parade, hissed back over his shoulder,
"Bad! Some of you men have your feet too far back." This would
particularly disgust him, for at previous practice, taking a gun from a
sergeant, he stood in front of us and said, "Let me show you how Rip Van
Winkle here in the second squad comes to parade rest," and gave us a
ludicrous example of slowness and slovenliness. Then he illustrated, in
briskness and correct position, just how we should do it.

Returned to his place after saluting the major, he said, looking straight
in front, "Your next command is Squads Right." The major's big voice
boomed: "Pass in review--squads right--March!" I turned sharply to my
right, marked time, and when the other three had come into line, together
we stepped out. The band blared out, we were in step, and so approached
the corner. "Column left!" and we did our best to turn correctly, though
nobody could see. Then we marched up the slope, knowing that the real
test was now coming. "Squads left!" and as the rear rank man made way for
me, I stepped into place, and in one line we all strode out together. To
hold the line straight! You on the top of the slope may have cried "How
pretty!" at the rifles all with the same slant, the hands at the same
height, the heads straight front, the feet--one, two! one, two!--in
perfect time with the music. But with us in the line there was intentness
to remedy any unevenness, strain to hold ourselves just right. We could
not look except out of the corners of the eyes; all was done by the touch
of the elbows. For a few yards, rods, it was good. We safely crossed a
slimy patch where a great puddle had just dried, through which on Monday
I tramped ankle deep, and where now a fall would be natural. Then--ah! we
expected this! Frothingham, I, Knudsen, found ourselves marching alone,
the other men out of touch with us, having drawn away to the right and
left. I heard my mates grumble, I knew what I was to do: spread myself to
occupy all possible space and march straight onward, for--there! they
were back again, surging from the left and right, back in their proper
places, and the line had not really broken. "Good!" murmurs Knudsen.
"Hold it!" exhorts the captain over his shoulder. Then "Eyes right!" and
thus saluting as we passed the major we could see, or thought we saw, a
perfect line. "Front!" We swept on; we listened. The ladies had clapped
the first two companies, but there was no applause for us. Had it then
been bad after all?

Back to the street we marched, and formed in line. Lieutenant Pendleton
came and spoke to the captain, then walked away smiling. "The lieutenant
says you did well," said the captain briefly. But he was so short that we
thought him grumpy, especially since the lieutenant had never before been
seen to give us anything else than his little ironical smile. Yet at
company conference, in the evening, one of us ventured to ask the captain
if we really had done badly. "No," said he. "I was pleased with you. You
did well. The major said you did best." So the lack of applause meant
nothing. I saw men whose home affairs are so large that this might
properly be small to them, look at each other in relief.

Today I got a letter from Walt Farnham about his cousin Lucy. He says: "I
know you won't baby him. The camp ought to do him good. It was I that put
the idea into his head, but his father, afraid that he might back out at
the last minute, or not stick it through, has promised him an auto of his
own when he gets back, anything up to twelve thousand dollars. How can
even Plattsburg save such a boy?"

And Vera is after him now. After conference I was writing in the company
tent, the inner one, while the captain still talked outside to half a
dozen men. To my surprise a bell rang behind me, and while I sat looking
at a curious instrument on the post, wondering if it were a telephone,
the captain came in, took from it a strange receiver-transmitter, and
spoke into it. I heard Vera plainly answering, and the captain, saying
"Mr. Godwin is right here," gave me the thing to hold. She said "Oh,
Dick!" so plainly that of course the captain heard it as he went out
again. Vera told me that Mrs. Farnham has written her, asking her to keep
an eye on her darling, and I was to send Lucy to call. I warned her she'd
much better leave him alone, but she laughed and insisted. The telephone
was in that state, or she spoke so plainly (you know how it occasionally
happens) that anyone could have heard her even in the outer tent. When I
hung up and went out, there was the captain just saying good night to the
men, and the table and benches would not let me slip by before he turned
and saw me.

You know there are moments when eyes meet and seem to catch, and it is
difficult to pass without speaking. That is why, I am sure, the captain
said: "You are very well acquainted with Miss Wadsworth?"

I thought that here was a chance for the truth. "I ought to be," I said.
"I have been engaged to her for the past two years." And then seeing, by
the instant change in his face to one of deepest gravity, what he
supposed me to mean, I added, "She broke the engagement a month ago."

"Oh," said he, not relieved, mother, or not showing relief, but very
seriously kind, "I'm sorry, Mr. Godwin."

"Thank you, captain," I said, and got myself away. I don't mind having
told; indeed I did it deliberately, quite for the good of his peace of
mind. It's always a relief to strike one rival off the list, and if ever
he gets really interested in Vera he'll find plenty of others blocking
the way.

When I gave David Vera's message he flushed up at first with pleasure,
then remembered that an evening call would spoil a company conference,
which he has taken to attending. As usual, he looked to Knudsen for
advice, and that wily person said, "Go in the afternoon and perhaps
you'll miss her," which relieved the boy considerably. Our time is too
horribly full for social calls.

Tomorrow evening there is to be a company boxing match, one-minute
rounds, no decision given. It is said that Randall has entered, and
Pickle remarked thereupon, "I'd like to have the laying of him out." "No
fear," said Corder. "Randall is to box a man he knows, for points only,
very gently." "Yellow," said Clay. Lucy said nothing, but looked a good
deal. There actually are coming lines of firmness around his mouth.




                                     Plattsburg, Thursday the 21st Sept.


I am writing at about 7.30 o'clock on the range, after having fired my
practice shots to make my sighting sure, and now with time to wait before
my rapid-fire test. Imagine the usual confusion, the heavy rapping of the
shots, the calling over of names, and the buzz and laughter of the men
waiting near me. A perfect morning, the dew just burning off, a little
breeze from the lake, and not a cloud in the sky.

We are shooting from the two hundred yard mark, sitting position, and
since I have watched a few rounds, I am able to tell you the way of
it.--As the guns become silent with the disappearance of the targets the
Lieutenant calls, "Next men up!" Those who have just shot rise and
nervously stand aside, to watch the scoring of their ten shots. The new
men, while loading and locking their pieces, also watch the record of
their predecessors. Passing behind D Company a few minutes ago, I saw the
flag cross one target six times. I did not see the beginning of the
score, and how many more misses the poor devil made, I can only guess.
The men go away with their scores, the new ones stand waiting.

From the left rings the high call, "Ready on the right!" The lieutenant
responds to his men, "Unlock your pieces." To the waiting men the
interval is long. Then slowly the blank targets begin to sink and the
tops of the true ones to rise. It is the signal. The men drop to the
sitting position and settle the butts in their shoulders; the muzzles
rise, waver, and steady. Then together "Pol-lop!" and the whole line,
faster and faster, bursts into the rap-rap-rapping of the continued fire.
Along the line, little spurts of flame; a thin haze rises from the
muzzles and at once disappears. Beside each shooter kneel two coaches,
one calling the time, the other exhorting, warning, entreating. A
distinct lag in the firing between forty-five and fifty seconds--the men
are loading their second clips. Then the fire gradually quickens to the
full rate, the coaches urging the slow ones on, holding the hasty ones
back. The fire slackens, and seems stopped, when as the targets sink at
the ninety seconds, two last hasty shots slap out. The round is over. In
the brief time the three dozen men have fired three hundred and sixty

(_Later._) My turn approached, and I stood waiting, the sling clasped on
my arm. I felt the strain of the long wait before there came the call,
Ready! To my coaches I had said--to one, "Don't let me shoot too fast,
and keep me on _my_ target"; to the other, "Remind me to squeeze." Then
the blank target, beside the great 28, began to sink, and down I dropped.
I was not nervous now; at least I did not tremble. I tried to fire slow,
to squeeze, to keep on my own target, (for truly, as the captain lately
said, firing on another man's target is one of the sad things of life.)
My second clip I had to shoot quicker until my last shot, when the coach
said, "Plenty of time." So I sighted and squeezed my best, felt that I
could call the bullseye, and pulling out the bolt for the last time, to
show that the breech and magazine were empty, stood up and stepped back.
Now for the score.

The target rose at last. The red disk was all I hoped for, but there came
the white, again the white, again the white, again, again, again, then
three times the red, and once the black. I still waited, having lost
count. Would the flag come now? But no, the target sank, and my coaches
congratulated me on a forty-five!

(_Evening. In the tent._) Well, I won't put in too much detail for you,
to whom perhaps this shooting has no interest. We finished at two hundred
yards and moved back, carrying benches, racks, chairs, flags, everything,
and began over again at three hundred yards, prone. The men were mostly
very much on the stretch, and I admit that I was, for while I now was
practically sure of my grade of marksman, I might, by shooting especially
well, even become a sharpshooter. Lucy was in a similar state, marksman
being within his grasp. Randall was swaggering; he had been shooting
well. But Knudsen was very anxious, surprising in so cool a fellow. "To
be Expert," he said, "I've got to make a fifty. Confound it, I'm afraid
that shot I sent into the wrong target will ruin my chances. I need the
little leeway it would give."

Well, he missed it by two, and that little error undid him. Lucy got his
grade of marksman, and his excitement was delightful. He sought out each
member of the squad and called for congratulations. How disgusted his
mother would be to see him with his hand on Pickle's shoulder, discussing
the score, for really, don't you know, socially Pickle is less than
nobody! I made my grade as sharpshooter, just made it, with a forty-nine.

Poor Reardon! His scores had not been good, only a miracle could make him
marksman, but he lost his chance. Loretta--

I'll tell you about Loretta, a sergeant whom the boys have nicknamed
thus. Luckily he is not in our platoon; but we soon got to know the lofty
smile with which he passed up and down the street, and his contempt for
the enlisted man. Such, my dear mother, is the inflating power of a
little authority.

Well, he has been very busy with the shooting, making a good record
himself, and helping, as all the sergeants did, with the scoring. Needing
a scorer at one of the targets, he took poor Reardon and put him at work
just when his last turn was coming on, and in spite of the fact that he
had already served long hours at the job. Reardon protested, Loretta
promised to let him have his turn, but when the shooting was all over
there was poor Reardon still at the desk, and his last round was not
fired. We noticed that on the way back to camp he was very silent and
cast down, but we did not know why till we were cleaning our guns in the
tent, all the racks being occupied outside. Then I questioned Reardon,
and the facts came out.

All of us were wrathy, but you should have seen Lucy! Tears of anger came
into his eyes as he started up. "I'll go at once and tell the captain!"
Reardon clutched him. "No," said the good fellow. "I hadn't a chance to
qualify. It's perfectly true. Loretta told me so."

"Loretta told you so!" echoed David. He was quite white and shaking at
this instance of adding insult to injury. "By God!"

He was for going at once and complaining, but Reardon wouldn't let him.
"Then," said David, "wait till the hike. If you don't get even with him
then, I will!"

I wouldn't tell this story to David's mother. She might think her son too
sympathetic with an "outsider."

The fellows have been in the habit of cooing at Loretta as he passes
their tents. His pet name precedes him down the street, the coos come
from the shadowed interiors. It has been meant harmlessly. But this story
of Reardon has spread rapidly, and I thought I detected a snarl in the
cooing when Loretta just went by. There is something in David's threat.
Wait till the hike!

This afternoon we had our usual drill and calisthenics, after which I
went swimming in the lake, as I do daily, though under certain
difficulties. The beach is very stony and bruises the feet, and the piers
that have been built at our two bathing places are quite inadequate, both
as accommodating too few men at a time, and next as not going out into
deep water. Perhaps early in the summer the water at the ends may be up
to one's shoulders, but now it is scarcely above the waist, and none but
the cleverest and most venturesome dare to dive. So many would like the
diving that it is a pity that a little money can't be expended here.
However, the water is fine, even if it is now getting so cold that some
of the men are giving up their swim. We often have surf here, when the
southeast wind quarters across the bay all the way from Burlington, and
then the fun is notable.

The scene at the foot of the pier particularly struck me today, after the
men were out. There were nearly a hundred of them in a rather narrow
compass, so close to each other, on the boulders of the beach, that they
reminded me of the pictures one sees of big birds in their colonies. The
men were naked, and every one in active motion, rubbing down. The sight
of so much brown and pink skin, of so many moving bodies and arms and
legs, was most peculiar and amusing.

The list of company officers has been published. Two of our best
sergeants becoming lieutenants, other sergeants have been named, and the
list of corporals and sub-squad-leaders has been fixed. In our squad
Bannister and Reardon stand as before. Ban quietly told us that he was
glad to get the appointment. "I had my eye on you," he said to Knudsen,
"and on you," to me. "This will please my old father: he was a corporal
in the Civil War." And good Ban forgot us as he thought of the
satisfaction of the old man at home.

Tonight at conference we were given definite details of the scheme for
reimbursing us for our travelling expenses and our mess. The government
will repay those who take the oath of allegiance--and everyone is hunting
for the nigger in the woodpile. There is so general a sentiment that the
War Department tricked the militia into taking the oath of six years'
service before starting for Texas, that none of us cares to be caught
promising too much. But I feel that the form of oath, which was read
aloud tonight, is pretty straightforward. We enlist only for the period
of the camp, and for instruction only. I shall take the oath. If before
the period is over the government takes us away for service anywhere, I
suppose there will be an emergency to justify it.

We were also given additional facts regarding the hike. Having so small a
regiment, yet having the baggage train of the large August camp, we are
to go on the longest hike yet, eleven days on the road and in the field,
ten nights in the pup-tents. We are sorting our belongings to take or to
leave, and David is wondering how he can carry all his exquisite

But he has just come out strong. Company conference being over, there was
held the boxing match which one of the sergeants has been promoting, and
the whole company (officers discreetly absent) formed the ring and
applauded the heroism. Much of it would not interest you, yet you could
have stood a glimpse of it--the circle of men, good-naturedly applauding,
the heavy shadows under the overhead light, the gray-green uniformity of
men and sand, the two dancing figures, and the pat-pat of the gloves.
There were some neat bouts, and then the promoter made an announcement,
which to my surprise I saw Randall, stripped to the waist, furtively
trying to stop.

He had on his left, said the sergeant, one remaining contestant, whose
opponent had just sent word that he had hurt his wrist. Would any
gentleman be willing to provide Mr. Randall with an antagonist?

No one came forward. Randall looked very formidable, with his handsome
features and also a most superb set of muscles. I was saying to myself
that perhaps I'd better give him a go, when I caught sight of Lucy's
face, peering between the men in front of him, and so plainly full of
desire that I waited. Then Corder, on the other side of him, jogged David
in the ribs, and said in a low voice, "He called you Lucy!" In an instant
David, without a look behind or a moment's hesitation, was pushing
through the ring. "Let me try." And he stepped out into the light.

Someone caught me by the arm, and there was Knudsen, very angry. "Why
didn't you stop him?" he demanded. "He never can stand up to that
fellow." But I, feeling quite as satisfied as ever I felt in my life,
smiled him down, "Somehow I think he can," said I, and pushed after
David, to act as his second.

Oh, I coached him all I could, and in the rests I helped the gasping boy
in every way I knew how. The rounds were short, but too long for him in
his still soft condition. And he knew so little of the game! Had Randall,
who really had boxed before, used his head, poor David would have stood
no chance whatever. Yet the boy's insight was correct. No sooner did
Randall see before him the lad's unmistakably eager face, and know from
David's first rush that here was a fight, than he was flustered. So as
boxing the bout was nothing: neither could hit clean, parries were
clumsy, much was accident. David's very ardor betrayed him, and he came
back to me at the end of each round quite winded. But for the rest,
nothing could be finer. Randall was twenty pounds the heavier, and slight
David staggered when the blows came home, yet always he came back. His
panting persistence, his determination to strike, were too much for the
other. He held back, and David came on; he drew aside, and David followed
him; he struck, and David without parrying came right through, and landed
blow after blow somewhere.

The men were yelling presently, here was so evidently grit against mere
muscle, spirit against flesh. Randall grew angry and hit hard, but he was
wild; he grew afraid and tried to clinch, but his rush was feeble. David
jabbed him repeatedly in the ribs, drew off, and for the first time in
the three rounds (the referee was just calling time) hit Randall
neatly--on the nose.

And Randall, in pain but not hurt (for the boy couldn't hit hard)
nevertheless believed himself finished. I think he wanted to stagger and
fall at full length, but he only succeeded in sitting down. Shout upon
shout upon shout! Then we of the squad took David, groggy with his own
efforts, rubbed him and fanned him and swabbed him, and finally walked
him off between us.

Knudsen said in my ear, "You were right. That was worth a thousand

A fellow from another squad tried to be complimentary. "Well done, Lucy!"

Pickle, without any ceremony, pushed in between. "Cut that out! His name
is Farnham."

The chap was puzzled. "But you don't call him that."

"We know him better now," said Pickle. "We call him David."

And David, who had been leaning heavily on me, at the words stood
upright. He had been smiling with satisfaction; now he looked happy. He
put his arm over Pickle's shoulder as the other fellow walked away.
"Thanks, Pick, old man," he said.

Knudsen and Corder and I fell behind and shook hands. The name Lucy was
dead and buried.

David wouldn't go to bed; he sat contentedly on his cot, sopping liniment
on a bruised lip, while fellows kept coming in from other squads, to
congratulate. After a while I went out, and seeing a little knot of our
men at the captain's tent, joined them.

The officers like to have the men come to them with questions, and after
repeated invitations issued at general conferences, the men have come to
believe it. So there is growing up a little habit of stopping at the
captain's tent for a question which often extends into an interchange of
ideas from which each side benefits. But they weren't on any technical
subject tonight; the men had got the captain talking on the topic of an
officer's life, and they had just reached the items of his expenses. I
had never particularly thought of this side of the matter before; I knew
that an officer is technically a gentleman and must dress as such, but
that his pay is so small, his perquisites so few, and his necessary
uniforms so many, I had not realized. To tell the truth, the little group
of us who listened were really rather shocked that these men who work so
hard for the nation are under such burdens. The captain perceived it, and
for his own interest suddenly turned the tables on us.

"I have been rather frank, gentlemen," he said. "Now I know your expenses
are such as you choose to make them; but would you mind telling me how
your incomes compare with mine?"

The question was perfectly fair, for the men had been pumping him; and
they responded at once. "I count on eight thousand yearly from my
factory," said one. The next said that his salary was six. The third,
with a little embarrassed laugh, admitted that he earned ten thousand.
And the next said that last year he cleaned up forty thousand dollars. As
you can imagine, these were all men older than the average rookie. They
wear their uniforms badly, some of them, being no longer lithe and
lissome; and yet the forty thousand dollar man was lean and hard as an
Indian. I had so far known him only as a sportsman who loved to talk
about big game. The captain, as he listened, nodded gravely at each
statement, and when the last had spoken turned his eye on me. I could
only tell him the truth--twelve thousand as my salary, and perhaps an
equal amount on the side.

He drew a long breath. "Well, gentlemen, you have my congratulations. On
the other hand, I'm not sorry to have told you these facts about army
life. It's well that you civilians should understand conditions. As for
myself, I went into the service with my eyes open, and I'm not yet ready
to change it."

His eye rather lingered on me. I have the impression that he's acutely
conscious of my presence whenever I'm about. Is that Vera's doing? Do you
suppose she's got him too?

Love from



                                    Plattsburg Post, Thursday, Sept. 21.


I wish I hadn't come. Two of them are in earnest! Lieutenant Pendleton is
here every day, very gay but very desperate. I use the Colonel all I can
against him, and the innocent old man will talk shop with him by the
hour. But sometimes the lieutenant manages to get me alone, and only my
best cold-storage manner has saved me so far.

But if the lieutenant is the kind that takes you by storm, Captain Kirby
is one that will lay siege. He doesn't come so often as the other, he
doesn't stay so long, he doesn't say so much; but he is the kind that
sticks. I may be able to stave off the lieutenant, but I shall have to
have it out with the captain.

I wish you were here. You would be such a help! Can't you manage it? Oh,
Frances dear, I don't like army life. Why couldn't I be satisfied with
Dick? Come and help me!



                                     Plattsburg, Friday, Sept. 22, 1916.


It rained in the night, and between showers I went out and fixed the cap
of the tent, loosening also the cords. If we don't attend to these latter
as soon as rain begins they are likely to shrink and tear the canvas, or
perhaps pull up the tent pegs. And if everything holds till morning, then
the job of loosening the ropes, even with three men to each, is
considerable. But I was in time. In the morning it was cloudy, but we had
dry weather for our baths and breakfast, and for making up our packs.
Then the rain began to patter, and we to groan. The bugle blew, and we
stood expectant at the doors of our tents, waiting for the whistle. We
awaited the order, "full equipment, ponchos over all," but the call came,
"non-commissioned officers, with their drill regulations, at the head of
the street." The corporals and sergeants went, the privates in the tents
cheered madly, and now we are awaiting what may happen next.

So in the interval, just a few words about our proficiency, and our
partial failure so far. We haven't done very well, and that's a fact. We
march badly, losing distance, interval, and alignment; we dress slowly,
we fall in with much delay, and our various manoeuvres are done with much
hesitation and uncertainty. For all this the captain has, as the boys
say, plentifully "bawled us out," constantly working us more than any
other officer has done in the battalion. We can't deny that we are ragged
and slovenly, but why is it?

To begin with we are trying to do, as the captain acknowledges, more than
could be hoped of ordinary recruits, we being (ahem!) of the intelligent
class. But intellectually we are uneven, some of us plainly not being
born to be soldiers, so that with the best of will they lag. Again, the
Plattsburg movement has reached the stage in which the men have not all
come with the same impulse to serve the country, a considerable
proportion being, as it were, substitutes, being sent by the public
spirit of employers who cannot come themselves. The motive is excellent,
and they choose, I make no doubt, the best men available among their
clerks. But not all of these are suitable material, some being here for a
lark, and some being too young to be serious. Such fellows impede the
progress of the others. When the movement takes still wider scope, or
when we reach the stage of compulsory general training, evidently the
leaven that pretty successfully leavens this lump will then, being much
diluted, have harder work to do, and to make the mob into a regiment will
take double the time. Finally, I have already spoken of another of our
weaknesses, the inexperience of our non-coms. Most of our corporals are
here for the first time; many of the sergeants, though familiar with the
corporal's job, are new at the higher work. Indeed some of them have
never worn stripes before. They are therefore so necessarily intent on
guarding against their own mistakes (which still are plentiful) that they
can't give enough attention to the blunders of the men. Nor, as I have
said, do I think that the professional non-com will help us here, unless
specially chosen for understanding the Plattsburger. The martinet
drill-sergeant whose severities the docile German may bear, would never
be tolerated among us. What we need is to make it a matter of pride for
the veterans of one camp to come back and serve as corporals in the next
and as sergeants in the next. With regular non-coms in the way there is
no chance for the civilian to make himself a valuable reserve man; but if
he can be tempted by promotion to come again and yet again, he is not
only now serving the training cause better than anyone else can, but he
is building up a body of responsible men whom the country can call upon
at need.

Theories, my dear mother, theories. I will test them on the hike.

--It is the end of a day which I shall look back upon with respect.
Curious that when at breakfast someone asked me if I found the work
strenuous, I answered that so far I had not found it strenuous at all.
Since when we have had our heaviest day's work.

The weather was showery and chilly, and the non-coms returned from their
conference with orders for us to wear sweaters and ponchos. Being put
into close battalion formation, we were informed by the major that an
enemy had landed at Keesville, some twenty-odd miles south, and that we
were to march out and get in touch with him. So our three companies
followed the first battalion along the road to AuSable, having out the
proper patrols--point and communicating files and rear guard, with combat
patrols--and we found ourselves on a real hike.

It was tramp, tramp, tramp on the hard macadam all the way. Now remember
that though we have been on hard roads some part of every day, we have
mostly been on gravel or the turf of the fields and the parade ground. So
we weren't really toughened to the work. The weather bothered us also.
The ponchos came off after a while, then we got heated in the sun, and
were feeling the weight of our sweaters when the clouds closed in and a
shower came. Thus it changed most of the time. Every forty-five to fifty
minutes we stopped to rest, spread our ponchos, and lay down. To be
exact, after the first forty-five minutes we rested fifteen, and after
each succeeding fifty we rested ten. We marched nearly four miles, then
turned back. Our company was now second in the column, but none of the
patrol duty fell to me, for which I was rather glad, as a heel began to
bother me.

A man from Squad Seven fell out from the column. "This finishes the camp
for me," he said ruefully as he left us. He has rigid arches, and it
seems that the doctors have warned him that he could not stand the
marching. He sat and waited for some kind motorist, and after an hour
passed us, comfortable in a limousine. There were others among us who got
pretty weary; but on the other hand there were plenty, I am glad to say,
who were not tired, and whistled and sang most of the way, to the
advantage of those who felt weary. Some of these blades spying a couple
of bold damsels, cried "Eyes Right!" at which they giggled. But the
captain made us march at attention, and explained, when we got back to
camp, that we were expected to mind our manners in the presence of the
other sex (or as he put it, persons in female attire) else we might be
sure of marching at attention for the whole of the way.

We were back at the usual time, after seven miles and a half, and I, wet
from inside and from out, was glad to wash and change and find leisure to
inspect my troublesome heel, on which I found two blisters which Clay,
being as I told you a medico, skilfully doctored.

But there was no rest for the weary. I foolishly rejoiced when I escaped
the work of helping to make up the shooting records, also (perhaps not so
foolishly) when the typhoid sufferers were taken to be inoculated for the
third time. But while the captain supervised the company clerks, the
lieutenant, in anticipation of a regimental parade, took us out on the
field. See how carefully it was done. As we were but the fraction of a
company he lined us up and made up squads afresh, a corporal to each,
then instructed us in our parade work, and drilled us for two hours.
Having my two blisters, I did not enjoy it, and the men were groaning all
around me. He was as hard to please as the captain; once, looking back
along the line as we marched company front, he said, "The ancestors of
this bunch certainly must have been a lot of snakes!" But I'll venture to
say that none of us, after this, will forget how to oblique in making the

After ten minutes' rest, we were taken to calisthenics, after which I
anticipated a good loaf. But no, we were assembled, the whole regiment,
for a conference concerning our return home by government aid, the major
and a railroad agent instructing us in the terms. I was glad to find that
I can simply go home on my return ticket, and let the treasury department
pay me when it's good and ready; and after standing in line for half an
hour I was able to state my intention to do this.

There was then just time to change for the parade, which was partly
interesting, partly tedious. Thanks to the lieutenant's drill, we made no
mistakes, though at one time we had to make our way at company front
among the boxes and barrels strewed in the neighborhood of the
quartermaster's shack. Lieutenant Pendleton briefly said, when we were
back in the street, "You did well." And the captain, who left the scoring
long enough to watch the parade, joked us on being mountain goats.

The blisters are no worse for the afternoon's work. It is raining
steadily. Love from



... And I waved a handkerchiff, so some of the men cried Eyes Rite They
were awfully hansome especially one with a curling black mustarsh but
that horrid captain Kirby stopped them from looking at us and the whole
colum went by without paying us any more attention it was mean....


                                           Plattsburg, Saturday the 23d.


We are having really rainy weather. Till now it has rained but a few
hours at most, with intervals for drying. But it rained steadily all last
evening, drummed on the tight tent all night, and was still heavily at
work when the bugler failed to blow his horn this morning. Watches not
being at all uniform, men got themselves out of bed at their leisure. The
first sergeant did not think to wake us, and then was disgusted when many
of the men did not turn out at the first call. Those who were there made
a crooked line around a great puddle which stood in the depression
between our ridge and the head of the street.

But now, after breakfast, everyone is cussing. "What are we to wear?"
asked Knudsen of the first sergeant, who answered snappily, "The usual
things for a hike." Knudsen came back grumbling: "How were we to know
that we are going on a hike?" The word was passed along: "Packs," "No
packs." "Sweaters," "No sweaters." Then it was said that we were to wear
handkerchiefs in our hats, sure sign of a sham battle pending. So at last
at the whistle we turned out with sweaters, packs, ponchos ready (for
though it had stopped raining we did not feel safe) and some of us with
handkerchiefs twined in our hat-bands. Once in line we were sent
back--"No packs, no rifles." Again we came out and lined up again, only
to be sent back once more. "No sweaters." By this time it was rumored
that we were at last to take the oath, and this was confirmed by the
sight of the captain carrying a bunch of slips, containing the oath,
which in the last few days we have filled out, and yesterday had signed.
The men both grumbled and joked. "We can't take the oath with sweaters
on? Why not?" "Got on woollen underwear? Get cotton. You can't take the
oath in wool." So at last we were in line again, and then the captain
began to look through the slips. "Here's a man written his name twice
differently. Make out a new slip.--Here's a lot of men have signed with
lead pencil. It's got to be in ink or indelible pencil." Here he was met
by a lawyer, who had signed in pencil, and said, "A pencil signature is
valid." "Not here," said the captain, sticking to the regulations, and
the slips had to be changed.

When we were ready we were marched to the flag, where the company was
drawn up on three sides of a square. The major then said--

--I must break this off to describe what is going on, which is too
interesting to ignore. For the second time this afternoon we are shut up
in the dark tent, everyone having fled before a pelting shower. We were
first aligned for calisthenics, but were dismissed on account of Shower
No. 1, a driving rain that lasted half an hour. Now we were just ready
for parade--think what it would have been on that slimy, soggy
ground!--when the approach of Shower No. 2 sent us all to cover. It is
pelting furiously; Pickle and Knudsen, with the intrenching tools which
luckily were served out to us this afternoon, are digging frantically to
keep the water away from their suit-cases. Through the tied flaps of the
doorway Clay has been yelling at Squad Nine, our opposite neighbors, and
there is the greatest joy and confusion. Knudsen having finished his job,
is jeering at Pickle, who had promised to be first. And now he has taken
Pickle in hand, and is showing him his mistakes. It is thundering and
lightening. "I don't see," says David with slow wonderment, "how it can
rain much harder." Now Knudsen, at the door, imitates the first
sergeant's whistle and alarms our neighbors, who peer anxiously out.
"Corporals, get your men out!" cries he, laughing heartily as the others
consult. "They look like a bunch of dogs," says he, "with their heads
sticking out of their kennels." Now it slackens, I hear laughter in the
street, and in comes a neighbor. "Boys, it's a scream! There's four
inches of water in the next two tents. Their baggage is all afloat."

(Later.) The rain slackening just then, out we all swarmed, the whole
street becoming alive with men, who with shouts crowded toward the great
puddle which completely filled the breadth of the street, and had flooded
tents Four and Six. Looking into these, I saw the glimmer of
lantern-light reflected on water, the beds moved about and piled with
baggage. The sandy soil can drain an ordinary shower, but this was too
heavy, and there was but one thing to try. Yelling, some fifteen men got
out their intrenching tools and began to dig a ditch to lead the water
off to the field below. At first I thought they could not do it, for the
ridge was at least two feet above the level of the puddle. But leaving
enough earth to form a dam, the men in a line so vigorously worked the
strong little shovels that in scarcely more than five minutes they were
ready to break down the dam. They broke it, the water came pouring
through, and with cheers the men kept the channel clear. With great
brooms the men of tents Four and Six swept out their domiciles, other men
dug the channel deeper, still others on the further slope kept the flood
from the other tents, and as we formed for supper (the two parts of the
company on the two sides of the dividing puddle) the lake was more than
half drained away. By the time we came back from mess the puddle was
clean gone, and the captain was devising means to get the men of tents
Four and Six in dry quarters for the night.

And now to take up my narrative, earlier broken off.--The major, as we
were assembled for the oath, said a few words in explanation of it, then
read it aloud, while we stood with hats off and right hands raised,
before the flag. At the end each man said "I do!" and then one by one we
acknowledged our signatures on our slips. So I am now enlisted in the
army of the United States, bound to obey the President and the Secretary
of War, and entirely at the mercy of our superior officers.

But they have been merciful to us today in sparing us two soakings, and I
have had my own personal share. While we were standing, waiting for the
major to come and give us the oath, the captain's eye fell on me.
Evidently he pondered for a moment, then he beckoned me out of the ranks.
Said he, "I thought you weren't to take the oath." I answered, "I have
always meant to take it, sir." "Oh," said he, "then I was misinformed.
Well, that is what prevented me from making you sub-squad-leader, and
I'll do it today. Just say nothing about it beforehand." So I saluted and
stepped back. When we were lined up in the company street again (having
first put our sweaters on by our own decision, and then having taken them
off by order of the major, who presently took us to regimental drill on
the parade ground) the lieutenant announced, "Mr. Godwin will be
sub-squad-leader in Squad Eight." So I dropped back into the rear rank,
my rear-rank man took my place, Reardon gave place to me, and the other
men moved to numbers two and one. In that order we drilled, and good
Reardon showed me his duties. To make sure that the change is permanent,
Bannister asked the captain, and here I am installed in a very minor

I am out of the front rank now, but the parades, which it is interesting
to watch, are all over, and I shall get acquainted with still another set
of our neighbors. On the hike I shall still march on the outside of the
column, which gives some freedom of action, and as Knudsen contends,
better air. Reardon is very nice about the change; the boys all recognize
it as coming from my bluff at giving orders. Yet Reardon showed, as I
drill beside him today, that he knows more of the business than I do.

Bannister shook his fist at me. "Consarn ye," (he imitates the farmer to
perfection) "yer shan't git my job!"

"Coming strong!" I answered.

Knudsen, with the energy and tact which characterize him, has reorganized
the squad on the basis of this change of mine, moving the men about so
that he has David as his rear rank man, which means that they sleep in
the same tent on the hike, and that Knudsen still has the boy in charge.
Of course Bannister agreed to it all. He and I shall tent together.

Corder feels that he has had a narrow escape. The captain sent for him
and offered him the position of equipment sergeant, or some such title,
which means some minor responsibility and a seat on one of the baggage
trucks. Corder, in a panic, begged permission to stay with the squad and
carry his gun; and the captain, saying how disgusted the bugler was with
his new job, and that two disappointed men in the company were more than
he could stand, let him off. Corder, after telling us the tale, got out
his mirror and studied himself. "It's all this confounded beard of mine,"
he complained. "I'm only forty-five, and my hair is still black, but the
thing has turned gray and makes me seem old. It's sickening to have the
fellows so thoughtful of me. Godwin, if ever you get respectful, I'll
slay you."

The shooting records are posted, and to our great satisfaction our
company stands best. That doesn't mean that we have the highest
individual score, or even the greatest number of expert riflemen. But it
does mean that we have both the most men in all three qualified grades
and the highest average score per man. Practically that means that of all
the six companies we should be deadliest against an infantry attack, also
that as a consequence we should ourselves be safest. As Pickle says, "The
captain has done one good job."

The forehanded among us (and yet after all we are at it pretty late) are
making maps for the hike in imitation of those which the officers have
posted for us to study. At the Exchange can be bought contour maps of all
this region, covering the whole area of the hike. These we are cutting
out in squares and pasting on linen, cheese-cloth, or even mosquito
netting. Then we mark on them the camps, the route, and all along the way
the important crossroads within a mile of our march, which we number
according to the officers' sample. If after this we can get some shellac,
we coat the map against the weather. Had I only known enough, I should
have brought with me proper cloth, glue and shellac for this purpose; for
of course the rush for these materials has practically used up all
neighboring supplies.

Between showers today we have begun our preparations for the hike,
directions concerning which were read us. We have turned in our
condiment-cans and bacon-tins--so much less weight to carry. David is in
secret dismay over the small equipment which is allowed us, and has spent
many long minutes over the beautiful little sole leather trunk which he
keeps under his cot, and which contains so many knickknacks. He has been
making little piles here, and little piles there, and then, with knitted
brow, changing them all about. He has not asked for advice, and none of
us has offered it. Pickle, whose personal outfit is of the most meagre,
has been watching him in delight.

However, David is permanently lightened of one part of his equipment.
Word went round that we were to have rifle-inspection, at which there
rose in the tent a great clamor for patches, of which we had none, nor
the store tent either. David was absent, and Knudsen, saying "I'll get
patches," asked Clay for his surgical scissors, and going to David's cot,
took from the great collection of conveniences which the boy still hoped
to take with him, a set of his beautiful silk pajamas. The jacket Knudsen
tore into strips (we all the while watching in pregnant silence) then cut
them into squares, and when David returned we were all at work on our

"They tell me," he said, "that we're to have rifle inspection. Have you
fellows any patches?"

"Plenty," said Knudsen, and handed him some made out of the gaudiest part
of the pattern.

David, as he inspected these, first grew very red, then hastily demanded,
"Who cut these up?"

"I did," said Knudsen very serenely. "No pajamas on the hike, David."

And the boy, who is still very proud of coming into his own name,
laughed, asked for Clay's scissors, and cut up the rest of his suit. Then
he stuffed into his trunk the other pair which he had intended to take
with him on the hike.

One last story, to show a different side of our Plattsburg activities.
You know we have a cavalry camp here, and a medical department, where
volunteers come exactly as to our infantry regiment. Well, Corder came
back from the medicos lately, where he went to visit a friend, with a
great tale of the mending of a cavalryman's broken jaw by one of the
volunteer surgeons, a Boston dentist. Corder, being professor-like in
appearance, was not detected as an impostor, and stood close at hand in
the ring of doctors who watched the clinic.

"It was done under field conditions," said he, "the operator using only
an alcohol lamp, a small pair of nippers, and about eight inches of
ordinary electric light wire, which happened to be handy. The insulation
was scraped from the cable, and its various fine wires were burned clean
in the flame of the lamp. The rookie was then put on a table in the
company street, and the doctor took a turn with one of the fine wires
around a tooth behind the break, twisting the ends together. The same was
done with a tooth in front of the break; and then in the upper jaw wires
were twisted around teeth above the lower two. An assistant then held the
broken jaw in place, and the doctor twisted tight together the wires from
the lower back tooth and the upper front tooth, and then those from the
upper back tooth and the lower front tooth. He cut off the ends, made all
smooth, and the work was done, all in a very few minutes. The jaw could
not move, and was bound to heal perfectly. The doctors all said they
never had seen anything so simple or so clever."

We thought the same; Clay, as a budding doctor, was envious of Corder for
having seen it. "Too bad for the chap to lose the hike," said Bannister.

"He won't lose it!" replied Corder. "The fellow can drink, of course. He
can get any liquid, or even a cereal or a stew, around behind his back
teeth, so he's simply going right along with us."

So much for smartness, and for grit!

The showers lasting long enough to spoil conferences, and then the sky
clearing, I went this evening to say good-by to Vera, which I had half
promised to do. David, by the way, to whom a social duty used to be
sacred, called yesterday afternoon, as Knudsen suggested, and was
manfully relieved to find her out. But I found her in, and alone. She
told me that her sister Frances was coming, made rather a point of it,
expecting me to manage to see her, though on the hike how can I? There
was a delightful old colonel there, who rather took to me, and when on
the coming of Lieutenant Pendleton I naturally tried to make myself
scarce, the colonel took me into his study to show me the service pistol
that they used in his day. And when finally I took my leave of him, on my
way out (missing the front door and blundering into the parlor) I ran
into the most distressing sort of scene.

Pendleton and Kirby were both there, and the captain having his hat in
his hand, I imagine he'd only just come. The lieutenant was fiery red; I
think I know the look of a man when he's been turned down, and I saw it
in his face. Vera was in that cold and lofty mood of hers when nothing
counts but the idea she has in mind; no one seeing her so would think she
ever again could be gentle or tender--poor Vera, with all her struggles
to perfect herself, and yet with so much manner, yes and so much
headstrong will, hiding it all. It seemed as if she had called the
captain to witness, perhaps to agree in, something she had just
announced; you know it, mother, that old idea of hers that caused me such
years of effort. I heard the words just as I parted the curtains, and
they stopped me dead.

"A man should be able to offer a woman the best that there is."

Pendleton with his head hanging low, Kirby gone white under his tan and
looking as if he had been shot through the heart--but that was not all.
Vera herself looked sick and--there is no other word than desperate.
Explain it if you can. All I could do was to find my way out as quickly
and silently as I could.

I went across the parade-ground and walked up and down by the lake, to
still my many memories. Poor Vera! She is still groping, having a woman's
instincts but yet suppressing them. If only the right man could show her
her true self, she is so honest she would recognize it. But where is he?
or how could he get to know the heart which she herself does not

On the way back to camp I went through the woods, and there I passed the
poor lieutenant, walking with dragging step, still with his head upon his
breast. But when I came to the company street, there in front of his tent
stood the captain, a different picture. He was as straight as a--well, as
a soldier, which he was, every inch of him, with his head up and his jaw
set. I saluted, and he returned the salute, always with that searching
look at me which now I'm sure of the meaning of. Yes, Vera's got him too.

It's time, for every reason, that we were away from here.



                                        Plattsburg Post, Sept. 23, 1916.


I am so glad you are coming, but wish you were coming by train instead of
with the Chapmans in their car. For I can't get you here a minute too
soon, nor have you too much to myself. The Chapmans say they want to see
a hike camp, and how can I excuse myself from going too?

Everything has gone wrong, quite wrong. I thought I could keep the
lieutenant off, but I did not realize what a soldier is. Last night he
had to have his answer, and I was telling him as gently as I could, when
the stupid servant opened the front door to the captain and let him make
his own way into the parlor, where he stood before I had heard a sound.
If he didn't see what was going on, he was blind.

And then I lost my head over the sudden notion that here was my chance to
get rid of him too. For the man frightens me, Frances; I never met one
who was so steady and so determined and so strong. Maybe I blundered; I
don't know. But I can't have him getting to know me any better; I want
never to see him again. So I said (I know I stiffened horribly as I said
it, the thing was so uncalled for and so un-nice) "The lieutenant and I
were just discussing army life, captain, and how little it has for a
woman. For a man ought to be able to offer the best that there is." It
hurt him; it hurt his opinion of me. He went away almost without a word.
I never was so ashamed; never before have I felt like a butcher. But if I
meant it why shouldn't I say it? Let him hate me, if only he lets me

They march out Monday, and as I hear the drums go by on the main road I
shall be glad. But I do so want to see you. Hurry the Chapmans all you




                                            Plattsburg, Sunday the 24th.


I am writing just a few lines to say that we are off tomorrow on the
hike, in light marching order, and with very little bagage. I shall not
even take my pajjamas. But I'd rather you wouldn't tell mother this; it
would upset her. Will you tell her that I'm really too busy to write, but
that I'm in very fine condition, and she's not to worry about me? And she
said in her last letter something about taking a trip up here so as to be
near us on the hike if anything should happen to me. This is really what
I'm writing you about. Please stop her, father. I'd really rather she
wouldn't even be here when we break camp to take me home in the car. For
I'd like to go home with the Boston bunch in the train.

I think in my earlier letters I wasn't fair to some of the fellows in our
squad. Perhaps I didn't know how to get at them at first. Even now I
don't suppose mother would see anything in them; yet I'm sure that if I
could introduce you to them you'd understand why I like them.

Just keep mother from worrying about me on the hike. I shall be all
right. Affectionatly,



                                            Plattsburg, Sunday the 24th.


This morning it has turned chilly, without sun, and with clouds
threatening more rain. As before, I did some washing before breakfast,
and now have on the line considerable of my laundry, which I am anxiously
feeling of from time to time. If it does not dry, then I shall have to
buy some new things for tomorrow.

There being no duties today, men are neglecting church and getting ready
for the hike. We must turn in our mattress covers, pillow slips, barrack
bags, and for those who do not wish to buy, the overcoats. The captain
has sent out word that overcoats may be bought, and I have secured mine
by the payment of $9.96; for those who have not the change, the price is
$10. Down the street from the store-tent extends a line of men with their
surplus in their arms, while I take advantage of their necessarily slow
progress to write this to you. One of my pillow-slips I shall retain by
the sacrifice of seven cents; it shall serve as a bag to keep my extra
things together on the march.

Men are making sure of their homeward accommodations. When I went to the
D. & H. tent it was so full of waiting men that I came away, and must go
again. So much for neglecting a duty till the last.

Word has just gone down the street that we must pack this morning for the
hike, and give our bags in at the Y. M. C. A. for storage. So we shall
be on a hike basis from now on, and tonight I shall sleep in my clothes,
with my blankets and poncho made up into a sleeping bag. It is wonderful
what the Y. M. C. A. does for us, giving to all who come every kind of
information, cashing our checks, supplying pen and ink and paper to the
epistolary, and giving minor helps constantly. It is to them a very
burdensome expense, which they have no fund to meet. I shall leave
something behind to show my appreciation.

For the coming ten days I have gone into woollens for the first time in
years, on account of the expected contact with mother earth. I shall
carry three pair of stockings, a change of underwear, an extra shirt and
extra trousers and shoes, and a light sweater to supplement my service
one, with several small conveniences. We shall live rough and rather
dirty, and the hike will finish much of the outfit.

--It is evening, and I am all ready. The day has been given to sorting
and packing, storing my suit-case, getting my berth home, and again
sorting, and again packing. For when we tried to stuff into the squad-bag
the eight bundles that we made of our extra belongings, it happened as we
might have expected, and we had to discard half of our dunnage. Here is
my final equipment.

In my belt, thirty blank cartridges, and in the extra pockets my
flashlight, some surgeon's plaster, and some of David's silk patches.

In my pocket the foot-powder which it is my duty to carry as
sub-squad-leader. (The other men carry the intrenching tools and the
wire-cutter. The corporal carries nothing but the weight of his

In my pack the usual shelter-half, poncho, blanket, tent-pins, rope,
meat-can, knife and fork and spoon, with bayonet. In addition I stuff in
an o. d. shirt (it dried today!) a towel, soap, tooth-brush, shaving
things etc., a pair of socks, and my map.

In the pillow-case in the squad-bag, shoes, trousers, change of underwear
and socks, towel, writing materials, sewing things.

In the squad-roll the blankets and sweaters.

Cool weather is certain, and having heard that the captain may send back
for our coats, we who have bought ours have deposited them at the
store-tent for this purpose.

My map I have at last finished with much clumsy care; dozens of us have
spent hours today at the Y. M. C. A., absorbed in this work, which
with the accurate inking of the route and crossroads, has been rather
minute. The numbering of many crossroads is very significant of the
skirmishes that await us.

The mail follows us; the address is unchanged.

Tonight the Y. M. C. A. is full of men sending last letters home.
Several have dropped out of the company, on account of feet or knees or
digestion, or else from natural business reasons. The company is sad to
learn that we start without Loretta, business calling him home for a few
days. But we shall be glad to see him when he comes.

Today I ventured something, the results of which, if there are any, I
suppose I shall never know. Our two officers have been very much, on my
mind. Pendleton has been his usual self emphasized, very much on his job
of receiving the equipment, extra clear and precise, more subtle and more
distant in his little ironical smile. The captain, also busy with the
equipment work, was surprisingly gentle, patient with all our many
blunders, very quiet spoken, and somehow closer to us. But while he
attended to us so carefully, somehow I felt that he was thinking of
something else.

Now last night Pendleton, I thank God, could not have seen me at the
portieres, nor could Vera. But the captain might have, for he faced my
way; surely he must have seen the curtains open. If he recognized me, I
know he must have thought of it today when, the last of the men gone, and
his tallies all made up, he stood up from the table that had been placed
in front of his tent, just as I came along by. We were entirely apart
from the rest; so I, having thought a good deal on how far I could
venture, took my chance to speak.

I had to be quick, or he would have stopped me. Said I: "Miss Wadsworth
doesn't live down to her theories, captain. Certainly she didn't do it in
my case."

Then, saluting, I was off. By the gleam that had sprung to his eyes I
knew that he understood me, even though he said nothing. For of course he
has been wondering whether after all I have a chance with Vera, and has
been weighing his earnings against mine.

Dreary business, this love making. Lucky I'm out of it.



                                            Plattsburg, Monday the 25th.


In spite of my trying to stop it, it has happened.

He came walking in yesterday evening, when I was all by myself in the
parlor. I have told you, you remember, that one of his qualities is a
strange gentleness. He told me, in that manner of his, that he would take
only a minute of my time, and while I sat perfectly tongue-tied before
him, as if I were a schoolgirl, this is what he said, without any
passionate declaration, or any self-assertion.

"I came last night, Miss Wadsworth, to tell you that I loved you. You saw
it and stopped me. There seemed no answer to you then, but I have found
one now, and I think you ought to let me say it.

"You said that a man ought to be able to offer to a woman the best that
there is. I came to offer it. Our army women serve their country, not as
we men do, yet they do serve the flag, and unselfishly. There is really
nothing better that can be done by man or woman.

"There is only one other thing that seems to me worth while. It makes the
cottage the equal of the palace. I brought it--honest love. No true woman
can ask more."

Then he went away. I could not stop him; could not try to explain. How
could I say anything against those awful words? Besides, he spoke with
such a thrill as if he were showing me his religion. A dreadful
simplicity of belief! I know all his words by heart. All night long I
have been saying them over and over; and when this morning I heard the
drums, it was as if they said them too.

Do come quickly to your



                                                 West Beekmantown, N. Y.
                                                Monday the 25th, 3 P. M.


How glad I was, at the end of today's hike, to march into the big field
(where the cook tents already stood with smoking fires before them) to
have the two halves of the company line up facing each other, and to hear
the captain command, "Form for shelter tents!"

The file-closers scurried round and got into the vacant places. Every man
gave an anticipatory hitch at the pack that had gradually grown so heavy;
and the front rank men, if they thought the captain was not looking,
loosened their bayonets in their sheaths.

"Take interval, to the right and left!" We rear rank men stepped four
paces backward.

"Harch!" Both ranks faced away from the cook tents, and the lieutenant
began to count, "_One_--two--three--four--_One_--two--three--four!" and
at every _One_ a pair of men, front and rear rank bunkies, stepped off
together, till the whole company was marching by pairs, at intervals of
four paces, and the captain thundered orders to the guides to march

"Halt!" And halting, we faced inward to what was to be the company
street. I unclasped my belt.

"Pitch shelter tents!" Out came the bayonets of the front rank men, and
were thrust into the ground at the right heel. Then down with the rifles,
off with the packs, and we on our knees were hastily opening them and
dragging out the shelter-halves, the pins, and the ropes. Bann and I laid
the long sides of our halves together, lapping the upper one away from
the wind, and buttoned them along (how glad I was that we practised this
yesterday, found where a loop was missing and some button-holes torn, and
made everything good!) The ropes were tied in the loops, Bann's rifle was
stood beside his bayonet, the muzzle beneath the front loop; we aligned
our sloping ridgepole at right angles to the street, drove in our front
and rear pins and tied the ropes, and then I, creeping into the tent with
my bayonet in its sheath, set it upright under the end of the ridge. Then
quickly we pegged down the sides and back, stretching them well out, laid
back the front flaps of our kennel, set our equipment in the double
doorway, passed the inspection of the lieutenant, and felt proud. Then
mess, with its stew and its vegetables, its bread and butter, and even
with milk, which we are warned we may never see again. Since when we have
been retrospecting, doctoring, washing at a poor apology for a brook, and
making ourselves comfortable in anticipation of Retreat and of the night.

Remarkable things, these shelter tents, just broad enough at the front
for the shoulders of two men, and at the back for their feet, with a
further recess for the equipment. Along the edges can be stowed the
toilet articles and such things as need to be handy, with the spare
rifle. After removing all boulders from the floor, and digging hollows
for our hips, we have carpeted with straw, bought of a thrifty farmer who
hauled it here and sold for twenty-five cents per poncho- or
blanket-load. We now know a little better the meaning of the term
buzzard. On the thick layer we have made our beds, some of the fellows'
together, but Bann's and mine separately, for I have warned him that I am
a restless sleeper. On my tummy on my sleeping bag I am writing to you

We have already discovered that since we must have our rifles for Retreat
it is wise to have poles for our tents, and so they have mysteriously
appeared from the neighboring woods. They will travel in the blanket
rolls from camp to camp. Should I come again to Plattsburg I shall get a
broom-stick for the hike, provided with conveniences for hanging socks,
tooth-brush, and candle-socket. Fellows are tying candles to their poles
with string, convenient enough till the string burns and the candle
tumbles down into the straw.

I can imagine difficulty in pitching tents under other circumstances than
are provided by this ideal afternoon. In the rain we shan't care to have
the tents face the wind, nor shall we enjoy setting up tents in a gale,
when we shall also hope for better holding ground for the short tent-pins
than we find here in this gravel. As it is, we have piled stones on the
pins today. Some fellows have ditched their tents, but Bann and I don't
see the need of that except with more of a threat of rain than is given
by this cloudless sky.

Now if you can imagine in a field, sloping gently to the west, some four
hundred and fifty or more of these pup-tents, with a thousand men or less
swarming around and in them, some coming back from a bath in the brook,
some cleaning guns, some making fireplaces for an evening fire, some
napping, some writing; if you can hear much talk and laughter, the
chopping of axes at the cook tents, the call "Corporals, come and get
your mail for your squads!" then you can understand what a lively, busy
place this is. Just across the fence is a camp of cavalry; there is a
squadron in our field also. Running across the heads of the streets are
the big cook tents; close by are the tents of the Y. M. C. A. and the
Exchange and the photographer; elsewhere are the officer's big conical
tents, each with the luxury of a stove; and in still another spot is the
doctor's tent, not far from the shelter-tents of the band. Men are idling
everywhere, and working everywhere also. The long line of trucks is drawn
up not far from the field entrance, and the drivers are tinkering them
for tomorrow.

But outside the sacred enclosure of the camp, yet as near as they can
squeeze, are the buzzards, each with his little outfit for following the
hike. A scrawny horse, a little tent, a board on two barrels, a big
sign--these with indigestibles constitute their outfits. In the camp
wander men with baskets, or boys with boxes, selling fruit, tobacco, and
chocolate. There are the farmer folk, too, gawking about at the show.

--And now, sitting on the ground near the bright lamp of the telegraph
table outside the Y. M. C. A. tent, while a dozen others crouch in the
radius of its rays, I am writing these last words. Night has fallen.
Inside the tent men are almost solidly crowded together on the floor as
they sit to write letters, while yet men in a steady stream step over and
among them, to get at the table stamps, pen and ink, and paper.

The day of course has been crowded pretty full. This morning at
Plattsburg the confusion in the company street was great. As we had to
make up our blanket rolls before breakfast we had to put our sweaters in
and shiver in our shirts. Packs were made up, tents were policed, cots
and mattresses handed in, and then we were off, as the advance guard of
an army camped at the post. But today's problem, though explained by map
to us at conference this afternoon, did not affect H company. Our
battalion was only the support; the first battalion carried on the
necessary skirmish that cleared the road of the cavalry, our opponents.
While they were chasing them far from the line of march, we plodded
safely along the macadam, and pitched tents before the others.

Concerning the hike, these facts. My feet are unblistered, though at one
rest, being panic-stricken, I hastily filled stockings and shoes with
foot-powder. At another time I found the pace telling on me, and was
sadly thinking that I was still too soft, when I heard grumbling all
about me. The step had been quickened, and all were feeling it. At the
grumbling Corder turned to me a face of relief. "Thank Heaven!" he said
piously. "I thought I was growing old." Our route was through the edge of
Plattsburg, along some miles of highway, and then by gravel roads to this
camp near Ryan's Grove, which is a fine sugar bush on the hillside below
us. After only eight miles of road, there were very few of us that were
not glad to get here.

Our system of serving food is curious. Each man has knife, fork, spoon,
canteen cup, and meat can. Falling into line at the bugle call (in no
order, every man for himself) the knife, fork and spoon are stuck into a
legging, and perhaps, until we reach the serving places, the canteen cup
is also carried there, by the handle. The meat-can is an oval sauce-pan
with a shallow top, over which shuts down its folding handle. Opening
this, one carries in one hand the can and cover, in the other the cup,
and filing past the cooks, who stand in line, one receives from each some
part of the ration. Then we retire to the most convenient spot to eat, if
we are hungry come for a second helping, and if we are lucky, get it.

Of the dish-washing, since I know your passion for cleanliness and
absolute sanitation, I spare you the details, except this significant
one. The cooks having retired for their own meal, I saw one fellow wash
his meat-can in the abandoned coffee barrel, mistaking its fine rich
contents for the dishwater.

You should have seen our field at the coming of the dusk: the dying
sunset, the silhouetting of the upper tents against the sky, the coming
out of the many fires, and in the light of their flames, reflected in the
drifting smoke, the lively picturesqueness of the camp. This is all
accentuated by the dark. Such coming and going, such talking and
greeting, such stumbling in the shadows and peering against the
fires--well, I never could have imagined it.

I must turn in, though with regret at not being able to buy myself a
knitted cap for the night, against this sharp cold. The felt hat will
suffer by such use, and besides will serve badly. Love from


_Postscript._ A rumor is running through the camp (we are specially
warned not to believe rumors, but this one is borne out by the behavior
of the officers) that someone in the regiment has a clip of ball
cartridges, "swiped" from the range. The officers went down the line at
Retreat, and besides inspecting the guns, made every man turn out all the
pockets of his cartridge belt. Nothing found.


                                       West Beekmantown. Tues, Sept. 26.

(The first section of the letter is a mere scrawl.)


It is early dawn on Tuesday, and I have slept better, on "my pallet of
straw," than many a time in my bed at home. The cooks have for some time
been stirring, as I have known by the sound of their axes, the crackling
of their fires, the glow reflected on their tents, and their occasional
voices. In the cavalry camp the horses stamp, I hear a distant train and
a dog's bark, and nearer at hand, from among the pup-tents, come little
morning coughs. My writing is practically invisible to me on the paper. I
can just see that I trace a line.

There are thistles in this straw!

Last night I saw a lost soul. Rousing, as I often do, at one o'clock, I
stood at the door of the tent, admiring Orion in the east and the
constellations overhead. I heard a little murmur of complaint, and saw a
man come stumbling down the street, his bare feet softly thudding on the
stones, and drawing from him this sad sound as he came shivering along in
pajamas. He was stooping at each tent and peering in to discover his lost
place. So he passed out of my sight, but when I once more turned to
admire Orion I saw the same unhappy phantom wandering along the next
company street, still stumbling, still shivering, still silently
searching for his couch. As for me, I turned in again and slept.

(Later, and more legible.)

We have broken camp, all the tents being struck; and next we have been
given a lesson in military neatness. Each company has had to police its
street, to fill all tent-ditches and fireplaces, and to pick up each bit
of rubbish and scrap of paper. Our squad having had a meeting upon the
subject, has agreed that immediately upon making up our packs we shall
police our own ground, either bury the rubbish in the ditches or burn it
in the fire, using if necessary a little of our hay, and pile the rest of
the latter as quickly as possible, to get the work over with. This is in
response to the captain's latest, for finding a single scrap of paper as
big as a postage stamp in the street, he turned out a whole squad to pick
it up. Next time, he says, it will be a platoon. We know Kirby too well
by this time to suppose he doesn't mean what he says.

I am writing as I loll on a pile of hay, while my neighbors are
vigorously resenting the demand of the farmer who sold us the hay last
night, that we rise and relinquish it to him--in order that he may sell
it again tonight. Much angry computation as to his profits per ton, and a
warning that, as on account of our ignorance he raised the tariff on us
yesterday, we should never again pay more than ten cents per tent.

(As we stand waiting in rank.)

Orders for today have been issued. The enemy cavalry and machine guns are
at Sciota, some miles north of us. We are to go against them, with our
battalion as advance guard, Company I in the lead, our company supporting
them four hundred yards behind.

(Resting on the road.)

We have been marching at hot speed, having no one to set the pace for
Kirby, now that at last we have passed I company. For a while we had to
wait on them while they drove the enemy, hearing their firing, and at
every halt sending out patrols. At last we drew near the firing line,
which had been pretty hard at work, but which drew aside by the roadside
(being either dead or out of ammunition) to let us go by, while we
acclaimed them as having died heroically in our defense. Then came urgent
work on our part, till now, as we halt, the platoon leader is telling us
that we are to go forward over a wire fence, deploy behind a stone wall,
and wait for the field battery to shell the enemy.

--And now we have crawled through the wire, and are comfortably watching
the lieutenant of artillery while, with his instruments all fixed, he is
getting the range of the enemy, these, you know, being the cavalry, who
every day, I suppose, will precede us out of camp and try to make it
lively for us during the morning. A voice asks, "Where are the cavalry?"
and someone answers "Intrenched," which is not so foolish as it sounds,
they being equipped for the purpose, and being drilled to fight
dismounted. But intrenching should not be necessary in a country
provided, as this one is, with stone walls. Other companies are deploying
on our left, and we wait before that most dangerous of all attempts, a
direct frontal attack. The enemy, the captain has just explained, is a
half mile away across a slight depression. At Bunker Hill our men waited
till they could see the whites of the red-coats' eyes. At Fredericksburg
our attacking men were helpless at a hundred yards. But here as soon as
we have crossed the wall we shall be exposed to a deadly fire, not only
of rifles, but of machine guns. Of these the enemy have two on motor
tricycles, and it is understood that the call of their sirens is a signal
that they are in action.

(And again resting.)

We have the machine guns, mother dear. The cavalry got away, all but
three or four of them. This was how it went.

When the field artillery had sufficiently pounded the enemy (and having
but few rounds this did not last very long) we were given the order to
advance. First we went over the wall,--and you must remember that every
fence in this country, stone, snake, or otherwise, is decorated with
barbed wire--and formed our line, lying flat, a couple of rods beyond it.
Now we put in practice for the whole battalion the tactics we had studied
by platoons, sending men forward from the right by squads in rushes,
making a new line by degrees, always keeping a constant fire on the
enemy--for we had a hundred rounds today, so that if we were decently
accurate we should make him too nervous to be very dangerous in return.
We went about fifty yards at a time, our sergeants and platoon leaders in
the rear, behind them the captain and his orderlies and behind all the
major and his aides. Certain officers with white bands on their arms, who
ventured unconcernedly into the line of fire, I made out to be umpires
judging this game of war. For I find, mother dear, that this is earnest
for the officers as well as ourselves--we and the enemy have maps, we
know the general conditions, and then each acts as in time of war, trying
to get the better of the opponent. So that if an officer has properly
trained his men, and if in addition he shows good judgment, then he can
feel that he is advancing in his profession. The major, working for the
first time today with a battalion under him (for last camp he was but a
captain) was as keen at the work as if real bullets had been flying
across the little valley. Meanwhile the umpires, studying the strategy of
both sides, are themselves learning.

Well, we got forward rush by rush, firing as we lay waiting, getting
ready at the word, and then following Bannister as he quartered forward
to the right or left to join the new line. As we neared the stone wall
behind which the enemy was firing we could see his white hat-bands, when
to my disgust along came an umpire and ruled out the rear rank. Wanting
to be in at the death, I changed places with Corder, who was "all in,"
and so I finished out the final charge, when the captain came through the
line with a rush and we up and followed him yelling. The enemy very
obligingly vacated the wall as we approached, and all we saw of the
cavalry was their dust as they departed, except a squad whom the umpires
called back.

One machine gun I did not see, nor have I heard how it was captured. But
one was stalled a little distance behind the wall, and I followed the
captain as he made for it. The two men on it were swearing wonderfully,
being regulars; the captain snapped his pistol in the air as he ran, and
I likewise fired my gun upwards, it being the rule of this campaign
neither to fire nor to present the bayonet at close quarters. Seeing they
could not get away, the men were actually ready to fight, and I think had
we been rookies we might have had to scrap for it; but seeing an officer
they saluted and sullenly submitted.

(In camp near Crossroads 75, south of Sciota, N. Y., Tuesday evening.)

I am sitting on a piece of canvas, being one among a dozen or more men
outside the Y. M. C. A. tent, all writing. Men constantly come between
me and the light or step on my outlying portions; there is much cheerful
talking and laughing, and all about is the usual bustle of the camp.

We arrived at camp late, as battle-scarred warriors, and found the
peaceful first battalion already encamped. At once we pitched tents and
then hastily fed; at home, after hours of such exertion, I should have
had a half hour's rest before eating. But the food was ready and hot; if
I did not take it at once I could not get it at all; so my stomach took
the risk, and I had my meal first and my rest afterward. Then a wash in
oh! such a soft-bottomed sluggish brook, where many shaved, and others to
my amazement cleaned their teeth. For that ceremony I keep my canteen
water, which is served out to us at the head of the company street in
proper dippers by orderlies; it is all I shall have, I foresee, both for
drink and for absolutely necessary washing. We have better holding-ground
for our tent-pins tonight, but the sky is cloudless and again we have not
trenched. There are northern lights--a change in weather? The hay today
cost but ten cents, and the adjutant assures us of that tariff in future.

Imagine the camp as yesterday, and me well. Love from



... Instead of yesterday's steady marching, with the first battalion
driving the enemy away for our convenience, duties were today reversed,
and our battalion took the advance-guard work, ending in a very bloody
skirmish, in which, I regret to report, one dear to you was slain. We
marched--and it was marching!--at a good pace after the first few miles,
having no one ahead to hold us back except when we had to duck into the
roadside ditches to avoid machine-gun fire. Our advance guard had died
gallantly and cheered (jeered?) us as we went forward to dislodge the
enemy. The problem was explained to us: the enemy was 800 yards ahead,
having command of a shallow valley, which we must cross. This we did by
rushes, squads or platoons at a time, three companies abreast no sooner
achieving a new line than they sent forward more feelers. In this action
it was very interesting for a time to simulate real firing, shooting with
blank cartridges at an enemy behind a stone wall.

And yet shooting from behind hard heaps of stone, or lying on rough
ground, through grass and leaves that obscured the sights, all the time
troubled by a heavy pack that burdened the shoulders, poked the hat over
the eyes, and hampered the free action of the arms, began to wear on me.
Try as I may, I cannot master the little sidewise shift of the pack which
the captain showed us, and which Godwin says makes shooting prone "just
as easy!" Looking at the other men, I often saw them flop on their faces
to rest; they were working as hard as on the range. The pretense of
firing, when our cartridges were gone, took away some of the excitement.
Then at about the fifth dash, which the others took with some briskness
but which I had to finish at a slow jog, I began to get pumped. When the
first sergeant asked me how I was I told him that I was shot through both
lungs. Nevertheless, I finished (though at a walk) the next to last
charge, but our dash had been so exposed that, by the time I had thrown
myself panting on some particularly jagged stones, an umpire came along
and announced that all rear-rank men were to fall out, of course as being
dead. Godwin was disgusted, and evidently seeing my envy in my face,
swapped places with me. Never was anyone so willing to be killed. Quite
at my leisure I watched the spirited advance of the thin line of o. d.
men to storm the enemy's position. And I was perfectly willing not to be
killed twice.

Our little club of middle-aged men still holds its impromptu sessions,
members comparing experiences and solicitously inquiring as to each
other's condition. So far as I can see we are keeping up pretty well,
except for the ability to make such awful repeated dashes as today's work
required. And even then a few minutes' rest sets us on our feet again.

Pitching the tents, making camp, etc., is now routine work. The
encampment is as picturesque as before. Tomorrow night we also spend
here; whether or not we shall mercifully be permitted to leave the tents
pitched, the morning will decide. But I am well, and blisterless, and
refreshed, and tomorrow shall be ready to die again.




                                             Sciota, Wednesday the 27th.


You need not worry about my sleeping warm. When I go to bed I take off my
shoes and leggings, put on an extra pair of socks, and crawl into the bag
which each afternoon I make up afresh by pinning the folded blankets
together with the biggest safety pins you ever saw, and buttoning my
poncho around them. Over me thus there is the poncho, and as many layers
of blankets as I please, up to five. Besides I have two sweaters, if I
need them. So I sleep snug.

This morning it is pleasant and windless, as I wait for the order to

An instance of the change of orders under which we labor. (As I recall
the Civil War memoirs that I have read, it seems to me that conditions
are much the same.) We were assembled in line at 5.25, reported, stacked
arms, and were ordered (remember that we are to camp on this same ground
tonight) "Strike tents and make packs. Make up blanket rolls and squad
bags, and bring them to the head of the street." Oh, the disgust! The
orders were proper for the first battalion, which marches on to Altona
today; but for us it seemed needless. But the promptest fell to work,
took down their tents, and began to make up the packs. Then the word came
travelling down the street, "Leave tents standing!" Luckily Bann and I
had not got to the work of striking the tent, and so we jubilated while
some others cussed. But we went on with making up the rolls and bags.
Then the order was transmitted, "Leave blankets and extra kits in tents!"
Perhaps someone blundered in the first place, and we got the order
intended for the first battalion. And I do not complain, for today we
travel light, with many things not in our packs.

The call has come, "Squad leaders to the head of the street." That means
a talk preparatory to setting out. So I have put on my pack, so as to
wait without worry. Having marched very dry yesterday, and a pebble which
I hastily scooped up proving large and rough, I have provided myself (per
one buzzard) with a package of chewing gum. Oh for the old-fashioned
spruce, with no sweetness or artificial flavor!--The first battalion,
having packed entirely, is assembling for the march. My map is buttoned
in my shirt, for consultation at halts. The day is warm, with the wind
from the west; but there are gathering clouds, and I am going to use the
time which is left in digging with my bayonet a ditch around the tent.

(In West Sciota? At any rate, an inhabited crossroads.) I am lying on my
back in the wet grass, while the captain explains that the sound at a
little distance, as of a lot of carpenters nailing at the boarding of a
new house, is our patrols firing at a party of cavalry that is opposing
our advance.

We left our tents buttoned, and started out in gray weather. I was glad
that I had, with bayonet and fingers, dug a shallow ditch along the upper
side of our pup and across the front, when this light rain began. It is
not bad, and so long as I have my pack between me and the ground I cannot
get chilled. Again and again I have used it so, and have seen fellows at
halts napping all around me. Truly the pack is a life saver.--"Fall in!"

(North of Sciota, on the road to Mooers, near crossroads 79, the weather
now dry.) We are resting after a skirmish, and as my position is somewhat
more comfortable, since I am lolling in a ditch instead of lying on my
back, perhaps these jottings will be more legible than the last. The
skirmish went thus.

We left our resting-place at crossroads 72, and followed the popping of
our advance guard, I company, while at the same time we heard at a
greater distance the heavy firing of the first battalion as it fought its
way westward toward Altona, we ourselves going north. As we advanced
beyond a corner, suddenly fire from the left broke out upon the column
behind us. At once we were halted, and Captain Kirby, ranging down the
line of the company, picked out our squad and sent us at the double over
the fence and into the field north of the road that we had passed, our
enemy being in a thick wood to the south of it. Here we streamed along,
poor Corder as usual soon being pumped and dropping behind, while eager
David was only kept from outdistancing the rest by a sharp word from
Knudsen. We scrambled through a wire fence, then in a pasture with
scattered heavy cedars we assembled behind a tree to survey the ground,
all of us pouring out our advice upon poor Bann--to go to the road, to go
further west, to plunge into the woods and attack the enemy by ourselves.
This last from David, who is keen at every fight. Someone urging to send
a message back to the captain, Bann got out the brand-new despatch book
and pencil which since the conference this morning had been sticking out
of his pocket, but put them up again for lack of something definite to
say. So he took us across the road and into the field behind the enemy's
wood, where it being evident that the foe had no reserves, Bann began
once more to write.

Now we heard Kirby's voice, who having led the company along the road,
and finding himself plainly behind the enemy's fire, was putting the men,
in squad columns, into the wood to search them out. We climbed the wire
fence and followed through the densest undergrowth, where poor Corder,
stumbling behind and having to protect his glasses, often found himself
quite out of sight of the man in front. But we were too late. We heard
shouts ahead, the firing ceased, and when we desperately broke through
the last of the thicket and found ourselves in the open, there stood a
line of men with white bands on their hats (the sign of the opposing
forces) quietly regarding us. Rumor said that they were captured, and
Squad 9, being first on the ground, was feeling proud of their work. Then
the rumor ran that not only was the enemy not captured, but we were
killed. Squad 9 was cursing, "not loud but deep," when the captain came
along and was passionately appealed to. "We got them," he assured us.
"They were firing away from us when we broke through the wood. A single
picket on that flank, firing a single shot on seeing us, would have saved
them. And besides, we have their horses. Sergeant Barker has just come in
reporting that he has the bunch." Satisfied, we marched out to our
present resting-place.

The cavalry has just emerged from their unsuccessful ambush, with the two
machine guns, and have started northward in a hurry, an umpire warning
them, "You have only five minutes before we start after you." The men
around me are laughing and talking, well content, and I have just seen
the major congratulating the captain on a brisk piece of work.

(In camp again, and settled for the night at our old tents, the weather
having cleared.)

A cavalryman (by the way, there was pointed out to me today the fellow
with the broken jaw, jouncing along with the rest, and looking neither
thin nor pale) a cavalryman has just settled down to discuss the skirmish
with us. "We got some beautiful shots at you fellows. In our first
position we let the point of I company walk by, and then fired into them
at about fifty yards. I company drove us, and then we settled in that
little wood, with the machine guns. I company's flanking patrol came
right up to the edge of the woods without seeing us. We let them go by
and then fired into you. Didn't you duck into the ditches quick!" He is
talking now of a cavalryman's work. "Here you fellows are grumbling
because you have a gun to clean. I wish I got off as easily. I have my
gun and my equipment; it takes a lot of time, and today I had to clean
and water two horses, another fellow's and mine. The other man got hurt,
one of the regulars. His horse fell on him."

The major, at conference, told us that he and Captain Kirby had been
expecting an attack at that point, as the lay of the land was right for
it. They were surprised when the flanking patrol found nothing.

Our next work was quite different, and illustrates the fact that the man
in the ranks can only tell what he sees, and often cannot understand
that. On our fresh advance northward our company was the advance guard, I
company falling to our rear. The first platoon marched ahead as the
"point," with communicating files, and we watched its operations for a
while as we followed along.

The work of the "point," my dear mother, when you are advancing to engage
the enemy, is one of the most dangerous in warfare. When the Germans sent
out their advance guards as they overran Belgium, they considered that
the men in each point had been given their death warrants. The object of
the point, as it proceeds along the road, is to hunt for the enemy and
engage him. The men of the detail march at intervals of about twenty-five
yards on alternate sides of the road, the corporal about halfway of the
squad, and the rearmost, or "get-away man," having the task of falling
back as soon as any serious obstacle is encountered, in order to
communicate with the support. As in enemy's country the roads are likely
to be waylaid, patrols are sent out to investigate any flanking hill, or
wood, or group of buildings, behind which a party could be hiding. You
can imagine the grim interest in trying to walk into an ambuscade. I
company's patrols having failed to locate the enemy in his last
concealment, we were particularly anxious to make no such error.

As we marched up each rise in ground I could see the point ahead of us,
and the patrols working their way through the country to the right and
left of the road. As the point naturally went faster than the patrols it
would gradually leave them behind, the corporal or sergeant commanding
would send back for more men, the message would come through the
communicating files, and men would be sent ahead for the work. Patrols
outdistanced, and still finding nothing, would drop back to the road and
rejoin their command as soon as they could.

After a while this work of the point had used up the first platoon, and
began to eat into ours. It was then recalled and our platoon took its
place, with Squad 6 as point, Squad 7 providing the patrols and
communicating files, and our squad as immediate reserve. Word coming for
more men, Clay and Reardon were sent forward, and I saw them despatched
off to the right, Clay toward a nearby sugar-bush, a little grove with
its sugar house at its edge, and Reardon further forward, toward a
suspicious hollow behind which was a railroad embankment which might
conceal a regiment. I was plainly among the next to go, and waited
impatiently. Then we halted, and remained so for some time.

The men grumbled. Why stop? Why wasn't the support following more
closely? Where was the enemy, anyway? Hoping to be right in the middle of
the next scrap, we were disappointed at any delay. Meanwhile Clay, having
found nothing in his sugar-bush, returned, and attention was fixed on our
flanking patrol to the left, who having discovered that we had stopped,
likewise became stationary, and leaving un-rummaged the thick little
growth of birch ahead of him, sat himself down in the midst of an apple
orchard, and visibly regaled himself on something red.

This was exasperating, we having already had to leave untouched so many
trees laden with fruit. Roars from the sergeant failing to dislodge our
resting patrol, a man was starting out to order him on, when he was
observed to start, crouch behind a tree, make ready to shoot, and then to
fall back from cover to cover, continually presenting his gun at an
unseen enemy. He rejoined us out of breath, and feverishly reported
having heard men in the scrub, and a voice ordering him to surrender. The
sergeant was hastily sending out our squad to investigate the birches,
when a bunch of men were seen to break cover from them. As they wore no
white hat-bands we knew they must be our men; and when they came nearer
we saw them to be Squad 9, which a quarter hour before the captain had
despatched on special flanking duty, and which, being full of energy, had
done their work and more too, coming back after a practical joke on our

And then we were ordered to return! Instead of the support marching to
fill the gap between us, we were to go back to it. Bannister objected
that a man was missing, Reardon through excess of zeal having vanished in
the distance along the railroad. "Send out a man after him," said the
sergeant. All the squad offered to go; Corder was a little the slowest,
being leg-weary, but who do you think was first? David! So he was
despatched, and went very eagerly, while we turned our backs and went

When the company had joined the battalion there was much rearranging of
disjointed commands, squads continually coming in from detail duty, so
that it was plain that between us we had pretty well investigated the
whole landscape. David and Reardon were missing still, even after we had
rested for some time. We started south again, and it was not till after
another march that the lost men rejoined us, David triumphant, but
Reardon very hot and weary. Said the poor fellow, "I have thought before
now that I was pretty tired, but this beats everything."

There was no rest for him, however. We turned north again, having J
company in front, and after a mile heard the familiar firing. The captain
sent us headlong into the field on the right, where soon we were part of
a skirmish line, and for a minute were blazing away at a fence in front
of us, behind which I glimpsed a single white hat-band. But Kirby was not
to be caught as the cavalry had allowed themselves to be. Squad 8 was
sent off at the double to the end of the line, and there at wide
intervals we made a flank guard extending to the rear, where poor Reardon
was allowed to rest at last, as we waited hidden behind what cover we
could find, gazing across some pasture land with scattered bushes at a
belt of pine in front.

As we waited we heard the voice of an umpire; I snatched a glimpse of him
as he stood behind us watching. "Any enemy you see represents twenty-five
men." A cool statement that made our task perplexing, for while with one
bullet I might slay so many men, conversely if one shot at us first he
could wipe out the squad. But though we lay very low and watched very
keenly, while the battalion banged away at our left, no one appeared in
front of us. To my left was Reardon, and to my right David, very intent
on spotting the first foe. It is a pleasure to see how seriously he takes
the work. Pickle, beyond him, was constantly chewing gum and whispering
slang, the sort of city clerk one reads about in Civil War memoirs, tough
physically and mentally.

(I have thrown my chewing gum away. Too much swallowing of saliva makes
you (me!) hungry. Me for a pebble from the next brook!)

We were at last called back by a whistle, and the distant cry, "Assemble
on the left!" Once more we marched south, and presently were resting
again at West Sciota. As we lolled there, buying apples from native
buzzards, who take to the extortion of the professional without any
coaching, some trucks came to the crossroads, and men began to climb into
them. Watching one group, I was surprised to recognize a man of A
company, at the same time that Corder exclaimed, "Those men are from the
first battalion!" whose firing, you remember, we had already heard at
least a couple of miles away. We did not get the explanation until
battalion conference, some hours later. It seems that the umpires, during
our northward march, had reinforced the cavalry with an imaginary
battalion of infantry, before which we had been obliged to retreat. By
motorcycle messenger a call for help was sent to the first battalion
commander, who was now four miles away on the road to Altona. Having
sixteen empty motor-trucks, in four minutes he had filled them with two
companies, and seventeen minutes later they were behind our lines,
forming for our support. As we saw or guessed none of this, it only
illustrates the remark with which I began, that the private soldier knows
but a little of what is going on.

I would not write this to you in such detail, except that I think it will
interest you to see that the hike is more than a mere march, and that it
is making every one of us advance in his department of the war game. We
squads, I hope, are learning to do as we are told, though you see how
blind everything is to us. The intricate problems of the officers come
out in conference. There the men sit on the ground in a great
three-quarter-circle, grouping themselves whenever possible around the
men with maps. The major likewise has hisn, and the officers theirn. The
major makes a general statement of the work of the day, and the captains
then report on their particular operations. When you see what exact notes
they have taken of every operation: the precise moment of sending out
parties and of receiving reports, the minuteness with which they locate
every action, the science with which they carry out the work that falls
to them, and the team-play that animates them, you see that this is no
old-style cut-and-dried "sham battle," but an actual study, of course on
a small scale, of fighting seriously carried out by well-trained
officers. It has deeply impressed me with the long and hard work
necessary to make an officer; and then, turning to the man's side of it,
it becomes plainer and plainer that it takes time, much time, to train a
private or a corporal into a reliable man on patrol.

One hard thing for us amateurs to learn is the proper writing of messages
containing military information. It is hard to decide what is important
enough to send, and then how to word the despatch. Tradition from an
earlier camp has handed down this model: "The enemy are in sight and are
about to do something." Where, when, how many, some notion, however
vague, of the enemy's disposition--all forgotten between excitement and
too great responsibility.

The march home was the hardest part of the day. The interest of the
skirmish kept us going; but the three miles back to camp at a quick pace
took it out of us all. I had not known I was so tired; the strain wore
hard on me; it seemed ages before we sighted camp, and then ages and ages
before we reached it. But this experience was the same as on Monday, for
though the very vigorous ones were able to whistle and sing, to the help
of us all, again I began to hear grumbling all about me. We reached camp
at last, and poor Reardon when we broke ranks dropped on the ground at
his tent door, without the energy to unbutton the flaps, and in a minute
was fast asleep there.

We had our dinner, which I put in my meat-can under the hay to keep hot
while I rested, then ate and felt refreshed. Then the afternoon we had to
ourselves, if you can so consider it when we have to clean our guns,
clean ourselves, come to conference, and come to Retreat. For my own
part, having yesterday sampled the slimy brook and having no taste for it
again, I washed my face and hands (after cleaning my gun) in a little
water from the canteen. Thus I am staying dirty. It is no more than I
have done before, in the deep woods.

"That was some hike we had this morning," calls Bannister to a friend
across the street. Such is the general opinion, especially Reardon's, who
slept till he had to be roused for conference. And I want especially to
chronicle that it was David who, declaring that Reardon would get
rheumatism from the bare ground, roused him enough to get him onto his
blankets in the tent; it was David who sat by him and prevented anyone
from waking him; and it was David who after cleaning his own gun, which
work the lad does not enjoy, cleaned Reardon's.

The story goes now that the stolen clip of ball cartridges has been found
and confiscated. Its location is ascribed to every company in the
regiment, including ours. Our blanks we use very freely, being supplied
every morning with any number from fifty up. And wherever we shoot them
in any quantity, buzzards still flock together to rummage in the

You ask the meaning of Retreat. It is the last ceremony of the military
day, when the colors are furled. The companies are called together, each
at the end of its street, so that they are in order one behind the other.
Sometimes we are drilled in the manual, sometimes we have rifle
inspection; but as soon as the bugle sounds the warning call we come to
parade rest. Then the band plays the Star Spangled Banner, after which we
stand at attention while the bugler plays the beautiful "To the Colors."
The flag is furled, and everyone not in line, cooks, orderlies, all
except the buzzards, likewise stand at attention during the call, and at
the end salute. Then promptly we are dismissed and allowed to hope for

Our diet is the same monotony of wholesome, plentiful food. I am
flourishing on it; Corder is proud of requiring nothing else. On the
other hand some complain, and Pickle, having a sweet tooth, at the end of
a meal will often go out and feed himself with boughten pies and
doughnuts. For you must understand that not only do the buzzards follow
us from camp to camp, but every farmer's wife along the line of march or
near our camp bakes a batch of her favorites and puts out a sign. Those
along the road must be disappointed; none of us ever fall out. But they
make a good sale outside the camp. David, who has become very strict with
himself, is trying to save Pickle from his indulgences, but so far
without success except that Pickle has become very sly about slipping

A long letter, and I am cramped and stiff from sitting on the ground.
When shall I sit in a chair again?



                                        Thursday morning at West Sciota,
                                                       waiting to start.


The camp has been policed down to the last cigarette stub and gun patch,
or anything else that the captain's keen eye might light on. The call has
gone out, "Platoon leaders to the head of the street," and the day's work
is to be laid out for them. We privates have been studying our maps. For
we expect to march to Altona, where last night the first battalion
camped, and we suspect that they will march out and oppose us. It is only
seven miles by road, but no one knows how long if skirmishing is added.

After mailing my letter last night I sat among others at the captain's
fire, listening to his ready answers to the questions which we fired at
him. We went over points of strategy, and discussed the day's work. It
has become plain to me that there is a great advantage in so small a camp
as ours, a regiment of but six companies. We can be in or pretty close to
every scrap that happens, and all the real military problems are fairly
plain to us. Besides, this hike is to be the longest yet. When further
you consider that a month of Plattsburg has as many hours of service as a
militiaman gets in two years and a half at home, that our continuous
service is naturally much more valuable than the militiaman's weekly
drill in his armory, and finally that we are under West Pointers who each
day explain and discuss the problem, you can see that a man in the Tenth
Regiment has a chance to learn a good deal.

Little absurdities are taking place around me. Says Corder, struggling
with his pack, "Bann, will you help me into my corset." Pickle says to
Reardon (out of David's hearing) "Ten cents for a bum piece of pie that
you have to eat with your hands! That gets my goat." And just now has
come a hoot from every part of the camp when from I company, in line to
start and loading guns for a skirmish, sounded the pop of an accidental
discharge. But the men of I company look sour and glum.

Nevertheless I will admit that I discovered yesterday from personal
experience, but luckily in the rattle and banging of a fight, how the gun
is accidentally discharged. You draw back the bolt and push it forward
again, thus putting a cartridge in the barrel. Then you turn the bolt
down. Now if in so doing your third or fourth finger strays inside the
trigger guard and presses the trigger (and it is very easily done)
then--! But no one could hear my mistake in all the firing.

                                  (_Resting after battle, near Altona._)

We marched for some miles unmolested along our westward road, and the
amateur strategists among us scanned each rise of ground ahead,
predicting fights. But when the row finally began we were too far in the
rear to see just what kind of position the enemy had decided to hold. As
often happens, we were ordered into the ditch to wait, while the officers
consulted briefly, and all the time the rattle of the guns kept up. Half
the cavalry, by the way, were with us, and we saw them sent off by a
woodroad to the left, supposedly to flank the enemy. Then for our platoon
occurred one of our occasional bawlings out. As we waited, having loaded,
we saw the 4th, 3d, and 1st platoons ordered over the fence into the
field on our right. Being used to seeing the company split into its
detachments for different purposes, and hearing no orders, we remained
placidly in the ditch--for we are now old soldiers, and are learning not
to hunt trouble. But the lieutenant came running, and with a few sharp
words deftly removed the scalp of our leader, and retired with it at his
belt. So over we scrabbled, and took our place in the column. Then we
wandered miles through pastures, woods, and bogs, at first in _column of
squads_, which means four men abreast, and then, as the going became
difficult, in _squad columns_, which means eight men following each other
in single file. Note this difference--I wish we had! At one time, for
nearly a mile, the whole company was in Indian file, winding through the

And as we went thus there came a curious little test of character and
discipline. For to us as we halted at one charming bit of stony hillside,
cedar grown, came one of the amazing persistent buzzards carrying his
whole stock in trade, a box of chocolate bars. We were hungry, and some
men bought; even David began fumbling in his pocket as the man came near.
But he looked at Knudsen, and the Swede frowned, so when the fellow
offered his wares David waved him away. Having shown weakness, he did not
attempt to influence Pickle; but that worthy, with a sigh, put up his
money. "War is hell," said he, and cursed the buzzard. None in our squad
bought; in fact, though the captain was not in sight, I think the buzzard
was disappointed in F company.

Firing was all the time very noisy to our left, and as we moved on it was
plain that we were skirting the centre of the scrimmage in an attempt to
take the enemy in flank. Now our squad columns were sent forward
parallel, eight yards apart, ready at command to spring out in one long
line, the men side by side. Through a cedar swamp we now made our way
among huge old trees, the firing very hot and close in front, until we
were halted at the edge of the thicket, with an open space in front
across which was a snake fence some thirty yards away. As we waited the
order to advance, we being on the extreme right, a railroad embankment
just beyond us, we saw a platoon rush forward from the left, cross the
open diagonally, and line the fence in front of us. With objurgations the
captain and lieutenant coaxed them again to the left. Other platoons, and
perhaps single squads, rushed from cover and occupied the fence, the
whole line beginning to fire.

We felt sure that it was our turn next, and were saying so, when
apparently the order came. The platoon leader sprang out in front, I made
up my mind where I was to go, we all surged forward, crossed the open
space, and I presently found myself in the line, firing across the fence
at a distant wall, the range of which I calculated to be but a hundred
yards, and therefore used "battle sight," firing low. But here came the
lieutenant again, scalped our leader a second time, and ordered us back.
So I trailed back across the open ground and meekly took my place with
the others again in squad column. We asked each other, "Weren't we
ordered forward?" Some declared that the platoon leader had ordered the
advance, others that the lieutenant had sent us out. I knew I had heard
his voice, but really I had merely followed on like a sheep. That was
proper. But at any rate here was a time when the platoon-leader had made
a mistake in keeping us with the rest of the company.

While the platoon, thirty-four men of us, was huddled in its special
bunch of trees, all talking and explaining, along in haste came the
major, dismounted, demanding if we were in column of squads. With one
voice we maintained that we were, but he or his aide knew better, and by
the help of our two sergeants bringing the corporals to their senses and
silencing the men, we were finally got out of our squad columns, in which
formation we had been so long that we had forgotten that there was any
other. In column of squads we were swung to the right, put in skirmish
line, and halted below the railway embankment, where the major, with
great patience and the most painstaking English, explained to our limited
intelligences the exact manoeuvre that he contemplated. Then at the word
we rushed the embankment, plunged into a ditch, swung to the left, some
of us across a wire fence, and prepared to advance and annihilate a bunch
of the enemy that we saw before us. But they sending out a messenger,
explained that they were dead, which saved us the trouble, not really to
our pleasure, for having made fools of ourselves we were anxious to take
it out on somebody. And then the bugle blew Recall.

Green troops in battle would cause just such confusion and delay. It was
very evident that we had spoiled some plan. The need of a soldier's
training would be plain to anyone that heard the babble of our voices in
that corner, conjecturing, advising, urging this and that. We are still
very far from the state in which we could be trusted to go into battle
and obey every order just as it came. The reasons for this I figure out
to be two.

In the first place I have learned that the so-called intelligent
volunteer, while able with surprising quickness to master the manual and
the drill, with the rudiments of skirmish work, and all because of his
trained mind, nevertheless does not readily give up his independence of
thought except in the presence of men whom he recognizes as his
unquestionable professional superiors. Hence, when deprived of such
guidance, each man has his own theory and his own advice, which he voices
without modesty.

Secondly, while in the regular army such situations are readily
controlled by the--(To be continued. We are going to move on.)

               (In camp at Altona, after swim and retreat and supper,
                writing while crouched in the pup tent for shelter from
                a shower that has just spoiled the afternoon's conference.
                Bann is luckily absent; I don't know what two could
                do in this confined space, except when asleep.)

by the non-commissioned officers, it was very evident today that ours had
not sufficient control over us because they had not sufficient control
over themselves. They were new to their responsibility, and did not
understand how to handle the particular problem. And if we had needed
another example of what was lacking, it was at hand in a few minutes when
on our way to camp, and seeing the tents in plain view across a stream,
the captain decided to save us a half-hour by fording. So he led the way
down into the water, the lieutenant at his side discussing, tramped
across the shallow river, and marched on, whether forgetting us or
testing us I do not know. The first squad or two followed gamely, the
next faltered, and all the rest spread out in confusion and tried to
cross dry-shod. I am glad to say that Squad 8 hung together, hopped over
quickly, formed and went on. After a hundred yards we came up with the
captain, who was just sending back a sergeant with the message, "Help all
the girls across." When once we were assembled he gave us his solemn
promise never to try to save us work again.

What would prevent such blunders in future? I will admit that in each
such case non-coms from the regular army would have steadied us and kept
us right. Yet I am convinced that what will best control the Plattsburg
rookie is the Plattsburg non-com. All we need is to develop a body of
them. The regular may serve at a pinch, but in the cases where moral
control is more needed than a little knowledge or habitual steadiness,
the appeal comes strongest from a man of our own kind.

I suppose that only the shower saved us from an awful roasting at the

The camp is rather picturesquely situated in a broad field that stretches
down to swamps and woods, the cavalry at a slight distance across a
little swale. Our squad was on police duty for a while, and I was orderly
for an hour. The lady buzzards of the town have spread a chicken dinner,
at a dollar a head, in the town hall, and many of our fellows have
slipped away to it. Yet at dinner-time I saw poor Pickle sitting by the
water-barrel, a plate of beans in his lap. I asked innocently, "Why
aren't you at the chicken dinner?" "Don't ask foolish questions," he
snapped. "Can't you see I'm tied here to serve out water?"

I went for my bath down to our little river, which bears the imposing
name of the Great Chazy; it wanders idle from pool to pool along its half
dry bed. In one of the natural bath-tubs I had a fine wash, finding a
pool up to my knees, clear cold water where minnows swam trustingly
about, and where crawfish, the first I have ever seen, came like little
pink lobsters to investigate my toes. After the stagnant brooks at our
last two camps, it was delightful to find this clear water and actually
get _under_ it.

I was so trustful of the weather that I washed a pair of socks, but I had
not got into my clothes before a shower started. I took refuge, with
another man, in a cavalry officer's tent. We had a pleasant little chat
with him; he did not resent the intrusion of a couple of rookies, and we
talked of camp matters. Intermittently it has been raining ever since.

        Written by the light of a great bonfire at the Y. M. C. A. tent.

Men are trying to dry themselves on one side while they get wet on the
other. Word has come which puts the company in mourning--Loretta is
detained by business, and will not rejoin us. David says in my ear, "Damn
him, I meant to get even with him!" This for Reardon's sake, who laughs
at David's energy, yet I think is rather touched by it. We have had our
usual talk with the captain at the company fire, and rather gently he has
pointed out to us our shortcomings, especially our platoon's in giving
the major such trouble.

But some men of our platoon came to him with a grievance. In getting us
into our column of squads someone swore at the men, and they attributed
the profanity to the major's aide, a volunteer like ourselves. This
roused the captain. "No one shall swear at my men!" he declared, his
gentleness all gone. "I will talk with that aide." That obliged me to
speak. "Captain," said I, "I'm sorry to disagree with the others, but as
I happened to have admired the coolness of the aide, it doesn't seem to
me that he was in a state of mind to swear." One of our sergeants spoke
up. "I might have done it, sir. I was a little excited." The man has
sworn at us before, and Knudsen has resented it. The captain was
mollified by the admission, but he read the man a little lecture. "Never
swear at your men, sir. Apart from the fact that it does no good, it's
most unsoldierlike. I never swore at an enlisted man but once, when I was
a very young officer, and I never will again."

I must stop because of the damp and the discomfort, writing in this
flickering light, my legs, as usual, cramped. I despair of ever conveying
a proper idea of this rainy evening, the indifference of the hardy ones,
the dejection of the sensitive, crowding together wherever there is
cover, trying to keep dry at fires, or in final surrender crawling into
their beds, to wait the hours through. It is not raining at this moment,
but I am curious to know what the night will bring. The tent is pretty
well ditched, but the pin at my shoulder is very loose in this sandy
soil, and if it showers--! Good night.


_P. S._ Overheard in I company street, loud language. One disputant: "I
keep my feet as clean as yours!" The other. "You do? I have washed mine
twice since the beginning of the hike." The first: "So have I, Monday and
yesterday. You take care of your person and I'll look after mine."


                                           Altona Camp, Friday, Sep. 29.
                                                  Waiting for the start.


The night, in spite of its possibilities, was not bad. I went to bed in
the rain, Bann already snoozing by my side, and was put to sleep by the
sounds of men's voices murmuring. Roused by a smart shower, I heard Taps
blown, and the top sergeant going up and down the street. "Cut out that
talking, men!" Waking in the night I found the sky clear, the wind
blowing, and two pins out at my side, with the tent flapping. I put the
pins in, but when next I was waked by the rain in my face the side of the
tent was flapping heavily, and nothing but the fact that instead of a
rifle for the tent pole we used a stake, driven about six inches into the
ground, had saved us from a collapse. I held down the corner through the
shower, then opening my meat-can, used its long handle for a tent-peg. If
our little pins were a couple of inches longer this nuisance could be
prevented. The new peg held till morning, the clouds then gradually
breaking for a glorious sunrise.

                                    On a hillside, near Ellenburg Depot.

We rolled our moist blankets, made up our damp packs, ate our hasty
breakfasts, and with I company were hustled into motor trucks, two squads
to a truck. For forty-five minutes we jolted and squashed over bad roads,
and finally bowled along over macadam. After eight or ten miles we were
turned out, and marched in the cloudy, windy morning three miles to
Ellenburg Depot. Here we left a man on each bridge, to notify pursuers
that it was destroyed, and turned into the fields, at last climbing a
ridge from which, to the left, we saw at a distance a high hill, its
wooded sides beginning to show the mottled reds of autumn, while just
below our steep slope lay a wide flat bottom, perfect green, with a brook
wandering through it. Here we rested, delighting in the view but
shivering in the wind, while the company officers and the major looked
over the ground. Then the orders were, "Off with the equipment, get out
your tools, and dig a trench." The front rank is working like beavers
now, and as our turn is nearly here, I must stop this scribbling.

                         In camp near Ellenburg Depot, Friday afternoon.

Again I sit in the tent while outside it rains. We have as yet been able
to get no straw, for though I have twice hurried at the first glimpse of
a wagon, the fellows nearer got it all. The ground is wet from this
morning's rain, my pen has splashed everything with ink, and I am afraid
that this rain is no mere shower. But thank Heaven! the soil is better
for the pins to hold in, the tents have all been faced away from the
wind, we have had a most interesting morning, and I have a full stomach.
To resume my story:

Considerably below the crest of the hill, and perhaps seventy feet uphill
from a railway cutting, a line was marked, and the men fell to at the
digging with enthusiasm. The ground was sandy, and we quickly threw out
the soil, and heaved out the occasional big rocks. "We" scarcely includes
poor Corder, who complained bitterly that his appearance of age made the
fellows keep the tools from him; but when we were ordered to bring stones
and turf, he joyfully carried burdens. The trench was dug about four feet
deep, with an eighteen inch parapet outside. Inside this was a shelf for
an elbow rest; the parapet was lined (revetted, the captain said) with
flat stones, and finally the whole outside was turfed, so that the raw
earth did not show. The turf was from ground opened in a long line higher
up the hill, and left open to look like a trench and draw the enemy's
fire. Our trench being finished, another--a mere rifle pit, higher up the
slope--was made for the captain's observation post, and still another for
a northerly outpost. Having turfed the outside of these, we picked the
milkweed stalks that stood in great numbers, and set them at proper
intervals with artistic irregularity, while for the captain was provided
a little bush. I company's trenches were further to the south.

We were finishing, and Corder had just said "We need a shower to clean
this dirty turf," when the shower came. The captain ordered us into our
packs and ponchos, and then into the trench. Though the shower was short
the wind was increasingly cold, and I was glad of the protection of my
poncho. For in that trench we remained for an hour and three quarters,
before anything really happened.

I had time to study a good many things. The depth to which grass roots
will go in sandy soil: at least two feet. The amount of sand that gets
into the lock of one's rifle. The continual discomfort of sand blowing
into one's eyes. The cold that strikes up through the stone, or the sand,
on which one sits. The personality of my neighbor of Squad Nine, who
seemed much less interested in his life as a banker than I was. The
incalculable value of the pack as a life-saver, for having to lean
against the wall of the narrow trench, nothing but the roll on my back
kept me from the deadly chill of pneumonia. But most interesting of all
was the behavior of the men.

As we worked at digging the trench we naturally, being intelligent
volunteers, had many sub-directors, and much grumbling at so much
unofficial ordering. Randall, during one of his rests, delivered himself
with much disgust. "There never was an American," said he, "who could
take orders. Each man thinks he knows best. We need to learn to obey."
Well, once we were down in the trench, it was Randall's head that was
continually popping up, and continually being ordered down; and it was
Randall who would light cigarettes, though ordered not to. An hour and
three quarters is a long time to wait, and the cramped space was very
tiring. Further, we were excited by the sound of firing, I suppose from
the driving in of the detachment which the lieutenant had taken off to
the east, so of course everyone wanted to see. In addition, our two
sergeants, who have none too much authority, were together at one end of
the platoon, away from the most impatient of the men, and so were quite
unable to control Randall and other restless spirits. Randall, arguing
that no one could see _him_, would pop up his head, others imitated, and
so on the whole a fine example of discipline our platoon made. But David,
lost in wonder at such wilfulness, never raised his head above the

Well, at last we heard the captain's whistle, and steadied. His voice
came: "Range, eight hundred and fifty yards." We set our sights. "At one
o'clock, to the right of the cemetery, fire at will!" We stood upright
(it was a relief to straighten out!) and I saw, across the valley, beside
a little cemetery on the top of the further hill, some moving figures, at
which I fired a couple of clips. Then "Cease firing!" We locked our
pieces; the men had disappeared. "Down, men!" And we crouched again. But
next we heard "Battle sight--at four o'clock--fire at will," and when we
stood up there was a line of skirmishers advancing out of the woods
beyond the railway cutting, about where the figure four would be on a
great clock-face if spread before us on the landscape, we ourselves being
at the six. But while I was popping contentedly away at these men our
platoon was ordered first to cease firing, and then to leave the trench
and rush to the top of the hill, which we did helter-skelter, none, not
even our leader, knowing why.

At the very ridge we were met, slap in the face, by a fierce wind of
which we in the trench had as yet got no inkling, which blew our ponchos
all about, and savagely drove heavy drops of rain in our eyes. In the
midst of this surprise we were confronted by an orderly, who pointing
along the ridge, told us that we were to form in column of squads. In
which direction we should face, and which squad first, 7 or 10, he did
not say. It is easy enough now to see what our leader should have done.
He should have said: "Men, get down out of the line of the enemy's
(highly imaginary) fire. Now, my good messenger, what are my orders? And
meanwhile, my wise privates, keep silence." But nothing of the sort.
There we stayed on the ridge, and there we finally formed in column of
squads, all the time in full view of the enemy, who might have potted the
last man of us. The major at last came to the rescue, got us down from
the ridge, and in the hearing of us all roasted poor Jones quite as well
as the lieutenant did yesterday. "If you have a brain, sir, don't use it.
Stay in sight of the enemy and be shot." Then he sent us by a way I never
should have chosen in cold blood, across the top of a steep slope, with
sliding sand and loose stones underfoot, while all the time the same wind
and rain whipped and beat us unmercifully. At last we were halted behind
another hill, put in skirmish line, and told what we were to do. We were
to rush the ridge, then to run down to a trench made and occupied by our
engineers, while they, being worn out by many days of fighting in it,
were to vacate it. We executed the order smartly, dashing down to the
trench, the engineers, at sight of us, scrambling out and running for
cover. I found myself jumping down into a trench as deep as my shoulder,
very finely made. Different from our trench, which was protected from
enfilading only by cross walls at intervals, this trench zigzagged;
moreover, its parapet was wattled. The engineers must have worked at it
from early dawn, unless they brought their hurdles with them.

(There, I have at last got my hay!)

Well, there was but little more. A man emerging on a distant slope,
commanding a ridge along which any successful attack must come, I hit him
squarely in the middle, only to discover when too late that he was an
umpire. Two of our fellows claimed to have shot a buzzard, and contended
for the honor. When at last we saw real enemies, two platoons coming into
full view below us, we shot them all to pieces. An umpire told them that
they were dead, whereupon they formed in line and went through the manual
of arms, to get themselves warm. Then we were collected and marched back,
triumphant. It seems that we were told that if we held our line till one
o'clock, we won. It was past the hour, and our victory was complete. We
marched to camp in good spirits, being especially pleased to hear the
major (the opposing major!) compliment Captain Kirby on the excellence of
his trench. _Our_ trench! We finished two hundred and fifty feet in an
hour and twenty minutes. We are told that the trench was quite invisible,
even after we had begun firing, and that we were betrayed only by the
white bands on our hats.

I have talked with one of the men who was left at a bridge to tell any
pursuers that it was blown up. He said that it gave him great pleasure to
loll on the railing and watch a platoon ford the cold stream up to their

With great relief I left the ground. We have so carefully policed each
camping place that I had awful visions of having to fill in the trenches
and replace the sod. But by some arrangement with the owner of the land
we left the trenches as memorials of our great fight. How many cows will
they trap, I wonder.

Our breakfast was at six, and we had no lunch till two o'clock. Whether
we were hungry? In spite of this settled cold rain, which curiously is
from the west, the men are in good spirits, though they show it by
yowling at every bugle call that summons them out.

This letter is written up to date, and so I'll close it. Love from



                                  Cherubusco, Saturday the 30th, evening.
                      In a farmhouse kitchen, where some of my things are
                      drying, and where I, sitting in a CHAIR, am writing
                      at a TABLE!


Yesterday I said to Knudsen, while David listened, "The trouble with our
platoon is that we don't particularly care for our sergeants, and have
got into the way of _knocking_ them. I've done more or less of it myself.
Now it may be no more than they deserve, but it's bad for our discipline
and our work. Don't you suppose we could turn about and help the
sergeants more? If you should lead in it, it would make a difference in
the whole platoon, for I notice that everyone wants to know your
opinion." David's face showed that he approved, so Knudsen agreed, and we
three talking to our squad and Squad Nine, have started a little Good
Government Association. I think today it did good.

Last night was a long one for me. I am still unable to get myself a
woollen cap, and though I used the felt hat for both the cold and the
rain, it rolled away at every excuse. To keep out the rain, I had laid my
poncho on the windward side of the tent, buttoning it along the
ridgepole; but it slapped a good deal of the time. The entrance-flaps,
which some of the fellows always button, I had open for the air, and they
thrashed all night. Beside me Bann slept like a child; but I was pretty
damp when I went to bed, the rain and the wind came through, and every
little thing waked me. Twice a peg pulled out, but the tent stood, and I
was able to put it in again. So the night was long. Yet I got some sleep,
and we were surely better off than our opposite neighbors, whose tent
blew down soon after midnight, so that they had to crawl out and set it
up in the dark and the driving rain.

There are camp tales of all kinds of hardships. Some stayed round the
fires all night to keep warm; some, their tents collapsing, took refuge
on a nearby piazza; some talk of washing their faces this morning in hoar
frost. But I _saw_ none of this.

The yowlings which usually greet the bugler on any unwelcome occasion
were absent this morning, for most of us were ready to rise, or already
risen. There was at first only a drizzle, in which I ate breakfast; it
surely was better than last night, with the steady rain running from my
hat into my stew as I bent over it, and cooling as well as diluting it,
besides searching out vulnerable parts of my person, which a poncho does
not truly protect. Yesterday I set my things down on a wet board; today I
stood at the high running-board of an auto-truck, a very desirable
position. Yet I thought my hands have seldom been colder than when I
stood in line this morning, unable to give them the protection of gloves
or pockets.

In the same drizzle we broke camp, packed our squad-bags and
blanket-rolls, and made our packs. It rained as we started, and the whole
outlook was bad--for to march ten miles in the wet, and then to make camp
under these same conditions, was soldiering indeed.

Yet ten minutes after we had left camp, the advance guard of the
battalion, we were staring at each other in new dismay. For pop-pop! Our
point had found the enemy. Now for comfort a skirmish ought to be fought
near the new camping ground: anticipation keeps us going till the fight
begins, and then at the end, weary, we have but a short way to march.
This was the deuce! In a moment we were turned aside into a field, and
saw the white hat-bands beyond a fence in front. First deployment, then
"Down, men!" and flat I threw myself into a six inch bed of clover, as
wet as a sponge. From this couch I fired for a while, was ordered up,
hurried with the squad forward to a new line, flopped again, fired, and
then dashed once more.

For two hours, mother, this sort of thing continued. In a long line our
company spread over the fields, now one part advancing, then the rest.
Sometimes we were flat, sometimes we might squat on cold stones behind a
wall, sometimes we were climbing walls and running forward. Discovering
that it was wetter below me than above, I hung my poncho at my hip, and
when we flopped, fell on it. We struck soft ground and formed in squad
columns, then came to a place where the enemy was visible in a
sugar-bush, across a ravine. Down into the gully I plunged among the
rest, and in a confusion of men each seeking in a hurry the best way
across, got through two wire fences, forced my way among a growth of
alders, and splashed through a brook, luckily no deeper than my ankles.
Then up the steep slope, and as soon as the platoon was gathered at the
top Jones cried "Follow me,"--and those whose wind was poor began to lag.
The enemy was driven from this position, then as we followed him he fired
at us again from behind a stone wall, for there were plenty here, with
others of all kinds. We drove him again, our laggards helping where they
could, coming up to us as we paused to fire and falling down to pant.
Poor Corder! Part of the charges he was in, part he had to plod after,
out of breath. A minute's rest would freshen him, and then he would keep
up for a while. But the pace was hot, until suddenly the enemy vanished.
In pursuit, we crossed a wide space with broad flat weatherworn ledges,
then came upon soft ground, and were bogged.

The part that confronted our squad was a hog-wallow below a pig pen and
nicely full of water from the rain. Light-footed David slipped across,
but I, being heavier, plunged in up to my shin. Then came a barbed wire
fence, with the wires so taut that they would not separate to let us
through, nor sag to let us easily over. We were helping each other, as is
the rule, and the sergeant was hurrying us, as was his duty, when he was
answered back by a corporal--not of our platoon, but one who with his
squad had become annexed in the confusion. A little back-talk with an
audience of silent men; our fellows remembered the new agreement. Then on
we went again, stormed another position, and at last, every cartridge
spent (my head was ringing with the firing, and rings yet!) we were
assembled in the muddy road.

A little interview, then while we rested, between the sergeant, the
corporal, and the captain, who demanded the reason for our platoon's
delay. The corporal was explanatory; the captain had to silence him. Then
the captain praised the company. (He also sent a message to us at
Retreat, where the lieutenant commanded--we had done well; he would try
to keep us out of brooks hereafter. I like these laconic statements; they
mean much.) Then I company, with full cartridge belts, took up the
advance-guard work along the road, and we saw them rummage out of a barn
some cavalrymen who had hidden there. But soon, the day's manoeuvre over,
we began the hike to camp. I wish you could have seen it.

The rain was over, though it was still cloudy and the cold wind was
strong. The road was a mass of mud; there was no walking in it. We made
two long lines, one on each side of it, and took up our brisk walk. Mile
after mile in every footing, through desolate country where the scrub was
low, the land slightly rolling, bleak, uninhabited. The road ran mostly
straight; as it dipped you could see ahead the two lines of men swiftly
plodding on and on.

There was talk at first, and some jokes. "That road looks worse than
this," said one. "I wonder they didn't take us down it." The bushes
looked very wet. "How about squad columns through that brush?" suggested
one. "Try the prone position from the middle of the road," retorted
another, as we passed a great puddle. A later puddle, chocolate brown,
roused another man's regrets. "I'd like to stop and wash my breakfast
kit. I used the water they provided at camp, but this looks better to
me." But gradually all talk died away, and we just drove on and on. There
were questions, of occasional teams that we passed, as to the distance to
Cherubusco. "Three miles," and again after an hour "Three miles!" Well,
it was a long hike, nearly two hours, and I am glad to say without halt,
for in that wind we should have frozen. But we began to dry off. At last
the sight of the trucks and the cook-tents cheered us, and we marched
onto the ground where four companies were already finishing their dinner.
We had driven off their enemy, and they had marched straight through.

The ground here holds the tent-pins well; the tent is secure. But I stood
in line for half an hour in the wind, cold and ever colder in my poncho,
while they let us in driblets into a barn and doled us out hay at high
prices. I felt very cross against the good woman at whose table I now
write, for not devising a quicker system--though she suffered from it
too, for her teeth were chattering as she passed me through. But
everything goes by; even while I shivered the wind dried my clothes; and
I had cold feet for only a couple of hours, by which time I had dried out
a pair of fresh stockings, and put them on with my dry boots. Since then
I have been comfortably warm. We had fires, about which we sat; the sun
at last came out (you should have heard the shout at the first thin
rays!) and we have had a wonderful clear orange sunset, with spruces
silhouetted against it, and the early setting of the young moon. Now it
is clear and cold and quiet outside, with the northern lights flashing
and glowing, violet and white, in cloud-like masses or shifting spires.

Well, such was the day, a hard one in many ways. Says a sergeant sitting
by the stove, "I can describe it in two words, Damn nasty." But I am no
more than ordinarily tired, and am dry. The hardships of such a day are
not to be compared with those of the poor devils in the trenches across
the water.

I must close this letter and leave it at the Y. M. C. A., for the call
to quarters has just sounded. In fact it is welcome, for I am very
sleepy. I am leaving my wet shoes here to dry. We have just learned, to
our sorrow, that we work tomorrow--Sunday! But there is one good piece of
news--our overcoats are coming! Much love from



                                 Sunday, at Cherubusco, about 8.30 A. M.
                   Sitting in the sun, in my overcoat, at the tent door.


After finishing my letter at the farmhouse last night, and getting from
the good woman my second pair of dry stockings, I put on everything warm
that I had, and went to bed. Fires were burning everywhere, with little
groups of talking men around them; but the camp settled down very
quickly. It pleased me to hear the first sergeant rounding up men to help
in unloading the overcoats; but then I slept, and except for periods when
I woke in the night and as usual told time by Orion, I slept sound. The
men are all declaring that they slept well, all but one man, who said he
was miserably cold, and looks it. It _was_ a cold night, with a heavy
frost forming even inside my tent, and ice in my canteen when I tried to
drink from it this morning. But now, warm and full, I am very
comfortable, waiting for the call at 9.45 to go out and inspect the
outposts which the first battalion are now setting. The captain has been
up and down the street, inquiring how we are; he stopped to speak to me,
feeling, I think, less constraint with me than he used.

It was very busy in camp for an hour after breakfast. Men were cleaning
their shoes--and some were mourning over them, not having taken warning
against leaving them too close to the fire, when though the leather may
not be really burned it will lose its life and crack. Others were
spreading blankets and clothes to dry, preparing the short pack (without
the roll) for our tour of inspection, recleaning rifles, shaving, mending
their clothes. Smoke is now drifting from a hundred fires, and towels and
underwear are spread on the tents or flapping from improvised clothes
lines. But the camp is slowly settling down into quiet, for work is done,
the sun keeps us warm, and everybody is quite content.

I have just listened to the story that Newbold, the corporal of Squad
Nine, tells of the fetching of the overcoats. On arriving at camp
yesterday, wet through, he found that the new shoes which he bought at
the camp exchange in Plattsburg just before leaving for the hike, were
too small, and asked the captain's permission to go to the village here
and try to get another pair. The captain, after finding out his need,
said "You can change them in Plattsburg. Be ready in five minutes to
start with the truck." So Newbold found himself in command of a five-ton
truck, wallowing through these roads till they struck the macadam,
forty-five miles in all to Plattsburg. There he presented his written
orders, started the loading of the truck, and went out swinging his shoes
by the strings till he found a shop where he could make a swap, the camp
exchange being closed. Forty-five miles over the road again, he dozing in
a nest he made among the overcoats, and arriving in time to go to bed at

The overcoats will keep us safe from now on. But the hard work of the
past two days has knocked out a few more men. Hale, who felt the cold
night so severely, proves to be threatened with bronchitis, and has been
sent in to the hospital. Hageman, with digestion on strike, has to leave
us for good. I may mention men to you for the first time, but you must
understand that I have acquaintance with a great many now, and when in
future I hear their cities mentioned, Kansas City, Cleveland, wherever
else, I shall always remember that I have friends there.

--(_Afternoon._) We finished the morning with some genuine outpost work.
The first battalion, going early, set a circle of outposts to the west,
which our battalion, going later, had to find and relieve. While it was
interesting from a military standpoint, I can scarcely hope to make it
picturesque to you. Supposing an enemy ready to drop on us, we had to
keep out of his sight while watching for him, and also to ferret out
sentry posts which for the same reason had been pretty carefully hidden,
and to which our directions were the vaguest. It was all done with
thoroughness and care; we had the usual bogs to cross and brooks to jump;
we found our men in hollows, thickets, and even in trees; and finally to
our joy (for the day was hot and we were mostly sleepy from yesterday) we
were brought home, fed, and allowed to snooze.

Some of the indefatigables begged for the day and have gone to Canada,
which is but three miles away. But most of us are content to loll in camp
and rest up, especially considering the fact that tomorrow we are again
to be the advance guard. This being for the second time in succession,
seems to us something of a compliment, and H company is proud.

I hear someone coming and saying, "Mr. Godwin is wanted at the head of
the street." The lieutenant!

(_Evening._) Yes, it was Lieutenant Pendleton, of whom, by the way, I
have seen very little for some time. For we go very much by platoons, as
you have noticed; and he having command of the first is out of my ken.
But whenever I have seen him he is always the same, very cool,
inscrutable, accurate, and busy. His men are devoted to him. Well, he
came walking along, scrutinizing the groups, and when he found me,
delivering the summons, returning my salute, and passing on with his
little smile. As he did not come back at all, I see that he took that
method of making his escape.

For when I got to the head of the street there was a big touring car, the
captain standing talking beside it, and in it, besides the old Colonel
and our old neighbors the Chapmans, were Vera and her sister Frances.
Some other officers were likewise there, and when the visitors descended
to walk about, took charge of them. I, a humble private lingering near
because commanded, thought that now I might slip away; but Vera in her
usual way chose her own partner, and chose me.

The camp did not interest her especially; she had seen it at a glance
from the automobile. The way we lived was at once familiar to her; I soon
found that she did not want me to explain anything. Knowing that she
always has her own purposes, and also knowing that I can never guess
them, I waited for her to declare herself. She selected a convenient seat
on a stone wall, where we could see everything; every man who went by
stared at her in admiration, and evidently said to himself, "Isn't that
rookie in luck!"

Her pretence was that she wanted to know about me, so as to write you;
but pretences with Vera are very open. Really she wanted to know about
the captain--what kind of a man, how he treated us, how we liked him. She
couldn't quite bring herself to say, "Dick, tell me about him!" There is
always Vera's pride. But after all, there never need be concealments
between us; she knows we are to be friends all our lives. So she let me
see what she wouldn't plainly say. And I answered quite as plainly: a
fine captain, a fine man, the fellows swore by him.

She objected. "He says they hate him."

"Perhaps you never before," I said, "came across an aggressive man who is
modest. I know he thinks that; it merely shows that he can't work for
popularity. But he was telling us recently of the practice hikes he has
been giving his company in Panama, to show that after all the hardest
work is what we shall look back on with the most pride. It was as plain
as day to us, though not to him, that the men there are like our fellows
here--they will do anything for him."

She dropped the subject; one not knowing Vera would have supposed that
she was not even interested in it, but I knew that she had learned what
she wanted. Idly she looked down the company street. "What are those men
doing?" she asked.

A bunch of the men, growing every minute, had been singing to the tune of
Solomon Levi words that were not clear to us, being too far away. "It
must be the new company song," I said. "I've been told it's good. The
fellows are learning it.--See, they're coming this way. I believe they
mean to sing it to the captain!"

Our other visitors were returning, headed by the captain and Frances. The
men, grouped by the water barrel at the head of the street, waited till
he was near, pushed their leader out in front, and in hoarse whispers
commanded him to begin. You must understand that Vera promptly, but
without hurry, had got me close enough to listen. He sang the solo.

                  "One night as I lay dreaming,
                  Underneath the stars,
                  The buzzard stole between the tents
                  To sell us chocolate bars.
                  The captain took him by the scruff
                  And kicked him in the seat,
                  And said 'You greedy buzzard,
                  Get out of the company street!'"

The delighted men roared the chorus.

                "Poor old buzzard, get away out of here!
                Poor old buzzard, get away out of here
                  For we are Captain Kirby's men,
                    We neither drink nor swear,
                  We never wash our hands or face
                    Nor change our underwear.
                  We never do a thing that's wrong,
                    As you can plainly see,
                  For we are Captain Kirby's men
                    Of old H company!"

Then, evidently immensely pleased, and laughing to themselves, the
fellows melted away in all directions.

As for Vera, she was not daunted by the primitive simplicity of the
words. She looked at the captain and noted his confusion, looked at me
and made no answer to my question, "Now don't you see they like him?" But
she gave me a kindly little push toward Frances, and said, "Go and talk
with her. I've brought her all this way to see you." And in another
moment she had the captain as her partner, and was making him tell her
all the little things she would not listen to from me.

It was nice to see Frances. She told me all about you, and asked about
David; and the street being now very neat with the laundry put away, and
my tent not very far, she walked down and looked at it, and met every one
of the squad, yes, and knew all about every one in advance, by which I
see that you have read her all my letters. The boys were greatly struck
with her; when our visitors had gone and I came back to our fire, Clay in
his Southern way paid me the nicest compliments for her, and Pickle swore
that she was a peach. Then when I thought the subject was exhausted
Knudsen came out of a brown study with the remark, "She's almost as
handsome as her sister, and besides she's the real thing."

And truly, mother, stunning as Vera is, there's something about Frances's
eyes and mouth that is particularly pleasing, don't you think?

There next taking place an Episcopal service in the open air, I went to
it. It was under the trees near the farmhouse. A rustic cross was made
and set up, there were a few flowers at a simple altar, and the rail was
just a piece of white birch nailed up between two trees; nothing could be
more appropriate. At least a hundred and fifty men attended; I couldn't
ask to hear a better sermon; and finally, the minister giving such an
invitation to communion as a man of my free beliefs could accept, I
stayed to it. Dusk was falling as we came away, and we were called
together for Retreat.

Troops of the townspeople have visited the town all day, some looking as
if they had come from a distance. They have gawked all about, have
listened to the band concert, and stood about and watched our religious
service as if it had been a show. But the best was at Retreat. The band
had finished the Star Spangled Banner, the captain turned and brought us
to attention, then pivoted about and stood at attention, looking straight
in front of him. A little group of country folk had pressed up very
close, and seeing him look so fixedly at something, they all swung about
and stared too. Failing to find any unusual object nailed to the barn
which was immediately in front, they turned back presently, puzzled or
reproachful. When at the end of the bugle call he turned to dismiss us,
the captain could scarcely maintain his military gravity.

I finish this at the squad fire, with the fellows discussing the revival
of the rumor concerning the ball cartridges. They have not been found;
some fool is still toting them about; they are in A company, B company,
and so on down the list.

Tomorrow we move on again, my cartridge-belt is full, and I have got
everything ready for our early start. The night is clear and cold--but we
are hardened to anything now. Love from



                                            In camp at Ellenburg Center.
                                Sitting before the tent, on my blankets.
                                            Monday the 2d October, 1916.


The other companies are cheering in the distance, and I suppose I know
why. For our company has been spared a great affliction, which would have
been very cruel after a hard morning's work. We came into camp a long
hour after everybody else, and had just pitched our tents and had dinner
when our captain called us together in a close bunch, and told us that
the regimental commander had been dissatisfied with the deployments of
the other companies, and was having them out to drill; but that our work
had been satisfactory, and that in consideration of our hard service on
recent days, we were to be excused. You see we have worked hard on Friday
(digging and defending trenches) Saturday (when our skirmish work in the
mud and wet was the severest, he said, that a company on the hike has yet
had) and today, when we started first and finished last. So I imagine
that if it was proposed to include us in this afternoon's drill the
captain fought hard to have us excused. I hope it's also true that our
skirmish work is good. We cheered the announcement and enjoyed our
leisure; and now the other companies are expressing their delight at
being released from their two hours' work in a stubble field.

Last night, after I had mailed my letters, I stood about and watched the
camp with its always varied picturesqueness--the many fires, the drifting
smoke lit up by flames, the groups here and there, the undertones of
talk, the singing. The buzzard song has instantly become popular, and the
lieutenant's platoon have a chant of praise to him--I don't know all the
words as yet.

                "He's on the job, boys,
                To find some nice wet moss to lie on,
                For today we march
                Thro' (dum ti dum) to Ellenburg,
                Dum, dum, ti dum dum (here memory fails)
                Prepare to rush,
                Thro' mud and slush,
                God help the man that tries to shirk!"

Besides these there have come to us from other companies, and indeed from
earlier camps, other ditties, not vicious but unquotable, horribly
amusing _men's_ songs.

I gave up watching at last, and made my bed, which was not so easy as
usual, since my poncho, being old, has taken to stiffening in its folds
after wetting, and when I shook it out, just plain cracked. Besides, its
intimate acquaintance with barb-wire has resulted in various tears,
notably a long slit and some "barn-doors." So seeing its usefulness
departing, I chiefly made use of my blankets and overcoat, in which
latter I slept, and found myself perfectly warm.

Today we were up earliest, packed in a hurry (which never, however,
allows leaving the ground untidy) and were off as an advance flank guard
to protect the march of the baggage train and main body on the straight
road here, we going on a parallel line over whatever country we found. We
marched out of camp, went a mile to the west, and then turned south--and
a little ripple of joy went through the company. For it was our first
step toward Plattsburg and _home_. The men are all looking forward to the
breaking up of camp--not that they are feeling any hardship, but that
they are anticipating the set end of things, and thinking of home life

Today's work will not make an interesting story. We followed our south
road till it petered out, passed through pretty glades and around
attractive knolls, and finally climbed a steep ascent to where, by a
schoolhouse at a corner, we rested for a while. A platoon was sent north
against a squad of cavalry; the rest went on, deployed here, deployed
there, sent out squads and recalled them, then lay low in ditches and
watched the movements of some of the enemy (horsemen and a machine gun)
cautiously coming forward along a crossroad against the corner toward
which we were heading, and which we knew to be held in strength by our
first platoon. They consulted, came on within range, and then sent out a
man to reconnoitre. Reaching the corner, he wheeled and dashed back,
waving his hat and shouting. A burst of fire from the corner pursued him;
and our Squad Seven, crazy to do something, let off a couple of clips at
the men on the machine gun, who were frantically trying to turn it about.
The cavalry got away, all but their messenger, who was summoned back. As
for the machine gun, it would not reconcile itself to capture till, as
the captain said, an umpire went out and picked it by hand.

We were given another rest, this time by an odd-looking building which
Corder guessed was a creamery. The fact being established, our boys were
greatly excited, and some filled their canteens at wholesale
prices--surreptitiously, for the thing was quite as wrong though not so
reckless as another performance I have seen, the filling of canteens at
wells. If we escape typhoid from such water it will be because of the

Ordered on again, our platoon was detached and sent across country to
come upon the flank or rear of any cavalry that might be lurking for us.
We sent out a squad and lost it; then the three remaining squads went on
and on and on, and grumblings became louder and louder as the men began
to suspect that the leader did not know where he was going, nor what he
was trying to do. Good David, mindful of our pact, tried in vain to cheer
the boys up; but no, they would grumble, and (as inexorably follows) made
their work the harder. It was a long three miles over stiff country, with
a fence, usually barb wire, every hundred yards--and bogs! "What made me
sore," says Knudsen at my side at this moment, "was that first swamp we
came to. It was perfectly visible, with a good dry meadow on either side
to travel in--but Jones had to bring us through it." Fence, bog, fence,
thicket, fence, small pasture with an inquisitive bull (we went across
smartly!) fence, rough climb over rocks: such was the order of our going,
till at last we heard the captain's distant whistle, and found the
remainder of the company resting comfortably by the roadside waiting for
us. But there was no soft place for the second platoon, for on we went at
once, two miles more to camp, where the other companies had long since
pitched their tents, had fed themselves, and now were streaming out
toward town to fill in the chinks in their stomachs. The best ice cream,
I am told, is at the millinery store.

For the first time since Friday I was able today to get a swim--or rather
a dip in an ice-cold stream, below a broken dam. Picturesque, so many
men's naked bodies, undressing, bathing, dressing, with the rushing
stream, the rocky bank, the overhanging trees. Then I cut my toe and had
to have it dressed at the doctor's tent, where I had a glimpse at another
side of camp life.

I met one of our fellows coming away grumbling. "My blisters were dressed
by an artilleryman who disgusted me with his profanity, and who put the
plaster on the wrong spot." But I was tended, having a more important
wound, by one of the doctors. And after my experience I can declare that
all doctors are divided into three kinds.

One was a volunteer, one of our own company, by the way, whose feet
having given out was transferred to the medical corps, and keeps an
especially kindly eye on all H company men. But he being busy, I fell
into the hands of the regulars, and had a chance to judge of the opinion
common among the rookies--"they treat you like a horse." Now regular
officers must be short and sharp with their men, and the doctors among
them are taught to be suspicious by the sojering they necessarily detect.
It must be a struggle to keep sweet the milk of human kindness.

The man who dressed my foot had succeeded in remembering that the
majority of men were neither cowards nor dishonest. He was considerate of
me and of the orderlies under him. But alongside was a scowl. A poor fat
bandsman with a lame foot was not excused from marching the next day. The
orderly who had mislaid the iodine was scalped. The orderly who had
charge of the medicine chest was also scalped. The man whose foot this
doctor was dressing was so certainly a man of character and a person of
civilian consequence that he was not scalped for presuming to turn his
ankle; but I felt the certainty that under actual campaign conditions he
would have fared no better than the others. It was borne in upon me that
a gentleman who is gentlemanly only to gentlemen is not a gentleman at

Though I have not spoken much of them, we have our daily conferences
whenever the weather will permit. Today we first had battalion
conference, when Major Goring spoke of recent manoeuvres--and we men were
interested to see that even he spoke of Friday as an extremely successful
day, and Saturday as an unusually hard one. Then supper, then bed-making
(which is desirable before the light goes--by the way, I am writing no
longer in the afternoon but the evening) then regimental conference, when
Major Downes spoke against time for an hour (and mighty well, upon the
Philippines and army experiences there) in the hope that General Wood
would come, which he didn't. Now I am writing while sitting upon a firkin
of apples that I had sent from our neighbor Williams, waiting for the
squad to come and help me eat them. Very bad writing this, I know, by the
light of the fire, holding the paper first folded, then bent, then
skewed, anything to stiffen it and catch the light, while every moment I
must shift it as I move my hand along the line.

The boys are gathering for a feed--the apples, Some honey, bread,
shredded wheat, cream from the local creamery (Knudsen's inspiration),
the first such feast since the hike began. We have invited our neighbors,
Squad Nine. So, since there is no more to tell, I will close this.

"Pass up your cups," says Clay.

Love to you from



                                          On the road to Ledger Corners.
                                                 Tuesday the 3d October.


I write on my back in the usual roadside ditch, our column having halted
after firing has broken out in our rear. My pack was on wrong this
morning, hanging too low, so that the straps cut me; I was glad to stop,
so as to adjust it. Usually it is no trouble: in fact in some of the
skirmishes I have not thought of it at all except to remark how little it
cumbered me.

But the pack can be, I have found, a detriment in case of a fall.
Yesterday, going through a boggy wood, with rocks and slimy fallen trees,
I slipped and plunged forward. Without the pack I could have saved
myself; but the heavy roll, shooting ahead, was just enough to
overbalance me and bring me down among the stumps and boulders. To
protect my face I twisted as I fell. This brought the pack under me, my
head was lower than my hips, the pack wedged in a hole, and I should have
had difficulty in rising had not the boys yanked me up.

Our feed at bed time was a success. We were warned of a hard day to
follow, the march being extra long, and the road being so unsafe for
trucks (on account of weak culverts) that we must carry our own dinners,
which we must eat cold. In consequence we were given this morning an
emergency ration, consisting of a slice of Bologna sausage, two pieces of
dry bread, and two hard boiled eggs. These we put in our meat cans, with
such chocolate as we could get from the buzzards; we are carrying them
now, and are wondering if the cooks will get to camp in time to give us

Behind me, after quiet, the fire has broken out again. The boys listen
critically. "We shan't have to go back for that." There is a whole
battalion behind us that can stand off any attack.

(_Later._) The hike today has been steady plodding, halting at the
regular intervals, also at times of attack from the rear. At first the
boys sang a good deal, new songs and old. But the last two stretches,
though we have had continual jokes and laughter, have been a persistent
grind. For the first time we have had climbing, pretty steady from our
start to the height of land, a rise of 502 feet, after which we stumbled
down a very stony track till we reached a better road at Halfway House,
an uninviting structure between two unknown terminals. We had one fine
look-off at the highest point, over a gently descending slope of miles to
a strip of Champlain, and beyond, floating above the haze, the Green
Mountains of Vermont. Now we are resting again, the boys talking,
smoking, studying the map, and singing quietly.

                                              In camp at Ledger Corners.
                                              At the mouth of my kennel.

The day's hike, ten or twelve miles, is finished, a very dreary
performance indeed. The way was very dull; and though the boys were at
first inclined to say they were glad not to be on skirmish duty, we
having worked so hard of late, before the trudge was over we were all
tired of the monotony, and would have been glad of a brush. And we got
just as tired and hungry as if we had had an extra four or five miles of
cross-country work. At last after passing through a district whose only
beauties were its few high views and the gorgeous colors of its maples,
and whose general sparseness of people, unattractive fields, and ill-kept
houses (chiefly of plastered logs) became after a while depressing, we
came to almost the only smooth field that we had seen. The first of the
trucks, after its journey of thirty-six miles, was just arriving;
nevertheless it was not long after we had pitched camp that coffee was
ready, with which we wetted our dry snack. You should watch us veterans
pitch camp. Every tent is erected in fifteen minutes at most, less if
rain is threatening. I always hurry off early for the hay, leaving Bann
to finish pegging down, and to ditch if necessary. My haste saves delay;
today I got into the hay-barn just before a quartermaster came and formed
a line. I always lug away a full poncho; though the hay almost fills the
tent at first it soon packs down, and I want this amount to make sleep
easy, and to make sure that even if rain gets under the tent, we shall
sleep on an island in comfort. Tonight the weather promises to be fine,
so that Bann did no digging except for sods to lay on the edges of the
tent to keep out the wind.

Afternoons are always pretty full. We are said to have our time to
ourselves--yes, and if conference on the manoeuvres is omitted (as today,
when our battalion had no manoeuvres to confer about), it really amounts
to something. And I have gained time by toughening myself, the rest I
used to crave at Plattsburg and on the range no longer being necessary.
But I love to linger over the luxury of the swim--or rather the bath--if
there is an accessible stream. There was none at Cherubusco, and to tell
the truth I didn't miss it, so weary was I, and the weather so cold. But
yesterday and today I enjoyed the chance to soap myself and souse. Next
if there is mail (and I can always depend on my letter from you) I like
to enjoy it and skim the newspaper. After that the rifle should be
cleaned, even on such a day as this when I did not fire a shot, for the
barrel has a habit of "sweating" which requires it to be cleaned out and
oiled. And then hundreds of us fall to on our letters home, always in a
public place, with talk going on all about, and with men going by who
pause and interrupt.

For in our company, and I doubt not in all the others, there is the
friendliest feeling for each other, and for each other's fortunes. We
know that So-and-so has had a sprain, that such a man is in trouble with
his digestion, that Hill has a fallen arch, and that Homans has terribly
blistered his feet and is these days riding on the trucks, poor devil.
Those who have met at the hospital tent have a common interest. Thus
getting acquainted, we hail each other when we meet in the street, stop
at each other's fires, compare notes, congratulate on recovery,
sympathize. There are, too, the recognized jokers, men who are always
looking out for a chance to make a hit. And finally camp news is handed
along from man to man.

With all this going on, afternoon and evening, a fellow is continually
interested and, you may say, busy. There is good feeling almost
everywhere, though it is interesting to see how the degree of it varies.

You see this particularly in the solidarity of squads. There is somewhere
in the regiment, I am told, a squad that does nothing but squabble; the
men have nearly all in turn been corporal, and no one will obey. But
mostly there is bound to spring up a feeling of unity, as the eight men
sleep and march and manoeuvre together. This will differ according to the
men's natural sociability or feeling of loyalty, with perhaps jealousy in
one man, or officiousness in another. Occasionally you will find a squad
whose masterful corporal interferes too much with his men's personal
freedom--and that has to be adjusted by a little plain language.
Sometimes a fellow is discontented with his squad; Randall, for example,
doesn't feel himself appreciated by his mates, and seeks chums elsewhere.
But none of his new intimates stay by him very long.

Our squad holds together very well; we eat together when our tents are
not too long a journey from the mess tent, a matter of consequence with a
brimming dish, and in general we have a constant eye out for each other's
movements. But more than this, we are taking Squad Nine into a little
confederation; they are men of the most diverse sorts but very much of a
unit, and all bright, witty, and ready to cooperate. Indeed, having a
system of fetching each other's hay and filling each other's canteens,
they have a better squad organization than we. It has pleased me very
much that our banter between the tents at Plattsburg has turned into the
friendliest of feeling, so that we naturally seek each other out. We gave
them a spread last night, and today are invited to another in return.

The column on the march is an amusing thing. Taken in little, I have got
very familiar with the backs and legs of the four in front, Bann's
springy tread, Clay's sturdy tramp, the little stiffness that shows in
ancient Corder's gait, and the untiring litheness of Knudsen's swing.
Beside me Reardon trudges silently, his hat always flopped a little over
his eyes, his head up. Sometimes I make him talk, and have pried out of
him much of his family history. Beyond him Pickle goes on springs,
cracking jokes like a little internal combustion engine. And David, now
very tanned and wide awake, finishes our four. Without looking, we know
the voice of each of our neighbors behind or in front, even so far as the
witless stutterer some squads ahead, or the flat-voiced constant querist
somewhere behind. But now when he raises his song his neighbors shut him

Our company in column always remembers who commands it. The first song we
begin to sing, and the last we give up, is the Buzzard song, to show our
loyalty. Incidentally the song has improved discipline, for yesterday
when a buzzard approached us with the inevitable chocolate, tobacco, and
matches, we passed him along down the line with the chorus, "Poor old
buzzard, get away out of here," though, to be frank, the wording is
somewhat stronger. No buzzard will ever get anything out of our company
again when on the road, even though we may be at rest. Other little
touches show our memory of the captain's injunctions. We have a sergeant
who in former camps was demoralized by drilling under other officers, and
who at times crosses his gun upon his shoulders as he marches. Then the
whole column shouts at him till he takes it down. And when some other
company passes us, with men carrying the guns by the straps, we shout:
"Porter! Suit-case men! Red-caps!"

It is fine to march in a column of men and know the current of energy
that flows along it. However many miles you have marched, however tired
your feet and back and arms may be, in the knowledge that you are one of
a disciplined regiment there is something that strengthens you and keeps
you going. For in one sense Route Step, when you may go as you please, is
a fiction; we must still keep so close together that to preserve the step
and the cadence is almost a necessity, and though we carry our pieces at
ease, we still swing along together. And as you look along rising ground,
and see the hundreds of men ahead, and know there are as many more
behind, all going, going, the knowledge that you are a part of that
machine, and that to fall out would be to mar it and to cut yourself off
from it, keeps you still moving on your weary pins.

You see I am speaking of general things, because of particular events
today there is nothing to describe. The bathing today was most shockingly
public, on both sides of the bridge in this apology for a town. Whenever
wheels were heard, men shouted "Cover!" and those in the water (which was
very shallow) would try to get under. But I think the women folk had been
warned to keep away, since none of them crossed, at least while I was

(_Evening._) Tonight we have had a talk from General Wood. I have not
reported our conferences to you, they are so incidental, and indeed so
theoretical at times. But we have had a captain from the border tell us
of the coming of the green militia there at the mobilizing of the
national guard, of their first helplessness under service conditions,
full as every company was of new men. The work of getting this half- or
quarter-trained mass ready for fighting was enormously more difficult
than our Plattsburg work; and the fact that these regiments, if sent into
the field at first, would have been helpless against the Mexicans, needs
no explanation (disagreeable as the idea is) to every recruit here. We
have at another conference been shown the detail work of supplying our
camps both at the training ground and on the hike, and the immense
importance of the work of the obscure quartermaster's department. Talk
after talk has impressed us with the amount of work needed to drill, to
equip, to work into fighting shape, even a few thousand men; and there is
no Plattsburg rookie who does not fully understand, and will not in
detail explain to his neighbors when he goes home, the absurdity of Mr.
Bryan's army of a million men which is to spring into being at the call
of the President. It would very much relieve us to be assured that the
government is ready to equip them even in the least particular.

General Wood has talked to us from time to time. Back at the training
camp he told us somewhat of our military history. You know our text-books
feed us up on our military glories; but looked at through the cold eyes
of the statistician we know now that these were achieved at the cost of
enormous and unnecessary losses, all from lack of system and readiness.
Moreover there are certain military disgraces which need to be called to
our attention, to make us resolve that these things shall not happen
again. Considering further that we have never yet had a war with a first
class military power (with two at least of whom we are in controversy
now) and remembering that not only has our national guard proved a
failure at this crisis, but that the new enlistments in the regular army
have not come to pass, so that it is many thousands below its paper
strength, we are now at the point of asking ourselves what we are to do
to meet the military necessity which will some day suddenly come upon us.
We believe it is coming; no soldier will deny it or can more than hope
against it. Therefore we must prepare--but how?

--It is time for our spread; Squad Nine has come not merely with camp
delicacies, but with cakes and candies from home! So I will break off
this gloomy epistle with, as usual, love from


_P. S._ Still come the variations of the story of the clip of ball
cartridges. Someone knows somebody else who found it among his cartridges
one morning and slipped it into another man's belt. Thus the clip, and
the story, travels.


                                         Cadyville, N. Y., Oct. 4, 1916.


We were up today as usual at half past five, those who were lucky rising
a little earlier for more comfortable dressing. And yet, after all, ten
minutes is enough for those few observances which may be dignified with
the name of our toilet. The pint and a half in the canteens allows us a
scrub of the teeth, and a rinsing of the face and hands--no more,
especially if we are to have anything to drink on the day's march, for
the morning, with an empty water-butt, is no time to replenish the
supply. Pickle, having a budding mustache, carries a pocket mirror and
comb, and so can arrange his hair; but the rest are usually satisfied
with a hasty smoothing with the hands--and since the hat goes on at once
and stays on, why not? Because of the cold, all sleep in their stockings,
which saves morning time, besides preventing bother in the lacing of the
trousers. (It is at night and at the swim that stockings are changed.)
Thus in the morning only the shoes and the leggings must go on; we are
already in our sweaters, and so are soon prepared for the first
formation. The cartridge-belt and rifle are dragged out from the straw
and laid ready in case they are called for; then one can proceed with
packing the squad-bag, and with striking the tent and separating the
shelter-halves. Old Bann is a wise one; he always begins by securing his
five tent-pins, and so leaves to me the responsibility of rummaging out
the remaining five, of which one always dodges me for a while.

The second call sounds, to be followed by the first sergeant's whistle.
"Corporals, get your men out! Belts and rifles!" There is snatching up
and buckling, then there is scientific delay over packing, with eye and
ear to the exhortations of sergeants and squad leaders; but at last even
the slowest are on their way to the head of the street to take their
places. The corporals are calling the numbers of their squads, "Six!"
"Nine!" "Twelve!" and with anxious eyes are watching for their belated
men. The line forms: there is a gap here for a smoking fire, and other
gaps that mean absentees. Rear-rank men step forward to fill the places
of their file-leaders, and as the assembly sounds the front-rank men are
glad to slip, unobserved, into the vacant spaces in the rear.
"Report!"--"First squad, present." "Second squad, private Smith absent."
Smith, hurrying up, curses under his breath. "Police duty today," he
knows, and makes a grimace at private Brown, who has found his place in
the fourth squad just in time.

Once the reports are in, the first sergeant orders "Inspection--Harms!"
With a rattle the guns are tossed up and opened; with another rattle, at
the next command, they are closed and snapped. The sergeant salutes the
waiting lieutenant, whose commonest proceeding, now on the hike, is to
warn us of an early start. Then perhaps he orders "Stack arms!" and we
grumble. A nuisance to have, in the company street, a line of stacks
through which we may not pass. Then, dismissed, we return to our packing,
always with an eye to the forming of a line at the cook tent. For no one
wants to be late in that line, yet all wish to get forward with the
packing. There is, on these cold mornings, another consideration: it is
pleasantest to eat breakfast in sweaters, which we know must be discarded
for the march. If the officers or sergeants come with "Hurry up those
blanket-rolls!" off the sweaters must come, and the rolls are made.
Otherwise, at the mess-call utensils are snatched up, and the men hurry
to the head of the company street, to form the double line, and to be
glad of the extra comfort that the sweaters give.

The meal disposed of and the meat-cans washed (or rather rinsed) the
remaining packing is quickly finished. The rolls are made, the squad-bags
are stuffed full, and both are carried to the trucks. The packs are made,
and the belts, heavy with the fresh ammunition that has just been handed
out, are hooked to them. A swing, a boost, a hitch or two, and our
pappooses, our constant companions, are with us till we make camp, seven
hours or more later. Then the whole company street is policed, and the
hay piled in big cocks on which, in the early sun, the men loll during
the last few minutes before the bugle calls.

Our second battalion was first in ranks this morning, drawn close
together to hear the words of the major. There was to be, he presumed, a
rencounter, or meeting engagement; he merely had sealed orders, to be
opened at a certain spot on the route. Our battalion was to start first;
he advised all officers to study the terrain as we passed along. And then
we were off, while the first battalion was decorating its hats with
white, and jeering at us as future enemies.

The trucks were a mile ahead of us; we saw the dotted line of their khaki
tops marking the road that led out of the high basin in which lay the
camp. As we too climbed the steady slope to the southeast we were willing
to leave the dreariness of its unkept farms and get among the woods. Lyon
Mountain, on the west, slowly drew its colored bulk behind the shoulder
of a nearer hill while we came closer and closer among the maples. The
shallow notch over which we passed was high and open; nothing overhung
us, but the tawny tapestry of the woods ran up gentle slopes to the right
and left, and the few evidences of farming, save for the all-present wire
fences, faded quite away. The slope grew stiffer, but there was no
slackening of pace. Heads bent low, chests began to labor, and the sweat
rolled down. A welcome rest relieved us; then up we started and went on
again, at each change of grade looking for the downward turn, and each
time disappointed till--ah, there was a corner, and on the slope beyond
we saw the column descending amid dust. Then we too turned the corner,
and faced the view.

It was not wide, for the woods by the roadside (brilliant in the sun on
the right, subdued in the, shade on the left) limited it to a V. Below
was the valley, and beyond and above it, piling ridge on ridge, rose the
hills, climbing to the shaded blue peak that loomed in the very middle.
It was a picture, striking and complete.

In vain I looked for the lake, which in all our earlier landscapes showed
between us and the hills. Then a reference to the sun showed that I was
still looking in a southerly direction. Further, this great hill, so high
and clear, was both taller and nearer than the Green Mountains could be.
Someone behind me said "Whiteface," and I knew that I was looking
straight toward the heart of the Adirondacks.

Again we made a turn, and the view broadened out. To the east the whole
landscape sloped toward the sun, against whose rays the brilliance of the
woods faded, though still amid the green one could see, to north or to
south, the yellow, the orange, or the dotted scarlet of the flaming
maples. The easterly view was less distinct; in the distant blue the
hills flattened to a fairly low horizon.

But while, still marching, I idly gazed, my eye was caught by an odd
trick of the sun which, now at nine o'clock well on its upward way, yet
seemed to illuminate the bottom of a cloud that hung near the sky line.
It was a sunset effect impossible by day, but there was the distinctly
gleaming band. And then I knew--Champlain! It was the lake, turning
faintly silver further north or further south. What I had thought to be a
cloud was distant haze. And above it hung, at first unnoticed, the faint
blue silhouettes of Mansfield and its neighbor peaks.

As we marched down the slope my neighbors, mindful of what was to come,
said "Gee! Suppose we are to climb up this again?" But apprehension was
soon lost in the interest of the town we now entered, whose great
buildings (in which each squad threatened to leave its most obstreperous
member) had been visible for some distance. Dannemora seems to be a town
whose prosperity, in this out of the way place, depends solely upon the
great prison that stands in its midst. We marched along beneath the huge
wall that forms one side of the main street; it rose in places fifteen
feet above our heads. Dust! dust! A school was let out; its scholars came
streaming uphill to watch us, and to tag along beside us even after we
had turned away from the great hospital of the prison, and were once more
amid farms. Other school children were waiting for us along the road. We
saw very little of the buzzard in this population; they handed or threw
us apples, and the boys even undertook to fill canteens--the same old
trick which the officers failed to detect.

Still we tramped on amid the dust which rose around us; if Saturday's was
the wet hike, this was the dusty one. As we neared a crossroad we were
given the command "Attention!" So we came to the right shoulder and
straightened our ranks, that we might look better as we passed the
General. Another quarter mile (we were an hour beyond Dannemora now) and
the familiar motorcyclist, our messenger in so many skirmishes, darted by
us to reach the captain. We grunted. And then "Squads left--march,
company--halt!" We found ourselves facing the wall of bushes. "Prepare to
load!" Who, we wondered, would accidentally fire now? Ah, the distant pop
was from the next company, and we heard its men angrily jeering their
clumsy mate.

Squads-left again, and now we were starting back on the way that we had
come. Uphill of course, but we feared that worse was to follow, as we
remembered the ridge that we passed some little distance back, and
recalled the advantages it offered for defence. To be sure, J Company was
now nearest it and should secure it, if the enemy were not too close. But
a burst of shooting, not very far away, apprised us that they were
already at hand. And then came the expected order, "Double time!"

The pace in double time, say the regulations, is thirty-six inches long;
the cadence is at the rate of one hundred and eighty steps a minute. It
is not a run. I have heard the captain call back a lieutenant and his
platoon: "I didn't say Run; I said Double time!"--"An easy run," says the
little blue book. An easy run! With eighteen pounds on the back, and
eight around the waist, and another nine in the hand--an easy run! Oh, in
that dust, and up that slope, it was pound, pound, pound, till my heart
thumped like the engine of a little Ford at high gear on a stiff grade,
and my knees (how well the ancients knew the importance of those joints!)
were like lead. The breath was failing, failing--till at last in a burst
of relief I got my second wind. But poor Corder! Three times, as I
watched him laboring in front of me, he flagged. Three times he visibly
mustered his powers and pounded on. The fourth time he was spent. He had
already stepped out of the column, to let us pass him, when I heard the
welcome whistle. "Halt!" Corder had strength to take his place again, we
were hustled into the ditch for cover, and I found a grateful position on
the ground. There was no talk; everyone was too busy with a shortness of

The firing in our front was now more systematic, and was spreading to the
left. It was not long before we were ordered to the right of the road,
and marching in the ditch, went forward. Then double time again, for a
short distance, and the line swung out into the road as it turned to the
right into a field. Suddenly there was the major, ordering us back into
the ditch, and his eye met mine in the midst of one of his remonstrances.
"The road is always unsafe!" Look to yourself, major, I thought, as
obediently I ducked aside and left him in the position of danger. A
ploughed field brought us to a walk; we climbed a stiff ascent, then
found ourselves facing a nasty bit of thick wood, through which we were
ordered in squad columns. Down a slope and across a gully and up again;
then we went through more open country, but still among trees. Finally we
aligned ourselves behind the top of a little rise, where we might
comfortably sit or kneel, having plenty of cover behind logs or stones.
The enemy that tried to cross the ravine below us would have a surprise.

There followed all the confusion of an attack in the woods. We heard the
enemy coming, saw at length the white hat-bands, opened fire, and heard
his heavy answer. The firing slackened on our front, strengthened on our
right, and our platoon was again detached, to take care of this new
danger. As we waited at the edge of a wood, while the major held us for
orders, a half-grown robin, with speckled breast, nervously flew about us
as if he wished to take refuge from the noises that distracted him. Into
the underbrush we plunged again, were posted here, and fired; were sent
there, and fired again; were hurried at the double to the flank, where I,
coming behind the rest, was held by the captain and posted with a
rear-guard, to fire upon the enemy if he appeared across a little
clearing. It was evident that the enemy's intentions could not be guessed
in advance. I heard very rapid firing at my back, and a burst of
cheering. Then the bugle blew, and the whistles sounded everywhere
through the wood. Of the enemy I had had few glimpses, and in general I
realized that the confusion had been extreme.

As I plodded through underbrush to rejoin my company, I came across some
white-banded fellows who, with fixed bayonets and heavy breathing, had
evidently just been charging. Meeting presently a member of our company,
I asked him what had taken place in this part of the encounter. "Oh,
those fellows? You never saw anything so foolish. They wandered out from
the woods and fixed bayonets in the open, and we fired at them for five
minutes, at a hundred and fifty yards, before they began their charge. Of
course they stopped at fifty yards from us, the rule, you know. Then our
lieutenant asked theirs what his men wore to make them bullet-proof, and
we hoped there would be some back talk, for the other fellow was mad.
Pendleton's tongue does cut. But an umpire came and ruled them out, and
we're sure of them, anyway."

Well, fighting in the woods is "impossible," as the major explained to us
later at conference. Apparently if it must be, it must, but there can be
very little science in it. At the conference our officers explained what
had happened at different parts of our line, and we were all sure that we
had won. But I noticed that the two battalions held their conferences
separately, and concluded that the same consoling deduction was being
made at the other discussion. Yet one idea must have fixed itself in the
mind of every thinking man there: we were too green, and some of our
platoon-leaders were too green, for effective work under such
circumstances. Once or twice on our skirmishes we have known that we did
well, and after the wet fight toward Cherubusco our captain ventured the
statement that he could make us soldiers in six months; but today I think
he would have doubled the period, for it was plain that a veteran enemy
determined to push his lines forward would have made short work of us in
our confusion.

One thing I learned which I shall remember to my private advantage. The
next time I find myself firing from behind a snake fence I shall not
crowd forward into one of the corners. For that brings one's ears even
with the muzzles of the rifles to the right and left, and the result is

We had delighted the foot-loose population of Dannemora, and perhaps had
tantalized the poor fellows behind the bars; certainly we gave profitable
employment to a score of professional buzzards, who turned up with their
bags to search the woods where we had been firing. As for ourselves, we
were soon on the road again and hiking in the dust, through country which
was still too deserted and unkempt, with its brush pastures and scattered
log houses, for the taste of a New Englander. At dips and turns of the
road we saw the drab column winding before us; we passed through
straggling Cadyville and came at last to the unwelcome macadam. Our feet,
used to the gravel roads, found this unyielding surface tire us more in a
mile than the other could do in five. I admit that I was thoroughly glad
when at last we saw the camping ground, turned aside into the green
grass, and pitched our tents. Some strap of the pack having slipped, the
weight had irked me more in the last hour than it had done in all the
nine days of the hike, and it was with great relief that I swung it from
my shoulders.

Another proof of the mathematical formula that Food Indulgence equals
Indigestion. A gormandizer from a neighboring squad has lately been very
savage on account of dyspepsia. Yesterday he crawled out of bed with the
sourest expression and would scarcely respond to greetings, spoke of his
stomach, and intimated that he would ask to ride with the baggage. Yet he
marched with us, preserving so gloomy a silence that Corder,
experimenting, hailed him four times before he would answer. Then he
vouchsafed, "Every step I take my stomach hurts me," and so he stalked
on, alone amid the jollity of the marching column. We had reached camp,
and were pitching tents, when I heard his bunkie demanding his
whereabouts. He had disappeared, leaving his mate to do his work. But
before long I heard his voice, entirely bright and happy, say "Sixty
cents!" and there he stood in the midst of his squad, triumphantly
holding up a big mince pie.

Today the poor man was down again, wrapped in gloom. Again he threatened
to ask to ride, but again he managed to subdue his pains. Said I, "I
suppose that pie is paying you back." He answered, "You don't understand.
I have to buy those things because they give us so little sweet in our
diet." One has to respect misery, however caused, and I bothered him no

But David has managed to subdue Pickle, who goes no longer to the
buzzards' counters, and though he complains that the struggle is hard, he
admits that the results pay. No more pains for him. So yesterday, though
at the sight of the crisp pie Pickle's eye wandered toward the pastry
booth outside the gate, when he caught David's warning glance he
controlled himself and went on with his work.

It was here at Cadyville that, for the first time since leaving
Plattsburg, we were able to have a real swim, or rather (since the water
was like ice) we found depth enough and room enough for all. Over a
meadow and down a bluff a path led from camp to a big paper mill which
stood above a gorge of the Saranac River. The huge pile of pulp, at which
men were picking and prying with pickaxe and canthook, ought to be a gold
mine in these days of high prices of paper. Beyond was the dam, higher
than a house on its clear side and (so we were told) of equal depth on
the other. Along the sides of the big basin there was room for the whole
regiment; and the dive from the dam--how the men yelled when their heads
came out, and how they swam to get ashore again!

Our last afternoon in camp! We felt that we had earned repose after a
day's hard work--a month's hard work! No more skirmishing among rocks,
stumps, and barbed wire; no more firing of the gun, and no more cleaning
of it. As we wished to hand the guns back in good condition, and as most
of our patches and oil had given out, many of us took the friendly offers
of the regulars (cavalrymen, bandsmen, cooks) who did the best business,
working in pairs, that they had yet done. Even David relaxed the severity
of his self-discipline, and handed out his gun and his quarter-dollar. We
lolled, we talked thoughtfully, we already regretted. Men exchanged
addresses, and made appointments for the distant future. I noticed that
the squad kept pretty close together, as if knowing that soon it must
separate for good. And now, rather seriously, the men are getting ready
for the last Retreat.


We have had our final conference, in a little amphitheatre at one side of
the camp. As the dusk fell the General talked to us for the last time. He
took up the subject of preparedness where he left it yesterday--what are
we to do to face an emergency, all our present methods failing, the
emergency, if it comes, sure to be so frightful? The old volunteer system
has broken down in each of our wars--the Revolutionary, the war of 1812,
the Mexican, the Civil. We have seen it, before our eyes, break down in
England now. The volunteer system is unfair--why should one man fight for
another equally fit? It is therefore undemocratic. There is only one
thing left, universal training for all young men, and conscription in war
of all of military age.

Two years ago I should have recoiled from this; a year ago I should have
shaken my head doubtfully. Today I see with relief that there is this
system to save us at need. It will save us whether there is war or, as we
all hope, peace. You know how I have worried over our national future
with this immense immigration, which yearly is less assimilated. The one
thing which will teach the young immigrant American ideals and loyalty to
his new flag, is service with all other young men for the same great
purpose. How can they stand nightly at Retreat before the flag, hear the
"Star Spangled Banner" played, salute the last sight of the colors--how
can they do this for but a single month and not feel pledged forever to
defend the old flag? I tell you, mother, when I realized tonight that
this was our last Retreat something gripped my throat and brought the
water to my eyes. Nor was I the only one, to judge from what I saw about

So when the General asked us, as I suppose he has asked previous
regiments, to vote in favor of universal training, every man of us
shouted Ay!

I have asked some of the squad if they mean to come again next year, in
case the universal training movement does not put the training camps out
of business. The answer is Yes, if they can get away again. Knudsen means
to be in the cavalry; he would have gone with them this year if the
regulations had not required first a period with the infantry. David I
have not asked yet; but Corder will come back in spite of his years. "But
I must go with the quartermaster's department," he said; and when I asked
why: "It's plain enough that if I can't keep up in a charge I ought to go
where I can be of real use. Now nothing is more important than the Q. M.
department, and trained men are needed there as well as anywhere else. So
that's my job in the next camp." It's plain he'd rather march in the
ranks, but he will change rather than leave the preparedness movement to
get along without him.

During the afternoon there had been piled truckload after truckload of
cordwood at the end of the company streets. As the conference broke up
someone lighted the heap, and soon the flames, before the wind, were
leaping forty feet in the air. I took your latest letter from my pocket
and could clearly read it, though at a hundred and fifty yards' distance.
With shouts the crowd hastened to the fire, and company after company,
each in a long line of men cheering for their officers, took its turn in
a snake-dance around the blaze. As the bonfire dwindled to an immense
heap of glowing coals, a deep semi-circle gathered, sitting above it on
the hill, sang the songs of the hike, and called for solos from favorite
singers. Chums walked up and down near the fire, or in the further
darkness lay in front of tents and talked plans. Little groups gathered
here or there, then restlessly broke up and shifted as men sought
acquaintances for a last word that might be impossible tomorrow. In this
shifting kaleidoscope of men I was glad to find Hale, cured of his
bronchitis, and with a tale of how at the hospital they locked up the
men's clothes, as the only way of preventing them from escaping too soon
and rejoining the hike. The camp has been one last buzz of personal
talks, excited, pensive, or regretful.

But all is quieting now, and I am sleepy. Love, much love, from



                      [Without date, but evidently of the same evening.]


You'll see me soon, perhaps sooner than you want. But there's no help for
it; I shall be turned out of here. Otherwise I should stay a month
longer. Never had such a good time in my life. Oh, yes, I remember I've
grumbled some; and I've lost six pounds and worn out two pairs of shoes.
Never put your shoes near the fire or on a stove. But for hardening of
the muscles and toughening of the hide, give me Plattsburg. If you have
any complaints to make to me at any time, think well of them beforehand.

Our David that I've told you about, he turns out to be a true sport after
all. Marches with the best of us, lives as dirty as we, enjoys it all.
The young cuss, I've grown fond of him. What do you think his latest is?
He's kept hammering at me till he's made me stop buying pies and things!
Good for the pocket-book, but particularly good for my little insides.
The last three days I haven't even had a hankering for something sweet.
Tell Nelly she needn't bother to make chocolate layer cake when I come
home, like I asked her to.

I swear I feel sorry to leave the squad. I've scarcely enjoyed this last
night at all, and though I've made as much noise as anybody, it was so as
not to show how bad I feel inside. I hate the idea of not seeing the
captain again, and the Professor who bunks with me, and especially David
who marches side of me. So I've come away from all the cheering and
singing to write to you. David has asked me to write to him. And he meant
it, too.

I'm not gloomy at coming home, you know. Really I'm crazy to see you all
again. But if once in a while you see me sitting kind of lonesome, you'll
know why.



                                               Plattsburg, Oct. 5, 1916.
                                          Sitting alone, the last one in
                                                     the old empty tent.


It will be hard for me to hold myself to the systematic narrative of this
last day, I do so wish to leap to the end and to tell you great news. But
I will be firm.

I was up early this morning, as I so often am. There is always the
distant cavalry bugle to rouse one; it blows first. Seeing the embers of
our great fire still glowing in the dusk, I went there to warm myself,
and stood there listening to the sounds from the still sleepy camp.
Drowsy voices, a footfall here and there, the crackle of fire and the
tinkle of pots at the cook tents. Even when reveille had blown there was
still for several moments this sleep-drugged quiet, in the first light of

Then there blared out the music of the full brass band in the opening
crash of "Hail, hail, the gang's on deck!"

Silence no more. Yell upon yell, shout upon shout, cheer upon cheer--and
for a space the brass could not be heard. The noise subsided to singing
and to laughter, the music again held sway, and the camp, springing to
its work in high spirits, was beginning on its last day. The last
packing, the last mess together; then as the companies stood in line for
the last march out, the band marched in and out of the company streets,
playing to us for the last time, preceded by a score of howling
dervishes, and followed by as many others, little Cupid (my second
glimpse of him) struggling along in the rear. Then we were beginning our
march, cheerful though on macadam, and though we had learned that once
more we must skirmish, and so spoil the new spotlessness of our rifles.
It was a lovely morning, hazy, but through the mist showing to the right
a mountain with its lower sides glowing red. Not many miles to go, and we
were glad as we covered each one; but at last we heard behind us the
rifles of the cavalry, and turned to fight with them a rear-guard

There was an hour of it, first and last. It had its individual features,
notably the tale of a squad which, after marching for some minutes under
the point blank fire of our whole platoon, tried to outflank and attack
us--but an umpire attended to them. Yet after all there must be sameness
to my descriptions, and I will press on to the important matters.

We were deployed between two highways, one the main road from Cadyville,
one running south of it. On account of our coming, various motorists had
set out to meet us, and on the northern road were a number of cars, full
of fluttering females. On the southern road stood but one. Now we were
supposed to be retiring before a superior force; but their disposition
offering an excellent chance to give them a jolt, our company was sent
through the southern fields against their flank. There was much standing
stubble and high weeds in the field through which we stole silently by
rushes, Kirby behind us and urging us on, using only short blasts of his
whistle as signals, and the vibrant tones of his penetrating voice. We
were less than a hundred yards from the enemy and he had not discovered
us; every man of us kept low to the ground, and never before had the
company worked so like a machine. Our squad was on the outer flank,
coming along the broken roadside wall, when I heard someone say from the
lone car that we were approaching. "Aren't they doing it magnificently?"

I knew the voice. It was the old colonel, standing up in the car to watch
us. With him were Vera, Frances, and their hosts the Chapmans.

The captain came close up and spoke to us. "Corporal, has your flank
guard seen any outposts?"

Bann called across the road to Knudsen. "What have you seen?" He answered

Said the captain, "After the next rush I shall send your whole squad
across. Forward now to the line of that row of apple trees ahead." And at
Barm's "Follow me!" we slipped ahead not merely to the line of three old
trees, but also to the position of the waiting motor, which was just
abreast of us. While the rest of the company slipped forward to our line,
I took a satisfying look at the girls. Frances saw me, and we smiled.
Vera was absolutely intent on something behind me, of course the captain.
And still not a shot from the flank-guard in front, I think a sleepy
platoon under a sergeant. We chuckled. But then a gun went off in our
line somewhere on the right. We swore. Ahead of us the enemy broke into a
crackle of gunfire, not very heavy.

In it, so few were the guns that were firing, I clearly distinguished,
among the short dull explosions of the blanks we know so well, a sharp
and angry crack, followed by a tearing snap right over my head.

Surprised, I yet recognized the noise of the passage of a bullet. A
second time!--and then, familiar as I am with the legend of the clip of
ball cartridges, I instantly knew it to be true. And again--Crack-snap! I
heard the old colonel crying to the ladies, "Down!"

Then a long blast of the captain's whistle. I knew he was on his feet
behind me, then heard his voice through the sputter of fire that was
beginning from our own line. "Cease firing!" Over my shoulder I looked at
him, a fine manly figure in the attitude of command, one hand stretched
threateningly toward the line in front.

Then, as the roar of our guns burst out on the right, his hat flew
backward, I saw blood start out on his temple, and as if an axe had
struck him, he was down!

Quickly as I was on my feet, someone was quicker. A flash of white went
past me, and there was Vera on her knees, gathering into her lap the head
of the fallen man. I heard her little moaning cry.

In the few moments that followed I stood stupidly helpless. Our fire
stopped suddenly, as the sergeants enforced the captain's command. The
fire stopped in front. In the little circle of the branches of the old
tree we were quiet as--yes, as the grave. Vera, holding the captain's
head fiercely close, looked wildly round for help. It was Frances who
slipped by me and with her handkerchief wiped away the blood that stood
upon the temple.

Oh, the relief! A long red bruise showed where the bullet had passed.

And then he opened his eyes. Vera, looking down on him, said quite
simply, "Are you all right, Allan?"

Was he all right? Was he in heaven? At the look on his face I turned away
with sudden tears in my eyes. The rest, I know, also avoided that solemn
privacy. As it came about, mother, I turned toward Frances, and she,
quite overcome, to me. In such a moment of emotion, things happen. As she
rested on my breast, we found that she belonged there.

It was the trampling of the major's horse that brought us to ourselves.
The captain, though pale and unsteady, was on his feet. Bannister had
drawn the squad quietly out of the shade of the tree. They were looking at
the landscape; as for the major, he was most inscrutable, which happens,
you know, when there is something to scrutinize. Said he very innocently:
"The lieutenant will take the company in, Captain Kirby. I think we'd
better ask your friends here to bring you to the surgeon.--Call your men
together, Mr. Pendleton!"

The lieutenant, pale as the captain, yet looking very resolute, stepped
up to him and wrenched his hand, bowed over Vera's, turned about and blew
his whistle. With his hand he signalled the assembly. And good Bannister,
very apologetic at interrupting my love-making, said diffidently "Hem!
Squad Eight, fall in!"

But I kissed Frances before them all, and helped the captain into the
tonneau, where they established him very comfortably between the two
girls. It was not till I had got a smile from him and a proud look from
Vera that I went to my place in the company. As I went I saw out of the
corner of my eye the major and his staff holding an inquest on the
platoon that had fired on us. I wondered who had had that clip of ball

But they never found out. We rested for a while at the crossroads, and I
can tell you I had to stand some banter from the squad after the motor
had shot by us, with Frances's handkerchief fluttering to me. There was
very excited speculation as to the penalty for shooting the captain; some
were for a military execution when we got to camp, with burial on the
drill field. But the major came and told the lieutenant, and he passed
the word to the company--the men who fired on us had used up all their
cartridges and moved from the ground before they had been accused of the
use of ball; no one knew, apparently not even themselves, who had fired
the dangerous shots. It might happen, you know, that a stupid or excited
man might load with ball and not be aware of it. As for me, I'm not
finding any fault, nor are certain others that I could name.

The march in to camp? To tell the truth, I don't remember much of it, for
I was thinking a good deal. One poor chap we passed as he waited for the
hospital truck to come along and pick him up, a disappointed man of
fifty, who held his head down and would not look at us as we tramped by
in sympathetic silence. As we entered the residence quarter of
Plattsburg, where people lined the streets, the whistles blew Halt and we
were waved to the two sides of the street: "Fall out to the right and
left." We dropped down on the grass all around a rock where two pretty
girls had ensconced themselves to see us pass; instead, we saw them run!
Then on we went through the town, marching at attention, with everybody
out on the streets to watch the last of the rookies of 1916.

But when we reached the post there was evidently to be a March Past, for
the band was playing ahead of us, stationed opposite the general and his
staff. We braced ourselves up, swung into line--and there was the captain
in front of us! Very pale he was, with a bit of white bandage showing
under the hat that had the hole in it. But he was firm on his feet. What
a yell for a moment we let out! Then like veterans we followed him with
his old familiar stride, and if there was a break in all our line--no, I
can't believe it. We saluted the general, the lieutenant broke us into
column of squads, and then we gave Eyes Right to the captain, who stood
at salute as we marched by.

The break-up was a heart-rending affair. So much had we been delayed by
the unexpected skirmish and the little investigation that there was only
the smallest amount of time to turn in our equipment, get our baggage,
and catch the trains that would not wait. So in the scrabble were no real
good-bys, no friendly little chats about the past and future, no
appointments for reunions. I did not even shake hands with Bannister as
he hurried to the boat that for some reason was his means of getting
away. There were just two little events that I can describe to you.

As we marched into camp David was uneasy, and acknowledged frankly that
he was afraid his mother would be there to take him home in the motor.
But the familiar strawberry limousine was nowhere to be seen, and as we
swung into the company street we saw not David's mother, but his father
in his ancient Panama and his wrinkled business suit. The boy shouted his
delight, and when we broke ranks he dragged his father to the tent and
introduced him to as many of us as he could pin down for a moment. And a
little later, catching both Knudsen and me, he kept us in the tent while
he reminded his father of a promise. "You know, father, you said you'd
give me any kind of an automobile I wanted, if I stayed through the

Mr. Farnham had been deeply pleased, you could see it in his face, that
David had grown so manly. Consequently he was the more disappointed at
this prompt practical demand. But though a shade crossed his face, he
answered kindly, "You've earned it, David."

David put a hand on my arm, and on his other side drew Knudsen a little
closer to him, as if for support. "Then, father, I want a Ford!"

"A Ford?" cried his father. A Ford! thought I--a four hundred dollar car
when he might spend his thousands?

"Yes," said David, a little unsteadily. "I want to learn to take one
apart and put it together, and then I want you to send another Ford
ambulance to France, with me to drive it."

A glorious smile broke over the father's face, of pride, and fondness,
yet also of possible sacrifice of this son who was now first showing his
manhood--for there is danger in that ambulance service. I saw the story
was true that Mr. Farnham has been sending ambulances abroad; and saw
also that David had been afraid of his father's opposition to a scheme
which he had been hatching in secret. So he had felt the need of my
support and Knudsen's. But the father held out both hands to his boy, and
Knudsen and I slipped quietly out of the tent and walked together,
without saying a word, down to the edge of the drill-field.

Said Knudsen then: "Since it's settled now, that silly mother can't

I was feeling pleased that though at first I had studiously neglected
David, he had needed me now. Knudsen's mind travelled much the same road.

"A good investment," he said, "the trouble we've put into that

I had a little talk with Mr. Farnham before the train went. He was
overflowing with happiness. David had somehow got the idea of service,
and unknown to us had been planning his life by it. First to help in this
emergency in France, then to find some way in which a rich man could give
his time to his country, in some branch of public service. It was fixed
in his mind that next summer he must be at Plattsburg again, working for
a commission in the reserve. Beyond that he would need his father's
advice and help.

"So there's something more in life for me now," said the father, "than
the mere making of money."

It was in the midst of all the hurry and confusion of our getting ready
to go that I heard a great shouting at the head of the street, and going
to see, found the captain there, and Vera watching from a little
distance. He had come to take personal leave of those he knew best, shook
hands with every one, called scores of us by name, thanked us all for our
help in his work, showed in his face his great new happiness. When those
who pressed upon him first had gone away, driven by the necessity that
was on all of them, he called me to him and made me promise not to leave
with the rest, but at least to stay overnight--for we were to be brothers
now, he said, and must know each other better before we separated. While
a new group came and talked with him I went to Vera.

"Frances is waiting in the car outside," she said, scarcely glancing at
me, but with eager eyes watching the captain and the men who still
pressed upon him.

"Is he popular now?" I asked. "Do the men love him? Don't you approve of
him a little bit yourself?"

This roused her into giving me all her attention for a moment. "Oh,
Dick," she cried, remembering, "if it hadn't been for what you said to
him, perhaps--!" She couldn't quite express the tragedy that would have

"Perhaps it would have taken a little longer, that is all," I said.
"There, watch him, do." For in spite of herself her eyes would stray back
to him. "Frances will be nice to me." And Frances was, until I told her I
must go back to the boys.

There was a minute or two here and there that I could get from the busy
men. But mostly I helped them get away, cleaned their guns, handed in
their stuff, helped them pack, lugged their baggage with them to the
train. Knudsen and I and Clay had one last short walk together, up and
down the embankment beside the train, soberly vowing friendship for the
future. Then the conductor gave the signal, they climbed aboard, there
was a short half-minute of waving of good-bys, and I walked back alone
across the empty drill field.

I am sitting now upon my bag in the tent which has so often rung with our
laughter or buzzed with our talk. Here are the ridges and hollows made by
our feet, over in the corner are Clay's old shoes, and near me lie three
empty shells that David threw out of his pocket. Our equipment is all
turned in, the buzzards in our absence carried everything else away, and
this lonely silence is more than I can bear. In a few minutes I shall
close this last letter to you; then Frances will come in the car to take
me to a telegraph office, where I shall wire you that she and I are
starting home tomorrow with the Chapmans, and shall not be home for three
days more. As I shall hint at the reason, you will understand and will
forgive me this delay. I know, dear mother, that your heart always was
with Frances, after all.

And so good-by to Plattsburg!


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "At Plattsburg" ***

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