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Title: Kelly of the Foreign Legion - Letters of Légionnaire Russell A. Kelly
Author: Kelly, Russell A.
Language: English
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                      Kelly of the Foreign Legion

[Illustration: Russell A. Kelly]

                      Kelly Of The Foreign Legion

                Letters Of Légionnaire Russell A. Kelly

                 To Which Is Added An Historical Sketch
                         Of The Foreign Legion

                                New York
                           Mitchell Kennerley

    _Dedicated to the memory of that intrepid and valiant Frenchman,
    whose bravery, love of liberty, generosity, and friendship with
    Washington, made Americans, for all time, his grateful and devoted



     Preface                                                    xi

     I.  Voyage to Bordeaux--Enlistment                          1

     II.  Training at Depot de Lyon                             13

     III.  Off to the Front                                     33

     IV.  In the First Line Trenches                            52

     V.  Removed to the Arras Secteur                           78

     VI.  Battle of Artois; At La Targette and Neuville
     St. Vaast                                                  85

     VII.  To the Rear for Recruiting                           92

     VIII. Supplementary--Battle of
     Artois--Souchez--Hill No. 119                             104

     IX.  Epilogue                                             120

     X.  La Légion Étrangère                                   131


   Russell A. Kelly                                    _Frontispiece_

   Official Postal Card for Use of Soldiers                        34

   French Houses Burned by Germans                                 60

   Kniffin Yates Rockwell                                          68

   John Earl Fike                                                 124


The first seven chapters of this book are letters received from Russell
A. Kelly, age 21, volunteer in the _Légion étrangère_. The letters, many
of which were published in the _New York Evening Sun_, were sent to his
parents in New York and have been retained in exactly their original
form except for the omission of strictly personal matters.

The last communication from him was a military post card mailed June
15th, 1915. After the severe engagement around Souchez on June 16th in
which the Second _Regiment de Marche_ of the First Regiment of the
Legion suffered severely, he was officially recorded by the French
Minister of War as “missing,” with the added statement that his name
would be carried on the list of missing until a search could be made in
the internment camps of Germany.

Exhaustive efforts have been made to locate him. All information that
has been obtained as to his fate is given in Chapter IX.

When it was learned in New York that he had enlisted, he was informed
that Germany had, prior to the war, objected to the Foreign Legion as a
military body, and had stated that Légionnaires who were not French
citizens would be considered as non-combatants and not entitled to the
rights of the other soldiers of the French army.

He was accordingly advised that in the event of his capture to give no
information as to his citizenship; but to communicate with Ambassador
Gerard. He answered that he would follow those instructions.

Chapter 2534 of the laws passed by Congress March 2nd, 1907, makes the
taking of an oath of allegiance to a foreign king or state an act of
expatriation for an American citizen. But as Russell did not and was not
required to take an oath of allegiance to France, he continued, after
enlistment, to be a citizen of the United States of America.

Acknowledgment is made to the _New York Evening Sun_ for permission to
print those letters which appeared in that paper.

J. E. K.

_New York, May, 1917._


    _Bordeaux, France,
    36 Rue Notre Dame,
    Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1914._

On Election Day, Tuesday November 3rd, 1914, we left New York, from the
South Brooklyn basin, on “the good ship” _Orcadian_ with a cargo of six
hundred and fifty horses for the use of the French army. There were
twenty-five men, including my chum Larney and myself, who had not
previously worked on ships nor around horses, and eight experienced
horsemen. We twenty-five consisted of twelve Englishmen, seven Italians,
two Greeks, one Spaniard, and three Americans, the third being a negro.
The first day the ship was out the English and Italians started to
fight, and this divided the party into two messes; at every meal
thereafter there were hostilities. The third day out we ran into very
rough weather, which continued during the following day: the vessel
rolled and pitched in a horrible fashion, and most of us suffered
severely from sea sickness.

The food furnished to us was very poor. The first nine meals consisted
of Irish stew, and I believe it was made on the first day and thereafter
heated at meal time.

We went _en masse_ to the chief steward and demanded better food; there
was a change, but it was no better, it was only different.

The horses were fed twice a day, the first time in the morning from
half-past five to eight o’clock. We then had breakfast followed by
hoisting feed from the hold, cleaning the stalls and similar duties, and
then dinner. At three in the afternoon we gave the horses their second
feeding, which took until nearly six o’clock when we had supper.

In rough weather life on the boat was fierce. Watering the horses as the
boat rolled usually resulted in much of the water getting on the men,
and the deck was always wet and slippery.

A cabin meant to hold twelve seamen held thirty-three cattlemen, so
conditions can be realized. The air was foul; in fact the whole ship was
foul. During the last week I slept in the lowest deck on the hay. We
could not eat the food furnished, and even had it been palatable, it
lacked quantity, so my appetite was not appeased once during the trip. I
lost about fifteen pounds during the voyage. I could wash only twice and
shave once during the trip. English warships convoyed us for the entire
voyage, yet there was much uneasiness among the men. We lost eighteen
horses en route.

On November 19th we were in that part of the Atlantic called the Bay of
Biscay, and entering the broad Gironde river proceeded up it for about
thirty miles to Pauillac, off which we laid two days, and then went up
the river another thirty miles to Bordeaux where we docked at seven in
the morning of Saturday November 21st. It was snowing and the city did
not seem real--it looked so quaint and picturesque.

At ten o’clock we were dressed and went ashore and were stopped on the
wharf by a Customs official who looked in only one valise and that was
for tobacco and matches. The party then proceeded to a wine shop, where
some bought wine, that they said was good, for fifteen centimes a glass.
We soon learned that this was only three cents of American money.

We left our hand baggage at this shop and went to the British consul,
from whom we received our discharge. We then returned for the bags and
sought lodgings, which we obtained on Rue Notre Dame.

Everything we see in the city is different from anything my chum Larney
or I have seen in America: the sidewalks and roadways are very narrow;
the buildings quaint in appearance and generally only two stories in

We had a good supper although the portions served were small, but, as is
usual, they gave three kinds of meat at the meal. Coffee was served in a
small bowl with heated milk, there being more milk than coffee. For
dessert nuts were served. The rooms were without heat, and for light a
small torch was used.

On Sunday Larney and I with the two Greeks from the ship, went around
town, one of the Greeks being the only member who could speak French.

Monday morning the four of us found the station for recruiting for the
army and made application to join the Foreign Legion. The officers were
agreeable but evinced no desire to urge us to enlist, and they informed
us of an old rule in the Legion, that an applicant will not be examined
or accepted until the day following his application. So we returned
Tuesday morning at eight o’clock and took the physical examination,
which was very thorough and the four of us were accepted.

Twenty other men who meant to join the regular army were examined at the
same time, six of whom were rejected, some solely on account of poor

At five o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 24th, 1914, we
signed articles which made us soldiers in the Army of the Republic of
France, in the division _la Légion étrangère_, for service during the

We were not asked to take any oath of allegiance to France, nor to
renounce our allegiance to the United States; all that was required of
us was to be over eighteen years of age and to pass the doctor.

We were given five francs (one dollar) as spending money, and a railroad
ticket to Lyon, where one of the depots of the Foreign Legion is
located. It is to be our training station for four or five months, they
say, before we can go to the front. No escort was furnished or effort
made to see that we reported at Lyon and we learned it was the custom
even before the war to trust recruits for the Legion to reach the depot
of their own accord.

We had time to take a further look around Bordeaux. We met soldiers in
large numbers everywhere, and found they were of the same belief as the
people generally—that the Germans would be defeated in two months. All
theatres were closed except some moving picture shows, the receipts from
them were given to the Red Cross fund.

    December 2, 1914._

We left Bordeaux Wednesday night at nine o’clock, riding second class.
The cars are small and divided into compartments, each holding eight
persons. Most of the passengers were soldiers returning to the front. It
was difficult to sleep as the train stopped every half hour and the
people getting off and on made considerable noise.

Thursday was a clear day, and the bright sunlight enabled us to enjoy
the magnificent scenery. The train was climbing mountains and going at a
moderate pace. The construction of this railroad was a great engineering
feat. One minute we would be in a tunnel, then suddenly emerge onto a
frail bridge over a magnificent valley.

Nearly all the land in sight was under cultivation, it being divided
into small plots of about half an acre each. These plots were enclosed
by stone walls three feet high and two feet thick and the walls extended
as far as the eye could see. The people were all very friendly but the
only one of our party who could talk to them was our Greek interpreter.

From our hotel in Bordeaux we brought a roast chicken, bread and wine,
which we ate at noon. The people here roast a chicken with its head on.
We took the wine not because we were wine drinkers, but because the
landlord put it in as a regular part of every lunch.

This is a great country for churches; from the car window we saw many
that were nearly as imposing as cathedrals, and some had only ten or
fifteen cottages around them.

We arrived at Lyon at one in the afternoon and went direct to the depot
or station of the Legion.

We were temporarily assigned to the Fifth company of the Premier or
First regiment. Our barrack was a school house before the war. We were
located in a room about twenty feet wide and of the same length, the
ceiling being about ten feet high. Maps and cards were still on the
walls, and the desks and benches were piled in a corner.

When we arrived there were eight men in the room and newcomers continued
to come until we had twenty-five men in the room. Each man was given a
straw mattress, a pillow and two blankets.

We found nearly every nationality represented in this Foreign Legion;
there were, however, no Chinese nor Japanese.

They have a system, when furnishing the men’s outfit, that enables a man
to realize some money. Each man is given a complete outfit but should he
have some articles of clothing that could be substituted for the
military ones he is allowed a fair price for them and does not get
equivalent articles from the quartermaster. For example, I had two
winter union suits and a heavy sweater for which I received seventeen
francs (three dollars and thirty-five cents) and got no underclothes
from the army. One man received ninety francs (seventeen dollars and a
half) that way.

We got a complete outfit and Larney and I had our pictures taken. I
enclose one of mine.

By looking closely at the cap in the picture it will be seen that it has
a cover on it. The cap is made of red cloth, but that color being too
conspicuous a blue linen cover is worn over it. The coat is blue and
reaches to the knees; it is buttoned back to allow free movement. The
trousers are bright red, but were found to be such a good target at the
beginning of the war, that a sort of blue overall is issued at the front
to hide the red trousers. Patent leather puttees are generally worn, but
in this photo I wear Douglas shoes. The regulation ones are very heavy;
by actual count each shoe has one hundred and sixty-two hobs in the
sole, which is half an inch thick. I never thought I would put my feet
into things like them, much less wear them.

A broad band will be noticed around my waist. This is of blue linen and
is fifteen feet long. It is the positive insignia of our Legion, and is
not worn by any other division of the French army. A broad leather belt
with a brass buckle supports the bayonet, the hilt of which is visible
at my left side. This is a murderous weapon, and I do not blame the
Germans for being afraid of it. It is about a foot and nine inches long
and comes to a needle point. It has four grooves, and each edge is a
quarter inch deep and one-eighth inch wide at the hilt. It is half an
inch in diameter at the hilt. The gun has an eight shell chamber and one
shell in the barrel; it is six inches longer than the present U. S. army
gun. With bayonet attached it is a formidable weapon. This is our dress
uniform, the one we appear in when on the street. The fatigue uniform
has a cap or _beret_ which is comfortable and handy, a short blouse,
dark blue, no coat, the same pants and puttees. The blue band insignia
we always wear.

                       TRAINING AT DEPOT DE LYON

    December 12, 1914._

Reveille sounds at half-past five in the morning; we are then served
with coffee, followed by drill till half-past ten when we have dinner,
consisting of rich soup, meat, potatoes, etc. We get no sweets
whatsoever. After dinner we peel potatoes, and after that drill till
half-past four, at which time we have supper, there being the same bill
of fare as dinner. We are free from five-thirty until nine, when we have
inspection and then sleep. It is hard to get accustomed to the drill as
the commands are in French, and scarcely any of the soldiers understand
that language, even slightly.

Last Sunday we walked through the city in the company of an Englishman
who came from Ceylon to enlist. He is a “younger son” and spends money
lavishly when he has it. At present he is not in funds.

To the east of Lyon is a range of mountains, and on one of the highest
mountains is a church. We visited it while military service was being
held and the edifice was crowded. It has the handsomest and most costly
interior decorations of any church I have ever seen. It is called the
Chapelle de Notre Dame de Fourvière.

The view from the heights was magnificent. Lyon is in a valley and has
two rivers running through it very swiftly. They say that Mt. Blanc, in
Switzerland, can be seen from this church on a clear day. We saw many
snow-capped mountains in the distance, but as the day was overcast we
could not see the main attraction.

Last Monday we were transferred to the 2nd company of the same First
_Régiment étrangère_. This is to be our permanent company and it is in
another barracks. The day before we reached Lyon two Americans arrived
from La Rochelle where they had enlisted. One had seen service in the
Philippines, in the cavalry, while the other had served in the navy. So
we were not so lonely after all.

When we reached the new barracks we found four more Americans, one of
whom had been in the army, another in the navy; one was a doctor and the
other a lawyer. The doctor is forty-nine years old; he came over at the
beginning of the war to join the Red Cross. The ex-army man fought in
the insurrection in Chili, and served in Mexico under Villa and he works
a machine gun. He has since left us for the front.

These new barracks are located in a new school house, not quite
completed. Our room is about ninety feet long and thirty feet wide; it
has a row of eight windows on each side, and accommodates one hundred

At intervals of about a week volunteers who desire to go to the front
are called for from the different companies. Of course we volunteered,
but were refused because there is a severe form of typhoid in the
trenches which, it is said, kills a man in four hours. On this account
nobody is allowed to go until he has been inoculated four times; we had
not been inoculated at all. The volunteers are put in a special company
and drilled separately. Larney and I with the three other Americans (the
doctor not included) are in this company.

This Legion is the most cosmopolitan organization in the world. In one
corner of the room you will hear Greek spoken, the next group will be
speaking Spanish, then German spoken by the Swiss, Polish from another
corner and English from our crowd.

I saw a fight through interpreters. A Greek got into an unintelligible
argument with a Pole and as neither could speak the other’s language nor
“parly” French, their fellow countrymen were called, and they being
slightly acquainted with French, that was the language resorted to. When
all arrangements were completed the combatants proceeded to pommel each
other, and before long the interpreters were also engaged, and it was a
very lively party when the officers arrived. There are many such
happenings and they afford much amusement.

We have had many sham battles and considerable rifle practice. I now,
five weeks after reaching barracks, make an average of four hits out of
eight at a target of a man, life size, at two hundred and fifty meters
(298 yards). They call that fair shooting for the time in practice.

The manual of arms is very different from that of the Virginia Military
Institute, but the training I received there comes in handy. I cannot
understand the commands but generally know what to expect.

All the men in our section have the same limited knowledge of French,
but they are able to understand the orders. The weather is warm; an
overcoat is only necessary at night.

    January 17, 1915._

I miss sweets very much. Many times I have longed for a piece of pie, in
fact for a whole pie, but they do not know what pie is over here. The
pastry in the shops is wonderfully light but ridiculously expensive, and
our pay of one cent a day does not permit investing in it. Still we have
indulged several times, but it seemed like eating samples. I certainly
miss the sweets.

I also missed the Thanksgiving Day dinner; we had nothing extra that
day, so while eating mine I thought of the folks at home and the good
things they were enjoying. But I missed the Christmas dinner most; we
received no extra course here, so I contented myself with
philosophizing, and speculating on the next Christmas dinner. Larney
said he will have his in Berlin, but I prefer mine at _HOME_.

We had the first fall of snow in Lyon this morning. It lasted about two
minutes. Instead of cold and snow they have a rainy winter. There have
not been two successive days without showers since I arrived in France.

Trolley cars, with overhead wires, are used in Lyon and they are run
with a trailer. There are many kinds; some are divided into three
compartments, one-third of the car being devoted to standing room, and
the other two divisions being for first and second classes. I have seen
a car pass with the second class packed as closely as they are in the
New York Subway, while the first class was empty. The first class fare
is double that of the second.

The car is started by a signal from a small horn, and the conductor
gives a receipt as he collects the fare. Double deck trolleys have been
in use here for years.

I tried to learn the location at the front of the First _Régiment
étrangère_, but nobody knows. There were six Americans here and two have
left for the front. We received letters from them but they were not
allowed to give their location and the envelopes had a number in place
of the name of the post office. Post offices near the front are no
longer named; they are numbered, and not in consecutive order, for
_Secteur Postal_ 6 adjoins 109. Soldier’s letters are sent free in
France. Letters of prisoners of war are forwarded free (when they are
forwarded) through all countries, including the neutrals who are in the
postal union.

We learned that it is very cold where the First Regiment is and that an
Italian who left here with the two Americans was given eight days in
prison for eating his reserve rations.

A shipment of volunteers from our company left for the front three weeks
ago and last week we were assembled and a report read stating that one
of the men (giving his name) was executed, having been caught in the act
of deserting. Considering these incidents, they must be near the front.

We called at the American Consulate and found the Vice Consul in charge.
He had served in the Philippines during the war. He gave us New York
newspapers and treated us with great kindness. While there an American
doctor came in, who was disgusted with travelling facilities. His
passport had his photograph attached. The paper was nearly covered with
official stamps and he came to the Consul to get the U. S. stamp on
while there was still room, as every Tom, Dick and Harry, he said, was
desirous of spoiling the paper. When he saw Larney and I and learned we
were from New York he became enthusiastic and gave ten francs to each of
us. Another American gentleman and his wife came to the barracks one
evening with the Vice Consul, and presented each of us with a package
containing pipe, cigarettes, tobacco and a neck wrapper. We fully
appreciated their acts. The gentleman had given his auto to the Red
Cross and he drives it.

Great changes are taking place here. All the Légionnaries who did not
want to fight the Germans were shipped to Algiers. Another call for
volunteers was made to all the companies. Those who did not volunteer
were sent to Valbonne, a town about twenty miles off. There are a great
many men there and they will remain, it is reported, until spring.

We cannot find out when we leave for the front, but all of us hope that
it will be soon.

On December 31st I was inoculated for the third time against typhoid; it
was the most severe of the four inoculations. We were treated at three
p. m. and two hours after I thought I would die. I was sick all of the
next day; at first I was troubled by a severe headache, followed by
chills and fever. The fourth and last inoculation had no effect at all.

It may be interesting to describe how they inoculate. First the doctor,
who is called in French, _le médecin_, asks you about the condition of
your throat, chest and bowels. If they are O. K. he takes the flesh on
the shoulder blade (he used my left four times, the right he rarely
uses, and only then toward the finish) between the thumb and forefinger
of his left hand, making a ridge of the flesh. The hypodermic needle is
forced into the flesh and it felt to me as though it was pushed just
under the skin. The fluid is then injected; it leaves a small lump on
the blade until it begins to work on the system. The quantity of serum
is gradually increased from the first treatment; I should judge the
first time about a tablespoonful was used. Thank Heaven it is over. I am
ready to leave at a moment’s notice now.

Larney likes the life. He was issued a good overcoat, but was made to
exchange it with a man going to the front. He did not like the first
overcoat but was in raptures over the exchange.

When we first reached Lyon the city was alive with soldiers and it was
surprising to note the great number of different uniforms the French
army has. Of late, however, the diminishing number of soldiers on the
streets is apparent. Most of the men were sent to Valbonne or the front.

Everybody in Lyon seems to be working for the army. Contracts are given
to individual families for uniforms and wherever you go women and men
are seen carrying military clothing for the soldiers, while wagons
loaded with army clothes are very numerous.

All automobile works and machine shops, even the smallest, are busily
engaged manufacturing shells and the arsenals are working two shifts of
men, one night and one day.

It seems to me that our army is feeling a growing scarcity of rifles, as
they are now issuing to recruits an old model rifle of fifty calibre. It
is a single shot affair of 1867 model; rather awkward and crude. I have
seen large motor trucks returning from the front laden down with rifles
picked up from the battle fields. After an overhauling the guns will be
used again.

I am struck very forcibly with the great economy of the French. We did
fatigue the other day and it consisted of washing or rather scrubbing
with brush and water the shoes returned from the front. I believe the
bodies are stripped of what can be used again.

Wood is scarce over here; it must cost more than concrete. Concrete
workers are very expert and some finishing work I saw by them was
remarkable. These workmen, however, would be useless in the States, as
it takes them too long to construct a building.

Everything is saved to the smallest item: even pig skins are saved to
grease with. They are sold tied up in neat little rolls, and, I believe,
sold by weight. Everything is sold by weight, even bread, which is
excellent; no bread in the States can equal it.

Last Sunday while we were walking along the street a Frenchman stopped
and talked to us in English. He had spent seven years in London. He was
very pleasant and treated us royally and escorted us back to barracks.
He invited us to call on him.

A party of four of us, three Americans and a Spaniard, a few nights ago
had a night march, with manœuvres to take a fort. The sergeant in
command was a Frenchman with no knowledge of any language except the
French, so he had great difficulty in explaining the tactics to us. When
we returned to barracks we were given hot wine flavored with lemon; it
was good. To-morrow morning we start at three o’clock for a long hike.
They believe in work here.

    January 23, 1915._

We continue drilling hard; had a twenty-five mile hike the other day.
Started at half-past six in the morning and returned at six in the
afternoon. We cooked our dinner and it certainly was fine. We had wine,
meat, fried potatoes, cheese, bread and coffee. If we get such meals at
the front we will be well satisfied.

We are having night marches frequently, and always get hot wine when we

Our section was put on fire duty Sunday afternoon. At this duty we
simply stack arms in the court-yard and wait around. In case of a fire
in the city we are to keep the crowd back. I think the main object of
fire duty is to keep the men in barracks.

When we arrived in Lyon I purchased an English-French grammar but have
had very little time to study and the light in the barracks at night is
too poor to read by. But I will do the best I can to learn as much
French as possible.

The censor does not seem to interfere with our mail; none of the letters
I received has been tampered with.

We get all newspapers, magazines and other printed matter, without any
attempt by the censor to examine them.

Our squad contains sixteen men and is divided into two rooms. In my room
are two Americans (the Greek-American sailor is with me), two Italians,
one German-Swiss, who is an excellent soldier, two Spaniards and an
Arab. One of the Spaniards has been in prison twice and is now serving
his third term, fifteen days this time. One of the Italians is a good
soldier; the other is guilty of an unpardonable sin, he snores. He wakes
us every night; last night the sailor threw a shoe at him; when it
struck him he woke with a jump, and was going to take the sailor’s life,
but his music (?) had so provoked us that we were only waiting for an
excuse to rend him limb from limb, so he wisely got under the covers.
All in all we have a pretty good room.

It is comical when it comes to conversation. One day we talk English,
the next Spanish, the next Italian, but we all agree Divine Wisdom was
absent when the Arabic language was constructed. When an Arab talks it
sounds as though he was choking to death. The language consists of spits
and coughs, and at regular intervals a sneeze is employed to give the
proper accent.

Larney is in the next room with John Smith (the fourth American), three
Spaniards, a Swiss corporal, a Russian and a Greek. These three
Spaniards are brothers and inseparable; the youngest is about
thirty-five years old. They came from Argentina, having served in the
artillery there; they are three excellent men. They were sent by the
French consul at Argentina.

One of the Greeks who came over on the steamer with us and enlisted at
Bordeaux, has been reformed to-day, January 26th, and sent back to
Bordeaux as he has consumption. This news completely nonplussed me as at
the physical examination he showed up the best of us. He was well
muscled and looked the picture of a trained athlete. He intends to go to
Cape Town, South Africa, where he has a relative. He is a good-hearted
chap and I am sorry for him.

    January 30, 1915._

The number of Légionnaries training in Lyon has been steadily diminished
until only one hundred remain. There are a great many Frenchmen,
however, training in Lyon. At Valbonne, twenty miles from here, there
are about thirty thousand troops training, among them several companies
of the Legion.

Nearly all the public buildings are used as hospitals, while the schools
have been converted into barracks.

The people are very pleasant and will go a great distance out of their
way to set a stranger in the right direction. They are light eaters;
bread, wine and cheese are their mainstays. A large amount of chocolate
is eaten; it is not as good as our milk chocolate.

The moving picture shows in Lyon are free for soldiers. The people like
the western cowboy pieces. I saw a string of six push-carts with
advertisements of films in which John Bunny appeared.

We are paid one sou, being the equivalent of one cent, a day and pay-day
every tenth day. Our dissipation on half a franc can be readily
pictured. But we are furnished everything we need, and there are no
charges here.

Market days are Tuesdays and Fridays, and on those days most of the
public squares are thrown open to the farmers who come to town with
long, narrow, two-wheeled carts, drawn by everything from a dog to a
horse. Small donkeys, about three feet high, are numerous. One
frequently sees a dog harnessed with a donkey; I saw an old woman teamed
with a dog drawing a fruit cart. There are some fine draught horses; the
animals work tandem, and the driver walks.

Four-wheeled carts are very scarce. Auto-trucks are used for
transportation; many are of the large, heavy type, but have steel tires.
Pleasure cars are numerous. The majority have been taken for military
purposes. They are all built low and make considerable noise.

I have not as yet seen many asphalt covered streets. Most of them are
paved with stone blocks, while in a great number of streets cobble
stones are used. Save in the main streets, the sidewalks are narrow. As
a rule the streets are well lighted at night. A great many places of
business have signs “English spoken,” but we have not yet come across
one store wherein English _was_ spoken. The stores are open on Sundays.
Monday is the poorest business day in the week.

The children have school, if soldiers are not using the building, from
nine to noon, and from two to four p.m. School is in session Saturdays
but closed Thursdays.

                            OFF TO THE FRONT

    February 5, 1915._

At last the order we have so anxiously awaited has come; we leave early
tomorrow morning, February 6th, for the front.

We were given a complete outfit, which consisted of one suit of
underclothes, two pairs of socks, a white cotton sleeping hat, two pairs
of shoes, a neck muffler and a jacket which resembles a smoking jacket.
These jackets are all the same size, which is small, so that a big
fellow has a hard time getting into one. There is no warmth in them, so
most of the fellows did not bother to pack them. I left mine with the
underclothes in Lyon, not having room in the sack for them. We got blue
overalls to go over the red pants. We also got a pair of mittens, but
they are not much good.

We were given a loaf of bread, one can of sardines, one and a half cans
of fish paste, a chunk of cheese and some chocolate for rations. As a
reserve ration we got two cans of bully beef, hard tack, salt, pepper,
tea, coffee and sugar.

We also got one hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition. We packed a
blanket, and half of a shelter tent with poles. The complete pack
weighed nearly seventy pounds; it was very heavy.

The colonel inspected us thoroughly, and we passed after close scrutiny.

The weather is mild and like summer.

    _Somewhere in France,
    February 14, 1915._

We left barracks Saturday morning, February 6th, in a pouring rain, and
our train left Lyon at ten o’clock.

We arrived at Noisy-le-Sec, which is on the eastern outskirts of Paris
and about two hundred miles north of Lyon, at ten o’clock Sunday
morning. We remained until ten o’clock in the evening and then proceeded
to our railroad destination which was about seventy miles to the
northeast of Paris, and from there we had about twenty kilometres
(twelve and a half miles) to march to this town where we are now

[Illustration: Official Postal Card for Use of Soldiers]

Before reaching Noisy-le-Sec we passed a trainload of soldiers from
India. It was a husky outfit.

There was a complete Company of us, about two hundred and fifty. When we
reached here our Section was located in the loft of a barn. It was cold
in our quarters as we had no stove and the weather was cold and rainy.

Upon reaching this place, the reserve rations given to us at Lyons were

We are all well, and well treated and fed. We have coffee three times a
day; wine once.

We were divided according to nationalities. Our Section contained,
besides Americans, Belgians, Swedes, Roumanians, Italians, English and a
pure-blooded Egyptian, who is very dark.

This town is the quaintest place I have seen; it has no sidewalks, and
there was no idea of regularity when it was laid out. There are only
about six stores, and I should judge the place contains about three
hundred people. The butcher comes through here twice a week with his
stock of trade in a wagon. The principal industry around here is grape
growing; farming is a side issue.

A short distance from the railroad station there is a small river very
near the canal. Over the canal were once two bridges now both destroyed,
so we marched over temporary ones. This was the first sign of
destruction I have seen since I reached France. They say the French
destroyed these bridges.

We drill here and the Colonel manœuvred us the other day; he was well
satisfied with us. There is a high mountain range between us and the
firing line and from sunrise until night we can hear the rumble of
cannon; it sounds like distant thunder.

The two Americans who left us in Lyon have spent three weeks in the
trenches. We met them here during their rest which lasts eight days.
They have returned to the trenches. The loss of life in the trenches has
been reduced to a minimum. There is a constant rifle and cannon fire,
but little damage is done while the men remain in the trenches.

I miss all of my folks and often think of New York. I am carrying a
talisman in the form of a Yale key which belongs to the front door of
our apartment. I have become attached to it and would feel its loss
keenly. On the brace supporting the teeth is the word “Security.” A
person with a lively imagination might find some hidden meaning in this.

Our sailor Pavelka formerly entertained us every night with tales of his
trip on the good ship _Dirigo_ from Seattle to England via Cape Horn.
Jack London made the same voyage on its previous trip. It took our
sailor one hundred and fifty-nine days to make the trip. After supper
when stories are being exchanged he usually starts with, “Now, fellows,
when I was on the _Dirigo_ off——” He only gets that far now, because,
like most sailors, he is very voluble and his tales of the sea have
become monotonous. However, we are a very congenial quartette and get
along well together.

Dad says he has a complete map of France, giving small villages, but we
are not allowed to tell our location.

Dad was always good at puzzles: does he remember this one?

    Yapank ... Does he get me?[1]

Footnote 1:

  The name of the place indicated by this puzzle is, Bouzy.

We take long marches. The roads are excellent and have a complete system
of direction signs. Just after we started on one of these hikes I saw a
sign reading “Rheims 24 Kilometres.” As a kilometre is five-eighths of a
mile, this was the equivalent of fifteen miles.

    _Somewhere in France (Bouzy),
    February 28, 1915._

Things are about the same here; the weather is mild and we are having
less rain. Ploughing is almost finished and planting will soon begin.
From the outskirts of this place to the summit of the mountain (about
three miles) the ground rises in a gentle slope which is completely
covered by vineyards. It is a great wine country and from the heights a
wonderful view is obtained of this extensive and fertile valley.

If Mr. Shortt’s son is anxious to join the war, he can do so easily. I
would advise him to hurry up; by that I do not mean that the war will
soon be over; I know absolutely nothing about that. If he is not ready
to secure passage immediately, he can slip over on a horse boat, as I
learn they are still importing horses.

It is a matter of choice which Regiment he joins, the First or Second.
The Second contains the most Americans and it recruits through Paris; my
Regiment recruits through the southern ports.

I would strongly advise him to lose no time, but sail immediately. It
makes no difference whether he knows French or not. I have often told
you of the great percentage here who do not know the language. Let him
bring as much money as he cares to, because one cannot do or see much on
the salary they pay here of one cent a day. Former military training is
not necessary, but on the other hand if he has any glaring physical
defects, he will not be accepted. I was surprised at the rigidity with
which the examination was conducted.

He should bring two suits of good woollen underclothes and about half a
dozen pairs of thick woollen socks. If he is going to bring a shaving
set it should be as small and compact as possible. His comb and brush
should be small and he should bring a small mirror. He should not bring
many other clothes as they will be useless when he gets into a uniform.
The army does not furnish a storeroom, so I put mine in the Municipal
Pawn Shop in Lyon. They allow a very small loan, but it is conducted by
the government and is used by many for storage of silver and other
valuables. Would advise him to bring a tooth brush in some kind of a
stiff cover to protect the bristles.

Above all, impress him that he is not going to be a tourist. He carries
everything on his back and believe me, after an entire day of hiking,
every ounce counts. The complete pack with cartridges, rations, etc.,
weighs nearly seventy pounds, so there is absolutely no room for junk. I
would advise him to bring some sort of a leather portfolio (not too big)
to fit into his inside coat pocket to carry personal papers, etc. He
need not worry about his outfit of clothes; the Army attends to that.
Show him in a philosophical way that he had better come. He has a leave
from college, so he cannot lose anything by coming. On the other hand he
will gain a lot of knowledge of the country, etc., and at his age it
should almost be compulsory. I tell you candidly, if I was in his shoes
I would get over here if I had to ship on a cattle boat. Well, here’s
luck to him and I hope to see him soon.[2]

Footnote 2:

  The young man referred to is Allan Shortt, son of Hon. William Allaire
  Shortt of Staten Island, New York. He subsequently joined the
  Fifty-ninth Battalion, Canadians, was attached to the machine gun
  section, and became a lieutenant. He was missing following an
  engagement December 10th, 1916, on the front in France: he is now a

    _Somewhere in France (Bouzy),
    March 4, 1915._

I received the army hand-book to-day. These books are given to each
soldier and contain an identification, list of crimes, penalties, etc.,
and information about the bearer. In case anything should happen to me,
I give the following information from the book. It will simplify the
searching of my records.


               ETAT CIVIL

    Né le—13 Juin 1893.
    á-       New York.
    Canton d-  “  ”
    Départément d- New York.
    Residant á- Bordeaux.
    Départément d- Gironde.
    Profession d- Sans.
    Fils de-
    et de-

    Domicilies á- Sans.
    Canton d-      “
    Départément d- ”

    Cheveux-       Blonde.
    Yeux-       gris bleu.
    Nez-       rectiligne.
    Visage-         ovale.
    Poids-       60 Kilos.
    Taille- 1 mtr-75 centimetres.

    Ou Engagé, Volontaire; durée guerre, le 24 n’bre 1914,
        á Bordeaux, départément de Gironde.

    Numéro de la Liste Mutrieule-997.



             SOCIAL STATE

    Born the 13 June 1893,
    at        New York.
    County of  “   ”
    Department of New York.
    Resident at Bordeaux.
    Department of Gironde.
    Profession of—without.
    Son of
    and of
    Dwelling at, without.
    County of       “
    Department of   ”

    Hair             Blonde
    Eyes          gray-blue
    Nose           straight
    Face               oval
    Weight   132-1/2 pounds
    Height  5 feet 9 inches

    Where engaged; volunteer; duration of the war, 24 November
      1914, at Bordeaux, department of Gironde.

    Number on recruiting list—997.

A small aluminum tag is given us. I wear mine on my left wrist fastened
by the mess-can chain. It is inscribed as follows:

      Russell Kelly
         EV 1914

Front side

         LM 997

Reverse side

The other day the Colonel inspected us and grouped us according to
nationalities: there were eighteen groups. We were lined up and the
Colonel was giving instructions when an aeroplane appeared, so we
promptly sought shelter. We all watch for an aeroplane and when one
comes we generally are marched to quarters. Quite a number of 'planes
are active but it is almost impossible to tell to which nation they
belong. No chance is taken, however, and we quickly get under cover. It
frequently happens that the sound of the motor is heard before the
'plane is located. Last Sunday night heavy canonading was heard. It
continued throughout the night, which was remarkably moonlight, and kept
us awake the major part of the time. It must have been a big battle; I
never heard its equal before.

When small detachments are shipped from here to join their battalions in
the trenches there is a great display of joyous feeling shown by the
men. They yell, sing, dance and rough-house generally. One would imagine
that they are going to a festival. The New York papers do not exaggerate
when they say this Legion is a fighting crowd. There are just enough of
each nationality so that one country fights another. There has been a
couple of scraps here to date. The chief cook for our section was an
Italian and as he was dishing up poor stuff, we four got sore and told
him he had better improve, but he did not take the hint. The kitchen is
located very near the loft we sleep in, so one day when the meal was
particularly poor we reached out of the door and heaved the whole
business at him. It almost completely demolished the kitchen. A plate of
meat and hot rice hit him on the head and he jumped into the path of a
bowl of soup. He was a sorry looking dago when the avalanche ceased. We
are getting good meals now. The other day we were nearly paralyzed when
he had fried potatoes for us.

A detachment of about eighty Greeks left yesterday for the trenches.
They were a very wild crowd and when they marched out of town they
carried two Greek flags and were singing Greek songs. They had Greek
officers. A number of the men had worked in the States. One was a waiter
in the Hotel Knickerbocker, New York, but most of them had worked in
railroad gangs.

I went to mass the other Sunday: it was served the same as in the
States. The Church is very old: the place for the altar is wider than
the pew space. The main altar is set back from the others and it only is
railed off. In the space I mentioned as being wider than the pew section
are two rows of pews, one on each side of the main aisle. They run at
right angles to the altar and, I take it, are reserved for the élite of
the town, as they are finely made and comfortable, not to mention their
isolation. The regular pews are very uncomfortable, being
straight-backed, while the board to kneel on is very narrow. The pews
are placed close together which cramps one considerably. The organ is
placed almost among the rafters. The acoustic properties of the building
are poor. The structure is of stone, the walls being very thick. Immense
stone columns, placed at short intervals, support the roof. On the first
column on the left hand side of the aisle, about twelve feet from the
floor, a small pulpit is built and is reached by a circular staircase.
The floor is of marble. Instead of tableaux, cheap pictures show the
Stations of the Cross. Lamps and candles furnish the light: no provision
is made for heat. The windows are of stained glass and rather artistic.
There was only a scattering of people, mostly women in mourning. A few
soldiers attended.

As I have said this is the Champagne country; vineyards exist in
abundance and at the present time they need attention; the ground around
each vine must be loosened. Most of the men are in the army, so nearly
every one in town turns out to work. Old men, old women, middle-aged
women, young women, boys and girls and even children labor in the yards.
I have seen grey-haired women bent almost double over the short
three-foot hoe in use here. Everybody works, they work hard and with a
will. From their appearance, the grapes will not suffer from lack of

A few nights ago just as I was on the point of going to sleep a soldier
came rushing through our quarters yelling “Fire.” In two shakes of a
lamb’s tail we were all downstairs, formed in ranks and on double time
in the direction of the fire, and as it was only a short distance off,
we were soon there. As is the local custom, the house was set back and
shut off from the road by an eighteen-inch brick and stone wall covered
with cement. Next to, and in fact part of the house was the hay shed;
some cavalry men were quartered here.

When we came into the courtyard the shed and nearest half of the top or
second floor of the house were in flames. Already some of the furniture
had been carried out from the ground floor rooms, and taking the hint,
we rushed through the doorway to bring out more. It was one of the best
houses in town and well furnished. By this time nearly everybody in town
had arrived, but there was no sign of any fire fighting apparatus, and
the fire was quickly destroying the house. Soon there were many
triumphant cries, and with much gusto the Fire Department of Bouzy burst
upon the scene, and was greeted by the crowd with many acclamations of
joy. The Fire Department was carried by eager hands, and seeing a couple
of vacant inches, I took hold. Everybody was yelling and giving orders,
so the Department was carried all over the yard and frequently came near
being deposited on the ground, when some one with an extra loud voice
would tell of a more advantageous spot, so there the Department would
go. This procedure was kept up for about five minutes before the machine
was placed.

It consisted of a heavy iron tank four feet long, three feet wide and
two feet high with two cylinders and a long two-handled bar for the
man-power. Soon the hose was arranged and men formed for a
bucket-brigade. Think of it: a machine to which the water must be
brought and then pumped through the hose to the blaze. It was a long
time before the water arrived and we frequently had to suspend for lack
of water. Smith mounted to the roof of the building and Larney was
conspicuous on an adjoining roof. Just as Smith reached the roof a
stream from a nearby house started to play, but lacked force enough to
reach the flames; it landed directly on Smith and continued playing on
him. In a short time he was drenched and the spray also wet Larney

Well, to make a long story short, the building was completely destroyed,
but no damage was done to any nearby structure. Smith slept in his wet
clothes and the next morning when he unrolled from his blanket a cloud
of steam arose. He surely must have had an enjoyable evening trying to

The helmets worn by the firemen were of brass and resembled the German
helmet, only lacking the spike. They were highly polished and quite

                       IN THE FIRST LINE TRENCHES

    _Somewhere in France (Bouzy),
    March 7, 1915._

We were outfitted unexpectedly this evening and are busy packing and
getting rid of excess weight so as to start early to-morrow morning for
the trenches. The men are glad at the prospect of getting into the game,
and are making considerable noise and having a high old time.

    _(Place Unknown),
    Wednesday, March 10._

At half-past five o’clock last Monday morning we were up and ready to
start. We left Bouzy at a quarter to seven by the town clock. After
several rests we reached a fair-sized town and had lunch: we were served
hot coffee here. After a spell in the trenches the men return to repose
in this town.

We were divided here to be placed in different battalions, etc., and I
was glad to learn that we were lucky enough to be sent to a battalion
which was then occupying the trenches. We left town together and
proceeded on our way which led through the greatest vineyards I had yet
seen. We paused in a barn for a short time and started off again. There
were about ten of us; Smith and Larney were with me; Pavelka we left in
Bouzy as he is sick. I do not know what is the matter with him, but it
does not amount to much, whatever it is.

We finally arrived in what was once a town. I say once, because as a
town it ceases to exist. It had contained, I should say, about two or
three hundred houses. While in New York I had read of the towns that
were destroyed in the war, but the realization exceeded my most
elaborate ideas. There was not a building in the entire town which had
not received its share of destruction. We walked through several streets
looking for somebody to direct us but could find no one. The place
seemed deserted; and what a scene of ruin. Here was the church with
gaping holes in the roof and one side with four openings large enough to
drive a team through. The other sides were battered and the steeple was
blown off. It is impossible to convey any idea of the ruin which was
everywhere seen. One row of four houses had the connecting walls
completely destroyed. In the entire town there was not a house with its
roof left, nor a pane of unbroken glass.

We finally located a sentinel who showed us headquarters, where we were
assigned to our companies, etc. After lunch we were to proceed to our
trench. While waiting for the repast an occasional shell whistled by and
exploded a short distance beyond. Very pleasant, I assure you. We
finished the meal and were ready. A short distance from the kitchen, to
my great surprise, we entered the famous trenches. Here we were at last.
I wish I could express my feelings when I realized where I was.

It was simply the connecting trench which allowed the men from the line
trenches to proceed to the kitchen and get the meals. The Germans have a
disagreeable habit of shelling these trenches at meal time and quite a
few accidents have occurred in them. They are about five feet deep and
very narrow. The earth is thrown up on both sides, so they are quite
deep. They curve in a horrible fashion and it was not long before I was
dizzy. Meanwhile an occasional shell went merrily by. The trenches are
so narrow that it is difficult for two men to pass. We continued on and
passed the entrance to the second line: after a while we stopped. Where
do you suppose we were? We were at last actually in the first line of

We were taken to the lieutenant, who assigned us to our squads. The
first thing we did was to place our rifles in holes in the trench facing
the Germans. I looked over the top of the trench in the direction of the
enemy but could not distinguish much, as it was beginning to get dark.
They were there, however, there was no question as to that for an
occasional bullet whistled by. An intermittent fire is kept up
continually by both sides. Larney and I were put into the 15th squad and
Smith in the 14th. We were assigned to our quarters.

The firing line faces the Germans in a zigzag way. There is a trench
running parallel to and back of it. They are connected by trenches in
which are placed the living quarters of the men. There are two caves or
huts opposite each other in an alley. Of course they are underground.
They are about three and a half to four feet high and about twelve feet
deep. There are six men in ours. When lying down it is impossible to
stretch one’s legs out, consequently you are pretty well cramped after

I was tired after our long march, so prepared to turn in, but found that
we were to be on guard during the night. We turned out presently and I
was placed with another fellow in a trench about twenty yards in advance
of the main one. We were in back of steel shields with our rifles loaded
and on the watch for a German. The fellow I was with was an Italian, so
there was little conversation between us. We were there two hours and it
was very cold. We saw nothing alarming. Both sides exchanged shots
occasionally. I was very glad to be relieved, as a cold wind was
blowing. We went into the guard room and it was not long before I wished
I was on post again. There was no fire in this cave and the ledge upon
which we sat was about four inches wide. It was also cold in there.
Finally we went out on patrol. We put the bayonets on our guns and laid
down on the earth. I was in this position two and a half hours. Let me
here state that I think I have enjoyed two and a half hours more at
other times during my career. This sharp, cold wind continued, so after
a while I was naturally chilled. There was no danger, however, as I
estimated that the nearest bullet which passed us was at least twenty
feet distant.

Nothing happened and at last we returned. I was very sleepy and in due
time turned in. After sleeping about an hour and a half I was awakened
as the captain wished to inspect the new men. After the inspection I had
a good sleep: slept most of the day and all the night. It is rather
uncomfortable in the cramped position but it is possible to keep warm
when under the blanket.

The meals are good, but only lukewarm, as they have to be carried quite
a distance. During the next day we left the trenches and returned to the
town to repose. We are here now for eight days. It is very comfortable
here. Another American was put in our squad; he is from Boston; has been
in France five years and the Legion five months; in the trenches three
months. He is a fine fellow.[3]

Footnote 3:

  Kenneth Weeks of New Bedford, Mass. Killed June 16th.

At present, things are very quiet. I think we made quite a record; from
a reserve training station, put in the first line trenches and the first
night there put on patrol and two days after that sent with the
Battalion on repose.

After this letter I will not be allowed to send any mail to any place
for about a month.

Well, mother, I am nearly a full fledged soldier now. You would be
surprised to know how glad I am to be where I am.

    _Somewhere in France,
    March 12, 1915._

This is a good picture of the actual sights where I am now. Whole towns
are like that shown on the other side. All well.

[Illustration: French Houses Burned By Germans]


    April 9, 1915._

On March 26th we returned to the trenches, and the routine was the same
as before, just the continual rifle and artillery fire and very close
watching of the enemy. The trenches are dry now and fairly comfortable.
We are all in tip-top shape and enjoying ourselves; the only thing we
want is some action.

We are located in a place called Verzenay, which is about ten kilometres
(six and a quarter miles) north of Bouzy. The first line trenches that
we occupy are about five kilometres (three miles) north of the town.
Verzenay is on the side of a high hill, the trenches being in the
valley; a grand view of the town is had from the trenches.

I should judge the town has, normally, four to five thousand
inhabitants. The Germans throw ten to fifteen shells into it daily, but
they do little damage, and more than half of the civil population has
remained here.

We were scheduled to leave town one night for the third line of defence
and had our packs made up when in came a fellow who wanted to see the
Americans. He was an American from the Second _Régiment étrangère_, and
had been transferred at his own request, and as the authorities are
following a plan of segregation by nations, he was sent to our squad. I
was agreeably surprised to learn that he had been at Virginia Military
Institute; he is Kniffin Y. Rockwell. His arrival brought our number up
to five.

[Illustration: Kniffin Yates Rockwell]

In due time we left and during the night reached our destination. They
were the usual huts dug into the side of a slight terrace supporting the
canal. They are about four feet high and six feet wide and long enough
to accommodate a squad of fifteen men. They have been in use since the
beginning of the war and fresh straw has been put into them at
intervals. The old straw, however, has not been removed and when the men
change quarters they leave behind them all discarded junk, so you can
imagine the condition they are in. When I first arrived I tried to clean
up, but the deeper I got into the straw the stronger the philosophy
impressed itself on me that “what one doesn’t know won’t hurt one,” so I
put back the straw and let it go at that.

There are a great number of rats and mice in the huts and the first
night an energetic rat loosened a mass of earth above my head and it
fell directly upon me. It gave me a great start as my first thoughts
pictured a company of Germans on us. These rodents are a great nuisance
on account of their large numbers and I have often wished there was a
Pied Piper amongst us.

There is one man in the company who does not share my feelings. He is an
Italian who is used to a strange diet. Every morning about nine o’clock
he sits down and spreads out his victims of the night: they generally
number five or six. He skins these and as he is a friend of the cook
they are roasted for him. There is no question of his liking for them
because we always have more than enough to eat. I have seen many strange
things over here, but the cold-bloodedness of this fairly turns one’s

There is not any regular schedule pursued here, but they always manage
to keep us busy. During the second day Pavelka joined us from the
hospital, which made the number six. This fellow is very handy and
volunteered to make us a base ball. For the centre of the ball he used
the business end of a cartridge and on this wound worsted and thread
alternately. For a cover he cut up a leather puttee and sewed it on the
ball. The complete article was really very good and it rivalled
Spalding’s Official League Ball. Old A. G. would have given considerable
for it for exhibition purposes, but he will never get it. Home-run
Scanlan, the heavy hitter, drove it into the canal and we lost it. He
also broke up the game, much to the chagrin of the entire company who
had gathered around to see us play. We had fun while it lasted, and we
intend to make another one when we go back to the canal.

Aeroplanes are very numerous. There are so many that it became necessary
to resume the aeroplane guard. Each section takes turns at this and it
lasts from sunrise to sunset. Every time a German aircraft flies within
range we fire at it. This occurs many times and considerable ammunition
is used but no damage done. These machines warn us of their approach
before they are located as the sound of the motor carries a great
distance. Both armies shoot at the 'planes with cannon also.

It is quite interesting to follow the course of an aeroplane. Take a
German one, for instance. We may be cleaning up when the faint whir of a
motor is heard. Work ceases and all eyes try to locate the machine. It
proves to be an approaching German 'plane. When the probable range is
computed our artillery opens fire. The report of the piece is heard and
we look in the vicinity of the aeroplane for the result. In a couple of
seconds a puff of smoke is seen and shortly after the noise of the
bursting shell reaches us. It is almost impossible to hit it. I have
seen a great number fired at, but as yet, with no results.

Another thing to be remarked upon is the intrepidity of the aviators.
They don’t seem to pay any attention to the bombardment (if we may call
it such). One beautiful afternoon while I was in the first line, a
French aeroplane made for the enemies’ lines. The Germans saw it coming
and opened fire, using three pieces. The sky was cloudless, so I counted
the puffs of smoke: they appeared all around the plane, but in spite of
this the airman continued on his mission and actually got out of range
behind the guns. All told there were sixty-eight shells thrown. For
fifteen minutes after, it was possible to count the puffs. I have often
wondered when the shells explode near an aeroplane and do not damage it,
how it is that the concussion does not in some way injure the delicate
parts of the machine. We have not seen an aerial combat, but all root
for one.

On our first repose here in town we were treated to a bath: it was a
great event. A soldier holds a hose with a sprinkler arrangement on the
end and two others man the pump. First we are allowed a little water to
get up a lather, then the master of ceremonies at the hose bellows a
command and the boys at the pump bend to their work with a will, with
the result that there is a free-for-all fight to get into the spray. It
is rather a crude method, but as the water is hot we are very thankful
for it. I had my second yesterday and we hope to bathe daily at the

This canal reminds me greatly of the old Erie, save for the locks.
Changing levels is accomplished by one single lock as against the single
and double locks used on the Erie. Canal boat fleets are unknown in this
country: the boats travel singly and are towed by horses. Considering
the depth and width of the canal and the general appearance of the
banks, one can almost imagine he is travelling through New York state on
the old waterway. The type of boat used is practically the same as ours,
save that over here they are somewhat larger and with a more pointed

The other night Weeks took us out to dinner: the meal was served in the
home of one of the native vineyard workers. We all filed into the
kitchen of the house. This room was located on the ground floor and had
a window opening onto the street. It served also as the pantry, dining
room, and was also used for minor purposes. It was about ten by twelve
feet. A common kitchen table occupied the centre of the room under a
hanging oil lamp. There were eight chairs (the majority rickety)
scattered around, and the deep window sill would accommodate three
persons. Into the corner opposite the main door was fitted a triangular
closet which accommodated odds and ends; the wine supply was kept here.
Curtains decorated the window; the floor was bare. They used a good

Weeks was acquainted with the family as he had dined here throughout the
winter when on repose. They also did his and other soldiers’ washing and
the clothes were hung in this room on lines from the walls to dry;
consequently one was uncomfortable until seated. After a while our host
gave his order and the woman went to purchase the food. Meanwhile
children of the family were constantly coming and going. After the sixth
had made his appearance I grew confused and decided not to try to keep
track of them. They certainly were numerous, and starting from four feet
six they descended in regular intervals of six inches down to the young
baby, making a natural stairway for Father Time.

The food came at last; it was a chicken and some incidentals. The next
thing was to prepare the chicken for the pot. The good housewife
searched high and low for a knife, and failing to locate one borrowed
Smith’s famous weapon (he paid six sous for it in Lyon at a bazaar). Ah!
I forgot. She singed the fowl first over the table around which we were
seated. This was accomplished by means of burning newspapers, the ashes
of which fell into the wine. We did not mind this, only the smell of
burning hair was rather disagreeable. I had recovered from this, when,
picture my chagrin, the good lady started to butcher the bird right
under our noses and placidly strewed the table with the chicken’s guts.
I think grape picking trains the hands to quick, vigorous action;
anyhow, the way those giblets and other parts of the chicken’s anatomy
were flying around caused us to dodge continually, and with great
foresight I placed my hand over the glass to protect the wine.

The lady was not an expert butcher; when she could not locate a joint
the members were torn apart by main strength. As for the flesh, it was
actually ripped off in shreds and the whole business thrown into a pot.
Smith’s heart was almost broken as the blade of his knife was bent all
out of shape: it was ruined. The meal consisted of rice, soup, fried
chicken and bread, with coffee at the end. It was very tasty, indeed.
What struck me forcibly was the way the children ate. They came in just
long enough to swallow a few mouthfuls. Through carelessness I think the
young folks are not receiving the proper amount of nourishment. Anyway
the children of France do not shape up as being sturdy. We all enjoyed
the novel incident greatly.

We eventually got to the first line again and occupied the same hut as
on our previous stay. There were seven of us in there, six Americans and
the corporal. It was not wide enough to lie cross ways, so we slept at
an angle. It reminded me of the story of the six men in one bed; when a
man became tired lying on one side and gave the signal to turn, all
turned at once and if any one failed to hear the signal it broke up the
party. This was the case here; we were cramped to an uncomfortable
degree. The first night we were disturbed by a great racket. It proved
to be Smith forcing Larney back into his proper location. It might be
well to remark here that Larney is a considerable sleeper. He talks
almost nightly and would you believe me, back in Bouzy he actually sang
one verse of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” It was in a far away, hollow
voice, but he carried the tune fairly well. Some nights we grow alarmed
over his welfare; he groans and mumbles so.

At the first line we are on guard every other night, and as the weather
was cold it was not very enjoyable. One night I was on guard from one a.
m. to three a. m. with Larney. We were in a trench running at right
angles from the main one and about twenty feet from it. It is so
arranged that the earth is on a level with our eyes. You would be
surprised to know how hard it is to keep awake. Even as near the enemy
as we are, an almost unconquerable desire to sleep overcomes us. It must
be that the constant searching and the straining of the eyes into the
darkness hypnotizes one, but be this as it may, it required a great
effort to keep awake. We all complain of this.

On the night I speak about, I was struggling to keep awake when all of a
sudden my heart almost stopped beating. I was thoroughly wide awake
instantly: I could have sworn that there were two figures directly in
front of me about one hundred and fifty feet away. One seemed to be
standing and the other kneeling, and as we maintain a trench running
parallel to the main one and about one hundred and fifty feet beyond, my
mind pictured all kinds of things. I watched them intently and they
seemed to be working at something, but in the uncertain light it was
maddening. The large figure appeared to be motionless but the small one
seemed to rise and bend like a man at a pump. This continued for what
seemed ages. I am well aware that at night objects take strange forms,
but I could not account for these. Our rifles are constantly loaded and
cocked while on guard and I was tempted to take a shot at it, but I
wanted to see them actually move before I fired. I looked over and saw
Larney observing the same thing.

We talked it over and decided that it was part of the landscape; the
next morning we went into the trench and came to the conclusion that it
was two trees.

Another time while on guard in the second line position, I was looking
out of a small port hole in the trench. I had just come to the
conclusion that guard duty was a waste of time when I saw what looked to
be a figure crawling slowly under the barbed wires in front of the

It was a wretched night, raining and very dark. I could have sworn that
this was really a man. I almost pictured him freeing himself from the
barbs. I thought a better view would be gained from over the trench, so
I noiselessly climbed up until my head was clear of the earth, but it
was impossible to see when my eyes were above the surface of the earth,
so I got back again.

The object was still in the same position. Would you believe I actually
kept my eyes glued on the thing for nearly two hours. A number of lights
were sent up by both sides, but their positions were such they did not
help me. Finally, a German white light went up in a direct line with my
eyes and the object. What do you think my creeping German was? Nothing
but a frame to roll wire on. I certainly was disgusted when I made this

One cannot help imagining things. Everything keys the imagination up;
the steady rifle fire, the occasional cannon, the bursting mines, the
flare of the night lights and distant bombardments all tend to put one
in a condition to see anything.

It is interesting to observe the difference of speed between sight and
sound. For instance, a cannon far in our rear will discharge a shell;
the flash is visible from the piece, the whir of the shell as it passes
is heard, and the flash as it bursts is seen, then both reports sound
almost simultaneous, the discharge of the gun and bursting of the shell.
This, of course, only happens when one’s position is almost in the
middle of the trajectory.

Another idea of mine which was shattered by actual experience was the
action of a bursting shell. From war pictures I drew the inference that
at the moment a shell bursts it was possible to see the fragments; not
so. The report of the piece is heard, then the whistle of the shell, a
puff of smoke is seen and finally a loud report. That’s all, but believe
me there is a great deal of power in a shell.

In the second line the quarters were fair. Wide enough for us to stretch
out and about five feet high. Each one accommodates a section. The
condition of the straw was the same as described before. One night it
began to rain and in about half an hour the rain soaked through the
earth and dripped on us. We hung our shelter-halves up under the roof to
catch the water. These covers performed their duty O. K., but the water
leaked in all around them. The first night was not so bad, although the
place was wet in spots. It rained during the second day and things
became worse: the trenches were in an awful condition, the water being
ankle deep in places and the mud beating Cedarhurst’s best to a

That night, however, was the worst of all. The rain was dripping through
pretty steadily and it had begun to get the best of the tent covers in
spite of the fact that we emptied them regularly. We eventually turned
in and as an almost steady stream was dropping on my head I put my
overcoat over it and grappled with Morpheus. I had him flat on his back
and was about to rise to the cries of the spectators when my
subconscious mind differentiated between the voice of applause and the
wail of dismay. Instantly I was awake and poked my head out to see what
the fuss was about, but the steady stream forced my cranium under the
coat again.

Out of the confusion I gleamed that a tent cover had fallen with the
weight of the water and drenched a Greek, two fellows down from me. He
was very active vocally: I’ll bet he cursed a few. We were all very
uncomfortable. I was telling myself how good it was to be dry when I
realized that I was not as dry as I might be. From my shoulders to my
feet I was awash in three inches of water. It surely did feel fierce,
but it was impossible to better the condition as everything was wet. It
was only two a. m. and I prayed for day-light. We managed to dry out
pretty well during the day.

I wish we had some of those new patented trench digging machines the
World’s Advance tells about, because I have dug about one thousand miles
of trenches, or nearly that many. We are constantly digging new and
repairing old trenches, so now we have an elaborate system of
underground streets.

I certainly do feel fine and enjoy the life, but there is no question
about it, war is an asinine thing.

                      REMOVED TO THE ARRAS SECTEUR

    _(Place Unknown),
    May 6, 1915._

For many days we knew something was in the wind, but what or when it
would happen was a puzzle to all. Some said we were going back to Lyon
for a repose, while others maintained we were hound for the Dardanelles.

Finally we got orders to pack all our stuff and be ready to move during
the night. About midnight, April 24th, a French regiment relieved us and
we marched out of Verzenay. It was a very disagreeable night, and
coupled with a chilly, penetrating fog and the rather forced march, we
were more or less fatigued when we reached a small town at about five
o’clock the next morning: our _escouade_ (squad), the 15th, was assigned
to a sort of cow shed. The ground was as hard as a rock and as cold. We
turned in, but tired as we were, it was impossible to get much sleep,
although we tried to sleep during the day. At five in the afternoon we
went up town to see what the place was like; it was a small place with
about six stores and overcrowded with soldiers.

When we got back I started to read periodicals received from New York.
Outside there was a small yard with a squad kitchen on one side and our
quarters on the other. I’ll stop here a second to say a word about the
men in our squad.

The corporal could be most anything but I think he is Arab-French; he is
a quiet fellow and O. K. There are four Légionnaires with us; one of
them has served fifteen years with the Legion and another about ten.
These two are naturalized Frenchmen and fast friends. The old-timer has
a huge beard and is a very quaint character. I enjoy watching him; he
reminds me so much of those gnomes who used to interest me when I was
small. The other fellow is short and very brown. The way they confide in
each other is really ludicrous. When one has an imaginary illness he
takes the other aside and they get their heads together and sympathize
with each other; it is laughable. As they share their sorrows they also
share their joys. You buy their kind of joy by the canteen full, and
believe me they are a joyous pair. The old fellow has been joyous for
about fifteen years.

The other two Légionnaires are Belgians and unimportant. Then we have
two Italians who remind me of brigands. One is a big husky fellow and
the other is a typical dramatic villain; good looking, dashing and all
that stuff. We have an Italian kid with us, but he is only a nuisance.
The two brigands take an interest in him to the extent of continually
kicking and cuffing him around. Well, as I was reading the magazine I
heard a noise in the yard and upon going out found the six-foot corporal
slugging the five-foot five Légionnaire. I was glad to see it because
the little fellow needs a beating. He talks too much. Weeks was out
there and did not like the unevenness of the fight so he interfered. The
big brigand then came up and hit the little Légionnaire a “beaut,”
knocking him across the yard. The little fellow got up just in time to
be knocked back across the yard, and the big fellow was going to repeat
the performance when Weeks interfered again.

By this time we were all out in the yard enjoying the fun. The argument
got pretty hot and finally, as usual, the peacemaker got a wallop in the
jaw. The American section acted as if they were all hit, and in fact
they were when one of them was hit. In a fraction of a second it was the
biggest free-for-all I was ever in or hope to be in. We battled around
the yard to a fare-you-well and in no time the guard was on the scene
with fixed bayonets, but we still kept on.

In a lull in the action I happened to look around in time to see the
villainous looking bandit picking up a brick. I made a bee-line for him
and in no time had received a good clout on my bean for my trouble. The
guards eventually separated us, but the Americans carried the day. They
started to take me to the lock-up but I landed at the infirmary and had
my head bandaged. They locked Pavelka up, but he should have come with
me, as a friend of the bandits hit him on the forehead with a dish pan.
He needed bandaging and soon was sent back for treatment. We all shook
hands and called it square.

The next day we marched to the railroad and came north. It was a
wretched trip as we were packed closely in freight cars and it took
twenty-four hours to come two hundred kilometres, being about one
hundred and twenty-five miles. We left the cars at a town called
Aubigny, which is about six miles due west of the village of La
Targette, but we located in a town nearer the front. At night we marched
to the trenches and worked there. It was very dangerous: the outposts
being about fifty yards apart. One night the second fellow from me was
hit in the stomach. It is good to work under such conditions, as work
takes the mind from the bullets; inaction under fire is a terrible
strain on the nerves.

We were in the trenches three days, worked all day and at night we went
out on the field and laid down four hours at a stretch, to guard against
a surprise. To make matters worse it rained and the mud was a foot deep
in places. We went back to a small town, arriving there at ten a. m.

We have everything in abundance. I have seen fellows throw shirts and
other articles away, rather than wash them, as new ones are always
given. There is actually more than enough of everything. We are living
like princes.

I was glad to hear that my letter from Bouzy was received. Allowance
must be made for the writing as it was done on a two-by-four-foot plank,
which I straddled, my feet dangling. We Americans were all interested in
the statement in the letter to me, that it has been said the Germans
would treat Foreign Légionnaires who were not citizens of France as
irregular soldiers; and the suggestions made for us to observe in case
of capture will be followed.


    _Somewhere near Aubigny
    May 16, 1915._

On Sunday morning, May 9th, we were routed out at one o’clock and
marched to the trenches, reaching the third line at sunrise, and at five
o’clock our artillery increased its already very severe bombardment,—the
continual rumble and vibration being beyond description. This lasted
until ten o’clock and as soon as it stopped, Battalion C in our section
left the trenches, charging with the bayonet.

They carried the trenches with great loss. I understand the Germans were
panic stricken by the bombardment and one of their battalions was buried
as the trenches collapsed under our heavy artillery fire.

Battalion A followed C and lost a great many; there are two Americans in
A, one of them is O. K. while the other was shot twice, in the shoulder
and in the leg.

Our Battalion B left the trenches right after A under a heavy rifle and
machine gun fire, the ground we crossed being well strewn with dead and
dying of Battalions C and A. We charged across fields in a line of
skirmishes, and I will never be able to satisfy myself how so many of us
got through safely.

When we reached the first line of German trenches we found them battered
and destroyed by our bombardment. Soon after crossing them our first
stop was in the shelter of a road. Here the good looking bandit, the
fellow who hit me with the brick, got reckless and tried to survey the
landscape; he was killed instantly by a bullet through the heart. No
convulsive tossing of the arms one reads about or sees in the movies—he
just sank down and it was all over. Soon after we left this position,
the other bandit was shot through the leg. There was absolutely no ill
feeling between us on account of our scrap.

We then laid down on the ground and soon the Germans got our range; six
men close to me were hit; so we started on again.

The German artillery had opened on us, and the suspense of lying there
and waiting to be hit is indescribable. The shells were bursting all
around me and one rushed by so close that I actually think a chunk of
solidified air hit me on the forehead; anyway, something bruised my
forehead. I rushed over and got into the hole, it was five feet deep. I
happened to be looking where four men were lying, when a shell blew the
four of them to dust.

In my letter from Lyon I mentioned three brothers from Argentina; they
were inseparable even in death; they were killed side by side.

We finally took the crest of a hill, it was dusk and we dug ourselves

I shall never forget the picture displayed as I looked back across the
field in the fading light. It is a nightmare: during the entire night
the cries of the wounded rang out. I had a pleasant bedfellow,—a
corporal and he lay in the trench, only two feet away. He actually
fascinated me. I could not help looking at his brains which stuck out of
the back of his neck, exactly like two horns. During the next day they
gradually melted until at nightfall they had slid entirely off his neck.
Grand, grand indeed, is this butchery they call war!

During the night we were on the watch, and at times the fire from the
enemy, aided by the German night-lights, was severe.

As day broke Monday we were ready for the counter attack, which was sure
to come and it came early and fierce. Their artillery shelled us in a
most desperate manner, and men were killed and wounded in large numbers
and very close to me; and again the suspense of expecting to be hit by a
shell was horrible.

Bavarian troops were opposite and they made a rush for us, and I am
bound to acknowledge that no human beings could have shown more bravery
and determination than they did: but our artillery was most effective,
and we stood firm in our trenches and smeared them. Their counter
attacks all failed and that night we still held the trenches we had dug.

We were entirely out of water both Sunday and Monday, and as a
consequence suffered very much.

Early the next morning, before daybreak, reserves took our places and
what was left of our regiment returned to the rear for reorganization.

I laugh when I try to think of civilization. But with all we must admit
it is a great world and I do not regret that I am here.

    _Somewhere near Aubigny,
    May 20, 1915._

A sergeant was commanding our Company, all the officers having been
killed or wounded. Our captain was a very game man; he led us without a
sword or any side arms, only using his swagger stick. He was killed by a

We advanced by sections. When the order came we jumped up, and carrying
a sack as a shield, ran about one hundred feet,—and talk about Ty Cobb
sliding into second base, it isn’t a circumstance to the way I hit the
ground. And what a strain it was on the nerves waiting for our turn to
advance again, fellows all around being hit. In a couple of cases I have
seen men almost lifted from the ground, so hard were they struck. One
fellow very near me was hit and began to squeal, almost immediately a
second bullet hit him and he made for the rear on all fours crying like
a child. The field was full of such sights.

But compared to the shells the bullets are nothing: give me most
anything but an artillery bombardment. I cannot figure out how the five
of us missed being hit.

The prisoners we took were well fed and clothed, but are sick of the

After the attack we were quartered in Mont St. Eloi, about two miles
west of La Targette, but as it was in range and the Germans shelled us,
we were sent ten miles to the rear to await recruits.

Our regiment lost heavily in killed and wounded, not half coming back.
The little Italian kid I previously mentioned was too frightened to
leave our trenches.

The six Americans of our squad, Larney, Rockwell, Pavelka, Smith, Weeks
and myself passed through safely, except Rockwell who was shot in the
leg. We learned he was cared for by our field ambulance.

                       TO THE REAR FOR RECRUITING

    _(Place Unknown),
    June 10, 1915._

Soon after we were located at the rear to await recruits the General
commanding our Division reviewed us and distributed five military

We have a new Captain in the place of the one who was killed; he is a
Swede and is very military; he has us drilling a great deal, and works
us pretty hard, considering that we have smelt powder in the true sense
of the term.

We have just learned that Italy has entered the war; also, that an
American merchant-man has been torpedoed. We would like to see the
United States keep out of the war if it can.

On May 29th we returned to a location near the front, and lately many
German prisoners have passed us. One day as many as eight hundred went
by; they looked well. By a strange coincidence the same Bavarian troops
who faced us in Champagne are against us here, and yesterday we
recognized a man in their ranks who deserted from us in Champagne. I
guess it is all over with him; it should be.

It seems that our effort of May 9th was more successful than that of the
British. The German prisoners say they cannot stand our artillery fire.
I don’t blame them, as the French 75 centimeter field piece has proved
to be the wonder of the war.

We are all well; in fact I never felt better in my life.

I have just received the packages from New York and am thankful for
them. Socks are very desirable as we are on our feet a great part of the
time and I can rest easy now that I am well stocked with them. The soup
cubes were fine: we make soup every night before turning in. One of the
tooth brushes was broken in transit but the other comes in handy as the
one I brought from home is about used up. I am keeping the combs, but do
not use them, as during the hot weather our hair is cut very close with
the machine. Some fellows have their heads shaved, but I think that is
going too far. This idea of having the hair cut short is a good one as
it is very warm here now.

We spent four days in the trenches to the left of the ones the Legion
occupied prior to the attack of May 9th. Skipper Pavelka and I went all
through the devastated German trenches. I could find scarcely anything
as we were there nearly three weeks after the attack and countless
French soldiers had searched before us. I found some envelopes and
wrappers for parcel post packages with the German postage stamps
attached, and I send these to you; it will be seen the letters bear
Bavarian postage stamps, and are directed to Bavarian infantry soldiers.

The German trenches were built much better than ours. Some of the huts
in which the men lived were twenty feet under ground. They used a great
number of dirt sacks: there must be a shortage of strong material in
Germany, as these sacks were made mostly from cheap, light calico which
was hardly strong enough to hold the earth.

They had an extensive system of mines and we made the attack just in
time as Pavelka and I investigated the saps with the aid of a candle.
They were all loaded and wired ready to be set off. One of them had been
exploded. The Germans lost their bearings in digging, because the hole
was actually nearer their own lines than it was to ours. They used a
tremendous charge and the explosion must have been terrific for the
result reminded me of the crater of a volcano; it was easily thirty feet

Our bombardment before the attack of May 9th had played havoc with the
German trenches; a great number of the roofs on the huts had fallen
during the cannonading burying alive all the occupants. Around these
places the stench was horrible. All through these trenches was evidence
of heavy losses on the part of the Germans; at intervals, arms and legs
projected from the walls and floor of the trenches, and all in all it
was a pretty gruesome journey.

As a result of May 9th our line is advanced over two miles, but the
Germans hold a dangerous position on the side of a large hill and it
will be hard work chasing them off.

We have been out to dig trenches a couple of times and believe me we
sure do work. Imagine getting up and working on the ground about two
hundred and fifty yards from the German line with them shooting all the
time. Work! you bet the men work with a will and it does not take long
to get a good trench dug. They have a poor system here. We walk about
seven miles from this town where we are now to the first line, dig a
trench and walk back. We leave at six p. m. and get back at five a.
m.—the idea of walking seven miles to work.

There is not much left of the Legion of May 9th; the Italians have been
liberated to return to their own army. Our company had fifty-five men
out of a full company of two hundred and fifty, but we expect to be
filled up again with the men from Valbonne and Lyon. I should judge one
thousand have already been sent up here from those places.

Well, this war is a great game. The next person who mentions the glories
of war should be jumped on with both feet. Picture the charge with the
band playing and the men singing—what tommy-rot. In the first place the
instruments never get near the actual fighting, and in the second place
the men at that time don’t care a hang for a song.

We have some fun with the boxing gloves, a new set having been sent to
us from Paris. It is surprising to know how many good boxers there are
around here. The other day two Zouaves who weighed about one hundred and
eighty pounds each turned up and were very clever. One had boxed for the
amateur championship of Tunis. They would give many professional
fighters a run for the money. Two French cavalrymen had a bout that
resulted in a knockout.

Time surely does fly: here it is nearly eight months since the old
Goddess of Liberty disappeared into the distance in New York bay. It
does not seem possible.

The ball that hit Rockwell’s leg just missed the bone, so he is
recovering rapidly and hopes to be back with us soon.

We are all in the best of health and getting plenty to eat. We are
unanimous in wishing for the war to end soon. Those who clamor for war
the most in the States are those who know nothing about it. War is an
asinine waste and I take my hat off to President Wilson for his level

Footnote 4:

  The above was the last letter received; the communication on the
  following page was written on a military postal card.

    _(Place Unknown)
    June 15, 1915._

Dear Dad:

All well. Received your letter of May 30, 1915. We were there all right.
Will write later. Love to all.


                  *       *       *       *       *

The First Regiment was cited in the official Order of the Day, as

    “The First Foreign Regiment of the Second _régiment de Marche_,
    ordered May 9th under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Cot to make
    a bayonet charge on a strong German position, went into the attack,
    the officers leading in front of the men, with a superb gallantry,
    gaining, with only brief stops, several kilometres of ground, in
    spite of an extremely strong resistance of the enemy and a violent
    fire from his machine guns.”

_Le Figaro_ of Paris, May 18th, 1915, contains an article from which the
following translation is an extract, under the heading, “Nos succés du 9
mai dans le secteur, Carency-Neuville.”

    “The attack on La Targette, led by a division of the army corps from
    the neighborhood, mentioned in the army order, was conducted with a
    remarkable boldness and was a complete success.

    “The artillery had, by its fire, demolished a large part of the
    barb-wire and other accessories of the defence. A certain number of
    mitrailleuses had escaped destruction, and the enemy continued to
    hold them.

    “At the first assault our infantry reached the border of the woods,
    but it was stopped there by fire on the flank. The infantry resumed
    the attack immediately and took a part of the trenches at ten
    o’clock; which it held, and at a quarter past eleven took all of La
    Targette and three hundred and fifty prisoners, many pieces of
    seventy-seven and a large number of mitrailleuses.

    “Holding La Targette, they were masters of the cross-roads of
    Arras-Béthune and Mont Saint-Eloi-Neuville.

    “They reformed rapidly, thanks to the heroic work of the engineer
    corps, and advanced upon Neuville.

    “This village presents itself in the form of a point. It was, as an
    officer expressed it, 'a real bundle of mitrailleuses and of
    lancebombs.’ The assault was, however, made and about three o’clock
    we attacked the church.

    “From each loopholed house, from each cellar organized into a
    covered trench, the enemy fired on our men. They conquered, however,
    house by house, half of the village, and in spite of all
    counter-attacks we held the captured ground. It was a tremendous
    struggle amidst the wreckage and smoke.

    “Every minute augmented the number of prisoners. We saw them rush
    out from their hiding places, reckless of safety, stupefied by our
    bombardment, dumbfounded by our dash, and in a moment, towards the
    other side of the village some columns were detached, and our
    cavalry conducted the prisoners towards the rear, to the great joy
    of the population.

    “Behold the road of Béthune: a new attack. The battalions in the
    lead scaled the slope at the east and behind them, the others
    arriving, killed and despatched all whom they encountered.

    “Our officers fell in great numbers. Of four chiefs of battalions
    there was not more than one left. One of the colonels is seriously
    wounded. The general of the brigade who led in advance of his
    troops, had his chest pierced by a ball.

    “It made no difference, they went on with redoubled ardor. The men
    came at a gymnastic pace, leaped over the trenches, attacked the
    crest and the very crown of the crest.

    “The courier started, reached the telephonic post and sent in an
    account. One can hardly believe it. It was done; more than four
    kilometres gained (two and a half miles).

    “Never before in this war of a siege which has lasted for seven
    months, has a like success been obtained either by the Germans or by
    us. A German colonel was taken prisoner at his post of command.
    Behind our victorious battalions, our forces gathered up and
    unearthed from their burrows hundreds of Germans. We destroyed or
    captured, substantially, a whole brigade.”


_Battle of Artois—Souchez—Hill No. 119._

No communication has been received from Russell Kelly since his postal
card of June 15th, mentioned in the foregoing chapter. He took part with
his regiment in the battle on the following day, and since then has been
missing, and his name is still carried on the French War Office Official
list of missing. As the reader may be interested in the subsequent
occurrences, the following facts are given.

The battle of Waterloo occurred on June 18, 1815, and as its centenary
approached the public expected an unusual effort would be made in
commemoration of that momentous event.

Whether or not the warring powers gave any heed to this circumstance, is
not known, but preparations were made by the Allies before that date, on
a most extensive scale, for a formidable effort to break through the
German lines in France.

On June 15th the soldiers of the Legion were each given one hundred
extra rounds of ammunition; these they carried in their _meusettes_ or
haversacks; their belts contained the regular allowance of two hundred
and fifty rounds. New underclothing and shirts were furnished to the
troops that day, so that those who might be wounded would be less liable
to contract the dreaded tetanus. A special mass was celebrated that day
and the Catholic soldiers attended to their religious duties. Many of
the soldiers made provision for the event of disaster. John Smith left
an envelope with instructions that it be opened if he did not return
from the attack. When it was opened it was found to contain a statement
that his real name was John Earl Fike, and it gave his mother’s name and
address, with a request that she be notified of his fate. Lawrence
Scanlan also left written directions for notifying his mother and
Russell Kelly sent the postal card given on page 99.

The extreme northerly end of the French line of battle was then at
Souchez and that position was held by one battalion of Zouaves, about
one thousand men; next to them was the Second _régiment de Marche_ of
the First Foreign Regiment, consisting of about four thousand men. In
this last regiment was of course our five Americans, the sixth,
Rockwell, being then in hospital.

An Irish regiment was on the extreme southerly end of the English line,
and thus joined with the French Zouaves.

Pieces of white muslin were pinned to the backs of many of the
Légionnaires (they advanced without knapsacks) so they could be
distinguished from the enemy. This precaution was taken for the reason
that in the attack on May 9th, a serious delay occurred because the
observers attached to the French 75 guns were unable to distinguish the
French from the Germans. A despatch bearer who had messages from the
officers at the front stating that the Legion had made a great advance,
and directing that the range of the guns be changed so as to pass over
the French troops, was killed and the messages undelivered. When the
soldiers of the Legion reached this line of range of their own guns,
many ran into the fire, and the others were compelled to hold back until
another messenger was despatched.

After a terrific bombardment of the German trenches for several days,
the French troops left their trenches at eight o’clock in the morning of
June 16th, for the attack.

Ladders were in the front line trenches to enable the soldiers to get
out quickly; a ladder being provided for every five men.

It will be remembered that on May 9th Battalion C led the advance,
followed by A, and then B, but on June 16th it was Battalion B,
containing these five Americans, that was first to leave in its sector.
It faced a very severe fire from machine guns, rifles and shrapnel. The
men ran forward in a line, at a distance of about a yard apart, and many
fell before the first line of German trenches were reached. These had
been destroyed by the French artillery and vacated by the enemy, and
little of the barbed wide defences remained. However, the broken ground
where those trenches had been afforded some slight shelter and advantage
was taken of it to rest and rearrange the line.

They then rushed for the second line of trenches, which were strongly
defended, having many machine guns in action; the French lost heavily
before reaching these trenches, those who did safely reach them had a
hand to hand fight with the Germans. It was here that Paul Pavelka
received a bayonet wound in his leg and Lawrence Scanlan was severely
wounded in his leg and foot by rifle fire, Russell Kelly received what a
companion described as “a clean wound in his left shoulder that did not
seem to be serious.” All trace of John Smith and Kenneth Weeks was lost
at this point. Weeks carried the supply of hand grenades for his

But in spite of all resistance the French captured those trenches, and
pushed on to the next, where they had another desperate hand to hand
encounter but which they also captured.

This division of the French army then drove its way through Cabaret
Rouge, which has been frequently mentioned in the despatches. It is only
a wine shop on the road to Arras and on the southern outskirts of

In spite of the German artillery and machine gun fire they continued to
advance, driving the enemy before them, capturing many, and taking Hill
No. 119 to the southeast of Souchez. Pavelka and Scanlan, who lay
wounded at the second line of trenches, could plainly see their
comrades, distinguished by the pieces of white muslin on their backs,
fighting their way, step by step, up Hill 119.

The division pushed on towards Givenchy, which is about a mile east of
Souchez; but the Germans were able to attack them on their left flank,
and the German artillery established a curtain of fire and thus cut off
reënforcements. The rest of the line did not advance as fast nor as far
as the portion that included this Battalion, so before the day was over
the Germans had surrounded the men who were so advanced, and subjected
them to a most severe artillery and machine gun fire. The men so
surrounded numbered about five hundred and they held out until the
afternoon of the next day, when, with every man remaining wounded and
exhausted from thirst, they were all captured with the exception of some
few who were able to conceal themselves within the German lines, it
having been since reported that some of the men avoided capture in that

Every officer in the regiment was killed.

The battle that day resulted in a net gain to the Allies of about two
miles in depth over a front of about two miles; which gain was held for
about six months, when the Germans recovered nearly one mile.



    Thursday, June 17, 10 p. m._

Great activity along the entire front during the last two days is
reported in to-day’s despatches. The fighting to the north of Arras has
assumed an extremely violent character since yesterday. Infantry actions
have been numerous and vigorous, while the artillery duel has been
exceptionally violent and uninterrupted. We have achieved important
gains which were almost all maintained despite furious counter attacks,
which were repeated to-day with renewed vigor.

Yesterday and to-day we advanced steadily toward Souchez from the
northwest, the south-west and the west. Further to the south we have
gained a footing in the park of the Carleul Château, where the enemy had
been making use of the moat around the Château as a defensive base. We
captured the Souchez cemetery and gained some ground on the slopes to
the southeast of Souchez (Hill No. 119) following several brilliant
charges. The results achieved yesterday were extended to-day.

After our infantry had delivered some extremely vigorous attacks, which
were most efficaciously supported by the firing of almost three hundred
thousand shells by our artillery, it was compelled to face, during the
night of Wednesday, several violent counter attacks made by important
hostile forces. These attacks were repulsed along the entire front, the
only point evacuated by us being a small wood which we captured
yesterday morning south of Hill No. 119 and which the enemy’s artillery
made it impossible for us to hold.

In these engagements the Germans used eleven divisions, which all
suffered extremely heavy losses. On our side the losses were also

The morale of our troops continues to be perfect. The number of
prisoners captured by us exceeds six hundred, including more than twenty


    Thursday, June 17._

The British and French continued yesterday their attempts to break
through our lines. North of La Bassée Canal the British, overpowered by
Westphalians and Saxons, after a hand-to-hand fight, were forced to beat
a speedy retreat into their positions. South of Souchez the French
succeeded in penetrating into our positions over a width of about 600
metres, and obtained a foothold. Fighting still continues. At all other
points they were repulsed with sanguinary losses.


    Saturday, June 19, 10 p. m._

In the sector to the north of Arras we have continued our action and on
several points gathered the fruits of the favorable engagements of the
last few days....

We hold the slopes of Hill 119 where our troops are maintaining
themselves, clinging to the ground beyond the last German trenches,
notwithstanding counter attacks by the enemy. To the south of these
slopes our front has been carried forward to the northeast of the


    Saturday, 3 p. m._

Several French attacks on the Lorette Hills, on both sides of Neuville
and northeast of Arras broke down. We cleared a few trench sections
which we had previously lost, of all enemies.

Account of battle from the _New York American_, August 7, 1915.


    Orderly Describes Brilliant Charge Against Germans by Squad from U.
    S. in French Ranks

    _By International News Service
    Paris, August 6._

It now seems certain the three Americans of the famous First Regiment of
the Foreign Legion who have been missing since the big fight north of
Arras on June 16th are prisoners in Germany. They are Kenneth Weeks,
Russell Kelly, and John Smith.

The news was brought to Paris by an orderly of the regiment’s colonel,
who, while lying in the field of battle with a shattered leg, was picked
up by the German Red Cross. His leg was amputated in a field hospital
and he was recently repatriated.

According to the orderly, Battalion B, of the Legion in which these
Americans were fighting on June 16th, broke far through the German lines
left of Cabaret Rouge. The Germans reformed on both sides, attacking in
force, and by the curtain of shells and machine-gun fire made
reinforcements or retreat impossible.

The Légionnaires dug in and throughout the night of the 16th until the
afternoon following resisted all attacks. Then, covered with wounds and
parched with thirst, the survivors surrendered.

The American squad when the first regiment moved north from the
Champagne region early in May included Kenneth Weeks, of New Bedford;
Paul Rockwell, of Atlanta; Paul Pavelka, of Madison, Conn.; Russell
Kelly, of New York; Frank Musgrave, of New Orleans; Jack Janz, of
Boston; Lawrence Scanlan, of Cedarhurst, L. I., John Smith, of Los
Angeles; Neamorin, of Calcutta, a graduate of Oxford and a frequent
visitor to America, and Madji Zennis, of Constantinople, formerly an
interpreter for a New York importing house.

The squad was led by Corporal Didier, a gigantic Moor. All were
volunteers for the war except Janz. Janz was the only American in the
entire Legion that had seen African service, having been seven years in

He was shot through the forehead while looking out of a trench toward
the German lines shortly after the arrival of the regiment in the north.

During the fighting around La Targette and Neuville-St. Vaast on May 9th
Janz was shot through the chest with a rifle ball. While he lay on the
battlefield a shell exploded near him and badly lacerated his hips.
Later he was carried off the field to a hospital.

ONLY 700 OF 4,000 LEFT

After the fighting on May 9th, 10th and 11th the Legion was sent to the
rear for re-organization. Only 700 of the 4,000 who had gone into action
answered the roll call.

In the attack of June 16th, which preceded by a terrific thirty-six-hour
bombardment of the German lines, the legion occupied a position near
Souchez and Cabaret Rouge.

The first line of German trenches was literally knocked to pieces by
shell fire and easily taken. The advance on the second line was met by a
stream of lead from rifles and machine guns. Whole sections of the
attacking party were mowed down. Corporal Didier fell, his left arm
literally shot off. Zennis’s lower jaw was torn away. Neamorin fell with
a ball through his abdomen.

Pavelka was the first of the American squad to reach the second line. He
just got to the edge of a trench held by Bavarians when he was stabbed
in the leg with a bayonet.


By then the German trenches were filled with a yelling mass of
Légionnaires, zouaves and tirailleurs. Such of the Germans as could
climbed out of the trenches and threw down their arms. They ran for the
rear, the French in hot pursuit.

Pavelka took shelter in a German trench to bandage his wound. He was
joined there by Kelly, who had been hit in the shoulder, and Smith with
a ball through his leg.

After a rest Pavelka suggested to his comrades that they crawl to the
rear. Kelly and Smith were too weak. Pavelka made his way alone to a
first aid ambulance.

The only American positively known to have been killed June 16th was
Edwin Hall, of Chicago, who arrived at the front a few days before the
battle and was placed in the machine gun section. It was his first time
under fire and he exhibited great coolness and bravery. Hall’s squad
rushed up the machine guns to hold a captured position. The Germans
counter attacked and killed the entire squad.


It may interest the reader to know how the six Americans in the 15th
_escouade_ or squad have since fared, so the following brief statement
is given.

Lawrence Scanlan, called Larney in the narrative, was severely wounded
in his leg and foot June 16th. It was not until the following December
that the last of the pieces of bullets were extracted from his leg. They
were forwarded to his family near New York.

The wounds were so deep that in November, 1916, he was still an invalid,
being in a hospital established by an American, Mrs. Fitzgerald, at
Passy-par-Véron, France. In the summer of 1916 he was awarded the _Croix
de Guerre_ or Military Cross, the citation stating that it was awarded
because he was a good and brave soldier and had been badly wounded. It
was attached while he stood, aided by crutches. In writing of the
ceremony he stated, “I could not help thinking as I stood there that
Russell should be standing beside me, and that we should be receiving
our decorations together.”

Paul Pavelka referred to in the letters as the “skipper,” recovered from
the bayonet wound he received June 16th, and returned to the front. He
was in many severe engagements, and early in the year 1916 was
transferred to the All-American aviation section. He rendered such brave
service in this branch of the army around Verdun that he was made
sergeant in September, 1916, and the following month was awarded the
_Croix de Guerre_ with its green and red ribbon.

Kniffin Yates Rockwell, who was in a hospital June 16th, suffering from
the wound received May 9th, recovered and rejoined the Legion at the
front. He was transferred to the All-American aviation section, and was
so daring and successful that he became known as the Ace. General
Joffre, in person, pinned upon him the _Médaille Militaire_ with its
yellow ribbon, for bringing down a Prussian two-seat aeroplane near
Hartmannsweillerkopf, in May, 1916. On September 9th, 1916, he was
officially credited with having brought down four Prussian aeroplanes.
He was promoted to a lieutenancy. He was also awarded the _Croix de

On September 24th, 1916, he was shot down while defending a flotilla of
bomb-dropping aeroplanes returning to the Verdun lines from an
expedition into territories held by the Prussians. He suffered his fatal
wound while above the town of Thann, and dropped into Alsatian
territory, retaken from the Prussians. This was near the spot where he
shot down his first adversary about April, 1916. He was on his way back
to the air squadron’s base where he would have been informed that he had
been promoted from first sergeant to lieutenant. He was buried with full
military honors, a regiment of French territorials and a battalion of
Alpine chasseurs were the guard of honor.

Lieutenant Rockwell was from Atlanta, Georgia. He had been a cadet at
the Virginia Military Institute, two classes ahead of Russell Kelly.
Both were members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity.

Kenneth Weeks was reported as missing until November 25th, 1915, when
his body was found between the lines of battle. It was learned that he
had been killed June 16th, or 17th, and that his body had lain there for
five months. He was buried in the military cemetery at Pylones near Mont
St. Eloi.

He was from Boston, and had attended Harvard. He was an author of
several books and possessed unusual literary ability.

The first reference to him in the above letters is in one from Verzenay
in March, 1915, it states:

    “Another American was put in our squad; he is from Boston, has been
    in France five years, in the Legion five months and in the trenches
    three months. He is a fine fellow.”

[Illustration: John Earl Fike]

John Earl Fike of Wooster, Ohio, enlisted under the name of his
grandfather, Captain John Smith, who had rendered distinguished services
in our civil war. He and Russell Kelly disappeared during the battle,
and have not been since heard from.

Many notices have been in the newspapers, tending to explain their
absence, all of which on investigation proved incorrect.

The only authoritative information regarding either of them was that
“Russell Kelly was seen in the second line of German trenches with a
clean wound in his left shoulder that did not seem serious.”

After some time the names of these two were placed on the official list
of “missing” and the French Minister of War notified their families that
their names would be carried on that list until a search could be made
in the internment camps of Germany.

The State Department at Washington had special inquiries made by the
American ambassador at Berlin, and on January 3d, 1916, Ambassador
Gerard sent word from Berlin that their names were not reported among
the prisoners of war in Germany.

The German War Office, the Imperial Foreign Office, the German Red
Cross, as well as the International Red Cross at Geneva, Switzerland,
reported that their names were not registered on any list in their

On January 16th the _New York Sun_ contained the following cable:

    “Paris, January 15th. Official news reached the Lyon depot to-day
    that Kenneth Weeks of Boston was killed on June 17th last year near

    “Official announcement also is made that John Earl Fike of Wooster,
    Ohio, was killed the same day. The death of Henry Farnsworth,
    another American in the Foreign Legion, reported on October 16th
    last, is officially confirmed.”

On January 17th all the New York dailies contained the following cable:

    “Paris, January 16th. Five Americans attached to the Foreign Legion,
    whose names were included in the list of casualties at Givenchy on
    June 17th, are now officially reported as having been killed in
    action. They were Russell Kelly of New York, Harman Edwin Hall of
    Chicago, John Earl Fike of Wooster, Ohio, and Kenneth Weeks and
    Henry Farnsworth both of Boston.”

In view of the discrepancy between these despatches, as well as the fact
that seven months elapsed between the disappearance of Kelly and Fike
and the publication of these so-called official notices, doubt was
raised as to their authenticity, and the death of these two will not be
conceded until the facts are disclosed upon which the conclusion of
death is based. Besides, it is now known that the French War Office has
not transferred the two names to the official list of dead.

The uncertainty of his death has been increased in the case of Russell
Kelly, by information given by an English lady. She communicated with
his family, and stated that in September of 1915 she received a letter
from a relative in which he said he and two other English soldiers
together with a French soldier, had been in hiding since the middle of
the previous June, within the German lines, east of Souchez; and that
French peasants had supplied them with clothing and food. It stated that
the French soldier was an American named Kelly, and that he was badly
wounded in the head. The letter had been surreptitiously passed through
the lines.

The high character of the English lady, as well as many corroborating
circumstances, have convinced the family of Russell Kelly of the truth
of the statements; and there being no other American in the Foreign
Legion named Kelly, they believe it refers to him, and that he is still

An adjutant of the regiment sent word, in January, 1916, to Lyon, that
he had seen Russell Kelly and two other prisoners in Belgium. He
reported that Kelly had lost one of his legs and that he was careful not
to disclose his American citizenship. The circumstances connected with
this information show it to be consistent with the story of his being in
hiding the previous September.

These rumors appear to be true but they cannot be satisfactorily

It is known that the French prisoners in Belgium and northern France are
not allowed to communicate in any way with the outside world, although
prisoners in Germany are allowed to send and receive communications from
relatives and friends.

It has been learned that these six Americans after receiving the warning
of the opposition of Germany to Foreign Légionnaires who were not
citizens of a country at war with Germany, discussed plans to be
followed in the event of being taken prisoners.

They determined, if captured, to destroy all regimental marks on their
uniforms, to throw away their army-books, and to assume fictitious



November 3, left New York on steamship _Orcadian_.

November 19, reached Pauillac, France.

November 21, Saturday, docked at Bordeaux.

November 23, applied at recruiting station.

November 24, enlisted in the Foreign Legion.

November 26, began military training at Dépôt de Lyon.


February 6, left barracks for the front.

February 8, arrived at Bouzy, near the front.

March 8, left Bouzy and same day arrived at Verzenay and entered first
line trenches.

April 24, left Verzenay for region north of Arras.

April 28, reached Aubigny; again entered first line trenches.

May 9, Sunday, in the attack on La Targette and Neuville St. Vaast.

May 10, battle continued.

May 11, relieved from the captured position and returned with regiment
to rear for reorganization.

May 29, reëntered first line trenches.

June 16, in the attack on Cabaret Rouge near Souchez and at the taking
of Hill No. 119.

June 18, reported as missing.


 May Still missing.

Is this military record, like the record of many another Legionary,
forever closed; and does that youthful

    “Heart that once beat high for praise
    Now feel that pulse no more?”

                          LA LÉGION ÉTRANGÈRE

All the countries of the old world have “crack” military organizations
famous for deeds of valor, many of which came into existence long before
the time of our revolutionary war. In the United States, most large
cities have at least one regiment with a record of which the civilians
as well as the soldiers are justly proud. But all their histories and
achievements pale before the extraordinary record, ancient formation and
remarkable membership of France’s famous corps, _la Légion étrangère_.
That body is easily the most ancient, unique and widest known military
organization in the world.

Here is a Legion numbering, before this war, eight thousand men, all of
whom, except the officers, being aliens of the country for which they
give up their lives. Very few of them are able to understand the
language of the country, and very few become citizens of the country
even after enlistment in its army.

They are not requested to enlist and when they do apply for admission
they are told of the hardships to be encountered. If the applicant still
insists he must wait until the following day before his application is

Since the beginning of the present war many enlisted, no doubt, from
love of France; but it is difficult to understand how this large
membership was maintained prior to the war.

None enlisted for protection of their homes or families. Nor for glory
as scarcely any Legionary has even become a general. Not for money; the
pay is one cent a day, a wage the meanest outcast in the street would
spurn with scorn. Not for comradeship; the ranks being recruited from
the whole world are too cosmopolitan for lasting friendships.

Not for an easy life; for they were assigned, before this war, to duty
in the unhealthy waste places of Africa and Asia.

Answers to this riddle would be almost as diversified as the volunteers
are numerous.

No weakling can be accepted, for it takes a good physique to stand the
training necessary to develop a man to fight for his life and the
country. For example it is part of the routine of the Legion for each
company to march once a week, in full marching equipment, twenty-eight
miles within ten hours.

Historians cannot agree as to when this Legion was first organized, but
it is conceded that it was in existence in the time of Clovis who stands
out in history as the founder of a new France, and with whose rule
French history begins. He employed this very organization in the year
486 when he defeated the last of the Roman power in northern Gaul, at
Soissons, which city is still in existence and stands less than ten
miles from the place where their equally courageous successors gave up
their lives for that same France, but now a glorious republic, fourteen
hundred and twenty-nine years later.

In our country we consider an institution that is one hundred years old
as ancient, our government itself being in existence less than a century
and a half, yet here is an organization that when Columbus discovered
America, was a thousand years old.

Mercenaries, or troops who serve alien countries for pay, were used from
the very earliest times. Thirteen thousand Greeks fought in the year 401
B. C. under Cyrus, the Persian, against his brother Artaxerxes; and even
the all powerful Romans often availed themselves of the services of
foreign soldiers.

The French always employed large numbers of mercenaries, and in the year
886 their King, Charles le Gros had a bodyguard of foreigners: an
example followed by St. Louis in the year 1226. In the protracted wars
between France and England in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries
these mercenaries formed the major part of both armies.

The last mercenaries used by England were twenty-two thousand Hessians
hired from the landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Casse, Prussia, and for
whom they paid about £3,191,000, or $16,000,000, to assist in the war
against the American colonies. These were the troops that Washington so
decisively defeated at Trenton on Christmas night, 1776.

The Foreign Legion continued under all the French rulers, and Napoleon
frequently acknowledged their great worth to him.

After the Napoleonic wars the Legion was known as The Royal Foreign
Legion. In 1831 a new law was enacted reorganizing the Legion and
establishing its headquarters in Algeria. In 1835 the Legion was the
subject of one of the most remarkable transactions in history; it was
sold by King Louis Philippe to Queen Maria Christina of Spain for a sum
equal to about one hundred and seventeen thousand dollars, being the
estimated value of its arms, uniforms and equipment.

The Legion proceeded to Spain landing at Tarragona, four thousand
strong; it fought valiantly for four years in the first Carlist war, and
when that war ended in the early part of 1839 only five hundred
Légionnaires survived.

Within a few weeks after the old Legion landed in Spain, a new Legion
was organized by France and sent to Algeria, where it did most effective

In the Crimea war the Legion was part of Canrobert’s division at the
battle of the Alma; and during the siege of Sevastopol it was repeatedly
mentioned in reports for its brave and successful efforts. In this
campaign the Legion lost eighteen hundred officers and men, and as a
reward for their gallantry the Emperor gave the Légionnaires the right
to become French citizens should they desire to.

The Legion was part of Maximilian’s forces in Mexico and on April 30th,
1863, near the village of Camaron, a detachment of three officers and
sixty-five Légionnaires held at bay two thousand Mexican cavalry for ten
hours, when the survivors numbering only twenty were captured. As a
reward the word “Camaron” is inscribed on the colors of the First

Four thousand two hundred and thirty-seven officers and men of the
Legion died in Mexico.

In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 the Legion performed remarkable
services as a rear guard, to cover the retreat of the French army.

The Legion in time of peace consists of two regiments, the _Premier_ or
First, and _Deuxième_ or Second, they being kept separate and distinct.
The headquarters of the First Regiment is at Sidi-Bel-Abbés which is in
the northwestern part of Algeria, forty-eight miles inland by rail from
Oran, a port on the Mediterranean. The headquarters of the Second
Regiment is at Saida, also in Algeria.

The First Regiment has the great distinction of having had its flag
decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor, only ten regiments of
the three hundred and odd composing all branches of the French army
having this great honor. It is the boast of its soldiers that “the
Legion of Honor dwells with us.”

This regiment’s flag carries the motto

    “Honneur et Discipline”;

the flags in the other regiments of the French army hear the motto

    “Honneur et Patrie.”

So these wanderers from all countries, after enlistment are without a

At the beginning of the present war these two regiments were mobilized,
and there being a large number of volunteers, each regiment was divided
into four regiments and designated as _régiments de Marche_, or marching
regiments. Each _régiment de Marche_ was divided into four battalions,
being known as A, B, C and D; a battalion consisted of four companies;
each company of four sections; each section of four squads, and there
were sixteen men to a squad. This arrangement accounts for four thousand
and ninety-six men, and as there were additional officers and attachés,
a full _Régiment de Marche_ was frequently composed of as many as four
thousand four hundred men.

The four _régiments de Marche_ of the First _Régiment étrangère_ were,
therefore, about seventeen thousand strong.

The Second _Régiment étrangère_ was, in the same way, divided into four
_régiments de Marche_, and was of the same numerical strength as the
First _Régiment étrangère_. Hence, the Foreign Legion in April and May,
1915, when its ranks were full, consisted of about thirty-four thousand

The First _Régiment de Marche_ of the First _Régiment étrangère_ was
composed mostly of Garibaldians, the second of Swedes, Spaniards,
Russians, Canadians, English, Americans, and others, while the third and
fourth were mostly Greeks.

The designation of Russell A. Kelly was as follows:

     Soldat KELLY, Russell. No. 24641
     1  Régiment étrangère
     2  Régiment de Marche
     Battalion B
     2 Compagnie
     4 Section
    15 Escouade

The Légionnaires who survived the battle of June 16th, 1915, being very
few in number, were assigned some weeks later to the Second foreign
regiment, then located in the Champagne district, to the east of Rheims.

On September 25th, that regiment took part in a very severe attack on
the German lines between Souain and Perthes-le-Hurlus, about
twenty-seven miles from Rheims. This attack continued on the 26th, 27th
and 28th and was entirely successful, for they finally captured the
redoubt of Bois Sabot, but at the cost of more than half of the
regiment. This engagement is now designated as the battle of Champagne,
and is considered one of the most important battles of the war.

The Legion, after being recruited and generally strengthened, next took
part in the very severe fighting in December at Hartmannsweilerkopf in
the Vosges.

It did exceptional work in the severe battles around Verdun in February
and March. The following despatch was sent from Paris March 7th, 1916:

    “The unanimous French military opinion is that the recapture of
    Douaumont by the French infantry line, the Foreign Legion and
    chasseurs, on Feb. 26th, was one of the finest feats in military
    annals and equal to Gen. Galliéni’s famous charge at Sedan in 1870.”

In the summer of 1916 the French government revived the ancient
Fourragère decoration; this consists of a braided cord about 34 inches
long, terminating in an aiguillette; one end is fastened on the
soldier’s left shoulder, and then extended under his left arm and
fastened on his left breast so that the aiguillette hangs below this
second fastening.

It is not awarded for individual merit, but is conferred on a military
unit, as a section, company, battalion, or sometimes an entire regiment;
it is a reward for two distinct citations for unusual bravery or

Almost the first award made was to the entire Second _Régiment de
Marche_ of the First Foreign Regiment. The two citations entitling the
regiment to this revived decoration were, first, for its extraordinary
work during the battle of Artois, which began May 9th and ended June
19th, 1915; and second, for equally meritorious and successful action
during the battle of Champagne, which took place from September 20th to
October 17th, 1915.

For several years prior to the present war, the Germans very bitterly
attacked the French Foreign Legion by articles in their newspapers and
magazines, as well as pictures in their moving picture shows and songs
in their café concerts. One very violent attack was a play entitled,
“The Hypocrite,” which was first produced February 24th, 1914, at the
Künstler Theatre, Berlin.

In a ray of green light a legionary advanced toward the front of the
stage with a sign inscribed “We are the légionnaires of Africa” written
in French; it continued in German, “All that you behold here is strictly
true; we show you what we suffer and how we die.”

The play was received with great applause, although the critic of the
_Berliner Tageblatt_ had the fairness to write, “This drama of the
Legion is a sluggish and untimely melody of the boulevard.”

Germany’s arguments against the Legion were summarized in the Spring of
1914 as follows, viz.:

FIRST. They deny the right of a modern state to have recourse for its
defence to the services of foreign subjects and they say they have been
confirmed in this by the fact that all states, except France, have
successively renounced the employment of foreign soldiers.

SECOND. That the contract on enlistment is harsh as the duration of the
services is too long, the pay is insufficient and the service imposed is

THIRD. That France takes advantage of the wretchedness of the applicants
and secures their enlistment while they are in ignorance of the severity
of the service.

FOURTH. That recruiting is carried on by crimps who abuse their victims
by getting them drunk and by false promises, and it results in forming a
scandalous mixture of starving men, adventurers and bandits, devoted to
drunkenness and the most infamous morals.

FIFTH. That it is applicable to minors, recruits being taken at the age
of eighteen years.

SIXTH. That Germany has, more than any other country, the right to
occupy itself with that which is going on in the Legion, by reason of
the great number of its subjects who serve there.

Mr. Gaston Moch issued a book in Paris in 1914, before the war, entitled
“The Question of the Foreign Legion,” in which he fully discusses these
arguments from the French side.

The Foreign Legion is, therefore, acknowledged to be the last of the
mercenaries, a connecting link between the present day and the days
before the beginning of the Christian era.

Transcriber's Notes:

Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.

Typographical errors were silently corrected.

Spelling and hyphenation were made consistent when a predominant form
was found in this book; otherwise it was not changed.

Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kelly of the Foreign Legion - Letters of Légionnaire Russell A. Kelly" ***

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