October 3

October 3, 1862

Friday. Battalion-drill again to-day. That and talking about the new orderly is all I have to record to-day. The whole thing has blown over, evidently. If the cause had been just, I suppose there would have been some way to bring us to terms, but as it now appears, I think the company officers are ashamed of their part, and Kniffin, if he ever gets to be orderly sergeant, will have to come up by the regular route.

October Third

What a brave splendour
Is in the October air! How rich and clear—
How life-full, and all joyous! We must render
Love to the Spring-time, with its sproutings tender,
As to a child quite dear—
But autumn is a noon, prolonged, of glory—
A manhood not yet hoary.
Philip Pendleton Cooke

 

 

Cloudy and foggy; have taken cold in my face; ankle worse today, too; have not been outdoors. Orry Blanchard has been in to see me; saw Mr. Walters in the barroom, also Mr. Hanson, but did not know the former. Sergeant Hogle has called. My wound is paining me more than usual tonight; jaws in bad condition; hope the fractures will heal all right. I thought the Johnnies had shot my whole chin off at first; it was paralyzed a long time, and don't feel right yet; it must be the jaw.

October 3, 1863

Brashear City, La. Saturday. Here yet and just as busy as ever, doing nothing. A week ago to-day I went to the city to be mustered into the Corps de Afrique. At the office I was told to come again on Monday, so I went to the old place on Gravier Street and spent Sunday writing letters. On Monday I went again to the mustering office and was told to wait until Tuesday.

Tuesday morning I made out to swear in. Our boarding master had sent by me for a half barrel of pork, and another of Fulton Market beef, and had given me two ten-dollar bills to pay for it. I got the stuff across the river just too late for the train, and as another did not go until night there was nothing to do but wait. When at last the train was made up I settled down in it for an all-night's ride. It ran about a mile out and was halted by a signal. Soon after, the train-man said we must wait until morning, and I went to sleep. In the night it began raining and it ran through the car roof about as fast as it came.

I got out and went to the engine, where I went on with my nap, but in such cramped-up quarters that I soon woke up again, and then I went to the engine house and finished up the night, the most miserable one of any since that night on the A. G. Brown.

On my way back to the caboose I passed the car on which my pork and beef were the night before, and lo and behold the beef was gone. I saw tracks about the car where it had been taken off and traced it to a house not far away. I then went to the office of the provost marshal, who informed me that as it was not government property he could not help me. I then went back to try and help myself, but the people were all French and I couldn't even tell them what I was after. By this time the train was ready for a start and I got aboard hungry, dirty, and as mad as I could be. I told the man just how it was, and whatever he may have thought, he acted very nice about it, apparently believing every word I said. If I ever get ten dollars ahead, and am where I can do it, I mean to make it up to him. Yesterday some of us went fishing and had good luck. We also got a mess of salt water crabs, which are new to me but which I found to be most delicious. Lieutenant Colonel Parker and four others have gone up the country towards Franklin, to see about new headquarters there. Colonel B. is in the city and the rest of us will wait here until he comes.

The last few nights have been cool enough to keep the mosquitoes down, so about all we do is to eat and sleep and grow fat. Unprofitable servants maybe, but we are obeying orders and that is what we agreed to do.

Tegernsee October 3, 1880

Don't think me as prolific as ——, but I must begin again, as I had to send off my letter with nothing but an answer to your question in it. Lord Granville's visit must have been more busy than pleasant; and their dinner topic is provoking because one always hears that the best men were those one could not have known. Remembering Macaulay, Circourt, and Rémusat, I do not care to believe that Cousin or Radowitz was far superior to them in talk. But then I, again, look back to the people I knew with regret, and think my contemporaries less amusing.

If ever I see Hawarden again, I hope it will not be for a night and half a day, but I do not know when that will be. Let us fix our thoughts on Tegernsee, and pave the way to rest and distraction here next summer.

Without claiming the discernment of Tennyson, I hold fast to what I said. There may be people you dislike for one or two reasons. You have no tenderness for Dizzy; and I am not sure you cared much for either of our gondola companions. There are one or two unpardonable crimes in your code, and one or two chasms that even Dante's mercy cannot bridge. But you never show it, and ill-nature must show itself in speech. I have no doubt at all that the relish with which you held up the mirror of my vices the other day had more of sorrow than of anger, and only a scrap of malice. It must have been Cheney, especially if it was a reminiscence of Holmbury. Freddy Leveson has a touching fidelity to monotonous friendships. This one was laid down, I think, on Holland House foundations.

If I wrapped my poet in too thick a hide of mystery (observe the joke—own cousin to the Bite of Ecuador), it was because I fancied you knew that you have no business to be the P.M.'s daughter, and would never have been, but that Lady Waldegrave, lured by the sweep of the Thames at Nuneham, neglected, or failed, to hook that brilliant Young Englander, Monckton Milnes, poet and statesman. But I know several men, some you never heard of, who, looking back along the road where they took the wrong turning, say to themselves, or at least to their friends: "Well, well; but for this or that I should be P.M. now!"

I have been prevented from finishing by interruptions, one of which was the brief appearance of the Freddy Cavendishes, spoiled by their uncomfortable haste to get away. I suppose what makes her so nice is, partly her affection for her relations. There certainly was no arrière pensée  in her way of speaking of your father.

You cannot too much cultivate his taste for Dickens. Beware of "Little Dorrit," "Oliver Twist," and "Dombey." In "Chuzzlewit" the English scenes are often amusing, but there is a story about Pecksniff that may repel him.

*****

Please do not destroy the ease and serenity and confidence of my letters, which are chatted and whispered, more than written, by wanting to show them—even to Morley, in whom I have great reliance. I should write quite differently, as you rightly say, if I was not writing to the most chosen of correspondents. To Mr. Gladstone I already wrote what was due to my friendship with St. Hilaire, especially as I fancied that Downing Street would be strongly prejudiced against him. Do not turn yourself from an end into a means—one does not justify the other....

October 3, 1915

We have been as near to getting enthusiastically excited as we have since the war began.

Just when everyone had a mind made up that the Allies could not be ready to make their first offensive movement until next spring— resigned to know that it would not be until after a year and a half, and more, of war that we could see our armies in a position to do more than continue to repel the attacks of the enemy—we all waked up on September 27 to the unexpected news that an offensive movement of the French in Champagne had actually begun on the 25th, and was successful.

For three or four days the suspense and the hope alternated. Every day there was an advance, an advance that seemed to be supported by the English about Loos, and all the time we heard at intervals the far-off pounding of the artillery.

For several days our hearts were high. Then there began to creep into the papers hints that it had been a gallant advance, but not a great victory, and far too costly, and that there had been blunders, and we all settled back with the usual philosophy, studied the map of our first-line trenches on September 25, when the attack began,— running through Souain and Perthes, Mesnil, Massiges, and Ville sur Tourbe. We compared it with the line on the night of September 29, when the battle practically ended, running from the outskirts of Auderive in the west to behind Cernay in the east, and took what comfort we could in the 25 kilometres of advance, and three hilltops gained. It looked but a few steps on the map, but it was a few steps nearer the frontier.

Long before you get this, you will have read, in the American papers, details hidden from us, though we know more about this event than about most battles.

You remember the tea-party I had for the boys in our ambulance in June? Well, among the soldiers here that day was a chap named Litigue. He was wounded—his second time—on September 25, the first day of the battle. He was nursed in our ambulance the first time by Mlle. Henriette, and yesterday she had a letter from him, which she lets me translate for you, because it will give you some idea of the battle, of the spirit of the poilus, and also because it contains a bit of news and answers a question you asked me several weeks ago, after the first use of gas attacks in the north.

A l'hôpital St. André de Luhzac,

September 30, 1915 Mademoiselle,

I am writing you tonight a little more at length than I was able to do this morning—then I had not the time, as my nurse was waiting beside my bed to take the card to the post. I wrote it the moment I was able, at the same time that I wrote to my family. I hope it reached you.

I am going to tell you in as few words as possible, how the day passed. The attack began the 25th, at exactly quarter past nine in the morning. The preparatory bombardment had been going on since the 22d. All the regiments had been assembled the night before in their shelters, ready to leap forward.

At daybreak the bombardment recommenced—a terrible storm of shells of every calibre—bombs, torpedoes—flew overhead to salute the Boches, and to complete the destruction which had been going on for three days.

Without paying attention to the few obus which the Boches sent over in reply to our storm, we all mounted the parapets to get a view of the scene. All along our front, in both directions, all we could see was a thick cloud of dust and smoke. For four hours we stood there, without saying a word, waiting the order to advance; officers, common soldiers, young and old, had but one thought,—to get into it and be done with it as quickly as possible. It was just nine o'clock when the officers ordered us into line, ready to advance,—sac au dos, bayonets fixed, musettes full of grenades and asphyxiating bombs. Everyone of us knew that he was facing death out there, but I saw nowhere the smallest sign of shrinking, and at quarter past nine, when we got the signal to start, one cry: "En avant, et vive la France!" burst from thousands and thousands of throats, as we leaped out of the trenches, and it seemed to me that it was but one bound before we were on them.

Once there I seem to remember nothing in detail. It was as if, by enchantment, that I found myself in the midst of the struggle, in heaps of dead and dying. When I fell, and found myself useless in the fight, I dragged myself, on my stomach, towards our trenches. I met stretcher-bearers who were willing to carry me, but I was able to crawl, and so many of my comrades were worse off, that I refused. I crept two kilometres like that until I found a dressing-station. I was suffering terribly with the bullet in my ankle. They extracted it there and dressed the ankle, but I remained, stretched on the ground, two days before I was removed, and I had nothing to eat until I reached here yesterday—four days after I fell. But that could not be helped. There were so many to attend to.

I will let you know how I get on, and I hope for news from you. In the meantime I send you my kindest regards, and my deep gratitude.

Your big friend,

LlTIGUE, A.

I thought you might be interested to see what sort of a letter a real poilu writes, and Litigue is just a big workman, young and energetic.

You remember you asked me if the Allies would ever bring themselves to replying in sort to the gas attacks. You see what Litigue says so simply. They did have asphyxiating bombs. Naturally the most honorable army in the world cannot neglect to reply in sort to a weapon like that. When the Boches have taken some of their own medicine the weapon will be less freely used. Besides, today our men are all protected against gas.

I had hardly settled down to the feeling that the offensive was over and that there was another long winter of inaction—a winter of the same physical and material discomforts as the first—lack of fuel, suspense,—when the news came which makes my feeling very personal. The British offensive in the north has cost me a dear friend. You remember the young English officer who had marched around me in September of last year, during the days preceding the battle of the Marne? He was killed in Belgium on the morning of September 26—the second day of the offensive. He was in command of an anti- aeroplane battery advanced in the night to what was considered a well-concealed position. The German guns, however, got the range. Shrapnel nearly wiped out the command, and the Captain was wounded in the head. He died at the hospital at Etaples half an hour after he arrived, and lies buried in the English cemetery on the dunes, with his face towards the country for which he gave his young life.

I know one must not today regret such sacrifices. Death is—and no one can die better than actively for a great cause. But, when a loved one goes out in youth; when a career of achievement before which a really brilliant future opened, is snapped, one can still be proud, but it is through a veil of tears.

I remember so well that Sunday morning, the 26th of September. It was a beautiful day. The air was clear. The sun shone. I sat all the morning on the lawn watching the clouds, so small and fleecy, and listening to the far-off cannon, not knowing then that it meant the "big offensive." Oddly enough we spoke of him, for Amélie was examining the cherry tree, which she imagined had some sort of malady, and she said: "Do you remember when Captain Noel was here last year how he climbed the tree to pick the cherries?" And I replied that the tree hardly looked solid enough now to bear his weight. I sat thinking of him, and his life of movement and activity under so many climes, and wondered where he was, little thinking that already, that very morning, the sun of his dear life was told, and that we should never, as I had dreamed, talk over his adventures in France as we had so often talked over those in India, in China, and in Africa.

It is odd, but when a friend so dear as he was, yet whom one only saw rarely, in the étapes of his active career, goes out across the great bourne, into the silence and the invisible, it takes time to realize it. It is only after a long waiting, when not even a message comes back, that one comprehends that there are to be no more meetings at the cross-roads. I moved one more portrait into the line under the flags tied with black—that was all.

You hardly knew him, I know, but no one ever saw his upright figure, his thin, clear-cut features, bronzed by tropic suns, and his direct gaze, and forgot him.