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SBButler Letters, February 1918

Feb 3, 1918
Feb 7, 1918
Feb 10, 1918
Feb 17, 1918
Feb 24, 1918

Letters to Eva


Camp Devens
Feb. 3, 1918.


Dear Mother,

We were given a get-a-way problem a week or so ago to work out details on, and I have spent most of to-day working it out. It's due to-morrow, and Moody & I are the only ones who have it done; I guess there will be some hustling around tomorrow.

The test which was to come hasn't yet materialized. It's somewhat of a disappointment, for you can't expect to keep a company on a stand still for day after day, waiting for it; so I've figured it's better to forget it, and progress along the lines laid out in the regular schedule, though not forgetting in my own mind it may fall on us any day. In other words to put in the back of their consciousness the idea of preparation for a test, which did prevail when we were making our intensive preparations for it. I have feared they would grow stale.

Ralph has been around off and on today. He has probably told you Cousin Ed Baldwin was down here for supper & the evening Wednesday. He returned to Saranac Lake on Friday.

Not a word from Sam Sewall. Must say good-night.
Lots of Love,
Sylvester


Camp Devens
Feb. 7, 1918

(He wrote 1917, but the postmark and content say different -- Sue)

Dear Mother,

It was indeed a shock to learn of Edward Couch's death. It seems so especially tragic to have them go on this side of the water; makes it seem more like a needless sacrifice. Yet I believe conditions in our camps are now much better than they were in any previous wars as far as sanitation and health is concerned.

Ralph and I wish that Father or some one at home would get a floral wreath, with ribbon of the national colors, or a couple of small flags, suitably placed on it, to send to his funeral, unless you see an objection to this. A card is enclosed to attach to it. Send me the bill.

Ralph and I will probably both go down to Worcester to-morrow evening to a dance given by Co. A (Lieut. Travers). I don't know whether we shall see Raymond and Eleanor or not, but will of course try to if we get the opportunity.

I am making plans to spend the week-end after this one down home. I had wanted to arrange it at the same time Ralph would come home next, but, as the week following Lucinthia has something on, which he expects us to go to Wellesley for, he wouldn't be able to work the previous week in too. But I think I won't wait any longer; I've been away long enough, being so comparatively near. When I was home Thanksgiving I didn't have the slightest idea I would get home again, in fact a few seemingly substantial little birds had told me we would be on our watery way in a couple of weeks at that time. It seems as though I'd come to live here now; it's surely a long wait.
Lots of Love
Sylvester


Camp Devens
Sun. eve. Feb. 10, 1918


Dear Mother,

Every weekend I make a mental resolution that the next one I will begin to write some differently sized letters, but the resolutions vanish into thin air when the end of the week-end finds me just ready to write letters when it's time to go to bed.

Ralph has probably told you most of the details of Lieut. Travers' dance in Worcester, Friday evening. The train was very late in getting there and by the time we had done supper it was almost nine o'clock and too late to look up Raymond & Eleanor. Strangely enough, Miss Fanny Cook and her sister were there, and I watched the first half of the dancing program & the intermission events with her. The second half I stood around with Jim Greene and swapped sentiments on some people's idea of enjoyment. He and I find ourselves in agreement on most questions that ever come up for discussion except the good faith of members of the legal profession, and simplified spelling. A letter of mine passed thru his hands the other day with my one dereliction in the simplified spelling line, "thru", which has now been a habit of a good many years, and brought it to me and asked why I didn't use the English language in my correspondence.

Bob Travers' dance was preceded by a minstral show given by members of his company. He has lots of talent in his company for this sort of thing, and it was an enjoyable show. Ralph probably told you he was roped in to swell the chorus.

This has been a very quiet Sunday here, and has seemingly restored me with good humor, which I had apparently dropped about a week back; at least everyone who came in contact with me must have thought so. The last straw was the stupidity of Middletown's local board in rating me in Class I-A under the Selective Service Regulations. In addition to writing the Board a formal letter requesting the Board to reclassify me immediately in the group comprising men in the military and naval service, I wrote Mr. C.E. Lyman, whose signature was on the notice, a personal letter, requesting his special attention to the matter, to get it immediately out of the way and free me from red tape and annoyance. I've got lots of time, I have, to fool with questionnaires, let alone make personal trips on time needed for the service of the country, to appeal to District Boards and what-all-not to be exempted from service because I'm already in. A fine bit of service to the enemy, I should say. I only got cooled down from that when Saturday we were paid off and four of my men were not paid because the Paying Quartermaster didn't see fit to understand my remarks in their cases on the payroll - complicated cases they had, and the remarks I spent no little thought & care in to try to suit the whims of the Paymaster's Dept. Well, I've had today to cool down from that, but to-morrow morning I go down to fight the matter out with the Paymaster or his lieutenant old Kaiser Hindenburg Von Hartung, who is the most Dutch Dutchman that ever walked on two feet. His pet delight is to insult his fellow-man, after the manner of his race, but he got his one day when he ripped a Colonel in a raincoat up the back - the Colonel having no insignia on his raincoat to indicate his rank.

Aside from the few individuals I have mentioned, I feel quite charitable toward the rest of mankind.

I was mighty glad to hear of Jack's & Dick's success in getting into Annapolis. I suppose that takes care of them for the next four months.
Good night. Lots of love,
Sylvester


Camp Devens
Feb.17, 1918

[note - there was no date but I'm fairly sure this is where it goes as this was the weekend he was to go home, and he mentions things in this letter, a few weeks from this. --Sue ]

Dear Mother,

The train was an hour late getting to Worcester, so missed connections. A special was promised any minute when we got there, but it took two hours and a half for the minute to come. So that it was almost Taps when I got back to camp. I left my notebook with the beginning of my nonsense verse at home, but remembered all of it & got another notebook in the Worcester station and finished the job for amusement while waiting. I had already composed about three more stanzas on the train coming up, in my head. I read them to Deck Spaulding [note - according to the AEF roster, this man's real name is Dexter.] when I got back because he and I had worked together some other foolishness a while ago, so now we plan next weekend to make up a book, his chief function being to make the cartoons to go with the verse. On separate sheets, I'm sending the whole story. It may be embellished some, and it hasn't any epilogue yet, but perhaps you won't get that far. Some events & personal idiosyncrasies you may be able to read between the lines & others not.

The cake has gone the rounds already, and of course has just added to the dispersion of your fame in the chocolate cake field. Andy sends his special compliments with a declaration of its excellent quality.
Lots of love
Sylvester


Camp Devens
Feb. 24, 1918., Sunday eve.


Dear Mother,

Lucinthia and Winnie have been here to-day and I think have enjoyed their visit. It was naturally pleasant to have them here.

The Gas School hasn't been irksome, as we thought it would be, and I feel that it was quite profitable. We had a lecture for about an hour and a half each morning and then drill with masks, trying for speed in putting them on, marching with them on &c. And one morning went thru the Gas chamber where one deep breath would be fatal; first put our masks on outside & went in; the second time went in & put the masks on there; and the third time walked thru without any mask - the latter was optional, though I guess most of us went thru. Ralph Gabrial attended the course this last week, also Tom Beers so I got to see them somewhat more than I've been accustomed to for some time.

I didn't leave during the holiday; kept working most of the time, my chief accomplishments being the typewriting of my gas defense notes for the week and getting together a complete list of all property which the company & its personnel should draw - quite a formidable list with all the repair tools and so on a truck company has to have.

Over the week-end I have accomplished as much as I'd have liked to for a heavy week ahead. Last night about 8 I came to the conclusion that I'd gotten about all out of the week that I could and played the phonograph to myself for the balance of the evening, instead of getting up my detailed schedule for the week as I had planned. So my daytime spare moments have gone into that to-day, and in the evening I finally got at a job which I had hoped to put a lot of time on during the day. Major Schoonmaker & Lieut. June have compiled a book on Supply Train work, and the major has invited me to go over the proof sheets which have come back and suggest additions and corrections as wholesale as I please. There seem to be a lot which I can suggest, and I think I have a task ahead of me; however not an unwilling one. Also I have yet my two "Military Art" lectures for the week to prepare. And this is payroll & muster-roll week. And what isn't to be crowded in I don't know.

That sheet you found in my shirt is nothing I need anymore.

I have added a pair of tan rubber boots & a pair of tan arctics to the royal wardrobe. The heavy arctics on top of army shoes aren't exactly what you'd want to be found with, in a few miles depth of water with no land in sight. They feel as though you had stepped into some liquid cement which had hardened on you, & had had to be cut out in a square block around your feet.

Well, I must scoot under.
Lots of love
Sylvester.


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