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July 14, 1918
July 22, 1918
Letter from Home
Letters to Eva, July 1918
[This is a letter I recently found that Sylvester Butler wrote
to his father the day before he left for France.]
I didn't finally make any additional payment to the University on July 1st, as to do so would have left me without any emergency fund to take across. So the amount I owe it is $250, to be sent as allotments are paid to Mr. F. B. Johnson, Bursar.
I have been up to Spaulding's in Nashua, today, with Pop and the Medico. We just went up and took dinner and stayed a little while thru the afternoon. They have an attractive old home, and a tremendous lot of heirlooms among their furnishings.
It's late, and I'm sleepy and have a bustling day to-morrow, so this will be all I shall write, I guess.
Best of luck. Affectionately,
[Enclosed with letter is a copy of a bulletin authorizing the Army to pay allotments to G. S. Butler of $100 a month out of his pay, plus a notice of Govt. War Risk Insurance of $5000 to be paid to "mother" and $5000 to L.B., who I guess would be Aunt Lucinthia.]
[Also in the envelope, but obviously put there at a different time, is a notice from 2nd. Lieut. Ralph S. Butler, Co. C, 33rd Machine Gun Battalion, Camp Meade, Maryland, October 31st, 1918, giving the cable address of his mother, Mrs. George S. Butler, Rockey Hill, Conn. This was in preparation for his battalion to be shipped overseas, but the Armistice came first.]
[I figure this is about July 18 or 19,1918. There is no envelope, and I would love to know what postmark the Army used that would not allow anyone to know where they were as Gramp seems very careful not to give any details of this. -- Susan Czaja (grand-daughter)]
This is an unexpected chance to drop off a little mail, and let you know everything is O.K. thus far. I thought I was going to be seasick the day we started, but the wobbliness cleared up after we started.
I'm occupying a stateroom with Major June, Capt. Moody, and a medico Captain who brings up children on goat's milk, and snores like a boiling teapot. Everybody is well and happy. There is plenty of work to do, & are plenty of new problems for which experience at camp furnishes no precedent in handling. The 301st Supply Train has a headquarters on a card table in the smoking room. Tony Woodward Yale '13 is on board, and a chap by the name of McKee who was in Vic Crawford's class. Both are Zetas.
First call for retreat has blown, I hope this finds everybody O.K.
Lots of love
Start writing me anytime as
Capt. S. B. Butler
301st Supply Train
American Expeditionary Forces
[he had written "-- New york" under that then crossed it out]
under this the letter is signed "A. Drinkwater, Capt." which is, I presume, an authorization to send it off.
Also, the note below was written (by all soldiers) to be sent off by the Army on their arrival in Europe. They were written, addressed, and all put in a mail bag before they left the U.S., according to an order in the AEF scrapbook.
This is a necessarily hasty note on this last busy day, and will be notice that my ship has safely arrived overseas. Hope everyone is well, and love to all.
This is the sixth day on the boat, and life is proceeding with great regularity; the only thing which changes is the time, and its changes make military punctuality a difficult achievement. Reveille is at 6:00, the men standing at their hammocks, breakfast at 6:30; from then till 10:00 details are cleaning up the troop decks preparatory to morning inspection by the general at 10:30. While he is inspecting the quarters of the troops at that time, the troops are all up on deck in formation, where company commanders are expected to talk about various matters - conduct on shipboard, conduct in case of submarine attack or alarm of any kind, conduct after landing in Europe, censorship regulations, and what-not. Before that hour there is also calisthenics for different companies at different times, and every other day a shower-bath schedule at varying times in the day. Noon mess at 12:00. The entire afternoon is recreation time for our men; they stay up on deck mostly; the monotony being broken once in a while by a boxing match, and a call of "Gangway" for a chap who has caved in & is making for the rail. Supper begins at 5:10 and at 7:00 we have retreat, accompanied by inspection under arms. Taps is at 9:00.
Commissioned officers occupy the 1st class staterooms, non- commissioned officers above the grade of sergeant the 2nd class staterooms, and the rest of the troops the troop-decks. They sleep in hammocks and eat on tables which are laid out under the hammocks, 14 men to a table, two of whom go to the troop galley and get the mess for their table. Those quarters looked uninviting enough at first but they are being thoroughly cleaned each day and look, in our section anyway, very respectable now. Officers eat in the main saloon on the deck just below their staterooms, and the favored non-coms in 2nd class eat in the same place as soon as officers are finished. The food is nothing wonderful but it is plenty good and I have had somewhat of an appetite. It's beginning to slip a bit to-day, I believe.
I occupy a state-room with Major June, Capt. Moody, and a medico captain who belongs to another organization. The last named has the most objectionable snore that I ever heard, and he nearly drives the Major crazy at night.
On about the third day of the voyage I had a chance to drop you off a short letter which I expect you will get soon after the boat has landed. That time is probably a week off yet. I think all will be glad when the voyage is over. The sameness begins to impress itself, when the ordinary attractions of a pleasure trip abroad are somewhat limited. The air is fine and bracing, though, and one feels fine after a promenade on deck. We have had good weather most of the way, and the ocean is a beautiful blue out here.
A few evenings later [7/25/18]
Still we keep going. Today we had quite a bit of excitement because someone knew they saw a submarine, & somebody else knew it was a whale, and at any rate all of us saw a lone ship appear on the southern horizon going west, whose identity has not been established yet so far as I know. Rumors fly here faster than anywhere else the army, or a part of it, is located, I believe, and there are plenty of submarine scares & reports of other ships torpedoed which flutter the credulous. The fat medico seems to be the most nervous. We are ready for them, but the chances of our being torpedoed are about 1 out of 100, I believe.
The days still go along very much the same. I usually go down to our headquarters in the smoking room & do a little work after breakfast in the morning, at 10:30 I go down to the troop decks so as to be present when the general comes thru to make his daily inspection of quarters. At 1:00 we have a 301st Sp. Tr. officers' meeting and at 3:30 I hold a 1st sergeants' meeting. Then at 7:00 attend retreat formation. From time to time I might go down around the troop decks to see how things are going, particularly at mess. I take my turn at being up on deck meals & nights. I study a little French by myself now and then. I walk the deck quite often, hang over the rail from time to time, get a long sleep nights and rest from time to time in the daytime. Really the voyage has been quite restful, but the rest of it I expect will be less so as we get into the danger zone. I have been playing bridge several evenings. Capt. Stuart (our doctor) and myself, playing against Lieut. Leviseur and Melvin an artillery lieutenant. Last night we were trimmed badly but tonight we got our revenge in plenty. I got talking with a lieutenant by the name of Boyd who is on shipboard, tonight, and he knows Ruth Savage and Aunt Lida well. He says Ruth is quite a young lady, very much grown-up, and a great entertainer
Tomorrow I open a couple of birthday letters.
Many thanks for the birthday greetings and the 10 yr. old momento.
This trip is taking quite a little while. You'd think so if you were on it.
This is as far as I got two nights ago. I've forgotten what the interruption was now.
We are reasonably near land now, and hear that tomorrow night or the following morning we shall reach port. Land birds have appeared the last couple of days. To-night a great flock of gulls flew along near our ship; they fly very near the water, taking little flying sprints & then just seeming to ride on the waves. Yesterday and to-day have been more rocky than any others of the voyage, and last night was quite stormy. To-night it is blowing quite a gale outside. There is no one who won't be glad to put their foot on dry land once more.
Sixteenth evening. [about 7/31 or 8/1]
We are staying on shipboard to-night, but we have been docked since 11 o'clock this morning. Our baggage is off, & on its way, and we get on our way to-morrow. I have had my feet on dry land. Wouldn't you like to know just where?
Lots of love to all,
[This was sent to Camp Devens in early July with the note
on the out side' "To be opened July 26th" (his birthday).]
The best of wishes-
The best of health-
The best of luck-
And lots of love-
And many happy
returns of July
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