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SBButler Letters, October 1918

Oct. 6, 1918
Oct. 20, 1918
Oct. 27, 1918
Oct. 28, 1918

Letters to Eva, October 1918


12 France [St. Amand-Montrond], Oct. 6, 1918.

Dear Mother,

The week has gone by and ended without any more letters. A big batch came in to-day, which means there is some in, and to-morrow I'll be expecting some. It has been quite an eventful week in the progress of the war with Bulgaria's complete defection, the combined Allied successes on all fronts except the Italian, and to-day the big bid of the Central Powers for peace negotiations; at first sight it looks as though Austria were willing to concede everything, but the German chancellor's first announcement is no concession; and there is nothing to-day as I can see to justify expecting much from the move. It looks as though they were trying to save what they could before matters got worse, which is a perfectly natural thing to do. It shows unmistakably, however, the way things are going.

The Major and I have been out to the General's chateau this afternoon a little while. It is a magnificent and tremendously big place. The huge salon on the second floor holds the greatest amount of comfort within a single room I ever saw - huge soft sinking couches, comfort rockers, billiard table, piano, monster fireplace, and whatnot. Finely carved mantels, panels, gilded but not gaudy furniture, huge portraits and paintings, a few sets of armor mounted on little pedestals, which for all I know may have belonged to some of the old feudal ancestors of the present Marquis. We didn't half go thru it, as our call was mostly social, and probably we'll give it a more thorough probing some other time.

It looks as though the 4th Liberty Loan had beaten all others; barely started, and I read that it has been oversubscribed. America is the livest nation going, once aroused.

These mornings are getting real nice now for shaving with cold water right from the well. However, there are lots of things I would mind worse. We have been having some delicious Spanish melons the last couple of weeks; if I think of it, I'll try to save some seeds and see if they won't grow in America. Whoever thought up melons must have been just about our greatest human benefactor, anyway. Cookie asked me the other day to remember him to you, whenever I was writing. He has grown a mustache, and yesterday went into an excitable photographer's, who started to search him without warning, and when Cookie objected called him a Boche. Cookie carried the matter to the civil authorities and we received word today that if soldier Piranian would go to the photographer with his immediate commanding officer he would receive the amende honorable. So I have an interesting little party to look forward to.

Best of love to all.
Sylvester

Capt. S. B. Butler
301st Supply Train
American Expeditionary Forces.


13 France, Oct. 20, 1918.

Dear Mother,

Yesterday your letter of Sept 30th came, followed to-day by that of Sept.23rd. I have had a couple of letters from Ralph during the week, & one each from Lucinthia & Aunt Sarah and Raymond. It was surely good to hear from Ralph that he had gotten his commission. It's too bad he couldn't have gotten leave to come up home. His letter to-day about his first night as officer of the guard was very amusing. It's been so long since I had anything to do with guard duty or any military formations, for that matter, that it's hard to realize I'm soldiering, particularly at my distance from the front and all the wonderful things which are happening with such startling rapidity these days.

I have a new home which I've lived in for just a week, which consists of two wall tents joined together. We are all living in tents now, fixed up in a row in the far corner of our new motor park. You should see how nice and cosily we are fixed up, the Major and I, in here. It beats being billeted forty ways, with all due account taken of canopied feather beds. It is walled up on the inside with slabs, all around; sides and floor then first covered with paper of the under-carpet style; the floor carpeted; two ample shelves in back on each side, two tiers of little corner shelves on either side in front; the rear tent for sleeping, with our respective cots on each side & a rack above for hanging clothes; the front tent a living room with a table, two chairs & two washstands, and a wood burning cylindrical stove, and a few accessory movable comforts. The two washstands, the table, and my bed - and all the work of boarding and so on were done by 3 or 4 men of the Train. A special carpenter did the furniture pieces and they are works of art, really. Our trucks are parked in this same field now, we have a home made repair shop, fixed up with some machinery, and a new home made headquarters building, which, even to the floor, was made from slab lumber. Our men are in tents across the road, about 400 yds. or so, but we hope to have barracks for them within a reasonable time. Two are up already in another part of the field. So you see we are pretty much together.

We have recovered some of our freight, just 3 months to a day from the time it left us at Devens. I lost my overcoat permanently, but recovered rubber boots, my 12 or 14 yr. old sweater, my Lux washing powder, my personal books, & some little Headquarters stuff I was mighty glad to have.

Things are surely moving fast in the war's history. The rapid advances of the Allied forces in Belgium seem almost incredible. Further down too. St. Quentin, La Fère & Laon, Cambrai and Douai fell remarkably fast; & the advances being made every day on the less spectacular portions of the line would in less favorable times have created no little attention.

Tom Beers passed thru here about 6 days ago & is now about 10 mi. north. I passed his co. going thru the streets here in column, the other day, while I was in a vehicle; we recognized each other then and waved, but I haven't seen him since. I see more of Ralph Gabriel than any of my old friends.

For Christmas, I guess you'd better not try to think of much, for perhaps by now you know the dimensions of the one package each soldier can receive - 9x4x3, & weighing 3 lbs. There is a coupon, one coupon, which each soldier can mail to the states for pasting on Xmas packages & they can't be sent without it. I sent one to Eva just two days ago, and if you can send her whatever little thing you want she will do up the whole thing with hers and send it to me. She has to send it before Nov.20. Don't try to think of much of anything - a tube of Kolynos, a better tooth-brush, would be useful. I had a good mind not to send over a coupon, as it would be so much trouble to think of what to get into 9x4x3, but I've sent it just the same, so it's grand and glorious privilege to help fill it.

I forgot to say I had gotten Father's letter & was glad to know the allotments were coming promptly. Yes finish up everything with them, & the rest will be my dower to myself for a happy occasion which at least gets one day nearer each day.

I have subscribed for the Alumni Weekly to come here & Review to go home. If any Weeklies come to you I would appreciate it, however, if you would send them along.

We are expecting to lose the birdie for the MTC any day, & I will be surely glad to see the change.

You asked about our menus, but there is really nothing so much different from our American ones. We had our first fresh milk to-day, for one thing. Horse-meat we haven't had much. It was only at the first. We get so much thru the Army commissary, shipped from America, that we live quite like Americans.

I think really you'd better tell the rest of the folks besides yourself not to send anything for my Xmas, much as I'd appreciate it, unless it's one piece of candy or something like that. I hope this gets to you in time to get what you want to off to Eva. I am ever so glad you enjoyed her visit so much, and I have been very glad, you can realize, to hear of her taking the school. She seems to be doing well with it.

Must say good-night, and lots of love to all.

Sylvester.

Capt. S. B. Butler . 301st Supply Train . American Expeditionary Forces.


14 France, Oct.27.


Dear Mother,

Please excuse pencil to-night, as my pen with the fancy purple ink has run dry and my ink is all down at headquarters.

We are most comfortably fixed in our tents and find everything much more convenient than when we lived a mile away from our job & another from our men. The only drawback in this tent of ours is the difficulty I seem to have keeping the fire going. As a stoker I am not a success. Our "striker" gets quite a nice fire going, though, each morning before we get up. I hope that it will be a comfort to know your son doesn't have to get up in the cold any more & can even have water all heated up for washing and shaving. Our little Greek didn't want to have me wipe off my own razor after shaving the other morning, but something seemed to say I shouldn't sink to quite a state of helplessness & luxury.

I have materially added to my office force the past week and think I have gotten some good men, too. One is a Harvard '09 man, who has been in business in Montana for a number of years, and who voluntarily enlisted in my old Co. C last spring; he's assistant to my personal sergeant, and I think I'll get a chance to make him a sergeant, too, after a month or so. Another new man I have for what I choose call my new "Transportation Statistics" department, has been a school-teacher in West Virginia for a number of years, his specialty for some time having been agricultural extension schools. He's a newcomer in the Train.

The Major and Fred and I have been out to the Marquise's for tea this afternoon. It has been a lovely day to drive, our first sunshiny day in a long while, and real Indian-summer like. It is most pleasant to go out there for the Marquise is so hospitable, so interesting & intelligent & sincere. We had a table of cookies & jelly, & grapes, & tea, and a delicious nut-raisin cake set for us, and then chatted for a long time in the spacious library afterward. Freddy & I carried a number of books home with us from the library this evening, and if I get a chance, I should have an interesting time. I have a set of memoirs of one Baron Hyde de Neuville, who was closely in touch with political events during the Revolution, the Consulate, and the First Empire; also a book called "Le Roi" which is a historical discussion of the French kingship.

How would you enjoy having two nice smooth-furred mottled dark-and- light brown cats walk all over your table while you ate? Those the Marquis has are quite well trained, however, though they did sniff at most of the different brands of cookies we had this afternoon. And they are the most beautiful cats I ever did see - a glossy, silky mixture of fur of varying shades of brown.

I am sending you a little box of Christmas things this week. Of the articles we are allowed to send lace goods seem to be the most distinctively French, and I found a few things in lace which quite appealed to me. The chair or table cover (rectangular) is for you, the table centerpiece for Aunt Sarah & Aunt Lucy, & the handkerchief for Lucinthia, and I will ask you to do the distribution. All with best wishes for a very merry Xmas which seems a queer thing to be saying on the 27th Oct.

Cookie got your card and was pleased to death over it. And I happen to know he is sending you a Xmas handkerchief as an expression of his appreciation. He has had to experience something very unhappy since being here in connection with his foster-family back in America, and I am especially glad that you remembered him at this time. He came in with a beaming countenance to show me the card the other day and said it was worth a thousand dollars to him.

My best to everybody, & lots of love.
Sylvester.


Oct-28-1918
Rocky Hill-


My dear Sylvester-

It seems a long time since last Tuesday morning, when I got your last letter.

Lucinthia was sick with the "Flu" in her apartment, so I went down to look out for her. She had a good Dr. Aunt Ella's brother-in- law, and he brought her out nicely. We came home on the train yesterday, and she is to stay here a week to recuperate. Dad came down in the car but Dr. said that it was too long a trip for her to take for a first time out. I went out to Uncle Watson's every night, and spent the days with Lucinthia. I would die if I had to live in an apartment all the time. How people are so crazy to get into the city is more than I can understand. A letter from Eva this morning says that your "thorn-in-the-flesh" returned. How did that happen? I'm sorry. Jr. was home for six days last week, so I had a chance to see him several times. His responsibilities have put age on him. It is hard to realize that he is only twenty. He is in Washington code- ing & decode-ing, very intense work while you are at it, like a lot of Chinese puzzles. So they have to work six or eight hours, then off twelve, and every twenty one days, they have three days free. Jack was home over the weekend, so I saw him, too. He went over to see a Brooklyn girl this time- some one he met in New London this summer- he certainly does enjoy the society of girls.

Heard through Winnie that Ralph expected to get home next Sunday. Winnie has gone to Portland, Me- to do some work for the Co- It is surely fine that she gets sent around the country on this insurance work. While I was in the city, I saw several of the camouflaged boats in the river, they are queer looking affairs. What were the colors on the boat you went on?

I did not go to see any of the friends in New York for I didn't want to carry the "Flu" anywhere I didn't have to. Didn't go to the sub- way once- all say that is the worst place for germs.

Lucinthia is going to take a walk out & take these letters down to the mail. Aunt Ella & Dorothy enjoyed hearing a couple of your letters I had with me.

All the rest of the family escaped the "grip"- and L- is all -right again.

Lots of love-
Mother

Had notice from Yale secretary that your name was registered at the Yale Bureau in Paris- Am sending your three Alumni Weeklies to-day.

Mother

[note - Most of the people mentioned here are Great Grandma Carrie's brother Watson Lewis Savage's family. Ella is his wife, Jr. is Watson, jr., Jack is John W., both sons, and Dorothy is his daughter. He had two other sons, Richard & Kirkwood. Watson was six years older than Carrie and married four years before her.-Sue]


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