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SBButler Letters, December 1918

Dec.1, 1918
Dec.8, 1918
Dec.16, 1918
Dec.22, 1918
Christmas 1918
Dec.29, 1918

December letters to Eva


19 France, Dec.1, 1918


Dear Mother,

Here's wishing you many happy returns of to-day. I wonder how many of the family were at home to spend Thanksgiving and to-day with you. Over a couple of weeks ago, I should think, I read that demobilization had started at Camp Meade, and I would be interested to see how this affects Ralph, and in general how the demobilization of the units in the States affects the officers. The Stars & Stripes came out this week with the news, already familiar to me, that the 76th was of the first divisions going home and am somewhat concerned over the probability of its being repeated in American newspapers for the perusal of you folks and Eva, being as I'm not of the 76th any longer and won't be with the mere skeleton of it returning at the present time. Naturally I hope my homecoming won't be delayed a tremendously long time but wouldn't mind having the winter with the army of occupation and getting home with the early spring. That would be the best arrangement possible.

Certainly I hope not to spend many months at this place. There are no people of higher rank than myself at this place except a captain who ranks me in point of time. Yet they are established here, & we are not sent to displace them in any way, just furnish additional personnel for their work. It is a base port, where truck are received, assembled, & from which they are convoyed to the front. Of course I can't help but admit a certain pleasure at being the commander of the Train for a time, as I have been now for three days. But I shall at the same time welcome a telegram directing me to report up to Major June. I think Leviseur & I stand a fair chance of getting up there with him, for he is going to try for us first.

The Major went Friday morning. The previous evening, Thanksgiving, we had a big dinner for him downtown, and presented him with a gold wristwatch which I happened to know was a real need.

On our way back in the early part of the week the Major & I had one more day, Tuesday, in Paris, during which we searched for Motor Transport Corps insignia (a wheel with silver rim, bronze spokes, surmounted by a Roman helmet with wings.) We were unsuccessful, so the birdie still flies. Did I ever tell you that the color of the Motor Transport Corps is purple. A change in tables of organization recently came out making supply train enlisted personnel MTC, & by the rule that an officer wears the insignia of the corps to which he is detailed, we, being detailed with MTC troops, immediately changed the buff piping on our overseas caps to purple. By the way, I'll send along in here a couple of post card photographs taken just before we left our old station, me alone & me with Fred Leviseur. I guess you haven't seen me in overseas cap & Sam Browne belt before. I had a profound dislike for the overseas cap while it had the buff piping, but I'm not overly crazy about it in any event, and wear my barracks cap a great deal.

Tuesday while in Paris, I also looked up Cousin Eva Brainerd & was told at YMCA headquarters she had gone back to America. I believe you wrote me she was expecting to in October.

It seems some little time since I've had any mail. Our move will cost us a little delay on that score, no doubt. If I get up with the Major, I'll cable you if possible my change of address, & ask you to send it to Eva.

This ought to get to you about Christmas, I expect, so if it does, a right merry one to all.

Lots of love
Sylvester


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


20 Le Havre, France
8 Dec.1918

Dear Mother,

Let's see, I believe last week I was still writing from Somewhere in France; since then we've gotten the official order lifting all ban on mention of places. Up above you see where we've been the last two weeks and a half. A place I shouldn't choose to live in - an ocean of mud and constant bad weather. Though maybe the latter is the season, I'm not sure.

During the week I have been trying to carry out the responsibilities incumbent on me as C.O. of our venerable outfit, and have had rather a good week of it, not so much for the way anything has gone, but because I like to have the responsibility. I have furnished personnel for three convoys of trucks out of here to stations up in the interior - one under Fitts, one under Taylor, & the third under Anderson. We are not going to furnish personnel for any more however. A number of our outfit have been used on assembly and testing details about the park. I have kept out a number of men for construction of our own, for we have put up a kitchen, mess hall, and over flow tents for ourselves. This has meant some little chasing and fighting for floors, lumber, cinders, cans, and my crowning prize, two rolling kitchens yesterday for heating water & coffee. Did I tell you last week of our influenza epidemic? When the Major & I came back from Paris we found about 60 men in the hospital with it; a number of them have been very very sick, and not a few have had pneumonia. I have been up at the hospital every other day and tried to see them all if possible each time. They have come out quite rapidly the last 3 or 4 days & this afternoon I think I had only about 15 to visit.

Yesterday afternoon I declared a day of rest after about 3:15, on my way to the barracks ran across my motorcycle driver, and decided to jump into the side-car and follow our noses. This is a city of sharp ups and downs, which make it very picturesque; we climbed the long hill which seems to run along at even height from the coast in. Then we went along to the north in that section of the city, winding in and out not knowing where we were. Eventually we came out into the country, by very old farms, apparently, with high walled borders and thatched- roofed moss-grown sheds. We hadn't gone very far before we suddenly came to the edge of the steep, tremendously, bank along the English Channel. We were within 30 ft of it, I should say before we realized it. In the open field along back of the bank we saw a number of tumble down sod-covered brick mounds which stirred my curiosity very much. On close inspection we found fireplaces & concluded they were ancient brick kilns, but they couldn't have been used for decades. One wonders how the bank there could be so steep when it is not rock at all. It is clayey soil through I expect, fit for making brick - probably pretty compact in the first place and it is now well fortified with sod.

Nothing definite has stirred yet toward getting up with Major June. The future is quite uncertain at this time.

Hope everyone is well and happy. My best to all.

Lots of love
Sylvester.


21 Le Havre, France
16 Dec.1918


Dear Mother,

Another week finds us much as the last left us, and without much to look forward to in the way of an interesting future. I have had letters from the Major and know he has made efforts to get Leviseur & myself up with him, but nothing has stirred on it yet, despite the fact we have pushed it from this end too. But I am following a sort of laissez faire policy now, and feel more content to stay with the Train, because it is now apparent that, though it occupies a rather subordinate position, it will be kept together, and so long as that is so, it is an organization and needs looking after. The men would naturally feel a bit disgruntled to see all its officers deserting it. So, much as I wish I might have something with more activity, I know that down in my heart I don't want to get that order sending me up with the Major. But I do wish the whole organization could get an order sending it out of here.

The last I heard from the Major his headquarters were at St. Michiel, so he must be seeing interesting things.

Mail is coming very slowly here. I haven't had a letter from you since arriving. I've had 4 from Eva at widely scattered dates, and one from Ralph.

Yesterday afternoon a few of us took a tour of the town's Natural History Museum & it's art museum. They have splendid collections, but poorly displayed, surely so in the case of the former. Most noticeable in the Natural History Museum were the splendid collections of birds and butterflies, of all kinds, colors, descriptions, & shapes. A couple of 1500 yr. old dried up mummies give the imagination a stretch to realize they were people who walked and breathed as we, once.

This week I read the first novel I have dipped into since Pickwick Papers, the winter I was home, most 3 years ago. Perhaps I shouldn't speak of it along side of Dickens for it was only a very ordinary unliterary book of adventure known as "Where Your Treasure Is" by Holman Day, some of whose stories I remember I used to read in Youth's Companion. It was one out of 8 books which the largest bookstore here had, written in English.

There has been no cold weather here at all. In fact, I find it much warmer than at St. Amand in September. With all the attendant circumstances, that makes it doubly hard to realize Xmas is so near, also the anniversary of my glass cup with the pink ribbon, which goes with snow & skating, and is due tomorrow.

Well, my best to everybody and lots of love.

Sylvester.


Capt. S. B. Butler
301st Supply Train
A.P.O.760, American E.F.


22 Le Havre, France
22 Dec.1918


Dear Mother,

After a delay of over a month, it was surely good to get three of your letters this week, the last week in Oct., first in Nov., & last in Nov. Great batches of back mail have come bit you see there is still some due. I also had a splendid letter from Martha with a not-to-be-opened- till-Xmas enclosure. A similar enclosure in one of Eva's letters gives me a start on Christmas morning anyway. Eva wrote very enthusiastically of the rememberences you and Father sent her for her birthday, and was wonderingly delighted that you knew & remembered the day.

Things are running along about the same as ever, outward smiles usually blandishing over inward friction between myself and the folks we're dumped in with. Nothing but squalls have ensued thus far, though my patience has been sorely tried to start a storm. If the army hadn't improved my temper, there might have been several cloudbursts.

We are getting ready for what ought to be a bang up a Christmas dinner as is obtainable for the outfit. Not wishing the men in the other outfits in the park any hard luck, I hope our outfit's Xmas dinner turns them green with envy. We thought at first we wouldn't be able to get any country [note - I think he meant "poultry"], for I had two mess sergeants scouting all the countryside & the best they could get was 60 francs a head. However they later tried a market woman downtown who proved to be honest, & will get them in the country & sell them to us, 40 francs for the females, 44 for the males.

In spare time I have taken some what to reading friction [note - I'm sure he means fiction] for the first time in pretty nearly three years. Started on a couple of books which were quite mediocre, & all I could find, but this week found a store which has a fine assortment of English books in the popular Everyman's Edition & the equally inexpensive English Nelson edition. So at present I am reading Kingsley's Westward Ho, in which description, narrative, dialogue, everything is vivid and entertaining.

I have heard nothing more from Major June, but have gotten an answer to a letter I sent thru channels to the Director Motor Transport Corps relative to a transfer for a few of us, which answer was a disapproval, on the ground that G.H.Q. had directed that no further transfers be made. As I think I explained in detail last week, I really prefer not to be transferred now, and am content to see the matter slide. At present we are scheduled to go home at an early date, which I suppose means any time before the first of March, but of course things may change, and I bank on nothing, and am ready for anything, even quarrels, though they are distasteful.

This must have been a great week in Paris, with all the receptions and other functions, and I should think most of those concerned would be glad when the social aspects of making peace were over & they could settle down to business. I hope this finds all well, and assure you I am tip-top - even only have two cavities left in my teeth - only the best part of a dozen thus far filled will have to be done all over again some day with porcelain to replace the beautiful jaundiced cement the army furnishes.

Lots of love to all
Sylvester


Capt. S. B. Butler
301st Supply Train
A.P.O.760 American E.F.


23 Christmas 1918


Dear Mother,

Just a line to tell you I have been thinking a lot about you to-day and rather wishing I might be spending the day with you.

I have spent it uneventfully enough, as last year. I opened the day with Martha's little package with Christmas greetings, and a little Xmas letter from Eva enclosing a tiny red & a tiny lavender knitted sock, with the word that if you & Lucinthia had both made them for me she supposed she'd have to also.

Cookie spread himself royally, with delicious soup, turkey et al., cake, mince pie, his own delicious rolls, grapes & nuts. "The best meal he ever turned out" is the universal verdict.

For the rest of the day I have done little but read Westward Ho, which I find very fascinating. It is a story of England in the late 1500's and some deeds of adventure of the type of Sir Francis Drake in conflict with the Spanish.

We had some special lunches put up at the men's mess for the men who are at the hospital - turkey sandwiches & a little of everything - and the company commanders took them up to their own men. We got the best that could be gotten together for the men's mess, and I guess all in all no one is forgotten. However I expect everyone looks forward to their 1919 Xmas with considerable more relish.

A Merry Xmas to all and lots of love.

Sylvester


24 Le Havre, France
29 Dec.1918


Dear Mother,

I can't find my number list again to-night, so shan't be able to label this letter in it's proper place in the series. [note - great-grandma must have numbered it as it does have a number]

This week, though Xmas week, has been uneventful as usual. I have already written you a little note Christmas Day, and there is scarcely anything more of which to write of the week's activities. My daily chronology which I thought might be an interesting document becomes duller each day. It was often times very dull in St. Amand, perhaps more often so than not. At least it is so stupid I should be ashamed to have anyone read of it, and I think I shall try to write up a decent connected sketch from it of my European Trip such as it has been, so if any of the folks care to hear anything of it. It has been a pretty disproportionate experience. I think one might call it, considered either as participation in a war, or a Tour of France. Well, it's not our fault, at least - as for the first we were willing to go the limit and went where we were sent; as for the second, we saw as much as we could out of the corner of our eye.

Your letter of Dec.2 came the day after Xmas. I am surely glad Ralph could get home for Thanksgiving and that you had such a fine gathering.

You asked about Moody returning to us. He never did. I think where Eva got that idea was my telling her about his passing thru St. Amand a week or so after he left us. I probably said something about the Aching Void becoming a Returned Bad Penny, for how long we couldn't tell, or some equally sensible remark and then said nothing more at any later time. He tried hard enough to get back, pulled wires & flashed his ring all over, and may be still at it for all I know, but up to the present he has not succeeded. Two companies were transferred with him & two more have long since been organized to take their places, so unless some terrible mix up should occur I hardly believe we shall reunite this side of civilian life. He has been down at Bordeaux now since the last part of September, almost as far away as he could be from us.

I finally have one pair of M.T.C. insignia. My commission will probably never change now, but serving with M.T.C. troops we are all entitled to wear them. Fitts brought them back from the last convoy he took out, on which trip, he met two of my classmates way up in some town of the interior, One was Bunny Warren, a Capt. Inf., in the 78th Division, & the other he must have got the name mixed on, for he remembered it as Kennedy.

This is the time to wish a Happy New Year to everybody, I guess, which of course I do.

Lots of love
Sylvester

Capt. S. B. Butler
301st Supply Train
A.P.O.760 American E.F.

Borrowed envelope


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