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SBButler Letters, January 1919

January 5, 1919
January 13, 1919
January 14, 1919 (To Ralph)
January 14, 1919 (To Father)
January 23, 1919
January 26, 1919

Letters to Eva January 1919

25 Le Havre
5 Jan.1919.

Dear Mother,

I just come from my first attempt at a letter in French, to our old friend M. Gillet, the Sous Prefet at St. Amand. I don't know whether it will be comprehensible or not. Naturally it wasn't extremely long.

It has been very amusing to read this week some of the Boston newspapers which have arrived here and tell of the homecoming of the "76th Division". As a matter of fact all that went home was Division Headquarters with a few extra officers, including Ralph Gabriel, the Headquarters Troop, and one Ambulance Co. Its history was hopelessly mixed up & today I read one that capped the climax with a story of how the 301st Supply Train, "the only remaining which could be accounted for"' had gone to a coast town to get new trucks, & how from there four companies were going to drive overland to Germany to join the Third Army (which the intelligent & well-informed reporter had "Third Army Corps").

One of your in-between letters, Nov.17, arrived this week. I still have the 10th to come. One bunch of the Alumni Weeklies has reached me only. I sent over a money order to the Weekly with my A.E.F. address which has started to bear fruit, so I suppose after a while they'll do a double chase across the ocean for me. Your letter of Nov.17th contained the envelope to go with the Xmas package, which hasn't arrived yet, but I guess will one of these days.

I think we have a reasonably good chance of getting to America by March 1, and a very good one of getting there before Easter, but one can't tell, they might find a new use for us. We expect activities to close at this port by the 1st of February.

Nothing at all special has happened during the week. The most I did to celebrate the incoming of a year which is likely to be a bit momentous for me was to listen from my downy couch to the screeching of all the boat whistles in the harbor. We are building a mess hall de luxe for the Train at the present time. You know the more of that you do, the sooner you get orders to go. Did I ever tell you last summer how all that fancy veranda was put on our barracks at Devens, so that we'd get orders across. And didn't it work? At any rate I have believed for some time that it is a false policy not to provide for your comfort because the time during which you expect to enjoy it is dubious. I have read Dumas' Three Musketeers this week with great relish. It is the first Dumas I have read and he is indeed an admirable story teller.

I asked Ralph some 2 months ago to wait for me to get home, but have since repented. Lest I don't get a chance to write to him soon, tell him I withdraw the unreasonable request.

Lots of love to you and all

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

26 Le Havre
13 Jan.1919.

Dear Mother,

My Christmas package finally arrived last Wednesday, exactly two weeks late. I surely enjoyed it, and thank everyone ever so much. Convey to Dad especially my thanks for the much needed toothbrush and the shoe- laces, and for yourself many thanks for the socks which I assume you saved out for later presentation, not being able to get it into the 9x4x3. Those Lucinthia made were very fine, of course including the purple stripes at the top. Wasn't that a lovely picture of Eva? It was a complete surprise, and my! but I was pleased! Have you one too? I had a later package a couple of days ago from Wannamaker's in London, containing a sort of chocolate nut fudge cake, which Mrs. Couch sent me, I presume by arrangement with Wannamaker, N.Y. Surely it was very nice of her.

The past week has been marked by the departure of Lieuts. Leviseur and Anderson for the Supply Train of the 1st Division, stationed about 25 miles north of Coblentz on the Rhine. I miss Leviseur tremendously, both in a personal way, for I had grown to be very fond of him, and officially because he was so exceptionally capable, energetic, and dependable. Other officers are likely to be transferred away from me, as I had a telegram from the Chief Quartermaster about ten days ago calling for names of officers who could be spared for Supply Trains in the Army of Occupation, volunteers preferred, and I gave him six names of those anxious to get up there.

I have just spent a most enjoyable and profitable week-end. Achorn and I took one of our moto-cycles, he driving and a side car passenger, and drove up to Rouen, 50 miles up the Seine from here, Saturday afternoon, spent the night, and visited its interesting spots Sunday morning, & returned in the afternoon. We went up by the Route Nationale, an interior road, which we thought would be the best, but proved full of bumps - nothing particularly striking about the country, except the prevailing thatched roofs. Saturday evening we just went to a movie (including a Charlie Chaplin film) and bought a guide book with which to plan out an effective morning's tour. We found in it an outline of just what one should do in Rouen if one only had a half day, and after digesting the important facts about the spots named, we proceeded to take the half day tour Sunday morning. It was all within easy walking distance. First we went to the old market place, in one corner of which is marked out the exact spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. We followed that by going to see the Great Clock and the Belfry Tower. The Great Clock has two faces on either side of an arch over a street named after the clock, and was constructed back in 1511. We found a store whose proprietor kept a key which gave us entrance to the arch & the interior workings of the clock. Access to the Belfry Tower was had by a nearby passage, and we climbed up its ancient stone steps (200 of them) to the top, and out on to the terrace at the top, from which a splendid view could be obtained of the whole city. After the tower, we walked to the Cathedral Notre Dame, (started in 1201, and finished some 3 centuries later). It is a magnificent structure, inside & out, and for me to attempt to describe it I fear would be to belittle it. John and I happened to go in during a mass, and I was delighted to be able to hear some of its music. We went from there to another church, that of Saint-Ouen, a later & not quite so elaborate an edifice as the Notre Dame, but imposing none the less. We followed our route from there by a splendid statue of Napoleon I to the tower where Joan of Arc was incarcerated before her execution. We were hoping to go up into it, but were disappointed. We last visited the Palace of Justice, a finely wrought Gothic structure built around three sides of a spacious court. We found a guide in there who showed us around the various rooms, all serving the various kinds and degrees of Departmental courts. After an unusually delicious dinner of soul-warming consomme, home-tasting omelet, and long lost mutton chops, we started back along another route, following generally the valley of the Seine. It was a much better road for traveling, and much more interesting than the one on which we came up. The valley is very broad along our route, but when you do come to the hills they rise rather abruptly. Much of the way they are chalk-like cliffs, but just what kind of rock they are I don't know. They have quarried considerably. It is very strange to see the houses built in the rocks, often just cave-homes. The day of cave dwellers is not gone for all the world. We surely had altogether an interesting and worthwhile time. Otherwise we're still hanging tight and conjecturing on the future.

Lots of love to you & all

Le Havre, France
14 Jan.1919.

Dear Ralph,

Your letter of 14 Dec. reached me to-day. I was surely glad to get those pictures of yourself, and have already mailed one set to Major June, as per your request. The Major is now Assistant M.T.O. of the Second Army, headquarters at Toul, having made another change since he left us.

There is little change since I last wrote you. We have been in a waiting state of mind for two months now, and it is anything but pleasurable. If we are going to be over here long, I wish we could have a decent job up in the Army of Occupation, as the papers had us, according to a clipping I got from home to-day. We have been on a priority list for shipment to America since early in December, and I have no reason to believe we're not still there, so am really hoping to get home before spring & believe our chances are good. If we could get a decent job I wouldn't mind staying over, but a base port is far from Paradise, particularly when your organization is new, and only is there so that men can be loaned for this job & that, as needed. We only have two weeks more to a gold stripe, and then embarkation orders can't come too soon, for I think a job for the whole Train with the Army of Occupation is out of the question. Really it would be better for me to get home in the early spring, from the point of view of personal considerations, so as to get well situated for the fall while the picking is good, and have the summer to do some brushing up in - after a honeymoon. I intend to strike strong for something worth while in my chosen line, and if I'm on the field in the Spring I will have somewhat of an advantage.

I remember I asked you to wait for me to get back for the wedding, but, much as I wish I might be there, I know the request is unreasonable, & trust you have ignored it.

On the money proposition - it is a bit disquieting that you make no mention of the $50 I sent to Winnie for you some three months ago. I surely could ill afford to have even that sum go astray. Money disappears over here much quicker than I expected; everything is high, particularly for the Americans, and of course not being at the front has given more of an opportunity to spend. Some of the little trips I have taken, especially to Paris, have of course all dug in for their share, particularly on the eating proposition. For instance, last Sunday John Achorn & I each paid twenty one francs (almost four dollars) for a dinner comprising not a thing else but consomme, two egg omelet, a mutton chop, French fried potatoes, an orange, & a banana! Can you beat that? Thru the fall I wasn't so careful, but for a month I have lived by a rigidly penurious policy, which I shall endeavor to maintain until my return, particularly if it is early. Well, to come back, (this wasn't all meant to be a hard luck excuse) - you say Father sent you $75 of my allotment accumulation; I did give you that $10 on the principal some time ago; and I hope you have that $50 I sent thru Winnie (U.S. P.O. moneyorder). That has you owing me $35, before deducting interest. You spoke of "$100 or so", so if you want to take the other $65 to make $100, go ahead, but I'm afraid I'll need it back to help float S. B. Butler & Co. when summer comes. If it's temporary use will do you any good, I surely want to have you use it.

I wrote Uncle Bill about a month ago and hope he has heard from me before now. I'm sorry to hear he's still in such a fret.

I'm glad to get the good reports on Curly's girl.

Give my best to all the crew, if you are back home. If you see Doc Bush tell him I appreciated his Xmas card very much; also Ruth Austin Beers.

Wishing you the best of luck as ever.

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

Le Havre, France
14 Jan.1919.

Dear Dad,

At Ralph's request, this is authority to hand him out of my funds to the extent of $65.
I was much obliged to get your letter with the details on family history & ancient localities in England. I don't expect to get a chance to visit them, however, as leaves outside of France are next to unobtainable.

You know all the news there is, from my letters to Mother. I received hers of Dec.15 to-day, and was surprised to learn that the 301st Supply Train is in Germany. It is safely tucked away in the mud here last I saw of it, a couple of hours ago, so the report must be a bit previous, or some of our old friends of 76th Division Hdqrs. were throwing the bull a bit loosely on their return. I wish either I might have a chance to boss the Train on a decent job up where the papers have us or else hear some real definite embarkation news. As it is, we stand and wait. But I believe someone once said such people also served.

With the Peace Conferences just opening these are indeed interesting days to watch. And especially interesting is the internal political situation in Russia, Poland, and Germany. It seems like a hard proposition, when it comes to seeing how to deal with it. But I have found it hard thus far to see how Allied Armies would do anything but complicate the situation as far as Russia is concerned; I believe Germany will settle down reasonably soon; for Poland, however, a bit of active assistance would seem not altogether out of place. I shouldn't wonder but you folks at home know more about the actualities of the situation than we. I am following it with considerable avidity as far as is possible - thru the well censored columns of the Paris New York Herald.

Well, I hope everything is going O.K. I suppose you're giving away farms to returning soldiers.


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

27 Le Havre
23 Jan.1919.

Dear Mother,

I am late this week, largely due to a bit of indisposition following an inoculation against pneumonia last Thursday. The shot started a revolution in my stomach, which still leaves it feeling little better than in a dormant volcanic state. But I have been able to eat my meals the last two days, and guess the short temporary discomfort to attain two years' immunity from one more human ill, is practically over.

In the meantime I have received, in the order named, your letters of Dec.16,30, & 23. In the first named I appreciated your send-off & good wishes for "good luck & joy" on my "march into the Kaiser's country", but you know since some time how far that has gotten me.

The news of Deac Bennett's death was indeed a shock. I thought a great deal of him, and his companionship was always agreeable.

I'm sorry Aunt Elizabeth should have such a misfortune, and hope surely that the arm is healing quickly, and that she may soon have the use of it again.

You asked me if I were having any trouble with my arm. None at all, nor with my head, where the doctor promised me trouble for a year, whenever I should be working under exciting conditions, not that I'm working under exciting conditions, but in my relations with certain persons at this place I have at times been obliged to have it going at somewhat of a high pitch, even with the scenery just four walls.

I had not been in Paris before the trip with the Major in late November. There never would have been any prohibition against mentioning Paris, or being there. The lace pieces I sent over for Christmas were purchased at one Mme. Peltier's in St. Amand.
To-day, with your Dec.23 letter, I received cards from Miss Noble (with the little picture of the Cromwell Honor Roll list), Aunt Ella, Aunt Lucy, and Ephriam Mitchell. They were all in a batch of mail which got side-tracked down to St. Amand, and was picked up by Taylor on his way back from taking up a convoy of trucks. He saw our old friend James B. Jr. [note - Moody] in his travels, who is still pussyfooting. Incidentally I have found this week that J.B.M. has competitors for champion in his own peculiar lines.

Fitts came back from a convoy last week during which he ran across Beers at Verneuil. I was quite surprised to learn that the latter is now in command of a Prisoner of War Escort Co. (80 men) which handles 450 Hun prisoners. Apparently he's not having a very hard life. A peculiar incident occurred while Fitts was there. One of his men, Engel by name, saw thru the stockade a German captain whom he recognized as his own brother! and secured permission from Beers to speak with him. Engel, by the way, was a German by birth, & naturalized; but his brother remained in the old country.

Since I last wrote, the Park has changed commanders. I was hoping for the better, and attempted at once to establish an entente cordiale with the new Park C.O. when he came on. But in his new capacity he has proved a typical Moody, and with most of the old regime with him, things seemed worse than ever, until open hostilities developed two days ago and grievances were freely aired before the Chief Motor Transport Officer. The conference ended with handshaking all around, bygones-bygones, new spirit of cooperation all around, etc., etc., and as always, I am trying to do my half-way and more, but the two days which have elapsed still have instances of little spite tricks, double- dealing, & ill-will manifestations. I am plumb totally disgusted, but I guess we'll live along somehow. We are straining our ears for any news of orders Westward.

Trust I'll have something more interesting and cheerful to write about next time.

Lots of love to all Sylvester

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

28 Le Havre
26 Jan.1919. [Sun.]

Dear Mother,

It is not long since my last letter, which I didn't get to until the middle of the week. Nothing especial has happened since that time, and we're living along as best we can. The Stars and Stripes of last Friday published a sailing list which included the 308th Supply Train and thereby showed there is such a thing as a Supply Train going home. So if we're forgotten now for the time being, perhaps there'll be room found for us some day.

This afternoon the Doctor and I took quite a walk, first down town, thence to the boulevard along the sea, and even beyond that, on a mere path. It was in the section of Le Havre which we saw during our brief stay here in August when we crossed over from England. Up from the Boulevard there is a sharp rise to the ridge all along the way along it, which finally ends in a headland in the channel. Houses and stone walls, and well kept terraced gardens are seemingly just carved into the hill, and every square inch is occupied. It seems an excellent subject for a cubist picture.

They seem to be getting along with the Peace Conference, despite the impatience of the Paris edition of the New York Herald and probably others. It seems as though people would realize that such a tremendous thing takes time. The decision to hold the Prinkipos conference with representatives of the Russian factions, wisely commended by the English newspapers, is lashed with red-eyed fury by the worthy Herald. I am wondering what other American papers are saying at home. I don't see how anyone could doubt the wisdom of the council in inviting such a conference.

The indisposition started by the pneumonia inoculation, is completely over, and I am eating my three squares a day with perfect comfort, though not without the perpetual consciousness that there are things some miles across the water which would hit a much more responsive chord in the appetite.

If we had a decent job, the anxiety to get home wouldn't be such a constant reality.

Give my love to all, and keep lots for yourself.

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

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