| Home | Search | SBButler Letters |

SBButler Letters, May 1919

May 3, 1919
May 6, 1919
May 11, 1919
May 21, 1919
May 28, 1919

Letters to between Sylvester and Eva

43 Poitiers, France
3 May 1919. [Sat.]

Dear Mother,

I've been functioning a week and a half now as M. T. O. of the Poitiers area, all of which time has seen rapid developments towards closing out the place. I don't believe we shall be here longer than the 15th at the latest, and are likely to be ordered to clear out before that. In addition to that, everything points to this as my last job, everything points to a seaport and home by June, even early June. There is to be a tremendous speeding up in the shipments in May and June, and on July 1, practically the entire S. O. S. will be absolutely cleared out. That for one thing. Then the Intermediate Section of the S. O. S. is to be practically cleared out by June 1. That's where we are. There are still a few points which will still hang on after but I have every reason to believe none of my outfit will be sent to them; in fact have been told by the officer to whom I am immediately responsible, up at Gievres, that our next move would probably be to the seaboard. That's something more. Then I had a Lieut. Col. inspector here from Tours to-day who said he thinks we're already released on the books of the M. T. C. & that we'll be on our way home most anytime; he thinks my whole Train will be assembled, but I don't know how much he knows. I wish it might. At any rate, his dope is something more. And that's not all. I have received a telegram to-day inquiring the strength of my organization. I more than cheerfully wired an immediate reply (Telegram said "expedite", by the way), what else can be wanted than to make boat reservations for the 301st Supply Train?

I've been kept pretty busy here in Poitiers and had very little chance to get around and see things. Hope to see what should be seen before I go. It's the most difficult city I ever knew for finding one's way around.

I have a jim-dandy Dodge roadster for my personal use. I wish it were mine for keeps. Cars are going dirt cheap over here to the French, but there's too much red tape & duty to trying to take one back, to make it worth while, even if you could afford it.

I'm going to take a run over to St. Amand tomorrow to call on Mme. la Marquise de la Roche, and give my pet Dodge a little exercise. It won't be mine long.

I don't expect to read your reply to this on this side of the Atlantic. Chances for sexennial look pretty good.

Well, be good.

Lots of love

44 Poitiers, France
6 May 1919. [Tues.]

Dear Mother,

John and I took our motor trip Sunday as planned. We had the good weather which always goes with John when he journeys. We found the Marquise in the village of Saulzais, near her chateau, drove her out home, had tea, and visited for a couple of hours. She was as charming as always, and our visit was of course pleasant.

Afterward we drove up to Bourges, about 35 miles or so, where we took dinner, and where John left me to go to Nevers; while I started back on my 150 mile journey at 8:00 o'clock with a premonition. Along about midnight I discovered I had gotten somewhat off my road, but by the aid of the setting moon, I corrected my direction to get going right. That was a mere incident. About one o'clock however I entered a fog which conveniently hung over the road at a spot like this:

       |  |
       v  |
   <----  |

I saw the turn only when I reached it, and hence went over into the field bumping over a ditch which cast my left front wheel, bent the axle, and dented up the fenders. Not a house in sight, no knowledge of where I was, one o'clock in the morning - not altogether a promising situation. At any rate, I started to walk in the most likely direction, and after a mile or so came to a tiny village called La Guerche. I was fortunate enough to discover a house with a light in it, so went up, pounded on the door, finally scared the woman of the house out, and told her my story. She brought me in to tell it all over again to her husband. I found out I was 8 or 9 miles from Dange, the most outlying town in my area. The old man got up and after much effort found a room for me in what passed for a hotel. I don't believe the town had ever seen many Americans for he wanted to know if I were a Belgian. I was tempted to compliment myself that my American accent wasn't recognized, but perhaps he thought my accent was German for twice he asked me for my papers. Fortunately I had written out an order for myself & put the Hdqrs. 301st Supply Train official stamp thereon. A rubber stamp on a typewritten sheet gets you anywhere with a Frenchman. At any rate I finally flopped in a really good bed with most of my clothes on, and eventually got to sleep after rolling around for an hour - a roll for every time I'd think how much higher the bank I went over might have been; a couple of times I was going off a sheer cliff hundreds of feet high and rocks at the bottom.

In the morning I got up ready to walk the 8 or 9 miles to Dange, but had only gone a little way when a recently demobilized farmer came along in his ridiculous old farm-cart and offered me a ride. He wanted to find out all about what had happened to me, & made such diligent inquiries to the state of the car that I thought he wanted information to help rob what he could off of it. So I took especial pains to tell him how quickly a truck would be up there to take it away. As we drove along and he met his acquaintances, he rehearsed my whole story to all of them. But he was allright, I guess. A Frenchman loves to talk and never is at a loss for conversation. I wish I could have a picture of myself seated on the bundle of straw in that cart - like a little corn- crib on two wheels, gig fashion, with long heavy shafts ending up around the horse's ears. Not exactly a conventional picture of an American officer on field duty.

At Dange I picked up a Nash Quad truck and a negro driver from the engineers in the locality, whence I got to Chatellerault, another dozen miles; and there got a light delivery truck which took me back to Poitiers, where I arrived Monday at noon. Thus ended my little adventure. There is a sequel, however, in that this afternoon my little roadster has again been serving me - to which I point with pride as showing the efficiency of the M. T. C. at Poitiers.

Yesterday I cheerfully answered a letter from the Director Motor Transport Corps asking to be checked up on his information as to present locality of my companies "with a view to the movement of this organization to the United States. " That's in black and white. We're going home. It's hard to believe. The United States has become a far- off, unreal, nebulous thing.

From the general cast of the letter it looks as though the Train would be assembled before returning home. If that is so, I shall be very much gratified.

I think this is all for now.

Lots of love,

45 Poitiers, France
May 11, 1919. [Sun.]

Dear Mother,

Since my last letter about five days ago, I've had one more fling at sight-seeing. This time it was Paris. As with all the times I had there, I had really seen very little of Paris, I decided to take Thursday & Friday of last week off for it, after receiving word over the telephone that we should close out here on Monday. I was also attracted by an organ recital announced in the New York Herald for Thursday evening by M. Gigout, a well known Paris organist, at the church of Saint Augustine. Widor gave a recital in the church of Saint Sulpice on Monday for members of the American E. F. , which I wish I might have heard. Dr. Jepson, whom I met in the University Union at breakfast shortly after my arrival, tells me, however, that Widor, who's a very old man, has lost many of his powers, but I should like to have heard him just the same. I attended the organ recital of M. Gigout, as planned, and enjoyed it, though a bit sleepy from my all night train ride from Poitiers.

In the afternoon I had called on the Marquise at her Paris home - one corner of which, by the way, was blown off by the gun last year -; I had expected to do no more than make a call, as she had asked me to do when I should come to Paris, but she immediately proceeded to help me make my whole stay in the city pleasant and profitable. That afternoon we went out and made somewhat of a tour which included, first, the Louvre, after walking from her home, across the Seine, up the Place de la Concorde & thru the Tuileries gardens to it; many of the collections are not replaced yet, since they were hidden or taken away when Paris was in danger, but there was enough for one afternoon, and enough to realize what a wonderful collection it has. The most of the Rubens and Van Dyck, the Rembrandt, the Raphael and the Leonardo daVinci paintings (including the famous Mona Lisa la Jaconde) are back in place. From the Louvre we went to the island in the Seine, which was the beginning of Paris, and on which is located the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the first built of the Gothic Cathedrals of France, the Palais de Justise, the chusrc of Sainte-Chapelle, a place of worship of former kings, & the Conciergerie, where Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette were imprisoned before their execution. We visited the church of Sainte Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, and passed by many notable places - the Institute, the Chamber of Deputies, Palais de Luxembourg - and went thru much of what was old, old Paris.

Toward dinner time we went and found M. Gillet, former Sous-Prefet of Saint Amand, at his office. He is walking about now, and it seemed strange enough to see him thus when I had only known him before bedridden, in a plaster cast. He is now in a private firm, which is concerning itself with reconstruction of the devastated villages in Northern France. I went out to dinner with him, after the Marquise left us, and then left him at his hotel to go to my recital.

The next morning I did quite a little shopping, and partially realized my desire to get a few good pictures which were characteristic representations of different sections of France which I had seen. I had lunch with the Marquise, and in the afternoon was taken out for another tour, riding this time. We visited the Pantheon, in which there are many mural paintings depicting events in the history of France, & in which most of the great men of France are buried; the dedication across the front reads "To the Great men of France"; it is a handsome edifice, of Corinthian design. From there we visited the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, & then the old Hotel de Cluny, which is a museum of old Paris - containing countless old relics such as beautifully carved furniture, ornate old locks, fancy handled pistols, carved ivory work, etc. We visited also the Palais Royal which was built by Richelieu for Louis XIII, and around the inner court of which there used to be 50 years ago all the fancy shops of Paris. It was especially interesting to me for another reason, that I read The Three Musketeers (Dumas) just this last winter, & much of its story is laid in that Palace. We took also a ride in the Bois de Boulogne, the great shady park just outside the city, beyond the end of the Champs Elysees. It being a fine spring day, I could appreciate well what a popular rendezvous it is. Coming back, I saw the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs Elysees, & rode up the whole length of that splendid avenue. We finished the afternoon with tea & a little more shopping, after which I said good-bye to the Marquise, went to my dinner, and started for my train, getting back here about 3 o'clock in the morning.

We are finally not going to-day, , having been instructed to wait a couple of days until our base port orders will probably come along, & we'll know just where we're to go after we turn our trucks over to Romorantin. It's no fooling this time, I guess & I don't believe I'll be far behind this letter. Indications are not lacking that I'll take back over two former A&C companies in addition to our present six. I expect much to happen in the next few days.

It is very beautiful and springlike now, which makes this homegoing news strike even a more responsive chord.

Lots of love

[added sheet]

In looking over your five last letters, I see some questions I don't remember answering. So here goes.

Leviseur is not with Major June. He was transferred to the 1st Supply Train, 1st Division (Third Army) from us, but shortly after got transferred to the Third Army M. P. Battalion (commanded by Capt. Corkriel [note - I'm not sure of this name, and it may be spelled wrong] formerly of the 76th Division and quite an admirer of Leviseur) with station at Coblentz. He has been there ever since.

Lieut. Achorn is my adjutant. You have probably discovered that before now. He has acted in that capacity ever since Major June left, and I have had no occasion to regret my choice.

I have not weighed since being over here. But I think I have scarcely changed one way or the other in a year. As for civilian clothes, I can only hope they will fit me; particularly my dress suit.

Cooties - I encountered one species in a bed tick when I first arrived at Havre. After about a month, I finally dispersed them, & have had no further trouble.

Nevers - pronounced Nev-air [note - accent mark over second syllable]

Poitiers - " Pwa - Ty a [note - short 1st a, long 2nd a, accent over 1st syllable]

I didn't ever run across Furguson in Poitiers, but did find a Sergeant Whitney, from Hartford, a student at the University of Poitiers, and from Ralph's old Co. in the 101st M. G. Bu.


46 Poitiers
May 21, 1919. [Wed.]

Dear Mother,

Poitiers and its environs contain much that is interesting and I have been able to take in some of the interesting aspects of it the last week or so. A week ago Sunday afternoon John and I visited its old Palace of Justice. By it are remnants of foundations of buildings which were Roman (2nd century), Visigothic (6th century), and Norman (9th). In it one is shown the room where Joan of Arc received her commission as a General, and the room where Charles VII was crowned king of France. From its tower on can get a fine view of the country hereabouts, and an idea of the general location of three historic conflicts which all had their scene in this region - 1) 507, between the Franks under Clovis and the Visigoths under Alaric II; 2)the Battle of Tours, 732, in which Charles Martel of the Franks defeated the Moors who had invaded the country from Spain; 3)the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, in which the Black Prince of England defeated John the Good of France in the 3rd period of the Hundred Years War.

On another day I took a little time off both morning and afternoon to visit vicinities of the above, and other nearby interesting spots, with my little roadster. In the morning, drove out to Vouille, to the west, which is in the general vicinity of Clovis' victory over the Visigoths; I had been told there were some Gallo-Romanic ruins there, but saw no sign of any ruins except a lone decapitated tower once belonging to a castle built in the 8th century. In the afternoon about four o'clock John and I knocked off work, and drove to Nouaille, to the south, which was the general vicinity of the height of the battle of Poitiers in 1356. The little town of Nouaille itself is a quaint moss-grown village set in a little valley all surrounded by hills. It has an old 12th century Abbey which we invaded to find a catechism class going on. How such a tiny place could produce so many children of one age was a mystery. The supposed scene of the battle is about a half mile outside the town. From there we drove to Chavigny, about 15 miles to the east of Poitiers. Chavigny had excited our interest in passing, a couple of times before, by reason of some skeletons of old castles on top of a tall hill which projected into and dominated the town. There were no less than three old castles & an old church on that hill. One castle and the church were 11th century products, and the other two castles were about 13th century. The 11th century Baronial Castle is just a collection of a few jagged walls, but it is quite astonishing that they remain as they are without toppling over - think of about 40 feet height & 10 or 12 feet breadth of brick wall standing up over 300 years after wall all about it had been destroyed!

This is attractive country about here and its great peculiarity lies in the many houses built up against hills, and even cave houses in the hills. There are any quantity of them about in all this country south of the Loire. Speaking of caves, I saw an interesting one while I was at Tours day before yesterday. It's out at Savounieres, about 10 or 12 miles west of Tours, and is in rock which is chiefly calcium carbonate. The little springs trickling thru the rock for ages, wearing off particles of sediment and depositing them further along, have produced icicle and wave like formations after the manner of our stalactites in some caves in Kentucky, I believe it is. There is also a little underground pond there. The people who own the cave have secured molds, into which they allow water from above to drip; the sediment gradually fills the molds, and compact little cameos and other figures are then taken out.

The M. T. C. has closed out here. My last trucks were turned in to Romorantin last Saturday, I've gotten receipts for everything [note- all in AEF scrapbook], and my clearance on M. T. C. & all forms of property at Tours. I've been to both Romorantin and Tours twice in the past week in consummating this necessary business. I have also been successful in hurrying along our movement a little bit, by invading the sources of movement at Tours, and this afternoon the telegram came which starts us tomorrow morning on the first leg of our journey homeward. The first leg takes us as far as the great Embarkation Center at Le Mans.

Prospects of our getting together are again changed. The Train was all released together, including the former Cos. A & C, but as a matter of transportation convenience it will not be assembled. Cos. A, E, & F will go out of Le Havre this Saturday, Hq. , B, C, & D will probably all assemble at Le Mans & ought to be moving out sometime next week.

Not many more letters from Europe. And no more on this for now. I arise about five, its now 12:15, and I have been very occupied, as the French have it, since getting notice at 8:00 this evening to pull [out] at 9:00 in the morning.

Lots of love

47 Le Mans, France
May 28, 1919. [Wed.]

Dear Mother,

I have been almost six days now at this first stop in our journey home, but with early prospects of moving.

The day after sudden notice at Poitiers we were on the road all day and evening to this place, and after arrival and much argument with the union-houred M. T. C. walked the five miles to the Forwarding Camp of the Embarkation Center (arriving at 1:30 A. M. ), at which camp we have since been preparing our organization and troops for the journey westward. The first night we couldn't even get transportation for our baggage, so as far as commissioned personnel was concerned, we slept with our clothes & without our blankets; I found in addition one straw tick to put beneath me & one to put over me, so was perfectly warm & comfortable.

Cos. D & B (Lieuts. Daly & Fox) arrived successfully from Tours and Nevers a couple of days after us, & though in a different part of the camp from each other & from us, we shall go out together. Cos. A, E, & F have already sailed directly out of Le Havre (last Saturday) & therewith vanished the last hope of getting the whole Train together. In preparation here, an organization commander is obliged to check up his unit thoroughly on equipment & make requisition to cover all shortages; to see that all individual records are in perfect shape, that passenger lists, baggage lists, and other embarkation red tape is completed accurately, and to have his organization fund inspected. The last is far from least, for the flaws that can be picked and are picked are a caution; I have had to have fake boards meet to cover lost vouchers & make certificates without end before all the companies would be checked in. The boards would always be Capt. Stuart, Lieuts. Achorn & Fitts; but the board meeting consisted of Sgt. Eves at the typewriter and myself with pencil in right hand and left forefinger at brow; the finished report would at the finish be thrown at the other gentlemen to sign. Lots of fun; but very injurious to my usually gentle temper. But we're all checked in now; the next thing is assignment to what is known as a "Le Mans Provisional Battalion", being formed today; these provisional battalions are convenient trainloads of about 1500 men for transportation from here to the ports. Before the battalion leaves an inspection of each man's equipment is made, and a thorough physical examination of each man. After that, tout de suite to the port as soon as one is ready for us.

The forwarding Camp in this great Embarkation Center, is most as large as Devens, and has all been erected since the armistice. It is knee deep in sand, and is a forceful reminder of the early days at Plattsburg. Most of the divisions which have gone home have come thru the Center, but have not been located in this camp - instead usually have been billeted in the area. This camp is for smaller units than divisions. It is especially full now of colored forestry engineers and labor troops, and there is no color line on assignment of enlisted men to quarters.

Your letter of May 4th followed me here yesterday, and I expect will be the last I have in France. I ought to give this letter a fairly good race home.

With lots of love.

| Home | Search | SBButler Letters |