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SBButler Letters, August 1917

Aug 5, 1917
Aug 10, 1917
Aug 13, 1917

Letters to Eva, August 1917

Dr. Edward R. Baldwin (borrowed stationary of a cousin)

Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Sunday P.M., Aug. 5, 1917

Dear Mother,

You see I've been taking a little spree. Yesterday afternoon I called up the Baldwins from Plattsburg, and arranged to come down on the evening train last night. The train was late and didn't arrive until almost ten o'clock. Cousin Ed was there to meet me, and Aunt Fannie and Cousin Mary were still up when I got to the house. They said they had been wondering a good deal about me up here, where I was, and so on; had been up at Plattsburg and had looked for me while there; and also had three doctors who have been up there examining all the camp for tuberculosis try to bear me in mind as they were examining the various men & learned their names. Everyone here is well; Cousin Ed is rather fatigued from having some of his doctors leave to enlist in the Medical Reserve Corps & thus putting work back on his shoulders, and he is doing some war work himself. Henry is in the Harvard regiment down at Cambridge; his father expects that he will go to college in the fall for one more year, his Junior. Henry's thoughts run toward aviation for his bit in the war.

A bedroom and a spring bed all to myself last night seemed like a relic of a long forgotten past; I didn't know whether I'd know how to sleep on the spring bed or not, after the now familiar feel of hard board. This morning some Lieutenant-Colonel Gibson from Madison Barracks was up here to be examined for T.B., and I went over to the sanitorium with Cousin Ed when he took the Lieut. Col. there, also followed them around by invitation, thru the examination - X-Ray, pneumoscope, & soundings. The sanitorium is beautifully located on the side of a hill, which commands an elegant view of more hills & mountains beyond the valley underneath. There's a colony of about 27 cottages if I remember rightly, then an administration building, laboratory building, workshop, library, and chapel, that I remember. Perhaps you have been here and seen it - I don't seem to remember. The Baldwins live outside the sanitorium grounds, down in the village. Across the street from the house is a laboratory where Cousin Ed has worked a great many years; and there is conducted there now every summer a special school in tuberculosis treatment. The place is filled with jars of lungs and millions of billions of bugs - tubercular bacilli, excuse me; and down cellar there are several crates of guinea- pigs, and a few rabbits.

Later in the morning they took me to the Presbyterian church, where the preacher demonstrated how perfectly possible it was for the fish to swallow Jonah and apologized for being a Methodist. Cousin Ernest's wife was there and I walked back to their home with her, and visited the Ernest Baldwins for about a half hour. I expected to go back by train, but Cousin Ed has found a place in some friend's automobile for me to ride back to Plattsburg in. He's going to take the family & me as far as Lake Placid, & then I go the rest of the way with these other people; I understand and have no doubt it's going to be a very beautiful ride.

Aunt Fannie seems as keen as ever, but is getting quite deaf. They've all inquired about everybody.

The first four days of the week back at Plattsburg were surely scorchers, but as I wrote you, the tendency was to let up on us. Every afternoon at 3:30 those who wanted to lined up with bathing suits to go down to the lake; I've been going to go swimming weekends ever since I was up here but never got any farther than talking about it. The shore by the camp is very stony, & hence rather uncomfortable for the feet; the beach is a gentle sloping one. Wednesday was the best day for swimming for the wind had kicked up some fine waves to ride on. I slept under the stars three nights last week, out back of the barracks; a great many are doing it, and wishing they'd thought of the stunt before. I spread my shelter-half on the ground, and just bring out my mattress & sheets and blanket and make up a bed on it; the shelter-half being waterproof I imagine keeps some ground dampness away from one, and it also keeps the mattress from getting dirty.

We have had quite a little new work - various aspects of trench warfare, bombs, rockets, & other means of night visual signaling, and machine guns which will pop out around 400 shots (regular rifle bullets) a minute. Wednesday night we went out on a night terrain exercise from seven to eleven; our company and the 5th had to fix a defensive position along a stretch of about 100 yards, & some other companies conducted an attack against us. We dug a line of trenches 4 1/2 ft. deep & 3 ft. wide along the whole stretch, & covered the top with twigs in an hour. By the way, front line trenches are not just in a straight line but are shaped like this: [see pictures of the squad doing trench work]

             __8ft_____            _______
__18ft_______|traverse|____________|     |___________ 

Every 18 ft., they are dug around a space 8 ft. square, which is known as a traverse when the trench is dug; the 18ft strips are known as Bays. To have them dug this way instead of in a straight line reduces losses; a shell bursting in a bay will only put out of business the men in that one bay (about 8), whereas if a trench were in a straight line, it might affect enough distance along the trench to wipe out a whole company, there being no intervening traverse to stop the spread of the bursting fragments.

The commissions are not yet announced and I heard yesterday that we wouldn't know until this week Saturday.

I was glad to have Ralph's letter & to see he seems to be enjoying himself. I hope he is there in Niantic long enough so that I can see him while I'm home. I rather want to go down to New Jersey for 3 or 4 days but have not made definite plans as to the trip yet. I haven't heard anything further from Sam. I had a letter from Marie Hollister yesterday and she tells me she is to be married on the 22nd of August; she and her man are going to live in Oberlin where he is to edit a paper. From something she wrote me in an earlier letter before I was up here, & from the wording of a phrase in yesterday's, I judge that she is a pacifist.

Winthrop Hallock is not up here at present. Have you heard any reports about Avery's being killed? I have heard it reported among Wesleyan men up here. [note- there is no star next to Avery Hallock's name on the WWI monument down on the Green, so I guess he was okay]

I don't believe I'll get over to Burlington. For three weeks there has been an interdict against Plattsburgers going anywhere in the state of Vermont because of a great many infantile paralysis cases there.

I am glad to hear the lawn fete was so successful. I hope Aunt Lucy's sitting up was also a success. Cousin Ed just passed thru and wants to be remembered to Aunt Lucy.
With much love to you & all

P.S. I shan't need anything more in the way of old cloths, thank you. I was glad to get the taste of the first apples of the season.

Plattsburg, N.Y.
Aug. 10, 1917

Dear Mother,

Today was the day of reckoning, and I have come thru. On Wednesday I automatically became a 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Infantry, Officers' Reserve Corps, and expect that I will be assigned at Ayer as an additional officer, to report Aug.27th. It's the most satisfying thing, I think, that has ever happened for me; it seems too good to be true, but I had hardly dared to think that I could get the appointment. Now the great testing days are ahead to show that I am capable of bearing my title and assuming its responsibilities.

I leave Tuesday evening at 8:00 P.M. probably, which will get me into Hartford about 6:00 in the morning. If that happens to be the day Ralph leaves for the South, and you are going to Niantic or somewhere to see him off, you can leave word at the house where I should go so I can see him too.

I might be writing again, but I want to get this off now, so it will get to you by tomorrow night.
With lots of love

Plattsburg, N.Y.
Aug. 13, 1917

Dear Mother,

We have nothing on the formal schedule today except to clean the barracks, until 3 o'clock, when we have some kind of lecture in the stadium. I've already cleaned my little corner, and got my stuff as nearly packed as possible and still have something to sleep on and in tonight and wash & shave with in the morning. We turned in most of our material Friday afternoon and Saturday and have nothing left now except mattress, pillow sans pillow case, and two blankets - like the first couple of nights here, except for the cots. It's quite a long job turning stuff in, for we have to all form in line and have material checked off one by one; we've already had three lines worth. All this had to be done as far ahead of time as possible, so that stuff not turned in could be charged against the men, and these charges incorporated in the payroll in time to make it up and pay us tomorrow morning.

I spent yesterday pretty quietly; did quite a little "bunk fatigue" to rest up, and caught up on my correspondence to some extent. I ate supper with Tom Beers, and in the evening went to the last Sunday concert, given by a group of artists who called themselves the Metropolitan Operatic Concert Co. They included Carl Dodge, first cellist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra - he played the Beethoven Minuet in G for one of his encores; the Misses Carroll - two misses, who to me seemed only fair; David Waterous and Umberto Sacchetti, bass and tenor, respectively, both of whom I enjoyed very much, particularly the Italian. The four singers together gave the Sextette from Lucia di Lammermoor, and a well known selection from Rigoletto. Each of them sang solos, and to conclude the program the artists gave the entire opera, Cavalleira Rusticana in costume.

Last week a good part of our work was listening to lectures on and working out problems in Company Administration. There is of course a lot of what is called "paper work" in the army to do., keeping of records, making out muster and payrolls, drawing clothing, equipment, & rations, etc; there's a great deal of detail to it, as no doubt you can imagine.

I have been watching the papers to see how Binky came out in his application for the second camp, but haven't been able to find anything. I surely hope he was able to make it.

There were some exciting moments for the individual mind Friday morning. The names of ten men who were recommended for additional training at the next camp were already known and the rest of us knew that what was coming was either something or nothing. We had just come back from a hike of about an hour and a half the first thing in the morning, when a list of names was read who should step out and come up to the front of the barracks, the remainder to go out to the rear. The list from the personnel of the first two or three was evidently those who weren't to get anything, and my heart was in my mouth when the name which comes just before mine in alphabetical order was read - but after him the acting sergeant reached over into the c's and I knew something was in store for me. Then after the captain had gone thru the difficult task of telling the men what he had to, he came out to us and read off the names of the successful ones. There were 61 second lieutenants appointed from our company, and I came 30th on the list. Ralph Gabriel was about fifth on the list of 2nd lieuts., and Frank Burke about 8th. Joe Church made a 1st lieutenancy, Phil Buzzell made a 2nd lieutenancy. [See announcement]

Well it will surely be good to be home for a little while, and it probably won't be very late Wednesday morning when I get there, if the trains get thru on time. Your and Aunt Sarah's warmhearted congratulatory letters were received yesterday, and thank you very much.
With lots of love

P.S. My thanks to Aunt Sarah for the sweet chocolate sent last week. I sent more things home by mail with the dirty clothes Saturday, and expect I'll have to make up a package to send that way tomorrow.

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