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SBButler Letters, September 1918

Sept. 1, 1918
Sept. 9, 1918
Sept. 15, 1918
Sept. 22, 1918
Sept. 29, 1918

Picture of Chateau de la Lande

Letters to Eva, September 1918

6 France, [St. Amand-Montrond] Sept. 1, 1918.

Dear Mother,

I sent a letter to Ralph last night which I addressed to Rocky Hill to be forwarded, with a question mark in place of the rank. I hope to get a letter off to Lucinthia in the early part of this week.

My situation isn't much different than when I wrote a few days ago, no nearer the front & at the same old job. The Major is becoming famous for miles around for the way he gets things done; I venture a prediction he'll leave France a Colonel.

I found my first close friend on the Killed in Action Casualty list for Aug.6, just published in the Paris New York Herald - Emir Allen of Salt Lake City, a classmate & fraternity brother. He was in the New York division at Plattsburg last summer and got a provisional second in the Regular Army. I suppose you know we're all United States Army now - no more N.G., N.A., & Regulars. Our collar ornaments are therefore straight U.S.'s. It seems pretty good, but to complete the job I would like to change the "birdie" for some kind of motor transport insignia.

Moody is his same old self, particularly when it comes to the French ladies. He seems to know everybody in town, and has a beaming countenance for everybody, especially females, whether he knows them or not, and has no respect for crepe [note - I believe this is a reference to a sign of mourning] or anything else. He wades in all over. Fox remarked to-night that there's a good percentage scheme in that; he's bound to get a few beams back. I suppose he can't flash his 32[degree] at the French ladies, but how he does use it in the Army. You should have seen him coming over on the boat. By George! It makes me mad to see a man come up and poke his third finger in another's face with Moody's significant blatancy particularly. We've got him detailed on a job now where we may lose him forever, but I am reminded of the old saying about bad pennies. I have a horrible feeling that somehow or other he's going to get a Majority before he leaves France; a little fatalistic feeling bred of the way he got his other two promotions. Well, he can be a Colonel, if he hasn't anything to do with me. The poor chap's got a family to support; and has a heart big enough for a dozen or fifteen.

Cookie had some of his delicious hot rolls for the first time since we left America for dinner this noon. It surely did seem good. Say, I'm going to start busting my belt pretty soon. This is the time of the year I always seem to feed up.

Well, I haven't said anything to amount to much but I guess it'll have to be all for this time. Hope everybody is well & happy & best of love to all.


7 France, Sept. 9, 1918.

Dear Mother,

I received your letter of Aug 4th and the one of Martha's you forwarded this last week. I am surprised that those safe arrival cards didn't come thru more quickly. I have had letters from Eva thru the 15th of August and she hadn't received hers at that time. Well you probably have that and some others by now, such as they are.

I think the rainy season must have come, for after a month without a drop we have had four days now which have rained half the day. The natives say we can expect it right along now, which isn't a very cheerful prospect.

This past week the Major and Leviseur and I went on a rather interesting business trip some 125 miles from here, by motor. It covered part of the chateau country and we saw a number of picturesque old landmarks, some on top of hills and some built right into them. On one of those we passed Richard the Lion Hearted was imprisioned for 10 years. We passed a number of places which were literally cave- dwellings - where people had dug their homes out of the hill-sides; it must be great living. We stayed at an American Officers' Club at our destination and I slept right in the next bed to a captain, from Emir Allen's regiment, who had just come out of the hospital. He knew Emir and knew something of the circumstances of his death, which was instant, on the battlefield. Fred in his room was right next to a man by the name of Luky, in the air service, who was in the 4th company at Plattsburg. During the day I met two classmates - Norman Buck (who was on that long night walk to escape the Sophomores my first night alone in New Haven with me). He's been over here a long time, a civilian in the Air Service. He only has the use of one eye & couldn't be in the Army. The second was Jesse Spaulding who was captain of the football team; he is a captain of infantry on staff duty. I had quite a chat with both of them.

We expect to move into tents very soon, and then it will be goodbye feather beds. It will be much better to be all together.

I am surely glad Lucinthia took the opportunity to go to see Eva. Eva was delighted with her visit and I imagine Lucinthia enjoyed it equally well.

Please tell Martha I appreciated and enjoyed her letter very much, and give my very best to her & family.

This will be about all for this time. With lots of love to all.


8 France, Sept. 15, 1918.

Dear Mother,

Our rainy season has had a little lull for three days now, and perhaps it isn't going to be as bad after all. We have had three beautiful autumn days since Thursday, and it has been good to be out in them.

I have been holding a miniature Connecticut state election this week, for we were sent duplicate sets of ballots for Connecticut voters entitled to vote. I took a chance & voted also, assuming that I still had the right to vote as from Cromwell, for my name was on the list sent us. I had some fun with Moody over them, telling him he could come over to headquarters & fill out a ballot if he'd vote the Democratic ticket. He didn't know enough to take it as a joke; I don't mean he got riled over it, but he made a simple asinine reply, in his most complacent way, as how "No sir, I vote the Republican Ticket, and for Connecticut's war governor." (I suppose he'll vote for the U.S.'s war President if he comes up for a third term.) He is an awful simpleton at times; this noon he remarked that General Foch would no doubt be a Marshal one of these days to which Spaulding aptly rejoined "I don't doubt it either, since he's been one three months." That was only one of four bright remarks of equal sense he got off at noon today, when we had a marquise at lunch with us for him to expose himself to.

Yesterday we had a great ball game with a team composed of officers from a machine gun regiment up the line a way. It has been in the wind for about 2 weeks, the adjutant of the M.G. Reg't & myself writing reams of defiant bombasity at each other for our respective units. The great combat finally came off yesterday and we bit the dust to the tune of 22- 4, but had a most excellent time & afternoon's outing.

This noon we had the Marquise de la Roche, whose husband has an estate in a nearby village, at lunch with us. She is connected with refugee relief work and became known to the Major thru official channels. She speaks excellent English and is a most charming woman - a woman probably about 45. She would remind you, to some extent, I think, of Aunt Laura, in her general disposition & manner, though of course she has French mannerisms which would make a complete comparison with anyone at home impossible.

I expect you are all being thrilled at the news of the first large scale all-American offensive. The French all marvel at the Americans, and every Frenchman believes they can't be stopped. I think they'll have Fritzie buffaloed before long, too. The American is full of fire and energy that the European hardly understands. Every day in the A.E.F. makes one ponder to be an American.

I had a fine long letter from Aunt Elizabeth this week. She spoke of the celebrations going on in Cromwell from time to time over news of American victories; I imagine they're having a few more this week.

With lots of love to you & all.

10,but perhaps 9. France, Sept. 22, 1918.

Dear Mother,

The early part of the week was very productive in the letter line, and I had mail posted as late as Aug.26 from you. For three days I was getting mail every day and got very much spoiled.

24th, after interruption

The letters I had last week were yours postmarked Aug 12, 15, & 26, and it is surely good to get the news from home. Some of your questions about details I'll have to pass up, until 1920 or so. The idea that we were in Italy seems to have been quite general in New England for a while, but probably dispelled before now.

To-night I have shaken the hand of J.B.M, Jr. in farewell for he is leaving for other parts and his return to the fold is most unlikely. Hence today is one famous in my little autobiography, and the black little strip of cloud across my otherwise nearly serene horizon has suddenly dispersed. Me step is 4 beats per minute faster, and my heart some cwt. lighter. [note - my dictionary says cwt. is an abbreviation for hundredweight] Thus lightly do we part with life-long friends in the heartless army - us "chums from Connecticut" as Greene would call us; Greene's sentiments were mine with about double intensity.


Perhaps sometime I'll finish. I feel less like writing to-night than any time since I started for the day has been the most strenuous of a strenuous week. Fred Leviseur has started a good one to-day - The Aching Void - Memories of J.B.M ,Jr.

During the past week I have met an interesting personage in the Sous-Prefet of this place. [See Resume of M. Gillet, the sous-prefet] He has been bed ridden for sometime in a plaster cast fitting around him like a shirt. His back won't hold up, as the result of wounds received in some African campaign. But he is the most cheerful person imaginable. He enjoys having the American officers come to see [him] and is especially fond, I think, of Major June. He is learning English quite fast, and enjoys especially picking up American colloquialisms - the other night he told us he could "lick his weight in wild-cats"; and I taught him our "take the cake" expression at another time, where something came up making it applicable.

I wonder if my allotments have started to reach Father yet. I hope so, for they will clean that University thing in no time. There's very little to spend money for here, and I ought to have an account climbing up on both sides of the water.

More soon. Lots of Love.

11 France, Sept. 29, 1918.

Dear Mother,

I have just finished an extended conversation with the good man of the house, my part being mostly to look wise & say "Oui", except when he would ask me a question, then I'd have to sat "Comment" several times before I could start puzzling out an answer.

This has been quite a big day, and I don't believe I've so thoroughly enjoyed one since being here. The Major and Fred, and I were invited out to dinner with the Marquise de la Roche, who has an estate about 20 kilometers away. Mrs. Gold, the Y.M.C.A. woman who has been here this month, also came with us. It was very much of a treat. The Marquis was on his back to-day, but he would have been a bit lost at the table, as he's the only one of the family who doesn't speak English. The Marquise speaks excellent English with no effort whatever, and her two daughters, the Comtesse de La Rochefoucould, and Mlle. Lermaine [note - not positive of the spelling of her name] de la Roche, almost as well. The Comtesse has two little children, a baby and a much spoiled boy of 5, Roget, who tries to rule his English governess, a capable, patient woman of middle age. They have the most faultless butler imaginable, with full dress suit and white gloves and general spick-and-span appearance. He was reasonably intelligent looking too, and when he came out the entrance as we first arrived, I didn't know whether he was the Marquis himself or the butler, until he took the Major's coat. There is a long boulevard driveway leading up to the entrance to the house, with orange trees in the middle. The house was formerly a chateau - the turrets on either side, and the whole front - were destroyed in the Revolution. There is still the moat around it, however, but the rest looks like any broad fronted Mansion. A few swans in the moat and peacocks on the lawn lend an air of dignity to the place. Inside it is most fascinating - beautiful finely worked tapestries over all the walls, fine wood carvings, paintings, and a library that fills a dozen tiers of shelves around all four walls of a good sized room. The music room had a grand piano, a harpsichord, a harp, and a cello. I couldn't begin to tell everything which was there, and of course one couldn't stand around and gaze all the time. The dining room table was very wide; ought to suit Uncle Bill for there'd be no chance of getting kicked under the table spread as far as you might. They had a six course dinner for us - No.1, chopped up vegetables, a kind of pot-pourri, with a poached egg, soft, all of which I manfully ate; No.2, roast beef and boiled potatoes; No.3, such chocolate pudding as I have not had since I left my happy home; No.4, cheese, to which I said "Non, Merci"; No.5, fruit - luscious peaches and nice sweet white grapes; by the way, Butler & Jewell used to sell a basket of peaches for what one lone peach costs you here; No.6, finger bowls, followed by demi-tasse in the library. For the afternoon the Marquise had a hunt all prepared for us; you've seen that caricature of King George hunting in India haven't you - with a big tiger blindfolded & chained with all four legs to trees; well this might remind you a bit of that. Her foreman, (I assume he was), had about all the boys in the neighborhood gathered, each with a stick and a voice. They preceded us and formed skirmish line a mile or so away and drove all the partridge our way - where we were ambushed with our shotguns, as placed by the foreman. (He asked me "Vous Tirez bien?" and before I realized he was asking if I were a good shot, the fatal "Oui" had passed my lips). We were always about 250 ft. apart along some hedge. After about four battles we came home with four dead partridges and a hare, to grace our mess to-morrow. It has been a beautiful clear autumn day and we have all enjoyed our outing thoroughly.

[ Above is the chateau of the Marquis and Marquise de la Roche that Sylvester visited. I visited the chateau in the summer of 1998 and it still looked the same. A picture of the Comtesse de La Rochefoucauld and her family are located on the October letters for Eva. -- David Butler, grandson ]

Last evening we also had a first rate time. First we went to the Y.M.C.A. where Mrs. Gold was engineering a minstral show with soldier talent, with a few vaudeville acts following. She is surely splendid in arranging these entertainments; she's not witty at all on the stage, that is, is not of the type who can get off stage comics, though extremely jolly and sociable in company. She is just capable and knows how to get things going, and get people working for her. After this performance the Sous-Prefet had a little spread for us over at his house - us, I say; I mean a few American officers & Y.M.C.A. men, Mrs. Gold, and the Marquise; only about a dozen, I guess. The Marquise had brought about 4 chocolate frosted cakes, our own cookie made a nice pink frosted cake for Mrs. Gold to take there, and there were lavender color candies spoiled with maraschino cherries inside, and cracker & cheese sandwiches. Poor M. Gillet, the Sous-Prefet, couldn't be there himself, but we went up & talked to him for some time afterward.

This sounds a lot like fighting the Hun, doesn't it? A cruel war, this.

Your letter of Sept.1 arrived to-day. You ask if I hear the sound of the guns. I heard a few shotguns to-day.

News from all the fronts is surely most encouraging at present.

I am glad that Eva came to see you and hope that you both enjoyed the visit together. Her first letter from Rocky Hill came today with yours, and she seemed to be having a good time.

Well, I've said about enough for one small evening, I guess.

Lots of love.

P.S, I have continued to subscribe for the Weekly & Review, but have asked the Review to be sent home. Please do not forward. Learned dissertations not in order here

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