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SBButler letters, Oct./Nov. 1917

October 21, 1917
October 28, 1917

October letters to Eva

November 4, 1917
November 22, 1917

November letters to Eva

[Lieut. Butler apparently missed writing for a couple of weeks due to the work load.]

Ayer, Mass.
Oct. 21, 1917

Dear Mother,

The middle of this last week found me with things started and going fairly regularly & systematically, and a little of my time now I can call my own. I worked this morning and about a half hour this afternoon; since then not a thing. I am O.K. in every way, so much so that a 15 1/2 collar is beginning to be tight. But I have just had to keep steadily at it, day & evening, since three weeks ago, when our full quota of men was so suddenly transferred to us. Except the first week, I have kept reasonable hours.

The full quota of our men was entirely too large for the two buildings we were to occupy, and the Tuesday after they came we moved down to the next section of buildings, where Uncle Ed & Aunt Sarah found me the day afterward. The group of buildings we now occupy are 9 in number, 6 main men's barracks, one building used as guardhouse & storehouse, one building used as an exchange or "canteen", & the officers' quarters. The arrangement is as follows:

               [____]  Guard & store house

               [____]  Exchange building

      [_Co.6]  [_Co.5]

      [_Co.4]  [_Co.3]

      [_Co.2]  [_Co.1]

           [____] ---Officers' barracks

Co.1 and 4 are not occupying their buildings yet, but we are trying to get the quartermaster lieutenants who now occupy them out as soon as possible. Half of Co.1 is boarding with Co.2, half with Co.3 at present, and Co.4 is similarly split up between Cos. 5 & 6. The first week & a half I devoted a great deal of time to the messes, getting the kitchens organized, getting supplies, both commissary supplies & kitchen utensils, getting cooks & assigning them, settling no end of troubles, getting ready to tell the other officers how to handle the mess, as each was to oversee, & now is overseeing his own company mess. I got them all together & gave them about an hour and a half talk on it one night. Then splitting up as we did, & being still split up as we are, I took it on myself to do the accounting which should show what the proportionate savings of each company are for the month of October. It may not seem like it, but it's pretty involved figuring. For a week now I've had the messes pretty well saddled off my shoulders & on to their own company commanders. Of course I have my own, but the mess sergeant does all the detail work, even the buying, now, although of course I keep close tabs on what he's doing. I also run the Officers' mess; started it the very day we moved down here, with an Armenian cook named Piranian at the helm. He is a born cook, and we have been enjoying most excellent meals. He has had experience as a restaurant owner, is an intelligent & conscientious man, and I leave pretty much of everything to him for our mess. He is a very close buyer, knows prices, & I have no fear of anyone fooling him.

Of course, in addition to work on the messes, I've had my own company to organize and run and keep contented and lead or drive in the paths of righteousness. We divided up the original members of the Supply Train among us, and made them non-commissioned officers. I have a chap from Brockton by the name of Tolsom for acting first sergeant and he is proving a good man for his place. He spent a year and a half at Norwich University, which means of course that he is familiar with drill work. And when I can't be present during the drill hour, I can rely on him, as I had to do a good deal the first two weeks, to take care of it. The men are just getting regular infantry work now; this last week about 3 hours a day close order drill, an hour of physical drill, signal work, guard duty instruction, marches, and an hour of athletics - relay races, jumping, and so on, which I think everyone enjoys. This last week I have been able to get into the work pretty thoroughly with my company, and I enjoy it. It of course takes quite a little planning, and not a little study.

We guard our own section of the camp, each company furnishing the members of the guard in turn daily, with its commanding officer as Officer of the Day. This means I'm Officer of the Day every six days; receiving the reports from the different companies at reveille & retreat, seeing that the guard properly performs its duties, to do which you must make at least one inspection of the sentinels on post between midnight and reveille. Those nights I go to bed with my clothes on, & with the light on, so I'll more likely wake up sometime in the middle of the night, and invariably thus far I have waked up at quarter after two - three different times.

The men's barracks have four main rooms, the mess room, with kitchen adjoining, over it a room we are going to use as a recreation room, and two large sleeping rooms. Then there is a small room upstairs where the 1st sergeant sleeps. I have had to give a lot of attention to planning improvements to barracks & grounds; the first thing I did was to clear a half acre drill ground; then other things have been boardwalks, garbage can stand, coal box, kitchen table, inside storehouse, and closing up the space between the barracks & the ground with stones, of which we have a lot. We have been able to secure absolutely free of charge from a club in Brockton a pool table, which we are going to set up in the recreation room & charge 2 1/2 cents a cue to players, to bring in money to the company fund. We also got a piano from a concern in Boston for footing a bill of $10 for repairs, and we got a $25 victrola new for $15. We also have a promise of some checkerboards, and I got thru one of the men 3 months' quotations on certain newspapers & magazines the men would like to have. A half of Co.1 is occupying our recreation room now, but as soon as they are out, we'll fix it right up, and I think it ought to be very pleasant.

There are probably other things that have been going on which I have forgotten to speak of. I am in general trying by best to make Co.3 an efficient and contented company, which will be with me and a credit to me.

Thank you for sending the sweater and gloves; they prove very useful. Thank you also for the candy, & the cookies & fruit. Eva sent me a big box of all sorts of things this week - fudge, jelly made from apples picked at Hemlock Manor, cranberries from that region, cookies, and limedrops & jordan almonds (specialties we used to carry on our wanderings), and a bit of decoration; all by the way of a last Manor party for the old house is being torn down.

I wonder if Ralph isn't home by now. Don't bother to send on the Yale Obituary Record.

Today has been a glorious day here. Three of the officers have had visitors. It makes it very pleasant, having our own little mess, so that we can bring visitors in. And the cook likes it, for he takes pride in showing people what he can do.

I hope everyone is feeling tip-top, and hope I won't have to be delinquent again.
With much love to you & all

Ayer, Mass.
Oct. 28, 1917

Dear Mother,

Raymond and Eleanor have been up to see me to-day. They came up with the two Miss Cooks in their car, and brought along also Mr. Fritz & his little daughter. They got here about eleven and I went down to the gate to get them in. They were here until about half past two. I wrote Eleanor earlier in the week to see if they couldn't come up. They were impressed, as everyone is, by the tremendous size of the camp.

I don't know just when I'll be coming down home again. I thought I'd arrange to go and see Lucinthia next week-end. And then I was wondering if perhaps when Ralph got pretty thoroughly on his feet he & the rest of you couldn't take a run up here. I would plan to get down home some Sunday next month, too.

Monday night most of us went to Lowell and saw a vaudeville show. Otherwise the week has been as other weeks. I had a couple of disciplinary cases this week, which of course aren't too pleasant - one for bringing liquor into the barracks and the other for insubordinate conduct toward a non-commissioned officer.

This week is going to be another extra busy one, for the end of the month is always busy with payrolls, muster rolls, mess accounts, and Lieut. June has let loose a lot of new things to inaugurate this week.

I must get at a little note to Lucinthia & then some work.
Lots of Love,

If you could send along some cloths with the laundry next week I should appreciate it. And I wonder if you use the checkers much now, & if not, whether Co.3, Supply Train, might use them for the period of the war. We can make our own checker boards.

Camp Devens
Nov. 4, 1917

Dear Mother,

I have just gotten thawed out after a good cold automobile ride in from Wellesley, and have taken my post by the kitchen fire for the balance of the evening. I have had a most refreshing and enjoyable day, and the weather has been perfect. Lucinthia met me in Boston yesterday afternoon, and we spent the evening at Symphony Hall, the first time I have ever heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The concert was rather of a disappointment, not the fault of the orchestra, but the music. The first and of course longest selection was a symphony by Sibelius, a modern composer, and was an incomprehensible sort of thing, which didn't strike my fancy at all. The second was a concerto by Saint- Saens, with Miss Frances Nash as soloist at the piano, and the last number was an overture from Beethoven's opera Fidelius, which I enjoyed listening to very much. We had some of the best seats in the house and heard it for almost nothing - it was this way; One of the men in my company took me in to Boston in a car he has up here, and on learning I was going to the symphony concert, offered to go around to Symphony Hall with me to help me get tickets, if the house should be pretty nearly sold out, because he knew the manager very well; when we got in there, he went into the inner office, came out with two seats in K and the manager, with the news that they were mine if I wanted them & would pay the war tax on them. He told me later he could get seats in there anytime he wanted to. I went out to Wellesley with Lucinthia after the concert and stayed at the Hotel Waban - in a room usually occupied by a female osteopath, and profusely decorated with osteopathic literature. The first thing Lucinthia had for me this morning was a breakfast party at Agora. [note - Agora was Aunt Lucinthia's sorority] Her society house is surely attractive, and in a wonderful location. Her roommate, a Miss Miller & Miss Mackenzie, and a Miss Ward for chaperone made up the party. Miss Mackenzie is quite an accomplished pianist and we enjoyed music from her after breakfast from the luxury of that downy blue divan in front of the fireplace. Later Lucinthia and I went to Chapel and afterward met Hester Lewis, whom we took with us over to the Old Natick Inn at South Natick for dinner. I hold that all salads are silly - but this is the most ridiculous combination I have yet seen; a half a canned pear on a piece of lettuce, crowned with a wreath of red pepper, with crackers & cheese. Can you beat it? So much for the decorations. The real part of the meal was some nice tender roast duck. When we left there we walked back way round the lake, came up thru Tower Court & over to the Quadrangle. I saw Frances Pattee for just a minute and the rest of the afternoon, a matter of an hour and a half, we spent in that fine big living room on the second floor of Lucinthia's dormitory. The man who brought me in came out there to get me about half past five and we drove back to Ayer in good fast time.

This past week has been a busy one. Pay-rolls have been gotten out for October, I have spent quite a little time on mess accounts, and muster rolls are bimonthly lists made up by each company in the army of all officers and men attached to it with everything that has happened to each man during the two months previous. Of course this was the first one, & the whole story of enlistment and assignment for each man had to be forwarded to Washington, and a lot of these forms were missing. I made personal visits to any number of companies from which my men were transferred here, and managed to dig up quite a few of them. They all should have been sent down with the men, but weren't.

I am looking into that matter of the third series of Officers' Training Camps. They are going to be held in each Regular Army, National Guard, and National Army division, I know, and applications have to go thru the immediate company commander of each enlisted man applying, I know. How this affects those divisions already in France, I don't know. I am going to try to get a special letter off to you in a day or two about it.

I meant to have told you before that I had bought a Liberty Bond; because when payments on it are completed the bond will be sent to you for safe keeping.

Where did you get the idea I was connected with the 304th? Our connection is practically direct with the 76th Division, although we come under the jurisdiction of Col. Estes, who commands all trains and military police.

Thank you for the old cloths; they will be fine. This week please leave all my BVD underwear home, and send up six pairs of my balbriggans - I think I have them - I just bought some balbriggan undershirts. I had a visit from the Baldwins Saturday morning. I must get on with one or two other letters.
With lots of love

Camp Devens
Nov. 22, Thurs. eve.

Dear Mother,

Probably Ralph has written you most everything. That ward surgeon who promised to give me information by Monday eve failed to comply with his promise. I have tried all I could to find out what his status is but satisfactory information hasn't come forth in great abundance. The chief trouble seems to be that the authorities at the Hospital have had no orders concerning Ralph & other men in the same boat. They admit he doesn't need to be there, but have no orders as where to discharge him to, & no authority to grant furloughs. I went as far as the Division Surgeon to try to get information, as to any orders that might have come concerning him.

If we can't get the matter settled as to whether he is to ultimately get back to Capt. Bulkeley or not, I believe on the whole the wisest thing is to try to get him transferred to the Supply Train here. The only person I fear who would ever make things awkward here is Moody, and I'll post Ralph thoroughly on him. I've found a fairly successful way of getting along with Moody, I think. Ralph would naturally not come into my company; Lieut. June suggested without any impetus from me that I get him down here & into the Headquarters Co., a small unit of 8 under Lieut. June's personal direction. I think everything would be allright. What to my mind is the weightiest thing in the argument is that here he would be under officers who are familiar with the facts of his recent illness. If he is sent back to that 1st Conn. Inf. or somewhere else where he is unknown, they will not be thus familiar with his condition, and would thus have no consideration for the same in assigning him duties. I'd like to have him here first-rate. If it weren't for the circumstances of his being up here, the uselessness & annoyance of it all to him & you, I'd say without reserve it seems good to have him where I can see him, as it does. Of course I don't know positively that such a transfer can be affected. I'll be glad for his sake & yours when the uncertainty is over. Cheer up, I know of a man right here in the Supply Train, the sole support of a rheumatic father, a mother with cancer in the stomach, an invalid sister, and a brother who broke his leg since the man came into the army, and he himself has a double rupture incapacitating him from drill. He waited almost two months for a discharge which came yesterday.

Ralphie'll be all right. I'm trying to look after him to the best of my ability.

All the news I get this week is bad; there must be one of those ill winds that blows nobody good. Eva's mother, who has been in Philadelphia thru the fall with her husband, came back to Pleasantville last week following a broken leg the father sustained, and in a jealous fit over the happy time Eva and her brother were having living with Miss Tolbert, took the boy away, which is very unfortunate, for Eva knows how to run the boy & the mother doesn't; she also threatened to take Eva away. What Eva's rights in the matter are, I don't know, for she is just 20; but I hope there is nothing will break her resolve not to go back to her home while her mother is there. She should not do so; her mother has always made life just as unhappy for the girl as she could, and denied her the mother-love which she craved. Eva has only given me hints of it herself, but I learned of course a great deal more from Miss Tolbert. I hope she is not going to be denied the happiness she is enjoying and richly deserves.

To-night I had a letter from Sam's nurse, which, cheerful enough to begin with for him to censor, ended up with quite a different tale written after he had seen it. She doesn't expect him to live another month! He came to have a tubercular infection in his leg, and it spread to his lungs; he has had hemorrhages from the lungs, & they are completely shattered, she says, and great quantities of pus are being drained from his knee constantly. And she's giving him the maximum quantity of opiates every 24 hours. He's most cheerful & optimistic, she says, and is confident of recovery and is looking forward to a trip to Saranac and Colorado, which she told about in detail in the part of the letter he saw.

He is staying in a little private bungalow fixed up like a miniature hospital out in Mt. Airy where his aunts live. Perhaps better news may come, but things don't look very much so; as I think back over his case, he seems just to have gone from bad to worse from start to finish. And I have feared this very thing that has come to him. I wish I might see him before I go, but I don't see how it's possible, unless we're here for some monthes. Of course there's no telling.

Obviously, in toto, this communication should be private, and a selection made of parts for general dissemination.
Lots of love

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