Freienmuth Family Letters
Ernst Edward Freienmuth
These letters were written by Ernst Edward Freienmuth to his mother and other family members while he was in the Army during World War I. Ernst was 22 when he went overseas with the Army. He was in Company D, 16th Regiment Engineers (Railway), with the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in France. The letters were written between December 10, 1916 and April 30, 1919. All his letters were signed:
Love to all, Ernst
Pvt. Ernst Freienmuth
Co. 16th Reg Eng (Railway)
Via New York
Sept 3rd, 1917
Received your letter several days ago also the one from the folks on the hill. Have been having some grand weather but it is getting quite a bit cooler.
We had a little excitement in town the other night, fire broke out in one of the Bldg's on the main street. The town fire dept. came out with their old time engines run by hand power. The firemen all wore nice polished helmets. The chief was all bedecked with medals. They are great on the medals in this country.
We are now permitted to write only a two page letter. You folks in the states have the advantage over us because the length of the letters is not limited neither are they censored. The whole regiment will be under canvas by the middle of the week. Our new camp is about 2 miles from here and a very good location. I expect to spend the afternoon in a nearby village. Our time will be well taken up from now on.
I suppose all the draft army is in camp by now. Am feeling fine and will write in a few days.
Some where in France Sept 3, 1917
Received your two letters yesterday. It being the first mail we have received since leaving the states. The trip across the Atlantic was uneventful. We did not see any enemy subs. Were met by English destroyers a few hundred miles off the British Isles. The sea was calm the entire trip with the exception of one night.
England is a very pretty country. Most all the land is used for grazing purposes. There are a lot of canals through the country. The houses are more substantial than in the states, practically all are built of brick or stone. They are rather old fashion in many ways.
Their trains are all different than ours. The engines are much smaller and all have names on them. The passenger cars are divided in compartments which hold from six to ten people. I noticed that a lot of the women are employed in factories and roundhouses, etc. taking the places of the men at the front.
We crossed the channel in a cattle boat. I thought this boat was going to turn completely over. I was some sick for several hours & I had plenty of company. They kept us down below the deck the entire trip across & the air was so thick you could almost cut it. It was the worst sickness I have ever experienced in such a few hours.
In France the railroads are similar to those in England but they do not make such good time. All their boxcars are marked Hommes 40, Chevaux 8. WHich means their capacity is 40 men or 8 horses. At the first of the war when they were moving so many troops to the front they were all carried in box cars. France is more of a farming country than Eng. They certainly have some swell roads here.
We are in a small town of 5 or 6 hundred population. The buildings are all built of stone & tile roofs. Most of them were built a hundred or 2 hundred years ago. Some have even stood longer than 200 years. There are no able bodied men left in the village - all are in the Army. All the work is done by old men women & children.
We have quite a time when we try to or rather do any thing from the French. We are like the Jews if we were minus our hands we could not talk.
Get Beth g's address and send it in next letter. I would like to hear from him. There is no use of the parents worrying whos sons were drafted. It is their country's call, so this is no use of them worrying about it.
Please excuse the scribble but we have no table here to write on. I am feeling fine and consuming lots of grub here. Don't know if we will be put in tents later or not. The people dont drink much water here mostly beer & wine. The kids wear shoes, the toes of which are made of leather & soles are wood and filled with hob nails. The ground is so gravely that leather shoes do not last long
I think the French taken as a class are better people to be around than the English who feel themselves so high & mighty. One of the American base hospital units is only 20 miles from here. I guess all our sick will be sent there for treatment. There are a lot of hops raised in the near vicinity of this village. A small river passes through the village and the water is used if running the mill. The bread that they have here is real dark looks as though it is half rye. I really like it better than the white because it sticks to your ribs.
When the women do their washing they take it to the river to wash it there on the rocks. They are certainly behind the times by about a hundred years.
We are all billeted out among the different houses.
Would like to say more but it is not permissible. Hoping to hear from you soon.
PS The weather is fine and nights are rather cold. Don't forget about the tobacco.
France Sept 23, 1917
Received the package and letter you mailed Aug 21st this morning also three packages of papers containing three Tonga Mirrors and K.C. Star dated Aug 24 and other papers. I spent several hours reading the papers. Glad to hear that Paul Greeves & his brother received commissions in the new Army. Let me know if A. Porter was drafted. Do you know if Earl W. joined the hospital corps of the regulars. He stated in the last letter I received from him that he intended to.
Some of the letters I received from you were received 15 days after date of mailing. It all depends what connection they make with the boat. Packages & papers do not make quite as good time. I spent yesterday afternoon in one of the near by villages.
We are now having Indian summer. The days are real warm and the nights are almost cold, it has only rained a couple of times since arriving in camp. I had my first ice cream and cake yesterday since leaving the states.
In regard to that sweater etc, I can make very good use of same this winter. I would prefer cachie (khaki) color but if you can't get that, the blue for second choice. I believe sleeves would make the sweater much warmer. Use your own judgement, I don't want you to go to a lot of trouble.
What are they paying for wheat at the mill? Dad should of sold for $2.60 per bu. How does Emil like high school? I am afraid you will find my letters rather dry reading because they are almost like the first one. I have gotten a lot of enjoyment from the tobacco and have only had it a few hours.
I never felt better in my life and have a good appetite. Hope this finds you all well.
Oct 8, 1917
I received your letter the other day, also papers from latter part of Aug. We have been under canvas for about a week now. The tents are of a good size & 8 men to a tent. It has been rather cold the last few days. Also been raining for 4 days accompanied by a strong wind. Have been told it is a fair example of the weather we will have for the next 5 or 6 months. We have a small wood stove in the tent so we will keep pretty warm.
Yes we are all busy now putting in 8 hours a day. Am now the owner of 3 pair new shoes & another good pair. More than I had in civil life.
We are getting $33 a month now. We expected $36 --- but I guess they figured the 20% increase on the old pay of $25 a month. I would like to see that article about the Eng's pay. All the cameras were taken away from us so no photos or postal cards of any kind can be sent out of the country. In fact nothing but many believe --- & lts can be sent to the states.
I have been enjoying the tobacco very much. How does Emil like H.S? How did the corn crop turn out? I suppose they are paying at least $1.65 per bu. now. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (censored) I guess Walter S. is in France by now. Find out the number of the unit & I will write to him. Here in France I guess Ernst F. will be leaving Baltimore next month. Tell the folks in the half that I will answer their letter some of these days. All the clocks were set back an hour in France last night at 12 oclock so get an hour more day light. Please excuse the brevity of the letter but can say no more. Will write in a few days.
Am feeling fine.
Oct 14, 1917
I have not received any mail from you in the last few days. I wrote a letter to you on the 8th but have not posted it yet. It has rained every day and night for the last nine days. The mud is certainly fierce, I have never seen its equal in the states. We worked this morning & spent a couple of hrs. this afternoon in making cinder walks.
I spend a couple of hours every evening reading library books by candle light quite primitive. We were paid for the month of Sept. the other day & my allotment of $20.00 was kept out. I think it will be sent directly from Washington every month to you. I see by some of the K.C. papers I received a few days ago that a number of my classmates at the Uni. now have commissions in the Army. Am feeling fine. Must close as it is bed time.
Oct. 29, 1917
Recieved your letters of Sept 25-29, Oct 5 & card of Oct 8 today. Received K.C. Star and Mirror of Oct 4 yesterday. It has rained every day this month with the exception of four days, mud & more mud. The ground was frozen quite hard one morning last week. It snowed & rained & sleeted yesterday afternoon and last night. The surrounding hills were covered with snow this morning.
Our regiment subscribed for $45,000 worth ofliberty bonds. Our Co subscribed for a larger amount than any other company the amount being $8300. We are now burning coke in our stove and it makes some fire.
Be sure and send the tobacco regularly as we have not been able to procure any American here. You might send me three or 4 blue bandana hankerchiefs. Also try to get me a pair of leather mitts that are warm & serviceable about size 9 1/2. They will come in very handy in a month or so. Have received a couple of leathers from Marie but more from Lucile.
There are a lot of good looking girls here but there are none like the American. They have a lot of good liquors but will not use them to excess. In the French monetary system they have the centime and franc. One hundred centimes to a franc. A franc is worth 17.5 cts in our money.
The grub is fine & I am getting my share of it. Am feeling fine as usual. Did dad get his raise? Tell him to stay off those bins. I forgot to send Emil a birthday card.
Dec 18, 1917
Received your letter of Nov 24th yesterday also papers of Nov 22nd. Received the package containing mittens, tobacco, etc. Dec 16 also the cards. Received cards from Mrs. Brinkman stating that they had mailed a Xmas package Nov 15 & hoped that we would enjoy it. I am sure we will enjoy good old American pastry.
The weather has been rather cold since the first of the month. It only thawed one day & the temperature does not vary as it does in the states. We had a couple of inches of snow yesterday.
We expect to have a good Xmas a turkey feed and all the trimmings. We walked to a small village about 15 kilometers from camp Sunday had a good dinner & returned to camp on the train. Tell dad we came across some wine that was certainly great it was so old that the bottle was all moldy. Better than his grape and elderberry.
We have the tent all decorated with mistletoe and it is quite cheery. One of the fellows is entertaining the rest with some mandolin music while I am writing.
I am making good use of the sweater & I wore the mittens today and they are just the ticket. None of our regiment has received any knitted articles from the Red Cross that I know of.
I am taking out $5000.00 worth of life insurance. Are you receiving the allotments? Here after while sending letters to me please number them, also the bundles of news papers, I will then be able to tell if I am receiving all the mail. I will do likewise hereafter.
How are the kids getting along with their music? I am sorry to hear of the folks trials and tribulations. How is dad feeling these days? How did the corn crop turn out on the farm?
Must close as it is about bed time. Wishing you all a Happy New Year.
Letter No. I
Jan 4, 1918
Received your letter & postal of Nov. 14th on Jan 1st. also letter from Sylvia of the same date. Three of the fellows received Xmas package so we had plenty of candy etc. on New Years day. We had New Year off & we stuck around camp all day. It still continues to be cold. There are several inches of snow on the ground. I received the testament from the church on Jan 1st.
Received your letter of Dec. 1st yesterday, also a letter from Wm. Nirschl. We are all looking for Xmas packages but none have shown up yet. Will probably be a month before they all get here.
How much of a raise did dad get $25 or $30 per mo? How are the kids getting along in school? What outfit is E. Sechrist in? I will probably run across some of the fellows in a few months.
I only intended taking out only $5000 insurance but am making it $10,000. Hope you are all well.
Jan 7 1918
I received my 1st Xmas package Sunday. It was from Brinkmans & we certainly enjoyed the cake.
It warmed up yesterday for the first time. It rained all during the night & all day today accompanied with a driving rain. We have had some bad ones but today was a hummer.
There is nothing new to relate everything about the same; am feeling fine.
Jan 12, 1918
Received your letter of Dec 15th today and certainly glad to receive same. Certainly sorry to hear that Emil has the flu and hope that he is well by now. We have not had much of the epidemic over here. Our outfit has been very fortunate in regards to sickness.
I received your letter of Oct 1st, Oct 15 and also Anna's letter of Oct 12th yesterday. So Beth is out of the army at last. Well I will have a lot to tell you about our army when I get back. There are a lot of things that will come out in the wash.
We have been taking life easy the last few weeks. The weather still continues to be nasty. The river Mense is still out of its banks. We have breakfast at 7 A.M. dinner at 12, supper at 4:30 P.M. We don't get very much reading material here so the time drags rather slow. We were with the 3rd Army for a couple of weeks but did not get to go to Germany. I would sure liked to have made the trip. I expect to make it, that is a regular trip in Europe on my own time sometime in the future.
About returning to the states we know nothing but it does not look as though we will get away from here that is France before the 1st of April.
I see by the paper that Liddy died a few days ago. Through his death we lost one of our ablest citizens. Did you read his article in the Nov. Metropolitan magazine he sure put the truth in black and white.
I received a letter from Mr. Ballon the other day. Says they are having fine weather but says Kansas weather is hard to beat. Tell dad it is about time for him to go down and pay Aunt Eliza a visit. Do you ever hear from Uncle Henry? Hope you are all feeling fine. Am in the best of health.
P.S. Did you ever receive "Facts About France" and "Yanks"?
Jan. 24, 1918
Received your letters of Nov 22 & Dec 6 today. I received the birthday cards day before yesterday and also 5 letters. I will try to answer as many as possible. There is still a lot of Xmas mail coming through. I think I have received all the mail you have sent up to Dec. 6th. I think it will now take some what longer for the mail to get here as there is so much more coming over than last fall.
I guess we will read the Kaisers answer to Pres Wilson's peace terms tomorrow.
We have been having real spring weather the past week. The mud has all dried up and it barely freezes at night. The warm weather certainly makes a person feel good after the cold snap.
It is to bad that the clique there has to bother the boys. But you always find a few snakes where ever you go. Some time when you have time please send me the names & outfits of the different boys, so if I run across the outfit I can look them up. It is 5 months today since we landed in Eng. The time sure passes fast over here.
I understand we are to get a seven day furlough for every 4 months we serve over here. I expect to take mine in a month or so. Will take as long a trip as possible.
Quite a number of the prisoners can speak English & one of them is a Yale Uni graduate. Did not think we were Americans at first. Still think they will win.
There is one city that we visit that is quite cosmopolitan find soldiers there of all the Allied nations. Tell dad that I have seen some of his Italians with blond hair and blue eyes. We are about 85 miles north & east of father's old home.
Emil must be coming quite a hunter. There are quite a number of deers here. Some of the boys were up in woods getting wood, they were charged by a wild boar & they all took to their heels.
Am glad that dad got his raises but it should of been 5 more a week tell him. I think sis better quit her foolishness as she is to young. I don't expect anything like that to bother me for at least 7 years yet.
The old packages I have received were from you folks. Received a nice letter from Mrs. Z & Leoner. I hope you are all well. Am feeling fine.
Jan 27, 1918
Received papers of Dec 25th & 27th yesterday, also a diary from the Tonga H.S. It has been dark & dreary the last few days.
Nothing of importance has happened lately. Am well.
Feb. 25, 1918
Received your letters of Dec 24th, 26th & Jan 1st today. Also received your letter of Jan 6th a few days ago. The weather has been pretty nice the last week.
I received a letter from the New York Life the other day. I am sending in my change of address as Tonga. They advised me that I should not leave the address as you sent it in.
We will not have to worry about cold weather until next winter. I stood the past winter fine, I only stayed in 3 days in the last six months and then on account of a cold.
I have not been out of camp for 3 weeks have been pretty busy. Worked yesterday, I guess it won't be long before we will have to look at the calendar to see when Sunday comes around.
I will have to be an owl for the next 5 or 6 weeks. On duty from 11 P.M. until 7 A.M.
Have been taking it easy today as it was my day off. It has rained continually all day. Am not working nights as I expected. Am on 1st shift 7 A.M. to 3 P.M.
I think I have received most of your mail. Letter dated Jan 6th the last I received from you.
Emil must be quite a boy by now. He has quite a bank account. I guess we are good for several weeks of rainy weather.
We are awakened every morning by a regimental band every morning at 5:30 A.M. some class. Am feeling fine.
Somewhere in France (letterhead)
Apr. 11, 1918
We have been here for several days every thing is fine. We spent 48 hrs on the train. There were 32 of us in a box car. It was rather crowded but got along. We saw more in the past week than we did the past 7 months.
We can hear the roar of the guns all the time. We now get tea 3 times a day also cheese, jam, etc.
I will write once a week but it will probably be rather slow in getting there. The last letter I got from you was dated Mar. 7. Will probably get some in a week or so.
We have a swell billet here. A barn built a few hundred years ago & we pray that it dont rain to hard. Must close as it is bed time. Am feeling fine.
On Active Service with the British Expeditionary Force (letterhead)
May 28, 1918
Inclosed find a list I would like to have you send. I sent you a couple of letters yesterday so will wait a couple of days before I send you a lengthy letter.
Thanking you in advance for your trouble.
Somewhere in France (letterhead)
July 2, 1918
Received your letter of June 5th the other day also papers up to May 15th. We have been having some very fine weather the last few weeks.
We arrived at this place 2 weeks ago today. We had a very nice trip coming down about 38 hours on the train. We were within five minutes ride of the main part of Paris but did (not) get to go in. It was the third time we were within the suburbs of the city.
Are now with the Americans again but do not like it as well as I did with the British. We are so far from the lines now that this is considered a bomb proof job.
Am on duty from 12:30 P.M. to 9 P.M. one week and from 4 A.M. till 12:30 P.M. the other. We have a couple thousand feet of piling to put across a river. I have only received one dunking as yet. There is also a large canal near camp. Certainly have a lot of good bathing.
I have finally found where Walter S. is stationed also Earl S. I passed through the burg where Jay Chandler is stationed but did not get to see him.
Have you received the Stars & Stripes? Be sure & let me know.
I guess we will have quite a celebration the 4th. The French are going to celebrate as well as the Americans. Last year we were wondering when we would sail this year when the war will be over. I expect to eat Xmas dinner at home in 19.
Must close as it is dinner time.
Sept 1, 1918
Received some papers today of the last of June. Should be getting some first class mail in a few days. Have been having some grand weather of late, the nights are getting rather cool and feel comfortable under 3 blankets.
I received a letter from Ivan yesterday which he mailed in England on June 20th. We were only camped 30 miles apart about five weeks ago but they moved before I could get to see him.
I was up on a high hill the other day where the ruins of an old castle are standing. The castle was destroyed by the Spanish in the 14th century. There is a passage that leads from the ruins to a village in the distance. It takes about an hour to go through the same. There was certainly a lot of time and labor spent on fortifications during the feudal times.
It is not unusual to see oxen hitched to a wagon but the other day I saw an old cow hitched to a wagon with a horse. The driver said the cow was only twenty two years of age.
Well old Jerry seems to be slipping slow but sure.
By the time this letter reaches you will only have one left at home. I hope sis likes teaching and I wish her best of luck. When is dad going to quit the mill?
Ten of us fellows have a Edison machine so we have had plenty of music all day. Hope this finds you all well.
Sept 21, 1918
Have not received any mail from you for about 2 weeks. But I guess at that I get mail oftener than you get it from me.
It has rained every day for the past 12 days. It often clears up towards evening & we have had so many beautiful moonlight nights. A fellow by the name of Stewart that is here with me often goes out with me in the evening for a long hike. He has been transferred to the Army Service Corps. Oneof my best friends got a transfer about 10 days ago & is now working on the Stars & Stripes. He being a newspaper man in civil life.
Well what do you think of the taking of the St. Michel saliant? Not so bad for amateurs. If we keep it up, you may have to make me a big Xmas cake next Xmas.
We are now able to get hot chocolate and doughnuts at Y.M.C.A. once in a while. The organization is not so bad now since the gov has taken a hand in the running of same. And now the sir who are between the age of 21 & 31 and are physical fit will have to enlist over here or return to the states. I guess P. Payne will have to shoulder a gun.
The 4th Liberty loan will be launched a week from today & I hope it is over subscribed a few hundred million. Am still on detached service. Hope to hear from you soon & that you are all well.
P.S. Be sure & address my mail as below.
Pvt Ernst Freienmuth
Co. D. 16th Eng (Ry.)
Sept 30, 1918
Have not heard from you for about a week now. The last letter I received from you was dated Aug 1st. I dont know where it spent seven weeks getting over here. Also received the wedding announcement of leonor and Jenkins at the same time. It still continues to rain almost every day. The nights are real chilly and a fire sure feels good in the morning.
I am going to take a room with one of the boys in a couple of days. Have one of those French feather beds that is about a foot thick. We can get one for about 40 francs a month. That is about 4 dollars apiece. We can then have a little privacy, can spend the evenings reading, etc. Of course fuel is not very plentiful here, the French system is to keep the fire going and keep close to the stove.
I took quite a long hike yesterday afternoon after a large dinner. I think fall is one of the best time of the year. It is just cool enough to make it invigorating. The town we are in is of about 1500 population and sits on a hill that is about 200 ft high. There is a valley on three sides of it. It is a pretty scene to look at it from the valley, with its tile roofs and antiquated buildings.
There is only a narrow gauge railroad that runs into the town. The track is about 36 inches wide and the trains are rather small. The main industry here is the manufacture of knives and scissors. Women, old men and children are the principle workers. Some of the people have a little shop at home where they do the finishing work on the knives and scissors. At one of these places I saw one of the primitive tread mills. It consisted of a wooden wheel about six feet in diameter and two feet wide. Inside the wheel is a large dog and in some cases two which kept walking or rather trying to walk which causes the wheel to revolve. A pulley is attached to the wheel and in this manner they get their power to run the small emery wheels, etc. The dogs walking reminds me of a story. Where the negro drill sergeant said to his platoon. When I says, "Mark time" I want you all to keep on walkin but dont go no where. Perhaps you will not appreciate this, as you may not be familiar to military drill.
Every new town that we strike we see some new way of doing things, that is it is new to us. I remember one time our Economics Prof at K.U. told us that three months in Europe would be more education than a year in college. At that time I rather doubted his statement but now fully realize the truth.
Some time ago in our rambles we came across a large field that was completely covered with heather but did not pick any. It was sure a grand sight. There are a good many flowers here that resemble those in the states. It will soon be time to gather English walnuts. I noticed a few lying under the trees yesterday.
I have not run across any of the fellows yet. In fact I may never as this country is not so small, after you have traveled a couple of thousand miles in it.
I see the United States Steel Corp. has adopted the eight horn system for its employees. It is one sure thing that the eight horn law will prevail through out the United States after the War.
Oct 1st, 1918
We had our first frost this morning and it is pretty cold. See by the morning paper that Bulgaria is finish. Must close as I have a lot of work.
Pvt. Ernst Freienmuth
Co D. 16th Eng (Ry)
% Section Engineers Office
P.S. Send to above address until further notice.
Oct. 9, 1918
The last letter I received from you was dated Aug. 24. I am expecting some every day. The weather has been pretty fair of late and the nights are getting rather cold.
Sunday one of the fellows and I hired a couple of bicycles. We left here at 7.30 A.M. on a motor bus and carried our bicycles as baggage. We went to a town of (X) that is about 16 kilom. from here. From there we rode the wheels about 18 kilom. where our Co. was but they left there yesterday. We had dinner with the company and returned to (X) in the afternoon. We caught the bus back at 6.05 P.M.
There are so many towns in this section that have no railroads or rather are not on a railroad that there are several bus lines that connect these towns. The buses have a capacity of about thirty people and a covered trailer is attached to the rear in which they carry baggage, etc.
That night we had a find at a French lady's house and it was the most palatable meal I have eaten over here. Including drinks and all it cost us 10 francs apiece.
I am afraid I will have to get a French bed when I return to the states. I certainly do think a lot of mine. My landlady tries her best to see that I am comfortable, etc. Brings up a pitcher of hot water every morning at seven and then wakes me.
Such a difference or contrast from the past 15 months. I am almost like a child with a new toy. One of the fellows and I took coffee with my landlady the other night. We had custard pudding tarts, cherry pie, wine and coffee. We had a very pleasant evening. This headquarters may move in a couple of weeks.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Oct 17, 1918
Received your letter yesterday and certainly glad to receive it. Had not heard from you so long that I thought you had forgotten your big brother. How do you like Spanish. You can go along with me when I go to S. America after the war as interpreter.
You must be quite a motor mechanic by now. How do you like driving the car.
Over here in France is where you can see plenty of good flying, banks, loop the loop, nose dive tail spins, etc.
I would like to throw the old remington over my shoulder and take a good hike through the hills again. We are having good duck weather over here at present.
There is not very much game over here, the rabbits are about like our jack rabbits, there are some partridge also wild boar. There are not very many hunters here I imagine their game laws are rather stringent. Being in the advance section we are not allowed to disclose our location. Am feeling fine. Like to hear from you once in a while.
Your brother Ernst
Oct. 17, 1918
Received your letter of Sept 10th yesterday. The weather continues to be raining. Of course we can expect to have the same for the next six months rather weeks.
Am certainly glad to hear that father's health is so good. When is he going to retire? I would certainly like to drop in to Anna's class room.
Some of the statements that English officer made are true to a certain extent. The end is near but I do not believe it will be before the summer of 1919. I certainly do hope it comes before then.
We expect to move with in the next few days. Will only be about forty mile by truck.
Are you receiving the Stars & Stripes regularly. Am well. Is there much Spanish flu in the states?
Nov. 24, 1918
This being fathers day I will try to enumerate some of my doings of the past 16 months. It has been published in the papers that we can now disclose our whereabouts and where we were in the past. But we have not received any official order as yet. So if this letter is cut up you will know it is the censors fault.
We landed in Liverpool Eng. on Aug. 23-17. From there we went to Camp Bordon aobut 30 miles from London. After spending two days in camp we went to South Hampton and crossed the channel to LeHavre, France, landing there Aug 27-17. Spent one day in rest camp and then traveled by train (third class) through the via way of Paris, through Chaumont where I saw the first American soldiers in France. We arrived at Is-sur-Tille (Cote d'or) Aug 29th. We were billeted in barns etc in a small town called Tilchatel. The first 3 weeks were spent drilling and then we started the const. of our camp at Is-sur-Tille. We worked under difficulties for some time as our const. equipment had not arrived from the states. The weather was fierce lots of rain & mud. I have often thought of what a Major of ours said when we landed at LeHavre. He told us there was a lot of "Hell" before us and I guess he hit the nail on the head.
While at Is-sur-tille we used to get a pass to Dijon which was about eighteen miles from our camp. It is a city of about 80 thousand population and is known as the second Paris or rather used to be.
We were at Is-sur-tille until the last of March. When we left there was a railroad yard consisting of 80 miles of track, 18 warehouses 50'X500'. Two large ordnance machine shops, a balloon repair shed. Housing facilities for 15000 men. Various other things to numerous to mention.
We were loaded in boxcars the last of March and later attached with the British fifth army. It took us three days and a half to make the trip to Arras which was menaced by the Boche at that time. We went via way of Paris, Amiens & Abbeville. We went in camp about four miles from Arras and I admit did not sleep very well the first night. The next day we had nothing to do so we (5 of us) went to the main entrance of Arras. But did not enter the town as the shells were dropping to often.
The next day we started on narrow gauge const. We put in thirty miles of same, connecting up ammunition and gas dumps with the front.
Later we went down towards Doullens on the same work. We got beaucoup drill under some British officers and were held as reserve infantry. But were lucky enough not to be used as same. While with the British most of the fellows had the influenza but none of them kicked the bucket. I was lucky enough to escape it.
We liked the British real well but could not get used to their grub, good enough but the quality was small. Had some great times with the Canadians, as they are so much like the Americans.
After having three monthes of real experiences with the British we were sent to Nevers which is about 160 miles south of Paris. After spending three weeks there, on the const. of a bridge 2100 ft in length for a double track our co was sent to Bourbonne Le Bains putting up barracks etc. The remainder of the Reg stayed and completed the job at Nevers.
We were next sent to the Nancy sector where we experience some warm times. From there I was sent to the Sec. Eng. office for duty at Pagent. My outfit was in the Argonne forest at the time the Armistice was signed.
This office is now breaking up and I am returning to my regiment tomorrow. I have a couple of days travel before me. The 16th is now in the Brisy coal field district north of Metz. Looks as though we might be attached to the Army of occupation. If such is the case it will probably be several months before we return to the states. The only thing we can do is keep a stiff upper lip and take things as they come. I have hopes of getting back next summer.
We have had some swell weather this month. It started in raining this afternoon and it will probably last for several days. Ernst is in the south central part of France but I have never heard from him yet. The last letter I received from mother was dated Sept 10th and I received same on Oct 4th. Have not received one piece of mail since then. The longest I have ever been with out mail over here. Will probably get a whole sack of it some of these days.
Are you getting the Stars and Stripes regularly? I sent it every week. How is sis getting along with her school by now? I suppose Emil has a lot of games to his credit by now. I expect to find you out of the mill upon my return home. Hope this finds you all well. Wish you all a Merry Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. Hope to hear from you soon.
Nov 30, 1918
I left Neufchateau Monday night and arrived here Tuesday morning. Have been trying to get out of here ever since. There is an embargo on at present and they are shipping no one to the 3rd army at present. Do not know how long I will be stuck here. I met another 16th man yesterday whom I had not seen since Oct 4th 1917. So we are sticking around together.
I suppose you had a very good Thanksgiving dinner. I don't think I will forget mine for some years to come. The following was the menu. A cup of cocoa, 2 pieces of bread and butter, a small piece of pumpkin pie and an apple. I got it at the Red Cross here for half a franc.
One thing the Red Cross never does is to turn anyone down who does not have any money. Quite different than the organization P. Payne belongs to.
I have seen a good many Allied prisoners the past week some of them are a pitiful sight, ragged and half starved. The peace terms should be such that Germany will be a secondary nation for years to come. They should be forbidden to emigrate to the United States after peace is declared.
I see by the paper that some troops are on their way to the states. I am in hopes of getting back by next spring.
It has been rainy all week but it is pretty fair today. Wish you all a Mery Xmas.
Apr 24th, 1919
Received your letter of Mar. 20th on the boat just before we sailed from Bordaux. Received your letters of Apr 3rd & 11th today and was certainly glad to receive them.
We left Bordaux on Apr 11th on the freighter Panaman. The first 2 days out I was some sea sick and did not have an appetite for a week. We landed or rather docked at Brooklyn 5 P.M. Apr 22nd. We got off the boat that evening about seven oclock. The red cross gave us a good meal including apple pie. Then they gave us candy, cigarettes, chewing gum and cake. In fact they gave us almost as much as we received during our entire stay in France.
We then took a ferry across the river and then the train to Camp Upton on Long Island. we arrived at camp at 1 a.m. on Apr 23rd.
We were put through a delouser yesterday again, if my clothes go through many more times they will be finished. We did not do anything today. War must of been hell for the fellows that soldiered over here in these camps. The fine barracks, electric lights, spring beds, etc. The grub here is better than what we had on the other side.
All the fellows that care to reinlist can do so but I don't care for any more. This is certainly a fine camp it is about 65 miles from New York on Long Island.
We expect to leave here some time next week for Detroit. We expect to parade in Detroit and we will probably be discharged at Camp Custer. I may take a run down to New York before we leave here.
I have been eating ever since I landed in the states making up for lost time. I expect to get home about the 1st of June if they dont hold us to long. Will write again in a few days.
P.S. Well if Alma dont care to come in and see you I would let her go to grass.
Received the papers of the latter part of March yesterday, the letter of April the 10th was the last letter I received. We have been having some fine weather the last few days.
This camp is some filled up at present. Part of the 72nd, 35th and 91st divisions are in here now. The 137th infantry of the 35th div. are here and I was over, and found Jess Trackwell. He is in the medical detachment. He has not changed much in the last three years. E. Cline landed at Newport News but dont know what camp he went to.
The 35th will be demobilized at Funston some time in the near future. It looks as though we will be at this camp another week or so. It will be about the last of May before we are mustered out. I used to think the French slow but these birds on this side have nothing on them.
I suppose you are having nice weather now? Sis's school must be out in a few weeks. Will write again in a few days.
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