THE GREATER LOVE
CHAPLAIN GEORGE T. McCARTHY, U. S. Army
Extension Press Chicago
Copyright 1920 by Extension Press
I Leave Home—Base Hospital No. 11—Camp Dodge 13
II Camp Mills—St. Stephen's, New York—Enter Army 21
III Camp Merritt—Leviathan—At Sea 36
IV Brest—Ancey-le-Franc 46
V In Billets—Departure for Front 56
VI Puvinelle Sector—Bois le Pretre—Vieville en Haye 83
VII The Greater Love 97
VIII Thiacourt—Aerial Daring 104
IX Rembercourt 122
X Armistice Day—Gorz 141
XI Domremy—Home 148
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Chaplain McCarthy (Before the Attack at Rembercourt) Frontispiece
United States Unit No. 2—Blessing of Unit's Colors at St. Stephen's 18
Sisters of Unit No. 2—The Only Sisters of the A. E. F. 26
Seventh Division Troops Boarding Leviathan at Hoboken 34
In Rue de Belgrade—Lull Before Battle 42
Taps and Farewell Volleys for Our Heroic Dead 50
The Battle Swept Roadside Was Sanctuary and Choir 66
The Men Behind Our Mess at Bouillonville 74
Our Dugouts Afforded Shelter and Habitation 82
Thiacourt Under Shell-Fire 90
Doctor Lugar and Aids Working in a Gas Attack Near Jolney 98
The Wounded Were Carried to the Nearest Shelter 114
St. Joan of Arc 122
Where St. Joan of Arc Made Her First Communion 130
In the Church at Domremy 138
"Greater Love Than This No Man Has" 146
To him who will but observe the genesis and development of moral qualities, whether in the individual Man or in the collective State, there finally comes, with compelling force, the conviction—God is in His world and has care of it! Out of the slime of things mundane, out of the very clay of Life's daily round of laughter and tears, loving and hating, striving and failing, living and dying—the romance of Peace, the Tragedy of War—God is still creating men and nations and vivifying them with souls Immortal. Providence but looks upon the water of the commonplace, and behold! it becomes wine of Cana!
The recent world war, hallowed by the very purity of motive and intention with which our American Manhood took up its burden, led us nationally unto those heights of moral perspective and spiritual vision known only to him who toils upon the hill of Sacrifice. No Spartan of Athenian fields, no Regulus of Rome or Nathan Hale, was nobler, higher motived or less afraid than our own heroic American Doughboy!
Into the shaping and formation of his moral character many forces entered; and, not least of these, the Military Chaplain. This man—and every sect and denomination generously gave him—was pre-eminently God-fearing, thoroughly patriotic, unselfishly charitable, untiringly zealous, and whole of soul devoted to duty.
Mine was the privileged and sacred duty, as Vicar General of the Fourteen States comprising the Great Lakes Vicariate, of knowing intimately and directing the splendid work of these heroic soldiers of the Cross. The inspiration I drew, both from these priests and from contact with their work and written reports, whether in cantonments, camps, hospitals, transports, battleships, or on the flaming front of the battlefields, I shall ever treasure and recount with pride.
Archbishop Hayes, appointed by the Holy Father "Chaplain Bishop" in charge of all priests in Military Service, and who conducted the vast responsibilities of that most important work with such eminent success, has declared our Chaplains to be "the Flower of the American Priesthood." One of such is Father McCarthy, Author of this book "The Greater Love." The same zeal that prompted him to follow the boys in Khaki and Blue Over There—making himself one with them in hardship, danger and wounds for the sake of their immortal souls, now impels him to the writing of this Book. "The Greater Love" is a religious message which teaches that as man needed God in war—with a crescendo of need reaching full tide in the front trench—even so he needs him in Peace. The message is clothed in the narrative of adventure—personal experiences of the Author—and every page an epic of absorbing interest. No one is better qualified to bring us message from Over There.
RT. REV. MSGR. WM. M. FOLEY, V. G.
"THE GREATER LOVE" BY GEORGE T. MCCARTHY, Chaplain, U. S. Army
LEAVE HOME—BASE HOSPITAL NO. 11—CAMP DODGE
"Very well then, Father, you have my permission and best wishes."
How the approving words and blessing of good Archbishop Mundelein thrilled me that memorable morning in 1918. The rain-washed freshness of April was abroad in Cass street; and the soft breeze, swaying the curtain of the Chancery window where he was seated, brought incense of budding tree and garden.
Patiently he had listened, while I presented my reasons for wishing to become a war Chaplain. How, obedient to that call to National Service which is
"The pride of each patriot's devotion,"
millions of our boys were exchanging the shelter of home and parish influence for the privation and danger of camp and ship and battlefield.
To accompany them, to encourage them, to administer to their spiritual and moral needs, to fortify their last heroic hours with "Sacramenta propter homines," here was a Christlike work pre-eminently worthy the best traditions of the Priesthood.
Even as, earnestly, I pleaded my case, I bore steadily in mind recollection of that lofty patriotism and brilliant leadership which had already made Chicago's Archbishop a foremost National Champion. It was but yesterday that the Secretary of the United States Treasury had called, personally, to thank and congratulate him on his inspiring patronage of Loan and Red Cross Drives.
In the sympathetic glow of his face I read approval even before hearing the formal words of permission.
"Moreover, Father, I will appoint an administrator at once, to care for the parish during your absence. You will receive, through Father Foley's office, letters duly accrediting you to Bishop Hayes, Chaplain Ordinary, and the National authorities."
A fond ambition, long cherished, was about to be realized! I had, of course, been doing something of a war "bit," co-operating with parishioners, and town folks like Mayor Gibson and Doctor Noble, in the various patriotic rallies and drives. Father Shannon of the "New World" thought so highly of our city's efforts as to visit us and eloquently say so at a monster Mass Meeting of citizens. "Do you know, George," he remarked that night as he marched beside me in the street parade, "if I could only get away, I would gladly go as a Chaplain."
Then I told him my secret, how I had filed my war application some months before, and had been meanwhile seasoning my body to the out-of-doors and practicing long hikes.
But a single cloud now remained in the radiant sky of dreams—the thought of parting! Ten years of residence in so Arcadian a place as Myrtle Avenue, and in so American a town as Harvey, engender ties of affection not easily to be sundered. Then, too, the school children, how one grows to love them, especially when you have given them their first Sacraments, and even joined in wedlock their parents before them. Of course for the priest who, more perhaps than any other man, "has not here a lasting city," whose life is so largely lived for others, and whose "Holy Orders" so naturally merge with marching orders, the leave-taking should not have been so trying. Preferable as would have been
"No moaning of the bar When I put out to sea,"
the parting that night with the people in the school hall, and again, the following morning at the depot, was keenly painful—a grief, however, every soldier was to know, and, therefore, bravely to be endured.
How sacred and memorable were the depot platforms of our beloved country in war time! Whether the long, smoke stenciled, trainshed of the Metropolis, or the unsheltered, two-inch planking sort, of the wayside junction; they saw more of real life, the Tragedy of tears and the Comedy of laughter, than any stage dedicated to Drama. There, life was most real and intense. The prosaic words "All Aboard" seemed to set in motion a final wave of feeling that surged beyond all barriers of the conventional—the last pressure of heart to heart and of hand to hand; the last response of voice to voice; the last sight of tear dimmed eye and vanishing form, as the train rumbled away beyond the curve, leaving a ribbon of black crepe draped on the horizon.
First impressions, we are told, are most lasting. Arrival at Camp Dodge, Iowa, the following morning and subsequent meeting with the officers and enlisted men of Base Hospital No. 11, made an impression so agreeable time itself seems merely to have hallowed it.
Association with the soldierly and gracious Colonel Macfarlain, the splendid Major Percy, the energetic Captain Flannery, together with Doctors Roth, Ashworth, Carter (the same T. A. Carter whose skill later saved the lives of poisoned Shirley and Edna Luikart), Lewis, Shroeder, and others, became at once an inspiration and pleasure. Most of these gentlemen had been associated with either St. Mary of Nazareth or Augustana Hospitals, Chicago; and had patriotically relinquished lucrative practices to serve their country in its need. Words cannot too highly praise, nor excess of appreciation be shown our gallant public-spirited doctors and corpsmen, who, whether here or overseas, made every sacrifice to build up and maintain the health of the largest Army and Navy of our history.
The personnel of enlisted men, too, with Base 11, was exceptionally superior, coming from some of the best families of the Middle West. Anderson, McCranahan and the two Tobins of the famous Paulist choir were there, and what wealth of vocal melody they represented! Talbot, Bunte, and Leo Durkin of Waukegan; Dunn, Farrell, Lewis, Talbot—these, and five hundred others like them, were the splendid fellows to whom I now fell heir.
Camp Dodge, like many another Cantonment, the War Department miraculously "raised" over night, was a vast school, pulsating with martial throb. Hundreds of the brain and brawn of the far-flung prairies were arriving daily, and being classified, drilled and seasoned into efficient soldiers.
Poets have to be born; but soldiers, in addition to qualities inbred, have to be made; and while the process of making was invariably laborious and often discouraging, it usually repaid patient effort. The raw recruit of yesterday became the pride of the line today!
They call me the "Raw Recruit," The joke of the awkward squad, The rook of the rookies to boot, And a bumpkin, a dolt and a clod; But this much I'll plead in defense I seem popular with these chaps, For they keep me a'moving thither and hence From Reveille to Taps.
Though no doubt I have had them for years, For the first time I'm sure I have feet! When the Corporal said "Halt" it appears That my feet thought he ordered "Retreat"! And my eyes o'er who's blue ladies 'd rave, And called them bright stars of the night, Now simply refuse to behave And mix up "Eyes Left" with "Eyes Right."
I'll admit that I'm no hand to brag; But the fact is I've won a First Prize! 'Twas not that I have any drag, Nor excel in the officers' eyes. It was close, but I won, never fear; My home training helped me, I guess; I beat every man about here; At being the first in, at "Mess"!
My Corporal admits I'm not bad Through the night, when I'm buried in sleep! It's waking that I drive him mad, And cause very demons to weep. But Rome was not built in a day! And once I get used to my suit, I'll just force all these pikers to say "He once was a raw recruit!"
CAMP MILLS—ST. STEPHEN'S, NEW YORK—ENTER ARMY
Given sufficient time and mellowing, the butterfly eventually merges from the chrysalis; and it was with rapturous delight early June saw us exchange Camp Dodge for Camp Mills, Long Island! We were now on the shores of the Atlantic, and would soon tread the deck of our ship of dreams—a transport bound for Over There!
Enter, now, the "season of our discontent!" It all grew out of the nature of the Commission I was holding. It was not at all satisfying. Commission in the Red Cross, I discovered, did not authorize front line service; it would hold a person somewhere in the rear area; this would not do; I determined to enter the regular Army.
A kind Providence helped bring this about! Instructions were abruptly received from the War Department classifying all Red Cross Chaplains as mere civilians, denying them the right to sail with the Units they had accompanied East!
Fully fifteen other such Chaplains were then at Camp Mills waiting sailing orders. They, too, had left their home towns and positions fully expecting service overseas. Receipt of this heart-breaking news induced many to give up the work and return home, utterly discouraged. It only served to hasten my entrance into the regular Army.
Going at once to the Rectory of St. Stephen's, East 29th St., New York, direction and cordial welcome was there received from one of God's noblest of men, Bishop Hayes. Appointed by the Holy Father to the special direction and care of all Chaplains in the National service, this brilliant and big-hearted Prince of the Church was father and friend to all.
Father Waring, the Vicar General, and the vicars and assistants in the Ordinariate and parish of St. Stephen's co-ordinated in their own charming manner with the vastly important work and cordial hospitality of their devoted chief.
Within a week the physical and mental examinations had been successfully passed and commission received as First Lieutenant in the National Army.
While those days at St. Stephen's were of surpassing pleasure in the rare companionship afforded, they were characterized, too, by a round of strenuous activity. There was the necessary visit to Fifth Avenue, where the good ladies of the Chaplain's Aid, doing the same great good in the East that Father Foley's Aid Society was doing in the West, generously supplied the necessary Mass and Sacramental equipment. Then, too, the farewell Musical by the Paulist vocalists of Base 11, given at Garden City; and for which Mrs. Charles Taft kindly acted as hostess. Genuine regret marked that unavoidable parting. To co-labor with such splendid officers and men was truly a privilege; and to have served, even briefly, with the gallant "11" that wrought so worthily overseas, is an honor proudly ever to be cherished.
It was during these days an event occurred which the "Parish Monthly," of St. Stephen's, was good enough to record:
"On Tuesday, July 23, Unit No. 102, Overseas Nursing Corps, gathered in our church, to ask, in truly Catholic fashion, God's blessing on their journey across the Atlantic. Ten 'Cornet' Sisters of Charity are in charge of this Unit, which is almost wholly Catholic in its membership and which has been recruited from hospitals conducted by these Sisters in the South and West.
"At six-thirty, Chaplain George T. McCarthy, U. S. A., of Chicago, celebrated Holy Mass. A congregation which numbered, besides the Unit, our own Sisters of Charity, many overseas Nurses attached to other units and a goodly quota of our parishioners was present. All received Holy Communion. At the conclusion of the Mass, the "Star-Spangled Banner" was sung, and after he had blessed a large American flag—the colors of the Unit—Father McCarthy bade the nurses farewell."
"In this holy hour and place, while Jesus, the gentle Master, still lingers in your Eucharistic hearts, we are met for a two-fold purpose—to bless the starry banner of the free—the colors of your Unit—and to wish you Godspeed on your heroic way.
"Here within these historic walls of St. Stephen, the Proto-Martyr, whose every stone and pillar and vaulting arch is richly storied with the memories of surpassing men and women and their splendid achievements—here, as it were, on the shore of the far-flung billows of the Atlantic, you are gathered from the length and breadth of our beloved country. With all the sacred courage of an Agnes of Italy, an Ursula of England, a Joan of France, you have, during the past few days and weeks, been called upon to bid your loved ones at home a fond and tender farewell, as you go to follow the trail of the Crimson Cross to service overseas.
"Our first and most holy purpose here, indeed, is to bless this flag that is to lead you on your way; but most truly may the question be asked: 'Can the flag of our beloved Country be blessed more fully than it already is?' Its red is consecrated by the blood of countless heroes; its white is stainless and unsullied as the Truth and Justice for which it has forever stood; its blue is of the mid-day heavens, lofty in its purpose to point the way of freedom to all mankind, that 'Government of the people, for the people, and by the people' may not perish from the earth!
"As we unfurl it to the breeze, it speaks with an eloquence irresistible and it tells a story of heroism and patriotism unsurpassed. It brings memory of Lexington and Concord; it tells of suffering at Valley Forge, and of Victory at Yorktown. It was waved in triumph on the hills of Gettysburg; and the blue of Grant and the gray of Lee entwined it forever in the reunion of Appomattox. Dewey carried it to victory in Manila Bay, even as Shafter and Joe Wheeler did at San Juan and Santiago.
"When a military Power overseas attacked the cause of universal freedom in the world, Pershing with his boys in khaki, and Benson with his boys in blue, carried that flag to the forefront of the battle line; and today, side by side with the banners of England, martyred Belgium, gallant Italy, and unconquerable France, it waves defiance to the foe. It kisses the poppies of Flanders and to the lilies of France it whispers 'Lafayette, we are here.' In asking, therefore, the God of Truth and Justice to bless this flag, we offer Him no indignity. As He loves the right, He must love Old Glory, and therefore we ask Him to re-adorn it with victory.
"Ours, too, is the performance of another duty, it is to speak the briefest, yet the hardest of all words to utter, the word of final farewell. Had I the gift of eloquence, I would pour into that word, as into a casket of alabaster, all the love, all the affection, all the sad sweet smiles, all the 'God be with you until we meet again,' of your loved ones back home. Through the gates of memory you have left ajar, I seem to see your old home town—the streets guarded by sentinels of maple, oak, and elm; the cottage of white, with lattice of climbing roses; and in the door, her dear face looking sweetly sad yet bravely, towards you, the mother who kissed you as you turned to go. Tenderly she hung the service flag in the window; bravely will she wait and pray beside the vacant chair.
"Many of you have come from the dear old Southland; and there seems to come to me now, floating down the valley of dreams, the song old mammy used to sing:
"'I hear the children calling I see their sad tears falling, My heart turns back to Dixie And I must go.'
"Yes, my dear Sisters and nurses, you must go. There is need of you over there. Our Country's heroes are there, bleeding and dying, and they need you, beloved angels of mercy, to bind their wounds. In the cities, the academies and hospitals from which you came, there are those who would love to be with you on this mighty errand of National Service. The Providence of God has chosen you, however, for the work, and not them. As of old, on the shores of Galilee, the God of Mercy commissioned His chosen followers to carry into the broad world His blessing, even so from these shores of the Atlantic He is sending you forth on your mission of love.
"From yonder tabernacle, He stoops to each one of you and sweetly whispers: 'My daughter of the crimson Cross, of the faithful soul, of the clean heart, and skillful hand, I am sending you over there as My own representative. I know you will not fail Me, and that even unto death you will be true to the Cross and Flag that go before you!' The Nation is proud of you and you are the holiest and best offering of our Country to the cause.
"And thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and wild war's desolation. Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, since our cause it is just, And this be our motto, 'In God is our Trust!' And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and home of the brave."
As Base Hospital 102 is vested with the proud distinction of comprising on its roster the only Sisters accompanying the American Expeditionary Forces, it may be here permitted to anticipate and insert a brief account of its heroic personnel and their splendid service.
Its Chief Nurse was Sister Chrysostom Moynahan of Mullanphy Hospital, Saint Louis, Missouri; Sister Agatha Muldoon, Sister Angela Drendel, Sister Catherine Coleman, and Sister Florence Means were from the Sisters of Charity Hospital, New Orleans. Sister De Sales Loftus and Sister David Ingram were from the City Hospital, Mobile, Ala. Sister Lucia Dolan, St. Mary's Hospital, Evansville, Ind. Sister Mariana Flynn, St. Joseph Hospital, St. Joseph, Mo., and Sister Valeria Dorn, St. Vincent Hospital, Sherman, Mo. The ninety nurses were graduates of the various nurses' schools connected with the hospitals in charge of the Sisters of Charity.
They took the oath of allegiance July 2, 1918, and reported at New York on July 4. There they were equipped by the Red Cross with uniforms for overseas duty and were given the necessary military training by an army officer.
The officers and enlisted men, of whom there were thirty-six of the former and two hundred of the latter, in charge of Dr. Dana, reported at Fort McHenry, and when they were ready the Sisters and nurses joined them there. Its chaplain was the Rev. Godfrey P. Hunt, O. F. M., of Washington, D. C.
Thus completed, the unit sailed August 4 on the Umbria, which ship was afterward lost with Italian troops in the Adriatic. The second day out the work of the unit began, when fifteen men, who had been struggling with the waves in a row boat for twenty-four hours, were picked up. They belonged to the O. A. Jennings, oil tank, which had been torpedoed. They were given treatment by the unit, which turned back with them for a day's journey; then, given supplies, they were started toward land, which was in sight. The gratitude of the rescued men amply rewarded the unit for its work of mercy.
The Umbria was without convoy, and though in one night alone it received fourteen warnings of submarines, it threaded its perilous way in safety, and on August 18 reached Gibraltar, where a stop of three days was made. The officers and nurses were given shore leave, and put in their time visiting places of interest.
On August 21 the start for Genoa was made, which port was reached on the 27th. The American Ambulance Corps, with a band of music, met the unit at the boat, and Italian officers went aboard to greet the Americans in the name of the Italian Government. The Sisters and nurses were taken to the Victoria Hotel, while the commanding officer, Colonel Hume of Frankfort, Ky., and Lieutenant Colonel Dana, went to Rome to secure a place at the front for the base hospital.
The place selected was Vicenza, about fifteen miles from the firing line. It was located in the Rossi Industrial School, which in olden days had been a Dominican convent.
Here for seven months the Americans carried on their work of mercy and during that time three thousand patients were cared for, of which number only twenty-eight were lost, and they were victims of the influenza, which was very severe in that locality. It was a remarkable record, the lowest loss of any of the American units. The 332d regiment of Ohio boys was in the section. The Ambulance Corp, composed chiefly of college men, did excellent work. The Sisters found the Italians very grateful, and their admiration for the Americans was great. There were many gas cases, and while hundreds had their eyes badly burned, such was the success attending the treatment they received, not one patient suffered the loss of his sight. A great deal of good was also done by the Sisters and the chaplain in bringing back neglectful soldiers to their religious duty.
On several occasions air raids threatened the town, but as the Italian aviation force was superior to that of the enemy, no injury was done, although earlier in the year Vicenza had suffered severe bombardments.
As the work increased a second hospital was opened for Italians for medical cases exclusively. Besides Italian and American soldiers, British soldiers were also treated at the base hospital.
The signing of the armistice was joyfully celebrated in Vicenza, and so keenly did the Italian people recognize that the ending of the war was largely due to America, it was a common occurrence for American soldiers to be caught up and carried in triumph through the streets by the emotional Italians.
As their work grew lighter, leaves of absence were given the hard-working Sisters and nurses. During one of these the Sisters visited Rome, and had the happiness of assisting at the Mass of the Holy Father and receiving Holy Communion from him. Later they were received in private audience by the Pope. The Sisters had also the pleasure of visiting the mother-house of their Order in Paris. It was while there they were ordered to proceed to Genoa for embarkation.
They sailed from Genoa March 21 for Marseilles, where they were joined by several American officers and nurses who had served in France, arriving in New York April 4.
While they were the only Sisters with the A. E. F., still they found everywhere abroad Sisters doing their share of work. One band of Italian Sisters of Charity walked sixty-five miles with a retreating force. They were in the war since its beginning. This is not only true of the Italian Sisters, but also of the French and Belgian, and presumably of those in the enemy countries. The American Sisters were glad of the opportunity to give their service in this war, in which their country was engaged, as they have done their part in the other wars of the Republic.
I had made known to good Bishop Hayes my decided preference for a combat force, and have always felt he favored me, for, on July 30, the message from the War Department came: "Report at once to Officer Commanding Seventh Division, Camp Merritt, New Jersey."
Good Father Dinneen, the Bishop's Secretary, added to my joy by venturing opinion, that the "Seventh" was about to sail! He also generously equipped me financially—"Just a little pin money for you," as he charmingly expressed it.
What magnificent men these priests of St. Stephen's and the Ordinariate! How worthy to be associated with the Bishop who so kindly, so wisely, and so well cared for the Chaplains in the National service.
Reporting at once to Camp Merritt I entered upon my Army duties.
CAMP MERRITT—LEVIATHAN—AT SEA
The gallant Seventh Division, destined to render a service well worthy of Old Glory, was then commanded by Brigadier General Baarth with Col. W. W. Taylor, Jr., Chief of Staff, and Col. John Alton Degan, Adjutant.
It comprised the 34th, 55th, 56th and 64th Regiments of Infantry; the 6th and 7th Regiments of Field Artillery; 19th, 20th and 21st Machine Gun Battalions, 10th Field Signal Battalion and Divisional Sanitary and Supply Trains, with a complete field equipment of 32,000 men.
The Chaplain's Corps of the Seventh comprised Rev. Fathers Martin and Trainor, and Rev. Messrs. Cohee, Rixey, Hockman and Evans. Fathers Gwyer and LeMay joined in France. All these Chaplains rendered a brave and excellent service, meriting the respect and confidence of officers and men alike.
Departure of that mighty fighting force from Camp Merritt was deeply impressive. At the midnight hour of the First Friday in August, Mass was said for the last time, and hundreds of the boys received Holy Communion. Within an hour all were on the march, under full pack, along the country road, leading to the Palisades of the Hudson.
The night was densely dark, and grimly each soldier trudged along, guided only by the bobbing pack of the comrade in front of him. Chill gray dawn saw the head of the column emerge from the hills at a secluded point on the Jersey shore, where waiting ferry boats were boarded, which conveyed us to the wharf of the Leviathan at Hoboken.
How thrilled we were to find this giant of all the seven assigned to carry us "Over There!" Nine hundred feet long, one hundred feet wide, thirty-six feet draft and nine stories deep! Like some fabled monster of the sea, which well her weird camouflaged sides suggested, she opened her cavernous jaws and received as but a morsel thirteen thousand men.
Here was our first contact with the gallant Navy—here did the mighty tide of khaki gold merge with the deep sea blue of heroes.
"Columbia loves to name Whose deeds shall live in story And everlasting fame."
Leaning nonchalantly on the rail of their mighty ship, the Jackies, all perfect specimens of young American manhood, quietly watched us march aboard. We were as novel to them as they to us, yet what confidence they inspired! Curiously yet kindly they looked us over, approvingly observed the long orderly lines of our glittering rifles stretching away through the dim sheds, and seemed to say, "You are worth while fellows!—we'll take you over all right, all right, for our little old Uncle Sam!"
To quarter, feed, and sleep 32,000 men; to carry them across 3,000 miles of angry pathless sea, where lurked the deadly mine, and prowled, as panthers of the deep, the submarines—this was the task assigned to the Leviathan and our convoy ships, the Northern Pacific and the Northland. How well our superb Navy "carried on" not only for us but for seventy times our number, let the most brilliant pages of seafaring annals tell!
With perfect co-ordination between our Army and the ship authorities, all troops, equipment, and provisions were aboard within ten hours; and promptly at three o'clock the following afternoon the Leviathan swung out from her pier on the North River and headed seaward.
In serried ranks, silent and still as at attention, the troops lined both sides of the upper and lower decks. As at the funeral of Sir John Moore "not a drum was heard," for who can cheer at the thought of dear ones left behind, with the kiss of fond farewell still lingering in loving memory on the lip, with the soldier's requiem echoing through lonely hearts:
"Farewell, mother, you may never Press me to your heart again; When upon the field of battle I'll be numbered with the slain."
As we passed down the city front, every building, on both the New York and Jersey sides, burst into color; handkerchiefs signaled a last farewell; and out of the mists of our tears seemed to rise a mighty rainbow, spanning ship and receding shores, and spelling in letters of heavenly hue, "God be with you till we meet again."
With destroyers ahead, astern, and on the beam, two hydroplanes circling and paralleling above, and a solitary observing balloon hovering over the Long Island shore, our ship and convoys stood boldly out to sea.
We were now in the war zone, easily within range of hidden mines and torpedoes, and, like the charger who scents the battle from afar, we thrilled and were glad with the thought of daring deeds before us.
The ship Chaplain was good Father McDonald, Captain United States Navy, one of the most beloved and notable figures of the war. Every evening at the sunset hour he would go to the bridge. The Commander of the Leviathan, Captain Bryan, together with his staff, would be there assembled; and, as the last rays of the sun sank beneath the waves, every soldier and sailor on board would stand rigidly at attention and offer prayer as Father McDonald would raise his hand in absolution and benediction.
How near God seemed in that vast, horizon-wide cathedral of the sea! Its vaulting dome more radiant than St. Peter's sculptured prayer; its altar, clothed with the lace of ocean foam; its pavement strewn with silvery sheen; its sanctuary light the candelabra of the stars. "I will lead thee into solitude and there I will speak to thy soul." God, Eternity, and Things Divine were here made real; and to each lonely boy wrapped in blanket on the dark cold deck, there came the message that:
"Far on the deep there are billows That never shall break on the beach; And I have had thoughts in the silence That never shall float into speech."
A town of 13,000 population, ashore, is one thing—at sea, it is something else! First of all the question of clothing, most young men back home are fastidious—here all must wear the life preserver style trimmed a la canteen, which means our canteen, filled with water ration, must be our inseparable companion—very much attached to us, as it were.
On shore, juvenile America spends his evenings downtown; here, he must remain at home—indoors, if you please, not even deck promenades being permitted. Again, to the average young man, the disposition of cigarette butts is of little concern—m'lady's best parlor centerpiece, polished floor or cherished urn usually preferred; woe betide the luckless Buddie who denies his poor dead fag decent burial in the ubiquitous spit kit! To throw butts, gum wrappers, matches or anything but glances overboard, clew to the vulture eye of the lurking submarine, was a positive court martial offense. It was beginning to be evident that Sherman was right!
Yet all went well; and that indomitable humor which ever characterized our boys, which rose superior to all hardship and danger, and smiled in the very face of Death, made tolerable, if not happy, those seven thrilling days at sea. "Some swell place" would be Buddie's comment on the tossing waves of mid-Atlantic; and usually having been well, and not used to see sickness, he was easily prone to seasickness!
One day private Barry, 64th Infantry, came to me. "Chaplain, I am in great trouble! Before leaving Camp Merritt my best girl and her mother called to see me off, came from away back home to say good-bye. Now I am not satisfied with the details of that parting; I am just crazy about the girl, and what worries me is the thought that, in the excitement of leaving, I may not have made it perfectly clear to her how much I really love her. Now, Chaplain, I want you to write her a letter, make it good and strong, and tell her how much I love her. Will you do that?"
What else was I to do? I was his Chaplain, his big brother, friend and pal. His comrade in arms, climbing with him even then the road to Calvary's hill! "Sure thing—leave it to me, old man—but say, tell me, just how did you act and what did you say to her in parting?"
He told me. "Well, that looks pretty convincing; I think she saw you loved her all right—however, I will write the letter provided you help me."
We sat down on a coil of rope and together wrote the letter, collaborating in the most unique, most compelling, missive ever written on board the Leviathan!
How he treasured that letter! How carefully he guarded it, how prayerfully, in due time he followed its journey from Ponteneuson Barracks, Brest, back to Chicago. Was it successful? Here's to you, Barry, old top, now happily married, in your snug little home in old Chi—and my best regards to Mrs. Barry.
One day in mid-ocean, with a fresh gale blowing abeam, and the three troopships rolling and throwing spray high in the air from a heavy white-capped sea, the cry rang out "man overboard from the Northern Pacific!" A soldier had slipped on the watery deck; and, before his mates could reach him, was overboard.
Alarm was at once sounded, lifebuoys thrown toward him, the vessels came about and circled diligently around, but no sign was seen of him. His untimely and tragic death deeply affected us all; and though the ocean was his grave and the spume of the sea his shroud, his memory abides with us in the sanctuary of our prayers.
On the morning of the sixth day, a flotilla of destroyers bore down on us. So apparently from nowhere did they come, we were tempted to believe they rose from the depths of the sea. How thrilled we were to see those six greyhound terrors of the submarine take position around us—one ahead, one astern, and two on each beam.
It was now full speed ahead on a zigzag course. We were in the most deadly submarine infested zone of the ocean. Only yesterday the Susquehanna had been torpedoed in these very waters, and, no doubt, the same evil periscopes were watching us now from beyond yonder kopje of a wave! Our temples throbbed poundingly; our throats grew dry, our eyes stared straight ahead—the same psychic phenomena we were to note in ourselves, even more accentuated, later in the trenches. What a prize we would be—to sink the largest ship afloat, with the greatest human cargo, 13,000 souls, that ever put to sea!
It was, as it were, an old-time, nerve-racking ninth inning at the White Sox grounds! A clean single will tie, a double will beat us. Uncle Sam's Navy is in the box; Von Tirpitz's best sticker is at the bat. Two strikes have been called. What will the next be?
A sudden hush grips the watching thousands. Here it comes—the batter swings with terrific force—"Strike three, you're out!" and proudly our gallant Armada sweeps into the welcoming and sheltering harbor of Brest!
Vive la France! With all the emotion that must have thrilled the heart of Lafayette, sailing up the Chesapeake to Washington's assistance at Yorktown, we gazed on the rugged coast of Brittany. Our convoy alone, if you will, more than compensated, in point of number of troops at least, for the 20,000 who wore the fleur-de-lis at the surrender of Cornwallis. Mere number of troops, however, was not the question—it was all we then needed. France would, no doubt, have sent us more in 1783, even as we would have sent more to her in the world war, had there been the need.
Brest was the only harbor along the western France coast with sufficient depth of water to accommodate the Leviathan; and, inside her breakwater, on Sunday, August 10, we dropped anchor.
This harbor and city, with a history rich in recorded and traditional lore, antedated the Christian era. The Phonecian, the Carthaginian, the Roman, and the Frank, had each, in turn, left upon its sheltering bay and rock hewn hills the impress of his generation.
Apart and aloof from the beaten paths that lead from London to Paris it held, through the centuries, "the even tenor of its way."
Here had the painter ever found color and form for his canvas; the romanticist, theme and character for his story. In the deep-voiced caverns of these towering cliffs lived the Pirates of Penzance. The solitude of yonder St. Malo inspired Chateaubriand with his immortal "Monks of the West"; and Morlix, just east of Brest, was, in days of peace, the dwelling place of peerless Marshal Foch.
By nightfall all the troops had been ferried to the wharfs and formed by companies in the railroad yards along the water front.
Promptly at five o'clock, with headquarters troop at the head of the column, Colonel Taylor and all officers on foot, we began our march to Ponteneuson Barracks. Each of us, on leaving the Leviathan, had been rationed with a sandwich. We had hoped to dejeuner on the wharf before beginning the march, but such was not our good fortune—the single sandwich was all the food—or drink for that matter—we tasted until ten o'clock the following morning.
The march of eight torturous, hill-climbing, miles, while exhausting in the extreme, was not without interest. It brought us within seeing and speaking distance of the inhabitants. A group of little boys and girls trudged along at our side singing what they no doubt believed to be our Marseillaise, "Cheer, cheer, the gang's all here." The shrill voices of these petit garcons expressed our only bienvenue to France!
Their elders, in their quaint Breton Sunday costumes, sitting on doorsteps or grouped along the roadsides, viewed us interestedly, but quietly and without demonstration. Although it was the highway used by thousands of American troops passing through Brest, we heard no word of cheer, nor saw a single banner of welcome in those eight weary miles of back torture under full packs.
At nine o'clock we arrived at Ponteneuson. Well might this place be called, at least at that time, the vestibule of hell! If there is any boy of the A. E. F. who has anything good to say—or the slightest happy memory to recall—of Ponteneuson, I have yet to meet him.
It was officially called a "Rest Camp"—where we might recuperate from our long confinement on shipboard. But if lying hungry and cold on the fog-drenched rocks of Brittany, with a chill wind sweeping up from the neighboring ocean, freezing the very marrow of one's aching bones, be considered rest, it was a kind entirely new to us.
Lying near me on the chill ground that night was Major Winthrop Whittington of Cleveland, Ohio, one of the most efficient, kindest and wittiest of our officers, and who later served as our Chief of Staff. Someone had just remarked that Napoleon used frequently to come to Ponteneuson. "That explains," quietly remarked the Major, "the three-hour sleep theory held by Napoleon—(sufficient for any man); three hours is all any man could sleep in such a hell of a place."
How we survived that night and the following six days and nights can only be ascribed to that merciful dispensation of God which has carried us through many a trial. Our habitation was now the open field, drenched in a dust storm that blew constantly. We sat on the roadside and ate our meager fare, making joke and jest of our utter lack of comfort.
Immediately adjacent to us was the guard house, a prison camp, pitched in the open field, and surrounded by barbwire fencing. The only shelter these wretched boys had—they were all Americans—were holes they had burrowed in the ground and little shacks they had constructed from odd pieces of boards they had found. Through the days and nights the chorus of their angry, cursing voices was borne to our ears on the howling wind.
One day we were hurried into formation and sent past the reviewing stand. President Poincare of France was paying us a call. His motor car, escorted by an outriding troop of French cavalry, and heralded by shrill bugle calls, came whirling into our midst on the wings of a dust cloud.
Alighting in front of the improvised reviewing stand, he immediately became the center of an animated group; the khaki of our camp officers mingling with the blue, red and gold of the French. No time was lost by the little man in black suit and cravat in starting the review. The long lines of our doughboys, their rifles, with fixed bayonets, flashing and dazzling in the rays of the setting sun, swept by like some rushing, splashing Niagara torrent. The review was evidence, at least, as to our number, stamina and equipment.
The following morning, a full hour before the dawn, we were quietly aroused, ordered to roll our blanket packs and get into line. Glorious news! We were on the move, starting for our training area and thence into the fighting lines! Within forty minutes we were on the march, leaving Ponteneuson, as we had entered it, under cover of the night.
Our immediate destination was the railroad yards at Brest, where we would find our trains. Those wretched days of exposure, lack of food and sleep greatly weakened many. Chaplain Kerr, who had entered the service with me at Governor's Island, New York, died of pneumonia, and was buried at Brest. Although frequent halts for rest were made, many of the troops fell out and were carried to the First Aid Stations.
How shall I describe the cars that carried our boys from the sea coast towns to the fighting fronts of France? Each car, plainly marked "Hommes 20, Chevals 8," offered equal accommodations for 20 men or 8 horses—especially were they equipped for the comfort of horses. It was sans air brake and sans spring; and when the engineer made up his mind, which he often did, to stop that train, he did so in a manner the most alarming to aching limbs and weary eyes. "Let's go," the soldiers' war cry, rang out along the creaking, swaying, grinding train, and we were off on our 400-mile journey to the training area assigned to our Division somewhere in France.
How we enjoyed, at least, our eyesight on that journey! The appeal to the eye was constant—the color and form of scenes unfamiliar offering views of compelling attraction and delight. Each unadorned car window and door became the frame of pictures not a Millet nor a Rembrandt could depict.
The villages, their sturdy houses of gray stone and red tile roofs; their streets, transformed from "routes" to "rules," where country roads came to town; their shopping squares stirred to enterprise by signs of "Boulangerie," "Boucherie," "Cafe" and "Menier Chocolat." Towering over all, the never-failing church, its lofty, cross-surmounted tower, giving to the scene tone and character.
Rolling fields, aglow with harvest gold of wheat, oats and rye; orchards, teeming with luscious fruit ready to be gathered; rivers, threading their silvery way through meadow and wood; splendid roads, binding the beauteous bouquet of landscape with ribbons of silky white.
The outstanding feature of that three-day journey was the apparent utter lack of enthusiasm on the part of a supposedly demonstrative people.
Waiting at crossroads or railway stations, they would look at us in that same quiet, observing manner we had noticed at Brest. We passed through Morlix, home city of Foch; Versailles, and Sennes; and at no place did we hear so much as a single cheer. There were no welfare workers at any point, and if "Cafes" were numerous, we always paid well for our wine, bread and "cafe au lait."
Coming from our own beloved America, where welfare workers greeted and feted us at every station, this apparent lack of hospitality more noticeable was difficult to understand. Possibly their impoverished condition forbade the refreshment part; but cheers and vives are possible, even to the poorest!
Tuesday morning, August 19th, found us paralleling the picturesque river Yonne, which waters the vine-clad valleys of Burgundy. The sound of big gun firing had reached us in the early dawn, and we were all a-thrill at the thought of mighty things impending. Vaguely the words "Toul," "St. Mihiel," "Verdun," and "Metz," had filtered back from the flaming front; and, like hounds tugging at the leash, we were eager for the fray.
At high noon we reached the quaint old town of Ancey-le-Franc, Department of Yonne. Here we left the train and drew up in formation along the roads and back through the lanes and fields. On the platform of the "gare" our gallant Division Commander, Brigadier General Baarth, attended by his staff, who had come on ahead of us by way of Paris, greeted us warmly and reviewed the troops. We were the first American soldiers to enter this area, and the village folks of Ancey-le-Franc, Shacenyelles, Fontenoy, and Nuites sur Yonne, welcomed us to their humble homes, barns and fields where we were to be billeted, with simple and cordial hospitality.
IN BILLETS—DEPARTURE FOR FRONT
Stepping from the train into the streets of Ancey-le-Franc was verily performing a miracle—with a single stride we were out of the twentieth century and into the eighteenth! We were among our contemporary ancestors, far on the road to yester century. Not a building under at least one hundred years of age—not a street but trodden by the Crusaders of St. Louis—the church of St. Sebastian dated 1673; and the Chateau, founded in 1275, by that hardy old Knight of Malta, Duke de Clermont Tonnere.
With characteristic good humor, ingenuity and tact, officers and men adjusted themselves to their unusual surroundings, merging into the various billets allotted to them, along lines of least resistance. By nightfall Buddie owned the town! Meriting it by sheer force of good nature, gentlemanly deportment, and a willingness to follow the adage of the ancient poet: "Si fueris Romae Romano vivite more."
Mine was the rare good fortune of being assigned to No. 10 Rue de Belgrade. Here, through many generations, had stood the house of Barnicault. Michel Barnicault, present head of the family, welcomed me most cordially. He felt it indeed an honor to have as his guest Monsieur le Chaplain, Americaine Soldat! In the evening he would sit in front of his venerable home, smoking his pipe and looking with pride at my Chaplain flag of blue and white that hung above the door.
Petit garcon Andree, aged six years, had always considered his Grandfather Michel the greatest man in the world; then I came into his life; and whether it was I, or the American bon bons I lavished on him, or the overseas chapeau I let him strut about in now and then, I completely won his little heart. Darling little Andree in far off Ancey-le-Franc, now eight going on nine, I salute you!
Monseigneur le Cure of the village church welcomed me cordially. Daily I said Mass on the altar of St. Anne.
As we might go into the front trenches now any day, the Chaplains' ministerial work grew apace. "Be ye always ready you know not the day nor the hour." Father Martin was with the 56th Infantry at Molsme; Father Trainor with the Machine Gunners at Ceneboy-le-Bas; and I, with all other Divisional Units, with Headquarters at Ancey-le-Franc. Three priests among 32,000 men, 48 per cent of whom were Catholic. The other Chaplains were distributed: Chaplain Cohee, Christian, with the 34th Infantry. (Mr. Cohee won the Distinguished Service Medal for gallantry under fire at Vieville-en-Haye.) Chaplain Hockman, Lutheran, 55th Infantry. Chaplain Webster, Episcopalian, 7th Engineers. Chaplain Rixey, Methodist, 64th Infantry. Chaplain Evans, Baptist, Sanitary Trains.
At this time we gave an old-fashioned Mission in the village church. A choir was organized from the Headquarters Troop, and each evening we would have Rosary, Sermon and Benediction. A special memorandum, signed by Colonel Degan, setting forth the purpose and advantages of the Mission, was posted throughout the District. The villagers likewise attended and the church was always filled. At this time, casting all fear aside, I boldly plunged into my first public speaking in French! I felt that grand-pere Barnicault and petit Andree would at least be on my side in case of a riot. Much to my delight the populace greeted my attempt approvingly and showered me with compliments.
On Sundays I would say Masses at six and eight for the troops, preaching in English. Assisting at the ten o'clock Missa, Cantata Parochialis was always a source of devotion and unusual interest. Promptly at 9:30 the tower bells, in triple chime, would ring out, echoing near and far, o'er meadow and hill. By path and trail and through the cobbled streets would come the people—old men and women, white with the snows of many winters; middle-aged women invariably clothed in the black of widowhood—France had then been bleeding and dying three years—fair-cheeked, dark-eyed modest maidens—type of Evangeline of Grand-Pre—handsome little boys and girls, the kind with which Raphael frames his Madonnas. Kneeling for a little prayer at the grave sides in the church yard—pleasantly exchanging with neighbors the "bon jour" and the "bonheur"—they make their way into the church, up the aisles chiseled by Time itself, to the pew generations of their name have worshiped in.
Mass is beginning. At the head of the procession, emerging from the Sacristy, marches the Master of Ceremonies, a venerable man of patriarchal mien, clothed in quaint cassock of black velvet, richly trimmed with silver braid, resonantly striking the stone pavement with official staff and responding in aged, yet pleasing voice to the Gregorian Chant of Celebrant and Congregation. Handsome little boys—all garcons are handsome—in acolytical splendor of purple and cardinal, with the daintiest of "calottes," come singing their way into your heart in a way to delight our own Father Finn of the Paulist choristers. The village cure—Monsignor of the Diocese of Sens—in those rich full tones that centuries of congregational singing have given to France, gives voice to the Ceremonial Beauty "ever ancient yet ever new." Very little need, there, for books; most young and old sing Introit, Credo, Preface and Agnus Dei from memory, artistically exact in pronunciation, expression and tempo.
If there was distraction for our troops at all, it was perhaps at the collection. Not that the giving of their centimes or francs was distracting, rather was it the manner of Collection a la Francais. It is taken up by the most handsome young ladies of the congregation—our American Tag Days were perhaps suggested by it. Marching before the Mademoiselles and striking sharply on the pavement with his staff, solemnly comes the aged Master of Ceremonies. No prayers so absorbing nor slumber so profound, but the anvil clang of his staff will arouse. A hand embroidered silken bag is handed to you in the most charming manner. What Buddie could resist such appeal?
It was during our days in this area I was appointed Division Burial Officer—undertaker for the entire Division. The order, duly bulletined, at first shocked me—what qualifications had I for a work so unusual? However, I promptly accepted it for reasons two-fold: First, it is not the part of a soldier to question the wisdom of orders, and, second, anything and everything done for Old Glory is an honor. Jealously I raided the archives of the Personnel Department at Headquarters, my "towney" Captain Brown of Grand Haven, Michigan, helping me, and studied all Orders and Bulletins bearing on the subject, "how to identify, register and bury the dead." The responsibility was indeed weighty and the work vast—to organize, equip and drill burial details; to bury our own dead, all enemy dead and horses; to assemble personal effects and identification tags found on the persons of the deceased; to bathe, clothe and prepare bodies for burial; to furnish coffins, gravediggers, firing squads and buglers. Daily report of all burials was to be made to the Graves' Registration Service at Chaumont. It can easily be realized how important this work became as we grew nearer the fighting front. On battlefields, drenched with deadly gas, under fire and amid conditions and scenes most revolting and appalling, the burial parties worked, usually in gas masks for protection against odors and fumes.
Physical exhaustion, occasioned by exposure at Brest, the fatiguing journey across France, and the forced march of many kilometers, under full pack, from rail heads to billets, accounted for the numerous pneumonia cases that now appeared. In the unsettled, formative condition of things, we were not prepared to fully cope with the situation. Our nearest United States Base Hospital was at Dijon, sixty kilometers distant; and to this point it became necessary to send such of the seriously ill as could be safely transported. Many, however, were too weak to undertake such a journey; and, as no suitable buildings were available, the situation became truly distressing. There was not a single Army corps nurse or welfare worker of any sort within miles of us, and the critical nature of it all can be more readily imagined than described. Our doctors and corpsmen of the Sanitary Regiment did everything possible and rendered admirable service; but what could even the best intentioned do without equipment? On September 5th, I took mess with two of our best physicians, Captain O'Malley of Mercy Hospital, Chicago, and Lieutenant Poole of South Carolina. One week later I buried the Lieutenant at Longre, a victim of pneumonia, following an illness of but four days.
Four French Sisters of Charity now came most providentially to our assistance. The unjust and stupid Association Laws of France had, shortly before the war, forbidden them the right of teaching. Later they had returned and converted the old building, their former school, into a hospital. With its four spacious classrooms and pretty garden in the rear, it easily lent itself to the purpose. Under the able direction of Doctor Thiery, who was at that time mayor of the village, and whose soldier son had been killed at St. Quentin, emergency medical and surgical cases received there a care that, no doubt, saved many lives. Our own Army doctors were at once incorporated in this improvised hospital's staff, with corpsmen assigned to duty in its wards.
How wonderfully inventive and skillful Love becomes under the inspiration of Religion! The humble Sisters who, in days of peace, had dedicated their virgin lives to Education, a spiritual Work of Mercy, now, under the stress of war, directed those same self-sacrificing energies to Nursing, a corporal Work of Mercy, sanctioned by Him who is the world's first Good Samaritan. Though not able to utter a single English word, their kindness spoke eloquently for them in those numerous little ways a gentle woman has of assuaging pain and soothing even "the dull cold ear of Death." The Mother Superior, by simply removing two or three pieces of furniture, converted her office into the hospital morgue; and here, assisted by the corpsmen, I prepared the bodies of my dear boys for burial. How my heart ached to see them die! In the loneliness and seclusion of those whitewashed classrooms, far removed from any sight or association that spoke of Home; to see the light of their lives burn out, and the flowers of Spring displaced by the snows of Winter!
To me their deaths, amid the uninspiring surroundings of that wayside hospital, took on a grandeur and sublimity all surpassing.
Far easier, indeed, would it have been for them to die on field of battle, with cheer of comrades following their flight of soul. That ward was a braver field! For there they died bereft of all that inspires, and with no pomp or thrill of war to make glad their chivalrous souls.
The village carpenter was never so busy. Reinforcing his working staff, he set speedily to work building coffins. These he made of plain pine boards, staining them to a dull brown, and furnishing with each a cross and marking stake. Thirty-two of these it was my sad duty to provide and distribute during our stay in Burgundy.
We soon outgrew the old churchyard at Ancey-le-Franc; and the good Cure and Monsieur le Docteur Thiery of the local hospital, set aside for us ground for another cemetery just outside the village. We enclosed this with a white picket fence and felt confident, when we marched away, that the graves of our brave boys there resting, would always be tenderly cared for by the devoted people.
"On Fame's eternal camping ground Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards with solemn round The bivouac of the Dead."
At the place of honor, just inside that "God's Acre," I buried Sergeant Omer Talbot of Kansas City, Kansas, one of the bravest and most beloved of Headquarters Troop, who received the last Sacraments, and died in my arms.
Our burials were always religiously attended by the villagers. A French veteran would go through the streets sounding his drum and giving early notice of the burial of an American soldier. The people would gather at the church, the farmer from the field, the artisan from the shop, all dressed as for Sunday. The cure, the mayor, the councilmen, the town major, all would be present. On foot, bearing flowers, they would follow the military cortege to the cemetery. There, following the Benedictus, the mayor would give an impassioned address, expressing the profound appreciation of France for the service and sacrifice of the gallant American soldiers. His closing words, repeated and echoed through the cemetery by the multitude, would be, "Vive l'Amerique! Vive Pershing! Vive Wilson!"
Among the most devoted attendants at our funerals were Monsieur and Madame Moidrey and their beautiful daughter Annette, a girl of sixteen years. In rain and shine they came, always with flowers most beautiful to place upon coffin and grave.
Returning one day from the cemetery, Monsieur respectfully addressed me—"If it would please Monsieur le Chaplain to ever visit our home (they lived just inside the village in a quaint old manor house I had often admired), we would consider it an honor indeed to entertain Monsieur le Chaplain and his friends," then naively adding, as if by way of further inducement, "we have the only piano in the village."
Now Sergeant Eddie Quinlan, 55th Infantry, who came from South Carpenter Street, Chicago, was one of my best pals. He was then attending the Field Signal Battalion School at Shacereyelles, two kilometers away. I sent word to him, directing him to report at my billet the following evening accompanied by the ten handsomest doughboys, besides himself, in his platoon. At the appointed hour and place, the Buddies were faithfully on hand; and need I add, all were from Chicago? How proud I was of them, stalwart huskies, well groomed, brown as berries, and with muscles of iron.
"Fellows, if you have no other engagement for this evening, would you care to accompany me to the Moidrey residence, honored guests of the family? They have a piano; and I might add, a most charming daughter of sixteen summers." Here they nearly mobbed me! "Would they go?" "Other engagements!" "Say, Father, you are not kidding us, are you?" etc., etc! By way of information permit me to here observe that these boys had been sleeping in fields then for two weeks. They had not seen the inside of an honest-to-goodness home, nor sat at a dining-table with real tablecloth, napkins or plates, since they landed in France. Neither had they heard a piano, nor been the guest of any lady, young or old—well—since they left Camp Merritt. Their over-flowing cup of joy, at this alluring prospect, can therefore easily be imagined.
As we no doubt would be invited to sing, we first rehearsed several popular songs, holding forth with a gusto that raised the roof, even of the ancient and sturdy house of Barnicault. To the air of "Old Kentucky Home," Quinlan tried out our latest, A Song of Home:
You may sing of Erin's Shannon flowing softly to the sea, The Thames where it passes London town; You may boast the bonnie Clyde where it mingles with the tide, And the Seine with its romance of renown.
You may paint in blue the Danube or the far Italian Po, But of all the streams enshrined in memory, Is the good old Mississippi, that wherever I may go, Is the dearest one in all the world to me.
Then sing the song, my comrades, O we'll sing this song today, That wherever we may roam, we'll sing a song of home For the dear old Mississippi far away.
You may boast of Irish Nora, or sweet Bessey of Dundee, The charm of England's Geraldines so fair; You may choose the maids of Belgium or Ma'm'selles of Picardy All famed for grace and beauty everywhere. But if you will but listen, and leave the choice to me I'll point with pride to dear old U. S. A. Where there's maidens fair to see, sweet and dear as Liberty And never cloud o'ershadows beauty's day.
Then sing this song, my comrades, O we'll sing this song today, That wherever we may roam, we'll sing a song of home For the maidens fair back home in U. S. A.
A trench mirror four inches by six hung on the wall of my billet. There was a mad scramble for a last facial and tonsorial inspection; for each fellow boldly made his boast, "Just watch me, Bo, make the hit of the evening with Ma chere Miss Frenchy."
Down the village street in column of twos we made our way.
"All gentle in peace and all valiant in war, There never was Knight like the young Lochinvar."
As we went singing carefree, secretly my heart was sad. As a Staff Officer I knew, although the boys did not, that this was to be their last evening party; that on the morrow they were to leave for the front line trenches; that many weary days, weeks and months of stern, bitter, deadly realities lay just before them; and I wanted them to at least enjoy this one last evening of home-spun, joyful valedictory.
The Moidrey residence stood back a little from the road, protected by a tall iron fence of artistic design. As we drew near, my Minstrel Boys prudently "soft pedaled" their singing, so as not to over-alarm our kind host. Responsive to our sounding the huge brass, lion-headed knocker on the massive gate, the house door opened. Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle Annette came down the winding garden path to admit and welcome us.
Introductions followed, formal, gracious and charming. Quite true it was that our kindly hosts could not speak a word of English, nor the Buddies of French, at least of French fit to grace the occasion. There is a language, however, that is not of the tongue, but of the heart. It is expressed in the flash of a love-lit eye; it is felt in the pressure of a kindly hand. It is spoken and understood the world over and needs no interpreter. This language my boys spoke very fluently; and our charming hosts did them the honor to understand.
In the parlor was the wonderful piano, brought all the way from Paris. Obligingly, charmingly, Mademoiselle Annette responded to our profuse, overwhelming invitations to play first. Sweet and innocent she looked sitting there; her cheeks fair as the roses in her garden, her eyes modestly aglow with star light, her raven hair in a single braid of ample length, neatly adorned with a red ribbon and bewitchingly tossed over her shoulder. Never was a young lady better guarded at a piano; five stalwart doughboys on either side, jealously turning the pages of a sheet of music that was upside down. Artistically she played and the loud applause that greeted her would have made envious our own Fanny Bloomfield Zeisler.
Our turn came next. The polite piano from Paris fairly groaned beneath the burden of our song. It was not used to such boisterous treatment. Bravely it struggled on "The Long, Long Trail A-winding." It galloped "Over There." It wailed bitterly "I'm Sorry, Dear," and it did its bravest to "Keep the Home Fires Burning."
When, finally, the barrage of music lifted, we made our way to the line of attack at the spacious dining-table our hosts had meanwhile spread. How good it seemed to sit at a regular table, with tablecloth, napkins and silverware! How delicious too the sweetbreads, the salad, the fromage; and crowning all, the exquisite service of sparkling wine, vintaged in the long ago in these famed Burgundian valleys.
Call to Quarters sounded at 8:45 and "Tattoo" at 9:00. It was now time to go. Cordially each boy thanked our gracious hosts. "And should I live a thousand years I'll ne'er forget." Reverently, gallantly, devotedly, each said bon jour to darling Annette. To each she represented womanhood—beautiful, modest, lovable. Each saw visualized in her, as it were, his own mother, sister, sweetheart, back home. Would he ever see his own loved ones again? God only knew. And when the last good-bye was said, and the door slowly closed and we walked away into the night, the bugle call of "Taps" plaintively sounding through the quiet streets found sad and mystic echo in our souls.
Our last day in Ancey-le-Franc dawned chill and rainy. I breakfasted in the old Chateau with Senior Chaplain of the A. E. F., Bishop Brent, Episcopal Bishop of Eastern New York Diocese, who had journeyed over from Chaumont to visit us. A thorough gentleman and efficient officer was the good Bishop; and naught but the best and most cordial good will has ever characterized our relations.
It was but a few days subsequent to his visit that I received from General Pershing the special orders making me Senior Chaplain of the Seventh Division and brevet of Captaincy. For this honor I have ever been grateful to Bishop Brent and our gallant Division Commander General Baarth.
Although our sojourn with the Burgundians had been brief, the conduct of officers and men had won universal respect. Genuinely sad the villagers were to see us fall in, that rainy afternoon, under marching orders. We had just been equipped with gas masks; and for the first time wore our prized chapeaus, the steel helmets.
Sad was the house of Barnicault! Petit Andree followed me about, weeping constantly. Madame prepared her best omelet and cafe-au-lait and Monsieur opened his most prized bottle of Burgundy. I left with them many odds and ends the zealous merchants back home in the States had thoughtfully recommended, but which stern Army regulations decried for front line use. Trunks were left behind; and all we needed we carried in our ever-faithful packs. With a last blessing to the dear old couple, kneeling sobbing at my feet, a last hug from Andree, whose fond little arms I had to forcibly release from my neck, I put on my helmet, shouldered my pack and was gone!
The rain fell in torrents; and quickly I took position in the long, waiting line. We marched at once, taking the road to Neuite-sur-Yonne; and far on our way the old church bells called sadly after us in their benison of last farewell. We never returned to Ancey-le-Franc; but to its beloved inhabitants we still live, for,
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."
We reached our Rail Head, the main line to the regions of Meurthe-et-Moselle, at nine o'clock; and struck camp in the yards and fields for the night. As the night was chill and our camp sufficiently secure from observation, fires were kindled by the various companies. Gathered in their cheering circles of warmth and glow, the boys beguiled the hours preceding Taps, with jest and song. They sang of love and war and God; and through all their melody, as a golden thread, could be traced the thought of home and of a Great Tomorrow! Gradually, as glow of sunset paling in the west, the fires burned low; and out of dying embers rose shadowy forms that beckoned weary eyes to the land of dreams.
To each sleeping soldier boy Magi dreams bring gifts of joy; Sweet and pure as mother love Brought by angels from above.
Dreams of home across the sea And of scenes loved tenderly, As he left them yesterday When he turned and marched away.
Dreams of mother at the door Standing as in days of yore, Calling him to come from play At the closing of the day.
Dreams of maiden, boyhood friend, Down the road beyond the bend, Where the trees made welcome shade Trysting place for boy and maid.
Where he told her of his love Pure and true as stars above, And she answered with her eyes Beautiful as Paradise.
* * * * *
Dream on, soldier boy of mine, May sweet memory entwine Love that thrills with hope that cheers, Wakening day with yester years! May sweet morrow's dawning beam Hallow and make real thy dream.
At midnight as I lay wrapped in my blanket beside the fire's expiring embers, Colonel Degan came to me and said, "I am leaving you, Chaplain. Good-bye and the best of luck." He was on his way to another sector; and although I have never seen him since, I still recall him as a splendid soldier and a devoted friend.
At Units the following morning, I said Mass and gave the Sacraments to quite a number of the boys. Among these I recall Machine Gunner Brady of the 34th Infantry, brother of my friend, Father Brady, of St. Agnes Church, Chicago.
Meanwhile the waiting trains had been boarded and promptly at noon we rolled away into the mysterious Northeast. How good it seemed to be once more on the move! The utmost caution was now to be observed—no lights on the train at night, not even a headlight on the engine. Softly the boys sang,
"We don't know where we're going, But we're on our way."
In monotone the steel rails seemed to plaintively reply,
"Art is long and Time is fleeting, And your hearts though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave."
Our afternoon hours were given something of a thrill in watching the evolutions of a half dozen planes, skirmish escort men of the air, flying high and wide covering our movements. We were now on the division of road operated by our own gallant 13th Engineers, of which my friend, Sergeant McDowell of Blue Island, was Locomotive Inspector.
Night fell; and the long troop trains like monstrous serpents creeping on their prey crawled steadily, silently forward into the abysmally black unknown. Slower and more uncertain they moved, feeling their way; and at midnight came to a final stop at the near approaches to No Man's Land. Quickly we detrained and took cover in a near-by forest; the empty cars trailed off rapidly to the south; and dawn found neither a car nor a soldier in sight. All that day we remained hidden in the shadowy solitudes of Bois l'Evque on the banks of the Moselle.
Beautiful was this softly flowing river, mirroring azure skies and radiant in the colorful glow of early autumn. How hard to realize that death lurked in the quietude of its borders; that Man had chosen this bosom of shade, tuneful with the voice of sweetly calling birds, as a fitting shambles to slay his fellow men!
If day for the soldier was for rest, night was for the march; and a new dawn found us in the sheltering woods of Gonderville on the Toul-Nancy highway.
Turquoise, palest violet, tender green and gold, the country lay before us. Then, even as we watched from covert, our ears made acquaintance with a new and ominous sound. From an infinite distance the morning breeze from the north carried with it a deadened thumping sound, now regular as the muffled rolling of drums, now softly irregular with intervals of stillness. It was the dominating monotone of cannonading. No need to tell the boys what it meant!
"Guess we're in time for the big show all right," Buddie quietly remarked; and from that moment an expression overspread his countenance and a note crept into his voice I had not noticed there before. It was not one of nervousness, but of seriousness; a clearer vision and apprehension of big manly things henceforth to be done.
"When I was a boy I lived as a boy; but when I became a man I put away the things of boyhood and acted the part of a man."
Boys went into the trenches, but men came out of them!
PUVINELLE SECTOR—BOIS LE PRETRE—VIEVILLE EN HAYE
Gallant Pershing was even then maneuvering his masterly all-American offensive in the San Michel. Our Seventh Division, with the 28th on the left and the 92d on the right, now reached the high full tide of martial responsibility; merging from the reserve into the attack; and taking its place with the Immortal Combat Divisions of proud Old Glory.
The front line sector, which that night we took over, extended in a general westerly direction from north of Pont a Musson on the Moselle river to Vigneulles—a distance of ten kilometers.
Approximate positions found the 55th Infantry at Thiacourt, the 64th at Vieville, the 37th at Fay-en-Haye, and the 56th at Vilcey-sur-Trey, with Machine Gun Battalions distributed equally among them. During September, Division Headquarters was at Villers-en-Haye; moving forward in echelon to Noviant and Euvezin October 24th.
Although Villers-en-Haye was mostly in ruins, the Sacristy of the village church was in good shape, and this I at once occupied. On the preceding Sunday, good Father Harmon of Chicago had said Mass in this church, as a note, fastened to its front door, announced.
Thoroughly tired, I spread my blanket on the floor and fell quickly to sleep. I dreamed I was tied to a railroad track with a train rushing towards me. With a start I awoke, just as a siren voiced shell came screaming across the fields, bursting at the foot of the hill on which the church stood.
The gas alarm was at once sounded and every trooper sought refuge in the dugouts. It was then half-past eight. At four-minute intervals and with the most deadly regularity these shells came at us for four nerve-racking hours.
Boom! You could hear it leave the eight-inch howitzer six miles away, then in a high tenor pitch, it rushed toward you with a crescendo of sound, moaning, wailing, screaming, hissing, bursting with frightful intensity apparently in the center of your brain. Falling here, there, and everywhere in the ruins and environs of the village, mustard gas, flying steel and mortar, levied cruel toll on six boys, whose mangled bodies I laid away the following afternoon at Griscourt under the hill. One of these, I now recall, was Corporal Donald Bryan of the 7th Engineers, a most handsome and talented young man who, before the war, had won fame in the field of movie drama.
"Where were you last night?" inquired gallant Colonel Cummings of Missouri, our Machine Gun Regimental Commander.
"In the sacristy," I replied.
"The worst possible place for you!" he exclaimed; "you would find it far safer in a dugout."
I preferred the sacristy, however, for its convenience to the altar, where I could say daily Mass, and so won my point.
Chaplain and burial work had been meanwhile growing tremendously. Burial details to be organized, equipped and dispatched far and wide along the front; conferences with Chaplains; forwarding to them of Departmental Orders; receiving their weekly reports, and compiling these in daily reports to the Graves Registration Service; with monthly reports to be prepared for Bishop Brent at Chaumont, Monsignor Connolly at Paris, and Archbishop Hayes at New York.
At this time welfare workers joined us and we had thirty Y. M. C. A. secretaries under Rev. Mr. Todd; eight American Red Cross secretaries under Mr. Kolinski of Chicago; six Salvation Army lady secretaries under Adjutant Mr. Brown, and ten Knights of Columbus secretaries under Mr. McCarthy of Kansas City, who joined us at Bouillonville.
All these workers rendered most valuable and devoted service; especially at a time and place when we were far afield in ruined shell-swept areas, and completely cut off from every vestige of ordinary comforts. How good a bar of chocolate, a stick of Black Jack, a "dash" of despised inglorious "goldfish" tasted to Buddie, lying cold, hungry, dirty and "cootified" in his dugout!
A distinct contribution to modern civilization, and a form of national and international altruism making for the betterment, not only of him who receives but as well of him who gives, was organized welfare work. The need of such work always existed; and the organization of trained and equipped auxiliary forces intelligently to perform it must have ever been apparent. It remained for the World War, conceived, at least in the American mind in unselfish motive, to create and give flesh and blood expression to so Divine a vocation; and assign it honored rank among National institutions eminently to be desired, and, without invidious comparison, devotedly to be maintained.
One day, timing and dodging dropping shells, I came to ruined, bombarded Essey. A single piece of bread had been my only fare for many trying hours and I was hungry to the point of exhaustion.
Above the door of a dugout I saw the welcome sign "Salvation Army," and, making my way to the door, I knocked. It was at once opened by two lady secretaries.
The savory odor of fresh, crisp fried cakes greeted me, and in the center of the room beyond, I saw a table heaped high with the precious viands themselves! Truly it was Angel Food! Not the lily-white sort served and known as such at home, but the golden ambrosial kind angels dream of—and surely were the Salvation Army ladies who saved me that day from starving, angels. Not only did they kindly point to the table of delight and generously say, "Help yourself, Chaplain," but Adjutant Brown, husband of one of them, entering at that moment, cheerily remarked:
"Chaplain, won't you join us? we are just sitting down to dinner."
Having no other dinner engagement just then, I accepted! The table was placed under a stairway, just room for the four of us. Outside, the air was filled with the spume and shriek of bursting shells. The windows were tightly barricaded, and a candle, placed in the mouth of a bottle, gave the only light.
"Chaplain, will you offer Grace?"
Reverently all four bowed our heads in prayer; and may the good God who brought us there together, join us some future day in his heavenly home above!
The problem of transportation was most insistent and difficult. The Division being far below its quota of automobiles and motorcycles, Chaplains and burying details were compelled frequently to journey on foot, with possible aid from some passing truck.
Under these conditions I found "Jip" truly "bonne chance." "Jip" was the horse assigned me by my good friend, Lieutenant Davis, of Headquarters Troop, and whom I named after my faithful dog "Jip" of Harvey. He was a noble animal, utterly without fear; broken by chasseurs-a-cheval to gun fire. My only comrade on many a long, lone ride, we grew fond of each other to a degree only he can appreciate who has spent days and weeks of solitude and danger with a devoted horse. All the pet names and phrases "Jip" of Harvey knew, I lavished on him, leaning forward to whisper in his ear. Although it was not the familiar French he heard, it seemed to please him, and obediently he bore me on, little heeding the danger of the trail, so that he shared my sorrows and pleasures.
One beautiful day in mid-October, he carried me many miles through Bois de Puvinelle, deep in whose solitudes, at Jung Fontaine the 20th Machine Gun Battalion was camped; passing on our way ruined Martincourt, then heavily shelled, to the borders of grim Bois-le-Pretre.
Before starting on this mission, which had for its object inspecting of front line conditions and burial work, I had talked over the situation thoroughly with Colonel P. Lenoncle, French Army, who, during two years, had fought over every foot of Bois-le-Pretre, and won there his Croix de Guerre.
"Monsieur le Chaplain," he said, "this forest is a household word for danger and death throughout all Germany. I know, in your goodness, you will not fail to bury any of my brave poilu whose bodies you there may find."
Glorious was our canter down the dim leafy aisles of the Bois oak, maple, ash, and pine flamed with the glorious coloring of autumn. Crimson ivy festooned each swaying limb, weaving canopies against a mottled sky of blue and white; morning-glories nodded greeting from the hedges, while forest floors were carpeted with the red of geranium, yellow of marigold and purple of aster.
Through the winding tunnel of foliage "Jip" was keenly alert. He seemed, with his good horse sense, to feel that he was carrying a very well-meaning but inexperienced Chaplain, more interested perhaps in things botanical and floral than military. When I, for example, showed inclination to dismount and inspect a beautiful saddle lying by the roadside, it was evidently a German officer's, "Jip," with ears back, snorted and galloped furiously past. A veteran sergeant afterwards quietly remarked:
"'Jip' likely saved you that time, Chaplain, from a 'planted' bomb, for which that saddle was the bait."
Evening found us at the near approaches of Saint Marie farm. As the area from this point forward was drenched with gas, and therefore no place for "Jip," who stubbornly refused to wear his mask, I decided to leave him and continue forward on foot. Making my way to a dugout, then Company Headquarters of the gallant 19th Machine Gunners, I happened upon a young gunner named Costigan.
"Will you look after 'Jip' for me, Buddie?"
"I will be glad to, Father," he replied. "Your sister used to be my teacher in the Ogden school, Chicago!"
How small the world was! To find that Bois-le-Pretre was just around the corner from Chestnut and North State Street!
Grim and terrible, however, was the work just ahead. Entering that forest was like going into some vast fatal Iroquois Theatre saturated with death-dealing gas. It was even then being swept by a tornado of screaming, bursting shells, scattering far and wide fumes of mustard and chlorine, a single inhalation of which meant unspeakable agony and death. But our brave boys were there with souls to be prepared, and poor mangled bodies were there, reverently to be buried!
It was supreme test for the gas mask! That frail piece of rubber alone stood between us and death. The slightest rent or leakage would be fatal, as injury to the suit of the deep sea diver. These masks had been issued in sizes 3, 4 and 5. Some fitted better than others; others bound painfully about the temples. We had been trained to adjust them quickly from "alert" to the face in seven seconds, and woe to him who breathed before the clasp was on his nose, the tube in his mouth, or the chin piece properly in place. Under ordinary conditions, they were supposed to filter the poisonous air for thirty-six hours. It was extraordinary conditions, however, rising either from faulty adjustment, rubber strain, or mechanical injury that usually proved their undoing.
On that October day I had remained in the gas waves but four hours and felt I had escaped without injury. Such, however, proved not my good fortune. My mask had evidently not functioned properly and that night of torture to body, head and eyes was accounted for in the simple words of the kind Doctor Lugar:
"Chaplain, you are gassed."
A few days' nursing and care at the Field Hospital restored strength and vigor needed for a new and even more interesting encounter.
On the afternoon of Sunday, October 25th, I had held services at three o'clock in a dugout at Vieville-en-Haye. Carefully hidden in a forest immediately south of this village were then located three of our large guns. The boys had proudly named them, "President's Answer," "Theda Bara" and "Miss McCarthy." They were throwing high explosive shells along the Metz highway. The enemy was frantically replying with eight-inch Howitzers from points some six kilometers north, dropping shells at two-minute intervals into Vieville-en-Haye and its environs.
As there was much gas along this front, I had left "Jip" at home and was using a Harley-Davidson cycle side-car Lieutenant Trainor of Headquarters had kindly loaned me—further giving me daring Corporal Plummer of Aurora, one of the most skillful of his chauffeurs.
Following the services our next work was a trip to Vilcey-sur-Trey, some four kilometers away, at the eastern approach of Death Valley. Emerging from the dugout our plans were quickly outlined. Taking advantage of the regular two-minute intervals between falling shells, we planned to first let one come over, then make a quick dash up the front street and get out into the shelter of Death Valley before the next one fell.
Rev. Mr. Muggins, Y. M. C. A. secretary, a very estimable and highly respected man, shook his head.
"Chaplain, you can hardly make it."
"How about it, Corporal?" I said to Plummer.
"Sure, we can make it," he replied.
"Let's go," I said, and quickly slid into the side-car.
We let a shell come over, saw where it burst, then dashed up the street. Skillfully avoiding heaps of brick and mortar scattered along the way, quicker than it takes to tell, we traversed two blocks and reached a point just opposite the ruined church. Here we rushed full into an ugly crater, our machine fouled and our way was blocked!
We knew a German gun across those fields was even then trained on this spot and would pay its respects in about one minute. Plummer tried to kick and shake life into the machine; I did the praying. Just before lay ruins of the old church. I thought of the countless times Holy Mass had been offered there, and humbly I asked God to spare me and my boy, to turn aside from us the stroke of death—but,
"Not my will but Thine be done."
"Boom!" Across the fields came the sickening report! Ordering Plummer to throw himself to the ground, I was in the act of alighting, and was partly free of the machine, when the shell burst, about one hundred feet away. My right arm seemed to burn; but I was alive, and flat on the ground. Breathlessly we waited, like a boxer in his corner, until the next shell came over. This struck about a block away. At once we sprang to our feet and rushed into the shelter of Death Valley. Plummer was unhurt; but I was slightly bleeding from right arm and left leg. They were but scratches; and most humbly I thanked God for sparing us.