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Chapter 7 On the Vesle Front


HISTORY OF THE 304th FIELD ARTILLERY
by
James M. Howard
1920


Chapter VII

On the Vesle Front: Ferme Des Dames

In order to appreciate the events of the next few weeks, one must understand the situation, which prevailed when the 77th Division moved into the sector. In the early part of the summer, the Germans, starting north of the Aisne River, had made a terrific drive into the Allied lines between Soissons and Rheims. With seemingly irresistible force, they drove toward Paris a wedge, the apex of which rested on the Marne River at Chateau-Thierry. On July 18th, the French, finding themselves attacked again in this vital spot, called on General Pershing for help, and, reinforced by a few American divisions, they hurled themselves on the front and flanks of the German salient, carried the Germans off their feet, and rushed them back from the Marne and across the territory they had previously taken. On August 4th they made a stand on the Vesle. For a while the lines were not stabilized, but in general, the front between Soissons and Rheims followed the course of the Vesle River.

The sector we were to occupy had been held by the 4th American Division. They had driven the Germans across the river at Bazoches while they themselves occupied the little town of St. Thibault on the south bank. Repeated attempts to get across and take Bazoches had failed, because the Germans were not only in the town itself, but were strongly entrenched on the high hills beyond. There they had massed machine guns and artillery which completely controlled the river valley.

At this time the fighting had been what is known as "open warfare," as opposed to "position" or "trench warfare." That is, the armies had been working through open country, and without stopping to construct any permanent infantry trenches or gun emplacements, had moved rapidly, taking advantage of such natural protection as was available to cover their maneuvers.

When we moved into the sector, therefore, we found that, while the fighting had practically settled down into position warfare, we were expected to take over gun positions which were never intended to be anything but temporary. They were right out in the open (with the exception of Battery A's, which was in the edge of a wood), with no protection from shellfire except the flimsiest sort of dugouts, and no screening from aerial observation except camouflage nets on poles, which formed a sort of transparent tent over each emplacement. They were in full view from a half -dozen balloons which hovered above the German lines, and every man who approached must have been plainly visible to the vigilant Huns. As soon as Colonel Briggs had looked over the ground with his battalion commanders, he asked to be allowed to select new positions for his guns; but for some reason it was denied him, and he was told to take for the time being the crude emplacements which our predecessors were turning over to us.

Roughly speaking, our field of activity was a hillside, with woods on the west and along the crest at the north, the main road from Mareuil-en-Dole to Chery-Chartreuve at its base on the south, and the village of Chery-Chartreuve on the east. Well up the slope and right out in the open stood the Ferme des Dames, where the infantry regiment we were to support had its headquarters; and ranged about to the east and north lay our battery positions. E and F were close together, between the farm and Chery-Chartreuve; D was a little farther north; B and C in front of the farm and just south of the edge of the woods along the crest of the hill, while A was in a point of woods which jutted out from the west. Major Devereux had his P. C. in a ravine behind his batteries, close by a battery of the 306th F. A.'s howitzers; and Major Sanders installed himself in a dugout in the woods behind Battery A.

A few days were spent in improving the gun pits and digging trenches and dugouts for protection, establishing observation posts and registering the guns on certain targets across the Vesle. There was little or no shelling by the enemy, but his airplanes were overhead nearly all the time. They met with no opposition-we never did discover where the Allied planes kept themselves on this front-and the Boche aviators swooped low over our guns, took photographs, studied our movements, and made a thorough survey of the situation which boded ill for the security of our men. The battery commanders knew that it was just a question of time before the German artillery would cut loose.

On the morning of August 19th, B Battery's cannoneers were at their kitchen in the woods west of the guns, when the first shock of real war was driven home. Without any preliminaries, a shell crashed into the midst of the group, and three men were struck-Corporal McCourt, and Privates Anderson and Houseman. They were given first-aid treatment by Private Prior of the Medical Detachment, and carried to the nearest surgeon. On the way to the dressing station, more shells began to fall, and Prior and Stewart, who were carrying Houseman, were both wounded. Houseman did not live to reach the ambulance station, and Anderson died on the way to the field hospital-the first men to have their names go on our honor roll.

The next morning, August 20th, it was C's turn. About nine o'clock several batteries of German artillery opened a concentrated fire on both B's and C's positions. The men all took refuge in dugouts or dodged into the woods, but suddenly the fire shifted from the gun emplacements right into the woods where a number of Battery C men, including Lieutenant Dodge, were located. As shell after shell whizzed and banged about them, they all jumped into little two-man "rabbit holes." Mechanics Angrisano and McConville were together in one hole, when Corporal Frey, who found he had not time to reach his own place, jumped in with them. Immediately there was a terrific explosion-a shell had plunged right in on top of them. All three were instantly killed. As soon as there was a hill Lieutenant Dodge, himself wounded in the chest, ordered the men to scatter, while he walked down to the aid station to have his wound dressed. The battery never returned to that position. A detail went up that afternoon with Captain Bacon and the Chaplain to bury the dead, and that night the horses were brought tip and the guns hauled out and taken over the hill to a new position in the woods on the forward slope. Battery B, too, moved away and found a better place considerably to the left. Lieutenant Gannon, on two successive nights, returned with a single piece and fired from the old position-a task, which required nerve on the part of the Lieutenant and his men. Aside from that, the place was deserted. The camouflage nets were left so as not to show that the guns had departed, and for days a rain of shells was poured on them every few hours, until there was little to be seen but wreckage.

The First Battalion headquarters came in for its full share of shelling, although there were no casualties. Directly behind Major Sanders's dugout was a battery of huge 155mm rifles, and just in front of him was Battery C of the 306th F. A. with their howitzers. The Germans shelled both of these batteries consistently, and our men got the fringes of the fire. Shell fragments whistled through the trees and brought down showers of twigs and leaves, and at least one man, Private Hicks, was knocked down by an explosion close behind him. To add to the confusion, every time the great 155's, which towered tip in the rear, let out their deep-throated roar, the concussion extinguished the candles in the major's dugout.

Meanwhile the Second Battalion was having its troublous times. The ravine where Major Devereux's P. C. was located, was a center of attraction for the German artillery. Day after day and night after night they would begin at the lower end, where the 306th's howitzers stood, and sweep up the ravine with high explosives which drove everybody into what-ever underground protection was to be found. Particularly disagreeable were the gas attacks every evening at supper time, which interrupted the meal and spoiled all the food.

The batteries of this battalion, being farther out in the open than any of the others, were subjected to terrific fire, and the men were at a disadvantage in not having any woods at hand to which they could scatter. Moreover, the constant vigilance of the balloons and airplanes made it very difficult to get food to the cannoneers by day, while the hellish shellfire which swept the hillside every night made it extremely dangerous to carry anything to them after dark. Ammunition, of course, had to be brought, and Battery D's first casualties were four drivers, Vannini, Bryant, Claviter and Kalf, all of whom were caught under fire while bringing shells to the battery. With several other men they had ducked under a fallen airplane for protection, when a shell struck the plane and exploded the gasoline tank with terrible results: Vannini and Bryant died within a few hours; Claviter, wounded in the hand, recovered eventually, but Kalf died in hospital. Sergeant Walters, of Battery F, who was with them, was killed instantly.

While ammunition must be delivered no matter what the cost, food simply could not be brought in bulk to the gun positions. The cannoneers had to watch their chances and sneak off to the kitchens in the woods, a few at a time, to get a hot meal and to carry back what hard tack and canned meat they could against the time when they should be unable to get away at all. Many a day they went hungry, and many an anxious hour did the battery commanders spend trying to devise ways and means of getting them fed.

Each battery in turn had its baptism of fire, and then a rebaptism often repeated, One day no less than five successive times did the Germans concentrate a fire of gas and high explosive on D Battery. For two of these attacks the men stuck to their posts, but during the other three they had to leave. Yet, save for the drivers before mentioned, this battery suffered no real casualties until September 3rd, when Sergeant Weinhauer, in charge of an isolated forward gun, earned a citation for bravery. While he was firing on a German target, the Boche discovered his position and began to shell it. The enemy fire became so hot that the Sergeant ordered his men to scatter. Lying alongside the gun were some shells which had been fused, ready for firing. It is against orders to leave such shells about because they are liable to explode, and Weinhauer knew that to leave them there would endanger the gun. So, while his men obeyed orders and rushed for safety, this section chief remained behind alone to unfuse the shells. Disregarding his own danger, he performed his task; but as he turned to go a German shell burst at his feet, shattering both his legs. He was taken to a dressing station and from there sent to a hospital, but finally succumbed before ever he knew that his valor had won him a place in the nation's list of heroes.

Already F. Battery had lost two men by shellfire- Sergeant Walters, killed with Battery D's drivers, and Pri-vate Moserowitz who was felled by a shell explosion on a road near the guns-but worse fortune was to befall them. There had just been a reorganization of the officers, due to the fact that Lieutenants Pfaelzer, Washburn and Watson, together with numerous other officers, had been taken away from the regiment and sent back to the States to help organize and instruct new artillery organizations. Lieutenant Tweedy had been sent to help Captain Exell, who was now alone with his firing battery. That very night, while the crew of the first piece was preparing to shoot some harassing fire on a road within the German lines, the customary evening callers began to drop in. The cannoneers were at their posts: they were all so accustomed to shelling by this time that they paid no particular attention to the Pfzzzz-z-z-BANG! of one burst after another which plowed up the ground and threw chunks of earth all about them. The gunner, LeToile, was adjusting the sight, and Lieutenant Tweedy was leaning over his shoulder making some suggestion; Hill and Robbins were standing at the trail, while Fatseas was stooping over to screw the fuse into a shell. Suddenly, with a roar that shook the whole battery, a German projectile tore through the camouflage net and burst right in the gun pit. Lieutenant Tweedy, his head covered with blood and his leg bruised so that he could hardly stand, struggled to his feet. Before him lay, Robbins, Hill and Fatseas, dead at their posts. Corporal Smith, blinded, for the time being, by a fragment that struck his eye, was groping his way about, and LeToile too was in need of surgical aid. Meantime the shelling continued, and it was difficult work to get the wounded down to a dressing station. Lieutenant Tweedy, who ap-peared to be the most seriously hurt, insisted that he was all right and for a while refused to let them carry him on a stretcher. The task was finally accomplished, however, without any further mishap, and then Captain Ewell ordered his men to evacuate the position. Next morning Lieutenant Norris and the Chaplain went back with a detail, and the three men who had lost their lives were buried where they fell. Eleven graves scattered about that hillside will make the Fernie des Dames forever a hallowed place for the men of the 304th F. A.

A curious part of this incident at F Battery was what happened to the gun. The explosion which killed the cannoneers whirled the gun right out of its pit, and dumped it on the left of the emplacement, facing at a right angle to its original position, but right side up and absolutely unscathed. It seems incredible that a projectile containing high explosive of such tremendous power could burst so close at hand, hurl a heavy gun out of its place, and still not injure the mechanism, yet such queer occurrences are not infrequent.

The Chaplain can testify to that out of his own experience. One Sunday afternoon, as he was riding through the woods on the forward slope of the hill, returning from a service at Battery C's new position, the Germans began to sweep the edge of the woods with "H. E." Inasmuch as the shots were not falling on the road, he continued on his way; but suddenly the Boche shifted their fire to the road, and before the Chaplain knew what was happening, a shell burst right beside his horse. He felt the hot blast in his face, and a shower of dust, and then found himself on all fours in the middle of the road, while the horse trotted back down the hill. Although the shell had struck within a few feet and had blown him out of the saddle, neither horse nor rider was scratched. Such miracles were happening every day.

Not the least of the miracles was that, during all this time, Battery A in the woods, and Battery E in its more exposed position had had no casualties whatever. That this was not due to any lack of shelling is evident from the following extracts chosen almost at random from the diary of one of the cannoneers:

Tuesday, August 20th: With two aeroplanes to observe for them the Germans opened fire on us and continued, on and off, all day. In the morning under fire digging officers' dugout. Lieutenant MacDougall called for volunteers to return fire under direct aerial observation, and all promptly volunteered. A rapid fire quieted the Hun for a while under cover of darkness, Brown, Corbett, myself and a detail were sent f or some logs in the woods and ran into heavy fire. At 11 o'clock we commenced firing at the Huns. At about 2 A. M. we were gassed and 'had to work with masks on. . . .Brown had a shell knocked out of his hand by a flying fragment.

Thursday, August 22nd: About 7 A. m. Fritzy fired on the road to our left and certainly made some perfect hits. The old planes began to fly about and hell was loose again. . . .

Tuesday, August 27th: At 4:12 A. M. we opened a rolling barrage of shrapnel. . . . After 79 rounds of this a normal barrage was called; 131 rounds of this was fired with shells flying overhead. Their firing became so heavy that we were compelled to leave the position. After fifteen minutes we re-turned and cleaned up. . . . About 6 P. m. was sent to new positions after Corporal Morrissey and his digging detail. Was almost hit by a German shell. Returned to gun, counted out enough shells for a normal barrage and fell asleep for a while. A very tough night for Brown, Clark, Potter and myself, all having chills, fever and diarrhea.

After that strenuous day described by the writer, E's cannoneers were routed out at 3:40 A. M. to fire a barrage, and it was that morning, during the firing, that their first loss occurred. Every artilleryman who uses the French 75 knows that, when firing certain kinds of ammunition, the gun is liable to explode at any time. Every 75 cannoneer knows that, whenever a high explosive shell fitted with an "I. A. L." fuse is slammed into the breech, the pull of the lanyard may mean death for any or all of the crew. It was with full knowledge of this that Sergeant Buehl was standing by his piece during that barrage on August 28th. Number Two shoved a shell into the gun; Number One closed the breech and reached for the lanyard; Sergeant Buehl, with an eye on his watch to see that each shot went at the proper moment, said, "Fire!" The next instant the gun was a wreck, and the cannoneers were standing over the body of their Section Chief. It was no one's fault: it is a part of the game. Adolph Buehl, and every other man who has been killed by his own gun in action, is far more a hero, just because he knows the danger and disregards it, than many a soldier who is killed by a shot from the enemy.

Mention has already been made of the German supremacy in the air on this front. Many of our casualties were due directly to the fact that the Boche planes were able to come over any time they wished and adjust the fire of their artillery. Not only did scout planes hover over our lines and battery positions and locate the vulnerable points, with never an Allied plane to drive them away, but time and again battle planes swooped down from the skies and attacked the American observation balloons, forcing the observers to take to their parachutes and often destroying the balloons. Sometimes Allied planes would come out and give chase, but they never, so far as we could discover, brought down the enemy. On one occasion a Boche plane appeared high in air when there were several Allied planes about. Disregarding the anti-aircraft guns which threw' a barrage of shrapnel all around him, and the Allied planes which pursued, the German aviator made a sudden dive for a balloon. Like a thunderbolt he dropped, head on, as if the machine were out of his control, while thousands of soldiers looked on cheering. Then, with a sudden swoop, he shot out past the balloon, poured a rain of machine gun bullets into it, and sped off. The balloon burst into flames, and as it sank slowly to the ground, the Boche, with several Allied planes at his heels, made straight for another balloon, destroyed it as he had the first, and with incredible skill and daring escaped from his pursuers and disappeared toward the German lines.

But while our batteries were suffering casualties and being obliged, one by one, to change their positions for better safe-guarding of both men and guns, they were also getting in some effective work on the German infantry lines and machine gun positions across the river. The barrage in which Buehl was killed was fired in support of an assault our own infantry were making on Bazoches. The town was not taken, but both the artillery preparation which preceded the attack and the barrage which swept along in front of the advancing infantry were pronounced decidedly well executed. On one occasion the French division on our left was planning a raid, and their commanding officer requested our help in silencing certain enemy machine guns which threatened the success of the operation. The First Battalion was given the job, and when the time came they gave the best that they had in support of their French neighbors. The next day Colonel Briggs received the following note from our Brigade Commander, General Mc-Closkey:

"Headquarters, 152nd Brigade F. A.
A. E. F. August -, 1918.
"My dear Briggs:
"The French Colonel who conducted the operation last evening was delighted with your fire because not a single machinegun was in action from the place on which your fire was directed.
"Sincerely,
"MCCLOSKEY."

Colonel Briggs had copies of the note made and sent them to every battery that had taken part in the firing, and it was an immense source of satisfaction to the men, not only to realize that their heavy labors were counting for something, but to be assured that they were developing real skill, and that officers higher up were recognizing the fact.

While the men at the guns were thus engaged, those in the stations farther back were busy at their own tasks. Regimental headquarters was in the Montaigne Farm, on the opposite slope directly facing the Ferme des Dames, a great group of white buildings in the midst of a green landscape, plainly visible from every enemy balloon. Why it was never shelled, no one will ever know. The strictest discipline was maintained in regard to going in and out when airplanes were in sight, and every possible precaution was taken to make the place appear deserted; but with the frequent visitors from out-side who did not understand the principles of concealment, and with the unavoidable activity connected with such an office, it is inconceivable that the Germans should have been fooled into thinking the farm was unoccupied. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, while the Boche occasionally dropped his shells very close, he never appeared even to try to bit the farm, and the headquarters staff had a comparatively peaceful time.

The Headquarters Company echelon was in the woods behind the Montaigne farm, where they could furnish horses or messengers or special details of men as they might be needed by the regimental commander. Here life was decidedly peaceful. It was within easy range of the German guns, to be sure, but apparently there were not enough troops in the wood to make it worth while to waste ammunition on them. The band, armed with grooming kits and picks and shovels, cared for the live horses and buried the dead ones, which our predecessors had scattered over the landscape. "The Dead Horse Brigade" these musicians called themselves, and they used to sing, as they went forth to their cheerless task, to the tune of Chopin's Funeral March, -

We are the men of the Dead Horse Brigade, We are the men of the Dead Horse Brigade, Glory hallelujah, Glory hallelujah! We are the men of the Dead Horse Brigade.
Singing became a real feature of the Company's life. Five or six men with an ear for harmony used to make the long evenings tuneful, and they formed the nucleus for the regimental Glee Club which, after the armistice, helped so much in the entertainment of our own and other troops. It was an interesting study in contrasts to lie in one's tent at night and listen to the boom of cannon yonder on the opposite hill, while the strains of "0 Sole Mio," sung by Private Trepani, drifted out from the woods where the men were grouped, or Stange's "Mess-Kit Rag" brought chuckles from every funk-hole.

The main echelon was back in the Nesle Woods, where the regiment spent the first night after its arrival in the sector. Except for an occasional bombing raid on the division headquarters, which was in a nearby chateau, and one or two false gas alarms, the nights were peaceful and the days uneventful. There the horses and wagons were kept, and there lived those men who were not on actual duty with the firing batteries or headquarters details. Thither the cannoneers were sent when tired or sick, that they might have more sleep and better food.

The place itself was quiet and restful, but it must not be imagined that the men who lived there did not have their share of the dangers of work at the front. Every night drivers from the batteries had to hitch tip their horses and take rations and ammunition over roads that were being shelled, and find their way through the impenetrable darkness of the woods; or drive to the firing batteries and haul the guns to new positions. Every night the wagoners and truck drivers from the Supply Company had to take out their big vehicles and run their chances of being ditched in shell holes or caught under fire at some cross road. It was hazardous work, but the men had nerve, and they were being directed by two officers, in particular, whom they admired and trusted-Lieutenant Murphy, who had immediate charge of the supplies, and Lieutenant Bruns, who looked after the ammunition. Many a night, when there was a particularly difficult haul to make, Lieutenant Murphy went out himself with the wagons, piloted them through the wicked shellfire on the cross roads at Chery-Chartreuve, directed the unloading and brought them safely back. Time after time Lieutenant Bruns, routed out of his tent at midnight by a telephone call for more shells, would mount his horse, ride back to the echelon, take the wagons out to some ammunition dump, have them loaded, guide them through woods filled with gas to the battery dumps, deliver what he had bought, and then, after starting his convoy on the homeward road, would come back to his tent and crawl into bed for a little sleep before breakfast time, The men would not only follow either of these officers anywhere, but would go for them anywhere, willingly; and often one or two teams would make these dangerous trips at night without guides to places they had never seen before. No driver, whether in a battery or in the Supply Company, had either a safe or an easy life.

Sundays were no different from other days, except for the services held by the Chaplain. It was not always possible for him to visit every battery, and sometimes when he arrived, firing by our own or the enemy's guns made any gatherings impossible, but usually he managed to cover on his rounds most of the regiment. There would be services at many of the gun positions during the day and another in the evening at the echelon. The response on the part of both officers and men was genuine.

Arrived at a battery position, the Chaplain would go to the P. C.
"How about a service to-day?"
"Is today Sunday? Fine!" would be the usual response. And then, provided there was a lull in the firing, the

Captain would say, "Sergeant, tell the men the Chaplain is here for a service. They can stop all work. Just leave a guard on the guns."

Then men would gather-sometimes ten, sometimes thirty -and sitting on the ground in the woods, or even under the camouflage nets or in a gun pit, they would listen attentively to the Scripture readings and the Chaplain's brief tall, and enter reverently into the prayers.

Occasionally the services were interrupted. One Sunday at Battery A's first position, about twenty men, including Captain Lyman, were sitting before a communion table-an empty box covered with a white tablecloth, on which stood the silver plate and cup. Suddenly, in the midst of the service, a shell whistled overhead and burst in the woods behind. Then came another and another, and still others, shrieking and banging and making such a racket that the Chaplain could hardly make himself heard. Presently one landed rather close, and splinters crackled through the leaves overhead. The Chaplain stopped for a moment and spoke to Captain Lyman.

"If you think it better not to keep the men together," he said, "don't hesitate to interrupt."
"They seem to be going over us," replied the Captain. "Go on. I'll tell you if I think it is getting too hot."
The Chaplain proceeded for a few moments, but then there came a terrific crash, and a chunk of steel, glancing from a tree, dropped beside the communion table. The Chaplain looked at Captain Lyman, who said,
"I guess it isn't very safe here. Suppose we move further up the hill."

The men got up quietly and walked a couple of hundred meters through the woods. There they met a group of cannoneers on their way to relieve some tired gun crews. These were invited to join in the service, and, thus augmented, the little congregation sat down again and the service proceeded. In these meetings Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and men who professed no religious faith whatever participated. Common work and common danger broke down barriers and created a spiritual bond in which denominational differences were for-gotten. Whatever their creed, men learned that they could worship God together and find the strength and peace which they needed in those days of toil and hardship. Of course the Catholics craved the ministrations of one of their own priests, and efforts were made to provide them with opportunities for going to confession and to mass. This was comparatively easy in the echelon, but rather difficult at the gun positions. At least once on the Vesle front, however, a Catholic Chaplain named Ronan, who was attached for a while to division headquarters, gave us two whole days, during which, piloted by Chaplain Howard, he visited every gun crew and heard confessions, and at one battery, with his altar set tip on the tail of a ration cart, he said mass in the woods.

One of the principal factors in the splendid spirit of the men was the leadership of Colonel Brigs. Tireless eager, enthusiastic, his personality dominated the regiment. Those who worked closest to him and saw him every day-his adjutant, the operations officer, the sergeant-Major, the chauffeur who drove his car, the orderly who looked after his personal needs and took care of his horse-these knew best what a remarkable combination he was of driving energy and good humored kindliness, of stern justice and sympathetic appreciation. But his influence reached out far beyond those who ordinarily come in contact with a regimental commander. Officers and men of all ranks found in him a personal leader and friend. He would appear, alone and unattended, in the most unexpected places: at the gun positions, at the echelon, in the woods, on the roads, in a telephone dugout or an observation post. And always he had a word for whomever he met, be it a battery commander or a buck private. Sergeant-Major Zeller, of. the Second Battalion, tells of meeting him in the woods one day when he was out looking for a possible water supply for a new P. C.

"What are you doing up here?" asked the Colonel.
The sergeant-major explained his mission, and added that he had found a spring.

Colonel Briggs looked at him intently for a moment, and then said, with a smile, "A spring would come in handy for a clean-up and a shave, wouldn't it?"

Zeller remembered that he had not shaved for nearly a week.
Seeing his confusion, the Colonel felt of his own face and said, "Sometimes I don't get a chance myself to shave for two or three days at a time."

This kind of instinctive courtesy put men at ease in their intercourse with him, and it fostered a certain sense of comradeship between the soldiers and their regimental commander. The officers felt it too. A lieutenant, who had just had two very narrow escapes under fire, was standing one morning in the headquarters office, and the colonel was asking him about what had happened.

"I think they're after me, Colonel," he said with a laugh.
Colonel Briggs laughed too; but suddenly, as the real significance of it dawned on him, he laid his hand on the officer's shoulder and said earnestly, "I hope they won't get you!"

One can readily understand with what mingled feelings of pride and disappointment the regiment received the news, on. August 25th, that Colonel Briggs had been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. His own feeling is best expressed by what he said, two months later, to the Regimental Association in New York:

"When I received my promotion I was pleased, of course. It came as a surprise to me, and I had only to thank the regiment for it. It was their work, which brought it to me. I wanted to stick with it and to stay with it. But the promotion meant that I had to go elsewhere. Nevertheless, I did hang on even longer than the law permitted. I stayed with them almost ten days.

"I have been in the service for twenty years, but the enthusiasm in that regiment is wonderful. It seems as if I never could stop thinking about it. . . .

"I never had to give an order about anything. All I had to do was to express a wish, a desire, and the first thing I knew it would be attended to.

I say my regiment'; it is no longer mine, and I have no right to talk that way. But it was mine once, and I shall always think of it as mine, because I enjoyed it so much, and became so fond of the men in it."


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