Monday, July 04, 2005

July 4, 1918

This is a letter my grandfather sent home just before landing in France in WWI (where he would lose his leg):

On Board July 4, 1918

Dear Mamma and Grandma,
When we first embarked I jotted down several impressions I wished to tell you of while they were yet fresh in my mind but now I find that I cannot find my book.
This is our thirteenth day on board and our twelfth day out. We expect to arrive tomorrow about 7 a.m. thou we may not get dis embarked before noon.
Like Paul I cannot tell where we embarked than it was not New York. We have three thousand seventy three soldiers on board. This is an Italian liner. The officers and crew with the exception of the waiters for the officers mess are Italians. I like the officers very much. They are very interesting to talk to especially the second officer who was torpedoed once and has several other interesting experiences.
When we first started the sea was about like Lake Michigan was when I was in Chicago. When in the state room you could hardly tell the boat was moving but never the less even slight as the motion was it soon began to make its self manifest. The fishes were well taken care of the first two or three days, but most of the men soon recovered althou some had relapses two or three days ago when we had a little storm. I was Officer of the Day at the time and had to be all over the ship especially at night to see that no lights were showing and that the men did not smoke below decks. The wind and rain were terrific while they lasted but the wind did not last long enough to cause many big waves.
I saw several large black fins or tails of fish and was told they were porpoises. One day too we saw many flying fish and they particularly impressed me. They do not simply jump out of the water as our fish do in the river but seem to travel parallel to and about six inches from the water for from ten to twelve feet at a stretch.
Its rather monotonous on board. I give the men physical exercise almost two hours a day and conduct non-commissioned officers school about the same length of time. The rest of the time I read, play cards and sleep.
Yesterday I finished King Lear. It had never particularly impressed me previously. I certainly appreciate it now however almost if not quite as much as Hamlet. Grandma I've read Edmund Dantis too thou I consider it far inferior to "The Black Tulip," and the series beginning with "The Three Musketeers."
Another lieutenant and myself have a rather commodious state room with "fresh" running water. Some of the officers were not so fortunate and are posted several in a room while several second lieutenants have second class quarters.
I have heard that most of the men write exceptionally sentimental letters while in France. I now know why. Practically everything else is forbidden. My letters are due to be very uninteresting. Be careful to get my address right it will be--

Co L 148th inf.
A.E.F.
via New York

The AEF is of course American Expeditionary Force. This will be forwarded.
With lots of love,
Alfred.
[marked by hand: "OK. Estel L. Stewart Capt 148 Inf"]


Personal
July 4, 1918

Dear Mamma,
The other letter is to show to Aunt Mattie & Grace et cet. and this is for you.
I sent you a box by freight from Camp Sheridan. It was the big wooden box. I sent it to Earnest C. Have you received it yet. From Camp Lee I sent you a small package--the old bedding roll and some clothes I can use when I come back. In the big box were some things belonging to Harold which please have his folks come and get. The big box was shipped collect so you pay Earnest for it. I have about $50 in the O.V. Bank. you draw that what ever it is and use it as I can't use it now.
I have as I told you on a post card from Camp Lee allotted $100 a month to you, beginning with this month July. That is the government at Washington will take $100 a month out of my pay and send it to you direct. You should get your first $100 about the 1st of August. In case you do not let me know. It may be late the first month but it will be prompt once it gets started. If you don't find much to my credit in the bank and are short of money let me know and I will send you some right away. I may any way. The boots I bought at Frank Beall are in the box & shipped to Earnest. If he won't take them pay him and maybe Earnest can get rid of them for you.
I've got so much to say I can hardly think of it all. We are in the most dangerous part of the ocean now. We have about 200 miles to go. I probably will not see any fighting for some time.
You had better keep this letter as what I have to say is advice only but it may be my last as I shall try to avoid business but I should like to get it all out of my system at once.
In September my note will be due at the 1st Nat. Bank. Pay that.
Tell me how much you get from my acct. at the O.V. Bank.
Make it small if you wish, but always have that available. Next
Keep $200 (when you get things squared up of course. This is surplus money I'm speaking of) in the savings department of the O.V. Bank you get 4% interest and in case of emergency it is available.
Get a good refrigerator and have it large enough. Get ice regularly & milk.
Have the barn roof torn off and boards bought (good boards) and leave the boards now on torn off and have it re-sheeted leaving no cracks. Then buy some guaranteed 3-ply paper like we used at the farm and have it put in good condition. Have the front porch at the farm fixed up. Have it roofed and have the wood work so fixed that it will not deteriorate. Have the porch painted. This needs it bad. If not fixed it will go to pieces soon. A stitch in time saves nine.
As soon as possible if $60 a month is enough from me start an account in each of the Building & Loan associations of $5 a week each. That will make altogether $40 a month.
I've packed most of my writing paper where I can't get at it and that is the reason for this variation. You notice I am writing two letters one personal and the other you can send around. You can show it to Mr. Sibley if you wish.
I don't know whether I would sell the farm or not even if it don't bring in anything. Don't try to improve it but keep it from deteriorating. How is the sweet clover? I hope you have not let Williams plow it up. Make him be careful of the trees. By the way I think I owe $3 at his garage. I wish you would see. I am sure I do. Please pay it.
I would like to buy the Edwards place if we could get it reasonable. I would buy the place down next the road too if I could get it right. I wouldn't expect to make anything much but if I'd ever farm there again I'd have lots of land for pasture.
{As soon as I get a chance I'll write to and go and see
{Cousin Morley.
Please tell me how you are fixed financially! I want you to be all right. How much pension do you get.
I'd like to have enough after the war to have you have all you want then I would marry Judy.
I suppose because of the war granite or marble is pretty high now. I want to put a tomb stone on papa's grave some time. For the present before I can do it myself when you get able put up a food marker with his name and date on it like this diagram. It may cost $25 or so.

Marion S. Barlow
1839-1917

granite
ground surface
concrete

It is on a part of the Lanning lot is it not! Is there any more room there? I may need some of it for my own personal use.
Hire a machine or something but go out to the farm occasionally. Tell me what crops are in what fields. I do hope you are both well. Loads of love,
Alfred.
[Marked by hand: "OK. Estel L. Stewart, Capt., 148 Inf]



My great-grandfather (a Civil War vet) had died the week the US got into WWI. It was his headstone grandfather was speaking of. This letter, and much more about the 37th Division in the Great War is found in my book, For My Foot Being Off.

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