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SBButler Letters, June 1917
June 3, 1917
June 10, 1917
June 17, 1917
June 24, 1917
Letters to Eva, June 1917
June 3, 1917
I'm writing this afternoon from the Y.M.C.A., which is considerable of an improvement over the bunk. And I notice, too, that there is plenty of reading matter here, which I believe you asked about once.
The week has seemed shorter than the earlier ones, probably because of the holiday we had Wednesday. We have had drill in marching movements two hours every morning except Friday, and Tuesday when it rained so hard. More of our drill is now in formations at the firing line - how to deploy from the column of march into the skirmish (firing) line (called extended order drill) and how to advance the firing line during engagements. The drill before this week has been more of what is known as close order drill - marching movements used when not under fire; and we still have almost half the work in this close order drill. We have had the usual half hour of physical drill every morning, and a half hour of bayonet drill. The last hour and a half of the morning & afternoon have been as before, conference and study periods. We are surely getting crowded to the limit on this theoretical work; I wrote Eva that when I got back to teaching, I was never going to have any more mercy, or worry as to whether lessons I assigned were too long or hard, and that when students objected, I should have as a byword, "Why, when I was at Plattsburg," etc., etc. - which should silence all but the keen ones who brought up ancient passages about considering the lilies of the field ( a reference to the past). The first hour of each afternoon we have had signal work and there are two codes we are working on now; the first code we learned was what is known as the semaphore, in which certain relative stationary positions of the arms indicate certain letters, and as it is based on a system, it wasn't hard to learn, but it takes a great deal of practice to learn to read a message fast. The new code we have been taking up this week is known as wig-wag (if I referred to the other in my earlier letters as wig-wag, it was a mistake); I should call it a visualization of the International Morse telegraphic code. For instance, A in the telegraphic code is .- (dot-dash) - in the wig-wag signal it is inclining a flag (held vertically in front of body) to the right 90[degrees] and back, and then to the left 90[degrees] & back. A dot is going down & up on the right side, and a dash is going down and up on the left. There is a definite number of words we shall have to be able to send and receive in a minute in each code, as part of the qualification for our commissions, and of course we are trying in our practices gradually to work up to the qualifying mark. We practice this signal work in a large pine grove south of the camp, each squad practicing apart from the rest.
Each squad, beginning this last week, has had to furnish the platoon leaders and guides in the various drills and exercises for one day. The company is divided into four platoons, each one with a leader and next under him a guide; the 1st lieutenant of a company is the leader of the 1st platoon normally, and the 2nd lieutenant, of the 4th platoon; the six sergeants of the company are the other two leaders & the four guides. Our squad had its turn Friday, and I drew by lot 4th platoon leader for my job. As on Friday we had a two hour's hike instead of morning drill in the close & extended order movements, which made it somewhat easier. But I had to conduct the physical drill and bayonet exercises in the morning, and rifle exercises in the afternoon for the platoon, so had a chance at some experience in giving commands, describing things to be done, in general acting as a leader - which is of course the idea in having all the men in the company, one squad a day, act in the various positions I spoke of.
Last evening there was an entertainment, very enjoyable for the most part, outside Co.5 barracks for the New England regiment. They have a piano in Co.5, which was of course an important part of the entertainment; and there was usually one man from each company who was a good singer or reciter or who had some tricks, or was a good comedian that furnished the entertainment. Between times the piano furnished music for the whole audience to sing. They expect to have these get together affairs every Saturday evening, and I guess every one will look forward to them.
Today Tom Beers and I indulged ourselves in a table d'hote dinner down at the New Cumberland, in town, and you can't imagine how wonderful it seemed - even to the real table, real chairs, real table linen and china. We had chicken soup, roast turkey and roast pork, mashed potatoes, corn, apple charlotte, strawberry shortcake, and ice cream. Anyone can be excused from mess Saturday night and Sunday morning or noon, and so we planned this little party. How ordinary baloney tasted at supper! I hate it anyway, and don't believe I shall ever like either it or frankfurters. I'll have to admit I like beans already, also macaroni, so you see I'm improving some.
I'm afraid that the laundry won't get to you until tomorrow morning, but hope that won't be too late. Don't feel that you must get sweet chocolate and things to send every time; naturally I have enjoyed them very much. But any rule on eats that exists must be very liberal in its interpretation, for men have been getting all sorts of things, even cakes & pies; so if you want to send me some cookies or crullers anytime I guess there is no danger of their being thrown away - even if they weren't having the pies, &c, surely cookies wouldn't be on any different basis than nabiscoes. But don't feel that you must send me anything unless its convenient, because I guess I'm in no danger of starving.
The shirt didn't seem to have shrunk any.
If by any chance you got a package with honeysuckle from Eva, it was at my request. The honeysuckle vines grow in marvelous profuseness around Hemlock Manor, and I wish I could see them when they were out. Next best to that, I asked Eva earlier in the spring to send some home to me when they were out; and then I was up here and couldn't have them. It occurred to me that you would enjoy a bunch, and I in writing a couple of weeks ago asked her if she would send them, providing they came out in time. I'm afraid its too early for them, and as she went up to Philadelphia this week, if she hasn't been able to send them, she won't be now. I thought I would speak of it, in the remote chance that you had gotten them. She forgot to tell me whether she had finally been able to or not.
With much love to you & all
[ Included in letter. Flora was also called Tot. There is a letter about them visiting Sylvester in Pleasantville, NJ. -- David ]
Mrs. Ophelia Vanderslice Barton
announces the marriage of her daughter
Mr. Albert Ernest Binks
Saturday, May nineteenth
nineteen hundred and seventeen
Rye, New York
June 10, 1917
Your letter reached me Thursday afternoon, one mail before a formal announcement [see above] came from Bridgeton, that they had been married in Rye, N.Y., on May 19th. Probably you received one, too. I suppose undoubtedly it was an exigency of war; that if Binky were drafted, or entered an officers' camp this fall, with the possibilities which such action involves, they would be together this summer anyway - and she wouldn't feel right about staying at his house all summer without their being married; or just that they would be married for that time anyway, if anything should happen to him in the war to separate them permanently. I hope it doesn't cause a lot of unpleasantness in both families.
I hope naturally to hear much better news of Ralph this week. What more do you hear from Ralph Savage?
You have probably gotten my trunk and other things by this time, and I hope they arrived in satisfactory condition. I guess you'll think I've got an awful lot of clothes; they'll be enough to last for some little time, I imagine - until, if ever, I order my lieutenant's uniform. There should be, besides my dress suit, that heavy blue suit a couple of years old, a dark gray winter suit, a light-weight blue suit with a thin white stripe, and that gray stripe suit I bought something over a year ago at Ashley-Babcock's - there's a lot of wear in the last named as an old suit, but if there is somebody special it would be of use to, I don't care if it's given away. They have stored my other things in the high school building under the good care of its excellent janitor, Mr. Lake; there couldn't have been a better arrangement.
There is some printed matter held for postage for me at the Pleasantville P.O.; I have written them to forward it to Cromwell. I haven't the slightest idea [if] its anything I want here, but if you'll just tell me what it is when it comes, I'll let you know if I do need it.
The laundry came this noon, and I suppose it's been trotting around the camp somewhere. It rained today so that I couldn't wash out my clothes, and I guess I'll try to make them do until Thursday and then send them home.
I heard from my Psychology examination this week and am glad to say I passed it at 77; not a very wonderful mark, but I'm thankful enough I passed it. We don't hear from our examinations here, unless we hear all at once this week that we can have our honorable discharge, to which poor examinations might be a contributory factor. I just asked one of the boy's how far it was to Saranac Lake and he tells me it's about sixty miles.
This week the work has been varied some from previous ones. The first hour in the morning has been occupied with the usual drill, mostly in close order this week, and in battalion formation. A battalion consists ordinarily of four companies; so each platoon of the company has been for purposes of drill a company of the theoretical battalion, and we have gone thru the various movements executed by the battalion. Different squads have furnished the company commanders (captains) and guides for the day, and the men have been observed very carefully, more so than we were the day we were platoon leaders in company work. I rather hope squad 15 gets another chance at this the coming week. From 8:00 to 10:30 every morning since Wednesday we have had, under the head of musketry training, position and aiming exercises with the rifle, sighting drills, and gallery target practice. From 10:45 to 12:00, and from 2:00 to 4:00 have been conference periods; from 1:30 to 2:00 we have had signal work, and our physical drill the last thing in the afternoon, 4:00 to 4:30. We have drilled every morning with our full packs on our backs, but are getting used to the burden, I think. The hardest morning with them was Tuesday when after the hour's drill we had a two hour and a half march; the feeling of relief on taking the pack off when we finally got back was one of most ecstatic pleasure. Half of our study and conference periods are now devoted to a textbook called "Small Problems in Infantry" and as the title might indicate, is fairly interesting - in so far as one can look at the art of making war from an academic point of view. I don't imagine, however, that they teach us much about the kind of warfare our armies will meet, if they have to go over to France.
Captain VanHorn (the regular army officer in command of our company) told us to not pay too much attention to newspaper reports about the weeding out of men, and inferred that the reports had been greatly exaggerated. There will, I presume, however, be some men discharged from this company during the coming week. This week will end the first month of training, in which all at the camp have had purely infantry instruction, and at the end of the week the men will be divided into infantry, cavalry, artillery, and engineer companies - all men who are to be weeded out will be advised of the decision regarding them naturally before the reorganization takes place. Everyone - in the fourth platoon of the company anyway, seems rather worried about the weeding out - and some say they've gotten to the point where they don't care; so what talk there has been has not had altogether a salutory effect. Naturally no one wants to be weeded out.
It's been hard to find just what the government's intentions in regard to the training camps has been, and I think they must have undergone some change. I wrote you what Col. Wolf said the first day we were up here, and had supposed that was definite, but a notice from the Adjutant General of the War Department posted yesterday on all the bulletin boards has compelled us to revise our ideas of the outlook on results for individuals undergoing training. After reading the notice, a long one, over several times, I have gathered the following: 1) The best qualified from each company will be selected for officers in the regiment which the training company represents (that is, the 4th Co. here would furnish officers for the 4th New England regiment in the draft armies); although there will be some regular army officers with each regiment. 2) Others who qualify for reserve officers will get commissions (lieutenants) and are likely to be additional officers for the draft regiment their company here represents, during the training period, and be the regularly constituted officers in later draft armies; also are likely to be temporary officers in the regular army. And evidently the qualifying standard is going to be very high; for 3) Men who show promise of being competent with additional training will be encouraged to enter the next training camp (starts Aug.27th) - the number of these is expected to be small, and to include almost entirely men of exceptional merit who had no military experience before coming here 4) Those who have not "demonstrated affirmatively the fitness and efficiency necessary in an officer", "who have merely survived the training period" will be discharged at the expiration of their enlistment. 5) There will be a second camp starting Aug.27th, lasting until Nov.26th, after which officers will be obtained by promotion from officers or men already in service, either regular army, national guard, or drafted forces.
Now where this leaves me and a great number of men, who like me, have had little or no military experience, I don't know - or rather I find it hard to understand why it should leave us where it seems to - from the third paragraph. Why should men without experience have been encouraged to enter and accepted in considerable number, and then only the best of those get - not commissions at once but encouragement to enter the next camp? Probably it's not quite as bad as it looks; I imagine there are some without previous experience who will really get commissions in August, but there's nothing to indicate that from the notice. It all makes it seem a long time before I'll be of any use to the nation. Well, we'll just keep plugging, keep our eyes & ears open, and see how things go.
How do you use that Carbona cleaning fluid so that it doesn't fade things? I tried to take an ink spot out of my breeches, and succeeded chiefly in making a light spot around it.
I have had two good letters from Lucinthia and have just answered them both today. I'm certainly glad you finally took the trip to Wellesley, and that you liked it so much. All of us at the camp here had to register and send our cards either to the mayor of our city or the sheriff of our county; I know mine arrived O.K. for I received my certificate back last week. There was less trouble than I expected over it. In Pleasantville I never found anyone in favor of it, here everyone is; they take it as a matter of course, that the only way to do the business. Discussion is of course no longer in order; it's the way the country is to be armed, and we all hope for a result from the war which will make discussions as to the manner of raising armies needless in the future.
With much love to you and all
June 17, 1917
I am writing, or beginning to write, anyway, while out on a walk with Mr. Short, this morning. We have walked down a mile and a half or so from the camp to the grounds of the Hotel Champlain, which cover all of a large round hill sloping down on the east side to the lake shore. The hotel is on the very top of the hill, of course, and commands a magnificent view of the country for miles and miles, with mountains for background on most all sides. The grounds are mostly wooded and the trees are splendid ones, particularly the tall stately cedars, finer than any I ever saw. I found a yellow lady slipper by one of the roads this morning, the first I ever actually found myself. Just at present I am sitting down on a settee on the porch of a boathouse on the lake shore, while Mr. Short is enjoying a cigar.
Well, I'm still here, I'm thankful to say. Friday evening the whole New England regiment gathered in the gymnasium and listened to a fine talk from Major Stewart, who is in charge of the regiment while training. He touched on the matter of removals and the various possible results of the training period for us as individuals in a way that was somewhat reassuring. He said that no one would be discharged until the end of the period except for physical disability, obvious unfittness for the service, or if at his own request. And at the end of the period there will be about 45 from each company, the best qualified, put in active service as regular officers in the first draft contingent; all others who are qualified will get their commissions and probably be used as additional instructors for the first draft contingent, being regularly constituted officers in the next or later contingents; a few will be ordered to train another 3 months, as not yet qualified but giving promise; and a few will be discharged from further training or service. All that is somewhat more hopeful than previous dope for the previously inexperienced man. And the more I had thought about the Adjutant General's notice thru the week, the less seriously I had come to constru that third paragraph which seemed to give me no more hope than a second training period. Perhaps that will be the result for me but I don't believe it's the most I can hope for, and naturally not the most I can work for. If that is what I get, I'll be all the more glad that I was in the first camp. Some of the companies have had a physical examination this last week, which has eliminated about ten men per company; we were to have ours Friday but it was postponed, presumably until tomorrow. I don't see how I could lose out on this.
Our work this last week was practically the same as the week before, the first two days, except that all the conference periods were in the afternoon, and the signal work and physical drill in the morning. The last three days instead of gallery practice, we had a little practical work in patrolling and outpost work in the field. The company was marched out into the woods or country somewhere, and a few men would be delegated to exemplify different aspects of the work; and Captain VanHorn gave us talks usually both before and after the men detailed went out, embodying the various principles and directions involved.
Yesterday morning the shifts were made into the different branches of the service, and infantry men from the other companies above the 9th filled up the places vacated in the first 9 by those going into cavalry, artillery, and engineering. That means that I'm still in Company 4, but the personnel of the company is somewhat changed from what it was. After the men from other companies assigned to Co.4 had gotten their belongings in we were all lined up and reorganized; and reassigned to new bunks according to the squad we are now in. I still have an upper but it's on the other side of the aisle and in the corner of the 4th platoon room - the best bunk in the room, because there is more shelf space than anywhere else; before I was about half way down the 4th platoon room. Church and Mr. Short of the old squad are in my present one; but Church isn't in the bunk below me this time & some fellow by the name of Burke, who has just graduated from the University of Vermont, formerly of Co.16, is now my "bunkie", and seems like a very pleasant chap.
I'm glad Ralph was able to pass the physical examination satisfactorily, and certainly hope his stomach won't be unruly while he's in the service. I suppose he will be called out to begin training July 25th. Do you know whether Troop B was dismounted or not? Ernest wrote me a few weeks ago that he understood they were going to be.
The little letter you enclosed was a peep from Mrs. Heath's third son.
Mrs. Winch closed out Sunshine Villa because she had bought a dry goods store formerly owned by Mr. Wilson's mother-in-law, known far and wide in Pleasantville as Ma Frambes. I heard from her last week and she says she is in much better health.
I was glad to get Ralph's and Aunt Sarah's letters this week; I suppose Tot has arrived by now in Cromwell. Perhaps I might get a chance to stop a day at Saranac on my way down in August; circumstances might make it possible for me to go over and spend a Sunday.
I wrote this last page after returning to camp, and now am waiting for dinner call which can't come too soon, as the walk, about six miles, has stirred up a ravenous appetite within. I hope the mess will be a good one.
With much love to you and all
P.S. I am ever so much obliged to Aunt Lucy for that mammouth piece of chocolate; I never saw such a huge cake, and apparently it was part of a still larger one.
Don't bother to return the two pairs of balbirggan underwear; I had Carey send them to me when it was cold in May, but have no use for them now; only wore them because I was short on the others.
June 24, 1917
This week I passed what I presume to be the last possible obstacle to staying thru the whole course, the physical examination, unless I get held up for obvious unfittness some fine morning. I was recorded as having slight flat feet, but not disqualifying; this wasn't a thing that was looked into carefully at all in the examination I took in New York. At the end of the camp, if I get a commission, there is another physical examination to take. I should think the doctors would be tired to death with inoculations, vaccinations, and physical examinations for 5000 men. By the way, I don't believe I mentioned the fact that I was vaccinated a week ago yesterday.
We have now started target practice on the range, which will continue for four weeks, every other working day. The range accommodates 36 targets, up against an impenetrable imbankment. Only one company is on the range at a time, and is divided up so as to have an equal number of men on each target. At various distances, parallel with the line of targets, there are stakes marking shooting positions at that distance for each target, and then there are enough frame desks for a scorer for each group. We shot from the 200 yard line Tuesday, and the 300 yard line Thursday; tomorrow we shoot from the 500 yard line. Each man gets ten shots, five of the from the lying position, and five from kneeling or sitting - at least it was this way last week. To hit the bull's eye counts 5, a space around that, 4, further out, 3, and still further, 2; beyond that is a miss. There is a trench in front of the targets where one company is detailed for one day to indicate to the scorer & the man firing, back on the line, what each shot has made, and the scorer (one of the group firing) records it, and when the ten shots are made, the total is made up, and the sheets are turned in when the practice is over. I forgot to say that the men in the trench in front of the targets show where the bullet has hit by means of disks on the end of a long handle, long enough naturally so one's hand doesn't extend above the trench. A white disk means a bull's eye, and is put on the part of the bull's eye the bullet hit; a red disk is a 4; a cross is a 3, and a black disk a 2. I haven't made any bull's eye's yet. My score the first day was 26, and the second only 20, but I only had eight shots the 2nd time, having acted as scorer, and being the last to shoot. The company is allowed just so much time, and when the command "cease fire" is given, not another shot may be fired. It's very hard for me to hold the rifle steady with my left hand; I'm not afraid of it, and as sufficient proof for this can give that I never in our aiming exercises of the first month got so I could hold it steady - naturally I hope the shake will wear off as soon as possible, and in the lying down position I think I have gotten it somewhat steadier than I did have it. The bull's eye is 8 inches in diameter for the 200 and 300 yd. shots, and I believe will be 20 inches at 500 yards.
The alternate mornings, when we're not at rifle practice, we have gone out, three companies together, for field work, - practical exercises in disposition of troops for advance guard, rear guard, & outposts - it's been this week; we have maps of this whole region for use with the exercises. We are given supposed situations and frame orders from that & act out some, then have conferences out there, in which anybody is likely to be called on for their solution. This next week I believe we are to have some map sketching to do, and with my wonderful ability at free hand & mechanical drawing, both, I imagine I'll be a shining light.
I've struck three rather interesting coincidences in names the last week or so. First, I was walking back from the dispensary after vaccination and got into conversation with a fellow I'd never met before, whose name happened to be Connolly. There is a Yale'14 man, Gerald Connolly, in camp, but I'd gotten it into my head his name was 'Gene; I asked the new Connolly if he was by any chance a brother of 'Gene Connolly, who was Yale'14, Zeta Psi, and here in camp; he said he had a brother 'Gene, but he wasn't here, but was a Yale man '12 and a Zeta Psi man. Then I suddenly remembered who his brother was in 1912, and that the other Connolly here was Gerald. All a rather complicated tangle. Second, my new bunkie's name is J.Francis - nothing particularly strange, of course, in being the same as Dr. Calef's. Third, there is in this company a Sylvester B. Bubier, so that I almost opened a letter from his girl the other day. I knew there was an S.B. Bubier here before I knew our first names were the same, and I was surprised enough to find that. His middle name is not Benjamin, however, I found out by inquiring, but Breed.
[ Note from Joanne Wilson, West Palm Beach, FL: The following gravestone comes from the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale amd shows S. B. Bubier's final resting place. ]
The wedding announcement you forwarded last week was from George, better known as Judy Worthington of Cleveland. It brought back to me a very mushy letter I was ordered to write some six years ago, in running week. It was the same girl that Judy had made me write to at that time, too, so he must have been very constant.
No Yale men whom I know were dropped. I haven't gotten to see many of them outside of the company; just a chance meeting here or there from time to time. I met Jim Rogers of New Britain ( a grandson of that Deacon Camp) the other evening and had quite a chat with him; he used to have charge of a department at Landers, Frary, & Clark and I knew him quite well. He was either a Williams or Princeton man, I don't quite remember. I just happened to run across Deke Hastings of Hartford who is visiting up here today, this morning. Burke, my new bunk-mate, is A1; he is one of the kind that is naturally very funny, and I haven't laughed so much since I came up here, as I have this past week. The new squad is much more congenial than the old one; the only two of the old squad still in the same squad with me are Church and Mr. Short, whom I found more congenial than any of the others in the old one. There is a young Wesleyan fellow in the squad by the name of Neeld, from Hartford, who, by the way, went to Middletown last week to get his degree. He is a Fraternity brother of Sears Pruden, and thru the latter he is quite well acquainted with Amy Walsh, but not over infatuated with the lady. The rest of the squad are Briggs and Linnehan of the University of Vermont and Tomlin of Norwich University. Burke, Briggs, & Linnehan are off until Tuesday, getting their degrees over at Burlington.
I was mistaken about Mrs. Heath's boy being her third son; it was her third child, but second son. The second child was a girl. You had never told me before about Geo. Warner's new boy.
You can tell anybody that wants to know I like this life that I'm enjoying myself all right - if you want some variations, you can add that it probably would never be my first choice for a summer vacation.
I sent home my own pair of breeches to see what could be dome with them. I was going to wash them myself, only I couldn't iron them, and I'm planning to have those for best and wear out the government breeches at work. They were filthy enough; I never realized how much so until I looked at the seat the other night - ever since I've been more careful to look at the mess hall benches before sitting down to eat, as I presume that's where the most of the spots came from. Thank you for the chocolate and crullers, and Aunt Sarah for the stamps. With much love to you and all
[note enclosed with the letter]
I wrote Father this week for a little money to tide me over until payday, whenever that will be. We are assured it will be sometime, and I think we will be paid up to June 1st by the end of this week With our first pay we will get refunded our transportation but I can say good-bye to any money I spent on uniforms. We've been expecting pay daily all month - have a delightful little song to the tune of Glory, Glory, Hallelujah ( as we have already signed payrolls as receipt)
All we do is sign the pay roll
" " " " " " " "
" " " " " " " "
And we never get a cent.
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