February 2, 1919 – Letter to Robert’s mother:
Ground Hog day
We have a soldier that is so homely that we call him “Ground Hog.” I don’t mean pork sausage but the animal, and since this is the day that he comes out to see his shadow we would not let this fellow out of the billet cause we want warm weather even if we haven’t had any snow yet.
But what I started out to write about was this. Will you rent me the green cottage at the lake for a week or so if I get home when it is warm. i know Nora would enjoy it out there + I feel that a rest would do me good too after over a year of army life.
I got me a bed from the “frogs” and have a straw mattress on it and five army blankets. I will hate to leave such comfort. The cooks have waked up a little and are going to give corn fritters for supper.
An order is out now that will not allow me to go to Scotland so that is settled. I went down to the captain about it. They will let me if this was my home but that is all.
I have not heard from Bess for a long time. Is she still teaching? Have you heard from Gilbert lately. No doubt he is to be sent home soon also.
We went out on a patrol last night + tore up some old dugouts and so we have firewood now. We have to steal it or go without + so as the captain said, “A ‘good soldier’ never goes without anything as long as he can ‘get by’” with it. No doubt the Army will have to pay for it in the end but they should issue it and we would not help ourselves.
They tell me that all drilling is over while we are over here. There will be a lot of work to do however, but the relief from drill will help a lot.
We are due to leave this town on the 7th or 8th of February, but I do not know how soon we will hit the coast.
Well Mother I will be home some time soon.
I almost forgot to tell you that I am getting fat. I am fatter than I ever was before, I think. I am going to get weighed tomorrow at the supply co., if I have time.
Love to all, Rob
P.S. I got your letter of Jan. 6. Rob
Robert will write about the availability – or lack thereof – of firewood several times over the next few weeks. Chaplain Edwards returns after a long absence with this undated account of winter in Pont-sur-Meuse, in From Doniphan to Verdun: The Official History of the 140th Infantry:
The cold grew intense, but the maneuvers continued. Finally we sent nearly 200 men to the hospital in one week. Orders had come down to let the men get no wood, and later, to take the stoves out of their billets. General Thomas B. Dugan had taken charge of the 70th Brigade October 13th and of the 35th Division on December 29th, holding it until March 1st.
Major Broyles sent to him a statement of the growing hospital list, with a request that the men be permitted fires, or the maneuvers be conducted less frequently and the men be given a chance to rest and get dried out.
This brave General sat by his warm fire in comfortable quarters and dictated a snappy reply, ending with the words “The authorities prescribing these maneuvers doubtless felt that they were of PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE TO THE HEALTH OF THE MEN” and men are buried in France — so officers assure me — who might have come home with us if we had been under a General with a heart.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.