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9. Sourge and the First Casualties


HISTORY OF THE 305th FIELD ARTILLERY
by
Charles Wadsworth Camp
1919



SOUGE AND FIRST CASUALTIES

THE coolies, we soon realized, would be an irritation, for we wouldn't be allowed to loaf here. We were to be put at once into the way of fulfilling our destiny. We were equipped first of all like the artillery regiment we were. Six batteries of soixante-quinzes were delivered to us in the spacious gun park. Sleek and lithe with an iron grace, they stuck their noses from their painted shields. They looked terribly competent, a little snobbish, too. They seemed to remind us that they weren't three inch guns, and that we had a lot to learn before we would really be fit to handle them.

Limbers and caissons were of an unfamiliar pattern. We gathered about the gray fourgons-a cross between a gypsy van and a prairie schooner. They looked sturdy and faithful, and they turned out so.

Telephones, switchboards, wire, wireless sets, goniometers, scissors-they all came streaming in. Except for horses we were fully equipped within the first few days, and the horses commenced to arrive and breed dissension almost at once.

We didn't have much time to admire all this. We were put to work to learn something about it before we tried it on the Bosche. The course was announced as eight weeks long. After the first day we glanced at each other hopelessly. What had they done with us at Upton for seven months? How could we absorb all this strange, fascinating, and fundamental knowledge in a few days?

At first officers and men went to standing gun drill. The officers followed with terrain board work, the men with specialist instruction. The officers spent the rest of the day at general lectures on conduct of fire, orientation, communication, materiel. We were given elaborate range tables. We heard of stripping ranges and transport of fire, and D v zero, and K zero. Heads buzzed.

" If I have to figure all these things before I shoot at the Bosche, " someone said, "the war will be over before I get my first shell off."

The sun grew hot and the sand more clinging, reminding us we were in the south, as we trudged to classes or walked many kilometers with plane tables and instruments for orientation exercises.

During this period of education the regiment more or less ran itself. Officers and men went to different classes. The hours didn't coincide. Often for drill there would be no officer present. Yet the work didn't slump. Discipline maintained its old standard.

We were the first national army division in France, so our instructors had been drawn from the few Regular Army and National Guard Divisions that had preceded us. They had had some little experience in what might be called parlor trench fighting. We grasped at it. It was invaluable to us. We tried to emulate their easy command of the finer points of French artillery specialization.

Frequently we got to Bordeaux for a week end relaxation. The neighboring villages of Martignas and St. Jean d'Elac offered a smiling hospitality. For less adventurous spirits there was a collection of -booths just outside the gate, where one could sample French cookery and wines. Then during the second week measles appeared, and for a time all passes were stopped.

We had solved the mechanical puzzles of the soixante-quinze, and something of the mysteries of orientation and modern conduct of fire. On May 27th we went to the range to shoot. There were just enough horses at that time to draw one battery out, and the second battalion got them for E battery, which had won the gun drill competition and had been selected to fire with C the first shots on the range.

C battery tried trucks. They got the pieces and caissons as far as the macadamized road went. There remained, perhaps a mile and a half of sand. The trucks wouldn't touch it. The cannoneers looked at the deep ruts and the heavy pieces.

"We have been honored with this first job to fire," they said to each other.

They put their shoulders to the wheels. They kept talking about that honor. They wondered why they had ever gone into the artillery to be so appreciatively singled out. They managed, however, a little limp themselves, to get the carriages to the position in front of observatory 3, where others had dug emplacements and sunk trail logs. The details located the guns, got the aiming sticks up, and ran wires to the observatory and into the range telephone system.

Captain Roger D. Swaim, of the New England National Guard was the First Battalion's firing instructor, and Capt. Kelly, of the same organization, the Second's. They met us at the observatories at 7:30 Monday morning, and we started.

We had so much ammunition that we forgot to gaze at each shell as if it were a precious pearl being cast before swine.

The projectiles went away in quick salvos, and after the first few we knew that while we weren't perfect we could bracket a target and get real effect on it. Then the instructors criticized, the colonel did the same, and the majors usually had their say. Those who hadn't fired looked at the man conducting smugly. Yet always sooner or later they got, as one phrases it, theirs.

That was the beginning of endless hours in the observatories. We averaged four hours firing and eight hundred rounds a day.

Our first day on the range, it will be recalled, saw the opening of the great German offensive across the Chemin des Dames, through chateau Thierry, and nearly to the gates of Paris. After the thrust at Amiens and about Ypres the Bosche had lain quiescent, and his startling initial successes carried a vivid shock to us in the midst of our schooling. We guessed our plans would be altered, for more artillery was needed. A cry went up for every available man. Yet the change when it came was no less of a shock than the great battle. The schedule was published at the end of the week. We would start on the range at 7 o'clock. We would get back in time for a hurried bite of luncheon. From then until 5 o'clock we would have terrain board and specialist instruction, and gas would have to be worked in now. It went between 5 o'clock and supper. From supper time until nine o'clock we would listen to lectures on ammunition, fuses, and various subjects. Then, if we liked, we could attend to our routine organization work, and study. Then, if there was any time, we could go to sleep.

The emergency was, indeed, grave. We even heard rumors that the government had moved from Paris to Bordeaux a second time, and we went into town that week end apprehensive of too many figures in frock coats and silk hats.

After a few days the news was better, but it didn't affect our schedule. During the afternoon classes, after nights of insufficient rest and mornings of intricate calculations and eye strain on the range, we struggled against sleep.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stimson returned to the regiment during this phase. He had visited several fronts and had taken the course at the staff college at Langres.

Lieutenant Mitchell, in spite of his experience, was not named regimental gas officer. That position went to Lieutenant Gilbert Thirkield. Our gas drill consisted in exercises in speed, and walks or runs, wearing the masks. We tried to accustom ourselves to goggles that always clouded, to mouthpieces that left us a trifle choked, to head bands that exerted a painful and increasing pressure.

Into the midst of this earnest endeavor the horses came, and time had to be found to take care of them and to wrangle over them. They weren't very good horses, but they served to arouse that passionate gypsy instinct that informs all lovers of animals. There was sharp trading and devious scheming to get the best of each lot.

A new batch would arrive from the remount depot. It couldn't be assigned to one organization without giving the others a fair chance for its best. An order would come around that organization commanders might exchange the choice of their individual mounts for anything that caught their fancy in the new lot. The horse fair would begin.

This fair was usually held in the deep sand by the stables. Officers and men would form a ring about a row of shaggy beasts held by self-conscious orderlies. Critical eyes would run down the line, taking in the badly used thoroughbred, a thing of possibilities; the narrow-chested overbreed; the useful animal of poor but honest ancestry; the pitiful crocks. Arguments would spring up as to the virtues of some particular beast. You invariably weighed the reverse of an expressed opinion. Faces would grow red, and voices hoaxse from reiterated convictions.

"I'll swop for this one," a captain says.

"All right," from the officer in charge of the fair. "Bring on your best mount."
The captain strides away. After a time the circle parts to admit him and his prize-a spring-kneed, mangy cob from the hospital. It takes two orderlies to support it.
" Whoa! " cries the captain, and pats him gently as if to persuade him not to cut up.
He points to the new horse he has chosen, and instructs his orderly.
"Lead that fellow out. I think I'm getting stung, but I agreed to swop, and I will."
The orderly leaves the invalid, glancing back as if to make sure he hasn't toppled over. The other side of the exchange raises his voice.
"Like the deuce you'll swop. What did you bring that bat-rack here for? "
The captain's expression is of innocent surprise.
"To trade with you as the order directed."
The other sneers.
"Thought you'd made a mistake and believed I was running a soap factory, or maybe you want to borrow a detail to dig his grave."
"Very funny! Very funny! That's one of the best horses in the regiment."
The orderly puts in gravely:
" It's a real hardship to see him go, sir. He's just a little sick."
"My interpretation of the order," the objector says, "is that you can trade your best individual mount. If that's it, your battery will walk."
The captain gestures.
"Orders are orders. You've got to trade."
A very superior officer intervenes.
"Gentlemen!--Or maybe I ought to say gypsies-We can't do business this way. We'll get an interpretation that will give everyone a square deal. Meantime, put the horses up."

And the red disappears from the faces of the wranglers, and they go away arm in arm, good friends until the next fair day.

Sharp trading was necessary. Not only were many of the horses bad, but they died in large numbers, and re-placements weren't simple to get.
Major Johnson was largely instrumental in holding casualties down and in conditioning the survivors. He was also a bulwark between us and the gypsy desires of other organizations. For the horse trade fever swept the entire brigade.

"I thought they might court martial me today," he would say after an hour or two at the stables or brigade headquarters with higher ranking officers than himself, "but I've held them off our horses."

The remount men watched the bargaining and smiled. They had their own axe to grind, and they liked to see a favorite animal well placed. They were capable of diplomacy when officers of higher rank than the one chosen threatened to interfere.

"Sure. A beautiful horse, Sir," the remount man might say to the very high ranking officer. Few better in looks have come out of the depot. You might go farther and fare worse."
He winks at the junior officer for whom that horse is destined. The senior glances up.
" What do you mean? What's the matter with him?
" Matter! Who said anything was the matter? Of course, Sir, all horses have their little foibles."
"I thought so. Talk up. What's the -matter with this one? "
The remount man gazes at him admiringly.

"No fooling you, Sir! But I don't go back on what I said. A beautiful animal, and he might give you good service if you took chances and had a little luck. I go on the principle that no horse is hopeless, but this one is a genuine bad actor."
Exit high ranking officer.

We had practical uses for our horses now. Some of the gun positions and observatories were five kilometers or so from our quarters. It often took hard riding to snare a bite of luncheon before the first of the afternoon classes.

Lieutenants Hoyt, Montague, Gurney, and Church, who had been delayed in America to bring over casuals, joined us early in June. Shortly afterwards Lieutenants Hoyt and Norman Thirkield were sent to balloon school, and Lieutenants Jones, Montague, and Gurney to aviation instruction. Lieutenant Hoyt soon after was ordered by G. H. Q. to the liaison service, and the regiment said good-by to him regretfully.

We had got into lateral and bilateral observation by this time. Often the guns were several miles from the officer conducting fire, but communication was always open, and the result of these exercises plainly told us that we were nearly ready for the Hun. Before this war it would have been considered an absurdity to try to train an artilleryman even in the old fashioned methods during so brief a period. But here we were-good. The regiment felt it. A little later, the Hun felt it, too.

Our first casualties came to us on the range at Souge. It was on June 20-We were registering for an intensive "barrage that would mark the close of the course.

The two battalions had established command posts at some distance from each other. Each had put in elaborate schemes of communication, practically independent of the range system. Major Johnson had received permission to locate the pieces of the first battalion according to the technique of actual warfare. He got camouflage nets which, with the natural cover, hid the positions so successfully that an aeroplane photograph, taken for our instruction, was innocent of warlike indications.

The first platoon of Battery B was scarcely more than fifty meters from Major Johnson's command post, Observatory 1. The pieces were echeloned, each under its own camouflage net.

The registration progressed, as registrations do, to a precise and dreary measure. Without warning and with no unusual noise Battery B's number 2 piece was shattered by a premature burst. For a moment a cloud of smoke obscured it. As it drifted away we saw that the camouflage net had disappeared, that the caisson was blackened and smouldering, that the breech of the piece had gone. The crew, from an ordered group, had become a thing, scattered and incomplete. Men stumbled oddly as they ran out of the cloud. There were not enough of them.

"Cease firing!" Major Johnson ordered. "Where's the surgeon? "
The operator passed the word' over the telephone. Flames sprang from the smouldering caisson. Shells there were evidently bursting. Major Johnson ordered everyone from the observatory, and, followed by his adjutant, Captain Reed, and Captain Ravenel walked for-ward and threw sand at the caisson. Unasked, volunteers sprang from the ranks into the danger zone. In a few minutes the fire was extinguished. Those on the out-skirts questioned.
"How much damage? Anybody hurt?"
And from the group about the smashed piece came back the quiet answer:
"The gunner and No. 1 killed."

Everyone had guessed that would be so. Sitting on either side of the breech there had never been much chance for them.

The director of the school came. A board was appointed and the evidence taken. We had learned to fear long fuses, but the damage had been done by a white fused shell, and No. 2 had looked through the bore, so that the blanket verdict of faulty ammunition went down.

An ambulance dashed up and backed towards the group. Two covered forms were lifted into it, then it clanged a swift way towards camp.

"Brace up!" an officer called with kind brutality. "You'll see plenty of other men killed before you get through with this war. Get on the job now. Firing will be resumed."

The men responded, shaking themselves rather as dogs do after an unexpected immersion. That afternoon there was a new piece firing from the destroyed gun's platform. The gunner and No I did not flinch. The day's work went on with a noisy rapidity.

"Yet," as someone wisely remarked, "it can't be like seeing men killed in battle."

Privates Jeremiah S. Lynch and Harry J. Posner were buried the next day. Chaplain Sheridan conducted the services, and Mrs. Gariessen, of the Y. M. C. A., who had a short time before lost her own son in action, tried as best she could to take the place of the mothers. Lynch and Posner received full military honors. Men from every organization attended the funeral and saw more distinctly in the bland southern sunlight the vicious and amazing shadow that is war.

X

HUSTLED TO THE FRONT

THE regiment went about its business with its former eagerness. We were told that our first rolling barrage was worthy of veteran troops. It certainly made enough noise and black smoke. The next, with the guns of the two light regiments in a long row, was as good. We admired the dust clouds half obscuring the quickly sliding tubes, and the changing black curtain drawn across the range.

"No one," we told ourselves, "could get through that."
Our instructors admitted that there didn't seem to be any holes.
Such perfection wasn't reached without delays and adventures. The weather had grown steadily warmer. There had been scarcely any rain. Consequently the range was abnormally dry. When the 306th got its 155 howitzers and opened fire with practice shells these factors produced worse conflagrations than we had bad at Upton. They stopped our work. They sent us to warm and uncongenial labor. Towards the climax of a delicate adjustment it was distracting to hear someone say to the instructor:

"Isn't that smoke over there sir? I think it's a fire on the range."
The instructor always looked through the binoculars, and nearly always in a tone of helpless disgust, called to the operator.
"Ceasefiring! Fire on the range."

The battle roar would die before a threatening silence.
We never learned. We always hoped until the last minute that the flames would burn themselves out. But always the small smoke ball with its red center would grow, and spring into a black fan with a flame fringe, sweeping before the wind which always blew in that place.

Then the colonel, or the brigade commander, if he was there, would call for trucks and men until the greater part of the brigade and the ammunition train was on the range, starting counter fires, or with picks and shovels clearing ground before the flames.

It usually meant an afternoon's hot work at the expense of specialist instruction. That had about run its course anyway. The days had slipped into weeks, and towards the end of June we knew we were as nearly ready as Souge would make us. Our departure waited only on transportation. We speculated as to where we would go. Our infantry had trained with the British in Flanders. For a long time we thought we would fight there.

Tours wanted to know which regiment would volunteer to hold itself ready to move at a moment's notice. The 305th offered itself. We entered anew age of packing. We had more equipment, but we also bad more experience, and we got ready with little of the neurasthenic hurry of Upton.

Here at the last, our carefully studied organization was shattered. Other artillery brigades were coming to France, and they would have to be instructed. Under orders from the Chief of Artillery the Souge instructors chose from the brigade a certain number of officers who, they considered, bad shown aptitude. They would either remain behind .now, or be called on later to teach artillery.

We felt our regiment had been unduly complimented. Captains Reed, Delanoy, and Ravenel were to leave us at once. Lieutenants Camp, Church, and Fenn might be called from their organizations at any time.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stimson went to G. H. Q., hoping to accomplish the release of the three captains.
Lieutenant Camp was made acting adjutant of the First Battalion, and Lieutenant Fenn of the Second. Lieutenant Montgomery took command of Battery B. Captain Fox had some time before been made personnel adjutant, so Lieutenant Kane was the commanding officer of Battery C. With these radical changes made we were ready to go into action.

From day to day we waited for word from Tours that our transportation was ready. The Fourth of July was near. The general commanding the base section wished the brigade, if it had not moved by the holiday, to take part in a monster parade in Bordeaux. That ceremony kept us on the anxious seat for a number of days. In the morning the parade would be a certainty. After luncheon there wasn't a chance that we would make it. The next morning there was no question. We would make it. It wasn't until July 3d that we knew, and then we were told that we would leave, mounted, immediately after luncheon, camp at a race course outside Bordeaux, march in the next morning, parade, and come all the way back before night. On July 5th the regiment would start entraining. -

It looked like a difficult programme. Our drivers had had very little road work. The regiment had never before been mounted as a whole. We were afraid of our horses. Could they do it? Was it wise to make them do it, when they would have to stand immediately afterwards for three days in box cars?

Just before we left, Major Johnson's promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel came through. It cast another shadow, because we knew the powers wouldn't let us have two lieutenant-colonels.

After luncheon the regiment gathered in the gun park.

The teams were brought from the stables, protesting at the unusual exercise. The drivers reproved them with harsh voices. A fog of dust arose and settled over the place. Through it you caught glimpses of prancing horses, struggling men, yellow harness. Out of it came a chorus of commands, entreaties, threats. Guidons flashed red, like a gleam of sunlight through the rolling mist. The sunlight grew. The mists rolled away. Wheels, swings, and leads stood in their places. Behind them the yellow and black carriages rested expectant.

"Prepare to Mount! Mount! "

Drivers sprang to their saddles. The leading battery moved out. The others followed. Leaving camp, the column may have twisted a little, and wheels may have slipped into the sand on either side of the avenue, but the column kept growing, until from the park it stretched into a string incredibly long and business like and military.

Road discipline came to us, as it were, instinctively. There were no stragglers. Drivers mounted and dismounted precisely at every halt. We took a narrow country road, and on a curving hill-as difficult a place as you could choose-met a supply train coming up. We got our carriages into the ditches. We wormed by. Nothing upset. On the jammed roads at the front we found nothing much more puzzling. We commenced right there to take a pride in the regiment mounted. Self-satisfied we listened to the heavy rumbling of the carriages. We glanced back from every turn at the struggling horses, the sleek pieces, the caissons, low and awkward. The whole had an appearance of grotesque beauty.

The Stad Bordelaix was green and trimmed, like a huge formal garden. We camped by the steeple chase course. We parked, and pitched tents, then for the first time faced the problem of watering on the march. We found the familiar lack of facilities, the accustomed waste of time in going long distances with a few horses. But it was experience that we needed, and we saw it was a good thing we should have come.

A few fortunate ones got passes for Bordeaux. The rest, after mess, lay about in fresh-cut hay, and tried to realize it was their last experience in the S. 0. S.

The next morning our apprehension vanished. The First Battalion took one road to town the Second another.
"We'll rendezvous all right," the commanders said confidently.
They did, moreover, in spite of the apparent confusion in the city. Every element fell into its own place in the column. The parade started.
Bordeaux gave us a gracious welcome. Masses of citizens threw flowers and confetti from bunting-hung buildings. They liked the looks of the American artillery, equipped with their own soixante-quinzes. They were glad to see the Americans. Turning into the Place de la Comediae the band blared out the "Sambre et Meuse." The closely packed mass of the French burst into cheers, flung hats into the air, madly waved banners.

A tribune had been erected in the Grande Place. Local celebrities stood there, and French and American generals. Opposite was a line of veterans, some with missing limbs, They held flags, decorated with the names of breathless battles. These they dipped, and our bright new colors bobbed back.

It did us good. It painted our work for the first time with sentiment. It was our first touch of the spectacular side of things military. That has the thrill that war lacks.

We paid a small price. Only one piece was put out by unmanageable horses. Only one man on that piece was hurt. Only one was thrown from his horse, and that was Dr. Parramore, tearing back to attend the victim of the accident. The crowd was interested.

Regimental Headquarters and organization commanders hurried by automobile back to Souge immediately after the parade to prepare for the movement to the front.

The regiment, in command of Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, returned to the Stad Bordelaix, watered, fed, and messed, and afterwards made the long march back to camp.

We had one lesson that impressed on us the necessity of close liaison even in the smallest column. At a crossroads another regiment cut our line of march, and the Second Battalion followed in its wake. There was a good deal of time and energy lost in finding the three batteries, turning them around, and getting them back in line.

We pulled into Souge at dusk, tired, dirty, and with a lot of grooming and rubbing before us, but on the whole triumphant.
The next day the movement commenced. The Headquarters Company left the rail head at Bonneau, where less than two months before we had detrained, uninstructed and unequipped.

Nearly everyone, it might be said, thought that we would be billeted behind the lines for several weeks of the road work we so much needed. That took a little of the seriousness from the journey.

Regimental Headquarters and the Supply Company left the afternoon of the sixth, and First Battalion Headquarters and Battery A that same evening. During the next three days the other batteries pulled out, while the 304th and 306th waited their turn.

We said good-by to Captains Reed, Ravenel, and Delanoy without knowing when we would see them again.
Entraining a battery mounted was a new experience for all our captains except Dana. The entire regiment had arrived in one train. Now each organization had a train to itself, and was forced to crowd a little to get everything on.

These artillery trains were all of a pattern. There were the Hommes and Chevaux for animals and men, a combination first and second class coach for officers, and a string of flats for the carriages.

At Bonneau there was a loading platform. In some places we found none, and used instead clumsy moveable ramps. Yet methods varied little. With practice we got some of the skill of circus men. The different tasks proceeded simultaneously. An incoherence seemed to prevail. Then all at once the groups would scatter, and you would see that the job had been done, that the train was either loaded or unloaded.

None of our organizations needed the three hours allowed them for entraining at Bonneau. The carriages were little trouble. Squads ran them from the platform to the flat cars across heavy planks, fitted them into the constricted space allotted, and lashed them there with cleats.

The drivers struggled with the horses. The horses never got to like the Hommes and Chevaux. They rose on their haunches, at times crying out their disapproval. The men tugged at their halters, and persuaded them from the rear. A horse already in the narrow, shadowy car would look out and shake his head. It was often quite difficult to combat such friendly advice.

The stallions were a problem. If you put them together they gossiped about old scandals and ended by fighting jealously. If you placed them with lesser beasts they expressed their contempt with tooth and hoof.

"Get 'em in so tight they can't fight," crystallized the advice of most of the men, and it worked fairly well.
We got to know after a time which horses liked to travel together, and that simplified matters.

From the moment the train was loaded until it was unloaded one lived in a racket like the beating of countless bass drums. Noiselessness on the part of a horse was a symptom of extreme illness.

Sick horses were, in fact, a problem. Unless an animal was practically in rigor mortis we took him along. Sometimes one died en route then we had to telegraph ahead and make arrangements to evacuate him. Sometimes the sick survived the journey and died on the picket line afterwards. Infrequently they got well. It was the best we could do with animals as scarce as they were.

When a battery bad finished loading it looked a good deal like a circus train. The heads of horses appeared through the open doors of some box cars. Men sat, dangling their legs, in others. The fourgon always appeared gigantic on its flat, and behind it stretched the sleek inquisitive noses of the pieces and the stubby bulk of caissons and limbers. Usually the water cart and the rolling kitchen were on a flat next to the men's cars. Brown figures were busy about the kitchen, and a promising smoke belched from its chimney.

It was on that first journey that we learned to know and love the clumsy, sooty rolling-kitchen. On the road it was incredibly noisy, and it had a habit of shedding its parts; yet it stood frequently between us and hunger and cold. It was our best friend against evil weather and too much physical labor. On these train journeys it gave us hot food, and it made us independent of the very unsatisfactory coffee stops.

There were certain stations that were announced to us by that name. The train paused at them usually at inconvenient hours, long enough for the men to line up with mess cups which were filled with a black liquid from unappetizing pails. They were supposed to be a convenience, but they seemed to possess also a routine element. An interpreter would rush up to the officers' car sometime before reaching one of these places.

"Coffee stop in an hour. You will want coffee there."
Not a question. A command.
The train commander would shake his head, pointing to the black cloud rising from the rolling kitchen. He could grin at the surprise and disapproval of the interpreter.
Corn willy, too, it ought not to be forgotten, loses much of its agony when warmed and disguised with some less dreadful substance such as canned tomatoes or stewed carrots.

Eating from the rolling kitchen introduced a sporting element into our travels. The mess sergeant gambled on having his meal ready for a suitable stop. The train commander hazarded leaving many men behind when he ordered them to descend from their cars and form a line by the kitchen. For you couldn't tell much about the length of halts anywhere except at coffee or watering stops.
The train would pull up, let us say at noon. The mess sergeant would announce himself ready. The train commander would confer with the chef de gare. Sometimes the train commander would know French. Afore often he wouldn't.
" lei! " he would say. " Combien de temps?
The chef de gare would look at him, puzzled. Then a gleam of pleased intelligence would light his face.
"Oui. 'Fait beaux temps-tres sec."
The train commander would look at him doubtfully. Did that mean much or little? Sec had a brief sound. One had to make sure. He would point, therefore, to the train. He would then with his hand indicate motion. He would display his wrist watch. He would wheedle:
"Ici! Beaucoup or petit?"
The chef de gare would smile in friendly fashion.
"Oui, Mon Capitaine. Beaucoup des Americans. Les Boches seront malade."

The captain's face would usuall y express an emotion bordering on tears-an eloquent emotion, which usually interpreted everything for the official. His face would brighten. He would look at his own watch. Realizing the futility of further words, he would carefully indicate
two points on the dial.

"Quarante-minutes," the captain would say. "Get them out with mess kits," he would call to his aides.

Tumbling from their cars the men would come and form a feverish line. Details would carry pails of food forward to the drivers. The captain would watch with a smile.

"You know I'm picking up a lot of this lingo," he would boast contentedly.
Then the locomotive whistle would blow.
"That can't be for us!"
But the chef de gare would think otherwise. He would come running, waving his arms.
"En voiture! Vite! Le train partira."
That's always easy enough to understand.
"Quarante minutes. Vous--dit."

The chef de gare would be through with argument. The engine driver, never having wasted words on the subject, would simply start the train, out of the kindness of his soul holding the pace down at first. The men would tumble back into the cars with their half-finished dinners. The details would come scurrying back with their pails. From all directions soldiers who had gone in search of water would tear back, their clusters of canteens tinkling pleasantly.

Usually everybody got aboard. Word would come back to the captain that the men had been checked. Then everyone would comment pleasantly on the customs of the country.

But as a rule we got fed, and it was good, very, very good.

When we could we planned meals for the long halts allowed us for watering the horses. But the schedule for a troop train is not a constant thing, and these halts often came at bad times. They were not troublesome affairs as a rule. Beside our siding were usually a number of taps, so that the job seldom occupied much time. Sometimes we could wheedle hay from the American officials. Sometimes we couldn't. Yet on the whole those summer changes of stations were not unpleasant or too trouble-some. The weather was fine. The men were not crowded. They sang. That's the best indication you can have that things are going well.

Up through Bordeaux, j Perigueux, Limoges, Chateau-roux, and Auxerre we ourneyed towards the front.

We expected our definite orders at Is-Sur-Til, but at noon on the 8th when we paused at Nuits Sous-Raviere we received a telegram which changed our route, and prom-ised us orders at Chaumont. We got them there in the evening. We would detrain the next morning at Baccarat.

It rained that night. It was in depressing and gray weather that most of the regiment reached its destination.
Exactly as the entraining of one battery is much the same as another, just so the arrival of each organization at Baccarat differed only in the hour.

Escaping from sleep, we glanced from the cars at a strange France. The change was due to more than the dull sky, the drifting rain, and the deserted appearance of the little station.

Opposite stretched a row of depressing stone barracks, oddly scarred as if they had been for a long time neglected. Nearby a group of gaunt walls suggested a devastating fire. A large sign depended from the front of the station.

"Shelter for forty men."
There existed about that place an air of stealth and imminence. One responded to a feeling of the proximity of the Bosche. A man set down there unexpectedly would have taken one look and known himself in the war zone.

We asked the officer in charge of the yard if we could have breakfast before unloading. He looked at us as if he suspected our sanity. He glanced about with nervous eyes.

"Get this battery out of here", he said in a low tone, "as quickly as you can. Bosche planes come overall the time. You don't want to get caught, do you, with your whole outfit in this yard?"

We went to work without argument. It seldom took a battery, under those circumstances, more than an hour to desert its train.
The horses were hustled down the runways. The carriages were lowered along ready planks. The teams were harnessed and the battery stood ready for the road.

We glanced often at the dull sky, our ears alert for the whir of aeroplane engines, or the crash of bombs. The air remained free of menace, but the sense of imminence persisted, and we were glad when a French guide appeared and told Colonel Johnson he was to conduct us to our bivouac. The column started. Colonel Johnson paused to confer with the colonel commanding the French artillery brigade which our brigade was to relieve. For three days later, the colonel said, a coup de main was planned. Colonel Johnson determined then to win permission for some of our artillery to take part in the preliminary bombardment and he dashed ahead to Neuf Maisons where infantry brigade headquarters had been established.

The column, meantime, left Baccarat. The order was for a fifty meter interval between carriages so that if Bosche bombing planes appeared they would do a minimum of damage.

There were a number of ruined buildings along the road, souvenirs of bombardments and bombing attacks. We turned into a woods road that breasted a hill, and rested at the top behind a heavy screen of evergreens. The first sounds of actual warfare reached us there. To everyone it seemed that we were too near the front for road training. The men fell silent. Faces were serious.

A good deal of that firing was undoubtedly from infantry grenade and small arms ranges, but we couldn't know that. We didn't even suspect it then. Our minds absorbed the bark of cannon, and the hateful stutter of machine guns as special menaces for us. We visualized ourselves as just behind the front line.

We reached finally a thick forest on the slope of a hill. Scattered among the trees were Adrian barracks and huts constructed of small logs and trees, of a pattern we had all seen in pictures of fighting in the Vosges.

This was the Bois de Grammont on the main road from Bertrichamps to Neuf Maisons. The Headquarters and Supply companies, we learned were in the woods by Bert-richamps. The Second Battalion would bivouac near them. Both these woods were too peaceful for war time. In their shelter even the firing we had heard fell away.
" A bad place for gas," Colonel Johnson decided.

" We're as close as that? " someone asked. "Rather near for a bivouac."
Colonel Johnson smiled, and whispered:
" Not a bivouac. It's our echelon."
Such a place didn't meet with one's pre-conceived notion. An echelon, station of extra carriages, animals, men, and sup-plies just behind the lines, surely could not be as peaceful as this-peaceful and attractive even on a gray day.

"The first platoon of Battery A," the colonel said to Captain Dana, "will go into position tomorrow night."
It brought it very close, but those who got that first word received also the impression that the movement would be a temporary one, and that the battery would come out again after the coup de main, and that we would somehow get some road work. The colonel shook his head. The batteries would go into position as soon as possible after their arrival. The French would remain for a while to show us the ropes, but the task of supporting our infantry was now to be our own. How would the men accept such news in its naked unexpectedness?

The National Army was a good deal of an experiment. It contained every type, race, and temperament. Had its brief training fused these uncongenial elements into a serviceable whole? Each battery commander asked himself this when he made his abrupt announcement immediately after his arrival, before his men had had an opportunity to forget the fatigue of their three days' journey. One such scene answers for the whole.

The day was about done. In the chilly shadow of the woods the battery stood in line. Shelter halves were draped from the men's arms. They waited for the order to take interval and pitch tents.
Except for a pleasant rustling of wind in the tree tops the forest was silent when the captain faced his command.
"At ease!" he called.

There may have been something unfamiliar in his tone. The dead leaves of the forest carpet rustled with the rest-less movement of many feet. Serious, expectant eyes answered the battery commander's stern regard.

"Men," he began," I have an announcement to make. I know you have looked forward to a period of road training before going into action. My announcement is that you won't have it. You're going into the line. The first platoon of this battery will go in tomorrow night. The second platoon will follow the night after. That's all. Battery attention! Count off!"
Heels clicked together.

"One, two three, four. One, two, three, four."
The numbers ran crisply down the line. You've heard any quantity of organizations count off, but it's doubtful if you've ever heard anything like that outside of the National Army in France. The serious expressions didn't alter particularly, but the heads snapped around with a rare precision. The voices were big and hoarse with a sort of helpless effort. It was as if these oddly assorted men were all trying to tell their captain the same thing, and, because they wanted to tell him so hard, couldn't quite get it out.


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