COLONEL BACON was ordered to "the city in which" the British headquarters were located. At that time it was Montreuil, and the American Mission was installed in a dingy little building, No. 22, Gambetta Place, just opposite the Hôtel. de Ville. The inn of the place, Hotel de France, was not prepossessing outwardly, but its proprietor was a kindly person, the rooms were small but far from bad, and the food was really good and well cooked. Montreuil lay on the way to Boulogne and Napoleon had graced the little hotel with his presence, and had slept or tried to, in one of the rooms which the landlord points out to visitors and prospective guests.
Here in the North.
January 22, 1918.
It is a whole week since I wrote you from Paris . . . waiting on my way, and here have I been four or five days, still in a stuffy little cold room, for I have not yet found a house, and poor old Gicquel and I are impatient to start housekeeping. My office, "The American Mission," as it says on the door in large letters such as are used in G. H. Q., is not yet very grand, Captain Q, the Liaison Officer of the last six months, who is a brick, by the way, and is staying on to help me, having presided there with a single clerk and an orderly, and now that I have arrived with my corporal and his typewriter, we are trying to get another room. There is a really good officers' club here, where I started in to mess, but the Intelligence Mess has kindly taken me in with Quekemeyer and they are the finest lot of fellows you can imagine, and awfully cordial and kind to an old outsider, so that already I feel at home so to speak . . . Golly, it's been cold, but the last few days it is quite springlike and soft, and pretty soon it will be February and then March with the lengthening days of spring, and its perhaps vital consequences. All too soon will it all be upon us. I wish I could tell you freely and fully how wonderful I believe my opportunity here to be, how far-reaching and solemn the big questions and problems which must be decided and worked out by the leaders of the two greatest nations in the world, the English-speaking peoples, upon whose close community of interest and loyal union in this sacred cause depends the future of our civilization. Here, near the battlefields of Crécy and Agincourt the Anglo-Saxon has come back, not to attack and despoil, but to help the noble and gallant sons and daughters of the fair land, hurl back the invader, the ruthless Hun and barbarian as Charles Martel hurled them back or similar hordes, at the head of this great little nation of Franks, over a thousand years ago. This is all a dreamland. Right here, on this spot as I write, d'Artagnan must have tarried on his way, and if I take the little château which has been suggested for me in the neighborhood, I shall wonder and wonder what knights and faire laidies lived and loved and passed this way. . . .
My ink gave out here, so I crawled into bed, and to-day is the 23d and nearly dinner time, in my office. They have taken me into such a nice mess, the head of which is a great man, with a great name (the same as my other English friend, who went to America). He is perfectly splendid, and my heart goes out to him for he has lost his only two sons in the war. His is a great family tradition, and he has a great role to play.
I see no chance of beginning housekeeping, but I am not sorry at the delay, the opportunity is so good to meet these men! I lay awake long this morning, when the cock was crowing, and the Angelus ringing, and dreamed dreams and talked to you of the supreme importance and meaning of this moment and longed to be a chevalier, sans peur and sans reproche.
In a letter from London, February 19th, Mr. Edward Grenfell of the firm of Morgan and Grenfell wrote to Colonel Bacon:
You may be sure that we are delighted to hear our G. H. Q. had really annexed you. I know such a job will please you personally and that is a great thing, but it is much more important that the right man should get in the right place.
Ally and Entente are very fine words but in the working together there are endless difficulties. The boche may be short of lubricating oil for his engines, but the 3 Allies in France want a very superior sort of material to grease the wheels of the various staffs. The difference of language with the French and of manners between all 3 are very real difficulties, and I know no one like you . . . to make Pershing and Haig see each other's viewpoints.
The men with whom he associated, and was to meet daily until the end of the war, were splendid types of British manhood.
The head of the mess to whom Colonel Bacon refers was General Sir Herbert A. Lawrence, Chief of Staff of the British Armies in France, a son of Lord Lawrence, Viceroy of India, and nephew of the heroic Sir Henry Lawrence, also of Indian fame. Colonel Bacon's admiration for the General was reciprocated by that officer, who, being assured by Mr. Morgan that he would not be considered as "guilty of an unwarrantable intrusion," wrote to Mrs. Bacon in these terms, after learning of Colonel Bacon's death:
I met Colonel Bacon in France early in 1918, soon after I had been appointed Chief of Staff to the British Armies in France, and I was privileged to see much of him during that eventful year.
I confess that it was with some surprise that I realized that the man who had held the highest positions in the political world, who had been the Ambassador in Paris of the United States of America was contented to serve as a simple Colonel in the Armies of his country.
But I did not know Robert Bacon as I think I learned to know him later, nor did I realize how his passionate love for his country made any work in her service acceptable.
I wish I could make clear the inestimable service which he rendered to the Allied cause by acting as head of the Mission attached to our Headquarters. His high character and splendid enthusiasm inspired all with whom he came in contact while his great experience made him a guide to whom all of us instinctively turned.
I can say that few men whom I have met, have left a deeper impression upon me than he has done.
He has given his life to his country just as much as if he had actually fallen on the field of battle, and I can assure you that his memory will long be cherished by the British Army.
Such a letter, later confirmed by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces in France, will cause one to discount Colonel Bacon's misgivings as to his fitness for the post to which he was assigned.
From now on the centre of Colonel Bacon's activity was Montreuil, in which city the British Headquarters were located after their transfer from Saint-Omer. As head of the American Mission he was constantly and necessarily in daily and hourly contact with the British General Staff. He was, of course, in constant touch with American Headquarters in Chaumont as his purpose was to serve as intermediary between the two armies and to see to it by whatever ordinary or extraordinary means at his disposal to transmit all information of importance from one army to the other, so that as far as possible Marshal Haig and General Pershing should communicate man to man. eye to eye, ear to ear. This was the function of a liaison officer. In the opinion of persons chiefly concerned and best able to judge, Marshal Haig and General Pershing, Colonel Bacon was a success, to such a degree, indeed, that Sir Douglas Haig requested that he be retained and placed upon his personal staff when General Pershing, according to precedent, had to replace Colonel Bacon by an officer of higher rank. It is well to dwell upon this at the very beginning, to prevent the misunderstanding which might result from the perusal of Colonel Bacon's letters.
The official correspondence between Marshal Haig and General Pershing tells the story as does the expression of each after the Armistice as to the value of Colonel Bacon's services in this phase of the war. The first document is Special Orders, No. 121, of May 1, 1918:
51. Brigadier General W. W. Harts, National Army, will, in addition to his other duties, assume the duties of Chief of the American Mission, British General Headquarters, relieving Major Robert Bacon, Quartermaster R. C. Upon being thus relieved Major Bacon will proceed to Langres, France, reporting upon arrival to the Commandant of the Schools for the purpose of taking the next course at the Army General Staff College.
The travel directed is necessary in the military service.
The next document is a personal letter from General Pershing of the same date as Special Orders. It was unnecessary to do this, nor was it customary, as the purely official orders are the ordinary method of communication in the Army.
MY DEAR COLONEL BACON:
I have given this day orders to relieve yourself, Colonels Collins, and Shallenberger from duty on my personal staff.
The coming of a Corps Headquarters to the vicinity of the British G. H. Q. with the presence of General Harts commanding the Engineer Troops renders unnecessary the maintenance of a separate office there for the work which you have efficiently performed to my satisfaction since you were detailed as an A. D. C. It is my intention to detail General Harts to take over the work of the American Mission at British Headquarters in addition to his other duties.
I take this occasion to express to you my earnest appreciation of the whole-hearted way in which you have constantly performed every duty given you since our departure from New York last May. Your enthusiasm, your willingness and singleness of purpose are an example to all of us.
I have given orders that you be accorded the privilege of a term at the Staff College which will bring you more in touch with the work of the Staff in general and will open for you a new opportunity for increased usefulness.
With best wishes for your future, I remain,
Very sincerely yours,
(Sgd) JOHN J. PERSHING,
General, U. S. Army.
The Special Orders in so far as Colonel Bacon was concerned were thus amended on May 7, 1918, by Special Orders, No. 127:
35 . So much of paragraph 51, Special Orders No. 121, c. s., these Headquarters, as directs Major Robert Bacon, Quartermaster Reserve Corps, to proceed to Langres, France, for the purpose of taking course at the Army General Staff College, is amended so as to direct him to report to the Commanding General, American Troops with the British Expeditionary Forces, for duty with the American Mission, British General Headquarters.
The fourth document is an undated letter to General Pershing from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France:
MY DEAR GENERAL
I beg to thank you for your letter of May 7th, and I note that it is your intention to combine the office of the American Mission and the Commanding General of American Units serving with the British Expeditionary Forces. I consider that this arrangement should work very well until American divisions are grouped into an Army Corps. When that takes place I presume that the Commanding General will have to be relieved of the work of the Mission. This, however, is not likely to take place for some months, and the arrangement you propose will, in the meantime, be quite satisfactory. I shall be glad to receive General William W. Harts as the Chief of the American Mission.
As regards Colonel Bacon, I am very glad to learn of your decision to leave him on duty at my Headquarters. In view of the large number of American troops which will shortly be operating with the British forces, I suggest that it will be advantageous to attach him to my personal staff as my personal liaison officer with American Units in the British Area. In my dealings with the French and Belgian Units operating in close touch with my troops, I have found the presence of a French and Belgian Liaison Officer attached to my Personal Staff of very great value. I therefore hope that you will agree to Colonel Bacon being attached to my Personal Staff in the same way.
With kind regards, believe me,
Yours very truly,
The fifth document is a letter from General Pershing to Marshal Haig, under date of May 16, 1918:
MY DEAR SIR DOUGLAS:
In answer to your letter of recent date, I have directed Brigadier General William W. Harts to present himself to your Headquarters as Chief of the American Mission there. As such, I would like to have him, in addition to his other duties, control all detached units, such as Engineer, Hospital, and Aviation, serving with the British Expeditionary Forces. It was never intended, however, that General Harts should have control over the American division serving with your forces. I am glad that this plan is satisfactory to you.
As regards Major Bacon, I shall be very glad to attach him to your personal staff as your personal liaison officer with American units in the British area, and am issuing instructions that he report to you for such duty.
With highest personal and official esteem, believe me,
JOHN J. PERSHING.
The sixth document is dated May 31, 1918:
Special Orders, No. 151.
12. Major Robert Bacon, Quartermaster R. C., is relieved from duty with the American Military Mission, British G. H. Q., and is attached to the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, British Expeditionary Forces.
The further statements will conclude the matter as far as these two officers are concerned.
In Field Marshal Haig's official despatch:
My thanks are due to Lieut.-Colonel Robert Bacon, who as Chief of the American Mission attached to my Headquarters has been able to give me advice and assistance of the greatest value on many occasions.(254)
In a personal letter under date of June 29, 1919, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig said of Colonel Bacon:
He made for himself quite an important position at my Headquarters, and he was greatly respected and loved by all my Staff. We treated him quite as one of ourselves, and indeed I had no military secrets to conceal from him. . . .
I shall never forget what Robert Bacon did to help me during the last year of the war.
And General Pershing's opinion is expressly, formally, and unequivocally stated in the following:
CITATION FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Bacon, U. S. A.
For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. He served with great credit and distinction as Post Commandant of General Headquarters and as Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief. By his untiring efforts as Chief of the American Mission at British General Headquarters, he has performed with marked ability innumerable duties requiring great tact and address.
Another witness may be cited, a comrade in arms and an associate, who, like General Ireland, was unable to take leave of Colonel Bacon without a line in writing. This officer was General Simonds, and his letter, like that of General Ireland, on a previous occasion, is given in full:
MY DEAR COLONEL BACON:
I was quite disappointed not to see you and have a talk with you before leaving the British front.
Our service there must always hold a conspicuous place in the history of the war, and must be considered on the whole as contributing in a marked way to the great result---and consequently as a success. And you and I had the good fortune to have a prominent part in it.
To you personally I wish to express my gratitude and deep appreciation of the many kindnesses to me, and the efficiency of your constant efforts to help. To me you have also been an example of the highest type of patriotism and American citizenship, and I insist upon telling you so.
The friendship I have formed I consider one of the things of life to be most highly prized, and I hope that our association may be continued in the years to come.
Come and see the 2nd Corps when you can. We always have a place for you.
GEORGE S. SIMONDS.
Brig.-Genl. G. S.
Now for the new chapter. Colonel Bacon's doings in this new and greatest phase of his military service are told in a series of letters in which he unbares his soul to Mrs. Bacon and chronicles betimes those failures and shortcomings which none but he observed and none but he had the heart to put in writing. His testimony is interesting, but the case has been made up and decided by his superiors and associates without his testimony.
The first of the series of letters of the new life after a few purely formal ones is that of February 1st, which begins and breaks off with the introduction:
I cannot speak to you of the big things here which thrill me with their tremendous importance, so I will prattle on of the little things that are of no importance except as poor little links between you and me. I got back from Paris only yesterday where I passed three days waiting most of the time for my Chief, but the result was most satisfactory and interesting and important. I try to get a little relaxation here by riding my new horse, a big thoroughbred once owned and raced by Willie Vanderbilt, which I bought, however, for about $150. so. Since Félix and William left me I have had nothing but bad luck with my cars. I cabled you to ask Alex. Cochran to let me have another Rolls Royce, which I hope he will do, as I very much want it for my Chief. Tell him if you can get word to him that I shall consider it the greatest favour he can do me.
Colonel Bacon was interrupted so many times that he could not get at it again until Sunday, the 3rd, so that " this mean little letter has not gone yet!"
I didn't tell you about Bishop Brent, did I? I lunched with him yesterday, not so awfully far from here in a nice old town where I passed many weeks in 1915 with my friends of the R. A. M. C.
The dear Bishop is finer than ever, and right in his element amongst the Tommies away out in the trenches. You can just see him, can't you? I am very proud that he is going to live in my house out there at [Chaumont]. G. H. Q. A. E. F. Did I tell you? I call it now the "Bishop's House" and it repays me for keeping it many months without much occupation. George will tell you that he and I lunched there. The little woman who was there has gone, but I have another all ready for the Bishop, Madame Miot, a nice old party with a little girl of 12 and an invalid husband who lives at home, not at No. 4 rue du. Palais, which, by the way, is my number. The Bishop will be Chaplain of G. H. Q, and an inspiration to everybody of course.
I have found a wonderful house about 3 miles outside this old walled town [Montreuil], which I hope to persuade the propriétaire to let me have for at least 4 months. He is an ancient Major with six children---4 sons in the army and two sons-in-law, and Gicquel and I visited the house yesterday and we think it is ideal, although I should have preferred to be in town, but you can see the basse-cour and the remise and the ferme across the Étang. I am full of my new toy, if I get it. It will give me some spare rooms for invités, and something to play with. My horse who was dead lame yesterday, having picked up a nail, is going to be all right I think, so you see the luck is coming my way, and I am just starting for Paris, although it is five o'clock and I shall not arrive before eleven only to return to-morrow morning. The day to day duties try to crowd out the thoughts, and we live on from day to day.
Your cable about the boys going to Fort Sill reached me here all right, and your letter of the 23d came after Sister's letter of the 3d Jan'y, so I never can tell what to expect.
Two days later, on the 5th, after his Paris outing:
I am weary to-night and homesick and with just a little of the "Kaffir," if that's the way you spell it. That is a great soldier's slang for "the blues "---but I ought not to be to-day, for everything that I am here for is most satisfactory and to-day and the last few days ought to be red letter days in history. Enough to say that what I have set my heart on, and what I consider to be perhaps the most important thing in all the world is coming about, and growing every day. . . .
I am beginning to get to know a lot of men here and they are a fine lot. I have just had a line from my friend Cummins, who is in Italy and longing to get back to his Irish Division. I wish he were here. Col. Thresher has been most cordial and helpful. I hear that little Gen'l O'D [onnell] who was my D.G.M.S. in 1914-15 has been relieved for age, having gone back to India. I prattle on with my little local news, which seems so trivial. I am taking the house in the country but only for two months, because the good people want to come back for Pâques with their grandchildren and far be it from me to déranger them any more than I can help, but I don't know what I shall do then. There is a fine big château that has been suggested by important people, but I am afraid it is too big and far away from this place unless we grow tremendously, and even then it would probably be (for) others, not me, but nous verrons.
In the meantime we have only three rooms, Quek and I, and last night two of our colonels came and Quek slept on the floor in my room and the little oil stove that I brought with me on behind the Rolls Royce did good service for a colonel who had Quek's room. Papers! always papers! come over my desk all day long. . . .
Of course he means the meeting of British and American officers; the coöperation of their respective armies in the field against a common enemy which he felt to be a first step to the rapprochement of the English-speaking peoples. One of the reasons, indeed the principal one, for having a large and commodious house, was to put up American officers who happened to pass his way and to bring them into contact with their British brothers or vice-versa. Otherwise, the house was of little use to Colonel Bacon. It was a sleeping place which he reached ordinarily after dark and left early in the morning without time to become acquainted with the garden, much less to wander through the beautiful woods. It was a source of regret to the people who owned the property that Colonel Bacon never had a chance to enjoy it, and that they themselves hardly learned to know him, so hurried and so irregular were his visits. Many a night he worked late in Montreuil and put up at the little Hotel de France. As a matter of fact, Major Froissart---for that was the owner's name---was so charmed with the American Colonel whom he had admired from the distance as American Ambassador, that he let him have the house as long as he wanted it, which was as long as the war lasted, and Colonel Bacon had more than a personal need for it. His quarters in Montreuil were not over-spacious and he was sometimes at his wits' ends to house at all the passing stranger of note or little note.
On February 6th he writes:
Your sweet sad letter written on Xmas Day, wrings my heart. The picture of your lonely little home bereft of all your dear ones is almost too much for me to bear, and the great gulps came into my throat to-day when I read about it, for only to-day did your two letters of Xmas time reach me several days after the one of January 10th so you see how irregular the mails are on this side. . . . The day must have been indeed doleful with not a scrap of joyousness! And for you too . . . who have brought so much joy and gladness and happiness to every one on that day. God grant that we may all be together in the coming Xmas days! Do you remember a Xmas Day in Washington, 1908---when I read in the morning in the dining room a beautiful little piece from the paper about what all our thoughts and hearts should feel and do for Mother . . . who has given her all, her whole life to us all! I have often thought of that little scene in 16th St., and of her sweet confusion and embarrassment, and of my own emotion as I read it. Oh l if we could only give the best of us at, all times. You do, . . . but I am always putting my worst foot forward, and appearing to think and feel things that are in fact absolutely foreign to my best self. I am alone again to-night, for Quek has gone to Paris to fetch a Major-General, and one that you know well too. Mahoney, that is our British orderly, has piled up a good fire, so I am not going to bed yet.
I sneaked off for a long ride after lunch to-day in the sunshine, which is almost springlike, and got back at four o'clock for four hours' work before dinner at 8:15. Then comes as a rule two hours more from 9:30 to 11:30 when more "papers" and reading matter come in and the telephone on my desk rings. I invited McCoy on the long distance phone yesterday to come and make me a visit. He is only about 500 kilometers away. I hope others will come too, for it will be my job and my intense desire to bring just as many Americans as possible to this part of the world.
The news about the boys is very gratifying. How splendidly they are doing, as, of course, I knew they would. I shall be eager to hear from Fort Sill. It will be a great opportunity to learn, and make a record which will count, and I cannot wait to hear what assignment they are given after the course at that school. I suppose the girls cannot very well go with them, as they have to Columbia where they seem to have been so happy. I want so much to hear what our Brigade-Major is likely to do.(255) I am terribly proud of them all and wish I had the faculty and the time to write them what I feel.
I wish this old star on your flag could be as worthy of you as they, the others, will all be. But the old star is beginning to set, and his greatest ambition, after doing some useful work over here is to bring his old heart and head home and lay them at your feet and on your dear shoulder.
Three days later he received a letter from home and was astonished as any member of the Expeditionary Forces would have been to have received it so promptly. This was Mrs. Bacon's first letter after hearing of his promotion of January 6th. It warmed the cockles of his heart, as he would say, and inspired his pen. This is the letter he wrote in reply:
I was perfectly delighted to get your letter of Jan. 24th last night . . . and much surprised, for just think of it, only two weeks or 16 days on the way, whereas it generally takes at least 4 weeks. It made me feel not quite so far away. So you are pleased that I have been made a Colonel! I knew you would be, although I don't agree with all the things you say about it.
You always were prejudiced . . . and I haven't the implicit confidence in your judgment in this matter that I have on all other subjects. However, I am pleased too, and, as you say, it is most congenial to be here, and I think the most important thing in the world just now! I lay awake last night talking to you about it all, and my friends the clock chimes on the old, old Church, and the Coq Gaulois outside my window seemed to be symbols of the undying faith and of the hope and vigor of this old nation, but the message that I seem to hear is the S. O. S. call of our Motherland from whom we have been more or less estranged through the last 100 years, calling upon us to come back and help save the world, and our common ideals and birthright. God grant that we may have a quick appreciation of the momentous task, and of our honorable obligations and enlightened self-interest. America is awake at last! What you say of the lack of equipment is true, and heartbreaking, but this was inevitable because of our lack of vision and preparation.
This was what I shouted as loud as I could for three years, but no one would listen. Now we must pay, as it was known we would have to, but your reports of the wonderful spirit and quality of our National Army fill me with pride and hope, and I quote you everywhere.
February 9th, Colonel Bacon actually found time to write two letters. the first out of a joyous heart, the second while waiting to be off to Paris and Chaumont:
Just another word while I am waiting---waiting impatiently, as I have been all day, for a "paper," which I am taking with me to Paris, and then on to C., and back again to-morrow or Monday, and the day is slipping away and we are losing all the sunshine and will have to go after dark, Gicquel and I, for he is going with me to make some "courses" in Paris for our housekeeping which begins, I hope, next week, if the coal and wood and ravitaillement are all in.
The house was part of an old chapel before the Revolution, but it is all built over and has some modern conveniences. . . .
The nice lady of the house came down from Paris yesterday, and lighted the calorifère, and is fussing about trying to find me someone to faire la cuisine, and a femme de ménage from the pays, and there is a place for the horse and the Rolls Royce, and a nice garden and a farmyard and a gardener's wife and four small children, and if only you could be there with me it would be ideal. I will find out just how strict my Chief is, and the War Department about enforcing the prohibition against officers' wives, and whether any exceptions have been and can be made.
Wouldn't it be fine if you could be over here? No one in the world could be such a help and comfort to these poor tired people, and you would be somewhere near at all events, or nearer than across that dreadful ocean.
I don't know what those four girls would do without you and the eight babies to whom you give such loving care, but I am just selfish enough to want you myself---if it is a possible and reasonable thing. I have heard much discontent and complaint from officers but do not know of any wives having come over since the order was issued.
The Chief was strict and although officers grumbled, the order was enforced.
Colonel Bacon spread himself on "Valentine Day, 1918," "trying," as he said in the last lines of the letter, "not to be homesick, and to send" Mrs. Bacon "a little word picture of my simple self."
Your little bundle has just arrived . . . with its 2 pr. socks, I sweater, I pocket knife, I safety razor and I small piece chocolate, and I love them all and you most of all, and it's the nicest Valentine that anybody ever had. I am blessing you every day for the nice undershirts and sweaters, which I wear all the time, five thicknesses of wool underneath my uniform, and my wooly coat and cache-nez on top, and my big warm jaeger blanket around my legs, when I spend the night in the Rolls Royce, arriving in Paris at 4 A. M., only to be called at 6:30 to take a train to G.H.Q., A.E.F., as I did the other day, arriving back yesterday with most satisfactory results, and two new chauffeurs, a private from Texas and a sergeant from South Carolina to drive the "Schneider" and the "National," and I am thinking even of putting Sergeant Daniels in charge of the Rolls Royce to replace Louis La Chaussée, for I like Americans best. I can't have too much transportation as there are many errands and jobs to be done by Major Q, and me, and soon we shall have others in the family, and to-morrow we start housekeeping, as a beginning of which I brought back a bag of sugar, a box of lard, canned things of all kinds, matches and an oil stove, which is warming my back at this moment in my new office, which is about 15 feet by 7 and plenty big enough. Gicquel is out at the "Château" to-day taking the inventaire and the état-de-lieu, and there is to be a woman of the pays and her daughter and her husband of 70 to potter about and keep the fires going. Gicquel rather sheepishly suggested last night that his wife would like to come and bring her little girl of 12, and there is to be a separate cuisine and femme de cuisine, for the personnel, chauffeurs, orderlies, etc., so as not to mix things up too much. The only thing I am afraid of is the water supply, which is entirely rain water from the toits.
The convention requires that the volaille be permitted to walk about unmolested, and there are nice old trees with grass under them, and a garden, and Oh! . . . how I wish you were going to be there---not that I expect to be there much myself---it may all change, and we may whisk off at any moment---but à la guerre, comme à la guerre, and in the meantime I expect invités, coming and going, and Gicquel will be coming into market every few days, and there will be good English bacon and fresh eggs and chicken and salad and a pot au feu, and a bottle of red wine. And what more could any man want to eat, which you know is not very important for me. In fact, eating and sleeping don't seem at all necessary with any regularity. I never felt more energetic or ready to go from morning till night, and I have taken off about 10 pounds from my top weight, and hope to get off 5 more, which will be just about my Plattsburg weight. I was delighted to get Bob's and G's and P's letters, which you sent me. Tell them all to write me again, please. Your letter of Jan. 3d did not get to me until a week after that of Jan. 24th, so you see it is far from regular, but I think we shall do better with this new address. If you get the new A. D. C. insignia, which I sent by Mrs. Belmont, you must have a jeweller, or somebody add three more stars, so there will be 4. Cartier did mine for me, as there are none to be bought. I meant to have sent you some eagles too, just for fun. . . .
February 16th. was moving day.
I am glad the sun is shining to-day in my little office, and that the oil stove is working well, for it's cold again, awfully cold, and my old membranes are giving warning of more trouble, and these little flowers that remind me so of you are shivering in the garden. The little "personnelles," I suppose you call them snowdrops, are pretty cunning, and the yellow one seems to be something like forsythia, but isn't. Gicquel is back and forth to-day with Sergeant Daniels carrying supplies to Brunchautpré with orders to have dinner ready to-night, and the guest house, for that is what it is for, will begin to function. I shall be here every day, however, and pretty much all day, but it will be sort of nice to wake up in the country, if spring ever comes.
At the risk of talking too much I quote from the "Historique de la présente convention" entre le Commandant X et "le Colonel Bacon, Chef de la Mission des États-Unis auprès du G. H. Q. de l'Armée Britannique:" " Sur une démarche personnelle du Colonel B. lui faisant connaître l'impossibilité où il se trouvait de découvrir aux environs de [Montreuil] une habitation, où la Mission Américaine puisse s'installer (au moins pour la période d'hiver) avec un certain confort et recevoir les visiteurs qu'elle attend, le Commandant n'a pas cru devoir refuser au Col B. de prendre possession, etc. etc. "---"Le Commandant X a donne son assentiment sans qu'il ait été question de prix. Le Col. B. versera ce qu'il voudra au Commandant. Seul le désir d'obliger le représentant, le plus qualifié d'une armée Alliée, a pu lui faire accepter l'idée de différer cette année son installation avec sa nombreuse famille. Le Col. B. donnera des ordres pour que les volailles n'aient pas à souffrir de l'occupation, et circuler librement les portes du garage permettant suffisamment d'en interdire l'accès à la volaille." Well there are about 8 pages of foolscap, but I will spare you. These foolish things permit a little divertissement. . . .
I had such a nice letter from Virginia yesterday telling me all about Bob. I am so pleased and proud that he is doing so well. Brigade-Adjutant is virtually Chief of Staff of the Brigade Commander, the number of whose men is about equal to a British Division, so that it is a great school for the highest kind of staff work, than which there is no more important work in the Army, or for which there is no greater need of the very best material. We see it over here every day. Staff work of this kind is the brains and impulse of the Army, and for it we must have young and active men. No athletic body is good without its headpiece. We must have the highest kind of courage and efficiency to lead the men "over the top," but the genius of leadership is higher still, and this great splendid Army of ours will be in sore need of the necessary staff work.
These are wise words and they should be remembered. Will they be? That is too much to hope. We learn by experience, to be sure, but it is usually our own experience, not of the past but of the present moment. Ben Franklin tells us fools only learn by experience; he should have limited his remarks to "wise fools."
Something in Mrs. Bacon's letter brought the blood to the face and the pen flowed on February 20th, as it did when Colonel Bacon was aroused and labouring under great excitement:
Yes this is hideous war, and I long and dream to finish the dreadful curse, but it must be finished right, or there will be nothing but suffering and agony for our children's children, and a reversion to an intermittent state of war, and selfish international greed and oppression---the striving for the Golden Rule will be forgotten, and the law for a decent respect to the opinion of mankind and consideration of any kind for others will be set back for generations, and you might as well turn toward the wall the little framed set of resolutions which hangs in my room. . . .
The conditions you speak of at home are painful and exasperating, for they are due to nothing but our entirely unnecessary and fatuous unpreparedness but we are doing wonders and the national soul is saved and the nation will endure.
If only the tonnage will be forthcoming! And it will! From now on a steady stream will pour across the ocean. Our friends here will hold steadfast and true and unconquerable, I haven't a doubt of it. My faith in these people is beyond expression. . . .
Your little red-headed girl and your large boys and your cunning girls---I wish you had twice as many. I am sure you would like to mother them all. I wish there was something in the world I could do for the boys, the big boys I mean. They are so fine, and I am so pleased and proud of them. . . .
I have started in housekeeping with a will, and Gicquel is as busy as a bee. We are having an American Major General and his A. D. C. dine and spend the night to-night. It is really fine waking up in the country and everything reminds me of you. Out of the window this morning the chickens circulée librement, and the little curly haired girl of 4 walked about with the British soldier, and the fat plumber from the neighboring village arrived in a two-wheeled cart with the daughter of the cook. That ménage, by the way, mother, father, and daughter are hardly up to the work, and I am looking for others. They are too fatigués, poor souls. The calorifère marche and the house is nice and dry, and I have wood fires in the cheminées. It takes 12 minutes to come to town after breakfast and after dinner, and I get back and to bed before midnight. I wish I had my Marie from Chaumont, and she wept and wanted to come but of course I wouldn't take her. Quek and I walked out last night before dinner in just an hour and a half going fast, and on the way we passed a football match. They needn't laugh at home, for this is a life saver and absolute necessity, for these poor devils away from home. It is in no spirit of frivolity, just as I am not ashamed to ride every chance I get and you must do it too. . . . You must learn to relax a little once in a while. The machine won't stand it at the pace you go.
I was interrupted here and to-day is the 21st. General Glenn and his aide who passed the night with me have gone. Look him up if you can when he comes your way. He used to be Gen. Wood's Chief of Staff and now commands a Division.
Major Quek has left me for a few days so I am alone with my little friend, Private Mahoney, Gicquel, and Sergeant Daniels of North Carolina, who is my latest treasure and chauffeur.
I am off to Boulogne to-morrow to the dentist, Dr. Parker, of Massaachusetts, and in a few days expect to call upon the car specialist, Doctor Darrach of Pershing's Unit, so you see I am among professional friends. Harvey Cushing and George Brewer are near by.
The letter of February 25th was scrappy and interrupted. It tells, however. the story of a May day:
Yesterday was a bright, warm day, and I tried to be cheerful, but to-day starts badly. . . .
I am snatching this moment after breakfast in my nice little room with sunshine and a fire in it and a good desk. . . . The country from here to B [oulogne] is wonderful, and the great rolling stretches as far as the eye can reach of brown plough land and green and purple, dotted with nice French horses ploughing, driven by young boys and women and old men were beautiful and pathetic. The spring is early after the unusual cold and snow, and every inch is being cultivated.
I am off to town now and to-day I am expecting five guests to remain indefinitely, Lieutenant-Colonels and Majors with their orderlies, so Gicquel and I are full of preparation, and I am afraid the poor refugee lady is not up to the cooking, although we don't ask for much. Soup, pot au feu and compote, that is all, and eggs for breakfast, but she is not equal to it, I am afraid.
My guests came and I have had three pretty hectic days. (interrupted again).
So I will close this up, having begun another in my office where three officers are talking business.
Under the caption of the "Last day of Winter" (February 28th), Colonel Bacon has more than one interesting thing to say, or that which he would dearly have liked to say, and a few details of his life and character enter unconsciously and help to make him a thing of flesh and blood:
Another nice box arrived yesterday with the ginger and cheese and guava jelly and figs and prunes, and I shall offer some of them to my guests to-night at dinner. I still have three (as I was beginning to tell you in my unfinished letter) and Major Quek is back from London. On Sunday all my guest rooms were full, six in all, and I had three British orderlies to help Gicquel, and five British general officers to dinner, making 12 in all, and Louis the chauffeur cooked the meat because the refugee lady doesn't know how, and the dinner was a great success, and the house warm and dry from the chauffage central, and the bright wood fires. All it needed was you, for it was a memorable occasion, and historic in importance, for nothing in the world can be of so far-reaching effect, both now and through the years, as this getting together. I have had a wonderful month, which nothing can ever take away from me, and the sun has shone too, and even my colds and swollen membranes have disappeared till yesterday. To-day I am starting in again with another sore throat and cold, but these little ailments are of no consequence, although you know what a baby I am when I have a cold. I have been riding before breakfast, and the spring is beginning to give signs of life, and everywhere the nice white horses are ploughing. To-day we tossed the medicine ball before breakfast, where there was fresh butter and milk and eggs from the ferme, and bread from the canteen bakery, and bacon from England, and even sugar from the U. S. A. Q. M. stores, so you see we are not to be pitied.
The last two days I have been (with two of my guests) scooting about all over the country, many hundred kilometres, for a certain purpose, and the lovely old châteaux, empty or partly occupied after four years of devastating, demoralizing war are simply pathetic, and, as a nice young black-eyed widow, who runs a small restaurant in a town some 50 kilometers from here, said to us day before yesterday, not a home behind all the doors and closed blinds in city, village or farm but is bereft of all their men, away at the front, many never to return, but their courage, their faith and determination is wonderful to see. . . .
I wonder if you ever got a letter from me in November or December, suggesting that Hereford might employ his spare time in getting up some material out of the odds and ends of my past life! It is sort of a fancy of mine (perhaps in my dotage) to amuse myself by patching together the pieces if I live for a hundred years.
Just as his previous letter was dated the last day of winter, so the next one of March 1st is written under the heading of " Gentle Spring":
You certainly do knit and knit . . .and your warm woolly sweaters and tricots have been the comfort of my winter's discontent, and the undershirts too---for I have often worn five thicknesses of wool under my blouse, and I have four at this moment and none too many, although theoretically spring has come. . . .
No one can stand the strain of piling on the work of body, soul and mind and at the same time cut off his feed. Old horses won't stand it as well as colts, and it's hard for you and me to build up wasted energy.
I am getting very careful of myself and really try hard not to get run down. You must break away or you will break down. . . .
Your letter to-day of the 12th says that you are all right again, but I'm afraid, and it would help me tremendously if I could hear that you had gone away with Fannie or something like that.
Mrs. Bacon had been ill, was overdoing and was exposed, Colonel Bacon feared, to a serious breakdown. He was about the worst person in the world to give advice, if practice were a pre-requisite to precept. He never thought of self, he never spared himself, but he knew that there was sure to be a day of reckoning. He would have agreed with the ponderous statement of Doctor Johnson, to the effect that "Nature always exacts exorbitant interest from borrowed capital," and he would have paid, indeed he did pay, the interest. His own way of putting it was homelier than Johnson's but just as effective.
Colonel Bacon was apparently very busy in the first week of March as his next letter is of the 8th:
Your news about Bob was most interesting. It is certainly an honor and appreciation to be kept on by so good a man as General Snow, and I am mighty pleased and proud of him if he can keep it up. It shows that he has made himself useful.
I am wondering what Ett's fate will be in case his Division should be sent over while he is still at F [ort] S [ill]. Will he be called back, or left to finish his ten weeks, and the same of G of course, although I am not quite clear what Division G belongs to. Good old G., I sent him a cable yesterday on his birthday, but it may never get there. It is too exasperating not to know anything of each other. They would be intensely interested if I could only tell them a lot of things and I am naturally crazy to hear from them, and their plans. Some day I may get an inkling if I only knew what unit they were with! And wouldn't it be exciting if one of them should turn up hereabouts! I My guests are still with me, although they are starting housekeeping for themselves before long.
The Bishop is coming to spend Sunday with me. He has been living in my little house that I told you about, for the last two weeks, and is crazy about it and Madame Miot and her little girl and the cat. I saw him at C [haumontl the other day, for I dashed there and back through Paris without stopping.
There is a gap of almost a week between the last and the next letter of March 15th:
I have been flying about a good deal since I wrote you the other day, and yesterday came through Amiens, so I am sending you this little feller (pin enclosed) who sits through the ages in the cathedral there, for I know you will think him pretty cunning. The days go by each one fuller than the last, thank fortune, so there isn't much time to think. My little household goes on with many changes although I still have three steady boarders besides my colleague, Major Quek, and the longer days and sunshine make me look forward to spring, if one could look forward to much of anything these days, but I mustn't say that, for I am trying to be philosophical and I appreciate how much harder it is for you. . . .
Your account of the parade on the 22nd will be thrilling, and I should have bawled with you if I had been there.(256) I am still wondering what will become of the boys, if their divisions should come before they finish at Fort Sill. We shall know before long, I suppose. Then they will have a long period of training here in one of the Artillery Camps. Lots of our young American officers are attending the French schools at Saumur, Fontainebleau, etc., and there are special training areas for artillery and flying corps besides the infantry.
It is all very wonderful and the necessary services of supply and lines of communication and transportation are quite bewildering.
Think what it all means after bringing them in some cases 2000 or 3000 miles by land and 3000 miles by sea. The problem is so tremendous that it is hard to grasp, but our little neglected and despised regular army has supplied the brains and the organization for this vast accomplishment, and the spirit of the nation is furnishing the men and making the sacrifice. We must see and appreciate the big and bright side of this great human lesson all the time, and never allow ourselves to lose sight of it, or we shall be crushed by the awful pathos and tragedy of it all.
I have a very good-looking and intelligent yellow-curly-haired English boy, who says he is nineteen but does not look over 15, as bonne-à-tout-faire and valet de pied---an enlisted man and regular Tommy who has been in the army a year and has been working with the burial party out there.
The day after I received your letter speaking of little Tommy Hitchcock, I heard that he was missing! I can imagine your sympathy. . . .
On the 16th he adds:
Just a line . . . as a P. S. to letter of yesterday, telling you not to say to any one that I mentioned little Tommy's name. I have not a minute to ramble along with my usual newsless scrawl and I have no news to tell, so you will have to put up with this disappointing scrap.
The drive was under way. In his letter of March 20th (in the middle he says it is the 26th) he asks Mrs. Bacon to read between the lines and remember the dates. The world remembers them, too.
I am just back from a thrilling day, but you know how easily I thrill in these days when simple things seem to move me way down deep. It wasn't much, just a visit many miles away through the green and brown fields, and the white horses ploughing, to a place where twenty as fine American boys of 25 to 30, officers, lieutenants, and captains gave an exhibition under the direction of their wonderful British teacher in recreational drill and exercises before an audience of 100 British officers just out from England, and I was proud of them. You have no idea of the good impression these boys are making here, or of the genuine warmth and cordiality of their reception. It does my heart good and my eyes are always wet when I think or speak of it. Nothing could be finer for me than to be here watching it all after these three dreadful years and trying to take some small part in this particular phase of it.
I am so afraid that something will happen to rob me of my job here that I can hardly bear it, and I just find a letter this evening from Walter Lawrence saying that he saw you on the 4th of March! and that you were well again. . . . He seems most enthusiastic about his trip and in love with America,---a real brave soul and gentle, kindly understanding. He quotes me lines from the Tempest:
How beauteous mankind is!
O, brave new world,
That has such people in't!
He seems to seek the best, and the line of beauty and finds it.
I have been carrying about this crumpled scrap in my jacket for the last six days and if it could only speak to you of what it has seen and heard and felt, you would indeed have the whole story of my life and soul and my hopes for the future. You must read between the lines now if you can. I am snatching a moment at this quiet country place after breakfast while waiting for the others to finish.
I arrived, back last night from a swift journey of a thousand kilometres via Paris to see my Chief. Remember well these dates! This is the 26th. Remember too all that I have thought and said these last three years when people thought me mad. It is all true and nothing will ever be the same again. Good old world!
The dates to which Mr. Bacon referred were indeed important---or perhaps it would be better to say that the incidents which occurred on those dates were important, which was what Mr. Bacon had in mind.
The last great drive, as it turned out to be, for which the Germans had anxiously prepared for months, was under way.
American troops were on the way, but the war might be won before they could be massed on the battle front. That was what Mr. Bacon meant by "hurry, hurry, hurry," and that was what the Germans were endeavouring to do during the ominous months of the winter.
There was a feeling in many quarters that the Allied initiative on the western front had been lost because of the lack of a united command. Steps had been taken in that direction, but they had not been carried to their logical termination. An executive committee had indeed been appointed by the Supreme War Council at Versailles, on February 2, 1918, with General Foch at its head, and a plan had been proposed by this committee for reserves at crucial points---one in the south, to help Italy, if that country were in distress; another at Paris, to the north, and one at that Amiens which was soon to be so sorely pressed. A part of the plan involved the extension of the British lines. Unfortunately, they were extended without the reserves, and it was at this point, occupied by the Fifth British Army, that the attack was begun on March 21, 1918, by the Germans massed there in overwhelming numbers.
General Foch had foreseen this, had warned the political leaders of the Allied countries of impending disaster, and had proposed reserves in the neighbourhood of Amiens. to be drawn upon in case of need. Because of the failure to create the reserves, this point was not reinforced. The lines of the sorely tried Fifth Army bent under the German attack, and were broken. By the 25th of March it looked as if the Germans might push through to Paris. But the unexpected resistance of the British "with their backs to the wall," slowed them up, although they could not wholly stop the onrushing masses of Germans, intent upon snatching victory while there was still time.
The situation was so serious that Mr. Lloyd George was asked, on the 24th of March, to repair to France to arrange for a single Supreme Commander. In answer to a request from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the Secretary of War, then Lord Milner, and Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, crossed the Channel, and on Monday, the 25th, met M. Clemenceau and General Pétain at General Foch's headquarters at Compiègne. In the absence of the British Commander no decisive action could be taken. The meeting adjourned to Doullens, in the north, where, on the 26th, Lord Milner, Sir Douglas Haig, and Sir Henry Wilson, met President Poincaré, M. Clemenceau, General Pétain, and General Foch. Lord Milner proposed Foch as Supreme Commander. This was about the middle of the day. At five o'clock in the afternoon, General Foch, not yet Commander-in-Chief in the technical sense, but with power to coördinate the armies, got into touch with the French, over whom he now exercised supreme authority.(257) With the morning of the 27th, the Germans, only twelve or thirteen thousand yards away from Amiens, were met by French troops which General Foch had had transferred during the night. The Germans were held; the lines were reformed. The goal which they sought was no longer discernible. American troops were hurrying, hurrying, hurrying, and the World War was to be won. Then, on March 28, 1918, came General Pershing's memorable words to General Foch:
There is at this time no other question than fighting. Infantry, artillery, aviation---all that we have are yours to dispose of as you will.
I have come to say that the American people would be proud to be engaged in the greatest battle in history.
The next letter is dated "March 29th, '18, 8th Day,"
To-day you and your eight cunning grandchildren came to gladden my heart. It is sweet . . . and you are the sweetest of them all. What a nice picture of you! I am so pleased, that to-day the world seems brighter. I want to pin it upon the wall among the maps and say to everyone " Vous voyez cette ange, c'est ma femme." You remember "cet l'homme"(258) in Tours, don't you?' I really should have hardly recognized the little fellows, they have so grown and changed. Benny and little Alex have changed least of all. How good looking they are. Little Gaspar has quite changed and Dor too. Little Elliot is a real boy, isn't he. The little girl, large Robert and the cunning baby I do not know at all. It is nearly a year since I left you all. . . . How I long to get back to you, and for this horrid nightmare to pass. As I sit here, snatching a moment every now and then to speak to you, bulletins come in every few minutes feverishly awaited. The battle rages and sways back and forth, and with it perhaps the destinies of us all, and the future of the world. I am full of hope to-day and confidence and courage to tackle the coming weeks and months and years, if it be given me to last so long to fight against this monstrous thing, but I must keep away from the subject. . . .
What of public opinion at home? Is there any real regret that we did not get into it a year sooner? Is there any feeling that we are too late to play our part? Do we realize at last that good old France and great splendid England have been fighting and fighting with their life's blood for 3 1/2 years! have so far defended our homes and firesides, our ideals and very souls from disaster and dishonor.
Everyone now shared Colonel Bacon's views but years had passed without adequate preparation. Was it too late? His next letter, written on the 30th, had more than one interesting quotation from the American press:
Another day . . . and I am sitting here with misty eyes, as I read in yesterday's Post and Times of England's message through Lloyd George to America!(259) . . . Can you appreciate my feelings! The N. Y. Sun says: "Doggedly, savagely fighting every inch of ground that shields our country from the foe, who would spread havoc and slaughter could he reach us, outnumbered, the British Army is in the throes of the awfullest battle and carnage the world has ever known," and the Times (N. Y.): "The British retreating are undefeated, and our faith is strong, they are undefeatable." "The future of the world rests on them, and the account they have given of themselves makes us believe that it is safe!" No words of mine can begin to express to you the depth of feeling in my heart. I see too that Leonard Wood has again been before the Senate Committee with truths, accurate truths, of which our public opinion at home seems to have had not the slightest conception, otherwise long ago and perhaps in time, not too late for the good of our own souls, would brave words have been translated into action.
He writes her again, late at night, on March 30th:
It is late at night but I must talk to you a little . . . although I have nothing to say, that can be said, but in the strain and pressure of times like these it is a relief, as I have already told you. I might tell you about my dinner party of to-night. At seven o'clock I telephoned out to the "Château " that there would not be more than 2 or 3 for dinner, perhaps no one. At 7:30 I telephoned that there would be 8, at 7:45 that there would be 9 and as a matter of fact we arrived at 8:10---10 in all, only to find that poor old Gicquel had not been able to stand the racket, and had left bag and baggage, leaving me the enclosed note. Poor old goose. He just had cold feet, and skedaddled sans cérémonie. I hope he will get through all right, without any laissez passer. So my last retainer has gone,---but Clark came to the scratch without a whimper, and we sat down 10 to a good simple dinner, the only luxury being a tin box of your chocolates from Maillard, which came yesterday.
My, guests were all American officers except one who is a British Captain.
I have only three spending the night, as the others have gone their way since dinner, many miles by motor car. It is a satisfaction to give wayfarers food and lodging and good cheer for a passing moment. As for these big days and their events I may not speak. I try to keep my judgment clear and calm, but my temperamental feelings lead me into all sorts of mercurial ups and downs. Some of the qualities of these people, I repeat myself I know, are simply great, and come only from generations if not centuries of thoroughbred stock.
Between you and me . . . not to be repeated to my friend T. R., who thinks me already an Anglophile, I am proud to be of Anglo-Saxon breeding and race.
Chapter Eighteen, continued
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