On Easter Sunday he writes: "Sunshine and blossoms and hope in the air, but hate and desperate death struggles everywhere, and only man is vile." On April 2nd, he says, speaking of things that interest him to be sure, but not the things then nearest his heart but which he might not say:
These poor little scrappy scrawls of mine are sort of pathetic . . . aren't they? I can't say a thing about the big events that are clutching my very soul, and yet I must commune with you a little once in a while, and you must try and read between the lines, and let your imagination have full play, and your vision be clarified to see far ahead into the truth. You speak of being strengthened and spiritualized by Bishop Brent. Would to Heaven that I might be. I am softened a little I think. I hope so, and the Bishop always helps me by contact. I am expecting him here again in a few days. Speak to Bishop Lawrence about him, and the tremendous importance of the work he is undertaking as spiritual head of what will be a great army, and a great factor in the coming months and years. The practical problems that will respond to his leadership, fearless as it will be, problems which affect the life and health and moral fibre of the Army, and consequently its fighting force, need all the moral support of big men like Bishop Lawrence, to whom please give my love and greeting.
I suppose Harvard College and its affairs have forgotten me. I was mighty glad to get the little descriptive pamphlet about the Root books. Good old Jamesie is working away I see. Do give him and Mrs. S. my best, won't you. I wonder if Jamesie would write me a line. I don't deserve it I know, but the old things seem so awfully far away, and the world is in the melting pot.
On the 4th of April:
I ought not to talk to you to-day . . . for I may not tell you what my heart feels, and what else is there to say in times like these. Your letter of Gaspar's birthday came yesterday.
April 5th---Another day, and here I am in Paris, at the Crillon, just about to start back over the long road to the North. I didn't leave there till about 3 o'clock yesterday, and last night I had a whole hour with my chief which I shall never forget. Mark well the date . . . . (260) It is now morning after a good nap (there haven't been many lately) and a hot bath (of which there have been none) and I am off. I am reminded of nights in early September, 1914, when I wrote you from this hotel and it was hard to make myself understood, and I knew then the truth as few people knew it. I know it now, but I cannot speak it because I may not.
Colonel Bacon always worked better under encouragement, and a word of sympathy was as a tonic to him. He loved Harvard University; he was proud to be enrolled upon the long list of its graduates. He was happy to be an Overseer, and he always regarded his election as a Fellow as one of the highest honours which he had received or ever could receive. The notification that the degree of Doctor of Laws had been voted him by the University and that it would be conferred upon him in person at Commencement in June, 1918, filled him with an unexpected pleasure.
You can imagine . . . how pleased and touched I was yesterday to receive the enclosed letter from Doctor Walcott. It came so unexpectedly out of the blue, at a time when I felt very far away and forgotten by many in the old life that it broke me all up; and you know what I did, weak old fool that I am.
I am sending it to you . . . as a precious souvenir, for, of course, I cannot go home to get the degree, and our rule is very strict that one must be present at Commencement to receive it in order to have it really given. But the intention and vote of my old colleagues, and the invitation and the hope expressed in their name that I may again become a Fellow of Harvard College is enough for me, and I am gratified . . . and so will you be. It must not be talked of outside on any account, but you will say to any of them whom you happen to see [Major Henry L.] Higginson, [President] Lowell, [Bishop] Lawrence,(261) [Thos. N.] Perkins how deeply I feel and appreciate the honor, and what it means to me and mine. It came at a time when I am even more sensitive than usual to a kind word and thought.
Colonel Bacon could not, of course, attend. A year later, after his return to America, the degree was to be conferred at the Commencement in June, 1919. It was then top late for him to receive it in person, but the announcement was made at that time that it was to have been conferred.
To Doctor Walcott's letter of March 11, 1918, in behalf of the Fellows of Harvard University, Colonel Bacon replied on April 7, 1918, as follows:
MY DEAR DR. WALCOTT,
I am more gratified and touched by your letter of March 11th than I can possibly express. The distinction which you offer me, Sir, on behalf of your Committee is the greatest honor that could have come to me, and the one which I shall always prize above all others, even though circumstances may prevent my being present at Commencement in June to permit its bestowal. The fact that you have invited me to accept this degree from my Alma Mater will always remain one of my proudest possessions, and a legacy to my children. There seems now to be no possibility of my being able to get away in June, as my obligations to the Service and to General Pershing seem to be too great to permit it.
The future seems most uncertain, but if by any unforeseen good fortune such a thing were to become possible, nothing will prevent my coming to Cambridge.
Please express my gratitude to the Fellows and my very highest appreciation of the honor they have done me, doubly grateful and dear to me because of the gracious hope which you voice in their name that I may again become a Fellow of Harvard College and a member of the Corporation, which I have always considered the blue ribbon of my life time.
With highest personal regard,
Colonel Bacon was not able to set apart a few minutes of the day for letter writing. He wrote a few lines and if called away, as he often was, he laid the letter aside to be finished another time, or he put the scrawl, as he would have called it, in his pocket where it sometimes remained, crumpled and forlorn, until it tumbled out in a search for other things. This happened to a letter of March 9th. It is an important expression of his views that the future of the world depends upon France, Great Britain, and the United States.
This has been a red letter day ("in one sense of the word," as Henry Emmons used to say) although as solemn and dark as any since we came into the war. Do you remember the telegram that I received from my Father on a day in May, the 9th I think, 1901, when he told me not to forget that somewhere behind the cloud the sun was shining?(262) Well, no more of the clouds! but to-day has been a sort of a culmination of hopes cherished for many months, if not for years. These people are wonderful and I hope that no man, or no want of sympathy and understanding shall put us asunder "till death us do part," for I believe that the future of the world as we know it, or dream about it, depends upon "us three" sticking together and fighting it out to the bitter end. Bishop Brent and I have had an hour together before the fire this afternoon. He is my honored guest over Sunday, and will preach twice to-morrow and speak to the British officers on Monday. I went to-day with one of the nicest fellows you ever saw, a general officer, out to see the waiting corps commanders . . . and if ever there was an inspiration that was one. All the little things fade away in the presence of the real thing. We were six Americans to-night at dinner, and I wish I could tell you all that is in my heart. I have thought much to-day of Ett's division, and still wonder what his plans are.
In a note added on April 15th he says:
I have just found this in my pocket, or rather on my table at home! And what has not happened since! Things that I knew then would happen, but could not even hint at them. I have read the first two pages of this letter, after a month or so, and wonder if you have the slightest idea what I am talking about. I do such a lot of thinking when I am writing to you that I feel as if you must know what I am talking about, but I am afraid you think I am pretty queer these days, and rambling. . . . I have not been able to tell you the truth, and I have felt like a man in a nightmare, who is trying to do or say something and cannot. These last two days have been full of excitement. People have arrived who know about Elliot, and the general and his adjutant are passing the night with me to-night, and have told me all about you. . . . I heard that Archer Morgan was sick, so although I had been going since seven in the morning, I started out again and went 75 kilometers more to find him in a hospital by the sea quite happy and his fever all gone. I have invited him to come and stay with me to convalesce. I got back here after midnight.
Many things he wanted to say, and he described his situation and that of every officer holding a position of trust in the Army by an illustration in his letter of April 8th:
As the reports often say, "Rien à signaler sur le front," which means about the same in my case is it does in the reports, viz.: nothing, for of course, there are thousands of important and interesting things happening to me, which I cannot speak of any more than the reports ---the communiqués---do. "The Australian Corps report a quiet night"---that is all.
I am having a good many pleasant and unexpected guests at my old Prieuré, which Gicquel, alas, has deserted. Yesterday at seven o'clock I telephoned to little Clark---good little Clark---that there would be two for dinner, Lieutenant Lockwood and myself, at eight. I arrived with six for dinner---these parties having suddenly blown in---1st, the Bishop, bless his heart, 2nd, Le Commandant Froissart himself, my proprietor, came to hearten up his nervous people, and 3d, two officers whom I was mighty glad to see, and who brought me news of America and especially of Elliot and his plans. But to-day "gone are all the guests," even Lockwood, and I am expecting Major Quekemeyer back, and with him an officer whom you will remember ---Henry, now Colonel Henry, whom we knew in Washington, now commandant of West Point---an awfully nice fellow.
I must stop in a hurry instead of finishing, so I will send this off just as it is. I received the Harvard University Press notice of Root's U. S. and the war copy of which I should like to have myself, as well as copies of Root's war volume.(263) They might come separately through London, M. G. and Co.---if not direct by mail.
April 8th, '18 [later].
I didn't expect to write you any more to-day . . . but I just looked out the window into my little back yard with high walls and espaliers, and a few forlorn primroses amongst the coal and rubbish, and sitting on top of the wall, the little yellow bunches of wallflowers which adorn the top of all the old walls hereabouts, and everything that is sweet and fresh and simple and natural, especially nature itself, always reminds me at once of you, so I made Mahoney climb the wall to pick you this little bunch that smell as sweet as violets, but will have lost their fragrance before they get to you, if indeed they ever do arrive.
It will be many weeks before I stand the least chance of seeing Ett, for he will in all probability go off to the South to equip and prepare for a long time apart from the others.
I saw an old friend of his though yesterday, in fact, he was one of the officers who spent Saturday night with me, whom he knew in Manila and whom I met in El Paso.
The letter of April 11th is rather downcast. Evidently rumours were astir of a change in the Mission.
Rather a sad day for me . . . and I am still playing that "good loser" game, and racking my brains to know from hour to hour just how to play it, how to be left in a position to do some real service.
The next few days will decide a lot of things for me personally, and in the meantime it's not easy to turn this office over to the new Chief of Mission. This tiny office is simply overrun, and there is no peace or privacy or sympathy. It's every one for himself in the Army---but these are the little petty things, and I am ashamed to speak of my small troubles. Forgive me. Quek has gone. I am left alone with the Lieutenant . . . and the house seems empty. Little Clark, my only standby, picks lilacs for the table and pyrus japonica and violets and the twilights are long---dining after eight in bright daylight. . . . You see I am trying not to talk about the all-absorbing, ghastly war!
Your fine handkerchiefs came from Tillon and you were pretty cunning. Now that they have prevented you from sending me presents from home, you fool them by sending them from Paris.
The nice white underclothes came long ago in the winter. You haven't sent any more have you? They are perfectly fine, and I am trying to save them as much as I can. Your newspaper clippings were thrilling and I feel as if the nation, or most of it, were really waking up to a realization of what they are up against.
With a knowledge of the situation on the British front, and writing in the atmosphere of profound discouragement if not of despair, Colonel Bacon's letters reflect the spirit of his environment. He himself, was, however, firm in the faith that the Allied cause would ultimately triumph.
Under date of April 12th, 12th, and under the heading "Mark well the date," he wrote:
My heart is broken. . . . Read if you can the order of General Currie commanding the Canadians, of March 27th. "Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy" but you must read it all.(264) It's only one (if hundreds or rather thousands of such inspirations.
Remember . . . that all through these recent months I have known the truth; the actual truth, as it was coming, as it has come to pass.
On the 13th he expresses the doubt that constantly tormented him:
On [Queen] Mary's heart was found I believe "Calais," but not mine, for "my back is against the wall," and "on ne passera pas!" but you will find there, on my heart, I mean, "Too late." . . .
The wonderful British heroes, in whose atmosphere I live and whom I see every day, are indeed an inspiration, and if only it would help, even a little in the making of the Nation (ours I mean), and in the making of the good old world a better place for our boys and girls to live in and pass on in their time, then, indeed, one is ready to make the great sacrifice.
April 16th, '18.
I am full of hope and confidence that it will all turn out right. England is magnificent and cannot be beaten. So is France. The deeds performed, the qualities and character shown, the morale, all are beyond description and praise and what did you think of Sir Douglas' message to England.(265) The days of Nelson(266) and Wellington have come again and never has England or France fought for a nobler cause. And America! I daily pray that she may make good in every way. We have helped, we have been of incalculable financial and moral support, and now the big prices and the real sacrifice! I have waked up at night for many months and heard a voice: Hurry, hurry, hurry! Hurry, hurry, hurry! I have been impatient and at times agitated and have looked things squarely in the face. A great calm has come to me now, and---
This is April 29th, and I find this scrap still in my pocket along with the scrawl from Paris. I am ashamed to send them but you will understand.
Col. A.F. Fletcher, Col. Rob't. Bacon, General Sir Douglas Haig, Col. J. Haizleton
The first break in the Hindenburg Line was made by the 30th and 27th Divisions of the U.S. Army serving with the British
Colonel Bacon was trying to keep his courage up. In a letter of the 22nd he wrote:
A nice Irish colonel came in the other day, of a well-known North of Ireland regiment, and told me that the motto of his regiment was "Keep Smiling," and, as it was on a particularly critical day, I adopted it at once, and have made it the mot d'ordre of this office, and my own . . . and my pen must smile too, for as this splendid C. in C. said the other day in his message to England, "My back is against the wall. . . "
The thing that is nearest my heart, as you can well imagine, is the rapprochement, the ever-closer alliance and union of British and American Armies and Nations. There is nothing else so important to win the war, and for all time to win peace for the world. Can you imagine how intense my longing is to do every little thing, no matter how small, how intangible, to contribute only just a little. You can imagine me better than any one. You know how I care about things. You know how I care about this, and how my small part in it looms large in my poor soul, and how I try to carry the whole war and its responsibility on my poor, weak old shoulders.
Through all this wonderful month that has just gone, since you wrote your letter on the 22nd and spoke of the German drive having begun, I have felt very close to these splendid Britons who are running the whole show, and no words of mine can ever express my admiration for them. The boche says now quite openly that we, America, are the only hope of the Allies, and that we are too late. We are not too late, in the sense that he means, although you know my views on that subject.
The little stream is getting bigger every day. Faster! Faster! for God's sake, and the wall of blood and iron is getting stronger and will hold steady as a rock, till the big stream bursts in upon them, and carries us all up on to a victory over this monstrous thing. Think of the part we must play, think of the delicacy and difficulty of steering this wonderful force which must be the greatest moral and physical, aye! and spiritual that the world has ever known, or it cannot lift the poor tired world out of the Slough of Despond into which these soulless blackguards are trying to sink it. Hurry! hurry! and the victory will be the more complete!
In view of the feverish activity on the British front, Colonel Bacon must have had, as he says, in a simple but significant sentence, "many guests lately and of the greatest importance, coming and going on duty of staggering importance.(267) He himself was as busy as any of his guests. On the 25th he writes from. the Hôtel de Crillon:
I am here in Paris by the merest chance without even a toothbrush or razor, chafing to get away again, but delayed by a panne [breakdown]. An Ambulance from Neuilly ran plump into the back of the Rolls Royce, and split the gasoline tank wide open so I am tied by the leg, and Sergeant Daniels is trying to get me a new tank in time to get away before dark, which would get me back again up North about midnight, if I should be lucky. I saw young [Ted Roosevelt] last night with his division and made a point to-day of going to see Eleanor to tell her he was in fine shape. Tell T. R. and tell him too how straight what he is quoted as having said two days ago went to my heart. I am going to try to see Archie Roosevelt to-day. . . .
This place is full of missions and commissions and conferences and sailors and politicians, and is no place for me. Back to the real fellers, who are heroes with their back to the wall, or holding on the one-yard line with nothing but them between us all and despair. Not for a minute can they be beaten any more than Lawrence was beaten at Lucknow, when he was listening and at last heard the pipes in the distance, when he was sick at heart and sore pressed, but did not show it. Last night just at dusk I came to a little village, where the band of an American artillery brigade or regiment was just finishing a little concert after supper, and hundreds of fine American lads were grouped about, and just then they struck up the "Marseillaise" and then the " Star-Spangled Banner," and you can imagine the thrill that went up and down my back as I jumped out to stand at attention and salute with the others.
In a letter of April 29th, Colonel Bacon confides to Mrs. Bacon that he had read with pride in yesterday's issue of the Daily Mail that she "headed the women's division [of the parade for preparedness in New York] and 'made a splendid showing'."
I was talking to you yesterday . . . just by myself quietly as I so often do, and made up my mind that I couldn't write you any more about this hateful war, as you said in one of your letters we must think and speak of happier, simple things, and I go to sleep every night thinking of you and your little friends, the little red-haired girl and big Bob and so on up the scale to W. B. B. who is getting to be a real person, isn't he!
Teach them and let their mothers teach them, when we are gone, to despise the hateful cursed things that the Hun is seeking to impose upon the world. Teach them that the very opposites of these things are the only things worth living and dying for---that love, not hate, and kindly consideration and the Golden Rule must rule the world, and, if need be, must be fought for and defended by blood and iron and tears and agony. And nations too, not only men, must appreciate and accept these rules of conduct-of international conduct. Progress, civilization, human tenderness are in the throes of mortal disease, are in the crucible of a fiery furnace and the crisis is not yet.
Later in the day.
The news is good to-day and by a coincidence I am dining with General D. I dined with him on the 28th of March, which was the day the boches were stopped at Arras and Montdidier. To-day he said " Come along to-night and we'll have another turn in the battle."
Colonel Bacon had joyfully dated his letter of March 1st, "The First Day of Spring," but the elements were not to be brought into camp with phrases.
Under date of May 3d he writes:
To-day is the first that feels at all like spring . . . the first day that I have been willing to dispense with my little kerosene stove in my little office, and the sun is streaming in the window---actually warmer outside than inside, and, in spite of it, I am sort of sad, but keep on smiling. Five days almost of comparative quiet and relief from the desperate tension and strain. The storm will break out again with redoubled fury perhaps, but the story of the past six weeks proves that you are right "on ne passera pas."
These splendid men, almost superhuman in their courage, and calm, grim determination, stand like a rock against the flood. The French, too, are wonderful in their brilliancy and fighting spirit and dash. The mode of thought, the attitude of mind, the mentality, even, is a little different, but let no one say that they do not fully appreciate and admire the great qualities of each other. They are shoulder to shoulder to the end, and they want us alongside, and I never longed for anything so intensely as that we should be now quickly, for our own sakes, as well as for theirs and the cause, shoulder to shoulder ,with them "à la vie, à la mort." And we shall be, and the world will be saved from the unspeakable Hun and his dastardly domination.
"Two British officers last night, several American lately and to-morrow a dinner party" put his housekeeping to a severe test, owing to the loss of his "loyal and devoted serviteurs." Of course he wishes to tell of his guests and their raison d'être but of course he cannot.(268)
There is a personal item of a general nature affecting all Americans alike and interesting as a leaf on the stream to show its current:
So you must stop your blessed little envoies that have meant so much to me, chocolates, socks, soap and all! You have been a darling to take all the trouble and be so thoughtful of me all the time. I have loved the little packages and eagerly looked for them, but I understand why a regulation should be made, and enforced. Two thirds of all the space and tonnage allotted for mail has been other than first class, and thousands of tons have been shipped this way by parcel post. It had to be stopped, or at least minimized. . .
By the way, I felt obliged and wanted to do my part, so cabled to subscribe to the Loan for you and me and the boys and girls but to do so I had to sell some of our Anglo-French bonds, at a considerable loss, of course, but I felt that we had to take a big hunk of our own and didn't know what else to sell quickly. We must charge it all to our family contribution to the war. I have been meaning for a long time to ask you to tell the boys, all of them, to put their minds on the question of my investments as well as their own, and to send me any suggestions of possible changes.
The next letter that Colonel Bacon wrote was one long cry of agony straight from the heart, for it conveyed to Mrs. Bacon the news that he was to lose the post with British Headquarters which he loved like life and in present conditions, even more than life itself. The reasons for his proposed transfer have been already given in detail, inasmuch as it seemed better to state at the beginning rather than later the grounds for the transfer and Colonel Bacon's success in the performance of his many and arduous duties. The transfer never took place, as Sir Douglas Haig intervened, not in Colonel Bacon's interest but in the interest of the British Army for which as Commander-in-Chief he had the right to and actually did speak. The incident is therefore of importance in this connection as it shows the spirit of service with which Colonel Bacon was animated. The correspondence for the next few days is full of the subject, as he was writing to Mrs. Bacon, but he could not rid himself of the feeling even, in writing to her, that it was unworthy to think of little personal matters in such a crisis of the world. In the first letter of this series he plunges in without a word of introduction:
May 5th, 1918.
I have just received a staggering, stunning knock-out blow. I have been relieved. Not a real knock-out perhaps, for I shall try to bear up and carry on and smile! I was too happy in my work and surroundings. It was too good to last. Now I must go, not up but down, and "upon being thus relieved, will proceed . . . for the purpose of taking the next course at the Army General Staff College." If I were twenty years younger, I should jump at the chance, full of courage and ambition, but the old horse is lame . . . and will not pass the Vet. and in war time there is no use for old cripples. There is no time to fool with them, so, like General Bell, I shall probably have to "creep home and take my place, lad, the spent and maimed among," . . . but this is only for your own dear private ear. To the world at large, and even to the boys and Sister, I must take it like a soldier, having made my bed. I shall set my teeth and go hard at the Staff College course, even at my years, and if I can pull it off and make good, well, I can hold my head high after all. If my health holds out . . . I can do it, and my back is against the wall like splendid Sir D. H.'s, and I'll try to be true to my Anglo-Saxon traditions.
Of course there is a technical and professional reason for it, and I feared it might come. I shall he relieved by a General Officer Commanding, as there was not thought to be room for both, and it's mighty kind and considerate of General Pershing to send me to the Staff College, and I shall be very proud, but just this morning (I have known less than an hour) it is so hard for me to leave my friends here, and a job, into which I had thrown myself heart and soul, and which I even flattered myself I could do as well as any one, that the fact is I am just gasping and trying to get hold of myself, and pouring out my soul to you . . . to you to whom I always turn in joy or sorrow, and I get courage as I write, and new determination to carry on and make good, no matter what happens. It is all so small and comparatively trivial after all when one stops to consider the big, awful, crucial things that are happening to the whole world and impending each day. What does an atom like me amount to anyway, and I am already ashamed even to have allowed myself to cry out when I was wounded and hurt. It is over now, and I shall be worthy of you after all, even if I fail, but I shall not fail. "On ne passera pas"(269) and I shall hold on to my panache. . . .
May 6, '18.
I must say another word. . . . I find myself enfin seul after a hectic day and more to come later. I am still somewhat dazed after yesterday's news, and don't know exactly where I'm at. I have taken my eagles off, and my écusson with the 4 stars, and now back to the Q. M. C. and the gold leaves, which I find I don't mind at all. I do mind being pulled away from this work, though, at just this time, with big things pending. I feel very close to these splendid fellows and I'm proud to think that they mean it when they say they don't want me to go. If sympathy and understanding are real and deep at times like this, they mean much. I don't want to leave them at such a time especially, and I won't if I can help it, no matter what it may cost for the future. I am flattered of course to be sent to the Staff College, which means going on, if I can do the work, and perhaps becoming a real officer, which, of course, has been my dream, for to grow into a soldier at my time of life, even though it's for the Staff the brains and direction, not the actual command of men in the line, is unusual and gratifying when one wants to serve. So I have offered to stay and work under General Harts, as liaison officer, and I should be rather pleased to do it as a Major after having been a Colonel. I know it would be appreciated. You know me . . . I like to be liked and don't care a damn for rank and all that, except as an evidence of work well done, and honorable service. The Staff College course to which I am ordered begins, I think, toward the last of May and lasts over two months. What will those Fort Sill boys think of my going to school again? Jiminy, it will be hard and frightens me to death, but I shall go to it, unless they desire to leave me here to work for England's hour and the cause, through our union with her, which may its bonds grow stronger and stronger and become indissoluble for the good of the world, for Freedom and the future of our children's children. I shall be in suspense for several days, and in any event expect to stay here two weeks more, in which time much may happen! This is another great wrench and parting of the ways. You have often said that the hardest thing is to know one's duty. The doing of it is easier when one is sure which way to go I have just been interrupted by a long distance call from out there, saying that a letter had been written to me explaining what had happened to me! I shall be glad to know. It appears that three A. D. C.'s quorum pars fui have been relieved and revert to their former rank and station. The School is said to be to give me the opportunity which I wanted---the others go their several ways. There have been also many other changes in the General Staff. My little friend McCoy gets what he wants, and others all along the line, with more or less satisfaction. So it goes. And it's all so little as compared with the stupendous real things that are going on that it seems absurdly insignificant.
May 6, '18.
I am more content to-night . . . probably for two reasons. I have just dined with three British noblemen. I mean natural noblemen, not the titled kind, and I don't know that of all my acquaintance and experience I have ever known three finer men.(270) That is a good deal, isn't it? And when I tell you that they were all just as considerate and sympathetic toward me, and really wanted me to stay amongst them, you can see why I am so pleased and flattered. I wish I dared tell you who they were, but when I tell you that no one's opinion could be so important or mean so much to me just now, you may guess the kind of soldiers they are. No one did I say? Perhaps this letter which I find on my desk to-night is even more welcome and important:
MY DEAR COLONEL BACON,
I have given this day orders to relieve yourself, Col. ---- and Col. ---- from duty on my personal staff.
The ---- etc. render 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. . . . I take this occasion to express to you my earnest appreciation of the wholehearted 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,
[JOHN J. PERSHING].
Kindly and considerate . . . to take this trouble in the midst of the biggest things that ever a man had to tackle, and I don't mind if you tell a few of my real friends who may wonder why I am reduced in rank. You know those whose opinions I care about and value, and with whom I like to share my satisfaction.
May 10, '18.
I am getting a little "fed up" with playing the camouflage part of a "good loser" . . . They tried to console me after my senatorial fiasco by telling me that I was a good loser.
I am trying to be now, and keep on smiling although the medicine is not very pleasant to take. But I plug along as I did last winter at G. H Q., and try to pretend that I do not mind my demotion.
It would be easier, of course, to go on and take the course at Langres, and climb along as opportunity offers, but somehow I didn't like the idea of retreating under fire as it were. so long as these fine fellows said that I could help them by staying. The C. in C. has done me the great honor to request that . . . [deleted by Censor]. I hope to be allowed to tell you out loud some day. In the meantime these are difficult days for your old man, darn difficult. . . .
Your last letter was of April 10, and much has happened since then. My thoughts are pretty well filled with the building up of our Army everywhere in France as an effective force, now that the long interminable period of creation, instruction, and organization is passing into one of action. I see that T. R., bless him, says we must have 5 millions and be ready with 5 millions more. So we must, and I am thrilied by the accounts cabled over to the London and Paris papers of the change and progress and apparent determination at home. Hurry, Hurry, faster, faster the voice still cries out to me. . . .
Did you know we are all asked to write a letter home on Mother's Day! Every day is Mother's Day for me.
This was by General Pershing's order.
Following message from Commander-in-Chief is transmitted for your information and guidance:
"To all Commanding Officers I wish that every officer and soldier of the American Expeditionary Forces would write a letter home on 'Mother's Day.' This is a little thing for each one to do. But these letters will carry back our courage and our affection to the patriotic women whose love and prayers inspire us and cheer us on to victory.
"Inform all concerned in your command."
This is my third letter on Mother's Day . . . and I suppose you have seen the General's telegram quoted above. Simple, homely things like this mean much over here, and there will be no skeptical smile as there might have been in the old days of the old false atmosphere, false pride and fool's paradise. I have no time to scribble today and nothing really to tell you except that I love you on Mother's Day, and every day is Mother's Day for me.
Colonel Bacon meant to keep his promise to think of the simple things. He may have thought of them, but he failed, it must be admitted, to write of them, that is to say, to write only of them. On May 12th, "Mother's Day " as he continued to call it., he wrote:
Mother's Day indeed . . . and in spite of the perplexities and anxieties that beset your old boy, your oldest son, he is sending you a line without a single complaint, and "thinking Mother dear of you, and will try to cheer his comrades and be gay." He is rather ashamed of having allowed himself to write a doleful line yesterday on Mother's Day, so on Mother's Day to-day he will try to be as brave as Mother is. No one could be as brave as you. . . .
What are you and your babies doing to-day? I like to think that you are out in the sunshine with some of them. It is cold and drizzling here. Are you in the country, or still in Park Avenue? You say Murphy is trying to sell ponies. Good! I didn't know he had any left. Of course sell them or better "put them away," all except old Ribbons, unless he is dead. He ought to have got rid of them long ago, except those that are good for ploughing, and work in harness. How would it do to ask George to write me all about things at Westbury, farm, stable, houses, etc., and a very rough estimate of cost.
How is little Chiel(271) and our other little friends. Have you any left and what became of Raksha, the she wolf? Beo never came back! I hope you went on to stay with Bob and Virginia. I should much like to hear of them. Tell Virginia I had a call from her Cousin Murray, the King's Messenger, who had seen Cecil. Heaps of love to them all.
And on May 15th:
Your dear letter of the 14th came day before yesterday and Sister's of the 17th to-day, so I feel a little better in touch with you, although a month is a long, long time, and since you wrote another tremendous phase of the battle has come, and thank God, is past. The blessed "thin line" has again held against overwhelming odds, has again saved the world from the dastardly, unspeakable Hun. You may well say that these wonderful British are magnificent. No words of mine can begin to express my admiration for them, and what they have done and my gratitude---and now they are ready to do it again, and the splendid French soldiers are with them, shoulder to shoulder. Would to Heaven we were ready to play our part! We are here though and we are coming strong every day, and the announcement by the Sec'y of War that already there are 500,000 Americans in France has had a splendid effect and given heart to many who were beginning to wonder whether there really was to be an American Army---but mind you I think we have accomplished unhoped-for and extraordinary results and with very little inevitable delay, and now what you say of conditions at home gives me the greatest encouragement for the future, if only the superb stout wall will hold a few months more, and I have supreme faith and confidence that it will. On ne passera pas! And after that, on les aura! It will not, it cannot be permitted that the blight and curse of this monstrous thing, this giant octopus, this loathsome devil-fish shall seize the world and impose its degradation. Why do I write these things, when I mean to commune with you and smile, and think of pleasant, happier times and places!
Mrs. Bacon had written of Gaspar and Elliot, who were detailed as Instructors. Colonel Bacon writes as any one on the other side would about such "a calamity":
I think the hard luck of Gap and Ett is almost too much to bear, just because they are gunners, and better than the others. It will be cruel if poor G. is condemned to another term at Fort Sill and I can just imagine Ett's disappointment and disgust at the sudden change of plan and orders, which keeps him waiting on the dock as it were, and worse still that they have drafted away so many of his best men. I think that is the last straw! All their fortitude and highest qualities will be brought out by this severe and heartbreaking test. My little personal troubles are insignificant as compared to theirs, and mine are almost too much for me these days, although my eagles are gone. If I can only hold on to my gold leaves and even my Q. M. insignia with credit, and can be kept on to work for those who want me and not canned and sent home to eat my heart out, in some subordinate quartermaster's job, I shall count myself lucky after all for an old "has been."
I was afraid, and told you so, that it was too good to be true, that I was too happy. Such things seldom last in the Army but I will smile and take my medicine, and only wish I could do something to help the boys. It is humiliating to be so utterly powerless, but never mind. . . . We must all cheer up and we will win out in the end.
Between the 15th and 16th of May he learned that the youngest son, Elliot, married to Hope Norman, and therefore called "Hope's hope" to pass the censor, had arrived in France.
May 16, '18.
To show you how little we know . . . of what is going on, I heard only yesterday of the arrival in the South of Hope's hope! It may be a long time before I can get there, but I shall try you may be sure, and sometimes unexpectedly news travels fast, and I may hear some news for Hope. Is poor old G. still eating his heart out at Ft. Sill, and Bob? His work must be very useful. What do they say of his Chief? Tell Hope that I got her nice letter yesterday and thank her for it. Dear little Soul, I suppose it is pretty lonely at the cottage. I wish I could see her and her little red-headed girl. I wish we had a dozen of them!
You will surely get some relaxation and pleasure in your garden. . . I can see you and Chiel by the hedges and in the wet grass at six in the morning. It will be a relief for you and a wee bit of comfort.
I am off this morning to visit some Americans. This absurdly overdone secrecy forbids my saying who. Do you remember Alex Lehmann's wife's uncle in the Philippines?(272)
Later---Had a fine day in the sunshine with a nice Brig-Gen. who is ---[scratched out].
Everything is going wrong with me, and I am quite disgusted so I am going to bed.
On May 17th Colonel Bacon sent a photograph and the description which he gives of himself suggests anything but what he was.
Here is a beautiful picture . . . taken on a day when the future looked very black and the present pretty nearly impossible.
The war and time have made their mark, but here I am in all my nakedness, a gray-headed, sour-faced old man with a beautiful mouth!
Aren't you sorry you asked me to send you my mug! I am going to send you another in a few days, more beautiful still with all the lines but I don't want to give you too much of a shock.
I have had unhappy hours lately, but on the whole I am taking my medicine pretty well and my only regret is that you and the children, and my friends (are there a few who remember me) may wonder why I am again a Major having been a camouflage Colonel, and think that I have failed. Well, I guess I have from a military and worldly point of view, and I have dropped from quite a pinnacle, a sadder and a wiser man. It must be good for me. It hurts all right, and the fact that it hurts shows that I am not made of the right stuff. Forgive me . . . for being such a baby and whimpering about my poor, miserable affairs at such a time as this, but I can't speak of the one big thing---waiting! We are all waiting and the calm is ominous.
On May 31st, Colonel Bacon wrote of the coming of American troops and of visiting three American divisions on Decoration Day, the 30th:
The tears are very near the surface these days when I think of you, and again when I greet the inpouring stream of American soldiers, as I do every day now, but do you remember what you will find engraven upon my heart?
We have arrived again at an intense and vitally critical moment in the battle---in all our lives---the third phase since March 21st. March 28th brought relief and respite.(273) April 29th brought it again, and floods of destruction of everything we hold dear and holy were stopped. To-day is the 5th day of this phase, and they shall not pass, and Oh God! send our Divisions quickly, quickly, that they may play their part, and sanctify by Thy pity the blessed tears of our beloved ones at home!
Yesterday was Decoration Day, almost a holiday for our training divisions. I went with a high officer [Sir Douglas Haig], to whose personal staff I am attached, to visit three of our divisions [27th, 30th, and 35th], and my heart was full of emotion and pride. You have seen them. You know how you felt when they walked up 5th Avenue. How do you suppose I felt, or that you must feel if you saw them here standing at attention with the bugle sounding the salute---here in France at last? Do you wonder that my heart was in my mouth, and that I could not speak and see? . . .
A year has gone! somewhere! since I sailed away. Good-bye for to-day.
Here are three scrappy letters---much like those written from France under similar circumstances except that there is a personal note in the one of June 5th:
May 31st, '18.
The same Mother's Day.
I never tell you anything you want to know. I seem to be tongue-tied and witless when I seize a moment to write. Elliot I have not seen and as things are at present there is not the slightest chance of my seeing him for a long time. He is training far away.
Sunday, June 2nd.
So much is happening and I am powerless to tell you anything.
June 5th. I can hardly believe it but three more days have gone and every day I think that I must say a word to you to-day, and then the day is gone and I fall into bed--never till after midnight---dead tired with the emotion---the hopes and doubts and chagrins. and disappointments. . . .
For these past six months I have known the truth of what was going to happen as I have never known it before. I can say to you . . . but not to the world that my vision has been clear. . . .
I went to a "promotional party" the other night---the first momentary relaxation I have given way to. 22 at dinner in a neighboring town 25 miles away---an American Staff---and after dinner a private vaudeville show by a British Divisional Company, which was really good---two men taking part of girls, etc.---just foolish. Such things help a little to let go the handlebars.
June 8th was indeed "Mother's Day" for Colonel Bacon received three letters from Mrs. Bacon and one from Elliot.
So my poor day was brightened up---and it was a poor day, but to-day is a little better because some of the complications and disappointments of yesterday have been straightened out, but I care so much that every-thing American shall go right that when they go wrong it seems as if I could not bear it. Perhaps I care too much, but it is my only way, as you know of old, and everything is so intense, of such vital importance that everyone is pretty well keyed up to concert pitch.
You ask me how I am---how I am standing it! Pretty well I think . . . to be perfectly honest for an old fellow of my years and infirmities, although I am getting very white and furrowed---grizzled and wrinkled, but that does not disturb me a bit and I find that I can keep it up day and night, week in and week out as well as the fellows who are twenty years younger, so I'll play the game as long as I can, and die in harness perhaps.
I don't sleep as much or as soundly as I used to, but why should I? Rather a troubled sleep from about 12:30 to 7. I try not to eat and drink too much but have hard work keeping my belt from getting too tight and no exercise, but never stopping from 7 till midnight, and taking things pretty hard, for my fund of sympathy seems inexhaustible. I am suddenly breaking off here to dine with my new Chief ("in one sense of the word"), General Harts.
(Later) The lights go out at eleven now so I haven't many minutes before I shall be left in darkness with nowhere to go but home to Brunchautpré to bed.
I have been afraid of losing my nice little place in the country, for the French mission wanted to turn me out, but to-day it is settled. I think that I can keep it, and I am glad because I always have a place for American officers, and I have also asked some British officers to come and live with me because they are ordered out of town.
I am going to try to let go the handlebars a little . . . because I think if I do, I can last longer. I am going to try to have my nice friends to dinner and pretend that I am not unhappy. Remember my Irish motto, "Keep on smiling, and keep your rifle clean." I have bought some red and white wine from an old Abbé and my old goose is getting fatter, so that it is almost time to have him killed for dinner, and we really live on the fat of the land---much too well as a matter of fact, as the canteen and the American Q. M. stores provide many extras---canned vegetables, corn, hominy, beans, etc.; and plenty of canned fruit. So what with occasional roast pork from the neighboring villages and veal (always good) young Clark (my batman) and I manage to set a pretty tasty table, with June roses and honeysuckle and carnations and peonies and weigela (the lilacs are gone) all of which I love because they always remind me of you. I know your Garden Club party was a great success. Keep up the nice old simple things that you love so well. Keep up your weeding and squirting, and the joy you get out of them will be your greatest asset. Break away from your strenuous, tense, anxious life. You and I must both do it, each in our way for each other's sake.
We must not break down and I realize that it is even harder for you than for me, but we have much to live for . . . ten years together, if all goes well, whether of joy or sorrow, but ten more years together 'tis all I ask or dare to hope for.
June 18, '18. Mother's Day.
The anniversary of Waterloo  and yesterday was Bunker Hill . The last week has slipped by, hectic, thrilling, emotional for me, hopeful and depressed in succession and each day busier and fuller than the last, so that I haven't had a moment to write. . . .
I haven't heard again from Ett, but I know pretty well where he has been, down near Bordeaux, which is about as far away as New York. He must be just about starting to join his division, very near where I went once to celebrate an anniversary in a little town [Saint-Dié] far away. You did not go but you must remember. Ett wrote that he had no saddle equipment so I got everything for him yesterday in Paris, where I found myself for an hour or so de passage---saddle, bridle, etc., which I had packed in a basket and shall despatch as soon as I know just where to send it. This is about the best I could do for him for a birthday present. I had a great run to G. H. Q, through the night to Paris and then on at 4 A. M., arriving at 9:30 to pass the day, and back again through the night for a few hours on important matters in Paris again, and back here to report later the next afternoon, about 1000 kilometres in all and very successful, although my heart was sinking with misgivings till to-day when it was all over and something accomplished.
I have had one or two splendid days of late with our divisions-my divisions,(274) God bless them, and if ever a man was pleased and proud and thrilled with emotion as I ride about with the C. in C. to inspect them, and when after a regimental review of Dan Appleton's old 7th regiment, with machine gun battalions added, some 7000 in all, with the 7th regt. band, the British officers say to each other, "Why, they are as the guards!" You can imagine how I feel and with what a full heart I stand up behind the C. in C. to salute the Stars and Stripes! . . .
Sometimes I leave with the C. in C. at 9---Sergeant Daniels and the Rolls Royce following, till we arrive at the area of a blessed American division, where we find horses waiting---then two hours' inspection of the minutest kind, then lunch in a green shady place by the roadside, from a wonderful basket that has seen more service and could tell more secrets of this war since August, 1914, than any other basket or soldier, then on again to another division, where new horses are waiting, and where I meet many familiar faces from home, and choke with deep feeling when I speak to them, then back toward home till we meet our own horses and ride back to dinner at 8, 10 miles more across the fields---then in to the office and the telephone after dinner till midnight.
The lights went out on Colonel Bacon. the candle was low and he went to bed with the letter unfinished. He took it up three days later, June 21st, the "longest day in the year":
Your dear letter of the 26th May came to-day---the day I sailed away or rather it was Monday the 28th that I actually sailed and, Oh! what a year! It seems a lifetime. How I long to get back to you! and if we can only be together for 5 years after the war. I said ten years in one of my letters to you, but now I'd compromise for 5! if it could only be ended right.
You speak of your long days. We have daylight now till 10 o'clock and the twilights are lovely, and the June roses on my dining table always speak of you. I love to hear all about your garden.
The next letter is dated "June 25th":
It's always too late, or there is some interruption, or I am called off---and I never seem to have a minute to myself to talk to you all the things that are constantly in my mind and heart and on my tongue. The telephone is ringing in my ear at this minute and I have had two conversations since I began this page, and the church clock is striking 10:45 and at eleven the lights go out and there is not even a candle, so you will understand why I write you such scrappy unsatisfactory scrawls, although every day all the time I have so many big wonderful things to say to you and interesting things to describe to you. I am terribly disappointed not to have the smallest chance to see Elliot. By the merest chance his division was ordered far away, although it might have been here right at my door. How I shall get to him I really do not know, but I will some day.
You will have had my letter by Col. Hewitt which I hope will explain a little what has happened to me. It is all right if it only lasts, but I am on tenter-hooks all the time.
Such a nice dinner to-night at my Chiefs en famille, and the talk was of pleasant things, not war, and the daylight lasted till ten o'clock.
In April Colonel Bacon had received a letter from his former colleagues of the Corporation of Harvard that the degree of Doctor of Laws had been voted him and in a few lines of the letter of June 25th he again expresses regret that the degree was not conferred upon him in his absence.
These last few days I have been hoping against hope that I might receive a cable from Lawrence Lowell saying that they had given me something "in absentia," but no such luck and you won't mention it to any one.
I had a cable asking me if I could be there on the 20th to receive a degree, but he might as well have asked me for the moon, and he must have known it. I would have been proud and happy to have it as you know.
June 26th . . . It is a tragedy that I cannot go to find Ett who is probably far away in the mountains by this time, or on his way. Poor little Hope. Her trials are coming early. Guy was made of the right stuff.(275) He was lucky not to have to hang on---an invalid. It's better to die in harness.
He evidently despaired of ending this letter many times begun but never finished. "I am called away," he says again, and signs it.
The letter of June 28th recounts a characteristic example of that kindly consideration which he advocated between nations:
There seems to be an ominous calm . . . and sails are furled, and everything made snug for the coming storm, but, before it breaks let us think of pleasant things and simple and loving and homely. You and your garden . . . and your cunning stone steps and your columbines, and your sheep on the lawn and your roses. I too have roses, and carnations, and honeysuckle, and spirea, and lupine, and elder blossoms, and ramblers are over the house, and my May tree, which you in your ignorance would call a pink thorn, and now the strawberries have come, big round white strawberries, et "oui c'est moi Monsieur qui les soigne, et recueille moi-même, et les légumes aussi, des petits pois, des carottes, des onions, des haricôts. Vous en aurez tant que Monsieur le Colonel voudra. Oui il faut que je me lève de bonne heure, mais pas avant cinq heures. Oui j'aurai soixante-quinze ans le 25 juillet, et j'ai des abeilles aussi. J'avais trois ruches, et maintenant j'en ai neuf. Le Colonel voudra du miel. mais pas avant le mois de Septembre. Elles mangent le sucre des trèfles pendant l'été." And all because last winter when she was sick, I sent her a couple of bottles of port wine.
Everything may change in one day or it may go on 14 years, and I shall be gone, but every day is crowded and every hour. Yes, to-day I had all day with troops, and I was crazy about them. Nothing I enjoy so much as to go about amongst them when they are having supper, or when they are training or marching, or when, as last evening, there was presentation of colors at "retreat," and they were all lined up at attention, and the bugle sounded colors, and then the wonderful band in a little enclosed court by the old brick house, covered with vines, played the "Star-Spangled Banner," and I at salute. Well, you know what I did!
The next letter, full of stirring events, pride at American achievement, sorrow at American losses, and sympathy with the grief-stricken at home, is written from London, on July 6th:
Where do you suppose I am . . . ! You can't guess. No. 41, Upper Grosvenor Street, to be sure, having just arrived this evening all of a sudden with my present Chief and his other A. D. C's for several days, and I hardly recognize myself. I am staying with General Biddle and Lloyd Griscom, the latter having invited me to make myself at home here whenever I came and you may be sure I was glad to have this nice home to go to, for if ever there was a lonely place for me it is London, not a cat that I ever saw before. . . .
My cable told you that I had missed Elliot. It was pretty sad for I made a big effort and travelled hard for two days and nights to surprise him on his birthday, but although I found his General commanding the division, who is very friendly and kind, the artillery had not arrived, so I left my little saddle box, or rather big basket, which I had strapped on behind the Rolls Royce, and started back for Paris by way of Chaumont, where I passed the night with my Bishop, the second night by the way for I had stopped there the night before. He is splendid, and wonderful as ever, and it did me no harm to kneel with him twice after breakfast and pray for you and to get back to you.
I arrived back at my little home in the North last night and started with my perfectly charming Chief to-day and here I am feeling as if I had been whisked about in a whirlwind for the last five days, and so much has happened, and is happening, and it seems to my poor old weary heart as if it were almost the continuation of my dreams and hopes of the last four years. Could anything be finer than the record of our American troops these last few days! First came Seicheprey then Cantigny and Château Thierry and the Bois de Belleau, and Bouresches and Vaux, and now Hamel with the Australians, and the world is ringing with their praises, and a great load seems to be lifted after the depression and discouragement of a few weeks ago, and hope springs again that we may yet be in time.(276)
I hardly dare to write it for I know the awful danger still hanging over the world---but he cannot, shall not do it! The hateful, loathsome Hun can no more succeed and prevail in the end than can the ages be set back, and all things good and spiritual and honorable and decent be swept away and dashed from man's soul. It is not to be!
The price will be awful, staggering, but the world will emerge better, decenter, and who can say that all the tears and agony shall have been in vain?
As for "our country" over here. It makes me catch my breath these last three days to see and hear the acclaim, the admiration, the hope that are in every man's heart in France and in England. America's flags not only in every house in Paris and London for the 4th, but in every village all the way across France.
Can you imagine how near the tears of joy have been in my poor old throat and eyes, and I am not even ashamed of my weakness. . . .
Hamel and Vaux and Cantigny and Belleau Wood and Château Thierry may not be considered big affairs, but I know thousands of mothers, aye, and fathers too whose hearts have stood still as they braced themselves for the blow, and this and the splendid courage and sacrifice of those lads lying out there in the woods and wheatfields, or smiling in their pain at the hospital tell the story of an awakened national soul---and it is well. . . .
I am glad to have been so close officially to two great leaders of these armies, two gallant gentlemen. I wish I could write the story of it for Benny and the others, and my appreciation. I am only too proud to "stand and wait" in the humble background with my Major's gold leaves, which my Bishop wears now too, not wears for he is allowed to wear the cross, but he is a Major.
By the way, he and another of God's noblemen, Ireland,(277) are coming to spend next Tuesday night with me at Brunehautpré if I get back, and if not I shall see them here. It is a great privilege to have two such friends, and I feel a little less lonely when I am with them, and Sir Douglas too, one of the finest in the world, and the sweetest thing, gentleness and consideration personified. They are all awfully nice to me, and as for General Pershing! Didn't you think his letter to me was better than a decoration!
The fourteenth day of July found him again in London, "Still in London" as he puts it. To the little town in the north of France he turns with longing:
I am leaving to-morrow morning at 7:15 when the faithful Frank Hodson(278) is coming for me . . . and I shall be mighty glad to get back to France, and the atmosphere of the armies.
I have been uneasy every minute here in London, and while it has been a good thing for me to be here under the circumstances, and 1 have seen many important people 1 am thankful to go. . . .
The only real day that I have had here was in the country at Sir D. Haig's. I saw the baby and as it was their wedding day I gave him a little silver mug. . . .
It has seemed so unreal my being here at this time when the suspense and uncertainty are so great that I have hated it, although Griscom and General Biddle have been kindness itself, and everybody is much finer than ever before, and of course I have been proud to be an American. All the world is looking to us now. God grant that we shall make good.
Chapter Eighteen, continued
Table of Contents