Colonel Bacon left London in the morning as planned and he celebrates his return "home" by putting "Dimanche" at the top of the letter and "Back again" in English:
Just a single line to-night . . . to tell you that I have arrived back [home] having started early this morning, as I told you in my scrawl of last night from 41 Upper Grosvenor Street. The suspense and expectation is still hanging over and to-day our French friend [Foch] spoke of what might happen at the poindre du jour.
(Interrupted again! confound it, and the lights are going out in five minutes.) I am glad to he back but my trip to London has unsettled me a little, and I am homesicker than ever.
As long as I can go on from day to day in my groove, thinking of my target of the day, and shutting out as much as possible all the rest of it, I seem to be able to stand it and make up my mind not to think . . .
There is no rest, no respite, no let-up, till it is all over, and my prayer and hope is that we may last it out, you and I, and get together again.
On July 22nd he writes from Paris:
For the last four days, proudness, if there is such a word, not pride, has over-shadowed, or at least modified everything real!
We are coming into our own . . . we have risen hundreds of per cent. in the eyes and estimation of all the world, for we are beginning to show and prove that as a whole, as a people, as a nation, at last, we are made of the right stuff. Let us be very humble, very modest, but for the doubters, the critics, the stupidly jealous, or the overbearing and insolent, let us rub their noses in the dirt.
I spent nearly all day yesterday with our American wounded at Neuilly at the Ambulance Americaine! bless its heart, and blessings to you dear, brave loyal soul, to whom it owes so much of its life and power for good. You would have wept with me . . . as I talked to one after another of the modest heroes of this last fight, and you would have thanked God for the privilege of seeing and knowing it all in spite of the heart-rending sorrow and agony. Then I had an hour with General Pershing before I came up through the night encouraged and chastened and full of determination to do, to do, that is as far as an old cripple can do whose power for action is gone.
I had a delightful and for me thrilling visit yesterday with Ted and Eleanor and Archie and Dick Derby at the Blake hospital, and as I had my maps and things, informally I was able to tell them a lot of things. And I have cabled Theodore to-day about it, and that my heart goes out to him and Mrs. Roosevelt, for I am afraid Quentin will never come back. Ted has won golden opinions from the whole Army, and Genl. P[ershing] himself told me last night with much feeling that Ted had made good, a hundred times over, and deserved promotion. A soldier can say no more. Tell Theodore, and Archie too came in for his share, and Quentin. I saw Theodore's simple words in the paper: That he was glad the boy had had the chance and privilege of doing something in the service of his country.(279)
Think of the Lycée Pasteur crammed from top to bottom, corridors, every inch of available space, big tents and huts in the yard and in front, where the automobiles used to stand-doctors, nurses operating, operating all day and all night till they are worn out.
A very large proportion of all the wounds are not dangerous, in fact extremely light. 1200 beds are ready, and there are plenty for the French, who also have all the 1300 or 1400 in the outside houses and institutions in the neighborhood where they are evacuated as soon as they can be moved There is a big Red Cross hospital at Longchamps on the race course, and Blake's is full to overflowing.
Juilly has grown up to a thousand beds, or at least 700 already, and may well be increased without limit by using the grounds. The Red Cross has taken it over, and it is ideally located as you know. I am very proud that you have kept on and have supplied all the funds without calling upon the Red Cross and I never tire of telling everybody. I told Genl. Pershing again last night, and I shall repeat it to everyone. . . . Go right ahead if you want to, but the Red Cross will step in, whenever you like, but don't hesitate to keep it up if it is not too much work. I don't see how you do it. You are certainly a wonder.
Again he writes from Paris, July 23rd:
Just a hurried line. . . . This is Tuesday and you may remember I left here Sunday night (Interrupted here by the arrival of Sir Douglas and his Chief of Staff---I am dining with them and with General Pershing in half an hour). . . . I shall be back again up North in a few days, perhaps to-morrow night, so you see my days are mouvementés.
The European commanders were of course delighted to have a steady supply of American troops and their mere presence gave confidence and steadied the lines at the front. Were they fit for the front, that is, could they be used interchangeably with the seasoned European troops? The conduct of "our boys" as we lovingly call them at Chateau--Thierry---to take but a single instance---answered the question.
July 27th, '18.
I can just picture your New York headlines this last week, and the thrills which you must have been having over the glowing accounts of the fighting of our divisions, although it makes your heart, as it does mine, sick, sick, You think from my letters that I am overwrought. I am steady . . . especially in action. My nerve is all right and I can do the day's work, day after day, with any of these youngsters. I couldn't run or walk or fight at speed as I have always been able to do. My chief fault is that I eat too much for my belt is getting tight again and I must take myself in hand. My three days away with the C. in C. were intensely interesting as you can imagine, but I am restless and want to get away again to the divisions. If I had gone to the staff school early in July, I might be looking forward now perhaps to some definite staff job with a division, but without the training of the school there is no chance of it, as they don't want outsiders like me. Don't think me over-wrought . . . for I am afraid you mean by that that I have lost my grip or my nerve or my courage or something. Of course there are days when things look black and when I am so homesick that I can hardly bear it. . . . I keep on smiling outwardly, but what's the use of pretending that I am not sad and lonely.
Hooper sent me a Harvard Bulletin yesterday and I see the names of honorary degrees at Commencement. I should have liked to be there with Reading, but of course I could not have asked for and would not have been granted leave to go to the U. S. Can you imagine my asking for it! for, although I may be of very little use, I was on duty and Lawrence Lowell must have known that it was out of the question. I appreciate their asking me, however, and hope I shall one day have the opportunity of seeing my two old friends, Major Higginson and Doctor Walcott, before they go.
I have tried several times to get copies of Root's addresses, but could not do so either in Paris or London. I should have bought many copies for certain of my friends.
Tell Jamesie that he would do well to speak to Mr. Lane about it and see if the books cannot be better advertised, and put on sale over here. Surely Brentano and Hatchard ought to be able to get them.
I saw Freddy Coudert who told me that Jamesie is happier now that he has a more definite job at the State Department.
I have been hoping to hear that General Snow was ordered abroad as you indicated might happen but have heard nothing.
I am still waiting for news of any move by the 77th Division, and I have had no more letters from the boy. I may possibly get as far as McCoy's division before long. I should certainly like an excuse. It is cold and rainy now and August is almost here. Think of it! The days getting shorter and another winter staring us in the face, although I still have snapdragons and what Clark calls "love-in-a-mist" on my breakfast table, and to-day had the last of the old lady's raspberries and currants mixed, and last night had a gooseberry tart.
Mrs. Bacon's letter of June 26th contained a statement that one of his friends thought him "tense." Colonel Bacon answers on July 30th, admitting the charge:
So Dwight Morrow says I am "tense." Well, I think I am, although I don't know just what he means. I am certainly intense in my feelings, and sympathies, and I am glad of it. I wonder if he would have called me tense to-day when I gave to Captain H. H. Davies of the Medical Corps the Distinguished Service Cross awarded him by General Pershing, the first I believe to be awarded, a modest fellow who was gallant in action in January, for which he was recommended. He was in the thick of the battle on March 21st, was wounded, kept on in spite of his wounds, till he had to give up, went away to hospital and just turned up to-day. Do you think I was tense when I read him the following with a lump in my throat and nearly broke down: "The Commander-in-Chief desires that you notify Lieut. Davies that he has awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross for his gallant conduct on January 8th, when under continuous shell fire he entered a dugout, which had been blown in, and attended to the occupants. This included an amputation and consequent saving of a man's life. The conduct was all the more praiseworthy as the shelling was continuous all the time."
"By command of Gen'l Pershing."
I admit that I am moved by these things. I am glad I am. And if some of our friends had been a little more "tense" for the last two or three years, we should not be where we are now.
Sunday, August 4th, was a day of rest, in that Colonel Bacon found time to begin and end a long letter at a single sitting:
It is Mother's Day again . . . if that means that I am going to try to set down a few things on this paper, but there's never a day that I do not formulate in my mind a lot of sentences and paragraphs for you and then the day has gone, the lights are out at eleven and I sleep a tired sleep till seven, when I have to jump to begin another and keep jumping all day. I arrived back from Paris again yesterday, and am going again to-morrow, and in the back of my head is a thought that I may sneak away again to-morrow to see Elliot, who is expected to be arriving within reach.
I went out to see some of the others two days ago, especially McCoy whose division has been performing wonders and covering themselves and all of us with glory this last week. Was anything ever more thrilling and wonderful than the accounts of the way our men have turned the tide in the nick of time. No comment of mine can begin to describe my feelings of the last two weeks. Have a telephone call bidding me dine to-night with the C. in C. .
Since lunch I have been to II Corps H. Q. many miles away where I had a good visit with the C. O. and the C. of S. both of whom are corkers. . . .
It was in a hollow square of troops and officers of G. H. Q. The smartest looking lot you can imagine, with the military band playing the hymns and the W. A. A. C.'s in line too and three drums on a little platform in the middle and the C. in C. and his staff out a little in front of his officers, and just the short sweet service which I enclose . . . and you were in my mind and heart all through, and I was not ashamed of my few tears as I sang the hymns.
There was a great splendid service and march past this morning out at the 1st Army, but I couldn't go to both. Nearly 10,000 men attended in the open, English, Scotch, Australians, Canadians, South Africans, and Americans! . . . You think I am weak and over-wrought and tense . . . and I do feel these things deeply, but I am glad I do, although I am old. Perhaps I am sensitive, too much so, and care too much about what my chiefs and others in authority think of me. It is a disappointment of course not to have made good for almost the first time in my life, but why should I have expected to at my age. My qualities are not of the stern stuff necessary for fighting one's way up, with very little consideration for others, and you know too well how I have always suffered for lack of self-confidence and self-assurance.
The Army takes you pretty much at your own valuation and hasn't time to waste. In time I could win out---even at my age, but there isn't time. Never mind, I am not grouchy or despondent over it, and "play up" pretty well, if I do say it.
We have another change here, which will make things harder---a new Chief of Mission not me, for I am, as you know, in the personal staff of the C. in C., as liaison officer (although perhaps the Censor will cut it out) . . . .
The fact is that everything I do, I have a feeling may some day make something easier for the boys. I don't know how exactly, but as Root used to say, it may help to have a background and every little helps and some day someone may give them a "leg up" if they have a kindly remembrance of their old dad.
It helps me a lot to think that. I don't want anything done for me for my own sake, but if I could think that they would find a kindly word, or a little sympathy and understanding because I was their father, it would flatter me and please me to death. . . . just as long as we can help. . . . (Here I was pulled away again and finally got to my dinner five minutes late! They dine at 7:45---not 7:46---and always right on the dot. I was mortified for they had sat down and were already through the soup! Wasn't it awful---but the C. in C. is the nicest, and was quite sweet and considerate.(280)
There was also the Bishop of Kensington, who had just visited the Grand Fleet and two others, besides the A. D. Us. For these two the C. G. S. and the M. G. O. A. I have great admiration and almost affectionate regard, so you see the contact with charming people helps a lot and smooths the way, which would otherwise be hard and long.
In the letter of August 9th, written from advance headquarters, he tells of American victories and chronicles a personal triumph:
These are thrilling days . . . and there are very few moments when I can sit down to say a word to you. I am living in a quiet spot in the country with the C. in C. and his immediate and operating staff. Yesterday, if you will look up your papers of to-day, was a wonderful day,(281) a great sequel to the accomplishment of the last few weeks. The attack was planned and carried out with the greatest secrecy and success, and the results so far have been far reaching. Three days ago I made another futile effort to find Ett. He was about due in a certain region so I started early from Paris and took with me Harry Stimson. . . . We found that Ett had not arrived but would be there in a few days, which would be about to-day I think. We had a great day, however, and after a good deal of difficulty managed to find good old Colonel McCoy and his regiment. They had fought like tigers and heroes for days and nights and had won everlasting glory for themselves and for the American Armies and Nation. All honor to them and to their brave fellows who had fallen. Alas! too many. I saw that splendid soldier Major Donovan whose adjutant, Elise West's boy, a lad of the greatest promise and usefulness of whom everyone spoke in highest terms, fell in the edge of a wood [Belleau Wood] which I visited, a great loss to his C.O. with whom he was at the time. It was quite near Fère en Tardenois where I took you in 1915 to see my old friend Docteur Danton, whose house like every other house in the town is destroyed completely as well as the Church where I "collected" my first wounded officers in September, 1914. McCoy's part in the fighting had raged in that vicinity, Séringes, Sergy, Cierges, and you can imagine my interest in seeing it all with him.(282)
Harry Stimson and I certainly had a great day, although I was terribly disappointed not to see Ett, but I will try again before many days.
I have spent two nights here with these splendid people and may be here many more days. You at home must be tremendously relieved by the news of these last weeks, and proud of the part that your army has played. The problem is still colossal, but a rift in the clouds has appeared and the task is more equal---not quite so one-sided and impossible. The faith that you and I have kept that "right" and the truth must prevail in the end still flourishes green, and hope sees clearer and clearer the silver lining.
The end of two glorious days. To-day has finished splendidly and the dirty swine have been pushed back 10 miles on a front of 20 miles, a great performance. The British, Australians, and Canadians have simply walked over them, the guns are up and the cavalry after two such days as they have not known since the beginning of the war have done their share and are out to rest and recuperate. God bless them. How I would have liked to be a cavalryman!
We don't know, of course, what the filthy brute is going to do, and we must be cautious, more than cautious, or he will swing back with a counter attack, or a big offensive somewhere else, but damn him, he has been on the run twice now in less than a month, and the good ships are hurrying, hurrying with their cargoes of young Americans to the rescue! Faster, faster!
Another change has come my way. General Harts has been relieved and goes on to a higher command and I am again to be Chef de Mission.
I am greatly pleased and proud of this mark of General Pershing's approval. The work and responsibility will be much harder and more exacting than of late since I have been practically on Sir Douglas Haig's staff. Bless his heart. He is the sweetest, finest thing and nothing rattles him.
This is the 10th, before breakfast, and the news is so good that I am fairly bursting. 900 boches and a corps staff and a divisional commander, and above all the III Corps has gone on and won all its objectives, and Americans helped.
On August 12th, still from "Advance General Headquarters," Colonel Bacon found or made time to write again:
I found three of your dear letters to-day at G. H. Q, my other G. H. Q, for now you know I am still at "advance" G. H. Q. for this is the 5th day of the battle.(283) The letters were of the 5th and 12th of July, so you see it takes just about a month as a rule and mine to you seem to take even longer. . . . I was thrilled to hear of your "decoration." I should think you do deserve it. . . . These last five days are full of hope. I was out behind the battlefield yesterday, and saw the splendid cavalry, who at last had come into their own. I wanted to kiss all the horses, and their coats shone and they were ready for anything. The English are certainly the best horse masters in the world. And the tanks and the armored cars and the dead boches, which last make you weep a little in spite of the righteous retribution. And to-day the King came to our 33d Division H. Q. and there met Pershing and Bliss and pinned medals of honor on the swelling chests of about nineteen men, and gave their orders to Pershing and Bliss, and there were generals and others, and soldiers in a hollow square, and the band played the two national airs, and the setting of evergreens on the pelouse and the sunshine made a picture to be remembered, and then I brought General Pershing back here, a long run, to see the C. in C., and then I ran up to G. H. Q, another long run, for my young man, who but Gavin Hadden, is down with appendicitis. And then back here, about 50 miles in 65 minutes, just in time for dinner. A pretty big day, and now it's midnight.
I hear to-day that Ett's division is up. Do you remember the biggish town [Fismes) where you and I went with Hanotaux in 1915, on the river a few miles this side of his place? Well, the division is somewhere in that sector, and I am crazy to go up there and see the boy. If I can only get away some day before long! I have had no letter from him for a long time.
It seems extraordinary to you, and hard to understand why I can't go to him, but this army discipline and duty is inexorable, and hearts are hard as flint, or pretend to be.
I hear of 50 more divisions coming before next May making 80 in all. . . . Two officers, General Kernan and two other officers spent the night but I wasn't there. I was in this little stateroom on board this train. where I have spent five great days. I try so hard to be a real "liaison." You can imagine how sensitive and anxious I am. how responsive to all the intangible currents and the personal sympathetic equation. I feel very deeply, and care too much perhaps, but I am seldom conscious of my judgment being at fault, although often helpless to prevent, or to apply the remedy effectually. . . . I wish most of all that I could send you and Hope some account of Ett's life and atmosphere. I fully expect he will get promotion before long. Of course I would like to get him into some staff job, which would be of great importance and usefulness and must be done by the best we have, but I quite realize that he wouldn't like it if I did, and I go on watching my opportunity and trying not to let his name be forgotten, confidently hoping that some day soon he will be wanted for a bigger job. He has many friends in the Army, and they are on the lookout for him. Rhea and Shannon and McCleave and McCoy besides his own officers.
I am not much of a hand at blowing off my own boys, not enough perhaps, but I seldom lose a chance to tell of them, and I am very proud of them and everyone knows it.
August 16th and the letter tells its own story:
Just a word with you to-night . . . by the light of my bedroom lamp, for I am not going in to the office for the first time I think in seven months, and I'm all alone in the house, for all sorts of things have happened. Did I tell you that General Harts had gone and now I am to be Chef de Mission again! I think I did, but never mind. . . . Well, I've got to build up a new machine, although Cassidy and the Corporal are still with me. This is the first night I have been here in 10 days (knock at the door "a Captain on the telephone to report for duty", I go downstairs and am now waiting for Capt. Pettigrew, 311th Infantry, who has come to relieve Hadden. I will tell you later how I like him. The boys are making a bed for him).
I have had a pretty rough time the last 48 hours and my beautiful Rolls Royce is all smashed, and so is my nose, and my eyes are about the colour of a purple plum, and my face all swollen and a few stitches in my nose. Don't be alarmed, it will be as beautiful as ever l but my head aches and I can't breathe through my nose and I have a nice little scratch on the top of my head.
It was this way. I left advance G. H. Q. day before yesterday, and was called at 4.30 at the Crillon, and started for Chaumont, but at Vandoeuvre where Napoleon slept the night before a battle, my silly old Sergeant Daniels put me in a ditch, and smashed my beautiful car, the apple of my eye. In response to a telephone to the next town, who should come to my rescue but Gordon Johnston(284), and I was glad to see him for he took me on, and I was in time, and came back by train last evening to Paris with my disgusting head, arrived at about 1 or 2, and left this morning again at 5, having had my wounds dressed by Murphy of St. Louis, who was on the train and insisted on taking care of me. It was quiet at advanced G. H. Q, so I came on here to Brunehautpré and that is why I'm taking a holiday since six o'clock, and am going to bed in about five minutes for I'm short of sleep. Haven't these last 8 days been wonderful! Remember them well.
The next day, the 17th, the spirit was willing, only too willing, but the flesh was weak:
Just a wee line before Clark brings my supper. I am still in my room, lazy old hound, licking my wounds, and looking at myself in a hand glass, for I'm fascinated by my ugly mug. It's better though and I'm " slept up ", having slept pretty much all day, and I'm off tomorrow after the doctor has touched me up, so that I'll not be quite so repulsive when I see my Chief that he will send me away again.
For these are wonderful days and I must not lose a moment. The British Victory, for that's what it is, of these last days has had a marvellous effect, and no one is more delighted than I, not only for its effect upon the war and the boche, but for the sake of Sir Douglas, who is perfectly splendid, and deserves all the credit and everything that's coming to him, bless his heart. The papers, of course, are ringing with it, and have brought you cheer, coming after the great and decisive stand on the Marne where the ----- [Censored] and then the ----- [Censored] U. S. divisions saved the situation, and perhaps the world, then the 18th and 19th of July, and the following week, when the beast was pushed back to the Vesle, and the other American divisions covered themselves with glory, and the British divisions, who had fought and fought again in nearly every show since the 21st of March, hurried around and threw themselves in, too, and added another page to the undying credit of Scotland and England, and the French, who had thrown back the Hun again, and their filthy Crown Prince east of Rheims, came on again and all under Foch's command capped the climax, and now Sir Douglas has hit him again, and hurled him back from Amiens and the sea. Isn't it glorious! and now we must be wary, always wary and humble for pride goeth before destruction and the haughty spirit before a fall.
The next few days were busy and feverish, with never a moment for any one at the front to put pen to paper, unless for an urgent military purpose. Therefore there is a break in Colonel: Bacon's correspondence until August 30th:
I am just going to snatch a moment in a busy morning to send you a line, for everything has conspired to prevent it for many days and every day I have had you in my mind and heart, and every day
I talk to you, construct sentences for long letters, which I never seem to have time to write and wit to remember. Even now I am being pulled in many directions, and the telephone is ringing.
What is most on my mind is Elliot, of course, and I am nearly desperate in my longing and determination to break away without any excuse if necessary, and go to him. It is difficult for you to realize how impossible it is in these times for an officer to leave his post, no matter how unimportant it may be.
These last two weeks, since my accident on the 15th, have been worst of all, as none of the things in which I am (professionally) most interested have been going well and I have been much preoccupied. I cannot, of course, tell you what I mean. The continued British advance has been magnificent, and the situation just as intense and exciting as it can possibly be. . . .
I am going to Paris Sunday and Monday with a friend(285) on an interesting and important mission. If I can possibly work it I shall go off through the night to try again to find Ett, which I might do in five or six hours and return. As far as I know he is somewhere near the river where you and I went in 1915 and every day brings some fragmentary news of raids and small "shows" there, which are not terrifying, and supposed not to be important, but which are nasty just the same. It is just possible I may sneak away to-day, but I never know, and live from minute to minute.
A nice letter from Virginia tells me that G's Majority, of which you spoke, has been given him. Bless his dear heart. He ought to be a Major-General, you and I know that, don't we!
Poor lad. I suppose he is eating his heart out, not to get into the active game, but he is a philosopher, and I giggled over his reply that, "No, he was stopping in the States. It agreed with him." He and Bob would have so liked to come with that fine division from the southern mountains. Now they may be assigned anywhere, but such is the Army and War.
This is the only piece of paper I can get my hands on to-night, and I want to send you a word before I go to bed. I am off in the morning at 4.30, and I already feel a little guilty at leaving my post for a day. I am going to make a try to find Ett. The temptation is too strong, and the die is cast. I am due in Paris on Sunday before noon, and have many hundred kilometres to go, and not a good car, so I am taking chances, but I don't care, I am going, partly for your sake. . as well as my own, and for little Hope too. You will understand.
I feel a little as I did when I started for the boat race from Washington and didn't get there!
Here is the story of the great adventure as he tells it in a letter of September 2nd, written at night from the Hotel de Crillon in Paris:
Well . . . I have had such a nice visit with Ett at last. I started at crack of dawn yesterday, no, day before yesterday, and arrived again at the place where I used to live in 1914 [Fère-en-Tardenois], and where I took you and introduced you to the old doctor, in whose house I lived. Poor old town! Nothing left but piers of bricks and mortar, not a house untouched by war's devastation, and the old church where I found my first wounded British officers. Not very far on I found news of Ett's whereabouts, and pretty soon found his regimental commander, who telephoned out to him to come in to see me in the old deserted dilapidated farm house which served as regimental H. Q. Before you get this Ett will be a Major, for he has been recommended by his C. O., and I was proud to take off my gold leaves and give them to him. He certainly deserves his promotion, having stuck to his battery through thick and thin and taken the best of care of them. His position was reported the other day as the best and most carefully prepared camouflage that had been seen in the army.
I rode out with him through the woods to his dugout, meaning to go back before night set in, but I stayed so long that I decided to send the horses in and spend the night, so I had a fine supper of eggs and toast and coffee, and crawled into Ett's bunk, where I found under the blankets a beautiful pink silk and wool blanket, which Mother had provided, bless her dear heart. and a fine sleep, in spite of the crashing of the batteries, and the other disturbances of the night, enemy aëroplanes, orders by telephone, etc. I took with me all of my reserve of chocolate, which was much appreciated, some of your soap, the razor you sent me, shaving soap and electric lamp, my tin of gingersnaps, and Lieutenant Cleve Dodge and Graham each had some chocolate and a gingersnap and it was worth while. Ett was fine, keen as a razor, sobered somewhat and serious, and glad to see me, and we talked of you and Hope, and the babies and things at home, which seems so very, very far away, and I was mighty glad I found him. You may well be proud of your boys, Mother dearest, I am. After an early start and a journey through familiar country and stricken towns and villages, I got here just in time to lunch with Dwight Morrow and Jimmy Logan. I shall see Dwight again. He is doing good work and very helpful. I have been busy all yesterday and to-day with a British General with whom and others I attended conferences and a dinner last night, and then went to the Casino de Paris to see a typical, foolish show, where the American flag and American soldiers were much in evidence both on and off the stage. Les Américains are all the rage just now, and there is a feeling of confidence and even joy in this fickle and mercurial place, which almost frightens me. I am off to my armies to-morrow, God bless them, and give them strength these next few weeks.
On September 11th Colonel Bacon writes from the "American Military Mission":
Don't tell me 5 years more. Not more than one I hope, for did not March say he could win if you'd give him four million of men, and surely the Congress responded nobly. Now the question is how to get them over here! Is there tonnage enough in all the world?
I sent you a cable that I had seen Ett, but I couldn't say anything. I said that all the news was good thinking you would understand that all was well with him. I told you a little about my night with him in his dugout, I in his cot and he beside me . . . and a telephone in his hand all night. I just managed to catch him two days before they went forward across the river. . . .
The American Ambulance report is before me. Peed seems to have tried to give you some credit and recognition, tardy and inadequate as it is. You are making an absolutely unique record and are keeping alive the personal sympathetic side in a way that makes everything else of the kind look like "thirty cents." Of course they must acknowledge receipt of your wonderful monthly contributions. The report puts it pretty well, and I think makes the record straight.
If you can only keep it up without breaking yourself down. . . .
I shall be glad to hear your account of Theodore when you see him, and tell me what Root seems to be doing. He ought to be sent to London to succeed Page.(286) There is nothing so important for the world now as the better understanding and rapprochement of the English-speaking people, and we in our country need it most of all. The finishing of the war and the problems after must be done by us acting together. It cannot be done if we are apart.
A week later, on September 18th, Colonel Bacon paid his respects to the Germans in terms which would not be relished by the ninety-three scholars beyond the Rhine, those who in the early days of the war in an appeal to American scholars justified the conduct of their country, which they did not comprehend and which some of them at least now know to have been far from blameless:
Now, the noble British Army goes on untiringly, heroes dying, doing beyond human endurance. Now, the versatile, brilliant French Army take up the running, and America is beginning to help again, after the first marvellous effort of July, which did so much to turn the tide. Back, back goes the unspeakable Hun, fighting, snarling, laying waste as he goes, killing all he can, and now for about the first time crying, like the beaten bully, the dirty swine, that he is, through the mouth of his Crown Prince, that he never meant any harm, that he only wants to save his filthy pig-sty from destruction and extermination, and that his Crown Prince, the next in succession, is not a bad fellow after all, not a bloodthirsty, ruthless wanton, as the world thinks, saying the same things almost that Kühlmann said, for which he lost his official head.(287) On les aura, on les aura, I say, and the pity of it is that we must all go on paying the awful price through the months ahead, sacrifices for which there never can be restitution, suffering, dying, to rid the world of this curse. God grant that the victory may be so complete and conclusive as to prevent its recurrence for all time.
You are watching the papers and the maps with feverish expectations these days, I am sure, as the boche goes back, and you are almost afraid every day to get your paper, with a sickening fear that he may have recovered and turned and dealt some foul blow, and that these days of continuing successes are all a dream. I know the feeling, the nightmare is over. He can never do what he hoped and expected to do in March and April and May and June.
Suffering there will be and failure and disappointment, and delay perhaps, but the world is saved, saved in the nick of time, from the domination of the swine, idea, the swine "Kultur," the swine oppression and brutality, and the law of force alone will not govern the family of nations. . . .
The time must be getting near for Gap to come over. I wonder what his assignment will be. Bob's course at Sill will keep him till late in November, and even then they may keep him in the "States" to help the growing new army. What a change! to have passed the conscription of 188 to 45 unanimously. If we can only find the tonnage and means of getting them over here. . . .
I am pretty well, I thank you, although my bulbous nose will never again be delicate and aquiline. It is over three weeks now since I fell by the wayside and I am still uncomfortable, and unpleasant to look upon.
Better off than Hermann Harjes though, with two broken legs. . . .
Did I tell you that I have a fine new husband for Racksha who is my constant companion and whose name is Kirkpatrick, Kirk for short? I will try to send him home to you.(288)
Elliot he saw again under circumstances stated in a letter of September 19th:
In the midst of another busy hour something tells me I must snatch a second to say a word to you. . . . I sent you a cable from Paris that I had seen Ett and that he was going strong. I didn't know what to say in a cable. I started from here on Monday at 5.30 in the morning and went steadily till seven in the evening when I found the boy in a wood where his C. Battery was hidden, seated on a box with a large pile of money before him on a board and a long string of his men lined up waiting to be paid. I was lucky because he had orders to pull out at 8. We had supper with him, Major Jefferson of the British Army and I, and hurried away for we had to get out of that area before dark, no lights being allowed, and arrived in Paris at midnight, a fairly long day.
Ett was looking very well, and had been through quite an experience with his battery. He hadn't had much sleep and his horses were pretty tired. The enclosed clipping refers, I am pretty sure, to C. Battery which had the most advanced position. I think he will get his Majority soon, for which he has been recommended as I told you, when he will have command of three batteries, or will be made brigade adjutant. His B. General McClosky asked me if I thought he would rather stay with troops as an outdoor man, or do the paper work, etc. of an Adjutant. But the Brigade Adjutant has much important work other than paper work, being practically the Chief of Staff of the brigade. I hope myself he will take it.
Everything is going well, and I wish I could tell you how high my hopes run.
The Captain did not accept the post of Adjutant and the authorities were apparently too busy to give attention to the Majority when the Armistice came and held up promotions. He received it, however, in the Reserve.
American Military Mission, G. H.
Oct. 2d, '18.
I am just in from "Advance" for an hour or so, and must send you a little line although I haven't the time for a real letter. I am so brimfull of the events of the last 10 days, especially the last 3 days of glorious contact with our 27th and 30th divisions, whose gallantry in the words of a distinguished British officer on the spot "must stand out through all time in American History."(289) Well, I cannot speak of it without great sobs in my heart and in my voice, for many are the homes that are already desolate. America is paying the great price of which I have thought and talked so much these last awful four years.
God bless you and keep you strong and well in your splendid fortitude. I must leave you now in the midst of this scrappy scrawl. I have already been interrupted many times. I am off again to "Advance" where I am living with my wonderful C. in C. and his splendid Staff.
I will always cable you when I can manage to get a glimpse of Ett or hear news of him. The Argonne has all my thoughts. . . .(290)
I am a Lieutenant-Colonel now.
Oct. 5th, '18.
I am puzzled to-night and troubled in my mind about certain things, so I am just going to grab a pen for a few minutes while I am waiting, and speak to you.
I have your two dear letters of Sept. 4th and 10th but the 10th came many days before the 4th. I am with you heart and soul in everything you do and feel . . . I know how you are watching and waiting and praying every day. The strain is almost too great, isn't it? The last weeks and days are almost finer than any others if such a thing were possible, and I am living through them almost in a dream.
I hardly dare breathe what I hope. I can get no news of Ett's division. I am cut off about as completely as you are, and each day plunge into the absorbing events of the moment.
I have been with two of our divisions lately, and I am proud as Lucifer. We are all in the mighty stream now, being hurried along, whither! The wily boche is whining and snivelling and now, for sooth, comes out with a "camouflaged" democratic bluff, with Bernstorff as his Foreign Minister and a peace programme, but his whole structure is tottering, and brick after brick is falling,
My moment is past and I must run.
The Germans had actually sued for peace, and the game of bluster and bluff of that great bully was over for the moment. The military caste had shot its bolt and failed; the reign of the Kaiser was ending and the sunshine of peace was breaking through the shifting clouds of war. The race between Germany and the United States had been run, the Prussians had failed to get to Paris before the Americans could cross the ocean, and the troops of the New World, called in to redress the balance of the Old, blocked the passage to Paris at Château-Thierry.
The German Emperor was on his last legs, far from the days in which he had said, "Looking upon myself as the instrument of the Lord, without regard for daily opinions and intentions, I go my way. . . You Germans have only one will and that is my will; there is only one law, and that is my law, sic volo, sic jubeo, only one master in this country. That is I, and who opposes me I shall crush to pieces." He was down and almost out and in the end he deserted the army to save his hide when he had already lost his crown; he had little reason and less judgment to lose.
Colonel Bacon followed the interchange of notes and the negotiations for peace as closely as possible for one at the front.(291)
He had done all he could to arouse and prepare the nation and to bring the administration to a realization of the situation and to the performance of its duties as he saw them. With the entry of the United States into the war he occupied his thoughts less with diplomacy and politics and more and more with the armies whose victories had opened the road to peace.
He knew what had taken place yesterday and he likewise knew what was to happen on the morrow. Of neither could he speak freely in his letter of October 9th:
To-morrow will be my wedding day . . . and as I cabled you yesterday, it has been and always will be the brightest, happiest day of my life. It has brought me all the happiness and has put into me all the good that this poor old soul has been conscious of for 40 years. Such as I am you have saved. . . . Everything in this world that I have I owe to you.
To-morrow I shall probably spend all alone on a journey of many miles to find my other Chief, and back again, and I shall do my best to get some definite news of Ett. They have all been having a pretty serious time, and I shall be glad to get in touch with them, and find out more about the details. The wonderful events of the last few days are almost too much to comprehend,(292) and to-day (if you will remember the date) is perhaps the most portentous of all. (I am writing now at the Crillon late at night having been snatched away before I could finish the first page of this scrap of a letter, leaving advance G. H. Q. at 4 o'clock, and having dined here late alone. I am off in the early morn for a hard day's run.) I hardly dare think of what the next few days and weeks may bring forth. . . .
I wish I could tell you about yesterday. I was with our corps attached to the British, and you must have read about it in to-day's paper. I got up at 2:30, and went out in the darkness to where I could see the barrage at the zero hour, and the advancing reserves and the wonderful cavalry. How I longed for a horse! I wanted to kiss them all as they went by, and every time I saluted a squadron commander, and got his cheery "good morning" as the sun was rising, and he passed on out into the Hell beyond, I was shaken by a big sob of emotion, and the fine fellows of the 30th Div. moved quietly up in support in the gray dawn.
To-morrow will be the 10th of October! And I shall think of you all day in my lonely ride of 8 or 10 hours. It is my one joy and privilege.
Where do you suppose I am . . . stealing a minute to send you a line of love on "our day." Aëroplanes are buzzing overhead and it has been a beautiful American October day ever since I left the Hôtel Crillon at an early hour. I am in Peter Bowditch's office waiting for him to return from a day out with the divisions, and I hope he will bring me news of Ett, whom I may be able to find myself tomorrow, for the Chief has asked me to stay over a day or two, which, of course, I am delighted to do, to see Ett, I hope, first of all, and Bowditch and Quekemeyer and many others, and get the atmosphere of the American Army in the field. If I can only find McCoy too, and Nolan and Rhea, it will be a great visit. I am so proud of the Chief in this hour for which he has worked and waited and hoped so long, and I can take back to British "Advance" a great picture of what seems to me a great triumph. . . . The British high command has--but I suppose I must not say what I was going to.
If Colonel Bacon was proud of his Chief, General Pershing was full of admiration and affection for his Chief of Mission, saying on one occasion after the war, that Colonel Bacon was .the noblest man he had ever known.
After saying that Elliot's "division [then in the Argonne] has been doing splendidly" Colonel Bacon closes with a wish and a hope to Mrs. Bacon on this, the last anniversary of his married life. "May we never be parted any tenth of October, or in fact any other day, if I can only get home."
That Mrs. Bacon did not let the 10th pass without a word, appears from a note of the 16th dashed off somewhere near the front:
Your sweet message was read to me over the phone last evening . . . and I loved it. You see I am far away from "Montreuil" three hours by automobile, and I came straight here from Paris on my way back from the Argonne leaving Paris at five in the morning. I am off again this P. M. on the same journey. . . . The road by Meaux, Montmirail, Châlons, St. Menehould is a good one and full of reminiscence and history. The hotel of "the high Mother of God" offers a good meal en route if the time of day suits, but I never bother much about meals and stop only to allow the chauffeur to grab a mouthful. I eat and sleep only if it is convenient. . . .
The real big thing that is in all our minds---the war---the possibility of an end!
The Armies must not allow themselves to be diverted for an instant, or the dastardly boche, while he whines for peace. will spring at our throats when he gets us off our guard. There is no kind of low-down treachery of which he is not capable and cunning as the devil himself. Yesterday I walked with the C. in C. all over the tunnel of the canal on the Hindenburg line, the keystone of that remarkable defensive position, and you cannot imagine such impregnable strength---nothing like it in the world, and the lads from New York and North and South Carolina and Tennessee took it, backed up by the Australians, as you have read by this time. We marvelled as we went over the whole length, and my heart ached as I came across little piles of the well-known U. S. equipment, where little groups of splendid fellows had fought it out and died.
The second note of President Wilson in reply to the German overtures for peace had been made public, upon which Colonel Bacon comments in the closing lines of a letter from Paris, of the 25th:
And who do you suppose I am waiting for this dark afternoon. . . ! Why for Ett to be sure, although I am not at all sure of finding him. Yesterday morning up in the north a telegram came from him saying that he might get 3 days' leave "about the 25th" and where should he meet me? Well, I at once started for Paris, having a good excuse for coming, and thinking he might drift this way. To-day at lunch with Davy, if you please, I saw a boy who had seen Cleve Dodge, who was stopping at Fontainebleau because they couldn't take "leave" in Paris. . . . I thought that perhaps Ett might be there. I have telephoned to the hotel there and hear that five officers left there at 2 o'clock for Paris so here I am waiting, in the hope that he may turn up.
My last ten- days have been even more mouvementés than usual. Twice to the Argonne, then suddenly to London last Saturday---back again on Tuesday with my British C. in C., long journeys to "advance," and yesterday here by way of St. Quentin, Ham, Compiègne, Senlis. To-day all the world is turning up. . . .
And to-day has come the last note of the President to the Hun. The whole situation is passionnante, isn't it!
Will the boche take it lying down? and end the war? We must not fool ourselves, and you know my temperament, and my tendency to wait and see before believing.
The news was too good to be true. Two days later, the 27th, from Paris, he writes:
Still waiting . . . for Ett, but with disappearing prospects, for I learn that Earl and Cleve Dodge, and others of the 77th, have been recalled, so I suppose they are to be ordered in again in the last (perhaps) desperate attack. It makes one's heart stand still to think of the fierce struggle out in those woods, but Thank God! the end is almost in sight, and to-day the resignation of Ludendorf is published.
House is here and my two Chiefs and the days are certainly "passionate." House has said that he would be here perhaps two weeks, perhaps two years. Before many days now we shall know which.(293)
Colonel Bacon hoped "two weeks" instead of "two years":
If ever a man longed for a thing, I do for the end of this thing. Now is the time for wisdom, and unselfish solemn thoughts. I shudder to think that the world might be convulsed again, and thrown back into the agony of despair by the ill-considered, selfish attitude of some one man, a national group, and yet my whole desire is that the filthy, unspeakable Hun shall be made to pay, in justice, the penalty of the suffering he has deliberately brought upon mankind.
Shall justice be tempered with mercy? Should it be??
This is what he thought and said on October 28th:
Another day of intense interest and importance. . . . and oh so much depends upon these days! I have been flying about liaising as hard as I can possibly liaise, and feeling, of course, as you might know, the whole weight of nations and the world on my own poor old tired back. "It don't seem the same old world" either, and the days, and the changes go on, as in a dream. If only it all could be settled within the next few weeks or days!! And save the lives and suffering of thousands upon thousands, who otherwise must go. It seems almost too much to think how near it may be with those boys out there in their desperate grip with death and despair. But the dreadful, inexorable struggle goes on, and the days and hours of anguish, which may be all so unnecessary, and may be stopped at any minute if men's minds can only get together, and a great hush come upon the world.
One can only dream about it, not comprehend it all yet. "All things are ready if our minds be so," as a sweet young girl student once propounded and explained. Bless her dear heart! But minds meet slowly, and men and boys must die and women must weep, in the meantime. Forgive this stupid little cri du coeur, just as I am going off to dinner.
In his letter of October 30th, written from Paris, Colonel Bacon undoubtedly stated the views of the Allied leaders:
Still here . . . although my British C. in C. has gone back to-day, and my real C. in C. may leave to-morrow. The clans have gathered as you have seen by the papers, and before you receive this the whole situation may be changed, or we may be just entering into a new and bloody phase, which might last for months. One thing is certain. The boche is surely beaten, and everything that he stands for. The dreadful nightmare is passing, and it is only a question of time and degree.
The world breathes more freely, for the crisis is definitely passed, although the period of settlement and punishment and recovery may bring still more agony and sacrifice. The world is less sad here in Paris and becoming more normal, but, for me, I have had no heart for it, and like to crawl away by myself and lick my wounds. . . .
The Place de la Concorde is brilliantly lighted now at night, and, as you have read, hundreds of boche guns and cannon of all types are artistically arranged for the admiring crowds to gaze upon, and boche helmets and boche aeroplanes to your heart's content. If only the word could be given, and the beastly Hun made to surrender quickly, so that we could be through with the dirty business!
He would be a thousand times better off than if we have to march across the Rhine, and on to his humiliation in Berlin, which the Allies will as surely do as there is a God of Truth and Justice in Heaven, unless he gives up now, now. If he surrenders unconditionally now he will be given far more than he deserves, but if he tries to fight on to save his dirty face, and his pride, and his throne, and his power of evil, we'll rub his disgusting nose in the mire, and with a flaming sword of righteous retribution lay waste his land, and make him suffer, and pay in kind for the lives and souls that he has so wantonly and foully crushed. I loathe the beast, but if he honestly throws up his hands now, he will be allowed to live and repent.
The Allied Armies were busy but not so far advanced as rumour would have it. Versailles, where the Supreme War Council was sitting to draft the terms for Germany's allies and for the Germans as well, held the interest of the public as well as the front. Colonel Bacon's letter of November 1st gives a picture of Paris, of what was going on at Versailles and at the front:
The sunshine in the Place de la Concorde is wonderful, and the crowds, thousands and thousands, staring at the boche guns and trophies make a picture never to be forgotten. To-day the Turkish capitulation has been published, and the Austrian "terms" formulated. My British Chief has just returned, and I have just lunched with him and his A. D. C., and Lord Clive, his B. G. S., and I am following them in a few minutes. . . . To say that these days and hours and moments are tremendous and vital in their importance, would be a mild description. . . .
Peace, or rather an end to the actual war, is in the air, and one ought to be happy, but those boys are still fighting tooth and nail out there in the Argonne, and I have no heart for anything.
I cannot join in any gay company and last night I had my dinner on a tray in the room of a sick British officer. I wish to go nowhere.
The letter of November 2nd adds details to the picture on a very large canvas:
Austria is gone and Hungary, and now for the boche himself.(294) And our divisions are fighting like tigers out there at this very moment, and it is sickening. There was a splendid advance yesterday, and I am sure that to-day's news will be good. In the north, too, the papers announce that the Franco-Americans made a big gain by the Scheldt. Our divisions there have put new life into the attack. I heard to-day of the boys' division, Bob's and Gaspar's. How they are regretting not being with it! I am still here waiting and scouting. Pershing and Haig are both here to-day, and all the other gros légumes L[loyd] G[eorgel, Balfour, Milner, Reading and last, but really playing a big part, our only Col. House. He is doing well, and made a very good impression upon me, and upon all the others I think. The Navy men, too, are in evidence. Admirals and First Lords. Versailles was an interesting place yesterday, at tea time with them all. Pichon [French Minister of Foreign Affairs], too, who asked for you.
Thursday, November 7, 1918, was a day of rejoicing. A false rumour was current everywhere that the Armistice was signed. It spread like wildfire and was cabled to America and elsewhere with permission of the authorities. Paris, London, New York, and other centres were wild with the news. It was not false---it was previous, coming events had cast their shadows before---six days, to be exact.
Colonel Bacon was a "doubting Thomas" because he knew. In his letter of the 7th he wrote:
Can it possibly be true!! The bruit qui court to-day is that the Armistice was signed to-day, but as I believe I know that it is not true, I disbelieve everything and I'll not believe that this awful thing is going to end now, abruptly, till it is a fait accompli. The nightmare has been too dreadful, and if I were to awake again and find it true and still going on for months I could not bear it.
The wonderful performance of the 1st Army out therein the Argonne for the last seven days has been simply too splendid. Each day the world has been wondering whether it could go on, whether the long and lengthening line of communication could stand the strain, whether in fact, the staff work was up to it. And the professionals, French and British, have had their "doots," and each day has been finer than the last and Pershing and the American Army has come into its own, and has achieved a proud place in history and in the opinion of all the military world that nothing can destroy---and I have had a great week as the conferences ended and I went back to Brunehautpré for a night and then to "Advance" where I went with the "Chief" to visit the armies and the corps, and last night I spent in an old château with the II American Corps, and here I am again to-day to be greeted by the bruit qui court and the suppressed excitement of all Paris.
To-morrow I am off in the early morning to the Argonne for I have an interesting message for the C. in C., and I must get news of Ett from whom I have not heard since this last attack began a week ago, and I know that the division has been in it and that the fighting has been desperate.
It has been the coup de grâce, I verily believe, and has proved to the boche as well as to every one else that if it be necessary the American Army can be developed to wipe the dirty brutes off the map. The world now knows what it only half knew before, and whether he lies down now, or decides to struggle on, in vain and desperate hope of something turning up to give him better terms, we have got him "On les a" not "on les aura," as the French have repeated again and again for four dreadful years. Can the world recover in a reasonable time? Can we resume our peaceful lives, better I hope than ever before? or will world bolshevism run amuck, and bring renewed troubles and suffering of a different kind? I wonder.
The Germans had received the terms of the proposed armistice and everybody was breathlessly asking, "Will they sign?" The alternative was sign or sink out of sight as the Allied Armies meant to dictate peace at Berlin if the armistice were not signed. The fighting at the front was fast and furious; the Allies to force a decision, as the Germans used to say; the Germans to hold until the armistice was signed, lest the full extent of the débâcle be known in advance of its acceptance.
The Armistice was signed on the eleventh day of November.(295)
(First Row, left to right): Brig. Gen. Frank McCoy, Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett, Marshal Pétain, General Pershing, Maj. Gen. McAndrew, Brig. Gen. Lucius Holbrook.
(Second Row): A. D. C. to Marshal Pétain, Colonel Robert Bacon, Brig. Gen. Wm. Mitchel, Maj. Gen. C. P. Summerall, Brig. Gen. Robert C. Davis, Maj. Gen. J. G. Harbord.
Third Row): A. D. C. to Marshal Pétain, Colonel Carl Boyd, Maj. Gen. Lenihan, Colonel James Logan.
(Fourth Row): Colonel de Chambrun, Colonel J. G. Quekerneyer, Colonel Edward Bowditch, Captain de Marenches.
(Fifth Row): Captain Frank Pershing, Major G. C. Hughes
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