COLONEL BACON'S next letter was written apparently from Paris on November 13th, two days after the signing of the armistice between the defeated Germans and the victorious Allies, therefore two days after the cessation of hostilities:
I have no words yet to describe my feelings of the last few days . . .
I am scribbling this in two minutes to send off by Harry Davy, bless his heart. He has saved my life these last days and I have clung to him, and laughed with him, and cried with him.
It is all too wonderful, and to-night I am off in a few minutes with Gen'l Pershing in his train to see Sir Douglas to-morrow, and decorate him. Then we are going on out to Chaumont and I shall go on to see Ett---from whom I haven't heard a thing, so I shall be away several days. There is no use my trying to write of the new world which is being born. It is too tremendous, nor can I describe the allégresse of Paris mingled with solemnity and sadness that fairly makes me bawl every little while. . . . Paris was simply mad.
I am sending you my beautiful Kirkpatrick, the only thing I have. Keep him with you if you can, and feed him, and be very firm and severe with him, and he'll soon mind, but don't beat him. Always make him "lie down."
On November 14th he writes from the "Office of the Cornmander-in-Chief" and has less trouble with names and places. The incident he describes was interesting and the surroundings in keeping:
Boche prisoners are staring in the windows of General Pershing's train as we roll slowly along for hours and hours through the desolate waste of battlefields-battlefields of three long years.
I am having another stirring, wonderful day . . . since I scribbled a hectic line to you last night, as I was leaving Paris. We left at eleven and waked up in Cambrai, where cars came for us after griddle cakes for breakfast, Sir D. Haig's cars, and we motored 8 kilometers to ----- which I can say now is a siding where lies the Chiefs train---"Advanced H. Q." Sir D. and Sir Herbert Lawrence met us, and we walked on in a thick mist as the sun was getting higher, and breaking through, and then occurred a really wonderful "manifestation." Let me say that the party consisted of Gen. Pershing, Gen. Dawes, Col. Quekemeyer, Capt. de Marenches, another Captain, and myself. Then came the simple presentation under the entwined flags of Britain and the U. S. of our military medal by Gen. Pershing to Field Marshal Haig, and then the hollow square of Highlanders, the 51st, flower of all the British Army, Black Watch, Argyles and Sutherlands and Camerons formed in column and marched past in review before Gen. Pershing.
Well . . . you can imagine where my poor old heart was, and what was coursing down my cheeks. It was a sort of couronnement for me! Now, on the way back to Paris from whence the train starts again at eleven to-night for Chaumont, where I shall get a car to take me on to Toul or Verdun or wherever I find the 77th to be resting and if I can possibly manage it, I shall run off with Ett for a few days, and clean him up and feed him up and warm him up before I go back to Iwuy, British "Advance," where I suppose my job as Chief of Military Mission and Liaison Officer attached to personal staff of the C. in C. is nearly over. I wonder! There is much to be done, of course, through the coming weeks and months, but I know not what part I shall be ordered to take. Is the war really over! I can hardly believe it, or understand . . .
Bob and Gaspar, I suppose, feel terribly out of it, and curse their luck not to have been able to come over, but they will always have the proud satisfaction of having responded nobly and of having been ready and willing to make any sacrifice.
In a letter of the 15th Colonel Bacon writes:
I am discouraged too at the prospect of spending another winter over here with all the incentive gone, and no hope of taking part in anything but small bickerings and selfish troubles, of which there will be plenty, and I can't tell you how I long to get home to you and as much of the old life as there is left, or to make a new one for a while longer. I am not half as brave as you are . . . and when I am not held up by stern necessity of continual and constant action, my poor old courage oozes out. Of course we are living in a confused dream and nothing seems true. It is difficult for me to see how I can be of any use to any one over here, and I want to go home, but so does everybody else and my lot will be I suppose to stay till toward the last. I am afraid to think how long that may be. First long-drawn-out peace conferences which may last for months, then gradual demobilization which will consume many more months if we don't get to fighting again.
You must have read to-day the account of the surrender of the boche fleet. Wasn't it thrilling! My poor old emotional eyes are always wet nowadays. All these wonderful things stir me to my very depths. Perhaps after 4 years I am even more susceptible than I used to be.
American Military Mission
Nov. 21, '18.
Can it be possible that the war is really over, and that I am coming back to you after awhile! A long, long while still, I am afraid. The relief after all the suspense has brought about a sort of anti-climax with me and I wander about wondering. Ett is here with me at Montreuil, and we have just walked around the old walls and battlements that I have never been able to describe to you or even speak about. I went to Chaumont with General Pershing, spent one day and night there, seeing my very few friends at G.H.Q. and my French friends of the town, who were really glad to see me, General Wirbel and the Maire Monsieur Levy and Commandant Jacquot and Capitaine Fréchet and best of all the Bishop with whom I lunched and had a long talk. He is very happy and his work with the Army Chaplains going well.
The next day I started for the Argonne via Ligny-en-Barrois where I lunched and then on through Verdun and over the Meuse, and north where I found McCoy in a fascinating old château, Louppy, ready to start at 5 the next morning for the Rhine at the head of his brigade. I bade good-bye to him and started on farther north and west to find Ett, which I did by lunch time at Sommauthe, north of Buzancy, and as good luck would have it he was offered seven days' leave, and I ran off with him, arriving at Paris at three in the morning, en route for here. To-morrow he is going out to Lille and all that country and will spend the night with General Laycock, who is commanding a brigade of artillery.
Ett has been offered a place on the staff of General Wright. You remember him in the Philippines . . . I almost advise him to take it as his promotion has not come as recommended, because of there being no vacancy, and there seems to be little prospect of his doing anything for the next two or three months except drill and re-equip his battery in some back area. It is the hardest kind of luck that his division is much broken up to make up other divisions, and is not to go to the Rhine, which might be better than sitting still doing nothing. Who would have thought of wanting to go to Germany! Rotten hole where nothing but boches live! I have before me a new map of the Rhinelands, and the three bridgeheads, and McCoy and his men will be there in a day or two. It is all too wonderful.
The last Thursday of November should have been and was a day of Thanksgiving to the Americans in France and to the Americans in the United States.
This is a pretty sad little Thanksgiving Day on the whole . . . and where do you think I have had my turkey! No turkey, and all alone down in the restaurant, where there were about six other lonely diners. For the Crillon n' existe plus, so they told me this afternoon, when I arrived. It has been réquisitionné pour les Américains---The Government---the host of Peace delegates with Lansing at their head, and they have taken the Murat's house in the rue Monceau for Monsieur le Président.
To-day was another jour de fête, for the King of England came, and soldiers lined the Avenue du. Bois, and the Champs Élysées, and the streets were packed in spite of the rain, for the wonderful weeks of the finest weather that Paris has ever seen are over, and we are in for 4 or 5 months of gloom and drizzle as of old . . . I was in no mood to join a big dinner of about 40 to-night at the Maurice, although your son Elliot was there. It was Stettinius's dinner and they are going to the Folies Bergères, but I just ducked, and came back here to this empty hotel, which is being cleaned for les Américains, and there are about six guests left, although Paris is full to overflowing. Willard Straight is here and pretty sick, I fear, with pneumonia, although he is holding his own well to-day and I think will pull through all right.
I brought down with me to-day Senator Jim Wadsworth [United States Senator from the State of New York], who passed last night with me, but I did not dine at home with him for I was bidden to dine at the C. in C.'s with his Majesty. To-day the C. in C. and his staff officers and the French, Belgian, Italian, and American Chefs de Mission went to the station at Montreuil to see the King off in his private train, and then I started for Paris, and beat him to it without hurrying, for it takes me just four hours without stopping. I am so annoyed at not being able to come to the Crillon any more after this week that I am looking for a pied à terre, but as everyone else is doing the same thing there are none to be had. I may want to come with my Chief and his A. D. C. and if I could get Marie Van Vorst's flat, or something like it I would take it now, and then I should be ready for you . . . if the spirit moves you to come before my exile is over..
You have won out so handsomely with the American Ambulance that I would like you to see it again, and there will be American boys there I fear for some time, although it may be gradually evacuated. Do you realize yet that the fighting is over!! I don't, and I have never been so "let down" in my life, and just go about attending to details, and wondering what is going to happen next. . . .
Bob and G. will never quite get over not even getting over here, and will imagine that they have missed a lot, but it is certainly not their fault---just the inexorable fate, and what they have done and contributed is much more important, although less conspicuous, and they may well be proud of themselves as I am of them.
Doubtless everybody with red blood in his veins was sorry not to get over. But after a while the bitterness wears off, for the feeling is really one of bitterness. The world is busy adjusting itself to new conditions and few people have time or care to think of others. Colonel Bacon was so deep in the war, it had meant so much in his life, indeed it was his life for four long years and more, that he could not quite bring himself to feel or see that it was over.
Dec. 4, 1918
This isn't a "doke" . . . that I am writing on this paper, but faute de mieux. The Crillon has been taken by the United States, God bless them, and I am allowed here only for the night, because there isn't another bed to be had in Paris, and my old friends here took pity on me when I arrived this evening from Montreuil. The U. S. does not arrive till next week! and who do you suppose is coming! Jamesie!! but of course you know it. I am all of a twitter at the thought of seeing him and talking about you. Well, these are hectic days for me of a different kind from those of the past few years.
I am nervous and restless and fly about more than ever trying to keep my two chiefs and their respective armies and nations together!
Saturday I left here, spent the night at Châlons, and lunched with General Pershing in Luxembourg, remained two hours, and started back by way of Metz, arriving here Monday, off again the same day for Montreuil, found Sir Douglas the next day at La Touquet, played 18 holes of golf with him. That was yesterday and here I am again in Paris! . . .
I must have a place for Sir Douglas and for you when you come in a few weeks! There isn't a room of any kind and the hotels are all taken and prices are soaring. . . .
I may not be here for more than a day or so at a time once a month, but I must have a place and I am counting on your coming, although the old Government may be nasty enough to prevent it. This paper is off some slabs of chocolate that I got at Rabattets on the strength of my being your husband. I told the lady that we had had many a candy on our table from her shop, and she remembered you perfectly, of course, and sold me a large amount of chocolate for Ett, although it was against the rule, and now I have no more ink in my pen so goodnight.
The Government did refuse to give Mrs. Bacon a passport as it was against the rule for the wife of an officer even to visit France. Abuses in the early days of the war had led to a general prohibition which worked hardship in many a worthy case.
Hôtel de Crillon, Dec. 5, '18.
I had a disappointment to-day in the shape of a cable from . . . saying she was "so sorry, but had promised the apartment to someone else," a way of speaking I suppose . . . but I did care a lot, ,because I am sort of upset and restless, and had set my heart on having a place in case you come, and to invite Sir D. H. to. In fact, I have already invited him, and he has accepted, and now I haven't any place. . . .
Paris has been completely "retaken," and is seething and prices are soaring. Thousands are gathering for the Peace Conference, as if it were a large spectacle, while it seems to me a most solemn moment, the future of a large part of the human race depending as it does upon the wisdom, unselfishness, and calm judgment of these men, who seem to be gloating over the prospect of months and months of "peace conferences," and what they call gay life in Paris. Faugh! It makes me sick, and I am all out of joint with it. The same old crowds are here dining at the Ritz with apparently no thought of the awful solemnity of these coming months.
Are you coming. . . . If you do, we will hide away somewhere, and I will take you out into the country, if I can get away, where the real things are, and you can go to your hospital daily to your heart's content, till the end, which may not be far off. . . .
As for me, all I want is to get safely into port after a stormy voyage. I feel as if I had sprung a leak and am not good for much but to lie at anchor in some safe cove like those old hulks at New Bedford or Edgartown. Come over if you can . . . and see the poor old world, as it has been torn to pieces by those, dastardly Huns. Was there ever such a cowardly skunk as that cringing Kaiser! Swine is too good a name for him. I am glad they are beginning to demand his trial in earnest. He must be condemned, at least officially, by some competent Court. Public opinion and ostracism will do the rest---sudden death of any kind would be too good for him. He must suffer from his own remorse and repentance.
We must all take up life anew and make it a better one if we can but human nature is weak, oh so weak, and returns easily to its excesses and selfish amusements, and easily forgets.
You and I have a good deal to be thankful for . . . and we have enough to do to help, if we can, our four little families. . . . I am such a slave to this old Army that I cannot even guess what is going to become of me. General Pershing especially wanted to be remembered to you when I saw him at Luxembourg on Sunday.
We have some hard times ahead, but alas! I shall be out of it. What a shame that Root was not given the leading part!
In a letter of December 7th, Colonel Bacon tells of celebrations in the returned provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which were the fruits of victory just as their loss in 1871 was the consequence of defeat. Many a Frenchman would envy Colonel Bacon the chance of being present and not a few of his fellow countrymen would have congratulated themselves if they could have taken part in la joyeuse entrée into Metz, the strong city, Metz, from which Lafayette set out for the United States, and into Strassburg, the capital and chief city of Alsace.
Just a minute . . . while I am waiting for our old friend, Colonel T. Bentley Mott,(296) who is now attached to Foch, and has been most useful and helpful as usual. The getting together and keeping together of all these gros légumes in the trying after the war conditions, is a difficult job. To-morrow is a big day at Metz, and the day after at Strassburg, and I may jump this afternoon and put her through, for Sir Douglas will be there and John J. Pershing, and Foch and Pétain et id omne genus, and I am counting on taking Sir Douglas to visit Gen'l P. in a few days, when Kings and Presidents have settled down. . .
I hope to be off in a few days over our L. of C.(297) with Harbord and McCoy and a party from British G. H. Q., and the Q. M. G. and others, but everything changes every minute, one never knows. . . .
Colonel Bacon went, of course, to Metz and Strassburg, and of course he wrote to Mrs. Bacon about it all. This is what he said under date of December 13th:
Several days have passed . . . and I haven't told you of my trip to Strassburg. Well, to make along story short, Bentley Mott and I started last Saturday, at about 4 P. m., for Metz and way stations. . . . We arrived there at 5:30 A. m, after several contretemps and after an hour or so sleep in the hospital, which by the way is having a miserable time and experience taking care of returning French prisoners who are too sick to go any further, and many of them dying (six died that day), and Georgette St. Paul is practically alone running the whole show with very little help. She asked for you and Sister. We went on to Metz where we found Gen'l Pershing on his private train, Poincaré, Clemenceau, Foch, Pétain, Sir Douglas, and a "big time," and speeches and flags and bands playing all day. We were starting back but Gen'l Pershing invited me to come on to Strassburg with him which we did that night, arriving in time to begin it all over again the next morning, and it was gayer still, and as the day wore on and the civilians joined in the military procession in groups and organizations, thousands in all their bright costumes of old Alsace, especially women and girls, old and young, and veterans of '70, The really spontaneous and genuine joy and gladness were wonderful and, as usual, made me cry like a child.
I had forgotten that there could be so many happy people left in the world. The women and girls danced and sang as they marched past the Tribune to the inspiring music of the French military marches, the Chant du départ, the Sambre et Meuse and the others that you know, and all day everyone was smiling and humming the Marseillaise. It was really fine!
I lunched with Tibby Mott and two French officers at Valentin's, a famous little French restaurant and gaily ordered fresh foie gras, which was delicious, a bottle of good wine, and then wandered about all afternoon in the crowds, and stood for hours packed in near the Tribune watching Poincaré kiss as many girls as he could reach---he and Clemenceau, and the Generals showered with flowers. I never realized how many different kinds of costumes there were in Alsace. All the surrounding towns sent bevies, and the caps and the gowns and aprons were all the colors of the rainbow, and the little lace bonnets.
Good old Seraphine would have jumped for joy. It is now Friday again, I believe, and I have been back two days. I am not going to Spa yet, but expect to-morrow to go with the Q. M. G. on our trip with General Harbord where I hope to see dear good McCoy and be back again by the 19th when the C. in C. and his immediate high Staff officers go to London to see the King, but without troops. I dined with the C. in C. last night---just the C. G. S. and two A. D. C.'s---and the Chief broke me all up after dinner by giving me his photograph in a nice leather frame with his autograph for me "with his grateful remembrance of my practical help during a year of many difficulties." Wasn't it sweet of him! And when he asked me where I was going for Xmas, it all came over me with a rush that there was again to be no Xmas for me . . . I have no place to go. Nearly everyone will be gone from here, and there is no one in Paris to whom I can go. I cannot get leave again for Ett to come to me, and I doubt if I can get to him, so it's pretty doleful.
There are only two people in England to whom I might go---Mrs. Teddy Grenfell, who is a dear . . . and Nancy Astor who has so many children that it would be sort of a comfort to see them. If I am entirely deserted here I may go over for a day or so.---Oh how I wish I might fly home to you.
Colonel Bacon went to London and he describes in a letter of December 21st his doings as if he had torn out a few pages from his "line a day book," which, however, he did not keep.
In all these emotional days and hours . . . when, as you can imagine, I am thrilled to the core, and laugh and cry alternately through the days, I long for you. . . . I have made one or two attempts to talk to you these last hectic days, but each time something has broken in after the first few lines, and I have had to postpone.
Now I am all alone for half an hour or so in the nice warm library of Gen. Biddle and Col. Griscom, where the welcome has been warmer still, and I hardly know how to begin to tell you a little of the crowded hours of the last ten days. I must begin backward. I came over day before yesterday with Sir Douglas and his Army Commanders and personal staff---a great privilege on their so-called "unofficial" triumphal homecoming. The papers have probably described it all to you, but no words of mine can begin to tell you what it all meant to me. You can guess I had been away on our L. of C. with General Harbord, McCoy, and Dawes, taking with me, by the hand, Gen'l Travers Clarke, the British Q.M.G., and three of his officers for a visit of inspection in Gen'l Harbord's special train, and I am proud and pleased to have brought it about after many weeks of obstacles and difficulties. We had a most interesting and useful trip to the great harbor works of Bordeaux, the supply depots and camps, and repair shops and all the other marvels, real miracles of construction and preparation for the great war, which thank God is over, and needs them no more. Well, we left Bordeaux, the Q.M.G. and I, at 8 o'clock in the evening, after a good bottle and a fresh foie gras de canard at the Chapon Fin, on a regular night train for Paris and after sitting up all night, arrived at 8 the next morning, just in time to jump into my beautiful Rolls Royce and start for home (Montreuil) to catch the afternoon boat for London to arrive the night before the C. in C. and be here to see him enter the city, and Buckingham Palace, Where my old friend Jim Thresher was to provide me with a pass; but on my arrival at Montreuil a telephone from Chaumont directed me to confer upon the Army Commanders and Chief of Staff, good Sir Herbert Lawrence, the American D. S. M. in the name of General Pershing, and informed me that the medals would arrive sometime during the night, as they were all to leave with Sir Douglas at seven the next morning.
The medals did not arrive in time, but I came without them under instructions to notify the Army Commanders in any event, after first asking the consent and approval of the C. in C., all of which I did one after the other on the memorable voyage by boat and train to Dover and London. I have never performed any duty with greater pride and pleasure, as you can well imagine.
The medals have come on by special courier and I am to present them Monday or Tuesday at the War Office. I don't know however I can do it without breaking down. You know. This may keep me over here till after Xmas and the President is arriving on Boxing Day. I shall go to Jim Thresher's and take his little girl a small present, and perhaps go to Nancy Astor's and to Teddy Grenfell's where I dined en famille last night. Griscom took me to dine with Jean Ward night before last, and I went on to a small party afterward, but I am like a fish out of water except in some quiet house. I shall try to find Susan Chapin if she is still here. I shall call on the new Ambassador today.(298) I wish I could have had Ett with me, somewhere, but he is tied to his battery, where, I do not know, playing the game and having a pretty poor time, but with prospects, so I allow myself to believe, of going home, possibly among the first 6 or 8 divisions, which might bring him back before three or four months, or even sooner. I will let you know by cable if possible the minute I can get the least definite inkling. For me, alas, there seems to be no prospector indication and I can hardly face the winter and spring, but we shall know more in a month or two. I must run now. . . . It was too mean of them to refuse your passport. . . .
Colonel Bacon wrote in the letter of December 26th:
41 Upper Grosvenor St.
Christmas has gone . . . and it was a pretty doleful day for me. I didn't have the courage to go to Cliveden as I expected to do, nor to Thresher's, so I poked about London, lunched alone at Claridge's, and dined here with Gen'l Biddle and two aides, Capt. Howard Henry and Lieut. Mackie, all of whom know Priscilla well, of course. Gen'l Biddle has been kindness itself to a forlorn outsider and what little comfort I have had has been sitting in this nice room before the fire, Griscom having gone away for Xmas.
I called on Jean Ward yesterday, gave her a book, and saw her nice boy, who is home for the holidays. At lunch at Claridge's Ian Malcolm came over and insisted that I should join his family party, his wife and three nice boys home from school, which I did, and enjoyed immensely. Then I took Senator Jim Wadsworth, who had appeared from France, to two hospitals in search of a wounded New York boy, who had gone back to America, and then I called on my friend General Dawney, whom I found in the midst of a big children's party, so I stayed a few minutes and saw them fish for presents, and thought of you. I have not yet found all my Army Commanders, because they are out of town, but I hope to finish it up to-morrow, and the next day, go back to my post where I have left Captain Bryant all alone. Then I shall go to Spa, and open some rooms, or a small villa where visiting and wandering Americans can find shelter. Thence I expect to go on to the Rhine bridgeheads at Cologne and Coblenz, and shall work as hard as ever I can to keep up the liaison between the British and American H. Q's and armies. It will be difficult to amuse and interest the men for the months that seem to be ahead, and I am bent on arranging my interchange of visits for both officers and men. . . .
I had a fine lunch at Cliveden last Sunday---me and seven children, Nancy being late. Bill did the honors, home from school, and Wink and David and Michael and Jacob, and Nora's two children, and I had a mask and explained to David how I had come down the chimney. He is the cunningest thing you ever saw.
I found General Plumer and presented my little medal, and choked and gulped of course, as I always do, but I don't care for he had tears in his eyes himself. I met his wife and daughter. . . . Then I found the C. G. S., my only General Lawrence, who with his sweet wife were the most pathetic mortals, and I blubbered again, and could think of nothing but their two boys gone, their only boys. We have not had to pay the great sacrifice which we were ready to pay, and we must never cease to sympathize with these poor people who have given everything.
I must off now to find my other Army Commanders, Byng, Horne, and Birdwood, if they have come back to town.
The President arrives to-day, and will have a wonderful reception. The whole way from Charing Cross to Buckingham Palace is decorated with Venetian. masts and flags and flowers, and the King and Queen, if you please, are going to Charing Cross to meet him!!! What do you think of that? It is unfortunate that he is coming in the middle of their Xmas holiday, but England is turning itself inside out, and I hope our whole country will realize what it means and respond (more heartily than they have done). Surely they must understand how England is reaching out her hand and heart to us. They must be made to understand. I am going to the Berkeley to see them go by at 2 o'clock.
Gen. Biddle and his aides have gone to Dover to meet his "nibs," and London is all agog. The streets will be packed. A wit here remarked that the President had better hurry home, or he might find that the United States had become a republic in his absence. Of course I am tremendously interested in the cabled report of Lodge's speech and warning in the matters of the famous 14 points, and the significance of the Senate's possible position on this question.
Peace must be imposed upon the boche first of all, imposed not negotiated, then we will leave the "Freedom of the Seas" and the League of Nations . . . to work out.
Was there ever such a calamity as not having Root here to guide and teach them! How he would tower above them all, in his practical wisdom, his sympathy and understanding, and his word would be law, for there is no one in the world whose opinion would carry such conviction in the minds of European statesmen. . . .
Christmas was spent in London, New Year's in Brunehautpré, near Montreuil, which Colonel Bacon, in one of his letters, called home. From there he wrote the last letter of 1918, on the last day of the year:
Dec. 31, 1918.
This is a pretty sad little New Year's Eve . . . and lonely. I am all alone, having just arrived from London to find a cheerless, cold, and empty house, and I came away just to be queer, I think, and to satisfy a puritanical feeling that I'd better do the unpleasant thing, as I generally do, out of a sense of what? Duty!---and thereby cut off my own nose and please nobody.
I was in no mood though to stay in London having found and decorated all my generals and army commanders and having no excuse to stay although I was rather tempted to stop over New Year's day with General Biddle and Griscom who were going to a gay New Year's Eve party to-night. I spent Sunday night with Thresher and saw the Faversham's house in the village, the nicest old village you ever saw. I took a small Xmas present to the "eldest unmarried daughter," aged eight. The other two children were six and two, and the father-in-law's name was Ramsey, who knew and remembered William Cocks! The world is small. On the way down to Surrey, I stopped off with Griscom and played golf at the most attractive place belonging to the young Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. She is terribly attractive' and was Lady Eileen Butler. You would have been crazy about the house, a most perfect specimen built about Henry VIII, of the most wonderful old brick, and tapestries and oak panels in rooms 120 feet long. Last night I dined with Moreton Frewen who had eight interesting men to meet me, mostly M.P.'s of the new big coalition majority. Aren't these wonderful times? The President's reception was indeed remarkable, and now for the Peace Conference!
Mrs. Wilson and her lady-in-waiting certainly had a big time banquets and gold services and fayre ladies and toasts and speeches and Kings and Queens, and Earls and Dukes till you can't think. . . .
She appeared very well, however, and made a good impression, being natural and unaffected.
She told someone that she supposed they expected her to give a big war whoop and wear a large feather, as they thought she was descended from Pocahontas. . . .
I may be off again to-morrow, or next day, as I am restless, and my C. in C. is still in England. I played golf one morning with him and Lady Haig, but we could not finish as the two little girls were in a nip to go to a pantomime. I may go to Spa and open my hotel for American officers and wandering British, and I may go on to Cologne and Coblenz, or I may go to Paris to get my letters from you, which I feel sure are waiting at M., H. & Co.
I cannot wait much longer, and Davy, who arrived Saturday, frightened me by saying you had been sick, but were up again. . . . The New Year begins to-morrow. If it can only be a happy one for you. . . . 'Tis all I ask. . . .
Colonel Bacon got to Spa, but the trip could hardly be called one of pleasure. He speaks of it, and of other things, in his first letter of the New Year, written on January 4th:
Hôtel-Villa des Palmiers
Jan. 4th, '19.
Don't be alarmed by this paper. . . . I have not come here for my health and I am afraid that this dirty little hotel does not live up to the advantages set forth above. I am in the "Salon de lecture et de conversation," but as I am all alone there will be no conversation except with you . . . for a little while before I crawl into a cold bed. I have had a busy day, breakfasted with the Army Commander at his Château de Daves near Namur where I passed the night, left him, Gen'l Sir Henry Rawlinson and his officers, at the country place of a Belgian Count shooting partridges on my way to Bruxelles where I lunched alone, returned to Namur, where I met General Currie, commanding the Canadians, by appointment, decorated him by order of General Pershing, with our D. S. M., in the name of our Government, started at 3.30 for Liège and here I am at Spa, lately the G. H. Q. of the boche, and now part of an advanced G. H. Q. of the B. E. F.
To-morrow I shall call on some of my friends and start for Aachen and Cologne to call upon more friends, then probably up the Rhine to Bonn and to Coblenz, to see our own Third Army, and back either to Paris or Chaumont, en route to Montreuil. I am weary and restless and not fit to associate with any one. I am peevish and irritable and nervous and think of nothing but going home. I do pity poor Etty with nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. The anticlimax is demoralizing, and the next few months are going to be difficult for everybody.
The Peace Conference will begin, I suppose, in another ten days or so. Lloyd George and the President seem to be satisfied with their preliminary canter, and old Clemenceau has spoken out with no uncertain tones. Thousands of Americans, Greeks, Servians, Italians, Japs, Chinks, and Siamese for all I know, and Portuguese and Rumanians and Czecho Slovaks and Jugo Slavs are infesting Paris and there isn't a bed to be had, so I shall probably have to sleep with Davy if I go there. . . .
This is a cheap sort of a watering place, where Belgian and some French and others used to come, but the landlady, a Belgian whose husband is lying dangerously wounded, tells me that the boches didn't come before the war. For the last eight months there have been over one hundred of them messing in this house with their own cooks and servants.
It is hard to realize that they have gone for ever and I hope and pray that all their power for evil will be destroyed beyond recovery, and that for generations they will be made to suffer, and sink to the lowest class of nations, so that they and all the world will realize what they have done. Their children's children should never be allowed to forget.
The insidious, lying propaganda has already begun again, and the boche nation is being fed with stories of their heroism, and of their, unbeaten army, which is to rise again. The people know little of the truth and fully expect to be received again into the bosom of the world, and ply their noisome trade and business über alles, and flaunt their unspeakable vulgarity in our faces. Let there be no sentimental softening of our resolve that they shall be ostracized in every way. Let all our women live up to the papers they have signed. Only so can the rotten skunks be made to feel and understand. I despise them more than ever. . . .
What will Gaspar do? He must talk to someone. Tell him to write to Joe Cotton and ask his advice. He is right I think not to go on with G., S.,& S. and he can make any place he wants for himself anywhere---as a lawyer or as a public servant, either in Boston or New York or in Washington, and I know no one better able to play a big part, and cope with all the big problems that are going to confront the world for the next twenty or thirty years, when he will be just in his prime.
Would that I were not too old and could tackle them with him, but my part is practically finished. I am too old to fight any more effectively and I long for a few more years with you, quietly otium cum dignitate. Wouldn't it have been wonderful for me if I could have been in the Senate now! My regret is more keen than ever. To have been on the Committee on Foreign Affairs at this juncture would have been worth while. Tell Job Hedges how deeply I regret and how grateful I am to him for [what] he did. . . .
Colonel Bacon pushed on to the Rhine and his letter from Coblenz gives a vivid picture of what he saw in the occupied region.
And what do you think of this . . . Am looking out of the window marked above upon a warm sunny day at 9:30 in the morning, waiting for Col. Jim Crow Rhea(299) to get me a map, and show me the road out across the Rhine, 25 kilometres through our Bridgehead to the First Division where I hope to find Ted and Kermit. I came down the Rhine road yesterday from Cologne, where I had spent the night at the Wilhelmshof just opposite the Cathedral. You can hardly imagine the picture of Cologne, crowded, literally packed with British soldiers, and millions of boches, almost as many as there are in New York, the gayest looking and the most prosperous place you ever saw, lighted up like the Great White Way in its palmiest days, every shop ablaze and the crowded streets as light as day and plenty of everything, cakes and sugar to be bought in the shops, although the hotels keep up the camouflage about scarcity of some things.
We had for dinner beef, chicken, and hare, and plenty of vegetables. I had a dinner party consisting of my friend Major Piggott with whom I used to mess at G. H. Q. I wrote you a line from Spa. Well, I motored on the next day to Aachen where I lunched in a common little restaurant on good brown bread and cheese and coffee, and then on to Cologne through the British area. I called upon the Army Commander whom I had left only the other day in London, the military governor and other officers of my acquaintance. You should see the crowds. thousands standing all day in front of the hotels where these Plumes Blanches have their Headquarters watching with intense interest the two British sentries straighten up, click their heels in their inimitable way, and salute every officer who goes in or out the door. The crowd never seems to tire of this performance, which happens every fifteen seconds through the day.
On top of the tunnel of the Canal de St.-Quentin
Cologne has made a deep impression upon me, all my views strengthened and confirmed as to the severity of the conditions that must be imposed upon the boche, to bring home to him the truth, and to prevent his pestiferous penetration either by force or by cunning overrunning the world. To combat this I hereby dedicate my few remaining and declining years. I had a thrill this morning when Reveille sounded across the Rhine from American bugles and jumped to my window and stood at salute with a lump in my throat when at 8 o'clock colors was sounded, and the American flag went up on the American Flag Ship lying in front of this hotel. For, if you please, we have a fleet of fine river craft policing the Rhine and rendering effective the blockade, and Jimmy Logan, who directs it all as G. L, lives in the big office building, which you see next the hotel, requisitioned from the Ober-President of this whole region, whose yacht is the Flag Ship of the American patrol, manned by marines and painted khaki colour. I must leave you now.
(Afternoon of same day.)
I am just back from a trip into the Bridgehead across the Rhine behind Ehrenbreitstein, which is just in front of my windows. I found Ted and lunched with his mess and his new colonel.
It's too bad that all promotions were held up and Ted did not get his full colonelcy, although he has been in sole command of his regiment for two months, and has three palms for his croix de guerre, and will have the Légion d'Honneur, but, better than all that, has won the respect and approval of the entire U. S. Army, and high praise from all his senior officers. Tell his father from me that every one is delighted too that Ted has made good, and done so well, not a single word of jealousy or envy have I heard, or criticism, which is "going some" in the Army.
I hadn't time to go to see Kermit because Col. Biddle, Nick's brother, went with me, and was in a hurry to get back as he had to go to Cologne where he is to be Liaison Officer with the 2nd British Army. To-morrow I start back by way of Trier and Chaumont, because I want, if possible, to find Ett, and I don't know where he is, and can find out only at Chaumont. So you see I am having a real joy ride. . . .
The next few months are clothed in mystery for me. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I hope I shall find out before my temper and nervous system break down entirely.
Two days later, on the 9th, Colonel Bacon writes from familiar surroundings---the Grand Hôtel de France, where he first put up in Chaumont, and where with Bishop Brent and in Colonel Bacon's old house they talked of Mr. Roosevelt who had just died:
The wheel of fortune has brought me back here to Chaumont . . . and I have just spent a delightful evening with Bishop Brent at his little house, 4 rue du Palais, where we talked long of Theodore. I cannot yet quite believe that we have lost that great, wonderful vital force, just as we were going to rally around it again for everything that is good. His great genius for leadership is gone. and the world's loss is irreparable.
My own sense of personal loss is very, very profound. I realize that I was depending upon his moral support for everything that seems most dear and worth while in this struggle which is coming.
The war is not over. The fighting has stopped to be sure, the primal, brutal phase, but now the more difficult, complex problems must be tackled, and the "times that try one's soul" are before us with none of the beautiful, the heroic, to temper the agony as it did through the fighting, and Theodore's great personality, his remarkable vision, his courage and untiring energy to help us are gone, just at this time when the forces of conservatism and sanity are struggling to return. There never has been a time when his leadership and example were more necessary. It is a national calamity.
I saw Ted and Kermit on Monday, and later Monday night the news came to my room at two in the morning, uncertain at first, but confirmed by the wireless which I had sent during the night. I decided to go to the boys, and went first to get Dick, which I did, and took him out to the boys. They decided that Dick should be the one to go home, so I waited and started with him at six that evening, arriving at Trèves, of ancient Roman fame, at midnight.
It is doubtful if Mr. Roosevelt has ever had a finer tribute than that from Colonel Bacon written in his loneliness at Chaumont.
On again yesterday down the Moselle to Metz, where in the Cathedral stands the late, unspeakable Kaiser garbed in the robes of a Saint! Can you believe it!!---in lasting stone!
It is true that the Kaiser stands in stone. Not in the garb of a saint, however, but as the prophet Daniel, with mustachios brushed up as were the Kaiser's, and within the gaze of the public. Colonel Bacon does not relate an incident which he probably might have passed on to Mrs. Bacon. Upon the exit of the hated Germans from Metz the youngsters of the place procured a placard upon which they had printed: Sic transit gloria mundi. They climbed the façade of the Cathedral and fastened it to the statue where it still remains or where it was many months after the Armistice.
Then on through the night to Pont a Mousson, Toul, and by a roundabout way to Neuf-Château and here, where by a lucky chance I found two beds in a room at midnight, after being twelve hours on the journey.
Much has happened to-day. Happiest and best of all the morning paper contains a list with your dear name in it for the Légion d' Honneur, and I am so glad. It is the least that they can do for you, and it does them honor. . . .
They are going to give me one next week, which I am coming back here for with some thirty others. I am very proud to be included.
Colonel Bacon had refused the Grande Croix with which the French Government had wished to honour him upon his resignation as Ambassador. It was contrary to the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution which forbids, without the consent of Congress, an officer of the United States to accept "title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state." He was happy, and happier to receive the grade of Officer for Military Service.
Colonel Bacon was not very sure of the date of his next letter. It was written from Paris somewhere about January 10th:
I have just opened my Christmas package which you sent by Mrs. Jamesie [Scott] . . . and my eyes are wet. The gloves and books and chocolate and socks are all from you and I love them 'but before I sit down to begin the "Four Horses" I must tell you why I no longer like to come to Paris, why I no longer love my Paris. In the first place I am out of house and home. I have been four times to see Jamesie to-day but have not seen him:---first to his office in the old Cercle Royale, Place de la Concorde. I was told that I couldn't enter the building and go upstairs without a pass; I then tried to see him at dinner time at the Crillon. Nothing doing---again after dinner I went to the Crillon and was told by an obsequious young American that if I wanted to see someone special I should have to go with. an orderly. I left disgusted, and bit my own nose off, as I was looking forward to a good hour or so with Jamesie. No use. . . . This is no place for me, and I am off to-morrow.
Last night and to-night I am sleeping in the Hôtel du Louvre, Officers' hotel of the Red Cross, and although a mighty good institution it is dreadfully dreary for me to be herded in with hundreds of hopeless captains and lieutenants with no one to speak to in my Paris---but I am having my little Christmas party on the third floor where there is heat and a bathroom, so what more should I desire? I was left alone for dinner, Davy having a Red Cross affair and Jamesie inaccessible, so I went around the corner to Maxim's where I have dined alone many times since the beginning of the war, and was told that I could not be served as I was a militaire! So I went on to the Ritz where I dined alone in the corner. . . . How is that for a congenial Paris? . . .
To-day I lunched with Harry White [Ex-Ambassador to France and a member of the Peace Conference] and learned much of things at home, and why he came instead of Root.
I am perfectly delighted that they gave you the Légion d'Honneur as I cabled to-day. I am to be kissed on both cheeks myself on the 14th at Chaumont and I am really mighty pleased to be remembered by these poor people. If you could only come and get yours.
From Bonnétable Colonel Bacon writes on January 20th:
Do you remember the name of this old place . . . near Le Mans, southwest of Chartres and belongs to Doudeauville, who is La Rochefoucauld and she was a Radziwill. Of course you remember. But what brings me here? Here is Headquarters of the Second Corps, on their way home, and the two splendid divisions 27th and 30th that broke the Hindenburg Line for me are near by and four others, and to-morrow the C. in C. is coming to review them one by one and confer D. S. M's. I am delighted to be here and it was by the merest chance. Day before yesterday, when I got home to Brunehautpré, I found a nice letter from General Simonds, Chief of Staff, asking me to make him a visit, for you know I am godfather to the Second Corps and they are all very sweet to me. Well, yesterday after having Franklin Roosevelt [then Assistant Secretary of the Navy] and his wife and six others to lunch, I suddenly thought I would start at once because my C. in C. Sir D. is away for a few days, so off I started for Paris where I spent the night in Mott's little apartment and then on to-day five hours more to here to find them in this charming old château, 15th century, and rambling all over the place. One big wing has been a hospital depuis la guerre and here are ensconced General Reed and General Simonds, and I am writing up in an old tower. I hadn't the slightest idea General Pershing was coming and am looking forward to a "big time" to-morrow and next day.
How far did I get in my last letter? I went to Chaumont on the 13th and on the 14th was given the Légion d'Honneur, officier, and Croix de Guerre with palms by General Pétain himself and of course I bawled---right in front of General Pershing and the whole company. It was a great occasion and I was very proud to be chosen among the twenty highest officers of our Army---from General Liggett and Bullard to Genl McCoy and Colonel Logan. We all stood up in the caserne at Chaumont with Genl Pétain and General Pershing in the middle, and French troops and American troops and the band, and Genl Pétain pinned on the decoration and told us why he did it, and you can just see poor old me.(300)
I came back to Paris that same day with General Harbord in his car with McCoy and Logan and after a long visit next day with Jamesie hiked back to Montreuil. I was awfully disappointed not to get Ett to come to Chaumont. I telephoned him twice but he was away with his General and did not come, although I left a message for him to come if possible. I hope he is glad that he went to the 1st Corps.(301) I am sure he will be unless the 77th should go home before he can get away which would be a disappointment. His work will certainly be more interesting and congenial now that there is nothing to do but keep his battery amused and well.
Two days later Colonel Bacon is back at Bonnétable, where he began a letter on January 22nd to be finished later in Paris:
I have had a great day since I wrote you in this room night before last, and I am staying on till to-morrow morning before I start back to my home in the North, where I expect to arrive by the time my British C. in C. gets back from England. I felt a little guilty at being caught A. W. O. L. yesterday morning when the C. in C. arrived with Boyd and Bowditch and Quek to review the 30th, and confer decorations. First, there was a reception here in a splendid big salle in one of the wings with a separate flight of broad steps leading into the Garden by the pond where the black swans live. The sun streamed in, and so did all the officers of the 30th and 27th and 91st headed by their divisional commanders and brigadiers, and the tapestries and mermaids and arms of the La Rochefoucaulds and Ségurs and Châteaubriands and Montmorencys smiled down out of the past upon the new world come to help. The C. in C. met them all and made them a nice little speech. After lunch we motored 10 or 15 miles where we found the wonderful 30th drawn up in review with the bands massed. The C. in C. inspected them every one, some 18,000, and passed every platoon and looked into every eye with his eye like a hawk for everything. This took an hour and 3/4, although he hit a tremendous pace and made the A. D. C.'s and Generals "hump it" to keep up. Then came the presentations of medals of honor, D. S. C.'s and D. S. M's. and then the march past, and that great body of splendid men went by in four close columns in 35 minutes and it certainly was a fine sight for these old dim eyes.
General Reed and General Simonds were so cordial that I was tempted to wait over till to-day to see the same ceremony and review of the 27th and I am dining with the division commander tonight to meet the C. in C. and other "plumes blanches."
From Paris he adds three days later, his heart warmed with the good news that his daughter, whom he generally called "Sister", was coming to Paris. He rightly divined that her husband, George Whitney, was to be with Mr. Lamont, financial adviser to the American Peace Commission. His hope that Mrs. Bacon would ultimately get a passport and come was never more than a hope. However, the presence of the daughter was a great comfort:
I have been here two days with both of my C. in C.'s and tomorrow they are going away again so I shall be off to Montreuil. The news to-day seems to indicate that I may have to stay on for at least three months, but I have set my mind toward May, and I don't think I can stand it any longer unless the fighting begins again.
Your news that Sister is coming has put me all in a twitter, and Feb. 1st is only six days off. I am guessing that George is coming to be with Tom Lamont, but I know nothing. In case they have no place to live, I have taken a tiny little apartment for them for three months with the vague hope still that you may get your passport and come too. . . . I hope she will want to go there.
It is on a little street, rue Chalgrin, just off the Avenue du Bois, near the Étoile, No. 20. There is nothing left in Paris. I do not expect to come back here for a long time, except perhaps to catch a glimpse of Sister. I shall probably be off to the Rhine again or at least to Spa. Elliot and I had a good visit here day before yesterday. He is managing a horse show for the 1st Corps for early in February. Oh, how I long to get away from it and come home. I see Jamesie as often as I can, and of course, the Peace Conference and its progress and results are absorbingly interesting and everything is hanging in the balance. To-day the "League of Nations" made its appearance, and was decided en principe, but there is a long road to travel before the details are worked out. Would that E[Iihu] R[oot] were here with his wisdom and power!
Five days later, on January 30th, Colonel Bacon wrote from the north., where he was apparently lonelier than in Paris:
It seems ages since I wrote you . . . from Paris it must have been, but days count for nothing, and places change so rapidly that I can't keep track of them. I thought Paris the loneliest place in the world, and now Montreuil is worse if anything. The fact is that I want to go home. I am restless and dissatisfied with what I am doing, which is nothing. Three nights in succession in Paris I dined alone, twice at the Petit Durand just around the corner in the Ave. Victor Hugo, and once at the Hotel du Quai d'Orsay. How is that for gayety! . . .
Argentines, Brazilians, Spaniards, and Americans "du Nord" are swarming, and now the young Americans are beginning to have dances, which I hate, and which I consider very bad taste, and inconsiderate. Nothing more than this sort of show will do so much to provoke criticism and discontent and bolshevism generally. The world is seething with danger. The dégringolade of Germany, now that she has failed to dominate the world, and impose her damned vulgarity and all the rest of her "efficiency" and brutality, is bringing the whole social structure tumbling down about our heads. It is the great movement of "numbers" of the organized masses, which I used to say to you would give its name to this century, which was beginning, and the excesses of which will drag us through years and decades of misery and suffering. There is to be for me no rest or peace. Every man more than ever must unceasingly struggle and fight in his own small way to moderate and mitigate the evils of the times, to shape if he can the human tendencies and aptitudes within his reach towards saner and better things. But fight and work he must . . .
Who is to lead us? What does Root say? How does Bob feel about it now that he is out of the Army? We can't any of us even guess till Peace, whatever that is, is declared. Is there to be Peace!
I think not. There will be some sort of a settlement with Germany and a temporary cessation of hostilities but the malign influence and constant threat of boche poison is still to be fought all the rest of our lives, and the passions which they have let loose upon the world in their insatiable greed will continue to shake the world to its foundations and the people will rage together and imagine a vain thing. The future is black and uncertain but that is what makes it worth while,---makes it necessary for every man to gird on his armor and not to be dulled into a sense of false security. Wake up! America. You have saved your national soul, when it was tottering on the brink of damnation, but now your responsibilities, your honorable obligations to the world and to yourself! You are just beginning! to understand (are you?) that duty is the great correlation of right. From this moment you will have to fight with the strong for your very existence. You cannot go on and get rich in ease and soft living. Take to heart the lessons of your great master and prophet, Theodore, and let it not be in vain that he has brought into your life the biggest, finest things that you have known for generations.
What am I to do when I get home. . . ? How am I to take any useful part? My whole desire is to run away with you somewhere, I yearn for peace and sunshine and calm and to be free of all the strife which is looming up ahead. You and your children's future, and your cunning grandchildren are all that I long to live for. Feb., March, April! Feb., March, April! Feb., March, April---are staring me in the face.
From Montreuil he writes on February 1st what was in the heart and on the lips of officers and men in France:
It is Saturday afternoon and I have allowed my adjutant, Captain Bryant, to go away for four days, away to Chaumont with a box of medals (about 200) which have been awarded by the British to men and officers and nurses of the A. E. R, and he was about as delighted to get away as I would have been, and now I ought not to go away till he comes back. There are about three places that look attractive to me in this part of the world, London, to meet Sister, who is about due on the Lapland; Cannes, to stay with Davy and get some sunshine; or the Rhine, to visit the Armies of Occupation. The one topic of conversation is when are you going home! When is G. H. Q. going to break up, and every one is unsettled and restless. Captain Plowden wants to know how much longer I want my horse. I don't know. Commandant Froissart wants to know how long I want his house, Brunehautpré. I don't know, maybe two months, maybe a year.
Of the three things he said in his last letter he would most like to do, he did the first and most sensible. He went to London to meet his daughter.
Feb. 7th, 1919.
Where do you suppose I am . . . sick in bed! And this is the very first time that I have given in for a minute in all these years of war. I certainly had a rotten night last night with a good fever and little sleep, so I conjured up all the dreadful things I could think of and exaggerated them till I thought the morning would never come. But the temperature has gone now and I have had my lunch and am lazily lying in bed . . .
I went over to London on Monday to meet Sister and I was glad to see her and hear of you. She arrived Tuesday afternoon, and, as all the restaurants were out of business because of the strike, she and George came to dine with Griscom at 41 Upper Grosvenor Street and I left early the next morning, which was day before yesterday.
Yesterday I went to Boulogne to meet her on her way to Paris, and I hope to go myself to-morrow or next day, as I want to see Mrs. Roosevelt if possible. Everything will be made easy for her as the boys are both there, and the whole French nation would do anything in the world for her. You have no idea of the profound sense of loss throughout Europe for that man, and France worshipped him.
If ever there was a lonely, doleful place for me now, it is Paris, and the feeling of not having a bed to sleep in, or a cat to speak to is too dreary. Every one is officially busy---Col. House and all the Peace Commission and their wives and clerks and detectives at the Crillon. . . . And many others at the Ritz, British by the hundreds at the Majestic and Astoria, Americans at the Meurice and swarming everywhere.
The President will leave next week, and I think he has accomplished a great deal. I am very hopeful that the Peace Conference will be a great success and I confess that I believe it principally due to him, and the able way in which he has "put it over." Of course the world will be in a turmoil for years and we shall all have nothing but trouble but I believe that out of this concrete formula for the Society of Nations will come the greatest advance in International Law, which you know is my hobby, and history will give much credit to W. W. in spite of the difficulty which will immediately beset the League of Nations.
These were Colonel Bacon's views as to the conception of the League of Nations. The text had not been definitely settled. It was reported and out of the Commission to a Plenary Session of the Conference on February 14th and President Wilson started home the night of the 14th. The text was provisional; it was later modified in important particulars, and eventually formed the first part of the Treaty with Germany, signed in the City of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
Colonel Bacon's views changed after reading and considering the text; his favourable and optimistic opinion, based upon hearsay of the contents of the Covenant, was modified. But his views at the time are interesting as showing the hopes with which the Conference opened and how ready the world was to acclaim something that offered a peaceful settlement of the nations' quarrels.
Feb. 8, '19.
I'll tell you a secret . . . if you'll promise not to tell. I am crazy about my bed! And am tempted to stay here permanently, until they let me go home. The sun is streaming in my window, and it is real winter outside, snow everywhere and the spruces and beeches and chestnuts covered with glistening frost, and alive with circling rooks (crows I believe you call them) remind me of home and Jamaica Plain. As a matter of fact, I shall probably get up and go to my dreary office, and start in my rather unimportant round of daily duties.
I went down to dinner last night with my Captain. I hesitate to go to Paris to-morrow much as I want to, because the C. in C. has not returned from London, and I am not sure of finding my other C. in C. in Paris, which would be my only excuse for going otherwise. I might be thrown into prison, A. W. O. L., and you would not want me to end up in that way, would you . . . . !
If it be given us to spend a few years as the Darby and Joan of our young imagination of 40 years ago, there will be nothing left to be hoped for or desired, God bless you!
And what of the war! Is Germany winning out having got rid of the incubus and curse of Kaiserism, Are the teachings of Nietzsche and Treitschke substantially to prevail? And were the "intellectuals", the 90 boche professors right? One hears occasionally, and it is believed, though not spoken, that the boche is a superior race in many ways, after all-more worthy to survive than some of us who are thought to be effete, who still cling to, en principe, and try to cultivate, the teachings of Christ, and the "ligne du beau" in life, art, beauty, sentiment, refinement, even at the expense of austere vulgarity and organized "efficiency." Beaten! the boche is not beaten because he has failed in the immediate domination of the world, for his brutal orgies, and has lost his Kaiser and his dream of that kind of Empire for ever.
Reculer pour mieux sauter---and now that we are busily engaged in helping him to rebuild his shaken social and economical structure in order that he may renew his industrial activity and pay the big indemnity, it will not take many years before his is the biggest single racial unit and homogeneous administrative entity in the Society of Nations. Seventy millions of common language and tradition and aspiration is a pretty strong, little solid democracy in the very centre of the world with the highest efficiency, even in breeding boches, and its natural and legitimate expansion will before many generations burst any bonds which the world may seek to put about it industrially and socially and if its superiority of fibre be true, the peaceful penetration of anti-bellum days will "carry on" more strongly than ever, and business " über alles" will dominate the world unless the Bolshevists get it all first. But the boche is an adaptable and able gentleman. He is taking it "lying down" now, because he is perfectly confident that he is going to put it over with his smile and his "Kamerad" just as his machine gunners tried to do after they had killed hundreds of our men from concealed positions and came out smiling in utter surprise that any one should bear any resentment ---ready to begin all over again just as they are now. That's the sort of stuff that wins---the engrafting of the Jew on the old Hun stock---a great combination! I'm all for it myself, as I've always tried to make you believe---patient humility with supreme egoism fools a lot of people and gets there, doesn't it!
Teach all this to your grandchildren . . . that is, if you believe in the superiority of the boche! If not, go on in your old, simple, homely, mistaken (!), wonderful way, living and teaching by your example and precept the life of Christ, and making every one who comes within the radiance of your gentle goodness, love you, and admire and look up to you.
Colonel Bacon's cold did not lift, and it would have been better had he remained in bed for some days longer, for the cold developed into pneumonia. He did not do so and he was put to bed in the American Hospital of Paris. From this quiet retreat he wrote to Mrs. Bacon on February 15th:
You would be surprised to get a letter from me here, except that I cabled you I was coming to get rid of my cold, and here I am, being taken the best of care of by doctors and nurses, and being kept as warm as toast to keep this nasty European winter chill out . . .
I can't stand it much longer, and I have made up my mind to ask to be sent home just as soon as Sir Douglas makes any change in G. H. Q, and I am beginning to allow myself to think of getting home by the 1st of May!! When I get out of this hospital I am thinking of inviting myself to stay with Davy at Cannes for a few days' leave. . . .
It was better for me to take my cold away, and I think I was pretty wise in my old age to come out here where I have a cheerful room and bath all to myself "giving" on the garden and sunshine. My cough has entirely gone already in the two days that I have been here, and my temperature is nearly normal. It was never over 100° or so.
The next letter was written on February 24th, from Les Mimosas, Cannes.
Nine days in the hospital . . . was enough to clear up my wheezy bronchial tubes, and get my temperature down to normal every day, so Doctor Turner, with the approval of my friend Colonel Beeuwkes, thought well of my accepting Harry Davison's kind invitation to come down here with him on Saturday, Washington's Birthday, after his triumphant launching of his big International Red Cross programme at a dinner in Paris, the account of which you have surely seen in all the papers, for he has a good press. It is a wonderful conception---the coördination of world effort for all humanitarian work-health. research, sanitation, and cleanliness of all kinds---combat, cure and prevention of disease, and epidemic, coming through the better knowledge and appreciation of the peoples of the earth for one another, in fact all sorts of useful international activities under the name of the Red Cross, which will become a great educator of public opinion. Root has had the vision for many years chiefly from the point of view of International Law, and you may remember that I have had some ideas on the subject myself Well, Davy and his charming family are living here in a wonderful garden on the hillside among the palms and mimosas and sunshine overlooking the Mediterranean---a pretty good place for an old broken down war horse like me. If I can't get my courage back in a week or two, I ought to be ashamed of myself. . . .
If I can only get away after a week or so down here, and a few weeks more at G. H. Q. with Sir Douglas, I will fly home with Sister. She would like to go by the middle of April, and me, well, nothing will hold me but a sense of obligation to Sir Douglas. He will be amused when I tell him that you have seen him in a "film." That American boy chased him that day by the Canal, and wouldn't take no for an answer. Even while we were having our lunch from a basket on the ground, till the C. in C. was quite annoyed. I feel like a coward sneaking off to bed in a hospital, and then running away down here. It is a bad sign . . . and I am not proud of it. It was only the thought of you that made me do it, and fear, just plain fear, I think. The two days that I had with McCoy and Boyd at rue de Chevreuse when Boyd died, were not cheerful.
The little American Hospital was fine and deserves all the encouragement it can get. Don't be in a hurry, however, to turn over your money. Your letter to donors was fine and above criticism, but you never can tell what some nasty cuss may try to do, and it is well to be prepared for anything. . . .
I am not sure whether the American Hospital has the right to build on its land, but they have plans for an additional wing for about 200 beds, which could be built with your money, if there is any way to get enough money to maintain it.
I have reached no definite conclusion about it, but have not thought much about it till I found myself in the hospital and got your letter.
We are all waiting breathlessly now for two things------the reception of W. W.'s League of Nations to-day in Boston, and the military peace which should be imposed without further delay upon the boche. It is essential that this be done immediately. The next few weeks are full of possibilities.
Hôtel Meurice [Paris],
March 5th, '19.
About two months more. . . . Perhaps I can break away then and I shall fly as soon as ever my two C. in C.'s are through with me. I had a fine rest with the nice Davisons in Cannes and arrived back only to-day. I did nothing but sit on the veranda. The family were sweet to me and one reason that I love them is that they appreciate you.
Harry is staying with me to-night at the rue Chalgrin and tomorrow, but then he will be off and I, too, up to my house in the north for a few more weary weeks. . . .
In a brief note of March 6th, he has a reference to affairs at home and to the League of Nations before it had assumed its final form.
20 rue Chalgrin.
. . . What a revolution in the Senate! What a state of convulsion all over the world! We must, of course, join a League of Nations.
The last of the long series of letters from France was written from Paris on March 12, 1919..
These days are pretty sad for me, and to-day for the first time I spoke to the C. in C. about my going home as soon as my job "up there" can be ended, which I am just beginning to hope may be by the 1st of May! If I could only count on it! . . .
Davy went away last night to Cannes, for his International work, and to-night I am going away to the Rhine again for five or six days perhaps before I get back to Montreuil where it is all very slack, and Sir D. will be away too till next week. After that I shall just hold on till it is decent to leave, if only I can get permission and orders to go. If I should be given another job over here and have to stay on, I really don't think I could bear it. The next few weeks will decide it all, and the minute I can get any daylight you bet I will cable you. . . .
I am thankful that the boys are out.
The period of settling down and taking up life again will be very difficult and trying and will tax all their moral fibre, but it must be faced and we must all begin to build again for the future. . . .
THE war was over in the sense that fighting had stopped and to the laymen unversed in military matters and administration the American Expeditionary Forces should take ship and return home at once and without delay. This, too, was the feeling of the men and it was certainly the desire of most officers. But where were the ships to transport this vast army of two million men and more? The tonnage of the world was drawn upon to get them to France; American vessels would not suffice and Colonel Bacon's cry of "Hurry, hurry, faster, faster, faster", was not his cry alone. It came from the heart of every man on the Western front, lest the Germans should win the race before the Americans entered the lists. But the month, day, or hour of going home was a matter of convenience, not of prime necessity, and the troops waited upon the transports, instead of the transports upon the troops. It would have been better, many thoughtful people believe, if the Allied and Associated Armies had not been withdrawn so rapidly from the front lines. Peace would have come earlier with their presence and the terms would have seemed more acceptable under the shadow of the great and conquering armies within striking distance of the Rhine. However this may be, the General Staffs had to remain after the units had disappeared and the thousand and one details arranged and righted. It would have been folly to send the experienced home, and leave the final and complicated settlement to virgin minds and untrained hands. Colonel Bacon's case was unique. He had been not only Head of the American Mission at British Headquarters and Liaison Officer between the Commanders-in-Chief of the English-speaking forces; he had been for months and still was on Marshal Haig's personal Staff. His presence was therefore highly desirable. Burning to go home, he could not ask to be relieved of his duties so long as others might want him to stay. He could not ask of his own accord and for his own convenience. Yet he was to return sooner than he contemplated, and under circumstances that left him no choice.
Mrs. Bacon broke down. She had overdone, as Colonel Bacon feared. She had cared for and carried the American Ambulance on her shoulders since the beginning of the World War. The excitement of the war kept her on her feet, as it did Colonel Bacon. With the end of the war came the end of her strength and endurance. The tired nerves collapsed, and Mrs. Bacon was prostrated. Colonel Bacon did not hesitate. He laid matters before his two Chiefs, and he was at once relieved of duty with both.
He had reverted to the rank of Major upon being relieved as Aide-de-Camp to General Pershing. He was not, however, overlooked by his Commanding Officer. He had been promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in the Quartermaster Corps in the last days of September. His ambition had always been to serve in the line, and on November 14, 1918, he was, to his great delight, commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel of Infantry, to date from September 16, 1918. To be sure, the commission was temporary, "for the period of the emergency, subject to confirmation by the War Department." On December 19, 1918, it was confirmed by the Secretary of War.
Colonel Bacon was ordered home.(302) He left Paris on March 25th, an ill man. He was unable to leave his bed most of the time. Immediately upon reaching New York he proceeded to Washington and was demobilized on April 5, 1919.(303)
The sands of life were running fast. His certificates of discharge from the Army showed him to be a physical wreck. He was operated on for mastoiditis contracted in France, and he died from the operation. His noble life ended on May 29, 1919; a victim of the war, "just as much," the British Chief of Staff said, " as if he had actually fallen on the field of battle."(304)
One who knew him long and well, indeed, from early manhood, has said:
This country is crying for such as he, for never in her existence has she been in a more neglected and chaotic condition than now, and more in need of an honourable man, of clear vision, noble impulses and true patriotism.
He never had a selfish motive, and he served his country till the end and sacrificed his precious life for her.
It would have gratified him to know that his name is on the Honour Roll at Harvard, among those who gave their lives in this war, and to see it inscribed in Memorial Hall, among the young men who died on the battlefield. . . .
All men loved him; for he rang perfectly true and was a little finer than most men, and young and old came to him for encouragement and inspiration. He had a certain quality of heart and soul that is seldom met, his great understanding and sympathy for those who deserved it, and the unselfishness and sense of honour that marked his life and which won confidence and affection wherever he went.
A high-minded and spiritual man such as Bishop Brent could and did write of Mr. Bacon:
I have just had the sad news. You have a whole army of men grieving with you. How deep your loss is we have some clear understanding of because your husband was our friend. No truer servant of the country ever breathed. And what he did for the Allied cause I know perhaps as well as any one for it was my good fortune to be with him much. He had no thought for anything except the issue of the struggle for the right. His devotion to the French and the British and his understanding of both nations made him a bond of union between them and us of a character and a strength which it would be hard to overvalue.
I happened to be with him during the darkest days when he was overborne with grief and pain. British leaders clung to him. He embodied the dauntless courage and intelligent sympathy of America, at times more than any other one person. He has given his life for the cause as truly as if a bullet had laid him low, for I saw and many others saw that he was exhausting his vitality in his unremitting service. Now he has joined those who have achieved---his chief, Roosevelt, and all those gallant comrades who fell at the front and whose fate he almost coveted.
The last time I saw him he spent the night at my house in Chaumont---the house which against my expostulations he insisted on retaining for me and where for several months before I was commissioned I was his guest. At that time he was longing to get home to you and talked much about you. His strength was always subordinated to his extraordinary gentleness. I loved to be with him, noble, loyal-hearted knight that he was.
There is nothing that can fill the gap that his going has made. But there is nothing that can undo or tarnish his great record. His life is embedded in the life of the country and the world of men. He lives a hero with the heroes.
I try to think of him as he is now in his new life beyond the grave. He is all that he was. His unflickering love moves out toward you and his children in its undimmed flame. Death can do nothing to weaken the knot of love that ties life to life. I am so thankful that you were all together when he went; and to have gone at this moment is not unfitting. He had finished the biggest undertaking of his life and rest comes after labour.(305)
A foreign statesman, the late Viscount Bryce, brought into frequent, almost daily intercourse with Colonel Bacon during a period of years, felt justified in thus writing to Mrs. Bacon:
Your husband was one of those among the statesmen of America whom I most respected and valued not only for his gifts and his services to good causes, but for the transparent sincerity, uprightness, and geniality of his character. To know him was to trust him and to love him. How often have I recalled the work we did together for furthering friendship and good relations between America and England, and how pleasant it was to deal with him. Such was the candour of his mind and the earnestness of his wish to settle everything in a way fair and just all round---the right temper in which a Secretary of State in any country should approach his tasks. We saw him several times here in the earlier years of the war, and [were] profoundly touched by his sympathy with England and the Allied cause, and I know how greatly his presence at Sir Douglas Haig's headquarters was valued and how attached everyone was to him there.
The impression that Colonel Bacon, the man and his example, made upon a youth of twenty, is stated in an extract from the young man's letter to his own sister:
It seems as if all our heroes were dying. Tom Stevenson walked in to breakfast this morning and told me that Mr. Bacon died yesterday.
Whatever may be our views and faith, one thing is certain---that a real man like Mr. Bacon is immortal, and his cherished memory is, and ever will be, an inspiration to the many who knew his wonderful personality. . . .
Another shining example of one who "has finished the work that was given him to do" has passed away.
"Through such souls alone, God stooping, shows sufficient of his light for us in the dark to rise by."
"I did love him very much, and trusted him and admired him and it made me think better of myself to feel that he loved me," Mr. Root once said of Colonel Bacon. And the Commander-in-Chief of the American Army in France wrote him in an official letter, that he was "an example to all of us."
Such was Robert Bacon, judged by his acts and his innermost thoughts, his associates and friends and companions in arms. American through and through, and, in a very real sense a friend of England and France, he was withal supremely the friend of right, as it was given him to see the right.
J. B. S.
Washington, D. C.,
May 13, 1923.
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