...With Our Soldiers in France
Official Reports of the Only Accredited Negro War Correspondent---Ralph W. Tyler, Representative with the A. E. F. of the U. S. Committee on Public Information---The Story of the Life and Fighting of American Negro Soldiers in France as Seen By This Trained Observer.
One of the most important results of the conference of Negro editors held in Washington in June, 1918, was the sending to France of a trained newspaper writer of the Negro race with instructions to report on the life and the activities of the Negro soldiers as he saw things, in order that the Negro press of America might be furnished with first-hand and accurate information for their readers of the precise conditions under which their people were working and fighting in France. The announcement of Mr. Tyler's appointment was made by the Committee on Public Information on September 16, 1918 when the following bulletin was issued to the press of the country:
"One of the direct requests of the Editors' Conference in June was that a reliable colored news-writer be sent to France to report the doings of the colored troops on the western front in France, for the information of the anxious millions of colored Americans in this country and to the end that the correct story of the valor and patriotic devotion of their brethren might be told fully and in a sympathetic vein by one of their own blood and kindred.
"In compliance with this request, the Committee on Public Information has designated Ralph W. Tyler, of Columbus, Ohio, former Auditor of the Navy Department at Washington, as a regularly-commissioned war correspondent, to specialize on the conditions surrounding the colored troops in France and to make daily reports of the activities and engagements in which the colored soldiers are prominent. He will be on the staff of General Pershing, commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Forces overseas. Every
facility has been provided by Mr. George Creel, director of the Committee on Public Information, for the prompt and accurate gathering of all facts that may be of interest to the colored people.
"Mr. Tyler is the first colored man to be named as a regular war correspondent by any Government in the world. He is a native of Ohio. For seventeen years he served in various departments on the Columbus Evening Dispatch and the Ohio State Journal, which gave him experience in the technique of the newspaper craft and afforded him opportunity for association with many influential newspaper men. This intimate contact with such forces will be invaluable to him in his labors as a war correspondent. The fact that he has a wide acquaintance with correspondents now at the front, will make it possible for him to get news concerning colored troops which, perhaps, no other colored correspondent could secure.
"The claims of a number of men were fully considered in connection with this important assignment, but Mr. Tyler was finally selected as the most efficient of those available. Immediately after war was declared by the United States on Germany, Mr. Tyler wrote the President, tendering his services in any capacity. He has three sons, all of whom are at the front in France."
The plan under which Mr. Tyler worked was to send his reports to the Committee on Public Information, which in turn sent them to me for editing and for circulation throughout the country. This news service unquestionably had a tremendously valuable effect in bringing the truth about conditions in France to the colored people of America. As it happened, the war came to an end in less than three months after Mr. Tyler's appointment. In that brief time, however, and in the short time after the armistice was signed during which he remained in France, he wrote and sent to this country the most valuable and interesting first-hand reports about our Negro soldiers that have come from any source. There is no better way in which I can present an adequate picture of the life of our soldiers in France than by reproducing here Mr. Tyler's dispatches, beginning with his graphic account, written after the fighting had ceased, of the last great battle of the war and the glorious part which the Negro soldiers had in it. This is Mr. Tyler's summing up of the work of the 92nd Division:
"Somewhere in France, November 20. They were in it at the
finish, as they were at Verdun, Soissons, Chateau-Thierry, Argonne and Champagne. At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the fifth year of the war, when the signal flashed from Eiffel Tower in Paris stopped hostilities, in conformity with the terms of the armistice just signed by the Germans, the 92nd Division, composed of Colored American Soldiers, occupied the point closest to the German city of Metz, the objective of the last drive of this war. At the stroke of eleven the cannon stopped, the rifles dropped from the shoulders of our Colored soldiers, and their machine guns became silent. Then followed a strange, unbelievable silence as though the world had ceased to exist. It lasted but a moment---lasted for the space of time the breath is held. Then, among these dark-skinned troopers came a sigh of relief---came jubilance, as every colored soldier, in true Parisian vernacular, exclaimed: 'La Guerre est fini'---the war is over, and immediately thoughts turned to dear ones back across the sea, while tears flowed down their war-grimmed black faces for their hundreds of comrades bivouacing forever in sepulchers over here in France. The wish was father to the thought when it was prophesied, back in the states, when the first colored troops sailed for France, that they would be in it at the finish, that their "On to Berlin" slogan would become a reality. The armistice stopped their advance into Berlin, but they did reach the nearest point to the German city of Metz in what was designed as a victorious march to Berlin, and the valor they displayed, their courageous, heroic fighting all along that advance won for our men in the 92nd Division high praise from superior officers, including the corps and division commander, for they never wavered an instant, not even in that awful hell, the Frehaut Woods, upon which the big guns of Metz constantly played; which the Senegalese were unable to hold, but which our colored soldiers from America did take, and did hold until the signal came announcing the cessation of hostilities."
Mr. Tyler also wrote:
Colored Troops in the Final Drive
"In this last battle of the war to establish world democracy---a thing the colored soldiers and their kinsmen back home crave, the following colored army units effectively took part: 365th, 366th, and 367th Infantry; 349th, 350th, and 351st Field Artillery, and
167th Machine Gun. All these were combatants in this final drive, but in this account of the battle the three non-combatant units, the 317th Ammunition Train, under the command of a colored major, Major Milton T. Dean; the 325th Field Signal Battalion; the staff of the 366th Field Hospital, to which the wounded and gassed were rushed, and the 365th and 366th Ambulance Corps, under the command, respectively, of Captain Sherman Hickman of Memphis, and Captain Charles H. Garvin of Cleveland, must not be overlooked or slighted. The 368th Infantry, while they did not get into this last action, had however been moved up to Guzoncourt, where they were held in reserve.
"If the reader will get out his map of France, and observe it, he will be able to follow the advance of the combatant colored troops in this last drive, which must go down in history as the final battle of the World War. The 367th, or "Buffaloes," as they were familiarly known, had been holding Villers-sous-Preny for many days and up to the time, seven o'clock Sunday morning, November 10, they were ordered to advance to Pagny, which they did, and held. The advance of this regiment was through "Death Valley," exposed to the heavy fire of the German guns stationed on the hill skirting the advance. They made the advance without a single casualty, and that they did so, considering the fire the men were subjected to, appears like a miracle, blind fate, or the will of God. They reached their objective in good form, and it was providential that they did, for it was from this point they were able to open up fire on the German guns, and save the 56th Infantry (white) from annihilation, when it had become pocketed by a murderous German fire which prevented its making Preny, or retreating.
"This saving of the 56th by the 367th was history repeating itself---colored troops saving white troops from destruction in 1918 as the 10th Cavalry saved the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War in 1898. So splendidly did the 367th colored regiment advance and perform that they wrung from the Corps and Division Commander a letter of praise, in which he paid tribute to the regiment's high qualities. Although the "Buffaloes" had for weeks been holding the front line trenches in a particularly active zone, upon which the Boche rained shells and gas daily and nightly,
and although from this regiment, almost daily and nightly, raiding parties of colored soldiers went out and brought in German prisoners, the regiment was the only colored regiment over here, perhaps, that had not been sent into an engagement---something they had longed for. The order to advance, at seven o'clock Sunday morning the 10th of November, gave them the opportunity they had so long waited for impatiently. In spite of the fact that their advance was to be through "Death Valley," a section flanked by big German guns massed on the overlooking hills, the order gave them more enthusiasm and satisfaction than an order to embark for home. When seven o'clock came they were ready to move, these "Buffaloes," and they did move with astonishing rapidity, absolutely indifferent to the bursting shells, which, fortunately, fell a little short of them, or caromed over their beads. "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here, What the Hell Do We Care?" greeted many a Boche shell as it fell short, or spent its force a few yards beyond their advancing line. They established and maintained a perfect liaison, and even their Supply Department, under that efficient acting supply officer, Lieut. McKaine, coordinated perfectly with the line advancing "on to Metz."
Illustrations in Chapter XX
Colored Officer Refuses to Retire
"The 366th had been occupying the line at Vaudières, prior to the Metz advance, and the order was to advance into one section of Bois Frehaut and Bois de Voivrotte, which it did in a most effective manner, displaying such bravery, in the face of a deadly shell fire, and its colored line officers displaying such excellent qualities of leadership as to merit unstinted praise from the Division Commander. In the engagement in the Bois Voivrotte, Lieut. Guy W. Canady, of Atlanta, was killed, and Lieut. M. W. Rush, of the same city, fell mortally wounded, dying a few days later in the hospital, after having lain out in the woods, thus terribly wounded, for twenty-four hours. Capt. George A. Holland, of the same regiment, also displayed remarkable courage and leadership. He had been ordered to take a position by his Colonel, and hold it at any cost. With his men he took it, but the fire was so heavy and murderous that his white major, commanding his battalion, sent orders to him to retire. This he positively refused to
do, sending word back that he had been ordered by his Colonel to hold the position taken, and he and his men would hold it until the last man fell, unless he had orders from his Colonel to retire. Few instances, in the annals of war, are recorded showing equal courage, in the face of heavy odds, to that shown by this colored officer, Captain Holland, and his company of the 366th who obeyed to the letter, the order given to take and to hold a position. As a result of the incomparable courage, endurance, and bravery shown by this company, twenty-five of them were commended, in General Orders, by the Division Commander.
"The First Battalion of the 365th engaged in this final drive of the war, had occupied the front line trenches in the Marbache sector. From almost the moment of occupancy, active patrolling and raiding into the enemy's lines was ordered, to determine the strength of the enemy. Officers and men of this battalion were sent out daily and nightly on such missions, and many instances of conspicuous bravery were displayed. Several of their number, however, were captured, and not a few killed and wounded, but the number of the enemy killed, captured, and wounded greatly outnumbered the casualties suffered by this First Battalion.
The 365th in the Bois Frehaut
"The 365th, prior to the last drive, had been occupying the front line trenches near Dieulouard, that town being the regimental headquarters. It had orders to advance into, take and hold a position in the Bois Frehaut. It happened that, for one reason or another, all the white officers of this regiment, including the Colonel commanding, and save the Major commanding the 2nd Battalion, bad been incapacitated for action, and so the 2nd Battalion went into action with but one white officer, the Major. No unit in the advance had a more difficult position to take and hold than the position assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 365th. The Bois Frehaut was a network of barbed-wire entanglements, and the big guns in Metz had nothing to do but sweep the woods with a murderous fire, which they did most effectively. French and Senegalese, in turn had failed to hold these woods, for it was worse than a hell---it had become the sepulcher of hundreds. I (Ralph W. Tyler) was over and through these woods; I saw the mass of
barbed-wire entanglements; I saw the nests in the trees in which Germans had camouflaged machine guns that rained a fire upon the Allied troops.
"It is impossible to describe this scene of carnage. The order to the colored men of the 365th was to "take and hold," although it was believed, almost to a certainty, that they could not hold it, even if they did take it. But they did take and hold it, and these men of the 2nd Battalion, with Spartan-like courage; with an endurance unbelievable, would be holding the position at this writing had not the Armistice been signed, or had they not received orders to retire. In these woods, at the head of his company, Captain Boutte, and the other line officers, fought tenaciously, heroically---so heroically that the Major commanding stated to me that the world had never produced gamer fighters than the colored men who made up his battalion of the 365th Infantry. The casualty list, because of the savage nature of the resistance the Germans made, because of the heavy, well directed big guns and machine gun fire, was large. But the 365th did take and did hold that which the fighting Senegalese could not hold after they had taken it.
"After sixteen days of activity on this front, the battalion was ordered in support for a week, and on November 5th it was ordered to the front line trenches in the. Mousson sector, an intensely active front, that was shelled daily and nightly. On the memorable morning of November 10, 1918, the 1st Battalion was ordered to the "alert," as support for the 2nd Battalion of the same regiment, then engaged in the last drive. On the evening of the 10th it was ordered to attack Champey and LaCote Hill, a very strongly fortified German position. The battalion moved to the attack at five o'clock Sunday evening, entering the position from the rear of the 2nd Battalion's position. A very heavy gas-shell and high explosive barrage laid down by the Germans checked the advance, and the battalion was ordered to remain in its position for the night.
"At five o'clock the next (Monday) morning, the 11th of November, the battalion moved into position for the resumption of the attack. Its line moved into position under cover of our artillery barrage, which began at 4:30 a. m. With two companies in the front line and two in support, the 1st Battalion advanced through
the difficult woods, Bois de Frehaut. It advanced with machine-gun support until the northern edge of the woods was reached, overlooking Champey. At this point the advance was met by a most terrific artillery bombardment and machine-gun fire delivered by the Germans stationed on the heights of LaCote Hill. The fighting at this point was bitter. Men and officers, however, remained in action and held their line under extremely adverse conditions. Up to this point the line had advanced, in the face of a terrific fire, about 400 yards, forcing many machine guns of the enemy to retire, and capturing a number of others along with much material. This action continued until 10:45 a. m., at which time the "Cease Fire" was sounded, which ended the hostilities of this titanic war.
"The casualties of the 1st Battalion of the 365th in this engagement were two officers wounded and 61 enlisted men killed, wounded, and gassed. Among the wounded officers was Lieut. Charles H. Fearing, formerly of Washington, D. C., who was slightly cut in the arm by shrapnel. Lieut. Fearing, but a few days before, had escaped death most miraculously.
Work of the Ammunition Train
"Distributing the many tons of ammunition along the route of the advance, and moving it up to the American combatants in this final drive for the 92nd Division, was a big task, but was successfully done by a colored Ammunition Train, under the command of Major Milton T. Dean, a colored officer. Arranging the telegraphic and signal communications between the various units, was a dangerous---most dangerous---and big achievement, and this was done by the 325th Colored Field Signal Battalion. Caring for and attending to the hundreds of wounded and gassed, as they were rushed back to the field hospital in ambulances driven by colored men and commanded by colored ambulance commanders, was the big task of those sacrificing and sympathetic colored surgeons on the staff of the 366th Field Hospital.
"I was at the front when the drive began---this the last battle of the world war. I was thrilled, and inspired by the enthusiasm of our men, and their eagerness to get into battle. The thundering of the big guns, the terrific explosion of death-carrying shells opening up, served only to inspire our colored soldiers with
a grim determination to maintain the race's traditional fighting reputation. As I retraced my steps over the battlefield, the awful field of carnage, and saw the havoc German shells had wrought; saw lifeless, blood-bespattered bodies of colored soldiers lying on the dark and bloody field; saw the maimed and mangled living, the natural feeling of sorrow, of anguish, of pain, was made endurable only by the thought that our men---our colored soldiers---were in it to the end, that they fought like heroes, died like heroes, died like martyrs. And then there was the radiant hope---perhaps they fought and fell, in the last battle of the greatest war ever waged for civilization, NOT in vain.
"As the colored troops, in the last battle of the war, the drive on Metz, were the first to reach the nearest point to the city of Metz, so it was colored troops, the old 15th New York, that first reached the point farthest east and nearest to the Rhine in the battle on the Meuse. They were in Alsace, and their line ran through Thann and across the railroad leading to Colmar."
Mr., Tyler continues:
As to Transfers of Officers
"Distance lends enchantment to the view, and likewise, not infrequently, to some degree, distance exaggerates a rule into an exception. The transfer of colored commissioned officers from combatant to non-combatant units is, I know, regarded by a very considerable number of colored people in the States as an 'exception.' I am aware that information has been, or soon will be, received back in the States that a number of colored officers were recently given assignments to casualty camps, and that white officers were assigned to their places in the line. German propaganda is sure to convey these transfers as an 'exception' prompted by racial prejudice. To one who is here on the scene, and who knows of countless number of white officers who are daily being transferred to units and assignments which they would not themselves have selected, and of some having been peremptorily shorn of their rank on the field of battle, the 'rule' carries no evidence of 'exception' clue to racial discrimination. So far as I have been able to ascertain all transfers are made for the good of the service,
regardless as to whether the ones transferred are white or colored.
"The, number of colored commissioned officers discharged, or transferred from their units, has been negligible when compared with the number of white officers honorably (?) and dishonorably discharged and transferred, even when the proportionate number of each is considered.
"This is war over here---actual, not theoretical war, and its prosecution to the earliest conclusion is so urgent that commanding generals have no time to consider racial problems, even if they were, ordinarily, so inclined to do. To 'win the war' as speedily as possible, with the best available units and officers, appears to prompt all allied commanders, Americans, French, and British, and if some few colored officers, like hundreds of white officers, fall into the discard, or receive new assignments, the race back in the States must not too quickly assume that race discrimination was the actuating factor. I have learned of instances, over here, where white colonels who had aspired to become brigadier-generals have lost the insignia of colonelcy. I have learned of many white officers whose self-estimate made them available for commanding and directing attacks in battle who have been, much to their chagrin, given desk assignments.
"Just prior to a recent engagement, it is reported, a number of commissioned colored officers were transferred from their units to casualty and other assignments. Had they not been transferred just when they were some of them would have their names now appearing in the list of 'Killed in Battle.' They, doubtless, would have as willingly filled a martyr's grave as they, unwillingly and uncomplainingly, accepted other assignments.
"The fact is patent to all who are conversant with the war over here that casualty camp assignments are as necessitous as field assignments; that the stevedore regiments make possible the success of the combatant regiments; that the swivel-office-chair officer performs an important and necessitous function. Secretary of War Baker, although a civilian, performs a duty, the non-performance of which would have made it impossible for General Pershing to achieve glory over here for the United States. I simply want to impress upon my race, back in the States, that in this war
'the hewer of wood and the drawer of water' is as necessary to victory as the man who adjusts the distance for the 75-centimeter gun, and that when the world has been made safe for democracy it will be impossible to deny honor to all who helped to achieve victory, even to those who, having received no assignment in the theater of war, cheerfully stood and waited for an opportunity to serve, even if only in some humble capacity.
"The necessarily quick decisions made on a battlefield, or immediately prior to entering battle, where victory hangs as much on strategy as on man-power and equipment, will ofttimes disillusion even the theorist who employs platitudes, at a safe distance far behind the battle front, rather than bullets and shrapnel with which wars are won. I am now here where life is but a gamble, and the flow of blood is but commonplace, and know whereof I speak, and knowing the necessity of war here at the seat of it, I am willing to stand or fall by the foregoing statement, and in the assurance that our race is actually winning glory over here in France."
Negroes in the Final Fighting
Following is Mr. Tyler's report of the final fighting, written on the day before the Armistice took effect:
"In the battle raging today in the American advance toward Metz, the 92nd Division played a big role. Not only were its black infantry and machine gun units up at the front, in the thickest of it, but its artillery, the 167th Brigade of Field Artillery, was on the line, behaving like veterans, laying down a barrage for the infantry that was marvelously effective; and they established a reputation which has been made by but few, among French, British or Americans, of laying down a barrage that did not entrap, and fatally so, their own men.
"This has been a glorious day for the black soldiers. The fighting is still on, and I have just received the intimation that the casualty toll may be heavy---depressingly so, for Metz, and the sector around about it, is strongly fortified by the Germans, and resistance determined.. Metz is considered by experts to be the strongest fortified city in the world, almost as impregnable as the fortifications of the Dardanelles. But the Americans are hammer-
ing away at it, and only the signing of the Armistice terms by the Germans, by eleven o'clock tomorrow, will save Metz from falling. Even as it is, colored soldiers are now on German soil.
"The husky invaders include the colored soldiers of the 92nd Division, embracing the 'Buffaloes' or 367th, the 365th and 366th Regiments of Infantry, and the 167th Brigade of Field Artillery, composed of the 349tb, 350th and 351st Regiments and the 317th Trench Mortar Battery, and all are conducting themselves with a fortitude and valor that have won for them. high praise from their commanding officers every time they have been put to any test."
And here is Mr. Tyler's report on the very day of the Armistice, November 11, 1918:
"The colored troops who took part in the last battle of this war acquitted themselves splendidly, f ought valiantly, and with such precision and order as to earn for them high praise. Reminiscent stories of this engagement will be coming to light for weeks---even months---after this battle has long been a matter of history, for, as in all big battles, the reverberations of the big guns, the rattle of musketry, and the smoke of the battle must have died away before the accounting can be made. There is one remarkable, even astonishing, record made in this last drive, a record that either establishes the fact that God was with the colored regiments engaged, as a protector, or that Fate is not merely a fetish, for the 'Buffaloes' suffered not a single casualty---not one wounded or killed. Just how they could have advanced along the difficult line given them; flanked by heavy German guns---guns from whose rain of hell-made and death-charged shells it seems incredible that anyone could escape, is beyond the conjecture of man, and yet they made their advance, gained their objective, and held it without the loss of a single man. The 366th, 365th, 351st Machine Gun, and 167th Field Artillery, all colored, engaged in this final battle of the war, suffered a casualty which, in the aggregate, was but slight, and yet they were in the thick of it, and to the finish when the note was sounded that, under the terms of the Armistice signed this morning by the Germans, hostilities cease.
"It will be gratifying to the colored people to know that the colored soldiers and officers have acquitted themselves splendidly,
from the first engagement into which the 372nd was rushed soon after landing to the final drive onto Metz in which three colored regiments and colored field artillery took part. And, claim what they will, in every one of these engagements in which colored units took part their colored officers led with commendable bravery and efficiency, and the soldiers in line followed with such a fidelity, loyalty, devotion, and dash as to forever set at rest the claim that colored men are incapable to command as officers, and that colored soldiers best fight under white officers. The drive on to Metz which concluded the four years' titanic war affixes 'finis' to the argument put forth by some as to the loyalty of the race to their own leaders.
"The effect of the signing, and promulgating in the camps of our colored soldiers, of the Armistice today, was like magic in this Marbache sector, where more than 30,000 combatant colored troops are centered. Just out of the trenches, just out of the. fierce and bloody battle, they began singing and cheering, and nearly every Frenchman they met, it mattered not the sex, greeted them, these bronzed, khaki-garbed troops, with an embrace and the exhilarating 'La guerre est fini,' meaning 'The war is finished.' This evening, as .1 am writing this account, colored soldiers are moving up and down, back and forth, over the streets of this little French town at the front, cheering and singing. Their repertoire of songs and hymns, exultingly and plaintively sung, from 'Down on the Suwanee River,' 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' to 'Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here,' interrupted ever and anon, although strictly forbidden, with the firing of a revolver or gun, tell how happy they are over the conclusion of peace. And many of them---most of them, if not all---are anxiously awaiting the order for embarkation back to America, although they must realize that, of a necessity, many of them will witness the blooming of next June's roses in France, rather than back in the States.
"It is perhaps one of the most glorious epochs in the history of the race, since the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, that the race, represented by three regiments---crack fighting regiments---and a field artillery unit, was engaged in the last battle of the war; that the race was among the first of the Allied troops
to go over the top and set foot on German soil after more than four years' courageous fighting. Here are some of the expressions with which colored privates gave vent to their happiness at the war being over, in this sector last night:
" 'We done signed another Emancipation Proclamation!'
" 'That "New Freedom" must come-we have won it.' 'We came to France and won a man's chance!'
How France Received the Negro Soldiers
Let Mr. Tyler's fascinating and gossipy narrative of the life of the American Negro troops in France close with a reproduction of the tribute paid them by the French people themselves. The following is a translation of an article written by a talented French woman and published in the leading newspaper of one of the large French cities:
"A peaceful town, far from the front. A beautiful June day full of perfume of roses; resplendent summer freely bursting into bloom, indifferent to human plaints, frets, and agitations. A boy of ten years, bead like the urchin of the year one, runs through' the streets crying: 'The Americans are coming to B----; the inhabitants are invited to greet them.'
"The Americans! For months they had been discussed; they had been expected, and there was great curiosity; groups of people go down to the public square of the town, where they see upon our white streets the first ranks of the Allied troops. But what a surprise! They are black soldiers! Black soldiers? There is great astonishment, a little fear. The rural population, not well informed, knows well the Negro of Africa, but those from America's soil, the country of the classical type, characterized by the cold, smooth white face; that from America could come this dark troupe ---none could believe his own eyes.
"They dispute among themselves; they are a little irritated; some of the women become afraid; one of them confides to me that she feels the symptoms of an attack of indigestion. Smiling, reassurably, 'lady with all too emotional stomach, quiet yourself. They do not eat human flesh; two or three days from now you will be perfectly used to them.' I said two or three days, but from
that very evening the ice is broken. Natives and foreigners smile at each other, and try to understand each other. The next day we see the little children in the arms of the huge Negroes, confidently pressing their rosy cheeks to the cheeks of ebony, while their mothers look on with approbation.
"A deep sympathy is in store for these men, which, yesterday, was not surmised. Very quickly it is seen they have nothing of the savage in them, but, on the other hand, one could not find a soldier more faultless in his bearing, and in his manners more affable, or more delicate than these children of the sun, whose ancestors dreamed under the wonderful nights along murmuring streams. We admire their forms---handsome, vigorous and athletic; their intelligent and loyal faces with their large gleaming eyes, at times dreamy, and with a bit of sadness in them.
"Far removed is the time when their inauspicious influence, was felt upon the digestive organs of the affrighted lady. Now one honors himself to have them at his table. He spends hours in long talks with them; with a great supply of dictionaries and manuals of conversation. The white mothers of France weep to see the photographs of the colored mothers, and display the portraits of their soldier sons. The fiancées of our own 'Poilus' become interested in the fiancées across the sea, in their dress, in their head dress, and in everything which makes woman resemble woman in every clime. Late at night the workers of the field forget their fatigue as they hear arise, in the peaceful night, the melancholy voices which call up to the memory of the exile his distant country, America. In the lanes along the flowery hedges, more than one group of colored American soldiers fraternize with our people, while the setting sun makes blue the neighboring hills, and gently the song of night is awakened.
"And then these soldiers who had become our friends depart. One evening sad adieus are exchanged. Adieu? How we wish they may be only 'Au revoirs.' Promises to correspond, to return when furloughs are granted. Here and there tears fall, and when, the next day, the heavy trucks roll off in the chilly morning, carrying away to the front our exotic guests, a veritable sadness seizes us.
"Soldier friends, our hearts, our wishes, go with you. That destiny may be merciful to you; that the bullets of the enemy may spare you. And if any of you should never see your native home again, may the soil of France give you sweet repose.
"Soldiers, who arrived among us one clear June day, redolent with the scent of roses, you will always live in our hearts."
Chapter XXI. The Negro Music That Stirred France
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