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AROUND BOIS-LE-PRÊTRE, THE "FOREST OF DEATH "

Pont-à-Mousson, which became the headquarters for ten months of Section 2 of the Field Service of the American Ambulance, is near the Lorraine border, at the apex of a triangle at the base of which are Nancy and Toul. It is on the Moselle River, and lies only a dozen or so miles east of Seicheprey, where the American soldiers first came in conflict with the Germans. The section consisted of twenty cars, and the Americans in charge of them numbered twenty-four, under the leadership of Edward Van D., or, as he was more commonly called, Ned, Salisbury, of Chicago. Constant and violent fighting in the near-by region in and around Bois-le-Prêtre, the "Forest of Death," the Germans called it, kept the section busy during the summer of 1915, Pont-à-Mousson and the neighboring towns and villages being frequently under shell-fire. The section began its work in April, at first under the direction of French orderlies. The Americans, however, were so quick to learn, and adapted themselves to their new duties so readily, that in a short time the French section was transferred to another post and the Americans were left in sole charge of the work.

Two of the members of this section have left a full record of its personnel and of its daily activities---James R. McConnell, of Carthage, North Carolina, and Leslie Buswell, of Gloucester, Massachusetts. McConnell's narrative was printed in the Outlook for September, 1915, with an introduction by Colonel Roosevelt; and the paper was so full of information and was written with such vividness, freshness and humor, that it deserved all the praise it received. The article was reprinted in "Friends of France." Here is McConnell's picture of the scene when the shelling was active:

It was a day when the shelling seemed to be general, for shrapnel and small 77 shells were also bursting at intervals over and in a little town one passes through in order to avoid a more heavily bombarded outer route on the way to the postes de secours. It was magnificent descending the hill from the postes that afternoon. To the left French 75 shells were in rapid action; and one could see the explosion of the German shells just over the crest of the long ridge where the batteries were firing. It was a clear, sparkling day, and against the vivid green of the hills, across the winding river, the little white puffs of shrapnel exploding over the road below were in perfect relief, while from the red-tiled roofs of the town, nestling in the valley below, tall columns of black smoke spurted up where the large shells struck. Little groups of soldiers, the color of whose uniforms added greatly to the picture, were crowded against the low stone walls lining the road to observe the firing; and one sensed the action and felt the real excitement of the sort of war one imagines instead of the uninteresting horror of the cave-dweller combats that are the rule in this war.

 

In contrast with the foregoing is McConnell's description of the night-work of the American ambulance drivers:

The work at night is quite eerie, and on moonless nights quite difficult. No lights are allowed, and the inky black way ahead seems packed with a discordant jumble of sounds as the never-ending artillery and ravitaillement trains rattle along. One creeps past convoy after convoy, past sentinels who cry, " Halte là ! " and then whisper an apologetic "Passez" when they make out the ambulance; and it is only in the dazzling light of the illuminating rockets that shoot into the air and sink slowly over the trenches that one can see to proceed with any speed.

It is at night, too, that our hardest work comes, for that is usually the time when attacks and counter-attacks are made and great numbers of men are wounded. Sometimes all twenty of the Section cars will be in service. It is then that one sees the most frightfully wounded: the men with legs and arms shot away, mangled faces, and hideous body wounds. It is a time when men die in the ambulances before they reach the hospitals, and I believe nearly every driver in the Section has had at least one distressing experience of that sort.

 

Through all the excitement, however, these young Americans preserved their characteristic traits. Thus McConnell notes:

No matter how long the war lasts, I do not believe that the members of Section Y will lose any of their native ways, attitudes, or tastes. They will remain just as American as ever. Why, they still fight for a can of American tobacco or a box of cigarettes that comes from the States, when such a rare and appreciated article does turn up, and papers and magazines from home are sure to go the rounds, finding themselves at length in the hands of English-reading soldiers in the trenches. I never could understand the intense grip that the game of baseball seems to possess, but it holds to some members of the Section with a cruel pertinacity. One very dark night, a few days ago, two of us were waiting at an advanced poste de secours. The ride and artillery fire was constant, illuminating rockets shot into the air, and now and then one could distinguish the heavy dull roar of a mine or torpille detonating in the trenches. War in all its engrossing detail was very close. Suddenly my friend turned to me and, with a sigh, remarked, " Gee ! I wish I knew how the Red Sox were making out !"

 

Thursday, the 22d of July, 1915, was a memorable day for the Americans in Pont-à-Mousson. The town was heavily shelled, and it was only by the narrowest margin that some of them were not killed. As it was, they lost their faithful orderly and general servant, Mignot, to whom they were all greatly attached.

A graphic narrative of the occurrences of that day is to be found in one of the letters that make up the book called "Ambulance No. 10," by Leslie Buswell, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, a member of the section. Under date of Pont-à-Mousson, July 24, 1915, Buswell wrote:

. . . We got back to lunch about 12 o'clock, and Mignot, our indefatigable friend in the position of a general servant, upbraided us for our unpunctuality, etc.

We had hardly finished lunch when a shell burst some twenty metres away and we hurriedly took to the cellar, while eleven more shells exploded all around our headquarters or "caserne," as we call it. We then went for a round of inspection and found that the twelve shells had all fallen on our side of the road and were all within forty or fifty metres of us. This made us feel pretty sure that the shells were meant for us or for our motors. Schroder [Note: Bernard N. P. Schroder, the only representative in the American Ambulance Field Service of Northwestern University] and I discussed the matter, and came to the conclusion that we did not like the situation very much, and that if the Germans sent perhaps six shells, all at once, we should many of us get caught. I was very tired, and at about one-thirty went to sleep and slept until five-thirty, when I went to dinner at the caserne.

The evening meal over, an argument started about the merits of a periodical called le Mot (do you know it?)---a kind of futurist paper. After a rapid-fire commentary from one and then another of us, which continued until about eight-thirty, Schroder and I decided to go to our rooms to bed. We were walking home when I reminded him that he had been asked to tell four of our fellows who slept in a house near by to be sure that no light could be seen through the shutters; so turning back we rapped on the window and heard merry laughter and were greeted with a cheery invitation to join the nine who had gathered inside. It seems that one of them, who had been on duty at Montauville, had managed to get some fresh bread and butter and jam, and they were celebrating the event! We had to decline their friendly hospitality, however, as we wanted to get some sleep.

I had just got my boots off when whish-sh-sh-bang! bang! bang! bang! four huge shells burst a little way down the road towards our caserne. Thirty seconds after came two more ---five minutes later six more and then we heard a screaming woman ejaculating hysterically "C'est les Américains." Schroder and I looked at each other without speaking. We hurriedly dressed and started to run to the caserne---women and soldiers shouting to us to stay where we were; but rushing on through the fog, smoke and dust, we reached headquarters. There we found the rest of the Section in the cellar, and hurriedly going over those' present, realized that two were absent---Mignot and the mechanic of the French officer attached to us.

 

Mignot, it was found, had been killed by one of the shells; also two women, while several others, including the mechanic, were badly wounded. The narrative continues:

Ogilvie [Note: Francis D. Ogilvie, of Lindfield, Sussex, England.] got his car and we got our stretchers out to take away the blessés. There were a few of us grouped about some seven or eight ---and near---with the wounded just put on stretchers, when---"Look out ! " Bang! Bang ! Bang !---three more shells.

We had already thrown ourselves on the ground, and then, finding we were still alive, feverishly loaded the car. "Good God! I've stalled it," said the driver---then the cranking--- would it never start---try again---thank Heaven, it was off ! Hardly thirty seconds after, whishsh-bang ! bang ! two more came. We retired to a cellar for a few minutes, as the three dead could stay there while it was so terribly dangerous. At last we emerged and were about to lift Mignot's body when both arms moved. Was he alive, after all? No, it was only the electric wires he was lying on that had stimulated his muscles. The car turned the corner with the three dead, and we ran back to the caserne.

There we found the rest of our Section very shaken indeed. A shell had burst just outside of the house where the nine were making merry and the violence of the impact had hurled all of them to the ground. Two feet nearer and the whole lot would have been killed.

 

As a result of this bombardment and of an attack by the Germans on the town, the headquarters of Section 2 were moved the next day to Dieulouard, five or six miles to the south of Pont-à-Mousson.

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Ce texte est présent sous http://raven.cc.ukans.edu/~libsite/wwi-www/AmerVolunteers/Morse4.htm#3

 

First Impressions

After a few more short delays (inseparable from times and states of war), the Section at last found itself within a mile of one of the most stubbornly contested points of the line. In a little town not far from the front they came in swift progression into hard work, bombardment, and appreciation by the army.

Pont-à-Mousson is in a district in which low hills, many of them covered with thick woods, lie along the valley of the Moselle. Down towards the river, on both banks and at right angles to it, stretch the interminable lines of trenches, east and west; batteries of guns crown the adjacent hills for two or three miles back from the trenches, alike in the enemy's country and that of the French; and intermittently, day and night, these batteries defy and seek to destroy each other, the valleys echoing with the roar of their guns and the sharp scream of shells high overhead. Back of the trenches for several miles every village is full of soldiers resting or in reserve; the roads are filled with marching troops, horses, mule trains, baggage wagons, guns and ammunition carts. At every crossroad stand sentries with bayonets. After sunset the whole country is dark, no lights being permitted, but the roads are more crowded than by day, as it is under cover of night that troops and guns are generally moved. The whole country near to the active lines is one great theatre of war. Everywhere are sights and sounds forbidding a moment's forgetfulness of the fact. Yet --and it is one of the most curious and touching things one sees --- the peasant life goes on but little changed. Old men dig in their gardens, women gather and sell their vegetables, girls stand in the evenings at their cottage doors, children run about and play in the streets. Often, not more than two miles away, a desperate attack may be in progress. Between the concussions of the cannon throwing their missiles from the hills over the village can be heard the rattle of rifle-fire and the dull pop-pop-pop of the mitrailleuses. In an hour or two, scores, maybe hundreds, of wounded men, or lines of prisoners, will file through the village, and at any moment shells may burst over the street, killing soldiers or women indifferently, but the old man still digs in his garden, the girl still gossips at the door.

J. HALCOTT GLOVER

The Daily Programme

About 6 o'clock those sleeping at the caserne get up and dress, rolling up their blanket-rolls, and coming into the dining-room for coffee at about 6.30. Towards 7, the men who have slept at the different postes arrive. After coffee, ambulances which are to be stationed elsewhere for service as required, leave the caserne. Men on day duty see to their cars and await calls by telephone which are received by our French assistant. Particulars are entered by him upon a printed slip and given to the driver next in turn to go out. On the driver's return, this slip is handed in with the number of wounded carried and the figures are entered in our record book. At 11 o'clock everybody comes in for déjeuner. The dining-room --- a large apartment capable of holding three times our number --- has been pleasantly decorated with festoons and flags by our orderly, Mignot. The afternoon is taken up in evacuating wounded to Belleville, bringing in fresh wounded as required, or, in slack moments, in reading, writing, or sleeping. We have a little garden and easy-chairs, and, considering the state of war and the very close proximity of the enemy, it is remarkable that we should have so many luxuries. At 6 we have dinner, after which men who are to sleep at Dieulouard go off for the night. By 9 the rest of us have generally turned in. One car every night waits at Montauville, and, should there be too many wounded for one car to convey, as many more are as required are summoned by telephone. During severe attacks, all cars may be called for: in which case one man is appointed to take charge of arrivals and despatches at Montauville, leaving drivers free to come and go with as little delay as possible.

J. H. G.

Handling the Wounded

The wounded are brought by the army brancardiers direct from the trenches to one or other of the postes de secours established in the villages behind the trenches and are carried on stretchers slung between two wheels. Two men convey them. They usually come two or three kilometres over rough tracks or open fields from the lines where they fell. The work of the brancardiers is exhausting and dangerous, and enough cannot be said in their praise. This war being one of barbarous weapons, the condition of the wounded is often terrible. Shells, shrapnel, handgrenades, and mines account for most of the injuries, and these are seldom clean wounds and often very serious. The wounded arrive, after rough dressing on the field, sometimes so covered with blood and dirt as to be unrecognizable. Often they are unconscious, and not unfrequently they die before adequate help can be got. One hears few utterances of pain, and no complaints. Stretchers are carried into the poste de secours where a doctor examines the wound and re-dresses it if necessary; the blessé is then brought out and given to us. Our cars can carry three stretcher cases or five or six sitting; only the most seriously injured can be allowed the luxury of lying down. Our business then is to convey them gently, and as fast as is consistent with gentleness, to hospitals. Here the wounded receive further treatment; or, if their case is hopeless, are allowed peacefully to die. The following day, or perhaps several days afterwards, if the wounded man is not fit to travel, he comes into our hands again, to be carried to the trains sanitaires for evacuation to one of the many hospitals throughout France.

J. H. G.

The Wounded

One would like to say a little about the wounded men, of whom we have, by this time, seen some thousands. But it is difficult to separate one's impressions: the wounded come so fast and in such numbers, and one is so closely concerned with the mechanical part of their transportation, that very soon one ceases to have many human emotions concerning them. And there is a pitiful sameness in their appearance. They are divided, of course, into the two main classes of "Sitting" and "lying." Many of the former have come down on foot from the trenches; one sees them arrive in the street at Montauville looking round --- perhaps a little lost --- for the poste de secours appointed for this particular regiment or company. Sometimes they help one another; often they walk with an arm thrown round some friendly shoulder. I have seen men come in, where I have stood waiting in the poste de secours, and throw themselves down exhausted, with blood trickling from their loose bandages into the straw. They have all the mud and sunburn of their trench life upon them --- a bundle of heavy, shapeless clothes --- always the faded blue of their current uniform --- and a pair of hobnailed boots, very expressive of fatigue. They smell of sweat, camp-fire smoke, leather, and tobacco --- all the same, whether the man be a peasant or a professor of mathematics. Sometimes, perhaps from loss of blood, or nervous shock, their teeth chatter. They are all very subdued in manner. One is struck by their apparent freedom from pain. With the severely wounded, brought in on stretchers, it is occasionally otherwise. If it is difficult to differentiate between man and man among the "sitting" cases, it is still more so with the "lying." Here there is a blood-stained shape under a coat or a blanket, a glimpse of waxy skin, a mass of bandage. When the uniform is gray, men say "Boche" and draw round to look. Then one sees the closely cropped bullet head of the German. One might describe the ghastliness of wounds, but enough has been said. At first, they cause a shudder, and I have had gusts of anger at the monstrous folly in man that results in such senseless suffering, but very soon the fatalism which is a prevailing tone of men's thoughts in this war dulls one's perceptions. It is just another blessé --- the word "gravement," spoken by the infirmier, as they bring him out to the ambulance, carries only the idea of a little extra care in driving. The last we see of them is at the hospital. At night we have to wake up the men on duty there. The stretcher is brought into the dimly lighted, close smelling room where the wounded are received, and laid down on the floor. In the hopeless cases there follows the last phase. The man is carried out and lies, with others like himself, apart from human interest till death claims him. Then a plain, unpainted coffin, the priest, a little procession, a few curious eyes, the salute, and the end. His grave, marked by a small wooden cross on which his name and grade are written, lies unnoticed, the type of thousands, by the roadside or away among the fields. Everywhere in the war zone one passes these graves. A great belt Of them runs from Switzerland to the sea across France and Belgium. There are few people living in Europe who have not known one or more of the men who lie within it.

J. H. G.

Night Duty

A few days after our arrival at the front I had my first experience of a night call. It was very dark and we had to feel our way forward. Nothing gives one a stronger sense of the nearness of war than such a trip. The dark houses, deserted streets, the dim shape of the sentry at the end of the town, the night scents of the fields as one passes slowly along them, are things not to be forgotten. We strained our eyes in the darkness to avoid other vehicles, all, like our own, going without lights. In those days, not being so well known as we are now, the sentries challenged us: their "Halte-là " in the darkness brought us frequently to an abrupt stop. As we drew near the trenches we heard the guns very clearly, and saw over the crest of a hill the illuminating rockets with which both armies throw a glare over their attacks. They throw a greenish and ghastly light over the country, hanging in the air a few seconds before falling. At our destination everything was dark. We left the cars in the road and went up under the trees to the poste de secours. Here we found some men sleeping on straw, but had to wait close upon two hours before our wounded were ready. From time to time a battery of 75's startled us in the woods near by. At last in a drizzling rain we came back to quarters, passing several small bodies of soldiers marching silently up to the trenches. Another night, remaining near the trenches till half past four in the morning, I saw the wounded brought in, in the gray of dawn, from a series of attacks and counter-attacks. I had been waiting in one of the postes de secours, where, by candlelight, particulars were being written down of the various wounded. The surgeon, in a long white linen coat, in many places stained with blood, was busy with his scissors. Many wounded lay on straw round the room, and at rare intervals one heard a groan. The air was warm and heavy, full of the smell of wounds and iodine. A window was opened, the light of morning making the candles dim and smoky, and it was pleasant to go out into the cool air. The wounded being brought in looked cold and wretched. There were many who had been hit in the face or head --- more than one was blind.

I overheard a few words spoken between a brancardier and a wounded man who --- rare sign of suffering---was weeping. "You will be safe now--- you are going to your wife," spoken in tones of sympathy for comfort, and the reply: "No, no, I am dying. " . . . Later, as the sun was rising and lifting the blue mist in the hollows of the hill, I watched some shells bursting in a field; a brown splash of earth, a ball of smoke which drifted slowly away.

J. H. G.

Fitting into the Life

During the months of May, June, and July the Section, increased in number to twenty cars, broke all records of the American Ambulance. The work was so organized and men brought such devotion to their duties that it may be said that, of all the wounded brought down from daily and nightly fighting, not one was kept waiting so much as ten minutes for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Where, before the coming of the American cars, ambulances came up to the postes de secours only when called, and at night came after a delay occasioned by waking a driver sleeping some miles away, who thereupon drove his car to the place where he was needed, the American Section established a service on the spot, so that the waiting was done by the driver of the ambulance and not by the wounded. The effect of this service was immediate in winning confidence and liking, of which the members of the Section were justly proud. Their swift, light, easy-running cars were a great improvement on the old and clumsy ambulances which had served before them. In the early days, when these old ambulances were working side by side with ours, wounded men being brought from the trenches would ask to be carried by the Americans. That the latter should have come so far to help them, should be so willing to lose sleep and food that they should be saved from pain, and should take the daily risks of the soldiers without necessity or recompense seemed to touch them greatly. It was not long before the words "Ambulance Américaine" would pass a man by any sentry post. The mot, or password, was never demanded. And in their times of leisure, when others were on duty, men could eat with the soldiers in their popotes and become their friends. Many of them have become known and welcomed in places miles apart and have formed friendships which will last long after the war.

J. H. G.

Paysages de Guerre

I went early one morning with one of our men, by invitation of an engineer whose acquaintance we had made, up to the part of the Bois-le-Prêtre known as the Quart-en-Réserve. We started at three, marching up with a party going up to identify and bury the dead. The sites of all the trenches, fought over during the winter, were passed on the way, and we went through several encampments where soldiers were still sleeping, made of little log houses and dug-outs, such as the most primitive men lived in. It was a gray morning, with a nip in the air; the fresh scents of the earth and the young green were stained with the smoke of the wood fires and the mixed smells of a camp. After a spell of dry weather, the rough tracks we followed in our course through the wood we repassable enough; the deep ruts remaining and here and there a piece of soft ground gave us some idea of the mud through which the soldiers must have labored a few weeks before. And it is by such tracks that the wounded are brought down from the trenches! Small wonder that when the stretcher is laid down its occupant is occasionally found to be dead. In about half an hour, nearing the top of the hill which the Bois-le-Prêtre covers, we noticed a change both in the scene and in the air. The leafage was thinner, and there was a look, not very definable yet, of blight. The path we were following sank deeper, and became a trench. For some hundreds of yards we walked in single file, seeing nothing but the narrow ditch winding before us, and bushes and trees overhead. With every step our boots grew heavier with thick, sticky mud. And a faint perception of unpleasant smells which had been with us for some minutes became a thing which had to be fought against. Suddenly the walls of our trench ended, and in front of us was an amazing confusion of smashed trees, piles of earth and rock ---as though some giant had passed that way, idly kicking up the ground for his amusement. We climbed out of the remains of our trench and looked round. One had read, in official reports of the war, of situations being "prepared" by artillery for attack. We saw before us what that preparation means. An enlarged photograph of the mountains on the moon gives some idea of the appearance of shellholes. Little wonder that attacks are usually successful: the wonder is that any of the defenders are left alive. The difficulty is to hold the position when captured, for the enemy can and does turn the tables. Here lies the whole of the slow torture of this war since the open fighting of last year --- a war of exhaustion which must already have cost, counting all sides, more than a million lives. The scene we looked round upon might be fittingly described by the Biblical words "abomination of desolation." Down in the woods we had come through, the trees were lovely with spring, and early wild flowers peeped prettily from between the rocks. Here it was still winter --- a monstrous winter where the winds were gunpowder and the rain bullets. Trees were stripped of their smaller branches, of their bark: there was scarcely a leaf. And before us lay the dead. One of the horrible features in this war, in which there is no armistice, and the Red Cross is fired upon as a matter of course, is that it is often impossible to bury the dead till long after they are fallen. Only when a disputed piece of ground has at last been captured, and the enemy is driven well back, can burial take place. It is then that companies of men are sent out to pickup and identify. Of all the tasks forced upon men by war, this must be the worst. Enough to say that the bodies, which were laid in rows on the ground awaiting their turn to rest in the sweetness of the earth, were those of men who fought close on two months before. I pass over the details of this awful spectacle, leaving only two things: one of a ghastly incongruity, the other very moving. Out of a pocket of a cadavre near to me I saw protruding a common picture post-card, a thing of tinsel, strange possession for one passed into the ages. And between two bodies, a poppy startlingly vivid, making yet blacker the blackened shapes before us....

J. H. G. The end of an ambulance

 

Soldier Life

The main street of Montauville gives, perhaps, a characteristic glimpse of the life of the soldier on active service, who is not actually taking his turn in the trenches. He is under the shade of every wall; lounges in every doorway, stands in groups talking and laughing. His hands and face and neck are brown with exposure, his heavy boots, baggy trousers, and rough coat are stained with mud from bad weather. He laughs easily, is interested in any trifle, but underneath his surface gayety one may see the fatigue, the bored, the cynical indifference caused by a year of war, torn from every human relationship. What can be done to humanize his lot, he does with great skill. He can cook. Every cottage is full of soldiers, and through open doors and windows one sees them eating and drinking, talking, playing cards, and sometimes, though rarely, they sing. In the evening they stand in the street in great numbers, and what with that, the difficulty of making ears accustomed to shrapnel take the sound of a motor horn seriously, and the trains of baggage wagons, ammunition for the guns, carts loaded with hay, etc., it is not too easy to thread one's way along. In our early days here curiosity as to who and what we were added to the difficulty, crowds surrounding us whenever we appeared, but by this time they are used to us, and not more than a dozen at once want to come and talk and shake hands.

Perhaps the most interesting time to see Montauville is when, after a successful attack by the French, the German prisoners are marched through the village. These, of course, without weapons and with hands hanging empty, walk with a dogged step between guards with fixed bayonets, and as they pass, all crowd near to see them. Almost invariably the prisoners are bareheaded, having lost their caps --- these being greatly valued souvenirs --- on their way down from the trenches. They are housed temporarily, for interrogation, in a schoolhouse in the main street, and when they are lined up in the school-yard there is a large crowd of French soldiers looking at them through the railings. Afterwards, they may be seen in villages behind the lines, fixing the roads, or doing similar work, in any old hats or caps charity may have bestowed upon them.

J. H. G.

July 22 at Pont-à-Mousson

On Thursday, the 22d, we had a quiet day. In the evening several of us stepped across to the house where Smith and Ogilvie lived, to have a little bread and cheese before turning in. They had brought some fresh bread and butter from Toul, where duty had taken one of them, and these being our special luxuries, we were having a good time. Coiquaud was at the Bureau and two or three of our men were in or about the caserne. There were nine of us at the house at the fork of the road, which, no doubt, you remember. Suddenly as we sat round the table there came the shriek of a shell and a tremendous explosion. The windows were blown in, the table thrown over, and all of us for a second were in a heap on the floor. The room was full of smoke and dust. None of us was hurt, happily, except Holt, who had a cut over the right eye, and who is now going about bandaged like one of our blessés. We made a scramble for the cellar, the entrance to which is in a courtyard behind the house. As we were going down the stairs there followed another shell, and quickly on top of that, one or two more, all very near and pretty heavy. We stayed in the cellar perhaps ten minutes, and then, as I was anxious to know how things were at the caserne, I went up and, letting myself out into the street, ran for it, seeing vaguely as I passed fallen masonry and débris. The moon was shining through the dust and smoke which still hung a little thick. When I got to the caserne, the first thing I heard was Coiquaud crying, "Oh! pauvre Mignot!" and I was told that the poor fellow had been standing, as was his wont, in the street, smoking a pipe before going to bed. He was chatting with two women. Lieutenant Kullmann's orderly (I think they call him Grassetié) was not far away. The same shell which blew in our windows killed Mignot and the two women, and severely wounded Grassetié, who, however, was able to walk to the caserne to seek help. He was bleeding a good deal from several wounds; had one arm broken; his tongue was partially severed by a fragment which went through his cheek. He was taken immediately, after a rough bandage or two had been put on, to try to cheek the loss of blood from his arm, where an artery appeared to be severed, to Ambulance N° 3 at Pont-à-Mousson, whence he was afterwards taken to Dieulouard and to Toul. He will probably recover. [Editor's note: He died soon after.] A boy, the son of our blanchisseuse, who was wounded at the same time, will, it is feared, die. As I was told that Mignot still lay in the street, I went out again, and saw him lying, being examined by gendarmes, on the pavement. He seems to have been killed instantaneously. The contents of his pockets and his ring were taken from the body by Coiquaud and handed to me: they will, of course, be sent to his wife. He leaves two children.... Poor Coiquaud, who had shown great courage, became a little hysterical, and I took his arm and led him back to the caserne. When we all, except those who had left with Grassetié and some who had taken Mignot's body to Ambulance N° 3 (there was such confusion at the time and I have been so constantly occupied since I don't yet know exactly who took that service), collected at the Bureau, our jubilation at our own escape --- if the shell had travelled three yards farther it would have killed us all --- was entirely silenced by the death of Mignot, for whom we all had a great affection. He served us well, cheerfully from the beginning, honestly and indefatigably. He was a good fellow, possessing the fine qualities of the French workman to a very high degree. A renewed bombardment broke out about this time, and we went down to the cellar. A shell striking the roof of one of our houses knocked in all our windows. I think we may all honestly confess that by this time our nerves were rather shaken. I was specially anxious about the cars in the barn, including the Pierce-Arrow and the Hotchkiss. One shell falling in the midst of them would have crippled half our cars ---and if an attack on Bois-le-Prêtre had followed ...! Our telephone wires were broken, so we were isolated. Lieutenant Kullmann and I decided, after consultation with all our men who were present, to report the situation to the médecin divisionnaire. So long as our men kept in the cellar they were safe enough. The Lieutenant and I left in the Peugeot brought by him to the Section, our leaving chancing to coincide with the arrival of four or five fresh shells. It was nervous work driving out; fragments of tiles and of shells --- the latter still redhot --- fell about us but without hitting us. After seeing the médecin divisionnaire we returned to the caserne and spent the rest of the darkness in the cellar. From time to time more shells came, but soon after daybreak the firing ceased.

In the morning we were very anxious for a while about Ogilvie. He had, unknown to the rest of us, gone to sleep at Schroder's and Buswell's room, and in the night two more shells struck his house, one of them penetrating right through to the cellar, making complete wreckage there. Some of us spent a little time looking in the débris for his body.

You would have been very moved if you could have been present at poor Mignot's funeral. We did what we could for him to show our respect, and I concluded I was only carrying out what would be the wishes of the American Ambulance by authorizing the expense of a better coffin and cross than he was entitled to in his grade in the army.

At eight in the evening as many men as were off duty went to Pont-à-Mousson to attend the funeral. A short service was read in the chapel of the Nativité. There were four coffins: Mignot's, covered with a flag and with many flowers, and those of three civilians, killed on the same evening. It was a simple and impressive ceremony: the dimly lighted chapel, the dark forms of some twenty or thirty people of Pont-à-Mousson, our men together on one side, the sonorous voice of the priest, made a scene which none of us can forget. Colonel de Nansouty, Commandant d'Armes de Pont-à-Mousson, and Lieutenant Bayet were present; and when the little procession was formed and we followed the dead through the darkened streets and across the Place Duroc, they walked bareheaded with us. At the bridge the procession halted, and all but Lieutenant Bayet, Coiquaud, Schroder, and the writer turned back, it being desired by the authorities that only a few should go to the cemetery. We crossed the river and mounted the lower slope of the Mousson hill. Under the trees in the cemetery we saw as we passed the shattered tombs and broken graves left from the bombardments, which even here have made their terrible marks. In a far corner, well up on the hillside, the coffin of Mignot was laid down, to be interred in the early morning. We walked quietly back in company with Lieutenant Bayet, and were at last free to rest, after so many hours of unbroken strain.

J. H. G.

Incidents of a Driver's Life

On the 3d of May N° 6 went back on me for the first time. I was returning from Toul when the car broke down in half a dozen different places at once. I could not fix it, but would have reached Dieulouard on three cylinders if it had not been for a steep hill. Twice N° 6 nearly reached the top, only to die with a hard cough and slide to the bottom again. On account of this hill I was forced to walk fourteen kilometres to Dieulouard for help. The next night I had my first experience at night driving. A call came in at half-past nine to get one wounded man at Clos Bois. McConnell, driver of No 7, went with me. We neither of us bad ever been there, so it was somewhat a case of the blind leading the blind. It made little difference, however, as the night was so black that nothing but an owl could have seen his own nose. We felt our way along helped by a distant thunderstorm, the flicker of cannon, and the bursting of illuminating rockets, picked up our wounded man, and were returning through Montauville when we were stopped by an officer. He had a wounded man who was dying, the man was a native of Dieulouard and wished to die there, and the officer asked us to carry him there if the doctor at Pont-à-Mousson would give us permission. We took him. He had been shot through the head.

Why he lived at all I do not know, but he not only lived, but struggled so hard that they had to strap him to the stretcher. When the doctor at the hospital saw him, he refused to let us carry him to Dieulouard because the trip would surely kill him and he might live if left at the hospital. Whether he did live or die I was never able to find out.

CARLYLE H. HOLT

Our life here is one of high lights. The transition from the absolute quiet and tranquillity of peace to the rush and roar of war takes but an instant and all our impressions are kaleidoscopic in number and contrast. The only way to give an impression of what takes place before us would be a series of pictures, and the only way I can do it is to describe a few incidents. Sometimes we sit in the little garden behind our caserne in the evening, comfortably drinking beer and smoking or talking and watching the flash of cannon which are so far away we cannot hear the report. At such times, the war is remote and does not touch us. At other times, at a perfectly appointed dinner-table, laden with fresh strawberries, delicious cakes, and fine wine, and graced with the presence of a charming hostess, the war is still more distant. Pont-à-Mousson, moreover, is rich in beautifully conceived gardens of pleasant shade trees, lovely flowers, and tinkling fountains. Lounging in such a place, with a book or the latest mail from America, the war is entirely forgotten. Yet we may leave a spot like that and immediately be in the midst of the realities of war. One evening, about seven-thirty, after the Germans had been firing on Pont-à-Mousson and the neighboring villages for some hours, I was called to Bozeville. This village, which is on the road to Montauville is a small cluster of one-story brick and frame buildings constructed in 1870 by the Germans for their soldiers. When I reached this place it was on fire, and the Germans, by a constant fusillade of shrapnel shells in and around the buildings and on the roads near them, were preventing any attempt being made to extinguish the fire. To drive up the narrow road, with the burning houses on one side and a high garden wall, thank Heaven, on the other, hearing every few seconds the swish-bang of the shells, was decidedly nervous work, anything but peaceful. After picking up the wounded, I returned to Pont-à-Mousson, where conditions were much worse. At this time the Germans were throwing shells of large calibre at the bridge over the Moselle. To reach the hospital to which I was bound, it was necessary to take the road which led to the bridge and turn to the left about a hundred yards before coming to it. Just as I was about to make this turn, two shells struck and exploded in the river under the bridge. There was a terrific roar and two huge columns of water rose into the air, and seemed to stand there for some seconds; the next instant, spray and bits of wood and shell fell on us and around us. A minute later I turned into the hospital yard, where the effect, in the uncertain and fast-fading light, was ghostly. Earlier in the evening a shell had exploded in the yard and had thrown an even layer of fine, powder-like dust over everything. It resembled a shroud in effect, for nothing disturbed its even surface except the crater-like hole made by the shell. On one side of the yard was the hospital, every window broken and its walls scarred by the pieces of shells; in the middle was the shell-hole, and on the other side was the body of a dead brancardier, lying on his back with a blanket thrown over him. He gave a particularly ghastly effect to the scene, for what was left of the daylight was just sufficient to gleam upon his bald forehead and throw into relief a thin streak of blood which ran across his head to the ground. Needless to say I left that place as quickly as possible.

Another scene which I do not think I will soon forget happened in Montauville. It was just after a successful French attack and shows war in a little different light, with more of the excitement and glory which are supposed to be attached to battle. Montauville is a straggly little village of one- and two-story stone and plaster houses built on the two sides of the road. It is situated on a saddle which connects one large hill on one side of it with another large hill on the other side of it. It is used as a dépôt and resting-place for the troops near it. On this particular day the French had attacked and finally taken a position which they wanted badly, and at this time, just after sunset, the battle had ceased and the wounded were being brought into the poste de secours. The tints of the western sky faded away to a cloudless blue heaven, marked here and there by a tiny star. To the south an aeroplane was circling like a huge hawk with puffs of orange-tinted shrapnel smoke on all sides of it. In the village the soldiers were all in the streets or hanging out of the windows shouting to one another. The spirits of every one were high. They well might be, for the French had obtained an advantage over the Germans and had succeeded in holdingit. A French sergeant entered the town at the lower end and walked up the street. At first no one noticed him; then a slight cheer began. Before the man had walked a hundred yards, the soldiers had formed a lane through which he strode. He was a big fellow, his face smeared with blood and dirt and his left arm held in a bloody sling. On his head was a German helmet with its glinting brass point and eagle. He swaggered nearly the entire length of the village through the shouting lines of soldiers, gesticulating with his one well arm and giving as he went a lively account of what happened. Some one started the "Marseillaise" and in a few minutes they were all singing. I have heard football crowds sing after a victory and I have heard other crowds sing songs, but I have never heard a song of such wild exultation as that one. It was tremendous. I wish the Germans could have heard it. Perhaps they did! They were not so far away, and the sound seemed to linger and echo among the hills for some minutes after the last note had been sung.

Our work here on this sector of the front is about three kilometres in length. We do it all, as there are no French ambulances here. We usually carry in a week about eighteen hundred wounded men and our mileage is always around five thousand miles. The authorities seem to be pleased with our work and we know that they have never called for a car and had to wait for it. At any rate, we have had the satisfaction of doing the best we could.

C. H. H.

Three Croix de Guerre

Several bombardments have taken place near the first-aid posts and hospitals where our cars are on duty. On the 6th, the Germans bombarded a road that runs along the top of a ridge several hundred yards from the post at Huss. One of the first shells landed on a farmhouse just below the road, in which some Territorials were quartered, killing three of them and wounding five others. Two of our men, accompanied by the médecin auxiliaire of the post, immediately drove their cars over to the farm and rescued the wounded while the bombardment was still going on. As a result of this prompt and courageous action on their part, all three men were cited in the order of the division and will receive the Croix de Guerre.

P. L.

From Day to Day

October 26. The head of the Sanitary Service of the French Government, accompanied by three generals, made a tour of inspection of all the units in this Sector to-day. Mr. L----, accompanied by Lieutenant K -----, went to B-----, where a formal inspection was held. Mr.L----- was thanked as Section Commander for the service rendered by Section Sanitaire Américaine No 2. The remarks were exceedingly complimentary. General L---- and the médecin divisionnaire, who accompanied the party as representatives of the Sanitary Service in this Sector, added their compliments to those of General L-----.

 

November 14. We had the first snow of the season to-day. All the morning it snowed and covered the fields and trees with a thick coating of white. In the roads it melted and they became stretches of yellow slush.

B---- broke his arm cranking his car this morning, He will be out of commission for three weeks, so the surgeon who set it informed him.

 

November 16. We received a phone message in the morning asking us to go to the "Mairie" to meet a high official. Four of us went over. A number of large cars were drawn up in the Place D -----. One bore the flag of the President of France. We were to meet Poincaré. We formed a line inside the sandbag barricaded arcade. The President and his entourage passed. He stopped in front of us. "One finds you everywhere," he said; "you are very devoted." Then he shook hands with each of us and passed on. We wandered on down the arcade to watch the party go down into the shelled area of the town. A sentry standing near us entered into conversation. He addressed himself to Pottle: "Did he shake hands with you?" he asked. "Oh, yes," replied Pottle. "Hell,"' said the sentry; "he is n't a bit proud, is he?"

 

November 25. Thanksgiving--- and we celebrated it in the American style. We had purchased and guarded the turkeys, and they were prime. C----- did wonders with the army food, and it is doubtful if any finer Thanksgiving dinner was eaten any place in the world than the one we enjoyed two thousand yards from the Huns.

 

November 26. An enemy plane, flying high above us this morning, was forced to make a sudden descent to a height of three hundred metres from earth. He was either touched by shrapnel or his mixture froze and he had to seek a new level. He passed very low over us. One of the Frenchmen attached to our Section fired at him with a rifle, but did not get him.

* * * * * * *

 

November 30. B---- was shelled and a few stray shots were sent into town and on the troop roads near us.

Under S ---- the meals have been sumptuous repasts and we marvel at the change.

The writer, with two others of the Section, was crossing the Place --- after dark. As we passed the breach in the sandbag barricaded roads made by Rue ---, we were lighted up by the yellow glare coming from the shops next to the "Mairie." The sentry thereon duty saw us. "Pass along, my children, and good luck --- you are more devoted than we are," he cried to us.

I was startled by the voice out of the darkness and the surprising remarks. I glanced towards the sentry's post, but the light blinded me and I could not see him. From his voice I knew he was old one of the aged Territorials.

" Oh, no!" I answered, for lack of anything better to say.

 

Night

You can little imagine how lonely it is here under the black, star-swept sky, the houses only masses of regular blackness in the darkness, the street silent as a dune in the desert, and devoid of any sign of human life. Muffled and heavy, the explosion of a torpedo inscribes its solitary half-note on the blank lines of the night's stillness. I go up to my room, and sigh with relief as my sulphur match boils blue and breaks into its short-lived yellow flame. Shadows are born, leaping and rising, and I move swiftly towards my candle-end, the flame catches, and burns straight and still in the cold, silent room. The people who lived here were very religious; an ivory Christ on an ebony crucifix hangs over the door, and a solemn-eyed, pure and lovely head of Jeanne d'Arc stands on my mantel. What a marvellous history ---hers I think it the most beautiful, mystic tale in our human annals.

Silence --- sleep --- the crowning mercy. A few hours go by.

 

Morning

"There is a call, Monsieur Shin --- un couché à -----.

I wake. The night clerk of the Bureau is standing in the doorway. An electric flashlight in his hand sets me a-blinking. I dress, shivering a bit, and am soon on my way. The little gray machine goes cautiously on in the darkness, bumping over shell-holes, guided by the iridescent mud of the last day's rain. I reach a wooded stretch --- phist! a rifle bullet goes winging somewhere. A bright flash illuminates the road. A shell sizzles overhead. I reach the poste de secours and find a soldier in the roadway. More electric hand-lamps. Down a path comes a stretcher and a man wounded in arm and thigh. We put him into the wagon, cover him up, and away I start on my long, dark ride to the hospital, a lonely, nerve-tightening ride.

 

Stray Thoughts

The voice of war is the voice of the shell. You hear a perfectly horrible sound as if the sky were made of cloth and the Devil were tearing it apart, a screaming undulating sound followed by an explosion of fearful violence, bang! The violence of the affair is what impresses you, the suddenly released energy of that murderous burst. When I was a child I used to wander around the shore and pick up hermit crabs and put them on a plate. After a little while you would see a very prudent claw come out of the shell, then two beady eyes, finally the crab in propria persona. I was reminded of that scene on seeing people come cautiously out of their houses after a shell had fallen, peeping carefully out of doorways, and only venturing to emerge after a long reconnoitring.

I am staying here. It was my design to leave at the beginning of the year, but why should I go? I am very happy to be able to do something here, very proud to feel that I am doing something. In times to come when more Americans realize their lost opportunity, there will be many regrets, but you and I will be content. So wish me the best. Not that there is anything attractive to keep me here. To live continually under shell fire is a hateful experience, and the cheerless life, so empty of any domesticity, and the continuous danger are acid to any one with memories of an old, beloved New England hearth and close family ties and friendships. To half jest, I am enduring war for peace of mind.

How lonely my old house must be when the winter storms surge round it at midnight. How the great flakes must swirl round its ancient chimney, and fall softly down the black throat of the fireplace to the dark, ungarnished hearth. The goblin who polished the pewter plates in the light of the crumbling firebrands has gone to live with his brother in a hollow tree on the hill. But when you come to Topsfield, the goblin himself, red flannel cap and all, will open the door to you as the house's most honored and welcome guest.

 

A fusée éclairante has just run over the wood --- the bois de la mort --- the wood of the hundred thousand dead. And side by side with the dead are the living, the soldiers of the army of France, holding, through bitter cold and a ceaseless shower of iron and hell, the far-stretching lines. If there is anything I am proud of, it is of having been with the French army --- the most devoted and heroic of the war.

H. SHEAHAN

 

New Quarters

August 6, 1915

I was delighted to see "Doe" to-day. He arrived yesterday evening from Paris, but I was on M----duty, so we did not meet until this morning. We had a long talk and I told him the story of the fatal 22d; the recital of it only seems to have reimpressed me with the horror of that night.

We are now quite comfortably settled in our new quarters, a house never shelled until just after our occupation of it , when we received a 77 a few feet from our windows. I do not know why it has been spared unless the Boches were anxious not to destroy a creation so obviously their own. Architecturally it is incredible --- a veritable pastry cook's chef d'oeuvre. Some of the colors within are so vivid that hours of darkness cannot drive them out of vision. There is no piano, but musical surprises abound. Everything you touch or move promptly plays a tune; even a stein plays "Deutschland über alles" or something. Still the garden full of fruit and vegetables will make up for the rest. Over the brook which runs through it is a little rustic bridge ---all imitation wood made of cast iron! Just beneath the latter I was electrified to discover a very open-mouthed and particularly yellow crockery frog quite eighteen inches long! A stone statue of a dancing boy in front of the house was too much for us all. We ransacked the attic and found some articles of clothing belonging to our absent hostess, and have so dressed it that, with a tin can in its hand, it now looks like an inadequately clad lady speeding to her bath-house with a pail of fresh water.

Last night "Mac" and I were on night duty at M-----, and when we arrived at the telephone bureau ---where we lie on stretchers fully dressed in our blankets waiting for a call (the rats would keep you awake if there were no work to do) --- we were told that they expected a bad bombardment of the village. " Mac" and I tossed up for the first call, and I lost. "Auberge Saint-Pierre, I bet," laughed "Mac." That is our worst trip --- but it was to be something even more unpleasant than usual. About eleven o'clock the Boches started shelling the little one-street village with 105 shrapnel. In the midst of it a brancardier came running in to ask for an ambulance ---three couchés, "très pressé." Of course, I had to grin and bear it, but it is a horrid feeling to have to go out into a little street where shells are falling regularly ---start your motor --- turn --- back --- and run a few yards down the street to a poste de secours where a shell has just landed and another is due any moment.

"Are your wounded ready?" I asked, as calmly as I could. "Oui, monsieur." So out I went --- and was welcomed by two shells --- one on my right and the other just down the street. I cranked up No 10, the brancardier jumped up by my side, and we drove to our destination. I decided to leave the ambulance on the left side of the road (the side nearer the trenches and therefore more protected by houses from shellfire), as I thought it safer on learning that it would be fifteen minutes before the wounded were ready; and luckily for me, for a shell soon landed on the other side of the road where I usually leave the ambulance. My wounded men were now ready; it appeared that one of the shrapnel shells had entered a window and exploded inside a room where seven soldiers, resting after a hard day's work in the trenches, were sleeping --- with the appalling result of four dead and three terribly wounded. As I felt my way to the hospital along that pitch-black road, I could not help wondering why those poor fellows were chosen for the sacrifice instead of us others in the telephone bureau --- sixty yards down the street.

However, here I am writing to you, safe and sound, on the little table by my bedside, with a half-burnt candle stuck in a Muratti cigarette box. Outside the night is silent --my window is open and in the draught the wax has trickled down on to the box and then to the table --- unheeded --- for my thoughts have sped far. To Gloucester days, and winter evenings spent in the old brown-panelled, raftered room, with its pewter lustrous in the candlelight; and the big, cheerful fire that played with our shadows on the wall, while we talked or read --- and were content. Well --- that peace has gone for a while, but these days will likewise pass, and we are young. It has been good to be here in the presence of high courage and to have learned a little in our youth of the values of life and death.

LESLIE BUSWELL

 

 

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