Charles Gates Dawes.

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the casualties will be large, in all probability.

We arrived at Liverpool on the nth of August and found
trains at the dock ready to carry us to Oxney Camp near
Borden. The English liaison officer assigned to us was
Lieutenant F. C. Covell, with whom I became "good friends."
I was put in command of the train carrying the first bat-
talion of our regiment, Colonel Sewell following on the second
train. It was a long but interesting trip across England.
Everywhere the people were waving flags and cheering along
the route. It took us until eleven o'clock at night to reach
Borden. The men had had only a sandwich at noon. It was
a cold, dark, rainy night. A British officer on our arrival
asked me to form the battalion on the road near the station,
which I did. And then occurred a demonstration of the re-
viving effect of music, for there appeared to lead us to camp
a splendid British band. As it played the American marches
and airs as we marched in the dark, it meant to\is all that we
were welcome, that after all we amounted to something, that
somebody was glad to see us. I do not think that in the great
London demonstration, when we marched for hours through
cheering crowds, the first American troops ever to pass
through the British capital, our men were so uplifted as
when we marched along that lonely road that night, after a
weary day, to camp. When we got there we found a fine
* (Later.) This report is recently denied.


supper waiting for us. I managed to get four lines of men
passing the soup cans at once instead of the one line our
British friends had arranged, and in this way saved an hour
of time at least.

In cordiality and the anxiety to show us kindness and
make us welcome, the English officers could not have been
surpassed. We slept under tentage and were comfortable.
From that day to this our life as officers has alternated be-
tween luxury and the extreme opposite from the routine
work of a new and drilling regiment in camp to the most
interesting and unusual experiences. For myself I find every-
thing new and interesting the few hardships and all.
As summary court officer for the regiment which I have been
from the beginning, as a drillmaster and pupil, as a princi-
pal and a subordinate, as a ship officer and a military com-
mander, I have found among these new friends and asso-
ciates and in this new environment a new interest in life, a
new career, however humble, to make, and in thinking back
the only experience in my life with which I can compare it
in its excitement are the early days of college life with its new
friends and duties and competitions.

One's civil accomplishments help some, but not much.
Young and bright men are around you engaged in similar
tasks. Comparison is always present. Competition sits at
your side. All the artificial barriers which civil success and
wealth have built around one fall away, and leave you but a
man among men to make or unmake yourself as in the time
of young manhood. And then as before, work and character
and personality tact and initiative and common sense
will commence to count. Humbleness and naturalness are the
great protection against ignorance. I feel that I learned much
in military life from the beginning by letting those "who
knew" know that I did not know, but that I wanted to learn.
This was especially the case in my association with English
officers. To "put on a front" because of my rank would have
condemned me to perpetual ignorance, and so I sat at the


feet of my inferiors in rank constantly, and will continue to
do so in order to acquire knowledge. And while in civil life
\ 1 felt I knew something, at this time and in this life I find I
f know very little or nothing. But I am learning every day. My
' hours of work, my time of rising and of going to bed, my food,
my habits, my exercise are changed in a revolutionary way
from my former life. And as a result I am vigorous, can en-
dure more, eat more, and do more than I deemed possible
heretofore. The outdoor life the camp fare I enjoy
everything. I eat beans and cabbage and beets and rice with
zest which I never could stand before. Even onions and
a small degree of garlic do not stagger me. As for being
particular as to whether the service is clean, as I used to be,
it never occurs to me to look for dirt, I am so anxious to
get something to eat. I am writing this right here for the
benefit of middle-aged business men. The joys of youth
are still within our reach if we will only give over physical
and mental indolence. When in army life you have some
hardships and you certainly do have them there are a
lot of good fellows going through the same thing at the
same time, and the whole thing becomes laughable.

The day before the London parade I went to London tak-
ing my orderly, Francis Kilkenny and Eddie Hart with me.
I called on the firm of Morgan, Grenfell and Company and
was cordially received. Mr. Grenfell and Mr. Whigham took
us to lunch at the City Club and devoted their time to us when
we were at their office. Lieutenant Covell joined me in the
afternoon. We stayed at the Ritz and dined in the evening
at the Carlton, going afterward to the theater.

The next day Covell and I went to the depot with an
American flag for the regiment, which I borrowed from Cap-
tain Warburton, of the American Embassy; our own colors
being still on the way.

In the parade there were four regiments of engineers, about
4500 men in all. To each regiment was assigned a fine English
band, the best in the Empire. Our regiment was the fourth


in the column. Walked with Colonel Sewell at the head of
the regiment and with a British peer Lord Erskine, I think
as the liaison officer. From the station to the end of the
march, and in the afternoon on the return to the depot,
the streets were jammed with lines of cheering people, and
the American flag was everywhere. We were reviewed by the
King and Queen and by the American Ambassador. Lunch
was served to the officers and troops in a park near the palace.
After lunch the officers were taken to the British officers' quar-
ters near by, where every attention was given us. In the after-
noon we marched back to the Waterloo Station through the
poorer parts of the city.

As we did not expect to leave Borden until Friday, Colonel
Sewell gave permission to the officers to remain in London.
I gave a dinner, which Covell very efficiently arranged for
at the Carlton, to the Colonel and regimental staff officers
and Captains. While at this dinner, which was served at a
large, decorated table in the main dining-room, there suddenly
came the order to move the next morning, which was en-
tirely unexpected. As a result the Colonel and the necessary
officers took taxicabs for the fifty-mile ride to Borden the
balance of us taking an early morning train. We left with the
regiment about noon, arriving at Southampton in about three
hours, where we were put aboard a cattle ship. It was a very
cold afternoon and night. The men were quartered in the
stalls and the officers in one room none too large on the
upper deck. All through the ship the men in the stalls imitated
the "mooing" of cows and the bleating of sheep. In the night
we sailed every man wearing a life preserver all the time.
We officers slept on the floor so crowded that if any one left
his place in the night to go on deck the natural expansion that
ensued made it impossible for him to get back and find space
enough to lie down in. As a result he slept thereafter on deck.
It was a contrast to the Ritz at London. We lived on travel
rations, but had a ship's breakfast in the morning when we
landed at Havre.


At Havre we marched to camp headed by our band, for
which organization, by the way, I am responsible, having
presented the instruments to the regiment after we had failed
to get them from the War Department. During the day I
heard that the Belgian seat of government was in the city and
determined to call on M. Van de Vyvere, the Belgian Minister
of Finance, whom I had met on his trip to Chicago and with
whom I had become well acquainted. We found in America
that we had a liking for each other, and he spent most of his
day in Chicago in my company, going to the opera with me
and deserting his suite most of his time. Instead of calling
him "Your Excellency" as did most of the Americans and
his retainers, I called him "Boss," which I explained to him
was the American way of conveying an idea of companion-
ability and good-fellowship as well as authority. So on going
to the seat of the Belgian Government I sent in my card to
him presenting my compliments to the "boss." Out he came,
and thereafter during my stay I became the guest of the Bel-
gian Government. He sent for his big automobile and went
to camp with me for my things and set aside a suite of rooms
for me at the Villarie, the hotel assigned to the Belgian Cabi-
net by the French Government. He insisted on my making
up a dinner party for him to entertain in the evening, which
I did by inviting Colonel Sewell, Major Atwood, and Major
Cushing. In the afternoon at the camp at regimental in-
spection I had the regiment "present arms" to him. We
spent an interesting evening with him and the Minister of
the Interior on a balcony overlooking the beautiful bay of
the sea.

After the guests were gone, we two sat up until nearly mid-
night, and he talked over the affairs of his unhappy country
now only about twenty miles long and ten miles wide, so
narrow that great shells from the German army sometimes
pass over it. He is a friend of King Albert and he invited me to
visit the King (who is at the front) with him and go over the
Belgian line, which I hope to do later. There are 160,000 Bel-

i ^i - ( i



, 4. *

1 I 1



gians still in the army. As he talked in his quiet, earnest way
of his plans for his countrymen of their probable plight
after the war of the difficulties and perplexities with which
he was contending, my heart went out to him and he seemed
more the "boss" than ever. How majestic is naturalness! I
have never met a man whom I really considered a great man
who was not always natural and simple. Affectation is in-
evitably the mark of one not sure of himself. It is above
everything the real hallmark of inferiority. We are liked for
ourselves over here, if we will only be ourselves and not try
to imitate anybody. I stayed all night at the Villarie, and
after breakfast and another visit with my friend and the
Minister of the Interior I went back to camp in M. Van de
Vyvere's automobile which he insisted on my keeping during
the day.

In the afternoon we took the train for St. Nazaire. We
were rather crowded in the officers' car and I don't think I ever
passed a more uncomfortable night, being half-frozen from the
waist down. We arrived at St. Nazaire in the evening, were
met by the American officer in charge of the base, and were
conducted to the camp in which we are at present quartered.
This was on August 19 (Sunday). The camp is situated about
two miles from the docks on high ground. The officers' quar-
ters are floored ; the men's quarters are similar to the officers'
except they are not floored. The camp has been erected
by the French and by German prisoners of whom there are
said to be about three thousand in the city. These prison-
ers work around the camp under a French guard. They are
given plenty to eat and receive good treatment. A more
contented set of men I have seldom seen. Talking with them
is prohibited for military reasons. v

Our regiment was almost immediately set to work in con-
nection with improvement of the camp, as it is yet unfinished.
We are leveling it and putting in drainage. We have fur-
nished several hundred men for changing the location of about
1 200 tons of coal in the hold of a transport. This is extremely


hard work for the men, but they stand up under it finely. A
splendid spirit exists throughout the whole organization.

The 1 47th French Regiment is quartered here in St. Nazaire,
being back from the front for a rest which they sorely needed.
During our stay here there have occurred several engage-
ments with German submarines, which attack our ships as
they approach the harbor. It is said two submarines have
been destroyed, but this is not authentic. There is much

Colonel Rockenbach, the American commander of the base,
took Colonel Sewell and myself to dinner at La Baule, a
watering-place situated about ten miles away. He talked over
the situation he confronts and the next morning took Sewell,
Atwood, and myself over the entire dock and transportation
system of the base. Rockenbach strikes me as an exception-
ally competent and able officer. He has decision and energy,
and common sense. He is sadly overburdened with work.
Five transports arrived the day after we did, and I had an
opportunity of judging how the embarkation of men and
troops compared with the Liverpool experience of our own.
Notwithstanding shorter preparation and more inadequate
facilities, the way the men and freight were handled here
seemed fully up to the Liverpool standard save what was due
to lack of facilities. Too much freight is now warehoused here
which should be immediately forwarded and thus saved extra
handling. But this will be bettered in time.

The camp life here is not especially exciting. We were all
greatly disappointed not to be sent to the front as we had
expected, but we hope that will come later. While here we
received our first mail from home. All our letters sent from
the regiment have to be censored. This task falls to the com-
pany officers and it is a heavy one. After a while, when the
men come to understand that one cannot write home about
anything much except the state of their emotions, the work
will be less.

From this point on I shall endeavor to keep a diary by days.


St. Nazaire, France, August 24, 1917

AFTER mess went with Captain Ryan, Regimental Sup-
ply Officer, to St. Nazaire. Called at American base office.
Brought back regimental mail in a truck. Studied Court
Martial Manual preparing for Special Court Martial of which
I am President, the first session being held to-morrow. At
camp in the evening.

St. Nazaire, France, August 25, 1917

SPENT the morning at regular Saturday inspection of the men
of the regiment and their quarters. Presided at Special Court
Martial in the afternoon. The trial of one of the Master En-
gineers for attempt to commit manslaughter occupied nearly
five hours. The Court was composed of Major Cushing, Cap-
tain Burkhalter, Lieutenant White, and myself. Lieutenant
Kraft was Judge Advocate and Captain Estes counsel for
the defense.

At camp in the evening. Colonel Sewell is having a report
made relative to possible improvements in present methods
of handling freight at this base. When this report is com-
pleted it will point out important improvements which should
be made. Major Atwood, Major Cushing, and Captain Cau-
sey, all experienced railroad men, are studying the situation.
It seems desirable that the regiment be kept together as a
construction unit, but it is authoritatively intimated that
some of our officers may be taken on details on outside work.
We hear that the I3th Regiment Engineers is at the point
where we had hoped to be, wearing gas-masks and steel hel-
mets and building narrow-gauge roads behind the lines. If
we are not ordered to the front am going to make an effort
with Pershing to be sent there myself.

St. Nazaire, France
Sunday, August 26, 1917

THE officers of the American base here, and some of the
officers of the different military units in the camp and five


hundred men are to be the guests to-day of the city of La
Baule, the French watering-place which I have already men-
tioned. As we shall not start for a time I will indulge in a few

At the time the United States entered the war I judge the
Allies were much more discouraged than we had supposed.
The French, having stood up under the worst of it, were, and
perhaps are, a little more that way than the English. But it
was not the discouragement which for a moment suggested
anything but a fight to a finish. The spirit and determination
of the French and English under discouragement are wonder-
ful. One has to be here, to see the long daily hospital trains
from the front not here as yet, but to the French and Eng-
lish bases to see the columns of fine men crossing the Chan-
nel and others going north from this port to France to be
fed into the awful furnace of modern war, to understand what
these people have stood up under for three years. The women
are in black everywhere. The faces of the men from the
trenches bear a look which often haunts one.

The French have been fought until they feel the war in
every phase of life, but one realizes that this cannot be so in
France and England and not be so in even greater degree in
Germany. There being in Germany a military aristocracy
against which the inevitable psychological reaction against
continued war can find an outlet in attacking, I feel that the
war will be ended by the internal revolt of the people of Ger-
many. If that does not come, the end of the war now seems
several years off. Yet who knows what will happen in this
tremendous and unprecedented upheaval of the whole world 1

St. Nazaire, France, Sunday evening

COLONEL SEWELL, Major Atwood, and I are back in camp
after an interesting afternoon. The Mayor and city officials
of La Baule gave the American officers a fine banquet at the
Royal Hotel. They made addresses welcoming the American
troops, of which we were the first to visit their town in a body* %

SAMUEL M. FELTON, Director General of Military Railways, accomplished
with highest success one of the greatest tasks of the war. He organized the
first nine regiments of Transportation Troops which were sent over-seas
and, following that, organized all the Transportation and Construction
Troops for the army, amounting to a total at the time of the armistice of
70,000 men in France and 14,000 men in the United States ready to em-

In addition, he secured and shipped to the American Expeditionary
Forces their railroad equipment machinery and supplies amid the greatest
difficulties and embarrassments. In this connection, he made contracts
involving over $600,000,000.

Declining a military commission as tending to lessen rather than to in-
crease his high powers and efficiency he modestly and quietly rendered his
unique and invaluable service.

He was among the first to receive the Distinguished Service Medal, with
the following citation:

"Mr. S. M. Felton, Director General of Military Railways, for espe-
cially meritorious and conspicuous service in supervising the supply of rail-
way material and the organization of railway operation and construction
troops. By his energetic and loyal service, he has contributed materially
to the success of the Army in the field."

C. G. D.



The streets were crowded with people and lined with French
and American flags. Colonel Sewell made a very happy re-
sponse to the speech of the Mayor much the best of the
occasion. Spent some time discussing the facilities of this base
and what ought to be done in preparation for the immense
number of troops and large amount of freight to be unloaded
here. Major Atwood, Major Cushing, and Captain Causey,
in addition to Colonel Sewell, are studying the situation.

American freight is not packed so as to be economically
and quickly handled in the small cars on the French rail-
roads. The average loading of French freight per car averages
at this port only thirteen tons, while the average loading of
American freight, owing to the way it is packed, averages
only a little over eight tons a car. Much of the handling of
freight cars in the yard is done by man power. It would seem,
in view of the tremendous burden soon to be placed on the
facilities of this port, that the railroad from this base to the
front should have American equipment with its larger units,
and more machinery and less men should be used in unload-
ing and handling freight from the ships. It is extremely im-
portant to have the naval bases operating at full efficiency.
Through these funnels must be passed the military resources
of our great nation. Congestion here may mean defeat
further north.

The purpose of our discussion was to equip me with the
technical points from a railway standpoint to be urged upon
Pershing when I see him next week in Paris. Additional dock
facilities are needed. Think I have the situation fairly in mind.
The investigation is being conducted with the cooperation and
sanction of Colonel Rockenbach, the present commander of
this base. What I want to do in Paris, if possible, is to have
proper weight attached to the expert railway advice on rail-
way and dock matters. Major Cushing, for instance, in con-
nection with the Southern Pacific ships and railway system,
has gained an experience directly applicable to this situation.
If I can be of assistance over here in carrying out the admir-


able policy of President Wilson as indicated by his conduct
of military affairs in America, and help get large tasks in
competent hands, I shall be glad.

St. Nazaire, France
August 27, 1917, Monday. (My $2d birthday)

THE figures look large but they will never grow smaller.
A very heavy wind and rain. In the morning put on my rain-
coat and struggled down to headquarters at St. Nazaire. On
my return found the wind had blown the roof off the barracks
over my little room, and that my baggage, clothes, etc., had
received a baptism. Last night there was considerable trouble
between our men and the adjoining Marines. A Marine po-
liceman in St. Nazaire very much intoxicated was found beat-
ing a negro. One of our Southern privates interfered to stop
it, and the drunken policeman drew his revolver and attempted
to shoot the private. Thereupon the private, who acci-
dentally, according to him happened to have a bottle of
champagne in his hand, delivered the same with telling effect
across the head of the policeman, knocking him out. He then
divested him of his revolver and immediately came to camp
and surrendered himself (in a rather dilapidated state) and
the Marine's revolver to me. Turned him and the revolver
over to the officer of the day with instructions to make an im-
mediate and thorough investigation. Some of the Marines,
hearingof this encounter in which their man had been worsted,
proceeded to arrest and beat privates of the I7th as they came
back to camp and took eighteen of them to the guardhouse
in the town. Investigation of the affair by Marine officers re-
sulted in an apology being sent Colonel Sewell by the Marine
officer (Major Weston). The offenders will be punished. All
of which illustrates what will happen around camps where
liquor is sold. At Atlanta where there was strict prohibition
there was little trouble with the men. The transition from a
drouth to a flood region of drink has proved too much for the
equilibrium of many of our men. The action of the Southern


man who intervened to protect a poor colored man from a
severe and undeserved beating, and went into a fight for him,
recalls what some one has said, " The North may be a friend
to the negro, but the South is a friend to a negro."

Major Gushing told an incident which occurred yesterday.
There are a number of American negroes from the South
who were brought here as workmen. Their lot wages and
work has not been satisfactory to them, to say the least.
One of them approached the Major and said, "I done think
sumfin' is wrong inside my head." Upon the Major inquiring
the cause of his belief he said, " 'Cause I 'se over here, Majah,
an' I did n't have to come. Jes 'cause I 'se over heah. Did
anybody fetch you over heah, Majah, or did you jes come?"

In the evening at the H6tel de Bretagne the regimental
staff and the Captains gave me a birthday dinner. Their
kindness and their evident regret that I am to leave them for
detached duty affected me very much. Colonel Sewell tells
me they have commissioned him to buy me a loving-cup;
but I asked him just to get a small cup which I could carry
with me all the time in remembrance of them. I hope I may

Online LibraryCharles Gates DawesA journal of the great war (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 30)