Thomas Herbert Russell.

America's War for Humanity online

. (page 23 of 49)
Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 23 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and rode full tilt into wire entanglements buried in the grass thirty
yards in front of the machine guns, and were made prisoners. Three
regiments of the best cavalry in the British went into the charge, and
suffered severely. The 18th Hussars and the 4th Dragoons also suffered,
but not to the same extent as the others.

"A happy feature of the charge was the gallant conduct of Captain
Grenfell, who, though twice wounded, called for volunteers and saved the
guns. It is said that he has been recommended for the Victoria Cross.

"After this terrible ordeal the British brigade was harassed for
fourteen days of retreat, the enemy giving them rest neither day nor
night. At 2 o'clock each morning they were roused by artillery fire, and
every day they fought a retiring action, pursued relentlessly by the

"It was a wonderful retreat. Daily the cavalry begged to be allowed to
go for the enemy in force to recover lost ground, but only once were
they permitted to taste that joy, at the village of Lassigny, which they
passed and repassed three times.

"The Germans made repeated efforts, which were always foiled, to capture
the retreating transport. It had, however, many narrow escapes. At one
point it escaped by a furious gallop which enabled the wagons to cross a
bridge less than an hour ahead of the enemy. The engineers had mined the
bridge and were waiting to blow it up. They sent a hurry-up call to the
transport, and the latter responded with alacrity. The bridge was blown
up just in time to separate the two forces. "At Compiègne the brigade
for the first time saw and welcomed their French brothers-in-arms."


One of the popular heroes of Belgium is Boy Scout Leysen, who has been
decorated by King Albert for his valor and devotion to his country.

This young man, who was born at Liège, is described as of almost uncanny
sharpness, with senses and perceptions as keen as an Indian. He was able
to find his way through the woods and pass the German sentinels with
unerring accuracy.

Leysen made his way through the German lines from Antwerp for the
tenth time on Sunday, September 6, carrying dispatches to secret
representatives of the Belgian government in Brussels. He discovered and
denounced eleven German spies in Belgium, and performed a variety of
other services, and all without impairing his boyish simplicity.


After the first three weeks of war, Emperor William requested the
supreme council of the Evangelical Church throughout the German empire
to include the following prayer in the liturgy at all public services
during the war:

"Almighty and most merciful God, God of the armies, we beseech Thee in
humility for Thy almighty aid for German Fatherland. Bless our forces of
war; lead us to victory and give us grace that we may show ourselves to
be Christians toward our enemies as well. Let us soon arrive at a peace
which will everlastingly safeguard our free and independent Germany."


When sympathy was expressed in Paris for a poor woman, mother of
nine sons, eight of whom were at the front, she replied: "I need no
consolation. I have never forgotten that I was flogged by Prussians in
1870. I have urged my sons to avenge me and they will."

As one train of soldiers for the front moved out of a Paris railway
station two girls who had bravely kissed farewell to a departing man
turned away, and one began to cry, but the other said: "Keep up a little
longer, he can still see us." Another carried a baby, and as her husband
leaned out of the window and the train started she threw it into his
arms, crying: "Leave it with, the station master at the next station,
and I will fetch it; you must have it for another few minutes."

A Paris painter, called for military duty, was obliged to leave his wife
and four children almost destitute. When he communicated with his wife
on the subject she replied: "Do your duty without worrying about us. The
city, state and our associations will look after us women and children."
In her letter, the wife enclosed a money order for $1 out of $1.20, the
total amount of money which she possessed.


Lieutenant Henkart, attached to the general staff of the Belgian Army,
perfected a monitor armored motor car which was successfully used by the

During the war the officer engaged in reconnoitering in one of his
armored cars. He had several encounters with Uhlans, of whom he killed a
considerable number, virtually single-handed. His only assistants in his
scouting trips were a chauffeur, an engineer and a sharpshooter.

On one occasion the party killed five Uhlans. Two days later it killed
seven and on another occasion near Waterloo, the auto ran into a force
of 500 Germans and escaped after killing twenty-five with a rapid-fire
gun, which was mounted on the motor car.


A Belgian diplomat in Paris related an incident he observed at
Charleroi. He said:

"Twenty Death's Head Hussars entered the town at 7 o'clock in the
morning and rode quickly down the street, saluting and calling out
'Good-day' to those they met, saying, 'We are friends of the people.'

"Mistaking them for English cavalrymen, the people cried 'Long live
England!' The Belgian soldiers themselves were deceived until an officer
at a window, realizing their mistake, ran to the street and gave the
alarm. The Belgian soldiers rushed quickly to arms and opened fire on
the fleeing Germans, of whom several were killed." DIED WRITING TO HIS

Here is a story of a heroic death on the battlefield, told simply in a
letter found in the cold hands of a French soldier who had just finished
writing it when the end came. "I am awaiting help which does not come,"
the letter ran. "I pray God to take me, for I suffer atrociously. Adieu,
my wife and dear children. Adieu, all my family, whom I so loved. I
request that whoever finds me will send this letter to Paris to my
wife, with the pocketbook which is in my coat pocket. Gathering my last
strength I write this, lying prostrate under the shell fire. Both my
legs are broken. My last thoughts are for my children and for thee,
my cherished wife and companion of my life, my beloved wife. Vive la


A visitor to the military hospital within the intrenched camp of Paris,
just outside the city walls, said on September 18:

"Men of all ranks are there, from the simple private to a general of
division. There is no sign of discouragement or sadness on the pale
faces, which light up with the thought of returning to battle.

"I saw hundreds of men lying on the beds in the wards with varieties of
wounds, no two being identical. This Turco - or African soldier - suffered
from a torn tongue, cut by a bullet, which traversed his cheek. Another
had lost three fingers of his left hand. A bullet entered the temple of
this infantryman and fell into his mouth, where by some curious reaction
he swallowed it.

"Many of the patients are suffering from mere flesh wounds. One poor
fellow whose eye was put out by a bullet said: "That's nothing. It is
only my left eye and I aim with my right. I need the lives of just three
Germans to pay for it."


"The Turcos, though terrible hand-to-hand fighters, are hard to care
for. They have great fear of pain and it is difficult to bandage their
wounds. The doctors give them cigarettes, which they smoke with dignity
as if performing a ritual.

"All the African soldiers were wrathful at a German officer lying in a
neighboring room. They muttered in a sinister fashion, 'To-morrow!' and
put two hands to the neck. I understood this to mean that they would
strangle him to-morrow. Much vigilance is required to keep the officer
out of their reach.

"One Turco killed two Prussians with his bayonet and two with the stock
of the gun in a single fight. His body is covered with the scars of
years of fighting in the service of France. When asked if he liked
France he replied: 'France good country, good leaders, good doctors.' He
seemed to mind his wound less than the lack of cigarettes."


Writing from Antwerp on September 1, William G. Shepherd, United Press
staff correspondent, illustrated the spirit of the soldiery of Belgium
by the following story:

"The little Belgian soldier who climbed into the compartment with me was
dead tired; he trailed his rifle behind him, threw himself into the seat
and fell sound asleep. He was ready to talk when he awoke an hour later.

"'Yes, I was up all night with German prisoners,' he said. 'It was a bad
job, there were only sixteen of us to handle 200 Germans. We had four
box cars and we put twenty-five prisoners in one end of the car and
twenty-five in the other, and the four of us with rifles sat guard by
the car door.

"'We rode five hours that way and I expected every minute that the whole
fifty Germans in the car would jump on us four and kill us. Four to
fifty; that's heavy odds. But we had to do it. You see there aren't
enough soldiers in Belgium to do all the work, so we have to make out
the best we can.'

"That's the plucky little Belgian soldier, all over.

"In the first place, he's different from most soldiers, because he is
willing to fight when he knows he's going to lose.

"'We have to make out the best we can,' is his motto.

"In the second place, he's a common-sense little fellow. Even while he's
fighting, he's doing it coolly, and there is no blind hatred in his
heart that causes him to waste any effort. He gets down to the why and
wherefore of things.

"'I really felt sorry for those German prisoners,' said a comrade of
the first soldier. 'They were all decent fellows. They told me their
officers had fooled them. They said the officers gave them French money
on the German frontier and then yelled to them, "On into France!" They
went on three days and got to Liège before they knew they were in
Belgium instead of France.

"'We didn't want to hurt Belgium,' they told us, because we're from
Alsace-Lorraine ourselves.'

"'You see,' continued the logical little Belgian, 'it wasn't their
fault, so we couldn't be mad at them.'

"That is the Belgian idea - cool logic.

"'Why did you fight the Germans?' I asked a high government official.

"'Because civilization can't exist without treaties, and it is the duty
that a nation owes to civilization to fight to the death when written
treaties are broken,' was the reply.

"'It must be a rule among nations that to break a treaty means to fight.
The Germans broke the neutrality treaty with Belgium and we had to

"'But did you expect to whip the Germans?'

"'How could we? We knew that hordes of Germans would follow the first
comers, but we had no right to worry about who would be whipped; all we
had to do was to fight, and we've done it the best we could.'

"It has been a cool-headed logical matter with the Belgians from the
start. Treaties are made with ink; they're broken with blood, and just
as naturally and coolly as the Belgian diplomats used ink in signing the
treaties with Germany so the Belgian soldiers have used their blood in
trying to maintain the agreements."


In the present war Germany uses a Mauser rifle, with a bullet of
millimeters caliber, steel and copper coated. Great Britain's missile is
the Lee-Enfield, caliber 7.7 mm., the coating being cupro-nickel.

The French weapon is the Lebel rifle, of 8 mm. caliber, with bullets
coated with nickel. Russia uses Mossin-Nagant rifles, 7.62 mm.,
with bullets cupro-nickel coated. Austria's chief small arm is the
Mannlicher, caliber 8 mm., with a steel sheet over the tip.

Hitting a man beyond 350 yards, the wounds inflicted by all these
bullets are clean cut. They frequently pass through bone tissue without

When meeting an artery the bullet seems to push it to one side and goes
around without cutting the blood channel.

Amputations are very rare compared with wars of more than fifty years
ago. A bullet wound through a joint, such as the knee or the elbow, then
necessitated the amputation of the limb. Now such a wound is easily
opened and dressed.

Even Russia, which made a sad sanitary showing in the war with Japan,
now has learned her lesson and has efficient surgical arrangements.

All the nations use vaccine to combat typhoid, the scourge which once
decimated camps, and killed 1,600 in the Spanish-American war.


Concerning the German Uhlans, of whom so much has been heard in the
European war, Luigi Barzini, a widely known Italian war correspondent,

"The swarms of cavalry which the Germans send out ahead of their advance
are to be found everywhere - on any highway, on any path. It is their
business to see as much as possible. They show themselves everywhere and
they ride until they are fired upon, keeping this up until they have
located the enemy.

"Theirs is the task of riding into death. The entire front of the enemy
is established by them, and many of them are killed - that is a certainty
they face. Now and then, however, one of them manages to escape to bring
the information himself, which otherwise is obtained by officers in
their rear making observation.

"At every bush, every heap of earth, the Uhlan must say to himself:
'Here I will meet an enemy in hiding.' He knows that he cannot defend
himself against a fire that may open on him from all sides. Everywhere
there is danger for the Uhlan - hidden danger. "Nevertheless he keeps on
riding, calmly and undisturbed, in keeping with German discipline."


The Paris Matin relates that on the arrival of a train bringing wounded
Senegalese riflemen nearly all were found smoking furiously from long
porcelain pipes taken from the enemy and seemingly indifferent to
their wounds. One gayly told of the daring capture of a machine gun
by eighteen of his comrades. The gun, he said, was brought up by a
detachment of German dragoons and the Senegalese bravely charged and
captured everything.

Though their arms and bodies were hacked by sabers, the Senegalese
complained of nothing but the obligation to fight with shoes on. Before
going into battle at Charleroi they slyly rid themselves of these
impediments and came back shod in German footwear to avoid punishment
for losing equipment.


The shot which resulted in the death of Prince von Buelow, one of the
German generals, was fired by a Belgian private named Rosseau, who was
decorated by King Albert for his conduct in the battle of Haelen.

Rosseau was lying badly wounded among his dead comrades when he saw a
German officer standing beside his horse and studying a map. Picking up
a rifle beside a dead German, Rosseau fired at this officer and wounded
him. The officer proved to be Prince von Buelow. Exchanging his hat for
the German general's helmet and taking the general's horse, Rosseau made
his way to the Belgian lines and was placed in a hospital at Ghent.


The Hanover Courier gave the following account by an eyewitness of the
death of Prince Frederick William of Lippe at Liege:

"On all sides our detachment was surrounded by Belgian troops, who were
gradually closing in for purposes of exterminating us. At the prince's
command we formed a circle eight deep, maintaining a stubborn defense.
At length a strong division arrived to support us. The prince raised
himself from a kneeling position and turned to the standard bearer, who
lay prone beside him, covering the standard with his body.

"'Raise the standard,' commanded the prince, 'so that we may be
recognized by our friends.'

"The standard bearer raised the flag, waving it to and fro. This action
immediately brought upon the standard bearer and the prince a violent
fusillade. The standard was shot away and at the same moment the prince
was struck in the chest and expired instantly."


Mrs. Herman H. Harjes, wife of the Paris banker, who, with other
American women, was deeply interested in relief work, visited the North
railroad station at Paris on September 1 and was shocked by the sights
she saw among the Belgian refugees.

"The station," said Mrs. Harjes, "presented the aspect of a shambles.
It was the saddest sight I ever saw. It is impossible to believe the
tortures and cruelties the poor unfortunates had undergone.

"I saw many boys with both their hands cut off so that it was impossible
for them to carry guns. Everywhere was filth and utter desolation. The
helpless little babies, lying on the cold, wet cement floor and crying
for proper nourishment, were enough to bring hot tears to any mother's

"Mothers were vainly besieging the authorities, begging for milk or
soup. A mother with twelve children said:

"What is to become of us? It seems impossible to suffer more. I saw
my husband bound to a lamppost. He was gagged and being tortured by
bayonets. When I tried to intercede in his behalf, I was knocked
senseless with a rifle. I never saw him again.'"


The bodies of the dead in this war were not, with occasional exceptions,
returned to their relatives, but were buried on the field and where
numbers required it, in common graves. Valuables, papers and mementoes
were taken from the bodies and made up in little packets to be sent to
the relatives, and the dead soldiers, each wrapped in his canvas shelter
tent, as shroud, were laid, friend and foe, side by side in long
trenches in the ground for which they had contested.


In the German official Gazette daily lists of the dead, wounded and
missing were published. The names marched by in long columns of the
Gazette, arrayed with military precision by regiments and companies,
batteries or squadrons - first the infantry and then cavalry, artillery
and train.

The company lists were headed usually by the names of the officers,
killed or wounded; then came the casualties from the enlisted
strength - first the dead, then the wounded and the missing. A feature
of the early lists was the large proportion of this last class, reports
from some units running monotonously, name after name, "missing" or
"wounded and missing" - in mute testimony of scouting patrols which did
not return, or of regiments compelled to retire and leave behind them
dead, wounded and prisoners, or sometimes of men wandering so far from
their comrades in the confusion of battle that they could not find and
rejoin their companies for days.


An attempt was made in lists of the German wounded to give the nature
and location of the wound. These were principally from rifle or
shrapnel fire. A scanty few in the cavalry were labeled "lance thrust,"
indicating that the favorite weapon of the European cavalry has not done
the damage expected of it, although the lance came more into play in the
later engagements between the Russian and German cavalry divisions.


Writing from Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany, on August 29th, Karl H. von
Wiegand, who is considered by the Allies a German mouthpiece, said:

"America has not the faintest realization of the terrible carnage going
on in Europe. She cannot realize the determination of Germany, all
Germany - men, women and children - in this war. The German Empire is
like one man. And that man's motto is 'Vaterland oder Tod!' (Fatherland
or Death!)

"English news sources are reported here as telling of the masterly
retreat of the allies. Here in the German field headquarters, where
every move on the great chess-board of Belgium and France is analyzed,
the war to date is referred to as the greatest offensive movement in the
history of modern warfare."


The German offensive plans were well laid. No army that ever took the
field was ever so mobile. Thousands of army autos have been in use. Each
regiment had its supply. The highways were mapped in advance. There was
not a crossroad that was not known. Even the trifling brooks had been
located. Nothing had been left to chance and the advance guard was
accompanied by enormous automobiles filled with corps of sappers who
carried bridge and road building materials.


How well the German plans worked was shown when Namur, which, it was
boasted, would resist for months, fell in two days. The terrible work of
the great Krupp weapons, whose existence had been kept secret, is hard
to realize. One shot from one of these guns went through what was
considered an impregnable wall of concrete and armored steel at Namur,
exploded and killed 150 men.

And aside from the effectiveness of these terrible weapons, Belgian
prisoners who were in the Namur forts declare their fire absolutely
shattered the nerves of the defenders, whose guns had not sufficient
range to reach them.


"It makes you sick to see the way that the Germans literally walk into
the very mouth of the machine guns and cannon spouting short-fused
shrapnel that mow down their lines and tear great gaps in them," said a
Belgian major who was badly wounded. "Nothing seems to stop them. It is
like an inhuman machine and it takes the very nerve out of you to watch


"The women of Germany are facing the situation with heroic calmness,"
said Eleanor Painter, an American opera singer on landing in New York
September 7th, direct from Berlin, where she had spent the last four
years. "It is all for the Fatherland. The spirit of the people is
wonderful. If the men are swept away in the maelstrom of war, the women
will continue to fight. They are prepared now to do so.

"There are few tears in Berlin. Of course there is sorrow, deep sorrow.
But the German women and the few men still left in the capital realize
that the national life itself is at stake and accept the inevitable
losses of a successful military occupation. There is a grim dignity
everywhere. There are no false ideas as to the enormity of the struggle
for existence. A great many Germans, in fact, realizing that it is
nearly the whole world against Germany, do not believe that the
Fatherland can survive. But they are determined that while there is a
living German so long will Germany fight.


"A German father with his ten sons enlisted. General von Haessler,
more than the allotted three-score years and ten, veteran of two wars,
offered his sword. Boys who volunteered and who were not needed at the
time wept when the recruiting officers sent them back home, telling them
their time would come.

"The German women fight their own battles in keeping back tears and
praying for the success of the German arms. Hundreds of titled women are
at the front with the Red Cross, sacrificing everything to aid their
country. Baroness von Ziegler and her daughter wrote from Wiesbaden that
they were en route to the front and were ready to fight if need be.

"Even the stupendous losses which the army is incurring cannot dim the
love of the Fatherland nor the desire of the Germans, as a whole nation,
to fight on. I speak of vast losses. An officer with whom I talked while
en route from Berlin to Rotterdam, told me of his own experience. He
was one of 2,000 men on the eastern frontier. They saw a detachment
of Russians ahead. The German forces went into battle singing and
confident, although the Russian columns numbered 12,000. Of that German
force of 2,000 just fifty survived. None surrendered."


Dead men and horses, heaped up by thousands, lay putrefying on the
battlefields of the Aisne, Colonel Webb C. Hayes, U.S.A., son of former
President Hayes, declared in Washington on Oct. 7, on his return from
observing the war and its battlefields. He was the bearer of a personal
message to President Wilson from the acting burgomaster of Louvain.

"When I left Havre on Sept. 27," he said, "the Allies were fearful that
they would not be able to penetrate to the German line through the mass
of putrefying men and horses on the battlefields, which unfortunately
the combatants seem not to heed about burying. I don't see how they
could pass through these fields. The stench was horrible, and the idea
of climbing over the bodies must be revolting even to brave soldiers."

Col. Hayes had been on the firing line; he had visited the sacked city
of Louvain as the guest of Germans in an armored car; he had been in
Aix-la-Chapelle, at the German base, and had seen some of the fighting

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 23 of 49)