November 16, 1917 — “Sale of the Farm”

On November 16, Monty enthusiastically welcomes his first letter from home. “Your letter of Oct. 6 was received last Saturday [November10] and was mighty glad to get it as it was my first news from you since sailing.” The rest is how much he’s seen and done—including a three-day trip he wants to tell about “but again the censor prevents.” And about the cold weather. He’s “become so well accustomed to this rain & damp cold that I mind it very little any more.” All safe topics. His mother, now five years into widowhood at the age of 60, has among other things relayed that she’s selling the farm. “Hope your sale of the farm was entirely successful…,” he concludes.

 

Transcript:

November 16, 1917

Dear Mother —

Your letter of Oct. 6th was received last Saturday and was mighty glad to get it as it was my first news from you since sailing. Have been looking for other letters since as you should have received some of my letters from this side by Oct. 15 or 20th – however nothing more as yet. Have been writing you every week since landing on this side but the mail seems to be so uncertain that I don’t know whether or not you have received them. If you have got some of them you will know that I am not permitted to tell you anything much about what I have seen or am doing. Wish the censorship did not prevent my writing as I want to for, if so, there would be plenty of material for letters.

Just returned this morning from a three day trip – the longest leave I’ve had since landing – in which I visited some very interesting places and altogether had a wonderful time. Wish I could tell you all about it but again the censor prevents

Have continued in my usual health and have become so well accustomed to this rainy & damp cold that I mind it very little any more.

Had a letter this morning from Charlie Anderson in which he spoke of having heard from Edith as late as October 12th. Was surprised to find he was over this side – guess he must have come very soon after I did. Hope your sale of the farm was entirely successful and that Kenly has his affairs straightened out by now.

Love to all,

Carl

OK

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lieut. Inf. U.S.R.

 

“Nothing of Interest”, October 30, 1917

– October 30, 1917

Dear Mother –

Haven’t written earlier this time as there has been nothing of interest to record which would get by the censor. Have continued well and I am getting pretty tough physically again after my two months of idleness. Spent Sunday in a neighboring city and while there witnessed the first snowfall of the winter – it snowed heavily all morning but very little stuck owing to the fact it had been raining all the night before. Have become pretty well accustomed to this French weather by now and don’t mind its dampness any more. Got myself a pair of high laced leather boots two weeks ago and haven’t been bothered with cold or wet any more. They are much better than anything I have seen in the States – Frank would find a pair of such boots great for his hunting expeditions.

Hope you are all well and everything is right with you. No mail from home received yet.

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery,

2nd Lieut. Inf. U.S.R.

October 19, 1917

October 19, 1917

Dear Mother –

Have now been in France nearly two weeks and have got pretty well accustomed to the life and my work over here. We’ve had a bit of sunshine this week for a change and a most welcome change it was for the weather has been wet and cold most of the time. Our fare at table is simple but ample in quantity and wonderfully well cooked. Never cared for spaghetti at home but have got to like it pretty well the way they prepare it here.

A night or two ago several of us varied the monotony of our regular fare by going over to a neighboring village for dinner at one of the numerous Cafés – every second or third house seems to be a Café here. We had an excellent dinner at a very reasonable price and also enjoyed the scene in the Café. Practically all the men in the room where in uniform and seemed to be having a great time chatting away over their red wine and cigarettes.

Spent last weekend in a neighboring city and found it most interesting.

Haven’t yet received any mail from home but am looking for it any day now and will be glad to know how you have all been since I left home. Hope those boxes of cigars are on their way when you receive this for while I found some pretty good English pipe tobacco in this City last Sunday, all of their cigars that are worth smoking are out of sight in price.

The New York Herald and Chicago Tribune both get out a small paper in English in Paris with all the cable news from home and the latest war news but this is all the home news we get. Here at the Y.M.C.A. the latest Sat. Evening Post is of Sept. 29 and you may be sure that it and all other American periodicals however old are read again and again.

Hoping to hear from you soon and with lots of love to all, Carl

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lieut Inf., U.S.R.

Monty Repeats Himself October 11, 1917

Monty explains he has over looked some things that we don’t become privy to. A thorough search for missing last pages may tell us something. I’ll keep you up to date.

Transcription of the letter:

Monday, October 11, 1917.

Somewhere in France.

 

Dear Mother—

Since writing you just after my arrival here two days ago I find I may not have put all the proper marks on my letter and so thought I better drop you another line.

Have been here three days and I am still to see the sun. In fact ever since getting to this side of the water it has rained most of the time. However, I’ve continued in excellent health thus far.

The censorship regulations are such that I can tell you very little about myself which I regret as the country & people have been most interesting.

I am anxious to hear something about yourself and the rest of the family as I have now been out of touch for over a month. Guess we ought to be getting some mail soon as am now at a permanent address for a while for the first time since leaving New York.

In case you don’t get my other letter will repeat a request I made in it – namely that you will send me or get Frank to send me several box boxes of cigars. He knows the kind I like – those he usually smokes – and they will be more than appreciated as it is impossible to get decent cigars over here. Hope to get some money to him to meet the interest on my notes and cover the cost of these cigars before long. As yet haven’t been able to get my September salary but I am expecting it any day. Will be getting about $155 a month over here and I ought not spend much more than 100 dollars of it myself—if that much. I thought I’d be able to have about $25 a month deducted from my salary at Washington and sent direct to him but find that can’t be done. However expect to find some method of accomplishing this and before long. while speaking of the cigars, wish you would send me

[letter ends here after two sides of the first page of longer letter.]

Somewhere in France, October 9, 1917

The letter dated October 9 comes from “Somewhere in France” where he arrived “yesterday afternoon” and closed with the hope that “later in the week, I’ll know more of what we can say in letters. Now I’m afraid to say anything.” He seems to be bursting with information to share but can’t yet find a way to put it in his letters. “Have had lots of interesting experiences since landing though, after having the censorship regulations read to us this morning, there is very little we are allowed to say.”

He is concerned that the “loafing” of recent weeks has resulted in his being “very soft physically” and he is ready for activity to rectify that. “Am enjoying the French people…and expect to do some little boning on their language in any spare time as while I get along fairly well in talking to them, they speak it entirely too fast for me.” Monty also puts in an order for cigars, the first of many. “You can get pretty fair cigarettes over here but good cigars and pipe tobacco are another thing altogether and I don’t care for cigarettes.”

Transcript of original letter:

Somewhere in France

Oct. 9, 1917

Dear Mother —

Finally landed here at my destination, or what will be my destination for a while, yesterday afternoon. Have had lots of interesting experiences since landing though, after having the censorship regulations read to us this morning, there is very little we are allowed to say. Have been in the best of health ever since leaving the U.S., being lucky as to seasickness and escaped it entirely. I’m glad to be getting to march again as am very soft physically after the length of time I’ve been loafing. I’m enjoying the French people I see thoroughly and expect to do some little boning on their language in any spare time as while I get along fairly well in talking to them, they speak entirely too fast for me.

One thing I want sent me right away is several boxes of cigars—Frank knows the kind I like. It will probably take them from two to three weeks to reach me so, including the time it will take for this letter to reach you, it will be after the middle of November before I get them but they will come in mighty good at any time. You can get pretty fair cigarettes over here but good cigars and pipe tobacco are another thing altogether and I don’t care for cigarettes.

Hope soon to be getting some mail from you and will write regularly from now on. Perhaps later in the week, I’ll know more of what we can say in letters. Now I’m afraid to say anything.

Lots of love to all the family,

Carl

As before stated my mail should be addressed to: Lieut. Thomas C. Montgomery, Inf. – U.S.R., AEF BCM Paris, France.

O.K. Thomas C. Montgomery 2nd Lieut. – U.S.R.

Monty at Sea (September 10 to September 30, 1917) [repost]

There is silence for a while. The next time we hear from Monty is nearly a month later; on September 30 he is aboard the RMS Carpathia[1] “at sea.” He left New York on the 10th of September and as he starts his letter, the ship is a day or two from its destination. He reports that the RMS Carpathia is the ship that “picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago[2]” and that the Carpathia didn’t go directly from New York but made a second port call were Monty is already wrapped in the responsibility delegated to officers to keep information tightly held:

We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. …the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went ashore and they couldn’t go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn’t all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

The tight security fits against a background of the sinking of the Lusitania two years earlier and several recent incidents of sabotage, including two in New Jersey, all of which contributed to heightened tension and ultimately the US entry into the war in April 1917. Germany pursued a desperate policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, an immediate cause of the US entry into the war but also a reason to restrict information about troop movements. The RMS Carpathia leaves port in a convoy of fourteen transport ships with cruiser escort. This configuration changes a day or two out of his destination. “Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon. …now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyer comforting.”

[an undated note from “An Atlantic Port” which is presumably the port described above: “Don’t know exactly how much I am allowed to say in this but it now seems I’ll be even longer in getting to the other side than I’d supposed. Am therefore dropping you this line to say that I am well and not to expect any cablegram before from the 1st to the 10th of October.”]

[1] The RMS [Royal Mail Ship] Carpathia is a Cunard Line ship of 600 feet and a passenger capacity of about 2500 at the time Monty is aboard. Less than a year later a German U-Boat sinks the Carpathia with minimal loss of life.

[2] The RMS Carpathia is renowned for arriving on scene first after the sinking of the Titanic and taking aboard the 705 survivors. The photo in the blog was taken several days after the Carpathia docked in New York with the survivors of the Titanic.

 

Transcription of original letter:

Onboard S.S. Carpathia – at sea

Sept. 30, 1917

Dear Mother —

This is our 10th day at sea and we are supposed to dock tomorrow or the next day so this might be on its way back to you soon.

Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon and very quickly thereafter get up to and take a position around us. Our ship is one of a bunch of fourteen coming over together all of which mounts from 1 to 5 guns and we’ve also had a cruiser escort but, now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyers very comforting.

I left Port—New York—the day I expected—September 10—but also, as I thought, didn’t come directly over. We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore [for?] two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. There are a bunch of troops aboard besides some 75 of us unassigned officers and the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went to shore and they couldn’t go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn’t all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

This ship is, as you may know, English—a Cunard liner, being the one which picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago. The officers and crew are typically English and have been an interesting type to me.

There are four of us to a stateroom and I consider myself lucky in my roommates. The senior is a prominent Boston lawyer of 43—Stackpole—and a Harvard law man. One of the others is also a Bostonian and a Harvard man of about my age while the third is a Yale man from New Haven of about the same age. Luckily we were quite congenial and also all fond of bridge so I have killed a lot of time very pleasantly at bridge. We have an hour of conference on some military subject every morning, an hour of French and half an hour of physical exercise in the afternoon. The rest of the day is at our disposal and there’s nothing much to do but read and play bridge. We also have a boat drill about once a day at the sound of the [indecipherable’s] whistle all running to our stations with life belts. It has become so much a matter of habit now that I believe if we were torpedoed we’d all go to our stations with very little excitement

The weather got rough the second day out and lots of the fellow were seasick but luckily I escaped. Didn’t feel any to easy the first day of rough weather but after getting by that day was all right. It calmed down a couple of days ago and is very smooth today.

Tell Kate I lived in the smaller sweater she gave me almost ever since coming aboard—it has been most useful. It will be hard to go back to a stiff collar and blouse when we land.

Two Colombians are on board who knew Kate and Frank—Dr. La Bruce Ward and Captain Chisolm of the Engineers

Three days later—as I write we are drawing up to the dock at Glasgow have been on deck since breakfast watching the hills of Bonnie Scotland

The next day—didn’t write any further yesterday as scenery was too interesting and I stayed on deck until we docked. Am now in Glasgow getting up town from the ship last night, and we go on to London tonight. Am very glad we got this opportunity to see Scotland for it has been most interesting. We are the first American troops to be in Glasgow and are a sight for the natives. They welcomed us with open arms and you hear expressions of goodwill from all sides. Haven’t done any sightseeing yet but expect to go out on a tour this afternoon. Will write you again in a day or two when I find out where I am to be

Love to all,

Carl

From

Lieutenant Thomas C Montgomery

Inf. U.S.R. American Expeditionary Force]

New York, September 2, 1917

In a letter from New York dated September 2, 1917 he writes “this chase after equipment has been some tiresome job. With over 2,000 of us wanting stuff, the stores have run short and we’ve consequently had to chase all over the city…as well as to Governors and Bedloes Islands after Quartermaster equipment.” He needs his “second inoculation for para-typhoid” before he’ll be allowed on a transport ship. He’s anxious to go “for while it’s very pleasant staying in New York, it’s also very expensive.” He’s seen several law school friends during his hunt for essentials, “two of them being in this contingent going over.” Despite the expense, he’s developed a new sense of comfort with New York, which is “not the strange place it’s been heretofore” since “being in uniform makes a difference as everyone seems to be glad to tell you anything you want to know.”

 

Letter:

Sunday morning [September 2, 1917]

Dear Mother—

This is the first time since reaching here that I’ve really had time to sit down & write you without knowing there was something I ought to be doing. This chase after equipment has been some tiresome job. With over 2,000 of us wanting stuff, the stores have run short and we’ve consequently had to chase all over the city looking for different things, as well as to Governors & Bedloes[1] Islands after Quartermaster equipment. I still have a few things to get but will have to wait until Tuesday as tomorrow is Labor Day and all the stores will be closed. Tuesday I report back to Hoboken for my second inoculation for para-typhoid and then will find out get my transportation orders. None of us are being allowed to go on a transport until we’ve had this second inoculation. I know some of the men who’ve already completed their inoculations are to sail Wednesday and guess I’m likely to go then although one can’t tell. It may be Saturday before I get away. As soon as I’ve completed my equipment, which I expect to do Tuesday, I’ll be ready to go any time for, while it’s very pleasant staying in New York, it’s also very expensive.

Got my suit from Atlanta Tuesday but had to have a couple of alterations in it after all.

Spent one night this week out with Harry Hartwell up in Westchester and am to go back up with him again if here long enough. Have also seen several other of my old law school friends two of them being in this same contingent going over.

There are so many fellows here that I knew at Oglethorpe[2] that New York is not the strange place it’s been heretofore—one runs into some of these everywhere. Then being in uniform makes a difference as everyone seems to be glad to tell you anything you want to know.

Hope Kenley got all straightened out this week with Frank’s assistance and that you got out without losing any more than was apparent when I left home.

Will let you know as soon as I find out when I’ll go on board a transport.

Love to all,

Carl

[1] Renamed Liberty Island in 1956 to reflect occupancy by its major tenant the Statue of Liberty since 1886

[2] When Monty completed the Reserve Officers’ Training Camp at Fort Oglethorpe, he wasn’t alone. Subsequently, Special Orders No. 85, dated August 15, 1917, “called” forty-two officers who had just completed ROTC at Fort Oglethorpe “into active service and will report in person to the Commanding general, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey, on or before August 29, 1917.”

Monty is Moving

In the photo (above) left to right are: brother John Kenly Montgomery, Monty in uniform, mother Annie S Montgomery, sister Bell M Tilghman, brother-in-law, Horace L Tilghman

We have Monty’s culmination at the ROTC at Fort Oglethorpe on August 15, 1917. Orders have him reporting to Hoboken, NJ on the 29th of August 1917. We have a picture of him at home during the short time between completion at Fort Oglethorpe and arrival in Hoboken, NJ. He is wearing a rather new and undecorated uniform. The picture may have been taken just before departure for points north.

The following letter from New York is the first we have as he starts the journey of preparing to depart for the Great War:

Letterhead:

Hotel Martinique[1] “The House of Taylor” Broadway and 32nd & 33rd Streets

August 31, 1917 [postmark]                                                                      Thursday night

Dear Mother—

Received both your wires and letter all right and was mighty glad to hear from you. Fully intended to write you sooner but have been so busy chasing equipment that I’ve never seemed to find the time. Stayed in Phila. only 2 hours Monday as couldn’t get any equipment there. Tuesday morning early went over to Hoboken and reported. Was ordered to be inoculated for para typhoid and report again tomorrow—Friday—for further orders. Didn’t mind this inoculation near as much as the one for typhoid. Our information is that none of us will be allowed to go on a transport until we’ve had our second inoculation which comes after a week. It therefore seems now that we will be here until about next Wednesday. I have a feeling, however, that they don’t want us to know when we are to sail and we may be notified anytime to report ready to sail. I may learn more tomorrow when I report for further orders. It was a good thing anyway that we had this much time to get equipment [and to be allowed] to shop all over the city for what we need. Haven’t all of mine yet but hope to finish tomorrow.

This is just a note. Will write you more at length tomorrow or Saturday.

Love to all,

Carl

[1] Hotel Martinique (now Radisson Hotel Martinique) opened in 1910; landmark status in 1988. A 1917 hotel ad gives prices for rooms with private bath as $2.50 (“facing large open court”) and $3.50 (“facing street”). “The House of Taylor” presumes the proprietary sense of president Charles Leigh Taylor.