His letter after Christmas—December 30th—begins “My Xmas box finally reached me today and was mighty glad to see it.” He is effusive about the contents including a foot warmer that he doesn’t expect to need until he is sent elsewhere.
The contents are incomplete. “Right to say that somewhere in transit the box was opened and the fruit cake and one box of candy removed.” He nevertheless considers himself lucky to have gotten the box since “a good many have not come through at all.” He proposes having future edibles shipped in a box “wired around” to make it more difficult to open. Despite being “sore” over the loss of the fruitcake—“you know how fond I am of good cake”—he is happy with the “home made candy in particular [which] tasted awfully good—think I recognize Mabel’s fine culinary hand in that.”
He also reports “a box of cigars and some pipe tobacco” that arrived just after Christmas. He’s not sure whether it was intended as a Christmas present or a “part of the regular shipment of cigars and tobacco I requested when I first landed on this side.” He expresses thanks to the parties involved whatever their intent and clarifies: “If you are not shipping the cigars regularly yet, wish you would send a box of 50 every two weeks.” This is his current calculation based on his rate of use and “if one gets lost, it won’t amount to so much.”
He repeats his desire to send money back at least to “meet the interest on my notes, but as long as I am stationed in this large city it will be impossible. My meals here alone—eating at the cheapest places where good food can be procured—cost me about $80.00 a month.” He reflects on the “mail service,” noting that while he is currently overwhelmed with packages, “I still haven’t had a single letter from the States since Mabel’s letter of October 26th.” Nevertheless, he’s had a “fairly cheerful sort of Xmas considering the place and time.
A captain, whom you all know, came here for three days, including Xmas, and it was very pleasant to have an old boyhood friend with me at that time. We roamed around the city quite a bit on Sunday and Xmas day and had an excellent dinner here at the Officer’s Y.M.C.A. Club on Xmas night. The weather was fine on the big day and crowds were out all over the city.
He encloses a copy of his ID photo [not in the envelope] and says “it’s not especially good” and then goes on to describe the Sam Brown Belt which General Pershing requires and which he says distinguishes officers from enlisted men easily. He apologizes in advance for not having time to thank all individually for the Christmas gifts and defers to his mother to handle protocol for allocating thanks.
Dec. 30th, 1917
Dear Mother –
My Xmas box finally reached me today and was mighty glad to see it. Many thanks to you and Mabel for all the good things therein contained – you don’t know how good they do look this far from home. The foot warmer is not needed right now but will come in mighty good when I change station from the city and go back to Camp life. Don’t know when that will happen, if at all, but you are likely to be shipped anywhere in the army. Right to say that somewhere in transit the box was opened and the fruitcake and one box of candy removed. Was and still am pretty sore about losing the fruit cake for you know how fond I am of good cake. However, guess I am fairly lucky to get the rest of the package since as would almost necessarily happen with so many packages coming so far, a good many have not come through at all, being either broken in transit or lost. Would suggest in this connection that if at any time you’re sending me anything else eatable, you might have the box wired around so that it will be difficult to get in. I won’t mind a difficulty at this end in opening it and if it is difficult to get into it will probably not be bothered en route. The homemade candy in particular tasted awfully good – think I recognize Mabel’s fine culinary hand in that.
Yesterday a week ago I got a box of cigars and some pipe tobacco from Kate. Don’t know whether that was intended as a Xmas present or as part of the regular shipment of cigars and tobacco I requested when I first landed on this side. In any event, it was welcome indeed and lots of thanks to Mrs. Brodnax therefor. If you are not shipping the cigars regularly yet, wish you would send a box of 50 every two weeks. That will give me about enough and, sending a box at a time, if one gets lost, it won’t amount to so much. Hope to be able to send some money back to cover these things and meet the interest on my notes some of these days but as long as I am stationed in this large city it will be impossible. My meals here alone – eating at the cheapest places where good food can be procured – cost me about $80 a month.
Another record of another package – got Bell and Horace’s box sent through Wanamaker‘s on Thursday and have been enjoying it a lot. I had about finished it when yours came in today. All the things in it were good and many thanks to the Tilghmans therefor.
You know it’s a funny thing about our mail service – which is still far from satisfactory – but while getting these three packages with in a week, I still haven’t had a single letter from the States since Mabel’s letter written Oct. 26th. Suppose in a few days they’ll blow in all in a bunch. Then I’ll probably go letterless for another month and get another bunch.
Guess by the time I am writing this you receive this, you have received my new mail address by cable, or rather what was and has been my address for the last month. You may have had one of my letters giving it by the time you got the cable but thought I’d cable it to when I found I could cable something like that over the official wires at a reasonable rate. Wanted to send Xmas greetings too but we are given these cheap rates only for business communications.
Had a fairly cheerful sort of Xmas considering the place and time. A captain, whom you all know, came here for three days, including Xmas and it was very pleasant to have an old boyhood friend with me at that time. We roamed around the city quite a bit on Sunday and Xmas day and had an excellent dinner here at the Officers Y.M.C.A. Club on Xmas night. The weather was fine on the big day and crowds were out all over the city.
Nothing much else of interest to write about. Am enclosing small photo made the other day for my identification card as the official photographer gave me an extra one. It’s not especially good but you may observe therein part of the Sam Browne Belt which all officers wear over here. Guess you know something of it. It was adopted by us from the British, being a regulation part of their uniform. General Pershing ordered all officers with the AEF to wear it as it gives an easy distinguishing mark for officers and the people over here have rather a hard time working out our rather complicated insignia. It is composed of a broad leather belt worn – as you see outside the coat – with a shoulder strap attached which goes over the right shoulder being of course attached also in the rear. It also has arrangements on it for carrying pistol, belt and sword when necessary.
Don’t know that I’ll have time to write Kate and Bell and Horace separate letters but please tell them I received their packages O.K. and thank them for me.
You might tell Rebecca we had a pretty good sort of Xmas here.
Love to all,
Thomas C. Montgomery
2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.
To repeat my address, it consists of my name and rank as above and –
Headquarters Line of Communications
 Devised originally for a British officer (Sam Browne) who lost his left arm in battle who wanted a means to draw his sword with one hand. Captain (later General) Sam Browne received the Victoria Cross for his actions in the battle that led to the loss of his left arm; some followers wore the belt to acknowledge his bravery. British officers later wore it as a matter of routine. In WWI, General Pershing ordered it for all of his officers to mark the distinction between officers and non-commissioned officers, as Monty describes here in his letter.