March 3, 1918.

On March 1, 1918, Senator Ed Smith’s office forwards a letter from the War Department telling Mrs. Annie S. Montgomery “There is no reason apparent to this office why Lieutenant Montgomery should not receive and answer mail addressed as above.” By now, though, mail is apparently flowing again though the War Department would have misled Mrs. Montgomery since they say her son is reachable as infantry, unassigned at General Headquarters. It has been three months now since he reached Paris and sits behind a desk.

On March 3rd, Monty is responding to sister Bell’s “long and interesting letter of Jan. 17th” that he had received the previous day. His first letter to her, he goes through the censorship issue: “though I don’t think telling you what I am doing would give any military information, I don’t care to take a chance on it.”

“…guess you know by now that I’ve seen Aubrey Wheeler and Dick Johnson.”

Despite earlier assurances: “It snowed all day yesterday and this morning there is slush and mud everywhere and the skies are still gray.”

He enjoys the city. “I never get tired of the views one gets around this city.” He’s often out there on foot or by car: “I’ve seen many parts and come in contact with many people that a tourist wouldn’t have seen in a thousand years.” He describes the views and the grayish uniformity of the buildings but notes Sacré Coeur as the exception. It is built of “nearly white stone. The other afternoon I was coming in from St. Ouen (one of the suburbs) when I got a wonderful view of it with the sun behind it—it seemed more like some dream than something actual.”

“Am now figuring with several other officers on getting an apartment. We can buy most of our staple groceries from the commissary and so, even after hiring a cook and another servant can live much cheaper than at a hotel.” He worries though that the step towards permanence will jinx the effort—“about the time we get comfortably settled some of us will be transferred elsewhere but will have to take a chance on that.”

He closes with the hope that neither her husband nor daughter will be too distracting so she can write him again soon.

Transcription:

A.P.O. 702 A.E.F.

March 3rd, 1918

 

Dear Bell: –

Your long and interesting letter of Jan. 17th reached me yesterday afternoon and also during the week received a muffler from Annie Covington–please pass on to her my grateful thanks for saying

As to my not giving you any facts about what I’m doing, suppose by this time you have received several letters which gave you much more of an idea than previously. As to mentioning your work, that is absolutely “defendu” by the censor. Of course, only a small percentage of mail which bears an officers O.K. is opened and that is why some of the news you speak of went through but, though I don’t think telling you what I’m doing would give any military information, I don’t care to take a chance on it.

As to news about the other boys from home, guess you know by this time that I’ve seen Aubrey Wheeler and Dick Johnson. Aubrey wasn’t here Xmas as you think but some two weeks before that. When I got Dick’s wire that he was coming up for Xmas I wired Aubrey but he couldn’t make it and has since written me that he now has as much chance of getting to Paris on leave as he has of getting to Berlin for a week end. Munroe Johnson has also been in Paris since I’ve been here but it was in December when he didn’t know I was here so I didn’t get to see him. Dick was here three days at Xmas and was with me at my hotel which made it much more pleasant for both of us at that season. I’ve also seen John David and Leslie Lane from Dillon a time or two since coming to France.

March has surely “come in like a lion” here after a mild and pleasant February. It snowed all day yesterday and this morning there is slush and mud everywhere and the skies are still grey. However a Parisian with whom I am closely associated in my work tells me that this is the last cold weather we’ll have and spring will really be coming on in the very few days now. Have noticed a few of the trees trying to bud during this past week. I never get tired of the views one gets around the city. My work takes me all over it and consequently I’ve seen many parts and come in contact with many people that a tourist wouldn’t have seen in a thousand years. All of the buildings, unless quite new, have a greyish color and are generally of the same or very nearly the same height, all of which gives a uniformity you never see back home. One notable exception is the Cathedral de Sacré Coeur on the heights of Montmartre which is built of nearly white stone. The other afternoon I was coming in from St. Ouen (one of the suburbs) when I got a wonderful view of it with the sun behind it–it seemed more like some dream then something actual.

I note that you speak of Kenly’s finally being in training and suppose there must be a letter or letters in between which tell me about it but which have not yet come to hand. You must have received some of my letters giving my new address as A.P.O. 702 by the first or second week in February and probably this next week some home letters should begin to come through with that address. Probably when that happens other letters addressed to me Hq. L. of C. and otherwise will attach themselves and finally reach me. My address when I cabled in December was Hq. L. of C. and also A.P.O. 702 but when Hq. left I remained and therefore it was necessary to change my address with you. As it is now, anything addressed Hq. L. of C. goes there first and is forwarded to me which delays it anywhere from a day or two to a week or more. Anything you send me addressed to 702 should however come straight through without any delays, and that will be my address until further notice.

Am now figuring with several other officers on getting an apartment. We can buy most of our staple groceries from the commissary and so, even after hiring a cook another servant, can live much cheaper than at a hotel. It will also be much more comfortable and homelike. Am afraid that about the time we get comfortably settled some of us will be transferred elsewhere but will have to take a chance on that.

Hope you’ll find time from the distractions of a husband and daughter to write again soon as enjoyed your letter thoroughly.

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

 

 

February 25, 1918. “Am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.”

By February 25, he’s been tracking the mail. He’s recently gotten his moher’s letter of December 3 and one from Spartanburg dated December 31. “Have nothing from you as yet later than December 29th,” though he knows of “other officers who have received letters dated as late as Feb.8th.” So, he has one letter from home that’s about three months old, and he is in a mail drought that’s of about two months duration. Others are getting mail in about two weeks. “Am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.”

He addresses the weather—“springlike” after having been “pretty snappy the first day or two of the week.”

Had lunch one day last week with some of these Americans…who’ve been living over here a good many years. There were present a Countess, a Duchess, an English Naval commander, a French government official and myself. Quite some company I was with and the conversation was thoroughly interesting, mostly of the war, and with the other two big Allies represented, one got all the angles and points of view. At lunch I was sitting next to the Countess (an American by the way) and was sure keeping an eye out to see the proper manner of procedure with the table utensils.

And in closing: “Have never yet seen the box of pecans with sweater and suppose it has been ‘submarined’ by some mail handler en route.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

A.P.O. 702 A.E.F.

Feb. 25, 1918

Dear Mother: –

During the last week your letter mailed Dec. 3rd finally came straying in and also one from Spartanburg of Dec. 31st. Have nothing as yet from you later than Dec. 29th but suppose I’ll be getting another bunch of letters soon, probably covering the whole month of January. There seems to be no “rhyme nor reason” to the way one’s mail comes. As compared with my case, I know of other officers who have received letters dated as late as Feb. 8th. I am glad to see that an investigation is now being made in Congress.

Nothing much to say about the past week. As for weather, after being pretty snappy again the first day or two of the week, the rest of it was fine and Saturday the air was really springlike? Today we are having a regular spring rain but there has been comparatively little rain since Xmas as compared with the fall.

Had lunch one day last week with some of these Americans I’ve before mentioned as knowing who’ve been living over here a good many years. There were present a Countess, a Duchess, an English Naval Commander, a French government official and myself. Quite some company I was with and the conversation was thoroughly interesting, mostly of the war and naturally, with the other two big allies represented, one got all the angles and points of view. At lunch I was sitting next the countess (an American by the way) and was sure keeping an eye out to see the proper manner of procedure with the table implements.

Hope you all continue well at home and that John has been called into service by this time as suppose he got pretty restless during a long wait for his call.

Have never yet seen the box of pecans with sweater and suppose it has probably been “submarined” and buy some mail handler en route.

Regards to all the family, not forgetting Annie Covington

With love, Carl

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

February 14, 1918. “My work now takes me out in a machine nearly every afternoon….”

On February 14, Monty writes home that he has not found time for a real letter but “am therefore scratching a few lines anyhow.” He writes again that there has “been nothing of particular interest to record since my last letter except those things which are ‘defendu’ by the censor.” He has however unburdened his soul to Mabel ten days earlier on subjects that might also have been “defendu” though he may simply be sparing his mother the scary reports of his life in a battle zone. So he moves on to safer ground.

“Am glad to say a shipment of cigars and pipe tobacco came through to me Monday—two boxes of cigars and 12 packages of pipe tobacco.” The timing was right “as I had been out of cigars for over a week and the Commissary had none.” “The package of pecans with sweater…has never been received and am afraid has been lost or stolen…. Understand our Intelligence Service is looking into this matter of lost packages and hope they are able to stop it.”

“Took in another reception where the socially elect are found. ‘Among those present’ was an American grand opera singer [Emma Hayden Eames?][1] who has never sung in America. She sang very charmingly but [I] was amused at the grand mannier (?) she had acquired over here.”

Another highlight was “Last Sunday morning I had some real pancakes and syrup for breakfast with some American friends at their apartment and they were surely good.

This afternoon I was at the Pathé Frères[2] factory…modern throughout according to our American ideas. Rather strange to have seen this French “movie” manufactory before ever having seen an American one.”

Never a mention of Valentine’s Day.

[1] So far, unable to identify.

[2] Film production, responsible for popular Pauline in Peril series appearing in US in 1918. No clue why TCM is at the factory.

 

Transcription:

[YMCA letterhead preprinted with 1917 in the date line]

A.P.O. 702

Feb. 14, [1918]

 

Dear Mother –

Have run over my weekly time for writing expecting to find time to write a decent letter but am kept so busy these days that I never seem to find time enough. Am therefore scratching a few lines anyhow.

There’s been nothing of particular interest to record since my last letter except those things which are “defendu” by the censor. Am glad to say that a shipment of cigars and pipe tobacco came through to me Monday – two boxes of cigars and 12 packages of pipe tobacco. It was most welcome as I had been out of cigars for over a week and the commissary had none – nor do I know when they’ll have any there. The package of pecans with sweater which you mention has never been received and am afraid has been lost or stolen as so many packages have been. Understand our Intelligence Service is looking into this matter of lost packages and hope they are able to stop it.

Took in another reception this week where the socially elect are found. “Among those present” was an American grand opera singer who has never sung in America. She sang very charmingly but was amused at the grand mannir (?) [manière] she had acquired over here.

Last Sunday morning I had some real pancakes and syrup for breakfast with some American friends at their apartment and they were surely good. What around there Saturday night and they insisted on my spending the night and being there for pancakes in the morning – you may well believe that I didn’t hesitate long about accepting.

The weather has been fine most of the time for the past month – very little colder than at home at this season and, I understand, much milder than it has been the last two or three winters. I guess the weatherman is making up for the rotten fall we had over here. My work now takes me out in a machine nearly every afternoon and I have enjoyed getting a good look at this famous old City during the good weather. It’s usually cloudy and often foggy until about 9 or 10 o’clock but better after that. This afternoon I was at the Pathé Frères factory and it was a wonderfully interesting place – modern throughout according to our American ideas. Rather strange to have seen this French “movie” manufactory before ever having seen an American one.

Hope you are all continuing well. Will write again soon.

With love,

Carl

 

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt Inf. U.S.R.

February 13, 1918. “I…have taken this matter up with the War Department.”

Meanwhile in the United States, Monty’s mother has been worried enough about not getting mail from her “son Lieut. T.C. Montgomery who is somewhere in France” that she has contacted US Senator Ellison Smith. In a letter dated February 13, 1918, Senator Smith assures Mrs. Annie S. Montgomery that he has referred the matter to the War Department. “As soon as I have definite information from it, I shall communicate further with you.”

February 4, 1918. “I think they rather prefer going in the ‘Sortie’ and going out the ‘Entrée’”

He is done with the typewritten letter that he pecked out at work, leaves his office and goes home where he decides to “add a little” to his earlier thoughts. He pens an addendum in his sepia handwriting. It begins with a food odyssey, reporting that the “food at the Officers Training Camp was not as good as it might have been though we paid 168 francs—or about $30—a month.”

 

transcription

[about February 4, 1918]

Dear Mabel –

Since writing you this A.M. at my office have been looking over your last letter here at my room and will add a little – probably to be enclosed in the same envelope. As you know, Dick Johnson was with me for Xmas and he told me all about their trip over – they did not to come on the Vaterland as Horace thought from the Pace boy’s letter.

You want to know about food. The food at this Officers Training Camp was not as good as it might have been though we paid 168 francs or about $30 a month . The hardest thing for a good many of us to get used to was the “petit dejeuner” of “cafe au lait”, bread, butter and jam or “confiture” as it is known over here. After our heavier breakfasts at home, we didn’t come to it very gracefully. However, got so used to it the seven weeks I was at this camp that I’ve stuck to it most of the time since I’ve been here where I can get a heavier breakfast if desired. Occasionally, when feeling hungrier than usual in the morning I have an omelette instead of “confiture” but really feel awfully full after a breakfast of that kind. And, speaking of all omelettes, they surely know how to cook one in France – I’ve eaten more omelettes here than in my whole previous career. As a matter of fact the French live up to their re-reputation for good cooking all along the line. I’ve eaten often and enjoy things that I never touched at home, macaroni for instance.

I can’t give you a much of a description of camp life now, having been a city dweller for the last two months but shouldn’t wonder I’ll be ordered to where your stove will be useful before warm weather comes. And, having been here this length of time, most of my first impressions of this town have worn off – after a time you know one takes things as a matter of fact. There are some things though which I continue to notice. For instance in the subway these people have the most cheerful disregard for “Entree” and “Sortie” or Way in and Way out. I think they rather prefer going in the “Sortie” and coming out the “Entree”. Also on the sidewalks right and left mean nothing in their young lives. They walk where it pleases them to walk regardless of whether it’s on the right or left and block up the sidewalk looking at shop windows, or stopping for conversation or a kissing match. Osculation in public is the custom rather than [the reverse?]. Then crossing the street, they are just as likely as not to cross looking the wrong way or with head over the shoulder talking to some one on the pavement with the apparent calm belief that nothing will hit them. My work now requires my being out over the city nearly every day in a machine and my chauffeur has had some amazingly narrowest escapes from hitting some one. Hope he doesn’t. It’s a mystery to me that no more of them get run over, particularly with the way these French taxi drivers go – they’ve got something on New York taxi drivers in recklessness and that’s going some.

As to seeing fellows I knew at home, I’m running into some one often, particularly of my Harvard acquaintances. Besides Dick Johnson, have seen Aubrey Wheeler but have never run into Eugene Munro since leaving Marion. Got word of him through a Captain Simons from Charleston who had run into him in at some village. Bert France, from Spartanburg, was here with me last night as well as for a day about New Years. Never have seen Charlie Anderson but hope to run into him some of these times.

Glad to hear niece Olivia is still progressing so well – I can well imagine that she’s going to be a rather spirited young lady one of these days. Was rather reminded of Olivia the other night when having dinner at the apartment of a fellow officer who is so lucky as to have his wife with him and also a two month old daughter who was duly produced for my benefit.

Regarding cigars again, think, as before suggested, it will be better to send a box every 10 days as then, if one has lost, it doesn’t amount to so much.

Also continue to address everything to me at A.P.O. 702 (which means Army Post Office) until otherwise notified. Even if I am moved to another place, I’ll get mail quicker by having it come here and be forwarded than if there is no other address than A.E.F.

With love,

Carl

P.S. – Feb. 4 – 10 A.M. Found Mother’s letter of Dec. 26 on coming down this A.M. and glad you know more about what I’m doing – the pictures of pictures of Olivia were fine.

O.K.

Thomas C Montgomery,

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

February 3, 1918. “The big event of the past week was the Bosche air raid.”

[Feb 3, 1918 to Mabel] Monty’s letter to Mabel is more open and revealing than the content of the letters to his mother, an apparent greater honesty between siblings and maybe trying to protect mother from details, though since both Mabel and her mother live in the same household, there is no doubt mother will expect to read the letter.

Monty starts with thanks to the Marion Service League for their Christmas package which contained candy for which he asks Mabel to convey his thanks. He is responding to her “long letter with family news.”

Apparently she has asked for detail. Rather than giving the earlier censorship excuse—while nevertheless explaining that he erred on the side of caution when he didn’t know how much one could say and get away with it—he launches into detail describing his first stop as “an old French military school” where the one story stone barracks “were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded.” He then goes into detail about his three day trip in November 1917 when he was “at Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days.” On the first day, “five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino.”

He then describes “the big event of the past week” which was “the Bosche air raid.” He supposes she has gotten details from the papers but he goes on to tell his tale: It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded.

Walked on to the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they showed their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes, I began to think it was another false alarm—there was such a one just before Xmas—and walked over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much about it until that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around a corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel.

In the safety of his hotel, he describes “nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille.” Apparently the lobby was considered the safest place during an air raid though curiosity provoked “occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going.” The excitement was over by 1:15. “Went over next morning to look at this place where the bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and sixth stories of a house.”

His interest then turns to tobacco. “Was glad to hear that more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out for several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half.” The commissary carries them “at a reasonable price” but the supply is unreliable. “Now they’ve had none for three weeks.” He’s still expecting his mother’s shipment of pecans to show up, probably a Christmas gift from her own orchard.

As he closes he slips in a social note: “Met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses at a reception this past week.” He is looking forward to “two more such affairs this week.” The “affairs” are a “pleasant diversion” though there is no dancing, “the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.” His entrée into this world of royalty is through “an American lady who has lived over here for thirty years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

[first typed letter from TCM]

APO 702 AEF February 3, 1918 Dear Mabel:- Got some more mail from home the early part of this week, the last letter being, I believe, about Dec. 10th. Also received a small package of candy from the Marion Service League. Don’t know who was responsible for the latter but wish you would convey my thanks for same; it was promptly eaten with a great deal of pleasure. Particularly enjoyed your long letter with all the family news.

As to my not telling enough about what I am doing, hope you’ve found my letters more interesting since I came here. I didn’t know when I first came over exactly how much one could say and get by with it and preferred to err on the side of safety. As a matter of fact I was at an infantry camp which was an old French military school and we were quartered in the French barracks, one story stone buildings which were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded. Believe I wrote you in one of my letters from there about the trip and made to Marseilles, Nice and Monte Carlo in the middle of November. It was most pleasant but of course hurried as I had only three and a half days leave. was in Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days. The first day five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino. It’s the prettiest country I ever saw, I imagine a good deal like Southern California. That was my only trip of any interest while at this camp and, as you should have known a month ago, I have now been at the same station for a little over two months.

The big event of the past week was the Bosche air raid. Suppose you got the particulars the next day in the home papers. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded. Walked onto the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they show their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes I begin to think it was another false alarm – there was such a one just before Xmas – and walked on over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then I heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much of it until about that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around the corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with all the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel. It was funny in a way to see how the crowd cleared off the Boulevard just to soon as those two bombs dropped. In my hotel I found a nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille, it being considered healthier around the ground floor, and there we remained with occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going until things quieted down about 1:15. I hadn’t heard enough to think there was near as much damage as there was as shown by the official communiqe [sic] and was surprised to learn the whole story. Went over next morning to look at the place where this bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building just opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and six stories of a house.

The weather here has been great for the last three weeks, an overcoat being comfortable during the morning and at night but usually unnecessary doing the middle of the day.

Was glad to hear more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half. The commissary has them at a reasonable price occasionally but they can’t be depended on at all. Now they’ve had none for three weeks. Also am watching the mail for those pecans mother says she sent me – they too should be showing up by this time.

Went to a reception this past week that you would have been interested in where I met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses and such. Got my invitation through an American lady who has been living over here for 30 years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people. Was quite interested in coming in contact with these people and found them very pleasant on the whole. Am to take two more such affairs this week and they form a pleasant diversion though there is no dancing , the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.

Love to all the family,

Carl

O.K.

Thomas C Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

January 15, 1918. “…said she had trouble in getting sugar and white flour….”

 

[Jan 15 1918] Mid January, Monty is suffering from “no mail.” He’s even been over to the main post office to go through the list of undelivered mail looking for his name. “Found my name on the list but was disappointed to find that they were only a couple of wedding invitations…which had been addressed to me as Lt. Carl Montgomery” and that  was not how he was “entered on the army list.” The annoyance is clear in his statement that “I happened to get them ahead of other letters which I know are somewhere in France and properly addressed.”

His social life is picking up and so is his culinary delight.

Have met some very nice Americans recently who have an apartment here and at dinner there the other night had some real chocolate cake which surely did go good. The lady of the house said she had trouble in getting sugar and white flour so the next day I went to the Commissary Store and got some which was duly donated to the cause of another cake. May say in explanation that officers and men of the American army can purchase small amounts through our Commissary Store.

He hopes “you all are well and that Kenly is getting along well with aviation.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

France, January 15th, 1917[sic]

Dear Mother:-

Still no mail from home so nothing much to write about except the weather which has been more decent of late. Sunday in particular was a fine day, very much like winter weather at home.

Yesterday I was over at the main post office here and took a look at the list of mail undelivered because of no known address. Found my name on the list but was disappointed to find that they were only a couple of wedding invitations from some of my friends in Spartanburg which had been addressed to me as Lt. Carl Montgomery and I, of course, am not entered on the Army List in that way. At that I happened to get them ahead of the other letters which I know are somewhere in France and properly addressed. I can’t understand getting no letters because of the fact that I got those three packages from you and Bell and Kate all right.

Have met some very nice Americans recently who have an apartment here and at dinner there the other night had some real chocolate cake which surely did go good. The lady of the house said she had trouble in getting sugar and white flour so the next day I went by the Commissary Store and got some which was duly donated to the cause of another cake. May say in explanation that officers and men of the American army can purchase small amounts through our Commissary Stores.

Am no longer attached to Headquarters Lines of Communication but am in the same place. My address is, therefore, unless you receive a cable about it before this letter, Army Post Office 702, AEF.

Hope you are all well and that Kenly is getting along well with aviation.

Love to all,

Carl

Thomas C. Montgomery,

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

December 30, 1917. “My Xmas box finally reached me today….”

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.

 

Transcription:

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[1] 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[2] we had a pretty good sort of Xmas here.

Love to all,

Carl

 

O.K.

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

AEF

 

[1] 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.

[2] Unknown

December 19, 1917 “I am actually getting fat over here.”

“…I would have written sooner but that I’ve been kept so busy lately on my new job that I haven’t had sufficient energy to attempt a letter.” He reports the first serious snow and a “service at a famous Cathedral,” apparently forgetting he has already gotten this one past the censor. Either he was bored with the service at the famous Cathedral, of which he “got only an occasional word,” or he was in an exploring mood:

I made a private excursion up into one of the towers where I got a good view of the city and it was beautiful with the snow covered roofs before & below me. Enjoyed my climb all the more as I don’t think visitors are allowed up there but I saw the steps open and rambled up. Probably they wouldn’t have stopped me anyhow as the French are wonderfully polite where an American Officer is concerned.

Christmas is less than a week away. “Shall be thinking of you all on Xmas day, the first I’ve ever missed being at home, and imagining what you are doing.” He doesn’t think he will be working on Christmas and in any case expects a feast to rival the Thanksgiving dinner he reported in a previous letter. He has his thoughts on a couple more slices of mince pie. “Speaking of ‘eats,’ do you know I’m actually getting fat over here—I had to get one uniform let out a bit last week.” He hasn’t had mail from home since getting to Paris—the last being the letter he received from Mabel when he was still at La Valbonne—but he is hoping for more mail soon, “together with that box she spoke of sending,” which he hopes will arrive before Christmas. He again mentions the cost of living; “it surely takes all my salary to live.” He receives “commutation of quarters which covers my room rent but it costs me half my salary for meals.” He closes with the idea that some of his salary could come home, possibly to cover his loans for law school; he’s contemplating this “as soon as I am moved to a less expensive station….”

Transcription:

Dec. 19th, 1917

Dear Mother –

Believe it has been a little more than a week this time since I last wrote you but from what I know of the way the mail goes, you may get this letter by the same mail as my last one or my next one. However, I would have written sooner but that I’ve been kept so busy lately on my new job that I haven’t had sufficient energy at night to attempt a letter.

We had our first snow of any consequence Sunday. That afternoon I went in for a little while to a service at a famous cathedral. A Cardinal was talking and it was interesting though I got only an occasional word of what he said. While there I made a private excursion up into one of the towers where I got a good view of the city and it was beautiful with the snow covered roofs before and below me. Enjoyed my climb all the more as I don’t think visitors are allowed up there but I saw the steps open and rambled up. Probably they wouldn’t have stopped me anyhow as the French are wonderfully polite where an American officer is concerned.

Suppose you are all making your Xmas preparations and this week though guess they are a bit different most places in the States this year. Shall be thinking of you all on Xmas day, the first I’ve ever missed being at home, and imagining what you are doing. Guess about all it will mean here will be one day when we won’t work though I believe they are planning a big Xmas dinner here at the Y.M.C. Officers Hotel. Their Thanksgiving dinner here was mighty good and some more of the mince pie they had then will be mighty good. Speaking of “eats”, do you know I am actually getting fat over here – I had to get one uniform let out a bit last week.

Haven’t had any mail from the States since I moved station three weeks ago, probably because it takes some time to get one’s address changed and for your mail to catch up with you. My last letter from home was Mabel’s, written Oct. 24th but I am hoping more mail, together with the box she spoke of sending, will reach me before Xmas.

Was glad to hear of Aubrey Wheeler’s getting his Majority. The gold leaves are quite becoming to him. Am anxious for more home news to find out what everybody is doing back home. Suppose Kinley has already gone into service now. \

Continue to like living in my new station but it truly takes all my salary to live. I get commutation of quarters which covers my room rent but it costs me half my salary for meals. Understand I can now have part of my salary diverted at Washington and shall have this done as soon as I am moved to a less expensive station so as to send something to Frank to pay interest on my notes but at present it is impossible.

Hoping you are all well and with lots of love,

Carl

PS can you now address my mail to me Hdqtrs Lines of Communication AEF France and I’ll probably get it a little sooner.

O.K.

Thomas C. Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

Paris Station – December 14, 1917 Special Order. OCQM No. 128

HEADQUARTERS LINES OF COMMUNICATION.

AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES.

 

Special Order. OCQM                        Paris, France                          December 14, 1917

No. 128

 

Extract.

 

Par. 41 First Lieutenants H. Marfield Blackburn, Wesley W. Price and Harry C. Peers and Second Lieutenant Thomas C. Montgomery, infantry, U.S.R., having reported at these Headquarters on November 28, 1917, are assigned to station in Paris, France, from that date, and, pursuant to verbal instructions from headquarters, A.E.F., reported to the Chief Quartermaster, L. of C. for duty.

 

By command of Major General Kiernan:

Johnson Hagood,

Col. C.A.C.

Chief of Staff

Official:

F. A. Wilcox

Adjutant General