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.

Fort Oglethorpe (May 15 – August 15, 1917)


[Monty is three years out of law school and has just closed down his budding law practice.  His college debts are a hurdle now exacerbated by a military obligation.  We may learn more in future letters.]

May 30, 1917 [envelope postmark]

Tuesday Night

Dear Mother,

In writing you Sunday I forgot to mention the fact that I will have to renew before next Tuesday note at the Central National which you will remember endorsing for me when in Spartanburg at commencement last year. [Kenley graduation?]

The money was borrowed to pay Mr. Lide some interest on what I owe him for my last year in law school. I have made out the new note and am enclosing same herewith. To save time, after endorsing it, wish you would forward it directly to the Central National. I am writing them to say that the note is coming forward through you. The old note which this was to replace was for the same amount but I paid the interest on it before leaving Spartanburg leaving an even $108.00 due.

Very little news except hard work since I wrote Sunday. We have holiday tomorrow and expect to get in town and look up Frank’s[1] friends and should find them in their offices at this time. Will write again Sunday as usual.

With love,

Carl

[1] Brother in law, Frank Broadnax, husband of Monty’s sister Kate Montgomery Broadnax?

The Decision

As the correspondence from his military career begins, Monty is 28 and about to be commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. He has just wrapped up his law practice as Horton & Montgomery in Spartanburg, SC where he had previously spent time in a noted firm Bomar & Osborne that employed Wofford graduates before he went out on his own for a brief year. After college he taught for a year, dabbled with law at his father’s office and then went on to Harvard Law where he graduated in 1914. He was nurturing a solo law practice when the United States declared war on Germany and the mobilization was underway; then he was closing down his fledgling practice in anticipation of the draft.

Some forty years later, Monty’s oldest sister Mabel recalled his decision to enlist. He realized “that as a single man without dependents he would be drafted, he closed his law office, in May, 1917 and entered Officers Training Camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.”[1] Congress passed The Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917. Monty’s calculated response suggests he anticipated the law and had probably thought through this decision with his family. There is no evidence that he was enthusiastic about the need to go to war or that his decision was motivated by an overabundance of patriotism. He was just doing what was required of him.

His Local Board Number 3 tried to catch up with him at his YMCA address where they sent a Notice Of Call And To Appear For Physical Examination, dated July 28, 1917, that demanded his appearance at the Local Board on August 1, 1917. By then he was at Fort Oglethorpe two weeks away from being commissioned a Second Lieutenant.

[1] Monty’s sister Mabel Montgomery privately published a family memoir Limbs On Our Family Tree in 1955. Though these were her reminiscences, she would have consulted Monty on the brief biography she included.

Beginnings

Thomas Carlisle Montgomery was born in Marion, SC in 1889. His parents were a lawyer-banker-businessman and the privately educated daughter of a Confederate colonel. His life began in a household with three sisters and the fading memory of his two year old brother who died four months before. His father chose the name Carlisle, apparently in deference to a revered and influential professor James Henry Carlisle from his own undergraduate days at Wofford College. His son Carl, as they would call him, graduated from Wofford 34 years after his father in 1909, surviving classes taught by the same J.H. Carlisle. Except to his immediate family, Carl in his adult life would be known as “Monty.” Even the nieces and nephews knew him as “Uncle Monty,” and that moniker never applied to another Montgomery family member. A Hallmark card with no date (but clearly from a later time of life) begins with Hallmark’s choice of greeting—“Happy Anniversary to the Girl I married…” and concludes several pages later with his only effort at personalization–a five-letter addition: “Monty.”