"WE WILL NOT SEE AGAIN A RETREAT COMING OUR WAY"
J. W. D. SEYMOUR '17 IN A LETTER TO PROFESSOR COPELAND TELLS OF HIS EXPERIENCES AT FRONT.--FRENCH SPIRIT HAD LIVED ON FAITH FOUR YEARS.
The CRIMSON is permitted to publish the following letter from J. W. D. Seymour '17, to Professor Copeland. Seymour has been in the ambulance service continuously since the United States entered the war, and has been commissioned 1st lieutenant.
Ambulance Lieutenant's Letter.
Your cheering wishes through Mr. Hayward reached me the twenty-second of June, a week after we had followed our division back from as disagreeable a month of retreating as ever I hope to see. As a matter of fact, I believe sincerely we all shall not see again a retreat coming our way. This morning, too, comes a continuingly excellent French communique. In the little villages having Major du cantonnement (and that means any village where troops are quartered), there is usually a wall, or house-side, whereon are posted the telephoned reports, two, three or more times a day. There is a bit of coping above to save, the paper from rain and before it gather the motley crew of Poilus. Nowadays with grin and jest--as if the war had just begun and were going well. But a short time ago it hurt to see the little dogged, glum crews that read the news of back, back-fighting, fighting--losing ground--French ground. Then the war seemed a very ancient interminable thing--but now! Ah, it is young with hope and confidence and faith. Hail, the French spirit that can live on faith alone for four long, losing years--to celebrate so gaily an allied push!
Mails Are Laggards.
You may note my address has changed once more. Another corner has been turned by me and I'm in a strange, unfriendly street again. Of course in time it will become homelike as any habitat of needs must. But now it is a lonesome sort of place. Letters make it livable--and mails are laggards. When I wrote last the examinations of auto-school loomed cruelly ahead--but they were over in a breath, a sweltering breath to be sure, but passable. Arriving back at the Section near the Aisne and overlooking the now retaken S---, I had two days of airy breathing, then like a sudden gale came the drive and our retreat. Clothes didn't come off anywaysoever for a full three weeks. The work was never so jumbled before, the throbbing tide of days so over-whelming. Poor, poor refugees--and forever glorious little fighting, dying little soldats. Thereafter we sort of hesitated "out of lines" for a few days, living in a ferme with the Foreign Legion. Then "in" again and plunk against another drive. After that we went into a state of coma en repos up north. The monotony was broken by a three-day convoy through the most startlingly beautiful land of all lands--and into a quiet sector. Then came my call to Paris. They had apparently purchased many packages of tea in which commissions stuck for they gave away several at the time. Ed McDougall received one at the same time, and Bill Bingham "went up" to Captain--so wherever Harvard is she marches on. Four days later I was back in a well-remembered pays with a new-to-me Section. The men are a splendid bunch--the French staff congenial--and the division is a crack one. Two Chasseur Battalions and two infantry regiments--all but one of the Chasseur groups wear the Medaille Militaire fourrageres, and that group has the Croix de Guerre fourrageres, so it is quite a division. I have not been through any great excitement yet--but have hopes.
Concerts by Poilus.
You advised me to see Jack Barry more when he crossed paths with me. I shall, but meantime I am of necessity content with amateur concerts by the Poilus. Night before last a Lieutenant had a sketch produced as the "feature" of such a concert, and I went as his guest. There were semi-singing comedians. Why do all comedians in France paint their faces so broadly red and white? And their songs border on the decent sometimes, remarkable as it seems. One man sang bits from Nanon. He resembled a winter-garden chorus man about the face and timid sweet gestures--but he wore two blesse stripes, had a yellow-and-green four-ragere, several croix-de-guerres, innumerable service stripes, and embroidered on his arm the insignia that denoted he belonged to a machine gun squad. And he seemed girlish--ye gods. Also the Chasseur Captain next to me more only five wound stripes--and he looked young and happy--anticipating the next drive, I suppose. I am humble.
We rest here tranquilly "en repos" now--a dawdlins sort of existence. American soldiers are making a wonderful name for the States. The spirit between French and American is wonderful.
I've thought much of you and the day of returning to the low-ceiled, book-lined room of bright fire and warming friendships.