Co. B 1st Btn 1st Rpl. Reg. Eng.
Washington Barracks, DC
Ft. Foote Maryland
How you all coming now. I'm just fine Oh yes, I'm ok now only I'm mad today. By the gosh, I could have eaten about a regiment of Dutch this AM. This is the 4th of July and the Captain gave us the surprise of our lives by letting us off all day. He said President Wilson was going to speak at Mt. Vernon sometime today and said we could all go if we wanted to, only be back in time for retreat. So away I go and got over to Aleck (Alexandria) and asked when the president made his speech. It was at 4 o'clock this evening and retreat is 5:30. So how in thunder could a fellow listen to the president speak in Mt. Vernon and stand Retreat on the other side of the Potomac at the same time. So I didn't know then how I would ever get back for Retreat because the boats don't run this evening. So about 4 o'clock I came down to the dock to take a look and see if I could see any boats laying around loose that I could get back to Camp in. I'd been there about 10 minutes when there came old Betty up the river lickety split loaded for bear with calico in all shades and colors, mixed with a few khaki suits. So I says "here's where Zeke is in luck." So they threw me a rope and I tied them up. It was a few Corporals and Sergeants from Ft. Foote had swiped our old Betty and took some girls for a ride, then run out of gasoline and had to fill up. So I got on and while we were filling up gasoline, three other Co. B boys came up. So we made them take us back to Camp and here I am, all safe and mad! But if we hadn't got back for Retreat this evening, we'd get a week's work after supper or a week in the guard house
The old Captain is sick so we didn't get to go on the hike today but we sure go tomorrow. I am going to Washington after Retreat and not coming back till Reveille in the morning just for spite, eh? Ha! Ha! I missed Retreat twice since I've been here and both times I missed they didn't call the roll and catch me. But that doesn't happen often enough to pay a fellow to make a habit of missing.
I was down at the old Carlyle House this PM in Alexandria, Va. It is one of the oldest buildings in the US, put up in 1752. A bunch of Senators and high-ups from DC made a speech, then the band played Star Spangled Banner and us soldiers had to stand at Salute while the civilians took off their hats.
First night of the hike, tired! No, not a bit now, but half hour ago I was all in. We put better than 15 miles between us and Ft. Foote since noon. A lot of them fell out and the ambulance came in handy. I know I was right up on toe but I have a strip of adhesive tape about 15 feet long around each ankle. The doctor just got through with me. My ankle didn't hurt me a bit only just got tired as thunder. We had foot inspection after we pitched tents here and I pulled my shoes off. Had to wait about a half hour for the Captain to inspect my feet and by the time he got around, my ankles looked like they had swallowed a frog. So he says "you go up to the ambulance and have the Dr. bandage them up."
When we first started, the dust was something awful. Just imagine what a dust 250 men would make, then about 2:30 PM it sprinkled just enough to lay the dust. Then about 4 o'clock we struck paved road which isn't dusty but is awful on tired feet. We went into camp as it was thundering and fixing for a sapling twister and it came while we were getting our rations. It rained my mess kit full as fast as I could empty it, ha! Oh, it was a regular cloud burst. You could see nothing for about 5 minutes.
The boys all laughed at me and my Corporal because we had to pitch our tent on a hillside. They said we'd drown tonight and I says, "All right, boys, but if I'd had my choice, I'd have picked this hillside." So after the rain, some of them came around to see if I had my head above the water and saw me brushing the dust off my things. They like to have had a fit right off the reel. I had visited the ammunition truck and got a spade, then dug a trench and run the water off. The dudes up on the level were in it right and some of them had to move their tents and some carried fresh dirt in. I told them they would have to put me some places besides on a hillside if they wanted to get a laugh on me. So they called me "Hills" and "Ole Hillside" Of course, they had to say something, ha!
They used to call me Mack but there got to be too many Macks, so they called me The Cheerful Cherub. But now it will be Old Hillside awhile. That's how nicknames go in the Army. You aren't a real soldier without a nickname.
Well, this is so much for the first night and I'm getting tired laying here on my belly, ha! There is not room to sit up and sit easy only in the middle, and a fellow can't touch the underside or it will leak. The Corporal has started the French harp, so will close for tonight. I certainly like these little tents, for all their unhandiness. Ha! LM
Second night, 75 of them went down today. Hot! No! Just boiling is all. I have sprained both ankles and am still up going, carrying my pack. They wanted me to let them haul it after I turned the last somersault about 3 o'clock but I wouldn't do it. I'm going to carry my share or know why. I couldn't keep up with my squad for awhile but finally got back and stayed. I rammed my gun in the gravel and got it full of dust, but she is all cleaned up now. There was 3 Lieutenants had ahold of me in a minute after I hit the ground and stripped my belt pack and gun off me. But I got up and put them back on again and hopped along till I got her limbered up, then I went back to my squad. The Dr. says tonight, "you're a gritty cuss but you will have to ride tomorrow." The Captain came around and says, "Well, how's the feet" and I says, "I don't have any." He laughed and I allowed he'd ask me if the Medical Corps had any more tape but he never. Ha! Ha!
Say, the people certainly treat us fine. They stopped us at Marlboro, Md. And gave us all we could eat of genuine old fist biscuits and butter, cake, milk and coffee. Then when we got here this evening at this meadow somewhere in Maryland, finest camping place on the map, the Red Cross had ice cream, cake, milk, cigars, cigarettes, cigarette papers and smoking tobacco and gave us all a treat, I said. Tonight till dark the Camp was just white with girls and women and men in shirt sleeves for it has been a scorcher and, believe me, we had a time. My tent is right aside the tent of two Sergeants and the crowd gathered right in front of my tent and had a regular Old Settlers.
If they gave me a discharge from the Army tomorrow, I'd have a hard time making up my mind to come home to stay. I would come on a visit but, say, if I was just stationed at Indianapolis I would stay in the Army for a long time, I said. I don't like to be so far away all the time only just to see things and then back. One thing I want to see is Europe now. But if I can't hold my ankles up I'll never get there. They sort out the cripples and send them to the Mexico border and places like that. Well I must close for tonight again.
Last night of trip: Safe in Camp, Annapolis, Md. And I never rode a step and carried everything safe there. This is a kind of Naval Training Camp. Sailors and soldiers mix freely. I have been down to the beach and had a swim, then changed clothes and, say, I feel fine only the water is so salty it didn't feel very nice on the 3 big blisters under my toes. Say, if a fellow can stand this long enough to get hardened down, he will be a regular old bull when he does get out. We certainly got the eats here tonight. The Sailors were prepared for us and gave us a big feed. The Sailors here are a mighty nice set of fellows. Some of them come from Indiana but none I know.
We have in one half day now on the range. I went out and shot 20 shots and hit the bulls eye 15 times, scored a few small ones, made 84 in all. They told me to shoulder my gun and go to Camp and prepare for Marksman's course. The First Sergeant here only made 86 and very few went 80. The most of them stopped at 78 and some as low as 30. We were shooting 200 yards this PM. We who qualified for Marksman course will take quick firing course, 5 shots in 30 seconds, then change positions and shoot 5 more and so for 20 shots.
Say, you know I was so mad because I didn't get to hear Wilson speak at Mt. Vernon. Well, that very night I went to Washington and heard him and saw him. He is some sport, believe me, eh! He looks older than his picture shows him. His Wife, say, she is some chick, I said. Ha!
Well, I must close this letter for a wonder I've only been a week writing it. Will try and write more next time. My shoulder is pounded into jelly, ha! From that old gun, for it's got a kick like a Missouri mule. When I fired the first shot from the squat position, it kicked me out of balance and I had to jump up and step back to keep from falling on my rear. Ha! Ha! Answer soon. As ever your brother,
.Send all mail to same old address. They say we are going back to Ft. Foote in a week or two.