From the Trenches April 25, 1918This post is part of a project called "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" created by Amy Johnson Crow.
The prompt for Week 11 was Lucky. That was last month, but lucky is appropriate for this post. The letter below was written 100 years ago today from the trenches of France by Sergeant Jerry Sullivan. He was the third man in the column when the shell landed. The first two men were finished with the war that day. My Papa lived another 49 years.
The letter transcribed below was published on the front page of The Peterborough (NH) Transcript on June 6, 1918. Click here to see the letter as it appeared.
|Bennington, New Hanpshire|
I believe the letter was written to Frank Hart of Bennington, New Hampshire. There were 3 Frank H's in Bennington in the 1920 census. Frank Haas was only three years old, so I don't believe he would have written to him. Both Frank Hart and Frank Holt were 54 years old and married to Annie and Ada respectively. Frank Hart was employed as a machine tender at the paper mill. Frank Holt is a farmer with his own farm. Family tradition is that my grandfather worked at the paper mill in Bennington NH before serving with the National Guard in Texas and the Army in France during WWI, so considering the letter is addressed to Frank and refers to Mrs. H., I believe he was writing to Frank Hart. I believe the line " Can't tell much on that subject, so please drop that first on the address." refers dropping the "first" from "first sergeant" when addressing mail.
Letter from France.
Following has been received from a friend in Bennington, which is a letter direct from the trenches:
Apr. 25, 1918.
In the TrenchesDear Frank:
It has been quite a while since I wrote you last, but I have received a number of your letters and the papers have been coming regularly.
We have been jumping around the country like checkers on a checker board never staying in one place long enough so that we could get our mail censored.
|Sergeant Jerry Sullivan, noted on back "My son Jerry, |
Paris" , from the collection of June Russell Casaletto
The last sector we were in, we got our bellies full for a few days. I suppose you will know all about it by the papers, as they wrote everything that happened at the other place. I can't write the names of places, although they print them. It seems so funny.
We are in a swampy woods with water up to our necks in places and mud; well there's more than a plenty. Rubber boots are in style here, boots that pull way up to our hips and fasten to our waist belt. Dug outs are fair, but have to be pumped out three times a day.
Now I'll try and tell you something about the last place we were in. I guess I haven't told you about my being reduced to the grade of duty sergeant, by our new company commander-- a U. S. R. man. ( A Plattsburg Lt. has been put in, and the older ones reduced to make this place for him). Can't tell much on that subject, so please drop that first on the address.
Well, we were back in rest billets taking things easy, when we heard that the squareheads were making it nasty up front, so we were thinking of the real excitement in store for us, when we were told we were to go up and relieve another company.
We got as far as our carts and mules could go (well into the range of the artillery) then started out with our guides. I went along, with one section of my platoon. It was very dark night and we had hopes of getting in O. K. We were going along an open space just before we were to enter a trench, when bing when an 88" landed at the head of our column. The first two men have finished with this war and I was the third man in the column. Another and still another landed before we realized what happened, and then we fell back into a trench until those shells raked the road way back for about half a mile. Maybe I wasn't a little scared for a few minutes as we laid in that trench listening to those shells landing all around us. My old bean was ringing just like a bell.
After the shelling stopped, I checked up my men and found one badly hurt (the man in front of me) and the guide, well he never knew what hit him. They found him the next morning thrown way off the road, all in pieces.
We got our equipment picked up, and started back with our wounded man to get him to the hospital and get a new guide. I learned today that our man died from his wounds. We took a different route and got in O. K. and found that old John Boche was only about seventy-five yards away from us in places.
Just before day break, a large number of Boche came over to do us up. They got as far as our front line trench and found it empty, as we knew they were coming long before they did come. As soon as they got into our front line trench we called for a barrage and our artillery sent over a nice box barrage, that penned them in until daybreak.
They were in a fine pickle, as some of them started back over the tops, but they never got far as most of our boys are good with the rifle, so they gave up that idea.
After we had breakfast, we went down our communication trench loaded with hand grenades dropped a few down one door of a dugout and then the man at the other door would call "Come out Fritz" and what Fritzies there were left, would come our hands over their heads, cowering with fear.
After the prisoners were take back a ways (near the dug outs I was in) and were being searched, the boche started shelling right and left, right where we were. Talk about Hell breaking loose; well, before we could get the prisoners down in the shell poof of our dug out, some of them were laying on the ground, victims of their own shells. For about three hours, they sen over the hell fire. Some of the prisoners were injured and so our hospital men fixed them up with first aid. They were all standing up against the wall, and those than weren't able to stand, were sitting on the floor. Some were cowards and yet a few of them were clean cut,. One fellow especially, he was tall and straight as a stick. A lot of them were puny looking. They said they had plenty to eat while on the line, but when at the rear, almost nothing.
This was only the first day. For three days steady, they tried to come over and push us off the hill. Six times in one afternoon, they tried one place, but they couldn't budge our boys, although we lost men, we didn't lose ground. I guess those squareheads know what a Yank is made of now all right.
Things were a little more quiet the last few days we wore in and we sure were glad when we heard we were to be relieved; not because we were afraid, cause our boys wanted to go after the boche, they were just so darn mad (they wanted to go after them with their firsts, and would have only for our officers). It's an awful strain on a man to be watching all the time, especially at night.
We were relieved O. K. and got back to our rest billets, slept around the clock the first day, then washed and shaved, then looked for the kitchen to find out how soon we would eat. Spent a few days in rest, then back in again. Thee old Boche doesn't bother us here, as he is quite a distance from us and we are just waiting for something to happen.
Well I must close now as the boys have come in with the grub and we only eat twice a day, it doesn't stand around long. I send my best regards to Mrs. H. and all my friends. Will close now.
Copyright 2018, Kathleen Sullivan. All Rights Reserved