Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From Pvt 1/Class George Sherwood "Over There"

I came across this letter from Thanksgiving 1918 and discovered a summary of Great Uncle George's time in France in WWI. What a treat ~ most of his letters don't name specific battles and places since all they could usually say was "Somewhere in France" but this time he named lots of places and events.

14th. Somewhere in France. THANKSGIVING* ‘18
Tilly sur Meuse, France. 28th November, 1918.


Here goes my first letter since the Censorship loosened up and I’ll try to make it a little Diary of my travel since I left Camp Merritt, New York, U.S.A. on that memorable morning of May 7th, 1918. We had our moving orders the night before, so were all packed up even to our blankets, but were sleeping more or less fitfully under our overcoats when the clear notes of Reveille roused us for the last time on American soil. Soon we were eating our last mess there, and then, just as the sun began to tint the east with rosy dawn, assembly blew, and with shouldered packs and rifles we silently swung out through the mist on our “March to the Sea.” It was a night to be long remembered as those long lines of silent men marched out through the deserted streets of the sleeping camp, the only sound breaking the stillness, the thud of marching feet, the metallic clang of rifle or bayonet, or the muffled tones of occasional commands. After a march of about six miles, MOST of it uphill, we came out on the Palisades of the Hudson R. above New York city. Below us several hundred feet lay the little pier of Alpine and how aptly named can only be appreciated by one who has made the precipitous descent with packs and heavy marching equipment as we did.
After a short wait here, the Newburgh (river boat) took us for a cruise down the Hudson to the piers where we were immediately loaded on the U.S. S. George Washington. The last thing we did in the States was eat a Red Cross Bun and drink a Red Cross coffee. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and I guess that is right as I have had a soft place in my heart for that worthy institution ever since. We lay in the harbor for a day, then all were ordered below and with decks clear we were tugged out by the Statue of Liberty and the George Washington started once more [toward] Sunny France.
For ten days all we saw was water, water, water and the other ships of our convoy. There were only three of us till we got well in to the danger zone, then we were picked up by some little torpedo boat destroyers. The last morning out we were wakened at four A.M. by the submarine siren and stood to at Abandon Ship stations for about an hour while we put back out to sea a little way and the destroyers did some hasty maneuvering but neither we nor the supposedly sighted sub were hurt. Then about eleven A.M. we sighted the most westerly point of France and sailed up the beautiful harbor of Brest. We disembarked with the first of the lighters which came out to us at about four P.M. of May 18th. We were stationed at Pontanezen Barracks; about five kilometers from Brest. These Barracks are supposed to be an old convent made over to accommodate Napoleon’s troops. They are old stone Buildings and tho in fair repair their appearance and the stone wall all around them seem to bear out the statements regarding their age and history. Here we first learned to think and speak in terms of kilometers and francs, and to eat beans and goldfish (salmon).
After a week in Brest we entrained and after a trip of two days on the odd little trains of France found ourselves in Oisemont, about 30 kilos northwest of Amiens. We only bivouacked there one night and then moved on to Avenes, where we stayed three weeks while we got used to the sound of cannon, and were equipped with British guns and gas masks. The first night we were there we were treated to a real Hun air raid. As I was still orderly at that time I was billeted in the Chateau Avenes, my first introduction to a real French chateau. From there we hiked to Araines where we entrained and went some 30 kilos to Poulainville. Got there about noon and by night were in our shelter tents in Pierrigot. Our camp was in a grassy orchard and was nice and clean for about three days, then it began to rain and we soon learned to appreciate what we had read of the Somme mud. We also learned our first lessons of experience with shells and bombs. This was supposed to be a training period for our Div (the 33rd), but it would be hard to tell it from a regular campaign. At the end of this period we were brot together as a Regiment at Quarian Woods, about ten kilos from Amiens. During our stay with the British the work of the lines companies was mostly done on and back of the line from Albert toward Amiens. While we were there I made arrangements to quit work with the Major as I could see nothing in it, and hoped to really get into a little more by getting away from the stables and horses for while. I might stop here to say that I saw such towns as Villers Bocage, Beaucourt, Contay, Vignacourt and last but not least Amiens (Cathedral[1] and all) while we were in this sector. We entrained at Amiens on August 25th and the next morning found us just passing through the outskirts of Paris. That afternoon we ran into the Chateau Thierry district , through the town itself and out along the river beyond where such fierce fighting had been done a couple of weeks before. The towns and villages we saw and passed through that afternoon were total wrecks, the stark crumbled walls of churches and homes bearing eloquently mute testimony regarding the ruthlessness of the War Gods. At two A.M. we arrived at our destination at Ligny where we at once unloaded. I saddled the horses and at 4 A.M. we moved out of town in formation. Not much like the ponderous moves we used to make in our training days in the States. I shall never forget that morning when we entered the sleeping little town of Ménil sur Saulk [Saulx]. I was sent on ahead on my horse to look up the billeting officer we had sent on the day before. I had lost my cap from the train so was compelled to wear my steel helmet, and with a knapsack of the Major’s equipment slung at my side, raincoat partially hiding the identity of my uniform, and spurs on my feet, I probably cut quite a warlike figure. Anyway that is the only reason I can imagine for the look of amazement I created on the countenance of the first simple French woman I roused in the town. You see it was just breaking day as I rode into the village and even the ever-present M.P. was not in evidence, as we were the first American Troops to billet in that town. So I rode up to the door of the only house showing a light and knocked loudly. The face of a woman showed for an instant at the window then was as hastily withdrawn and the light extinguished. But in that fleeting glance I had seen such a mixture of incredulous amazement and fear that I thot then, and have still an idea, she took me for a German Uhlan[2] as I stood there holding my horse in the uncertain light of dawn. At any rate I got no more response tho I knocked loud and long again. So I mounted my trusty steed again and did a Paul Revere down the cobble paved street, across the quaint old bridge to the other side of town where I got a surprise. I saw a fairly elderly man walking in the street just as I crossed the bridge, so I rode up to him and said in my badly mutilated French, “Bon Zwar, Monsieur. Parlez vous Anglais.” What was my surprise when he replied, “Nein, aber Deutsch.” I had tried a few times to talk to some of the French in German before but had long since given it up as the language was so very unpopular. This is the only time I have used it to any advantage since I landed but I got along famously as the man’s vocabulary seemed to be almost as limited as mine. At any rate I was able to get what little information he had to offer and by ten A.M. our Battalion was all in the village and comfortably billeted. Being the first Americans in the town we were quite popular while there. In less than a week we moved to an adjoining town known as Stainville where we staid four days and where I gave up my work as orderly for the Major. I celebrated my return to the ranks of Hdqts. Co. by working all day as runner, then rolling my pack and hiking full equipment to our next stop at Gary (or Gery) a distance of about 18 miles. That is the longest and the hardest hike of my army career and I’m satisfied to let it hold first place for the rest of my life, tho I believe I could do a few better if I knew every step was taking me HOME.
A few days at Gery, then a short hike one evening and we loaded on a French Truck Train and after an all night ride of some sixty kilos we landed at Blercourt, and marched back to Nixeville Wood and billeted in some French Barracks where the size of the cooties was exceeded only by their appetites. The accepted by unwilling hospitality forthwith and have been very faithful ever since in spite of repeated hints and rebuffs. As soon as our stock and transport caught up with us we moved to Sivry-la-Perche where we had our headquarters for about a week. While there we were shelled two night s in earnest. Then we moved to Ft. de Sartelles for about a week. All three of the last named places are within 12 kilometers of VERDUN. The line Cos. had now been in the lines for two weeks and rumors of a drive in the sector they had just taken over from the French north of Verdun on the Meuse R. were prevalent. There were batteries of artillery in the woods on all sides of us and three 12” Naval Guns mounted on the railroad in the back of us were all ready for action. On the morning of Sept. 26 we were awakened in our dugouts by what felt like a young earth-quake, and from the steady roar and tremble of the ground knew that the guns had opened up the barrage for the drive that was destined to liberate the hills of Verdun from the Huns. I was Regt. runner that day and believe me the suspense was fierce, wondering how they were getting along up at the line, wishing I might be there. The smaller batteries of the Fort and in the woods near and far kept up a deafening roar, punctuated occasionally by the bellow of the 12 inch Navals back of us, or a Jerry shell at long intervals. The letter you got from me dated Sept 26 was written while the barrage was going on and the first step of that momentous drive was drawing to a close some ten kilometers north-east of where I sat writing between runs. That afternoon the order came for every available man in Headquarters to go up to the front and help in the emergency so we were loaded into trucks, and up we went to Cumiers. I was in the village 10 min before I knew it was a village which is eloquent proof of what was left of it.
The two weeks we spent up there were the pleasantest I have spent in France for tho we were only operating an engineer dump and working on the roads it was a mans size job and we were making it possible for our infantry to hold what they had gained and prepare to drive Jerry still farther back out of the hills where the French had striven so hard for the last three years. Well, the next move was back to Germonville, where I worked as telephone orderly and runner until we moved out of the lines, through Verdun to Dugney. After a few days there we moved down there and the line Cos. moved up into the lines in sight of the Metz. Things were just promising to get interesting down in this sector when Kaiser Bill Capitualted and Marshal Foch was able to make a peaceful entrée into delivered Metz, instead of the warlike one that was inevitable soon. If you cannot find the name of this village on the map just follow the Meuse R down about 20 kilometers and you will have [come]pretty closet to our present location.
There is little doubt that the war is over as the terms of the Armistice make it suicide for Germany to make a false move, so now we will try to be good soldiers and patiently do the hardest part of all – wait until the victory won at so much sacrifice on both sides of the pond is secured beyond shadow of doubt for all time. Then how happily will we return to you all and those civilian pursuits we temporarily laid down that the right to follow them might be preserved, not only to the States but to the World. So hurry up and prepare the “fatted calf.”
With love and hope for a speedy return to God’s Country and our loved Ones.

George S. Sherwood
Pvt. 1/Class


[1] See photo of the Cathedral at

[2] See example at

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hummingbird Lucky Day for Me!

Please note post below - also dated today. After writing that and uploading photos, I was able to get this photo as well. Is this my lucky day or what! Of course, this one did point out to me the rain and bird-bath-sprayed windows that could use some cleaning. Easy to ignore until seen dramatically magnified in front of the cute bird ~ Hmmm. Somebody's got to clean those windows :-)~ someday, but not today. He was no more than a foot and a half away!

My Dear Little Hummingbird Friend

What I love most about doing most of my work from home (besides being able to wear jammie's and slippers on some lazy mornings) is the fun of watching all my small bird friends go about their daily business of feeding, bathing, preening and bickering. Not the least of these is the least in size - my small hummingbird friends. They do all of the above and particularly enjoy being as territorial as possible. During our last weeks trip to Portland, OR to visit mom, I sent out an SOS to my neighbor when we discovered the weather was supposed to get colder and maybe even snow. Well, it did all of the above and Teresa rose to the occasion and both mornings we were gone she came over and exchanged the warm hummingbird syrup sitting on the counter with the frozen nectar hanging in the tree. One of the two mornings our "little friends" were waiting on the frozen feeder and as soon as she replaced it were drinking happily.
Today the weather had remained cold all day and I had to change out the food twice as it froze within two hours of being put out this morning. I also had to melt the window feeder and it has been well-used today by my favorite little male. I'm so pleased the Anna's stay here over the winter and don't go south like our Rufus friends, but it does give us responsibility for their well-being now that we've allowed them to rely upon us. We feed them all winter and through the spring; once summer and all the glorious flower come, they rarely come to the feeders. And why would they with real nectar to be had all over the yard. A few minutes ago I was able to capture the images here -- my camera can't keep up with the speed of the wings, so he does look a bit wingless in these photos! Enjoy - I certainly am!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thanksgiving 1865

1865-1207 – Reflections on Thanksgiving Day 1865

This is our State and also our National Thanksgiving day[1] and how much we have to be thankful for. I have been enumerating some of the blessings with which we are surrounded, well may we as a people and a nation render praise to the Almighty Ruler of events for His many mercies to us during the past year. One year ago we were mourning the absence of a beloved Son[2] who was languishing in a Hospital suffering with wounds received in his Country’s Service. Now he has regained his health and is married[3] to a worthy young lady and is very pleasantly settled in a home of his own. Our other children with the exception of our eldest daughter[4] are settled near us. One remains single[5] and is at home to gladden us by her presence. Two with their families have moved farther from us this fall[6] but as they have bettered themselves by the exchange I will not be so selfish as to wish them back although we are lonely without them ~~~
My aged mother[7] resides with us and I have the satisfaction of ministering to her wants in my poor ways. Sickness is ravaging in our vicinity making many homes desolate, but we have escaped thus far and are enjoying a competent share of health. We also have a comfortable home with enough to satisfying natures wants. We have the comforts of life if not its luxuries. These with enumerable other blessings call for our warmest gratitude to the Giver of all good, and while we acknowledge our shortcomings this past year may we be more faithful in the performance of our duties in time to come looking for guidance and strength to Him in whom alone we can put our trust ~~~
Our national too has every reason to be thankful for the termination of the War, that peace is once more restored, and our nation’s flag again proudly waves over this whole United States ~~~
Africa’s Sable Sons too are rejoicing in freedom. No longer to bear the galling chains of bondage or feel their master’s cruel lash lacerating their feeble bodies. Well may they say the Year of Jubilee is Come. Let us as a nation and people be more mindful of His goodness and ever acknowledge Him in all our ways

R ~~~~~
[Rosina M. Healy Richardson]

[1] President Andrew Jackson had proclaimed the 7th of December as Thanksgiving Day that year even tho President Lincoln had proclaimed the last Thursday in November during three of his four proclamations.
[2] Henry Carlton Richardson , see article on web under Vermont in the Civil War – Henry participated in the battle of Cedar Creek which was a significant battle for the Union. He was apparently injured there and had a long recovery. He mustered out on 7/17/65. ; also
[3] Henry married Jennie L. Whitcher (also in a Whitcher family history called Lois Jane Whitcher) on October 12, 1865. Jennie was also sister to Julia Whitcher who had married Henry’s brother, Nathaniel on Nov 3, 1861. Marriage certificate reads Jennie Whitcher. She died in 1868 and he married Lydia Whitehill to whom he was married for many years.
[4] Rosina Jane Richardson Stevens and her husband David were living in WI or MN at this time.
[5] Evalina Irene Richardson, later known as “Aunt Nellie” to most of the extended family.
[6] Son Nathaniel Richardson and wife Julia Whitcher who now lived in Lancaster, NH; and likely son Robert Fletcher Richardson and wife Rosette Dexter who if they moved away returned soon and lived there.
[7] Jane Tabor Healy who was born in 1786 and died in 1870; she had been married to Nathaniel Healy, son of John Healy and Mary Wight before his death in 1841.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

1872 Letter from Switzerland

In July of 1872 Joseph Warren Healy wrote a letter to his sister Rosina Healy Richardson from Switzerland, describing their work and travels in Europe. Most of the spellings of the Swiss peaks in the Alps are confirmed, but two are not. Joseph Warren Healy was a minister, physician and educator. He was married to Jane Hibbard Clark.

Sab morn, July 28th 1872

My dear Sister:
A leisure Sabbath in this mountainous country suggests the dear ones in our American Switzerland and furnishes opportunity for a half hours communion which I would gladly exchange for the more natural method of “face to face.”

Months have passed since we heard from any of you – months of varied and pleasant experiences to us, opportunities to which we have looked and for which we have labored for many a toilful year. We reached London in Jan and spent some five months in the mission for which we came to Europe, meeting with a good measure of success. During that time we saw much of London – a world in itself – England and Scotland. In July we started on a summer vacation, crossing the channel to Holland; thence to Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium, to Cologne, up the Rhine to Mayence[1] and Heidelberg and Badden Baden in Germany, and are now spending a few weeks in Switzerland. We shall return the last of August to London via Paris. You cannot expect a recital of the events of these months nor a description of the thousand panoramic pictures of beauty and grandeur that have passed before us. Volumes were too limited space and pen inadequate. The Old World is a garden where nation and art seem to have exhausted their skill, a storehouse crowded with relics of historic ages. When young America is as grey-haired as fatherland what a history it will make, and what a world epitomize. Years, not possibility is our need.

Everything here is old and picturesque. Our picture heading will serve as a starting point. This summit, of comparative Alpine height only 5905 feet presents one of the finest terrain pictures. In the rear are seen the immense chain of snow clad Alps, composed of ranges of mountains, the Santis, Glarnish, Todi, Wingelle, Bristense, Uffpipotlist, Titlis, Berner Oberland and Pilatus, with their 128 distinct summits, each of which is named and pointed out to the tourist. At our feet and in distant view may be seen embosomed among hills and skirted with fields, villages, vineyards and sylvan woods. Lake Zug, Lucerne, Sempach, Lauerz and a score of other lakes, charming, resourceful and historic. Here may be seen Tell’s Chapel where Gessler was slain by the Washington of Switzerland, they famous battle field of Morgarten, the valley of Muotta, etc, etc. The picture is incomparable and furnishes food and study for the lover of beauty and history for weeks and months. The picturesque points of this magnificent landscape embrace a circuit of 300 miles and viewed at a glance are overwhelming. The Author of this great picture gives the finest view in the evening or morning, veiling or unveiling one after another the features of this landscape. Hundreds of thousands make a pilgrimage to this Horeb, and tarry for the night on this summit. Half an hour before sunrise sounds the Alpine horn. Hundreds expectant wait for opening Day. A faint streak in the East heralds the promised transfiguration. Like a ball of fire the sun rises from the emerald lake. Moon and stars flee at his coming. The extreme horizon is soon girt with a band of gold. The mountain peaks in succession are tinged with a roseate blush and reveal their individual features, intervening shadows gradually melt away, hills, forest, village, lakes, rivers and lands each reveal themselves. At length the whole scene is flooded with golden light and the immense panorama of light and shade, hill and dale, mountain, lake and landscape crowd upon the vision and inspire the soul with inspiration of the grand and beautiful and bear it upward to Nature’s God, the author of all this wonder and to the soul’s love of which the highest natural beauty is but the expression and prophecy.

Would that you were here to enjoy this feast with us. Hope we shall together enjoy those richer feasts and diviner glories in that land of infinite delight where the sun never sets and the beauty never fades.

Mrs. H and family join in love to you all,
Your brother,
J. W. Healy

Write us in London, 18 Adam Street, Strand, W. C.

[Little did Joseph Warren Healy suspect that his sister Rosina M. Healy Richardson had passed on to those diviner glories nearly two months before on June 4, 1872. She never read this letter he penned, but her children kept and cherished these words on her behalf.]

[1] An alternative spelling for Mainz, Germany on the Rhine River.