When we left off in part 1, Miles Edward Baldwin was stationed in the Argonne, France, serving as an ambulance driver in U.S. Army.
During the course of his duties he moved many dead or wounded soldiers, from both sides. This postcard is a sad souvenir:
At some point Miles was exposed to a nearby bomb blast and mustard gas. Later in life, he developed hearing problems, but at the time, he suffered from prolonged chest and lung problems which landed him in a military hospital.
We have several letters he wrote during that time. I’d like to include those here. I suspect there were many more letters, but these are what we have. From the Part 1 blog entry we learned that Miles’ mother died when he was tiny, his grandmother died in 1907, but he was close to an elderly aunt and uncle, Aunt Jennie (there is a post about her) and Uncle Will.
The first letter describes the Christmas, 1918 festivities at the hospital.
Name: Private M.E. Baldwin Jr.
Field Hospital #161
Dear Aunt Jennie, I’m wishing you and Uncle Will a Merry Christmas to-day in my thoughts. I hope you will pardon the pencil for I am “sans encre” at present.
Yesterday evening I received all my September mail and the photo of you & Uncle Will & Jennie May. It is a dandy and it came just in time for Christmas. I also received the letter from the Cape and it was bully to hear from everyone. I certainly do remember West Harwich and the dandy trip we had in the summer of 1917.
The letters I received were of the following dates Aug 30, Sept. 2, Sept. 10, Sept. 12, Sept. 16, Sept. 22, Sept. 27 and Sept. 20 and the photo. All this mail was delayed with my company in the Argonne sector where there was bound to be more or less confusion.
[back] We had a corking good dinner here to-day, the best I ever had in the army. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, grape jelly, brown gravy, bread and BUTTER, coffee, raisin pie, pumpkin pie, cake, figs, oranges, grapes & apples, and to top it off a real, honest to goodness cigar. There was plenty for all, more than we could eat and believe me, us boys did it justice.
I feel pretty fair now, not withstanding the dinner. Was examined again yesterday & my lungs & bronchii are O.K. Heart is quite rapid but there is no leakage and it is a good deal better than it was a week ago, so I will come out of the war but a little worse for wear.
I expect to be either on the way to the Rhine or to the States very soon. I will write often and keep you posted. I send my best regards to Dr. Davenport and was very glad to have him write. Tell Uncle Will I hope to reach the Rhine and see a little of Germany. I send lots of love to you all and thank you for the photo very much. “John Hopper”.
Pvt Miles E Baldwin, Jr.
Field Hos. #161
I guess “John Hopper” is either a private joke or a WW1 expression. I don’t know.
Letter #2 Allerey, France
January 6, 1919
Dear Aunt Jennie, I am going to be here for a few more days, probably two weeks, until my heart is O.K. Then I will probably start on the next steps towards the states. I am feeling O.K. now but am a little nervous, the effects of gas are very slow to disappear, but I’m getting along fine.
At present time I am doing light duty in an ear, eye, nose & throat clinic. The work is interesting and I am glad to be able to help out a little.
It will probably be quite a long while before we all get home for there are so many of us and we have to avoid congestion of transportation and it is hard to find quarters for us all near the seacoast, besides, the weather is fine rain, rain, rain and the mud is awful, half way to ones knees on many much traveled roads.
We are happy for we know that we will get home for certain, it is only a matter of time and a few weeks don’t matter after a year and a half of it on the line and of course now the uncertainty of our ever getting back is removed.
Lots of love to Judge and yourself, I will write again when I move on from here. Ted.
Pvt Miles E Baldwin
Field Hospital #161
And the last letter:
14th Co. 152 Depot Brigade
Camp Upton N.Y.
April 2, 1919
Dear Aunt Jennie, I have looked over the situation here and have been examined by two medical boards. My lungs are O.K. and bronchitis improving. I will not be operated on for hemorrhoids or sinusitis and will be discharged in about 5 days and ready to go to work as soon as I arrive in Providence. I shall still hold my insurance for $10,000 and if I can will change it for an endowment policy. I certainly will be glad to leave here, about the only way to get compensation in the war was to lose a leg or some other part of one’s anatomy essential to earning a livelihood. I will be a “civi” toot sweet. Lots of love to you and Uncle Will.
As ever. Ted
n.b. Blanchard was here to see me Sunday. He is well.
“Camp Upton” was a military camp on Long Island that, after WW2, was turned into Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Blanchard” was his brother, who was serving in the Navy.
In Part 3, Ted returns to Providence.