February 2, 1917
I had hardly sent my last letter to the post when news came that the 23d Dragoons had arrived safely at their new cantonnement, but here is the letter, which will tell the story. Sorry that you insist on having these things in English—they are so very much prettier in French.
With the Army, January 29
Bravo for the pretty idea you had in flinging to the winter breezes the tri-colored flag in honor of our departure. All the soldiers marching out of Voisins saw the colors and were deeply touched. Let me bear witness to their gratitude.
How I regret La Creste. One never knows how happy he is until afterward. I am far from comfortably installed here. I am lodged in an old deserted chateau. There are no fires, and we are literally refrigerated. However, we shall not stay long, as I am returning to the trenches in a day or two. It will hardly be warm there, but I shall have less time to remember how much more than comfortable I was at Huiry.
We made a fairly decent trip to this place, but I assure you that, in spite of my “extreme youth,” I was near to being frozen en route. We were so cold that finally the whole regiment had to dismount and proceed on foot in the hope of warming up a bit. We were all, in the end, sad, cross, and grumbly. You had spoiled us all at Huiry and Voisins. For my part I longed to curse someone for having ordered such a change of base as this, in such weather. Wasn’t I well enough off where I was, toasting myself before your nice fire, and drinking my tea comfortably every afternoon?
However, we are working tremendously for the coming offensive. And I hope it will be the final one, for the Germans are beginning to show signs of fatigue. News comes to us from the interior, from a reliable source, which indicates that the situation on the other side of the Rhine is anything but calm. More than ever now must we hang on, for the victory is almost within our clutch.
Accept, madame, the assurance of my most respectful homage,
So you see, we were all too previous in expecting the offensive. The cavalry is not yet really mounted for action. But we hope all the same.
The 118th is slowly settling down, but I’ll tell you about that later.
February 10, 1917
Well, the 118th has settled down to what looks like a long cantonnement. It is surely the liveliest as well as the biggest we ever had here, and every little town and village is crowded between here and Coulommier. Not only are there five thousand infantry billeted along the hills and in the valleys, but there are big divisions of artillery also. The little square in front of our railway station at Couilly is full of grey cannon and ammunition wagons, and there are military kitchens and all sorts of commissary wagons along all the roadsides between here and Crecy-en-Brie, which is the distributing headquarters for all sorts of material.