Writes Of Camp Life At Fort Washington

Dewey R. Studebaker of this city, who is now stationed at Fort Washington, Maryland, writes an interesting letter of life in camp as it is at Fort Washington. His letter follows:

Fort Washington, Maryland

Dear Folks at Home: I received your letter and was very glad to hear from you, as usual. I am ever thinking of the many friends and loved ones I left behind and as I write this letter I can see your cheerful faces in my memory as I have seen them in the past and I wonder if we shall all meet again in friendly accord. At your request, I will endeavor to tell you about a soldier’s daily routine of work in the army.

Beginning at 6 a.m., they sound first call; we arise from our beds, bunks or cots, whatever it may be. We then dress and fall in ranks in front of the barracks for reveille at 6:15 a.m. If you fail to be out a reveille, you get company punishment called “kitchen police.” That is work on the kitchen from reveille until 7:45 a.m. Their duty is to serve meals, wash dishes, peel “spud,” or any kind of work there is to be done therein, and by all means, they never fail to find enough to keep busy. You no doubt understand the term “kitchen police,” and there are many other petty offenses a soldier can commit unconscious of the fact that he is doing same, such as failing to have a button buttoned, or throwing a match on the floor or sidewalk, dropping cigar or cigarette ashes on the floor, raising your hand or turning your head in ranks while standing at attention or by failing to have your clothes perfectly clean, shoes shined, clean shaven, and a haircut at inspection, and by all means we must have our rifles clean.

The lieutenant lines us up every Saturday morning at 8:20 o’clock and we stand at attention until he has inspected the last man. It generally takes about forty or fifty minutes of our precious time. He “nicked” us one morning for an hour and forty minutes. He starts in at the right of the company. No. 1 in the front rank has to come to “Inspection Arms,” that is, he brings his piece to “port arms” then grasps the bold handle, opening the breach; the lieutenant “jerks” the rifle from you; you bring your hands down “smartly” to your sides while he looks the “weapon” over. He examines closely, every screw head and piece of mechanism about the rifle. If he finds it with grease, oil, dust or rust on it, he will say: “What is your name?” You are to answer him, telling your name and adding “sir” to the end of it. He will then tell you to report to the company commander. The consequences are, your report and what you get is plenty. The company commander gives you a good lecture, ending up by repeating these words: “Three extra kitchen police.” Your cue then is to smile and say “Yes sir,” saluting him and then return to quarters, and you are liable to restriction from pass for one month, so you see it pays to be “sanitary” and disciplinary.

I will now go back to reveille—after the morning roll call, we “fall out” and go back to our squad rooms, or sleeping rooms and clean them up. Every blanket must be folded the same—everything must be uniform as well as clean. The floor must be swept, cuspidors cleaned, everything dusted or wipe off and if the corporate in charge say scrub, why scrub it is, and by the time we get “policed up” or cleaned up, the mess sergeant rings the bell for breakfast. We all make a grand rush for the mess, and believe me, it is not misquoted when the call it “mess.” Once in a while we get a good feed but just on special occasions, such as the Fourth of July, Washington or Lincoln’s birthday—it is too bad we didn’t have more great men like Washington and Lincoln so we could have more holidays and “hash.”

Well, after we have thrown away our toothpick, we are called outside to police around the barracks. Our duty is to pick up all “snipes,” math [sic] sticks, papers, or any kind of trash, carry them to the trash can. After that, we are allowed the rest of our spare time cleaning our rifles and performing our toilet, etc., until 8:15 a.m. Next is drill call. We “fall in” in front of the barracks for drill; sometimes it is artillery drill, infantry drill or physical exercises. We execute our drill, whatever it may be. Infantry drill lasts an hour and thirty minutes. We have recess of fifteen minutes between all drills when we are not on guard or fatigue. Our days work is done at 11:30 a.m.

The fatigue detail and the guard detail is excused from all drills. The fatigue drill is the means they have to keep the grounds in good condition and carry on the other work. They do all kinds of manual labor such as hauling coal, shoveling sand, digging ditches, pushing a lawn mower or any kind of work there is to be done. They go to work at 7:40 a.m., work until recall at 11:30, then resume their work at 1 p.m. and are done at 4 p.m. Every soldier also gets his share of guard detail. No one is slighted. Guard mount is at 11:30 a.m. We all have to stand inspection before going on guard. The adjutant gives us the “once over,” then we march down to the guard house where we are assigned to our posts. There are three sentinels or guards at each post. No. 1 goes on post at 12 noon; he is relieved by No. 2 at 2 p.m. No. 2 is relieved by No. 3 at 4:p.m., then No. 1 relieves No. 3 at 6 p.m., etc., until they are relieved by the new guard, the next day at 12 noon. When a sentinel comes off guard who has been appointed orderly, he has the privilege of a forty-eight-hour pass. All soldiers stand retreat which we have at 5:30 p.m. We all line up for roll call then; we stand at attention at attention while the flag is lowered and the band plays “The Star Spangled Banner.” The flag is raised in the morning at reveille and lowered at retreat.

After retreat we are dismissed and have the privilege of going any place as long as we are back in quarters by 11 p.m. Tattoo is called at 9 p.m. All lights in squad rooms must be “doused” and if you are late coming in, you must carry your shoes in, instead of wearing them. Anyone caught “klumping” around with their shoes after the 9 p.m. call, gets a little active service in the kitchen and, if you are not on pass or special duty, it is best that you be in quarters by 11 p.m. If not, you are subject to very severe punishment, should you be caught. Everyone is supposed to be in bed at 11 p.m., except the guard.

This is just a brief outline of a soldier’s various daily tasks—some days you drill, another day you are on fatigue and the next day you are on guard—it is just one d—– thing after another.

There are many things around the barracks that would interest you but I am unable to give them all as my stationary [sic] supply is limited. The different characters around the barracks are many; some are jovial good fellows who try and make things seem better while on the other hand we find “Mr. Crab” who is always “crabbing” and “beefing” about some little thing that amounts to nothing while some jokist gets a laugh on him, making him sore at himself. He then “drys” up or “clams” himself, sits arounds, and moans the rest of the evening.

The best way to get along is grin and bear it—don’t be a crab. Our evenings are spent in different ways—some of the boys go to the “movies.” That sets ‘em back 10 cents for a ticket. Others delight in eating sweet stuff such as ice cream, candies and fruits. Well, they stick around the canteen and “guzzle” said sweets until the clerk says “everybody out.” Some of the boys enjoy a little jaunt in the moonlight, but not for mine unless I have a member of the feminine sex to escort me and such is not the case—far be it from such. Those sweet and dear things are not available in these parts. Sometimes we get to see Marguerite Clark or Mary Pickford on the screen. When such occurs, some of the boys moan like they were having a disorderly molar removed from its base. A woman’s voice is as soothing to use as paregoric is to a [sic] eleven month-old kid. It certainly is wonderful what magnetic power exists between the masculine and feminine sex. It is no wonder Adam and Eve became such intimate friends.

Most of the boys have got “idols” they left back home whom they correspond with, and it certainly brightens a fellow to get a letter from his “gal back home.” It sets him to thinking of the times he has had and wondering if he will ever be able to display his romantic skill again to his Juliet—let us hope that he may. “If he means well, let him do well,” so quoth Lincoln.

Future thoughts and correspondence is as far as the soldier gets with the “love stuff,” so you see the little girl back home need not worry about losing her “precious little sojer boy.”

Well, let us look forward to the day “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”; may health and happiness reign supreme with you all until we meet again.

Such is the life of a soldier. I am as every yours with love and fondness to our friends and annihilation for the kaiser. Very truly yours.

Fort Washington, Maryland

Source: Logansport Pharos-Tribune, July 6, 1917.


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