An Episode of the Preparedness Movement
DURING the two years following Dr. Cushing's return from Paris, he kept no diary; but, prefacing a bound volume of correspondence covering that period, the following note occurs which will serve to fill the interval before the journal is resumed. [THE EDITOR]
THE letters herein are samples of the correspondence that passed over my desk subsequent to our return from Paris in 1915 and until we left for France again two years later. Largely through Leonard Wood's herculean efforts, "Preparedness" came to be a national issue, the Plattsburg Officers' Training Camps were established, and our reluctant President and his Cabinet had to take cognizance of the movement, though Mr. Wilson was reelected in the autumn of 1916 largely on the platform of his having kept us out of war.
Even though the government would not permit any Army Medical Officers to go abroad to gain experience, some steps toward medical preparedness were being taken. In September 1915, General Gorgas proposed to Crile and me that we set about recruiting from the Medical Reserve Corps two surgical units similar to those we had taken to Neuilly. He suggested that such units might be useful---say at San Antonio---in case of war with Mexico. This plan was soon expanded into the idea of our enrolling the officers and personnel for two Army Base Hospitals to be called No. 1 and No. 2 ---each with a university-medical-school background.
How these plans were frustrated by objections from the Red Cross officials will appear in the letters here selected for preservation. They also indicate some of the difficulties subsequently experienced in organizing these units under any auspices whatsoever
A university president who did not wish to be dictated to by Washington, who preferred an army to a Red Cross organization and expected to make his own appointments---Brigham Hospital trustees who could not see why, if the Massachusetts General and the City Hospitals were to have the credit of a Base Hospital Unit, they could not have one as well---the want of any definite plan of organization other than that based upon our brief experience abroad---the great difficulty of getting the requisite number of persons to enroll in the so-called minor personnel: these were but a few of the unexpected obstacles encountered.
We unfortunately in the end were not permitted to take undergraduate medical students, as did the Johns Hopkins Unit and one or two others. Fifty students had at one time been enrolled, but most of them were scared off by the University Committee when our probable entry into the war was threatened. The Hopkins students who went over as orderlies, after a profitable service under their accredited teachers, were graduated at Bazoilles, received commissions, and had the great satisfaction of seeing foreign service.
New England, from the time of the torpedoing of the Lusitania, had been in a more or less bellicose mood, with a strong undercurrent of insistence upon war. But the country as a whole showed small interest in the conflict, neutrality and pacifism representing the general attitude. This was partly traceable to the Bernstorffs, von Papens, and others, who openly preached the gospel of peace while secretly subsidizing plots to embroil us with Mexico and to undermine our legitimate commerce with the Allies. So at least it was generally believed.
In unofficial ways, meanwhile, noncombatant aid was being given to the Allied cause. Along the lines proposed by Sir Wm. OsIer and Robert Bacon (cf. letters Apr. 3-May 5, 1915), a few medical units had gone to take charge of hospitals in France under the R.A.M.C. The service was not wholly satisfactory for a number of reasons. The rotation was too rapid, and with all good will on both sides unforeseen difficulties arose when a group of noncommissioned Americans attempted to work under a retired British Army officer as C.O. with British nurses and orderlies in the wards.
Harvard, from September 1915, continued to keep No. 22 General at Camiers supplied with medical officers, but in April 1916, after Cheever's return, Mr. Lowell could not decide upon or find a successor, and the plan almost fell through. Hugh Cabot finally offered to go and he stoutly held on for the duration of the war. A Chicago unit was given up after an unsatisfactory record, and the Johns Hopkins for some unaccountable reason failed to send any unit at all.
At Neuilly our unit was succeeded by a University of Pennsylvania group under J. William White and James Hutchinson, which with replacements remained until our entry into the war, when the Ambulance was taken over officially as a Red Cross hospital, despite the fact that in 1915 Mabel Boardman and R. U. Patterson had felt unable to give our small expedition even a semiofficial sanction.
Their insistence on neutrality to the very letter (cf. report of the October 28, 1915, meeting) had led to a general feeling that the Red Cross was pro-German; and the knowledge that more supplies were being shipped to the Central Powers than to the Allies---due undoubtedly to the fact that the German-Americans could only get their donations into Germany under Red Cross auspices---gave support to this idea. Nevertheless, in October 1916, Crile's Base Hospital Unit, having been the first to approximate requirements, was given a two-day trial mobilization in Philadelphia under Red Cross auspices, army tents being used for the purpose; and the two hospitals originally proposed were finally expanded to six, all of which were nearly enough ready to be sent overseas soon after our entry into the war. By that time plans were on foot to organize 27 more of them.
The New England Surgical Dressings Committee under Mrs. Mead's leadership, from its small beginnings in the Infants' Hospital, whence sterilized supplies were forwarded to Neuilly for us in 1915, had grown to a large organization that sent out millions of carefully prepared and sterilized dressings sealed in tins, which were distributed widely over France. This work ere long was transferred to a room in the Brigham Hospital, and though efforts were made from time to time to oust the committee from these quarters, the hospital superintendent finally came to appreciate and sympathize with the work whose good repute more than repaid the institution for the space given up to it.
Unfortunately this splendid pre-war organization, whose history should be written, was finally broken up and disbanded by the American Red Cross; there may possibly have been faults of misunderstanding on both sides. However this may be, No. 22 General as well as Base Hospital No. 5, throughout their period with the R.A.M.C., relied entirely on these incomparable dressings, and without the "Boston tins" Horrax and I could have done little during our long stay at No. 46 C.C.S. in 1917.
The Field Ambulance Service(6) under Piatt Andrew, thanks largely to Harry Sleeper's activities over here, had grown apace (cf. March 30, 1917) and become an integral part of the Service de Santé; the comparable Norton-Harjes Field Service had also become firmly established and likewise provided an outlet for many young college men who wished to serve the Allied cause in some capacity overseas.
Meanwhile not a few individuals entered the war as actual combatants. One notable group, small though it was in number, composed the Lafayette Escadrille which Norman Prince helped organize; and the vivid description of the life of these French aviators in the early months of the war, which he gave us at the Tavern Club when home on a brief permission during Christmas week of 1915, remains unforgettable. Many of the young ambulance drivers finally went into this corps, and a number of them, like Douglas MacMonagle, died a glorious death. There were others, too, one should not forget, who as individuals enlisted with the British or Canadians or entered the Légion Étrangère. But this was about all our country of 100 millions, most of whom were making money and were too proud to fight, really did.
In looking back on this period through the light of these letters it is interesting to see how far short of the final actualities we fell in our imaginings of any possible service our Base Hospital might render. They amounted to nothing more than a possible call to duty for a time on "the Border." References to San Antonio kept cropping up, and that we should ever come to work under canvas, rather than in an old building of some sort, was smiled upon when we attempted to inject life into our organization by an actual trial mobilization on the Common; this, it was believed, would not only lay bare our weak spots, but would give us some experience with army forms and incidentally arouse local interest and support in the general preparedness movement.
By March 1917, our possible participation in the conflict, in view of the German submarine programme, began to take on an increasingly serious aspect; and in the middle of the month I began to make some daily notes, which are scattered among the documents in this volume.
At the present day, June 29th, 1919, when I have been sorting over these papers, the Peace Treaty is being signed by unwilling frock-coated representatives of the unscrupulous Prussian swashbucklers who, under other circumstances---and it was unquestionably a close call---would have had the upper hand. In this case our fat country would have had to pay the piper in full.
Boston, Monday, March 19, 1917
Saw Mayor Curley this morning at 12.30 by appointment. Put before him the possibility of temporarily mobilizing the three local Red Cross Base Hospitals on the Common, partly to give them needed experience, partly to help on the Red Cross, interest in which might thereby be stimulated. He took the fly eagerly, but favored the Fenway---would look into it immediately and let me know.
A meeting of the Unit at 4.30 in my rooms---nearly all there. Officers' roster about completed---also the nurses---also fifty students enrolled. Took a typhoid inoculation No. 1, as an example to the others, much as I dislike being punctured for any purpose.
Tuesday, March 20
The Mayor is out with it in the papers this morning---unfortunately giving the impression that the encampment may be permanent. Pituitary operation. Executive Committee meeting. Dictating laboratory notes in afternoon. At 5 p.m. to a Red Cross organization meeting in Brookline.
Fever, backache, and herpes from my inoculation; so a milk-toast supper and then to the Medical School to persuade the artisans, who have volunteered for the Unit, formally to enroll on the Red Cross blanks. Most of them refused---only 36 signed up (to qualify we need 150). Others wanted to know about wages---and what if we should be called out? This is patriotism.
Thursday, March 22
Summoned at twelve to attend a meeting of the Park Commission to discuss the best place for the hospital mobilization.. Mayor Curley has acted quickly. This means letters to Washington for advice and information. Long conferences during the afternoon with various committee representatives---Algernon Coolidge in to say that, though sanction had been given for their enrollment, the University has now formally advised all students not to sign any papers!
Friday, March 23
Usual morning's struggle with a pile of mail, followed by a tumor operation. Conference with Burlingham over the adjutant matter. He is going to St. Louis as superintendent of the Barnes Hospital and so is obliged to withdraw. Captain Reynolds, our volunteer quartermaster, here at 4.30. A long powwow followed with the second-year students who have enrolled, but now have cold feet. "Can they not serve their country best by continuing with their courses?" I am to strike off all the names and take those who re-apply---desire only men who are sure they know what they want to do. I am taking the same gamble they are. They took it very well.
The Germans seem to be making a stand on the so-called New Hindenburg Line, destroying everything in their wake on re-tiring from the Somme.
Afternoon in the wards till five, when a meeting at Colonel Peabody's office with the directors of the other two local Base Hospital Units, who do not look favorably upon a practice mobilization. Even a week's tour of duty would demoralize their hospitals and be an unnecessary drain on Red Cross resources.
We decide to buy the perishable goods for our three outfits--- even though the specifications advise waiting till the last minute. The three "mother" hospitals can draw on them for their everyday needs and thus keep the supply for the units freshly replaced. Seems a simple solution of the problem, but the administrative mind does not take kindly to it.
Telegram from Washington asking if we can send muster-in rolls on or before March 30. Kean strongly favorable to proposed mobilization. To an evening gathering at Opera House under auspices of Greater Boston Ambulance Committee, with music, speeches, and French war films. An appeal for more cars for use in France.
Leonard Wood appears to have been demoted to the Department of the Southeast, with headquarters at Charleston. New England is likely to be pretty mad. The St. Louis is reported as having reached England---our first armed merchantman. Her sailing was kept secret. "Armed neutrality."
Saturday, March 31,
After two operations, to lunch with the Saturday Club. Much war talk and passing of resolutions, on the nature of which it took us long to agree---also, it may be added, on the value of them. Mr. Lowell from his end of the table: "If you wish to drive him [the President] to Dublin, he will try to go to Cork," and so on. However, there was a final compromise and the document was worded at the end according to Mr. Storey's version---"a state of war exists and should be prosecuted with vigor. . . ." Cameron Forbes, James Rhodes, President Eliot, Edward Forbes, Wm. Roscoe Thayer (who was ill satisfied with our compromise version), Major Higginson (who read letters just received both from Mr. Wilson and from his silent partner, Colonel House), Farlow, Howe, Professor Pickering, Dr. Walcott, George F. Moore (who left after giving his vote to Mr. Storey), and a few others perhaps. Doubtless the same thing is being done over the entire country. What Mr. Wilson will do, he alone knows.
Back to the hospital for a busy afternoon with Captain Reynolds over our enrollment blanks, which we finally got off to Washington lacking the minor personnel. The students have been advised to withdraw, and I am ashamed to send the lists ---with so many scratched names. It is "difficult to secure the cohesion of important mediocrities" at a time like this, and we are going to see a lot of pulling crossways before we are through.
So far as I can see, one must fix his eye on what Washington desires and keep to that whether one likes it or not. While theoretically people in this community are bubbling with patriotism, practically many of them spend their time scolding the government because they think it isn't doing what they want---while it may be. After all, it's their government. They laid the egg and now are doing their best to addle it.
Late home. Asked Gus on the way if there was any news. He said: "No, but it looks as though they might monopolize [sic] the militia any minute." In the evening another patriotic mass meeting at Opera House under auspices of the National Security League and sixteen other organizations---including Mayflower Descendants, Sons of the Revolution, Colonial Dames, and so on. Of all the speakers Paul Revere Frothingham alone was inspiring. He should be used oftener.
Monday, April 2
Meeting of the local Committee on Public Safety called at eleven at the City Hall. Stirring speech by the Mayor and then by the various chairmen of the eleven subcommittees. Resolutions to the President and to Congress. Rumor that Senator Lodge and a pacifist have had an altercation---that Mr. Lodge "has put the fist in pacifist." We parade to the Common, where pundits in tall hats on a platform wave flags and utter voiceless addresses to some 25,000 people. Strong and I escape with difficulty in the wake of a burly policeman and go to the Harvard Club for a meeting of the Committee on Hygiene. Base Hospital trial mobilization brought up. Colonel Williams alone supports me. Telegram received from Washington offering to detail officer and detachment to assist the project.
Tuesday, April 3
The President asked Congress yesterday to declare that a state of war exists with Germany---the message a great document! He has said effectively what we have all long felt. It is to be hoped that the German people may be given a chance to read it
Letter from Red Cross Headquarters promising tents, but advising portable structures for operating room, mess, and administrative offices. States that there will be plenty of time: "the creation of an army will have to go on in a leisurely way." They are now making plans for 33 base hospitals like our own. Many of the directors already writing here to ask advice. Learn from Baltimore that the Hopkins Unit is enrolling students.
Wednesday, April 4
Held my usual clinic at noon. Appeared before the Administrative Board at the School to protest their action concerning the students who had reënrolled with the Unit. Find that someone has privately misquoted the action of the Board, causing about half of them to withdraw their names.
The Senate has voted for war, 82 to 6. The group of "willful men" has held out.
Friday, April 6
Left the meeting of the Committee on Hygiene, Medicine, and Sanitation early to attend faculty meeting. Succeeded in getting the Administrative Board vote, as recorded, rescinded.
The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly voted for war-373 to 50. Wilson has signed the declaration!!
To "The Club" at seven without time for dressing. Full gathering---even George Moore. Sat between him and Mr. Crafts. Free talk about war---the coming one, and the one of a half century ago, which is only too well remembered by all of them. A long talk with Mr. Higginson and Dr. Walcott about the Base Hospital mobilization. "The Major," as usual, is fired with a spirit of cooperation, and Dr. Walcott will see what he can do at the Massachusetts General.
Easter Sunday, April 8
Much telephoning in regard to a meeting with Eliot Wadsworth at the Mayor's office to-morrow at ten. The Mayor calls off a funeral for the sake of it---rather, his attendance at the funeral. Colonel Peabody, C. F. Weed, the three Base Hospital directors, Colonel Williams, Commissioner Dillon, and John Saltonstall. Chief arguments for the plan were outlined briefly as follows:
"The Red Cross has already raised circa $100,000 for the equipment of three local base hospitals which are to revert to the army when called upon. As yet they are paper organizations wholly unfamiliar with army formalities. They need the experience of a mobilization no less than raw troops need it. Only in this way can imperfections and omissions in their equipment be disclosed. Their emergency requirements can meanwhile be supplied by the local 'mother' hospitals. A further object is to attract public interest and thus to facilitate the enrollment of the 150 minor personnel each hospital must have to meet army regulations.
"Of the several sites suggested, the parade ground of the Common is strongly favored. It is central and convenient to the source of most of the accidents cared for by the city. Moreover, it is associated in people's minds with patriotic demonstrations of all kinds It is turfed, has a good slope for drainage, and could be easily policed. Gas, water, and sewer connections could be installed with but little expense.
"Apart from a few portable houses for operating room, administrative office, and kitchen, the hospital would be in tents. These could be floored by using the winter board walks taken from the public parks. The encampment would cover only six to eight acres of the Common. It could be made attractive and interesting with its flags, military guard, bugle calls, drills, Sunday service---and perhaps once a week a concert by a military band.
"It is proposed that the city accident cases be reported by the police to the Red Cross, whose ambulances would route patients to the Common instead of the Relief Station. The question of legality of treating city patients under these circumstances could probably be easily met. They would doubtless receive better care than under existing conditions in view of the standing of the medical officers and nurses to be in charge. As soon as the patients are able to be moved, they, with their records, would be evacuated by Red Cross ambulances to the City Hospital or elsewhere.
"An estimate of expense for a two weeks' service for the first of the three hospitals would be circa $15,000. Many requirements such as uniforms, laundry, fuel, electric light, and so forth, might in all probability be donated. A continued service for the other hospitals using the same equipment would add little to the cost."
Monday, April 9
To the City Hall at ten after getting through the morning's mail and many interviews. The programme was again outlined and Major Higginson warmly supported me. After he and Eliot Wadsworth had left, the Mayor came in, whereupon strong opposition to the proposal was voiced by the directors of the other two hospitals. I finally offered to go it alone. It will be a big job. Many will be glad to see it fail.
Tuesday, April 10
Ward visit at Children's Hospital. Laminectomy for spinal tumor. Busy with preparations to go to Washington by Federal Express to attend a meeting of the recently organized Standardization Committee for Medical Supplies.
Wednesday and Thursday, April 11-12
Two very busy days in Washington. Much shocked to find regular army officers in civies. "Not the thing for the officers to wear uniforms." How can they expect people to enlist? Called on Colonel Kean at the Red Cross Building and General Gorgas in the War Office. Visit to latter interrupted by entry of Senator B------, from a side door, with a young lady. The General bows and scrapes. The Senator's young woman would like a secretarial position. I escape. However, it appears that both these men---that is, Kean and Gorgas---will help in so far as they can. But are there any tents to be had?
Meeting of Committee. The standard medical chests are antiquated, with instruments dating from the Civil War. Much work to do in passing on army and navy and base-hospital kits. Instrument manufacturers in trouble. Men have long since left to enter munition shops, where better paid. By Wednesday night most of the Committee had faded away, leaving a few of us to make the final decisions not so easy.
Friday, April 13
Busy all day over the proposed mobilization. Mr. George Cutler, Jacob Peabody of the Red Cross, Colonel Chamberlain of the army, and young Kettell, the architect. Plans for portable houses, and conspiracies to raise money. Mr. Rice in after luncheon, and we find he has made similar plans for a hospital at Quincy. At it until late in afternoon.
Evening spent in writing. letters for Richard Strong, who sails to-morrow on the Chicago, with some physicists and chemists, to study conditions abroad. Joe Ames to be one of them.
Saturday, April 14
The Mayor to see me at his request at 9.15---does not come. Fear there is some legal entanglement about taking patients.
Brain-tumor operation---took longer than expected---missed lunch with Messrs. Cutler, Peabody, and Chamberlain, but joined them later to see portable houses at Dover. Mr. Hodgson guarantees to have four 22-foot-wide buildings by May 15. All his other work to be put off. Depressing dinner with a friend who says, "What's the use of all this hysteria about preparedness? We'll never be invaded."
Monday, April 16
The usual morning rush before operating. Ward visit and then Captain Reynolds about his commission. To the City Hall to see Corporation Counsel Sullivan. The legal mind! Fears we may have someone get out an injunction against us for putting up structures on the Common! Necessary to go to the legislature. Our conference interrupted by an urgent telephone from his wife that their house was burning down. So I took him home. It wasn't.
Evening spent in arranging for our next step---Kettell and Colonel Chamberlain to plan out the encampment so we can have something to show on paper at least. I feel to-night that we have bitten off more than we can chew. People say, "There isn't going to be any war for us."
Tuesday, April 17
General Wood and a commission are in town-appointed to meet Balfour, Joffre, and others, "when and where they may land." The idea occurred to me that he might settle all doubts as to the base hospital, and, though these people are incommunicado, I found where he was at lunch and pursued him there. He will be glad to do anything we ask---would have liked to get one of the hospital units mobilized at Plattsburg. Long talk with him about his demotion.
To the City Hall, where Mayor Curley sends out 150 invitations to people to come to-morrow at eleven. I finally ran down poor Major Higginson at 1 Ashburton Place---looking very tired and showing his eighty-three years for the first time I have ever seen him. He gives me suggestions in the way of names, and I go back to help the Mayor's secretaries get out their list---women included.
Tea at Guy Murchie's with L.W., "Jimmie" Williams, and the two young army officers who are training the students at Harvard.
The General says he has ordered all officers to appear in uniform. High time. Discussion about the so-called "Commission" to meet the foreign guests and the absurdity of its having no high official to represent the government. Wood the only real figure. Lucky they have him. Says he knows Balfour---met him at dinner first in 1902, when he came back from the Philippines and after his Cuban governorship. Balfour asked him what the United States would do for him on his return-mentioning what England had done for Kitchener and Cromer. Wood replied that he would be lucky even to retain his commission in the army.
Evening spent in telephoning people to come to-morrow; most of my friends and supporters, alas, are out of town.
Wednesday, April 18
Rainy day and unfavorable for our meeting. Called at the Copley Plaza for General Wood. They denied his existence. The carriage flunkey finally told me that he had gone off "for a ride." I bribed him to put the General in a taxi and send him to the Mayor's office the moment he showed up. A small group finally gathered from out of the rain---practically those alone to whom I had written or telephoned. Good old Mr. Cochrane, Major Higginson and his brother, Allston Burr, Mrs. Sears, Robert Winsor, Mrs. Blake, John Saltonstall, Cameron Forbes, and a few others---perhaps thirty in all.
We were ushered into the Mayor's office and, General Wood not being there, I had to make the appeal myself. General Wood and Jacob Peabody finally came in---had been detained by Mr. Lowell in Cambridge. The General in his straight-from-the-shoulder manner said some very appropriate things. Mr. George Cutler was made treasurer and said he hoped the necessary sum could be raised on the spot. I estimated it would cost $20,000 for the four buildings and completed equipment and said that I would give $1000. Mr. Curley followed suit. The amount was promptly underwritten.
Unhappily we were then captured by the Mayor, who insisted on a photograph---Mr. Higginson, Admiral Bowles, General Wood, the Mayor, and I! The man had difficulty with his apparatus and I hope it was a failure. Apart from this episode it was a satisfactory and rather exciting meeting.
In the evening to hear Gerard speak at the National Defense dinner at the South Armory. Much smoke (tobacco) and little fire. The presiding officer worked himself into a fervor in answering the question (several times repeated), "What can we do?" Answer, with outstretched arms and eyes on the rafters: "We can only watch---and stand---and pray---while our great leader . . ." and so forth. L.W. spoke briefly, emphatically, and much to the point as usual.
Thursday, April 79 (Patriots' Day)
Much business varia at hospital until ten. Numerous visitors. Account of yesterday's meeting in morning papers brings many telephone calls---for example, from Miss Curtis expostulating on the proposed use of the Common; and finally a Mrs. Brown of the Boston Common Committee (!!) was announced, a little old lady who said she had given birth---in other words---to the Common Committee when there was a question many years ago of putting a pump on it. The Common would be preserved with her blood if need be. To have people "operated" (sic) in public on the sacred Common was a sacrilege, and so forth.
I have read about such people, but have never seen anyone quite like her, and equally misinformed, except at the antivivisection hearings. She said it was an advertising dodge of Mayor Curley's ---or mine! But we parted the best of friends---"I must see the Common Committee and tell them just what I had told her---in the same way---so nice of me---busy man---give her so much time---come and have tea with her." An experience out of a novel.
Later, messages galore from other people who don't like our project. Cutler and Kettell here working on plans. Washington is growing dubious about tents. May need all they have themselves.
"The Auxiliary Medical Committee for National Defense of Boston, Massachusetts"---all that---met this p.m. to appoint a new chairman to take Strong's place. Meanwhile it gives origin to. eight subcommittees! Committees breed like rabbits. We're digging up our front lawn to plant potatoes.
Saturday, April 21
Busy day---tumor operation---felt ill afterward---hope I can pull through the next few weeks. Captain Reynolds, Kettell, Cutler, Roger Lee,, and others in at 3 p.m. Aliston Burr with a letter to Mr. O'Brien anent the unfavorable Herald editorials. A telephone from the Mayor's office saying that he was going to put an appeal for more funds in the papers to-morrow. Lucky thing his secretary read it, for it contained statements that would, I fear, have ended the project. Begged the secretary to cut them out and hope he understood. Late afternoon spent over plans and specifications at the portable-house place in Dover.
Sunday, April 22
More telephoning from people---evidently "sicked on"---who do not want to see the parade ground desecrated and who fear that the Mayor has ulterior motives. Attempt to answer letters of protest requiring a personal reply: for example, "The building of a hospital on Boston Common would be a menace to the health of the hundreds of children of the vicinity who throng the ball fields and parade ground all summer and on every holiday. Last Thursday, April 19, there were ten games of ball going on and crowds watching . . . ." Streeter comes in and donates $500 plus a Ford car (on demand) for the hospital's use!
Monday, April 23
Meeting of the Unit in my rooms this afternoon. A discouraging letter from Washington that no tents can be had for this or any purpose. All looms in country called upon to manufacture duck for Quartermaster's Department. They suggest trying the state militia. So to Colonel Williams, who says no tents available here. So much for promises and our fine bird's-eye view of the encampment---just completed by Mr. Kettell.
Wednesday, April 25
Meeting with the uncommon Common Committee at 4.30 in Mr. James A. Lowell's office. Finally persuaded them---I think---that this is to be a purely military procedure in strict accordance with the Common's best traditions. Very funny---if it had not been so serious. Individually they stepped outside and wrung my hand ---"Good thing"---"Push it along"---"I 'm with you, though did not like to say so in there." Just why I can't imagine, but this is Boston. It took nearly two hours. Mrs. Brown wanted to know why we could not have our encampment stretched along the mall on Commonwealth Avenue.
Stopped at Mrs. Thayer's to ask how she'd like it---also for a late cup of tea. Base Hospital No. 5's plans evidently the talk of the town---particularly of "sewing circles." Comment mostly unfavorable through misunderstanding of our objectives.
Thursday, April 26
Feeling the need of stemming opposition, to the Thursday Evening Club at James J. Minot's, and heard Osterhout "On the Biologist's Interpretation of War." Also Mr. Eliot, informally, on; the good things that are showing up through the war---they seemed somewhat microscopic; and finally Chadwick and a group of young musicians gave some delightful. seventeenth-century music accompanied by a harpsichord!
Then I began to get it. "You the fellow who is talking about putting a hospital on Boston Common?" I finally began to make some progress with William Thayer, Wallace Goodrich, and one or two others. Hope it will do some good. We plan for a meeting of the N.E. Surgical Dressings Committee in the Brigham amphitheatre next Wednesday in the hope of getting some tongues to wag in our favor. An encouraging telegram comes from Colonel Kean, saying don't be downhearted.
Friday, April 27
To J. C. Warren's to see, from his Beacon Street balcony, the Harvard Regiment march by, escorting the French officers who have come to train them. A fine sight, but the bystanders showed little enthusiasm. People interested, of course, but no cheering or waving; and I saw no one salute the flags. Fifty-odd years ago, from those same windows overlooking the Common, anxious eyes saw troops pass by to something that was real.
Back to the hospital, where Kettell is a little dubious over his bird's-eye drawing of the encampment about to be released for to-morrow's papers---it will do, I 'm sure. Remainder of the day spent in trying to turn the current of public opinion. To the Tavern for tea, where they all said "a fine idea" after they learned what had been done and of our real purposes. "Had the French officers seen a military hospital on the Common this morning, they'd have thought we meant business."
Then to the Doctors' Club dinner at Taylor's, where it came up again, and I think I temporarily convinced most of them---best of all, Fred Shattuck, the last I had expected to come around. Mr. Lowell had telephoned me in the afternoon to say that the matter had been brought up before the Corporation---that they were unanimous in saying they could not give the movement their support---that it was not their project!
Saturday, April 28 i
My dander has been up like Dr. John Brown's little mongrel when a bigger dog exhumed his buried bone, and I've been hitting out at these stand-pat Bostonians and their Common. A Mid-Westerner's traditions of the old parade ground and its noble history need be no less patriotic than theirs. Boston for two years past has been 75 per cent talk and kick, and 25 per cent action. Massachusetts is the thirty-third state to complete her quota of militia, instead of the first-as she once would have been. Curiously enough, they don't seem disturbed about it.
A busy morning; started a pituitary transfrontal operation an hour late. Good case---congenital suprasellar cyst---best operation of the kind I have ever done. Councilman joins me, and so to the Saturday Club luncheon---for more work as a publicity agent. On the way let off some steam on him and easily aroused his indignation at the opposition. An unusually large gathering---Haskins, William Thayer, Mark Howe, Ellery Sedgwick, Pickering, Dr. Walcott, President Lowell, Dr. Emerson, Sturgis Bigelow, Richards, and several more, with one or two guests---one of them Major Azan in his horizon-bleu uniform, a fine type of young French officer such as I remember two years ago.
Before we took our places Mr. Eliot quite unexpectedly said, "I should like to have you sit by me to-day." This I did---where some guest usually sits. We began with the oysters, when he turned, saying: "A friend telephoned to me this morning to use my influence to have this hospital of yours kept off the Common."
With that I was off with the familiar story. "Have as much respect for the Common as anyone---the Harvard Regiment parades down the principal streets behind a band---if they mean business a good many of them are going to get hurt, and someone had better begin to learn how to take care of them in an army hospital under something like field conditions---hospitals as necessary in war as troops---we don't propose to be put somewhere on a back street---deserve the most prominent place for the mobilization that the city can find---seeing some people in uniform actually at work will increase Red Cross subscriptions and encourage enlistments. More important than all, will give us invaluable training with army procedures and forms. Anyhow it's only for a matter of six weeks, even should the other two hospitals join in." Well, he got interested and finally indignant. .
(Later. Written on May 3)
Too bad I could not have finished the above while I was warmed up to it. It was an extraordinary occasion. I saw no food after the oysters---only something red. Told them I thought little of their regard for an historically dead instead of a living Boston Common. Got Major Azan with his splinted arm to explain what military hospitals were for, which he did movingly; slammed out at someone who wanted to bet there would be a stone annex of the City Hospital on the Common before the summer was over; chided Henry Higginson and Dr. Walcott for not having stood by me at the Corporation meeting.
Jim Curtis, who has been in Washington long enough to understand that we are supposedly at war, quietly remarked, "Funny, when I got to New York this morning the first thing I heard was: 'Boston has the jump on us at last; they are going to get one of their base hospitals out on Boston Common, and we are only talking about ours.'" This provided a glimmer of hope. But someone bustled up saying he would personally defend the parade ground (on which his bedroom windows look down) against this sacrilege; and I, that he typified those who, to protect a plot of grass, would ignore the country's unpreparedness---the Common could be reseeded.
Well, in the midst of it all---getting more and more "het up" ---I was called downstairs to the telephone: telegram from War Department, Washington---"Wire this office earliest possible date your unit can be mobilized for duty abroad. All expenses borne by Government. (Signed) Gorgas."
The grass will continue to grow on Boston's famous parade ground.
Sunday, April 29
Yesterday afternoon and evening a whirlwind trying to get in touch with members of the Unit scattered for the week-end. At it again all to-day in the endeavor to complete our enrollment. Many changes necessary. Frequent exchange of telegrams with Washington. Wonder what they will say about these eleventh-hour withdrawals. May lose us our chance. Decide to go on tonight with Cutler for inside information and authority to advertise for personnel.
Visit in p.m. with General Edwards for a few minutes. Will do anything---everything---for us. "First thing Leonard Wood told me was to get behind your base-hospital mobilization." He and Mrs. Edwards both very cordial---very cosmopolitan---very unprovincial. Just what is it? They will shock Boston. Fine to see him in his uniform, though he is not to be officially in charge till Tuesday a.m. Encounter Mr. Storrow on the train---much interested. Offers us, for the Committee of Public Safety, $5000 for incidental expenses.
Monday eve., April 30 (Federal Express)
A good thing to be "Johnny on the spot." After a snatch at breakfast we got to the Red Cross Building about 8.30, before anyone was there. As we were planning our campaign and reviewing the countless questions we wished to ask, Eliot Wadsworth came in and, knowing our mission, planted us in Colonel Kean's office. There we overheard much telephoning from all parts of the country, though the Washington exchange is poor and the lines overbusy---people wanting to know if they can be guaranteed against submarines, and so forth.
Meanwhile we gather information regarding the other five units that have been approached, Crile evidently the only one approximately ready, thanks to his mobilization last autumn. We finally learn who the other four are to be. Much business also on our own account. "How much luggage? Nurses' aids? Secretaries? Commissions? Passports? Can we draw on the other Boston units for personnel? What shall we do with our portable houses? What with our Red Cross equipment?" And I don't know what else.
Finally we were sent for from the War Office Colonel Goodwin, the R.A.M.C. representative on the Balfour Commission there, also Kean and Gorgas. Everyone was pleasant. Joke me on being a Major. Congratulate us on our selection. Due solely to the Common mobilization activity---looked as though we meant business. Two immediate urgent needs of the British Army are more medical officers and more engineers.
Long talk with Colonel Goodwin---very fine in his staff officer's uniform, with its red facings, such as I saw in St. Omer two years ago. Whole thing his idea. Thinks we shall go to England first and later to France to join our first Expeditionary Force when it goes over. Knows Percy Sargent, Herringham, and the rest. Was on duty in France when summoned to join the Commission. Left his horse standing by the road, got a motor, fifty miles to Boulogne, barely caught the boat. Not a moment to outfit.
General Gorgas evidently tired, but cordial as always. Piles of unopened mail on his desk and still answering his own telephone, which is not even in reach of his chair.
Back to the Red Cross Building for further conferences. Major Patterson to go with us as our commanding officer. Very lucky, and he is delighted. Capt. Reynolds, alas, can't qualify---need a trained army quartermaster and one will be sent with us---terrific job. Lunch with Kean at the Army and Navy Club. Joffre and Balfour have stirred things up. People at last getting into uniform. A very different Washington from two weeks ago. An occasional French officer on the streets. Goodwin said we shall have much in store for us when we get over under the American flag.
A lively afternoon at the Red Cross Headquarters---finally given permission to send messages through to Boston with carefully worded advertisement for morning papers: "Wanted: 100 volunteers---cooks, orderlies, clerks, carpenters, electricians---to enlist in Medical Corps for early service overseas. Report to-day Harvard Medical School between 4 and 9 p.m."
Sunday, May 6, 6.45 p.m.
Quiet for the first moment since we got back Tuesday morning. Such a week! We feared the attempt to get ready for the Common by May 15 might break us down, with three weeks' time and a chance to borrow needed things; but to do it all in seven days! Well, we turned loose. Cutler was indefatigable. Captain Reynolds worked like a dog. The tailors put off all other work to make our uniforms; the committee of Public Safety sent cars; the Special Aid Society, food. Secretaries appeared out of a clear sky. Mrs. Wendell presented us with our flags. Additional telephones installed and going all day long. Towne and some others giving physical examinations and inoculations for the volunteers, who began to appear in large numbers in answer to the advertisement in the newspapers. Lieutenant Villaret---a snappy young artillery officer from Fort Banks---put at our disposal by General Edwards. Helped us greatly, and with the aid of Sergeant Hepburn even began to whip the motley crew into shape by daily drills in the lane outside my rooms. Contradictory orders from Washington---one day one thing, the next another. Poor Patterson in a panic there about our commissions. Last-minute shifts in personnel and, even officers! New physical-examination papers requested for deposit in Adjutant General's Office. Harry Forbes's glass eye was a stickler, but we assured P. he could see through it. Gracious, how we need universal training!
Every morning at 8.30 things would begin with a rush, ease up a little by late afternoon, and by evening some fearful problem would present itself to disentangle---usually on the job till midnight with Reynolds; very little food, very little sleep, and incessant cigarettes. A bad combination, but somehow it went along.
Went out twice for a change of scene---Tuesday to the Tavern annual dinner. Couldn't bear it, though "the Major" gave them a straight talk about alcohol. W.L. at the close, raising his glass to me: "God Almighty intervened to keep you from putting a hospital on Boston Common." Ah, well! This at least an admission that we might have got there.
Friday night at "The Club" dinner was much better. Tom Perry, Morse, Storey, James Rhodes, Bigelow, Duncan, "the Major," and George Moore, and we talked freely. But not this time, as so often, about the bloody corner at Gettysburg and just what happened there. It was largely about prohibition---Sturgis Bigelow protesting that it would be very injurious for men, long accustomed to alcohol with their meals, to give it up. He was effectively slain. Sturgis's whiskers have had a sort of surprised look ever since I lashed out at him at the Saturday Club-only a week ago, though it seems a year. They were all very nice to me, however, and when I got up to leave before the usual hour were a little teary in their good-byes. I knew well enough what they were thinking of.
Endicott Peabody dropped in Friday afternoon, I think it was to see me about Malcolm. My mind was racing, and before he had had a chance to say anything I fired him with the idea that we must have a service on Sunday so the Chaplain could talk to the enlisted men on their responsibilities abroad. He rushed off to see Bishop Lawrence, and the Bishop cordially took to it.
Late Saturday evening our sailing orders came---"from an unknown port to an unknown destination"; and this morning our C.O., Major Patterson, with Capt. Harmon, the adjutant, and Capt. Rund, the quartermaster---to supplant good old Reynolds, who would so dearly love to go---all arrived from Washington in time for the service.
The enlisted men, with our big sergeant carrying the flag, marched across the Common to the Cathedral in the cold rain. A pew for K.C. and me with the children. Curious, our reactions. Most of the people were teary. We, stony. We have just been expressing our surprise, and believe it was because we were praying that the audience would feel it--that the people would wake up---and had little thought of our small affairs.
The French officers were there, General Edwards and his staff, the Governor and his---and Mayor Curley came, though late. Very decent of him to come at all, and I think he has played a generous and unpolitical rôle in all this, despite what people say of him. I 'm beginning to believe those say the most who know the least and are least to be believed. Malcolm Peabody was a fine boyish Chaplain. The Bishop did himself proud. The singing was excellent. And our flags were blessed. My only moment of distress came when one of the children reached over and put a little warm hand in mine, while "America" was being sung just before we filed out.
Then back to my rooms at the Brigham. Orders issued to entrain to-morrow at 9 a.m.---everything---everybody. Enlisted men to be outfitted and mustered in at Fort Hamilton---nurses ditto by the Red Cross in New York City. Such meagre operating equipment as we have had time to get together boxed, labeled, and carted off. A last-minute flurry on learning that the Chaplain and the five "civilian employees"---secretaries and dietitians---must have properly executed passports accompanied by birth certificates! Many will have had no time for farewells---so be it. Better than to drag along in Boston for another five days before we embark. Patterson, Harmon, and Villaret for Sunday dinner, and then to the Hospital once more for a final afternoon's work.
So here we now are, as nearly ready as circumstances permit, and for almost the first evening in weeks really alone and in peace.
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