Edward Cahill to Sister

Identifier

T100469

Date

Description

Letter written by Edward Cahill, describing his experiences and wounding in France during the war.

Source

A gift of Kennon Bowen and Robert E. Radspinner

Publisher

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum

Contributor

Relation

T100105
T100460-T100470

Format

pdf file

Language

English

Provenance

Material was kept in the family until donated to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library by Edward Cahill's grandniece and grandnephew in 2017.

Text

Dear Sister:

Since I was wounded on the 13th of Nov., I have not been in much of a shape to write you about it. I have always wanted to tell you the whole story, and now that I am so much better I will do so.

As you know, I was one of the first American soldiers wounded in France, during the World War. Our reg't. relieved a French reg't, on one of the hottest of the front line trenches. As we toiled through the heavy mud as far 9 miles from the trenches, shells were bursting holes large enough to cover a good sized house when opened in the road sometimes right in front of our feet, and the mud would stream high into the air like the first spasms of an oil well. By some strange miracle, we passed the area of falling shells with no casualties, but added to our loads of 62 lbs. each, were each carrying about 300 lbs. of mud. Anyhow, it felt that heavy.
There is not in all the world mud lik that in France - It weighs more than concrete, and sticks like a porous plaster. If it dries on your legs & arms, it has to be broken up with a hammer before the clothing will come off. If well dried, it is shell proof and turns a bayonet like a duck's back turns water. Outside of armor plate and the hide of a cheap politician, I have never seen anything quite so invulnerabl as the French mud. It rains every day at the front, so a plentiful supply of mud is never lacking. Some say that the concussion of the heavy shelling makes the naturally raining climate even worse.

But, be that as it may, it is wet enough and then some. One house, by which we passed, broke into small lumps, and a cloud of white powder rose clear to the clouds. It was a direct hit, and where the two story house had stood, there was nothing left but a large hole with a few broken stones, and two uprooted trees on the edge of it. As we got closer the trees were nearly all broken off or had the limbs torn away by shell fire. On one side of the road, or rather what had been a road, a shell had burst in the midst of some horses & cattle. Seven or eight were dead and one poor fellow, a horse, was sitting on his haunches like a dog, and crying as pitifully as a child. One of the men in the rear walked over and shot him through the head. All around us the ground looked as though it had been turned upside down for as deep as fourty feet nowhere in the whole desert of things was there a sign of life besides ourselves. Even the birds had flown away. When we finished the 9 mile walk, we were all about tired out from carrying our packs through the mud and walking around shell craters.

So much mud was sticking to our feet that they looked like the feet of elephants. My knees ached so that I felt all the way that each mile would be the last, I should ever walk; but as I tired as they were, every body was was joking and laughing and no body had a word of complaint. Some of those who were known to be the worst kickers back in camp where we had things easy were the ones who did the most to cheer things up we struck the tough part.
When we struck the big road just behind the trench lines, we met the French wounded being sent back. The Walking cases had bandages on their heads or arms, sometimes booth, and they looked pretty well tired out. They yelled at us in French, and a few wished us luck in English Some of them were singing & laughing and when ever one of their number would fall down, others would forget their wounds & jump to join him

When we met the stretchers it made some of us feel pretty sick for awhile. Some of the stretchers dripped blood from their centers & some of the patients were red all over with it.
All were covered with the same old mud & the stretcher beares were the tiredest ones I ever saw. All they could do was about a mile or so an hour. The engrs. were busy fixing up the roads after the bombardment, but things were torn up so that ambulances had to wait about 2 miles back of the lines We had it pretty easy after the French left. Only 2 or 3 deaths & & a few wounded men among us. When we first got in the I whole world was trembling & whole acres of land looked like they were jumping sky high. & the crumbling dirt fell like rain from the upper edge of the trench. All in one minute it quieted & stayed comparatively quiet all the time we were there.

When we were relieved a few days later myself and several others were on outpost duty & were the last to go. Just as we got word to come back, I was wounded a high explosive shell had burst right in the middle of us. At first, I did not know that I was hurt, I tho't the shell had blown some mud or dirt over me & stunned me a little I stooped down to help up one of our men - my left arm would not work some how tho' I felt no pain - the man was dead, blown completelyy in two at the waist line. It was then I saw the blood running down my arm, but I sure thought it was a scratch. Four of our men were killed & nine were wounded by the shell I had begun to feel dizzy. The last I remember is falling into the mud & water at the bottom of a caved dugout. //

Original Format

Letter

Files

Citation

Cahill, Edward F., “Edward Cahill to Sister,” No date, T100469, World War I Soldiers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.