Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Gates, George Porterfield, 1835-1918; Wallace, Madge Gates, 1862-1952; Wallace, George Porterfield, 1892-1963; Truman, Martha Ellen, 1852-1947; Truman, Mary Jane, 1889-1978; Wallace, Fred, 1900-1957; Gates, Elizabeth Emery, 1841-1924; Higinbotham, John J.

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, July 22, 1918. Family, Business, and Personal Affairs Papers - Family Correspondence File.

Somewhere in France July 22, 1918

Dear Bess:

This is a banner day sure enough. I have your letter of July 1 telling of your grandfather's death and remarking that I would probably have to take a day off to read your letter. I have read it over and over. It is certainly a grand day when letters come. I am most awfully sorry to hear of your grandfather's death but it is something that we can't help and that we can only accept the best way we can. I hope your mother is well by this time. I am looking for the picture of you and all your cousins.

The Star is rather premature in its announcement of our arrival on the front. It is like Mark Twain said about his death, it is greatly exaggerated. We are further from the front now than when we were at school. This place is just like Camp Doniphan. We get up at 5 A.M. go out and fire like Sam Hill all morning one week and all afternoon the next and put in the rest of the day drilling the Battery. I told you in my last letter that I am now a Battery Commander.

They gave me a Battery that was always in trouble and in bad, but we carried off all the credits this week. I hope to make a reputation for myself if the cards fall right and I don't get wounded or something. It is the Irish Battery I have and the adjutant has decided to put an O in front of my name to make me right. They seem to want to soldier for me and if I can get them to do it, I shall consider that I have made the greatest success there is to make. If I fail, it'll be a great failure too. That's always the case though. The men are as fine a bunch as were ever gotten together but they have been lax in discipline. Can you imagine me being a hard-boiled captain of a tough Irish Battery? I started things in a rough- cookie fashion. The very first man that was up before me for a lack of discipline got everything I was capable of giving. I took the Battery out to fire the next day and they were so anxious to please me and fire good that one of my gunners got the buck ague and simply blew up. I had to take him out. When I talked to him about it he almost wept and I felt so sorry for him I didn't even call him down. Tell George that little Higginbotham is one of my shootin' men. He pulls the hammer on No. 1 gun and he sure rides it. The other day it nearly bucked him off. The thing wasn't set solidly on the ground and as he has to pull the hammer from the right hand side of the gun he insisted on riding it every time because it was easier to reach the lanyard.

Oh glorious day! Another letter of yours just came dated June 27 and telling of your Grandfather's death. I most certainly wish I could have been present to be of assistance in any way I could have. I am hoping most sincerely that your mother is entirely well by this time. Please don't worry about me and I promise I'll work so hard that I won't worry either. I want you to be proud of me and I hope you'll not have to be ashamed because I don't make good. If hard work both mentally and physically count I hope to win. The young second lieuts seem to think I know something about the artillery from the way they ask me questions. I don't know if I do or not but I am going to know before the war is over.

The 35th is on the front but we are not with them nor will we be for some time so don't you worry about our being there. We are further from the front than we have been since we landed except the first week. It is only about a day's horseback ride to the point where the great Cardinal issued his famous Edit against the Hugonots (I don't know how to spell 'em). So you see we are far from the battle line although most of us are anxious to get to it. If I can only get my battery to put shells on the Germans as perfectly as they put them on the target I am sure we will make ourselves felt.

I am very glad Mary and Mamma sent flowers to your grandfather's funeral because I would have done it if I'd been there. I hope your grandmother is well and can take her California trip.

I don't imagine that Columbia would be a very grand place to spend the winter, although I hope Fred goes there because I never knew how very valuable a university education is until now, even if I did help Slagle shut up the chappies by telling them that I was a graduate of Moler's Barber College. We told them at artillery school that we belong to the Q.T.F., which meant Quinine Tonic Fraternity, and we never heard any more college yells at that school.

I am going to send you a picture postcard of me next week if the camera stood the strain.

Please keep writing and remember I am

Yours always, Harry


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