Memories of World War I by Robinson Shepard (my Grandpa) – page 2

[continuation of my grandfather’s typewritten notes; see previous post for title page and page 1]


Some of the artillery, having been drafting, came by and got sore and they wrote to the Boston Herald and they printed it, that while we enlisted, wedid it to escape the draft, and so we could choose the Signal Corps, the “least dangerous” branch. A few days later our Major Fanning, who after the war was Chief of Operations at Filene’s station, had a letter printed in the Herald where he said “in response to the artillery” he had looked up on Company A and found that all but one were under 21 and that the “one” was over 30, so they wouldn’t have been drafted as the draft age was 21 to 30. Furthermore, the enlistee could choose his branch, and “these boys” chose the Signal Corps, the second most ~dangerous~ in the Army – the Engineers being the first, most dangerous. That statistics showed that the Signal Corps was eleven times more dangerous than the Artillery! That shut them up, but we had to take up the stones as it created bad feeling. I have a picture of those stones.

We practiced the semaphore and wigwag and had two sending sets. One on the end of a truck powered by the engine. It was an old white Truck and the transmission had an extra speed to turn the generator. The other was a hand generator which turned like a grind stone (very hard).

We were supposed to be mounted, and eventually the horses came, “direct from the West” as we were told. None of us, or very few, knew anything about horses, so everyone tried to pick a horse as lethargic looking as possible. As a matter of fact, T. W. Harris’ horse “Two Bits” stopped during a ride, lay down, and went to sleep. T.W. got off and I guess waited until the horse woke up. My horse “Pegasus” never did anything, but a slow walk, for which I was thankful, until one day two of us met a motorcycle. In spite of all we could do, our horses turned around, took after the motorcycle, and passed him. He later said he was going 25 miles per hour. The horses headed for the barn and when nearly there, made a right angle turn at full speed. I wasn’t ready for that so made only part of the turn and landed on a pile of ice. My companion, can’t remember who he was, wasn’t as fortunate. He stuck on until the horse entered the barn, when a beam over the door struck him full in the face and knocked him unconscious. No bones broken though.

One other horse incident. On Christmas Day 1917, I was on “stable duty” (detail) and had to see that no horse or mule was loose. Usually several were and they had to be tied up. I started to enter one stall and got kicked in the knee, doubling it backwards (I thought) but I landed in the opposite stall, the only empty one of the 36. I don’t like to think what would have happened had I landed in the stall of another horse.

That winter of 1917 was cold. Once I saw the thermometer 55 below zero. I have a picture of the boys wearing their overcoats and trying to keep warm near the “furnace” in the center of the barracks.