Letter from Anne Morgan, June 1919

Anne Morgan's War: Rebuilding Devastated France, 1917–1924
September 3 through November 21, 2010

Letter from Anne Morgan to her mother, Frances Tracy Morgan
Blérancourt, June 1919

Dearest Mother,

[Start of the letter is missing] I wish you could have seen the courage of them all last week over there at St. Aubin when the whole village had to be evacuated because of the explosion of the munitions dump which has been left at the stat[ion?] ever since the armistice. The miracle was that though the whole village was riddled, no one was wounded, but it was heartbreaking to have to leave all their little possessions again. One dear old lady of over ninety just got into the camionette, and only said "I am sure that les dames américaines will take care of me." We put up as many as we could in the hospital, the great big aviation tent was filled, and the next day they were all allowed to go back and find their treasures, as of course they had to leave as they stood. Now alas they have decided to blow all that is left of the dump, so yesterday they were all sent up to Coucy le Château for a week till the job is over. Here there are a few big tents, and there they are all living. I can assure the war is far from over when you are all the time having such scenes as these.

This week we went to Anizy to see the arrival of our first load [of] chickens, eight hundred which cost us eighteen francs apiece. They had all been put into a ruined building, and all the inhabitants were hanging around on all sides, so eager to see which ones of these most of coveted treasures they could hope to possess. Everybody was smiling and happy, just to see them again, and to know that they could buy them for ten francs, surrounded the very name of America with a halo. It has been almost the same with the cows and the goats. These latter we give only 6 the families with the babies in connection with the intensive child welfare that Mrs. Thomson is doing, and doing beautifully.

This afternoon we had our splendid Corpus Christi fête, and you can't imagine what it meant to the morale of all the villages in the region, in this part of the world it was one of the most important of the church festivals, even since the separation of church and state, but of course this was the first since 1914.

For two weeks every girl and woman in the village that was not too busy in the field has been sewing on the dresses for the children in the procession, every little girl in white with a daisy wreath on her head, carrying her little basket of flower petals. It was tragic to see the long procession with the children in the middle, and outside, the long line of woman, almost without exception with crape veils.

We built up the altar against the green among the ruins of the château, and there must have been five or six hundred people.

The Ks of C. [Knights of Columbus] were charming and sent us up a big camion of dolls, chocolates, and cigarettes for distribution, and the men that came with them were so enchanted that they are longing to bring us up everything they have on stock. I must say they do seem to have the right kind of workers in that organization, of course they are just rough and strong, but there is none of the nonsense of the Ys about them, and they are just the right type to work among the boys and have the right kind of influence on the rank and file.

After it was all over and all evening the whole village was singing the children full of joy were playing everywhere, and there was a real atmosphere of festa.

What meant so much was the way the people threw themselves into all the preparation. The leader is one of the finest women in this region. She lost her girl of sixteen during the war, a girl that all the village loved, her own dream had been to make Blérancourt live again and now she only lives to carry on the same message, though she has also lost her husband, her oldest son, and now the other boy, the only one that is at an age to begin to carry some of the load has just been called with his class as a soldier.

Those are some of the stories that one is confronted with when they say the French are now at the point when they must be left to their own salvation.

Well, dearest, I must leave you now. The Bangs [John Kendrick and his wife, Mary], who to our delight are both over here together, are going off on a trip through the British lines, and they are taking Perkie [Elizabeth Perkins of the American Committee] with them to see what the whole picture is like. So there is much to attend to to get them off. Please gave no end of love to Blythie, and with all there is in the world for you,

Always your devoted daughter,