Letter from Anne Morgan, 10 September 1918

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, 10 September 1918

Dearest Mother,

Here we are again at Chateau-Thierry and there is no lack of things to do, I can assure you. Last week, as I wrote you, Anne [Dike] was ill with the prevailing disease, and I went down to Paris to attend to that end for a while. After she came down there and I was on the point of starting off to Boullay-Thierry and the farms, we both received a telephone call to come up here again as the Etat Major had something they wanted of us. We knew they were on the point of leaving so came right up. When we arrived we were told that General [Jean] Degoutte wanted to pay a formal call before leaving. He appeared, was most polite and asked us to dine with him that evening. It was very amusing for we told Captain de Lalande when he asked us, that of course we had meant to go right back to Paris that evening and that we had a great deal to do down there!

[On September 3, General Degoutte decorated Anne Morgan and Anne Murray Dike with the Croix de Guerre avec Palme.]

Lalande is the head of the bureau that all our work goes through, but needless to say the General was not present when we told him this. Well we had a very pleasant dinner, none of our own group was asked, and in all there were only eight of us. Everything went on as one would expect till the time came for coffee, then the General asked us to come out on the terrace; it seemed a trifle late and cold for al fresco coffee, but we followed him out at once. You can imagine our feelings when we saw in this dear little jardin clos [enclosed garden], the two lines of chasseurs [infantrymen] drawn up on the sides with the music at the further end. The whole ceremony is the very essence of France, the simplicity and symbolism of it makes one part of the very inner spirit and stirs one to the depths. With all one's heart and soul one longed to have all the people at home who are working as we are working, only far removed from the intense interest of actual presence, have the chance of seeing and feeling it all. However we were enormously pleased at the wording of the citation, as it included all the oeuvre, and will we feel sure please our own people at home.

Meanwhile the work is going ahead steadily and well, of course the problem is beyond words, and one never ceases to marvel at the courage of these people who are not only willing but determined to recreate some kind of a home for themselves among their own ruins. The army is doing marvels with the harvest, for in spite of shell holes and lack of animals and all kind of harvesting machinery, the tenth army alone has harvested twelve thousand hectares. We are now running a series of auto bazaars in the small villages which are far removed from all method of transportation and in desperate need of everything, in these we sell at very low prices, but ask enough to keep the self-respect of the people themselves and also make them appreciate more the things they get. In this way we soon find out the people who can not afford to buy what are evidently necessities, and these are always helped.

At the present moment it is idle to think of repairs to houses, the giving out of tar paper for roofs and oil paper for windows is being done through the army, but the worst of it is that many of what is left of the houses should be blown up or there will be very serious accidents as soon as the winter rains and frosts set in. Yesterday one of our doctors came back with a very amusing tale, that one of her patients to whom she had recommended strict quiet had been very apologetic, that after all she had not been able to stay very quiet because in the middle of the night she and all the family had had to move.

The medical work is the very most important of all these days, and it is wonderful the way both of our own doctors get their results. We now have at least eleven dispensaries that they go to twice a week, and besides this any number of house-to-house visits. There were almost five hundred cases in three weeks. Each doctor has her own line of towns and her own nurse, so in all with the chauffeuse [woman driver] it means six people on this end of the work. Yesterday we got permission from General [Charles] Mangin to open up our Vic center again so soon now we will divide, and half of this territory between the Aisne and the Marne will be done from here and the other half from Vic. For the present there is no use doing anything further north, though I am sorry to say they are allowing the cultivateurs to return up as far as Audignicourt. Some of our old group took a Sunday joy ride up to Blérancourt this week, and the poor kids came back all broken up, poor children, they said now they realized more than ever what it meant when these people, only said quelle misère.

Of course all our own barraques were burnt by the French before they left, but the Boche have carried away bodily all the Administration ones that were last year's homes. However our old stone pavilions have not been all destroyed and next year we will be able to get back there again into our own territory and start a new center from there as nothing will ever be as close to not only ourselves but all the people we have been working among.

Please give no end of love to all the family, it will be a wonderful thing to see you again before long, now, but it is not possible to say when I will sail, but it will probably be about November second on the Touraine.

Always your devoted daughter,

[On 11 November 1918, the signing of the armistice signaled the end of the war.]