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The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (Houghon Mifflin, 2006)
The Big Burn:  Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan (Houghon Mifflin, 2009)

These two books were a gift from my brother and his family; my sister-in-law has an amazing nose for books. The first is about Dust Bowl times, and the second about the greatest single fire in recorded U. S. history.

In actuality, The Big Burn is more about the U. S. Forest Service, and Teddy Roosevelt's dream of setting aside large areas of wilderness to remain free from development.  It didn't exactly work out that way, and the politics of that rocky and acrimonious battle are both enlightening and disgusting.  The Worst Hard Time is equally educational.

Timothy Egan writes well, and has packed a great deal of both facts and emotion into these two, rivetting stories. My only complaint is that he lets too much of his own political views show through.  All writers are biased, and that's okay, as long as they don't pretend not to be.  It's the responsibility of the reader to take in information from multiple sources with competing biases in hopes of getting a glimpse of the truth.  But in both books, it's hard not to see Egan's characters as ad hominem attacks on the viewpoints they represent.  Somehow, the people he disagrees with are not just wrong, but are also fat, lazy, ignorant, greedy, and have disgusting habits.  It's almost funny, but spoils the books a bit.

Egan also has a tendency to conflate extraordinary hardship and that which was normal for the times and places he writes about.  No doubt there were plenty of difficulties living in a sod house, for example, but Egan writes about them as a pampered, modern American would feel if suddenly plunked into that situation.  As one of my friends has said, "I grew up in a very poor village, but we didn't know we were poor.  It was normal life, and we were happy."  Having just finished reading several novels by Miss Read (Dora Jessie Saint), in which the main character extols the virtues of her house's thatched roof, I couldn't help thinking that Timothy Egan would have missed all that, and concentrated on the dirt and the bugs, the mice and the birds' nests.  What the Dust Bowl victims went through was horrific, and the damage to the land incalculable—but the failure to recognize the goodness of ordinary life, or of any good ground between greedily rich and grindingly poor, takes away from the story.  Think of The Worst Hard Time as the anti-Little House on the Prairie.

That said, both books are still well worth reading for the history lessons.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 11:42 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Dec. 25th Tuesday

Xmas tree + combined young festival with people of town. Presents for kids. Package from Mabel + Whit Down at Y.M.C.A. this evening. Favors, free sandwiches, cocoa Talk by  Mr. Kearney (Kenney? Kerney? Kinney?) ambulance driver.

 


(France)

Thursday Apr. 25th

Sun. Short drill. Hard rain this P.M.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70, Part 71, Part 72, Part 73, Part 74, Part 75

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 7:55 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Dec. 24th Monday

Fine day. On special detail this A.M. Went to Neufchateau this P.M. Little celebration at mess hall. Young show, present to officers, feed, giving out of packages. I was S.O.L.  Big time the old shack tonight.

 


(France)

Wednesday Apr. 24th

Rain. Short drill this A.M. Nothing doing.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70, Part 71, Part 72, Part 73, Part 74

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at 7:40 am | Edit
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William W. Tedrow is not one of my direct ancestors, but my great-great-granduncle: my father's mother's father's mother's oldest brother. I wouldn't normally spend too much time on him, but I noticed that the death date I had for him had no associated source. I'm in the process of cleaning up my family tree, and unsourced facts—whether accidental or put in deliberately as part of ongoing research—must go. Generally, I'll spend a little time trying to find a source for the fact—more if the person is in my direct line, less if not—then either add the source or delete the fact.

Frankly, my gut reaction was to delete William W. Tedrow's death date and move on. Up until recently I was eager to learn as much as possible about anyone and everyone connected with my family—and even non-relatives if the puzzle was interesting enough. But I have just shy of 15,000 people in my database, and am no longer under the illusion that I can learn everything I want to about all of them.

Be that as it may, there was something about William's supposed death date that intrigued me.

I knew that he had served in the Union army, as a musician, from August 1861 until he was discharged in February 1863. Discharged alive and well, apparently. But the (unsourced) information I had was that he had died in 1863. He had survived his Civil War service but died soon thereafter? This warranted at least a quick look.

That's when it became interesting.

William W. Tedrow was born in Illinois, about 1840, the firstborn child of Asa W. and Sarah Elizabeth (Davis) Tedrow—my great-great-great-grandparents. I had already found his Civil War record, or so I thought. He had joined the Union army on August 1, 1861, served as a musician—an official rank between private and corporal in the Civil War army—in Company I, 33rd Illinois Infantry, with distinction, and was discharged February 7, 1863. But it turns out that a lot more data has become available online since I discovered that back in 2004. Here's the next thing I found:

alt

The name's right; the age is right; the birthplace is right. But now he's in Company B, 5th Regiment, U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery, which he joined as a 1st Sergeant on October 6, 1863, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I've found no hint in census or other records that the family is of mixed race. I know that units of black soldiers were commanded by white officers, but as you can see from this list of officers of the 9th Louisiana Infantry, African Descent (the original name of this unit), Tedrow is not among them.  He was not a commissioned officer. According to the article, the enlisted men were black, and the rank of sergeant is an enlisted rank.

But there is no doubt that this is my great-great-granduncle.

alt

There he is, as described in this record from the Illinois State Archives; his description is exactly the same as in the previous image, except that his complexion is listed as "dark" instead of as "fair." And down at the bottom is the notation, "Discharged Feb 7, 1863 at St. Louis MO enlisted in Miss[issippi] Marine Brigade." That is the key.

Here's what the website for the current 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band has to say about its history:

Mustered at State Normal University August 15, 1861 Charles E. Hovey, President of State Normal University, became the first Colonel of the 33rd Illinois Volunteers when the unit was organized in McLean County, Illinois. The regiment at once became known as the "Normal" or Teachers' Regiment and attracted both teachers and students to its ranks. Because it was stated that the regiment would not obey orders unless they were absolutely correct in syntax and orthography, the regiment was at times called the "Brain Regiment." The 33rd fought throughout the Mississippi Valley and distinguished themselves at Vicksburg, having lost 11 of 32 men, all the rest wounded save one.

The Regimental Band, led by Augustus Woodward of Lexington, Illinois and C.S. Elder also of Lexington, Illinois was made up of 17 bandsmen. The band was mustered on August 15, 1861 and mustered out on August 16, 1862 "... by order as to musicians." Due to financial issues within the military, bandsmen were a financial liability and the government could no longer afford the higher wage paid to the musician. The band provided enjoyment to the regiment and many bands continued service without authorization and the officers and men of the unit paid the added expense.

The Regimental Band was a major part of the soldier's life while fighting against many odds. The band played music that reminded them of home, kept their spirits high, and added to their emotional well-being. The Regimental Band led soldiers into battle and to their death as well.

No doubt William Tedrow was one of those musicians who stayed on, since he was not officially mustered out of the unit till half a year after the band was mustered out. But there he was, having distinguished himself at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with the Army not wanting to pay musicians. So he joined the Mississippi Marine Brigade. According to Wikipedia,

The Mississippi Marine Brigade was a Union Army unit raised during the American Civil War as part of the United States Ram Fleet. These soldiers acted as marines aboard United States Army rams patrolling the Mississippi River. The unit was ... organized as part of the Regular Army instead of a State unit. [It] was an army command operating under the direction of the U.S. Navy consisting of artillery, cavalry and infantry and a fleet of boats for transportation and was commanded by Brig. Gen. Alfred W. Ellett. ... The unit was organized in early 1863 and consisted of about 350 officers and men, including boat crews which used nine small light-armored boats fitted as rams.

The Siege of Vicksburg ended in July 1863. What was next for William W. Tedrow? Clearly, his assignment on October 6, 1863 to Company B of the 5th U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery, as shown above. That he truly served in all these units is shown by the pension application below.

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Was my great-great-granduncle white, black, or in between? Given the rest of my family history, as well as my DNA results, I'd have to say he was white, although I don't actually know his ancestors on either his mother's or his father's side, so it's still an open question. But perhaps looking "fair" among black troops and "dark" among white troops was an asset for a young (23 years old) teacher-cum-army sergeant in the Civil War. Sadly, William W. Tedrow did not survive to leave a record of how he managed in his new role: He died on December 31, 1863, "by accidental shooting."

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 11:51 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Sunday Dec. 23rd

Day Beach + I walked to Domremy. (Domrémy-la-Pucelle) Visited home of Joan of Arc, Church where baptized, place where saw vision basilique (basilica). Great place.

 


(France)

Tuesday Ap. 23rd

Sun for short time now rain. Short drill this A.M. Nothing much doing. Couple fellows from 102nd told of experiences this P.M.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70, Part 71, Part 72, Part 73

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 5:42 am | Edit
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We interrupt the flow of diary entries to present this video about the Haddam Veteran's Museum, which we're told has quite a bit about Hezekiah.

Can you say homeschool field trip?

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 8:23 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Saturday Dec. 22nd

Gas mask drill this A.M. Fooled around this P.M.

 


(France)

Monday Apr. 22nd

Big attack on this front 102 + 104 lost lot of men.  All packed + ready any time to move. Expected a call last night. Have to sleep with clothes


on now. Rainy.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70, Part 71, Part 72

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 8:04 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Friday Dec. 21st

On building detail this A.M. Gas masks issued today. Lots of 1st class mail. – Polly 2 (his sister) – Bill (his brother Phil's wife) – Esther (another sister) – Louise (another sister) – Mabel (his brother Whitney’s wife and Dad-o’s grandmother).

 


(France)

Sunday Apr. 21st

Rainy. Church this A.M. Read. Mail from home.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70, Part 71

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 5:23 am | Edit
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AncestryDNA is currently offering its testing kits for $59, a great price. If you think that's still too much, you might win one for free if I want your data badly enough.  :)

Of course, I know that for many people the cost barrier is not money, but privacy issues, so I would never pressure anyone into DNA testing. It took me a LONG time to get to the point of being willing.

But if you're interested, now's a good time.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:46 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Thursday Dec. 20th

On building detail all day. Y.M.C.A. this evening.

 


(France)

Saturday Apr. 20th

Quite noisy. Gas this A.M. at 5 o’clock. All prepared to go at any minute. Cleaned ammunition this P.M. Slept alert this evening.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69, Part 70

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 20, 2018 at 5:53 am | Edit
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As some of you know, the barely-three-year-old grandson of a dear friend of ours is fighting for his life with a rare and virulent form of leukemia. Today he will begin Day Zero of his new life, after a bone marrow transplant from his sister and best friend, who is just five years old herself. For you Green Ember fans out there, by replacing his bone marrow cells with hers, she is quite literally living out "My place beside you, my blood for yours." Not all heroes carry swords.

To all the prayer warriors and well-wishers who read my blog: please remember Jennings and Caroline today. The procedure is risky and there will still be a long road ahead, but it's the best foundation current medical science has that gives hope for a cure.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 6:20 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Wednesday Dec. 19th

Over to range again today. Y.M.C.A. this evening.

 


(France)

Friday Apr. 19th

Rainy. Orderly today. Nothing much doing. Inspection.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68, Part 69

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 6:12 am | Edit
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altA Bridge Too Far (the 1977 movie) 

I've seen the movie before, and read the book—but a long, long time ago. Since we are planning a visit to Arnhem—the place of the bridge that was, tragically, "too far"—it seemed good to take another look at the scenery, and the story.

I'm no fan of war movies, but A Bridge Too Far is well done, and well told. It strikes a good balance, showing both criminal stupidities and heroic actions, deftly avoiding both the Scylla of lurid anti-war films and the Charybdis of sentimental patriotism.

I can't recommend it unreservedly, because of the language, but that's rare and at least reasonable for the situations. As for general content ... well, it's rated PG, but it's 'way too sad and intense for most of our grandchildren. That's too bad, because it's a good history lesson, and some of them will be joining us in Arnhem and will see where the events of World War II's Operation Market Garden took place. At least I can highly recommend that our children see A Bridge Too Far, if they can, and maybe the oldest grandson. Or two, I can't be sure. If one likes to read about fictional battles, as they do, maybe it's not so bad to see a bit of what real war is like.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 9:28 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Tuesday Dec. 18th

Over to range all day. Y.M.C.A. this evening.

 


(France)

Thursday Apr. 18th

Off guard at 1 P.M. Took bath this P.M. Read + wrote.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67, Part 68

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 6:02 am | Edit
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Hezekiah Scovil Porter WW I Diary Transcription continued

The following is the next installment of the transcription of Hezekiah Scovil Porter’s diary of his time in the army until his death at Chateau Thierry on July 22, 1918. Again there is one from the beginning of the book and one from 100 years ago today.

Original is in black, annotations in red, horizontal lines indicate page breaks.

 


(France)

Monday Dec. 17th

Snowing. On detail to unload lumber. All day.

 


(France)

Wednesday Apr. 17th

Cards + read this A.M. On guard at 1 P.M. Bunch came back this evening. Were in a hot place


lots of exciting stories. Brought back all sorts of German souvenirs.

 


Previous posts: IntroductionPart 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55, Part 56, Part 57, Part 58, Part 59, Part 61, Part 62, Part 63, Part 64, Part 65, Part 66, Part 67

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 7:25 am | Edit
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