Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

Copyright, all rights reserved


13. In the Coast Artillery
At Ft. Adams
I arrived at Fort Adams one afternoon (with a suitcase full of soiled linen awaiting laundering) and reported at Post Headquarters. I was considerably taken back to learn that the Commanding Officer was Colonel Walter Howe, who had been in command of the Provisional Field Artillery Brigade at Ft. Sill in 1905, and whom I considered to be an irascible old Indian fighter. I was surprised at the warmth of his welcome - until he said: "I am certainly glad to see you. I have been ordered to send a Lieutenant to Portland, Maine, for a two weeks Exercise to be conducted there, and the only one available is my Quartermaster, whom I can't well spare. You arrive just in time to take his place." He loaded me (and my soiled clothes) onto a truck and it speeded into Newport just in time for me to catch the train.

Upon my return to Fort Adams I reported to the 129th Company Commander for duty. The company was just being organized and it consisted of about 30 men, who had been sent to Fort Adams against their desires. It had no trained Cook, no Mess Sergeant and no Company Clerk, until I could train men for these jobs.

When we went out to parades, we had three squads of men in ranks and I was in the fileclosers. When I paused to think that for the last three months, while at Fort Riley, I had been in command (temporarily) of the Battery of some 150 men and 200 horses, and had frequently taken them out for a three day march in whatever direction I chose, I wondered again if I had done wisely in transferring out of the Field Artillery.

In about six months (and before our casemate equipment had been received) I was relieved from assignment to the 129th Company and was made Ordnance Officer of the Coast Defenses of Narragansett Bay. As such one of my first jobs was to take over seventeen Batteries that had just been completed by the Engineers at Forts Wetherill, Getty and Kearny, and this kept me fully occupied for some time.

I recall one or two incidents that occurred during this period.

In those days each officer was, by Regulations, authorized an annual allowance of stationery, in such quantities as might be approved by the Commanding Officer. Not having drawn any stationery for several years at Fort Riley, I decided to submit a requisition. Having learned that Col .Howe checked every stationery requisition, I went to the Q.M. clerk who handled such matters and asked him to make out for me a requisition for such amounts as he knew from experience would be considered proper by Colonel Howe. Next morning, just as I was preparing to leave my quarters, I saw the Orderly doubletiming up the hill from Headquarters to my quarters. Upon arriving, out of breath, he said, "Sir, the Adjutant's compliments to the Lieutenant and the Commanding Officer wishes to see the Lieutenant in his office right away." Considering that the Orderly had doubletimed up the hill, I thought that the urgency was sufficiently great to require me to doubletime down it. I reported to Colonel Howe in his office and the following conversation took place:

"Young man, what in the hell do you mean by submitting such a blank blank stationery requisition as this?"

"Well Sir, I haven't drawn any stationery for the past two years and I needed some stationery..."

"Do you think I am going to pay up all the back debts of the Quartermaster Department for stationery?"

"No Sir, I just needed some envelopes ---"

"What in the hell can a 2nd Lieutenant need 50 official envelopes for?"

"Well Sir, I didn't expect to use them except as I needed them. I understood that you were very particular about stationery requisitions and I went to the Q.M. clerk who handles them and asked him to make out for me a requisition which, from experience, he felt sure you would approve ---"

"Yes; that's just the trouble with the Army nowadays. The damned Lieutenants don't know how to make out any Forms at all, and they have to run to some clerk to get him to do it for them."

I could think of nothing entirely suitable to add to the subject, so I remained quiet. He finally approved 25 envelopes and I returned (at a wlk, incidently) to my quarters.

About that time a very beautiful girl, named Bianca Cogswell, daughter of the Commandant of the Portsmouth Navy Yard, came to the Naval Torpedo Station to visit the Gleaves (Commander Albert Gleaves was in command). She was very popular and, at the insistence of Lieut. D. C. Bingham, of the Navy, and myself, she extended her visit by several weeks. Finally, however, to our mutual regret, she had to go home (by the 11 o'clock train from Newport). I conceived the brilliant idea of going over to see her off on the train. However there was a Post order that no officer could leave the Post before 12 o'clock without the personal authority in each case of the Commanding Officer. So I decided to beard the lion in his den, and I went in to Colonel Howe, saluted, and said, "Sir, I would like to have permission to go to town on the 10 o'clock boat." He said, "Don't you know that Post orders prescribe that no officer can leave the Post before 12 o'clock?" I replied, "No Sir, I understood that the orders prescribed that no officer could leave the Post before 12 o'clock without the personal permission of the Commanding Officer, and it was my desire to secure such permission." He asked me why I desired to go to town. I replied that it was for entirely personal reasons -- that there was a young lady who was leaving on the 11 o'clock train, and that I had promised, subject to his approval, to come over and see her off. Finally he said, "Young man, what is this young lady to you?" I was stumped for the moment, but, after giving the matter some thought, I replied, "Well Sir, that is one of the things I thought I might be able to find out by going over to see her off." He didn't exactly smile, but his eyes sparkled a little and he concluded the interview by saying, "Well, you may go this once. But don't consider that this constitutes a precedent."

Bingham and I arrived at the station at the same time, he entering one end door with some flowers and I entering the other with a box of candy (or vice versa). We both sat down by the young lady. The conversation lagged until the Conductor called out "All aboard." Neither of us would budge. Neither of us could visualize with any degree of equanimity a continuation of the threesome for the next half hour or so. However, as the train began to get up speed we both made a break for the doors and each of us dropped off from his respective end of the car in time to wave a not too enthusiastic farewell. I never saw her again. Some twenty years later she married Bingham (she had been married twice in the meantime).

In those days we had very few submarines in our Navy. One of these was based at the Naval Torpedo Station. I met the young Lieutenant in command and was attracted by his quiet and efficient manner. He invited me to spend a day submerged in Narragansett Bay with him, and I accepted the rather unusual invitation with pleasure. He lived aboard the tender Nina and he suggested that I dine with him and spend the night with him before going out on the submarine next day. In the course of our conversation, after dinner, it developed that he was from Texas. I told him that I had been stationed at Fort Sam Houston, and that my Battery had gone up to Kerrville, Texas, in 1905 for target practice. He said his home was not far from Kerrville and asked me if I knew the Kerrville Hotel. I told him that I knew it quite well -- that there had been a very pretty young girl, a TB patient, whose family in the Midwest had sent her to Kerrville for her health, who lived at the Hotel, that I had felt very sorry for her and had taught her to ride. He seemed interested and said, "Did you teach her to shoot a rifle too?" I was surprised and I replied that I had indeed done that too. He smiled and said, "Well that explains something I never quite understood. I spent several weeks at the hotel when I was on furlough in 1906. I met her too, I felt sorry for her too, and I taught her to shoot a rifle too. I wondered how she learned to do it so quickly." A week or so later the Nina (without the Lieutenant) left Newport for Norfolk to undergo some repairs. She disappeared at sea and no sign of her was ever found. Her loss became one of the mysteries of the sea. The name of the Lieutenant was Chester W. Nimitz.

My brother Dan had been admitted to West Point the year before. He had made the first team in Baseball and probably would have made the first team in Football. However, he had not done so well in Mathematics and had been found deficient, and been discharged, at the end of his Plebe year. He had made up his mind to get an appointment in the Marine Corps, had been designated to take the competitive examination, and was at the Dowd Preparatory School in Washington. About three weeks before the examination he wrote me that there were so many students in the class that he wasn't learning much and that he was sure that he would not be prepared to take the examination. I got a 17 day leave and went to Washington. I took him out of Dowd's and sat beside him, coaching him, for at least fourteen hours a day. I worked out all the Arithmetic problems given on previous occasions and made him understand them. He had to major in one of several optional subjects, such as Higher Mathematics, Mechanics, French -- in none fo which he had the necessary preparation. I decided to have him major in "History of the English Language", which covered, among other things, Anglo-Saxon grammar, including conjugations, declensions, etc. (about which neither of us knew anything). I took the text books themselves. Knowing that in previous examinations the candidate had sometimes been required to write a 500 word composition, I wrote one on "The U. S. Marine Corps" and had him memorize it. It was all a gruelling experience for him, but he gritted his teeth and took it cheerfully. He passed the examinations and was admitted to the Marine Corps. Among other things he was required to write a 500 word Composition -- and I feel quite sure that he chose as a subject "The U. S. Marine Corps".

Upon my return to Fort Adams I was met on the dock by Lieut. Frank Phipps, (the Quartermaster), a former classmate at West Point, who announced to me, with great glee, that I had been appointed Adjutant. I was very unhappy about this. From my infrequent contacts with Col. Howe, I regarded him as an arbitrary and dictatorial martinet of the first water, and I did not relish the prospect of being his Adjutant.

I served as his Adjutant for about a year. When I got to know him I found that he was an entirely different sort of man from what I had thought him to be. I found that neither his wife nor anyone else's wife was running the Post, and that, as a matter of fact, he had the very highest sense of duty, with which he allowed no personal or social considerations to interfere in the slightest degree. I came, in time, to respect him and to be glad to do everything I could to be of help to him.


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