A professional looking man, of about father's age, was sitting smoking in a chair next to father's. Of course the two got into conversation. It developed that they were both doctors. They got into the discussion of some interesting medical subject that lasted almost until midnight. The stranger, near the end of the conversation, asked father what he was doing at West Point. Father told him that he had brought his son up to take the entrance examinations. The gentleman seemed to be interested and asked him a number of questions, including one about my physical condition. Father told him I was thin and somewhat run down as a result of a year's hard work at the University and of a siege of malaria, but that I was physically sound in every respect. At the close of the conversation, the gentleman remarked casually, "I happen to be President of the Physical Examining Board that meets here tomorrow. I'll doubtless have an opportunity to see your son."
Next morning Father departed early for New York, leaving me to report as a candidate. I walked from the Hotel across the plain toward the Cadet barracks, with my suit case. I passed a portly, rather distinguished looking man with a lot of striped on his arm. His air of importance impressed me. I decided he was probably the Superintendent. With some hesitancy I ventured to ask him where candidates were supposed to report. He condescended to tell me. Within a few days I was able to identify him. He was the Provost Sergeant.
When I went up for my physical examination, the young doctor who recorded, among other things, my height and weight, made some notation on my Examination Form. I noted that it recommended my rejection on the ground of my being under weight. When the examination was completed I handed the completed Form to a Colonel, Medical Corps, who (I did not know all this at the time) was the President of the Board. He glanced at the Form, saw the notation, then looked me over quite carefully. He then sent for the officer who had made the notation and said, "I know all about this young man and I am quite sure that he is all right physically." I was certainly at a loss to understand what he meant when he said that he knew all about me, and it was some years later before father happened to tell me about his conversation on the porch of the West Point Hotel. I have no doubt but that for that conversation I should have been rejected physically -- thus bringing to an end my hopes for West Point.
The mental examination went off better than I had expected, and I felt reasonably well satisfied that I had passed. Within a few days, we (about 150 in all) were turned out in the area about 10 o'clock one morning and formed in line. In a few minutes a distinguished looking officer ( the Adjutant) wearing a full dress uniform and what I afterwards learned to be aiguelettes (I have an idea that I may not have learned to spell them though), took his place in our front, holding a formidable looking document in his hands. After an effective pause he directed, "Those candidates whose names I shall call report to me here as your names are called." The first name he called was mine. I was astonished and scared. I afterwards learned that some horses are afraid to leave the picket line alone. I was then able to appreciate their feelings, for I had the same sort of feeling and I stood motionless ( except perhaps for my knees) in place in ranks. The upper classmen in charge began moving up and down the line, repeating my name impatiently. Finally one of them spied me and, in a few doubtless appropriate words, directed me to move out to the front. When I got up to the Adjutant he said, "Take your place on my right, over there, facing the formation." I did so, and I felt very much alone as I looked at the other 150 or more candidates in ranks. I considered various possibilities. My conscience was perfectly clear that I had not cheated in any way in the examinations and that I had not, on any occasion deviated in the slightest degree from the truth. It appeared to me that I was at least going to be made a horrible example of, and I may have had a mental resolve that if they shot me I would meet my end bravely. In a short time another name was called and another candidate took his place beside me. My spirits rose rapidly. Whatever the trouble might be, it relieved me greatly that there was another man who would bear me company. Eventually a group was formed on each side of the Adjutant. Facing toward my group he said, "You young gentlemen are all alternates. You have all passed the entrance examinations. However your principals have also passed their entrance examinations and they will be admitted as cadets." He also told us that, having passed the entrance examinations, if we, in future, received an appointment as principal or alternate we would be exempt from the entrance examinations. He concluded by stating that the authorities would like for us all to be off the Post by retreat that evening.
I afterwards figured it out that my name was called first because the names were arranged by states, alphabetically, and Arkansas headed the list of states.
The upper classmen in charge of the barracks told us good by and said they hoped we would get another appointment and return some day, and Joe McAndrew told me how sorry he was that we couldn't both get in, and that he hoped I would be able to get another appointment.
Father had stopped in New York to see Mr. Skipwith, who was then one of the principal officers of the Henry Hentz & Co., 22 William Street, and Mr. Skipwith had very kindly invited me, in case I did not get in to West Point, to come down to New York and spend a week with him before starting home. So I caught the boat ( the old Mary Powell) for New York and we eventually arrived at some pier there that afternoon. I got off the boat with my suitcase. The only address I knew was 22 William Street. I had no idea where that was or where I was myself. There were no taxis in those days, but a street car (horse drawn) came down to the dock. I got on it and after making a number of transfers I finally reached 22 William Street, about dark. It was about 20 stories high (the tallest building I had ever been in). There seemed to be no one in it. Near the elevators was a huge display board listing the occupants of the various floors, and I noted that Henry Hentz was on the 17th floor. I walked over to the elevators, one of which was running. By this elevator there was a long glass tube, filled with red liquid, which moved up and down with the elevator so as to tell where the elevator was at all times. This indicator impressed me as being a very ingenious thing and I stood there for some time trying to figure out how it worked. I regret that I have never found out yet. I went up to the 17th floor. There was no one there except a cleaning woman who was cleaning up the large offices there. I asked her if she knew where Mr. Skipwith lived and she said she had no idea.
By that time it was dark. I decided that I had better get to a hotel as soon as possible. The only hotel of which I knew the name was the Astor House (not the present Hotel Astor), which was mentioned in Wm. Dean Howell's "Our Wedding Journey." Fortunately, it was on Broadway, only about six blocks away, so I carried my suitcase over there. I wasn't much impressed with it as a hotel. In fact, it didn't sem to me to be as good a hotel as the new Goldman Hotel in Ft. Smith. On reflection I decided that "Our Wedding Journey" must have taken place considerably before I was born. However I got a room. By this time I was quite hungry. I had in my inside pocket about $200 (new cadets were required to make an initial deposit of about that amount), the largest sum I had ever had in my possession, and I decided it might be dangerous to carry it out on the street, particularly at night. So I took out %5.00 and after recalling to mind Poe's "The Purloined Letter" I hid the remainder in the slop basin. (There was no running water in the room -- only a wash stand and pitcher) and ventured out on Broadway. I had read somewhere about the wonderful steaks, with mushrooms, that could be gotten in New York, and I made up my mind to look for one of them. I walked many blocks looking for one of the fine restaurants that I knew must be there somewhere, and I finally found a nice, clean and well lighted one. (The sign, in large white script, carried the name Child's, which was one I had never heard of.) I studied the menu, which was posted on the window. Under steaks there were listed Porterhouse, Sirloin, and Hamburger. I had never heard of a Hamburger steak and I decided that it must be some kind of German dish. As I had gained from my reading the idea that German cooking was excellent, and as the price of the Hamburger steak was considerably less than that of the others, I went in and ordered a Hamburger steak and sat back visualizing its savory and juicy tenderness. When the waitress brought me in what I could not but recognize as an ordinary meat ball, I managed to eat it, but without any great enthusiasm for German cooking.
Next morning I, with my suit case, was waiting in front of 22 William Street when Mr. Skipwith arrived. I spent about a week as his guest. I spent the days in the Henry Hentz Co. offices or on the floor of the Cotton Exchange, and in the evenings we always went to some place for dinner, followed by a show. I saw more of New York during that week than I did in all of the five years that I spent at Ft. Totten later on (Ft. Totten is about 13 miles from New York). Mr. Skipwith seemed to be a welcome visitor everywhere. I remember that he took me in to the offices of J. P. Morgan (on Wall Street, about a block away) on one occasion and everyone there seemed to give him an especially cordial welcome. Mrs. Helen Hunt Close (I still remember the name) was the telegraph operator on the private wire in the office. She was a most charming lady, about fifty, with gray hair. Upon being left a widow with but little income she had taken up telegraphy as a means of livelihood and become an expert. She had a son about my age and she took quite a motherly interest in me. I recall that she had me have my hair cut and my shoes shined -- presumably so that I might, in so far as possible, conform to the standards of dress and personal appearance that prevailed in the offices of H. Hentz & Co.
This firm was one of the oldest and largest in New York, of its kind. The members of the firm were very nice to me, and they talked to me quite frequently. They seemed to be interested in my impressions about New York -- everything about which was, of course, new and strange to me. After a few days they began to ask me about my experience at West Point, and they made me explain in detail just why I had not been admitted. I told them that my principal having been admitted I could not also be admitted. They asked me what had happened to the appointees of the other Senator from Arkansas (Senator Jones). After considerable thought I was able to recall that he had not designated an alternate and that his principal had been among those failing to pass the entrance examinations. They then asked me why, inasmuch as I had already passed the examinations, I didn't get Senator Jones to appoint me and go back and join the entering class. I told them that I was sure that Senator Jones wouldn't give me the appointment, as my father had no use for him and had told him so. They laughed at this and said, "I am afraid you don't know much about politics. Your father has, as friends, some of the most influential men in Fort Smith, and if they urge Senator Jones to give you the appointment he will without doubt do so, irrespective of any personal feelings he may have about your father." Mr. Skipwith immediately sent telegrams to about half a dozen or more of father's friends, explaining the situation and asking them to urge Senator Jones to give me the appointment, which they did.
Within a few days father, then at Johns Hopkins, received a letter from Senator Jones, enclosing one from him to the Adjutant General of the Army stating that if it was allowable under the rules of the War Department he would like to transfer his appointment to me and have me join the entering class.. He suggested to father that he personally present the letter to the Adjutant General, as it was quite likely that he (the Adjutant General) would be inclined to disapprove my appointment as being irregular. Father hastened to Washington and went to the War Department, found the office of the Adjutant General, with a portly, gray haired darky messenger sitting outside the door. He told the door keeper who he was and said he would like to see the Adjutant General. The darky peeked through the door and told father to "go right in". He entered a large, well lighted office and walked up to the large desk at which sat Major General H. C. Corbin, the Adjutant General, busily studying a paper on his desk. Father stood there for some minutes but the Adjutant General didn't even look up from his paper. Finally father's wrath rose to the boiling point and, forgetting that his real mission was to ask the Adjutant General to do him a favor, he proceeded to tell the Adjutant General that he was not accustomed to being ignored in such a manner; that he had come to see him at the suggestion of Senator Jones and that he considered that he was entitled to being treated with at least common courtesy. General Corbin was, at that time, the most powerful officer in the War Department and also he was a man of quite dictatorial manner. He looked up, apparently unaware of father's presence. Father's rather unusual method of introducing himself apparently appealed to him. He got up, shook hands, apologized for not having noticed father's presence and inquired what he could do for him.
Father, realizing that General Corbin had intended no discourtesy, apologized in turn for his outburst and gave him Senator Jones's letter, together with an explanation of the circumstances. General Corbin read the letter, asked father where I was at the time and said he saw no reason why I shouldn't be given the appointment, and that he would telegraph me at once to return to West Point. Eventually McAndrew, my Principal, and I entered and graduated in the same class. I do not know of a precedent. I feel quite certain that, had I not met the keen minded officers of Henry Hentz & Co., and had not father made a distinct, and probably unusual, impression on the Adjutant General, I should probably never have gone to West Point.
I recall one incident while I was waiting in New York. One morning I was standing in the ticker room at the Hentz office when Mr. Skipwith came into the room. He ran some of the ticker tape through his fingers and, turning to me, said, "Well, Fulton, I just made $6000 while I was looking at this tape. Don't you think that would justify us in going over to Delmonico's (the famous old Delmonico's restaurant was just across the street) for lunch?" I assured him that I did. When we entered the Dining Room the Head Waiter (I suppose that at Delmonico's the title begins with capitals), who seemed to be a particular friend of Skipwith's, sat us down at one of the best tables and began to take our orders. The menu was in French and I had no idea what most of the dishes were. Skipwith gave his order. I studied the Menu for a while and then, knowing that I could make no mistake, casually said that I would take the same. The only items on the Menu that I recognized were the Cafe Noir and Cafe au Lait. Skipwith ordered Cafe Noir. Just to show the Head Waiter that I too was quite familiar with French, I ordered Cafe au Lait instead.
While we were waiting for our food I was sitting there deep in thought. Skipwith asked me what I was thinking about. I told him I was just wondering if he made $6000 every day before lunch. He smiled and said, "I had an idea that you had some such thought, and I am going to take this opportunity to give you some advice. I have spent most of my life in the cotton business. I am the head of Henry Hentz & Company's cotton department -- one of the biggest in the United States. I have a whole floor of experts -- college professors and others, who devote their time to tabulating and studying all sorts of statistics about cotton. I get a daily report from every county in the United States that raises cotton, and I have been in most of them myself. I have made about a dozen fortunes in my lifetime, and I have lost about thirteen of them. If, with all the facilities that are at my disposal, and with a life time study of the subject, I can't be sure which way the market is going to jump, what chance do you think you, as a young Army officer, would ever have of guessing right about it? So my advice to you is this: If you ever have a little money ahead, and you feel that the excitement of gambling would be worth the expenditure of this money, go ahead and play roulette, faro, or, if you prefer, buy cotton. If, however, you ever happen to be in need of a few hundred dollars, don't ever buy cotton in the hope of making it." I am telling you this because I have always considered that this was expert advice, and I have always followed it. I commend it to you.
Mr. Skipwith also told me at this time that he had made up his mind to sell his seat on the Cotton Exchange on the first day of the year, and to accept an offer of $10000 a year (which was a good deal in those days) made by a large firm of textile manufacturers in the North, to go to North Carolina and supervise the purchase of all their cotton, which was of especially high grades. He said that he planned to buy himself a nice place where he could raise fine stock as a pastime, and that he expected never to buy another bale of cotton for himself. I never saw him again after I left New York a day or so later. He carried out his plans in full and lived happily on his place (he was never married) until his death some five years later. Upon the receipt of my telegram from TAG I returned at once to West Point. I noted, not altogether with amusement, that the upper classmen who had, with such friendliness, told me goodby a couple of weeks ago seemed to take it in the nature of a personal affront that I had come back again so soon. At any rate they gave me their personal attention to assure that I might make up for the time lost.
I entered West Point on August 6, 1900. The remainder of the Senatorial appointees had entered on July 15th. My class, which really consisted of two classes in one, aggregated about 180 on entering. We graduated 124, the largest number that had ever been graduated in one class.
During the summer months the Corps of Cadets went (and I suppose still goes) into camp, and is kept busy with practical military training. In those days Plebe Camp was a rather strenuous experience, as hazing was still an active institution. Most of the hazing was of a quite harmless nature; some of it, conducted generally by a few bullies, was more serious in character.
One of the harmless stunts was to give bunk privileges (plebes were not allowed to sit or lie down on their bunks during the daytime) for a week to the first plebe who, on a practice march, succeeded in finding and bringing back to camp a small turtle. Then there would be held a Corps review, the turtle being the Reviewing Officer and the plebes (in appropriate costume) taking the place of the Adjutant, the Band and the Battalion and Company commanders., and giving the proper commands at the proper times. This ceremony was conducted with great solemnity and formality (on the part of the plebes) and it actually served to teach the plebes the pertinent Drill Regulations.
Each plebe was given a "Tee", which he was required to sound off whenever asked his name. I suppose it has been a custom for perhaps nearly a hundred years that, every year, some plebe from Arkansas has had as his "Tee" a portion of a speech alleged to have been made by a member of the Arkansas state legislature when it was passing a law stating that the proper pronunciation of the name of the state was Arkansaw and not Arkansas. It went like this: "Change the name of Arkansas!! --- Damn!! First raise the bones of Thomas Jefferson! First make live the dust of Patrick Henry! The enormity of these crimes would no more compare with that of changing the name of Arkansas than does the pale glimmer from yon lightning bug's (posterior) to the firey coruscations of the noon day sun in its flight!" I was required to sound this off on every occasion con multo expressione and with many absurd gestures.
Every few evenings P. D. Bunker, a yearling, (one of the greatest football players and athletes in the history of West Point -- who was, when a Colonel, killed by the Japanese during or after the Bataan Death March) would come into my tent and would say, "Mr. Dumguard, I feel depressed. My spirits are low. I crave music -- sweet, inspiring music. Suppose you attempt to assuage my sadness by singing the laundry list backwards to the tune of "Yankee Doodle." My rendition of this selection undoubtedly left much to be desired as a musical treat. After a few off key efforts he would throw up his hands, in apparent helplessness, to stop me, and would say, "Mr. Dumguard, I am sure that your voice is not up to its usual standard. It seems to be a little rough around the edges. I think that perhaps a dose of this would improve it." and so saying he would pull a bottle of Tabasco sauce and a spoon (to me it looked more like a ladle) out of his pocket and give me a spoonful of "Hell Sauce". I really got to like the stuff, and I have always retained my taste for it in soups, in oyster, crab or shrimp cocktails.
Speaking of "Hell Sauce" reminds me of the Booze investigation, by a Congressional committee during my plebe year.
Young Booze (actually his name) had been appointed two years before from Pennsylvania. During his plebe year he resigned and went home. HE died about a year later, and his family blamed his death on the alleged fact that he had been forced to drink large amounts of Tabasco sauce, as part of the hazing. Some newspapers and magazines took this up, representing West Point as the breeding place of a caste of cruel snobs, and finally demanding that West Point be abolished entirely.
The facts in the case were that, during Plebe Camp, Cadet Booze had shown a yellow streak, as a result of which he had been cut (Not spoken to except on business) by his own classmates as well as by the entire Corps. He was no longer hazed in any way and, as a matter of fact, he probably took a negligible amount of "Hell Sauce" as the papers called it. The popular clamor became so great that a Congressional Committee conducted extensive hearings at West Point into hazing. As the result of this investigation the Corps of Cadets pledged itself to discontinue all forms of hazing that involved physical hardships. So far as I know this pledge has been carried out ever since.
One incident, in connection with the Hearings, was of interest to me later. The Chairman, a Congressman from the middle West, one day questioned the veracity and the honor of a cadet who was testifying. Some of the spectators, from the Post, hissed him and he ordered the galleries cleared. In his Report he bitterly impugned the honor of the Corps of Cadets (entirely without justification). A few years later his son received an appointment to West Point. While a cadet his father, while still a Congressman, was tried and convicted of fraud of some kind and was sentenced to some years in the Penitentiary. This also led to big headlines in the papers. I can imagine that the son bitterly regretted his father's unfounded attack upon the honor of the Corps, during the Booze investigation.
I recall with pleasure one incident that was perhaps representative of a different type of hazing. In 1901, while I was a plebe, the Corps of Cadets was sent to Washington to participate in the Inauguration Parade of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was very cold when we left West Point, and the uniform ordered was full dress coats, dress hats and overcoats. By the time our train reached Washington it had turned quite warm. The present Union Station had not then been built and we detrained some distance out of town and marched for several hours, at the right shoulder arms, over to the residence of the Secretary of War, in Georgetown, where the tactical officers in charge (mounted) were to go in for tea. With our heavy uniforms the long march was a very exhausting one, and when the Corps was wheeled into line and halted 15 or 20 plebes (all in the rear flank) fainted and toppled over. My right arm was so numb that I couldn't bring my rifle down to the Order, and I suppose I looked pretty near all in, although I didn't faint. My front rank file was Eddie Farnsworth, with Bunker, an All American football man, and later Captain of the Football team. He was somewhat of a roughneck, of powerful strength and physical endurance. He looked around at me and noted how exhausted I looked. He studied a moment, and turning back to me said, "Mr. Dumguard, my cartridge box has been flopping up and down all the way over here, and I am damned tired of having it do so. I don't know where we are going from here but I want you to hold that box down securely every step of the way. If I feel it flop once I'll give you hell. Do you understand?" This was his way of telling me that he would carry the weight of my gun during the rest of the march. He was turned back into my class at the end of the year and I was very happy that I was able to give him some needed help in some of his studies. I never saw him after we graduated, but while I was in command of the Hawaiian Separate Coast Artillery Brigade in Hawaii, years later, his son, just graduated from West Point, reported to me for his first assignment and I told him about this incident. I noticed that, thereafter, whenever we happened to meet, he seemed to be very kindly disposed toward me.
While I was a plebe I was Gunner at the table in Schofield Hall, the Dining Room. (The plebe on my right was Milk Corporal and the one on my left was Water Corporal). At the table there sat a 2nd classman, named Oscar Foley, who had just come back from furlough in Missouri. He was rather absent-minded, and one of the yearlings teased him a good deal about being in love. Finally the yearling told me to assume that the young lady in the case was named Marie, and to write a 150 line Ode to Marie. While I didn't exactly feel that I owed Marie 150 lines, I finally was ready to read it. I recall only the following lines:
Oh, don't you remember, sweet Marie,
The night your pa set the dog on me?
And how, with one last, long lingering look
My flight to the trees I took
Where I stayed till the moon rose high
In the midst of the sky
And the stars came out o'erhead.
I was required to turn around toward the Mess Hall and recite this "Ode" many times. I introduced some gestures that I thought appropriate. They seemed to like my gestures more than my poetry; so thereafter another plebe was made to recite the "Ode" while I did only the gestures.
My plebe year contained a number of surprises for me. For instance, in Geometry class in High School we usually were given two exercises a day to prepare. The first time I went to a Geometry class as a plebe, the instructor handed me an open book of problems and said: "You take these problems." When I went to the board I examined the book and, being uncertain as to just which problems he meant, I asked him. I was quite surprised when he replied, somewhat testily, "All of them." There were 17 problems on the two pages. We also studied C. Smith's Algebra. I had, of course, studied Algebra in the High School, but there was very little in C. Smith that read anything like what I had previously understood to be Algebra. I recall having to get up at 5 o'clock and go out to the sink (bath house), climb up a ladder that rested under the only gas light in the room, and struggle to acquire at least a speaking acquaintance with some of the weird things that C. Smith had, somehow, dreamed up.
In my yearling year we had Descriptive Geometry and Analytical Geometry. Fortunately for me they alternated daily. I never succeeded in becoming initiated into the mysteries of Descriptive Geometry. Fortunately, too, I had as instructor Captain R. E. Callan, who was the best instructor in Mathematics I ever had, and under him I found Analytical Geometry to be very logical and interesting. I figured on making about a 2.0 (out of 3.0) on the days we had Descrip and about 2.8 or 3.0 on the days we had Analyt. We also had French, and thanks to my High School French, I stood in the first section.
In my second class year we had Chemistry, Electricity and Mechanics, all of which I liked. When we were, at the beginning of the year, first assigned to Sections (of not more than about 10 men each), it was done on the basis of our standings in Math during the preceding year, and I was assigned to the 6th Section in Chemistry and Electricity. We remained in our original Sections for perhaps six weeks, when a General Transfer took place, based on our marks during the six weeks. I was transferred to the First Section. This was the first time I had been in the First Section in anything except French. The instructor, Capt. R. P. Davis, was a brilliant officer, with a forceful and distinguished personality. He had apparently decided on general principles that no cadet was good enough to be transferred from the 6th Section to the 1st Section in one jump, and he had also apparently decided to put me in my place.
We had about forty pages in Tillman's Chemistry at a lesson. On the first day that I attended Captain Davis's Section, after assigning to the other members of the Sections all of the subjects in the day's lesson, he casually (apparently) handed me a card on which was written the subject Carbon Monoxide, which had been in the lesson of some days before. I had studied carefully the 40 pages in the lesson for the day, but I had had no time to go back and review the preceding 40 pages. I went to the board and studied the matter over. I couldn't remember enough about Carbon Monoxide to make a recitation on it, so I hoped that I might be able to "bugle" (not to be called upon before the blowing of the dismissal bugle). But Captain Davis would see none of that, and after everyone else had recited (and I felt I could have done as well) on the day's lesson he called upon me. I turned about and said, "Sir, I am required to recite on Carbon Monoxide; I do not remember enough about Carbon Monoxide to recite on it." With that, while walking up and down in front of his desk, he devoted the rest of the hour to telling me that he had felt quite sure, when I was transferred from the 6th Section, that I did not belong in the 1st Section, and by now he hoped that I fully realized that fact, etc., etc. This rather got under my skin. When I got back to Barracks I decided that it would be a good idea to go back and study Carbon Monoxide again. So, in addition to the regular assignment of 40 pages for the next lesson, I carefully memorized the page or two on Carbon Monoxide. When we went up for the next recitation, again all the subjects in the day's lesson were assigned to other members of the Section, and I thought maybe I was going to get a "stay-back". However, in a few moments Captain Davis called me up to his desk and handed me a card. I could see, from reading it upside down, that the subject was Carbon Monoxide.
I immediately conceived a plan. Apparently without looking at the card, I took my place at the last Board. I could see that Captain Davis was watching to observe my reactions when I noted my subject. I very leisurely turned up my card and read the subject. I then registered utter dismay, dire consternation, and abject resignation to the inevitable, to the best of my ability (I was later quite fond of amateur dramatics). Captain Davis hastened to hear all the other members of the Section, and began walking up and down again, doubtless preparing a master piece of ridicule for my edification and abasement. I still did not face about to recite. The tension in the room began to rise as everyone settled back to enjoy my discomfiture. I had written "Carbon Monoxide" at the top of my Board, but had written nothing else on it. While they were all watching me I wrote down C = 14 and 02 = 36 (the atomic weights), and after looking at this notation for some time I took the eraser and carefully and painstakingly erased the Board, first from top to bottom and then from left to right. Somebody snickered. Then, registering abject embarrassment and deep humiliation, I turned hesitantly about and said, "Sir, I am required to discuss Carbon Monoxide." I then looked out the window, far off into space, for perhaps a full minute. Some of the Section broke out into a half repressed laugh. Then, without taking my eyes off the far space (but watching Captain Davis with one eye) I began, very quietly and confidently, to repeat, word for word, the text on "Carbon Monoxide". Captain Davis, as I fully realized afterwards when I came to know him well, was a good sport. He instantly saw what I had done, and I think he must have enjoyed it. At any rate, after I had recited about two sentences he said, "That will do, Mr. Gardner. You may sit down." He gave me a 3.0 on the recitation. I believe I stood 5 or 6 in the subjects of Chemistry and Electricity, and Captain Davis was later on one of my best friends. As Director, Department of Engineering, Coast Artillery School, he was largely responsible for my standing one in my class at the school and for my being sent to M.I.T., and later, as Senior Assistant to the Chief of Coast Artillery, for my detail in that office, as an Assistant. I never had occasion to refer to this incident in his presence, but I have an idea that he had never forgotten it.
Fifty years later I had another reaction in connection with this incident. In 1953, Brigadier General Robert F. Abernathy, Retired, who lived in Summerton, had occasion to drive to Charleston and, as he had done several times before, he stopped over in Summerville to see your grandmother and me.
He, also, had been an instructor of mine at West Point (bu I had forgotten that). I had served with him at Fort Monroe and I had been his Chief of Staff when he was in command of the H.S.C.A.B. In some way the name of R. P. Davis came up in our conversation and I recounted this incident to him. He listened with much interest and then said, "I recall very distinctly when you were transferred from the 6th Section to the 1st Section. I was the Instructor of the 6th Section, and when the time for the General Transfer came, RP (his friends all called him RP) came to me and insisted that I must have given you too high marks. We had quite a heated argument about it, but I insisted that you belonged in the 1st Section. I watched your marks in that Section to assure myself that I had been right." Considering that he had been an Instructor at West Point for four years, and bearing in mind the large number of cadets that had been in his Section during that time, it was quite remarkable that he had remembered this incident for more than 50 years, but had never before mentioned it to me. I am sorry to have to add that about a week later I picked up the Charleston paper and read that General Abernathy had died suddenly.
When I entered West Point there had not been a cadet named Gardner for some years, and, as there was no occasion for the use of my initials they were not generally known to the upper Classmen. In the class following me however there was a C. H. Gardner, and a John deBarth Walbach Gardner. This was a slight inconvenience to me as it made it necessary for me to remark all my laundry. However it resulted in saving me from some 50 hours of walking punishment tours. It was the custom, while we were in camp for the summer, for a big order to be made up of a "boodle" (candy, cheese, cakes, etc.) from Charles & Co. in New York. This was shipped to someone in Highland Falls (near West Point). It was then brought up, by row boat, to near the cadet camp (then near the Parade Ground)and the cadets concerned slipped out across the sentinel line and brought their respective purchases (all charged to them at Charles & Co.) into camp. One night, in Yearling Camp, while about 15 or 20 of my classmates, including me, were engaged in such an undertaking the authorities had a check roll call made and we were all reported to the Officer of the Day as being absent without authority. Next day the "skin list" was published, but to my great surprise, unlike Abou Ben Adem, my name was not included. Like Brer Rabbit I simply lay low and said nothing, expecting it to be included later. In due time each of the other cadets concerned was awarded 25 (as I remember it) punishment tours. Some time later I learned how my name had been omitted. The Officer of the Day, upon receiving the reports as to the absentees, checked their names against the Departure Book, upon which each cadet leaving camp for an authorised purpose was required to register his name and time of departure and return. When the name Gardner was called off to him by the Sergeant of the Guard he asked "Which Gardner?" The Sergeant, happening to know my initials, said "Oh, the one with all those initials." The O. D., checking the Departure Book, noted that Gardiner, J. deB. W. had registered out, and assuming that that was my name he checked off my name as having been absent with authority.
I recall one other experience that was, to me at least, interesting at the time. Before we went on Furlough (at the end of Yearling Year) Happy Glassford (he died a few months ago), Runt Moody and I (all class mates) decided it would be a good idea to run a telegraph line to connect our rooms. So we made our plans and, upon returning from Furlough each of us brought back with him his proper share of the tools, wire, telegraph instruments, dry batteries, etc. It was my job to run the wire, which was to be laid along under the eaves under the attic roof. The only access to the attic was by means of a trap door in the 7th Division, which was secured by a hasp and a padlock. We pulled out the staple over which the hasp fitted so that I could open the trap door and climb up into the attic. One of the others then put the staple back in its holes so that the door appeared to be properly locked. I had no flashlight and it was quite dark in the attic. Finally, however, after having fallen, with my bag of tools, down several feet onto the ceiling of Dialectic Hall (over the sally port), I reached the chimney that was over my Division (the 3rd). It was a large one, about six feet square. The problem was to locate that one of the eight flues that connected with the fireplace in my room. I drilled a hole through the chimney wall and, pushing through it a pencil shaped piece of lead attached at one end to a large ball of twine, I began paying out the twine to find out what fireplace was supplied by the flue in which I was. I payed out at least three hundred feet of twine and still no bottom. Feeling quite sure that the Law of Gravitation had not been repealed while I was on Furlough, and realizing that the barracks building was not more than 75 feet high, I reluctantly was forced to the conclusion that something was wrong somewhere, and I decided to investigate. So, tying the string to a nail in the floor, I retraced my path to the trap door, gave the prearranged signal, and, when my fellow conspirator withdrew the staple again, I descended from the attic and went to my Division (the 3rd) to examine it, one room at a time, to see whether or if the string had come out. After looking in three of the rooms on the first floor I went to the fourth room. There was a plebe, sitting in the middle of the floor, pulling in the string, which was piled up all around him. Upon my opining that I would like to know what in the hell he thought he was doing, he gave the possibly reasonable explanation that when the weight dropped down in his fireplace he had assumed that, although he had no idea what its purpose was, someone probably desired that he pull on the string, and he had sought to do what he supposed was expected of him.
I returned to the attic, and after boring three or four more holes, finally succeeded in getting the string, and the wire, into my own fireplace. I then removed the dirt from the crack between two of the floor boards, laid a piece of fine, silk covered wire in the crack, replaced the dirt, running the wire to a point directly under the leg of my table and fastening its end to a small brass tack driven into the floor. The sounder, key, and dry battery were placed in the table drawer, and a similar piece of wire was run through a hole bored in the table leg down to another tack on the bottom of the table leg. The circuit, when in use, was grounded by a short piece of wire which, when desired, could be attached to the metal part of the gas light fixture over my table. I spent many years later in Electrical work (at the Torpedo Depot) but I never again got the thrill that I felt when, on making the final connection, the thing worked perfectly. I appreciated how Cyrus W. Field must have felt when the first message was transmitted over the trans-Atlantic cable.
For three years, including the two years that we operated our telegraph line, the Tactical Officer in charge of B Company (my Company) was Captain E. M. Blake (known to the cadets as The Buzzard on account of his habit of sneaking up on us), who prided himself that no cadet could put anything over on him. Early in my plebe year, at one of his morning inspections, he found some dust under the table in my room (I was Room Orderly at the time). He then proceeded to tell me that it was quite apparent that I was not suited for the military service and that I had better give up any such idea. This did not exactly endear him to me, and throughout the three years that he was my Tac he and I could hardly have been said to constitute a mutual admiration society.
Some four years after graduation I was stationed at Fort Adams, Rhode Island, and the then Major Blake was in command of Fort Greble, I was Ordnance Officer and it was one of my duties to go out on the tug whenever there was target practice. It was, and is, characteristic of Narragansett Bay that often heavy fogs exist until about mid day. Day after day the tug would lie off Beaver Tail (one of the roughest places along the coast), rolling in the trough of the sea, with all hands sea sick, waiting for the fog to lift enough for us to be able to see flag signals from the Fort. There was living on the Post a Mr. Garnett, an Electrical Engineer employed by the Engineer Department, with whom I became quite friendly. Radio was then just beginning to be talked about and Mr. Garnett was much interested in it. We decided to assemble (with some borrowed apparatus) a Radio installation on the tug and one on the shore, to enable communication to be established between them during fog. We worked practically continuously for several days and nights to get everything ready for the next target practice. On the day before the practice the tug had to make a trip to Ft. Greble, and I went on it in order that we might be able to test out our improvised Radio. As the tug pulled in to the dock at Ft. Greble I saw Major Blake leave his office at Headquarters and hurry down to the dock.
The Buzzard had observed the antenna that we had installed on the tug and he was curious to see a radio installation. He came immediately to the Chart House, where we had installed the radio. He opened the door and saw me sitting at the table with a headset on. He was quite surprised and just stood staring at me. After a while he said, "Mr. Gardner, what are you doing there?" I looked up and replied, "I'm telegraphing, Sir." He studied a moment and then said: "They didn't teach telegraphy when you were a cadet, did they?" Without interrupting my work, and without looking up at him I replied: "No Sir; but I had a telegraph instrument in my room for two years while I was a cadet." Doubtless he was thinking, as I was, that he had inspected my room at least twice a day throughout that period, and the thought that he had failed to discover the telegraph set undoubtedly disconcerted him. He stood there for some time, swallowing his Adam's apple, and then, without a word, quietly opened the door and slowly went back to his office. I cannot truthfully say that I was entirely oblivious to his discomfiture.
Some fifteen years later I learned that the policeman (Janitor) while scrubbing the floor of my old room, had noticed a piece of the fine, silk covered magnet wire that had become exposed in the crack between the floor boards, and had reported it to the Commandant's office. I understood that this resulted in quite an investigation, but that it was never discovered just where the wire went. Bearing in mind the trouble that I had in getting the wire down the chimney, I could appreciate the difficulties confronting such an investigation.
During my four years at West Point I never achieved the exalted rank of even Acting Corporal. With the exception of my Furlough I never had a leave of absence of any kind, nor did I ever have occasion to visit in an officer's quarters.
Upon graduating, on June 15, 1904, I had to make a choice of Arm of the Service. My standing (21 in the class) gave me the choice of any Arm except the Engineers (the first 10 could go in the Engineers). My fondness for horses (I had greatly enjoyed the riding throughout the course) and the interest I had found in the Light Artillery drills led me to choose the Field Artillery.
At that time there were thirty Batteries of Field Artillery. They, with their stations and their officers, were listed in the Army List and Directory (long since discontinued). The first vacancy listed was in the 2nd Battery, with station at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and I applied for, and received assignment to, that Battery.
Upon graduating I received three months Graduation Leave, which I spent at home.
During the time I was a cadet the Corps was sent to two World's Fairs -- the Pan American Exposition, at Buffalo, in 1902, and the St. Louis Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. While I was at home on Graduation Leave I took my two brothers, Dan and Drew, to see the Exposition in St. Louis. We spent about ten very interesting and very busy days there, living in an inexpensive room near the grounds (and improvising a shower, using a large tin can with a hole in the bottom, out behind the wood shed). Before we left home, in conversation one day with Mr. Henry C. Read, one of our best friends, I happened to mention that we were going up to the Exposition. He told me that, the year before, he had been in Cairo and had met there a Mr. Toby Mohammed (he showed me a beautiful scarab tie pin that Toby had given him) with whom he had become well acquainted, and that he was now in general charge of the Egyptian exhibits at the Exposition. He said that he thought it might be interesting to us to meet him, and he gave me a note of introduction to him. One evening, shortly after our arrival, we were taking in (or being taken in by) the "Streets of Cairo" and this reminded me of Mr. Mohammed. I thought it might be a good idea to inquire of some one where I might find him. I saw an "Algerian Soft Drink" stand. I seemed to recall that French was spoken in Algiers. I had stood 6 or 7 in French and I thought I was pretty good at it. I decided that if I went and spoke to the Algerian in his native French he would perhaps take more interest in answering my questions. So we went in to the booth. I saw two people behind the counter; one a fat looking man at one end of the counter, and the other an equally fat woman (doubtless some one's wife -- perhaps his). The man was engaged in the perhaps profitable if not exactly esthetic operation of cleaning a dirty glass with a dirtier towel. I approached him and said, in my best West Point French, "Pouvez vous me dire ou s'emploie Toby Mohammed?" He blinked his eyes and said, "Huh?" I repeated my question very slowly and very carefully. He motioned the woman to come closer. They looked at me and at one another inquiringly. I repeated my question again loudly and distinctly. By this time several innocent bystanders, hearing the noise, had come in to see what the noise was all about. I repeated my question again. The man studied a moment and a look of almost human intelligence spread across his face. It reminded me of the sun breaking through the clouds after a rain. I thought to myself, "At last, this is the triumph of mind over matter." He then said, "I no spik ze Englis; I spik se French." I backed, not necessarily gracefully, out of the booth. I lost all interest in Toby Mohammed. I do not recall that I ever undertook afterwards to speak to a Frenchman in his native language. I rather felt that it was too bad that they had not had the advantage of learning French at West Point.
Upon the expiration of my Graduation Leave I went in to the railroad station and asked for a ticket to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. I had assumed, for some reason, that Fort Sam Houston was at Houston, Texas, and I did not learn, until the Ticket Agent told me, that it was at San Antonio, Texas.