Letters Home - James & Martha Feild

Trail End

 State Historic Site

(From "In the World War")

CAPTAIN JAMES HARRINGTON Feild, Junior, may have commanded men from the 148th Field Artillery at the front lines of St. Mihiel, Champagne-Marne, Meuse-Argonne and Blanc Mont, but he was definitely not in command of his correspondence. Most of the Sheridan resident's letters home were quick notes scribbled during his brief down times. One said simply, "We are all alive, well and in good spirits. Plenty to eat and weather is ideal. Busy? Yes, working to beat the Dutch, so to speak."

The real correspondent of the family was Feild's second wife, twenty-seven year old Martha Louise Huntley Feild. Born in Ohio and raised in Sheridan, she married James in New York just before he sailed to France in January 1918. She remained in New York for the duration of the war, seeing the soldiers off and greeting them upon their return. 

From her home in Washington Heights, Martha wrote newsy letters to The Sheridan Post in which she told of war work in the "Great Metropolis," as well as a little about life in her noisy urban neighborhood. 

I was down at the Red Cross headquarters the other day. I wish you could see the building. This is the New York chapter headquarters. It is on Fifth Avenue, an old house which has been remodeled to suit the purposes and needs. Dark and dingy inside. A westerner would be insulted if asked to labor in such a place. Even if said labor was for a good cause. However, the New Yorkers were doing their bit. Every woman was doing her level best. The first floor is devoted to offices, information, employment, committees on different work, etc. The second floor is where the completed articles for shipping abroad are sent. The women in charge of this floor were working like mad, dodging from one thing to another; however, they seemed to have a system, which counts for a great deal. 

Saturday we were down at the woman's department of the National Defense Committee. This is a public employment bureau, you know. Applications for women munitions workers were being taken that day. The International Fuse & Arms Co., at Bloomfield, N. J., had asked for women workers. When the next draft comes, one thousand men will be taken from this plant, and these women are to replace them. All kinds and conditions were applying. Women who had never done a thing in their lives were expecting to make $7.00 per day.

One woman I talked to had been working in a munitions plant at Hartford for a few months. She said the first week she worked she made $20.00. She has four sons in service and hasn't anything else to do, so she chose this for her work. She was a strong husky Irish woman. Another one was French, a dancer. She had hurt her knee and couldn't dance again, so she was headed for Bloomfield. Another had been spending all her time making cookies for soldiers and decided she could do something more. She had never done anything but a dab of clerical work when she was a young girl. She was forty-five years old; she told me so. Two women of Austrian birth were turned away. Fifty out of three hundred were accepted and sent to the plant.

Several movie men were taking pictures in all this melee. You can imagine what a buzz it was with three hundred women in one room. One large portly dame was so afraid she wouldn't get in. I have never been in a crowd in my life that a woman of this type wasn't butting around. They all seemed, however, to have the right spirit. Do or die. In a way, I think this sort of work is going to relieve the tension for the women. The poor souls need something. Every place you go you hear someone speak of a son, brother or husband who is in France. The other day as I came from the Metropolitan Museum I counted ninety-seven service flags in the windows of apartment houses. This was coming from 163rd to 180th Street. Part of the distance is through the business district, too. It shows that not very many families have all their people on this side. 

This is Sunday evening; the usual concert is on. Four player pianos, all playing different tunes, one female song bird ah-ah-ing with all the tremolos. Two Victrolas, one grinding "Abide With Me," the other "Casey at the Bat." Down below we have a phonograph made in a can factory, I think; on this infernal machine the owner uses Woolworth's best records. "Let's All Be American Now" sung by some forlorn hick is enough to make the strongest of us weep. Especially when it comes forth full steam ahead, thusly: "Let's all be A-merry-kins naow."

Why people are content to live in each other's back windows is more than I can understand. That is what it amounts to. I'm told that this is a paradise here on Washington Heights. I can readily believe it, judging from the little I have seen of the east side. Certainly this is a complete change from Sheridan, Wyo.