Fields---gray, empty and barren, or torn and ugly and labyrinthed with a frenzy of barbed wire.
Houses---squat, worn, hopeless little shacks, marking the outskirts of Toul. And then---
Hospitals---groups and acres and mountains of them, housing, no doubt, their full quota of the miseries of war.
Crosses---plain, homely, slat-affairs, rows upon rows of them, marking the graves of buddies "Gone West."
Cripples---more than there ought to be---huddled ahead, gazing at our outfit as though to say, "Lucky dogs---rotten chances."
A funeral procession---laying another Yank away "with military honors." Or did they have time for them? Why wouldn't a martial tune from the band serve just as well? He can't hear that.
A turn in the road. A post with a sign on it---"ONE WAY ROAD." We blink at it. The thought flashes through our minds, "I wonder if it will be for any of us---," Then we remember, as though recalling a memory, that one-way roads are often a traffic necessity up near the front. Then the tension snaps. We laugh.
"And the Caissons go rolling along!"
Pont-a-Mousson means "Bridge at Mousson." The bridge originally crossed the Moselle at about the same spot as the one there at present. Mousson is the little village---of one hundred and sixty inhabitants before the war---which crowns the tall hill across the river on the east. The village itself is hidden from Pont-a-Mousson by the crest of the hill, and all we see is the church with its statue of Joan of Arc, and the remains of the old chateau walls. The origin of Pont-a-Mousson is so closely allied with that of Mousson that the history of the latter must be spoken of.
The explanation for the name "Mousson" is this: In ancient times a pagan temple had been erected upon the summit of the hill, dedicated to "Janis" or "Io." The peasants of the region found the name Io upon fragments of the ruins and referred to the hill at Mt. Janis or Mons-la, which gradually changed to "Monsio," "Monsion," and finally "Mousson," through several intermediary changes, clearly traceable from manuscripts of the time.
It is certain that the hill of Mousson was occupied for strategic purposes since remotest antiquity. Its prominence as a landmark, its superb height, its peculiar conical shape, ease of fortification and its location beside the Moselle made obscurity impossible.
The first direct proofs of occupation are fragments of Roman origin, such as pieces of sculpture and building fragments, coins, armor, etc., some of which may be seen in the museum of the Ducal Palace at Nancy. A main Roman road ran from Toul to Metz, passing though Atton (the little village just south of the hill) and then under the slope of Mousson hill on th east side. A secondary road ran from east to west, crossing the Moselle at Pont-a-Mousson and connecting with the main road, probably through the valley north of Mousson. A strong fortification on the hill, which was also terraced, protected the bridge and cross road and here we have the origin of Pont-a-Mousson Fort. Four secondary fortifications were built at each end of the bridge for further protection. Around these forts the peasants, of course, built their homes, in preference to the hill, and here, too, the commerce of the river caused markets. The end of the bridge nearest Mousson developed first and the most rapidly and this is by far the oldest part of the town, although today the oldest existing buildings are to be found in the newer, main part.
As the warlike character of the place changed and the commerce grew, the development of the older part was hindered by the nearness of the hill, and so at present Mousson itself and the “vieille ville” are relatively unimportant. It is curious that the part on the outside of the river is sometimes called today not a part of Pont-a-Mousson, but “Antreville,” which means “the other village.” In Roman days this little double village over the river was spoken of (Ninth Century manuscript) as the “Villa Pontus sub Castra Montionis.” (Bridge village under the Camp of Mousson). Its subsequent shortening to Pont-a-Mousson is easy to trace.
The 1500 inhabitants of Pont-a-Mousson have coined for themselves the adjective “Mussipontain” and seem very proud of their town; inordinately so, it seems to us, who have seen only the deserted, shell-torn aspect through a wet, drab winter. Perhaps a peace-time stroll under the shady arches surrounding the “square” (triangle, in truth) admiring the beautifully carved stone fronts, sparkling white in the blazing sun, or a walk through the well-kept parks on the south of the town would cause a change of opinion.
Pont-a-Mousson first became a town of importance about the 10th century and began to receive frequent mention in the chronicles of the time. In the 11th century a very important hospital was established under the commandery of St. Antoine of Liege. Its buildings were erected directly across the river from Headquarters Company’s billets. The first known rulers of the region and owners of the castle or chateau part of Mousson were the successive counts of Bar, each of whom styled himself by preference “Count of Mousson.” They found the castle on the hill above as comfortable as an eagle’s nest, and moved down into Pont-a-Mousson about the 12th century. Count Thibaut I at the end of the 12th century built a college near the west end of the bridge and gave Pont-a-Mousson proper its birth. Thibaut I (1230-1270) surrounded the growing town with ramparts and systematized the plan.
It became a marquisot in 1353 and a city of the empire in 1372. In 1431, at the dawn of modern times, the Duchy of Bar was united to that of Lorraine and Pont-a-Mousson became a Lorraine village. It increased gradually and became the home of a large number of religious organizations, especially during the 14th and 15th centuries. This period was the most brilliant in the history of the town, mainly from the celebrated university which was established in 1572 and flourished for two centuries. It had an European reputation and gave Pont-a-Mousson the title “Athens of Lorraine.” It was managed by the Jesuits and, at the suppression of that order, was moved to Nancy in1768. It occupied the buildings along the east bank of the Moselle, north of the bridge, and was replaced in 1800 by a royal military school which stands today.
The town was captured in 1476 by Charles the Bald, Duke of Burgundy; was besieged in 1632 by Louis XIII and in 1670 the chateau part of Mousson and the other fortifications were destroyed by command of Louis XIV. In 1766, after the death of Stanislas, Pont-a-Mousson became thoroughly French in its manners and customs.
During the Franco-Prussian war, Pont-a-Mousson and the surrounding territory fell into the hands of the Germans. The 12th day of August, 1870, a skirmish occurred in the streets between the African Chasseurs of General Marguerite and the German advance guard. A tablet in one of the houses in the Rue Gambetta, half way between St. Martin Church and the Toul-Metz road, marks the occurrence. The 21st of August, after the battle of St. Privot, the royal Prussian quarters were established in Pont-a-Mousson. They were in the same building that Battery F used as their main billet and the officers’ living room was the room used by the ex-kaiser—then crown prince—as a bedroom.
Pont-a-Mousson is the birthplace of several notables. First, Marguerite of Anjou (1429-1482), daughter of the good King Rene, heroine of the War of the Roses, who married Henry VI of England. She was celebrated for her courage and misfortunes. Her birthplace was in a chateau-fort on the site of Headquarters Company’s billets. It was destroyed by Crequi at the same time as Mousson and from the ruins were built part of the quarters for the 12th French Dragoons before the war. These quarters surrounded the square used by Supply Company and later the regiment as a carriage park.
Another celebrity was Jean Barclay, the author. Still another was Duroc, Duke of Frioul (1772-1813), a particular friend of Napoleon I and Grand Marshall of the Palace. His birthplace and home was in the billet occupied by Battery A
Fabvier (1782-1855), a general and peer of France, the hero of the Greek independence, was born on the street that bears his name.
There are many interested places in Pont-a-Mousson. The most noteworthy is the Church of St. Martin on the east bank of the Moselle. It was built during the 13th and 14th centuries and was first the church of the commandery of St. Antoine, mentioned above, and then a university. The towers are 42 meters high, the one nearest the corner the most ornamental. The entire church is pure Gothic in style and is a splendid example on a small scale of its more famous prototypes. The portal is richly ornamented and is exceedingly like that of the Cathedral of Toul. It is the flowery original style of the fifteenth century, the work of the same architect as that of Toul, Jacquemin de Commerce, one of the dew designers whose names have actually come down to us.
The Place Duroc, the triangular space in the center of town, has but one interest outside its unique arches. This is the “Home of the Seven Capital Sins”—the second building on the right on entering the Place from the west has seven stone statues on the face of its second story which give te building its name. It was the stopping place of the Princes of Lorraine during the seventeenth century on their visits to the town.
St. Laurent Street, which held Regimental H.Q., Battery E and the postoffice and Chaplain’s quarters, has many houses of renaissance age—the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries—and also the Church of St. Laurent. The choir of the latter dates from the fifteenth century.
The billet of Battery E, built in 1598, was formerly the home of “The Sisters of the Christian Doctrine,” one of the numerous religious orders already mentioned. Its ashen door in spite of age shows most of the original carving. The building on the right of the street at the corner opposite Regimental H.Q. and the one next to it, used at first as the Chaplain’s quarters, date from the sixteenth century and present the overhanging second story and other details of the period.
The Place St. Antoine, where guard mounts were held, was formerly an antique forum or market, where the commercial business was discussed, So in holding our ceremonies there we only repeated the history of the old Roman guard mounts held on the same spot. The twin towers across the river from H.Q. Company belong to the Chapel of the Abbey of Saint Marie Majeure, established by Louis XIV and dating from 1705.
Going from the Place Duroc to the bridge and turning to the right along the bank of the river, one may see, as part of the abutment walls of the river bank, remains of the original walls used as fortifications. The raised boulevard, curving around the depot, with its trees planted in 1795, and the parks beyond, were favorite promenades of the inhabitants for several centuries. On the south of the town are the furnaces and foundries for iron work—mostly piping—which, with the wine of the Moselle districts thereabout, made Pont-a-Mousson industrially important.
Of the environs of Pont-a-Mousson, Mousson is the most interesting. The hill is 386 meters high and on a clear day the Cathedral of Metz can be seen on the north and to the south the hill of Mont-Saint-Mihiel with the fort dominating Toul. Many of the houses of the village are of fifteenth and sixteenth century build. The small square wing on the right of the church is the only remnant of the eleventh century, the balance being restored in 1895 and crowned with the statue of Joan of Arc. In the center of the right wing mentioned stands a large, curiously carved baptismal fount, unfortunately covered with sand bags at the time the regiment was there. The crumbling brown walls are the only remains of the chateau fort and date from the thirteenth century.
On the west of Pont-a-Mousson stand the brick and wood barracks built by the Germans in 1870 and used as workingmen’s billets before the recent war.
Narroy, 4 kilos north of Pont-a-Mousson and in a small valley just off the left bank of the river, is famous for its wines, its sixteenth century church and small stone monument used by the Druids for religious purposes.
Ten kilos south of Pont-a-Mousson is Drieulouard (we entrained there) with the prominent side and tower of a chateau-fort built in the tenth century and successively destroyed and rebuilt until finally dismantled by Louis XIV in 1660 to its present imposing aspect. The island formed by the river just east of Dieulouard is the site of the celebrated Scarponne, besieged without success by Attila in the fifth century. The wandering of the river has destroyed all buildings but old coins, bronzes and debris of sculpture have been found and many be seen in the Nancy museum.
On the top of the hill above St. Genevieve (the town on the hill south of Pont-a-Mousson) is a cross commemorating the spot where a large number of Christians suffered martyrdom under the hands of German barbarians in the fourth century. The high mound against which St. Genevieve itself is built is one of the series built by Attila for his fortified camps.
LIEUT. D. W. KAUFMAN, Battery F
Regimental headquarters were here on the last stop before the Belgian Camp. Saint Calais is an ancient Galla-Roman town, named for an abbey founded a the time of Clotaire I. The Church of Notre Dame there is of 1540 and has the original and rich facade of that period. The lower part of the octagonal pillars inside dates from 1366. On the hill and back of the church are the remains of a chateau built in the eleventh century, consisting of two tall fragments of masonry. In the village stands a bust of Poitenin (1819-1882), the inventor of the permanent carbon print, who was born here. Population about 3,600—and we will say that the people of this quaint, little old village were about as nice to us as any we met in our travels.
St. Calais has narrow streets, running in no particular direction. The houses are arranged irrespective of the streets and, as a result, some of them are set far back in the yards, the majority of them are flush with the sidewalk and some extend over the walks, usually with their base lines at an oblique with the curb. It is very ridiculous to Americans.
Everything is old and crumbling. Vines are obviously present. The trees are stubby and covered with parasitic moss. Small hedges fill every available corner.
The shops are small. Some are extremely neat while others are untidy and uninviting. There is a hydrant of running water in every block. The flow crosses the walk into the gutter. The city is unlighted at night and even the shops have to draw curtains behind their windows, similar to the American saloon. The French cafes are “beaucoup.” Every block has one or more. Mademoiselles and madames serve the drinks. The poorer people wear wooden shoes and sound like galloping horses when they amble over the cobblestones. It is a quaint, little old city.
Authorities differ on the origin of the name “Brest” but the most likely conjecture seems that the name originates from a certain king of Brittany named Bristock. He was a cruel monarch of the fourth century. The oldest authentic document in which the city of Brest is chronicled is found in a chronicle of Nantes bearing the date 856, where Solomon, the king of the Britains, is spoken of having died in a city which is called Brest.
Whatever the origin of its name the city wasn’t as bad as we had heard it was. Uncle Sam, as the Twentieth Century Alladin, had wrought a magic military city from a dismal swamp in almost the time it takes to tell about it. “Chow” there was better and more plentiful than any we had previously encountered in the army. Pontanezen, as the camp was called, wasn’t half bad—save for all night details and double quick inspections. The old 329th came through with flying colors, however, and the last we saw of the much discussed city of Brest was from a naval lighter, from whose decks we looked back at the band playing, “Good-bye, Boys, I’m Through,” and said “Righto."
We are going to Germany and Russia, where we will board the Mauretannia and Leviathan at Brest and Bordeaux, St. Nazaire and Liverpool. We will draw 150 horses, no horses, motor trucks, 1,000 horses, 50 horses, bicycles and finally 101 horses, with which we will turn in our pieces at Belleville, Nancy, Toul and go into Germany. We will also take our 75's back to the States. The same with the pistols. We will turn them in here (Pont-a-Mousson), take them back to the States and turn them in when we are mustered out, and be allowed to keep them when we get out of the army.
Preparatory to the grand parade in New York, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, on the same day and the same hour---said hour and day will be nine, eleven and two o'clock on Christmas Day, January 15th, February 22nd, Decoration Day and the Fourth of July.
We are to rig out in the following raiment and insignia---all of it: whipcord uniforms, the suits we are now wearing, serge uniforms, mackinaws, short pinch-backs, long pinch-backs, no overcoats, leather jerkins, overseas caps, campaign hats and helmets, silk sox, woolen sox and cotton sox, spiral putties, cuff leggings and leather putties, also one pair each of russet and trench shoes and rubber boots.
Upon the right and left shoulder there will be a red and white "2" and the numeral "2" that should be on our left shoulder will be removed. The red CD will be sewed on the collar, left sleeve, over the heart, and 'round behind, above and below the belt. It will be one color, red, simply designed and bordered with blue, white and green.
We will demobilize at Camp Mills and Camp Custer, and upon demobilization, will be given six months' pay, three months' pay, one month's pay and receive $100 from the people of Wayne County.
While these paradoxical events transpire we will remain in France until all the others of the A. E. F. are gone and then go home with the first 300,000. After that it will become known that Germany is not yet licked and we will stay here to finish the job.
As regards to our movements before sailing, which will be next week and next year, we will mobilize at Pont-a-Mousson, Rimaucourt and Toul; scatter to all parts of France and start tomorrow for the base ports and Luxembourg, where we will be a salvage outfit, be made into a doughboy unit, do M. P. duty and parade in Paris.
Everything possible is being done to get us into the Army of Occupation and sail for home at once. All the officers are signing "Yes" to the questionnaire regarding their willingness to remain in the military service and scrambling over each other to get out of the army.
But ours is the most splendid regiment in the army and its personnel is the finest set of Americans in the world. The last is no rumor! ---Frank Kunert of "A" Battery, with apologies to "The Highwayman."