Thursday, June 19, 2008

1918 - "And now comes the Draft"

A wave of patriotism had swept the United States after it entered World War I in April 1917, and African Americans were eager to be part of the war effort. Teddy's brother, Robbie, had gone to the Colored Officers Training Camp in Iowa, where he contracted tuberculosis. After returning home to Charleston, he passed the disease to Marie.

In an effort to spare two-year-old Gussie's health, Robbie and Marie sent her to live with her two bachelor uncles, Teddy and Moultrie, in their apartment on the third floor of the funeral home at 121 Calhoun Street.

Teddy, as head of the local NAACP, had helped the Army recruit black soldiers, and he wanted to enlist, as well. This thought sent Tantie into a panic. She had fallen in love with Teddy the moment they met five years earlier and had waited for a proposal ever since. If he joined the Army, she dreaded what might happen to him.

101 Hill St. Asheville, N.C.
Sept. 2, 1918

My dear Ted,
Your letter this morning surprised me a little. Like you, I have not written because there was nothing to say, at least what I would say would not be what I would want to say and I am sure you know what a task it is to keep one’s thoughts from invading ones letters. ...

And now comes the Draft.

The winter we were in New York I had reason to believe we would by this time be "next door to heaven." Christmas coming makes two years we have surely lost. There are only a few months left – and you may be] gone – forever. And I?

... Rob’s improvement has been wonderful. Dr. Walker says if he will only keep good habits – eat well, stay out of doors as much as possible and don’t worry, he will very soon be as sound as a dollar. ...

How about myself, eh? Well how about me? You can answer that better than I. Honest. I can’t think of home & you without thinking of that horrid draft.

I surely don’t intend having you go to camp leaving me in Charleston. As near as I can figure it, if you & Moute pass, which I have no fear you will, Spring will find you in camp as they are planning to have this draft in France by June according to the latest report. Ted, is this the way?

This is why I have not written you before. Every few words I write, I must stop to choke down the sobs and smile so the rest won’t guess my thoughts. I had planned to go to the woods today to have a good cry out all alone. I’ll feel better when I do, so don’t mind.

... Sometimes I think I’ll not come home and sometimes I think I will. If I do come promise to see me every minute possible? Do!

What are you planning, Ted? Anything at all?

O well, if you’ll accept this as a letter, I shall expect to hear from you – sometime soon.

All join me in love to you, Capt. Katie, the kids & Moot.

Mamma told me of the melon you took for her and how much she enjoyed it.

Be good.


Teddy received a draft notice on October 12, 1918, but was disappointed that he was not called up. But during this period, he painted two war-themed canvasses, "The Gas Attack" and "The Dough Boy." When the war ended with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, it appeared Teddy would never get to Europe to see the great art museums, something he longed to experience.

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