WHENEVER I think of San Antonio and Fort Sam Houston, the perfume of the wood violet which blossomed in mid-winter along the borders of our lawn, and the delicate odor of the Cape jessamine, seem to be wafted about me.
Fort Sam Houston is the Headquarters of the Department of Texas, and all the Staff officers live there, in comfortable stone houses, with broad lawns shaded by chinaberry trees. Then at the top of the hill is a great quadrangle, with a clock tower and all the department offices. On the other side of this quadrangle is the post, where the line officers live.
General Stanley commanded the Department. A fine, dignified and able man, with a great record as an Indian fighter. Jack knew him well, as he had been with him in the first preliminary survey for the northern Pacific Railroad, when he drove old Sitting Bull back to the Powder River.
He was now about to reach the age of retirement; and as the day approached, that day when a man has reached the limit of his usefulness (in the opinion of an ever-wise Government), that day which sounds the knell of active service, that day so dreaded and yet so longed for, that day when an army officer is sixty-four
Now on the other side of the great quadrangle lay the post, where were the soldiers' barracks and quarters of the line officers. This was commanded by Colonel Coppinger, a gallant officer, who had fought in many wars in many countries.
He had his famous regiment, the Twenty-third. Infantry, and many were the pleasant dances and theatricals we had, with the music furnished by their band; for, as it was a time of peace, the troops were all in garrison.
My husband, being a Captain and Quartermaster, served directly under General George H. Weeks, who was Chief Quartermaster of the Department, and I can never forget his kindness to us both. He was one of the best men I ever knew, in the army or out of it, and came to be one of my dearest friends. He possessed the sturdy qualities of his Puritan ancestry, united with the charming manners of an aristocrat.
We belonged, of course, now, with the Staff, and something, an intangible something, seemed to have gone out of the life. The officers were all older, and the Staff uniforms were more sombre. I missed the
One day, I accidentally caught a side view of myself in a long mirror (long mirrors had not been very plentiful on the frontier), and was appalled by the fact that my own lines corresponded but too well, alas! with those of the Staff. Ah, me! were the days, then, of Lieutenants forever past and gone? The days of suppleness and youth, the careless gay days, when there was no thought for the future, no anxiety
Major Burbank's battery of light artillery came over and enlivened the quiet of our post occasionally with their brilliant red color. At those times, we all went out and stood in the music pavilion to watch the drill; and when his horses and guns and caissons thundered down the hill and swept by us at a terrific gallop, our hearts stood still. Even the dignified Staff permitted themselves a thrill, and as for the women, our excitement knew no bounds.
In San Antonio, the New has almost obliterated the Old, and little remains except its pretty green river, its picturesque bridges, and the historic Alamo, to mark it from other cities in the Southwest.
In the late afternoon, everybody drove to the Plaza, where all the country people were selling their garden-stuff and poultry in the open square. This was charming, and we all bought live fowl and drove home again. One heard cackling and gobbling from the smart traps and victorias, and it seemed to be a survival of an old custom. The whole town took a drive after that, and supped at eight o'clock.
After I settled down to the sedateness which is supposed to belong to the Staff, I began to enjoy life very much. There is compensation for every loss, and I found, with the new friends, many of whom had lived their lives, and had known sorrow and joy, a true companionship which enriched my life, and filled the days with gladness.
My son had completed the High School course in San Antonio, under an able German master, and had been sent East to prepare for the Stevens Institute of Technology, and in the following spring I took my daughter Katharine and fled from the dreaded heat of a Texas summer. Never can I forget the child's grief on parting from her Texas pony. She extorted a solemn promise from her father, who was obliged to stay in Texas, that he would never part with him.
My brother, then unmarried, and my sister Harriet were living together in New Rochelle and to them we went. Harry's vacation enabled him to be with us, and we had a delightful summer. It was good to be on the shores of Long Island Sound.
Shortly after that, Captain Jack was ordered to David's Island, New York Harbor (now called Fort Slocum), where we spent four happy and uninterrupted years, in the most constant intercourse with my dear brother and sister.
David's Island was then an Artillery Post, and there were several batteries stationed there. (Afterwards it became a recruiting station.) The garrison was often entirely changed. At one time, General Henry C. Cook was in command. He and his charming Southern wife added so much to the enjoyment of the post. Then came our old friends the Van Vliets of Santa FÉ days; and Dr. and Mrs. Valerie Havard, who are so well known in the army, and then Colonel Carl Woodruff and Mrs. Woodruff, whom we all liked so much, and dear Doctor Julian Cabell, and others, who completed a delightful garrison.
Jefferson Barracks is an old and historic post on the Mississippi River, some ten miles south of St. Louis. I could not seem to take any interest in the post or in the life there. I could not form new ties so quickly, after our life on the coast, and I did not like the Missisippi Valley, and St. Louis was too far from the post, and the trolley ride over there too disagreeable for words. After seven months of just existing (on my part) at Jefferson Barracks, Jack received an order for Fort Myer, the end, the aim,
We lost no time in getting there and were soon settled in our pleasant quarters. There was some building to be done, but the duty was comparatively light, and we entered with considerable zest into the social life of the Capital. We expected to remain there for two years, at the end of which time Captain Summerhayes would be retired and Washington would be our permanent home.
But alas! our anticipation was never to be realized, for, as we all know, in May of 1898, the Spanish War broke out, and my husband was ordered to New York City to take charge of the Army Transport Service, under Colonel Kimball.
The young Cavalry officers came in to say good-bye to Captain Jack: every one was busy packing up his belongings for an indefinite period and preparing for the field. We all felt the undercurrent of sadness and uncertainty, but “a good health” and “happy return” was drunk all around, and Jack departed at midnight for his new station and new duties.
My sister Harriet, who was visiting us at that time, returned from her morning walk, and as she stepped upon the porch, she said: ‘‘“Well! of all lonesome places I ever saw, this is the worst yet. I am going to pack my trunk and leave. I came to visit an army post, but not an old women's home or an orphan asylum: that is about all this place is now. I simply cannot stay!”’’
That summer gave Jack his promotion to a Major, but the anxiety and the terrible strain of official work broke down his health entirely, and in the following winter the doctors sent him to Florida, to recuperate.
After six weeks in St. Augustine, we returned to New York. The stress of the war was over; the Major was ordered to Governor's Island as Chief Quartermaster, Department of the East, and in the following
I was glad to rest from the incessant changing of stations; the life had become irksome to me, in its perpetual unrest. I was glad to find a place to lay my head, and to feel that we were not under orders; to find and to keep a roof-tree, under which we could abide forever.
In 1903, by an act of Congress, the veterans of the Civil War, who had served continuously for thirty years or more were given an extra grade; so now my hero wears with complacency the silver leaf of the Lieutenant-Colonel, and is enjoying the quiet life of a civilian in a conservative old New England city.
But that fatal spirit of unrest from which I thought to escape, and which ruled my life for so many years, sometimes asserts its power, and at those times my thoughts turn back to the days when we were all Lieutenants together, marching across the deserts and mountains of Arizona; back to my friends of the Eighth Infantry, that historic regiment, whose officers and men fought before the walls of Chapultepec and Mexico; back to my friends of the Sixth Cavalry, to the days at Camp MacDowell, where we slept under the stars, and watched the sun rise from behind the Four Peaks of the MacDowell Mountains: where we rode the big cavalry horses over the sands of the Maricopa desert, swung in our hammocks under the ramádas; swam in the red waters of the Verde River,
The old post is long since abandoned, but the Four Peaks still stand, wrapped in their black shadows by night, and their purple colors by day, waiting for the passing of the Apache and the coming of the white man, who shall dig his canals in those arid plains, and build his cities upon the ruins of the ancient Aztec dwellings.
My early experiences were unusually rough. None of us seek such experiences, but possibly they bring with them a sort of recompense, in that simple comforts afterwards seem, by contrast, to be the greatest luxuries.
I am glad to have known the army: the soldiers, the line, and the Staff; it is good to think of honor and chivalry, obedience to duty, and the pride of arms; to have lived amongst men whose motives were unselfish and whose aims were high; amongst men who served an ideal; who stood ready, at the call of their country, to give their lives for a Government which is, to them, the best in the world.
Sometimes I hear the still voices of the Desert: they seem to be calling me through the echoes of the Past. I hear, in fancy, the wheels of the ambulance crunching the small broken stones of the malapais, or grating swiftly over the gravel of the smooth white roads of the river-bottoms. I hear the rattle of the ivory rings on the harness of the six-mule team; I see the soldiers marching on ahead; I see my white tent, so inviting after a long day's journey.