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Title: The Conquest of America: A Romance of Disaster and Victory, U.S.A., 1921 A.D

Author: Cleveland Moffett

Release date: August 1, 2005 [eBook #8684]
Most recently updated: February 26, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Text file produced by Suzanne Shell, Beginners Projects, Mary Meehan
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

HTML file produced by David Widger



A Romance of Disaster and Victory: U.S.A., 1921 A. D.

By Cleveland Moffett

Based On Extracts From The Diary Of James E. Langston,
War Correspondent Of The “London Times”


Author Of “Through The Wall,” “The Battle,”
“Careers Of Danger And Daring,” Etc., Etc.































Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country; and a great nation shall be stirred up from the uttermost parts of the earth. They lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea, and they ride upon horses; every one set in array, as a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Zion.

Jeremiah 6: 22, 23.

  They seemed as men that lifted up
  Axes upon a thicket of trees.
  And now all the carved work thereof together
  They break down with hatchet and hammers.
  They have set thy sanctuary on fire;
  They have profaned the dwelling place of thy name even to the ground.
  They said in their heart, Let us make havoc of them altogether:
  They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

  Psalms 74: 5-8.

ILLUSTRATIONS (Not available in this edition)











The purpose of this story is to give an idea of what might happen to America, being defenceless as at present, if she should be attacked, say at the close of the great European war, by a mighty and victorious power like Germany. It is a plea for military preparedness in the United States.

As justifying this plea let us consider briefly and in a fair-minded spirit the arguments of our pacifist friends who, being sincerely opposed to military preparedness, would bring us to their way of thinking.

On June 10, 1915, in a statement to the American people, following his resignation as Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan said:

Some nation must lead the world out of the black night of war into the light of that day when “swords shall be beaten into plow-shares.” Why not make that honour ours? Some day—why not now?—the nations will learn that enduring peace cannot be built upon fear—that good-will does not grow upon the stalk of violence. Some day the nations will place their trust in love, the weapon for which there is no shield; in love, that suffereth long and is kind; in love, that is not easily provoked, that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; in love, which, though despised as weakness by the worshippers of Mars, abideth when all else fails.

These are noble words. They thrill and inspire us as they have thrilled and inspired millions before us, yet how little the world has seen of the actual carrying out of their beautiful message! The average individual in America still clings to whatever he has of material possessions with all the strength that law and custom give him. He keeps what he has and takes what he can honourably get, unconcerned by the fact that millions of his fellow men are in distress or by the knowledge that many of the rich whom he envies or honours may have gained their fortunes, privilege or power by unfair or dishonest means.

In every land there are similar extremes of poverty and riches, but these could not exist in a world governed by the law of love or ready to be so governed, since love would destroy the ugly train of hatreds, arrogances, miseries, injustices and crimes that spread before us everywhere in the existing social order and that only fail to shock us because we are accustomed to a regime in which self-interest rather than love or justice is paramount.

My point is that if individuals are thus universally, or almost universally, selfish, nations must also be selfish, since nations are only aggregations of individuals. If individuals all over the world to-day place the laws of possession and privilege and power above the law of love, then nations will inevitably do the same. If there is constant jealousy and rivalry and disagreement among individuals there will surely be the same among nations, and it is idle for Mr. Bryan to talk about putting our trust in love collectively when we do nothing of the sort individually. Would Mr. Bryan put his trust in love if he felt himself the victim of injustice or dishonesty?

Once in a century some Tolstoy tries to practise literally the law of love and non-resistance with results that are distressing to his family and friends, and that are of doubtful value to the community. We may be sure the nations of the world will never practise this beautiful law of love until average citizens of the world practise it, and that time has not come.

Of course, Mr. Bryan’s peace plan recognises the inevitability of quarrels or disagreements among nations, but proposes to have these settled by arbitration or by the decisions of an international tribunal, which tribunal may be given adequate police power in the form of an international army and navy.

It goes without saying that such a plan of world federation and world arbitration involves universal disarmament, all armies and all navies must be reduced to a merely nominal strength, to a force sufficient for police protection, but does any one believe that this plan can really be carried out? Is there the slightest chance that Russia or Germany will disarm? Is there the slightest chance that England will send her fleet to the scrap heap and leave her empire defenceless in order to join this world federation? Is there the slightest chance that Japan, with her dreams of Asiatic sovereignty, will disarm?

And if the thing were conceivable, what a grim federation this would be of jealousies, grievances, treacheries, hatreds, conflicting patriotisms and ambitions—Russia wanting Constantinople, France Alsace-Lorraine, Germany Calais, Spain Gibraltar, Denmark her ravished provinces, Poland her national integrity and so on. Who would keep order among the international delegates? Who would decide when the international judges disagreed? Who would force the international policemen to act against their convictions? Could any world tribunal induce the United States to limit her forces for the prevention of a yellow immigration from Asia?

General Homer Lea in “The Valour of Ignorance” says:

Only when arbitration is able to unravel the tangled skein of crime and hypocrisy among individuals can it be extended to communities and nations, as nations are only man in the aggregate, they are the aggregate of his crimes and deception and depravity, and so long as these constitute the basis of individual impulse, so long will they control the acts of nations.

Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard University and trustee of the Carnegie Peace Foundation, makes this admission in The Army and Navy Journal:

I regret to say that international or national disarmament is not taken seriously by the leaders and thinking men of the more important peoples, and I fear that for one reason or another neither the classes nor the masses have much admiration for the idea or would be willing to do their share to bring it about.

Here is the crux of the question, the earth has so much surface and to-day this is divided up in a certain way by international frontiers. Yesterday it was divided up in a different way. To-morrow it will again be divided up in a new way, unless some world federation steps in and says: “Stop! There are to be no more wars. The present frontiers of the existing fifty-three nations are to be considered as righteously and permanently established. After this no act of violence shall change them.”

Think what that would mean! It would mean that nations like Russia, Great Britain and the United States, which happened to possess vast dominions when this world federation peace plan was adopted would continue to possess vast dominions, while other nations like Italy, Greece, Turkey, Holland, Sweden, France, Spain (all great empires once), Germany and Japan, whose present share of the earth’s surface might be only one-tenth or one-fiftieth or one-five-hundredth as great as Russia’s share or Great Britain’s share, would be expected to remain content with that small portion.

Impossible! These less fortunate, but not less aspiring nations would never agree to such a policy of national stagnation, to such a stifling of their legitimate longings for a “greater place in the sun.” They would point to the pages of history and show how small nations have become great and how empires have fallen. What was the mighty United States of America but yesterday? A handful of feeble colonies far weaker than the Balkan States to-day.

“Why should this particular moment be chosen,” they would protest, “to render immovable international frontiers that have always been shifting? Why should the maps of the world be now finally crystallised so as to give England millions of square miles in every quarter of the globe, Canada, Australia, India, Egypt, while we possess so little? Did God make England so much better than he made us? Why should the Russian Empire sweep across two continents while our territory is crowded into a corner of one? Is Russia so supremely deserving? And why should the United States possess as much of the earth’s surface as Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Japan all together and, besides that, claim authority to say, through the Monroe Doctrine, what shall happen or shall not happen in South America, Mexico, the West Indies and the Pacific? How did the United States get this authority and this vast territory? How did Russia get her vast territory? How did England get her vast territory?”

The late Professor J. A. Cramb, an Englishman himself, gives us one answer in his powerful and illuminating book, “Germany and England,” and shows us how England, in the view of many, got her possessions:

England! The successful burglar, who, an immense fortune amassed, has retired from business, and having broken every law, human and divine, violated every instinct of honour and fidelity on every sea and on every continent, desires now the protection of the police!... So long as England, the great robber-state, retains her booty, the spoils of a world, what right has she to expect peace from the nations?

In reply to Mr. Bryan’s peace exhortations, some of the smaller but more efficient world powers, certainly Germany and Japan, would recall similar cynical teachings of history and would smilingly answer: “We approve of your beautiful international peace plan, of your admirable world police plan, but before putting it into execution, we prefer to wait a few hundred years and see if we also, in the ups and downs of nations, cannot win for ourselves, by conquest or cunning or other means not provided for in the law of love, a great empire covering a vast portion of the earth’s surface.”

The force and justice of this argument will be appreciated, to use a homely comparison, by those who have studied the psychology of poker games and observed the unvarying willingness of heavy winners to end the struggle after a certain time, while the losers insist upon playing longer.

It will be the same in this international struggle for world supremacy, the only nations willing to stop fighting will be the ones that are far ahead of the game, like Great Britain, Russia and the United States.

We may be sure that wars will continue on the earth. War may be a biological necessity in the development of the human race—God’s housecleaning, as Ella Wheeler Wilcox calls it. War may be a great soul stimulant meant to purge mankind of evils greater than itself, evils of baseness and world degeneration. We know there are blighted forests that must be swept clean by fire. Let us not scoff at such a theory until we understand the immeasurable mysteries of life and death. We know that, through the ages, two terrific and devastating racial impulses have made themselves felt among men and have never been restrained, sex attraction and war. Perhaps they were not meant to be restrained.

Listen to John Ruskin, apostle of art and spirituality:

All the pure and noble arts of peace are founded on war. No great art ever rose on earth but among a nation of soldiers. There is no great art possible to a nation but that which is based on battle. When I tell you that war is the foundation of all the arts, I mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and faculties of men. It was very strange for me to discover this, and very dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact. The common notion that peace and the virtues of civil life flourished together I found to be utterly untenable. We talk of peace and learning, of peace and plenty, of peace and civilisation; but I found that these are not the words that the Muse of History coupled together; that on her lips the words were peace and sensuality, peace and selfishness, peace and death. I found in brief that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted in peace; taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace.

We know Bernhardi’s remorseless views taken from Treitschke and adopted by the whole German nation:

“War is a fiery crucible, a terrible training school through which the world has grown better.”

In his impressive work, “The Game of Empires,” Edward S. Van Zile quotes Major General von Disfurth, a distinguished retired officer of the German army, who chants so fierce a glorification of war for the German idea, war for German Kultur, war at all costs and with any consequences that one reads with a shudder of amazement:

Germany stands as the supreme arbiter of her own methods. It is of no consequence whatever if all the monuments ever created, all the pictures ever painted, and all the buildings ever erected by the great architects of the world be destroyed, if by their destruction we promote Germany’s victory over her enemies. The commonest, ugliest stone that marks the burial place of a German grenadier is a more glorious and venerable monument than all the cathedrals of Europe put together. They call us barbarians. What of it? We scorn them and their abuse. For my part, I hope that in this war we have merited the title of barbarians. Let neutral peoples and our enemies cease their empty chatter, which may well be compared to the twitter of birds. Let them cease to talk of the cathedral of Rheims and of all the churches and all the castles in France which have shared its fate. These things do not interest us. Our troops must achieve victory. What else matters?

Obviously there are cases where every noble sentiment would impel a nation to go to war. A solemn promise broken, a deliberate insult to the flag, an act of intolerable bullying, some wicked purpose of self-aggrandisement at the expense of weaker nations, anything, in short, that flaunted the national honour or imperilled the national integrity would be a call to war that must be heeded by valiant and high-souled citizens, in all lands. Nor can we have any surety against such wanton international acts, so long as the fate of nations is left in the hands of small autocracies or military and diplomatic cliques empowered to act without either the knowledge or approval of the people. Wars will never be abolished until the war-making power is taken from the few and jealously guarded by the whole people, and only exercised after public discussion of the matters at issue and a public understanding of inevitable consequences. At present it is evident that the pride, greed, madness of one irresponsible King, Emperor, Czar, Mikado or President may plunge the whole world into war-misery that will last for generations.

There are other cases where war is not only inevitable, but actually desirable from a standpoint of world advantage. Imagine a highly civilised and progressive nation, a strong prosperous nation, wisely and efficiently governed, as may be true, some day, of the United States of America. Let us suppose this nation to be surrounded by a number of weak and unenlightened states, always quarrelling, badly and corruptly managed, like Mexico and some of the Central American republics. Would it not be better for the world if this strong, enlightened nation took possession of its backward neighbours, even by force of arms, and taught them how to live and how to make the best of their neglected resources and possibilities? Would not these weak nations be more prosperous and happier after incorporation with the strong nation? Is not Egypt better off and happier since the British occupation? Were not the wars that created united Italy and united Germany justified? Does any one regret our civil war? It was necessary, was it not?

Similarly it is better for the world that we fought and conquered the American Indians and took their land to use it, in accordance with our higher destiny, for greater and nobler purposes than they could either conceive of or execute. It is better for the world that by a revolution (even a disingenuous one) we took Panama from incompetent Colombians and, by our intelligence, our courage and our vast resources, changed a fever-ridden strip of jungle into a waterway that now joins two oceans and will save untold billions for the commerce of the earth.

Carrying a step farther this idea of world efficiency through war, it is probable that future generations will be grateful to some South American nation, perhaps Brazil, or Chile or the Argentine Republic, that shall one day be wise and strong enough to lay the foundations on the field of battle (Mr. Bryan may think this could be accomplished by peaceful negotiations, but he is mistaken) for the United States of South America.

And why not ultimately the United States of Europe, the United States of Asia, the United States of Africa, all created by useful and progressive wars? Consider the increased efficiency, prosperity and happiness that must come through such unions of small nations now trying separately and ineffectively to carry on multiple activities that could be far better carried on collectively. Our American Union, born of war, proves this, does it not?

“United we stand, divided we fall,” applies not merely to states, counties and townships, but to nations, to empires, to continents. Continents will be the last to join hands across the seas (having first waged vast inter-continental wars) and then, after the rise and fall of many sovereignties, there will be established on the earth the last great government, the United States of the World!

That is the logical limit of human activities. Are we not all citizens of the earth, descended from the same parents, born with the same needs and capacities? Why should there be fifty-three barriers dividing men into fifty-three nations? Why should there be any other patriotism than world patriotism? Or any other government than one world government?

When this splendid ultimate consummation has been achieved, after ages of painful evolution (we must remember that the human race is still in its infancy) our remote descendants, united in language, religion and customs, with a great world representative government finally established and the law of love prevailing, may begin preparations for a grand world celebration of the last war. Say, in the year A.D. 2921!

But not until then!

If this reasoning is sound, if war must be regarded, for centuries to come, as an inevitable part of human existence, then let us, as loyal Americans, realise that, hate war as we may, there is only way in which the United States can be insured against the horrors of armed invasion, with the shame of disastrous defeat and possible dismemberment, and that is by developing the strength and valiance to meet all probable assailants on land or sea.

Whether we like it or not we are a great world power, fated to become far greater, unless we throw away our advantages; we must either accept the average world standards, which call for military preparedness, or impose new standards upon a world which concedes no rights to nations that have not the might to guard and enforce those rights.

Why should we Americans hesitate to pay the trifling cost of insurance against war? Trifling? Yes. The annual cost of providing and maintaining an adequate army and navy would be far less than we spend every year on tobacco and alcohol. Less than fifty cents a month from every citizen would be sufficient. That amount, wisely expended, would enormously lessen the probability of war and would allow the United States, if war came, to face its enemies with absolute serenity. The Germans are willing to pay the cost of preparedness. So are the French, the Italians, the Japanese, the Swiss, the Balkan peoples, the Turks. Do we love our country less than they do? Do we think our institutions, our freedom less worthy than theirs of being guarded for posterity?

Why should we not adopt a system of military training something like the one that has given such excellent results in Switzerland? Why not cease to depend upon our absurd little standing army which, for its strength and organisation, is frightfully expensive and absolutely inadequate, and depend instead upon a citizenry trained and accustomed to arms, with a permanent body of competent officers, at least 50,000, whose lives would be spent in giving one year military training to the young men of this nation, all of them, say between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three, so that these young men could serve their country efficiently, if the need arose? Why not accept the fact that it is neither courageous nor democratic for us to depend upon hired soldiers to defend our country?

Does any one doubt that a year of such military training would be of lasting benefit to the men of America? Would it not school them in much-needed habits of discipline and self-control, habits which must be learned sooner or later if a man is to succeed? Would not the open air life, the physical exercise, the regularity of hours tend to improve their health and make them better citizens?

Suppose that once every five years all American men up to fifty were required to go into military camp and freshen up on their defence duties for twenty or thirty days. Would that do them any harm? On the contrary, it would do them immense good.

And even if war never came, is it not evident that America would benefit in numberless ways by such a development of the general manhood spirit? Who can say how much of Germany’s greatness in business and commerce, in the arts and sciences, is due to the fact that all her men, through military schooling, have learned precious lessons in self-control and obedience?

The pacifists tell us that after the present European war, we shall have nothing to fear for many years from exhausted Europe, but let us not be too sure of that. History teaches that long and costly wars do not necessarily exhaust a nation or lessen its readiness to undertake new wars. On the contrary, the habit of fighting leads easily to more fighting. The Napoleonic wars lasted over twenty years. At the close of our civil war we had great generals and a formidable army of veteran soldiers and would have been willing and able immediately to engage in a fresh war against France had she not yielded to our demand and withdrawn Maximilian from Mexico. Bulgaria recently fought two wars within a year, the second leaving her exhausted and prostrate; yet within two years she was able to enter upon a third war stronger than ever.

If Germany wins in the present great conflict she may quite conceivably turn to America for the vast money indemnity that she will be unable to exact from her depleted enemies in Europe; and if Germany loses or half loses she may decide to retrieve her desperate fortunes in this tempting and undefended field. With her African empire hopelessly lost to her, where more naturally than to facile America will she turn for her coveted place in the sun?

And if not Germany, it may well be some other great nation that will attack us. Perhaps Great Britain! Especially if our growing merchant marine threatens her commercial supremacy of the sea, which is her life. Perhaps Japan! whose attack on Germany in 1914 shows plainly that she merely awaits favourable opportunity to dispose of any of her rivals in the Orient. Let us bear in mind that, in the opinion of the world’s greatest authorities, we Americans are to-day totally unprepared to defend ourselves against a first-class foreign power. My story aims to show this, and high officers in our army and navy, who have assisted me in the preparation of this book and to whom I am grateful, assure me that I have set forth the main facts touching our military defencelessness without exaggeration. C. M.



In my thirty years’ service as war correspondent of the London Times I have looked behind the scenes of various world happenings, and have known the thrill of personally facing some great historic crises; but there is nothing in my experience so dramatic, so pregnant with human consequences, as the catastrophe of April 27, 1921, when the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal were destroyed by dynamite.

At that moment I was seated on the shaded, palm-bordered piazza of the Grand Hotel at Colon, discussing with Rear-Admiral Thomas Q. Allyn of the United States Navy the increasing chances that America might find herself plunged into war with Japan. For weeks the clouds had been darkening, and it was now evident that the time had come when the United States must either abandon the Monroe Doctrine and the open door in China, or fight to maintain these doctrines.

“Mr. Langston,” the Admiral was saying, “the situation is extremely grave. Japan intends to carry out her plans of expansion in Mexico and China, and possibly in the Philippines; there is not a doubt of it. Her fleet is cruising somewhere in the Pacific,—we don’t know where,—and our Atlantic fleet passed through the Canal yesterday, as you know, to make a demonstration of force in the Pacific and to be ready for—for whatever may come.”

His hands closed nervously, and he studied the horizon with half-shut eyes.

In the course of our talk Admiral Allyn had admitted that the United States was woefully unprepared for conflict with a great power, either on sea or land.

“The blow will be struck suddenly,” he went on, “you may be sure of that. Our military preparations are so utterly inadequate that we may suffer irreparable harm before we can begin to use our vast resources. You know when Prussia struck Austria in 1866 the war was over in three months. When Germany struck France in 1870 the decisive battle, Sedan, was fought forty-seven days later. When Japan struck Russia, the end was foreseen within four or five months.”

“It wasn’t so in the great European war,” I remarked.

“Why not? Because England held the mastery of the sea. But we hold the mastery of nothing. Our fleet is barely third among the nations and we are frightfully handicapped by our enormous length of coast line and by this canal.”

“The Canal gives us a great advantage, doesn’t it? I thought it doubled the efficiency of our fleet?”

“It does nothing of the sort. The Canal may be seized. It may be put out of commission for weeks or months by landslides or earthquakes. A few hostile ships of the Queen Elizabeth class lying ten miles off shore at either end, with ranges exactly fixed, or a good shot from an aeroplane, could not only destroy the Canal’s insufficient defences, but could prevent our fleet from coming through, could hold it, useless, in the Atlantic when it might be needed to save California or useless in the Pacific when it might be needed to save New York. If it happened when war began that one half of our fleet was in the Atlantic and the other half in the Pacific, then the enemy could keep these two halves separated and destroy them one by one.”

“I suppose you mean that we need two fleets?”

“Of course we do—a child can see it—if we are to guard our two seaboards. We must have a fleet in the Atlantic strong enough to resist any probable attack from the East, and another fleet in the Pacific strong enough to resist any probable attack from the West.

“But listen to this, think of this,” the veteran warrior leaned towards me, shaking an eager fore-finger. “At the present moment our entire fleet, if massed off Long Island, would be inferior to a fleet that Germany could send across the Atlantic against us by many ships, many submarines and many aeroplanes. And hopelessly inferior in men and ammunition, including torpedoes.”

As I listened I felt myself falling under the spell of the Admiral’s eloquence. He was so sure of what he said. These dangers unquestionably existed, but—were they about to descend upon America? Must we really face the horrors of a war of invasion?

“Your arguments are very convincing, sir, and yet—” I hesitated.


“You speak as if these things were going to happen right now, but there are no signs of war, no clouds on the horizon.”

The Admiral waved this aside with an impatient gesture.

“I tell you the blow will come suddenly. Were there any clouds on the European horizon in July, 1914? Yet a few persons knew, just as I have known for months, that war was inevitable.”

“Known?” I repeated.

Very deliberately the grizzled sea fighter lighted a fresh cigar before replying.

“Mr. Langston, I’ll tell you a little story that explains why I am posing as a prophet. You can put it in your memoirs some day—if my prophecy comes true. It’s the story of an American naval officer, a young lieutenant, who—well, he went wrong about a year ago. He got into the clutches of a woman spy in the employ of a foreign government. He met this woman in Marseilles on our last Mediterranean cruise and fell in love with her—hopelessly. She’s one of those devilish sirens that no full-blooded man can resist and, the extraordinary part of it is, she fell in love with him—genuinely in love.

“Well—it was a bad business. This officer gave the woman all he had, told her all he knew, and finally he asked her to marry him. Yes. He didn’t care what she was. He just wanted her. And she was so happy, so crazy about him, that she almost yielded; she was ready to turn over a new leaf, to settle down as his wife, but—”

“But she didn’t do it?” I smiled.

The Admiral shook his head.

“He was a poor man—just a lieutenant’s pay and she couldn’t give up her grand life. But she loved him enough to try to save him, enough to leave him. She wrote him a wonderful letter, poured her soul out to him, gave him certain military secrets of the government she was working for—they would have shot her in a minute, you understand, if they had known it—and she told him to take this information as a proof of her love and use it to save the United States.”

I was listening now with absorbed interest.

“What government was she working for?”

The Admiral paused to relight his cigar.

“Wait! The next thing was that this lieutenant came to me, as a friend of his father and an admiral of the American fleet, and made a clean breast of everything. He made his confession in confidence, but asked me to use the knowledge as I saw fit without mentioning his name. I did use it and”—the Admiral’s frown deepened—“the consequence was no one believed me. They said the warning was too vague. You know the attitude of recent administrations towards all questions of national defence. It’s always politics before patriotism, always the fear of losing middle west pacifist votes. It’s disgusting—horrible!”

“Was the warning really vague?”

“Vague. My God!” The old sea dog bounded from his chair. “I’ll tell you how vague it was. A statement was definitely made that before May 1, 1921, a great foreign power would make war upon the United States and would begin by destroying the Panama Canal. To-day is April 27, 1921. I don’t say these things are going to happen within three days but, Mr. Langston, as purely as the sun shines on that ocean, we Americans are living in a fool’s paradise. We are drunk with prosperity. We are deaf and blind to the truth which is known to other nations, known to our enemies, known to the ablest officers in our army and navy.

“The truth is that, as a nation, we have learned nothing from our past wars because we have never had to fight a first-class power that was prepared. But the next war, and it is surely coming, will find us held in the grip of an inexorable law which provides that nations imitating the military policy of China must suffer the fate of China.”

The Admiral now explained why he had sent for me. It was to suggest that I cable the London Times, urging my paper to use its influence, through British diplomatic channels, to avert another great war. I pointed out that the chances of such intervention were slight. Great Britain was still smarting under the memory of Americans’ alleged indifference to everything but money in 1918 when the United States stood by, unprotesting, and saw England stripped of her mastery of the sea after the loss of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.

“There are two sides to that,” frowned the Admiral, “but one thing is certain—it’s England or no one. We have nothing to hope for from Russia; she has what she wants—Constantinople. Nothing to hope for from France; she has her lost provinces back. And as for Germany—Germany is waiting, recuperating, watching her chance for a place in the South American sun.”

“Germany managed well in the Geneva Peace Congress of 1919,” I said.

The veteran of Manila threw down his cigarette impatiently.

“Bismarck could have done no better. They bought off Europe, they crippled England and—they isolated America.”

“By the way,” continued the Admiral, “I must show you some things in my scrap book. You will be astonished. Wait a minute. I’ll get it.”

The old fellow hurried off and presently returned with a heavy volume bound in red leather.

“Take it up to your room to-night and look it over. You will find the most overwhelming mass of testimony to the effect that to-day, in spite of all that has been said and written and all the money spent, the United States is totally unprepared to defend its coasts or uphold its national honour. Just open the book anywhere—you’ll see.”

I obeyed and came upon this statement by Theodore Roosevelt:

What befell Antwerp and Brussels will surely some day befall New York or San Francisco, and may happen to many an inland city also, if we do not shake off our supine folly, if we trust for safety to peace treaties unbacked by force.

“Pretty strong words for an ex-President of the United States to be using,” nodded the Admiral. “And true! Try another place.”

I did so and came upon this from the pen of Gerhard von Schulze-Gaevernitz, professor of political economy at the University of Freiburg and a member of the Reichstag:

Flattered and deftly lulled to sleep by British influence, public opinion in the United States will not wake up until the ‘yellow New England’ of the Orient, nurtured and deflected from Australia by England herself, knocks at the gates of the new world. Not a patient and meek China, but a warlike and conquest-bound Japan will be the aggressor when that day comes. Then America will be forced to fight under unfavourable conditions.

The famous campaigner’s eyes flashed towards the Pacific.

“When that day comes! Ah! Speaking of Japan,” he turned over the pages in nervous haste. “Here we are! You can see how much the Japanese love us! Listen! This is an extract from the most popular book in Japan to-day. It is issued by Japan’s powerful and official National Defence Association with a view to inflaming the Japanese people against the United States and preparing them for a war of invasion against this country. Listen to this:

“Let America beware! For our cry, ‘On to California! On to Hawaii! On to the Philippines!’ is becoming only secondary to our imperial anthem!... To arms! We must seize our standards, unfurl them to the winds and advance without the least fear, as America has no army worthy the name, and with the Panama Canal destroyed, its few battleships will be of no use until too late.

“I tell you, Mr. Langston,” pursued the Admiral, “we Americans are to-day the most hated nation on earth. The richest, the most arrogant, the most hated nation on earth! And helpless! Defenceless! Believe me, that’s a bad combination. Look at this! Read this! It’s a cablegram to the New York Tribune, published on May 21, 1915, from Miss Constance Drexel, an American delegate to the Woman’s Peace Conference at The Hague:

“I have just come out of Germany and perhaps the predominating impression I bring with me is Germany’s hatred of America. Germany feels that war with America is only a matter of time. Everywhere I went I found the same sentiment, and the furthest distance away I found the war put was ten years. It was said to me: ‘We must settle with England first, but then will come America’s turn. If we don’t make war on you ourselves we will get Japan into a war with you, and then we will supply arms and munitions to Japan.’”

At this point, I remember, I had turned to order an orange liqueur, when the crash came.

It was terrific. Every window in the hotel was shattered, and some scores of labourers working near the Gatun Locks were killed instantly. Six hundred tons of dynamite, secreted in the hold of a German merchantman, had been exploded as the vessel passed through the locks, and ten thousand tons of Portland cement had sunk in the tangled iron wreck, to form a huge blockading mass of solid rock on the floor of the narrow passage.

Needless to say, every man on the German ship thus sacrificed died at his post.

The Admiral stared in dismay when the news was brought to him.

“Germany!” he muttered. “And our fleet is in the Pacific!”

“Does it mean war?” I asked.

“Yes, of course. Unquestionably it means war. We have been misled. We were thinking of one enemy, and we have been struck by another. We thought we could send our fleet through the Canal and get it back easily; but—now we cannot get it back for at least two months!”


A week later—or, to be exact, on May 4, 1921—I arrived in New York, following instructions from my paper, and found the city in a state of indescribable confusion and alarm.

War had been declared by Germany against the United States on the day that the Canal was wrecked, and German transports, loaded with troops and convoyed by a fleet of battleships, were known to be on the high seas, headed for American shores. As the Atlantic fleet had been cut off in the Pacific by that desperate piece of Panama strategy (the Canal would be impassable for months), it was evident that those ships could be of no service for at least eight weeks, the time necessary to make the trip through the Straits of Magellan; and meanwhile the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Florida was practically unguarded.

No wonder the newspapers shrieked despairingly and bitterly upbraided Congress for neglecting to provide the country with adequate naval defences.

Theodore Roosevelt came out with a signed statement:

“Four years ago I warned this country that the United States must have two great fleets—one for the Atlantic, one for the Pacific.”

Senator Smoot, in a sensational speech, referred to his vain efforts to secure for the country a fleet of fifty sea-going submarines and twenty-five coast-defence submarines. Now, he declared, the United States would pay for its indifference to danger.

In the House of Representatives, Gardner and Hobson both declared that our forts were antiquated, our coast-defence guns outranged, our artillery ridiculously insufficient, and our supply of ammunition not great enough to carry us through a single month of active warfare.

On the night of my arrival in Manhattan I walked through scenes of delirious madness. The town seemed to reel in a sullen drunkenness. Throngs filled the dark streets. The Gay White Way was no longer either white or gay. The marvellous electrical display of upper Broadway had disappeared—not even a street light was to be seen. And great hotels, like the Plaza, the Biltmore, and the new Morgan, formerly so bright, were scarcely discernible against the black skies. No one knew where the German airships might be. Everybody shouted, but nobody made very much noise. The city was hoarse. I remembered just how London acted the night the first Zeppelin floated over the town.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor McAneny appointed a Committee of Public Safety that went into permanent session in Madison Square Garden, which was thronged day and night, while excited meetings, addressed by men and women of all political parties, were held continuously in Union Square, City Hall Park, Columbus Circle, at the Polo Grounds and in various theatres and motion-picture houses.

Such a condition of excitement and terror necessarily led to disorder and on May 11, 1921, General Leonard Wood, in command of the Eastern Army, placed the city under martial law.

And now on every tongue were frantic questions. When would the Germans land? To-day? To-morrow? Where would they strike first? What were we going to do? Every one realised, when it was too late, the hopeless inadequacy of our aeroplane scouting service. To guard our entire Atlantic seaboard we had fifty military aeroplanes where we should have had a thousand and we were wickedly lacking in pilots. Oh, the shame of those days!

In this emergency Rodman Wanamaker put at the disposal of the government his splendid air yacht the America II, built on the exact lines of the America I, winner of across-the-Atlantic prizes in 1918, but of much larger spread and greater engine power. The America II could carry a useful load of five tons and in her scouting work during the next fortnight she accommodated a dozen passengers, four officers, a crew of six, and two newspaper men, Frederick Palmer, representing the Associated Press, and myself for the London Times.

What a tremendous thing it was, this scouting trip! Day after day, far out over the ocean, searching for German battleships! Our easy jog trot speed along the sky was sixty miles an hour and, under full engine pressure, the America II could make a hundred and twenty, which was lucky for us as it saved us many a time when the slower German aircraft came after us, spitting bullets from their machine guns.

On the morning of May 12, a perfect spring day, circling at a height of half a mile, about fifty miles off the eastern end of Long Island, we had our first view of the German fleet as it ploughed through smooth seas to the south of Montauk Point.

We counted eight battle cruisers, twelve dreadnoughts, ten pre-dreadnoughts, and about sixty destroyers, in addition to transports, food-ships, hospital-ships, repair-ships, colliers, and smaller fighting and scouting vessels, all with their full complement of men and equipment, moving along there below us in the pleasant sunshine. Among the troopships I made out the Kaiserin Auguste Luise and the Deutschland, on both of which I had crossed the summer following the Great Peace. I thought of the jolly old commander of the latter vessel and of the capital times we had had together at the big round table in the dining-saloon. It seemed impossible that this was war!

I subsequently learned that the original plan worked out by the German general staff contemplated a landing in the sheltered harbour of Montauk Point, but the lengthened range (21,000 yards) of mortars in the American forts on Fisher’s Island and Plum Island, a dozen miles to the north, now brought Montauk Point under fire, so the open shore south of East Hampton was substituted as the point of invasion.

“There’s no trouble about landing troops from the open sea in smooth weather like this,” said Palmer, speaking through his head-set. “We did it at Santiago, and the Japs did it at Port Arthur.”

“And the English did it at Ostend,” I agreed. “Hello!”

As I swept the sea to the west with my binoculars I thought I caught the dim shape of a submerged submarine moving slowly through the black depths like a hungry shark; but it disappeared almost immediately, and I was not sure. As a matter of fact, it was a submarine, one of six American under-water craft that had been assigned to patrol the south shore of Long Island.

The United States still had twenty-five submarines in Atlantic waters, in addition to thirty that were with the absent fleet; but these twenty-five had been divided between Boston Harbour, Narragansett Bay, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, and other vulnerable points, so that only six were left to defend the approaches to New York City. And, of these six, five were twenty-four hours late, owing, I heard later, to inexcusable delays at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where they had been undergoing repairs. The consequence was that only the K-2 was here to meet the German invasion—one lone submarine against a mighty fleet.

Still, under favourable conditions, one lone submarine is a force to be reckoned with, as England learned in 1915.

The K-2 attacked immediately, revealing her periscope for a minute as she took her observations. Then she launched a torpedo at a big German supply-ship not more than a thousand yards away.

“Good-bye, ship!” said Palmer, and we watched with fascinated interest the swift white line that marked the course of the torpedo. It struck the vessel squarely amidships, and she sank within five minutes, most of the men aboard being rescued by boats from the fleet.

It now went ill with the K-2, however; for, having revealed her presence, she was pursued by the whole army of swift destroyers. She dived, and came up again two miles to the east, bent on sinking a German dreadnought; but, unfortunately, she rose to the surface almost under the nose of one of the destroyers, which bombarded her with its rapid-fire guns, and then, when she sank once more, dropped on her a small mine that exploded under water with shattering effect, finishing her.

As I think it over, I feel sure that if those other five submarines had been ready with the K-2, we might have had another story to tell. Possibly the slowness of the Brooklyn Navy Yard—which is notorious, I understand—may have spoiled the one chance that America had to resist this invasion.

The next day the five tardy submarines arrived; but conditions were now less favourable, since the invaders had had time to prepare their defence against this under-water peril. As we flew over East Hampton on the following afternoon, we were surprised to see five fully inflated air-ships of the nonrigid Parseval type floating in the blue sky, like grim sentinels guarding the German fleet. Down through the sun-lit ocean they could see the shadowy underwater craft lurking in the depths, and they carried high explosives to destroy them.

“How about our aeroplanes?” grumbled Palmer.

“Look!” I answered, pointing toward the Shinnecock Hills, where some tiny specks appeared like soaring eagles. “They’re coming!”

The American aeroplanes, at least, were on time, and as they swept nearer we counted ten of them, and our spirits rose; for ten swift aeroplanes armed with explosive bombs can make a lot of trouble for slower and clumsier aircraft.

But alas for our hopes! The invaders were prepared also, and, before the American fliers had come within striking distance, they found themselves opposed by a score of military hydroplanes that rose presently, with a great whirring of propellers, from the decks of the German battle-ships. Had the Americans been able to concentrate here their entire force of fifty aeroplanes, the result might have been different; but the fifty had been divided along the Atlantic coast—ten aeroplanes and five submarines being assigned to each harbour that was to be defended.

Now came the battle. And for hours, until night fell, we watched a strange and terrible conflict between these forces of air and water. With admirable skill and daring the American aeronauts manoeuvred for positions above the Parsevals, whence they could drop bombs; and so swift and successful were they that two of the enemy’s air-ships were destroyed before the German aeroplanes really came into the action. After that it went badly for the American fliers, which were shot down, one by one, until only three of the ten remained. Then these three, seeing destruction inevitable, signalled for a last united effort, and, all together, flew at full speed straight for the great yellow gas-bag of the biggest Parseval and for certain death. As they tore into the flimsy air-ship there came a blinding flash, an explosion that shook the hills, and that brave deed was done.

There remained two Parsevals to aid the enemy’s fleet in its fight against American submarines, and I wish I might describe this fight in more detail. We saw a German transport torpedoed by the B-1; we saw two submarines sunk by rapid-fire guns of the destroyers; we saw a battle-cruiser crippled by the glancing blow of a torpedo; and we saw the K-1 blown to pieces by bombs from the air-ships. Two American submarines were still fighting, and of these one, after narrowly missing a dreadnought, sent a troop-ship to the bottom, and was itself rammed and sunk by a destroyer, the sea being spread with oil. The last submarine took to flight, it seems, because her supply of torpedoes was exhausted. And this left the invaders free to begin their landing operations.

During four wonderful days (the Germans were favoured by light northeast breezes) Palmer and I hovered over these East Hampton shores, watching the enemy construct their landing platforms of brick and timbers from dynamited houses, watching the black transports as they disgorged from lighters upon the gleaming sand dunes their swarms of soldiers, their thousands of horses, their artillery, their food supplies. There seemed no limit to what these mighty vessels could carry.

We agreed that the great 50,000-ton Imperator alone brought at least fifteen thousand men with all that they needed. And I counted twenty other huge transports; so my conservative estimate, cabled to the paper by way of Canada,—for the direct cables were cut,—was that in this invading expedition Germany had successfully landed on the shores of Long Island one hundred and fifty thousand fully equipped fighting-men. It seemed incredible that the great United States, with its vast wealth and resources, could be thus easily invaded; and I recalled with a pang what a miserable showing England had made in 1915 from similar unpreparedness.


As the German landing operations proceeded, the news of the invasion spread over the whole region with the speed of electricity, and in every town and village on Long Island angry and excited and terrified crowds cursed and shouted and wept in the streets.

The enemy was coming!

The enemy was here!

What was to be done?

Should they resist?

And many valorous speeches in the spirit of ‘76 were made by farmers and clerks and wild-eyed women. What was to be done?

In the peaceful town of East Hampton some sniping was done, and afterward bitterly repented of, the occasion being the arrival of a company of Uhlans with gleaming helmets, who galloped down the elm-lined main street with requisitions for food and supplies.

Suddenly a shot was fired from Bert Osborne’s livery stable, then another from White’s drug store, then several others, and one of the Uhlans reeled in his saddle, slightly wounded. Whereupon, to avenge this attack and teach Long Islanders to respect their masters, the German fleet was ordered to shell the village.

Half an hour later George Edwards, who was beating up the coast in his trim fishing schooner, after a two weeks’ absence in Barnegat Bay (he had heard nothing about the war with Germany), was astonished to see a German soldier in formidable helmet silhouetted against the sky on the eleventh tee of the Easthampton golf course, one of the three that rise above the sand dunes along the surging ocean, wigwagging signals to the warships off shore. And, presently, Edwards saw an ominous puff of white smoke break out from one of the dreadnoughts and heard the boom of a twelve-inch gun.

The first shell struck the stone tower of the Episcopal church and hurled fragments of it against the vine-covered cottage next door, which had been the home a hundred and twenty years before of John Howard Payne, the original “home sweet home.”

The second shell struck John Drew’s summer home and set it on fire; the third wrecked the Casino; the fourth destroyed Albert Herter’s studio and slightly injured Edward T. Cockcroft and Peter Finley Dunne, who were playing tennis on the lawn. That night scarcely a dozen buildings in this beautiful old town remained standing. And the dead numbered more than three hundred, half of them being women and children.


The next week was one of deep humiliation for the American people. Our great fleet and our great Canal, which had cost so many hundreds of millions and were supposed to guarantee the safety of our coasts, had failed us in this hour of peril.

Secretary Alger, in the Spanish War, never received half the punishment that the press now heaped on the luckless officials of the War and the Navy Departments.

The New York Tribune, in a scathing attack upon the administration, said:

The blow has fallen and the United States is totally unprepared to meet it. Why? Because the Democratic party, during its eight years’ tenure of office, has obstinately, stupidly and wickedly refused to do what was necessary to make this country safe against invasion by a foreign power. There has been a surfeit of talking, of explaining and of promising, but of definite accomplishment very little, and to-day, in our extreme peril, we find ourselves without an army or a navy that can cope with the invaders and protect our shores and our homes.

Richard Harding Davis, in the Evening Sun, denounced unsparingly those Senators and Congressmen who, in 1916, had voted against national preparedness:

For our present helpless condition and all that results from it, let the responsibility rest upon these Senators and Congressmen, who, for their own selfish ends, have betrayed the country. They are as guilty of treason as was ever Benedict Arnold. Were some of them hanged, the sight of them with their toes dancing on air might inspire other Congressmen to consider the safety of this country rather than their own re-election.

The New York World published a memorable letter written by Samuel J. Tilden in December, 1885, to Speaker Carlisle of the Forty-ninth Congress on the subject of national defence and pointed out that Mr. Tilden was a man of far vision, intellectually the foremost democrat of his day. In this letter Mr. Tilden said:

The property exposed to destruction in the twelve seaports, Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Galveston and San Francisco, cannot be less in value than five thousand millions of dollars.... While we may afford to be deficient in the means of offence we cannot afford to be defenceless. The notoriety of the fact that we have neglected the ordinary precautions of defence invites want of consideration in our diplomacy, injustice, arrogance and insult at the hands of foreign nations.

To add to the general indignation, it transpired that the American reserve fleet, consisting of ten predreadnoughts, was tied up in the docks of Philadelphia, unable to move for lack of officers and men to handle them. After frantic orders from Washington and the loss of precious days, some two thousand members of the newly organised naval reserve were rushed to Philadelphia; but eight thousand men were needed to move this secondary fleet, and, even if the eight thousand had been forthcoming, it would have been too late; for by this time a German dreadnought was guarding the mouth of Delaware Bay, and these inferior ships would never have braved its guns. So here were seventy-five million dollars’ worth of American fighting-ships rendered absolutely useless and condemned to be idle during the whole war because of bad organisation.

Meantime, the Germans were marching along the Motor Parkway toward New York City with an army of a hundred and fifty thousand, against which General Wood, by incredible efforts, was able to oppose a badly organised, inharmonious force of thirty thousand, including Federals and militia that had never once drilled together in large manoeuvres. Of Federal troops there was one regiment of infantry from Governor’s Island, and this was short of men. There were two infantry regiments from Forts Niagara and Porter, in New York State. Also a regiment of colored cavalry from Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, a battalion of field artillery from Fort Myer, Virginia, a battalion of engineers from Washington, D. C., a battalion of coast artillery organised as siege artillery from Fort Dupont, Delaware, a regiment of cavalry from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, two regiments of infantry from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, one regiment of field artillery from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, one regiment of horse artillery from Fort Riley, Kansas, one regiment of infantry and one regiment of mountain guns from Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming.

I may add that at this time the United States army, in spite of many efforts to increase its size, numbered fewer than 70,000 men; and so many of these were tied up as Coast Artillery or absent in the Philippines, Honolulu, and the Canal Zone, that only about 30,000 were available as mobile forces for the national defence.

As these various bodies of troops arrived in New York City and marched down Fifth Avenue with bands playing “Dixie” and colours flying, the excitement of cheering multitudes passed all description, especially when Theodore Roosevelt, in familiar slouch hat, appeared on a big black horse at the head of a hastily recruited regiment of Rough Riders, many of them veterans who had served under him in the Spanish War.

Governor Malone reviewed the troops from the steps of the new Court House and the crowd went wild when the cadets from West Point marched past, in splendid order. At first I shared the enthusiasm of the moment; but suddenly I realised how pathetic it all was and Palmer seemed to see that side of it, too, though naturally he and I avoided all discussion of the future. In addition to such portions of the regular army as General Wood could gather together, his forces were supplemented by infantry and cavalry brigades of militia from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, these troops being more or less unprepared for battle, more or less lacking in the accessories of battles, notably in field artillery and in artillery equipment of men and horses. One of the aides on General Wood’s staff told me that the combined American forces went into action with only one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery against four hundred pieces that the Germans brought.

“And the wicked part of it is,” he added, “that there were two hundred other pieces of artillery we might have used if we had had men and horses to operate them; but—you can’t make an artillery horse overnight.”

“Nor a gun crew,” said I.


To meet this desperate situation and the enemy’s greatly superior forces, General Wood decided not to advance against the Germans, but to intrench his army across the western end of Long Island, with his left flank resting on Fort Totten, near Bayside, and his nine-mile front extending through Creedmore, Rosedale, and Valley Stream, where his right flank would be guarded from sea attack by the big guns of Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, which would hold the German fleet at a distance.

Any military strategist will agree that this was the only course for the American commander to pursue under the circumstances; but unfortunately popular clamour will often have its way in republics, and in this case a violent three days’ gale—which arrived providentially, according to some of the newspapers—gave an appearance of reason to the general demand.

This gale interfered seriously with the German landing operations,—in fact, it wrecked one of their supply-ships,—and, in consequence, such strong political pressure was brought to bear upon the President that orders came from Washington to General Wood that he advance his army against the invaders and drive them into the sea. The General made a few remarks not for publication, and obeyed. As he told me afterward, it is doubtful whether the result would have been different in any event.

In throwing forward his forces, General Wood used the three lines of railroad that cross Long Island from west to east; and on May 17 his battleline reached from Patchogue through Holtsville to Port Jefferson. Meantime, the Germans had advanced to a line that extended from East Moriches to Manorville; and on May 18 the first clash came at daybreak in a fierce cavalry engagement fought at Yaphank, in which the enemy were driven back in confusion. It was first blood for the Americans.

This initial success, however, was soon changed to disaster. On May 19 the invaders advanced again, with strengthened lines, under the support of the big guns of their fleet, which stood offshore and, guided by aeroplane observers, rained explosive shells upon General Wood’s right flank with such accuracy that the Americans were forced to withdraw. Whereupon the Germans, using the famous hook formation that served them so well in their drive across northern France in the summer of 1914, pressed forward relentlessly, the fleet supporting them in a deadly flanking attack upon the American right wing.

On May 20 von Hindenburg established his headquarters at Forest Hills, where, less than a year before, his gallant countryman, the great Fraitzheim, had made an unsuccessful effort to wrest the Davis cup from the American champion and ex-champion, Murray and McLoughlin.

But that was a year ago!

In the morning General Wood’s forces continued to retreat, fighting with dogged courage in a costly rear-guard action, and destroying railroads and bridges as they went. The carnage wrought by the German six- and eleven-inch explosive shells with delayed-action fuses was frightful beyond anything I have ever known. Ten feet into the ground these projectiles would bury themselves before exploding, and then—well, no army could stand against them.

On May 22 General Wood was driven back to his original line of defences from Fort Totten to Valley Stream, where he now prepared to make a last stand to save Brooklyn, which stretched behind him with its peaceful spires and its miles of comfortable homes. Here the Americans were safe from the hideous pounding of the German fleet, and, although their losses in five days amounted to more than six thousand men, these had been replaced by reinforcements of militia from the West and South. There was still hope, especially as the Germans, once they advanced beyond Westbury and its famous polo fields, would come within range of the heavy mortars of Fort Totten and Fort Hamilton, which carried thirteen miles.

That night the German commander, General von Hindenburg, under a flag of truce, called upon the Americans to surrender in order to save the Borough of Brooklyn from destruction.

General Wood refused this demand; and on May 23, at dawn, under cover of his heavy siege-guns, von Hindenburg threw forward his veterans in terrific massed attack, striking simultaneously at three points with three army divisions—one in a drive to the right toward Fort Totten, one in a drive to the left toward Fort Hamilton, and one in a drive straight ahead against General Wood’s centre and the heart of Brooklyn.

All day the battle lasted—the battle of Brooklyn—with house-to-house fighting and repeated bayonet charges. And at night the invaders, outnumbering the American troops five to one, were everywhere victorious. The defender’s line broke first at Valley Stream, where the Germans, led by the famous Black Hussars, flung themselves furiously with cold steel upon the militiamen and put them to flight. By sundown the Uhlans were galloping, unopposed, along the broad sweep of the Eastern Parkway and parallel streets towards Prospect Park, where the high land offered an admirable site for the German artillery, since it commanded Fort Hamilton from the rear and the entire spread of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

It was now that Field Marshal von Hindenburg and his staff, speeding along the Parkway in dark grey military automobiles, witnessed a famous act of youthful heroism. As they swung across the Plaza to turn into Flatbush Avenue von Hindenburg ordered his chauffeur to slow up so that he might view the Memorial Arch and the MacMonnies statues of our Civil War heroes, and at this moment a sharp burst of rifle fire sounded across Prospect Park.

“What is that?” asked the commander, then he ordered a staff officer to investigate.

It appears that on this fateful morning five thousand American High School lads, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, members of the Athletic League of New York Public Schools, who had been trained in these schools to shoot accurately, had answered the call for volunteers and rallied to the defence of their city. By trolley, subway and ferry they came from all parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, Staten Island and the Bronx, eager to show what their months of work with subtarget gun machines, practice rods and gallery shooting, also their annual match on the Peekskill Rifle Range, would now avail against the enemy. But when they assembled on the Prospect Parade Ground, ready to do or die, they found that the entire supply of rifles for their use was one hundred and twenty-five! Seventy-five Krags, thirty Springfields and one hundred and twenty Winchesters, 22-calibre muskets—toys fit for shooting squirrels, and only a small supply of cartridges. The rifles available were issued to such of the boys as had won their badges of sharpshooter and marksman, two boys being assigned to each gun, so that if one was shot the other could go on fighting.

“It was pitiful,” said General George W. Wingate, President of the League, who was directing their movements, “to see the grief of those brave boys as they heard the German guns approaching and realised that they had nothing to fight with. Five thousand trained riflemen and no rifles!”

Nearer and nearer came the flanking force of the invading host and presently it reached the outskirts of this beautiful park, which with hill and lake and greensward covers five hundred acres in the heart of Brooklyn. A few boys were deployed as skirmishers along the eastern edge of the Park, but the mass occupied hastily dug trenches near the monument to the Maryland troops on Lookout Hill and the brass tablet that commemorate the battle of Long Island. At these historic points for half an hour they made a stand against a Bavarian regiment that advanced slowly under cover of artillery fire, not realising that they were sweeping to death a crowd of almost unarmed schoolboys.

Even so the Americans did deadly execution until their ammunition was practically exhausted. Then, seeing the situation hopeless, the head coaches, Emanuel Haug, John A. C. Collins, Donald D. Smith and Paul B. Mann, called for volunteers to hold the monument with the few remaining cartridges, while the rest of the boys retreated. Hundreds clamoured for this desperate honour, and finally the coaches selected seventy of those who had qualified as sharpshooters to remain and face almost certain death, among these being: Jack Condon of the Morris High School, J. Vernet (Manual Training), Lynn Briggs (Erasmus), Isaac Smith (Curtis), Charles Mason (Commercial), C. Anthony (Bryant), J. Rosenfeld (Stuyvesant), V. Doran (Flushing), M. Marnash (Eastern District), F. Scanlon (Bushwick), Winthrop F. Foskett (De Witt Clinton), and Richard Humphries (Jamaica).

Such was the situation when Field Marshal von Hindenburg dashed up in his motor car. Seventy young American patriots on top of Lookout Hill, with their last rounds of toy ammunition, were holding back a German regiment while their comrades fled for their lives. And surely they would have been a martyred seventy, since the Bavarians were about to charge in full force, had not von Hindenburg taken in the situation at a glance and shouted:

“Halt! It is not fitting that a German regiment shall use its strength against a handful of boys. Let them guard their monument! March on!”

Meantime, to the east and north of the city the battle raged and terror spread among the populace. All eyes were fixed on New York as a haven of refuge and, by the bridge, ferry and tunnel, hundreds of thousands made their escape from Brooklyn.

The three great bridges stretching their giant black arms across the river were literally packed with people—fathers, mothers, children, all on foot, for the trolleys were hopelessly blocked. A man told me afterwards that it took him seven hours to cross with his wife and their two little girls.

Other swarms hovered about the tunnel entrances and stormed the ferry-boats at their slips. Every raft in the harbour carried its load. The Pennsylvania and Erie ferries from the other side of Manhattan, the Staten Island boats, the Coney Island and other excursion steamers, struggled through the press of sea traffic and I heard that three of these vessels sank of their own weight. Here and there, hardly discernible among the larger craft, were the small boats, life-boats, canoes, anything and everything that would float, each bearing its little group to a precarious safety on Manhattan Island.

Meantime, Fort Totten and Fort Hamilton had been taken from the rear by overwhelming forces, and their mortars had been used to silence the guns of Fort Schuyler and Fort Wadsworth. In this emergency, seeing the situation hopeless, General Wood withdrew his forces in good order under cover of a rear-guard action between the Uhlans and the United States colored cavalry, and, hurrying before him the crowds of fleeing civilians, marched his troops in three divisions across the Brooklyn Bridge, leaving Brooklyn in flames behind him. Then facing inexorable necessity, he ordered his engineers to blow up these three beautiful spans that had cost hundreds of millions, and to flood the subways between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Seen through the darkness at the moment of its ruin the vast steel structure of the Brooklyn Bridge, with its dim arches and filaments, was like a thing of exquisite lace. In shreds it fell, a tangled, twisted, tragically wrecked piece of magnificence.


On May 24, 1921, the situation of New York City was seen to be desperate, and most of the newspapers, even those that had clamoured loudest for resistance and boasted of American valour and resourcefulness, now admitted that the metropolis must submit to a German occupation.

Even the women among the public officials and political leaders were inclined to a policy of nonresistance. General Wood was urged to surrender the city and avoid the horrors of bombardment; but the commander replied that his first duty was to defend the territory of the United States, and that every day he could keep the enemy isolated on Long Island was a day gained for the permanent defences that were frantically organising all over the country.

It was vital, too, that the immense stores of gold and specie in the vaults of the Federal Reserve and other great New York banks should be safely transported to Chicago.

All day and all night, automobile trucks, operated under orders from William G. McAdoo, Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank, loaded with millions and millions of gold, passed unprotected and almost unheeded through the crowded section between Wall Street and the Grand Central Station. The people stared at them dumbly. They knew what was going on. They knew they could have a fortune by reaching out their hands. But at this moment, with their eternities in their eyes, they had no thought of gold. Hour after hour the work went on. Finally, subway trains and street cars were pressed into service as treasure-carriers.

By night $800,000,000 had started West and the next morning Chicago was the financial capital of America.

At midnight General Wood gave final orders for resistance to the last gun and the last man; and, when early the next morning the German general again sent officers with a flag of truce demanding the surrender of Manhattan Island, Wood’s reply was a firm refusal. He tried, however, to gain time in negotiations; and a few hours later I accompanied a delegation of American staff officers with counter-proposals across the East River in a launch. I can see von Hindenburg now, in his high boots and military coat, as he received the American officers at the foot of the shattered Brooklyn Bridge. A square massive head with close-cropped white hair, brushed straight back from a broad forehead. And sad searching eyes—wonderful eyes.

“Then you refuse to surrender? You think you can fight?” the Field Marshal demanded.

At which the ranking American officer, stung by his arrogance, declared that they certainly did think they could fight, and would prove it.

“Ah! So!” said von Hindenburg, and he glanced at a gun crew who were loading a half-ton projectile into an 11.1-inch siege-gun that stood on the pavement. “Which is the Woolworth Building?” he asked, pointing across the river.

“The tallest one, Excellency—the one with the Gothic lines and gilded cornices,” replied one of his officers.

“Ah, yes, of course. I recognise it from the pictures. It’s beautiful. Gentlemen,”—he addressed the American officers,—“I am offering twenty-dollar gold pieces to this gun crew if they bring down that tower with a single shot. Now, then, careful!...


We covered our ears as the shot crashed forth, and a moment later the most costly and graceful tower in the world seemed to stagger on its base. Then, as the thousand-pound shell, striking at the twenty-seventh story, exploded deep inside, clouds of yellow smoke poured out through the crumbling walls, and the huge length of twenty-four stories above the jagged wound swayed slowly toward the east, and fell as one piece, flinging its thousands of tons of stone and steel straight across the width of Broadway, and down upon the grimy old Post Office Building opposite.

“Sehr gut!” nodded von Hindenburg. “It’s amusing to see them fall. Suppose we try another? What’s that one to the left?”

“The Singer Building, Excellency,” answered the officer.

“Good! Are you ready?”

Then the tragedy was repeated, and six hundred more were added to the death toll, as the great tower crumbled to earth.

“Now, gentlemen,”—von Hindenburg turned again to the American officers with a tiger gleam in his eyes,—“you see what we have done with two shots to two of your tallest and finest buildings. At this time to-morrow, with God’s help, we shall have a dozen guns along this bank of the river, ready for whatever may be necessary. And two of our Parsevals, each carrying a ton of dynamite, will float over New York City. I give you until twelve o’clock to-morrow to decide whether you will resist or capitulate. At twelve o’clock we begin firing.”

Our instructions were to return at once in the launch by the shortest route to the Battery, where automobiles were waiting to take us to General Wood’s headquarters in the Metropolitan Tower. I can close my eyes to-day and see once more those pictures of terror and despair that were spread before us as we whirled through the crowded streets behind the crashing hoofs of a cavalry escort. The people knew who we were, where we had been, and they feared what our message might be.

Broadway, of course, was impassable where the mass of red brick from the Singer Building filled the great canyon as if a glacier had spread over the region, or as if the lava from a man-made Aetna had choked this great thoroughfare.

Through the side streets we snatched hasty impressions of unforgetable scenes. Into the densely populated regions around Grand and Houston Streets the evicted people of Brooklyn had poured. And into the homes of these miserably poor people, where you can walk for blocks without hearing a word in the English tongue, Brooklyn’s derelicts had been absorbed by tens of thousands.

Here came men and women from all parts of Manhattan, the rich in their automobiles, the poor on foot, bearing bundles of food and eager to help in the work of humanity. And some, alas, were busy with the sinister business of looting.

Above Fourteenth Street we had glimpses of similar scenes and I learned later that almost every family in Manhattan received some Brooklyn homeless ones into their care. New York—for once—was hospitable.

In Madison Square the people waited in silence as we approached the great white tower from which the Commander of the Army of the East, unmindful of the fate of the Woolworth and the Singer buildings, watched for further moves from the fortified shores of Brooklyn. Not a shout greeted our arrival at the marble entrance facing the square, not even that murmur of expectancy which sweeps over a tense gathering. The people knew the answer of von Hindenburg. They had read it, as had all the world for miles around, in the cataclysm of the plunging towers.

New York must surrender or perish!

Scarcely three blocks away, the Committee of Public Safety, numbering one hundred, sat in agitated council at the Madison Square Garden, while enormous crowds, shouting and murmuring, surged outside, where five hundred armed policemen tried vainly to quell the spirit of riot that was in the air. Far into the night the discussion lasted, while overhead in the purple-black sky floated the two Parsevals, ominous visitors, their search-lights playing over the helpless city that was to feel their wrath on the morrow unless it yielded.

Meantime, on the square platform within the great Moorish building, a hundred leading citizens of Manhattan, including the ablest and the richest and a few of the most radical, spoke their minds, while thousands of men and women, packed in the galleries and the aisles, listened heart-sick for some gleam of comfort.

And there was none.

Among the Committee of Public Safety I recognised J. P. Morgan, Jacob H. Sehiff, John D. Rockefeller, Charles F. Murphy, Andrew Carnegie, Vincent Astor, Cardinal Farley, Colonel Jacob Ruppert, Nicholas Murray Butler, S. Stanwood Menken, Paul M. Warburg, John Finley, Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, James E. Gaffney, Ida Tarbell, Norman Hapgood, William Randolph Hearst, Senator Whitman, Bernard Ridder, Frank A. Munsey, Henry Morgenthau, Elihu Root, Henry L. Stimson, Franklin Q. Brown, John Mitchell, John Wanamaker, Dr. Parkhurst, Thomas A. Edison, Colonel George Harvey, Douglas Robinson, John Hays Hammond, Theodore Shonts, William Dean Howells, Alan R. Hawley, Samuel Gompers, August Belmont, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, the Rev. Percy Stickney Grant, Judge E. H. Gary, Emerson McMillin, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and ex-Mayor Mitchel.

Former President Wilson motored over from Princeton, accompanied by Professor McClellan, and was greeted with cheers. Ex-President Taft was speaking at the time, advocating a dignified appeal to the Hague Tribunal for an adjudication of the matter according to international law. Nearly all of the speakers favoured non-resistance, so far as New York City was concerned. With scarcely a dissenting voice, the great financial and business interests represented here demanded that New York City capitulate immediately.

Whereupon Theodore Roosevelt, who had just entered the Garden with his uniform still smeared with Long Island mud, sprang to his feet and cried out that he would rather see Manhattan Island sunk in the Bay than disgraced by so cowardly a surrender. There was still hope, he declared. The East River was impassable for the enemy. All shipping had been withdrawn from Brooklyn shores, and the German fleet dared not enter the Ambrose Channel and the lower bay so long as the Sandy Hook guns held out.

“We are a great nation,” Roosevelt shouted, “full of courage and resourcefulness. Let us stand together against these invaders, as our forefathers stood at Lexington and Bunker Hill!”

During the cheers that followed this harangue, my attention was drawn to an agitated group on the platform, the central figure being Bernard Ridder, recognised leader of the large German-American population of New York City that had remained staunchly loyal in the crisis. Presently a clamour from the crowd outside, sharper and fiercer than any that had preceded it, announced some new and unexpected danger close at hand.

White-faced, Mr. Ridder stepped to the edge of the platform and lifted his hand impressively.

“Let me speak,” he said. “I must speak in justice to myself and to half a million German-Americans of this city, who are placed in a terrible position by news that I have just received. I wish to say that we are Americans first, not Germans! We are loyal to the city, loyal to this country, and whatever happens here tonight—”

At this moment a tumult of shouts was heard at the Madison Avenue entrance, and above it a shrill purring sound that seemed to strike consternation into an army officer who sat beside me.

“My God!” he cried. “The machine-guns! The Germans are in the streets!”


I shall never forget the horror of that hoarse cry:

“The Germans are in the streets!”

What followed was still more terrifying. Somewhere at the back of the Garden, a piercing whistle cut the air—evidently a signal—and suddenly we found ourselves facing a ghastly tragedy, and were made to realise the resistless superiority of a small body of disciplined troops over a disorganised multitude.

Fertig! Los! Hup!” shouted a loud voice (it was a man with a megaphone) in the first gallery opposite the platform. Every face in that tremendous throng turned at once in the direction of the stranger’s voice. And before the immense audience knew what was happening, five hundred German soldiers, armed with pistols and repeating rifles, had sprung to life, alert and formidable, at vantage-points all over the Garden. Two hundred, with weapons ready, guarded the platform and the Committee of Public Safety. And, in little groups of threes and fives, back to back, around the iron columns that rose through the galleries, stood three hundred more with flashing barrels levelled at the crowds.

I counted fifteen of these dominating groups of soldiers in the northern half of the lower gallery, and it was the same in the southern half and the same on both sides of the upper gallery, which made sixty armed groups in sixty strategic positions. There was nothing for the crowd to do but yield.

“Pass out, everybody!” screamed the megaphone man. “We fire at the first disorder.”

“Out, everybody!” roared the soldiers. “We fire at the first disorder.”

As if to emphasise this, an automatic pistol crackled at the far end of the Garden, and frantic crowds pushed for the doors in abject terror. There was no thought of resistance.

“Use all the exits,” yelled the megaphone man; and the order was passed on by the soldiers from group to group. And presently there rolled out into the streets and avenues through the thirty great doors and down the six outside stairways that zigzag across the building such streams of white-faced, staggering, fainting humanity as never had been seen on Manhattan Island.

I was driven out with the others (except the Committee of Public Safety), and was happy to find myself with a whole skin in Twenty-sixth Street opposite the Manhattan Club. As I passed a group of German soldiers near the door, I observed that they wore grey uniforms. I wondered at this until I saw overcoats at their feet, and realised that they had entered the Garden like spies with the audience of citizens, their uniforms and weapons being concealed under ordinary outer garments, which they had thrown off at the word of command.

We stumbled into the street, and were driven roughly by other German soldiers toward the open space of Madison Square. We fled over red and slippery pavements, strewn with the bodies of dead and wounded policemen and civilians—the hideous harvest of the machine-guns. At the corner of Madison Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street I saw an immense coal-carrying motor-truck with plates of iron covering its four sides, and through loopholes in the plates I saw murderous muzzles protruding.

It appears that shortly after midnight, at the height of the debate, four of these armoured cars came lumbering toward the Garden from west and east, north and south; and, as they neared the four corners of the immense yellow building, without warning they opened fire upon the police, which meant inevitably upon the crowd also. In each truck were a dozen soldiers and six machine-guns, each one capable of firing six hundred shots a minute. There was no chance for resistance, and within a quarter of an hour the streets surrounding the Garden were a shambles. On Madison Avenue, just in front of the main entrance, I saw bodies lying three deep, many of them hideously mutilated by the explosive effects of these bullets at short range. As I stepped across the curb in front of the S.P.C.A. building, I cried out in horror; for there on the sidewalk lay a young mother—But why describe the horror of that scene?

With difficulty I succeeded in hiring a taxicab and set out to find General Wood or some officer of his staff from whom I might get an understanding of these tragic events. Who were those German soldiers at the Garden? Where did they come from? Were they German-Americans?

It was four o’clock in the morning before I located General Wood at the plaza of the Queensborough Bridge, where he was overseeing the placing of some artillery pieces. He was too busy to talk to me, but from one of his aides I learned that the soldiers at the Madison Square Garden were not German-Americans and were not von Hindenburg’s men, but were part of that invisible army of German spies that invariably precedes the invading forces of the Kaiser. Arriving a few hundred at a time for a period of more than three years, 50,000 of these German spies, fully armed and equipped, now held New York at their mercy. More than that, they had in their actual physical possession the men who owned half the wealth of the nation. That New York would capitulate was a foregone conclusion.

After cabling this news, I went back to my hotel, the old Brevoort, for a snatch of sleep; and at half-past eight I was out in the streets again. The first thing that caught my eye was a black-lettered proclamation—posted by German spies, no doubt—over Henri’s barber shop, and signed by General von Hindenburg, announcing the capitulation of New York City. The inhabitants were informed that they had nothing to fear. Their lives and property would be protected, and they would find the Germans just and generous in all their dealings. Food and supplies would be paid for at the market price, and citizens would be recompensed for all services rendered. The activities of New York would go on as usual, and there would be no immediate occupation of Manhattan Island by German troops. All orders from the conquering army in Brooklyn must be implicitly obeyed, under penalty of bombardment.

I could scarcely believe my eyes. New York City had capitulated! I asked a man beside me—an agitated citizen in an orange tie—whether this could be true. He said it was—all the morning papers confirmed it. The immense pressure from Wall Street upon Washington, owing to the hold-up of multimillionaires, had resulted in orders from the President that the city surrender and that General Wood’s forces withdraw to New Jersey.

“What about John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan and the other hostages?” I asked.

“The Sun says they have been taken over to Brooklyn where the German army is, and they’ve got to raise a billion dollars in gold.”

“A billion dollars in gold!”

“Sure; as an indemnity for New York City. You’ll notice we could have bought a few defences for that billion,” sniffed the angry citizen.

Things moved rapidly after this. All the shipping in waters about the island metropolis, including ferry-boats, launches, pilot-boats, everything that floated, was delivered over to the Germans. The Sandy Hook defences were delivered over, and the rivers and bays were cleared of mines. All motor-cars, supplies of gasolene, firearms, and ammunition in New York City were seized and removed to Brooklyn. The telephone service was taken over by the Germans and operated by them, chiefly for military purposes. The mail service ceased. The newspapers were ordered not to appear—with the exception of the Staats-Zeitung, which became the official organ of the invaders and proceeded to publish editions in English as well as German.

“What will happen if we go ahead and get out the paper in spite of your order?” inquired the city editor of the Evening Journal when a youthful Prussian officer informed him that the paper must not appear.

“Oh, you will be shot and William Randolph Hearst will be shot,” said the officer pleasantly.

About noon on the day of capitulation, May 25, 1921, a company of German soldiers with two machine guns, two ammunition carts and a line of motor trucks landed at the Battery and marched quietly up Broadway, then turned into Wall Street and stopped outside the banking house of J. P. Morgan & Co. A captain of hussars in brilliant uniform and wearing an eyeglass went inside with eight of his men and explained politely to the manager that the Germans had arranged with J. P. Morgan personally that they were to receive five million dollars a day in gold on account of the indemnity and, as four days’ payment, that is twenty million dollars, were now due, the captain would be obliged if the manager would let him have twenty million dollars in gold immediately. Also a match for his cigarette.

The manager, greatly disturbed, assured the captain that there was not as much money as that in the bank, all the gold in New York having been sent out of the city.

“Ah!” said the officer with a smile. “That will simply put you to the trouble of having it sent back again. You see, we hold the men who own this gold. Besides, I think you can, with an effort, get together this trifling amount.”

The manager vowed it was utterly impossible, whereupon the captain motioned to one of his men, who, it turned out, had been for years a trusted employee of J. P. Morgan & Co. and had made himself familiar with every detail of Wall Street affairs. He knew where a reserve store of gold was hidden and the consequence was that half an hour later the German soldiers marched back to the Battery, their motor trucks groaning under the weight of twenty million dollars in double eagles and bullion.

“You see, we need some small change to buy eggs and chickens and vegetables with,” laughed the officer. “We are very particular to pay for everything we take.”

An hour later the first show of resistance to German authority came when a delegation of staff officers from General von Hindenburg visited the city hall to instruct Mayor McAneny as to the efficient running of the various municipal departments. I had the details of this conference from the mayor’s private secretary. The officers announced that there would be no interference with the ordinary life of the city so long as the results were satisfactory. Business must go on as usual. Theatres and places of amusement were to remain open. The city must be gay, just as Berlin was gay in 1915.

On the other hand any disorder or failure to provide for German needs in the matter of food and supplies would be severely dealt with. Every morning there must be delivered at the foot of Fulton Street, Brooklyn, definite quantities of meat, poultry, eggs, butter, vegetables, flour, milk, sugar, fruits, beer, coffee, tea, besides a long and detailed list of army supplies.

“Suppose we cannot get these things?” protested the mayor. “Suppose the train service to New York is cut off by General Wood’s army?”

“Hah!” snorted a red-faced colonel of artillery. “There are two and a half million Americans on Manhattan Island—and we’ll see that they stay there—who will starve within one week if General Wood cuts off the train service. I don’t think he will cut it off, Mr. McAneny.”

“Besides, my dear sir,” drawled a slender English-looking officer, wearing the iron cross, “if there should be any interference with our food supply, remember that we can destroy your gas and electric lighting plants, we can cripple your transportation system and possibly cut off your water supply with a few well directed shots. Don’t forget that, Mr. McAneny.”

The trouble began as these German officers walked down Broadway with a small escort of soldiers. Whenever they passed a policeman they required him to salute, in accordance with published orders, but a big Irishman was defiant and the officers stopped to teach him manners. At which a crowd gathered that blocked Broadway and the officers were insulted and jostled and one of them lost his helmet. There was no serious disorder, but the Germans made it a matter of principle and an hour later the Staats Zeitung came out with a special edition announcing that, inasmuch as disrespect had been shown to five German officers by a Broadway crowd, it now became necessary to give the city an object lesson that would, it was hoped, prevent such a regrettable occurrence in the future. That evening five six-inch shells would be fired by German siege guns in Brooklyn at five indicated open spaces in Manhattan, these being chosen to avoid losses of life and property. The first shell would be fired at seven o’clock and would strike in Battery Park; the second at 7.05 and would strike in Union Square; the third at 7.10 and would strike in Madison Square; the fourth at 7.15 and would strike in Stuyvesant Square; the fifth at 7.20 and would strike in Central Park just north of the Plaza.

This announcement was carried out to the letter, the five shells exploding at the exact points and moments indicated, and the people realised with what horrible precision the German artillery-men held Manhattan island at their mercy.

The newspapers also received their object lesson through the action of the Evening Telegram in bringing out an extra announcing the bombardment. My own desk being in the foreign editor’s room, I witnessed this grim occurrence. At half-past five a boyish-looking lieutenant sauntered in and asked for the managing editor, who was sitting with his feet on a desk.

“Good-evening,” said the German. “You have disobeyed orders in getting out this edition. I am sorry.”

The editor stared at him, not understanding. “Well, what’s the answer?”

The officer’s eyes were sympathetic and his tone friendly. He glanced at his wrist watch. “The answer is that I give you twenty minutes to telephone your family, then I’m going to take you up on the roof and have you shot. I am sorry.”

Twenty minutes later they stood up this incredulous editor behind the illuminated owls that blinked down solemnly upon the turmoil of Herald Square and shot him to death as arranged.


Meantime the United States from coast to coast was seething with rage and humiliation. This incredible, impossible thing had happened. New York City was held by the enemy, and its greatest citizens, whose names were supposed to shake the world—Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Vanderbilt,—were helpless prisoners. General Wood’s defeated army had been driven back into New Jersey, and was waiting there for von Hindenburg’s next move, praying for more artillery, more ammunition, more officers, and more soldiers. Let this nation be threatened, Secretary of State Bryan had said, and between sunrise and sunset a million men would spring to arms. Well, this was the time for them to spring; but where were the arms? Nowhere! It would take a year to manufacture what was needed! A year to make officers! A year to make soldiers! And the enemy was here with mailed fist thundering at the gates!

The question now heard in all the clubs and newspaper offices, and in diplomatic circles at Washington, was, which way would von Hindenburg strike when he left New York? Would it be toward Boston or toward Philadelphia? And why did he delay his blow, now that the metropolis, after a week’s painful instruction, was resigning itself to a Germanised existence, with German officials collecting the New York custom house revenues and a German flag flying from the statue of Liberty? What was von Hindenburg waiting for?

On the 3d of June these questions were dramatically answered by the arrival of another invading expedition, which brought a second force of one hundred and fifty thousand German soldiers. What cheering there was from Brooklyn shores as these transports and convoys, black with men, steamed slowly into the ravished upper bay, their bands crashing out “Deutschland Über Alles” and their proud eagles floating from all the mast-heads!

“This makes three hundred thousand first-class fighting-men,” scowled Frederick Palmer as we watched the pageant. “What is Leonard Wood going to do about it?”

“I know what von Hindenburg is going to do,” said I, taking the role of prophet. “Divide his forces and start two drives—one through New England to Boston, and one to Washington.”

As a matter of fact, this is exactly what the German general did do—and he lost no time about it. On June 5, von Hindenburg, with an army of 125,000, began his march toward Trenton, and General von Kluck, who had arrived with the second expedition, started for Boston with an equal force. This left 50,000 German troops in Brooklyn to control New York City and to form a permanent military base on Long Island.

General Wood’s position was terribly difficult. His army, encamped half way between Trenton and Westfield, had been increased to 75,000 men; but 50,000 of these from the militia were sadly lacking in arms and organisation, and 5,000 were raw recruits whose first army work had been done within the month. He had 20,000 regulars, not half of whom had ever seen active warfare. And against these von Hindenburg was advancing with 125,000 veterans who had campaigned together in France and who were equipped with the best fighting outfit in the world!

It would have been madness for the American commander to divide his outclassed forces; and yet, if he did not divide them, von Kluck’s army would sweep over New England without resistance. In this cruel dilemma, General Wood decided—with the approval of the President—to make a stand against von Hindenburg and save Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, if he could, and to leave New England to its fate.

At this critical moment I was instructed by my paper to accompany a raiding expedition sent by General von Hindenburg into northern New Jersey, with the object of capturing the Picatinny arsenal near Dover; and this occupied me for several days, during which General von Kluck’s army, unresisted, had marched into Connecticut up to a line reaching from beyond Bridgeport to Danbury to Washington, and had occupied New Rochelle, Greenwich, Stamford, South Norwalk, and Bridgeport. The Germans advanced about fifteen miles a day, living off the country, and carefully repairing any injuries to the railways, so that men and supplies from their Long Island base could quickly follow them.

On June 10, when I rejoined General von Kluck’s staff (to which I had been assigned), I found that he was accompanied by the Crown Prince and the venerable Count Zeppelin, both of whom seemed more interested in this New England occupation than in the activities of von Hindenburg’s army. They realised, it appears, the great importance of controlling the industrial resources, the factories and machine-shops of Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was this interest, I may add, that led to the first bloodshed on Connecticut soil.

Thus far not a shot had been fired by the invaders, who had been received everywhere by sullen but submissive crowds. Only a small part of the population had fled to the north and east, and the activities of occupied towns and cities went on very much as usual under German orders and German organisation. The horrible fate of Brooklyn, the wreck of the Woolworth and Singer buildings were known everywhere; and if New York City, the great metropolis, had been forced to meek surrender by the invaders, what hope was there for Stamford and Bridgeport and South Norwalk?


But in Hartford a different spirit was stirring. By their admirable spy service, their motorcycle service, and their aeroplane service, the German staff were informed of defiant Hartford crowds gathering in Bushnell Park; of the Putnam Phalanx parading in continental uniforms, and of the Governor’s First Company Foot Guards marching past the monument where the Charter Oak had stood facing the South Congregational Church; and of patriotic speeches from beside the statue of Nathan Hale on Main Street.

Also in New Haven, city of elms and of Yale College, the Second Company of Governor’s Foot Guards and the valiant New Haven Grays, followed by cheering crowds, had marched down Chapel and Meadow streets to the Second Regiment Armory, home of joyous Junior promenades; and here vehement orators had recalled how their ancestors, the minute-men of 1776, had repelled the British there to the west of the city, where Columbus and Congress and Davenport avenues meet at the Defenders’ Monument. Why should not this bravery and devotion be repeated now in 1921 against the Germans? Why not?

The answer was spoken clearly in a widely published appeal to the people of New England, made by the Governor of Connecticut and supported by Simeon E. Baldwin, ex-Governor of the State, and Arthur T. Hadley, president of Yale, in which the utter folly and hopelessness of resistance without army or militia was convincingly set forth. Professor Taft declared it the duty of every loyal citizen to avoid nameless horrors of bloodshed and destruction of property by refraining from any opposition to an overwhelmingly superior force.

We entered New Haven on June 12, and for forty-eight hours there was no disorder. German siege guns were placed on the sheer precipice of East Rock, ranged alongside the grey shaft of the Soldiers’ Monument, dominating the city; machine-guns were set up at the four corners of the Green, at points surrounding the college buildings, and at other strategic points. Students were not allowed to leave the college grounds without military permission.

To further insure the good behaviour of the city, twenty hostages were taken, including ex-President William H. Taft, President Arthur T. Hadley of Yale University, Thomas G. Bennett, ex-president of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Major Frank J. Rice, ex-Governor Simeon E. Baldwin, Edward Malley, General E. E. Bradley, Walter Camp, and three members of the graduating class of Yale University, including the captains of the baseball and football teams. These were held as prisoners within the grey granite walls and towers of Edgerton, the residence of Frederick F. Brewster. As staff headquarters, General von Kluck and the Crown Prince occupied the palatial white marble home of Louis Stoddard, the famous polo-player.

The trouble began on June 14, when the invaders tried to set going the manufacturing activities of New Haven, shut down during the past week—especially he Winchester Repeating Arms Company, mploying about eleven thousand men, and the Sargent Hardware Manufacturing Company, employing eight thousand. Large numbers of these employees had fled from New Haven in spite of offers of increased wages, so that the Germans had been obliged to bring on men from New York to fill their places. This led to rioting and scenes of violence, with a certain amount of looting, in various parts of the city; and toward evening German troops fired upon the crowds, killing and wounding about two hundred.

In punishment of this insubordination, General von Kluck ordered the guns on East Rock to destroy the Hotel Taft and the new Post Office Building, and this was done as the sun was setting. He also ordered that two of the hostages, chosen by lot, should be led out before Vanderbilt Hall, at the corner of College and Chapel streets, the next day at noon, and shot.

However, this grim fate was averted through the intercession of an American woman, a white-haired lady whose husband, a Northern general, had fought with Count Zeppelin in the American Civil War, and who at midnight went to the Whitney mansion, where the Count and his staff were quartered, and begged on her knees for mercy. And, for the sake of old times and old friendship, Count Zeppelin had this penalty remitted.


After the pacification of New Haven and the re-establishment of its industries, our division of the German army, numbering about five thousand men, swung to the north, through Wallingford, Meriden, and Middletown, and marched toward the capital of the State.

I shall always remember the morning of June 17, 1921, when, at the request of the Crown Prince, I rode at his side for an hour before we entered Hartford. I was amazed at the extent of the Prince’s information and at his keen desire for new knowledge. He asked about the number of men employed in the Hartford rubber works, in Colt’s armory, in the Pratt & Whitney machine-shops, and spoke of plans for increasing the efficiency of these concerns. He knew all about the high educational standards of the Hartford High School. He had heard of the Hotel Heublein, and of the steel tower built by its proprietor on the highest point of Talcott Mountain—had already arranged to have this tower used for wireless communication between Hartford and the German fleet. He knew exactly how many Germans, Italians, and Swedes there were in Hartford, exactly how many spans there were in the new three-million-dollar bridge across the Connecticut. He looked forward with pleasure to occupying as his Hartford headquarters the former home on Farmington Avenue of Mark Twain, whose works he had enjoyed for years.

“You know Mark Twain was a great friend of my father’s,” said the Crown Prince. “I remember how my father laughed, one evening at the palace in Berlin, when Mark Twain told us the story of ‘The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.’ It’s rather a pity that afterward Mark—but never mind that.”

“Your Imperial Highness has a wonderful memory for details,” I remarked.

“That is nothing,” he smiled. “It’s our business to know these things; that is why we are here. We must know more about New England than the New Englanders themselves. For example, ask me something.”

“Does your Imperial Highness—” I began. But he stopped me with a jolly laugh. I can still see the eager, boyish face under its flashing helmet, and the slim, erect figure in its blue-and-silver uniform.

“Never mind the Imperial Highness,” he said. “Just ask some questions—any question about Hartford.”

“The insurance companies?” I suggested.

“Ah! Of course I know that. We considered the insurance companies in fixing the indemnity. Hartford is the richest city in America in proportion to her population. Let’s see. Of her life insurance companies, the Aetna has assets of about a hundred and twenty million dollars; the Travellers’ about a hundred million; the Connecticut Mutual about seventy million; the Phoenix Mutual about forty million—besides half a dozen small-fry fire insurance companies. We’re letting them off easily with twenty million dollars indemnity. Don’t you think so, Mr. Langston?”

This informal talk continued for some time, and I found the Prince possessed of equally accurate and detailed information regarding other New England cities. It was positively uncanny. He inquired about the Bancroft Japanese collection in Worcester, Massachusetts, and wanted to know the number of women students at Wellesley College. He asked if I had seen the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds at the Athenaeum in Providence. He had full details about the United States Armory at Springfield, and he asked many questions about the Yale-Harvard boat races at New London, most of which I was, fortunately, able to answer.

Frederick William was curious to know what had given Newport its great popularity as a summer resort, and asked me to compare the famous cottages of the Vanderbilts, the Belmonts, the Astors, along the cliffs, with well-known country houses in England. He knew that Siasconset on Nantucket Island was pronounced “Sconset,” and he had read reports on marine biology from Woods Hole. He even knew the number of watches made at Waltham every year, and the number of shoes made at Lynn.

I was emboldened by the Crown Prince’s good humour and friendly manner to ask the favour of an interview for publication in the London Times, and, to my great satisfaction, this was granted the next day when we were settled in our Hartford quarters, with the result that I gained high commendation; in fact my interview not only made a sensation in England, but was cabled back to the United States and reprinted all over America. Needless to say, it caused bitter resentment in both countries against Frederick William.

“The responsibility for the present war between Germany and the United States must be borne by England,” he said in this memorable utterance. “It was the spirit of hatred against Germany spread through the world by England and especially spread through America that made the United States unwilling to deal with the Imperial government in a fair and friendly way, touching our trade and colonising aspirations in South America and Mexico.

“We Germans regard this as a most astonishing and deplorable thing, that the American people have been turned against us by British misrepresentations. Why should the United States trust England? What has England ever done for the United States? Who furnished the South with arms and ammunition and with blockade runners during the Civil War? England! Who placed outrageous restrictions upon American commerce during the great European war and, in direct violation of International law, prohibited America from sending foodstuffs and cotton to Germany? England!

“What harm has Germany ever done to the United States? Turn over the pages of history. Remember brave General Steuben, a veteran of Frederick the Great, drilling with Washington’s soldiers at Valley Forge. Remember the German General De Kalb who fell pierced by red-coat balls and bayonets at the battle of Camden. Remember General Herckheimer with his band of German farmers who fought and died for American independence at the battle of Oriskany.

“Then go to Greenwood cemetery and look at the graves of German soldiers, rows and rows of them, who gave their lives loyally for the Union at Antietam, at Bull Run and at Gettysburg.

“The United States is a great nation with vast resources,” he went on, “but these have been largely wasted, owing to the inefficiency and corruption inevitable in all democracies.”

“Your Imperial Highness does not think much of American efficiency?”

The prince threw back his head with a snort of contemptuous amusement.

“Ha! What can one expect from a government like yours? A government of incompetents, politicians, office seekers.”

“I beg your pardon,” I protested.

“I do not mean to offend you,” he laughed, “but hasn’t the whole world known for years that America was utterly defenceless? Haven’t you Americans known it since 1914? Haven’t you read it in all your newspapers? Hasn’t it been shouted at you from the housetops by all your leading men?

“And yet your senators, your congressmen, your presidents and their cabinet officers did nothing about it, or very little. Is that what you call efficiency? America remained lacking in all that makes for military preparedness, did she not? And she tried to be a world power and defend the Monroe doctrine! She told Germany in 1915 what Germany might do with her submarines and what she might not do. Ha! We were at a disadvantage then, but we remembered! You, with your third-rate navy and your tenth-rate army, told us what we might do! Well, you see where your efficiency has brought you.”

I sat silent until this storm should pass, and was just making bold to speak when the prince continued:

“Do you know where America made her great mistake? Oh, what a chance you had and missed it! Why did you not declare war on Germany after our invasion of Belgium? Or after the sinking of the Lusitania? Or after the sinking of the Arabic? You had your justification and, with your money and resources, you could have changed the course of the great war. That is what we feared in Berlin. We were powerless to hurt you then and we knew you would have time to get ready. Yes, if America had gone into the war in 1915, she would be the greatest power on earth to-day instead of being a conquered province.”

These words hurt.

“America is a long way from being a conquered province,” I retorted.

He shook his head good-naturedly, whereupon I resolved to control my temper. It would be folly to offend the prince and thus lose my chance to secure an interview of international importance, which this proved to be.

“We hold New York already,” he continued. “Within three weeks we shall hold New England. Within three months we shall hold your entire Atlantic seaboard.”

“We may win back our lost territory,” said I.

“Never. We are conquerors. We will stay here exactly as the Manchu conquerors stayed in China. Exactly as the Seljuk conquerors stayed in Asia Minor. Your military strength is broken. Your fleet will be destroyed when it reaches the Caribbean. How can you drive us out?”

“Our population is over a hundred million.”

“China’s population is over three hundred million and a handful of Japanese rule her. Remember, America is not like Russia with her heart deep inland. The military heart of America lies within a radius of 180 miles from New York City and we hold it, or soon will. In that small strip, reaching from Boston to Delaware Bay, are situated nine-tenths of the war munition factories of the United States, the Springfield Armory, the Watervliet Arsenal, the Picatinny Arsenal, the Frankfort Arsenal, the Dupont powder works, the Bethlehem steel works, and all these will shortly be in our hands. How can you take them from us? How can you get along without them?”

“We can build other munition factories in the West.”

“That will take a year or more, in which time we shall have fortified the whole Appalachian Mountain system from Florida to the St. Lawrence, so that no army can ever break through. Do you see?”

The prince paused with a masterful smile and played with a large signet ring on his third finger.

“Surely Your Imperial Highness does not think that Germany can conquer the whole of America?”

“Of course not, at least not for many years. We are content with your Atlantic seaboard, the garden spot of the earth in climate and resources. We shall hold this region and develop it along broad lines of German efficiency and German kultur. What wonderful improvements we will make! How we will use the opportunities you have wasted!

“Ha! Let me give you one instance among many of your incredible inefficiency. Those disappearing carriages of your coast defence guns! I suppose they were the pet hobby of some politician with an interest in their manufacture, but Gott in Himmel! what foolishness! The guns themselves are good enough, but the carriages allow them an elevation of only ten percent against a thirty percent elevation that is possible for guns of equal calibre on our battleships, which means that our twelve-inch guns outrange yours by a couple of miles simply because we can fire them at a higher angle.”

“You mean that one of your super-dreadnoughts—”

“Exactly. One of our super-dreadnoughts can lie off Rockaway Beach and drop shells from her twelve-inch guns into Union Square, and the twelve-inch guns of your harbour forts, handicapped by their stupid carriages, could never touch her.”

The conversation now turned to other subjects and presently the prince was led by enthusiasm or arrogance to make a series of statements that gave extraordinary importance to my interview, since they enraged the whole Anglo-Saxon world, particularly our Western and Middle Western states. Fortunately I submitted my manuscript to Frederick William before cabling the interview to London, so there was no danger of his repudiating my words.

With brutal frankness this future ruler of a nation maintained that against German arms America must now go down to defeat just as England went down to partial defeat in 1917 and for the same unchangeable reason that the fittest among nations inevitably survive.

“Ask your readers in the London Times, Mr. Langston, why it was that in the fall of 1915 Germany had been able to put into the field nine million fully equipped, highly efficient soldiers, whereas England, with nearly the same population, counting her white colonies, had been able to send out only two and a half million, a third of these being physically defective? Why was that?

“Was it lack of guns and ammunition? Lack of officers and training? Partly so, but something else was lacking, I mean patriotism among the English masses that would give them the desire to fight for England, also a high standard of physical excellence that would make them able to fight effectively and to endure the hardships of the trenches.

“Now why should there be more patriotism in Germany than in England? Why should the masses of Germany excel the masses of England in physical vigour?

“I will tell you why, and the answer applies in some degree to America; it is because the German system of government is better calculated to create patriotism and physical vigour, just as it is better calculated to create an efficient war machine. In Germany we have concentration of power, a benevolent paternalism that knows the needs of the people and supplies them whether the people wish it or not. For example, in Germany we have to a great extent abolished poverty and such degrading slum conditions as prevail in English and American cities. We know that slums lead to drink, vice and physical unfitness. We know that we must kill the slums or see the slums kill efficiency and kill patriotism.

“In Germany we hold the capitalist class within strict bounds. We allow no such heaping up of huge fortunes as are common in America through the exploitation of the weak by the strong. We Germans protect the weak and make them stronger, but you English and Americans make them weaker by oppressing them. You make slaves of children in a thousand factories, crushing out their strength and their hope, so that a few more of you can become millionaires. Do you think those children, grown to manhood, will fight for you very loyally or very effectively when you call on them to rally to the flag? What does such a flag mean to them?”

“What does the American flag mean to thousands of American steel workers forced to toil at the furnaces twelve hours a day for two dollars? Twelve hours a day and often seven days a week lest they starve! Why should these men fight for a flag that has waved, unashamed, over their misery and over the unearned and undeserved fortunes of their task masters, Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan? Why should the down-trodden miners in Colorado fight to perpetuate a John D. Rockefeller system of government?”

“What does Your Imperial Highness mean by a John D. Rockefeller system of government?”

“I mean the English and American system of individualism gone mad—every man for himself and the devil take the hindermost. The result is a trampling on the many by the few, a totally unfair division of the products of toil and such wicked extremes of poverty and riches as are familiar in London and New York but are unknown in Germany.

“In Germany the masses are well housed and well nourished. In all our cities cheap and wholesome pleasures abound, music, beer gardens, great parks with playgrounds and dancing pavilions. It is literally true that work at fair wages with reasonable hours is provided for every German citizen who is able to work. And those unable to work are taken care of,—pensions for the aged, homes for the disabled, state assistance for poor mothers. There are no paupers, no factory slaves in Germany. The central government sees to this, not only as a matter of humanity, but as good policy. We know that every German citizen will fight for the German flag because he is proud of it and has personal reason to be grateful to it, since it represents fair play, large opportunity, a satisfactory life for him and his children.”

The prince maintained that here were new elements in the problem of Germany’s conquest of America. Not only were the invaders more valiant warriors possessed of a better fighting machine, but they came with a moral and spiritual superiority that must make strong appeal to Americans themselves.

“After yielding to us by force of arms,” he went on, “your people will come to welcome us when they see how much better off, how much happier they will be under our higher civilisation. Mr. Langston, we understand your nation better than it understands itself. I assure you, Americans are sick of their selfish materialism, they are ashamed of the degrading money worship that has stifled their national spirit.”

Here I challenged him angrily.

“Do you mean to say that we have no national spirit in America?”

“Not as Germans understand it. You live for material things, for pleasures, for business. You are a race of money schemers, money grovellers, lacking in high ideals and genuine spiritual life without which patriotism is an empty word. Who ever heard of an American working for his country unless he was paid for it?

“Think what America did in the great war! Why was your president so wrought up in 1915 when he assailed Germany with fine phrases? Was it because we had violated Belgium? No! When that happened he had nothing to say, although the United States, equally with England, was a signatory of the Hague Conference that guaranteed Belgium’s integrity. Why did not your president protest then? Why did he not use his fine phrases then? Because the United States had suffered no material injury through Belgium’s misfortune. On the contrary, the United States was sure to gain much of the trade that Belgium lost. And that was what he cared about, commercial advantage. You were quick enough to protect your trade and your money interests. You were ready enough to do anything for gold, ready enough, by the sale of war munitions, to bring death and misery upon half of Europe so long as you got gold from the other half. High ideals! National spirit! There they are!”


Our wing of the advancing German army remained in Hartford for four days, at the end of which all signs of disorder had ceased; in fact, there was little disorder at any time. The lesson of New Haven’s resistance had been taken to heart, and there was the discouraging knowledge that a row of German six-inch siege-guns were trained on the city from the heights of Elizabeth Park, their black muzzles commanding the grey towers and golden dome of State House, the J. Pierpont Morgan Memorial, the gleaming white new City Hall, the belching chimneys of the Underwood typewriter works, and the brown pile of Trinity College.

There was the further restraining fact that leading citizens of Hartford were held as hostages, their lives in peril, in James J. Goodwin’s palatial home, among these being ex-Governor Morgan G. Buckley, Mayor Joseph H. Lawler, Bishop Chauncey B. Brewster, Dr. Flavel S. Luther, Bishop John J. Nilan, Mrs. Richard M. Bissell, Mrs. Thomas N. Hepburn, the Rev. Rockwell Harmon Potter, Charles Hopkins Clark, Rolland F. Andrews, the Rev. Francis Goodwin, Thomas J. Spellacy, and Sol Sontheimer.

So the invaders’ march through New England continued. It is a pitiful story. What could Connecticut and Massachusetts do? With all their wealth and intelligence, with all their mechanical ingenuity, with all their pride and patriotism, what could they do, totally unprepared, more helpless than Belgium, against the most efficient army in Europe?

Three times, between Hartford and Springfield, unorganised bands of Americans, armed with shotguns and rifles, lay in ambush for the advancing enemy and fired upon them. These men declared that they would die before they would stand by tamely and see the homes and fields of New England despoiled by the invader. Whereupon the Germans announced, by means of proclamations showered upon towns and villages from their advance-guard of aeroplanes, that for every German soldier thus killed by Americans in ambush a neighbouring town or village would be burned by fire bombs dropped from the sky. And they carried out this threat to the letter, so that for every act of resistance by the fathers and brothers and sons of New England there resulted only greater suffering and distress for the women and the children.

The average man, especially one with a wife and children, is easily cowed when he has no hope; and presently all resistance ceased. What feeble opposition there was in the first week dwindled to almost nothing in the second week and to less than nothing in the third week. Stamford paid two million dollars in gold, Bridgeport five million, New Haven five million, Hartford twenty million, Fall River three million, Springfield five million, Worcester two million, Providence ten million, Newport fifty million. The smaller cities got off with half a million each, and some of the towns paid as little as one hundred thousand dollars. But every community paid something, and the total amount taken from New England, including a hundred million from New Hampshire, a hundred million from Vermont, and a hundred million from Maine, was eight hundred million dollars, about a third of which was in gold.

With a battle-front fifty or seventy-five miles long, von Kluck’s forces strolled across this fertile and populous region, living off the land, leaving small holding forces with artillery at every important point, a few hundred or a few thousand, while the main army swept relentlessly and resistlessly on. It was a delightful four weeks’ picnic for von Kluck and his men; and at the end of four weeks everything in New England had fallen before them up to the city of Boston, which had been left for the last. And the total German losses in killed and wounded were less than twenty!

On July 2, General von Kluck’s army, sweeping forward unopposed, reached the western and southwestern suburbs of Boston, passing through Newton and Brookline, and making a detour to avoid ruining the beautiful golf links where Ouimet won his famous victory over Ray and Vardon. This sportsmanlike consideration was due to the fact that several of the German officers and the Crown Prince himself were enthusiastic golfers.

Meantime there was panic in the city. For days huge crowds had swarmed through Boston’s great railway stations, fleeing to Maine and Canada; and across the Charles River bridge there had passed an endless stream of automobiles bearing away rich families with their jewels and their silver. Among them were automobile trucks from the banks, laden with tons of gold. No boats left the harbour through fear of a grim German battleship that lay outside, plainly visible from the millionaire homes of Nahant and Manchester.

Even now there was talk of resistance, and German Taubes looked down upon a mass meeting of ten thousand frantic citizens gathered in Mechanics Hall on Huntington Avenue; but prudent counsels prevailed. How could Boston resist without soldiers or ammunition or field artillery? Brooklyn had resisted, and now lay in ruins. New Haven had tried to resist, and what had come of it?

At three o’clock on this day of sorrow, with banners flying and bands playing, the German forces—horse, foot, and artillery—entered the Massachusetts capital in two great columns, the one marching down Beacon Street, past the homes of Oliver Wendell Holmes and Julia Ward Howe, the other advancing along Commonwealth Avenue, past the white-columned Harvard Club, past the statues of Alexander Hamilton and William Lloyd Garrison, on under the shade of four rows of elms that give this noble thoroughfare a resemblance to the Avenue de la Grande Armée in Paris.

It was a perfect summer’s day. The sun flashed from the golden dome of the State House on the hill over Boston Common, and from the great white Custom House tower that rose impressively in the distance above the green of the Public Gardens. Boston looked on, dumb with shame and stifled rage, as the invaders took possession of the city and ran up their flags, red, white, and black, above the Old South Meeting House on Washington Street, where Benjamin Franklin was baptised, and above the sacred, now dishonoured, shaft of the Bunker Hill Monument.

Hostages were taken, as usual, these including Major Henry L. Higginson, President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University, Major James M. Curley, Edward A. Filene, Margaret Deland, William A. Paine, Ellery Sedgwick, Mrs. John L. Gardner, Charles W. Eliot, Louis D. Brandeis, Bishop William Lawrence, Amy Lowell, T. Jefferson Coolidge, Thomas W. Lawson, Guy Murchie, and Cardinal O’Connell.

A proclamation was made in the Transcript (now forced to be the official German organ and the only newspaper that was allowed to appear in Boston) that these prominent persons would be held personally responsible for any public disorder or for any failure of the city to furnish the army of occupation with all necessary food and supplies.

On the night of occupation there were scenes of violence, with rioting and looting in various parts of Boston, notably in Washington Street and Tremont Street, where shops were wrecked by mobs from the South End, several thousand of the unruly foreign element, crazed with drink and carrying knives. Against this drunken rabble the American police, sullen and disorganised, could do nothing or would do nothing; and the situation was becoming desperate, when German troops advanced along Washington Street, firing into the crowd and driving back the looters, who surged through Winter Street, a frantic, terrified mass, and scattered over Boston Common.

Here, in front of the Park Street Church, another huge mob of citizens had gathered—five thousand wildly patriotic Irishmen. Armed with clubs, rifles, and pistols, and madly waving the Stars and Stripes, they cursed, cheered, and yelled out insults to the Germans. Suddenly a company of German soldiers with machine-guns appeared on the high ground in front of the State House. Three times a Prussian officer, standing near the St. Gaudens Shaw Memorial, shouted orders to the crowd to disperse; but the Irishmen only jeered at him.

“They want it; let them have it,” said the Prussian. “Fire!”

And three hundred fell before the blast of rifles and machine-guns.

At which the mob of Irish patriots went entirely mad, and, with yells of hatred and defiance, swarmed straight up the hill at the battery that was slaughtering them, shouting: “To hell with ‘em!” “Come on, boys!” charging so fiercely and valiantly, that the Germans were swept from their position, and for a short time a victorious American mob held the approaches to the State House.

Alas, it was for only a short time! The enemy quickly brought forward reinforcements in overwhelming strength, and an hour later there were only dead, wounded and prisoners to tell of this loyal but hopeless effort.

In other parts of the city during this night of terror there were similar scenes of bloodshed, the Germans inflicting terrible punishment upon the people, innocent and guilty suffering alike for every act of disobedience or resistance. There were a few cases of sniping from houses; and for these a score of men, seized indiscriminately in the crowds, were hanged from windows of the offending or suspected buildings. As a further lesson to the city, two of the hostages, chosen by lot, were led out into the Public Gardens the next morning at sunrise and shot near the statue of Edward Everett Hale.

Machine-guns were now placed on the high ground before the Soldiers’ Monument and at other strategic points, and ten thousand soldiers were encamped on Boston Common, the main part of the army being withdrawn, after this overwhelming show of force, to Franklin Park on the outskirts, where heavy siege-guns were set up.

The Transcript appeared that day with a black-lettered proclamation, signed by General von Kluck, to the effect that at the next disorder five hostages would be shot, and six beautiful buildings—the State House, the Custom House, the Boston Public Library, the Opera House, the Boston Art Museum, and the main building of the Massachusetts School of Technology—would be wrecked by shells. This reduced the city to absolute submission.

Mrs. John L. Gardner’s fine Italian palace in the Fenway, with its wealth of art treasures, was turned into a staff headquarters and occupied by the Crown Prince, General von Kluck, and Count Zeppelin. The main body of officers established themselves in the best hotels and clubs, the Copley Plaza, the Touraine, the Parker House, the Somerset, the St. Botolph, the City Club, the Algonquin, the Harvard Club, paying liberally for the finest suites and the best food by the simple method of signing checks to be redeemed later by the city of Boston.

Non-commissioned officers made themselves comfortable in smaller hotels and in private houses and boarding-houses to which they were assigned. A popular eating-place was Thompson’s Spa, where a crush of brass-buttoned German soldiers lunched every day, perched on high stools along the counters, and trying to ogle the pretty waitresses, who did not hide their aversion.

It is worthy of note that the Tavern Club was burned by its own members to save from desecration a spot hallowed by memories of Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, Charles Eliot Norton, and George William Curtis.

I must mention another instance of the old-time indomitable New England spirit that came to my knowledge during these sad days. The Germans levied upon the city of Boston an indemnity of three hundred million dollars, this to be paid at the rate of three million dollars a day; and on the morning of July 4, two of von Kluck’s staff officers, accompanied by a military escort, marched down State Street into the now deserted region of banks and vaults and trust companies, to arrange for the regular payment of this sum. Entering the silent halls of a great banking house, they came to a rear office with the door locked. A summons to open being unanswered, they broke down this door; whereupon a shot, fired from within, killed the first soldier who crossed the threshold. A German volley followed, and, when the smoke cleared away, there sat a prominent Boston financier, his father’s Civil War musket clutched in his hands and the look of a hero in his dying eyes. All alone, this uncompromising figure of a man had waited there in his private office ready to defy the whole German army and die for his rights and his convictions.


I was standing with Count Zeppelin in the doorway of Mrs. John L. Gardner’s Fenway palace when the news of the great sea horror reached Boston. The German submarine U-68, scouting off the coast of Maine, had sunk the American liner Manhattan, the largest passenger vessel in the world, as she raced toward Bar Harbor with her shipload of non-combatants. Eighteen hundred and sixty-three men, women, and children went down with the ship. No warning had been given. No chance had been offered for women or children or neutral passengers to escape. The disaster duplicated the wrecking of the Lusitania in 1915, but it exceeded it in loss of human life. The American captain and all his men shared the fate of the passengers intrusted to their care.

In Boston the effect on the German officers and men was unbelievable. Tremont and Boylston and Washington streets, echoing with cheers of the exulting conquerors, resembled the night of a Harvard-Yale football game when Brickley used to play for Cambridge University. The citizens of the big town, their senses deadened by their own disaster, received the news, and the ghastly celebration that followed it, without any real interest. The fact that an ex-Mayor of Boston and the son of the present Governor were among those that perished failed to rouse them. Boston, mentally as well as physically, was in the grip of the enemy.

That this was just the effect the Germans planned to produce is shown by General von Kluck’s own words. In an interview that he gave me for the London Times, after the occupation of Boston on July 2, 1921, General von Kluck said:

“The way to end a war quickly is to make the burden of it oppressive upon the people. It was on this principle that General Sherman acted in his march from Atlanta to the sea. It was on this principle that General Grant acted in his march from Washington to Richmond. Grant said he would fight it out on those lines if it took all summer—meaning lines of relentless oppression. In modern war a weak enemy like Belgium or like New England, which is far weaker than Belgium was in 1914, must be crushed immediately. Think of the bloodshed that would have stained the soil of Connecticut and Massachusetts if we had not spread terror before us. As it is, New England has suffered very little from the German occupation, and in a very short time everything will be going on as usual.”

The veteran warrior paused, and added with a laugh: “Better than usual.”

As a matter of fact, within a week Boston had resumed its ordinary life and activities. Business was good, factories were busy, and the theatres were crowded nightly, especially Keith’s, where the latest military photo-play by Thomas Dixon and Charles T. Dazey—with Mary Pickford as the heroine and Charley Chaplin as the comedy relief—was enjoyed immensely by German officers.

As to the commerce of Boston Harbor, it was speedily re-established, with ships of all nations going and coming, undisturbed by the fact that it was now the German flag on German warships that they saluted.

I received instructions from my paper about this time to leave New England and join General Wood’s forces, which had crossed the Delaware into Pennsylvania, where they were battling desperately with von Hindenburg’s much stronger army. On the day following my arrival at the American headquarters, I learned that Lord Kitchener had come over from England to follow the fighting as an eye-witness; and I was fortunate enough to obtain an interview with his lordship, who remembered me in connection with his Egyptian campaigns.

“The United States is where England would have been in 1914 without her fleet,” said Lord Kitchener.

“Where is that?”

“If England had been invaded by a German army in 1914,” replied the great organiser gravely, “she would have been wiped off the map. It was England’s fleet that saved her. And, even so, we had a hard time of it. Everything was lacking—officers, men, uniforms, ammunition, guns, horses, saddles, horse blankets, everything except our fleet.”

A sudden light burned in Lord Kitchener’s strange eyes, and he added earnestly: “There is something more than that. In 1914 Germany was wonderfully prepared in material things, but her greatest advantage over all other nations, except Japan, lay in her dogged devotion to her own ideals. She may have been wrong, as we think, but she believed in herself. There was nothing like it in England, and there is nothing like it in America. The German masses, to the last man, woman, and child, were inspired to give all that they had, their lives included, for the Empire. In England there was more selfishness and self-indulgence. We had labour troubles, strike troubles, drink troubles; and finally, as you know, in 1916 we were forced to adopt conscription. It will be the same story here in America.”

“Don’t you think that America will ultimately win?”

Lord Kitchener hesitated.

“I don’t know. Germany holds New York and Boston and is marching on Philadelphia. Think what that means! New York is the business capital of the nation. It is hard to conceive of the United States without New York.”

“The Americans will get New York back, won’t they?”

“How? When? It is true you have a population of eighty millions west of the Allegheny Mountains, and somehow, some day, their American spirit and their American genius ought to conquer; but it’s going to be a job. Patriotism is not enough. Money is not enough. Potential resources are not enough. It is a question of doing the essential thing before it is too late. We found that out in England in 1916. If America could have used her potential resources when the Germans landed on Long Island, she would have driven her enemies into the sea within a week; but the thing was not possible. You might as well expect a gold mine in Alaska to stop a Wall Street panic.”

I found that Lord Kitchener had very definite ideas touching great social changes that must come in America following this long and exhausting war, assuming that we finally came out of it victorious.

“America will be a different land after this war,” he said. “You will have to reckon as never before with the lowly but enlightened millions who have done the actual fighting. The United States of the future must be regarded as a vast-co-operative estate to be managed for the benefit of all who dwell in it, not for the benefit of a privileged few. And America may well follow the example of Germany, as England has since the end of the great war in 1919, in using the full power of state to lessen her present iniquitous extremes of poverty and wealth, which weaken patriotism, and in compelling a division of the products of toil that is really fair.

“I warn you that America will escape the gravest labour trouble with the possibility of actual revolution only by admitting, as England has admitted, that from now on labour has the whip hand over capital and must be placated by immense concessions. You must either establish state control in many industries that are now privately owned and managed and establish state ownership in all public utilities or you must expect to see your whole system of government swing definitely toward a socialistic regime. The day of the multi-millionaire is over.”

I found another distinguished Englishman at General Wood’s headquarters, Lord Northcliffe, owner of the London Times, and I had the unusual experience of interviewing my own employer for his own newspaper. As usual, Lord Northcliffe took sharp issue with Lord Kitchener on several points. His hatred of the Germans was so intense that he could see no good in them.

“The idea that Germany will be able to carry this invasion of America to a successful conclusion is preposterous,” he declared. “Prussian supermen! What are they? Look at their square heads with no backs to them and their outstanding ears! Gluttons of food! Guzzlers of drink! A race of bullies who treat their women like squaws and drudges and then cringe to every policeman and strutting officer who makes them goose-step before him. Bismarck called them a nation of house-servants, and knew that in racial aptitude they are and always will be hopelessly inferior to Anglo-Saxons.

“Conquer America? They can no more do it than they could conquer England. They can make you suffer, yes, as they made us suffer; they can fill you with rage and shame to find yourselves utterly unprepared in this hour of peril, eaten up with commercialism and pacifism just as we were. But conquer this great nation with its infinite resources and its splendid racial inheritance—never!

“The Germans despise America just as they despised England. John Bull was an effete old plutocrat whose sons and daughters were given up to sport and amusement. The Kaiser, in his famous Aix-la-Chapelle order, referred scornfully to our ‘contemptible little army.’ He was right, it was a contemptible little army, but by the end of 1917 we had five million fully equipped men in the field and in the summer of 1918 the Kaiser saw his broken armies flung back to the Rhine by these same contemptible Englishmen and their brave allies. There will be the same marvellous change here when the tortured American giant stirs from his sleep of indifference and selfishness. Then the Prussian superman will learn another lesson!”


Coming now to the campaign in New Jersey, let me recall that on the evening of June 18, American scouting aeroplanes, under Squadron Commander Harry Payne Whitney, reported that a strong force of Germans, cavalry, infantry, and artillery, had occupied the heights above Bordentown, New Jersey, and were actively proceeding to build pontoons across the Delaware. It seemed clear that von Hindenburg was preparing to cross the river at the very point where Washington made his historic crossing in 1776; and General Wood proceeded to attack the enemy’s position with his artillery, being assisted by four light-draught gunboats from the Philadelphia navy-yard, which lay in the deepened channel at the head of tide-water and dropped shells inside the enemy’s lines. The Germans replied vigorously, and a smart engagement at long range ensued, lasting until darkness fell. We fully expected that the next day would see a fierce battle fought here for the command of the river. No one dreamed that this was a trap set by von Hindenburg.

As a matter of fact, the crossing movement from above Bordentown was a feint in which not more than 8,000 Germans were engaged, their main army being gathered twenty miles to the north, near Lambertville, for the real crossing. And only the prompt heroic action of three young Americans, two boys and a girl, saved our forces from immediate disaster.

The heroine of this adventure was Barbara Webb, a beautiful girl of sixteen, who, with her brother Dominick and their widowed mother, lived in a lonely farm-house on Goat Hill, back of Lambertville. They had a boy friend, Marshall Frissell, in Brownsburg, Pennsylvania, on the other side of the river, and Marshall and Dominick had learned to wigwag signals, in boy-scout fashion, back and forth across the Delaware.

It seems that, on this memorable night, the brother and sister discovered a great force of Germans building pontoons about a mile below the wrecked Lambertville bridge. Whereupon Dominick Webb, knowing that all telegraph and telephone wires were cut, leaped upon a horse and set out to carry the news to General Wood. But he was shot through the thigh by a Prussian sentry, and, hours later, fainting from loss of blood, he returned to the farm-house and told his sister that he had failed in his effort.

Then Barbara, as day was breaking, climbed to the crest of Goat Hill, and began to signal desperately toward Brownsburg, in the hope that Marshall Frissell might see and understand. For an hour she waved, but all in vain. Marshall was asleep. Still she waved; and finally, by a miracle of faith, the boy was roused from his slumbers, drawn to his window as the sun arose, and, looking out, saw Barbara’s familiar flag wigwagging frantically on the heights of Lambertville three miles away. Then he answered, and Barbara cried out in her joy.

Just then a German rifle spoke from the riverbank below, a thousand yards away, where the enemy were watching, and a bullet pierced the Stars and Stripes as the flag fluttered over that slim girlish figure silhouetted against the glory of the eastern sky. Then another bullet came, and another. The enemy had seen Barbara’s manoeuvre. She was betraying an important military secret, and she must die.

Wait! With a hostile army below her, not a mile distant, this fearless American girl went on wigwagging her message—letter by letter, slowly, painstakingly, for she was imperfect in the code. As she swept the flag from side to side, signalling, a rain of bullets sang past her. Some cut her dress and some snipped her flowing hair; and finally one shattered the flag-staff in her hands. Whereupon, like Barbara Frietchie of old, this fine young Barbara caught up the banner she loved, and went on waving the news that might save her country, while a hundred German soldiers fired at her.

And presently a wonderful thing happened. The power of her devotion touched the hearts of these rough men,—for they were brave themselves,—and, lowering their guns, with one accord, they cheered this little grey-eyed, dimpled farmer’s girl with her hair blowing in the breeze, until the Jersey hills rang.

And now the lad in Brownsburg rose to the situation. There were Germans on the opposite bank, a great host of them, making ready to cross the Delaware. General Wood must know this at once—he must come at once. They say that freckle-faced Marshall Frissell, fifteen years old, on a mad motorcycle, covered the twenty miles to Ft. Hill, Pa., where General Wood had his headquarters, in fifteen minutes, and that by seven o’clock troop trains and artillery trains were moving toward the north, winding along the Delaware like enormous snakes, as Leonard Wood, answering the children’s call, hastened to the rescue.

I dwell upon these minor happenings because they came to my knowledge, and because the main events of the four days’ battle of Trenton are familiar to all. In spite of the overwhelming superiority of the Germans in men and artillery, the American army, spread along a twelve-mile front on the hills opposite Lambertville, made good use of their defensive position, and for three days held back the enemy from crossing the river. In fact, it was only on the evening of the third day, June 21, that von Hindenburg’s engineers succeeded in completing their pontoon line to the Pennsylvania shore. Again and again the floating bridge was destroyed by a concentrated shell fire from American batteries on the ridge a mile and a half back from the river.

American aeroplanes contributed effectively to this work of resistance by dropping explosive bombs upon the pontoons; but, unfortunately, German aeroplanes outnumbered the defenders at least four to one, and soon achieved a mastery of the sky.

A brilliant air victory was gained by Jess Willard, volunteer pilot of a swift and powerful Burgess machine, over three Taubes, the latter attacking fiercely while the champion prize-fighter circled higher and higher, manoeuvring for a position of advantage. I shall never forget the thrill I felt when Willard swooped down suddenly from a height of eight thousand feet, and, by a dangerous turn, brought his machine directly over the nearest German flier, at the same time dropping a fire bomb that destroyed this aeroplane and hurled the wreck of it straight down upon the two Taubes underneath, striking one and capsizing the other with the rush of air. So the great Jess, by his daring strategy, hurled three of the enemy down to destruction, and escaped safely from the swarm of pursuers.

On the fourth day, the Germans—thanks to an advantage of three to one in artillery pieces—succeeded in crossing the Delaware; and after that the issue of the battle was never in doubt, the American forces being outnumbered and outclassed. Two-thirds of General Wood’s army were either militia, insufficiently equipped and half trained, or raw recruits. There were fifteen thousand of the latter who had volunteered within a fortnight, loyal patriots ready to die for their country, but without the slightest ability to render efficient military service. These volunteers included clerks, business men, professional men from the cities of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, thousands of workmen from great factories like the Roebling wire works, thousands of villagers and farmers, all blazing with zeal, but none of them able to handle a high-power Springfield rifle or operate a range-finder or make the adjustments for the time-fuse of a shell.


“They shot away tons of ammunition without hitting anything,” said one of the American officers to me. “They didn’t know how to use wind-gauges or elevation-sights. They couldn’t even pull a trigger properly.”

And yet, the Germans suffered heavily in that desperate battle of the fourth day—partly because they attacked again and again in close formation and were mowed down by American machine-guns; partly because General Wood had fortified his position with miles of wire entanglements through which high-voltage electric currents were sent from the power-house of the Newtown and Trenton trolley systems in Newtown, Pennsylvania; and, finally, because the American commander, in an address to his troops, read at sunset on the eve of battle, had called upon them in inspiring words to fight for their wives and children, for the integrity of the nation, for the glory of the old flag.

And they fought until they died. When the battle was over, the Americans had lost 15,000 out of 70,000, while the Germans lost 12,000 out of 125,000. Von Hindenburg himself admitted that he had never seen such mad, hopeless, magnificent courage.

Again General Wood faced defeat and the necessity of falling back to a stronger position. For weeks thousands of labourers had been digging trenches north of Philadelphia; and now the American army, beaten but defiant, retreated rapidly and in some disorder through Jenkintown and Bristol to this new line of intrenchments that spread in fan shape from the Schuylkill to the Delaware.

It was of the most desperate importance now that word be sent to Harrisburg and to the mobilisation camp at Gettysburg and to other recruiting points in the West and South, demanding that all possible reinforcements be rushed to Philadelphia. As communication by telegraph and telephone was cut off, General Wood despatched Colonel Horace M. Reading and Captain William E. Pedrick, officers of the National Guard, in a swift automobile, with instructions that these calls for help be flashed without fail from the wireless station in the lofty granite shaft of the Trenton monument that commemorates Washington’s victory over the Hessians.

Unfortunately, owing to bad roads and wrecked bridges, these officers suffered great delay, and only reached the Trenton monument as the German host, with rolling drums, was marching into the New Jersey capital along Pennington Avenue, the triumphant way that Washington had followed after his great victory.

As the invaders reached the little park where the monument stands, they saw that a wireless station was in operation there, and demanded its surrender.

Colonel Reading, wishing to gain time (for every minute counted), opened a glass door and stepped out on the little balcony at the top of the monument one hundred and fifty feet above the ground. He tried to speak, but a German officer cut him short. He must surrender instantly or they would fire.

“Fire and be damned!” shouted the Colonel, and turned to the white-faced wireless operator inside. “Have you got Harrisburg yet?” he asked. “For God’s sake, hustle!”

“Just got ‘em,” answered the operator. “I need five minutes to get this message through.”

Five minutes! The German officer below, red with anger, was calling out sharp orders. A six-inch gun was set up under the Carolina poplars not a hundred yards from the monument.

“We’ll show them!” roared the Prussian, as the gun crew drove home a hundred-pound shell. “Ready!”

“Is that message gone?” gasped Reading.

“Half of it. I need two minutes.”

Two minutes! The officer was aiming the big gun at the base of the monument, and was just giving the word to fire when the heavy bronze door swung open, and between the two bronze soldiers appeared Elias A. Smith, a white-haired veteran, over ninety years old, with a bronze medal on his breast and the Stars and Stripes wound around his waist.

“I fought in the Civil War!” he cried, in a shrill voice. “Here’s my medal. Here’s my flag. I’ve been the guardian of the monument for sixteen years. George Washington’s up there on top, and if you’re going to shoot him, you can shoot me, too.”

The Germans were so surprised by this venerable apparition that they stood like stones.

“Hi! Yi!” shouted Colonel Reading. “It’s gone!”

“Hurrah!” echoed the old man. “I was with Grant at Appomattox when Lee surrendered. Why don’t you fire?”

Then they did fire, and the proud shaft bearing the statue of George Washington crumbled to earth; and in the ruin of it four brave Americans perished.


While the main German army pressed on in pursuit of General Wood’s fleeing forces, a body of ten thousand of the invaders was left behind at various points in northern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania to pacify this region and organise its industries and activities. The Picatinny arsenal was now running night and day, under the direction of a force of chemists brought from Germany, turning out shells and cartridges for the invading army. The great Roebling plant in Trenton was commandeered for the production of field telephone and telegraph wire, and the Mercer automobile factory for military motor-trucks and ambulances.

I was astonished at the rapidity with which German engineers repaired bridges and railroads that had been wrecked by the retreating Americans, and was assured that the invaders had brought with them from their own country a full supply of steel spans, beams, girders, trusses, and other parts necessary for such repairs, down to the individual bolts and pins for each separate construction. It was an amazing illustration of their preparedness, and of their detailed knowledge of conditions in America.

Trains were soon running regularly between Jersey City and Trenton, their operations being put in the hands of two Pennsylvania Railroad officials, J.B. Fisher, superintendent of the New York division, and Victor Wierman, superintendent of the Trenton division—these two, with their operating staffs, being held personally responsible, under pain of death, for the safe and prompt arrival of troops and supplies.

For the pacification of Trenton the Germans left a force of three thousand men with artillery encamped in the State Fair grounds near the capital, and it was announced in the Trenton Times (made the official German organ) that at the first disorder shells would be fired at the white marble City Hall, at the State House, with its precious collection of flags and banners from the Civil and Revolutionary wars, at the Broad Street National Bank, and at the Public Service building, which stands where the Hessians surrendered in 1776.

Among hostages taken here by the Germans were R.V. Kuser, head of the Trenton Brewing Company; General Wilbur F. Sadler, president of the Broad Street Trust Company; Colonel E. C. Stahl, a Civil War veteran and the father of Rose Stahl; also the Roman Catholic Bishop James F. McFaul and the Episcopal Bishop Paul Matthews.

Many Trenton women, including Mrs. Karl G. Roebling, Mrs. Oliphant, wife of the General, Miss Mabel Hayter, and Mrs. Charles Howell Cook, were devoted in nursing the wounded who were brought by thousands to the historic churches of Trenton, used as hospitals, and to the vast Second Regiment armory.

Several American nurses came into possession of diaries found on wounded German soldiers, and some of these recorded excesses similar to those committed in Belgium in 1914.

“On the main street of the town of Dover, New Jersey,” wrote Private Karmenz, 178th Saxon Regiment, “I saw about fifty citizens shot for having fired from ambush on our soldiers.”

“Glorious victories in Pennsylvania,” rejoiced Lieutenant A. Aberlein of the Eighth Bavarian Army Corps. “Our men of softer spirit give the wounded a bullet of deliverance; the others hack and stab as they may.”

The tribute levied upon Trenton was four million dollars in gold, recently realised by the State Treasurer from an issue of State bonds to supply State deficiencies.

German officers made themselves comfortable in the Trenton Club, the Lotus Club, the Carteret Club, and the Elk Home; also in the Windsor House, the Trenton House, and the Sterling House. Printed schedules of rates for food and rooms were posted up, and the proprietors were notified that they would be punished if they refused to give service at these rates, just as the German soldiers would be punished if they tried to evade payment.

Officers of the German headquarters staff occupied Karl G. Roebling’s show place, with its fine stables, lawns, and greenhouses.

A few days after the battle of Trenton, I received a cable to the effect that the American fleet had nearly completed its voyage around South America and had been sighted off Cape St. Roque, the northeastern corner of Brazil, headed toward the Caribbean Sea. It was known that the German fleet had been cruising in these waters for weeks, awaiting the enemy’s arrival, and cutting off their colliers and supply ships from all ports in Europe and America; and it was now evident that a great naval battle must occur in the near future.

I took steamer at once for Kingston, Jamaica; and on the evening of my arrival, July 10, I called on my friend, Rear-Admiral Thomas Q. Allyn of the United States Navy (now retired), whom I had not seen since our dramatic meeting at Colon when the Panama Canal was wrecked by the Germans. I had many questions to ask the Admiral, and we talked until after midnight.

“I am horribly anxious, Mr. Langston,” said the veteran of Manila. “We are facing a great crisis. Our ships are going into battle, and within a few hours we shall know whether the civilian policy at Washington that has controlled our naval development—the policy that forced me to resign rather than assume the responsibility for consequences—we shall know whether that policy was wise or foolish.”

“I did not suspect that you resigned for that reason,” said I.

His face darkened.

“Yes. There had been tension for months. The whole service was demoralised. Discipline and efficiency were destroyed. As far back as 1914, I testified before the House Committee on Naval Affairs that it would take five years to make our fleet ready to fight the fleet of any first-class naval power, and to get our personnel into proper condition. I said that we were not able to defend the Monroe Doctrine in the Atlantic, or to force the Open Door of trade in the Pacific. I might as well have spoken to the winds, and when the order came last April, against the best naval advice, to take our fleet into the Pacific, I handed in my resignation.”

“You must be glad you did, in view of what happened.”

“Yes; but—I am thinking of my country. I am thinking of those unfortunate ships that have come around South America without sufficient coal or provisions.”

I asked Admiral Allyn how the American fleet compared with the Germans in number of ships. He shook his head.

“We are far behind them. Nine years ago, in 1912, we stood next to Great Britain in naval strength; but since then we have steadily fallen back. Germany has a dozen super-dreadnoughts, ships of over 30,000 tons, while we have six. Germany has twenty dreadnoughts of from 20,000 to 30,000 tons to our ten. She has four battle-cruisers, while we have none. She has a hundred destroyers to our twenty-five.”

“I understand that these figures refer to the fleets that are actually going into battle?”

“Yes. Germany’s entire naval strength is a third more than that. I have accurate information. You see, our fleet is outclassed.”

“But it will fight?”

“Of course our fleet will fight; but—we can’t get to our base at Guantánamo—the German fleet blocks the way. For years we have begged that Guantánamo be fortified; but our request was always refused.”


“Ah, why? Why, in 1915, were we refused eighteen thousand men on the active list that were absolutely necessary to man our ships? Why have we practically no naval reserves? Why, in 1916, were the President’s reasonable demands for naval preparedness refused by Congress? I will tell you why! Because politics has been considered more than efficiency in the handling of our navy. Vital needs have been neglected, so that a show of economy could be made to the people and get their votes. Economy! Good heavens! you see where it has brought us!”

On the morning of July 11, as I was breakfasting in the hotel with Admiral Allyn, there was great excitement outside, and, going to the piazza, we saw a large airship approaching rapidly from the northwest at the height of about a mile. It was one of the non-rigid Parseval type, evidently a German.

“A scout from the enemy’s fleet,” said Admiral Allyn.

“That means they are not far away?”

“Yes. They came through the Windward Passage three weeks ago, and have been lying off Guantánamo ever since. We ought to have wireless reports of them soon.”

As a matter of fact, before noon the wireless station at Santiago de Cuba flashed the news that coasting steamers had reported German battleships steaming slowly to the south, and a few hours later other wireless reports informed us that the American fleet had been sighted off the southern coast of Haiti.

The Admiral nodded grimly.

“The hour has struck. The German and American fleets will meet in these waters somewhere between Guantánamo and Jamaica.”


In a flash my newspaper sense made me realise that this was an extraordinary opportunity. The greatest naval battle in history was about to be fought so near us that we might almost hear the big guns booming. It would be worth thousands of pounds to the London Times to have an eye-witness account of this battle, and I resolved to turn the island of Jamaica upside down in search of an aeroplane that would take me out to sea.

The fates were certainly kind to me—or rather the British Consul was efficient; and before night I had secured the use of a powerful Burgess-Dunne aeroboat, the property of Vincent Astor; also Mr. Astor’s skilful services as pilot, which he generously offered through his interest in naval affairs and because of his desire to give the world this first account of a sea battle observed from the sky.

We started the next morning, an hour after sunrise, flying to the north straight across the island of Jamaica, and then out over the open sea. I shall never forget the beauty of the scene that we looked down upon—the tropical flowers and verdure of the rugged island, and the calmly smiling purple waters surrounding it. We flew swiftly through the delicious air at a height of half a mile, and in two hours we had covered a third of the distance to Guantánamo and were out of sight of land.

At ten o’clock we turned to the right and steered for a column of smoke that had appeared on the far horizon; and at half-past ten we were circling over the American fleet as it steamed ahead slowly with fires under all boilers and everything ready for full speed at an instant’s notice.

As we approached the huge super-dreadnought Pennsylvania, flag-ship of the American squadron, Mr. Astor unfurled the Stars and Stripes, and we could hear the crews cheering as they waved back their greetings.

I should explain that we were able to converse easily, above the roar of our propellers, by talking into telephone head-pieces.

“Look!” cried Astor. “Our ships are beginning a manoeuvre.”

The Pennsylvania, with red-and-white flags on her foremast, was signalling to the fleet: “Prepare to engage the enemy.” We watched eagerly as the great ships, stretching away for miles, turned slightly to starboard and, with quickened engines, advanced in one long line of battle.

At half-past eleven another smoke column appeared on our port bow, and within half an hour we could make out enemy vessels on either hand.

“They’re coming on in two divisions, miles apart,” said Astor, studying the two smoke columns with his glasses. “We’re headed right between them.”

We flew ahead rapidly, and presently could clearly discern that the vessels to starboard were large battleships and those to port were destroyers.

At one o’clock the two fleets were about nineteen thousand yards apart and were jockeying for positions. Suddenly four vessels detached themselves from the German battleship line and steamed at high speed across the head of the American column.

“What’s that? What are they doing?” asked Astor.

“Trying to cap our line and torpedo it. Admiral Togo did the same thing against the Russians in the Yellow Sea. Admiral Fletcher is swinging his line to port to block that move.”

“How do they know which way to manoeuvre? I don’t see any signals.”

“It’s done by radio from ship to ship. Look! They are forcing us to head more to port. That gives them the advantage of sunlight. Ah!”

I pointed to the German line, where several puffs of smoke showed that they had begun firing. Ten seconds later great geyser splashes rose from the sea five hundred yards beyond the Pennsylvania, and then we heard the dull booming of the discharge. The battle had begun. I glanced at my watch. It was half-past one.

Boom! Boom! Boom! spoke the big German guns eight miles away; but we always saw the splashes before we heard the sounds. Sometimes we could see the twelve-inch shells curving through the air—big, black, clumsy fellows.

Awe-struck, from our aeroplane, Astor and I looked down upon the American dreadnoughts as they answered the enemy in kind, a whole line thundering forth salvos that made the big guns flame out like monster torches, dull red in rolling white clouds of smokeless powder. We could see the tense faces of those brave men in the fire-control tops.

“See that!” I cried, as a shell struck so close to the Arizona, second in line, that the “spotting” officers on the fire-control platform high on her foremast were drenched with salt water.

I can give here only the main features of this great battle of the Caribbean, which lasted five hours and a quarter and covered a water area about thirty miles long and twenty miles wide. My plan of it, drawn with red and black lines to represent movements of rival fleets, is a tangle of loops and curves.

“Do you think there is any chance that it will be a drawn game?” said Astor, pale with excitement.

“No,” I answered. “A battle like this is never a drawn game. It’s always a fight to a finish.”

Our aeroboat behaved splendidly, in spite of a freshening trade-wind breeze, and we circled lower for a better view of the battle which now grew in fierceness as the fleets came to closer quarters. At one time we dropped to within two thousand feet of the sea before Astor remembered that our American flag made a tempting target for the German guns and steered to a higher level.

“They don’t seem to fire at us, do they? I suppose they think we aren’t worth bothering with,” he laughed.

As a matter of fact, not a single shot was fired at us during the entire engagement.

I must say a word here regarding an adroit German manoeuvre early in the battle by which the invaders turned an apparent inferiority in submarines into a distinct advantage. The American fleet had thirty submarines (these had been towed painfully around South America) while the Germans had only five, but these five were large and speedy, built to travel with the fleet under their own power and not fall behind. The thirty American submarines, on the other hand, could not make over twelve knots an hour. Consequently, when the German line suddenly quickened its pace to twenty-five knots, Admiral Fletcher had to choose between abandoning his underwater craft and allowing his fleet to be capped by the enemy; that is, exposed to a raking fire with great danger from torpedoes. He decided to abandon his submarines (all but one that had the necessary speed) and thus he lost whatever assistance these vessels might have rendered, and was obliged to fight with a single submarine against five, instead of with thirty against five.

When I explained this manoeuvre to Mr. Astor he asked the natural question why Admiral Fletcher had not foreseen this unfortunate issue and left his burdensome submarines at Panama. I pointed out that these thirty vessels had cost half a million dollars apiece and it was the admiral’s duty to take care of them. It naturally was not his fault if Congress had failed to give him submarines that were large enough and swift enough for efficient fighting with the fleet.

Meantime the battle was booming on in two widely separated areas, the battleships in one, the destroyers in the other.

Mr. Astor had held the wheel for five hours and, at my suggestion, he retired to the comfortable little cabin and lay down for fifteen minutes, leaving the aeroboat to soar in great slow circles under its admirable automatic controls over the main battle area. When he returned he brought hot coffee in a silver thermos bottle and some sandwiches, and we ate these with keen relish, in spite of the battle beneath us.

The dreadnoughts had now closed in to eight thousand yards and the battle was at the height of its fury, making a continuous roar, and forming five miles of flaming tongues in a double line, darting out their messages of hate and death.

As the afternoon wore on the wind strengthened from the northeast and I realised the disadvantage of the American ships indicated by Admiral Allyn, namely, that, being light of coal, they rode high in the sea and rolled heavily. Unfortunately, the Germans had thirty battleships to seventeen and this disparity was presently increased when the flotilla of German destroyers, about eighty, after vanquishing their opponents, swarmed against the hardpressed American line, attacking from the port quarter under the lead of the four battle-cruisers so that the valiant seventeen were practically surrounded.

In this storm of shells every ship was struck again and again and the huge Pennsylvania, at the head of the column, seemed to be the target of the whole German column. About three o’clock, as the flagship rolled far over to port and exposed her starboard side, a twelve-inch shell caught her below the armoured belt and smashed through into the engine-room, where it exploded with terrific violence. The flagship immediately fell behind, helpless, and Admiral Fletcher, badly wounded and realising that his vessel was doomed, signalled to Admiral Mayo, on the Arizona, second in line, to assume command of the fleet.

“Look!” cried Astor, suddenly, pointing to two black spots in the sea about a thousand yards away.

“Periscopes,” said I.

At the same moment we saw two white trails swiftly moving along the surface and converging on the Pennsylvania with deadly precision.

“Torpedoes! They’re going to finish her!” murmured Astor, his hands clenched tight, his eyes sick with pain.

There was a smothered explosion, then a thick column of water shot high into the air, and a moment later there came another explosion as the second torpedo found its target.

And now the great super-dreadnought Pennsylvania was sinking into the Caribbean with Admiral Fletcher aboard and seventeen hundred men. She listed more and more, and, suddenly, sinking lower at the bows, she submerged her great shoulders in the ocean and rolled her vast bulk slowly to starboard until her dark keel line rose above the surface with a green Niagara pouring over it.

For a long time the Pennsylvania lay awash while the battle thundered about her and scores of blue-jackets clambered over her rails from her perpendicular decks and clung to her slippery sides. We could hear them singing “Nancy Lee” as the waves broke over them.

“Are we afraid to die?” shouted one of the men, and I thrilled at the answering chorus of voices, “No!”

Just before the final plunge we turned away. It was too horrible, and Astor swung the aeroplane in a great curve so that we might not see the last agonies of those brave men. When we looked back the flagship had disappeared.

As we circled again over the spot where the Pennsylvania went down we were able to make out a few men clinging to fragments of wreckage and calling for help.

“Do you see them? Do you hear them?” cried Astor, his face like chalk. “We must save one of them. She’ll carry three if we throw over some of our oil.”

This explains why we did not see the end of the battle of the Caribbean and the complete destruction of the American fleet. We threw overboard a hundred pounds of oil and started back to Kingston with a crippled engine and a half-drowned lieutenant of the Pennsylvania stretched on the cabin floor. How we saved him is a miracle. One of our wings buckled when we struck the water and I got a nasty clip from the propeller as I dragged the man aboard; but, somehow, we did the thing and got home hours later with one of the few survivors of Admiral Fletcher’s ill-fated expedition.

I have no idea how I wrote my story that night; my head was throbbing with pain and I was so weak I could scarcely hold my pencil, but somehow, I cabled two columns to the London Times, and it went around the world as the first description of a naval battle seen from an aeroplane. I did not know until afterwards how much the Germans suffered. They really lost about half their battleships, but the Americans lost everything.


I come now to the point in my narrative where I ceased to be merely a reporter of stirring events, and began to play a small part that Fate had reserved for me in this great international drama. Thank God, I was able to be of service to stricken America, my own country that I have loved so much, although, as correspondent of the London Times, it has been my lot to spend years in foreign lands.

Obeying instructions from my paper, I hastened back to the United States, where important events were pending. Von Hindenburg, after his Trenton victory, had strangely delayed his advance against Philadelphia—we were to learn the reason for this shortly—but, as we passed through Savannah, we had news that the invading army was moving southward against General Wood’s reconstructed line of defence that spread from Bristol on the Delaware to Jenkintown to a point three miles below Norristown on the Schuylkill.

The next morning we reached Richmond and here, I should explain, I said good-bye to the rescued lieutenant, an attractive young fellow, Randolph Ryerson, whose home was in Richmond, and whose sister, Miss Mary Ryerson, a strikingly beautiful girl, had met us at Charleston the night before in response to a telegram that her brother was coming and was ill. She nursed him through the night in an uncomfortable stateroom and came to me in the morning greatly disturbed about his condition. The young man had a high fever, she said, and had raved for hours calling out a name, a rather peculiar name—Widding—Widding—Lemuel A. Widding—over and over again in his delirium.

I tried to reassure her and said laughingly that, as long as it was not a woman’s name he was raving about, there was no ground for anxiety. She gave me her address in Richmond and thanked me very sweetly for what I had done. I must admit that for days I was haunted by that girl’s face and by the glorious beauty of her eyes.

When we reached Washington we found that city in a panic over news of another American defeat. Philadelphia had fallen and all communications were cut off. Furthermore, a third force of Germans had landed in Chesapeake Bay, which meant that the national capital was threatened by two German armies. We now understood von Hindenburg’s deliberation.

In this emergency, Marshall Reid, brother-in-law of Lieutenant Dustin, the crack aviator of the navy, who had been aboard the Pennsylvania, volunteered to carry messages from the President to Philadelphia and to bring back news. Reid himself was one of the best amateur flying men in the country and he did me the honour to choose me as his companion.

We started late in the afternoon of August 17 in Mr. Reid’s swift Burgess machine and made the distance in two hours. I shall never forget our feelings as we circled over the City of Brotherly Love and looked down upon wrecks of railroad bridges that lay across the Schuylkill. Shots were fired at us from the aerodrome of the League Island Navy Yard; so we flew on, searching for a safer landing place.

We tried to make the roof landing on the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, but the wind was too high and we finally chanced it among the maples of Rittenhouse Square, after narrowly missing the sharp steeple of St. Mark’s Church. Here, with a few bruises, we came to earth just in front of the Rittenhouse Club and were assisted by Dr. J. William White, who rushed out and did what he could to help us.

Five hours later, Reid started back to Washington with details of reverses sent by military and city authorities that decided the administration to move the seat of government to Chicago without delay. He also carried from me (I remained in Philadelphia) a hastily written despatch to be transmitted from Washington via Kingston to the London Times, in which I summed up the situation on the basis of facts given me by my friend, Richard J. Beamish, owner of the Philadelphia Press, my conclusion being that the American cause was lost. And I included other valuable information gleaned from reporter friends of mine on the North American and the Bulletin. I even ventured a prophecy that the United States would sue for peace within ten days.

“What were General Wood’s losses in the battle of Philadelphia?” I asked Beamish.

“Terribly heavy—nearly half of his army in killed, wounded and prisoners. What could we do? Von Hindenburg outnumbered us from two to one and we were short of ammunition, artillery, horses, aeroplanes, everything.”

“Who blew up those railroad bridges and cut the wires?”

“German spies—there are a lot of them here. They sank a barge loaded with bricks in the Schuylkill just above its joining with the Delaware and blocked the channel so that ten battleships in the naval basin at League Island couldn’t get out.”

“What became of the battleships?”

“Commandant Price opened their valves and sank them in the basin.”

“And the American army, where is it now?” I asked.

“They’ve retreated south of the Brandywine—what’s left of them. Our new line is entrenching from Chester to Upland to Westchester with our right flank on the Delaware; but what’s the use?”

So crushing was the supremacy of the invaders that there was no further thought of resistance in Philadelphia. The German army was encamped in Fairmount Park and it was known that, at the first sign of revolt, German siege-guns on the historic heights of Wissahickon and Chestnut Hill would destroy the City Hall with its great tower bearing the statue of William Penn and the massive grey pile of Drexel and Company’s banking house at the corner of Fifth and Chestnut streets. Von Hindenburg had announced this, also that he did not consider it necessary to take hostages.

There was one act of resistance, however, when the enemy entered Philadelphia that must live among deeds of desperate heroism.

As the German hosts marched down Chestnut Street they came to Independence Hall and here, blocking the way on their sorrel horses with two white mounted trumpeters, was the First City Troop, sixty-five men under Captain J. Franklin McFadden, in their black coats and white doeskin riding-breeches, in the black helmets with raccoon skin plumes, in their odd-shaped riding boots high over the knee, all as in Revolutionary days—here they were drawn up before the statue of George Washington and the home of the Liberty Bell, resolved to die here, fighting as well as they could for these things that were sacred. And they did die, most of them, or fell wounded before a single one of the enemy set foot inside of Independence Hall.

Here is the list of heroes who offered their lives for the cause of liberty:

Captain J. Franklin McFadden, First Lieutenant George C. Thayer, Second Lieutenant John Conyngham Stevens, First Sergeant Thomas Cadwalader, Second Sergeant (Quartermaster) Benjamin West Frazier, Third Sergeant George Joyce Sewell, William B. Churchman, Richard M. Philler, F. Wilson Prichett, Clarence H. Clark, Joseph W. Lewis, Edward D. Page, Richard Tilghman, Edward D. Toland, Jr., McCall Keating, Robert P. Frazier, Alexander Cadwalader, Morris W. Stroud, George Brooke, 3d, Charles Poultney Davis, Saunders L. Meade, Cooper Howell, C. W. Henry, Edmund Thayer, Harry C. Yarrow, Jr., Alexander C. Yarnall, Louis Rodman Page, Jr., George Gordon Meade, Pierson Pierce, Andrew Porter, Richard H. R. Toland, John B. Thayer, West Frazier, John Frazer, P. P. Chrystie, Albert L. Smith, William W. Bodine, Henry D. Beylard, Effingham Buckley Morris, Austin G. Maury, John P. Hollingsworth, Rulon Miller, Harold M. Willcox, Charles Wharton, Howard York, Robert Gilpin Irvin, J. Keating Willcox, William Watkins, Jr., Harry Ingersoll, Russell Thayer, Fitz Eugene Dixon, Percy C. Madeira, Jr., Marmaduke Tilden, Jr., H. Harrison Smith, C. Howard Clark, Jr., Richard McCall Elliot, Jr., George Harrison Frazier, Jr., Oliver Eton Cromwell, Richard Harte, D. Reeves Henry, Henry H. Houston, Charles J. Ingersoll.

It grieved me when I visited the quaint little house on Arch Street with its gabled window and wooden blinds, where Betsey Ross made the first flag of the United States of America, to find a German banner in place of the accustomed thirteen white stars on their square of blue. And again, when I stood beside Benjamin Franklin’s grave in Christ Church Cemetery, I was shocked to see a German flag marking this honoured resting-place. “Benjamin and Deborah, 1790,” was the deeply graven words and, beside them under a kindly elm, the battered headstone of their little four-year-old son, “Francis F.—A delight to all who knew him.” Then a German flag!

I began to wonder why we had not learned a lesson from England’s lamentable showing in 1915. What good did all our wealth do us now? It would be taken from us—had not the Germans already levied an indemnity of four hundred millions upon Philadelphia? And seized the Baldwin locomotive works, the greatest in the world, employing 16,000 men? And the Cramp shipbuilding yards? And the terminus at Point Breeze down the river of the great Standard Oil Company’s pipe line with enormous oil supplies?

Philadelphians realised all this when it was too late. They knew that ten thousand American soldiers, killed in battle, were lying in fresh-made graves. They knew that the Philadelphia Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and the commercial museum buildings nearby that had been changed into hospitals could scarcely provide beds and nurses for wounded American soldiers. And yet, “What can we do?” said Mayor George H. Earle, Jr., to me. “New York City resisted, and you know what happened. Boston rioted, and she had her lesson. No! Philadelphia will not resist. Besides, read this.”

He showed me a message just arrived from Washington saying that the United States was about to sue for peace.

The next day we had news that a truce had been declared and immediately negotiations began between Chicago and Berlin, regarding a peace conference, it being finally decided that this should take place at Mt. Vernon, in the historic home of George Washington, sessions to begin early in September, in order to allow time for the arrival of delegates from Germany.


During these peace preliminaries Philadelphia accepted her fate with cheerful philosophy. In 1777 she had entertained British conquerors, now she entertained the Germans. An up-to-date meschianza was organised, as in Revolutionary days, at the magnificent estate “Druim Moir” of Samuel F. Houston in Chestnut Hill, with all the old features reproduced, the pageant, the tournament of Knights Templars and the games, German officers competing in the latter.

In polo an American team composed of William H. T. Huhn, Victor C. Mather, Alexander Brown and Mitchell Rosengarten played against a crack team of German cavalry officers and beat them easily.

In lawn tennis the American champion, Richard Norris Williams, beat Lieutenant Froitzheim, a famous German player and a friend of the Crown Prince, in straight sets, the lieutenant being penalised for foot faulting by the referee, Eddie von Friesen, a wearer of the iron cross, although his mother was a Philadelphia woman.

Thirty thousand German soldiers crowded Shibe Park daily to watch the series of exhibition contests between the Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds, both teams being among the first civilians captured on the victors’ entrance into Philadelphia. The Reds, composed almost entirely of Germans, owned by Garry Hermann and managed by Herzog, were of course the favourites over the Irish-American cohorts of Cornelius McGillicuddy; but the Athletics won the series in a deciding game that will never be forgotten. The dramatic moment came in the ninth inning, with the bases full, when the famous Frenchman, Napoleon Lajoie, pinch-hitting for Baker, advanced to the plate and knocked the ball far over Von Kolnitz’s head for a home run and the game.

Another interesting affair was a dinner given to German officers by editors of the Saturday Evening Post, on the tenth floor of the Curtis Building, the menu comprising characteristic Philadelphia dishes, such as pepper pot soup with a dash of sherry, and scrapple with fishhouse punch. Various writers were present, and there were dramatic meetings between American war correspondents and Prussian generals who had put them in jail in the 1915 campaign. I noticed a certain coldness on the part of Richard Harding Davis toward a young Bavarian lieutenant who, in Northern France, had conceived the amiable purpose of running Mr. Davis through the ribs with a bayonet; but Irvin S. Cobb was more forgiving and drank clover club cocktails to the health of a burly colonel who had ordered him shot as a spy and graciously explained the proper way of eating catfish and waffles.

The Crown Prince was greatly interested when informed by Owen Wister that these excellent dishes were of German origin, having been brought to America by the Hessians in Revolutionary days and preserved by their descendants, such families as the Fows and the Faunces, who still occupied a part of Northeastern Philadelphia known as Fishtown. His Imperial Highness also had an animated discussion with Joseph A. Steinmetz, President of the Aero Club of Pennsylvania, as to the effectiveness of the Steinmetz pendant hook bomb Zeppelin destroyer.

The German officers enjoyed these days immensely and made themselves at home in the principal hotels, paying scrupulously for their accommodations. General von Hindenburg stopped at the Ritz-Carlton, Admiral von Tirpitz at the Bellevue-Stratford and others at the Walton and the Adelphia. Several Prussian generals established themselves at the Continental Hotel because of their interest in the fact that Edward VII of England stopped there when he was Prince of Wales, and they drew lots for the privilege of sleeping in the historic bed that had been occupied by an English sovereign.

The Crown Prince himself was domiciled with his staff in E. T. Stotesbury’s fine mansion on Walnut Street. Every day he lunched at the Racquet Club, now occupied by German officers, and played court tennis with Dr. Alvin C. Kraenzlein, the famous University of Pennsylvania athlete, whom he had met in Berlin when Kraenzlein was coaching the German Olympic team for the 1916 contests that were postponed, owing to the war, until 1920. He also had a game with Jay Gould, champion of the world, and being hopelessly outclassed, declared laughingly (the Crown Prince loves American slang) that this young millionaire was “some player.”

A few days after the meschiama fêtes, his Imperial Highness gave a dinner and reception to some of the leading men in Philadelphia and, despite prejudice, was voted a remarkable figure like his father, combining versatile knowledge with personal charm. He talked politics with Boies Penrose, and reform with Rudolph Blankenburg. He was interested in A. J. Drexel Biddle’s impartial enthusiasm for Bible classes and boxing matches. He questioned Dr. D. J. McCarthy, famous neurologist of the University of Pennsylvania, about mental diseases caused by war. He laughed heartily on hearing a limerick by Oliver Herford beginning: “There was a young prince Hohenzollern,” which was said to have delighted the British ambassador. Finally, he listened while Ned Atherton and Morris L. Parrish explained the fascination of sniff, a gambling game played with dominoes much in vogue at the Racquet Club. His Imperial Highness said he preferred the German game of skat, played with cards, and James P. McNichol, the Republican boss, made a note of this fact.

As I passed through a gallery containing the magnificent Stotesbury collection of paintings I heard a resounding voice saying with a harsh German accent: “Ach! I told you! Your form of government is a failure. People need a benevolent paternalism. There is no chance for military efficiency under a republic.”

Turning, I recognised the stocky form of Commandant Price of the League Island navy yard, who was listening to a tirade from Admiral von Tirpitz. The latter, it seems, was marvelling that the United States naval authorities had lacked the intelligence to cut a 1,700-yard canal from the naval basin to the Delaware which would have made it impossible for the Germans to tie up the American reserve fleet by blocking the Schuylkill. This canal would also have furnished an ideal fresh-water dry-dock.

Commandant Price had informed the admiral that this very plan, with an estimated cost of only three million dollars, had been repeatedly brought before Congress, but always unsuccessfully. In other words, it was no fault of the navy if these battleships were rendered useless. Whereupon von Tirpitz had burst forth with his attack upon representative government.

I was told that the Crown Prince had intended to invite to this gathering some of the prominent women of Philadelphia, particularly one famous beauty, whom he desired to meet, but he was dissuaded from this purpose by a tactful hint that the ladies would not accept his invitation. The men might go, for reasons of expediency, but American women had no place at the feast of an invader.

It happened, however, a few days later, that the Imperial wish was gratified, the occasion being an auction for the benefit of the American Red Cross Fund held one afternoon in the gold ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Tea was served with music by the Philadelphia orchestra under Leopold Stokowski and the tickets were five dollars.

In a great crush (the gallery was reserved for German officers, including the Crown Prince) the most distinguished society women in Philadelphia stepped forth smilingly as manikins and displayed on their fair persons the hats, gowns, furs, laces or jewels that they had contributed to the sale. E. T. Stotesbury proved a very efficient auctioneer and large prices were realised.

Mrs. G. G. Meade Large sold baskets of roses at twenty dollars each. Mrs. W. J. Clothier sold three hats for fifty dollars each. Mrs. Walter S. Thomson, said to be pro-German, sold a ball-gown for three hundred dollars. Mrs. E. T. Stotesbury sold one of her diamond tiaras for twenty thousand dollars. Mrs. Edward Crozer, Mrs. Horatio Gates Lloyd and Mrs. Norman MacLeod sold gowns for three hundred dollars each. Mrs. Harry Wain Harrison and Mrs. Robert von Moschzisker sold pieces of lace for a hundred dollars each.

Mrs. A. J. Antelo Devereux, in smart riding costume, sold her fine hunter, led in amid great applause, for two thousand dollars. Mrs. George Q. Horwitz and Mrs. Robert L. Montgomery sold sets of furs for a thousand dollars each. Mrs. Barclay H. Warburton sold her imported touring-car for five thousand dollars. Mrs. Joseph E. Widener sold a set of four bracelets, one of diamonds, one of rubies, one of sapphires, one of emeralds, for fifteen thousand dollars.

The sensation of the afternoon came at the close when Admiral von Tirpitz bought a coat of Russian sables offered by Mrs. John R. Fell for ten thousand dollars, this being followed by a purchase of the Crown Prince, who gave thirty thousand dollars for a rope of pearls belonging to Mrs. J. Kearsley Mitchell.

All of this was briefly recorded in the Philadelphia Press, which had been made the official German organ with daily editions in German and English. The Crown Prince himself selected this paper, I was told, on learning that the author of one of his favourite stories, “The Lady or the Tiger,” by Frank R. Stockton, was once a reporter on the Press.

A few days later at the Wanamaker store on Chestnut Street the Crown Prince figured in an incident that became the subject of international comment and that throws a strange light upon the German character.

It appears that the Crown Prince had become interested in an announcement of the Wanamaker store that half of its profits for one week, amounting to many thousands of dollars, would go to the relief of American soldiers wounded in battle. His Imperial Highness expressed a desire to visit the Wanamaker establishment, and arrived one afternoon at the hour of a widely advertised organ concert that had drawn great crowds. A special feature was to be the Lohengrin wedding march, during the playing of which seven prominent society women, acting on a charitable impulse, had consented to appear arrayed as bridesmaids and one of them as a bride.

The Crown Prince and his staff, in brilliant uniforms, entered the vast rotunda packed with men and women, just as this interesting ceremony was beginning and took places reserved for them as conquerors, near the great bronze eagle on its granite pedestal that faces the spot where William H. Taft dedicated the building in December, 1911.

A hush fell over the assembly as Dr. Irvin J. Morgan at his gilded height struck the inspiring chords, and a moment later the wedding procession entered, led by two white-clad pages, and moved slowly across the white gallery, Mrs. Angier B. Duke (dressed as the bride), Mrs. Victor C. Mather, Mrs. A. J. Drexel Biddle, Jr., Mrs. Gurnee Munn, Mrs. Oliver E. Cromwell, Miss Eleanor B. Hopkins and Mrs. George Wharton Pepper, Jr., a tall and willowy auburn beauty and a bride herself only a few months before, while Wagner’s immortal tones pealed through the marble arches.

As the music ceased one of the German officers, in accordance with a prearranged plan, nodded to his aides, who stepped forward and spread a German flag over the American eagle. At the same moment the officer waved his hand towards the organ loft, as a signal for Dr. Morgan to obey his instructions and play “The Watch on the Rhine.”

The crowd knew what was coming and waited in sickening silence, then gasped in amazement and joy as the organ gloriously sounded forth, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

“Stop!” shouted the Prussian, purple with rage. “Stop!”

But Irvin Morgan played on like a good American, thrilling the great audience with the treasured message:

“Sweet land of Liberty, Of Thee I sing.”

At this moment a little fellow seven years old, from Caniden, N. J., in boy-scout uniform, did a thing that will live in American history. He had been taught to rise when he heard that music and sing the dear words that his mother had taught him, and he could not understand why all these Americans were silent. Why didn’t they sing? He looked about him anxiously. He had seen those Prussian officers spread the German flag over the American eagle, and it suddenly flashed into his mind that it was his business to do something. He must tear down that hateful flag. He must do it if he died and, springing forward before any one could divine his purpose, he dragged the German banner to the floor and, standing on it, waved a little American flag drawn from his pocket.

“Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride!”

He shrilled out, singing all alone while the proud organ thundered forth its accompaniment.

As a match starts the powder train so this boyish act fired the whole gathering of dumb patriots and straightway, Germans or no Germans, ten thousand American voices took up the words while the youthful leader, with eyes flashing, held up the Stars and Stripes there by the eagle.

A German officer, furious at this defiance, sprang toward the boy with lifted sword and would have struck him down had not his Imperial master intervened and with his own weapon caught the descending blow.

“Shame! Coward!” cried the Crown Prince. “We do not fight with children.”

And the end of it was that no one was punished, although concerts were forbidden after this in the Wanamaker store.

I have related this incident not only for its own sake, but because of its bearing on subsequent events.

“I’m going to write a story about that boy”, I said to W. Barran Lewis, who stood near me. “Do you know his name?”

“Yes,” said the editor. “He is Lemuel A. Widding, Jr. Makes a good story, doesn’t it?”

Lemuel A. Widding! Where had I heard that name? Suddenly I remembered—Kingston, Jamaica, and Lieutenant Ryerson and the lovely girl who had told me about her brother’s ravings. That was the name he had called out again and again in his delirium. Lemuel A. Widding!

In spite of my interest in this puzzling circumstance I was unable to investigate it, owing to the fact that I was hurried off to Mount Vernon for the Peace Conference, but I wired Miss Ryerson in Richmond of my discovery and gave her the boy’s address in Camden, N. J. Then I thought no more about the matter, being absorbed in my duties.


The sessions of the Mount Vernon Peace Congress were held in a large room of the historic mansion that was George Washington’s business office. The United States was represented by General Leonard Wood, William H. Taft and Elihu Root; Germany by General von Hindenburg, General von Kluck and Count von Bernstoff.

Although I was not personally present at these discussions I am able, thanks to the standing of the London Times, to set forth the main points on the highest authority.

In the very first session the peace commissioners came straight to the main question.

“I am instructed by the President of the United States,” began General Wood, “to ask your Excellency if the German Imperial Government will agree to withdraw their armies from America in consideration of receiving a money indemnity?”

“No, sir,” replied General von Hindenburg. “That is quite out of the question.”


“A large indemnity? I am empowered to offer three thousand million dollars, which is three times as much, your Excellency will remember, as the Imperial German Government accepted for withdrawing from France in 1870.”

“Yes, and we always regretted it,” snapped von Hindenburg. “We should have kept that territory, or part of it. We are going to keep this territory. That was our original intention in coming here. We need this Atlantic seaboard for the extension of the German idea, for the spread of German civilisation, for our inevitable expansion as the great world power.”

“Suppose we agreed to pay four billion dollars?” suggested the American commander.

Von Hindenburg shook his head and then in his rough, positive way: “No, General. What we have taken by our victorious arms we shall hold for our children and our grandchildren. I am instructed to say, however, that the Imperial German Government will make one important concession to the United States. We will withdraw our troops from the mouths of the Mississippi which we now hold, as you know; we will withdraw from Galveston, New Orleans, Pensacola, Tampa, Key West; in short, from all ports in the Gulf of Mexico and in Florida. If you will allow me, gentlemen, I will show you on this map what we propose to surrender to you and what we propose to keep.”

The venerable Field Marshal unrolled upon the broad surface of George Washington’s desk a beautifully shaded relief map of the United States, and General Wood, ex-President Taft and Elihu Root bent over it with tense faces and studied a heavy black line that indicated the proposed boundary between the United States and the territory claimed by the invaders. This latter included all of New England, about one-third of New York and Pennsylvania (the southeastern portions), all of New Jersey and Delaware, nearly all of Virginia and North Carolina and all of South Carolina and Georgia.

“You observe, gentlemen,” said von Hindenburg, “that our American province is to bear the name New Germany. It is bounded on the north by Canada, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Florida, and on the west by Alabama and the Allegheny Mountains. It is a strip of land; roughly speaking, a thousand miles long and two hundred miles wide.”

“About the area of the German Empire,” said ex-President Taft.

“Possibly, but not one-tenth of the entire territory of the United States, leaving out Alaska. We feel that as conquerors we are asking little enough.” He eyed the Americans keenly.

“You are asking us to give up New York, Philadelphia and Washington and all of New England,” said Elihu Root very quietly. “Does your Excellency realise what that means to us? New England is the cradle of our liberties. New York is the heart of the nation. Washington is our capital.”

“Washington was your capital,” broke in General von Kluck, with a laugh.

“I can assure your Excellency,” said General Wood, keeping his composure with an effort, “that the American people will never consent to such a sacrifice of territory. You may drive us back to the deserts of Arizona, you may drive us back to the Rocky Mountains, but we will fight on.”

Von Hindenburg’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Ah, so!” he smiled grimly. “Do you know what will happen if you refuse our terms? In the next few months we shall land expeditions from Germany with a million more soldiers. That will give us a million and a half men on American soil. We shall then invade the Mississippi Valley from New Orleans, and our next offer of terms will be made to you from St. Louis or Chicago, and it will be a very different offer.”

“If your Excellency will allow me,” said Elihu Root in a conciliatory tone, “may I ask if the Imperial German Government does not recognise that there will be great difficulties in the way of permanently holding a strip of land along our Atlantic seaboard?”

“What difficulties? England holds Canada, doesn’t she? Spain held Mexico, did she not?”

“But the Mexicans were willing to be held. Your Excellency must realise that in New England, in New York, in New Jersey, you would be dealing with irreconcilable hatred.”

“Nothing is irreconcilable. Look at Belgium. They hated us in 1915, did they not? But sixty-five percent of them accepted German citizenship when we offered it to them after the peace in 1919, and they have been a well-behaved German province ever since.”

“You mean to say that New England would ever become a German province?” protested William H. Taft. “Do you think that New York and Virginia will ever take the oath of allegiance to the German Emperor?”

“Of course they will, just as most of the Spaniards you conquered in the Philippine Islands took the oath of allegiance to America. They swore they would not but they did. Men follow the laws of necessity. Half of your population are of foreign descent. Millions of them are of German descent. These people crowded over here from Europe because they were starving and you have kept them starving. They will come to us because we treat them better; we give them higher wages, cleaner homes, more happiness. They have come to us already; the figures prove it. Not ten percent of the people of New York and New England have moved away since the German occupation, although they were free to go. Why is that? Because they like our form of government, they see that it insures to them and their children the benefits of a higher civilisation.”

My informant assured me that at this point ex-President Taft, in spite of his even temper, almost exploded with indignation, while General Wood rose abruptly from his seat.

For a time it looked as if this first Peace Conference session would break up in a storm of angry recrimination; but Elihu Root, by tactful appeals, finally smoothed things over and an adjournment was taken for forty-eight hours, during which it was agreed that both sides, by telegraph and cable, should lay the situation before their respective governments in Chicago and Berlin.

I remained at Mount Vernon for two weeks while the truce lasted. Every day the peace commissioners met for hours of argument and pleading, but the deadlock of conflicting purposes was not broken. Both sides kept in touch with their governments and both made concessions. America raised her indemnity offer to five billion dollars, to six billion dollars, to seven billion dollars, but declared she would never surrender one foot of the Atlantic seaboard. Germany lessened her demands for territory, but refused to withdraw from New York, New England and Philadelphia.

For some days this deadlock continued, then America began to weaken. She felt herself overpowered. The consequences of continuing the war were too frightful to contemplate and, on September 8, I cabled my paper that the United States would probably cede to Germany within twenty-four hours the whole of New England and a part of New York State, including New York City and Long Island. This was the general opinion when, suddenly, out of a clear sky came a dramatic happening destined to change the course of events and draw me personally into a whirlpool of exciting adventures.

It was about three o’clock in the afternoon of September 9, a blazing hot day, and I was seated on the lawn under one of the fine magnolia-trees presented years before by Prince Henry of Prussia, wondering how much longer I must swelter here before getting off my despatch to the Times, when I heard the panting of a swiftly approaching automobile which presently drew up outside the grounds. A moment later a coloured chauffeur approached and asked if I was Mr. James Langston. I told him I was, and he said a lady in the car wanted to speak to me.

“A lady?” I asked in surprise. “Did she give her name?”

The chauffeur broke into a beaming smile. “She didn’t give no name, boss, but she sure is a ve’hy handsome lady, an’ she’s powh’ful anxious to see you.”

I lost no time in answering this mysterious summons, and a little later found myself in the presence of a young woman whom I recognised, when she drew aside her veil, as Miss Mary Ryerson, sister of Lieutenant Randolph Ryerson. With her in the car were her brother and a tall, gaunt man with deep-set eyes. They were all travel-stained, and the car showed the battering of Virginia mountain roads.

“Oh, Mr. Langston,” cried the girl eagerly, “we have such wonderful news! The conference isn’t over? They haven’t yielded to Germany?”

“No,” said I. “Not yet.”

“They mustn’t yield. We have news that changes everything. Oh, it’s so splendid! America is going to win.”

Her lovely face was glowing with enthusiasm, but I shook my head.

“America’s fleet is destroyed. Her army is beaten. How can she win?”

Miss Ryerson turned to her brother and to the other man. “Go with Mr. Langston. Tell him everything. Explain everything. He will take you to General Wood.” She fixed her radiant eyes on me. “You will help us? I can count on you? Remember, it’s for America!”

“I’ll do my best,” I promised, yielding to the spell of her charm and spirit. “May I ask—” I glanced at the tall man who was getting out of the car.

“Ah! Now you will believe. You will see how God is guiding us. This is the father of the brave little boy in Wanamaker’s store. He has seen Thomas A. Edison, and Mr. Edison says his plan to destroy the German fleet is absolutely sound. Mr. Langston, Mr. Lemuel A. Widding. Now hurry!”


As General Wood left the peace conference (in reply to our urgent summons) and walked slowly across the Mount Vernon lawn to join us in the summer house, he looked haggard and dejected.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Good news, General,” I whispered, but he shook his head wearily.

“No, it’s all over. They have worn us down. Our fleet is destroyed, our army is beaten. We are on the point of ceding New England and New York to Germany. There is nothing else to do.”

“Wait! We have information that may change everything. Let me introduce Lieutenant Ryerson and Mr. Widding—General Wood.” They bowed politely. “Mr. Widding has just seen Thomas A. Edison.”

That was a name to conjure with, and the General’s face brightened.

“I’m listening,” he said.

We settled back in our chairs and Lemuel A. Widding, with awkward movements, drew from his pockets some papers which he offered to the American commander.

“These speak for themselves, General,” he began. “Here is a brief description of my invention for destroying the German fleet. Here are blueprints that make it clearer. Here is the written endorsement of Thomas A. Edison.”

For a long time General Wood studied these papers with close attention, then he sat silent, looking out over the broad Potomac, his noble face stern with care. I saw that his hair had whitened noticeably in the last two months.

“If this is true, it’s more important than you realise. It’s so important that—” He searched us with his kind but keen grey eyes.

“Thomas A. Edison says it’s true,” put in Widding. “That ought to be good enough evidence.”

“And Lieutenant Ryerson tells me that Admiral Fletcher spoke favourably of the matter,” I added.

“He did, General,” declared the lieutenant. “It was on the Pennsylvania a few hours before we went into battle. The admiral had been looking over Mr. Widding’s specifications the night before and he said—I remember his words: ‘This is a great idea. If we had it in operation now we could destroy the German fleet.’”

At this moment there came a fateful interruption in the form of an urgent call for General Wood from the conference hall and he asked us to excuse him until the next day when he would take the matter up seriously.

We returned at once to Washington and I spent that evening at the Cosmos Club listening to a lecture by my oceanographical friend, Dr. Austin H. Clark, on deep-sea lilies that eat meat. At about nine o’clock I was called to the telephone, and presently recognised the agitated voice of Miss Ryerson, who said that an extraordinary thing had happened and begged me to come to her at once. She was stopping at the Shoreham, just across the street, and five minutes later we were talking earnestly in the spacious blue-and-white salon with its flowers and restful lights. Needless to say, I preferred a talk with this beautiful girl to the most learned discussion of deep-sea lilies.

Her message was brief but important. She had just been telephoning in a drug-store on Pennsylvania Avenue when she was surprised to hear the name of Thomas A. Edison mentioned several times by a man in the next booth who was speaking in German. Miss Ryerson understood German and, listening attentively, she made out enough to be sure that an enemy’s plot was on foot to lay hold of the great inventor, to abduct him forcibly, so that he could no longer help the work of American defence.

Greatly alarmed she had called me up and now urged me to warn the military authorities, without wasting a moment, so that they would take steps to protect Mr. Edison.

In this emergency I decided to appeal to General E.M. Weaver, Chief of Coast Artillery, whom I knew from having played golf with him at Chevy Chase, and, after telephoning, I hurried to his house in a taxicab. The general looked grave when I repeated Miss Ryerson’s story, and said that this accorded with other reports of German underground activities that had come to his knowledge. Of course, a guard must be furnished for Mr. Edison, who was in Baltimore at the time, working out plans for the scientific defences of Washington in the physical laboratories of the Johns Hopkins University.

“I must talk with Edison,” said the General. “Suppose you go to Baltimore in the morning, Mr. Langston, with a note from me. It’s only forty-five minutes and—tell Mr. Edison that I will be greatly relieved if he will return to Washington with you.”

I had interviewed Thomas A. Edison on several occasions and gained his confidence, so that he received me cordially the next morning in Baltimore and, in deference to General Weaver’s desire, agreed to run down to Washington that afternoon, although he laughed at the idea of any danger.

As we rode on the train the inventor talked freely of plans for defending the national capital against General von Mackensen’s army which, having occupied Richmond, was moving up slowly through Virginia. It is a matter of familiar history now that these plans provided for the use of liquid chlorine against the invaders, this dangerous substance to be dropped upon the advancing army from a fleet of powerful aeroplanes. Mr. Edison seemed hopeful of the outcome.

He questioned me about Lemuel A. Widding and was interested to learn that Widding was employed at the works of the Victor Talking Machine (Edison’s own invention) in Camden, N. J. His eyes brightened when I told him of young Lemuel’s thrilling act at Wanamaker’s Philadelphia store which, as I now explained, led to the meeting of the two inventors through the efforts of Miss Ryerson.

“There’s something queer about this,” mused the famous electrician. “Widding tells me he submitted his idea to the Navy Department over a year ago. Think of that! An idea bigger than the submarine!”

“Is it possible?”

“No doubt of it. Widding’s invention will change the condition of naval warfare—it’s bound to. I wouldn’t give five cents for the German fleet when we get this thing working. All we need is time.

“Mr. Langston, there are some big surprises ahead for the American people and for the Germans,” continued the inventor. “They say America is as helpless as Belgium or China. I say nonsense. It’s true that we have lost our fleet and some of our big cities and that the Germans have three armies on our soil, but the fine old qualities of American grit and American resourcefulness are still here and we’ll use ‘em. If we can’t win battles in the old way, we’ll find new ways.

“Listen to this, my friend. Have you heard of the Committee of Twenty-one? No? Very few have. It’s a body of rich and patriotic Americans, big business men, who made up their minds, back in July, that the government wasn’t up to the job of saving this nation. So they decided to save it themselves by business methods, efficiency methods. There’s a lot of nonsense talked about German efficiency. We’ll show them a few things about American efficiency. What made the United States the greatest and richest country in the world? Was it German efficiency? What gave the Standard Oil Company its world supremacy? Was it German efficiency? It was the American brains of John D. Rockefeller, wasn’t it?”

“Is Mr. Rockefeller one of the Committee of Twenty-one?”

“Of course, he is, and so are Andrew Carnegie, James J. Hill, J. P. Morgan, John Wanamaker, John H. Fahey, James B. Duke, Henry B. Joy, Daniel B. Guggenheim, John D. Ryan, J. B. Widener, Emerson McMillin, Philip D. Armour, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Elihu Root, George W. Perkins, Asa G. Candler and two or three others, including myself.

“The Germans are getting over the idea that America is as helpless as Belgium or China. Von Mackensen is going slow, holding back his army because he doesn’t know what we have up our sleeve at the Potomac. As a matter of fact, we have mighty little except this liquid chlorine and—well, we’re having trouble with the steel containers and with the releasing device.”

“You mean the device that drops the containers from the aeroplanes?”

“That’s it. We need time to perfect the thing. We’ve spread fake reports about wonderful electric mines that will blow up a brigade, and that helped some, and we delayed von Mackensen for two weeks south of Fredericksburg by spreading lines of striped cheese-cloth, miles of it, along a rugged valley. His aeroplane scouts couldn’t make out what that cheese-cloth was for; they thought it might be some new kind of electrocution storage battery, so the whole army waited.”

As we talked, the train stopped at Hyattsville, a few miles out of Washington, and a well-set-up officer in uniform came aboard and approached us with a pleasant smile.

“Mr. Edison? I am Captain Campbell of General Wood’s staff,” he said. “General Wood is outside in his automobile and asks you to join him. The General thought it would be pleasanter to motor down to Mount Vernon.”

“That’s very kind,” said Edison, rising.

“And, Mr. Langston,” continued Captain Campbell, addressing me, “General Wood presents his compliments and hopes you will dine with Mr. Edison and himself at seven this evening.”

“With pleasure.” I bowed and watched them as, they left the train and entered a military-looking automobile that stood near the track with curtains drawn. A moment later they rolled away and I settled back in my seat, reflecting complacently on the high confidence that had been shown in my discretion.

Two hours later I reached Mount Vernon and was surprised, as I left the train, to find General Wood himself waiting on the platform.

“You got back quickly, General,” I said.

He gave me a sharp glance. “Back from where?”

“Why, from where you met our train.”

“Your train? What train? I came here to meet Mr. Edison.”

“But you did meet him—two hours ago—in your automobile—at Hyattsville.”

The general stared in amazement. “I don’t know what you are talking about. I haven’t left Mount Vernon. I haven’t seen Mr. Edison. What has happened? Tell me!”

“Wait!” I said, as the truth began to break on me. “Is there a Captain Campbell on your staff?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Then—then—” I was trying to piece together the evidence.

“Well? Go on!” he urged impatiently, whereupon I related the events of the morning.

“Good Lord!” he cried. “It’s an abduction—unquestionably. This Captain Campbell was a German spy. You say the automobile curtains were drawn? That made it dark inside, and no doubt the pretended General Wood wore motor goggles. Before Edison discovered the trick they were off at full speed and he was overpowered on the back seat. Think of that! Thomas A. Edison abducted by the Germans!”

“Why would they do such a thing?”

“Why? Don’t you see? That invention of Widding’s will destroy the German fleet. It’s a matter of life and death to them and Edison knows all about it—all the details—Widding told him.”

“Yes,” said I. “My friend Miss Ryerson brought Widding to Mr. Edison a few days ago, but—how could the Germans have known that?”

The general’s face darkened. “How do they know all sorts of things? Somebody tells them. Somebody told them this.”

“But Widding himself knows all about his own invention. It won’t do the Germans any good to abduct Edison unless—”

Our eyes met in sudden alarm.

“By George, you’re right!” exclaimed Wood.

“Where is Widding? Is he stopping at your hotel?”

“Yes. We’re all there, Miss Ryerson and her brother and Widding and I.”

“Call up the hotel—quick. We must know about this.”

A minute later I had Miss Ryerson on the ‘phone and as soon as I heard her voice I knew that something was wrong.

“What does she say?” asked the general anxiously, as I hung up the receiver.

“She is very much distressed. She says Widding and her brother disappeared from the hotel last night and no one has any idea where they are.”

Here were startling happenings and the developments were even more startling, but, before following these threads of mystery (days passed and they were still unravelled) I must set forth events that immediately succeeded the rupture of peace negotiations. I have reason to know that the Committee of Twenty-one brought pressure upon our peace commissioners, through Washington and the public press, with the result that their attitude stiffened towards the enemy and presently became almost defiant, so that on October 2, 1921, all efforts towards peace were abandoned. And on October 3 it was officially announced that the United States and Germany were again at war.


During the next week, in the performance of my newspaper duties, I visited Washington and Baltimore, both of these cities being now in imminent danger of attack, the latter from von Hindenburg’s army south of Philadelphia, the former from the newly landed German expedition that was encamped on the shores of Chesapeake Bay near Norfolk, Virginia, which was already occupied by the enemy.

I found a striking contrast between the psychology of Washington and that of Baltimore. The national capital, abandoned by its government, awaited in dull despair the arrival of the conquerors with no thought of resistance, but Baltimore was girding up her loins to fight. Washington, burned by the British in 1812, had learned her lesson, but Baltimore had never known the ravages of an invader. Proudest of southern cities, she now made ready to stand against the Germans. Let New York and Boston and Philadelphia surrender, if they pleased, Baltimore would not surrender.

On the night of my arrival in the Monumental City, September 15, I found bonfires blazing and crowds thronging the streets. There was to be a great mass meeting at the Fifth Regiment Armoury, and I shall never forget the scene as I stood on Hoffman Street with my friend F. R. Kent, Editor of the Baltimore Sun, and watched the multitude press within the fortress-like walls. This huge grey building had seen excitement before, as when Wilson and Bryan triumphed here at the Democratic convention of 1912, but nothing like this.

As far as I could see down Bolton Street and Hoffman Street were dense crowds cheering frantically as troops of the Maryland National Guard marched past with crashing bands, the famous “Fighting Fourth” (how the crowd cheered them!), the “Dandy Fifth,” Baltimore’s particular pride, then the First Regiment, then the First Separate Company, coloured infantry and finally the crack cavalry “Troop A” on their black horses, led by Captain John C. Cockey, of whom it was said that he could make his big hunter, Belvedere, climb the side of a house.

The immense auditorium, gay with flags and national emblems, was packed to its capacity of 20,000, and I felt a real thrill when, after a prayer by Cardinal Gibbons, a thousand school girls, four abreast and all in white, the little ones first, moved slowly up the three aisles to seats in front, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” with the Fifth Regiment band leading them.

Gathered on the platform were the foremost citizens of Baltimore, the ablest men in Maryland, including Mayor J. H. Preston, Douglas Thomas, Frank A. Furst, U. S. Senator John Walter Smith, Hon. J. Charles Linthicum, ex-Gov. Edwin Warfield, Col. Ral Parr, John W. Frick, John M. Dennis, Douglas H. Gordon, John E. Hurst, Franklin P. Cator, Capt. I. E. Emerson, Hon. Wm. Carter Page, Hon. Charles T. Crane, George C. Jenkins, C. Wilbur Miller, Howell B. Griswold, Jr., George May, Edwin J. Farber, Maurice H. Grape, Col. Washington Bowie, Jr., and Robert Garrett.

Announcement was made by General Alexander Brown that fifty thousand volunteers from Baltimore and the vicinity had already joined the colours and were in mobilisation camps at Halethrope and Pimlico and at the Glen Burnie rifle range. Also that the Bessemer Steel Company of Baltimore, the Maryland Steel Company, the great cotton mills and canneries, were working night and day, turning out shrapnel, shell casings, uniforms, belts, bandages and other munitions of war, all to be furnished without a cent of profit. Furthermore, the banks and trust companies of Baltimore had raised fifty million dollars for immediate needs of the defence with more to come.

“That’s the kind of indemnity Baltimore offers to the Germans,” cried General Brown.

Speeches attacking the plan of campaign and the competency of military leaders were made by Charles J. Bonaparte, Leigh Bonsal and Henry W. Williams, but their words availed nothing against the prevailing wild enthusiasm.

“Baltimore has never been taken by an enemy,” shouted ex-Governor Goldsborough, “and she will not be taken now. Our army is massed and entrenched along the south bank of the Susquehanna and, mark my words, the Germans will never pass that line.”

As these patriotic words rang out the thousand white-clad singers rose and lifted their voices in “The Star Spangled Banner,” dearest of patriotic hymns in Baltimore because it was a Baltimore man, Francis Scott Key, who wrote it.

While the great meeting was still in session, a large German airship appeared over Baltimore’s lower basin and, circling slowly at the height of half a mile, proceeded to carry out its mission of frightfulness against the helpless city. More than fifty bombs were dropped that night with terrific explosions. The noble shaft of the Washington Monument was shattered. The City Hall was destroyed, also the Custom House, the Richmond Market, the Walters Art Gallery, one of the buildings of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, with a score of killed and wounded, and the cathedral with fifty killed and wounded.

The whole country was stirred to its depths by this outrage. Angry orators appeared at every street corner, and volunteers stormed the enlisting offices. Within twenty-four hours the business men of Baltimore raised another hundred millions for the city’s defence. Baltimore, never conquered yet, was going to fight harder than ever.

The great question now was how soon the Germans would begin their drive. We knew that the Virginia expedition under General von Mackensen had advanced up the peninsula and had taken Richmond, but every day our aeroplane scouts reported General von Hindenburg’s forces as still stationary south of Philadelphia. Their strategy seemed to be one of waiting until the two armies could strike simultaneously against Washington from the southeast and against Baltimore from the northeast. On the ninth of October this moment seemed to have arrived, and we learned that von Hindenburg, with a hundred thousand men, was advancing towards the Susquehanna in a line that would take him straight to the Maryland metropolis. A two days’ march beyond the river would give the enemy sight of the towers of Baltimore, and how the city had the slightest chance of successful resistance was more than I could understand.

I come now to the battle of the Susquehanna, which my lucky star allowed me to witness in spite of positive orders that war correspondents should not approach the American lines. This happened through the friendship of Vincent Astor, who once more volunteered his machine and his own services in the scouting aeroplane corps. I may add that Mr. Astor had offered his entire fortune, if needed, to equip the nation with the mightiest air force in the world; and that already four thousand craft of various types were in process of construction. With some difficulty, Mr. Astor obtained permission that I accompany him on the express condition that I publish no word touching military operations until after the battle.

On the morning of October 10th we made our first flight, rising from the aerodrome in Druid Hill Park and speeding to the northeast, skirting the shores of Chesapeake Bay. Within half an hour the broad Susquehanna, with its wrecked bridges, lay before us and to the left, on the heights of Port Deposit, we made out the American artillery positions with the main army encamped below. Along the southern bank of the river we saw thousands of American soldiers deepening and widening trenches that had been shallowed out by a score of trench digging machines, huge locomotive ploughs that lumbered along, leaving yellow ditches behind them. There were miles of these ditches cutting through farms and woods, past windmills and red barns and rolling wheat fields, stretching away to the northwest, parallel to the river.

“They’ve done a lot of work here,” said I, impressed by the extent of these operations.

Astor answered with a smile that puzzled me. “They have done more than you dream of, more than any one dreams of,” he said.

“You don’t imagine these trenches are going to stop the Germans, do you?”

He nodded slowly. “Perhaps.”

“But we had trenches like these at Trenton and you know what happened,” I objected.

“I know, but—” again that mysterious smile, “those Trenton trenches were not exactly like these trenches. Hello! They’re signalling to us. They want to know who we are.”

In reply to orders wig-wagged up to us from headquarters in a white farmhouse, we flung forth our identification streamers, blue, white and red arranged in code to form an aerial passport, and received a wave of approval in reply.

As we swung to the northwest, moving parallel to the river and about four miles back of it, I studied with my binoculars the trenches that stretched along beneath us in straight lines and zigzags as far as the eye could see. I was familiar with such constructions, having studied them on various fields; here was the firing trench, here the shelter trench and there the communicating galleries that joined them, but what were those groups of men working so busily farther down the line? And those other groups swarming at many points in the wide area? They were not digging or bracing side-wall timbers. What were they doing?

I had the wheel at this moment and, in my curiosity, I turned the machine to the east, forgetting Mr. Astor’s admonition that we were not allowed to pass the rear line of trenches.

“Hold on! This is forbidden!” he cried. “We’ll get in trouble.”

Before I could act upon his warning, there came a puff of white smoke from one of the batteries and a moment later a shell, bursting about two hundred yards in front of us, made its message clear.

We turned at once and, after some further manoeuvring, sailed back to Baltimore.

We dined together that night and I tried to get from Mr. Astor a key to the mystery that evidently lay behind this situation at the Susquehanna. At first he was unwilling to speak, but, finally, in view of our friendship and his confidence in my discretion, he gave me a forecast of events to come.

“You mustn’t breathe this to a soul,” he said, “and, of course, you mustn’t write a word of it, but the fact is, dear boy, the wonderful fact is we’re going to win the battle of the Susquehanna.”

I shook my head. “I’d give all I’ve got in the world to have that true, Mr. Astor, but von Hindenburg is marching against us with 150,000 men, first-class fighting men.”

“I know, and we have only 60,000 men, most of them raw recruits. Just the same, von Hindenburg hasn’t a chance on earth.” He paused and added quickly: “Except one.”


“If the enemy suspected the trap we have set for them, they could avoid it, but they won’t suspect it. It’s absolutely new.”

“How about their aeroplane scouts? Won’t they see the trap?”

“They can’t see it, at least not enough to understand it. General Wood turned us back this afternoon as a precaution, but it wasn’t necessary. You might have circled over those trenches for hours and I don’t believe you would have known what’s going on there. Besides, the work will be finished and everything hidden in a couple of days.”

I spurred my imagination, searching for agencies of destruction, and mentioned hidden mines, powerful electric currents, deadly gases, but Astor shook his head.

“It’s worse than that, much worse. And it isn’t one of those fantastic things from Mars that H. G. Wells would put in a novel. This will work. It’s a practical, businesslike way of destroying an army.”

“What? An entire army?”

“Yes. There’s an area on this side of the Susquehanna about five miles square that is ready for the Germans—plenty of room for a hundred thousand of them—and, believe me, not one man in ten will get out of that area alive.”

I stared incredulously as my friend went on with increasing positiveness: “I know what I’m saying. I’ll tell you how I know it in a minute. This thing has never been done before in the whole history of war and it will never be done again, but it’s going to be done now.”

“Why will it never be done again?”

“Because the conditions will never be right again. Armies will be suspicious after one has been wiped out, but the first time it’s possible.”

“How can you be sure von Hindenburg’s army will cross the Susquehanna at the exact place where you want it to cross?”

“They will cross at the clearly indicated place for crossing, won’t they? That’s where we have set our trap, five miles wide, on the direct line between Philadelphia and Baltimore. They can’t cross lower down because the river swells into Chesapeake Bay, and if they cross higher up they simply go out of their way. Why should they? They’re not afraid to meet Leonard Wood’s little army, are they? They’ll come straight across the river and then—good-night.”

This was as near as I could get to an understanding of the mystery. Astor would tell me no more, although he knew I would die rather than betray the secret.

“You might talk in your sleep,” he laughed. “I wish I didn’t know the thing myself. It’s like going around with a million dollars in your pocket.” Then he added earnestly: “There are a lot of American cranks and members of Bryan’s peace party who wouldn’t stand for this if they knew it.”

“You mean they would tell the Germans?”

“They would tell everybody. They’d call it barbarous, wicked. Perhaps it is, but—we’re fighting for our lives, aren’t we? For our country?”

“Sure we are,” I agreed.

Later on Mr. Astor told me how he had come into possession of this extraordinary military knowledge. He was one of the Committee of Twenty-one.

The next day we flew out again to the battle front, taking care not to advance over the proscribed area, and we scanned the northern banks of the Susquehanna for signs of the enemy, but saw none. On the second day we had the same experience, but on the third day, towards evening, three Taubes approached swiftly at a great height and hovered over our lines, taking observations, and an hour later we made out a body of German cavalry on the distant hills.

“An advance guard of Saxons and Westphalians,” said I, studying their flashing helmets. “There will be something doing to-morrow.”

There was. The battle of the Susquehanna began at daybreak, October 14th, 1921, with an artillery duel which grew in violence as the batteries on either side of the river found the ranges. Aeroplanes skirmished for positions over the opposing armies and dropped revealing smoke columns as guides to the gunners. Hour after hour the Germans poured a terrific fire of shells and shrapnel upon the American trenches and I wondered if they would not destroy or disarrange our trap, but Astor said they would not.

Our inadequate artillery replied as vigorously as possible and was supported by the old U. S. battleship Montgomery, manned by the Baltimore naval brigade under Commander Ralph Robinson, which lay two miles down the river and dropped twelve-inch shells within the enemy’s lines. Valuable service was also rendered by heavy mobile field artillery improvised by placing heavy coast defence mortars on strongly reinforced railroad trucks. None of this, however, prevented the Germans from forcing through their work of pontoon building, which had been started in the night. Five lines of pontoons were thrown across the Susquehanna in two days, and very early on the morning of October 14th, the crossing of troops began.

All day from our aeroplane, circling at a height of a mile or rising to two miles in case of danger, we looked down on fierce fighting in the trenches and saw the Germans drive steadily forward, sweeping ahead in close formation, mindless of heavy losses and victorious by reason of overwhelming numbers.

By four o’clock in the afternoon they had dislodged the Americans from their first lines of entrenchment and forced them to retreat in good order to reserve lines five miles back of the river. Between these front lines and the reserve lines there was a stretch of rolling farm land lined and zigzagged with three-foot ditches used for shelter by our troops as they fell back.

By six o’clock that evening the German army had occupied this entire area and by half-past seven, in the glory of a gorgeous crimson sunset, we saw the invaders capture our last lines of trenches and drive back the Americans in full retreat, leaving the ground strewn with their own dead and wounded.

“Now you’ll see something,” cried Astor with tightening lips as he scanned the battlefield. “It may come at any moment. We’ve got them where we want them. Thousands and thousands of them! Their whole army!”

He pointed to the pontoon bridges where the last companies of the German host were crossing. On the heights beyond, their artillery fire was slackening; and on our side the American fire had ceased. Night was falling and the Germans were evidently planning to encamp where they were.

“There are a few thousand over there with the artillery who haven’t crossed yet,” said I. “The Crown Prince must be there with his generals.”

My friend nodded grimly. “We’ll attend to them later. Ah! Now look! It’s coming!”

I turned and saw a thick wall of grey and black smoke rolling in dense billows over a section of the rear trenches, and out of this leaped tongues of blue fire and red fire. And farther down the lines I saw similar sections of smoke and flame with open spaces between, but these spaces closed up swiftly until presently the fire wall was continuous over the whole extent of the rear trenches.

We could see German soldiers by hundreds rushing back from this peril; but, as they ran, fires started at dozens of points before them in the network of ditches and, spreading with incredible rapidity, formed flaming barriers that shut off the ways of escape. Within a few minutes the whole area beneath us, miles in length and width, that had been occupied by the victorious German army, was like a great gridiron of fire or like a city with streets and avenues and broad diagonals of fire. All the trenches and ditches suddenly belched forth waves of black smoke with blue and red flames darting through them, and fiercest of all burned the fire walls close to the river bank.

“Good God!” I cried, astounded at this vast conflagration. “What is it that’s burning?”

“Oil,” said Astor. “The whole supply from the Standard Oil pipe lines diverted here, millions and millions of gallons. It’s driven by big pumps through mains and pipes and reservoirs, buried deep. It’s spurting from a hundred outlets. Nothing can put it out. Look! The river is on fire!”

I did look, but I will not tell what I saw nor describe the horrors of the ensuing hour. By nine o’clock it was all over. The last word in frightfulness had been spoken and the despoilers of Belgium were the victims.

I learned later that the pipes which carried these floods of oil carried also considerable quantities of arseniuretted hydrogen. The blue flames that Mr. Astor and I noticed came from the fierce burning of this arseniuretted hydrogen as it hissed from oil vents in the trenches under the drive of powerful pumps.

Thousands of those that escaped from the fire area and tried to cross back on the pontoons were caught and destroyed, a-midstream, by fire floods that roared down the oil-spread Susquehanna. And about 7,000 that escaped at the sides were made prisoners.

It was announced in subsequent estimates and not denied by the Germans that 113,000 of the invaders lost their lives here. To all intents and purposes von Hindenburg’s army had ceased to exist.


On the evening of October 14, 1921, Field Marshal von Kluck awaited final news of the battle of the Susquehanna while enjoying an excellent meal with his staff in the carved and gilded dining-room of the old S. B. Chittenden mansion on Brooklyn Heights, headquarters of the army of occupation. All the earlier despatches through the afternoon had been favourable and, as the company finished their Kartoffelsuppe, von Kluck had risen, amidst hochs of applause, and read a telegram from his Imperial master, the Crown Prince, who, with Field Marshal von Hindenburg, was directing the battle from Perryville on the Northern bank, announcing that the German army had crossed the river and driven back Leonard Wood’s forces for five miles and occupied a vast network of American trenches.

The officers lingered over their preisselbeeren compote and kaffeekuchen and, presently, the commander rose again, holding a telegram just delivered by a red-faced lieutenant whose cheek was slashed with scars.

“Comrades, the great moment has come—I feel it. Our victory at the Susquehanna means the end of American resistance, the capture of Baltimore, Washington and the whole Atlantic seaboard. Let us drink to the Fatherland and our place in the sun.”

Up on their feet came the fire-eating company, with lifted glasses and the gleam of conquerors in their eyes.

Hoch! Hoch!” they cried and waited, fiercely joyful, while von Kluck opened the despatch. His shaggy brows contracted ominously as he scanned two yellow sheets crowded with closely written German script.

Gott in Himmel!” he shouted, and threw the telegram on the table.

The blow had fallen, the incredible truth was there before them. Not only had the redoubtable von Hindenburg, idol of a nation, hero of countless Russian victories, suffered crushing defeat, but his proud battalions had been almost annihilated. In the whole history of warfare there had never been so complete a disaster to so powerful an army.

“Burned to death! Our brave soldiers! Was there ever so barbarous a crime?” raved the Field Marshal. “But the American people will pay for this, yes, ten times over. We still have two armies on their soil and a fleet ready to transport from Germany another army of half a million. We hold their greatest cities, their leading citizens at our mercy, and they shall have none. Burned in oil! Mein Gott! We will show them.”

“Excellency,” questioned the others anxiously, “what of his Imperial Highness the Crown Prince?”

“Safe, thank God, and von Hindenburg is safe. They did not cross the cursed river. They stayed on the Northern bank with the artillery and three thousand men.”

I learned later that these three thousand of the German rear guard, together with seven thousand that escaped from the fire zone and were made prisoners, were all that remained alive of the 120,000 Germans that had crossed the Susquehanna that fatal morning with flying eagles.

Orders were immediately given by von Kluck that retaliatory steps be taken to strike terror into the hearts of the American people, and the wires throughout New England were kept humming that night with instructions to the commanding officers of German forces of occupation in Boston, Hartford, New Haven, Portland, Springfield, Worcester, Newport, Fall River, Stamford; also in Newark, Jersey City, Trenton and Philadelphia, calling upon them to issue proclamations that, in punishment of an act of barbarous massacre committed by General Wood and the American army, it was hereby ordered that one-half of the hostages previously taken by the Germans in each of these cities (the same to be chosen by lot) should be led forth at noon on October 15th and publicly executed.

At half-past eleven, October 15th, on the Yale University campus, there was a scene of excitement beyond words, although dumb in its tragic expression, when William Howard Taft, who was one of the hostages drawn for execution, finished his farewell address to the students.

“I call on you, my dear friends,” he cried with an inspired light in his eyes, “to follow the example of our glorious ancestors, to put aside selfishness and all base motives and rise to your supreme duty as American citizens. Defend this dear land! Save this nation! And, if it be necessary to die, let us die gladly for our country and our children, as those great patriots who fought under Washington and Lincoln were glad to die for us.”

With a noble gesture he turned to the guard of waiting German soldiers. He was ready.

Deeply moved, but helpless, the great audience of students and professors waited in a silence of rage and shame. They would fain have hurled themselves, unarmed, upon the gleaming line of soldiers that walled the quadrangle, but what would that have availed?

A Prussian colonel of infantry, with many decorations on his breast, stepped to the edge of the platform, glanced at his wrist-watch and said in a high-pitched voice: “Gentlemen of the University, I trust you have carefully read the proclamation of Field Marshal von Kluck. Be sure that any disorder during the execution of hostages that is now to take place will bring swift and terrible punishment upon the city and citizens of New Haven. Gentlemen, I salute you.”

He turned to the guard of soldiers. “Gehen!

Fertig! Hup!” cried a stocky little Bavarian sergeant, and the grim procession started.

At the four corners of the public green were companies of German soldiers with machine-guns trained upon dense crowds of citizens who had gathered for this gruesome ceremony, high-spirited New Englanders whose faith and courage were now to be crushed out of them, according to von Kluck, by this stern example.

Down Chapel Street with muffled drums came the unflinching group of American patriots, marching between double lines of cavalry and led by a military band. At Osborn Hall they turned to the right and moved slowly along College Street to the Battell Chapel, where they turned again and advanced diagonally across the green, the band playing Beethoven’s funeral march.

In the centre of the dense throng, at a point between Trinity Church and the old Centre Church, a firing squad of bearded Westphalians was making ready for the last swift act of vengeance, when, suddenly, in the direction of Elm Street near the Graduates’ Club, there came a tumult of shouts and voices with a violent pushing and struggling in the crowd. A messenger on a motorcycle was trying to force his way to the commanding officer.

“Stop! Stop!” he shouted. “I’ve got a telegram for the general. Let me through! I will get through!”

And at last, torn and breathless, the lad did get through and delivered his message. It was a telegram from Field Marshal von Kluck, which read:

“Have just received a despatch from General Leonard Wood, stating that his Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and Field Marshal von Hindenburg, with their military staffs, have been made prisoners by an American army north of the Susquehanna, and giving warning that if retaliatory measures are taken against American citizens, his Imperial Highness will, within twenty-four hours, be stood up before the statue of his Imperial ancestor Frederick the Great, in the War College at Washington, and shot to death by a firing squad from the Pennsylvania National Guard. In consequence of this I hereby countermand all previous orders for the execution of American hostages. (Signed) VON KLUCK.”

Like lightning this wonderful news spread through the crowd, and in the delirious joy that followed there was much disorder which the Germans scarcely tried to suppress. They were stunned by the catastrophe. The Crown Prince a prisoner! Von Hindenburg a prisoner! By what miracle of strategy had General Wood achieved this brilliant coup?

Here were the facts, as I subsequently learned. So confident of complete success was the American commander, that by twelve o’clock on the day of battle he had diverted half of his forces, about 30,000 men, in a rapid movement to the north, his purpose being to cross the Susquehanna higher up and envelop the rear guard of the enemy, with their artillery and commanding generals, in an overwhelming night attack. Hour after hour through the night of October 14th a flotilla of ferry-boats, cargo-boats, tugs, lighters, river craft of all sorts, assembled days before, had ferried the American army across the Susquehanna as George Washington ferried his army across the Delaware a hundred and fifty years before.

All night the Americans pressed forward in a forced march, and by daybreak the Crown Prince and his 3,000 men were caught beyond hope of rescue, hemmed in between the Susquehanna River and the projecting arms of Chesapeake Bay. The surprise was complete, the disaster irretrievable, and at seven o’clock on the morning of October 15th the heir to the German throne and six of his generals, including Field Marshal von Hindenburg, surrendered to the Americans the last of their forces with all their flags and artillery and an immense quantity of supplies and ammunition.

By General Wood’s orders the mass of German prisoners were moved to concentration camps at Gettysburg, but the Crown Prince was taken to Washington, where he and his staff were confined with suitable honours in the Hotel Bellevue, taken over by the government for this purpose. Here, during the subsequent fortnight, I had the honour of seeing the illustrious prisoner on several occasions. It seems that he remembered me pleasantly from the New England campaign and was glad to call upon my knowledge of American men and affairs for his own information.


As to von Hindenburg’s defeat (leaving aside the question of military ethics which he denounced scathingly) the Crown Prince said this had been accomplished by a mere accident that could never occur again and that could not interfere with Germany’s ultimate conquest of America.

“This will be a short-lived triumph,” declared His Imperial Highness, when he received me in his quarters at the Bellevue, “and the American people will pay dearly for it. The world stands aghast at the horror of this barbarous act.”

“America is fighting for her existence,” said I.

“Let her fight with the methods of civilised warfare. Germany would scorn to gain an advantage at the expense of her national honour.”

“If Your Imperial Highness will allow me to speak of Belgium in 1914—” I began, but he cut me short with an impatient gesture.

“Our course in Belgium was justified by special reasons—that is the calm verdict of history.”

I refrained from arguing this point and was patient while the prince turned the conversation on his favourite theme, the inferiority of a democratic to an autocratic form of government.

“I have been studying the lives of your presidents,” he said, “and—really, how can one expect them to get good results with no training for their work and only a few years in office? Take men like Johnson, Tyler, Polk, Hayes, Buchanan, Pierce, Filmore, Harrison, McKinley. Mediocre figures, are they not? What do they stand for?”

“What does the average king or emperor stand for?” I ventured, whereupon His Imperial Highness pointed proudly to the line of Hohenzollern rulers, and I had to admit that these were exceptional men.

“The big men of America go into commercial and industrial pursuits rather than into politics,” I explained.

“Exactly,” agreed the prince, “and the republic loses their services.”

“No, the republic benefits by the general prosperity which they build up,” I insisted.

With this the Imperial prisoner discussed the American Committee of Twenty-one and I was astonished to find what full knowledge he had touching their individual lives and achievements. He even knew the details of Asa G. Candler’s soda water activities. And he told me several amusing stories of Edison’s boyhood.

“By the way,” he said abruptly, “I suppose you know that Thomas A. Edison is a prisoner in our hands?”

“So we concluded,” said I. “Also Lemuel A. Widding.”

“Also Lemuel A. Widding,” the prince admitted. “You know why we took them prisoners? It was on account of Widding’s invention. He thinks he has found a way to destroy our fleet and we do not want our fleet destroyed.”

“Naturally not.”

“You had a talk with Edison on the train last week. He knows all the details of Widding’s invention?”


“And he believes it will do what the inventor claims? He believes it will destroy our fleet? Did he tell you that?”

“He certainly did. He said he wouldn’t give five cents for the German fleet after Widding’s plan is put into operation.”

“Ah!” reflected the Crown Prince.

“Would Your Imperial Highness allow me to ask a question?” I ventured.

His eyes met mine frankly. “Why, yes—certainly.”

“I have no authority to ask this, but I suppose there might be an exchange of prisoners. Edison and Widding are important to America and—“.

“You mean they might be exchanged for me?” his face grew stern. “I would not hear of it. Those two Americans alone have the secret of this Widding invention, I am sure of that, and it is better for the Fatherland to get along without a Crown Prince than without a fleet. No. We shall keep Mr. Edison and Mr. Widding prisoners.”

He said this with all the dignity of his Hohenzollern ancestry; then he rose to end the interview.


I now come to those memorable weeks of November, 1921, which rank among the most important in American history. There was first the battle that had been preparing south of the Potomac between von Mackensen’s advancing battalions and General Wood’s valiant little army. This might be called the third battle of Bull Run, since it was fought near Manassas where Beauregard and Lee won their famous victories.

Although General Wood’s forces numbered only 60,000 men, more than half of them militia, and although they were matched against an army of 150,000 Germans, the American commander had two points of advantage, his ten miles of entrenchments stretching from Remington to Warrenton along the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge mountains, and his untried but formidable preparations for dropping liquid chlorine from a fleet of aeroplanes upon an attacking army.

In order to reach Washington the Germans must traverse the neck of land that lies between the mountains and the Potomac’s broad arms. Here clouds of greenish death from heaven might or might not overwhelm them. That was the question to be settled. It was a new experiment in warfare.

I should explain that during previous months, thanks to the efficiency of the Committee of Twenty-one, great quantities of liquid chlorine had been manufactured at Niagara Falls, where the Niagara Alkali Company, the National Electrolytic Company, the Oldburg Electro-Chemical Company, the Castner Electrolytic Alkali Company, the Hooker Electro-Chemical Company and several others, working night and day and using 60,000 horsepower from the Niagara power plants and immense quantities of salt from the salt-beds in Western New York, had been able to produce 30,000 tons of liquid chlorine. And the Lackawanna Steel Company at Buffalo, in its immense tube plant, finished in 1920, had turned out half a million thin steel containers, torpedo-shaped, each holding 150 pounds of the deadly liquid. This was done under the supervision of a committee of leading chemists, including: Milton C. Whitaker, Arthur D. Little, Dr. L. H. Baekeland, Charles F. McKenna, John E. Temple and Dr. Henry Washington.

And a fleet of military aeroplanes had been made ready at the immense Wright and Curtiss factories on Grand Island in the Niagara River and at the Packard, Sturtevant, Thomas and Gallaudet factories, where a force of 20,000 men had been working night and day for weeks under government supervision. There were a hundred huge tractors with double fuselage and a wing spread of 200 feet, driven by four 500 horse-power motors. Each one of these, besides its crew, could carry three tons of chlorine from Grand Island to Washington (their normal rate of flying was 120 miles an hour) in three hours against a moderate wind.

I visited aviation centers where these machines were delivered for tests, and found the places swarming with armies of men training and inspecting and testing the aeroplanes.

Among aviators busy at this work were: Charles F. Willard, J. A. D. McCurdy, Walter R. Brookins, Frank T. Coffyn, Harry N. Atwood, Oscar Allen Brindley, Leonard Warren Bonney, Charles C. Witmer, Harold H. Brown, John D. Cooper, Harold Kantner, Clifford L. Webster, John H. Worden, Anthony Jannus, Roy Knabenshue, Earl S. Dougherty, J. L. Callan, T. T. Maroney, R. E. McMillen, Beckwith Havens, DeLloyd Thompson, Sidney F. Beckwith, George A. Gray, Victor Carlstrom, Chauncey M. Vought, W. C. Robinson, Charles F. Niles, Frank H. Burnside, Theodore C. Macaulay, Art Smith, Howard M. Rinehart, Albert Sigmund Heinrich, P. C. Millman, Robert Fowler.

In the balloon training camps, I noticed some old-time balloonists, including: J. C. McCoy, A. Leo Stevens, Frank P. Lahm, Thomas S. Baldwin, A. Holland Forbes, Charles J. Glidden, Charles Walsh, Carl G. Fisher, Wm. F. Whitehouse, George B. Harrison, Jay B. Benton, J. Walter Flagg, John Watts, Roy F. Donaldson, Ralph H. Upson, R. A. D. Preston and Warren Rasor.

Five days before the battle the hundred great carriers began delivering their deadly loads on the heights of Arlington, south of the Potomac, each aeroplane making three trips from Niagara Falls every twenty-four hours, which meant that on the morning of November 5, 1921, when the German legions came within range of Leonard Wood’s field artillery, there were 5,000 tons of liquid chlorine ready to be hurled down from the aerial fleet. And it was estimated that the carriers would continue to deliver a thousand tons a day from Grand Island as long as the deadly stuff was needed.

The actual work of dropping these chlorine bombs upon the enemy was entrusted to another fleet of smaller aeroplanes gathered from all parts of the country, most of them belonging to members of the Aero Club of America who not only gave their machines but, in many cases, offered their services as pilots or gunners for the impending air battle.

“What is the prospect?” I asked Henry Woodhouse, chief organiser of these aeroplane forces, on the day before the fight.

He was white and worn after days of overwork, but he spoke hopefully.

“We have chlorine enough,” he said, “but we need more attacking aeroplanes. We’ve only about forty squadrons with twelve aeroplanes to a squadron and most of our pilots have never worked in big air manoeuvres. It’s a great pity. Ah, look there! If they were all like Bolling’s squadron!”

He pointed toward the heights back of Remington where a dozen bird machines were sweeping through the sky in graceful evolutions.

“What Bolling is that?”

“Raynal C.—the chap that organised the first aviation section of the New York National Guard. Ah! See those boys turn! That’s Boiling at the head of the ‘V,’ with James E. Miller, George von Utassy, Fairman Dick, Jerome Kingsbury, William Boulding, 3rd, and Lorbert Carolin. They’ve got Sturtevant steel battle planes—given by Mrs. Bliss—yes, Mrs. William H. Bliss. She’s one of the patron saints of the Aero Club.”

We strolled among the hangars and Mr. Woodhouse presented me to several aeroplane squadron commanders, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Robert Bacon, Godfrey Lowell Cabot, Russell A. Alger, Robert Glendinning, George Brokaw, Clarke Thomson, Cortlandt F. Bishop; also to Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, Archer M. Huntington, J. Stuart Blackton, and Albert B. Lambert, who had just come in from a scouting and map-making flight over the German lines. These gentlemen agreed that America’s chances the next day would be excellent if we only had more attacking aeroplanes, about twice as many, so that we could overwhelm the enemy with a rain of chlorine shells.

“I believe three hundred more aeroplanes would give us the victory,” declared Alan R. Hawley, ex-president of the Aero Club.

“Think of it,” mourned August Belmont. “We could have had a thousand aeroplanes so easily—two thousand for the price of one battleship. And now—to-morrow—three hundred aeroplanes might save this nation.”

Cornelius Vanderbilt nodded gloomily. “The lack of three hundred aeroplanes may cost us the Atlantic seaboard. These aeroplanes would be worth a million dollars apiece to us and we can’t get ‘em.”

“The fifty aeroplanes of the Post Office are mighty useful,” observed Ex-Postmaster-General Frank H. Hitchcock to Postmaster-General Burleson.

“It isn’t the fault of you gentlemen,” said Emerson McMillin, “if we did not have five thousand aeroplanes in use for mail carrying, and coast guard and life-saving services.”

This remark was appreciated by some of the men in the group, including Alexander Graham Bell, Admiral Peary, Henry A. Wise Wood, Henry Woodhouse, Albert B. Lambert, and Byron R. Newton, head of the Coast Guard and Life Saving Service. For years they had all made supreme but unavailing efforts to make Congress realize the value of an aeroplane reserve which could be employed every day for peaceful purposes and would be available in case of need.

“Five thousand aeroplanes could have been put in use for carrying mail and express matter and in the Coast Guard,” said Mr. McMillin, “and with them we could have been in the position of the porcupine, which goes about its peaceful pursuits, harms no one, but is ever ready to defend itself. Had we had them in use, this war would probably never have taken place.”

A little later, as we were supping in a farmhouse, there came a great shouting outside and, rushing to doors and windows, we witnessed a miracle, if ever there was one. There, spread across the heavens from west and south, sweeping toward us, in proud alignment, squadron by squadron—there was the answer to our prayers, a great body of aeroplanes waving the stars and stripes in the glory of the setting sun.

“Who are they? Where do they come from?” we marvelled, and, presently, as the sky strangers came to earth like weary birds, a great cry arose: “Santos Dumont! Santos Dumont!”

It was indeed the great Santos, the famous Brazilian sportsman, and president of the Aeronautical Federation of the Western Hemisphere, who had come thus opportunely to cast his fortunes with tortured America and fight for the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine. With him came the Peruvian aviator, Bielovucci, first to fly across the Alps (1914), and Señor Anassagasti, president of the Aero Club Argentino, and also four hundred aeroplanes with picked crews from all parts of South America.

There was great rejoicing that evening at General Wood’s headquarters over this splendid support given to America by her sister republics.

“It looks now as if we have a chance,” said Brigadier General Robert K. Evans. “The Germans will attack at daybreak and—by the way, what’s the matter with our wireless reports?” He peered out into the night which was heavily overcast—not a star in sight. He was looking toward the radio station a mile back on the crest of a hill where the lone pine tree stood that supported the transmission wires.

“Looks like rain,” decided the general. “Hello! What’s that?”

Plainly through purplish black clouds we caught the shrill buzz of swift-moving aeroplanes.

“Good lord!” cried Roy D. Chapin, chief inspector of aircraft. “The Germans! I know their engine sounds. Searchlights! Quick!”

Alas! Our searchlights proved useless against the thick haze that had now spread about us; they only revealed distant dim shapes that shot through the darkness and were gone.

“We must go after those fellows,” muttered General Evans, and he detailed William Thaw, Norman Prince and Elliot Cowdin, veterans of many sky battles in France and Belgium, to go aloft and challenge the intruders.

This incident kept the camp in an uproar half the night. It turned out that the strange aeroplanes had indeed been sent out by the Germans, but for hours we did not discover what their mission was. They dropped no bombs, they made no effort to attack us, but simply circled around and around through the impenetrable night, accomplishing nothing, so far as we could see, except that they were incredibly clever in avoiding the pursuit of our airmen.

“They are flying at great speed,” calculated A. F. Zahm, the aerodynamic expert of the Smithsonian Institution, “but I don’t see what their purpose is.”

“I’ve got it,” suddenly exclaimed John Hays Hammond, Jr. “They’ve sprung a new trick. Their machines carry powerful radio apparatus and they’re cutting off our wireless.”

“By wave interference?” asked Dr. Zahm.

“Of course. It’s perfectly simple. I’ve done it at Gloucester.” He turned to General Evans. “Now, sir, you see why we’ve had no wireless reports from our captive balloon.”

This mention of the captive balloon brought to mind the peril of Payne Whitney, who was on lookout duty in the balloon near the German lines, and who might now be cut off by enemy aircraft, since he could not use his wireless to call for help. I can only state briefly that this danger was averted and Whitney’s life saved by the courage and prompt action of Robert J. Collier and Larry Waterbury, who flew through the night to the rescue of their friend with a supporting air squadron and arrived just in time to fight off a band of German raiders.

I deeply regret that I must record these thrilling happenings in such bald and inadequate words and especially that my pen is quite unequal to describing that strangest of battles which I witnessed the next day from the heights back of Remington. Never was there a more thrilling sight than the advance of this splendid body of American and South American aeroplanes, flying by squadrons in long V’s like flocks of huge birds, with a terrifying snarling of propellers. To right and left they manoeuvred, following wireless orders from headquarters that were executed by the various squadron commanders whose aeroplanes would break out bunting from time to time for particular signals.

So overwhelming was the force of American flyers, all armed with machine guns, that the Germans scarcely disputed the mastery of the air, and about seventy of their old-fashioned eagle type biplanes were soon destroyed. Our total losses here were only eleven machines, but these carried precious lives, some of our bravest and most skilful amateur airmen, Norman Cabot, Charles Jerome Edwards, Harold F. McCormick, James A. Blair, Jr., B. B. Lewis, Percy Pyne, 2nd, Eliot Cross, Roy D. Chapin, Logan A. Vilas and Bartlett Arkell.

I turned to my friend Hart O. Berg, the European aeroplane expert, and remarked that we seemed to be winning, but he said little, simply frowned through his binoculars.

“Don’t you think so?” I persisted.

“Wait!” he answered. “There’s something queer about this. Why should the Germans have such an inferior aircraft force? Where are all their wonderful Fokker machines?”

“You mean—”

“I mean that this battle isn’t over yet. Ah! Look! We’re getting our work in with that chlorine.”

It was indeed true. With the control of the skies assured us, our fleet of liquid gas carriers had now gone into action and at many points we saw the heavy poison clouds spreading over the enemy hosts like a yellow green sea. The battle of chlorine had begun. The war of chemistry was raining down out of the skies. It is certain that nothing like this had ever been seen before. There had been chlorine fighting in the trenches out of squirt gun apparatus—plenty of that in 1915, with a few score killed or injured, but here it came down by tons over a whole army, this devilish stuff one breath of which deep into the lungs smote a man down as if dead.

The havoc thus wrought in the German ranks was terrific; especially as General Wood took advantage of the enemy’s distress to sweep their lines with fierce artillery fire from his batteries on the heights.

“We’ve got them going,” said I.

Berg shook his head.

“Not yet.”

If General Wood had been able to hurl his army forward in a desperate charge at this moment of German demoralisation it is possible we might have gained a victory, but the risks were too heavy. The American forces were greatly outnumbered and to send them into those chlorine-swept areas was to bring the enemy’s fate upon them. Wood must hold his men upon the heights until our artillery and poison gas attack had practically won the day. Then a final charge might clinch matters—that was the plan, but it worked out differently, for, after their first demoralisation, the enemy learned to avoid the descending danger by running from it. They could avoid the slowly spreading chlorine clouds by seeking higher ground and, presently, they regained a great measure of their confidence and courage and swept forward in furious fresh attacks.

Even so the Americans fought for hours with every advantage and our artillery did frightful execution. At three o’clock I sent off a cable to the Times that General Wood’s prospects were excellent, but at half-past four our supply of liquid chlorine was exhausted and news came from Niagara Falls that a German spy on Grand Island had blown up the great chlorine supply tank containing 20,000 tons. And the Niagara power-plants had been wrecked by dynamite.

Still the Americans fought on gallantly, desperately, knowing that everything was at stake, and our aeroplanes, with their batteries of machine guns, gave effective assistance. Superiority in numbers, however, soon made itself felt and at five o’clock the Germans, relieved from the chlorine menace, advanced their heavy artillery and began a terrific bombardment of our trenches.

“Hello!” exclaimed Berg suddenly. “What’s that coming?”

He pointed to the northeast, where we made out a group of swiftly approaching aeroplanes, flying in irregular order. We watched them alight safely near General Wood’s headquarters, all but one marked “Women of 1915,” which was hit by an anti-aircraft gun, as it came to earth, and settled down with a broken wing and some injuries to the pilot, Miss Ethel Barrymore, and the observer, Mrs. Charles S. Whitman, wife of Senator Whitman.

This was but one demonstration of the heroism of our women. Thousands had volunteered their services as soon as the war broke out and many, finding that public sentiment was against having women in the ranks, learned to fly and to operate radio apparatus and were admitted in these branches of the service. Among the women who volunteered were hundreds of members of the Women’s Section of the Movement for National Preparedness, including members of the Council of Women, Daughters of American Revolution, Ladies of the G. A. R. (National and Empire State), United Daughters of the Confederacy, Association Opposed to Woman’s Suffrage, Civic Federation Woman’s Department, Society United States Daughters of 1812, Woman’s Rivers and Harbors Congress, Congress of Mothers, Daughters of Cincinnati, Daughters of the Union, Daughters of the Revolution, and National Special Aid Society.

These organisations of American women not only supplied a number of skilled aeroplane pilots, but they were of material help in strengthening the fighting forces, as well as in general relief work.

As the shadows of night approached we were startled by the sudden sweep across the sky of a broad yellow searchlight beam, lifted and lowered repeatedly, while a shower of Roman candles added vehemence to the signal.

“Something has happened. They’ve brought important news,” cried my friend, whereupon we hurried to headquarters and identified most of the machines as separate units in Rear Admiral Peary’s aero-radio system of coast defence, while two of them, piloted by Ralph Pulitzer (wounded) and W. K. Vanderbilt, belonged to Emerson McMillin’s reefing-wings scouting squadron.

We listened eagerly to the reports of pilots and gunners from these machines, Marion McMillin, W. Redmond Cross, Harry Payne Whitney (wounded), William Ziegler, Jr., Alexander Blair Thaw, W. Averill Harriman, Edwin Gould, Jr. (wounded), and learned that a powerful fleet of enemy aircraft, at least 500, had been sighted over Chesapeake Bay and were flying swiftly to the support of the Germans. These aeroplanes had started from a base near Atlantic City and would arrive within half an hour.

A council of war was held immediately and, acting on the advice of aeroplane experts, General Wood ordered the withdrawal of our land and air forces. It would be madness to attempt further resistance. Our army was hopelessly outnumbered, our chlorine supply was gone, our air fleet, after flying all day, was running short of gasoline and its weary pilots were in no condition to withstand the attack of a fresh German fleet. At all costs we must save our aeroplanes, for without them the little remnant of our army would be blind.

This was the beginning of the end. We had done our best and failed. At six o’clock orders were given that the whole American army prepare for a night retreat into the remote fastnesses of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had made our last stand east of the Alleghenies and fell back heavy-hearted, leaving the invaders in full possession of our Atlantic seaboard.


There followed dark days for America. Washington was taken by the enemy, but not until our important prisoners, the Crown Prince and von Hindenburg, had been hurried to Chicago. Baltimore was taken. Everything from Maine to Florida and all the Gulf ports were taken.

Add to this a widespread spirit of disorder and disunion, strikes and rioting in many cities, dynamite outrages, violent addresses of demagogues and labour leaders, pleas for peace at any price by misguided fanatics who were ready to reap the whirlwind they had sown. These were days when men of brain and courage, patriots of the nation with the spirit of ‘76 in them, almost despaired of the future.

Through all this storm and darkness, amid dissension and violence, one man stood firm for the right, one wise big-souled man, the President of the United States. In a clamour of tongues he heard the still small voice within and laboured prodigiously to build up unity and save the nation. Like Lincoln, he was loved and honoured even by his enemies.

It was my privilege to hear the great speech which the President of the United States delivered in Chicago, November 29, 1921, a date which Theodore Roosevelt has called the most memorable in American history. The immense auditorium on the lake front, where once were the Michigan Central tracks, was packed to suffocation. It is estimated that 40,000 men and women, representing every state and organisation in the Union, heard this impassioned appeal for the nation, that will live in American history along with Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

The President spoke first and did not remain to hear the other orators, as he was leaving for Milwaukee, where he hoped to relieve a dangerous, almost a revolutionary situation. He had been urged not to set foot in this breeding place of sedition, but he replied that the citizens of Milwaukee were his fellow countrymen, his brothers. They were dear to him. They needed him. And he would not fail them.

In spite of this stirring cry from the heart, the audience seemed but mildly affected and allowed the President to depart with only perfunctory applause. There was no sign of success for his plea that the nation rouse itself from its lethargy and send its sons unselfishly in voluntary enlistment to drive the enemy from our shores. And there were resentful murmurs when the President warned his hearers that compulsory military service might be inevitable.

“Why shall the poor give their lives to save the rich?” answered Charles Edward Russell, speaking for the socialists. “What have the rich ever done for the poor except to exploit them and oppress them? Why should the proletariat worry about the frontiers between nations? It’s only a question which tyrant has his heel on our necks. No! The labouring men of America ask you to settle for them and for their children the frontiers between poverty and riches. That’s what they’re ready to fight for, a fair division of the products of toil, and, by God, they’re going to have it!”

One feature of the evening was a stirring address by the beautiful Countess of Warwick, prominent in the feminist movement, who had come over from England to speak for the Women’s World Peace Federation.

“Women of America,” said the Countess, “I appeal to you to save this nation from further horrors of bloodshed. Rise up in the might of your love and your womanhood and end this wholesale murder. Remember the great war in Europe! What did it accomplish? Nothing except to fill millions of graves with brave sons and beloved husbands. Nothing except to darken millions of homes with sorrow. Nothing except to spread ruin and desolation everywhere. Are you going to allow this ghastly business to be repeated here?

“Women of America, I bring you greetings from the women of England, the women of France, the women of Germany, who have joined this great pacifist movement and whose voices sounding by millions can no longer be stifled. Let the men hear and heed our cry. We say to them: ‘Stop! Our rights on this earth equal yours. We gave you birth, we fed you at the breast, we guarded your tender years, and we notify you now that you shall no longer kill and maim our husbands, our sons, our fathers, our brothers, our lovers. It is in the power of women to drive war’s hell from the earth and, whatever the cost, we are going to do it.’”

“No! No!” came a tumult of cries from all parts of the hall.

“We believe in fighting to the last for our national existence,” cried Mrs. John A. Logan, waving her hand, whereupon hundreds of women patriots, Daughters of the American Revolution, suffrage and anti-suffrage leaders, members of the Navy League, Red Cross workers, sprang to their feet and screamed their enthusiasm for righteous war.

Among these I recognised Mrs. John A. Logan, Miss Mabel Boardman, Mrs. Lindon Bates, Mrs. Mary S. Lockwood, Mrs. Seymour L. Cromwell, Miss Alice Hill Chittenden, Mrs. Oliver Herford, Mrs. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, Mrs. John Temple Graves, Mrs. Edwin Gould, Mrs. George Dewey, Mrs. William Cumming Story, Mrs. George Harvey, Mrs. Thomas A. Edison, Mrs. William C. Potter, Miss Marie Van Vorst, Mrs. Arthur M. Dodge, Mrs. George J. Gould, Mrs. T. J. Oakley Rhinelander, Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt, Mrs. M. Orme Wilson, Mrs. Simon Baruch, Mrs. Oliver Herford, Mrs. Wm. Reynolds Brown, and Mrs. Douglas Robinson.

When this storm had subsided, Henry Ford rose to renew the pacifist attack.

“It shocks and grieves me,” he began, “to find American women openly advocating the killing of human beings.”

“Where would your business be,” yelled a voice in the gallery, “if George Washington hadn’t fought the War of the Revolution?”

This sally called forth such frantic cheers that Mr. Ford was unable to make himself heard and sat down in confusion.

Other speakers were Jane Addams, Hudson Maxim, Bernard Ridder and William Jennings Bryan. The audience sat listless as the old arguments and recriminations, the old facts and fallacies, were laid before them. Like the nation, they seemed plunged in a stupor of indifference. They were asleep.

Then suddenly fell the bomb from heaven. It was during the mild applause following Mr. Bryan’s pacifist appeal, that I had a premonition of some momentous happening. I was in the press gallery quite near to Theodore Roosevelt, the next speaker, who was seated at the end of the platform, busy with his notes, when a messenger came out from behind the stage and handed the Colonel a telegram. As he read it I saw a startling change. Roosevelt put aside his notes and a strange tense look came into his eyes and, presently, when he rose to speak, I saw that his usually ruddy face was ashen grey.

As Roosevelt rose, another messenger thrust a wet, ink-stained newspaper into his hand.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, and in his first words there was a sense of impending danger, “for reasons of the utmost importance I shall not deliver the speech that I have prepared. I have a brief message, a very grave message, that will reach your hearts more surely than any words of mine. The deliberations of this great gathering have been taken out of our hands. We have nothing more to discuss, for Almighty God has spoken!

“My friends, the great man who was with us but now, the President of the United States, has been assassinated.”

No words can describe the scene that followed. A moment of smiting silence, then madness, hysteria, women fainting, men clamouring and cursing, and finally a vast upsurging of quickened souls, as the organ pealed forth: “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and forty thousand Americans rose and sang their hearts out.

Then, in a silence of death, Roosevelt spoke again:

“Listen to the last words of the President of the United States: ‘The Union! The Flag!’ That is what he lived for and died for, that is what he loved. ‘The Union! The Flag!

“My friends, they say patriotism is dead in this land. They say we are eaten up with love of money, tainted with a yellow streak that makes us afraid to fight. It’s a lie! I am ready to give every dollar I have in the world to help save this nation and it’s the same with you men. Am I right?”

A roar of shouts and hysterical yells shook the building.

“I am sixty years old, but I’ll fight in the trenches with my four sons beside me and you men will do the same. Am I right?”

Again came a roar that could be heard across Chicago.

“We all make mistakes. I do nothing but make mistakes, but I’m sorry. I have said hard things about public men, especially about German-Americans, but I’m sorry.”

With a noble gesture he turned to Bernard Ridder, who sprang to meet him, his eyes blazing with loyalty.

“There are no German-Americans!” shouted Ridder. “We’re all Americans! Americans!”

He clasped Roosevelt’s hand while the audience shouted its delight.

Quick on his feet came Charles Edward Russell, fired with the same resistless patriotism.

“There are no more socialists!” he cried. “No more proletariat! We’re all Americans! We’ll all fight for the Union and the old flag! You too!

He turned to William Jennings Bryan, who rose slowly and with outstretched hands faced his adversaries.

“I, too, have made mistakes and I am sorry. I, too, feel the grandeur of those noble words spoken by that great patriot who has sent us his last message. I, too, will stand by the flag in this time of peril and will spare neither my life nor my fortune so long as the invader’s foot rests on the soil of free America.”

“Americans!” shouted Roosevelt, the sweat streaming from his face. “Look!” He caught Bryan by one arm and Russell by the other. “See how we stand together. All the rest is forgotten. Americans! Brothers! On your feet everybody! Yell it out to the whole land, to the whole world, America is awake! Thank God, America is awake!”


Now all over America came a marvellous spiritual awakening. The sacrifice of the President’s noble life, and his wife’s thrilling effort to shield her husband, was not in vain. Once more the world knew the resistless power of a martyr’s death. Women and men alike were stirred to warlike zeal and a joy in national sacrifice and service. The enlistment officers were swamped with a crush of young and old, eager to join the colours; and within three days following the President’s assassination a million soldiers were added to the army of defence and a million more were turned away. It was no longer a question how to raise a great American army, but how to train and equip it, and how to provide it with officers.

Most admirable was the behaviour of the great body of German-Americans; in fact it was a German-American branch of the American Defence Society, financed in America, that started the beautiful custom, which became universal, of wearing patriotic buttons bearing the sacred words: “The Union! The Flag!”

“It was one thing,” wrote Bernard Ridder in the Chicago Staats-Zeitung, “for German-Americans to side with Germany in the great European war (1914-1919) when only our sympathies were involved. It is quite a different thing for us now in a war that involves our homes and our property, all that we have in the world. When Germany attacks America, she attacks German-Americans, she attacks us in our material interests, in our fondest associations; and we will resist her just as in 1776 the American colonists, who were really English, resisted England, the mother country, when she attacked them in the same way.”

I was impressed by the truth of this statement during a visit that I made to Milwaukee, where I found greatly improved conditions. In fact, German-Americans themselves were bringing to light the activities of German spies and vigorously opposing German propaganda.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania, which has a large German population, I heard of a German-American mother named Roth, who was so zealous in her loyalty to the United States that she rose at five o’clock on the day following the President’s assassination and enlisted her three sons before they were out of bed.

In Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities women volunteered by thousands as postmen, street-car conductors, elevator operators and for service in factories and business houses, so as to release the men for military service. Chicago newspapers printed pictures of Mrs. Harold F. McCormick, Mrs. J. Ogden Armour, Mrs. J. Clarence Webster and other prominent society women in blue caps and improvised uniforms, ringing up fares on the Wabash Avenue cars for the sake of the example they would set to others.

In San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Oregon, Omaha, and Salt Lake City a hundred thousand women, at gatherings of women’s clubs and organisations, formally joined the Women’s National War Economy League and pledged themselves as follows:

“We, the undersigned American women, in this time of national need and peril, do hereby promise:

“(1) To buy no jewelry or useless ornaments for one year and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women’s National War Fund.

“(2) To buy only two hats a year, the value of said hats not to exceed ten dollars, and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women’s National War Fund.

“(3) To buy only two dresses a year, the value of said dresses not to exceed sixty dollars, and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women’s National War Fund.

“(4) To forego all entertaining at restaurants, all formal dinner and luncheon parties and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women’s National War Fund.

“(5) To abstain from cocktails, highballs and all expensive wines, also from cigarettes, to influence husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and men friends to do the same, and to contribute the amount thus saved to the Women’s National War Fund.

“(6) To keep this pledge until the invader has been driven from the soil of free America.”

I may mention that Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch, in urging her sister women at various mass meetings to sign this pledge, made the impressive estimate that, by practising these economies during a two years’ war, a hundred thousand well-to-do American women might save a thousand million dollars.

Other American women, under the leadership of Mrs. Mary Logan Tucker, daughter of General John A. Logan, prepared themselves for active field service at women’s military camps, in several states, where they were instructed in bandage making, first-aid service, signalling and the use of small arms.

As weeks passed the national spirit grew stronger, stimulated by rousing speeches of Roosevelt, Russell and Bryan and fanned into full flame by Boston’s immortal achievement on December 24, 1921. On that day, by authorisation of General von Beseler, commanding the German force of occupation, a great crowd had gathered on Boston Common for a Christmas tree celebration with a distribution of food and toys for the poor of the city. In the Public Gardens near the statue of George Washington, Billy Sunday was making an address when suddenly, on the stroke of five, the bell in the old Park Street church and then the bells in all the churches of Boston began to toll.

It was a signal for an uprising of the people and was answered in a way that will fill a proud page of American history so long as human courage and love of liberty are honoured upon earth. In an instant every telephone wire in the city went dead, leaving the Germans cut off from communication among themselves. All traffic and business ceased as if by magic, all customary activities were put aside and, with the first clangour of the bells, the whole population poured into the streets and surged towards Boston Common by converging avenues, singing as they went.

Already a hundred thousand citizens were packed within this great enclosure, and guarding them were three thousand German, foot soldiers and a thousand horsemen in formidable groups, with rifles and machine guns ready—before the State House, before the Soldiers’ Monument, along Tremont Street and Boylston Street and at other strategic points. Never in the history of the world had an unarmed, untrained mob prevailed over such a body of disciplined troops. The very thought was madness. And yet—

Hark! That roar of voices in the Public Gardens! What is it? A band playing in the distance? Who ordered a band to play? German officers shout harsh commands. “Back!” “Stand back!” “Stop this pushing of the crowd!” “Mein Gott! Those women and children will be trampled by the horses!”

Alas, that is true! Once more the cause of American liberty requires that Boston Common be hallowed by American blood. The people of this New England city are tired of German rule. They want their city for themselves and are going to take it. Guns or not, soldiers or not, they are going to take their city.

Listen! They are coming! Six hundred thousand strong in dense masses that choke every thoroughfare from wall to wall the citizens of Boston, women and children with the men, are coming! And singing!

    “Hurrah! Hurrah! We sound the jubilee!
    Hurrah! Hurrah! The flag that set us free.”

They are practically unarmed, although some of the men carry shot-guns, pistols, rifles, clubs, stones; but they know these will avail little against murderous machine guns. They know they must find strength in their weakness and overwhelm the enemy by the sheer weight of their bodies. They must stun the invaders by their willingness to die. That is the only real power of this Boston host, their sublime willingness to die.

It is estimated that five thousand of them did die, and ten thousand were wounded, in the first half hour after the German machine guns opened fire. And still the Americans came on in a shouting, surging multitude, a solid sea of bodies with endless rivers of bodies pouring in behind them. It is not so easy to kill forty acres of human bodies, even with machine guns!

Endlessly the Americans came on, hundreds falling, thousands replacing them, until presently the Germans ceased firing, either in horror at this incredible sacrifice of life or because their ammunition was exhausted. What chance was there for German ammunition carts to force their way through that struggling human wall? What chance for the fifteen hundred German reserves in Franklin Park to bring relief to their comrades?

At eight o’clock that night Boston began her real Christmas eve celebration. Over the land, over the world the joyful tidings were flashed. Boston had heard the call of the martyred President and answered it. The capital of Massachusetts was free. The Stars and Stripes were once more waving over the Bunker Hill Monument. Four thousand German soldiers were prisoners in Mechanics Hall on Commonwealth Avenue. The citizens of Boston had taken them prisoners with their bare hands!

This news made an enormous sensation not only in America but throughout Europe, where Boston’s heroism and scorn of death aroused unmeasured admiration and led military experts in France and England to make new prophecies regarding the outcome of the German-American war.

“All things are possible,” declared a writer in the Paris Temps, “for a nation fired with a supreme spiritual zeal like that of the Japanese Samurai. It is simply a question how widely this sacred fire has spread among the American people.”


On December 26th I received a cable from the London Times instructing me to try for another interview with the Crown Prince and to question him on the effect that this Boston victory might have upon the German campaign in America. Would there be retaliatory measures? Would German warships bombard Boston from the sea?

I journeyed at once to Chicago and made my appeal to Brigadier General George T. Langhorne, who had been military attache at Berlin in 1915 and was now in charge of the Imperial prisoner. The Crown Prince and his staff occupied the seventh floor of the Hotel Blackstone.

“I’m sorry,” said General Langhorne, after he had presented my request. “The Crown Prince has no statement to make at present. But there is another German prisoner who wishes to speak to you. I suppose it’s all right as you have General Wood’s permission. He says he has met you before—Colonel von Dusenberg.”

“Colonel von Dusenberg?”

“He is on the Crown Prince’s staff. In here.” I opened a heavy door and found myself in a large dimly lighted room.

“Mr. Langston!”

The voice was familiar and, turning, I stared in amazement; for there, dressed as an officer of the Prussian guard, stood the man I had rescued in the Caribbean Sea, the brother of the girl I had seen in Washington, Lieutenant Randolph Ryerson of the United States navy. He had let his moustache grow, but I recognised him at once.

“You?” I stood looking at him and saw that his face was deathly white.

“Yes. I—I’m in trouble and—I have things to tell you,” he stammered. “Sit down.”

I sat down and lighted a cigarette. I kept thinking how much he looked like his sister.

“Ryerson, what the devil are you doing in that Prussian uniform?”

He turned away miserably, then he forced himself to face me.

“I’ll get the worst over first. I don’t care what happens to me and—anyway I—I’m a spy.”

“A spy?”

He nodded. “In the service of the Germans. It was through me they knew about Widding’s invention to destroy their fleet. It was through me that Edison and Widding were abducted. I meant to disappear—that’s why I joined von Hindenburg’s army, but—we were captured and—here I am.” He looked at me helplessly as I blew out a cloud of smoke.

“How is this possible? How did it happen? How, Ryerson?” I gasped in amazement.

He shook his head. “What’s the use? It was money and—there’s a woman in it.”

“Go on.”

“That’s all. I fell for one of their damnable schemes to get information. It was three years ago on the Mediterranean cruise of our Atlantic squadron. I met this woman in Marseilles.”


“She called herself the Countess de Matignon, and—I was a young lieutenant and—I couldn’t resist her. Nobody could. She wanted money and I gave her all I had; then I gambled to get more. She wanted information about the American fleet, about our guns and coast defences; unimportant things at first, but pretty soon they were important and—I was crazy about her and—swamped with debts and—I yielded. Within six months she owned me. I was a German spy, mighty well paid, too. God!”

I stared at him in dismay. I could not speak.

“Well, after the war broke out between Germany and America last April, this woman came to New York and got her clutches on me deeper than ever. I gave her some naval secrets, and six weeks ago I told her all I knew about Widding’s invention. You see what kind of a dog I am,” he concluded bitterly.

“Ryerson, why have you told me this?” I asked searchingly.

“Why?” He flashed a straightforward look out of his handsome eyes. “Because I’m sick of the whole rotten game. I’ve played my cards and lost. I’m sure to be found out—some navy man will recognise me, in spite of this moustache, and—you know what will happen then. I’ll be glad of it, but—before I quit the game I want to do one decent thing. I’m going to tell you where they’ve taken Edison.”

“You know where Edison is?”

“Yes. Don’t speak so loud.”

Ryerson leaned closer and whispered: “He’s in Richmond, Virginia.”

Silently I studied this unhappy man, wondering if he was telling the truth. He must have felt my doubts.

“Langston, you don’t believe me! Why should I lie to you? I tell you I want to make amends. These German officers trust me. I know their plans and—Oh, my God, aren’t you going to believe me?”

“Go on,” I said, impressed by the genuineness of his despair. “What plans do you know?”

“I know the Germans are disturbed by this patriotic spirit in America. They’re afraid of it. They don’t know where hell may break loose next—after Boston. They’re going to leave Boston alone, everything alone for the present—until they get their new army.”

“New army?”

“Yes—from Germany. They have sent for half a million more men. They’ll have ‘em here in a month and—that’s why I want to do something—before it’s too late.”

As I watched him I began to believe in his sincerity. Handsome fellow! I can see him now with his flushed cheeks and pleading eyes. A spy! It would break his sister’s heart.

“What can you do?” I asked sceptically.

He looked about him cautiously and lowered his voice.

“I can get Edison away from the Germans, and Edison can destroy their fleet.”

“Perhaps,” said I.

“He says he can.”

“I know, but—you say Edison is in Richmond.”

“We can rescue him. If you’ll only help me, Langston, we can rescue Edison. I’ll go to Richmond with papers to the commanding German general that will get me anything.”

“Papers as a German spy?”


“You can’t get to Richmond. You’re a prisoner yourself.”

“That’s where you’re going to help me. You must do it—for the country—for my sister.”


“Does your sister know—what you are?”

He looked away, and I saw his lips tighten and his hands clench.


“Do you want me to tell her?”

He thought a moment.

“What’s the use of hiding it? She’s bound to know some day, and—she’ll be glad I’ve had this little flicker of—decency. Besides, she may have an idea. Mary’s got a good head on her. Poor kid!”

I told Ryerson that I would think the matter over and find some way to communicate with him later. Then I left him.

I telegraphed at once to Miss Ryerson, who hurried to Chicago, arriving the next morning, and we spent most of that day together, discussing the hard problem before us. The girl was wonderfully brave when I told her the truth about her brother. She said there were circumstances in his early life that lessened the heinousness of his wrong doing. And she rejoiced that he was going to make amends. She knew he was absolutely sincere.

I suggested that we go to General Wood, who was friendly to both of us, and tell him the whole truth, but Miss Ryerson would not hear to this. She would not place Randolph’s life in jeopardy by revealing the fact that he had been a German spy. Her brother must make good before he could hope to be trusted or forgiven.

“But he’s a prisoner; he can do nothing unless he has his liberty,” I objected.

“We will get him his liberty; we must get it, but not that way.”

“Then how?”

For a long time we studied this question in all its phases. How could Lieutenant Ryerson gain his liberty? How could he get a chance to make amends for his treachery? And, finally, seeing no other way, we fell back upon the desperate expedient of an exchange. I would obtain permission for Miss Ryerson to visit her brother, and they would change clothes, she remaining as a prisoner in his place while he went forth to undo if possible the harm that he had done.

The details of this plan we arranged immediately. I saw Ryerson the next day, and when I told him what his sister was resolved to do in the hope of saving his honour, he cried like a child and I felt more than ever convinced of his honest repentance.

We decided upon December 28th for the attempt, and two days before this Randolph found a plausible excuse for cutting off his moustache. He told General Langhorne that he had become a convert to the American fashion of a clean shaven face.

As to the escape itself, I need only say that on December 28th, in the late afternoon, I escorted Miss Ryerson, carefully veiled, to the Hotel Blackstone; and an hour later I left the hotel with a person in women’s garments, also carefully veiled. And that night Randolph Ryerson and I started for Richmond. I may add that I should never have found the courage to leave that lovely girl in such perilous surroundings had she not literally commanded me to go.

“We may be saving the nation,” she begged. “Go! Go! And—I’ll be thinking of you—praying for you—for you both.”

My heart leaped before the wonder of her eyes as she looked at me and repeated these last words: “For you both!”

We left the express at Pittsburg, intending to proceed by automobile across Pennsylvania, then by night through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia; for, of course, we had to use the utmost caution to avoid the sentries of both armies which were spread over this region.

In Pittsburg we lunched at the Hotel Duquesne, after which Ryerson left me for a few hours, saying that he wished to look over the ground and also to procure the services of a high-powered touring car.

“Don’t take any chances,” I said anxiously.

“I’ll be careful. I’ll be back inside of two hours,” he promised.

But two hours, four hours, six hours passed and he did not come. I dined alone, sick at heart, wondering if I had made a ghastly mistake.

It was nearly ten o’clock that night when Ryerson came back after seven hours’ absence. We went to our room immediately, and he told me what had happened, the gist of it being that he had discovered important news that might change our plans.

“These people trust me absolutely,” he said. “They tell me everything.”

“You mean—German spies?”

“Yes. Pittsburg is full of ‘em. They’re plotting to wreck the big steel plants and factories here that are making war munitions. I’ll know more about that later, but the immediate thing is Niagara Falls.”

Then Ryerson gave me my first hint of a brilliant coup that had been preparing for months by the Committee of Twenty-one and the American high command, its purpose being to strike a deadly and spectacular blow at the German fleet.

“This is the closest kind of a secret, it’s the great American hope; but the Germans know all about it,” he declared.

“Go on.”

“It’s a big air-ship, the America, a super-Zeppelin, six hundred feet long, with apparatus for steering small submarines by radio control—no men aboard. Understand?”

“You mean no men aboard the submarine?”

“Of course. There will be a whole crew on the air-ship. Nicola Tesla and John Hays Hammond, Jr., worked out the idea, and Edison was to give the last touches; but as Edison is a German prisoner, they can’t wait for him. They are going to try the thing on New Year’s night against the German dreadnought Wilhelm II in Boston Harbour.”

“Blow up the Wilhelm II?”

“Yes, but the Germans are warned in advance. You can’t beat their underground information bureau. They’re going to strike first.”

“Where is this air-ship?”

“On Grand Island, in the Niagara River, all inflated, ready to sail, but she never will sail unless we get busy. After tomorrow night there won’t be any America.”

In the face of this critical situation, I saw that we must postpone our trip to Richmond and, having obtained from Ryerson full details of the German plot to destroy the America, I took the first train for Niagara Falls—after arranging with my friend to rejoin him in Pittsburg a few days later—and was able to give warning to Colonel Charles D. Kilbourne of Fort Niagara in time to avert this catastrophe.

The Germans knew that Grand Island was guarded by United States troops and that the river surrounding it was patrolled by sentry launches; but the island was large, sixteen miles long and seven miles wide, and under cover of darkness it was a simple matter for swimmers to pass unobserved from shore to shore.

On the night of December 30th, 1921, in spite of the cold, five hundred German spies had volunteered to risk their lives in this adventure. They were to swim silently from the American and Canadian shores, each man pushing before him a powerful fire bomb protected in a water-proof case; then, having reached the island, these five hundred were to advance stealthily upon the hangar where the great air-ship, fully inflated, was straining at her moorings. When the rush came, at a pre-arranged signal, many would be killed by American soldiers surrounding the building, but some would get through and accomplish their mission. One successful fire bomb would do the work.

Against this danger Colonel Kilbourne provided in a simple way. Instead of sending more troops to guard the island, which might have aroused German suspicions, he arranged to have two hundred boys, members of the Athletic League of the Buffalo Public Schools, go to Grand Island apparently for skating and coasting parties. It was brisk vacation weather and no one thought it strange that the little ferry boat from Buffalo carried bands of lively youngsters across the river for these seasonable pleasures. It was not observed that the boat also carried rifles and ammunition which the boys had learned to use, in months of drill and strenuous target practice, with the skill of regulars.

There followed busy hours on Grand Island as we made ready for the crisis. About midnight, five hundred Germans, true to their vow, landed at various points, and crept forward through the darkness, carrying their bombs. As they reached a circle a thousand yards from the huge hangar shed they passed unwittingly two hundred youthful riflemen who had dug themselves in under snow and branches and were waiting, thrilling for the word that would show what American boys can do for their country. Two hundred American boys on the thousand yard circle! A hundred American soldiers with rifles and machine guns at the hangar! And the Germans between!

We had learned from Ryerson that the enemy would make their rush at two o’clock in the morning, the signal being a siren shriek from the Canadian shore, so at a quarter before two, knowing that the Germans were surely in the trap, Colonel Kilbourne gave the word, and, suddenly, a dozen search-lights swept the darkness with pitiless glare. American rifles spoke from behind log shelters, Maxims rattled their deadly blast, and the Germans, caught between two fires, fled in confusion, dropping their bombs. As they approached the thousand-yard line they found new enemies blocking their way, keen-eyed youths whose bullets went true to the mark. And the end of it was, leaving aside dead and wounded, that two hundred Buffalo schoolboys made prisoners of the three hundred and fifty German veterans!

And the great seven-million dollar air-ship America, with all her radio mysteries, was left unharmed, ready to sail forth the next night, New Year’s Eve, and make her attack upon the superdreadnought Wilhelm II, on January 1, 1922. I prayed that this would be a happier year for the United States than 1921 had been.


I come now to the period of my great adventures beginning on New Year’s Day, 1922, when I sailed from Buffalo aboard the airship America on her expedition against the German fleet. For the first time in my modest career I found myself a figure of nation-wide interest, not through any particular merit or bravery of my own, but by reason of a series of fortunate accidents. I may say that I became a hero in spite of myself.

In recognition of the service I had rendered in helping to save the great airship from German spies, I had been granted permission, at General Wood’s recommendation, to sail as a passenger aboard this dreadnought of the skies and to personally witness her novel attack with torpedoes lowered from the airship and steered from the height of a mile or two by radio control. Never before had a newspaper correspondent received such a privilege and I was greatly elated, not realising what extraordinary perils I was to face in this discharge of my duty.

I was furthermore privileged to be present at a meeting of the Committee of Twenty-one held on the morning of January 1st, 1922, at the Hotel Lenox in Buffalo. Various details of our airship expedition were discussed and there was revealed to me an important change in the America’s strategy which I will come to presently.

Surveying the general military situation, John Wanamaker read reports showing extraordinary progress in military preparedness all over the country, especially in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the women, recently victorious in their suffrage fight, were able to make their patriotic zeal felt in aggressive legislation. Strange to say, American wives and mothers were the leaders in urging compulsory physical and military training, a year of it, on the Swiss plan, for all American young men of twenty and a month of it every five years afterwards for all men up to fifty.

The Committee were in the midst of a discussion of Charles M. Schwab’s plan providing that American soldiers carry armour, a helmet, breastplate and abdominal covering of light but highly tempered steel, when there came a dramatic interruption. A guard at the door of the Council Room entered to say that Mr. Henry A. Wise Wood, President of the Aero Club of America, was outside with an urgent communication for the Committee. Mr. Wise Wood was at once received and informed us that he had journeyed from Pittsburg bearing news that might have an important bearing upon the airship expedition.

“As you know, gentlemen,” he said, “we have a wireless station in the tower of our new Aero Club building in Pittsburg. Yesterday afternoon at three o’clock the operator received a message addressed to me. It was very faint, almost a whisper through the air, but he filially got it down and he is positive it is correct. This message, gentlemen, is from Thomas A. Edison.”

“Edison!” exclaimed Andrew Carnegie, “but he is a prisoner of the Germans.”

“Undoubtedly,” agreed Mr. Wise Wood, “but it has occurred to me that the Germans may have allowed Mr. Edison to fit up a laboratory for his experiments. They would treat such a man with every consideration.”

“They would not allow him to communicate with his friends,” objected Cornelius Vanderbilt.

“He may not have asked permission,” laughed George W. Perkins. “He may have rigged up some secret contrivance for sending wireless messages.”

“Why don’t you read what he says?” put in J.P. Morgan.

Mr. Wise Wood drew a folded yellow paper from his pocket and continued: “This message is unquestionably from Mr. Edison, in spite of the fact that it is signed Thaled. You will agree with me, gentlemen, that Thaled is a code word formed by putting together the first two letters of the three names, Thomas Alva Edison.”

“Very clever!” nodded Asa G. Candler.

“I don’t see that,” frowned John D. Rockefeller. “If Mr. Edison wished to send Mr. Wise Wood a message why should he use a misleading signature?”

“It’s perfectly clear,” explained James J. Hill. “Mr. Edison has disguised his signature sufficiently to throw off the track any German wireless operator who might catch the message, while leaving it understandable to us.”

“Read the message,” repeated J.P. Morgan. Whereupon Mr. Wise Wood opened the yellow sheet and read:

“Strongly disapprove attack against German fleet by airship America. Satisfied method radio control not sufficiently perfected and effort doomed to failure. Have worked out sure and simple way to destroy fleet. Details shortly or deliver personally. THALED”.

This message provoked fresh discussion and there were some, including Elihu Root, who thought that Mr. Edison had never sent this message. It was a shrewd trick of the Germans to prevent the America from sailing. If Mr. Edison could tell us so much why did he not tell us more? Why did he not say where he was a prisoner? And explain on what he rested his hopes of communicating with us in person.

“Gentlemen,” concluded Mr. Root, “we know that Germany is actually embarking a new army of half a million men to continue her invasion of America. Already she holds our Atlantic seaboard, our proudest cities, and within a fortnight she will strike again. I say we must strike first. We have a chance in Boston Harbour and we must take it. This single coup may decide the war by showing the invader that at last we are ready. Gentlemen, I move that the airship America sail to-night for Boston Harbour, as arranged.”

I longed to step forward to tell what I knew about Edison, how he was a prisoner in Richmond, Virginia, and how an effort was actually on foot to rescue him, but I had promised Miss Ryerson not to betray her brother’s shame and was forced to hold my tongue. Besides, I could not be sure whether this wireless message did or did not come from Edison.

The Committee finally decided that the America should sail that evening, but should change her point of attack so as to take the enemy unprepared, if possible; in other words, we were to strike not at the German warships in Boston Harbour, but at the great super-dreadnought Bismarck, flagship of the hostile fleet, which was lying in the upper bay off New York City.

I pass over the incidents of our flight to Manhattan and come to the historic aerial struggle over New York harbour in which I nearly lost my life. The America was convoyed by a fleet of a hundred swift and powerful battle aeroplanes and we felt sure that these would be more than able to cope with any aeroplane force that the Germans could send against us. And to avoid danger from anti-aircraft guns we made a wide detour to the south, crossing New Jersey on about the line of Asbury Park and then sailing to the north above the open sea, so that we approached New York harbour from the Atlantic side. At this time (it was a little after midnight) we were sailing at a height of two miles with our aeroplanes ten miles behind us so that their roaring propellers might not betray us and, for a time, as we drifted silently off Rockaway Beach it seemed that we would be successful in our purpose to strike without warning.

There, just outside the Narrows, lay the Bismarck, blazing with the lights of some New Year’s festivity and resounding with music. I remember a shrinking of unprofessional regret at the thought of suddenly destroying so fair and happy a thing.

I was presently drawn from these meditations by quick movements of the airship crew and a shrill voice of command.

“Ready to lower! Let her go!” shouted Captain Nicola Tesla, who had volunteered for this service.

“Bzzz!” sang the deck winches as they swiftly unrolled twin lengths of piano wire that supported a pendant torpedo with its radio appliances and its red, white and green control lights shining far below us in the void.

“Easy! Throw on your winch brakes,” ordered Tesla, studying his dials for depth.

A strong southeast wind set the wires twisting dangerously, but, by skillful manoeuvring, we launched the first torpedo safely from the height of half a mile and, with a thrill of joy, I followed her lights (masked from the enemy) as they moved swiftly over the bay straight towards the flagship. The torpedo was running under perfect wireless control. Tesla smiled at his keyboard.

Alas! Our joy was soon changed to disappointment. Our first torpedo missed the Bismarck by a few yards, went astern of her because at the last moment she got her engines going and moved ahead. Somehow the Germans had received warning of their danger.

Our second torpedo wandered vainly over the ocean because we could not follow her guide lights, the enemy blinding us with the concentrated glare of about twenty of their million-candle power searchlights.

And our third torpedo was cut off from radio control because we suddenly found ourselves surrounded y the two fleets of battling aeroplanes, caught between two fires, ours and the enemy’s, and were obliged to run for our lives with an electric generator shattered by shrapnel. I was so busy caring for two of our crew who were wounded that I had no time to observe this thrilling battle in the air.

It was over quickly, I remember, and our American aeroplanes, vastly superior to the opposing fleet, had gained a decisive victory, so that we were just beginning to breathe freely when an extraordinary thing happened, a rare act of heroism, though I say it for the Germans.

There came a signal, the dropping of a fire bomb with many colours, and instantly the remnant of the enemy’s air strength, four biplanes and a little yellow-striped monoplane, started at us, in a last desperate effort, with all the speed of their engines. Our aerial fleet saw the manouver and swept towards the biplanes, intercepting them, one by one, and tearing them to pieces with sweeping volleys of our machine guns, but the little monoplane, swifter than the rest, dodged and circled and finally found an opening towards the airship and came through it at two miles a minute, straight for us and for death, throwing fire bombs and yelling for the Kaiser.

“Save yourselves!” shouted Tesla as the enemy craft ripped into our great yellow gas bag.

Bombs were exploding all about us and in an instant the America was in flames. We knew that our effort had failed.

As the stricken airship, burning fiercely, sank rapidly through the night, I realised that I must fight for my life in the ice cold waters of the bay. I hate cold water and, being but an indifferent swimmer, I hesitated whether to throw off my coat and shoes, and, having finally decided, I had only time to rid myself of one shoe and my coat when I saw the surging swells directly beneath me and leapt overside just in time to escape the crash of blazing wreckage.

Dazed by the blow of a heavy spar and the shock of immersion, I remember nothing more until I found myself on dry land, hours later, with kind friends ministering to me. It seems that a party of motor boat rescuers from Brooklyn worked over me for hours before I returned to consciousness and I lay for days afterward in a state of languid-weakness, indifferent to everything.


I wish I might detail my experiences during the next fortnight, how I was guarded from the Germans (they had put a price on my head) by kind friends in Brooklyn, notably Mrs. Anne P. L. Field, the Sing-Sing angel, who contrived my escape through the German lines of occupation with the help of a swift motor boat and two of her convict protégés.

We landed in Newark one dark night after taking desperate chances on the bay and running a gauntlet of German sentries who fired at us repeatedly. Then, thanks to my old friend, Francis J. Swayze of the United States Supreme Court, I was passed along across northern New Jersey, through Dover, where “Pop” Losee, the eloquent ice man evangelist, saved me from Prussians guarding the Picatinny arsenal, then through Allentown, Pa., where Editor Roth swore to a suspicious German colonel that I was one of his reporters, and, finally, by way of Harrisburg to Pittsburg, where at last I was safe.

To my delight I found Randolph Ryerson anxiously awaiting my arrival and eager to proceed with our plan to rescue Edison. We set forth for Richmond the next day, January 16th, 1922, in a racing automobile and proceeded with the utmost caution, crossing the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia by night to avoid the sentries of both armies. Twice, being challenged, we drove on unheeding at furious speed and escaped in the darkness, although shots were fired after us.

As morning broke on January 20th we had our first view of the seven-hilled city on the James, with its green islands and its tumbling muddy waters. We knew that Richmond was held by the Germans, and as we approached their lines I realised the difficulty of my position, for I was now obliged to trust Ryerson absolutely and let him make use of his credentials from the Crown Prince which presented him as an American spy in the German service. He introduced me as his friend and a person to be absolutely trusted, which practically made me out a spy also. It was evident that, unless we succeeded in our mission, I had compromised myself gravely. Ryerson was reassuring, however, and declared that everything would be all right.

We took a fine suite at the Hotel Jefferson, where we found German officers in brilliant uniforms strolling about the great rotunda or refreshing themselves with pipes and beer in the palm room nearthe white marble statue of Thomas Jefferson.

“If you’ll excuse me now for a few hours,” said Ryerson, who seemed rather nervous, “I will get the information we need from some of these fellows. Let us meet here at dinner.”

During the afternoon I drove about this peaceful old city with its gardens and charming homes and was allowed to approach the threatening siege guns which the Germans had set up on the broad esplanade of Monument Avenue between the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee and the tall white shaft that bears the heroic figure of Jefferson Davis. These guns were trained upon the gothic tower of the city hall and upon the cherished grey pile of the Capitol, with its massive columns and its shaded park where grey squirrels play about the famous statue of George Washington.

My driver told me thrilling stories of the fighting here when Field Marshal von Mackensen marched his army into Richmond. Alas for this proud Southern city! What could she hope to do against 150,000 German soldiers? For the sake of her women and children she decided to do nothing officially, but the Richmond “Blues” had their own ideas and a crowd of Irish patriots from Murphy’s Hotel had theirs, and when the German army, with bands playing and eagles flying, came tramping down Broad Street, they were halted presently by four companies of eighty men each in blue uniforms and white plumed hats drawn up in front of the statues of Stonewall Jackson and Henry Clay ready to die here on this pleasant autumn morning rather than have this most sacred spot in the South desecrated by an invader. And die here they did or fell wounded, the whole body of Richmond “Blues,” under Colonel W. J. Kemp, while their band played “Dixie” and the old Confederate flags waved over them.

As for the Irishmen, it seems that they marched in a wild and cursing mob to the churchyard of old St. John’s where Patrick Henry hurled his famous defiance at the British and in the same spirit—“Give me liberty or give me death”—they fought until they could fight no longer.

As we drove through East Franklin Street I was startled to see a German flag flying over the honoured home of Robert E. Lee and a German sentry on guard before the door. I was told that prominent citizens of Richmond were held here as hostages, among these being Governor Richard Evelyn Byrd, John K. Branch, Oliver J. Sands, William H. White, Bishop R. A. Gibson, Bishop O’Connell, Samuel Cohen and Mayor Jacob Umlauf who, in spite of his German descent, had proved himself a loyal American.

I finished the afternoon at a Red Cross bazaar held in the large auditorium on Gary Street under the patronage of Mrs. Norman B. Randolph, Mrs. B. B. Valentine, Miss Jane Rutherford and other prominent Richmond ladies. I made several purchases, including a cane made from a plank of Libby prison and a stone paper weight from Edgar Allan Poe’s boyhood home on Fifth Street.

Leaving the bazaar, I turned aimlessly into a quiet shaded avenue and was wondering what progress Ryerson might be making with his investigations, when I suddenly saw the man himself on the other side of the way, talking earnestly with a young woman of striking beauty and of foreign appearance. She might have been a Russian or an Austrian.

There was something in this unexpected meeting that filled me with a vague alarm. Who was this woman? Why was Ryerson spending time with her that was needed for our urgent business? I felt indignant at this lack of seriousness on his part and, unobserved, I followed the couple as they climbed a hill leading to a little park overlooking the river, where they seated themselves on a bench and continued their conversation.

Presently I passed so close to them that Ryerson could not fail to see me and, pausing at a short distance, I looked back at him. He immediately excused himself to his fair companion and joined me. He was evidently annoyed.

“Wait here,” he whispered. “I’ll be back.”

With that he rejoined the lady and immediately escorted her down the hill. It was fully an hour before he returned and I saw he had regained his composure.

“I suppose you are wondering who that lady was?” he began lightly.

“Well, yes, just a little. Is she the woman you told me about—the countess?”

“No, no! But she’s a very remarkable person,” he explained. “She is known in every capital of Europe. They say the German government pays her fifty thousand dollars a year.”

“She’s quite a beauty,” said I.

He looked at me sharply. “I suppose she is, but that’s not the point. She’s at the head of the German secret service work in America. She knows all about Edison.”


“She has told me where he is. That’s why we came up here. Do you see that building?”

I followed his gesture across the valley and on a hill opposite saw a massive brick structure with many small windows, and around it a high white painted wall.


“That’s the state penitentiary. Edison is there in the cell that was once occupied by Aaron Burr—you remember—when he was tried for treason?”

All this was said in so straightforward a manner that I felt ashamed of my doubts and congratulated my friend warmly on his zeal and success.

“Just the same, you didn’t like it when you saw me with that woman—did you?” he laughed.

I acknowledged my uneasiness and, as we walked back to the hotel, spoke earnestly with Ryerson about the grave responsibility that rested upon us, upon me equally with him. I begged him to justify his sister’s faith and love and to rise now with all his might to this supreme duty and opportunity.

He seemed moved by my words and assured me that he would do the right thing, but when I pressed him to outline our immediate course of action, he became evasive and irritable and declared that he was tired and needed a night’s rest before going into these details.

As I left him at the door of his bedroom I noticed a bulky and strongly corded package on the table and asked what it was, whereupon, in a flash of anger, he burst into a tirade of reproach, saying that I did not trust him and was prying into his personal affairs, all of which increased my suspicions.

“I must insist on knowing what is in that package,” I said quietly. “You needn’t tell me now, because you’re not yourself, but in the morning we will take up this whole affair. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” he answered sullenly.

Here was a bad situation, and for hours I did not sleep, asking myself if I had made a ghastly mistake in trusting Ryerson. Was his sister’s sacrifice to be in vain? Was the man a traitor still, in spite of everything?

Towards three o’clock I fell into fear-haunted dreams, but was presently awakened by a quick knocking at my door and, opening, I came face to face with my companion, who stood there fully dressed.

“For God’s sake let me come in.” He looked about the room nervously. “Have you anything to drink?”

I produced a flask of Scotch whiskey and he filled half a glass and gulped it down. Then he drew a massive iron key from his pocket and threw it on the bed.

“Whatever happens, keep that. Don’t let me have it.”

I picked up the key and looked at it curiously. It was about four inches long and very heavy.

“Why don’t you want me to let you have it?”

“Because it unlocks a door that would lead me to—hell,” he cried fiercely. Then he reached for the flask.

“No, no! You’ve had enough,” I said, and drew the bottle out of his reach. “Randolph, you know I’m your friend, don’t you? Look at me! Now what’s the matter? What door are you talking about?”

“The door to a wing of the prison where Edison is.”

“You said he was in Aaron Burr’s cell.”

“He’s been moved to another part of the building. That woman arranged it.”


He looked at me in a silence of shame, then he forced himself to speak.

“So I could carry out my orders”

“Orders? Not—not German orders?”

He nodded stolidly.

“I’m under her orders—it’s the same thing. I can’t help it. I can’t stand against her.”

“Then she is the countess?”

He bowed his head slowly.

“Yes. I meant to play fair. I would have played fair, but—the Germans put this woman on our trail when we left Chicago—they mistrusted something and—” with a gesture of despair, “she found me in Pittsburg—she—she’s got me. I don’t care for anything in the world but that woman.”


“It’s true. I don’t want to live—without her. You needn’t cock up your eyes like that. I’d go back to her now—yes, by God, I’d do this thing now, if I could.”

He had worked himself into a frenzy of rage and pain, and I sat still until he grew calm again.

“What thing? What is it she wants you to do?”

“Get rid of you to begin with,” he snapped out. “It’s easy enough. We go to the prison—this key lets us in. I leave you in the cell with Edison and—you saw that package in my room? It’s a bomb. I explode it under the cell and—there you are!”

“You promised to do this?”

“Yes! I’m to get five thousand dollars.”

“But you didn’t do it, you stopped in time,” I said soothingly. “You’ve told me the truth now and—we’ll see what we can do about it.”

He scowled at me.

“You’re crazy. We can’t do anything about it. The Germans are in control of Richmond. They’re watching this hotel.”

Ryerson glanced at his watch.

“Half-past three. I have four hours to live.”


“They’ll come for me at seven o’clock when they find I haven’t carried out my orders, and I’ll be taken to the prison yard and—shot or—hanged. It’s the best thing that can happen to me, but—I’m sorry for you.”

“See here, Ryerson,” I broke in. “If you’re such a rotten coward and liar and sneak as you say you are, what are you doing here? Why didn’t you go ahead with your bomb business?”

He sat rocking back and forth on the side of the bed, with his head bent forward, his eyes closed and his lips moving in a sort of thick mumbling.

“I’ve tried to, but—it’s my sister. God! She won’t leave me alone. She said she’d be praying for me and—all night I’ve seen her face. I’ve seen her when we were kids together, playing around in the old home—with Mother there and—oh, Christ!”

I pass over a desperate hour that followed. Ryerson tried to kill himself and, when I took the weapon from him, he begged me to put an end to his sufferings. Never until now had I realised how hard is the way of the transgressor.

I have often wondered how this terrible night would have ended had not Providence suddenly intervened. The city hall clock had just tolled five when there came a volley of shots from the direction of Monument Avenue.

“What’s that?” cried my poor friend, his haggard face lighting.

We rushed to the window, where the pink and purple lights of dawn were spreading over the spires and gardens of the sleeping city.

The shots grew in volume and presently we heard the dull boom of a siege gun, then another and another.

“It’s a battle! They’re bombarding the city. Look!” He pointed towards Capitol Square. “They’ve struck the tower of the city hall. And over there! The gas works!” He swept his arm towards an angry red glow that showed where another shell had found its target.

I shall not attempt to describe the burning of Richmond (for the third time in its history) on this fateful day, January 20th, 1922, nor to detail the horrors that attended the destruction of the enemy’s force of occupation. Historians are agreed that the Germans must be held blameless for firing on the city, since they naturally supposed this daybreak attack upon their own lines to be an effort of the American army and retaliated, as best they could, with their heavy guns.

It was days before the whole truth was known, although I cabled the London Times that night, explaining that the American army had nothing to do with this attack, which was the work of an unorganised and irresponsible band of ten or twelve thousand mountaineers gathered from the wilds of Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky and Tennessee. They were moon-shiners, feudists, hilly-billies, small farmers and basket-makers, men of lean and saturnine appearance, some of them horse thieves, pirates of the forest who cared little for the laws of God or man and fought as naturally as they breathed.

These men came without flags, without officers, without uniforms. They crawled on their bellies and carried logs as shields. They knew and cared nothing for military tactics and their strategy was that of the wild Indian. They fought to kill and they took no prisoners. It seems that a Virginia mountain girl had been wronged by a German officer and that was enough.

For weeks the mountaineers had been advancing stealthily through the wilderness, pushing on by night, hiding in the hills and forests by day; and they had come the last fifty miles on foot, leaving their horses back in the hills. They were armed with Winchester rifles, with old-time squirrel rifles, with muzzle loaders having long octagonal barrels and fired by cups. Some carried shot guns and cartridges stuffed with buckshot and some poured in buckshot by the handful. They had no artillery and they needed none.

The skill in marksmanship of these men is beyond belief, there is nothing like it in the world. With a rifle they will shoot off a turkey’s head at a hundred yards (this is a common amusement) and as boys, when they go after squirrels, they are taught to hit the animals’ noses only so as not to spoil the skins. It was such natural fighters as these that George Washington led against the French and the Indians, when he saved the wreck of Braddock’s army.

The Germans were beaten before they began to fight. They were surrounded on two sides before they had the least idea that an enemy was near. Their sentries were shot down before they could give the alarm and the first warning of danger to the sleeping Teutons was the furious rush of ten thousand wild men who came on and came on and came on, never asking quarter and never giving it.

When the Germans tried to charge, the mountaineers threw themselves flat on the ground and fought with the craft of Indians, dodging from tree to tree, from rock to rock, but always advancing. When the Germans sent up two of their scouting aeroplanes to report the number of the enemy’s forces, the enemy picked off the German pilots before the machines were over the tree tops. Here was a mixture of native savagery and efficiency, plus the lynching spirit, plus the pre-revolutionary American spirit and against which, with unequal numbers and complete surprise, no mathematically trained European force had the slightest chance.

The attack began at five o’clock and at eight everything was over; the Germans had been driven into the slough of Chickahominy swamp to the northeast of Richmond (where McClellan lost an army) and slaughtered here to the last man; whereupon the mountaineers, having done what they came to do, started back to their mountains.

Meantime Richmond was burning, and my poor friend Ryerson and I were facing new dangers.

“Come on!” he cried with new hope in his eyes. “We’ve got a chance, half a chance.”

Our one thought now was to reach the prison before it was too late, and we ran as fast as we could through streets that were filled with terrified and scantily clad citizens who were as ignorant as we were of what was really happening. A German guard at the prison gates recognised Ryerson, and we passed inside just as a shell struck one of the tobacco factories along the river below us with a violent explosion. A moment later another shell struck the railway station and set fire to it.

Screams of terror arose from all parts of the prison, many of the inmates being negroes, and in the general confusion, we were able to reach the unused wing where Edison was confined.

“Give me that big key—quick,” whispered Ryerson. “Wait here.”

I obeyed and a few minutes later he beckoned to me excitedly from a passageway that led into a central court yard, and I saw a white-faced figure bundled in a long coat hurrying after him. It was Thomas A. Edison.

Just then there came a rush of footsteps behind us with German shouts and curses.

“They’re after us,” panted Randolph. “I’ve got two guns and I’ll hold ‘em while you two make a break for it. Take this key. It opens a red door at the end of this passage after you turn to the right. Run and—tell my sister I—made good—at the last.”

I clasped his hand with a hurried “God bless you” and darted ahead. It was our only chance and, even as we turned the corner of the passage, Ryerson began to fire at our pursuers. I heard afterwards that he wounded five and killed two of them. I don’t know whether that was the count, but I know he held them until we made our escape out into the blazing city. And I know he gave his life there with a fierce joy, realising that the end of it, at least, was brave and useful.


The first weeks of January, 1922, brought increasing difficulties and perplexities for the German forces of occupation in America. With comparative ease the enemy had conquered our Atlantic seaboard, but now they faced the harder problem of holding it against a large and intelligent and totally unreconciled population. What was to be done with ten million people who, having been deprived of their arms, their cities and their liberties, had kept their hatred?

The Germans had suffered heavy losses. The disaster to von Hindenburg’s army in the battle of the Susquehanna had cost them over a hundred thousand men. The revolt of Boston, the massacre of Richmond, had weakened the Teuton prestige and had set American patriotism boiling, seething, from Maine to Texas, from Long Island to the Golden Gate. There were rumours of strange plots and counter-plots, also of a new great army of invasion that was about to set sail from Kiel. Evidently the Germans must have more men if they were to ride safely on this furious American avalanche that they had set in motion, if they were to tame the fiery American volcano that was smouldering beneath them.

In this connection I must speak of the famous woman’s plot that resulted in the death of several hundred German officers and soldiers and that would have caused the death of thousands but for unforeseen developments. This plot was originated by women leaders of the militant suffrage party in New York and Pennsylvania (the faction led by Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont not approving) and soon grew to nation-wide importance with an enrolled body of twenty thousand militant young women, each one of whom was pledged to accomplish the destruction of one of the enemy on a certain Saturday night between the hours of sunset and sunrise.

By a miracle these women kept their vow of secrecy until the fatal evening, but at eight o’clock the plot was revealed to Germans in Philadelphia through the confession of a young Quakeress who, after playing her part for weeks, had fallen genuinely in love with a Prussian lieutenant and simply could not bring herself to kill him when the time came.

I come now to a sensational happening that I witnessed in Chicago, to which city I had journeyed after the Richmond affair for very personal reasons. If this were a romance and not a plain recital of facts I should dwell upon my meeting with Mary Ryerson and our mutual joy in each finding that the other had escaped unharmed from the perils of our recent adventures.

Miss Ryerson, it appeared, after the discovery of her daring disguise had been released on parole by order of General Langthorne, who believed her story that she had taken this desperate chance as the only means of saving Thomas A. Edison. Mary had heard the story of her brother’s heroic death and to still her grief, had thrown herself into work for the Red Cross fund under Miss Boardman and Mrs. C.C. Rumsey. She had hit upon a charming way of raising money by having little girls dressed in white with American flags for sashes, lead white lambs through the streets, the lambs bearing Red Cross contribution boxes on their backs. By this means thousands of dollars had been secured.

On the evening following my arrival in Chicago, I had arranged to take Miss Ryerson to a great recruiting rally in the huge lake-front auditorium building, but when I called at her boarding-house on Wabash Avenue, I found her much disturbed over a strange warning that she had just received.

“Something terrible is going to happen tonight,” she said. “There will be riots all over Chicago.”

I asked how she knew this and she explained that a deaf and dumb man named Stephen, who took care of the furnace, a man in whose rather pathetic case she had interested herself, had told her. It seems he also took care of the furnace in a neighbouring house which was occupied by a queer German club, really a gathering place of German spies.

“He overheard things there and told me,” she said seriously, whereupon I burst out laughing.

“What? A deaf and dumb man?”

“You know what I mean. He reads the lips and I know the sign language.”

The main point was that this furnace man had begged Miss Ryerson not to leave her boardinghouse until he returned. He had gone back to the German club, where he hoped to get definite information of an impending catastrophe.

“It’s some big coup they are planning for tonight,” she said. “We must wait here.”

So we waited and presently, along Wabash Avenue, with crashing bands and a roar of angry voices, came an anti-militarist socialist parade with floats and banners presenting fire-brand sentiments that called forth jeers and hisses from crowds along the sidewalks or again enthusiastic cheers from other crowds of contrary mind.

“You see, there’s going to be trouble,” trembled the girl, clutching my arm. “Read that!”

A huge float was rolling past bearing this pledge in great red letters:

“I refuse to kill your father. I refuse to slay your mother’s son. I refuse to plunge a bayonet into the breast of your sweetheart’s brother. I refuse to assassinate you and then hide my stained fists in the folds of any flag. I refuse to be flattered into hell’s nightmare by a class of well-fed snobs, crooks and cowards who despise our class socially, rob our class economically and betray our class politically.”

At this the hostile crowds roared their approval and disapproval. Also at another float that paraded these words:

“What is war? For working-class wives—heartache. For working-class mothers—loneliness. For working-class children—orphanage. For peace—defeat. For death—a harvest. For nations—debts. For bankers—bonds, interest. For preachers on both sides—ferocious prayers for victory. For big manufacturers—business profits. For ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’—boisterous laughter. For Christ—contempt.”

I saw that my companion was deeply moved.

“It’s all true, what they say, isn’t it?” she murmured.

“Yes, it’s true, but—we can’t change the world, we can’t give up our country, our independence. Hello!”

A white-faced man had rushed into the parlour, gesticulating violently and making distressing guttural sounds. It was Stephen.

Uncomprehending, I watched his swift signs.

“What is it? What is he trying to say?”


Her hands flew in eager questions and the man answered her.

“Oh!” she cried. “The riots are a blind to draw away the police and the troops. They’re marching against the Blackstone Hotel now—a thousand German spies—with rifles.”

The Blackstone Hotel! I realised in a moment what that meant. The German Crown Prince was still a prisoner at the Blackstone, in charge of General Langhorne. It was a serious handicap to the enemy that we held in our power the heir to the German throne. They dared not resort to reprisals against America lest Frederick William suffer.

“They mean to rescue the Crown Prince?”


I rushed to the telephone to call up police headquarters, but the wires were dead—German spies had seen to that.

“Come!” I said, seizing her arm. “We must hustle over to the auditorium.”

Fortunately the great recruiting hall was only a few blocks distant and as we hurried there Miss Ryerson explained that the furnace man, Stephen, before coming to us, had run to McCormick College, the Chicago home for deaf students, and given the alarm.

“What good will that do?”

“What good! These McCormick boys have military drill. They are splendid shots. Stephen says fifty of them will hold the Germans until our troops get there.”

“I hope so.”

I need not detail our experiences in the enormous and rather disorderly crowd that packed the auditorium building except to say that ten minutes later we left there followed by eighty members of the Camp Fire Club (they had organised this appeal for recruits), formidable hunters of big game who came on the run carrying the high power rifles that they had used against elephants and tigers in India and against moose and grizzlies in this country. Among them were Ernest Thompson Seton, Dan Beard, Edward Seymour, Belmore Brown, Edward H. Litchfield and his son, Herbert.

Under the command of their president, George D. Pratt, these splendid shots proceeded with all speed to the Blackstone Hotel, where they found a company of deaf riflemen, under the command of J. Frederick Meagher, about seventy in all, guarding the doors and windows. Not a moment too soon did they arrive for, as they entered the hotel, hoarse cries were heard outside and presently a bomb exploded at the main entrance, shattering the heavy doors and killing nine of the defenders, including Melvin Davidson, Jack Seipp and John Clarke, the Blackfoot Indian, famous for his wood carvings and his unerring marksmanship.

Meantime messengers had been sent in all directions, through the rioting city, calling for troops and police and in twenty minutes, with the arrival of strong reinforcements, the danger passed.

But those twenty minutes! Again and again the Germans came forward in furious assaults with rifles and machine guns. The Crown Prince must be rescued. At any cost he must be rescued.

No! The Crown Prince was not rescued. The defenders of the Hotel Blackstone had their way, a hundred and fifty against a thousand, but they paid the price. Before help came forty members of the Camp Fire Club and fifty of those brave deaf American students gave up their lives, as is recorded on a bronze tablet in the hotel corridor that bears witness to their heroism.

I must now make my last contribution to this chapter of our history, which has to do with motives that presently influenced the Crown Prince towards a startling decision. I came into possession of this knowledge as a consequence of the part I played in rescuing Thomas A. Edison after his abduction by the Germans.

One of the first questions Mr. Edison asked me as we escaped in a swift automobile from the burning and shell-wrecked Virginia capital, had a direct bearing on the ending of the war.

“Mr. Langston,” he asked, “did the Committee of Twenty-one receive my wireless about the airship expedition?”

“Yes, sir, they got it,” I replied, and then explained the line of reasoning that had led the Committee to, disregard Mr. Edison’s warning.


He listened, frowning.

“Huh! That sounds like Elihu Root.”

“It was,” I admitted.

For hours as we rushed along, my distinguished companion sat silent and I did not venture to break in upon his meditations, although there were questions that I longed to ask him. I wondered if it was Widding’s sudden death in the Richmond prison that had saddened him.

It was not until late that afternoon, when we were far back in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that Mr. Edison’s face cleared and he spoke with some freedom of his plans for helping the military situation.

“There’s one thing that troubles me,” he reflected as we finished an excellent meal at the Allegheny Hotel in Staunton, Virginia. “I wonder if—let’s see! You have met the Crown Prince, you interviewed him, didn’t you?”

“Twice,” said I.

“Is he intelligent—really intelligent? A big open-minded man or—is he only a prince?”

“He’s more than a prince,” I said, “he’s brilliant, but—I don’t know how open-minded he is.”

Edison drummed nervously on the table.

“If we were only dealing with a Bismarck or a von Moltke! Anyhow, unless he’s absolutely narrow and obstinate—”

“Oh, no.”

“Good! Where are the Committee of Twenty-one? In Chicago?”


“And the Crown Prince too?”


“We’ll be there to-morrow and—listen! We can destroy the German fleet. Widding’s invention will do it. Poor Widding! It broke his heart to see America conquered when he knew that he could save the nation if somebody would only listen to him. But nobody would.” Edison’s deep eyes burned with anger. “Thank God, I listened.”

It seemed like presumption to question Mr. Edison’s statement, yet I ventured to remind him that several distinguished scientists had declared that the airship America could not fail to destroy the German fleet.

“Pooh!” he answered. “I said the America expedition would fail. The radio-control of torpedoes is uncertain at the best because of difficulties in following the guide lights. They may be miles away, shut off by fog or waves; but this thing of Widding’s is sure.”

“Has it been tried?”

“Heavens! No! If it had been tried the whole world would be using it. After we destroy the German fleet the whole world will use it.”

“Is it some new principle? Some unknown agency?”

He shook his head. “There’s nothing new about it. It’s just a sure way to make an ordinary Whitehead torpedo hit a battleship.”

Although I was consumed with curiosity I did not press for details at this time and my companion presently relapsed into one of his long silences.

We reached Chicago the next afternoon and, as the great inventor left me to lay his plans before the Committee of Twenty-one, he thanked me earnestly for what I had done and asked if he could serve me in any way.

“I suppose you know what I would like?” I laughed.

He smiled encouragingly.

“Still game? Well, Mr. Langston, if the Committee approves my plan, and I think they will, you can get ready for another big experience. Take a comfortable room at the University Club and wait.”


I did as he bade me and was rewarded a week later for my faith and patience. I subsequently learned that this week (the time of my wonderful experience with Mary Ryerson) was spent by the Committee of Twenty-one in explaining to the Crown Prince exactly what the Widding-Edison invention was. Models and blue prints were shown and American and German experts were called in to explain and discuss all debatable points. And the conclusion, established beyond reasonable doubt, was that German warships could not hope to defend themselves against the Widding-Edison method of torpedo attack. This was admitted by Field Marshal von Hindenburg and by Professor Hugo Münsterberg, who were allowed to bring scientists of their own choosing for an absolutely impartial opinion. Unless terms were made the German fleet faced almost certain destruction.

The Crown Prince was torn by the hazards of this emergency. He could not disregard such a weight of evidence. He knew that, without the support of her fleet, Germany must abandon her whole campaign in the United States and withdraw her forces from the soil of America. This meant failure and humiliation, perhaps revolution at home. The fate of the Hohenzollern dynasty might hang upon his decision.

“Gentlemen,” he concluded haughtily, “I refuse to yield. If I cable the Imperial Government in Berlin it will be a strong expression of my wish that our new army of invasion, under convoy of the German fleet, sail from Kiel, as arranged, and join in the invasion of America at the earliest possible moment.”

And so it befell. On January 24th a first section of the new German expedition, numbering 150,000 men, sailed for America. On January 29th our advance fleet of swift scouting aeroplanes, equipped with wireless and provisioned for a three days’ cruise, flew forth from Grand Island in the Niagara River, and, following the St. Lawrence, swept out over the Atlantic in search of the advancing Teutons.

Two days later wireless messages received in Buffalo informed us that German transports, with accompanying battleships, had been located off the banks of Newfoundland and on February 1st our main fleet of aeroboats, a hundred huge seaplanes, equipped with Widding-Edison torpedoes, sailed away over Lake Erie in line of battle, flying towards the northeast at the height of half a mile, ready for the struggle that was to settle the fate of the United States. The prayers of a hundred million Americans went with them.

And now Mr. Edison kept his promise generously by securing for me the privilege of accompanying him in a great 900-horse-power seaplane from which, with General Wood, he proposed to witness our attack upon the enemy.

“We may have another passenger,” said the General mysteriously as we stamped about in our heavy coats on the departure field, for it was a cold morning.

“All aboard,” called out the pilot presently from his glass-sheltered seat and I had just taken my place in the right hand cabin when the sound of several swiftly arriving motors drew my attention and, looking out, I was surprised to see the Crown Prince alighting from a yellow car about which stood a formal military escort. General Wood stepped forward quickly to receive His Imperial Highness, who was clad in aviator costume.

“Our fourth passenger!” whispered Edison.

“You don’t mean that the Crown Prince is going with us?”

The inventor nodded.

I learned afterwards that only at the eleventh hour did the imperial prisoner decide to accept General Wood’s invitation to join this memorable expedition.

“I have come, General,” said the Prince, saluting gravely, “because I feel that my presence here with you may enable me to serve my country.”

“I am convinced Your Imperial Highness has decided wisely,” answered the commander-in-chief, returning the salute.

An hour later, at the head of one of the aerial squadrons that stretched behind us in a great V, we were flying over snow-covered fields at eighty miles an hour, headed for the Atlantic and the German fleet. Our seaplanes, the most powerful yet built of the Curtiss-Wright 1922 model, carried eight men, including three that I have not mentioned, a wireless operator, an assistant pilot and a general utility man who also served as cook. Two cabins offered surprisingly comfortable accommodations, considering the limited space, and we ate our first meal with keen relish.

“We have provisions for how many days?” asked the Crown Prince.

“For six days,” said General Wood.

“But, surely not oil for six days!”

“We have oil for only forty-eight hours of continuous flying, but Your Imperial Highness must understand that our seaplanes float perfectly on the ocean, so we can wait for the German fleet as long as is necessary and then rise again.”

The Prince frowned at this and twisted his sandy moustache into sharper upright points.

“When do you expect to sight the German fleet?”

“About noon the day after to-morrow. We shall go out to sea sometime in the night and most of to-morrow we will spend in ocean manoeuvres. Your Imperial Highness will be interested.”

In spite of roaring propellers and my cramped bunk I slept excellently that night and did not waken until a sudden stopping of the two engines and a new motion of the seaplane brought me to consciousness. The day was breaking over a waste of white-capped ocean and we learned that Commodore Tower, who was in command of our main air squadron, fearing a storm, had ordered manoeuvres to begin at once so as to anticipate the gale. We were planing down in great circles, preparing to rest on the water, and, as I looked to right and left, I saw the sea strangely covered with the great winged creatures of our fleet, mottle-coloured, that rose and fell as the green waves tossed them.

I should explain that these seaplanes were constructed like catamarans with twin bodies, enabling them to ride on any sea, and between these bodies the torpedoes were swung, one for each seaplane, with a simple lowering and releasing device that could be made to function by the touch of a lever. The torpedo could be fired from the seaplane either as it rested on the water or as it skimmed over the water, say at a height of ten feet, and the released projectile darted straight ahead in the line of the seaplane’s flight.

With great interest we watched the manoeuvres which consisted chiefly in the practice of signals, in rising from the ocean and alighting again and in flying in various formations.

“From how great a distance do you propose to fire your torpedoes?” the Crown Prince asked Mr. Edison, speaking through a head-piece to overcome the noise.

“We’ll run our seaplanes pretty close up,” answered the inventor, “so as to take no chance of missing. I guess we’ll begin discharging torpedoes at about 1,200 yards.”

“But your seaplanes will be shot to pieces by the fire of our battleships.”

“Some will be, but not many. Our attack will be too swift and sudden. It’s hard to hit an aeroplane going a mile in a minute and, before your gunners can get the ranges, the thing will be over.”

“Besides,” put in General Wood, “every man in our fleet is an American who has volunteered for duty involving extreme risk. Every man will give his life gladly.”

About ten o’clock in the morning on February 3rd our front line flyers, miles ahead of us, wirelessed back word that they had sighted the German fleet, and, a few minutes later, we saw smoke columns rising on the far eastern horizon. I shall never forget the air of quiet authority with which General Wood addressed his prisoner at this critical moment.

“I must inform Your Imperial Highness that I have sent a wireless message to the admiral of the German fleet informing him of your presence here as a voluntary passenger. This seaplane is identified by its signal flags and by the fact that it carries no torpedo. We shall do everything to protect Your Imperial Highness from danger.”

“I thank you, sir,” the prince answered stiffly.

General Wood withdrew to his place in the observation chamber beside Mr. Edison.

Swiftly we flew nearer to the enemy’s battleships, which were advancing in two columns, led by two super-dreadnoughts, the Kaiser Friedrich and the Moltke, with the admiral’s flag at her forepeak and flanked by lines of destroyers that belched black smoke from their squat funnels. With our binoculars we saw that there was much confusion on the German decks as they hastily cleared for action. Our attack had evidently taken them completely by surprise and they had no flyers ready to dispute our mastery of the air.

Presently General Wood re-entered the cabin.

“I have a wireless from Commodore Tower saying that everything is ready. Before it is too late I appeal to Your Imperial Highness to prevent the destruction of these splendid ships and a horrible loss of life. Will Your Highness say the word?”

“No!” answered the Crown Prince harshly.

General Wood turned to the cabin window and nodded to the assistant pilot, who dropped overboard a signal smoke ball that left behind, as it fell, a greenish spiral trail. Straightway, the Commodore’s seaplane, a mile distant, broke out a line of flags whereupon six flyers from six different points leaped ahead like sky hounds on the scent, shooting forward and downward towards their mighty prey. The remainder of the sky fleet circled away at safe distances of three, four or five miles, waiting the result of this first blow, confident that the Moltke was doomed.

Doomed she was. In vain the great battleship turned her guns, big and little, against these snarling, swooping creatures of the air that came at her like darting vultures all at once from many sides, but swerved at the twelve hundred yard line and took her broadside on with their torpedoes, fired them and were gone.

Six white paths streaked the ocean beneath us marking the course of six torpedoes and three of them found their target. Three of them missed, but that was because the gunners were excited. There is no more excuse for a torpedo missing a dreadnought at a thousand yards than there is for a pistol missing a barn door at twenty feet!

The Moltke began to sink almost immediately. Through our glasses we watched her putting off life boats and we saw that scarcely half of them had been launched when she lurched violently to starboard and went down by the head. Her boats, led by one flying the admiral’s flag, made for the sister dreadnought, but had not covered a hundred yards when Commodore Tower signalled again and six other seaplanes darted into action and, by the same swift manosuvres, sank the Kaiser Friedrich.

In this action we lost two seaplanes.

Now General Wood, white-faced, re-entered the cabin.

“Has Your Imperial Highness anything to say?” asked the American commander.

Silent and rigid sat the heir to the German throne, his hands clenched, his nostrils dilating, his lips hard shut.

“If not,” continued General Wood, “I shall, with great regret, signal Commodore Tower to sink that transport, which means, I fear, the loss of many thousands of German lives.” He pointed to an immense dark grey vessel of about the tonnage of the Vaterland.

The Crown Prince neither answered nor stirred and again the American Commander nodded to the assistant pilot. Once more the smoke ball fell, the signal of attack was given and a third group of seaplanes sped forward on their deadly mission. The men aboard this enormous transport equalled in numbers the entire male population of fighting age in a city like New Haven and of these not twenty were saved. And we lost two more seaplanes.

We had now used eighteen of our hundred available torpedoes and had sunk three ships of the enemy.

At this moment the sun’s glory burst through a rift in the dull sky, whereupon our fleet, welcoming the omen, threw forth the stars and stripes from every flyer and sailed nearer the stricken fleet hungry for further victories. I counted twenty transports and half a dozen battleships. Proudly we circled over them, knowing that our power of destruction meant safety and honour for America.

In the observation chamber General Wood watched, frowning while the wireless crackled out another message from Commodore Tower. Where should we strike next?

In the cabin sat the Crown Prince, his face like marble and the anguish of death in his heart.

Suddenly, a little thing happened that turned Frederick William towards a decision which practically ended the war. The little thing was a burst of music from the Koenig Albert, steaming at the head of the nearer battleship column two miles distant. On she came, shouldering great waves from her bows while hundreds of blue-jackets lined her rails as if to salute or defy the tragic fate hanging over them.

As General Wood appeared once more before his tortured prisoner, there floated over the sea the strains of “Die Wacht Am Rhein,” whereupon up on his feet came the Crown Prince and, head bared, stood listening to this great hymn of the Fatherland, while tears streamed down his face.

“I yield,” he said in broken tones. “I cannot stand out any longer. I will do as you wish, sir.”

“My terms are unconditional surrender,” said the American commander, “to be followed by a truce for peace negotiations. Does Your Imperial Highness agree to unconditional surrender?”

“Those are harsh terms. In our talk at Chicago Your Excellency only asked that I prevent this expedition from sailing. I am ready to order the expedition back to Germany.”

General Wood shook his head.

“Conditions are different now. Your Imperial Highness refused my Chicago suggestion and chose the issue of battle which has turned in our favour. To the victors belong the spoils. These battleships are our prizes of war. These German soldiers in the troopships are our prisoners.”

“Impossible!” protested the Prince. “Do you think five hundred men in aeroplanes can make prisoners of a hundred and fifty thousand in battleships?”

“I do, sir,” declared General Wood with grim finality. “There’s a perfectly safe prison—down below.” He glanced into the green abyss above which we were soaring. “I must ask Your Imperial Highness to decide quickly. The Commodore is waiting.”

Every schoolboy knows what happened then, how the Prince, in this crisis, turned from grief to defiance, how he dared General Wood to do his worst, how the American commander sank the Koenig Albert and two more transports in the next half hour with a loss of five seaplanes, and how, finally, Frederick William, seeing that the entire German expedition would be annihilated, surrendered absolutely and ran up the stars and stripes above German dreadnoughts, transports and destroyers. For the first time in history an insignificant air force had conquered a great fleet. The Widding-Edison invention had made good.

I need not dwell upon details of the German-American Peace Conference which occupied the month of February, 1922. These are matters of familiar record. The country went from one surprise to another as Germany yielded point after point of her original demands. Under no circumstances would she withdraw her armies from the soil of America unless she received a huge indemnity, but at the end of a week she agreed to withdraw without any indemnity. Firmly she insisted that the United States must abrogate the Monroe Doctrine, but she presently waived this demand and agreed that the Monroe Doctrine might stand. Above all she stood out for the neutralisation of the Panama Canal. Here she would not yield, but at the close of the conference she did yield and on February 22nd, 1922, Germany signed the treaty of Pittsburg which gave her only one advantage, namely, the repossession of her captured fleet.

It was not until a fortnight later, after the invading transports had sailed for home and the last German soldier had left America, that we understood why the enemy had dealt with us so graciously. On March 4th, 1922, the news burst upon the world that France and Russia, smarting under the inconclusive results of the Great War, had struck again at the Central Empires, and we saw that Germany had abandoned her invasion of America not because of our air victory, but because she found herself involved in another European war. She was glad to leave the United States on any terms.

A few weeks later in Washington (now happily restored as the national capital) I was privileged to hear General Wood’s great speech before a joint committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The discussion was on national preparedness and I thrilled as the general rose to answer various Western statesmen who opposed a defence plan calling for large appropriations on the ground that, in the present war with Germany and in her previous wars, America had always managed to get through creditably without a great military establishment and always would.

“Gentlemen,” replied General Wood, “let us be honest with ourselves in regard to these American wars that we speak of so complacently, these wars that are presented in our school books as great and glorious. How great were they? How glorious were they? Let us have the truth.

“Take our War of the Revolution. Does any one seriously maintain that this was a great war? It was not a war at all. It was a series of skirmishes. It was the blunder of a stupid English king, who never had the support of the English people. Our revolutionary armies decreased each year and, but for the interposition of the French, our cause, in all probability, would have been lost.

“And the war of 1812? Was that great and glorious? Why did we win? Because we were isolated by the Atlantic Ocean (which in these days of steam no longer isolates us) and because England was occupied in a death struggle with Napoleon.

“In our Civil War both North and South were totally unprepared. If either side at the start had had an efficient army of 100,000 men that side would have won overwhelmingly in the first six months.

“Our war with Spain in 1898 was a joke, a pitiful exhibition of incompetency and unreadiness in every department. We only won because Spain was more unprepared than we were. And as to our great naval victory, the truth is that the Spanish fleet destroyed itself.

“Gentlemen, we have never had a real war in America. This invasion by Germany was the beginning of a real war, but that has now been marvellously averted. Through extraordinary good fortune we have been delivered from this peril, just as, by extraordinary good fortune, we gained some successes over the Germans, like the battle of the Susquehanna and our recent seaplane victory, successes that were largely accidental and could never be repeated.

“I assure you, gentlemen, it is madness for us to count upon continued deliverance from the war peril because in the past we have been lucky, because in the past wide seas have guarded us, because in the past our enemies have quarrelled among themselves, or because American resourcefulness and ingenuity have been equal to sudden emergencies. To permanently base our hopes of national safety and integrity upon such grounds is to choose the course adopted by China and to invite for our descendants the humiliating fate that finally overwhelmed China, which nation has now had a practical suzerainty forced upon her by a much smaller power.

“There is only one way for America to be safe from invasion and that is for America to be ready for it. We are not ready today, we never have been ready, yet war may smite us at any time with all its hideous slaughter and devastation. Our vast possessions constitute the richest, the most tempting prize on earth, and no words can measure the envy and hatred that less rich and less favoured nations feel against us.”

“Gentlemen, our duty is plain and urgent. We must be prepared against aggression. We must save from danger this land that we love, this great nation built by our fathers. We must have, what we now notoriously lack, a sufficient army, a satisfactory system of military training, battleships, aeroplanes, submarines, munition plants, all that is necessary to uphold the national honour so that when an unscrupulous enemy strikes at us and our children he will find us ready. If we are strong we shall, in all probability, avoid war, since the choice between war and arbitration will then be ours.”

Scenes of wild enthusiasm followed this appeal of the veteran commander, not only at the Capitol, but all over the land when his words were made public. At last America had learned her bitter lesson touching the folly of unpreparedness, the iron had entered her soul and now, in 1922, the people’s representatives were quick to perform a sacred duty that had been vainly urged upon them in 1916. Almost unanimously (even Senators William Jennings Bryan and Henry Ford refused to vote against preparedness) both houses of Congress declared for the fullest measure of national defence. It was voted that we have a strong and fully manned navy with 48 dreadnoughts and battle cruisers in proportion. It was voted that we have scout destroyers and sea-going submarines in numbers sufficient to balance the capital fleet. It was voted that we have an aerial fleet second to none in the world. It was voted that we have a standing army of 200,000 men with 45,000 officers, backed by a national force of citizens trained in arms under a universal and obligatory one-year military system. It was voted, finally, that we have adequate munition plants in various parts of the country, all under government control and partly subsidised under conditions assuring ample munitions at any time, but absolutely preventing private monopolies or excessive profits in the munition manufacturing business.

This was declared to be—and God grant it prove to be—America’s insurance against future wars of invasion, against alien arrogance and injustice, against a foreign flag over this land.