were they not the consequences of the devotion of men to their cause? The whole thing seemed quite natural to him. The man was clearly in his element and dominated it.
After having inspected the outposts, I went back, bedded myself in a soft sand-heap, covered myself up, and was soon fast and peacefully asleep. During the night the dew moistened the sand, and when I awoke in the morning I found myself encased in a plastering which could not be removed for days.
Our hopes of getting a little rest and respite from the fighting were soon shattered, for a scouting aeroplane brought news that the Russians were again advancing in overwhelming strength. Our commanding general, coming to the conclusion that with the reduced and weakened forces at his command he could not possibly offer any effective resistance to a renewed onslaught, had determined to fall back slowly before their pressure. The consequence was a series of retreating battles for us, which lasted about ten days and which constituted what is now called the battle of Lemberg.
We were then terribly outnumbered by the Russians, and in order to extricate our army and prevent it from being surrounded and cut off, we constantly
had to retreat, one detachment taking up positions to resist the advancing Russians, trying to hold them at all costs in order to give the rest of the army sufficient time to retire to safety. This maneuvering could not, of course, be carried out without the forces guarding the rear and covering the retreat suffering sometimes terrible losses.
These were depressing days, with rain and storm adding to the gloom. The men tramped wearily, hanging their heads, ashamed and humiliated by the retreat, the necessity of which they could not grasp, having, as they thought, successfully repulsed the enemy. It was difficult to make them understand that our regiment was only a cog in the huge wheel of the Austrian fighting machine and that, with a battle line extending over many miles, it was quite natural that partial successes could take place and yet the consideration of general
strategy necessitate a retreat. Our arguing made little impression on the men; for they only shook their heads and said, "We were victorious, we should have gone on."
The spirit of retreating troops is vastly different from that shown by an advancing army, and it was probably in recognition of this well-known psychological state that our general staff had in the beginning attacked the Russians wherever they could, in spite of the overwhelming superiority of the foe, but the reinforcements the Russians were able to draw upon had swelled their ranks so enormously that any attack would have been little short of madness.
The real hardships and privations for us began only now. The few roads of Galicia, which at best are in bad condition, through the constant passing of heavy artillery and wagons of all kinds following each other in endless proces-
sion through constant rains, had become well-nigh impassable, the heavy mud constituting an additional impediment to the marching of troops. In order to get all of the train carrying provisions out of the possible reach of a sudden raid by the Russian cavalry, it had to be sent miles back of us, so as not to interfere with the movement of the troops. This caused somewhat of an interruption in the organization of the commissary department and very little food reached the troops, and that only at very long intervals.
The distribution of food to an army, even in peace and under the best conditions, is a very complicated and difficult undertaking. Provisions are shipped from the interior to the important railway centers, which serve as huge army depots and form the basis from which the different army corps draw their provisions and from which they are constantly re-
plenished. They in turn supply the divisions and brigades wherefrom the regiments and battalions draw their provisions. So it is seen that the great aorta which leads from the interior to the big depots slowly subdivides itself into smaller arteries and feeders until they reach the ultimate destination, the extreme front.
This distribution of food had now be come a formidable task, in consequence of the unforeseen movements and diversions which were forced upon us by the unexpected developments of the battle; and it often happened that food supplies intended for a certain detachment would reach their destination only after the departure of that detachment.
My platoon had by this time shrunk from fifty-five men to about thirty-four, but those remaining had become very hardened, efficient, and fit. It is astonishing how quickly the human organism
adjusts itself, if need be, to the most difficult circumstances. So far as I was concerned, for instance, I adapted myself to the new life without any trouble at all, responding to the unusual demands upon me automatically, as it were. My rather impaired eyesight improved in the open, with only wide distances to look at. I found that my muscles served me better than ever before. I leaped and ran and supported fatigue that would have appalled me under other circumstances. In the field all neurotic symptoms seem to disappear as by magic, and one's whole system is charged with energy and vitality. Perhaps this is due to the open-air life with its simplified standards, freed from all the complex exigencies of society's laws, and unhampered by conventionalities, as well as to the constant throb of excitement, caused by the activity, the adventure, and the uncertainty of fate.
The very massing together of so many individuals, with every will merged into one that strives with gigantic effort toward a common end, and the consequent simplicity and directness of all purpose, seem to release and unhinge all the primitive, aboriginal forces stored in the human soul, and tend to create the indescribable atmosphere of exultation which envelopes everything and everybody as with a magic cloak.
It is extraordinary how quickly suggestions of luxury, culture, refinement, in fact all the gentler aspects of life, which one had considered to be an integral part of one's life are quickly forgotten, and, more than that, not even missed. Centuries drop from one, and one becomes a primeval man, nearing the cave-dweller in an incredibly short time. For twenty-one days I went without taking off my clothes, sleeping on wet grass or in mud, or in the swamps,
wherever need be, and with nothing but my cape to cover me. Nothing disturbs one. One night, while sleeping, we were drenched to the skin by torrential rains. We never stirred, but waited for the sun to dry us out again. Many things considered necessities of civilization simply drop out of existence. A toothbrush was not imaginable. We ate instinctively, when we had food, with our hands. If we had stopped to think of it at all, we should have thought it ludicrous to use knife and fork.
We were all looking like shaggy, lean wolves, from the necessity of subsisting on next to nothing. I remember having gone for more than three days at a time without any food whatsoever, and many a time we had to lick the dew from the grass for want of water. A certain fierceness arises in you, an absolute indifference to anything the world holds except your duty of fighting. You are eating a
crust of bread, and a man is shot dead in the trench next to you. You look calmly at him for a moment, and then go on eating your bread. Why not? There is nothing to be done. In the end you talk of your own death with as little excitement as you would of a luncheon engagement. There is nothing left in your mind but the fact that hordes of men to whom you belong are fighting against other hordes, and your side must win.
My memory of these days is very much blurred, every day being pretty nearly the same as the preceding one,- fatiguing marches, little rest and comparatively little fighting.
It is quite possible that our commander tried to divide the work of the troops in a just manner, and that in consequence of my regiment having borne the brunt of two terrible attacks, and having suffered considerable loss, we were now temporarily withdrawn
from the fighting line, and not once during these days were assigned to the duty of a rear guard. Consequently we had only few and unimportant skirmishes in these days, twice while guarding the flank through having to repulse attacks of Cossacks, and once being harrassed by an armored automobile. But the movements of an automobile being confined to the road, we had no difficulty in avoiding its fire, and as for the Cossacks with their eternal feigned attacks, we had reached the point where we almost ignored them.
We were in the first days of September, and upon reaching the swamps near Grodeck, south of Lemberg, a determined stand was decided upon by our commanding general. It seemed the most propitious place for a formidable defense, there being only few roads through otherwise impassable swamps. On September sixth my battalion was
ordered to take up a position commanding a defile which formed one of the possible approaches for the enemy. Here we awaited the Russians, and they were not long in coming. First they violently shelled our position and silenced one of our batteries. Finding their artillery fire did not draw any answer from our side, they attempted to storm our position by means of frontal infantry attacks, combined with occasional raids of Cossacks, which were always repulsed. Finally the Russian infantry succeeded in establishing a number of trenches, the one opposite us not more than five hundred yards away. It was the first time we had come in close touch with the Russians, almost within hailing distance, and with the aid of our field glasses we could occasionally even get a glimpse of their faces and recognize their features. We stayed four days opposite each other, neither side gaining a foot of ground.
It was there and then that I made a curious observation. After the second day we had almost grown to know each other. The Russians would laughingly call over to us, and the Austrians would answer. The salient feature of these three days' fighting was the extraordinary lack of hatred. In fact, it is astonishing how little actual hatred exists between fighting men. One fights fiercely and passionately, mass against mass, but as soon as the mass crystallizes itself into human individuals whose features one actually can recognize, hatred almost ceases. Of course, fighting continues, but somehow it loses its fierceness and takes more the form of a sport, each side being eager to get the best of the other. One still shoots at his opponent, but almost regrets when he sees him drop.
By the morning of the third day we knew nearly every member of the opposing trench, the favorite of my men being
a giant red-bearded Russian whose constant pastime consisted in jumping like a Jack-in-the-box from the trench, crying over to us as he did so. He was frequently shot at, but never hit. Then he grew bolder, showing himself longer and longer, until finally he jumped out of the trench altogether, shouting to us wildly and waving his cap. His good-humored jollity and bravado appealed to our boys and none of them attempted to shoot at him while he presented such a splendid target. Finally one of our men, who did not want to be second in bravery, jumped out of the trench and presented himself in the full sunlight. Not one attempt was made to shoot at him either, and these two men began to gesticulate at each other, inviting each other to come nearer. All fighting had suddenly ceased, and both opposing parties were looking on, laughing like boys at play. Finally the Russian would draw a step
nearer, and our man boldly advanced too. Then the Russians urged on their man with shouts and laughter, and he made a big leap forward, standing still, whereupon the Austrian also jumped forward, and so, step by step, they approached until they nearly touched each other. They had left their rifles behind, and we thought that they were going to indulge in a fist fight, all of us being sorry for our champion, for he was a small and insignificant-looking man who looked as if he could be crushed with one blow by his gigantic opponent. But lo, and behold! The big Russian held out his hand which held a package of tobacco and our Austrian, seizing the tobacco, grasped the hand of the Russian, and then reaching in his pocket produced a long Austrian cigar, which he ceremoniously presented to the Russian. It was indeed a funny sight to see the small, wiry, lean Austrian talking in exag-
gerated terms of politeness to the blond Russian giant, who listened gravely and attentively, as if he understood every word.
By this time all precautions and even ideas of fighting had been forgotten, and we were surprised to find ourselves out of the shelter of our trenches and fully exposed to the Russians, who, in turn, leaned out of their own trenches and showed their heads in full. This unofficial truce had lasted about twenty minutes, and succeeded more in restoring good humor and joy of life among our soldiers than a trainload of provisions would have done. It was one of the incidents that helped to relieve the monotony of trench life and was heartily welcomed by all of us. The fighting, however, soon was resumed with all its earnestness and fierceness, but from this moment on a certain camaraderie was established between the two opposing
trenches. Between skirmishes an unofficial truce would frequently be called for the purpose of removing the wounded. During these times when the stretcher-bearers were busy, no shot would be fired on either side.
Nor was this an isolated case, for similar intermittent truces, sometimes accompanied by actual intercourse between the opposing forces, were quite common all along the battle line. That very night I was hurriedly summoned to the trenches of the 13th Company, about half a mile east of us, in order to act as an interpreter between the major commanding that battalion and two singular guests he had just received, a Russian officer and his orderly. The pair, carrying a white flag, had hailed one of the numerous Austrian outposts placed during the night, in front of the trenches, and had been sent blindfolded back to the major. The Russian officer spoke
only broken French. He commanded one of the opposing trenches, and from his narrative it appeared that his men had not received any food supplies for some days and were actually on the point of starvation. Not being able to stand their misery any longer, he had taken the bull by the horns and, with the utter confidence and straightforwardness of a fearless nature, had simply come over to us, the enemy, for help, offering a little barrel of water which his companion carried on his head and a little tobacco, in exchange for some provisions.
The major seemed at first, perhaps, a little perplexed and undecided about this singular request, but his generous nature and chivalry soon asserted itself. One single look at the emaciated and worn faces of our guests sufficiently substantiated the truth of their story, for both men were utterly exhausted and on the verge of collapse. The next
minute messengers were flying to the different trenches of the battalion to solicit and collect contributions, and the officers scrambled over each other in their noble contest to deplete their own last and cherished reserves for the supper of the guests. Soon the latter were seated as comfortably as circumstances permitted before a feast of canned beef, cheese, biscuits, and a slice of salami, my own proud contribution consisting of two tablets of chocolate, part of a precious reserve for extreme cases. It was a strange sight to see these two Russians in an Austrian trench, surrounded by cordiality and tender solicitude. The big brotherhood of humanity had for the time enveloped friend and foe, stamping out all hatred and racial differences. It is wonderful how the most tender flowers of civilization can go hand in hand with the most brutal atrocities of grim modern warfare.
In the mean while the messengers had returned almost staggering under the weight of a sack filled with the gifts of our soldiers to the enemy,-pieces of bread and biscuits with here and there a slice of bacon or a lump of cheese, all thrown pˆle-mˆle together. Many a man must have parted with his last piece of bread in order not to be outdone by the others in generosity, for our own pro- visions were running very low. It is true that the bread and biscuits were mildewed, the cheese stale, and the bacon as hard as stone, but the boys gave the best they could, the very poverty and humbleness of the gifts attesting their own desperate plight, and bearing proud witness to the extent of their sacrifice. With tears in their eyes and reiterated protestations of thanks, our guests staggered back through the night to their lines, undoubtedly carrying with them tender memories of Austrian generosity and hospitality.
On the morning of the next day a Russian detachment succeeded in storming a hill on our flank, commanding the strip of space between ourselves and our reserves in the rear, thus cutting us off from our main body. They established there a machine-gun battery, and, although we were under cover in our trench, we were now in a very precarious position, for no more provisions or ammunition could reach us, all attempts to do so breaking down under a terrific machine-gun fire, but we had orders to hold our position at all cost and to the last man. Unfortunately our ammunition was giving out, in spite of our husbanding it as much as possible and shooting only when we had a sure target. The Russians soon found that each shot meant a victim and took no chances on showing even the tips of their caps. Neither could we move the least bit without being the target for a volley
from their side. Up to this day I cannot understand why they did not try to rush us, but apparently they were unaware of our comparative weakness.
Also for another reason our position had become more and more untenable. We were on swampy ground and the water was constantly oozing in from the bottom of the trench, so that we sometimes had to stand nearly knee-deep and were forced to bail the water out with our caps. It is difficult to imagine a more deplorable situation than to have to stay for four days in a foul trench, half filled with swamp water, constantly exposed to the destructive fire of the enemy, utterly isolated and hopeless.
Soon we were completely without any food or water and our ammunition was almost exhausted. During the night, here and there daring men would rush through the space swept by the Russian gun fire, which was kept up constantly,
trying to bring us what scanty supplies they could procure from neighboring trenches better provided than we were, but the little they brought was nothing compared to our needs.
On the evening of that third day, knowing that our ammunition was giving out, we felt that the next day would bring the end, and all our thoughts turned homewards and to the dear ones. We all wrote what we considered our parting and last farewell, each one pledging himself to deliver and take care of the letters of the others if he survived. It was a grave, sad, deeply touching moment, when we resigned ourselves to the inevitable, and yet somehow we all felt relieved and satisfied that the end might come and grimly resolved to sell our lives dearly.
Never before had I as much reason to admire the wonderful power of endurance and stoicism of our soldiers as on
that night. Once resigned to the worst, all the old-time spirit returned, as if by magic. They sat together playing cards in as much moonlight as would fall into the deep trench, relating jokes and bolstering up one another's courage.
The fourth day broke gloomy, with a drizzling rain. At ten o'clock one of our men became suddenly insane, jumped out of the trench, danced wildly and divested himself of every stitch of clothing while doing so. Strange to say, the Russians must have realized that the man was insane, for they never fired at him, neither did they at the two men who jumped out to draw him back. We succeeded in comforting and subduing him, and he soon fell into a stupor and remained motionless for some time. As soon as darkness fell we succeeded in conveying him back to the reserves and I understand that he got quite well again in a few days.
At five o'clock that afternoon we suddenly received orders through a running messenger, who was braving the incessant machine-gun fire, that our positions were about to be abandoned and that we were to evacuate our trench under the cover of darkness, at eleven o'clock. I cannot but confess that we all breathed more freely on the receipt of that information, but unfortunately the purpose could not be carried out. The Russians by this time evidently had realized our comparatively defenseless condition and utter lack of ammunition, for that same night we heard two shots ring out, being a signal from our sentinels that they were surprised and that danger was near. I hardly had time to draw my sword, to grasp my revolver with my left hand and issue a command to my men to hold their bayonets in readiness, when we heard a tramping of horses and saw dark figures swooping down upon
us. For once the Cossacks actually carried out their attack, undoubtedly owing to their intimate knowledge of our lack of ammunition. My next sensation was a crushing pain in my shoulder, struck by the hoof of a horse, and a sharp knife pain in my right thigh. I fired with my revolver at the hazy figure above me, saw it topple over and then lost consciousness.
This happened, to the best of my recollection, at about half past ten at night. Upon coming to my senses I found my faithful orderly, kneeling in the trench by my side. He fairly shouted with delight as I opened my eyes. According to his story the Austrians, falling back under the cavalry charge, had evacuated the trench without noticing, in the darkness, that I was missing. But soon discovering my absence he started back to the trench in search of me. It was a perilous undertaking for him, for the Cos-
sacks were still riding about, and he showed me with pride the place where a stray bullet had perforated his knapsack during the search. He revived me, gave me first aid, and succeeded with great difficulty in helping me out of the trench. For more than three hours we stumbled on in the night, trying to find our lines again. Twice we encountered a small troop of Cossacks, but upon hearing the tramping we quietly lay down on the wayside without a motion until they had passed. Happily we were not noticed by them, and from then we stumbled on without any further incident until we were hailed by an Austrian outpost and in safety. By this time I was utterly exhausted and again lost consciousness.
When I opened my eyes, I was in a little hut where our ambulance gave first aid. Therefrom I was transported to the nearest field hospital. This, however, had to be broken up and the wounded re-
moved because of the Russian advance We were hastily put on big ambulance wagons without springs, the jolting of which over the bad road caused us such suffering that we should have almost preferred to walk or crawl. We tried to reach the railway station at Komarno but found a Russian detachment had intercepted us. In the streets of the village a shell burst almost in front of our wagons, making the horses shy and causing a great deal of confusion. We had to turn back and after a long and wearisome de- tour reached our destination, the troop hospital in Sambor, in a state of great exhaustion. There I remained but a day. The less seriously wounded had to make place for the graver cases, and being among the former, I was transferred by hospital train to Miscolcy in Hungary. The same crowded conditions prevailed here as in Sambor, and after a night's rest I again was put on board a Red
Cross train en route to Vienna. We were met at the station by a number of Red Cross nurses and assistant doctors.
To my great joy my wife was among the former, having been assigned to that particular duty. A short official telegram to the effect that I was being sent home wounded on hospital train Number 16 was the first news she had received about me for fully four weeks. None of my field postcards had arrived and she was suffering extreme nervous strain from the long anxiety and suspense, which she had tried in vain to numb by feverish work in her hospital. I remained two weeks in Vienna and then was transferred to the sulphur bath of Baden near-by, where large hospitals had been established to relieve the overcrowding of Vienna. There I remained until the first of November when I was ordered to appear before a mixed commission of army surgeons and senior officers, for a
medical examination. Two weeks later I received formal intimation that I had been pronounced invalid and physically unfit for army duty at the front or at home, and consequently was exempted from further service. My military experience ended there, and with deep regret I bade good-bye to my loyal brother officers, comrades, and faithful orderly, and discarded my well-beloved uniform for the nondescript garb of the civilian, grateful that I had been permitted to be of any, if ever so little, service to my Fatherland.