Wartime newsletter no. 1 from Elisabeth and Hans Culemeyer of Peine, Germany to Frieda Rosendahl of Riemsloh, Germany and her circle of relatives
Date: December 17, 1914
Document in German
Nine typed pages
This letter is part of a series of seven wartime family newsletters compiled by Elisabeth and Hans Culemeyer of Peine, Germany that recounts family news from the field, the home front, and abroad during the first year of the war, 1914-1915. It was sent out to a circle of over 25 relatives who grew up in and around Riemsloh, Germany, most of whom bear the surnames or maiden names Culemeyer, Lange, or Nagel, but other surnames include Barre, Dreyer, Obermeyer, Pleimes, and Rosendahl. Seven letters total were sent out between November 1914 and June 1915 - one inaugural letter introducing the idea and six "wartime" newsletters. Newsletters were stored in a steel album cover, 2014.27.114.
War Letter no. 1
Dear ones in the field and at home!
Marie Dreyer writes: "……I have had worried days and weeks. My dear Karl has been back from the front for 14 days with a serious nerve depression. After he had laid two days and nights in an almost unconscious condition in Burgundy in the field hospital, he was brought to Würzburg; from there he came here. Praise God that I can care for him here, and he is now already doing significantly better, he himself already thinks he can go again and hopes next week. His regiment has come in the meantime from Reims to the witches' caldron Ypern, and has had great losses there. He will reunite with hardly anyone from among his comrades."
Karl Dreyer reports: On the third mobilization day he was placed with the Reserve Infantry Regiment 15 in Detmold [Germany]. Finally on the seventh mobilization day the regiment was complete so that longer marches and [schiens?] drills could be done. An injury of the right foot, suffered during training, brought him in the Detmold garrison field hospital for a longer time, so that he could not move with his regiment into the field. Not until October 1 was he able to leave the field hospital and arrived after a short stopover at the replacement battalion of the regiment at Reims. The path led over Luxemburg, Seden to the end station Guignicourt, from where they reached the regiment in Bourgogne after hours of marching. "Bodies, horse corpses, canon thunder were the first war greetings. After a short rest, it was commanded to divide the teams from the company and into the trenches in order to relieve our sister regiment for two days and two nights. Therewith began the trench life that lasted for weeks. We marched then over Fort Brimont and came to the mostly destroyed
Convey, and then every company sought their places again in the trenches soundlessly and only too often greeted from enemy grenades. What a grand life there! A space of 450 meters is to be occupied. A lot of work for me! Constant patrolling of the night. The worst of all was to lie in enemy grenade fire and not be able to fight back. How the nerves become strained! Even more the answering for his 250 men. The enemy lay 700 meters in front of us, fired frantically at even the smallest target and then did not want to stop. Our trenches were very strong. Barbed wire in front, canons built into the parapet, revolver canons, machine guns. In addition we were outfitted with hand grenades. And yet it was also comfortable there in our buildings. Straw cushions, mattresses, gramophone, violin, among other things, nothing was missing, in my chief booth even a stool and table were available. With the constant rain it's better that one does not speak about their own appearance. A lovely sauce in the chalk soil of the Champagne! There are plenty of comical things. Mice tear my coat to bits while I am sleeping. The old Landwehr people often shoot in the heaviest of fire at partridges, that they bring back creeping on the stomach. - On one chair, freed of its seat, stands the inscription "Only for the Herr officers!" - This life will get a tragic conclusion for me. Finally it was commanded namely to bring the trench 400 meters further from the enemy. After I had clearly and distinctly given the necessary orders for it, as the battalion leader himself acknowledged, during the advancement of the company four people slept through it, without looking or maintaining contact, and since that day remain missing; the Herr major called it a crime and laid the burden on me. The missing people must probably be
in the hands of the French and have revealed our position. Because we ourselves are assailed in our fixed quarters with grenades, and all of this tumbled over me together. The nerves refused to obey, so that I have no memory of two days. The doctor sent me with the next transport via Würzburg to Minden. In the next week, it will continue again - to Ypern?!" - So far Karl Dreyer. Our sincere greetings and wishes accompany him on his second trip to the front, that he in the meantime has already reached.---
Aunt Amalie Lange reports about her sons:
"Hermann advanced into the field on August 8 and rode via Luxemburg to Belgium, from where they crossed the French border already on August 18. Until then they had not seen any enemy, but from the 20 to the 22 they came into heavy fighting south of Namur. On the first day persistent street fighting, in which their train, under leadership of a lieutenant, took 12 prisoners. On another day the fighting developed after midday. Having approached the French, who employed their artillery fire, grenades over and next to them, towards evening another assault in which his company alone took 200 prisoners. The next day gave pursuit. The days were unforgettable for him. They were full of losses; the lieutenant, who led them on the first day, fell on the second."
Fritz Lange, who meanwhile has become a lieutenant and, as a result of the loss of officers, company commander, has acquired the Iron Cross, well-earned as his brother Hermann writes, about which we are sincerely happy. He is the first in the family circle decorated with the iron cross. He has been in 20 fights and battles. He wrote us on November 25 from his position outside of Reims: "…..A company commander in the field is an afflicted figure.
In the trench the entire responsibility lies with him, that in the constantly possible case of a breakthrough attempt by the French his position supplies the necessary resistance; he is in constant battle with human weakness: carelessness, tiredness and convenience, and in the quarters signatures and drilling hound him, 18 hours after I was relieved from the trenches, I had to inspect the company and recently terrain shooting with my entire company, in increments [nach Scheiben]. All of that 5-8 kilometers back from the front, although during the drilling we had the opportunity to shoot at enemy fliers. On both of my horses, I have developed myself into a very acceptable natural rider. As company captain one also has a broader field for military zest than as platoon leader; my company strives to have an exemplary trench, arm racks, loopholes for shooting, ammunition boxes among other model efforts; we sit in the ground up to the tip of our helmets. The view is glorious: the silhouette of Reims, the cathedral, other church and city hall roofs. Our patrols are often too reckless, and so the losses do not remain away. In the morning gray, we look into the French trenches and are sometimes picked off; but we have always [repeated?] and they have also given it to the French before.
We "barbarians" can be royally happy, when we have lain for an hour in artillery fire and then our 21 cm mortar or 15 cm howitzer begins to thunder. Then everywhere the heads begin to appear, and one is blessed, when in Reims everywhere the thick clouds of smoke climb with their accompanying muffled [festivities? - Polterei]. By the way, the stonework of the cathedral is hardly damaged. The French still have an observer in the tower!
My room, to which I am banished to because of a bothersome cold [catarrh - build up of mucus], makes a very opulent impression. The daughters of Maire [a town in France] drank yesterday with our company [writers' ?] coffee and smoked cigarettes. All the residents receive food from the field kitchens; they beg for
sugar and coffee. The women wash for us; in the kitchens and offices they all have with all honor their friends. From their husbands, who are mostly serving, they have not had any news since August! We are with everything always optimistic."
Conrad Lange currently a war volunteer in Osnabrück. No heroic deed from him to remark on yet. He does meaningful work at the barracks yard.
Richard Lange currently leads as Oberleutnant an infantry munitions column in the forested lands east of Verdun, in the plain upstream from the Cotes Lorraines. A connected report is not available to me, but I know, that R. occasionally had very good quarters, among other places a French house, where he was cared for like a son. If the actual son of the house was probably in the field fighting the Germans?
Today on the 16th came an answer from Richard to my newsletter: … "I am sitting here quietly in my quarters, but over there in Verdun the canons thunder the entire day so much that my windows rattle, and 18 of my harnessed teams [of horses] are hauling far away today, far away over nervous and destroyed streets to the blue mountains of the Cotes Lorraines, in order to care, that our good infantry in the trenches get dry straw under their feet and our artillery above in the forests get hay for their horses. Despite relative calm there is always work for man and horse, even when at this time there is less in our actual area of munitions supply to the troops. Because our infantry has very much learned to stop with the ammunition house. Today one only shoots, if one is sure of his shot and naturally that make quite a lot for the task of my colomn.-A few days ago I received a letter from New Orleans in which cousin Möllenkamp shared that there commerce and dealings are way down as a result of the war, that the ship traffic is almost completely quiet, and only big transport steamboats are going, which are supposed to bring the horses and mules purchased by France and England to Europe. So
almost the whole world is affected by this war.
Gradually the nearing of Christmas time also makes itself visible here; one already sees on the rides a little tree around, one already considers how the festival will happen here, in case we stay here until the holidays. Around evening "O du fröhliche, o du zelige" ("O you joyfully, O you blessed") already rings quietly through the room at the appearance of the Advent wreath that Martha donated, even when my grouchy hostesses with whom I am billeted (three old biddies [Schachteln]) grumble, about the piano being played in wartime."---(Ja, ja the German barbarians!)----
Of Oskar Nagel, who has stood since the beginning of the war until about three weeks ago as Oberleutnant with a Landsturm-Infantry Regiment in Metz, I have no report from his relatives or his newest address. My newsletter was returned.
Wilhelm Pleimes is the only family member, for whom the Russians make life sour. I have no report of him from his relatives either, which surely is attributable to the packing of heavy Christmas boxes, which are currently migrating into the field. A card from December 4 from Czestochowa [Poland] tells us:… "Here it is still going well. I don't mess about with the Russians at all. Til now I have only been present when we blew up the trains, that means they blew up railroad and we made sure it was safe. While we were at it the Russians were hellishly close on our heels!...."
Karl Rosendahl's wife tells me many illustrative things from her husband's field letters, that are reproduced here in condensed summary. He stands with an artillery-munitions column and followed the trail of the German army on the forced march to outside of Paris. On August 3 he had to enter the military. His column consists of 180 men and 186 horses. First, service in the homeland from morning early until evenings at 8:30, very exhausting, but it is for the fatherland! Not until the 12th did he come near the Belgian border. The reception of the troops is everywhere
grand. On the border, Karl met Fritz Lange from O. and good acquaintances from Riemsloh. In Belgium the soldiers had to be on guard with the fanatical population. On August 19, he stood at Lüttich, on 22, already south Namur in anticipation of a battle. So far the French have always made off before them. In Charleroi [Belgium] they had to endure heavy street fighting. The column marches, infantry in front, with the song 'Morgenrot, Morgenrot…' ['Sunrise, Sunrise'] unsuspectingly into the city. Cigars and refreshments were offered to the soldiers. Then with the last verse the bells suddenly began to ring- and a dreadful shootout erupts out of all the windows, street corners, and doors. The horses, whose riders were dismounted, turned around immediately. Karl just escaped with his horse from being run over. Without the leading infantry, who turned around immediately, no one would have escaped the witches' cauldron. Luckily the French shoot very badly. The dead amounted to 19. Subsequently Karl reported a larger number of fights and heaver battles, that happened near him. Around mid September Karl finds himself again near Reims, after he participated in the large pivot of the army. To his wife, from whom he has not heard in weeks, he sent the favorite flowers and portrayed the hardship, into which the French land has fallen through the fury of war. He commemorates the fallen Germany Landwehr people: "You could not believe how much it hurts, when you see these old people lying on the battlefields, and think about, how much misery and tears one single bullet causes." The dreadful fights around Reims raged probably 14 days. Karl reported more about the appearance of French planes, who were very unwelcome guests… "Just now another flier came over us, as we lined up for roll call; we heard beforehand a violent bang not far from us, and noticed the fliers very high in the air, coming directly towards us. The captain let us swarm apart, so that we didn't offer the plane a target. So he passed over without dropping a bomb on us. Afterwards we found out,
that through the bomb 8 uhlan were left lying in part dead and in part wounded. The fliers work enormously; we don't pay attention to ours at all, which are made visible to us by markings. But as soon as a French flier arrives, we are all anxious. One can not do anything about it!...." ---- From this time forward Karl's fixed quarters begin, from which he will probably report himself occasionally.
From Adele Nagel and Ella Volkmann from New-York I have letters in front of me from September 27 and October 23, which came relatively quickly. They write about the hard weeks, to which they were exposed over there as a result of the cruel English lying messages and slander. Letters and packages, that were meant for Fritzens and our small boy, were not allowed through by the English or thrown in the sea… "Now we receive news from there, but the slander, that stands daily in the English newspapers, makes one wild. There, there are only Russian victories, Germans are always destroying all valuable churches, wreaking havoc like barbarians and perpetrating atrocities; here in the country especially all sympathies are on the side of the French and English…." ---
And now my wife and I ask very sincerely for the missing reports, even if they are short. Also our warriors in the field, we hope, send us, in the interest of all, frequent news, even if it only consists of a few lines.
If a lucky star in the Christmas days would light up our brave warriors out there, if our great God would protect them and allow them the memory of this [true?] festival in the battlefield as one of the most beautiful of your life!
Wishing a blessed Christmas festival 1914
Elisabeth and Hans Culemeyer along with Knöppchen.
Peine, December 17
From the collection of personal wartime letters received by German Vize-Wachtmeister Karl Rosendahl in the 10. Reserve Armeekorps and his wife Frieda Rosdendahl, who lived in Riemsloh in Melle, Germany.
|Date||December 17, 1914|
|Year Range from||1914|
|Year Range to||1914|
World War I
|Relation||Show Related Records...|