Not knowing before I left home just
what was needed for house-keeping in the army, and
being able to gather only vague ideas on the subject
from Jack, who declared that his quarters were furnished
admirably, I had taken out with me but few articles
in addition to the silver and linen-chests.
I began to have serious doubts on
the subject of my ménage, after inspecting the
bachelor furnishings which had seemed so ample to my
husband. But there was so much to be seen in the
way of guard mount, cavalry drill, and various military
functions, besides the drives to town and the concerts
of the string orchestra, that I had little time to
think of the practical side of life.
Added to this, we were enjoying the
delightful hospitality of the Wilhelms, and the Major
insisted upon making me acquainted with the “real
old-fashioned army toddy” several times a day, a
new beverage to me, brought up in a blue-ribbon community,
where wine-bibbing and whiskey drinking were rated
as belonging to only the lowest classes. To be
sure, my father always drank two fingers of fine cognac
before dinner, but I had always considered that a
sort of medicine for a man advanced in years.
Taken all in all, it is not to be
wondered at if I saw not much in those few days besides
bright buttons, blue uniforms, and shining swords.
Everything was military and gay and
brilliant, and I forgot the very existence of practical
things, in listening to the dreamy strains of Italian
and German music, rendered by our excellent and painstaking
orchestra. For the Eighth Infantry loved good
music, and had imported its musicians direct from
This came to an end, however, after
a few days, and I was obliged to descend from those
heights to the dead level of domestic economy.
My husband informed me that the quarters
were ready for our occupancy and that we could begin
house-keeping at once. He had engaged a soldier
named Adams for a striker; he did not know whether
Adams was much of a cook, he said, but he was the
only available man just then, as the companies were
up north at the Agency.
Our quarters consisted of three rooms
and a kitchen, which formed one-half of a double house.
I asked Jack why we could not have
a whole house. I did not think I could possibly
live in three rooms and a kitchen.
“Why, Martha,” said he,
“did you not know that women are not reckoned
in at all at the War Department? A lieutenant’s
allowance of quarters, according to the Army Regulations,
is one room and a kitchen, a captain’s allowance
is two rooms and a kitchen, and so on up, until a
colonel has a fairly good house.” I told
him I thought it an outrage; that lieutenants’
wives needed quite as much as colonels’ wives.
He laughed and said, “You see
we have already two rooms over our proper allowance;
there are so many married officers, that the Government
has had to stretch a point.”
After indulging in some rather harsh
comments upon a government which could treat lieutenants’
wives so shabbily, I began to investigate my surroundings.
Jack had placed his furnishings (some
lace curtains, camp chairs, and a carpet) in the living-room,
and there was a forlorn-looking bedstead in the bedroom.
A pine table in the dining-room and a range in the
kitchen completed the outfit. A soldier had scrubbed
the rough floors with a straw broom: it was absolutely
forlorn, and my heart sank within me.
But then I thought of Mrs. Wilhelm’s
quarters, and resolved to try my best to make ours
look as cheerful and pretty as hers. A chaplain
was about leaving the post and wished to dispose of
his things, so we bought a carpet of him, a few more
camp chairs of various designs, and a cheerful-looking
table-cover. We were obliged to be very economical,
as Jack was a second lieutenant, the pay was small
and a little in arrears, after the wedding trip and
long journey out. We bought white Holland shades
for the windows, and made the three rooms fairly comfortable
and then I turned my attention to the kitchen.
Jack said I should not have to buy
anything at all; the Quartermaster Department furnished
everything in the line of kitchen utensils; and, as
his word was law, I went over to the quartermaster
store-house to select the needed articles.
After what I had been told, I was
surprised to find nothing smaller than two-gallon
tea-kettles, meat-forks a yard long, and mess-kettles
deep enough to cook rations for fifty men! I
rebelled, and said I would not use such gigantic things.
My husband said: “Now,
Mattie, be reasonable; all the army women keep house
with these utensils; the regiment will move soon, and
then what should we do with a lot of tin pans and
such stuff? You know a second lieutenant is allowed
only a thousand pounds of baggage when he changes
station.” This was a hard lesson, which
I learned later.
Having been brought up in an old-time
community, where women deferred to their husbands
in everything, I yielded, and the huge things were
sent over. I had told Mrs. Wilhelm that we were
to have luncheon in our own quarters.
So Adams made a fire large enough
to roast beef for a company of soldiers, and he and
I attempted to boil a few eggs in the deep mess-kettle
and to make the water boil in the huge tea-kettle.
But Adams, as it turned out, was not
a cook, and I must confess that my own attention had
been more engrossed by the study of German auxiliary
verbs, during the few previous years, than with the
art of cooking.
Of course, like all New England girls
of that period, I knew how to make quince jelly and
floating islands, but of the actual, practical side
of cooking, and the management of a range, I knew
Here was a dilemma, indeed!
The eggs appeared to boil, but they
did not seem to be done when we took them off, by
the minute-hand of the clock.
I declared the kettle was too large;
Adams said he did not understand it at all.
I could have wept with chagrin! Our first meal
I appealed to Jack. He said,
“Why, of course, Martha, you ought to know that
things do not cook as quickly at this altitude as they
do down at the sea level. We are thousands of
feet above the sea here in Wyoming.” (I
am not sure it was thousands, but it was hundreds at
So that was the trouble, and I had not thought of
My head was giddy with the glamour,
the uniform, the guard-mount, the military music,
the rarefied air, the new conditions, the new interests
of my life. Heine’s songs, Goethe’s
plays, history and romance were floating through my
mind. Is it to be wondered at that I and Adams
together prepared the most atrocious meals that ever
a new husband had to eat? I related my difficulties
to Jack, and told him I thought we should never be
able to manage with such kitchen utensils as were
furnished by the Q. M. D.
“Oh, pshaw! You are pampered
and spoiled with your New England kitchens,”
said he; “you will have to learn to do as other
army women do cook in cans and such things,
be inventive, and learn to do with nothing.”
This was my first lesson in army house-keeping.
After my unpractical teacher had gone
out on some official business, I ran over to Mrs.
Wilhelm’s quarters and said, “Will you
let me see your kitchen closet?”
She assented, and I saw the most beautiful
array of tin-ware, shining and neat, placed in rows
upon the shelves and hanging from hooks on the wall.
“So!” I said; “my
military husband does not know anything about these
things;” and I availed myself of the first trip
of the ambulance over to Cheyenne, bought a stock
of tin-ware and had it charged, and made no mention
of it because I feared that tin-ware was
to be our bone of contention, and I put off the evil
The cooking went on better after that,
but I did not have much assistance from Adams.
I had great trouble at first with
the titles and the rank: but I soon learned that
many of the officers were addressed by the brevet title
bestowed upon them for gallant service in the Civil
War, and I began to understand about the ways and
customs of the army of Uncle Sam. In contrast
to the Germans, the American lieutenants were not addressed
by their title (except officially); I learned to “Mr.”
all the lieutenants who had no brevet.
One morning I suggested to Adams that
he should wash the front windows; after being gone
a half hour, to borrow a step-ladder, he entered the
room, mounted the ladder and began. I sat writing.
Suddenly, he faced around, and addressing me, said,
“Madam, do you believe in spiritualism?”
“Good gracious! Adams,
no; why do you ask me such a question?”
This was enough; he proceeded to give
a lecture on the subject worthy of a man higher up
on the ladder of this life. I bade him come to
an end as soon as I dared (for I was not accustomed
to soldiers), and suggested that he was forgetting
It was early in April, and the snow
drifted through the crevices of the old dried-out
house, in banks upon our bed; but that was soon mended,
and things began to go smoothly enough, when Jack was
ordered to join his company, which was up at the Spotted
Tail Agency. It was expected that the Sioux under
this chief would break out at any minute. They
had become disaffected about some treaty. I did
not like to be left alone with the Spiritualist, so
Jack asked one of the laundresses, whose husband was
out with the company, to come and stay and take care
of me. Mrs. Patten was an old campaigner; she
understood everything about officers and their ways,
and she made me absolutely comfortable for those two
lonely months. I always felt grateful to her;
she was a dear old Irish woman.
All the families and a few officers
were left at the post, and, with the daily drive to
Cheyenne, some small dances and theatricals, my time
was pleasantly occupied.
Cheyenne in those early days was an
amusing but unattractive frontier town; it presented
a great contrast to the old civilization I had so
recently left. We often saw women in cotton wrappers,
high-heeled slippers, and sun-bonnets, walking in
the main streets. Cows, pigs, and saloons seemed
to be a feature of the place.
In about six weeks, the affairs of
the Sioux were settled, and the troops returned to
the post. The weather began to be uncomfortably
hot in those low wooden houses. I missed the
comforts of home and the fresh sea air of the coast,
but I tried to make the best of it.
Our sleeping-room was very small,
and its one window looked out over the boundless prairie
at the back of the post. On account of the great
heat, we were obliged to have this window wide open
at night. I heard the cries and wails of various
animals, but Jack said that was nothing they
always heard them.
Once, at midnight, the wails seemed
to be nearer, and I was terrified; but he told me
’twas only the half-wild cats and coyotes which
prowled around the post. I asked him if they
ever came in. “Gracious, no!” he
said; “they are too wild.”
I calmed myself for sleep when
like lightning, one of the huge creatures gave a flying
leap in at our window, across the bed, and through
into the living-room.
“Jerusalem!” cried the
lieutenant, and flew after her, snatching his sword,
which stood in the corner, and poking vigorously under
I rolled myself under the bed-covers,
in the most abject terror lest she might come back
the same way; and, true enough, she did, with a most
piercing cry. I never had much rest after that
occurrence, as we had no protection against these
The regiment, however, in June was
ordered to Arizona, that dreaded and then unknown
land, and the uncertain future was before me.
I saw the other women packing china and their various
belongings. I seemed to be helpless. Jack
was busy with things outside. He had three large
army chests, which were brought in and placed before
me. “Now,” he said, “all our
things must go into those chests” and
I supposed they must.
I was pitifully ignorant of the details
of moving, and I stood despairingly gazing into the
depths of those boxes, when the jolly and stout wife
of Major von Hermann passed my window. She glanced
in, comprehended the situation, and entered, saying,
“You do not understand how to pack? Let
me help you: give me a cushion to kneel upon now
bring everything that is to be packed, and I can soon
show you how to do it.” With her kind assistance
the chests were packed, and I found that we had a
great deal of surplus stuff which had to be put into
rough cases, or rolled into packages and covered with
burlap. Jack fumed when he saw it, and declared
we could not take it all, as it exceeded our allowance
of weight. I declared we must take it, or we
could not exist.
With some concessions on both sides
we were finally packed up, and left Fort Russell about
the middle of June, with the first detachment, consisting
of head-quarters and band, for San Francisco, over
the Union Pacific Railroad.
For it must be remembered, that in
1874 there were no railroads in Arizona, and all troops
which were sent to that distant territory either marched
over-land through New Mexico, or were transported by
steamer from San Francisco down the coast, and up
the Gulf of California to Fort Yuma, from which point
they marched up the valley of the Gila to the southern
posts, or continued up the Colorado River by steamer,
to other points of disembarkation, whence they marched
to the posts in the interior, or the northern part
of the territory.
Much to my delight, we were allowed
to remain over in San Francisco, and go down with
the second detachment. We made the most of the
time, which was about a fortnight, and on the sixth
of August we embarked with six companies of soldiers,
Lieutenant Colonel Wilkins in command, on the old
steamship “Newbern,” Captain Metzger, for