September 10, 1914

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Writing from London, Salem jeweler Charles Hinges writes of traveling through the war zone:

Well I am this far, but, oh! my, what a terrible experience to get here. The trip from Switzerland alone took me three days. In ordinary times it would take nine hours. I passed through thousands and thousands of ranks of soldiers. While I have not yet been close to a battle, we could hear the roar of the cannons and see smoke and dust in the distance, rolling over the mountains.

This war is a terrible thing. Beautiful places which I saw six weeks ago are in in complete ruin now. Families, who two months ago were rich, are destitute now. On my way here we passed train loads of wounded soldiers, saw the trenches and the breastworks in the fields. One place the fields and hills were covered with twenty to thirty thousand soldiers preparing for the last advance into Paris.

Poor Paris. Never saw such a dead place. Everything closed up; stores boarded up and not a single sign of old gay Paris. Don’t even hear a piano being played. But they are certainly sure now of victory. Of course you know more of the doings of the war on both sides than we, as we only get such news as they want us to know, and while in Switzerland heard absolutely nothing.

Some Americans endured terrible hardships. I thought myself sometimes I would drop in my tracks. We had to carry our own water and food, besides lug our baggage as best we could, and so terrible warm, too. If everything goes lucky with me, I’ll probably sail the last of this week. I’ll be mighty glad to get on dear old U. S. soil.

The headlines for the day reported indications that the course of the war was starting to shift:

GERMANS’ SITUATION CRITICAL
Lines of Communication With Base Cut, Is Statement Made Today
GERMANS AS SOLDIERS SIMPLY MAGNIFICENT
German Right Retiring But Center Fighting Fiercely to Regain Lost Ground

“The Russian foreign office expect Austria to sue for peace within 10 days, it was stated in messages received today from Petrograd” reported a headline titled “Thinks Austria Done.” Austria, ill-prepared for war, had to seek German aid in order to avoid a complete collapse. The Austrians were reported as having lost 120,000 killed, wounded, and missing, representing one fourth of Austria’s first line troops.

AUSTRIAN ARMY SAVED BY GERMAN RE-INFORCEMENTS
Is Now in Austrian Galicia Having Been Driven Out of Russian Poland

War in the air, as reported in yesterday’s paper, was matched by the impact of new technology lurking below the waves:

ADMIRALTY ADMITS SUBMARINE SUNK BRITISH CRUISER
Sinking of Pathfinder by Sub-Marine a New Event in Naval Warfare
MAY ATTACK BRITISH FLEET WITH THEM

THE TIDE OF BATTLE IS TURNING
French Report Is that Germans Are Retreating Along the Whole Line
THE AUSTRIANS LOSS SAID TO BE 120,000
Russians Say Austria’s Case Hopeless and She Will Sue for Peace Soon

Though it was early in the war, the prospect of an Austrian defeat led to observations about division of the spoils, an issue that would bedevil the victors during discussions over the Versailles Treaty:

OFFICIALS WORRY OVER DIVISION OF AUSTRIAN REMAINS
No Trouble Anticipated in Dividing the Rabbit Except as to Russia’s Part
SHE MAY DEMAND EAST PRUSSIA AND GALICIA
However the Worry Is Premature as the Rabbit is Not Yet Captured

In the United States, the war was beginning to have an effect on tax revenues. The federal government relied extensively on tariffs and excise taxes. With the war, the drop in imports required, new sources of taxes:

THE NEW WAR TAX

The democratic members of house ways and means committee agreed today on a war tax bill. It increases the tax on beer by 50 cents per barrel, wine 20 cents per barrel and imposes a tax on freight of 3 percent of its value. President Wilson, it was announced, finally accepted the freight tax.

It was estimated the beer tax would raise $33,000,000; the wine tax $9,000,000, and the freight tax $65,000,000. Other tax proposals, it was said will be dropped.

Chairman Underwood expected to introduce the bill tomorrow and it probably will be rushed through. The bill provides for the railroads to collect the freight tax, receiving one percent of the amount collected for expenses.

Commenting editorially on the war tax, the editor writes:

Whatever else may be said of beer, it is always a reliable product to fall back on for raising revenue, as it can always be depended on for satisfactory results. It in some respects resembles the tariff laws, which, it is said, are the best revenue laws ever invented because under them “you can get the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of squawking from the goose.”

Writing from London, Salem jeweler Charles Hinges writes of traveling through the war zone:

Well I am this far, but, oh! my, what a terrible experience to get here. The trip from Switzerland alone took me three days. In ordinary times it would take nine hours. I passed through thousands and thousands of ranks of soldiers. While I have not yet been close to a battle, we could hear the roar of the cannons and see smoke and dust in the distance, rolling over the mountains.

This war is a terrible thing. Beautiful places which I saw six weeks ago are in in complete ruin now. Families, who two months ago were rich, are destitute now. On my way here we passed train loads of wounded soldiers, saw the trenches and the breastworks in the fields. One place the fields and hills were covered with twenty to thirty thousand soldiers preparing for the last advance into Paris.

Poor Paris. Never saw such a dead place. Everything closed up; stores boarded up and not a single sign of old gay Paris. Don’t even hear a piano being played. But they are certainly sure now of victory. Of course you know more of the doings of the war on both sides than we, as we only get such news as they want us to know, and while in Switzerland heard absolutely nothing.

Some Americans endured terrible hardships. I thought myself sometimes I would drop in my tracks. We had to carry our own water and food, besides lug our baggage as best we could, and so terrible warm, too. If everything goes lucky with me, I’ll probably sail the last of this week. I’ll be mighty glad to get on dear old U. S. soil.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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