The Conquest of America - A Romance of Disaster and Victory
by Cleveland Moffett
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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 fetes, 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.

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