"Exactly," agreed the prince, "and the republic loses their services."
"No, the republic benefits by the general prosperity which they build up," I insisted.
With this the Imperial prisoner discussed the American Committee of Twenty-one and I was astonished to find what full knowledge he had touching their individual lives and achievements. He even knew the details of Asa G. Candler's soda water activities. And he told me several amusing stories of Edison's boyhood.
"By the way," he said abruptly, "I suppose you know that Thomas A. Edison is a prisoner in our hands?"
"So we concluded," said I. "Also Lemuel A. Widding."
"Also Lemuel A. Widding," the prince admitted. "You know why we took them prisoners? It was on account of Widding's invention. He thinks he has found a way to destroy our fleet and we do not want our fleet destroyed."
"You had a talk with Edison on the train last week. He knows all the details of Widding's invention?"
"And he believes it will do what the inventor claims? He believes it will destroy our fleet? Did he tell you that?"
"He certainly did. He said he wouldn't give five cents for the German fleet after Widding's plan is put into operation."
"Ah!" reflected the Crown Prince.
"Would Your Imperial Highness allow me to ask a question?" I ventured.
His eyes met mine frankly. "Why, yes—certainly."
"I have no authority to ask this, but I suppose there might be an exchange of prisoners. Edison and Widding are important to America and—".
"You mean they might be exchanged for me?" his face grew stern. "I would not hear of it. Those two Americans alone have the secret of this Widding invention, I am sure of that, and it is better for the Fatherland to get along without a Crown Prince than without a fleet. No. We shall keep Mr. Edison and Mr. Widding prisoners."
He said this with all the dignity of his Hohenzollern ancestry; then he rose to end the interview.
THIRD BATTLE OF BULL RUN WITH AEROPLANES CARRYING LIQUID CHLORINE
I now come to those memorable weeks of November, 1921, which rank among the most important in American history. There was first the battle that had been preparing south of the Potomac between von Mackensen's advancing battalions and General Wood's valiant little army. This might be called the third battle of Bull Run, since it was fought near Manassas where Beauregard and Lee won their famous victories.
Although General Wood's forces numbered only 60,000 men, more than half of them militia, and although they were matched against an army of 150,000 Germans, the American commander had two points of advantage, his ten miles of entrenchments stretching from Remington to Warrenton along the steep slopes of the Blue Ridge mountains, and his untried but formidable preparations for dropping liquid chlorine from a fleet of aeroplanes upon an attacking army.
In order to reach Washington the Germans must traverse the neck of land that lies between the mountains and the Potomac's broad arms. Here clouds of greenish death from heaven might or might not overwhelm them. That was the question to be settled. It was a new experiment in warfare.
I should explain that during previous months, thanks to the efficiency of the Committee of Twenty-one, great quantities of liquid chlorine had been manufactured at Niagara Falls, where the Niagara Alkali Company, the National Electrolytic Company, the Oldburg Electro-Chemical Company, the Castner Electrolytic Alkali Company, the Hooker Electro-Chemical Company and several others, working night and day and using 60,000 horsepower from the Niagara power plants and immense quantities of salt from the salt-beds in Western New York, had been able to produce 30,000 tons of liquid chlorine. And the Lackawanna Steel Company at Buffalo, in its immense tube plant, finished in 1920, had turned out half a million thin steel containers, torpedo-shaped, each holding 150 pounds of the deadly liquid. This was done under the supervision of a committee of leading chemists, including: Milton C. Whitaker, Arthur D. Little, Dr. L. H. Baekeland, Charles F. McKenna, John E. Temple and Dr. Henry Washington.
And a fleet of military aeroplanes had been made ready at the immense Wright and Curtiss factories on Grand Island in the Niagara River and at the Packard, Sturtevant, Thomas and Gallaudet factories, where a force of 20,000 men had been working night and day for weeks under government supervision. There were a hundred huge tractors with double fuselage and a wing spread of 200 feet, driven by four 500 horse-power motors. Each one of these, besides its crew, could carry three tons of chlorine from Grand Island to Washington (their normal rate of flying was 120 miles an hour) in three hours against a moderate wind.
I visited aviation centers where these machines were delivered for tests, and found the places swarming with armies of men training and inspecting and testing the aeroplanes.
Among aviators busy at this work were: Charles F. Willard, J. A. D. McCurdy, Walter R. Brookins, Frank T. Coffyn, Harry N. Atwood, Oscar Allen Brindley, Leonard Warren Bonney, Charles C. Witmer, Harold H. Brown, John D. Cooper, Harold Kantner, Clifford L. Webster, John H. Worden, Anthony Jannus, Roy Knabenshue, Earl S. Dougherty, J. L. Callan, T. T. Maroney, R. E. McMillen, Beckwith Havens, DeLloyd Thompson, Sidney F. Beckwith, George A. Gray, Victor Carlstrom, Chauncey M. Vought, W. C. Robinson, Charles F. Niles, Frank H. Burnside, Theodore C. Macaulay, Art Smith, Howard M. Rinehart, Albert Sigmund Heinrich, P. C. Millman, Robert Fowler.
In the balloon training camps, I noticed some old-time balloonists, including: J. C. McCoy, A. Leo Stevens, Frank P. Lahm, Thomas S. Baldwin, A. Holland Forbes, Charles J. Glidden, Charles Walsh, Carl G. Fisher, Wm. F. Whitehouse, George B. Harrison, Jay B. Benton, J. Walter Flagg, John Watts, Roy F. Donaldson, Ralph H. Upson, R. A. D. Preston and Warren Rasor.
Five days before the battle the hundred great carriers began delivering their deadly loads on the heights of Arlington, south of the Potomac, each aeroplane making three trips from Niagara Falls every twenty-four hours, which meant that on the morning of November 5, 1921, when the German legions came within range of Leonard Wood's field artillery, there were 5,000 tons of liquid chlorine ready to be hurled down from the aerial fleet. And it was estimated that the carriers would continue to deliver a thousand tons a day from Grand Island as long as the deadly stuff was needed.
The actual work of dropping these chlorine bombs upon the enemy was entrusted to another fleet of smaller aeroplanes gathered from all parts of the country, most of them belonging to members of the Aero Club of America who not only gave their machines but, in many cases, offered their services as pilots or gunners for the impending air battle.
"What is the prospect?" I asked Henry Woodhouse, chief organiser of these aeroplane forces, on the day before the fight.
He was white and worn after days of overwork, but he spoke hopefully.
"We have chlorine enough," he said, "but we need more attacking aeroplanes. We've only about forty squadrons with twelve aeroplanes to a squadron and most of our pilots have never worked in big air manoeuvres. It's a great pity. Ah, look there! If they were all like Bolling's squadron!"
He pointed toward the heights back of Remington where a dozen bird machines were sweeping through the sky in graceful evolutions.
"What Bolling is that?"
"Raynal C.—the chap that organised the first aviation section of the New York National Guard. Ah! See those boys turn! That's Boiling at the head of the 'V,' with James E. Miller, George von Utassy, Fairman Dick, Jerome Kingsbury, William Boulding, 3rd, and Lorbert Carolin. They've got Sturtevant steel battle planes—given by Mrs. Bliss—yes, Mrs. William H. Bliss. She's one of the patron saints of the Aero Club."
We strolled among the hangars and Mr. Woodhouse presented me to several aeroplane squadron commanders, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Robert Bacon, Godfrey Lowell Cabot, Russell A. Alger, Robert Glendinning, George Brokaw, Clarke Thomson, Cortlandt F. Bishop; also to Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, Archer M. Huntington, J. Stuart Blackton, and Albert B. Lambert, who had just come in from a scouting and map-making flight over the German lines. These gentlemen agreed that America's chances the next day would be excellent if we only had more attacking aeroplanes, about twice as many, so that we could overwhelm the enemy with a rain of chlorine shells.
"I believe three hundred more aeroplanes would give us the victory," declared Alan R. Hawley, ex-president of the Aero Club.
"Think of it," mourned August Belmont. "We could have had a thousand aeroplanes so easily—two thousand for the price of one battleship. And now—to-morrow—three hundred aeroplanes might save this nation."
Cornelius Vanderbilt nodded gloomily. "The lack of three hundred aeroplanes may cost us the Atlantic seaboard. These aeroplanes would be worth a million dollars apiece to us and we can't get 'em."
"The fifty aeroplanes of the Post Office are mighty useful," observed Ex-Postmaster-General Frank H. Hitchcock to Postmaster-General Burleson.
"It isn't the fault of you gentlemen," said Emerson McMillin, "if we did not have five thousand aeroplanes in use for mail carrying, and coast guard and life-saving services."
This remark was appreciated by some of the men in the group, including Alexander Graham Bell, Admiral Peary, Henry A. Wise Wood, Henry Woodhouse, Albert B. Lambert, and Byron R. Newton, head of the Coast Guard and Life Saving Service. For years they had all made supreme but unavailing efforts to make Congress realize the value of an aeroplane reserve which could be employed every day for peaceful purposes and would be available in case of need.
"Five thousand aeroplanes could have been put in use for carrying mail and express matter and in the Coast Guard," said Mr. McMillin, "and with them we could have been in the position of the porcupine, which goes about its peaceful pursuits, harms no one, but is ever ready to defend itself. Had we had them in use, this war would probably never have taken place."
A little later, as we were supping in a farmhouse, there came a great shouting outside and, rushing to doors and windows, we witnessed a miracle, if ever there was one. There, spread across the heavens from west and south, sweeping toward us, in proud alignment, squadron by squadron—there was the answer to our prayers, a great body of aeroplanes waving the stars and stripes in the glory of the setting sun.
"Who are they? Where do they come from?" we marvelled, and, presently, as the sky strangers came to earth like weary birds, a great cry arose: "Santos Dumont! Santos Dumont!"
It was indeed the great Santos, the famous Brazilian sportsman, and president of the Aeronautical Federation of the Western Hemisphere, who had come thus opportunely to cast his fortunes with tortured America and fight for the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine. With him came the Peruvian aviator, Bielovucci, first to fly across the Alps (1914), and Senor Anassagasti, president of the Aero Club Argentino, and also four hundred aeroplanes with picked crews from all parts of South America.
There was great rejoicing that evening at General Wood's headquarters over this splendid support given to America by her sister republics.
"It looks now as if we have a chance," said Brigadier General Robert K. Evans. "The Germans will attack at daybreak and—by the way, what's the matter with our wireless reports?" He peered out into the night which was heavily overcast—not a star in sight. He was looking toward the radio station a mile back on the crest of a hill where the lone pine tree stood that supported the transmission wires.
"Looks like rain," decided the general. "Hello! What's that?"
Plainly through purplish black clouds we caught the shrill buzz of swift-moving aeroplanes.
"Good lord!" cried Roy D. Chapin, chief inspector of aircraft. "The Germans! I know their engine sounds. Searchlights! Quick!"
Alas! Our searchlights proved useless against the thick haze that had now spread about us; they only revealed distant dim shapes that shot through the darkness and were gone.
"We must go after those fellows," muttered General Evans, and he detailed William Thaw, Norman Prince and Elliot Cowdin, veterans of many sky battles in France and Belgium, to go aloft and challenge the intruders.
This incident kept the camp in an uproar half the night. It turned out that the strange aeroplanes had indeed been sent out by the Germans, but for hours we did not discover what their mission was. They dropped no bombs, they made no effort to attack us, but simply circled around and around through the impenetrable night, accomplishing nothing, so far as we could see, except that they were incredibly clever in avoiding the pursuit of our airmen.
"They are flying at great speed," calculated A. F. Zahm, the aerodynamic expert of the Smithsonian Institution, "but I don't see what their purpose is."
"I've got it," suddenly exclaimed John Hays Hammond, Jr. "They've sprung a new trick. Their machines carry powerful radio apparatus and they're cutting off our wireless."
"By wave interference?" asked Dr. Zahm.
"Of course. It's perfectly simple. I've done it at Gloucester." He turned to General Evans. "Now, sir, you see why we've had no wireless reports from our captive balloon."
This mention of the captive balloon brought to mind the peril of Payne Whitney, who was on lookout duty in the balloon near the German lines, and who might now be cut off by enemy aircraft, since he could not use his wireless to call for help. I can only state briefly that this danger was averted and Whitney's life saved by the courage and prompt action of Robert J. Collier and Larry Waterbury, who flew through the night to the rescue of their friend with a supporting air squadron and arrived just in time to fight off a band of German raiders.
I deeply regret that I must record these thrilling happenings in such bald and inadequate words and especially that my pen is quite unequal to describing that strangest of battles which I witnessed the next day from the heights back of Remington. Never was there a more thrilling sight than the advance of this splendid body of American and South American aeroplanes, flying by squadrons in long V's like flocks of huge birds, with a terrifying snarling of propellers. To right and left they manoeuvred, following wireless orders from headquarters that were executed by the various squadron commanders whose aeroplanes would break out bunting from time to time for particular signals.
So overwhelming was the force of American flyers, all armed with machine guns, that the Germans scarcely disputed the mastery of the air, and about seventy of their old-fashioned eagle type biplanes were soon destroyed. Our total losses here were only eleven machines, but these carried precious lives, some of our bravest and most skilful amateur airmen, Norman Cabot, Charles Jerome Edwards, Harold F. McCormick, James A. Blair, Jr., B. B. Lewis, Percy Pyne, 2nd, Eliot Cross, Roy D. Chapin, Logan A. Vilas and Bartlett Arkell.
I turned to my friend Hart O. Berg, the European aeroplane expert, and remarked that we seemed to be winning, but he said little, simply frowned through his binoculars.
"Don't you think so?" I persisted.
"Wait!" he answered. "There's something queer about this. Why should the Germans have such an inferior aircraft force? Where are all their wonderful Fokker machines?"
"I mean that this battle isn't over yet. Ah! Look! We're getting our work in with that chlorine."
It was indeed true. With the control of the skies assured us, our fleet of liquid gas carriers had now gone into action and at many points we saw the heavy poison clouds spreading over the enemy hosts like a yellow green sea. The battle of chlorine had begun. The war of chemistry was raining down out of the skies. It is certain that nothing like this had ever been seen before. There had been chlorine fighting in the trenches out of squirt gun apparatus—plenty of that in 1915, with a few score killed or injured, but here it came down by tons over a whole army, this devilish stuff one breath of which deep into the lungs smote a man down as if dead.
The havoc thus wrought in the German ranks was terrific; especially as General Wood took advantage of the enemy's distress to sweep their lines with fierce artillery fire from his batteries on the heights.
"We've got them going," said I.
Berg shook his head.
If General Wood had been able to hurl his army forward in a desperate charge at this moment of German demoralisation it is possible we might have gained a victory, but the risks were too heavy. The American forces were greatly outnumbered and to send them into those chlorine-swept areas was to bring the enemy's fate upon them. Wood must hold his men upon the heights until our artillery and poison gas attack had practically won the day. Then a final charge might clinch matters—that was the plan, but it worked out differently, for, after their first demoralisation, the enemy learned to avoid the descending danger by running from it. They could avoid the slowly spreading chlorine clouds by seeking higher ground and, presently, they regained a great measure of their confidence and courage and swept forward in furious fresh attacks.
Even so the Americans fought for hours with every advantage and our artillery did frightful execution. At three o'clock I sent off a cable to the Times that General Wood's prospects were excellent, but at half-past four our supply of liquid chlorine was exhausted and news came from Niagara Falls that a German spy on Grand Island had blown up the great chlorine supply tank containing 20,000 tons. And the Niagara power-plants had been wrecked by dynamite.
Still the Americans fought on gallantly, desperately, knowing that everything was at stake, and our aeroplanes, with their batteries of machine guns, gave effective assistance. Superiority in numbers, however, soon made itself felt and at five o'clock the Germans, relieved from the chlorine menace, advanced their heavy artillery and began a terrific bombardment of our trenches.
"Hello!" exclaimed Berg suddenly. "What's that coming?"
He pointed to the northeast, where we made out a group of swiftly approaching aeroplanes, flying in irregular order. We watched them alight safely near General Wood's headquarters, all but one marked "Women of 1915," which was hit by an anti-aircraft gun, as it came to earth, and settled down with a broken wing and some injuries to the pilot, Miss Ethel Barrymore, and the observer, Mrs. Charles S. Whitman, wife of Senator Whitman.
This was but one demonstration of the heroism of our women. Thousands had volunteered their services as soon as the war broke out and many, finding that public sentiment was against having women in the ranks, learned to fly and to operate radio apparatus and were admitted in these branches of the service. Among the women who volunteered were hundreds of members of the Women's Section of the Movement for National Preparedness, including members of the Council of Women, Daughters of American Revolution, Ladies of the G. A. R. (National and Empire State), United Daughters of the Confederacy, Association Opposed to Woman's Suffrage, Civic Federation Woman's Department, Society United States Daughters of 1812, Woman's Rivers and Harbors Congress, Congress of Mothers, Daughters of Cincinnati, Daughters of the Union, Daughters of the Revolution, and National Special Aid Society.
These organisations of American women not only supplied a number of skilled aeroplane pilots, but they were of material help in strengthening the fighting forces, as well as in general relief work.
As the shadows of night approached we were startled by the sudden sweep across the sky of a broad yellow searchlight beam, lifted and lowered repeatedly, while a shower of Roman candles added vehemence to the signal.
"Something has happened. They've brought important news," cried my friend, whereupon we hurried to headquarters and identified most of the machines as separate units in Rear Admiral Peary's aero-radio system of coast defence, while two of them, piloted by Ralph Pulitzer (wounded) and W. K. Vanderbilt, belonged to Emerson McMillin's reefing-wings scouting squadron.
We listened eagerly to the reports of pilots and gunners from these machines, Marion McMillin, W. Redmond Cross, Harry Payne Whitney (wounded), William Ziegler, Jr., Alexander Blair Thaw, W. Averill Harriman, Edwin Gould, Jr. (wounded), and learned that a powerful fleet of enemy aircraft, at least 500, had been sighted over Chesapeake Bay and were flying swiftly to the support of the Germans. These aeroplanes had started from a base near Atlantic City and would arrive within half an hour.
A council of war was held immediately and, acting on the advice of aeroplane experts, General Wood ordered the withdrawal of our land and air forces. It would be madness to attempt further resistance. Our army was hopelessly outnumbered, our chlorine supply was gone, our air fleet, after flying all day, was running short of gasoline and its weary pilots were in no condition to withstand the attack of a fresh German fleet. At all costs we must save our aeroplanes, for without them the little remnant of our army would be blind.
This was the beginning of the end. We had done our best and failed. At six o'clock orders were given that the whole American army prepare for a night retreat into the remote fastnesses of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had made our last stand east of the Alleghenies and fell back heavy-hearted, leaving the invaders in full possession of our Atlantic seaboard.
THE AWAKENING OF AMERICA
There followed dark days for America. Washington was taken by the enemy, but not until our important prisoners, the Crown Prince and von Hindenburg, had been hurried to Chicago. Baltimore was taken. Everything from Maine to Florida and all the Gulf ports were taken.
Add to this a widespread spirit of disorder and disunion, strikes and rioting in many cities, dynamite outrages, violent addresses of demagogues and labour leaders, pleas for peace at any price by misguided fanatics who were ready to reap the whirlwind they had sown. These were days when men of brain and courage, patriots of the nation with the spirit of '76 in them, almost despaired of the future.
Through all this storm and darkness, amid dissension and violence, one man stood firm for the right, one wise big-souled man, the President of the United States. In a clamour of tongues he heard the still small voice within and laboured prodigiously to build up unity and save the nation. Like Lincoln, he was loved and honoured even by his enemies.
It was my privilege to hear the great speech which the President of the United States delivered in Chicago, November 29, 1921, a date which Theodore Roosevelt has called the most memorable in American history. The immense auditorium on the lake front, where once were the Michigan Central tracks, was packed to suffocation. It is estimated that 40,000 men and women, representing every state and organisation in the Union, heard this impassioned appeal for the nation, that will live in American history along with Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
The President spoke first and did not remain to hear the other orators, as he was leaving for Milwaukee, where he hoped to relieve a dangerous, almost a revolutionary situation. He had been urged not to set foot in this breeding place of sedition, but he replied that the citizens of Milwaukee were his fellow countrymen, his brothers. They were dear to him. They needed him. And he would not fail them.
In spite of this stirring cry from the heart, the audience seemed but mildly affected and allowed the President to depart with only perfunctory applause. There was no sign of success for his plea that the nation rouse itself from its lethargy and send its sons unselfishly in voluntary enlistment to drive the enemy from our shores. And there were resentful murmurs when the President warned his hearers that compulsory military service might be inevitable.
"Why shall the poor give their lives to save the rich?" answered Charles Edward Russell, speaking for the socialists. "What have the rich ever done for the poor except to exploit them and oppress them? Why should the proletariat worry about the frontiers between nations? It's only a question which tyrant has his heel on our necks. No! The labouring men of America ask you to settle for them and for their children the frontiers between poverty and riches. That's what they're ready to fight for, a fair division of the products of toil, and, by God, they're going to have it!"
One feature of the evening was a stirring address by the beautiful Countess of Warwick, prominent in the feminist movement, who had come over from England to speak for the Women's World Peace Federation.
"Women of America," said the Countess, "I appeal to you to save this nation from further horrors of bloodshed. Rise up in the might of your love and your womanhood and end this wholesale murder. Remember the great war in Europe! What did it accomplish? Nothing except to fill millions of graves with brave sons and beloved husbands. Nothing except to darken millions of homes with sorrow. Nothing except to spread ruin and desolation everywhere. Are you going to allow this ghastly business to be repeated here?
"Women of America, I bring you greetings from the women of England, the women of France, the women of Germany, who have joined this great pacifist movement and whose voices sounding by millions can no longer be stifled. Let the men hear and heed our cry. We say to them: 'Stop! Our rights on this earth equal yours. We gave you birth, we fed you at the breast, we guarded your tender years, and we notify you now that you shall no longer kill and maim our husbands, our sons, our fathers, our brothers, our lovers. It is in the power of women to drive war's hell from the earth and, whatever the cost, we are going to do it.'"
"No! No!" came a tumult of cries from all parts of the hall.
"We believe in fighting to the last for our national existence," cried Mrs. John A. Logan, waving her hand, whereupon hundreds of women patriots, Daughters of the American Revolution, suffrage and anti-suffrage leaders, members of the Navy League, Red Cross workers, sprang to their feet and screamed their enthusiasm for righteous war.
Among these I recognised Mrs. John A. Logan, Miss Mabel Boardman, Mrs. Lindon Bates, Mrs. Mary S. Lockwood, Mrs. Seymour L. Cromwell, Miss Alice Hill Chittenden, Mrs. Oliver Herford, Mrs. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, Mrs. John Temple Graves, Mrs. Edwin Gould, Mrs. George Dewey, Mrs. William Cumming Story, Mrs. George Harvey, Mrs. Thomas A. Edison, Mrs. William C. Potter, Miss Marie Van Vorst, Mrs. Arthur M. Dodge, Mrs. George J. Gould, Mrs. T. J. Oakley Rhinelander, Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt, Mrs. M. Orme Wilson, Mrs. Simon Baruch, Mrs. Oliver Herford, Mrs. Wm. Reynolds Brown, and Mrs. Douglas Robinson.
When this storm had subsided, Henry Ford rose to renew the pacifist attack.
"It shocks and grieves me," he began, "to find American women openly advocating the killing of human beings."
"Where would your business be," yelled a voice in the gallery, "if George Washington hadn't fought the War of the Revolution?"
This sally called forth such frantic cheers that Mr. Ford was unable to make himself heard and sat down in confusion.
Other speakers were Jane Addams, Hudson Maxim, Bernard Ridder and William Jennings Bryan. The audience sat listless as the old arguments and recriminations, the old facts and fallacies, were laid before them. Like the nation, they seemed plunged in a stupor of indifference. They were asleep.
Then suddenly fell the bomb from heaven. It was during the mild applause following Mr. Bryan's pacifist appeal, that I had a premonition of some momentous happening. I was in the press gallery quite near to Theodore Roosevelt, the next speaker, who was seated at the end of the platform, busy with his notes, when a messenger came out from behind the stage and handed the Colonel a telegram. As he read it I saw a startling change. Roosevelt put aside his notes and a strange tense look came into his eyes and, presently, when he rose to speak, I saw that his usually ruddy face was ashen grey.
As Roosevelt rose, another messenger thrust a wet, ink-stained newspaper into his hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, and in his first words there was a sense of impending danger, "for reasons of the utmost importance I shall not deliver the speech that I have prepared. I have a brief message, a very grave message, that will reach your hearts more surely than any words of mine. The deliberations of this great gathering have been taken out of our hands. We have nothing more to discuss, for Almighty God has spoken!
"My friends, the great man who was with us but now, the President of the United States, has been assassinated."
No words can describe the scene that followed. A moment of smiting silence, then madness, hysteria, women fainting, men clamouring and cursing, and finally a vast upsurging of quickened souls, as the organ pealed forth: "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," and forty thousand Americans rose and sang their hearts out.
Then, in a silence of death, Roosevelt spoke again:
"Listen to the last words of the President of the United States: 'The Union! The Flag!' That is what he lived for and died for, that is what he loved. 'The Union! The Flag!'
"My friends, they say patriotism is dead in this land. They say we are eaten up with love of money, tainted with a yellow streak that makes us afraid to fight. It's a lie! I am ready to give every dollar I have in the world to help save this nation and it's the same with you men. Am I right?"
A roar of shouts and hysterical yells shook the building.
"I am sixty years old, but I'll fight in the trenches with my four sons beside me and you men will do the same. Am I right?"
Again came a roar that could be heard across Chicago.
"We all make mistakes. I do nothing but make mistakes, but I'm sorry. I have said hard things about public men, especially about German-Americans, but I'm sorry."
With a noble gesture he turned to Bernard Ridder, who sprang to meet him, his eyes blazing with loyalty.
"There are no German-Americans!" shouted Ridder. "We're all Americans! Americans!"
He clasped Roosevelt's hand while the audience shouted its delight.
Quick on his feet came Charles Edward Russell, fired with the same resistless patriotism.
"There are no more socialists!" he cried. "No more proletariat! We're all Americans! We'll all fight for the Union and the old flag! You too!"
He turned to William Jennings Bryan, who rose slowly and with outstretched hands faced his adversaries.
"I, too, have made mistakes and I am sorry. I, too, feel the grandeur of those noble words spoken by that great patriot who has sent us his last message. I, too, will stand by the flag in this time of peril and will spare neither my life nor my fortune so long as the invader's foot rests on the soil of free America."
"Americans!" shouted Roosevelt, the sweat streaming from his face. "Look!" He caught Bryan by one arm and Russell by the other. "See how we stand together. All the rest is forgotten. Americans! Brothers! On your feet everybody! Yell it out to the whole land, to the whole world, America is awake! Thank God, America is awake!"
ON CHRISTMAS EVE BOSTON THEILLS THE NATION WITH AN ACT OF MAGNIFICENT HEROISM
Now all over America came a marvellous spiritual awakening. The sacrifice of the President's noble life, and his wife's thrilling effort to shield her husband, was not in vain. Once more the world knew the resistless power of a martyr's death. Women and men alike were stirred to warlike zeal and a joy in national sacrifice and service. The enlistment officers were swamped with a crush of young and old, eager to join the colours; and within three days following the President's assassination a million soldiers were added to the army of defence and a million more were turned away. It was no longer a question how to raise a great American army, but how to train and equip it, and how to provide it with officers.
Most admirable was the behaviour of the great body of German-Americans; in fact it was a German-American branch of the American Defence Society, financed in America, that started the beautiful custom, which became universal, of wearing patriotic buttons bearing the sacred words: "The Union! The Flag!"
"It was one thing," wrote Bernard Ridder in the Chicago Staats-Zeitung, "for German-Americans to side with Germany in the great European war (1914-1919) when only our sympathies were involved. It is quite a different thing for us now in a war that involves our homes and our property, all that we have in the world. When Germany attacks America, she attacks German-Americans, she attacks us in our material interests, in our fondest associations; and we will resist her just as in 1776 the American colonists, who were really English, resisted England, the mother country, when she attacked them in the same way."
I was impressed by the truth of this statement during a visit that I made to Milwaukee, where I found greatly improved conditions. In fact, German-Americans themselves were bringing to light the activities of German spies and vigorously opposing German propaganda.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, which has a large German population, I heard of a German-American mother named Roth, who was so zealous in her loyalty to the United States that she rose at five o'clock on the day following the President's assassination and enlisted her three sons before they were out of bed.
In Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities women volunteered by thousands as postmen, street-car conductors, elevator operators and for service in factories and business houses, so as to release the men for military service. Chicago newspapers printed pictures of Mrs. Harold F. McCormick, Mrs. J. Ogden Armour, Mrs. J. Clarence Webster and other prominent society women in blue caps and improvised uniforms, ringing up fares on the Wabash Avenue cars for the sake of the example they would set to others.
In San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Oregon, Omaha, and Salt Lake City a hundred thousand women, at gatherings of women's clubs and organisations, formally joined the Women's National War Economy League and pledged themselves as follows:
"We, the undersigned American women, in this time of national need and peril, do hereby promise:
"(1) To buy no jewelry or useless ornaments for one year and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women's National War Fund.
"(2) To buy only two hats a year, the value of said hats not to exceed ten dollars, and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women's National War Fund.
"(3) To buy only two dresses a year, the value of said dresses not to exceed sixty dollars, and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women's National War Fund.
"(4) To forego all entertaining at restaurants, all formal dinner and luncheon parties and to contribute the amount thus saved (from an average estimated allowance) to the Women's National War Fund.
"(5) To abstain from cocktails, highballs and all expensive wines, also from cigarettes, to influence husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and men friends to do the same, and to contribute the amount thus saved to the Women's National War Fund.
"(6) To keep this pledge until the invader has been driven from the soil of free America."
I may mention that Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch, in urging her sister women at various mass meetings to sign this pledge, made the impressive estimate that, by practising these economies during a two years' war, a hundred thousand well-to-do American women might save a thousand million dollars.
Other American women, under the leadership of Mrs. Mary Logan Tucker, daughter of General John A. Logan, prepared themselves for active field service at women's military camps, in several states, where they were instructed in bandage making, first-aid service, signalling and the use of small arms.
As weeks passed the national spirit grew stronger, stimulated by rousing speeches of Roosevelt, Russell and Bryan and fanned into full flame by Boston's immortal achievement on December 24, 1921. On that day, by authorisation of General von Beseler, commanding the German force of occupation, a great crowd had gathered on Boston Common for a Christmas tree celebration with a distribution of food and toys for the poor of the city. In the Public Gardens near the statue of George Washington, Billy Sunday was making an address when suddenly, on the stroke of five, the bell in the old Park Street church and then the bells in all the churches of Boston began to toll.
It was a signal for an uprising of the people and was answered in a way that will fill a proud page of American history so long as human courage and love of liberty are honoured upon earth. In an instant every telephone wire in the city went dead, leaving the Germans cut off from communication among themselves. All traffic and business ceased as if by magic, all customary activities were put aside and, with the first clangour of the bells, the whole population poured into the streets and surged towards Boston Common by converging avenues, singing as they went.
Already a hundred thousand citizens were packed within this great enclosure, and guarding them were three thousand German, foot soldiers and a thousand horsemen in formidable groups, with rifles and machine guns ready—before the State House, before the Soldiers' Monument, along Tremont Street and Boylston Street and at other strategic points. Never in the history of the world had an unarmed, untrained mob prevailed over such a body of disciplined troops. The very thought was madness. And yet—
Hark! That roar of voices in the Public Gardens! What is it? A band playing in the distance? Who ordered a band to play? German officers shout harsh commands. "Back!" "Stand back!" "Stop this pushing of the crowd!" "Mein Gott! Those women and children will be trampled by the horses!"
Alas, that is true! Once more the cause of American liberty requires that Boston Common be hallowed by American blood. The people of this New England city are tired of German rule. They want their city for themselves and are going to take it. Guns or not, soldiers or not, they are going to take their city.
Listen! They are coming! Six hundred thousand strong in dense masses that choke every thoroughfare from wall to wall the citizens of Boston, women and children with the men, are coming! And singing!
"Hurrah! Hurrah! We sound the jubilee! Hurrah! Hurrah! The flag that set us free."
They are practically unarmed, although some of the men carry shot-guns, pistols, rifles, clubs, stones; but they know these will avail little against murderous machine guns. They know they must find strength in their weakness and overwhelm the enemy by the sheer weight of their bodies. They must stun the invaders by their willingness to die. That is the only real power of this Boston host, their sublime willingness to die.
It is estimated that five thousand of them did die, and ten thousand were wounded, in the first half hour after the German machine guns opened fire. And still the Americans came on in a shouting, surging multitude, a solid sea of bodies with endless rivers of bodies pouring in behind them. It is not so easy to kill forty acres of human bodies, even with machine guns!
Endlessly the Americans came on, hundreds falling, thousands replacing them, until presently the Germans ceased firing, either in horror at this incredible sacrifice of life or because their ammunition was exhausted. What chance was there for German ammunition carts to force their way through that struggling human wall? What chance for the fifteen hundred German reserves in Franklin Park to bring relief to their comrades?
At eight o'clock that night Boston began her real Christmas eve celebration. Over the land, over the world the joyful tidings were flashed. Boston had heard the call of the martyred President and answered it. The capital of Massachusetts was free. The Stars and Stripes were once more waving over the Bunker Hill Monument. Four thousand German soldiers were prisoners in Mechanics Hall on Commonwealth Avenue. The citizens of Boston had taken them prisoners with their bare hands!
This news made an enormous sensation not only in America but throughout Europe, where Boston's heroism and scorn of death aroused unmeasured admiration and led military experts in France and England to make new prophecies regarding the outcome of the German-American war.
"All things are possible," declared a writer in the Paris Temps, "for a nation fired with a supreme spiritual zeal like that of the Japanese Samurai. It is simply a question how widely this sacred fire has spread among the American people."
CONFESSIONS OF AN AMERICAN SPY AND BRAVERY OF BUFFALO SCHOOLBOYS
On December 26th I received a cable from the London Times instructing me to try for another interview with the Crown Prince and to question him on the effect that this Boston victory might have upon the German campaign in America. Would there be retaliatory measures? Would German warships bombard Boston from the sea?
I journeyed at once to Chicago and made my appeal to Brigadier General George T. Langhorne, who had been military attache at Berlin in 1915 and was now in charge of the Imperial prisoner. The Crown Prince and his staff occupied the seventh floor of the Hotel Blackstone.
"I'm sorry," said General Langhorne, after he had presented my request. "The Crown Prince has no statement to make at present. But there is another German prisoner who wishes to speak to you. I suppose it's all right as you have General Wood's permission. He says he has met you before—Colonel von Dusenberg."
"Colonel von Dusenberg?"
"He is on the Crown Prince's staff. In here." I opened a heavy door and found myself in a large dimly lighted room.
The voice was familiar and, turning, I stared in amazement; for there, dressed as an officer of the Prussian guard, stood the man I had rescued in the Caribbean Sea, the brother of the girl I had seen in Washington, Lieutenant Randolph Ryerson of the United States navy. He had let his moustache grow, but I recognised him at once.
"You?" I stood looking at him and saw that his face was deathly white.
"Yes. I—I'm in trouble and—I have things to tell you," he stammered. "Sit down."
I sat down and lighted a cigarette. I kept thinking how much he looked like his sister.
"Ryerson, what the devil are you doing in that Prussian uniform?"
He turned away miserably, then he forced himself to face me.
"I'll get the worst over first. I don't care what happens to me and—anyway I—I'm a spy."
He nodded. "In the service of the Germans. It was through me they knew about Widding's invention to destroy their fleet. It was through me that Edison and Widding were abducted. I meant to disappear—that's why I joined von Hindenburg's army, but—we were captured and—here I am." He looked at me helplessly as I blew out a cloud of smoke.
"How is this possible? How did it happen? How, Ryerson?" I gasped in amazement.
He shook his head. "What's the use? It was money and—there's a woman in it."
"That's all. I fell for one of their damnable schemes to get information. It was three years ago on the Mediterranean cruise of our Atlantic squadron. I met this woman in Marseilles."
"She called herself the Countess de Matignon, and—I was a young lieutenant and—I couldn't resist her. Nobody could. She wanted money and I gave her all I had; then I gambled to get more. She wanted information about the American fleet, about our guns and coast defences; unimportant things at first, but pretty soon they were important and—I was crazy about her and—swamped with debts and—I yielded. Within six months she owned me. I was a German spy, mighty well paid, too. God!"
I stared at him in dismay. I could not speak.
"Well, after the war broke out between Germany and America last April, this woman came to New York and got her clutches on me deeper than ever. I gave her some naval secrets, and six weeks ago I told her all I knew about Widding's invention. You see what kind of a dog I am," he concluded bitterly.
"Ryerson, why have you told me this?" I asked searchingly.
"Why?" He flashed a straightforward look out of his handsome eyes. "Because I'm sick of the whole rotten game. I've played my cards and lost. I'm sure to be found out—some navy man will recognise me, in spite of this moustache, and—you know what will happen then. I'll be glad of it, but—before I quit the game I want to do one decent thing. I'm going to tell you where they've taken Edison."
"You know where Edison is?"
"Yes. Don't speak so loud."
Ryerson leaned closer and whispered: "He's in Richmond, Virginia."
Silently I studied this unhappy man, wondering if he was telling the truth. He must have felt my doubts.
"Langston, you don't believe me! Why should I lie to you? I tell you I want to make amends. These German officers trust me. I know their plans and—Oh, my God, aren't you going to believe me?"
"Go on," I said, impressed by the genuineness of his despair. "What plans do you know?"
"I know the Germans are disturbed by this patriotic spirit in America. They're afraid of it. They don't know where hell may break loose next—after Boston. They're going to leave Boston alone, everything alone for the present—until they get their new army."
"Yes—from Germany. They have sent for half a million more men. They'll have 'em here in a month and—that's why I want to do something—before it's too late."
As I watched him I began to believe in his sincerity. Handsome fellow! I can see him now with his flushed cheeks and pleading eyes. A spy! It would break his sister's heart.
"What can you do?" I asked sceptically.
He looked about him cautiously and lowered his voice.
"I can get Edison away from the Germans, and Edison can destroy their fleet."
"Perhaps," said I.
"He says he can."
"I know, but—you say Edison is in Richmond."
"We can rescue him. If you'll only help me, Langston, we can rescue Edison. I'll go to Richmond with papers to the commanding German general that will get me anything."
"Papers as a German spy?"
"You can't get to Richmond. You're a prisoner yourself."
"That's where you're going to help me. You must do it—for the country—for my sister."
"Does your sister know—what you are?"
He looked away, and I saw his lips tighten and his hands clench.
"Do you want me to tell her?"
He thought a moment.
"What's the use of hiding it? She's bound to know some day, and—she'll be glad I've had this little flicker of—decency. Besides, she may have an idea. Mary's got a good head on her. Poor kid!"
I told Ryerson that I would think the matter over and find some way to communicate with him later. Then I left him.
I telegraphed at once to Miss Ryerson, who hurried to Chicago, arriving the next morning, and we spent most of that day together, discussing the hard problem before us. The girl was wonderfully brave when I told her the truth about her brother. She said there were circumstances in his early life that lessened the heinousness of his wrong doing. And she rejoiced that he was going to make amends. She knew he was absolutely sincere.
I suggested that we go to General Wood, who was friendly to both of us, and tell him the whole truth, but Miss Ryerson would not hear to this. She would not place Randolph's life in jeopardy by revealing the fact that he had been a German spy. Her brother must make good before he could hope to be trusted or forgiven.
"But he's a prisoner; he can do nothing unless he has his liberty," I objected.
"We will get him his liberty; we must get it, but not that way."
For a long time we studied this question in all its phases. How could Lieutenant Ryerson gain his liberty? How could he get a chance to make amends for his treachery? And, finally, seeing no other way, we fell back upon the desperate expedient of an exchange. I would obtain permission for Miss Ryerson to visit her brother, and they would change clothes, she remaining as a prisoner in his place while he went forth to undo if possible the harm that he had done.
The details of this plan we arranged immediately. I saw Ryerson the next day, and when I told him what his sister was resolved to do in the hope of saving his honour, he cried like a child and I felt more than ever convinced of his honest repentance.
We decided upon December 28th for the attempt, and two days before this Randolph found a plausible excuse for cutting off his moustache. He told General Langhorne that he had become a convert to the American fashion of a clean shaven face.
As to the escape itself, I need only say that on December 28th, in the late afternoon, I escorted Miss Ryerson, carefully veiled, to the Hotel Blackstone; and an hour later I left the hotel with a person in women's garments, also carefully veiled. And that night Randolph Ryerson and I started for Richmond. I may add that I should never have found the courage to leave that lovely girl in such perilous surroundings had she not literally commanded me to go.
"We may be saving the nation," she begged. "Go! Go! And—I'll be thinking of you—praying for you—for you both."
My heart leaped before the wonder of her eyes as she looked at me and repeated these last words: "For you both!"
We left the express at Pittsburg, intending to proceed by automobile across Pennsylvania, then by night through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia; for, of course, we had to use the utmost caution to avoid the sentries of both armies which were spread over this region.
In Pittsburg we lunched at the Hotel Duquesne, after which Ryerson left me for a few hours, saying that he wished to look over the ground and also to procure the services of a high-powered touring car.
"Don't take any chances," I said anxiously.
"I'll be careful. I'll be back inside of two hours," he promised.
But two hours, four hours, six hours passed and he did not come. I dined alone, sick at heart, wondering if I had made a ghastly mistake.
It was nearly ten o'clock that night when Ryerson came back after seven hours' absence. We went to our room immediately, and he told me what had happened, the gist of it being that he had discovered important news that might change our plans.
"These people trust me absolutely," he said. "They tell me everything."
"You mean—German spies?"
"Yes. Pittsburg is full of 'em. They're plotting to wreck the big steel plants and factories here that are making war munitions. I'll know more about that later, but the immediate thing is Niagara Falls."
Then Ryerson gave me my first hint of a brilliant coup that had been preparing for months by the Committee of Twenty-one and the American high command, its purpose being to strike a deadly and spectacular blow at the German fleet.
"This is the closest kind of a secret, it's the great American hope; but the Germans know all about it," he declared.
"It's a big air-ship, the America, a super-Zeppelin, six hundred feet long, with apparatus for steering small submarines by radio control—no men aboard. Understand?"
"You mean no men aboard the submarine?"
"Of course. There will be a whole crew on the air-ship. Nicola Tesla and John Hays Hammond, Jr., worked out the idea, and Edison was to give the last touches; but as Edison is a German prisoner, they can't wait for him. They are going to try the thing on New Year's night against the German dreadnought Wilhelm II in Boston Harbour."
"Blow up the Wilhelm II?"
"Yes, but the Germans are warned in advance. You can't beat their underground information bureau. They're going to strike first."
"Where is this air-ship?"
"On Grand Island, in the Niagara River, all inflated, ready to sail, but she never will sail unless we get busy. After tomorrow night there won't be any America."
In the face of this critical situation, I saw that we must postpone our trip to Richmond and, having obtained from Ryerson full details of the German plot to destroy the America, I took the first train for Niagara Falls—after arranging with my friend to rejoin him in Pittsburg a few days later—and was able to give warning to Colonel Charles D. Kilbourne of Fort Niagara in time to avert this catastrophe.
The Germans knew that Grand Island was guarded by United States troops and that the river surrounding it was patrolled by sentry launches; but the island was large, sixteen miles long and seven miles wide, and under cover of darkness it was a simple matter for swimmers to pass unobserved from shore to shore.
On the night of December 30th, 1921, in spite of the cold, five hundred German spies had volunteered to risk their lives in this adventure. They were to swim silently from the American and Canadian shores, each man pushing before him a powerful fire bomb protected in a water-proof case; then, having reached the island, these five hundred were to advance stealthily upon the hangar where the great air-ship, fully inflated, was straining at her moorings. When the rush came, at a pre-arranged signal, many would be killed by American soldiers surrounding the building, but some would get through and accomplish their mission. One successful fire bomb would do the work.
Against this danger Colonel Kilbourne provided in a simple way. Instead of sending more troops to guard the island, which might have aroused German suspicions, he arranged to have two hundred boys, members of the Athletic League of the Buffalo Public Schools, go to Grand Island apparently for skating and coasting parties. It was brisk vacation weather and no one thought it strange that the little ferry boat from Buffalo carried bands of lively youngsters across the river for these seasonable pleasures. It was not observed that the boat also carried rifles and ammunition which the boys had learned to use, in months of drill and strenuous target practice, with the skill of regulars.
There followed busy hours on Grand Island as we made ready for the crisis. About midnight, five hundred Germans, true to their vow, landed at various points, and crept forward through the darkness, carrying their bombs. As they reached a circle a thousand yards from the huge hangar shed they passed unwittingly two hundred youthful riflemen who had dug themselves in under snow and branches and were waiting, thrilling for the word that would show what American boys can do for their country. Two hundred American boys on the thousand yard circle! A hundred American soldiers with rifles and machine guns at the hangar! And the Germans between!
We had learned from Ryerson that the enemy would make their rush at two o'clock in the morning, the signal being a siren shriek from the Canadian shore, so at a quarter before two, knowing that the Germans were surely in the trap, Colonel Kilbourne gave the word, and, suddenly, a dozen search-lights swept the darkness with pitiless glare. American rifles spoke from behind log shelters, Maxims rattled their deadly blast, and the Germans, caught between two fires, fled in confusion, dropping their bombs. As they approached the thousand-yard line they found new enemies blocking their way, keen-eyed youths whose bullets went true to the mark. And the end of it was, leaving aside dead and wounded, that two hundred Buffalo schoolboys made prisoners of the three hundred and fifty German veterans!
And the great seven-million dollar air-ship America, with all her radio mysteries, was left unharmed, ready to sail forth the next night, New Year's Eve, and make her attack upon the superdreadnought Wilhelm II, on January 1, 1922. I prayed that this would be a happier year for the United States than 1921 had been.
NOVEL ATTACK OF AMERICAN AIRSHIP UPON GERMAN SUPER-DREADNOUGHT
I come now to the period of my great adventures beginning on New Year's Day, 1922, when I sailed from Buffalo aboard the airship America on her expedition against the German fleet. For the first time in my modest career I found myself a figure of nation-wide interest, not through any particular merit or bravery of my own, but by reason of a series of fortunate accidents. I may say that I became a hero in spite of myself.
In recognition of the service I had rendered in helping to save the great airship from German spies, I had been granted permission, at General Wood's recommendation, to sail as a passenger aboard this dreadnought of the skies and to personally witness her novel attack with torpedoes lowered from the airship and steered from the height of a mile or two by radio control. Never before had a newspaper correspondent received such a privilege and I was greatly elated, not realising what extraordinary perils I was to face in this discharge of my duty.
I was furthermore privileged to be present at a meeting of the Committee of Twenty-one held on the morning of January 1st, 1922, at the Hotel Lenox in Buffalo. Various details of our airship expedition were discussed and there was revealed to me an important change in the America's strategy which I will come to presently.
Surveying the general military situation, John Wanamaker read reports showing extraordinary progress in military preparedness all over the country, especially in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the women, recently victorious in their suffrage fight, were able to make their patriotic zeal felt in aggressive legislation. Strange to say, American wives and mothers were the leaders in urging compulsory physical and military training, a year of it, on the Swiss plan, for all American young men of twenty and a month of it every five years afterwards for all men up to fifty.
The Committee were in the midst of a discussion of Charles M. Schwab's plan providing that American soldiers carry armour, a helmet, breastplate and abdominal covering of light but highly tempered steel, when there came a dramatic interruption. A guard at the door of the Council Room entered to say that Mr. Henry A. Wise Wood, President of the Aero Club of America, was outside with an urgent communication for the Committee. Mr. Wise Wood was at once received and informed us that he had journeyed from Pittsburg bearing news that might have an important bearing upon the airship expedition.
"As you know, gentlemen," he said, "we have a wireless station in the tower of our new Aero Club building in Pittsburg. Yesterday afternoon at three o'clock the operator received a message addressed to me. It was very faint, almost a whisper through the air, but he filially got it down and he is positive it is correct. This message, gentlemen, is from Thomas A. Edison."
"Edison!" exclaimed Andrew Carnegie, "but he is a prisoner of the Germans."
"Undoubtedly," agreed Mr. Wise Wood, "but it has occurred to me that the Germans may have allowed Mr. Edison to fit up a laboratory for his experiments. They would treat such a man with every consideration."
"They would not allow him to communicate with his friends," objected Cornelius Vanderbilt.
"He may not have asked permission," laughed George W. Perkins. "He may have rigged up some secret contrivance for sending wireless messages."
"Why don't you read what he says?" put in J.P. Morgan.
Mr. Wise Wood drew a folded yellow paper from his pocket and continued: "This message is unquestionably from Mr. Edison, in spite of the fact that it is signed Thaled. You will agree with me, gentlemen, that Thaled is a code word formed by putting together the first two letters of the three names, Thomas Alva Edison."
"Very clever!" nodded Asa G. Candler.
"I don't see that," frowned John D. Rockefeller. "If Mr. Edison wished to send Mr. Wise Wood a message why should he use a misleading signature?"
"It's perfectly clear," explained James J. Hill. "Mr. Edison has disguised his signature sufficiently to throw off the track any German wireless operator who might catch the message, while leaving it understandable to us."
"Read the message," repeated J.P. Morgan. Whereupon Mr. Wise Wood opened the yellow sheet and read:
"Strongly disapprove attack against German fleet by airship America. Satisfied method radio control not sufficiently perfected and effort doomed to failure. Have worked out sure and simple way to destroy fleet. Details shortly or deliver personally. THALED".
This message provoked fresh discussion and there were some, including Elihu Root, who thought that Mr. Edison had never sent this message. It was a shrewd trick of the Germans to prevent the America from sailing. If Mr. Edison could tell us so much why did he not tell us more? Why did he not say where he was a prisoner? And explain on what he rested his hopes of communicating with us in person.
"Gentlemen," concluded Mr. Root, "we know that Germany is actually embarking a new army of half a million men to continue her invasion of America. Already she holds our Atlantic seaboard, our proudest cities, and within a fortnight she will strike again. I say we must strike first. We have a chance in Boston Harbour and we must take it. This single coup may decide the war by showing the invader that at last we are ready. Gentlemen, I move that the airship America sail to-night for Boston Harbour, as arranged."
I longed to step forward to tell what I knew about Edison, how he was a prisoner in Richmond, Virginia, and how an effort was actually on foot to rescue him, but I had promised Miss Ryerson not to betray her brother's shame and was forced to hold my tongue. Besides, I could not be sure whether this wireless message did or did not come from Edison.
The Committee finally decided that the America should sail that evening, but should change her point of attack so as to take the enemy unprepared, if possible; in other words, we were to strike not at the German warships in Boston Harbour, but at the great super-dreadnought Bismarck, flagship of the hostile fleet, which was lying in the upper bay off New York City.
I pass over the incidents of our flight to Manhattan and come to the historic aerial struggle over New York harbour in which I nearly lost my life. The America was convoyed by a fleet of a hundred swift and powerful battle aeroplanes and we felt sure that these would be more than able to cope with any aeroplane force that the Germans could send against us. And to avoid danger from anti-aircraft guns we made a wide detour to the south, crossing New Jersey on about the line of Asbury Park and then sailing to the north above the open sea, so that we approached New York harbour from the Atlantic side. At this time (it was a little after midnight) we were sailing at a height of two miles with our aeroplanes ten miles behind us so that their roaring propellers might not betray us and, for a time, as we drifted silently off Rockaway Beach it seemed that we would be successful in our purpose to strike without warning.
There, just outside the Narrows, lay the Bismarck, blazing with the lights of some New Year's festivity and resounding with music. I remember a shrinking of unprofessional regret at the thought of suddenly destroying so fair and happy a thing.
I was presently drawn from these meditations by quick movements of the airship crew and a shrill voice of command.
"Ready to lower! Let her go!" shouted Captain Nicola Tesla, who had volunteered for this service.
"Bzzz!" sang the deck winches as they swiftly unrolled twin lengths of piano wire that supported a pendant torpedo with its radio appliances and its red, white and green control lights shining far below us in the void.
"Easy! Throw on your winch brakes," ordered Tesla, studying his dials for depth.
A strong southeast wind set the wires twisting dangerously, but, by skillful manoeuvring, we launched the first torpedo safely from the height of half a mile and, with a thrill of joy, I followed her lights (masked from the enemy) as they moved swiftly over the bay straight towards the flagship. The torpedo was running under perfect wireless control. Tesla smiled at his keyboard.
Alas! Our joy was soon changed to disappointment. Our first torpedo missed the Bismarck by a few yards, went astern of her because at the last moment she got her engines going and moved ahead. Somehow the Germans had received warning of their danger.
Our second torpedo wandered vainly over the ocean because we could not follow her guide lights, the enemy blinding us with the concentrated glare of about twenty of their million-candle power searchlights.
And our third torpedo was cut off from radio control because we suddenly found ourselves surrounded y the two fleets of battling aeroplanes, caught between two fires, ours and the enemy's, and were obliged to run for our lives with an electric generator shattered by shrapnel. I was so busy caring for two of our crew who were wounded that I had no time to observe this thrilling battle in the air.
It was over quickly, I remember, and our American aeroplanes, vastly superior to the opposing fleet, had gained a decisive victory, so that we were just beginning to breathe freely when an extraordinary thing happened, a rare act of heroism, though I say it for the Germans.
There came a signal, the dropping of a fire bomb with many colours, and instantly the remnant of the enemy's air strength, four biplanes and a little yellow-striped monoplane, started at us, in a last desperate effort, with all the speed of their engines. Our aerial fleet saw the manouver and swept towards the biplanes, intercepting them, one by one, and tearing them to pieces with sweeping volleys of our machine guns, but the little monoplane, swifter than the rest, dodged and circled and finally found an opening towards the airship and came through it at two miles a minute, straight for us and for death, throwing fire bombs and yelling for the Kaiser.
"Save yourselves!" shouted Tesla as the enemy craft ripped into our great yellow gas bag.
Bombs were exploding all about us and in an instant the America was in flames. We knew that our effort had failed.
As the stricken airship, burning fiercely, sank rapidly through the night, I realised that I must fight for my life in the ice cold waters of the bay. I hate cold water and, being but an indifferent swimmer, I hesitated whether to throw off my coat and shoes, and, having finally decided, I had only time to rid myself of one shoe and my coat when I saw the surging swells directly beneath me and leapt overside just in time to escape the crash of blazing wreckage.
Dazed by the blow of a heavy spar and the shock of immersion, I remember nothing more until I found myself on dry land, hours later, with kind friends ministering to me. It seems that a party of motor boat rescuers from Brooklyn worked over me for hours before I returned to consciousness and I lay for days afterward in a state of languid-weakness, indifferent to everything.
DESPERATE EFFORT TO RESCUE THOMAS A. EDISON FROM THE GERMANS
I wish I might detail my experiences during the next fortnight, how I was guarded from the Germans (they had put a price on my head) by kind friends in Brooklyn, notably Mrs. Anne P. L. Field, the Sing-Sing angel, who contrived my escape through the German lines of occupation with the help of a swift motor boat and two of her convict proteges.
We landed in Newark one dark night after taking desperate chances on the bay and running a gauntlet of German sentries who fired at us repeatedly. Then, thanks to my old friend, Francis J. Swayze of the United States Supreme Court, I was passed along across northern New Jersey, through Dover, where "Pop" Losee, the eloquent ice man evangelist, saved me from Prussians guarding the Picatinny arsenal, then through Allentown, Pa., where Editor Roth swore to a suspicious German colonel that I was one of his reporters, and, finally, by way of Harrisburg to Pittsburg, where at last I was safe.
To my delight I found Randolph Ryerson anxiously awaiting my arrival and eager to proceed with our plan to rescue Edison. We set forth for Richmond the next day, January 16th, 1922, in a racing automobile and proceeded with the utmost caution, crossing the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia by night to avoid the sentries of both armies. Twice, being challenged, we drove on unheeding at furious speed and escaped in the darkness, although shots were fired after us.
As morning broke on January 20th we had our first view of the seven-hilled city on the James, with its green islands and its tumbling muddy waters. We knew that Richmond was held by the Germans, and as we approached their lines I realised the difficulty of my position, for I was now obliged to trust Ryerson absolutely and let him make use of his credentials from the Crown Prince which presented him as an American spy in the German service. He introduced me as his friend and a person to be absolutely trusted, which practically made me out a spy also. It was evident that, unless we succeeded in our mission, I had compromised myself gravely. Ryerson was reassuring, however, and declared that everything would be all right.
We took a fine suite at the Hotel Jefferson, where we found German officers in brilliant uniforms strolling about the great rotunda or refreshing themselves with pipes and beer in the palm room nearthe white marble statue of Thomas Jefferson.
"If you'll excuse me now for a few hours," said Ryerson, who seemed rather nervous, "I will get the information we need from some of these fellows. Let us meet here at dinner."
During the afternoon I drove about this peaceful old city with its gardens and charming homes and was allowed to approach the threatening siege guns which the Germans had set up on the broad esplanade of Monument Avenue between the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee and the tall white shaft that bears the heroic figure of Jefferson Davis. These guns were trained upon the gothic tower of the city hall and upon the cherished grey pile of the Capitol, with its massive columns and its shaded park where grey squirrels play about the famous statue of George Washington.
My driver told me thrilling stories of the fighting here when Field Marshal von Mackensen marched his army into Richmond. Alas for this proud Southern city! What could she hope to do against 150,000 German soldiers? For the sake of her women and children she decided to do nothing officially, but the Richmond "Blues" had their own ideas and a crowd of Irish patriots from Murphy's Hotel had theirs, and when the German army, with bands playing and eagles flying, came tramping down Broad Street, they were halted presently by four companies of eighty men each in blue uniforms and white plumed hats drawn up in front of the statues of Stonewall Jackson and Henry Clay ready to die here on this pleasant autumn morning rather than have this most sacred spot in the South desecrated by an invader. And die here they did or fell wounded, the whole body of Richmond "Blues," under Colonel W. J. Kemp, while their band played "Dixie" and the old Confederate flags waved over them.
As for the Irishmen, it seems that they marched in a wild and cursing mob to the churchyard of old St. John's where Patrick Henry hurled his famous defiance at the British and in the same spirit—"Give me liberty or give me death"—they fought until they could fight no longer.
As we drove through East Franklin Street I was startled to see a German flag flying over the honoured home of Robert E. Lee and a German sentry on guard before the door. I was told that prominent citizens of Richmond were held here as hostages, among these being Governor Richard Evelyn Byrd, John K. Branch, Oliver J. Sands, William H. White, Bishop R. A. Gibson, Bishop O'Connell, Samuel Cohen and Mayor Jacob Umlauf who, in spite of his German descent, had proved himself a loyal American.
I finished the afternoon at a Red Cross bazaar held in the large auditorium on Gary Street under the patronage of Mrs. Norman B. Randolph, Mrs. B. B. Valentine, Miss Jane Rutherford and other prominent Richmond ladies. I made several purchases, including a cane made from a plank of Libby prison and a stone paper weight from Edgar Allan Poe's boyhood home on Fifth Street.
Leaving the bazaar, I turned aimlessly into a quiet shaded avenue and was wondering what progress Ryerson might be making with his investigations, when I suddenly saw the man himself on the other side of the way, talking earnestly with a young woman of striking beauty and of foreign appearance. She might have been a Russian or an Austrian.
There was something in this unexpected meeting that filled me with a vague alarm. Who was this woman? Why was Ryerson spending time with her that was needed for our urgent business? I felt indignant at this lack of seriousness on his part and, unobserved, I followed the couple as they climbed a hill leading to a little park overlooking the river, where they seated themselves on a bench and continued their conversation.
Presently I passed so close to them that Ryerson could not fail to see me and, pausing at a short distance, I looked back at him. He immediately excused himself to his fair companion and joined me. He was evidently annoyed.
"Wait here," he whispered. "I'll be back."
With that he rejoined the lady and immediately escorted her down the hill. It was fully an hour before he returned and I saw he had regained his composure.
"I suppose you are wondering who that lady was?" he began lightly.
"Well, yes, just a little. Is she the woman you told me about—the countess?"
"No, no! But she's a very remarkable person," he explained. "She is known in every capital of Europe. They say the German government pays her fifty thousand dollars a year."
"She's quite a beauty," said I.
He looked at me sharply. "I suppose she is, but that's not the point. She's at the head of the German secret service work in America. She knows all about Edison."
"She has told me where he is. That's why we came up here. Do you see that building?"
I followed his gesture across the valley and on a hill opposite saw a massive brick structure with many small windows, and around it a high white painted wall.
"That's the state penitentiary. Edison is there in the cell that was once occupied by Aaron Burr—you remember—when he was tried for treason?"
All this was said in so straightforward a manner that I felt ashamed of my doubts and congratulated my friend warmly on his zeal and success.
"Just the same, you didn't like it when you saw me with that woman—did you?" he laughed.
I acknowledged my uneasiness and, as we walked back to the hotel, spoke earnestly with Ryerson about the grave responsibility that rested upon us, upon me equally with him. I begged him to justify his sister's faith and love and to rise now with all his might to this supreme duty and opportunity.
He seemed moved by my words and assured me that he would do the right thing, but when I pressed him to outline our immediate course of action, he became evasive and irritable and declared that he was tired and needed a night's rest before going into these details.
As I left him at the door of his bedroom I noticed a bulky and strongly corded package on the table and asked what it was, whereupon, in a flash of anger, he burst into a tirade of reproach, saying that I did not trust him and was prying into his personal affairs, all of which increased my suspicions.
"I must insist on knowing what is in that package," I said quietly. "You needn't tell me now, because you're not yourself, but in the morning we will take up this whole affair. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," he answered sullenly.
Here was a bad situation, and for hours I did not sleep, asking myself if I had made a ghastly mistake in trusting Ryerson. Was his sister's sacrifice to be in vain? Was the man a traitor still, in spite of everything?
Towards three o'clock I fell into fear-haunted dreams, but was presently awakened by a quick knocking at my door and, opening, I came face to face with my companion, who stood there fully dressed.
"For God's sake let me come in." He looked about the room nervously. "Have you anything to drink?"
I produced a flask of Scotch whiskey and he filled half a glass and gulped it down. Then he drew a massive iron key from his pocket and threw it on the bed.
"Whatever happens, keep that. Don't let me have it."
I picked up the key and looked at it curiously. It was about four inches long and very heavy.
"Why don't you want me to let you have it?"
"Because it unlocks a door that would lead me to—hell," he cried fiercely. Then he reached for the flask.
"No, no! You've had enough," I said, and drew the bottle out of his reach. "Randolph, you know I'm your friend, don't you? Look at me! Now what's the matter? What door are you talking about?"
"The door to a wing of the prison where Edison is."
"You said he was in Aaron Burr's cell."
"He's been moved to another part of the building. That woman arranged it."
He looked at me in a silence of shame, then he forced himself to speak.
"So I could carry out my orders"
"Orders? Not—not German orders?"
He nodded stolidly.
"I'm under her orders—it's the same thing. I can't help it. I can't stand against her."
"Then she is the countess?"
He bowed his head slowly.
"Yes. I meant to play fair. I would have played fair, but—the Germans put this woman on our trail when we left Chicago—they mistrusted something and—" with a gesture of despair, "she found me in Pittsburg—she—she's got me. I don't care for anything in the world but that woman."
"It's true. I don't want to live—without her. You needn't cock up your eyes like that. I'd go back to her now—yes, by God, I'd do this thing now, if I could."
He had worked himself into a frenzy of rage and pain, and I sat still until he grew calm again.
"What thing? What is it she wants you to do?"
"Get rid of you to begin with," he snapped out. "It's easy enough. We go to the prison—this key lets us in. I leave you in the cell with Edison and—you saw that package in my room? It's a bomb. I explode it under the cell and—there you are!"
"You promised to do this?"
"Yes! I'm to get five thousand dollars."
"But you didn't do it, you stopped in time," I said soothingly. "You've told me the truth now and—we'll see what we can do about it."
He scowled at me.
"You're crazy. We can't do anything about it. The Germans are in control of Richmond. They're watching this hotel."
Ryerson glanced at his watch.
"Half-past three. I have four hours to live."
"They'll come for me at seven o'clock when they find I haven't carried out my orders, and I'll be taken to the prison yard and—shot or—hanged. It's the best thing that can happen to me, but—I'm sorry for you."
"See here, Ryerson," I broke in. "If you're such a rotten coward and liar and sneak as you say you are, what are you doing here? Why didn't you go ahead with your bomb business?"
He sat rocking back and forth on the side of the bed, with his head bent forward, his eyes closed and his lips moving in a sort of thick mumbling.
"I've tried to, but—it's my sister. God! She won't leave me alone. She said she'd be praying for me and—all night I've seen her face. I've seen her when we were kids together, playing around in the old home—with Mother there and—oh, Christ!"
I pass over a desperate hour that followed. Ryerson tried to kill himself and, when I took the weapon from him, he begged me to put an end to his sufferings. Never until now had I realised how hard is the way of the transgressor.
I have often wondered how this terrible night would have ended had not Providence suddenly intervened. The city hall clock had just tolled five when there came a volley of shots from the direction of Monument Avenue.
"What's that?" cried my poor friend, his haggard face lighting.
We rushed to the window, where the pink and purple lights of dawn were spreading over the spires and gardens of the sleeping city.
The shots grew in volume and presently we heard the dull boom of a siege gun, then another and another.
"It's a battle! They're bombarding the city. Look!" He pointed towards Capitol Square. "They've struck the tower of the city hall. And over there! The gas works!" He swept his arm towards an angry red glow that showed where another shell had found its target.
I shall not attempt to describe the burning of Richmond (for the third time in its history) on this fateful day, January 20th, 1922, nor to detail the horrors that attended the destruction of the enemy's force of occupation. Historians are agreed that the Germans must be held blameless for firing on the city, since they naturally supposed this daybreak attack upon their own lines to be an effort of the American army and retaliated, as best they could, with their heavy guns.
It was days before the whole truth was known, although I cabled the London Times that night, explaining that the American army had nothing to do with this attack, which was the work of an unorganised and irresponsible band of ten or twelve thousand mountaineers gathered from the wilds of Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky and Tennessee. They were moon-shiners, feudists, hilly-billies, small farmers and basket-makers, men of lean and saturnine appearance, some of them horse thieves, pirates of the forest who cared little for the laws of God or man and fought as naturally as they breathed.
These men came without flags, without officers, without uniforms. They crawled on their bellies and carried logs as shields. They knew and cared nothing for military tactics and their strategy was that of the wild Indian. They fought to kill and they took no prisoners. It seems that a Virginia mountain girl had been wronged by a German officer and that was enough.
For weeks the mountaineers had been advancing stealthily through the wilderness, pushing on by night, hiding in the hills and forests by day; and they had come the last fifty miles on foot, leaving their horses back in the hills. They were armed with Winchester rifles, with old-time squirrel rifles, with muzzle loaders having long octagonal barrels and fired by cups. Some carried shot guns and cartridges stuffed with buckshot and some poured in buckshot by the handful. They had no artillery and they needed none.
The skill in marksmanship of these men is beyond belief, there is nothing like it in the world. With a rifle they will shoot off a turkey's head at a hundred yards (this is a common amusement) and as boys, when they go after squirrels, they are taught to hit the animals' noses only so as not to spoil the skins. It was such natural fighters as these that George Washington led against the French and the Indians, when he saved the wreck of Braddock's army.
The Germans were beaten before they began to fight. They were surrounded on two sides before they had the least idea that an enemy was near. Their sentries were shot down before they could give the alarm and the first warning of danger to the sleeping Teutons was the furious rush of ten thousand wild men who came on and came on and came on, never asking quarter and never giving it.
When the Germans tried to charge, the mountaineers threw themselves flat on the ground and fought with the craft of Indians, dodging from tree to tree, from rock to rock, but always advancing. When the Germans sent up two of their scouting aeroplanes to report the number of the enemy's forces, the enemy picked off the German pilots before the machines were over the tree tops. Here was a mixture of native savagery and efficiency, plus the lynching spirit, plus the pre-revolutionary American spirit and against which, with unequal numbers and complete surprise, no mathematically trained European force had the slightest chance.
The attack began at five o'clock and at eight everything was over; the Germans had been driven into the slough of Chickahominy swamp to the northeast of Richmond (where McClellan lost an army) and slaughtered here to the last man; whereupon the mountaineers, having done what they came to do, started back to their mountains.
Meantime Richmond was burning, and my poor friend Ryerson and I were facing new dangers.
"Come on!" he cried with new hope in his eyes. "We've got a chance, half a chance."
Our one thought now was to reach the prison before it was too late, and we ran as fast as we could through streets that were filled with terrified and scantily clad citizens who were as ignorant as we were of what was really happening. A German guard at the prison gates recognised Ryerson, and we passed inside just as a shell struck one of the tobacco factories along the river below us with a violent explosion. A moment later another shell struck the railway station and set fire to it.
Screams of terror arose from all parts of the prison, many of the inmates being negroes, and in the general confusion, we were able to reach the unused wing where Edison was confined.
"Give me that big key—quick," whispered Ryerson. "Wait here."
I obeyed and a few minutes later he beckoned to me excitedly from a passageway that led into a central court yard, and I saw a white-faced figure bundled in a long coat hurrying after him. It was Thomas A. Edison.
Just then there came a rush of footsteps behind us with German shouts and curses.
"They're after us," panted Randolph. "I've got two guns and I'll hold 'em while you two make a break for it. Take this key. It opens a red door at the end of this passage after you turn to the right. Run and—tell my sister I—made good—at the last."
I clasped his hand with a hurried "God bless you" and darted ahead. It was our only chance and, even as we turned the corner of the passage, Ryerson began to fire at our pursuers. I heard afterwards that he wounded five and killed two of them. I don't know whether that was the count, but I know he held them until we made our escape out into the blazing city. And I know he gave his life there with a fierce joy, realising that the end of it, at least, was brave and useful.
RIOTS IN CHICAGO AND GERMAN PLOT TO RESCUE THE CROWN PRINCE
The first weeks of January, 1922, brought increasing difficulties and perplexities for the German forces of occupation in America. With comparative ease the enemy had conquered our Atlantic seaboard, but now they faced the harder problem of holding it against a large and intelligent and totally unreconciled population. What was to be done with ten million people who, having been deprived of their arms, their cities and their liberties, had kept their hatred?
The Germans had suffered heavy losses. The disaster to von Hindenburg's army in the battle of the Susquehanna had cost them over a hundred thousand men. The revolt of Boston, the massacre of Richmond, had weakened the Teuton prestige and had set American patriotism boiling, seething, from Maine to Texas, from Long Island to the Golden Gate. There were rumours of strange plots and counter-plots, also of a new great army of invasion that was about to set sail from Kiel. Evidently the Germans must have more men if they were to ride safely on this furious American avalanche that they had set in motion, if they were to tame the fiery American volcano that was smouldering beneath them.
In this connection I must speak of the famous woman's plot that resulted in the death of several hundred German officers and soldiers and that would have caused the death of thousands but for unforeseen developments. This plot was originated by women leaders of the militant suffrage party in New York and Pennsylvania (the faction led by Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont not approving) and soon grew to nation-wide importance with an enrolled body of twenty thousand militant young women, each one of whom was pledged to accomplish the destruction of one of the enemy on a, certain Saturday night between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
By a miracle these women kept their vow of secrecy until the fatal evening, but at eight o'clock the plot was revealed to Germans in Philadelphia through the confession of a young Quakeress who, after playing her part for weeks, had fallen genuinely in love with a Prussian lieutenant and simply could not bring herself to kill him when the time came.
I come now to a sensational happening that I witnessed in Chicago, to which city I had journeyed after the Richmond affair for very personal reasons. If this were a romance and not a plain recital of facts I should dwell upon my meeting with Mary Ryerson and our mutual joy in each finding that the other had escaped unharmed from the perils of our recent adventures.
Miss Ryerson, it appeared, after the discovery of her daring disguise had been released on parole by order of General Langthorne, who believed her story that she had taken this desperate chance as the only means of saving Thomas A. Edison. Mary had heard the story of her brother's heroic death and to still her grief, had thrown herself into work for the Red Cross fund under Miss Boardman and Mrs. C.C. Rumsey. She had hit upon a charming way of raising money by having little girls dressed in white with American flags for sashes, lead white lambs through the streets, the lambs bearing Red Cross contribution boxes on their backs. By this means thousands of dollars had been secured.