Letter October 20, 1918 from George Hallett Jr. to Elliston P. Morris




Letter October 20, 1918 from George Hallett Jr. to Elliston P. Morris




letter re: life as a C.O. at an army camp


WWI conscientious objection


Camp Lee, Virginia


Hallett Jr., George


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.










Casual Detachment C.O. Camp Lee, Va. 10-20-1918

Dear Elliston: Thanks for thy good letter. I have hopes that I shall be able to talk with thee before very long, but as my hopes have no very stable foundation so far I guess I'd better answer thy letter.

My early history in camp thee can get by writing to mother or better still paying for a visit. I wrote all my experience home in considerable detail, much greater than I should be able to use now due to lack of time and memory. I was in the company for six days.

before being transferred to the segregated detachment for C.O.'s. All C.O.'s have a similar wait while they take the physical and psychological exams and the necessary red tape is disposed of. During that time I did no drilling but did work in the kitchen with the understanding that the work was only temporary and that I was to be transferred to the C.O. detachment in due course. I made known my position to a number of officers—several more than necessary. The times that counted were when the company was first called out to drill and in the mastering office. The first of these times I was sent back to the squad room till the sergeant came in and

asked me if I was willing to do kitchen work temporarily to earn my board till I was transferred. If I had been given a direct command with no explanation, I probably should have refused, at least until I received assurance of the temporary nature of the work, but as it was the sergeant went out of his way to do the square thing and I responded accordingly. Kitchen police duty is hard work and at times disagreeable, but those [illegible] of it rather appealed to me.

The mastering office was the real ordeal. After the physical exam was completed and we had been inoculated we came to a place where all the fellows who had been passed were given uniforms

to put on. I refused the uniform and stated my reasons. I was told to dress and shortly a soldier came who took me to an officer, quizzing me on the way. The officer questioned me on on my views and advised me to take the uniform if the next officer should say it was necessary. It wasn't necessary of course. The next officer questioned me extensively and argued some, but was soon convinced of my sincerity. He showed me that there was no reason for me to object to signing the paper in the mastering office and marked each paper with the letters C.O. I was then taken to the mastering office and joined the line

of fellows in uniform. my uniform was conspicuous for its absence, so I was in for an argument everywhere I filled out papers. I took no assurance on pay, but signed before regarding them. Some of my antagonists were very reasonable and I enjoyed the discussions with them. O there were threatening and substituted contempt for argument. One man wanted to bet me that I would go straight to the guardhouse when I left the building. Two or three told me I could expect nothing better than a long term in Leavenworth. But it's unnecessary to go into detail. Some of it was just the treatment I had expected to meet all along, but which I only met in the mastering office, where it was

doubtless used only to test my sincerity. Of course I had to explain my position in the greatest detail, including my reasons for refusing non-combatant service in the army. And I had to answer all the stock arguments against my position. I avoided the Biblical arguments usually indulged in. I got through the ordeal without being tempted to lose my temper, for which I was thankful, and the next day was duly transferred to the C.O. detachment, where we all receive pretty close to ideal treatment.

The position of officer' mail orderly and mess sergeant that I mentioned in my letter to the whole family

were undertaken voluntarily. If I had had conscientious [illegible] against either, I should not have been urged, I presume. I was anxious to do some work of a non-military character and welcomed the opportunities. The orderly job was chiefly taking official papers relating to C.O's to headquarters and bringing back others. I think it's only proper that the C.O.'s should do everything possible for themselves. I now have all the duties of a mess sergeant. I order the supplies, plan the meals, keep track of stock, and make reports every so often. I only provide for the C.O.'s and our officers and

a few medical officers who eat with them. Of course I haven;t a sergeant's rank or uniform. I simply have his duties with a few accompanying privileges.

I see I've given thee a good deal of the history thee wanted to know. I hope the time is not far distant when we shall get together in the Unit even if thee too has to get there by way of the draft.

How many fellows are students at Haverford this year? I have heard there are only a handful, but nothing definite. I was rejoiced at the stand the college took on the S.A.T.C. question. Thanks for the entertaining description of Fred's class. I hope I shall prove an apt pupil if I

get a chance to join it. Has thee met my friend Bob Dunn yet? I hope thee'll introduce thyself when thee gets a chance if thee hasn't. He recently arrived at Haverford from Meade.

Give my love to all thy family. Tell Janet her letter was especially appreciated. Affectionately,

George H. Hallett, Jr.

P.S. I hope the flu has left thee in good shape. I haven't been afflicted with it. Write me if thee is called to camp.


Hallett Jr., George, “Letter October 20, 1918 from George Hallett Jr. to Elliston P. Morris,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed July 9, 2020, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1641.

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