Letter September 18, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents




Letter September 18, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Eichel, David


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.






[September 18, 1918]

Dear folks:

The authorities have finally decided to take definite action in my case as well as in the case of 9 other objectors now with me. No doubt this news may upset you somewhat but there really is absolutely nothing to worry about. I'll proceed to tell you just how everything occured.

On Monday afternoon, Yom Kippur (by the way, I made a real day of atonement and fasted on that day) the Colonel, the commanding officer of the fort, visited us and talked to us about accepting non-combattant

service. Of course everybody refused. The Col. then informed us that hereafter he expects us to do cleaning about the tents and the surrounding grounds. Of course most of us had been doing such work essential in keeping our bodies and tents clean. We didn't deem it necessary to be told that. But as to cleaning surrounding territory, that is a matter of a decidedly different character. He informed us that we would be given until tomorrow to think over both the matter of non-combattant service and cleaning.

Accordingly he called upon us yesterday. We had been awaiting him in some crude formation.

Previous to his coming, seven names were called, and the men, among whom I was, were asked to stand to the left of the formation. The Col. began by offering all the men non-com. service. Without a single exception everyone refused. He then counted the first eight men at the left and asked us to follow him. You see the 8 included the 7 previously and purposely placed at the left and one other who happened to be so fortunate or unfortunate to be standing next to us.

We were marched off a little distance and one by one we were ordered to take shovels and load up a truck with dirt. We

were asked whether or not we refuse to do the work. It wasn't a pure case of refusal with us. It was a matter of conscience, and we all insisted upon answering in that vein. You see the matter was all prearranged and the eight men, seven of whom have already been declared sincere by the "Inquiry board" and have refused farm work were taken to the guard house where we are being detained in a large room on the technical charge of wilfully disobeying the commands of a commissioned officer. It may interest you to know the names of the boys with me. You know some of

them personally.

1. Jack Wortsmann
2. Herman Block
3. Howard Moore
4. Thomas Shotkin
5. Francis Steiner
6. Ulyses Da Rosa [Ulysses DeRosa]
7. E.H. Lundi
8. yours truly

Besides these eight, Evan Thomas is here because during his hunger strike he refused to eat when ordered to do so by a Colonel. William Jasmagy, the pianist, you know him, is here on the same charge as I am and he preceded us here. Personally, I am entirely pleased at the turn of affairs. I have been fooled with for pretty nearly ten months by the authorities

with nothing definite happening to me. I would rather have it over with and know precisely what they expect to do with me.

Our treatment at the guard-house thus far has been excellent. The commissioned officers and non-coms are very tolerant and thus far have treated us in very commendable fashion. I have no definite knowledge as to just what they'll do with us, but if I am to judge by the cases of others, I think Julius and I will soon be together again. And believe me folks, nothing is too much, so long as Julius and I are together.

Just previous to my

arrest, I read a letter from Helfer - and just tell them that I deeply regret Sam's predicament, but I feel extremely hopeful and optimistic about him. I am handicapped with lack of stationery and may not be able to write too often. I'd be pleased to receive some of auntie's cookies or candies, especially now since I cannot buy things on the outside.

Please write Julius. -- I haven't had an opportunity to get in touch with him -- and let me know all about him and his reception at the D.B's in Fort Leavenworth. I am satisfied that his treatment there will be infinitely better than at Fort Jay.

As for me, allow me again to assure you that

I am in excellent spirits and am feeling fine and dandy. We were taken out for exercise this morning, so that all in all things are not bad by any means. You know I lived thru 30 days at the N.Y. Tombs. Well believe me, I can live thru this. So don't have any misgivings on my account. I realize that it must upset you when you know I am a real prisoner, yet remember I expected this all along and so did you.

Well, with kindest and fondest regards, and best wishes to all, I am

Your loving son

Address me as usual, but add guard-house (thus)

Co. A, 1st Cas. Bat.

In connection with the second count the whole matter resulted from my letter to Hon. Keppel in connection with Julius' treatment at Jay. The Sec'y responded in a letter that was most sympathetic and kindly in tone. I felt that such a letter deserved an acknowledgement of thanks. I therefore set forth my gratefulness in writing. Imagine my surprise when this letter was returned four days later with instructions as to how I was to write it. I was told to write it in military form and sign it Private. I called the commanding officers (of the company) attention to this and he told me to write a note. I did but evidently he didn't like the tone of it. I was thoroughly indignant and I had a right to be. Here was a man who had the impudence to direct my private correspondence, and I wasn't slow to show him I resented it. The lieut. called me to his orderly room and asked me whether I would refuse to alter the form of my letter to Hon. Keppel. I assured him I had no intention to change

it to suit him and he informed me that the letter would not go thru.  Apparently they even dare to hold up letters addressed to the War Secy.

I answered this charge in a similar manner. First that I recognized no superior officer and hence could not be insubordinate and that I deny anybody the right to direct my private correspondence.

The other men have been taken out of their various cells and are now in the same room with me. That makes about 20 men in my room and some 14 scattered thru out the building. With all these fellows around, I can hardly imagine myself in prison.

I was just outside for a walk and fresh-air. We are permitted this luxury almost every day.

Another addition just made. His name is Reynolds. I see no reason for suspecting that he is the last. On the contrary, I have every reason to believe

that more are coming.

I have vacated my lower berth and taken an upper one, and given mine over to another CO You see, I say if anybody is to do any shaking of dust from above, why, I'll do it.

You might mail some candy and hard-gum etc. to me since my money was taken from me and I can buy nothing on the outside. I understand that everything sent us will be delivered us.


Eichel, David, “Letter September 18, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed September 22, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/46.

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