Description[World War I]. Second Lieutenant Robert A. Burns Archive containing over 150 letters, notes, and postcards dated 1917 and 1918 from the Western Front. Robert Burns, a young newlywed from St. Paul, Minnesota, was commissioned as a lieutenant at Fort Snelling into the 103 Field Artillery D Battery to serve in the American Expeditionary Force in France. He served mainly as an instructor in the French artillery school for Americans, though he was witness to the ugly scenes of trench warfare.
Most of the envelopes to these letters bear the stamp "A.E.F. Passed as Censored" and are addressed to family members (including his mother, brother, sister, and wife Dorothy) narrating his experiences during World War I, beginning with crossing the Atlantic in 1917 (he arrived in Europe November 1917). The bulk of the letters were written by Burns near the front lines as an instructor and include general explanations of his duties and movements; depictions of the Huns; "Zepplin scares"; and descriptions of Paris. Burns also writes descriptions of battle scenes, such as the Second Battle of the Marne, the final German Offensive on the Western Front. Burns writes that letter from "Somewhere South of Soissons" on July 25, 1918: "For just one week I have been in one of the most glorious battles of the War-that is, for the Americans. . . . At 4:35 [a.m.] the ground was shaken by a terrific roar as all the guns opened up, at the same time the boys came piling out of the trenches, formed in columns and started for the Boche trenches. . . . I could see piles of dead men-mostly German." He spent much of the early parts of that battle on horseback commanding an artillery unit.
Among the 150+ letters is one stirring letter addressed to his wife, undated, "To be delivered only in case of my death." In addition to the letters are the following: newspaper articles reporting Burns' war experiences; telegrams; several photographs (including cabinet cards, two photographs of Burns, nine photographs of Burns' family and home); a French tourism railway booklet (1901); a French propaganda poster; Burns' military financial and insurance papers; a notebook (4.25" x 6.75") belonging to Dorothy Burns, wife of Robert, dated 1917-1918; a notebook of correspondence transcriptions (5.5" x 8"), dated from September through November 1917 conveying the details of Burns' voyage across the Atlantic; Burns' military appointments (1917, 1918), discharge certificates (1919), various other military certificates, official military orders, French military passes, and carbon copies of orders. After Burns returned to the U.S., he was discharged as a captain on May 1, 1919. This archive has been well cared for. Envelopes are included with the letters; all show expected wear.
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