A letter from First Lieutenant James W. Alston to H. H. Brimley on November 1, 1918 about being only black officer in a hotel in France.
James William Alston was a First Lieutenant in the 372nd Infantry, an all-black regiment, during World War I. Alston was born in Wake County, NC on January 16, 1876. In 1907, he started working as a janitor and messenger for the State Museum, later the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. During the war, Alston wrote several letters to H. H. Brimley, who was white. Brimley was a curator and the first director of the State Museum.
Nov. 1st 1918
My Dear Mr. Brimley:
You will probably think that I am a long time getting back to the front, but the [illegible] here is the boss and won't let me go, but promised this morning that I could go in about ten days. My wound is all healed and with the exception of a very little stiffness I am as good as ever. There is so much talk of peace I want to get back and have another try at Fritz before the finish. I think I have pretty well
evened the score with him but I want to give him some more for good measure. Fritz can fight like the very devil when he is under cover and has the most men, but can't stand the Yankee steel and these Yankees, white and black sure love to use their bayonet whenever they can get near enough to him. I am in the southern part of France in the town of Vichy and quartered in one -------
of the best hotels in the town. There are about one hundred officers at the hotel and I the only colored one so you know I am lonesome. I was as hungry as a dog the first night that I was here but walking in the dinning room seeing about one hundred white officer and no colored officers I lost my appetite - but it came back by morning and has stayed with since. I am treated fine by all the officers but most of them say I am
a damn fool for wanting to get back to the front. I met Mr Thos. F Ryan's son he is a Sgt. in the Medical Corps he is sure one fine man, and is crazy to go to the front but the Col. won't let him. I wish you would send me Mr Garland Jones, and Bob's address so if any time I am near their outfit I can look them up. I see lots of people from the state but none from Raleigh
but prehaps [sic] I will have luck enough to see some one before I come [crossed out in MS: go] back to the good old U.S.A. There is no news except Fritz is catching the very devil. My best regards to Mrs Brimley, Mr & Mrs Adickes [?] and all friends
Yours very respectfully
James W Alston
372 R. I. U. S. S.P. 179 France