This rather sweet letter was reproduced in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday, May 14 in 1916 on the front page.
Fairies on Bullets Save Lives of Many
British Soldier, in letter to his little niece, describes how they do it.
Sing as they Ride Along
Missiles get so hot sometimes that the little guardians have to jump off,
says writer in concluding epistle from battlefield.
Special Cable to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
LONDON. May 13. – In a letter to his six-year-old niece, a British soldier describes the fairies who ride on the bullets and direct them so as to save the lives of many:
“You know ‘or’nery’ people who don’t know nuffin’, and who think reason explains everything. would just tell you the reason why most bullets don’t hit anybody is just that they miss ’em.
“But people who really understand – I mean people who have enough imagination to get up in their dreams and go out and see the fairies dancing on the dewy sward when the sunbeams twinkle on the crystal globules – these people know better. And I can tell you just how it is.
“You see. the fairies have eyes like marigolds and as keen as eagles. They see 10,000 times as quick as mortals do, and they move just as speedily as thoughts do.
“They see the bullets coming out of the rifles, and as it comes each bullet is bestridden by a fairy, who tweaks its nose and guides it harmless along, and the fairy sings sweetly all the time.
“That is why when a bullet whizzes past your head you hear it humming like a bee, or droning like a bumble bee, or maybe whistling or whining or singing.
“But sometimes yon don’t even hear that, and yet the bullet doesn’t hit you. You just hear it pass with a breathing whisper or a gusty noise. That is when no fairy has seen it in time to get astride and guide it, but all the fairies near a soldier just gather round and blow it past.
“Sometimes the bullet gets so white hot on its way that the fairy has to jump off, and then perhaps somebody sets hurt, so now all the fairies are getting asbestos pants for their spring
costumes. Don’t you think that is jolly?”
Top illustration by Arthur Rackham.
This is an excerpt from Chapter XVIII: Prisoners-of-War in Salisbury, Andersonville, Florence, and Belle Isle that can be found in The History of the Ninth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion by Edward O. Lord, A. M. Republican Press Association, 1895, pages 613-627.
This volume is part of the The Civil War Collection Part II: The Soldiers’ Perspective from Accessible Archives.
Andersonville and Florence
By Corp. Augustus P. Horne, Co. B.
Corp. Augustus P. Horne, Co. B
It is well I remember the first night the Ninth New Hampshire passed in the Wilderness, when myself and tent-mates, of Company B, were lying on the ground, listening to the groans and cries of our wounded comrades who were being carried to the rear. And we remarked, one to the other, that in all probability it was the last night we should be together; though we were happily disappointed in this respect, as none of us were injured the next day. But on the morning of the 12th of May came the Battle of Spottsylvania, and this history records the casualties which the Ninth New Hampshire sustained in that most heroic and desperate charge—the long list of dead and wounded, and of those nineteenth century martyrs who were consigned to a living death in the prison-pens of the South.
I was among the number taken prisoners at the “bloody angle,” and on passing through the rebel breastworks, what a sight met my eyes! The dead and wounded were lying in the mud and water, so many of them that it was difficult to pass along without stepping on someone, showing that if we had been hit hard, they had been treated to a dose of their own medicine.
Bird’s-eye view of Andersonville Prison from the south-east
On the morning of May 14 we were started on our way to the summer resort known in history as Andersonville—a name which makes me shudder to think of after more than thirty years have passed away, but as no tongue or pen can adequately describe its horrors I shall not make the attempt. We were three days in going fifteen miles, but at length arrived at Gordonsville, Va., both tired and hungry, as we had received but one ration in the three days. The reason we were so long on the road was because the Union cavalry was bothering our guards, and every little while the scouts would come in to report. We would be halted for a time, then would make back tracks, and advance by another route.
Arrived at Gordonsville, we were searched for money, watches, knives, and what other valuables we might chance to possess; and we could not say with truth that those who stole our purses stole trash, for it did leave us very “poor indeed.” Then we were packed into freight cars, sixty to a car, like sardines in a box, and were started on our way to Georgia. After passing through Lynchburg, Va., Charlotte, N. C., and Augusta and Macon, Ga., we arrived at Andersonville on the morning of May 25.
Heinrich Hartmann Wirz better known as Henry Wirz was a Swiss-born Confederate officer in the American Civil War.
Our first salutation was from that Dutch pirate, Captain Wirtz: “What makes you all huddle up together, just like so many d—d old women? You Yankee ———!” he shouted, at the same instant drawing his pistol. “Scatter right smart into line, so you can be counted into hundreds!” After having been parceled off into squads, some one of our number was put in charge and we were marched inside the stockade. Andersonville prison. What horrors it recalls, what sighs and groans, what prayers and tears! What dying out of hope, what wasting away of body and mind, what nights of darkness settling down on human souls! Its doors an entrance to a living charnel-house, its iron-barred gates but the outlook of hell! It was the Inferno of the slave Confederacy, and well might have had written over its portal, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
What would the reader have thought, could he have looked inside, as we did, and seen the boys in blue strung up by the thumbs, with their toes just touching the ground, to make them reveal some plan of escape; or having their rations denied them for two and three days at a time, to make some half-starved and weak-minded man point out a hidden tunnel for a loaf of bread? The camp was alive with all kinds of vermin,—what wretchedness!—and on every hand were men without clothing, dependent on rags or anything that would serve to hide their nakedness and protect their emaciated and sore-eaten bodies from the burning sun. In those days we could only hope that somewhere there was a Gilead filled with healing balm, and that God’s rainbow still arched the skies of calm.
This behind the scenes story on how silent picture actresses produce tears on cue by Gordon Gassaway appeared in PhotoPlay magazine in September of 1915.
PhotoPlay, September 1915
Ever since a certain famous director filmed a certain famous star with real tears coursing down her cheeks and splashing mournfully on a ham sandwich she happened to be holding in her hand out of the vision of the curious camera lens, tears have been the rage. No self-respecting five-reeler appears without them. A feature film, without a close-up on tearful thoughts, is like Southern California without sunshine, almost impossible and dour to contemplate.
“Register tears 1” directors are shouting at our best known film queens, and the same BKDFQ’s are promptly registering the same in a space of a few minutes or a few hours or a few seconds.
It took Blanche Sweet twenty-four hours, once, to “get tears” — but that is another story.
How do they do it? Is it an easier thing to do for the camera than for an audience in a theater? What does an actress think about while she looks so sad?
These questions and more are best answered by the moving-picture stars themselves. Some of them are the champion weepers of the film world — not because they are sad by nature, no, but because they are super emotional, perhaps — and to these I turned for a woman’s most sacred thoughts — the things she cries about!
Mary Pickford believes that weeping is purely and simply a part of an actress’ calling.
I began my painless extraction interview plan on Mary Alden, at David Griffith’s picture shop in Hollywood, with a phrase which was meant to sound something like this: “Oh, why do you weep, my pretty maid?” — thinking, of course, that the subject was (quite delicate and required arbitration. Not at all.
Mary Alden is one of those who have taken time to give subjects like “tears and why” and “how to be happy though hungry” some serious consideration. In other words, she is a psychologist and it shows in her working. Which proves, moreover, that brains are not fatal to talent, and that a few more in the heads of the World’s Most Beautiful Women would make Benedicts of us all!
“Tears?” inquired Mary Alden. “Tears? Easiest thing in the world. Want me to make you some?”
Into her eyes came a far-away look, as though she were witnessing a vision cut-in of the death of a young and harmless child. She seemed to be going gently but firmly into a trance. I was alarmed and took her by the arm. I was not ready for tears. I had not wanted to see tears — I had merely meant to ask about the things, and not to take part in any lachrymose demonstration there in front of several hundred extra men and women. I think I shook her. just a little. She came back to us from that cut-in vision of the young and harmless, and started to talk.