QUEER NOTE IN UNCLE SAM’S FILES
Booming Guns Break Child’s Doll and She Made a Government Claim.
Washington, D.C. One fine day several summers ago a little 7-year old girl was playing with her dolly at her home in Cape Cottage, Me. At intervals she paused in her play, as though frightened, and listened to a terrific booming that made the house tremble and the windows rattle. It was the sound of the great guns at Fort Williams, near Cape Elizabeth, and they boomed and kept on booming. And the house kept trembling and the windows kept rattling, and the little girl, whose name was Marian Coggeshall, grew more frightened, and at last she commenced to cry. Marian had placed her little doll on a chair and had crouched into a corner from fear. There was another loud boom of the great guns and again the house shook. And this time the chair trembled and dolly lost her balance and crashed to the floor, breaking into many pieces.
Marian was broken-hearted, for although the dolly was not very big, it was the little girl’s pet and she had grown to love it very much. And then she began to think of the cause of all the trouble. It was the big guns at the fort. She thought of the government that had set the guns to firing and she wondered if it would not give her a new doll to replace the broken one. A grown-up admirer of the little girl listened to her tearful tale and then told her that she had a just claim against the government and explained to her exactly how such claims were attended to, little thinking that Marian had any intention of placing the matter before the authorities at Washington. Marian said nothing, but she went to her little writing desk and penned the following letter:
“Delans Park, Cape Cottage, Me.—Dear Mr. Adjutant General: When the big guns were fired last week it shook the house so badly that my Precious dolly fell onto the floor and was broken to Pieces. May I ask the Government for another dolly. She was not very big, but She was my pet and I loved her very much.
“Marian Coggeshall, Seven Years Old.”
The letter was received by the Adjutant General and given the official designation of document No. 1,949,121. The matter was referred to the quartermaster general for investigation. Then it went to the commanding general of the eastern division of the army, Maj. Gen. William H. Barry, stationed at New York. Finally the matter reached Col. George T. Bartlett, who commanded the artillery division at Fort Williams.Col. Bartlett called Mrs. Coggeshall on the telephone and told her of the official document. Marian’s mother was greatly surprised, for she knew nothing of her daughter’s action, and she assured the officer that Mr. Coggeshall would relieve the government of Marian’s claim and buy the new doll himself. So Marian’s father bought her the doll and the matter ended right there. But Marian had a perfect right to ask the government to replace her doll, and if her mother had permitted it her claim probably would have been granted. Her letter still is on file at the war department here, and is regarded as one of the most novel documents ever received by the adjutant general.
Perrysburg [OH] Journal 6 June 1918: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Fort Williams was home to multiple artillery batteries. One can imagine multiple claims arising from the vibration of the guns, but one doubts that they were all attended to so promptly as this whimsical one. Mrs Daffodil has previously written on a doll present at an historic military event here. Do check her postings under Dolls and Toys for other poignant, amusing, and macabre stories about dolls.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.