Letters from the Hill Brothers

New Bern-Craven County
Public Library

a member of the Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library System

Letters from the Hill Brothers, September 1918


--New Bern Boys With Uncle Sam’s Navy Send Word to Relatives In This City

The New Bernian takes pleasure in giving its readers this morning two letters of genuine interest to the citizens here, because they are from two New Bern boys—brothers—who are in the Naval Service of their country, and one of them on September 7 had a narrow escape from death when a deadly torpedo struck his ship.

The letters, which in addition to dealing with the facts and aftermath of the sudden attack on the ship, has to do with New Bern relatives, who were overjoyed to learn that the endangered one was saved. Both are addressed to Mrs. W.B. Pugh. The letters follow:

[See also the letter from George Hill, September 5, 1918]

From Selby Hill, U.S.N.

                                                                 Somewhere in France,

                                                                 U.S.S. Mount Vernon,

                                                                 September 10, 1918

Dearest Sister:

No doubt you have read lots about our good ship since the attack last week, and have worried about me. The official statement from Washington covered everything and our good ship is safe in port even though the cost was heavy. I was on watch when the ship was torpedoed, but luck was with me as I had just left the fire room that was hit. I am all O.K. and anxiously waiting to make a trip back to America soon.

Inclosed you will find a few orders which will show you the real side of the situation.

Lots of love to all.

                                                                                    Your devoted brother,



Following are some special orders issued by the Captain of the Mount Vernon:

                                                                                    U.S.S. Mount Vernon,

                                                                                    September 5, 1918.

Special Order

The Captain is deeply touched at the way every officer and man on board has deported himself on the torpedoing of the ship this morning and wishes to express his heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

The zealous preparation for handling such an emergency and the splendid way the officers and men have carried out their duties have resulted in saving the ship and bringing her safely into port again.

The entire crew has acted manfully, as Americans are expected to act in time of danger, but the captain desires especially to express his admiration for the brave men of the Engineer’s Force who unhesitatingly, and to a man, stuck to their posts of duty, facing the possibility and even the probability of death at any moment during the critical time immediately following the attack. This devotion to duty unquestionably saved the ship from a second and perhaps fatal attack.

We are all especially grateful to those of our fellow shipmates who have made the supreme sacrifice, nobly giving up their lives in the performance of their duty, and to those who have been injured by the explosion. We extend to their relatives and friends our deepest sympathy.

The captain is confident that the catastrophe will only tend to stimulate to further effort the wonderful spirit that has made the crew of this vessel such an efficient factor in the victorious progress of the war.

                                                                                    D.E. DISMUKES,

                                                                                    Captain, U.S. Navy,



                                                                                    U.S.S. Mount Vernon,

                                                                                    September 7, 1918.

Special Order No. 2

The captain takes great pleasure in publishing to the crew the following telegram received from Vice Admiral Sims, Commanding U.S. Naval Forces in European waters:

“Greatly regret loss men USS Mount Vernon. Congratulate officers, crew and others concerned in getting her safely to port. Q7070.  Sims.”

                                                                                    D.E. DISMUKES,

                                                                                    Captain, U.S. Navy,




                                                                                    U.S.S. Mount Vernon,

                                                                                    September 7, 1918.

For the benefit and information of the crew the following correspondence is published, and will be read to the divisions at quarters tomorrow morning:

My Dear Captain Dismukes:

Sorrow—mingled with pride—for those who died so nobly. Congratulations on the seamanship, discipline and courage. It was a great feat you accomplished.

Passengers whom I have seen this morning are unable to fully or fitly voice their praises of your always worthy self or of your ship’s company.

The best traditions of our Navy have been lifted to a higher plane. What a fine thing it is to be an American these days!

The olive drab salutes the blue.

                                                                                    Faithfully yours,

                                                                                    GEO. H. HARRIES,

                                                                                    Brig. Gen., U.S.A.


From George F. Hill, U.S.N.

                                                                                    U.S.S. Romlok,

                                                                                    Sept. 5th, 1918.

My Dear Sister:

I wonder if you can imagine how I feel just now. We have just intercepted an S.O.S. signal from Selby’s home. She is so many many miles from us, so its little help we can give them, even if we did not have our own work to do. If Seb get[s] through it alright he will have had the capital experience of the sailor’s life, that of being torpedoed at sea.

Later: Feel some better now; understand she did not sink but is making port under her own steam. Guess he is alright if not hurt by the explosion. After first thinking of him my thoughts quite naturally turned to you all at home. Guess he will cable when he gets in. I don’t know whether she was coming or going when hit. I certainly hope she will get in alright. We will probably get in before she does.

Received your letter of July 30th on August 28th and the cigarettes and pictures of little Curly locks a few days before. Gee, she certainly has grown. Am glad to get a snapshot of you to[o], and will certainly appreciate some nice ones. I haven’t had any real pictures made. Just some snapshots and they were not much good. As I told Carrie I resent our being classed as a sub chaser in the literal sense. We are on a palatial (?) yacht. She was a pleasure craft before the war, but there is darn little of it on her since she was converted for use as a patrol boat. We are somewhat larger than the 110 foot sub chasers.

I read in the New Bernian about Clifton’s death and the Thomason boy’s. Was real sorry to hear the sad news, but then as the Frenchman says: “C’est la Guerre,” such is war. You speak of being glad Seb and I are in the Navy. No doubt you will get a thrill when you read of the U boats latest exploit. As for myself, when I see the boys over here, all of them full of pep and vim, ready for battle, and then when they haul them through the town to the railway station for further movement towards the front, and I (Continued on Page Six)

hear them shouting and singing, apparently as happy as kids enroute to a picnic grounds, and again, when I read of their wonderous braver and daring feats in the thick of battle, then I feel like a slacker, and wish I was up there in the thick of the fray with the boys. I say “The Boys.”

I hope Bill’s appendicitis won’t bother him again.

I hope George Howard will remain at the P.O. or some of the others would snap out of their hop and get next. I have read in the papers that the restriction on packages to service men did not apply to men on naval ships and at naval bases. Tell them to get help, because the cigs are a Godsend to us. We can only buy four or five packages over here at one time and that number don’t last long when we are at sea five or six days. I expect the account you read in the Ladies’ Home Journal was colored more or less. ‘Twas a very severe storm, and if the depth charge had gotten away it may have gone hard with us. We didn’t worry near so much about that as we did about the submarine we saw the same day getting away from us. But ‘twas too rough for us to do anything.

I wrote Selby a long letter and it should have reached him at Boston. Hope so anyway.

If Selby gets tied up over here for repairs I hope we can get to go to Gay Park together. I was going this trip in, but shan’t go now. I want to be there when they come in.

Well, we got in port all O.K. and got some mail. There was a letter and package for me that Seb left over here, so they were evidently on their way back. They came in and left while we were out.

Winter is coming on over here now, and we will soon begin to have some bad weather, and when it does get bad it will be bad all the time until it breaks next spring.

Well, I got some washing to do, so good night for this time. Love to all.

                                                                                    As ever your


P.S.—Have seen and talked to Selby. He is all O.K. If he hasn’t finished growing I don’t think he will grow any more. He is writing and will probably tell you of his experience.


The Morning New Bernian, Tuesday, September 24, 1918, p. 6, c. 4

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Updated: November 20, 2014.