War Service Bureau
personal correspondence from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau

Jackson, Morris Bacon

edited by Barbara McIntosh

Mss: Manuscript pages https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/T3KW5JS5

Two obituaries for Morris Jackson

Biographical note

Morris “Jill” Jackson put his Rutgers coursework in agriculture to work directing a convalescents’ farm at U.S. Base Hospital No. 8 in Savenay France. There, he was joined by seven other Rutgers men working in the Medical Department. In fall 1918, Jackson was sent back to the U.S. to escort a group of officers suffering from shell shock (post-traumatic stress disorder) to the neuro-psychiatry ward of General Hospital No. 30 in Plattsburgh, New York. One senses that this was not a choice assignment; Jackson himself notes in a letter that Don Storck and Mefford Runyon were considered “too valuable” for the trip. In compensation for his effort, Jackson was awarded a 15-day leave to visit his family. He was ill with influenza by the time he reached his parents’ home in Brooklyn. His condition worsened until he died on October 27, 1918, aged twenty years old.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 inflicted five to ten times more casualties than the war (somewhere between 50 and 100 million people died), and yet for a time, as scholars like Elizabeth Outka point out, it was seemingly forgotten. Outka writes:

The war was what seemed real, and war deaths were what seemed important. Flu deaths were difficult to spin into stories of victory or needful sacrifices. The disease suggested bodily vulnerability and weakness, not a masculine power struggle or a larger political goal.

In the letters that follow, and in the above clippings of his obituaries, we see this forgetting happening in real time as Jackson’s flu death is reclaimed as a war death. Both the obituary printed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and his father’s letter to Earl Reed Silvers devote several paragraphs to Jackson’s war service and only a cursory mention of his death from influenza. There were simply no words for this tragedy that was unfolding in the war’s shadow.

If Jackson’s death could be made comprehensible and grievable as a war death, no such treatment is reserved for the victims of shell shock. It is hard to miss the contempt that Knights of Columbus representative J. K. Paulding has for the officers Jackson accompanies back to the United States. His letter to Mrs. Jackson eulogizes Jackson in part by contrasting his “beautiful spirit” with the “degraded beings” in his care. In scholar Elaine Showalter’s view, a much discussed “crisis of masculinity” during the First World War reached its paroxysm with shell shock, a masculine mirror of what psychiatrists had previously understood to be the uniquely feminine condition of hysteria.


  1. "Obituary for Morris Bacon Jackson (Aged 20)," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 28, 1918, p. 16.
  2. Elizabeth Outka, “‘Wood for the Coffins Ran Out’: Modernism and the Shadowed Afterlife of the Influenza Pandemic,” Modernism/Modernity 21, no. 4 (2014): 937–60.
  3. Elizabeth Outka, “Grievability, COVID-19, and the Modernists’ Pandemic,” Modernism/Modernity Print Plus 5, no. 1 (May 21, 2020).
  4. Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1985).
  5. Leonard V. Smith, “Masculinity, Memory, and the French World War I Novel: Henri Barbusse and Roland Dorgeles,” in Authority, Identity and the Social History of the Great War, eds. Frans Coetzee and Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee (Providence, RI: Berghahn Books, 1995), 325–55.

W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, October 23, 1917

OCT 23
4 34PM
1917 N.Y.

U. S.



‘19 is private U. S. A. with (originally called #8— then changed to # 6 and number now restored to # 8) Amer Exped Force via N.Y.C.


Morris B. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, November 24, 1917

NOV 29
8 PM


1st LIEUT M.O.R.C.U.S.A.


Nov. 24, 1917

Dear Silvers,

, , , , and myself are all at the following address. Base Hosp. #8 A.E.F. Stork is 1st class private ther [sic] rest of us are any news from college is always good news. We have not recieved [sic] any issues of the but are pining away for a look at it.

[damage: erasure?]

Merry Christmas + Happy New Year. and hopes for successful year.

Pvt. M.B. Jackson.

Earl Reed Silvers to Morris B. Jackson, December 17, 1917

December 17th. 1917.

Private M. B. Jackson,
Base Hospital No 8.
American Expeditionary Forces.

Dear Jackson:—

Thank you for your postal of November 24th, and for the information regarding the Rutgers men. We appreciate word from our Rutgers men in France and we hope that you all will write us occasionally whenever you can find the time.

Good luck to you and best wishes,

Very sincerely yours,

Morris B. Jackson to Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, July 2, 1918

July 2nd., 1918.

Dear Folks,

It is now permissable [sic] to address your mail Pvt. M. B . Jackson, Base Hospital #8, P.O. 39 701, . In that way it will receive a speedier delivery.

The bathing suit, cake , gum, blades [?], and chocolate came in good shape but next time put the cake in a tin box and seal it with . In that way the cake can stand a month on briny deep water [?].

You will also find another order which I hope the censor will be good enough to sign — socks, Pack [?] Cross razorblades, chocolate and blankets.

I dont know how we’ll ever get used to real American weather again. Over here you get up shivering after sleeping rolled up in three blankets. By seven o’clock you’ve begun to shed sweat and clothing. By two o’clock you have stopped thinking of and wonder how By three o’clock you are well acclimated and then when five o’clock blows, you will walk back to the house carrying your shirt and thanking the Frenchman who forgot to top the shade trees on the road. When the sun sets, which is at nine thirty, you are glad to wrap those three blanks [sic] around you and shiver when the wind blows. (But, mother, the sleeping sure is good)

Tell that he’s working the same hours I am; and with a slight difference in pay. We are having our own fresh peas for dinner today and the pods are full and good size. wrote of bundling rye. If he were here now, he’d think I’d been playing with the oat. Not so; its rye. And we bundle it naked to the waist not because the government doesn’t supply gloves and but because it is so hot.

From the top of our hill which is the highest around, you can see . On all sides, oats, wheat, and rye make checker boards out of the flat rolling country The houses, red roofed, with white colored, clean in the distance and dirty in reality make good substitutes for chess men. Every now and then about five people got together and built a million dollar church and started a town. Every town has a church that they’D think twice about the cost of building back home, along with it at least nine and maybe a few people living in the town.

On One side of the farm is a dam which has made the A. E. F. engineers famous truly a masterpiece of concrete, on another the railroad runs just under the hill and all day along big trains of freight drawn by Baldwin locomotives, every car carrying a U.S.A on the side, tear by carrying supplies to somewhere. On still another side is the main highway where train after train of trucks pass by with men, supplies and accessories for other somewheres that the railroad dont reach. Andstill [sic] on the other side of the hill is an American Quarry where American engineers are making big ones into little ones while the U.S. mules he—haw at the dump wagons. So you see we are rather well Americanized.

Jimmy Williams has left for the front. It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to see him before his company left. He was quite near too. He’s a corporal.

Poor and Meff Runyon feel pretty bad. They were picked with four other men to take charge of a number of psycopathic cases which are going back to the States. The boys of course, expected to get a bit of time at home but when the major saw the list he said Storck and Runyon are too valuable around here so they don’t get to go.

We expect to entertain the patients who have worked here on the farm on the Fourth of July. The nurses will provide sandwiches and cocoa for them “and a delightful time” etc. Do you remember arabella “and they danced as they danced and they said as they danced

I dont feel like writing much so wont.



For Alumni Quarterly

W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, July 11, 1918

Cable Address


Mr. Earl Reed Silvers
Assoc. of the Alumni of Rutgers College
Office of Editor, New Brunswick, N.J.

Dear Sir:

Your letter of May 18th. came while I was out of town and was neglected by me on my return so I have sent you none of the letters received from my son Morris B. Jackson.

I judge that it is now too late to send you any of these. If still wanted, I will forward at once and regret that I did not do so sooner.

Yours Truly,

Will Walter Jackson

Earl Reed Silvers to W. W. Jackson, July 12, 1918

July 12,1 9 1 8.

Mr. W . Walter Jackson,
50 Beekman St.,
New York, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Jackson:

I thank you for your letter of July 11 and for the enclosed letter from your son. It is just what we wanted and will be used in our October number. If you have any other letters which you think would be of especial interest to Rutgers men, I would appreciate your sending me them. I am sending you under separate cover a copy of the April issue of the Quarterly containing one of the letters from Morris .

Very sincerely yours,


W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, July 15, 1918

Cable Address

July 15. 1918

My Dear Mr. Silvers

Agreeable [?] of yours of the 12th I will send you from time to time anything of interest in letters of Morris B Jackson

(no acknowledgement needed)


W W Jackson

J. K. Paulding to Mrs. Jackson, November 12, 1918

Savenay, Nov. 12th.,1918.

My dear :

, and cannot forbear writing you a line, even at the risk of intruding upon your great grief. I don’t know when I have met a finer boy, and I had learned how to love him almost as a son. I shall never visit the farm again, where he was stationed latterly, without a feeling of mute pain. I used to go there occasionally to take supper with the boys, and the chief pleasure to me was sitting afterwards in the doorway or on the flagging and talking with him. It seems to me now as if I could never bear taking supper there again.

I had a postal card from him written on his arrival at in which he said he wished he had not left here, he had seen too much of the world since leaving. I know he referred to the nursing and horror of the demented, and I am afraid often degraded beings whom he had to care for on his way over. I can imagine the shock it must have been to his sensitive nature.

I remember the beautiful spirit in which he took an unjust criticism levelled at the conduct of the Farm in which he took so useful a part. The other man there was justly angry and di [sic] not conceal it. Morris never ceased smiling and was moderate in all his comment, it seemed sufficient to him that he had done his full duty and it did not too much concern him if there happened to be somebody who could not recognize it.

I often had occasion to recognize in him a higher spirit and one more genuinely interested in serious things than in most of the other men about. Perhaps that was the result of a different and better home taining [sic], but it was surprising in a boy so fitted for every sort of outdoor delight to find him discriminating in what he read and instinctively averse to the trash that the average fellow fares for.

I have seldom seen a handsomer fellow— what a joy to find a beautiful spirit, a lovely nature, behind the outward beauty: Perhaps, my dear Mrs. Jackson, you can come to feel in time, if not just at present, that he is now irrevocably and for all time, what you would wish him to be, past danger of change or taint, secure in purity and serenity of his youthful manhood. His memory will always remain an inspiration to me. The world is the sweeter for his so journed [sic] among us.

If you have a photograph of his, that you can spare, I should deeply appeciate having it.

After what I have written, I do not need to tell you how largely I share in the grief of his father and yourself, you have my deepest sympathy.

Sincerly yours,

A K.C. Representative, Base Hosp.#8,
Savenay, France.

W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, November 26, 1918

Cable Address


Managing Editor
Rutgers Alumni Quarterly
New Brunswick, N.J.

Dear Sir:

I have to report to you the death of my son, Morris B. Jackson, and give you the following items, some of which you may wish to use in your publication.

Morris Bacon Jackson, born Brooklyn, N.Y., May 27th., 1898. Graduated 1915. Entered Rutgers College class of 1919, course in Agriculture. Member Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Substitute football team. Editor Targumdrop Column, Enlisted U. S. Army April ,1917, embarked transport Saratoga, July,1917 which steamer was rammed by Steamer Panama, New York Harbor. Sailed transport Finland which was flag ship [sic] of Convoy. Encountered submarines off coast of France which guns of Finland sunk two.

Became part of U.S. Base Hospital #8, Savenay, Loire Infenior [sic], France driving motor truck and ambulance during winter of 1917—1918.

Placed in charge of 20 acre truck garden which was part of 120 acre farm used for the benefit of hospital. Here each day convalescent patients, particularly those who had been gassed, worked under the direction of Jackson, with the result that the men were benefited, and vegetables were raised for the hospital.

Detailed as attendent of eight shell shocked officers who were returned to

While on fifteen day furlough, before return to France, , and died at home of parents, Brooklyn, Oct. 27th., 1918.

Yours truly,

Will Walter Jackson

The Hoover Campaign is to Avoid Waste and to Conserve Health
Our fireplace grates save fuel, and also promote health by perfect ventilation. Our fireless cookers save fuel and time, and also make the good more wholesome. Our garbage containers reduce waste and forbid disease—spreading flies and dogs.

Earl Reed Silvers to W. W. Jackson, December 3, 1918

December 3, 1918.

Mr. Wm. Walter Jackson,
Edwin A. Jackson & Bro.,
50 Beekman Street,
New York, N.Y.

My dear Mr. Jackson;—

Thank you very much for your letter of Novemver [sic] 26th, containing picture of your son Morris. The facts given, together with the photograph, are just what we wish for publication in the January issue of the Rutgers Alumni Quarterly. If you will advise me of the number of copies you may be able to use, I shall be pleased to send them to you.

Morris’ death was a big shock to us here at the college. He always seemed to me so vitally alive, so full of a youthful zest in the pure joy of living, that it is hard to realize that he has crossed the border. Words in a time like this are always futile, but I hope that you will accept my sincere sympathy. It must give you a good deal of satisfaction to know that you son’s life was clean and wholesome and that his death came while he was in the service of the nation

Very sincerely yours,

W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, December 9, 1918

Jackson, M.B.

55 Pineapple St


My dear Mr. Silvers

Mrs Jackson & I are grateful for your message of sympathy. Rutgers College meant a great deal to our


son Morris — He not only was very happy there — but was very proud of the College & of his friends there. So the word from you means more than from some others.


You speak of his always being happy in his work the “joy of living” — so I venture to enclose a copy of letter from a representative that


speaks of this same trait. Do not bother to answer this — nor to return Enclosure. I know you have many letters to write — and many that call for sympathy.

Thank you — Mrs Jackson joins me in appreciation

W. W. Jackson

We would like 3 copies.

Earl Reed Silvers to W. W. Jackson, December 10, 1918

December 10, 1918.

Mr. W. W. Jackson
55 Pineapple St
Brooklyn, N.Y.

My dear Mr. Jackson:—

Thank you very much for your letter of December 9th with its interesting enclosure. I shall most certainly send you three copies of the January number of the Alumni Quarterly as soon as it is issued.

Very sincerely yours,

W. W. Jackson to Earl Reed Silvers, December 1918

(This is my Secondnoticereply.). Please answer at once.

My dear Mr. Silvers '19

Will you please cross the name of Morris B Jackson from these lists. You will find I wrote you calling attention to the death of my son Morris B. Jackson Oct 27. 1918

and that you [?] had his current war record in the Alumni Quarterly & in the printed program of the memorial service.


Will Walter Jackson

Name and class.
Rank and branch of service.

W. W. Jackson to Dr. Demarest, February 13, 1919


Feb. 13th.,1919.

My dear :

Thank you for your letter of the 11th. advising me of the Memorial Service which is to be held Sunday afternoon.

Mrs. Jackson and I will be there and we appreciate your kindness in sending us this special notice.

Sincerely yours,

Will Walter Jackson

Dr. W.D.S.Demarest
Rutgers College
New Brunswick,N.J.

May I add what I have had in my heart for two years or more — my son Morris B Jackson loved Rutgers College — and was proud to represent her



in this Country — before he joined the army — and in France when in the U.S. service.

With Morris I originally chose Rutgers as a College which was backed by a — a College whose students came from good families — a College where a boy of moderate circumstances


could get the best kind of an Education. May I say that my son and his parents have always believed our choice was the best that could be made


Will Walter Jackson