George S. Patton Jr.

George S. Patton, as Lieutenant Colonel, Writes to his Mother about the Death of his Father-in-Law

GEORGE S. PATTON JR., Autograph Letter Signed, to his mother, Ruth Wilson Patton, April 9, 1918, [Langres, France]. 2 pp., 8.25" x 10.625". Expected folds; very good.


Complete Transcript

                                                                        Apr 9 18

Dear Mama:

            I have not [yet?] heard if you had left Thomasville before Mr Ayer died or not  I rather hope for B’s sake you were there for poor Mrs Ayer must have carried on terribly  I feel so sorry for her. This has been hanging over her head a long time.

            Mr Ayer ought realy to be congratulated as he went in possession of his faculties and was apparently well to the last. He might have been an imbecile for years.

            I hope you have had plenty of rain we have enough to lend some it has rained every day for two weeks and is still at it.

            I have got Capt Viner here with me now also a Capt. Brett both of them regulars and very fine officers  The men are mostly good too and all large fellows and full of pep. Personally I am full of pip or some other disease  I have had a headake for three days which I hardly ever have. it is most exasperating but I shall be well before you get this.

            The last time I saw John he looked fine and seemed so also.

            He went to a lot of trouble to get me promoted but don’t thank him as that would appear as if he had done me a favor instead of a justice.

                                                                        With much love,

Your devoted son,

                                                                        George S Patton Jr.


Historical Background

In the spring of 1918, Patton was in France, leading a tank training school.  On April 1, he learned of his promotion to lieutenant colonel, which was effective April 3.


In this letter, he discusses the death of his father-in-law Frederick Ayer (1822-1918), who died in Thomasville, Georgia on March 14, at age 95. Ayer, like several other northern industrialists, had a winter home in Thomasville. On April 10, Patton noted in his diary about his father-in-law: “He often read my letter to him saying that his letter to me had decided me to enter the tanks. Last letter he got from B announcing my promotion to Lt. Col. He said now that George has his start he will go higher. B put my poem about him in his pocket.”


Patton hoped his mother was still there to assist Patton’s wife Beatrice (“B”) in caring for her mother Ellen Barrows Banning Ayer (1853-1918), who actually died three weeks after her husband on April 3, 1918, at their home in Massachusetts. Two days after he wrote this letter, Patton received a telegram from his wife that her mother had died.


Among Patton’s subordinates were Captain Joseph W. Viner (1888-1983) and Captain Sereno E. Brett (1891-1952).  In May, Patton reorganized his tank school placing Viner in command of the 1st Battalion (344th Tank Battalion) and Brett in command of the 2nd Battalion (345th Tank Battalion).


The “John” to whom Patton refers is likely his mentor General John J. Pershing (1860-1948), who was commander of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in 1917 and 1918. Two years after the death of his first wife, Pershing courted Patton’s sister Nita, and they became engaged in 1917. However, Pershing’s absence in Europe ended their engagement, though Pershing later expressed regrets. While Patton appreciated John’s efforts, he clearly believed the promotion was due him.



George S. Patton Jr. (1885-1945) was born in California and educated at the Virginia Military Institute and United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1909. An avid horseback rider, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the cavalry. In 1910, he married Beatrice Banning Ayer (1886-1953), the daughter of a wealthy Boston businessman. He competed in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, in the modern pentathlon, where he finished fifth behind four Swedes. He then traveled to France, where he learned fencing techniques. Returning to the United States, he redesigned cavalry saber combat doctrine and designed a new sword. In 1915 and 1916, Patton participated in the Pancho Villa Expedition in Mexico as Commander John J. Pershing’s aide. In the spring of 1917, he accompanied Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, to Europe. Patton took an interest in tanks and was soon training crews to operate them. By 1918, he was in command of a tank brigade. After World War I, he served in various army posts and began to develop the methods of mechanized warfare. At the beginning of World War II, Patton worked to develop and train armored divisions in the army. In the summer of 1942, he commanded the Western Task Force in the Allied invasion of French North Africa. He commanded the Seventh U.S. Army in the successful invasion of Sicily in July 1943. After the Normandy invasion of June 1944, Patton’s Third Army sailed to France and formed on the extreme right of Allied land forces. Through speed and aggressive offensive action, the Third Army continuously pressed retreating German forces until it ran out of fuel near Metz in northeastern France at the end of August. When the German army counterattacked in the battle of the Bulge in mid-December 1944, Patton’s ability to reposition six full divisions to relieve besieged Allied forces in Bastogne was one of the most remarkable achievements of the war. As the Germans retreated, Patton’s Third Army advanced, killing, wounding, or capturing 240,000 German soldiers in seven weeks before crossing the Rhine on March 22. After the end of the war in Europe, Patton hoped for a command in the Pacific but after a visit to the United States returned to Europe for occupation duty in Bavaria. In December 1945, the car in which he was riding collided with an American army truck at low speed, but Patton hit his head on a glass partition, breaking his neck and paralyzing him. He died twelve days later at a hospital in Germany. He was buried among some of his men of the Third Army in an American cemetery in Luxembourg.


Ruth Wilson Patton (1861-1928) was born in California. Her father was a pioneer and real estate developer in southern California, serving as mayor of Pueblo de Los Angeles around 1850. She married George William Patton (1856-1927), the son of a Confederate colonel and graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, in 1884. They settled at Lake Vineyard, California, where they raised produce and operated a winery. In 1902, he began working for Henry E. Huntington’s real estate development company, and he served as the first mayor of San Marino from 1913 to April 1922 and again from October 1922 to 1924. They had two children, George S. Patton Jr. and Anne Wilson “Nita” Patton (1887-1971).




Item: 65344

Price: $1,900.00
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George S. Patton Jr.
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