Beatrice was one of the few people privy to both the public and the private Patton, two sides which were very hard to reconcile for outsiders. George spent his entire life hidden behind a mask defined by many as “Old Blood and Guts”, but with his wife he could be himself: hunting in the countryside and sailing the Pacific, engrossed by the vastness surrounding him; writing perceptive letters filled with the romance and beauty of everything he saw around him; sitting with her and reading well into the night; writing and reciting poetry, often for the woman he considered “my one love, my body and my life.”
Separated for months and sometimes years at a time, Beatrice Patton followed her husband by newspaper and letter through the Mexican Punitive Expedition, the Great War and the Second World War. Whether he was sitting in a tent in the Mexican desert, the home of the mayor of a French town, or a palace in Sicily, George Patton always made time to write his wife. He wrote so many letters even during the worst of the fighting that Beatrice wondered “how he manages to write me so often.” His letters were colorful and full of details… more details than most officers would feel comfortable sharing with their wives.
Writing Beatrice was the next best thing to having her by his side, even though the censors sometimes made it impossible for George to convey his true feelings. He not only missed her company when he was away from her, but he also missed her sage advice and keen judgment. He depended on her replies and was “disappointed when I don’t get one.” From the beginning of their courtship, she was adept at reading between the lines and knew exactly what to say to bolster his confidence. She never shied away from being totally honest with him, though, and immediately pointed out that he was always taking up too much space in his letters with “that old favorite subject (I).”
The Pattons’ espistolary relationship began in December 1902 when Beatrice sent the seventeen-year-old boy she met over the summer a tie pin of a fox’s head. Forty-three years later, on December 5, 1945, George ended his last letter with, “I may see you before you see this.” The thousands of letters he wrote his wife in between are now part of the George S. Patton Papers at the Library of Congress. Reading them is a bit of a one-sided conversation because most of Beatrice’s letters were either destroyed or kept private, but the collection offers a revealing glimpse into the private thoughts and personal life of General Patton and his wife.
Note on spelling: “For some reason my brain seems to be absolutely non receptive when words are conserned,” George wrote his father from West Point. He agonized over the problem, thinking himself stupid and lazy until he decided it took more imagination to spell a word “several different ways” than continuously spelling it the same way. Whether he suffered from dyslexia will never be known for sure, but it was up to Beatrice in the future to correct important letters and papers.
As to Kuhlborns self there is little to say except that owing to his immortal nature he lived through the foot-ball season and did not even brake a bone (worse luck) and that he is now devoting more time than he should to making a polo team; (for above all things he is desirus of an early and glorious death).”January 10, 1903 – George’s first letter to Beatrice
I wish you were here all the season for some how I work harder when you are around. Should I fail to do some thing please cuss me out once in a while will you I must do some thing.September 9, 1908
It is strange that I dont get your point of view on life. Realy all joking aside I don’t expect ever to be sixty not that it is old but simply that I would prefer to wear out from hard work before then. Nor do I care for a home and friends and peace and a regular order of life. I would like to fight up to the top and then go oﬀ the edge and rest in a better at least quieter place than earth.February 21, 1909
There are few d—f— husbands who write twice a day to their wives even when their wives wear such low dresses as B [Jr.] says you do. Please keep it till I get home or get a lower one. George.October 26, 1916
This is the last letter I shall write you from Mexico. I have learned a lot about my profession and a lot how much I love you. The first was necessary the second was not.January 29, 1917
I want you to be the same age when I get back as when I left. Also die your hair for I don’t like gray hair at all.February 8, 1918
When this war is over I am going to insist on using a single bed for both of us at the same time. There is perhaps more than one reason for this, but the only one which the censor and modisty will allow me to mention is that I am tired of being cold and especially of getting into a large and empty bed full of cold sheets. Hence you will have to go to bed first.February 27, 1918
Well this is the second letter I have written you to day. I only wish it were not necessary and that I could hold you in my arms and squeeze you. I have almost forgotten how soft you are even with corsets on to say nothing of your softness in your wedding nighty. I love you so B.March 19, 1918
It seems a heartless thing to say but I think that Ellie is happier than she would have been to have continued on with out your father. They were as nearly one as is possible to be — as nearly as one as we are. I do not think I would care much about keeping on if you were gone. Because if you were not around to admire what I did what the rest thought would make little difference.April 11, 1918 – George writes Beatrice from France upon her mother’s death
If I tried to tell you how much I love you I would get writers cramp.March 21, 1925
At polo I had an off day in the second period Walter ran into me, it was my fault, and hurt my leg quite a lot though not seriously. Then in the fourth period Bull fell and gave me quite a spill but again with no bad effects…Don’t worry about me as I am o.k. And simply tell you so as to keep my Promise.August 19, 1927
I hope I did not leave you with the impression that I thought you were either a poor sailor or mother. I think you are perfect in these rolls as in all others. I will even “bend” so much asto sail with you in the Dantesk if you want me. I love you. George.July 21, 1930
From my view point as “wedding guest” I want to say again what a realy great organizer I think you are. No show could have gone better and it was a very large show too. Also no mother of a bride ever looked better or cried less.July 7, 1934
I doubt that I will be killed or even wounded but one can never tell. It is all a question of destiny… Well when you get this you will either be a widow or a radio fan, I trust the latter. In either case I love you.July 5, 1943
I appreciate your loyalty and miss your aid, but your spirit is with me. I love you.December 21, 1943
Just had a phone from Beedle to see him in the morning. I always get things like that on Sundays or New Years etc, so I am used to it. Apparently much umbrage has been taken to my last, wholy casual remarks, and I may be able to go sailing sooner than I had thought, but the Chesapeake in the spring is said to be lovley. If I have caused you added worry, I am sorry.April 30, 1944
I know my defects but don’t know those of others and of course I have had great luck, never forgotten you as the greatest.June 24 1944
Yesterday I drove in a peep in zero weather for about eight hours. When I came in I was so cold I got in a hot tub and to give a tropical aspect, turned on the sun lamp. And left it on for about 20 minutes. It was some 12 feet away, but is pretty potent. My eyes were already bad from the snow. I woke up at 1145 in great pane with my eyes running like a spigot. I got up and woke Col. Odom, the Dr. who lives with us – my personal physician? He put cold barasic compresses on for two hours, gave me a shot of morphine and a sleeping powder. I stayed in bed till noon in a dark room, and now the eyes are well. I am like a puppy, always sticking my nose into trouble. The night of the 28 at 0130 our time, which is 5:30 your time, I dreamed I was in a boat in a muddy creek and had just started to back down stream when you came running over the mud and called “Georgie” the way you do. Were you in any trouble?January 31, 1945
Your telegram . . . and your modest estimate of me means more than the opinion of the rest of the world .May 9, 1945
Your radio about asking for an ofﬁcial investigation . . . felt just like a look out of your brave loyal eyes.September 29, 1945
- James G. Harbord Papers, MS 1493, The New-York Historical Society
- Blumenson, Martin. The Patton Papers: 1940-1945
- Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, George S. Patton Papers.