Somewhere on the Border, Texas 10/2/1916

Dear Folks,

 

I am going to start a letter in my note book for I don’t expect to finish it before we start of again to (the Lord only knows). We are now in a column composed of more troops than ever before participated in a practice hike. This is our second day out and we are leading the column. It is about half past six now and we expect to move any second. We started yesterday morning at seven oclock and for the first five miles it was all fine and dandy but the next five was pretty tough. Sand up to our shoe tops, and the dust and sand kicked up made it imposible for me to see the second man in front of me. The boys got a good idea of what real hiking is and I know the worst is yet to come. Yesterday each man carried his own dinner consisting of three hard tack, and ¼ of a can of beans. It tasted very good only we couldnt get any water. I saw some of the Ohio troops getting down on their knees and drinking water from the side of the road. I dont want to pin any medals on my self but I havent gone through 5 years of this life without knowing that a canteen of water is a soldiers best friend. When the hike was finished and camp pitched, some of the other fellows were begging for (just a mouth full of my water. Such is life in the army. And just think it is peace time at that.

 

We just got orders that one platoon of our company is to act as gaurd over the Brigade wagon train, and we are also to arrest all men that fall out of the line who have no docters certificate. Last night we had some water with a little milk and corn in it that they called corn chowed. This with some thing that tasted like cocoa and three hard tack constituded our meal. This morning we had some tomatoes which tasted as though they spilt all the pepper they had in it and three hard tack. We got a half a cup of (I dont know what you would call it. I think they call it coffee. For our dinner (which we are carrying) we have a can of beans one package of H.J. to go for four men. We are all starting out with a full canteen of rotten water, but I know that the water will taste the best and go faster than every thing else. It is going to be hot today, but I am feeling as strong and as well as the fittest and the best so I should worry. OH we are right into the real life now.

 

The suit of under wear Ive got on and a suit in my pack will have to do the whole trip which is listed for fifteen days. I dont know how or where I am going to mail this but some kind person on the road will take it as I pass I think. There are about 26,000 troops on the hike, and I dont know if you can imagine the extent of this mob or not, but I know I cant. We are carrying twenty five rounds of blank amunition, two blankets, ponchow, shelter half, pole and pins, one suit of under wear, towel, soap, tooth brush, comb, tooth paste, razor, brush, shaving soap, two ration cans, and a sweater in our packs. Of coarse our rations, mess pan, dipper, canteen full of water, bayonet, round-about (or belt) and rifle. This load gets heavy after a while but as usual (I should worry).

 

Well I guess it is about time I put this in an envelope for we have been on the road about an hour now and the stops are gettin fewer. I am just as strong as when I started and getting stronger if any thing. We are having an awful time with these teams, for the roads are pretty tough. Never mind well get there. I hope the one with K. Co. gets along all right any way for we at least want some coffee for supper. I hear the Red Sox only have to win one more game to win the penant. Pretty soft for them what. Id like to get back in time to see a World Series game and probably I will. I hope you can make out a few of the words on these pages any way. You will have to excuse it for I am under considerable handicap, writing a little every time a team gets stuck or we make a stop. You see it is in my note book and all I have to do when we start is close it up and put it in my pocket.

 

We are sertainly getting it now, some of the boys are all in and want to drop out but (nothing doing.) Walk or lay down and starve or go dry is what they are told. Talk about your desert. Well I must close hoping you are all well and remain so until I return. I remain the same old (fresh guy)

 

Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/29/1916

Dear Em,

 

I see by this mornings paper that about ten or twelve states are to be releaved including cavalry and other units from Mass., but not any infantry from Mass. From all accounts we are to start Sunday for a fifteen day hike, probably travaling about two hundred miles. Say but wasnt it cold this morning. All the boys made use of their over coats and sweaters, and I think I would have frozen if I hadn’t worn mine to bed last night. I slept last night in two blankets, my suit of under wear my o.d. shirt, my sweater, and my over coat. I will admit I was warm and slept good, but when first call for reveille blue and I crawled out of this mountain of woolen, say it was cold. I got up, jumped in to my shoes, and bolted for the street at a ten second clip. Up and down the street I tore and when I got back into my tent again I was feeling like Roughans on a Saturday night. We had oat meal, hot corn bread and butter, and nice hot coffee. I beleive I told you we had some cook in this fellow Gretter. The corn bread just hit the spot and the boys feel just like drilling now. There goes first call and I must cut this letter out now and fall in. Ill see you when I get back, at noon.

 

Well here I am, in after a stiff, and very interesting drill. I cant say that it was hot at any time during this drill so you must have some imagination of the change in temperature in the last 36 hours. We started in with phisical exercise, then bayonet exercise in which I had to take two rooks and howl and yell at them for about an hour. Then we had about two hours of extended order or battle exercise. In this formation, the captain has his company marching in column of squads. He sends the first squad out to act as a point the next to act as flankers or combat patrols (one of which I had charge of this morning) and the rest as the main body. Well instead of going into it any further I will say that we won. This is pretty hard work, running about 50 yards falling down, firing, crawling fixing bayonets, and charging, but when it is all over it is easy. Get me. After this we had some close order work, such as marching like we do in parades, then we came in.

 

I understand we are to have oyster stew for dinner today. Fine what? OH we are eating all right. I pity some of the boys if we go on that hike they are talking about. It will be nothing like what we are enjoying now. I just got your letter of the 25th in which you spoke of us not knowing when we are to go home, and you are right. Im glad Tom is getting along so good and hope he makes good. But tell him not to join the army. So they are going to block some of our view of the Mistic ha? I knew it. I could dry my mess kit in the sun if I had plenty of hot water to rinse them in but we don’t get all the water for this purpose that we want you know and the most of the grease is removed by the same old towel. See you soon.

 

Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/28/1916

Dear Lena.

 

Here is a picture of the colors at the 8th Headquarters. And also a fellow on gaurd over them from K company. We happened to be on gaurd this day. Save this card will you. Im sending a paper in which you will find that we are to be here a while yet.

 

Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 9/25/1916

Dear Sam.

 

Recieved your letter today and I’m glad to hear youre getting along so good. Your card Sat said not to write any more and I thought sure you were going to start for home. The papers had it that you were to start for home by today but since Sat there hasn’t been anything said. You can’t rely on the papers. I guess nobody will know till you are ordered to pack and march to the train (which will be soon I hope).

 

Mary had the tooth ache last night and she didn’t feel well all day. She went down to the Union though this afternoon. It is lonesome here now without her. Lena is playing the piano and pa is sitting in the rocking chair reading. It is a cool night and feels kind of chilly.

 

Tom Higgins started for New York this morning. The buyer and asst. buyer took him. I guess he has a good job and if he takes good care of himself he might rise to be a buyer himself some day. I got your paper and read about the parade you had. I guess I would like to see it alright. You say your dish towel is wore out well why not let the dishes or tins dry in the sun. I should think your clothes would be worn out by the way you wash them every day.

 

There is no news here at all. There is going to be a big suger refinery put up down the end of Belmont st. They are dreging out the river and cleaning up the wharfs down there. I don’t suppose they’ll start building right away though. Of course you know you and I will have to watch them put it up from the window so that they will do it right.

 

When I mail this letter I’m going to take down my hair and get in to my bath robe and maybe by that time pa will go to bed and then Oh you Rocking chair and magazine. I hope this is your last week down there. We are all well and pa couldn’t be any better. I know when Mary reads your letter she’ll be dissappointed cause your not started for home yet. She is very anxious to see you like all the rest of us. Hoping this finds you well I will close

 

With Love from all

 

Em.

 

 

© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/25/1916

Dear Em,

 

Well here it is the 25th, and still there is no sign of our leaving for home or anywhere else. I got your letter of the 19th in which you openned up with saying, that you thought it was me in the right of the picture post card I sent you. You said I may not be getting fat but that when I got home Id get fatter. Well yes I may not be getting fat but beleive me it’s a sure bet Im not getting thin or am I any the worse for spending this last three months on the border. As “Teddy The Big Stick” would say “Im Feeling Bully” and say folks I am. Eating three good squares every single day, and havent felt an ailment of any kind what ever for at least a month.

 

Gee but this Gretter guy is there when it comes to putting up the eats. As far as we are concerned Im glad the trouble happened, (for it wasnt until he got the telagram, that he was appointed cook. He makes cottage pudding, raisin puddin, muffins in the morning, griddle cakes, doughnuts, and a lot of such things. I wish you had a peice of the apple pies he made. There was only one thing we all kicked about. Another peice, yes, every thing is fine here now.

 

Yesterday (being Sunday) two other serg. two musicians and myself (we all live in the same tent although it is more like a house than anything else now,) got a lot of lumber (I guess I have to admit we stole it,) and built up and boarded in this tent as if we were to stay here for life. In the centre of the tent we hang all our over coats, and a stand in which we sergeants place our rifles and round abouts, and the musician’s place their bugles and revolvers. Then we have a water bag in which water that is left over night is as cold as ice water in the morning, and stays so all day. These bags are called desert water bags and hold about 2 gallons. We also have two wash basins that hang tidy all the time. Then we have a little barrel which we use for a waste basket, (and beleive me it isn’t there for an ornament either.) Around the sides of the tent (which is all boarded in) we hang all our cloths. Shelves are plentiful also. Well I could probably go on and fill a couple of sheets of this paper, discribing (our little home) but I don’t know as it would be interesting reading.

 

We were out on a pretty stiff hike this morning with full field equipment less rations and I must confess I was pretty near all in and glad to get back to (our little home) for it was away after one oclock when we did hit camp. I guess we hiked 8-9 miles all together. It was pretty warm and the packes cut into us a lot but such things come and go, and really we are the best for it after it is over. It is just this way day after day. Get up at five fifteen for reveille, breakfast at six, police up the street and tents, air out blankets and by that time it is seven oclock and time for drill. We either drill, drill drill, or hike, hike hike until eleven or eleven thirty. (today it was after one as I said above) Come in all tired and sweety and beleive me I mean sweet. Wash up and get ready for mess, after which we feel like (Looking for Villa again.) Down to the showers and a complete change of under cloths uniform and all (for me any way). Then a wash tub, wash board, a peice of army soap and a good strong set of arms and back. My cloths are all dry at three or four oclock and in they come. Retreat is at five twenty and mess is at six. After that you can get ready for tomorrow. You can see I use the day up pretty good.

 

Well Id better cut this out or you will be saying “Doesnt he like to talk about himself”. I see by the El Paso Times tonight where there are about two brigades coming to El Paso to releive Mich and Penn, but no one to releive poor Mass. I guess theyll have to go some to find any body to take our place what? I see where we are to get our state money amounting to $10. per month. I have signed it over to Lena, and if we stay here any length of time I want one of you to let me know if youve received it or when you will. Keep sending your mail just the same and dont let the Post kid you into thinking we are on our way home. We may start home to night for all I know, but that would be to much of a good thing. So keep writing to El Paso as if I was to stay here all winter, and if I should happen to pop up, I think I (personally) would be more appreciated than the answer to letters I probably would not receive.

 

Youve got to hand it to me for finding some such stuff (as Ive been writing for the last ten minutes) to fill up a letter. Excuse the writing any way, and when I get home to 297 Ill make up for all I havent explained and make things (that I have only partially explained) more clearly understood. A little dark but still

 

Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/22/1916

Some class to this letterhead what?

 

Dear Lena,

 

First of all, I don’t know when we are going home, why they are keeping this information from us, or why the Boston papers are pretending to know so much about the matter. It is the same I think as if war really was on, for to keep news of such small importance to the public in general is some stunt. One of the boys just came in and said that he saw a Boston Post on the front page in large print which said that the Ninth and Fifth had got orders to leave and that the boys threw their hats in the air and great inthusiasim was shown. Nothing doing. They are waiting I guess for some state to send a Brigade to releave us. Some troops from N.Y. have been sent home, having reached here latter than we did. Well I for one (personally) dont care if we stayed here all winter, as far as crying and fretting about home is concerned. Of coarse Id like to get home and see you folks as soon as posible, but Im going to say right here that Im as contented and settled to this life now as if I was on a two weeks vacation. Get me right, now.

 

Oh if you could only see the change in the camp site, the change in the eats, and climate youd say, “Go on you fellows, your living like kings.” And that is the way I am looking at it. It was probably part our fault for coming here, but beleive me Lena, it is not our fault that we are staying here. Next to home with all it means and the ones that make up ours, this is the life. Now Lena, (and the rest of you) you can see that Im as contented as if I were there, only Im not there and that is where the hitch comes. That is why I want to go home as well as the other boys, that have good homes and relatives, but didn’t appreciate it until they got so far away from them for such a long period. Get the sentimental stuff Im slinging. But it really is the sentiment that prevails through the Brigade.

 

That big parade they had in El Paso the other day was not graced with my presence for we were gaurd company that day and I was trotting around to the different post with a loaded gat on my right hip and say, pretty soft, for when those poor boys got in, they were in, that’s all. After walking about four miles they waited six hours for the rest of the division (which is the only war strength division in the U.S.

 

I got Ems card today, which by the notice on it, was really from Mary. And in all your letters and post cards you peak of our home coming. Well we have heard rumors of going home and sensibly sounding ones too, but here we are. It’s a long time before the first of Oct. yet so, who knows. We are still carrying 100 rounds of amunition, and that will all have to be turned in yet. We have been releaved of border outpost duty by the Regular Cavalry which is welcomed heartily.

 

There is a lot of cheering down to the Fifth Regiment now. Rumor 100121012364 I guess thats all. I agree with you and hope that they will herd us in the Armories, for it will be pretty cold sleeping out doors now especially now that our blood is so thin, and all so to make it easier to have you see me at the first chance.

 

All is well
Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/20/1916

Dear Em,

 

Ive got a little time so I thought I would use it up writing even if I have got nothing to say. Co. K. will be on gaurd tomorrow 21st (the day of the big parade,) and I cant say that I am sorry, for it isn’t going to be any picnic parading all over El Paso in heavy marching order. It would be a great sight for you to see I guess, but you would get good and sick of it be for the first 10, or 15, thousand dusky brown stream of humanity got by. I know I wouldn’t go to the front window to see it.

 

We don’t know yet whether this is the wind up of our tour of duty down here or not. Probably you people back home there know more about it than we do. All we are taught here is how to be soldiers and how to obey orders. The out side world is a blank. I received your post card with the poem on it by Phil Osopher which is very appropriate for army life.

 

If there is an election held here for a lieutenant I will be appointed top sergeant. This will not be so bad considering the fact that when I was at Framingham I was only a corporal. It will be a job filled with responsibility but thats what Im down here for. The sweeters that were issued to us sertainly do come in handy mornings and nights but they might just as well be in Alaska in the day time for we don’t even need our underwear on in them hours. It is hard to imagine the difference in temperature that takes place here in six hours. What in the world will we do when we get back to dear old Mass., if we feel the cold so easy here now. But you see our blood is pretty thin now. The band is about as far away from my tent as the church is from 297, the musicians are practicing in the same tent with me, some one in the next tent is singing, “Loading up the Mandy Lee” and beleive me I can just about write this letter, and thats all.

 

I dont know how true it is but they say (same stuff) that we have made our last trip to the (Mesa) our drill ground, 3 miles away. Well we were just getting used to it, but we are not sorry.

 

I stopped for about 3 minutes to try and think up something to write about and what do you think it is? Well this. When I left the house that morning, I took a dish towel, a Turkish towel, a set of union suits (you know the one I paid about 37¢ for in Filene’s Basement) the razor, and tooth brush. And Ive got them all. How is that for keeping things picked up ha Lena? (Don’t get mad now.) I will say that the dish towel and union suit is pretty near in threads, but I hope I can give Lena back her dish towel a little the worse from scrubbing but never the less a (dish towel). There have been times that I wished I took my safty, but (Safty First) you know. Say and aint I fussy about my cloths. They say I am the most particular soldier in camp.

 

Sam

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 9/19/1916

Dear Sam.

 

I think I see you in the right of the picture, am I right? Mary was very much pleased with hers. You may not be getting fat now but when you get home you ought to. We’ll have to squeeze up close together because Mary takes a lot of room at the table.

 

The papers say you will start for home very soon but I guess you’ll receive this letter though. They can’t send you home any too soon can they? Henry was over Sun. and stayed all the afternoon and we went down to Madge’s in the evening. He is coming to Madge’s tomorrow night. He thinks quite a lot of Madge. He is working on a job down the National House now.

 

Madge was up here last night with John and Mary. You see she is getting along pretty good when she walked that distance. When Pa read your card about the grass beginning to grow and everything looking green he started to laugh. Well I laughed to because its quite chilly up here now.

 

I see in the papers that someone want the boys to go to their armories because they think that if they went to Framingham the ground would be too cold to sleep on. I hope you do go to the armory and then we could go to see you oftener and maybe you could get home for a couple of hours. We intend to see you as soon as you land anyway with Mary in the lead.

 

Lena has gone to bed and I’m beginning to feel cold so I’ll have to hurry up so I can join her. You know she likes to have me sing her to sleep. You know how I sing myself to sleep don’t you?

 

You did pretty good to stick it out on that march you had. Its too bad Kingsman is sick but I hope he comes out alright. Tell him I was asking for him. I hope this letter finds you packing and getting your things together to move. The Hollands are fine and the Studdly girls and Emma sends their best regards. Every one is O.K.

 

Hoping this finds you well and happy like meself I will close.

 

With Love from all

 

Em.

 

P.S. X X X X X X By request of M.

 

 

© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/19/1916

Dear Everybody,

 

Beleive me this is a noisy and happy camp tonight, and I guess it will continue to be until Thursday of this week, when we are pretty sure we are going home. You see they have been holding the good news back, and we wouldn’t know any thing of it now unless the Boston papers didn’t get it. One of the boys got a Post dated Sept. 15 which said that we would spend our last Sunday here Sept. 17. I asked my Capt. what he thought of it and he spoke the same as he has always spoke, “All Bull.” Well if this Brigade don’t leave this place by Saturday 23 there will be a hot time in El Paso. I guess there is going to be anyway.

 

I got your (Em’s) card today, and I hope you don’t send any more, for we may be on our way now while you are reading this letter.

 

Sam

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/18/1916

Just a passing remark from the border. It sounds pretty good to me. How about it? Im fine.

 

Sam

Poem printed on the front of postcard

WITH THE MILITIA ON THE RIO GRANDE

We joined the militia in the old home town
For the fun to be had each year at the camping ground;
Little thinking as we took the oath in the armory hall,
That quite so soon would we hear the call
To pitch our tents and take our stand
Way down in Texas on the Rio Grande,
There to guard the line with a watchful eye
To see that no Villa bandits pass us by.

And so Texas we’re here we’ll say
To do our duty and draw our pay
We’re here from almost every state—
From Maine to where the sun sets at the Golden Gate,
From up in Washington on the sound,
Down to where the Florida alligators abound.

Some of us came willingly, others not,
But each and all must accept our lot
And do the drilling and standing guard
Although some times we find it hard
To be content with the army chow
Of bacon and beans and some canned cow.

But there are times when it’s not so bad
For there are days when there is fun to be had
And then some evenings down town we stray
And have a good feed at some café,
While some who enjoy their cigars and wine
Find other ways to spend their time
Then back to camp we go feeling fine
Not so sorry to be guarding the line.

Now cheer up boys there’ll come a day
When these Mexican troubles will have cleared away
Then back to our homes and loved ones dear
We’ll march with good will and many a cheer
And in after years as time goes by
We’ll often laugh and wonder why
We didn’t take things more as a joke
Instead of cursing when we were broke
We would of had more fun along with the rest
When the militia encamped in the great Southwest.

—A.R.H., El Paso, Texas
(Copyright Applied For)

 

 

Dear Lena,

 

We are going out this morning to be gone all day. It is now six thirty and the only time I will probably get to write today. As far as I can make out we are to particapate in Brigade battle practice with blank amunition. I see by the papers that El Paso is going to see one of the largest parades since the review of the Union troops at Washington at the close of the war. We are to be in the parade I think. All we do here is think, we don’t know any thing. Hope to see you soon but Im not sure when.

 

Sam

 

 

© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

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