Chateau Montanglaust, 6/23/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuatoin Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

June 23, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is Sunday and I have planned to write a letter home every Sunday and during the week, too, if possible. If it had been yesterday my letter would not have been written.

Since I sent my last letter our mail has found us and we have had two deliveries. I was fortunate enough to receive ten letters out of both lots. It certainly made us feel good to hear from home. Home dosen’t seem so far off now that we have a connecting link. Five of the letters I received were from Mother. The last letter was numbered 6 so there is one still to be accounted for. As I look I see there are only four letters from Mother. In the first bunch there were tow letters dated May 15 and 18. The next one is dated the 30th and the next the 7th of June. It took the last one only 16 days to get to me. That is very good time. It will take my letters longer to reach you. They are put in here in the office and censored whenever the officer gets around to it. Then they are sent to the mail headquarters. I don’t know whether they are censored again there or not. After that they are sent to the states. Letters coming to us are not censored at all.

This is Wednesday morning and this letter has hardly gotten started. Sunday afternoon and evening there was a rush of patients and I had to lay aside letter writing and everything else. There must have been three or four hundred that came in that night because it was necessary to open more wards. I had four wards to look after and I was on duty in them from early Sunday morning until ten o’clock Monday night without any relief or sleep. I have had to do that twice in the last week. We are short of men and so we have to work long hours. We haven’t enough nurses to take care of the wards either. Every few days we get a few more so we have now either sixty or seventy, I am not sure which. They are very patient and hard working and do a lot of good for the poor fellows who are placed in our care. The privates who work in the wards don’t know a great deal about that work. They do the normal labor and the nurses and doctors do nearly all of the medical work. We are short of doctors, too. Some of them who are in the wards have nearly a hundred patients at times and it isn’t possible to give the necessary attention to so many. We are looking forward to receiving more men and probably doctors, too, so it will be better then.

The patients who came in Sunday night were mostly gassed. Some were burned and some had inhaled it. It is terrible stuff and causes more suffering than shot wounds. If they don’t get it badly they recover without any permanent injury but those who get much of it in their lungs either die or are left with weak lungs and throats.

This surely is a busy place. When we are rushed everybody has to work until the rush is over. In the operating room there are four tables going all the time, night and day. Sunday the receiving wards couldn’t take care of all the patients as they came in so they were laid out on the grass and the doctors and nurses worked on them there.

Every day or two we evacuate all the patients that are able to be moved. That is a big job, too, so between receiving and evacuating and taking care of the patients while they are here everybody is kept on the jump.

I was taken away from the ward work yesterday and put in the operating room giving anesthetics. It is six months since I did any of that and I feel pretty shaky. I got along fairly well, though, and gave ten in a little room over half a day. We worked straight through without any stop. As soon as one operation was through I started putting the next man to sleep so that he was ready by the time the doctors got their hands washed and were ready to begin. I was afraid that I might have to begin all over again getting used to the operating room but it didn’t bother me at all. The operations were all for removing bullets and pieces of shrapnel from all parts of the body. The wound itself may not be very big or painful, but it usually takes a lot of cutting to get the pieces out. We have some doctors with us who have been over here for some time doing this work. Most of the company doctors are in the wards.

Since writing you last I have received three lots of mail. There were about ten letters from Mother. Several of them were forwarded from Camp Merritt. I think I have received all that she has sent now. There were also two letters from Father, one of them was forwarded from Camp Merritt. Besides those I recieved letters from Gladys, Jessie Saunders, Miss Phipps and Mrs. Davis. Altogether I must have about thirty letters. I don’t know how I am ever going to answer them all. I suppose that by now I have received all the back letters that I have coming to me and from now on will get them as they are written. I will be able to answer them more regularly then, anyway.

I am rather surprised to hear of Felber going in the Navy. I suppose he knew he would be drafted and thought he would like that better than the Army. The Navy men are enlisted for four years but there may be some way to get out when the war is over.

I will drop Mr. Ballam a line. It is not likely that he will be around here. He probably is working at some supply depot which will be farther back.

Things are rather quiet around here today. We have sent most of our patients out and there dosen’t seem to be much doing at the front so we have a little breathing spell. We spent a part of the morning fixing our tent up. There are six of us in our tent. There is room for eight so we have a table to eat and write on. Over here the men are not allowed to have beds so they sleep on the ground. One of our boys speaks French and has been friendly with the caretaker of the estate and he has loaned us six of the countesses mattresses so we in this tent have soft, warm beds.

Our biggest problem is in regards to food. We are not situated where we can get food from the American Army. By arrangement we draw our supplies from the French Army and their stuff is not so good as ours, and there isn’t as much of it. All we can get from them is bread, coffee, fresh beef and sugar and occasionally a little flour. That dosen’t give us much variety. We get potatoes, too.

The weather has been very cool. At night it is really cold. I would like to have a little hot weather just for a change. Three nights this week German aeroplanes have flown over us on their way to bomb Paris. The anti-aircraft guns near here shoot at them a lot but I haven’t heard of their doing any damage. They haven’t bothered us and I don’t think they will.

We have about a dozen Germans in one of our wards. I think I shall have to go in and see them today. I don’t know who they are or where they are from. They are being taken care of just the same as our men are.

According to the new rules now it is impossible to send us packages of any sort. The Americans have been sending so much over for the soldiers that it took up a lot of shipping space and flooded the mail system over here. There isn’t anything that we are really in need of anyway so we can get along all right. The YMCA is going to open a little canteen here so we can buy chocolate and other things that we need.

Everybody here is well and happy and working pretty hard. We hope to be getting home someday but I expect that will be some time yet.I must pay up my letter debts this week and will try to write you again in a few days.

Best regards to all and

Love to you from

Joe

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Chateau Montanglaust, 6/16/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

June 16, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I wrote you a letter a week ago but as we have been on the move since it is probable that it was not forwarded for a few days.

The day after I wrote you last we got word to pack up and move. It is a big job to move a whole hospital but we got it done in a couple of hours. We traveled about twenty four hours. We didn’t go so very far but troop trains don’t travel very fast and we went a rather round about way. We had better luck as to accomodations this trip. The officers had first class compartments, the sergeants had second class and the privates, third class. We were as comfortable as on any American train. As we got nearer the front we began to realize that the war was getting close. A good part of the trip was through country that had been occupied by the Germans in 191^. We saw very little of ruins, probably because they had been repaired since or that there wasn’t much damage done. Our route was just about along the line of the furthest advance of the Germans. Of course they don’t occupy that ground now. Many of the fields had a number of graves in them which were marked by wooden crosses.

Our present situation is a very good one and we think we are practically permanently located here. We are on the estate of some countess whose name I do not know. She lives in Paris now but has been here a couple of times this week to see what we were doing with her place. There is a fine old chateau and beautiful grounds. The house is not well arranged for hospital wards so it is used for operating rooms, offices and quarters for some of the officers. We are in small tents around the edge of the grounds and have about twenty-five ward tents up now. When we are all fixed we may have room for a thousand patients. We haven’t all of our operating equipment yet and so have not really begun to work. There is a small hospital attached to us called a Mobile Hospital and they have all their equipment so they have been doing some operating. Last night we got our first taste of what is coming. We got word in the evening that some gassed men were being sent to us. I stayed up all night with eight men to take the men from the ambulances and put them in the ward and in four hours we received nearly four hundred. They were sent to us from another hospital so they had been treated and there was nothing for us to do but keep them warm and quiet and feed them.

We have over a hundred wounded patients but they are taken care of at present in the Mobile Hospital so I don’t see them. When we are fixed to do operating we will be rushed with wounded patients. We have five wounded German prisoners. They receive the same care and treatment that our men do and I guess they hardly know what to make of it. They are surprised to be treated so well. One or two of them are in pretty bad shape but even at that I guess they are glad to be here.

Most of our patients are Marines and I guess the Marine Corps has been doing good work at the front. We hear reports of American successes which I suppose are comparatively small but they are encouraging. We can realize that we are close to the front. At night we can see the flashes from the guns and rockets. We can hear them plainly although they are several miles away. There is hardly a minute of the day that we can’t hear the hum of an aeroplane. Some days they are more numerous than others. The second day we were here we often saw five or six up at the same time. A couple of days ago a German plane wandered over this far but a couple of miles from here the anti-aircraft guns got him. We are so used to the planes by now that we don’t look at them anymore. Our patients say that at the front the German planes do whatever they want to unmolested. We hope that all those planes that the U.S. is said to be building will soon be in service.

Since beginning this letter two days ago I have been put in charge of two wards. I have the officers ward and a ward for enlisted men. None of them were very seriously wounded. Most of them had been operated upon at the Mobile Hospital and then were sent to my ward to be sent on to a base hospital. They are all gone this morning. Two of the officers were suffering from shell shock which is a mental and physical derangement caused by exposure to shell fire. One lieutenant thought he was still in the trenches and was talking to his men and giving orders. We don’t keep patients very long. As soon as they are able to be moved they are sent back to a base hospital to recover. A good many expect to be sent home when they are well as they are not fit for further service. Some of the men have been over here a year and they would give a leg to get back home.

It is surprising, though, how cheerful most of the men are in spite of their injuries and hardships they have gone through. Some are anxious to get back to the trenches while others are terror stricken at the thought of going back again. They have a pretty hard time of it, all right, while they are in the trenches. They are all hungry when they get here and something to eat and a bed look pretty good to them.

A representative of the YMCA comes around every day or two and gives the patients a piece of chocolate and some cigarettes. There is a small building on the grounds that used to be the servants’ quarters. When the French soldiers were camped here it was used for a YMCA and I understand that the Y is going to open it again for us. There is a good piano up there and Sgt. Fontaine and I have been using it in the evenings when we had time.

We have about forty female nurses with us now. I have a nurse and tow men in each of my wards. The nurse tends to the dressing of the wounds and the men do the other work that has to be done. The work is not so awfully hard but the days are long and wearisome.

We get the American papers from Paris every day. We are vitally interested in the news from the Chteau Thierry region. So far the news has been very favorable. A few days ago the papers told of an air raid on Paris. Some of our men who were up saw the search lights from the city as they tried to find the aeroplanes and shoot them down.

On account of our moving around no mail has gotten to us yet but I understand that we may get some soon. Everybody is anxious to hear from home. It is six weeks now since we left New York and that is a pretty long time to be without word from home. I hope you didn’t have to wait that long for a letter from me.

It looks as though we were not going to get paid till next month, we will ge two months pay in one. I understand that after we are here six months we are entitled to a weeks furlough. The American soldiers are not supposed to go to Paries. There are other cities which have been made the official recreation places. They have American theatres and have Americanized the towns so that the men can get along as well as at home. I would like to get into Paris sometime but I don’t know how it can be done. I hope to be able to arrange a little time now and then for practice but it is rather hard to do so. The ward work is not hard but your are expected to be on duty almost all the time. Perhaps when we get going a little while I can manage for an hour or so a day.

I want this letter to get off today so I will close now. I suppose you will have had one or more letters from me by now and that you have been writing me right along so that there will be several of them when they do get here. I will write as often as I can, at least once a week. I will try to write to my friends now and then but I may not be anble to do very much in that way.

Give my best regards to all.

Love from

Joe

PS. I think this is the fourth letter I have sent.

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere In France, 6/9/1918

Somewhere in France

June 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We have changed our location since I wrote you last. As I told you in my last letter we didn’t expect to stay where we were very long. We were there just a week. We didn’t do anything but loaf around there. When we came there the camp was crowded with the soldiers that came across with the same convoy that we did. After the camp itself was filled they put the new arrivals out in the nearby fields. We were about the last to leave of the men that came over with us. But as we came away there were other ships in the harbor unloading men. Men are coming over as fast as they can be taken care of, and faster than I had any idea of.

It is a little over a week ago that we packed up and loaded onto a train of “36 men or 8 horses”. Our trip was nearly four days long, straight across the widest part of France. Of course there was no comfort in the trip but we enjoyed it just the same. We passed thorugh some famous old French cities but we usually went around the edge of them and so did not see much of them. We stopped once or twice a day for an hour or so at small stations. Some of them were regular stopping places for troop trains and the YMCA and Red Cross had put up places to serve coffee and bread or sandwiches. At almost every large town the Red Cross had coffee for us. That was very welcome, especially during the night. The nights here are pretty cold and there was no going to bed in the box cars. We were lucky if we could even sit down and catch a couple of winks of sleep.

There are a lot of American women over here, both Red Cross nurses and regular army nurses. We saw quite a few of them on the way here. They seem to be a fine lot of women. Those who were serving coffee along the way had been at the front and were sent back to do “canteening” for a rest. They worked pretty hard at that but they didn’t seem to mind how hard they worked if they could do something for the soldiers.

As we went further east we met several French hospital trains going back loaded with French wounded. That made us feel that we were beginning to get close to things. Several of the towns had prison camps. The German prisoners were out working on the roads, building the camp or doing other work. They have it pretty easy. They don’t work hard and are well taken care of. I hope our prisoners in Germany are as well off. In one town where we stopped I talked with one of the guards who had some prisoners out building fences. He said that although they see train loads of Americans going to the front every day, the German prisoners won’t believe that they are Americans. They have been told that the submarines are preventing the Americans from getting over. They think we are English or Canadians in American uniforms. I wanted to talk to one of the prisoners myself  but that isn’t allowed.

At one town I talked with some English soldiers who had been wounded and after getting out of the hospital were put on light duty further back. At another town we talked with some French soldiers. One of them was an aviator who had been shot down with his machine. The French people were very cordial to us. We saw lots of women doing railroad work in place of the men who are away. The only men we saw were those beyond the military age. Everybody is tired of the war but they won’t give in.

Our present location is hardly likely to be permanent. We have a real hospital of sixteen buildings. Ten of them are wards and the rest are mess halls, office buildings, sleeping quarters, etc. It has not been used as a hospital as yet and so far we have received no patients. We have been busy cleaning up and putting the place in order. When we first came there was almost no hospital equipment but we have received most of that now.

I have told you where Evacuation Hospital No. 1 is. We are about thirty five miles straight south of them. The American front is north of us and the lowest extremity of the French front is just a little further to the east. It is rumored that we will not be here long but that we will soon move further up behind the American line. I understand that the Americans have had a big part in the activity around Paris and it is probable that if we move we will be around that neighborhood. We are all anxious to get into the work and be doing something.

At present the men are laying walks and making roads. They have been doing that ever since they got into the army and they are tired of it. Our quarters are very comfortable and in that way we are in luck. We are using the beds from the wards to sleep on so we have springs and thick soft mattresses. I have charge of this barrack and have a little room all to myself. I can read and write and practice in here without being bothered by anybody.

We are not so fortunately situated in the way of having a town near us. There are four little towns within the radius of a mile from us but they are hardly more than a few houses gathered together along the road. Only one of them has two streets in it, the others have only one. There is nothing in any of the towns of interest. There are no stores that have anything that we would want to buy. There are some restaurants but I don’t know what we can get to eat there. Our meals here are pretty fiar. Our food is sent down to us from a depot near here. It consists mostly of beans, bacon and such things although we do get some fresh beef every few days. There is a commissary here where we can buy little extra things. We can get canned fruits and jam, soap, toilet articles and tobacco. Everything we buy there we get at the cost price.

[Editor’s Note: The rest of this letter has been lost to history]

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Soldier’s Mail for June, 1916 and 1918

The collection of Soldier’s Mail written by Sgt. Sam Avery has now been published in its entirety on this site. While a book by the same title is in progress, this post begins a new series of Editorials which recaps the collection for each particular month and helps readers more easily access all of Sam’s writings while at the Front during American involvement in the Great War from 1916-1919.

The Soldier’s Mail correspondence is published here according to the sequence in which it was written. Therefore, letters are organized in “reverse order” with the most recent at the top. To read them chronologically, readers should start at the bottom and work upwards.

June, 1916: South on the Border

The Avery Collection begins in June, 1916 when Sgt. Sam Avery and other members of the Massachusetts National Guard were federalized by President Woodrow Wilson and dispatched to defend the Mexican Border from guerrilla incursions during the Mexican Revolution. Ironically, the “Mexican Question” remains as much a problem of national security now as it was then. However, similar decisive action is lacking today due to pervasive political correctness which promotes hand-wringing about “militarizing” the Border rather than robustly protecting American sovereignty.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Rather than simply a footnote to early 20th Century American history, the Punitive Expedition and associated Border defense was actually the first American military action taken in the larger context of the Great War. Read the page June, 1916 to learn more about the mobilization and deployment of the Massachusetts National Guard as some of the first troops to defend American soil from foreign invasion since the War of 1812. Read Sam’s first letter here as he begins the Great Adventure.

June, 1918: Toul Sector

During the month of June, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under fire in the Toul Sector. While this sector had been officially designated a “quiet sector” by the French Army (because no major offensive operations were occurring in the area), it proved to be anything but quiet for the men of the 26th “Yankee” Division. Read the page Toul (Boucq) Sector to learn more about the action in early Spring, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for June and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry.

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