Somewhere in France, 10/28/1918

October 28, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our YMCA is temporarily out of paper so I am using some which I brought from the States with me. I had a little mail this week, letter number 25 from Mother, the British American Herald and picnic program from Father and a note from Miss Phipps. I am sorry you didn’t get the card I sent from Paris. I have a little collection of them here and will send the whole lot. I bought cards of only the things that I saw but at that I have quite a few.

There is a lot of influenza here too. A lot of our men are coming back from the front with it. There is great danger of its developing into pneumonia. We have lost a lot of boys that way, but so far we have had no serious illness of any of our own company men.

For a few days now we have had pretty nice weather, a sort of Indian Summer. It has been clear and dry but not warm. It is almost the 1st of November now and we can’t expect many more warm days. I don’t know how much longer the rain is to keep up but we are glad for a few days to let things dry up a little.

Inside AEF Hospital Train, 1918

I had a surprise last night. One of the boys I had teaching in Section Seven at Ft. Riley came in to see me. He is working on a hospital train and his train was here to get a load of patients to take back to the base. Our hospital trains are fine things. They have sixteen bit steel coaches, twelve of them are like hospital wards. The beds run lengthwise, like Pullmans but there are three tiers of them instead of two. The other cars are for the dispensary, kitchen and quarters for the train men. The cars are simply and well arranged, light and easy to keep clean. A man is just as comfortable and well taken care of as at a hospital. There are doctors and nurses on the train. I imagine hospital train work is pretty nice. They travel all over the country to the various base hospitals and usually have a few hours off at the end of the trip.

We have two million men over here now. That is quite a lot. By the time they all get hardened and used to the climate and fighting conditions they will make a big addition to the Allied armies.

I am getting a little time now to practice. When we first came here I managed to get from two to four hours a day for two or three weeks and I began to feel something like my old self again. Then we began to get real busy and my practice had to be dropped. Right now we are not so busy and the other hospital company and us divide up the work. They receive the patients one day and we receive them the next. We had a few lively days. Our team has set what we think is a record for cases. Night before last we did 123 cases between 7 PM and 6:30 AM. Nearly all of those were real operations requiring an anesthetic. The other four teams who were on duty on the same shift didn’t do near so many. Twelve hours straight of that kind of work is pretty hard and we are about all in when it is time to quit.

We were off this afternoon so I took a walk over to the aviation field near here. There are machines going up and coming down all the time. While we were there a big French machine landed and then flew away again. It had three motos and was twice as big as any American plane I had ever seen. Some German planes have been flying over dropping little hand bills inviting the American soldiers to desert and surrender to the Germans. They say that it is foolish for the Americans to risk their lives when they can come over to the Germans, give themselves up and live in Germany “in comfort” until the end of the war. I don’t think that many will take advantage of the invitations.

The report we have today is that Austria has surrendered. We get lots of reports on various things and it is a couple of days before we find out whether they are true or not. More often they are not true but I hope this one is. With Austria and Bulgaria out of it and Turkey helpless, Germany can’t stand many months or even weeks and with the present indications of dissatisfaction and change of government I look for them to give up soon. If Austria holds on the war may drag on a while yet.

I am glad to have Louis Schmidt’s address. I will see him if I get the chance. A few weeks ago I made out an allotment of ten dollars a month to Mother. That is for lodge dues and anything else that may come up, the rest can be put in the bank. All the Masonic lodges that I know of are not asking their soldiers to pay dues while away so I gave my Masonic dues no thought. I made the allotment in September before I drew my August pay so the money is due from August 1. I have about a hundred dollars that I saved. It may come in handy sometime before I get home again, whenever that may be.

Are you getting my letters regularly now? Since the middle of August I have written every week on Sunday or Monday. I haven’t missed a week so you ought to be getting my letters that often. It will probably be about Thanksgiving when you get this. I hope you will eat or have eaten a good dinner for me. I suppose we will have something extra on that day. We have pretty good meals and are comfortable in every way so we are contented.

I hope you can get coal enough to keep warm this winter. Coal is scarce here but so far we have not had to suffer any. The coal used here is mostly coal dust pressed into bricks. They burn pretty well.

Mrs. Davis’ address is Box 1836 Denver, Colo. I had a little note from her not very long ago in which she didn’t say what she was doing or how she was getting along. You should get the pictures from Loomis soon. If there is much delay you might write them and ask if they got the money. I don’t know how many pictures they will send you but I would like to have one sent to the following people for Christmas: Dykes, Danes, Beechams, Aunt Lizzie, Aunt Louise, Miss Phipps and Miss Davis and of course yourselves. If there are not enough to go around or if you want more Loomis will print them I think and you can pay them and let me know what it is.

Well, this is a pretty long letter as I had better quit.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/20/1918

ymcalogo

October 20, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I am having an afternoon off and making use of it to write a few letters. I have just written a rather long one to the Walkers in Cedar Rapids. I have owed them a letter since before I left the States.

I don’t know whether I told you that a couple of weeks ago, Captain Harvey, whose team I was on was called away to another hospital so I am now on Major Babcock’s team. He has been laid up for a couple of days with an infected finger. Nearly all the wounds that come to us are infected and we who handle the wounds and dressings are liable to infection if we have any little cuts or scratches on our hands.

We are not receiving many patients right now. I don’t know what the reason is unless things have slowed down on this front. We are glad that we are still continuing to make big gains especially in Belgium and the north of France. Every little gain brings the day of our homecoming a little nearer.

I haven’t had any mail this week. The company has had a few letters almost every day but none of it has been for me. I sent you the picture during the week. I sent it on a board and wrapped in heavy paper so it ought to reach you in good shape.

Nothing has happened here this week to write about. It has rained continually except for one day and that was as fine a day as you could wish for. It has rained all day today. I went to the church service this morning and this afternoon we are supposed to be on duty but there isn’t anything doing so we are sitting around the operating room writing letters.

It begins to feel as though winter were coming on soon. This miserable, damp chill makes it impossible to keep warm. For my part I would rather have it freeze up and be hard than wade around in this mud all the time. They say that there is a lot of snow and slush here during the winter so perhaps we son’t be any better off then.

We haven’t heard any more about our leaves of absence. We are supposed to have one every four months. Ours was due a month ago and we were told we could have them after this drive was over. We are allowed seven days and the time taken in travelling and all expenses are paid. There are only certain places we can go to and they are in the southern part of France.

Have had no word from the YMCA yet. Things have been pretty dull around here of late. We have had a little spare time but there is no place to go or anything to do so time hangs heavily on our hands. Sgt. Hill and I play cribbage once in a while and I usually manage to beat him.

Well, as usual give my regards to everybody.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/14/1918

ymcalogo

October 14, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Having just a little time to spare today I have done a little house cleaning and put my trunk in order. I have a big stack of letters which have accumulated since I came over here and many of them have not been answered. Most of them are from Mother and as I have been writing home regularly I guess I can consider those as answered and dispose of them.

We get mail practically every day now and two or three times a week there is a little for me. I have had two from Mother, two from Gladys, one from Father and one from Miss Phipps. They do not come in the order in which they were written and mailed. The letter I received from Gladys today was written a week earlier than the one I received last week. I think some come direct to France while others go by way of England.

You seem to be having a lot of pleasure out of Betsy II. I am wondering when Betsy I is going to have a little run again. It is not costing much to keep the car and I guess I will take a chance on keeping it instead of selling. I would like to know what Fords are worth now, both new and used. After the war they will be cheaper than during the war as most of the Ford plant is turning out war necessities. There are thousands of little Fords over here. The French use a lot of them as well as the Americans.

I think I told you some time ago that Mr. Woodard is now the concert master of the Minneapolis Orchestra. Ezerwonky, their former first violin is now teaching at the Bush Conservatory. Van Vliet their eccentric first cellist is also among the missing but I don’t know who is filling that place. Has Gunn’s American Symphony done anything this year? No doubt the war has taken away most of his men as nearly all of them were eligible.

We have been so busy of late that I haven’t been able to do any practicing. I have needed nearly all the time I have had off for sleep. The night men sleep days and the day men sleep nights so it is impossible to practice in the barracks at any time. I had planned to use the theatre once in a while but on account of the rush of patients we are using that as a ward now.

We get soldiers from all the Allied Nations through our hospital. Of course they are very rare but we get them once in a while. The other night we had a French negro from the island of Martinique. The French have colonies all over the world and they have all sent their men here to help the mother country. There are Mongolians from Indo-China, negroes from Africa and small islands, Arabs from Algeria and Morocco. We have seen much less of the English and their colonials. Before we moved here we used to get English often because there was a British aviation field near where we were.

I saw something the other day that surpassed anything I have ever seen or may see again. [Censored] aeroplanes went over in one fleet. They were in battle formation and made an imposing sight. I understand that nearer the lines they met others, all together [Censored] going over. I’ll bet the Germans couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw them coming.

The good work at the front still continues. Every day the line moves eastward until now it is almost unbelievable that the powerful German army has been beaten back so far in three months. Germany has just sent their second note to Wilson saying that they accept his terms. A lot of people are excited and think the war is over. I haven’t heard Wilson’s reply but I don’t look for much to come of it. Wilson has said “No peace with the Hohenzollerns” and I think the German people will realize soon that they can have peace when we can deal with a responsible government.

The turning point of the war has come but there probably is a long hard pull ahead of us yet but the end will come. I suppose that right now you at home are eagerly waiting for each paper that comes out for peace news. Our papers are a day old when we get them so you know the news before we do.

I am sending you a coupon for a Red Cross package. The package will be small and I know it will be a question as to what to send. I would like a couple of packages of Gen razor blades. We are not near any commissary and can’t get things like that. We have a YMCA canteen but we can only get tobacco and cookies there.

I can’t understand why you should have been two months without a letter. I may have missed a week when we were so very busy but I don’t see why you had to wait so long. Gladys didn’t have one for three months and I wrote three or four in that time. I hope everybody will get my letters regularly now so no one will think that I am neglecting them or that I am unappreciative of their writing to me.

This ought to arrive about Mother’s birthday. I send a little card which is all we can get around here.

Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 10/8/1918

ymcalogo

October 8, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have received three letters from home this week, two from Mother and one from Father. I think I have received all the letters that have been sent to me now. The letters come irregularly and not always in the order in which they were written. Since beginning this letter I have received another from Mother, number 23. The last one I had before that was 21. This last letter didn’t take long to get here. It was mailed on Sept. 7 and got here on the 8th [of October].

It dosen’t seem that you have been getting all of my letters. You should have had more than five up to that time. For some time I have been trying to write every Sunday but the way my hours in the operating room are arranged I can’t always do it. When I miss Sunday I make up for it on Monday.

There has been little of interest that has occurred here during the last week. The early part of the week we were kept busy. The drive [Censored] kept us going [Censored]. Our men are quite happy over the German request for a peace discussion. I haven’t much hope of anything coming of it. We haven’t heard yet how the Allies have received it but I do not expect it to receive much attention.

We are having the most miserable weather I ever saw. Today we have had five or six hail storms. It is really cold and the constant rain makes it miserable. However, we can’t complain. We have nice warm clothes and beds and pretty good things to eat. The boys at the front are the ones that suffer. No word from the YMCA yet. I am still expecting to hear every day.

Let me know the addresses of any of our friends that came over. A few days ago a young lieutenant came in to see me. He was a student at Coe and happened to be passing by. Occasionally we meet someone we knew at Ft. Riley and who have come over since we did. Our men are coming over pretty fast now and their presence is bringing results at the front. All the Allies are having success and big gains and a lot of it is due to the help of the Americans and the renewed courage that the enthusiastic Americans have given them.

I haven’t been outside of camp for a month [Censored]. For some reason or other the German planes don’t seem to be so active around here as they were a while ago. We have not seen one for a long while and we used to see them quite often. Once in awhile when we have a little time in the evening Sgt. Hill and I play a few games of cribbage. When I was in Emporia they gave me a little cribbage board and I have used it to good advantage. He has been recommended to be made a lieutenant. He is a very good office man and a good deal of the success of our hospital is due to the efficiency of the office. He deserves it and I hope he gets it.

I wrote a letter the other day to the Loomises in Emporia. I enclosed five dollars and asked them to make some pictures and send them to you, I don’t know how many I will get but I think there will be enough to send to a few friends at Christmas. I still have these they sent me and I will send these on to you. I have the little camera with me but I haven’t any film. We came away from Ft. Riley so suddenly that I wasn’t able to get any and in New York we were told that we couldn’t get those things.

The package of cartoons came a couple of days ago. They are very good and enjoyable. You can’t really appreciate them until you have been through these experiences like we have. The Red Cross has a little reading room with a few magazines in it and I think I will put the cartoons over there. The Red Cross has a little canteen here where they serve [Censored]. The YMCA has a little store where we can buy cookies and tobacco. They have very little and it isn’t very cheap but we buy things there once in a while for a change.

We had an exceptionally good supper tonight. Fried steak, boiled potatoes and gravy, boiled onions, two very good biscuits and cocoa. When we first came here we got nothing but canned corned beef and beans for every meal for nearly three weeks. Corned “willy” that often is pretty tiresome. When we work all night, which I do every other night, we have a very good meal at midnight. We can’t complain about our food now and men are generally [Censored] …had it but we get lots of them from the front and a great many of them don’t get through it.

I owe several letters yet and once in awhile get one written. I can’t write regularly to everybody and I don’t think they expect it. We have been here long enough now to have seven day passes due us. Things are too busy now to let us off so we may get them later. We are allowed seven days to visit the place we go to and the travelling time besides. I would like to go to the southern part of France if I get to go.

My regards to everybody and lots of love for yourself

From

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 9/29/1918

ymcalogo

September 29, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We have passed a very busy week since I wrote you last. The big French and American drive north and west of [censored] opened up a couple of days ago and is keeping all of us almost constantly on the go. We hear reports of large gains in territory and prisoners. We feel confident of its success.

This has been a great week for the Allies with the big victories in Palestine, Serbia and Bulgaria, Verdun and around St. Quentin. It begins to look certain now that there can be only one outcome to the war, the only question is when.

The papers we get here do not tell us of any German gains nor is there ever anything the least unfavorable to our side. Some of us are not blind enough to think that everything is so rosy all the time. If you can I wish you would send me the Sunday Tribune. We can get Tribunes here but there isn’t anything to them. They are only a half a sheet and there is no Chicago news in it.

There is a German prison camp near here and of late it has constantly been in use. The prisoners are kept here only a short time and then sent back somewhere. I don’t know whether any have gone to the States yet, I think not. When Alice was here there was a train load going out. They were willing to trade almost anything for tobacco. We are issued tobacco now, so having some on hand I traded it off to them for a couple of poor rings, a cigarette holder and a few little buttons and things. It is hard to send these things home now.

I understand that the Red Cross has small boxes that can be filled and sent to us at Christmas. I saw a little article in the paper to that effect. I know that all the boys will be glad to get a little something from home, no matter what it is. We are not really suffering from want of anything but anything that comes from home makes us feel better than anything that we get over here.

I have one pupil now. A young fellow from a wireless station nearby comes over a couple of times a week. He isn’t exactly an advanced pupil but he plays fairly well. He just came in and gave me a melon and some tomatoes that he managed from someplace. They will be welcome additions to my supper.

The weather is miserable lately. It is quite cold and very damp. We have already had a number of pneumonia patients. A Red Cross man attached to our hospital died of it this morning.

I am still awaiting news from the YMCA. It is hardly time yet for word to get back from Paris. I hope to hear this week, though. I wish I knew where some of my musician friends are as I might be able to get some of them to to, too. I know there are several in the service somewhere. I think I shall try to find out where Carl Hakes is. I don’t know whether he has been called or not. The newspaper talk about Steindel and other orchestra men looks rather foolish. I am sure a lot of them were pro-German before the U.S. got into it, but one would expect that as nearly the whole organization is German. Haven’t all the unnaturalized Germans been interned?

We have a number of prisoners at the hospital. Some are sick and some we are using to carry litters, dig graves and other work. They seem happy enough to do their little work. I enclose a German medical card. I don’t know whether it is attached to the men when they are found on the field or after they are in the hospital.

In addressing me it might be well to include “France” as there are Americans in Russia and possibly Italy and a letter might go the wrong route and have to go all around the world to get to me. It took sixteen days for a letter to come 150 miles so I don’t know how long it would take from Siberia. If it hadn’t been for that delay in the letter from Paris I would have been out with the concert troupe a month ago. I need some strings and I understand that it is almost impossible to get them in Paris. I think they could be sent from home alright as there are envelopes for them so they would not come under the head of packages. I would like two G’s and 6 A’s and 6 E’s. I have had one wire E on for a year and a half now. What I need more than anything is to have my bow rehaired.

If I leave here I will arrange to have my mail forwarded. I think I will write to Loomis in Emporia and have him make up a few of the pictures he took when I was there last April. I will send him some money and have him send the pictures to you. Give my regards to all.

Much Love from

Joe

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

Somewhere in France, 9/23/1918

ymcalogo

September 23, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have been very fortunate this week as far as receiving mail is concerned. I have had three from Mother and one from Father, three from Gladys, a couple from Miss Phipps and one from Mrs. Davis. Some of them were due here a long time ago but seem to have been stalled on the way. We have had promises that our mail will be delivered more frequently and regularly and we all hope it will be. The cablegram which Mother sent on the 2nd of August reached me on the 18th of September. It was cabled to London and sent as a letter from there. It arrived in London on the 5th of August. Although it arrived late I appreciate the sending of it just the same. I wonder if my letters have been reaching you regularly. In a letter from Gladys written about the middle of August she says she had only one letter from me and I know I have written here on an averageof one letter every two weeks. I have written you about one letter every week. A while ago I had track of the numbers of my letters so I will begin again and call this number one.

I have received permission to do the YMCA work so whenever they want me I am free to go. They sent a letter on the 2nd asking me to report in time to start a trip on the 9th. The letter arrived here on the 18th. I don’t know what they thought when I wasn’t in Paris on the 9th to begin the trip. The colonel sent a letter explaining the situation and saying that I could go whenever they got word to us in time. During the couple of weeks that I was able to do some practicing I learned five new solo pieces which I can use.

Last night our company put on a minstrel show. We have a Red Cross man here who used to do vaudeville work and he coaches the men. It was a very good show and I think everybody who attended enjoyed it. Sgt. Fontaine and I were the “orchestra” and also played a couple of solos on the program before the minstrels began. A couple of the nurses made a big chocolate cake for the “actors” so we had a little feed after the show. We had canned corned beef three times a day for two weeks straight and such a luxury as cake was almost too good to be true.

Our hospital is feeling pretty proud these days. I have told you of the hard work that we did during the drive between Toissone and Rheims. We have received a letter from General Pershing commending the company on the work done. In a way the letter corresponds to the awards that are made to individuals for distinguished service. Each of us is to receive two copies of the letter so I will send you one when I get it.

Letter

In honor of the occasion we were given a half day holiday. Most of us went to a town about thirty miles away. It is a pretty good sized town, about a hundred thousand in peace times I guess. There wasn’t anything to do down there but it was a little change from the monotony of camp.

I told you in my last letter that Alice Atkinson was here. She stayed here about four days. I had almost nothing to do during that time so we visited a good deal. Their company is just a few miles from here. She and some of the nurses came in this morning to attend church service. We have a very nice little church here. Both Evacuation Hospitals No. 6 and No. 7 have chaplains and they hold services Sunday mornings. They are both Episcopal ministers and the services follow the Episcopal service very closely. The music consists of a little collapsible organ which dosen’t amount to much.

Life here has been very dull. We have had very little work to do. We have had quite a number of patients but they have been sent back from the front lines with influenza, fever, bronchitis or something of that sort. There has been almost no surgery at all. In two weeks I gave six anesthetics. We expect our busy time to commence very soon now.

I am rather surprised to hear of Sarah Roberts getting married. I suppose there are lots of the girls in the States that are hurriedly getting married before their men go away to the war.

What is Gordon’s address? I would like to know what organizations my friends are with so I may be near them some time and want to see them. I suppose that the censor will think this is a pretty long letter. I don’t envy him his job of reading all the letters we write.

There is no telling where I will be by the time this reaches you. I expect, though, that by then I will be trotting around the country playing my fiddle by then. Everything is arranged so I can go with the YMCA when they want me.

Give my regards to everybody.

Love from

Joe

P.S. We are not allowed to put our rank and organizations on the outside of the letters anymore. Wehn you write me address the letters as you have always done them.

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

 

Somewhere in France, 9/14/1918

ymcalogo

September 14, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We had a delivery of mail yesterday, the first in two weeks. I had every anticipation of receiving a handful of letters and all I got was a postal card from Gladys. I have had only one letter from home in five weeks. I know you are writing regularly and I don’t like to have any letters get lost. I wonder if you have been getting all of my letters. I am going to write you every Sunday for certain and during the week if I can. I haven’t been very systematic or regular in my letter writing and especially of late when I have been trying to get all the time for practice that I could.

I am now working in the operating room again giving anesthetics. I am assigned to Capt. Harvey’s operating team. He is a head and brain specialist and cases of that nature are given to him to do. We work regular hours but they are so mixed up that it is hard to keep track of them. We start one morning at seven and work until noon, then we are off until seven at night, on till seven next morning, off till noon, on till seven and off till seven next morning and begin the same order over again. That system gives us one evening on and one off etc. We had one bad case this morning. A man had a piece of shrapnel that went through the eye and socket up into his brain. Capt. Harvey got the piece of iron out. One of the man’s eyes is out and he probably will lose the sight of the other. In the operating room is where you see the terrible results of the war.

Before now you will know about the drive around St. Michiels (?). Newspapers are two days old when we get them so you know more about what is taking place than I do. We get reports from the men themselves but they are always just local and don’t mean much. The Americans are meeting with almost no resistance. The soldiers they are up against are mostly Austrians and as soon as the Americans go after them they surrender.

We have had quite a number of wounded prisoners through here. Our own casualties have been very slight. We had a couple of Germans on our table the other night. They were scared to death. When I put them to sleep I guess they doubted whether they would ever wake up again. We treat them well and they haven’t anything to fear from us. We had one officer and he raised a big fuss about having to give up his personal belongings but it didn’t do him much good. Lots of them have pictures with them of their wives and families. Some of them have beautiful children and wives. The pictures show no signs of starvation or suffering and I doubt a lot that what we hear about their privations. No doubt everything is high and the poor are unable to get things they would like to have but I haven’t seen any signs of actual starvation.

Last night I had a big surprise. Another evacuation hospital passed by here yesterday and they left their nurses to stay with us until they got their new place set up. I was strolling around the camp and met Alice Atkinson. You will remember that she is the nurse that used to sing in the choir at St. Edmonds. I knew she was in the service and hoped to see her sometime. She is the only person I have met over here that I know. We have been visiting and talking over old times and have enjoyed being together. Se probably will be here a day or two yet. Se came over a month after we did.

We have quite a nice little theatre here and about twice a week the YMCA gets some films and puts on a show. Last night we put on a home talent concert. Sgt. Hill sang and Sgt. Fontaine and I played, we had some readings and a little comedy. It was a pretty fair show and seemed to be much enjoyed by everybody.

This afternoon there was a baseball game between our team and the hospital that is working here with us. There is quite a little rivalry between the two organizations and both hospitals backed their team to the limit. We beat them pretty badly, 13 to 3 and tonight there is a pretty gloomy bunch on the other side of the camp. There was a lot of money up on the game and number six must be about broke now.

Tonight we heard an unofficial report that Metz had been taken by the Americans. Metz is supposed to be the most strongly fortified city in the world. I hope the news is true but I am doubtful of it. We are anxiously awaiting definite news from the Front. We know that big gains have been made.

Well, I hope that my letters will find me soon. I am sure they must have gotten lost somewhere.

Love from

Joe

P.S. Have not had any news on the YMCA proposition yet.

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

Somewhere in France, 9/3/1918

I don’t know what number this is but I will call it eleven and keep track of my letters from now on.

ymcalogo

September 3, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We had a delivery of mail the day before yesterday, the first for three weeks or more. Naturally such an important happening caused a lot of excitement in the Company. After standing in line for an hour and a quarter, crawling up to the window inch by inch I was rewarded by receiving seven letters. Two were from Miss Hartley, two from Miss Phipps, one from Mother, one from Gladys and one from Eleanor Rutland. The letter from Mother was numbered 14. The one I received previous to that was numbered 12 so 13 must be on its way somewhere.Miss Hartley said she had sent me three letters, but I received only two. I like to get lots of letters from my friends but it is not so easy to answer. I have managed to pay off a few of those I owe but I am still deeply in debt.

We have moved again since my last letter to you. Moving around means a lot of work for the men and I am glad that we are settled now for a while at least. We have a number of wooden barracks and have put up some tents besides. Our quarters are in the barracks so we will be pretty comfortable if we are here during the cold weather.

I told you that when I was in Paris I saw the man at the YMCA about doing some playing for them. A few days ago a request came from him asking that I be given permission to do that work for two months or an indefinite period. Our colonel has his approval and I suppose the matter is now up at headquarters waiting their decision. I hope it goes through but I am not counting too much on it as I may be disappointed. I don’t know why they should turn it down though if it is satisfactory here. I don’t know what the YMCA will ask me to do if I am given permission to go. They may send me out with an orchestra or I may play solos, I don’t know.

I have had very little to do the last three or four days and I have spent quite a little time practicing. I have learned three new numbers so I feel that I have accomplished quite a little. I have memorized a Hungarian Rhapsody by Haweer, Pierrot’s Serenade by Randegger and the Moment Musicale by Kreisler.

I have a couple of Kreisler numbers here so when I learn those too, I will have made quite an addidtion to my repertoire. I have a little room where I can practice all by myself and I am making good use of it.

We haven’t any patients now except a few sick men who were dropped off on their way to the front.

Eleanor says that Anita Blank has a little baby now. I don’t know how old it is but she had it at church a month ago. I begin to feel like an old man when I see so many of my young friends married and having children. Gladys says that Bud is at an officer’s training camp now. I think he will get along better than his older brother. As usual my regards to everybody. I hope I will have news soon as to the YMCA work.

Love from

Joe

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

Soldier’s Mail for September, 1916-1918

September, 1916: South on the Border

In September, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade continued to secure the Border from their base at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. The National Guard troops were inspected by the Regular Army to ensure their compliance with Federal standards for training and performance. In mid-September, there was a Brigade March to test the men’s strength and endurance after three months of active duty. This was followed by a military parade to Fort Bliss which formed the largest military column seen in the United States since the Civil War.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page September, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton as they continue to secure the Border. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

September, 1917: Watchful Waiting

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, in August 1917 1st Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the 8th Mass. Infantry were mobilized once again for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. During this time, the 8th Mass. Infantry was disbanded and Sam found himself reassigned to the 103rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments, being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry and preparing to sail to France.

September, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In September, 1918 Sam Avery remained in the AEF hospital system while he recovered from severe gas poisoning. At the same time, the 103rd Infantry participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive with the rest of the 26th “Yankee” Divison. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read about the St. Mihiel Offensive juxtaposed with Sam’s September correspondence which reveals a rare parallel narrative.

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.

Somewhere in France, 8/23/1918

ymcalogo

August 23, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I may not get a chance to write to you again for a few days so I will use a little time that I have now. I wrote you  a week ago and since then we have moved. It is a big job to pack up a big hospital like ours. The material had to be loaded onto trucks and carried to the depot, unloaded there and again loaded on the train. After we arrived here it had all that to go through again unloading. We are back near our first camp in France after we left the port where we landed. We will be here only a couple of days as we are awaiting orders and transportation to go on to wherever it is that we are headed for. We are not setting up the hospital here at all. It has taken a day or two since we got here to get the material straightened out.

It surely has been hot these last couple of days. We never had it so hot where we came from and I hope our final destination will not be any worse. We are not near any town. There are just a few houses gathered on one or two streets. In most of the houses I guess the people and the cows and chickens all live together. The country is hilly and beautiful, the fotthills of the [Censored] I suppose. Last night several of us took a hike up the river a little way. We found an interesting cave and some ruins. The country around here is almost no good for farming. There are no farms, just a few plum trees and pasture for the cows.

We haven’t been getting any mail for a while and I suppose that it will be some time after we get settled before our mail finds us. I haven’t had any for two weeks or more so I should have quite a lot coming when I do get it.

There is a large town about three miles from here but we are not permitted to go there, probably because we are expecting word to go any minute. Now that I have the time there is no place that I can go to practice. We have a phonograph which belongs to the YMCA. That is all the music we have. Some of the records are pretty fair, but altogether there are only a few.

We are all encouraged over the reports of the progress of the war these days and also over the promise of the future. Perhaps it won’t be so long as I feared it might be before we are all together again. I am anxious to hear how the new business is going.

Give my regards to all.

Love from

Joe

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

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