Soldier’s Mail for August, 1916-1918

August, 1916: South on the Border

In August, 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 troops received word they would not be needed  to invade Mexico after all, which resulted in a loss of morale made worse by a lack of promised financial aid from the State for troops with hardships.

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 August, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton during the Texas rainy season. Read Sam’s correspondence with Em for August as he relates his experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

August, 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 for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments and being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry.

August, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In August, 1918 following the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Sam Avery was hospitalized due to the effects of severe gas poisoning. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read the August correspondence of Sam and his sister Em which reveals a rare and fascinating dialogue across the miles in wartime. Em’s letters were “Returned to Sender” as Sam moved through a series of hospitals over two months,  and thus are preserved for us to better understand life on the Home Front during the Great War.

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.

Happy Independence Day!

UncleSam4th

Soldier’s Mail for July, 1916 and 1918

July, 1916: South on the Border

In July, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade were stationed at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. In addition to adjusting to the high desert climate, the troops found themselves under fire and in a state of war with Mexican forces along the Border.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read Sam’s compelling account of his journey South from New England to the “North Shore of Hell”. Read the page July, 1916 to learn more about the mission 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 correspondence for July as he battles homesickness and the elements along with the enemy.

July, 1918: Champagne-Marne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive

During the first half of July, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under heavy fire with the 103rd Infantry in Belleau Wood which the 26th Division took over from the Marine Brigade. Read about the Champagne-Marne Defensive here. On July 18, the Second Battle of the Marne (Aisne-Marne Offensive) commenced with the 103rd Infantry attacking in line with other Allied units. In a week of fighting, the 26th Division captured 17 kilometers of ground in the first real advance made by an American division as a unit, but at the cost of 20% casualties including Sam who was severely gassed.

Read the page Aisne-Marne Offensive to learn more about the action in late July, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for July and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry during grueling combat conditions.

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.

Original Portrait of Sgt. Sam Avery by Jack Skinner

1st Sgt. Samuel Avery, Hdq. Co., 103rd Inf., 26th “Yankee” Division

It has long been my desire to have an original painted portrait of my great-uncle Sam to accompany the book project which is a companion to this website. I turned to my colleague, friend and skilled New England artist Jack Skinner to assist in this endeavor. Over nearly two years, Jack rendered this astonishing work in acrylic paint based on some old photos and painstaking historical research.

This work pictures 1st Sgt. Sam Avery seated in front of the door to a French farmhouse in the Vosges region of France, his Springfield 1903 rifle propped behind him. On the front of Sam’s uniform blouse can be seen ribbons for the World War I Victory Medal with 5 Campaign Stars and the Mexican Border Campaign. Below the ribbons is the Sharpshooter’s Medal. On the left sleeve is found the 26th Division’s “YD” shoulder patch, 1st Sergeant’s chevrons, and Overseas Service Stripes (1 for every 6 months overseas) along with a “Sammy Star”  indicating Sam’s arrival among the first 100,000 AEF troops in France. In Sam’s lap is shown his M1917 helmet bearing the 103rd Infantry helmet mark.

Click here to discover other captivating original artwork by Jack Skinner available at FineArtAmerica.com.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 49,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Somewhere near Doullens, 9/8/1918

Somewhere in France

Dearest sister Madaline

I haven’t written you in such a terrible long time it looks as if I have forgotten you but it isn’t so the reason was on account of being in the line.  I spent fourteen long days in the line and therefore you see my letter is going to be long and interesting.  Well dear sister after you read what I have to say you will notice that it was not only my praying but also yours and the gift of god.  God surely was with me and I can honestly say that I am the luckiest man on two feet to be where I am today.  Of course dear sister a man when writing gets an opportunity to exaggerate things but everything I am writing is so true that it would be impossible to exaggerate a single thing.

Well we started for the support line on a bright moonlight night in which we stayed for a short time.  We then advanced to the front line for a few nights.  Heres where my first experience on patrolling comes in.  After spending one night in the front line I was told to report to company Hdqs.  After doing so I was ordered to go out on patrol in “No Mans Land” to go out and get a prisoner.  Of course dear sister you understand the predicament I was in to go out never before being out their and capturing a prisoner for information.  I reported that same night and our platoon Lieutenant and myself went out as far as Jerries Bob Wire which was about 120 yards away from our trench and eighty yards from Jerries.  We ran into a few Jerry patrols but did not battle them as they out numbered us.  I will say dear sister that I held myself fairly well but my throat was a bit dry this showed a bit of nervousness but we returned back to our lines safe.  The night we hit the front line it started raining until we came out yesterday.

After resting the next day I was ordered to go out on patrol again that night but my objective was different.  I forgot to say on my first patrol I did not get my objective but on my second I did.  My second objective was to get the exact location of Jerries trenches.  After crawling for about 180 yds 20 yds away from Jerries line I drew a small map of Jerries trenches for about 100 yds.  Now dear sister after doing a bit in the front line our division went over the top advancing and capturing a big hill.  That day they advanced 300 yds.  While out on my second patrol my feeling was this way well I don’t give a rap I’m just as safe here as if I were home although I wasn’t but returned back safe.

Well the next day we went over the top this being my first time over and we advanced 800 yards capturing many prisoners.  After holding our new position Jerry counter attacked and me having charge of a machine gun my men got two Jerries and you ought to see the dammed beasts hit the dust.  Their counter attack was unsuccessful.  After getting relieved we moved to the support and Jerry sent over a barrage and heres where your prayers and every one homes who is praying for my safety was answered.  We were in our trench and for one hour and fifteen minutes shells as high as nine inch fell near and around us and for that length of time I held the rosary in my hands and said prayers constantly for that length of time. Now dear sister after going throw all this I can vouch if I get back home safe I’m going to live thats is home first and my church shall be my second home.

Well dear sister I haven’t rested as yet since I came out of the trenches and being that  its getting kinder late I guess I will stop and continue in the morning.  Now about cooties every man is pretty well cootied up and my body is covered with nothing but cootie bites but as soon as I get a good wash and a new set of clothes Mr cootie will then vanish.

Our troops are doing wonders and from what I know this war will be over soon as Jerry is on the run.  The whole allied troops have and are still advancing on the entire front and Jerry surely be back at his own front very shortly.  It is rumored that we get paid today.  Did pa receive my money order yet?   Is pa receiving his monthly allotment regularly.

I guess I will close now with love and kisses for you all.

I am

Your Brother

Joe

I received your cable gram.  Thanks very much.  Joe

Corporal Joseph MAus

105 U. S Inf. Co. A

American E. F.

A.P.O. 748

[Note: This letter contains reminiscence of experiences during the Ypres-Lys Offensive]

© Copyright 2011 by Lanny & Patti Brown, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere in France, 8/18/1918

Somewhere in France

August 18, 1918

Dearest sister:

Nothing special to write about except that my health and condition is best ever.  For the past three weeks the weather has been grand the kind of weather we soldier boys care for.  You understand why we boys hate bad weather not only that its disagreeable but also because it kinder hinders us in our work.  Our training is getting more interesting each day not only in a military way of speaking but also in a way that we enjoy it.  Once theirs enjoyment in work one may take more interest in his work and that’s the kinder of work we are doing now.  Of course the work is hard but not strenuous.  Did I tell you that Jenison was in the hospital not injured but ill.

You asked me in your letter to tell you more about myself this I do dear sister and the censor passes everything except articles pertaining to military movements and its works.  Now you can tell or write me anything you please as incoming mail from dear old U.S. is not censored.  I told you in my last letter that we received our pay for June and being that I have a little to much money I thought I would send home to pa 183 francs or thirty two dollars in money order form which you will find under this cover.  This alone will show you that I have since in the army learnt the value of a dollar for the prices over hear are terrible.  I am sure pa can put this money into better use that I can for the only thing I need money for is cigarettes cigars and tobacco, writing paper and envelopes candy and one in a while a glass of beer.  I have a large supply of tobacco but find sweet candies and writing material very scarce.

Guess I will close now only hoping you are all enjoying the best of health and that you receive the money OK.

I am

Your Brother

Joe

Corp. Joseph Maus

105 U.S. Inf. Co. A.

American E. F.

A.P.O. 748

Mailed August 29th on account of being in a position where I could not mail it.

© Copyright 2011 by Lanny & Patti Brown, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere in France, 8/16/1918

Somewhere in France

August. 16th 1918

Dearest sister Madaline:

Just a few moments before drill call so I thought I would write you now instead of tonight.  We received our pay yesterday for June for which I received 107 francs.  Uncle Sam still owes us for the month of July but why worry about July’s pay when we are financially fixed.  This is our second payment so far since we arrived in france so you see pay is very slow in reaching us although its always sure to appear.  Of course 107 francs sounds as big as one hundred dollars but between the French people and their enormous prices I don’t think it lasts very long.  I bought a Waltham worked watch (wrist) for twenty francs for which we would have to pay $16 back home although it only cost my about five dollars.  We are at our rest camp and am living the life of really.  Guess I will close with plenty of love and kisses to you all, I am.

Your Brother.

Joe

Corp. J. Maus

105 US Inf. Co A

American E.F.

A.P.O. 748

PS:  Did you or Anna receive my photos yet?

Joe

After reading the star I noticed that Principal Sweeney of Public School 6 wishes to have all boys names who are doing service over hear.  Would you ask John to do that for me immediately.

Joe

© Copyright 2011 by Lanny & Patti Brown, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere in France, 8/15/1918

Dearest sister:

Today being a day of rest and nothing to do except rest around and write letters.  I am going to town this evening and expect to go to a show that is put up by some of our men in our division.  Did you receive the money order of $32 which I sent [unreadable].  Of course [unreadable] the money at this end providing you do not receive it.  I still have 100 francs to last me until pay day and I shan’t worry about being broke nor do I want you Anna or pa to think that I am so far away without money.  A soldier doesn’t need very much money over hear as their isn’t anything to get for it.  Although if a fellow should get a leave that’s the time money is needed.

It doesn’t happen that I am looking for a leave as I’m not on foreign Soil.  [unreadable] I done my [unreadable] I mean I haven’t neglected playing this game but my object is to get at least five or more dirty Huns before going away on a leave.  Although this might sound a trifle noisy but I mean it and my heart and soul is in back of everything I say.

We are going to get a Mexican Border service bar and medal and when I get back home with my service bars pinned across my breast something I will feel [unreadable] the air of new [unreadable]  received any decorations the reason is that the opportunity hasn’t arisen but they surely are scarce.  Our decorations aren’t anything like the french decoration (Creoux de La Goure) for almost every man in the French army has one pinned on his breast and it surely looks as if they were served at mess times.  Well guess I will close now dear sister with love to you all, I am.

Brother Joe

Corp J. Maus

Co A 105 US. Inf.

American E.F.

A.P.O. 748

© Copyright 2011 by Lanny & Patti Brown, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere in France, 8/14/1918

Somewhere in France

August 14, 1918

Dear sister Madaline:

We received our weekly issue of mail and as usual I received my share.  I received three letters from you three from Anna two from Priscilla and a few friends of mine.  Their are quite a few of my friends writing me sometimes three times a week but the Wulferst have forgotten me and of course I am doing the same.  I am not going to waste my good time writing to people who do not appreciate it.  In fact I am so busy either drilling or writing my folks and friends that I really cannot be interrupted by writing people that never write me.  Although both Wulferst and I are still the greatest friends.  Did you receive my photo.  I wrote a letter to John yesterday. Guess I will close now will write again tomorrow, I am.

Your Brother

Joe

Corp. Jos Maus

105 U.S. Inf Co A.

American E.F.

A.P.O. 748

© Copyright 2011 by Lanny & Patti Brown, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

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