Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1917

By the President of the United States : A Proclamation

“It has long been the honored custom of our people to turn in the fruitful autumn of the year in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His many blessings and mercies to us as a nation. That custom we can follow now even in the midst of the tragedy of a world shaken by war and immeasurable disaster, in the midst of sorrow and great peril, because even amidst the darkness that has gathered about us we can see the great blessings God has bestowed upon us, blessings that are better than mere peace of mind and prosperity of enterprise.

We have been given the opportunity to serve mankind as we once served ourselves in the great day of our Declaration of Independence, by taking up arms against a tyranny that threatened to master and debase men everywhere and joining with other free peoples in demanding for all the nations of the world what we then demanded and obtained for ourselves. In this day of the revelation of our duty not only to defend our own rights as nation but to defend also the rights of free men throughout the world, there has been vouchsafed us in full and inspiring measure the resolution and spirit of united action. We have been brought to one mind and purpose. A new vigor of common counsel and common action has been revealed in us. We should especially thank God that in such circumstances, in the midst of the greatest enterprise the spirits of men have ever entered upon, we have, if we but observe a reasonable and practicable economy, abundance with which to supply the needs of those associated with us as well as our own. A new light shines about us. The great duties of a new day awaken a new and greater national spirit in us. We shall never again be divided or wonder what stuff we are made of.

And while we render thanks for these things let us pray Almighty God that in all humbleness of spirit we may look always to Him for guidance; that we may be kept constant in the spirit and purpose of service; that by His grace our minds may be directed and our hands strengthened; and that in His good time liberty and security and peace and the comradeship of a common justice may be vouchsafed all the nations of the earth.

Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-ninth day of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the great ruler of nations.”

Woodrow Wilson, President


Neufchateau, France 11/26/1917

Same place.


Dear Em, and the rest of you.


I wonder how the old folks are at home? Some of the boys were just harmanizing this melody (for it sure is a melody to me.) You see Im not hearing from you since the 24th of Oct. Im receiving your package all right and Im thanking you for same. Im knowing that there’s more contained in this package than the acual contents but pen us a few lines will you if for nothing else than pass-time, and Im appreciating it more than a Morgan Memorial Christmas Tree to a nine year old Samuel Edward Avery of 70 Shawmut Ave Boston Massachusetts.


Ive been penning pretty steady right along but I thought Id lead this letter to you and see if it can or I can boomarang something back this way. Im getting a battle sight at Lena now. Christmas Rush but Ill bet it’s a Morgie rush right now.


It is getting real chilly here now. Snowed last night and a little today, although (as Pa would say) not enough to fill a teaspoon. Right away Im interogating. Is Mr. Holland well enough to get that furnace going? I guess Catherine is Jerry on the job. Im never over looking Pa rustling the coal hod either if Bert dosent get ahead of him.


Say Em while I think of it. The other day while we were lined up for pay a short stocky fellow came up to me and asked me if I wasnt Sam Avery. Im saying yes but adds that Im never knowing him. He comes back with “Don’t you remember Waters?” Bet your life I know Emma says I. “Well Im Davis her husband” Well it was some surprise attack and quite a loud explosion the echo to which was a thundering hand clasp a lingering shake and (of coarse the smile that never comes off). Now I suppose you want to know the idea of all this chatter that is doing nothing more than taking up the censor’s time, bringing back my foolish days (although don’t tell Emma this part of it) and using up good honest to God American paper (for this is a pad of paper I had at Lynnfield) to say nothing of the panning Ill get when you let them all in on the whole of it. A deep breath please and then Ill go on with what I want you to remember.


This kid Davis said that he’s written and written but hasn’t received a word from Emma yet. Now you know how this fellow must feel (I know how Id feel), so you just tell Emma Waters to get onto herself and send this kid a line. He has invited me down to his joint some night and although I havent as yet fulfilled my promise Im going to, soon, for he seems to be a nice sociable bloke, and like myself got shanghied into this Regiment of hay shakers. So much for dear Emma; of coarse give her my very best regards. Don’t forget to tell the Dudleys I was asking for them, if you and Lillian should be taking a short walk from Bunker Hill St to Winter Hill. Any of the old bunch that you happen to see, my regards to them.


As I said before in this letter pay day came at last. Six hundred francs and fifty centimes. In real money this is one hundred and five dollars and forty three cents. Now I don’t want to send this home unless it will reach its destination. I could make out an allotment but there are no blank forms here yet, so there you are. Im going to use it sensibly though so don’t worry. If we ever get any blanks effa soff.


The nearest I can discribe this bunch of Bohonks the night they were paid is to doubly liken them to the house that was built on sand. And many of them although likened to “Dear Annette” sucumbed to the fangs of the devil. Any body passing the pen that night would be well reminded of the Tower of Babel.


Well Em I guess Ive thrown enough bull tonight now what do you say to starting some. Give us a tee hee a “Get out of here now” or a belt in the nose. Anything. My one hope is that you are all well and that you are all resting well assured that Sam’s biggest job is looking out for Sam. Im doing a darn good job. Feeling great. Plenty of Sam’s on the end of this page.


With love



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

Neufchateau, France 11/23/1917



Dear Em,


This is in answer to your letter of the 14th of Oct, which I just received this afternoon. It seems funny that Im just getting this letter, when the package you sent Oct 28, was received yesterday. This will give you an idea of the way the mail is delivered to use over here. So Al was in town for the Holiday for his candy ha? I thought that Mr Holland would be up and about by this time, but here is hoping he is, by the time this hits the old town.


Don’t work too hard in this Christmas rush. I was very glad to hear that you folks are to derive some benifit from the slip I signed for the State money. Namly the 10 dollars per month. Does Bert use that student bag when he goes to market for Pa? Im full of questions tonight ain’t I? I would like to hear you answer me. In due time I will get these questions answered, I suppose.


You mentioned in your letter of seeing in the paper of the death of Lil’s brother Tom. Well about a week ago I got a post card out of about the biggest bunch of mail that has come in. This is what it said, (Tom past away this morning, will write later.) Wasn’t this fine news for a fellow six thousand miles from home. But Ive been getting my share now (just as I did while on the Border), and it makes a bloke feel great I tell you.


Feeling great. Got the same habit you see. Gee this pipe is the darb. It was just about time for me to stop eating cigaretts, even if I am getting fat. Im not kidding Em, but if I was to pop up in front of you know Im pretty sure Id surprise you. So much for that and for this letter for tonight I guess. Im thinking of writing that sister of ours and when I close with this Im just going to show her how much I appreciate the few words she sent on the end of your letter.


There is a corporal here that can talk more and louder than any body I ever heard. You can imagine me trying to think. He will have to go some to drive my thoughts from home though so here goes for my letter to Lena.


Love to all.





Same place.


Dear Lena.


Im starting this with no idea of how much or what Im going to say; but to start with I will say that I was waiting for a word from you. And say; is Bert hand-cuffed? A word is a story you know. I will admit that Em is doing fine. As I said in Em’s letter Im feeling and looking even better than I did when I was home. Give my very best regards to Henry, Nora, and Leonard. Also to Madge, Mollie, Mary, all the cousins, all the Hollands and every body Ive got or that has any interest in me.


Im glad that Madge gets a line from Tom once in a while and I do hope that she will continue to receive good news from the kid. He is probably doing his part toward getting this mail to and from me and he is doing a good job.


Rain? Yes we have that all the time. Mud? Yes we never have any thing else. Grub? Now your talking, thanks to the Good Old U.S., for it is the U.S. Army ration that we are getting now. Pleasure? Yes a lot of it, if I don’t take your very good advice (take care of your self). Tell the truth Len Im strong for writing letters. Some are not mailed to 297.


Well Lena here is a letter. See how easy it is to scratch off a few words? Did Madge get my letter yet? I beleive I sent Mrs. Holland one, too. Also to Mollie in care of you. Besides, Jim Mellon two, Mrs. Mellon one, the shop six. Im not going to try to count how many Ive sent to 297 and 897. Well here’s hoping that Ill never lose this happy habit.


With love




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

Neufchateau, France 11/22/1917



Dear Em

Your package arrived today although it was the last thing in the world I expected. There was also a package from Lil which contained three pair of heavy woolen stockings. Some Christmas day. Everything you sent was welcomely received and although the package looked as though it had come from, instead of toward the trenches, every thing was in first class condition and accounted for. Ive got the pipe going now, and it sure does tast good. You had your good sense with you also when you sent Dills. The cakes made me think of Home, now I tell you, although they were somewhat hard Perfections. Bully for you Em. OH you stuffed dates and fudge. Its all gone now and it is only an hour since I got it. It was like real water to a man in Texas. We are going to have a feed on the perserves just before bed time tonight. So much for the package for I can’t thank you enough anyway.


I got your letter dated the 19th of Oct. and it must have been the one in answer to my letter that I sent from Halifax, but they must have failed to send it to you until we landed at Liverpool. So Henry is running an elevator now ha? He must be having his ups and downs. My regards to him and Leonard. You spoke of the bungalow party in Dorchester that was to be pulled off the 29th of Oct. Did you have a good time? So Pa has a students bag to take to school with him. Here’s hoping he can go to school for years yet.


Weve got our steel helmits now and it is like wearing a closet bowl on your head. To hear them talk and kid youd think they actualy was one. The Sammies really are in the trenches Em and soon (to soon Im afraid) you folks will see some of these poor chaps back in the States badly bent after doing their bit. One of our chaps has been in the base hospital and he said the American soldiers were pouring in there some in bad shape. Don’t get nervous though Em. Just hope that Uncle Sam can send over enough weapons, money and food stuffs to make all these Germans good. Every dead German is a good one. When the “Brave” soldiers at home there leave (if they ever do) you will know that S.E.A. is up where there is a lot of noise. I dont think it is possible for this to happen until April any way. We can hear the big guns at night, and it sounds real interesting some nights beleive me.


The funniest part of this game is there is absolutly no money in it. We havent received a red cent since Aug 31, and that was almost a month before we left the Good Old U.S. If I remember rightly I left part of my Aug. pay at home there. But it is expected any day so don’t think this is a hint. Ive still got the watch, and ring and I only owe one pound ($5.00) I borrowed in England to go to London, 25 francs (5.00) I borrows while Ive been here. I don’t think that’s doing bad when I am to get $105.64 when ever they see fit to pay us for Sept. & Oct. We are starting a pay roll for Nov. now for here it is the 22nd. Dont be surprised if you get a money order or some such thing soon.


Im feeling fine. This feeling fine buisiness is getting to be a steady thing in my letters, but it is a happy habit and I only wish it continues. Your letters are addressed just right and I feel pretty sure if you continue to send them this way I will get all that the subs dont.


Give my regards to all. I was glad to hear that Tom is safe like myself. Some where. Does all the men in uniform make any difference in the looks back there. All there is in this town is women, a few old men and some kids (outside of us of coarse).


Well Em will see you all next Summer until then Im



Love to all.


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

Neufchateau, France 11/13/1917

Same place in France.


Dear Em.


They say there is seventy two sacks of mail on the way here now, and believe me I hope some of your mail is with it for I havent received a word for over two weeks now. Ive written a letter about every night and you should be getting a batch of that now. Talk about a hungry pack of mules; well you can’t imagine how this bunch is acking for a word from home. If that mail reaches here tomorrow there sure will be some happy faces.


Im feeling fine, as usual and a letter, post card or word of any sort would just top things off in great shape. General Edwards was in town today and it meant a grand slicking up and turning out, and at that he didn’t get to our street. I thought Id freeze while we were waiting for him to inspect us. The sun came out very bright today. The second day the sun has shone all day since we left the boat.


This morning we had some real baked beans the first since leaving Westfield. So you see things are going far from bad to worse. We got some coal today for our office and it is the toughest job to get a fire going you ever saw. This noon for dinner we had two big potatoes, about two pounds of roast beef, plenty of onions two big slices of bread and a cup of coffee. By the feeling of my stumack I must have eaten too much, but I trust Ill work this off before morning.


We are getting plenty to eat now. Im afraid Im making a hog of myself if any thing. We havent got a nickel for pay yet. Can you beat it? We expect it though. This is a good habit we’ve got into, expecting. Some of the boys wont have much when they do get paid, for some of these people are doing a trusting buisiness.


Well Ill have to close now Em for I really didnt have any thing to say in the first place only to let you know that Im feeling and feeding great.




P.S. You had better send mail as follows. So that I can get it sooner.


Sgt. Samuel E. Avery

Hdq. Co. 103rd U.S. Inf. (underline infantry)

52 Brigade

26th Division


All of this and nothing more.


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

Neufchateau, France 11/9/1917

Same place in France.


Dear Em.


Still here, and we won’t kick much if here we stay, while we are in France, anyway. Of coarse some of the boys are still living in barns where they are not allowed to have a stove, and it comes kind of hard on them. But pay day is due very soon now, and those that have not already got better quarters, will probably get them by making it (money) talk to the natives here. Any man that hires a room will get about half of the expense from the French Government. That is, the Government will allow so much for said rooms, and the man will have to pay the rest. Im not effected at all by this, for Im in as comfortable a place (as Ive said before) as there is here.


The Y.M.C.A. gave us another sack of Bull Durham apiece today, which came in very handy. You will appreciate how much this was neaded when I say that we’ve not received a nickel since Aug 31, but expect two months pay any day now.


We were each issued a cake of face soap yesterday and although it was only a very small cake, it came in handy and will be used to very good advandage. Tomorrow is Saturday morning inspection, and in order to get in condition to get by this inspection, there will be very little of this cake left. One of the fellows bought a cake of washing soap the other day, and paid 1 franc 40 centimes for a cake as big as a cake of life bouy. In U.S. money this is $.28.  It takes 5 centimes to make a cent 20 cents to make a franc. Where we use dollars and cents, they use francs and centimes here. Although Im not getting onto the lingo very fast, Ive got the currency down pat. The rate of coinage is very much like ours, and is very much more simpler than English. Here goes for another page.


Here is the real news. Ive got a new nick name now. It is Major. Im drum major of the band now, and I got my first tast of this job tonight at retreat. You see it has always been the custom for the top sergeant of Hdq. Co. to be the drum major. In the new table of organization, where the companies were increased so much, it was thought that there would be a drum major to act as nothing but such. The Band Leader has been holding down this job since Smiley (the old top sergeant) was transfered from the company, but today an order came down for the band leader to be releaved of this job, and yours truly take it up. Can you picture me (thats it Pa laugh away) out in front of the regiment, swinging the old stick.


As I said above, tonight was my first attempt, and by all accounts I got away with it very well. Ive got a brand new baton, and I got out my best uniform, clean pair of leggings and put on a stearn soldierly expression! Well any way I went through with it, and enjoyed it very much. After retreat and To The Colors has blown, the band parades around the village brightening up things, I tell you. Out in front is Sam. Nuf Ced.


This drum majoring is in excess of my other duties as top sergeant of the largest company in the regiment, but Ive got a splendid bunch of sergeants with me (and by that I mean they are with me) and they help me out in every thing there is to do.


Im getting along fine Em, feeling as well as ever. Its raining again (I mean yet) but we’ve got the old fire place nice and bright with a fire that is throwing a splendid heat making the wind sound all the better, (that we are in out of it). Well bunch so much for today, try and write tomorrow.




P.S. Have you seen or heard from Henry latly? Id ought to be hearing from you soon. How does that piano sound. I wonder what is going on out in the world. What does Pa think of this drum major job I bet he is enjoying it. Ive been about every thing in this mans army but a commissioned officer but I never dreamt of ever, marching out in front and leading a band. You know how much I like music too. I hardly feel my heels touch the ground. I can’t seem to get out of the habit of using up every bit of paper. Does the wind rock house #297 B.H. this winter. Id like to be there to feel that rock. The wind is singing outside now.


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

Neufchateau, France 11/8/1917

Same place in France.


Dear Em.


Im not intending to write much for there is absolutly nothing to write about. I just got through reading some news in a paper dated a month and a six days back. It made just as good and interesting reading as if it had just left the press. After getting through with this reading I sat here for about two minutes, and this letter shows what was on my mind just as soon as there was nothing to do. They say as soon as a soldier has nothing to do, he gets home sick. Now Im not home sick but it seems that Im writing all the time to you folks or some one back home there.


Can you believe it Em, Ive got an electric light in this room now and it makes things very modern. Isn’t it going some when you get up in the morning turn a button and our little home is as radient as the State House Dome? OH we are living Em. I would like to get a loaf of bread though. Bread is very scarce here. Wood $20.00 a cord. Milk, sugar, and bread cannot be bought at all. Our bill of fare for the winter. How is the Draft heroes going to get along? Poor boys. In every paper I see here (from the States) all I can see is, “The patriotic National Army.” Banquets and entertainments by the score. Poor fellows. You’ll have my real opinion of the draft fellows pretty soon.


Ive received no mail from you for about two weeks now, but I suppose youre saying the same thing. In yesterdays lot of mail I got one postcard and that was a line from Lil stating that her brother Tom died Oct. 11th. Some bunch of mail and pleasant news too what? But I know that there is a lot of letters on the way and that it will reach here when the next mail gets in, which will be in about a week.


I can’t help thinking of the coming Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know how handy to the oven I’ve always been especially when these two days rolled around. But we expect to make it as pleasant as possible, and I expect that will be very pleasant considering how far we are from home. You can see from this letter Em (and the rest of you) that Im as happy and contented as any one could be. Hoping this finds you all well I remain




P.S. If ever I get into that Texas Border mood youll get some letters beleive me. Give my regards to all and just slip them the info that Sam is O.O.K. The Y.M.C.A. sign means more to a soldier on this side than any thing else. Good night.


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

Neufchateau, France 11/6/1917


Dear Em and the rest,


Color Guard, 1917

Todays mail brought in a Boston Post dated Oct. 4-17 and Ive just got through reading some (real news). While at the border I didn’t care much about news papers for we could at least read and understand what the papers there, said. But here, it is a message from the living to the dead to get a real Boston Paper with some real Americano news. It was ten minutes past six when I starded in on this paper (which looks as though it had gone through an ingagment) and it is now eight oclock so you see I just devoured every thing of any interest at all in it. I saw the adds of the dance halls, theatres, and other such points of “interest”, but yet so far from our present occupation. Keep them going for the boys say that they would like to patranize some of these places in the near future.


I see they were to give the “draft” fellows a great send off Oct 5th, and some of them banquets. God help the dear boys.


Well Em I suppose there are quite a few uniforms flouting around town now but I bet it never will come up to this side of the pond. Every body is a soldier although it seems no two uniforms are alike. I also read where ice cream, beans and etc. are very much on the incline as to prices. By the way, talking about beans, we got a few of these last night for supper, the first we’ve had since Westfield. It was only the other day that we got our first coffee. These things make it seems more like we were in U.S. and beleive me that is some happy thought.


The Y.M.C.A. issued a sack of Bull Durham Tobacco to each and every man here and that was a present that could not be duplicated by any other one thing. I read the editorial page and also the Observant Citizen and I was very interested, more so than when Id read it at home and I always enjoyed this page when at home. You folks get more news of the war and conditions here than we do, for we read this news with much interest. I guess there is things doing up at the front right now though by all apperances. The other two fellows (who are corporals, one of them the fellow that was in the tent with me at Lynnfield – Jim) cut enough wood today to last and keep us warm tonight and tomorrow. We’ve got a corking fire going now and this old kitchen is very comfortable. I wish you could see us. All writing, letters or post cards, home. They havent quite got the nack of writing as much as I do though.


How is Pa, Lena, Bert, the Hollands and the rest. I do wish the mail would come in for I feel sure that these questions will be answered when it does come in. Im feeling as fine as ever but some of the fellows are in pretty bad shape from colds rheumatizm (or what ever you call it) and sore feet. How is the bread holding out. It is the scarsest article in France, for there are some meals we don’t get any.


Has the wind begun to whistle around the corner of Belmont and B.H. St. yet? I suppose you’ll soon be tee heeing at the kids coasting. Im sorry I can’t “Look It” and only wish I could. Look Em do you think I need a hair cut. Has Henry showed up since? Give him my regards when he does. How is old George and his grand child. Has any one heard from Tom? Is Mr. Holland any better? Say what is going on in the old village anyway? How are the Perfections Bert? Pa, how is Old Bill? Is the water bill any smaller since I left? What is the latest song? How are they getting along with the Refinery. Has Lena made any pies or cakes latly? OH for a “wedge” of one of those pies you folks will have Nov. 26th.


Well Em wind up that clock now and get up in the morning




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

Neufchateau, France 11/4/1917

Same place in France


Dear Bert.


How is things going anyway? Im not kicking a bit. Before leaving Westfield I packed that uniform that I wore on my visits home in a trunk that the Mess Sergeant shipped as kitchen utensels, said trunk having just arrived. Well you should have seen me try to get into the blouse. It fit me pretty tight when I was home there but now its like trying to get into one of Mary’s waists. Its simply a case of getting out and exercising for about an hour every morning that’s all and then I don’t know but what Ill do a Jim Jeffery stunt (fail to come back). The trouble is Bert, Im getting fat “No Kidding.”


Tomorrow we start in on our extensive training and that might change my frame back again. We will soon be getting right into good hard work and this little weight that Ive taken on will come in very handy. I had a swell time traveling second class and eating the best of grub on the boat over, and although we’ve hit some pretty tough joints and feeds since leaving said boat, on our trip across England across the channel and so far into France, but we are here, and for the winter too by the looks, and as Ive said in openning Im not kicking.


We are getting U.S. Army rations now and tonight we had coffee, the first since leaving the Saxonia. Im not allowed to say when we left the boat nor how long it has taken us to get from one stop over to another but it has been quit a while since we got coffee and believe me it did tast good. I hope all this mail Im sending to the States gets to its destination for in answer to all Im sending it ought to bring me some letters on the next boat.


I would like to see the out side of a sack of Bull Durham or any kind of a white man’s cigarett. We are in tough straights here for smokes, and if (or when) we do get paid there is no chance to get said tobacco for they don’t have it here anyway.


All Ive done the last week is write letters. Although there is all kinds of red, white & blue wine here and it can be bought for almost a song (I haven’t even got a song) I still camp here and write in hopes that Ill get some mail soon.


We expect to be paid for two months the 20th and then this town will be mostly red. How is that half dozen up in the back room. Hoping this finds you all well.


Im still


P.S. Give that turkey a licking for me will you? I can smell it away over here. They say it is good to have a big appetite. Im a Venus in this line. OH for a mouthful of stuffing or a chance at the bathroom. Same old bull but its good to dream about.


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