Samuel Edward Avery was a true American patriot and “Citizen Soldier”; one who lived for peace but trained for war and fulfilled his duty with honor on foreign fields of battle.
Born 12/19/1892, Sam grew up in the city of Boston as the third of four siblings in a loving, working-class Irish-American family. His father Fred originally came from Maine and his mother Annie from Ireland. Sam graduated from the public schools in Charlestown, Massachusetts and at the time of these writings had civilian employment as a Shipper with the Bristol Patent Leather Company in Boston. Sam first enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in March, 1912 at the age of 20. He qualified as a Sharpshooter and rose through the ranks to eventually become First Sergeant with K Company, 8th Regiment of the Massachusetts National Guard based at the Somerville Armory (now a Performing Arts Center and gallery).
Sam served during the Mexican Border Campaign near El Paso, Texas in 1916 and then was mobilized into the American Expeditionary Forces as a member of the 103rd Infantry Regiment, 52nd Infantry Brigade, 26th “Yankee” Infantry Division. The “YD” saw 210 days of combat in France during 1917-1918 including the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns, during which it suffered 13,664 casualties. Sam kept a pocket diary in which he noted the names of those in his unit who were killed or wounded during their time in the line. Ultimately Sam himself was injured by the effects of a German gas attack and was hospitalized for more than 2 months before rejoining his unit for the final offensive.
After remaining in France for 4 months following the Armistice, Sam finally returned to the United States aboard a troop ship in early April, 1919 and received an Honorable Discharge from the U.S. Army for “Honest & Faithful Service” at Camp Devens on 4/28/1919. Almost 24 years later at the age of 50, Sam would reenlist in May, 1942 and serve again as a First Sergeant in the Massachusetts State Guard on the home front until his final discharge in August, 1945.
These letters and diary notes in Sam’s own words tell the compelling story of life as a U.S. soldier on the front lines of World War I from the hot dry sands along the Rio Grande to the cold wet mud along the Meuse.
‘Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.’ —George Orwell