Camp Cotton, Texas 7/12/1916

Dear Folks;

I am not only writing this to let you know how good I am holding my end up, (for I could not possibly feel any better,) but to see if I can draw a return fire from home. To be frank I have received five letters from a girl I have danced with a post card from one of the boys, a letter from Anna Christie, and two post cards from other friends, but only one letter from (Home.) Now all this mail from these dear friends of mine is gladly received, but the good of even these is taken away when I don’t find a letter from home amongst them.

You would think that the first sergeant was a Santa Claus, and Christmas came every day to see the boys crowd around looking, yes begging for mail. And believe me some of the young fellows have some pretty sorrowful faces when they don’t receive any. If you have got all the mail I have sent, you can’t say Im not holding up my end. Now don’t think that I am kicking but do appreciate the sense in which I am writing.

There is an awful lot of smallpox down here and we were all vaccinated last night. Every body had to take it. We are getting quit a lot of gaurd duty down here latly, which means very little sleep at night. It is too hot during the day to even think.

Although I haven’t felt hungry since we got here they feed us very good. It seems as though the more water you drink down here the more thirsty you get. I bet I drink twenty bottles of tonic a day, but I don’t see how that will last much longer even if I am a sergeant an my pay is more than a privates.

Ice is so high here that if you want a cold drink you have to buy tonic or beer, and this goes so fast and ice melts so quick that it is hard, sometimes to get anything cold. I bet you could almost make tea with the water we are expected to drink. For every pound of food we eat, I bet we eat two pounds of sand, but after it is down, it must do us good, for every body seems happy. Tell Burt I will be able to roll B.D. with one hand pretty soon, for it seems to be the standard in this part of the country.

There is some talk of our taking a ten day hike to Fort Hancock about Friday, but we hear a lot of talk. Say what do you know, from my tent I can hear a piano, which has just been presented to the machine gun company. It has just got here and the first tune they are playing on it is, “When I dream of old Ireland Im dreaming of you.” OH I cant discribe how good it sounds. They are now play, “When I leave the world behind” It seems as though I am in the kitchen now and Lena is playing. It might seem funny to you but it takes me right back home.

As I cant say any thing or do any thing that will make me feel any nearer to you than to listen to this real music I will close now with a longing to soon be with you all soon, I will remain the same Sam

P.S. This piano has made a heaven out of a h____ in just about one second.

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

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Camp Cotton, Texas 7/8/1916

Dear Em,

I am doing very good in the writing line aint I? But as long as I feel like it and have the time I cant help keeping in touch with you and the folks as much as possible. I received a paper by mail yesterday and I supose it was you who sent it. If so I thank you and so do the rest of the boys. We are doing guard duty for twenty four hours, and then we go on outpost for twenty four more. Although the papers say every thing is fixed up between the two governments, we have heard firing all morning over in Mexico. It seems as though some of Villa’s men are closing in on Carranza’s outpost and the firing we hear are the “Mexican battles” we used to hear so much about. Our duty for the next twenty four hours will be to patrol the line which is only about one hundred yards from our last tent and warn against any attack that the Mexican would be foolish enough to attempt. They are giving us enough to eat and plenty of rest so we are not kicking any in that line, but when we get the hikes, and sham battles, which is bound to come before long, then, life will not be so sweet.

Now I know you like to hear from me as often as possible, so you can imagine how I must feel when I get a word from you. There is a fine breeze blowing today which makes it very comfortable. I wish you could hear the singing that goes on hear nights.

The regiment composed a song on the train which runs,

            We’ll hit the trail for Villa

                        We’re Yankees through and through

            We’ll show the sons of Mexico,

                        What the U.S.A. can do.

            We come from Massachusetts,

                        Victory or die,

            So give a grand old cheer boys

                        As the Eight goes marching by. Ra. Ra. Ra.

This is sung to the tune of “We’ll hit the line for Harvard.” Then the two Somerville companies follow it up with,

            Soma, Soma, Somervilla

                        Panka, Panka, Panko Villa

            Spanka, Spanka, Spanka Villa

                        We’ll beat him black and blue. Ra. Ra. Ra.

The whole battalion made a hit all the way down here with this song and I guess it is going to stick through out the regiment.

ChowLineInclosed you will find a card of a part of the company lined up for mess. If you notice you will find how clean I washed my socks, for I haven’t got my leggings on in this picture. You can also see Corporal Marks who is giving a good account of himself.

They say it is very hot up there. Well it is hoter down here but I bet we don’t feel it as bad as you do. It was 119 in the shade the Fourth. I don’t know where they got the shade unless they went down to El Paso for it.

We had a rain storm again yesterday and although it made the ground a mass of thick clay (of which you carry a ton of it on your shoes,) we were all satisfied, yes thankful.

I am feeling as good, if not better than any time in my life. Pa will probably remember that the last thing I said in regard to my going was the condition of my health. There are three men in the company that are in a bad way. But I guess they will come around all right.

Well give my regards and best wishes to all you come in contacked with, and don’t forget Maggie, and Napoleon. But above all don’t forget to write and I will still remain the same


P.S. We had some more pictures taken of the noncomps, so expect to hear from me again very soon.

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

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Postcard from El Paso, 7/7/1916

This is a good sample of Texas, along the Rio Grande. I hope this finds every body in the best of health. OH it is hot.

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

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Camp Cotton, Texas 7/6/1916

Dear Folks;

Although we have been the alarm company for the last forty eight hours, I have found a little time to write again. In my other letter I said that I was feeling fine, but it was just as I dropped the letter in the first sergeants tent that I had a little fever settle into my body, and it being so hot I felt pretty tough. It may seem strang to say that I am very glad this happened for they say that the sooner you feel the change of climate the better you will feel there after. I am feeling better now than I have felt any time on the trip and I expect to remain so.

I see by the Boston Globe, (about three days old) that you are having pretty hot weather up there, and although it is pretty hot here I guess if I was to choose between the two climates I would pick this (that is the climate in the very hot weather.) I hope you understand me when I say this. The reason for it is this. It may be 115° in the shade down here but it is so high and dry that you don’t perspire at all, and say the nights here are as cool as any day in Sept. or Oct. in Boston. Lena has experienced the condition of the head when she has gone in swimming, and it is a continual clearing out of the head and lungs, from the time you jump into salt water until you get out. Well that is the way it is here. All we did, (and it is not wholly worked of yet.) is cough, hock and spit. They say it is the best place you can find for the curing of consuption. Now I have only described the climate, and that is the only good thing I can say for this place.

There is a kind of breast works thrown up all around our front to protect us from machine gun fire if any thing should happen (by the way I see the Globe says that Mexico has come down a peg.) Well I guess they realize that they had better (You know the Dashing Eight is within 100 yard of their border) some stuff what? What I was going to say about the breast works was that it is a dry, sandy, clay, and when we form a skirmish line just behind this in double quick time it is just like diving into a flour bin. And that is the way the whole country is down through here. I don’t know whether I mentioned it in my last or not but, about five drops of rain fell yesterday, the first for over five month. The reason for this is there is a big mountain just to our west and this catches all the moisture before it gets to this desert. Then there is a sand storm once or twice a day, and when this comes up, we all grab our tent and close our eyes, for the sand is blowing so thick that you can’t see across the street of tents.

Then there are whirl winds. It was funny when the first one of these came up; there was tents, hats and every thing movable whirling around in the air. They look like a great big cloud of smoke shooting up in the air. The hardest work we do is keep clean. A few of use went down town the other night and it is some burg. We were talking with a gentleman from the State of Maine who has lived here for about three years and he said that they never hear of a heat prostration. I hate to believe him but of coarse he knows more about it than we do so I guess he is right. I am not going to try to say how your letter was received for although it may seem strang, but a word from home is a God send. But I have been pretty lucky so far, for I have receive four letters and believe me I like them.

MexicanMoneyInclosed you will find some Mexican bills. Thinking that I could do nothing better with my money than to buy some money with it I invested twenty five (25) cents for about thirty six 36 dollars worth of this junk. So you can see how the value of Mexican money compares with U.S. currency.

Well I must close now by saying that I sent a post card to both Madge and Molly but I didn’t have room for my address so if you will give it to them I would be pleased to hear from them.


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

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Camp Cotton, Texas 7/4/1916

Dear Folks,

I wish you was here just now to see the beautiful sunset; But only to see the sunset for it is no place for a city born. We are camped on a flat piece of ground which is all clay, and (oh) isn’t it hot. As soon as we left Kansas City we began to get the alkali dust in our throats and it seemed as though we could not get enough water, and when we did get it, we wished we were all back in dear old New England; It looks just like water that has been drawn from the Mystic River. But of coarse we had to drink it, and there isn’t a man sick yet.

I could not and will not try to discribe the grand trip it was down here to the farthest state in the south of the good old U.S, for it is some thing that has to be seen not told of. First the Adarondacks in N.Y. from which you look down on great vallies and right here I want to say that for beauty it exceeded every thing we saw on the trip. Then we hit Ill. But it being dark when we went through there all we saw was the station of Chicago. The plains of Ohio on which is raised corn that covers areas of fifty miles along the rail road, and the land as level as a lake as far as the eye can see in all directions. Then the muddy rivers of the Missisippi River and its tributaries. The plains of Missourie are just like the plains of Ohio only, instead of corn they raise wheat, and I wish you could see and ride through these vast field of plenty. You ride, ride, ride and then you ride and all you can see is grain and alfalfa, (a high grade of hay. When this hay is cut they pile it up as high as a voting booth, in fact the resemblance is the same.

I think that New Mexico is the most baron piece of land that was ever made for just as we rode for miles through grapes in N.Y, corn in the east of the Mississipi River, and wheat, (it seemed every where), there is nothing in this vast dersert of rocky hills, and dried up streams. But down in the lower part of the state the Indians live in low mud huts and they do look savage.

Now I said I was not going to discribe the trip, and I guess I haven’t. But I am going to describe the Map Sketchplace in which we are quartered. By this map you can see our position in regard to Mex. The last tent in our street is about 100 yards from the river which sesarates the two countries. The cross opposite the arrow indicates where a sentinal got shot and killed yesterday morning. We have all got 90 round of ammunition which we carry with us all the time. I hope you got all the post cards I sent you. Please write soon. I am sorry I can’t write any more now for I have to go out to drill, but I hope to find time to write again soon. By the way, outside of being dry all the time from the clay dust I am as well as the best of them. You will have to excuse the condition of this paper for all we can sit on is the ground, (if you can call it such) and use our mess pans as desks.

I was going to finish this letter when the other sheet of paper was full but you see some one was kind enough to give me a few sheet of this, so I will continue a little longer. We have just come in from an hours drill, and it is tough hiking around in these uniforms, rifles, round abouts filled with 90 rounds of ammunition a canteen of water, boyonet, and wire cutting tools. I took a drink of water from my canteen, and I bet you could boil an egg in the water, it was so hot. We will get river patrol next week and then we will find out the nerve of some of the men we have with us. This job will consist of small parties of men called outposts, stationed along the river in plain view of the out post of the Mexicans. Yesterday we could see the Mexican cavalry drilling and they looked good, about 200 of them. You can see by the diagram that I made on the other sheet that the old Bay State Troops are an important factor. I guess we are nearer Mexican soil than any other National Gaurdsmen. So if anything happens (and I don’t think there will) the old Eight will be right there.

The regular army fellows down here of which there are about 4,000 are a fine lot of fellows, and they don’t do any kidding at all. Last week there was a call for these 4000 troops to assemble, for they were to take Jaurez, as city just opposite El Paso and they were ready in 15 minutes. Of course this was only a practice event, and they were all sore when told so.

We are going to be issued six pair of unterwear, twelve pair of socks, two pair of shoes, two more outside shirts, beside the rest of a soldiers equipment so it looks as though they have got us here for a while.

The first day we struck here it seemed every body had a blood nose, I didn’t, olthough the say it is good for you. The reason for this is the high dry climate. I am doing pretty good ain’t I to write all this, for I guess it is the longest letter I ever wrote. It only shows how much I would like to be back there again, for it seems an age since it rain last, (you know Sunday) and Monday when pa came down to Framingham to see me off, when we didn’t leave until 7 oclock Tuesday morning. There are very few cases of sickness yet in this camp, and I think we will soon get used to the intense heat. I sent a post card from about every place we stopped long enough to do so. So as I have said before I hope you have received them. The idea is, I would buy them in one Town, and if I didn’t have time to mail them, we would through them out the window with the money for the stamps at the next station.

There is no chance of starving down here for you don’t feel like eating. All you want is water, water water all the time, and oh what water. But the regulars tell us that we will get used to it and I (know) we will. They also say that the thirst lasts only for 2-3 days. (I hope so) This isn’t Boston. Well don’t forget to write very soon and be assured that I will take care of myself to the best of  my ability that I will return in proper shape soon.

Send mail to,

            Serg. Samuel E Avery, Company K

            Eight Massaschusetts National Guard

            Camp Cotton, El Paso, Texas

P.S. This address is some letter in itself but it is the only way so that I can be sure and get it. Well don’t forget that I’m a long way from home and a letter will carry me back quit a distance.

Yours Sam.

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

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Framingham, Mass. 6/27/1916


Dear Em

“We are on our way to Mexico.”

Well not quit but we are going on a long trip anyway. We left Framingham at about 7 oclock Tuesday. I am feeling fine. Don’t worry, Ill be back. I cant say where I will mail this but I am getting it ready now. Will write again


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

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Camp Cotton, Texas 10/30/1916

Dear Em


I started this letter and found that this fountain pen was very dry. On looking to see if I could fill it, found that all the black ink was either all gone or packed. It looks like real business now, for they are loading the trains now, but we (the men) won’t get started until tomorrow some time. The boys can hardly beleive it. They all slept, out in the cold last night but didn’t mind it a bit. They will do any thing to get home, and nothing if this is a farce. The poor Ninth havent got any orders as yet but probably will soon. Another Georgia Reg. pulled in this morning and they all seem to be a fine sort.


Every night latly we can look across the river and see a lot of camp fires burning, around which the Mexican army is gathered. I havent received any mail from any body latly and it is just as well for I know you folks up there dont know what minute now we will be saying good by to Texas.


I suppose we will freeze by the time we get off the train some where in Mass. but we all have woolen under wear, new olive drab uniforms, sweeters, (those that havent got so hard up that they sold them) and over coats. But even at that I suppose we will be an awful bunch of cold blooded men. It looks as though it is going to be a race for us to get home in time to vote, which is no little discution here among the men.


Kinsman came home from the hospital yesterday, but I dont believe he would have been releaced if we wasnt going right home. He alway was thin you know, well you can hardly see him now. It is too bad but as you said once before in your letter, he was always a wise, tough kid. This will probably be the last letter I will be able to write, but then, Ive been saying that for some time.


The Georgia fellows seem to take things very seriously but they will get over that very soon. Three of them were stopped last night from killing a Mexican. They are some wild when they get started. The Regulars will take that out of them if they start any funny business with them.


Well that Sunday when you Lena, Bert and Tom was at Framingham I felt good and strong the same was the case when Pa came to see me off. Now Im coming back to you folks the same guy the only change being four months away,




P.S. There is no doubt but what we will be on our way now while Pa is listening to you speel off this line of guff. If not, why we are still waiting to go that’s all. Another slice of bread.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/27/1916

Dear Em,


Well here it is Thursday and we are still here. We got orders last night that every thing would be loaded this morning at 8.30. But late we got orders that the Georgia troop trains were delayed twenty four hours on account of a burnt bridge. At present the orders are to wait until different orders comes in before going any further. We haven’t given up all hope though and here is hoping that we will be well on the way before this letter reaches you. Beleive me kid we are all right on edge and praying that this isnt another farce. Ive been feeling pretty sore over it for some time but as First Serg. Ive got to keep my mouth and feelings from getting the upper hand.


I spoke of my teeth in the last letter I sent you but they are getting along pretty well now. I went to the army dentist and he drilled a hole in it and pulled or killed the nerve. I thought for a while that he imagined I was a Mexican and was trying to kill me but he releived me a great deal. I went again this morning and he lanced my gums and cheek. I suppose I acted like a baby while this pleasant operation was in progress but we can all stand just so much.


Say if you could have seen my face this morning it would have reminded you of that dear old soul John Bunny. My left eye was closed and as blue as dear old Chelsea (you know that view from the kitchen window on a cold dreary Sunday morning.) Well any way I feel fine and my face only weighs 10-12 pounds. Im going over to the dentist again tomorrow and I guess he’ll fix me up all right. My only worry now is the long trip home in the train if my teeth are not fixed up before we leave.


Now you can see that I must be and have been in the best of health all the time when I will whine (I guess that’s how you spell it) over a simple thing as a tooth ache. We have a stove in some of the tents now and say it is real comfortable nights sitting around it trying to get warm and at the same time trying to avoid getting burnt. Now I suppose the Boston Papers have had it that we were on the way, probably we are now, and then again probably we are not. We have received a cord of wood per company not to be touched by us but to be left for the Georgia troops. We’ve got another cord all cut in two foot lengths and split. This to be used for the train only. It looks as though we will be using this and more too if we don’t get started.


Well Em and the rest of you, heres hoping that Im on my way now. Im going to say Ill see you soon any way.




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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/24/1916

“While we are waiting for Georgia”

 Dear Pa

Expect to leave any day now. Probably be in Boston before the 5th of Nov. Im feeling fine and Im going to remain in this condition until I get home.





Dear Lena,


I received your letter in which you stated that you had received the State money and no doubt you can use it to good advantage. I am going to be truthful and say that I spent a pretty tough night last night with my front teeth. You know I never had much bother with them and to have them go back on me down hear is kind of disagreeable. Im going to try and get down town today to have them fixed. Im not going to take any chances on these army dentists especially the work on these front teeth of mine. I suppose Ill get trimmed, but it will be worth it.




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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/21/1916

Dear Lena.


After a very cold and dissagreeable night we awoke this morning to hear that Georgia was due to start arriving tomorrow. You remmeber how strong I was for fresh air while sleeping. Well beleive me Im getting my stumack full of this fresh air stunt now. We have all gone back to undressing night and say it is some job and takes nerve to crawl out of our blankets in the morning and slide into cloths that are almost wet from the dampness that settles in to them over night. It isn’t doing us any harm though, don’t worry. Im feeling as fine as a fiddle. Every thing is going pretty smooth. See you soon.




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


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