Camp Cotton, Texas 9/10/1916

Dear Lena.

I am acting first sergeant this morning and I thought I would sit down to this field desk for a change and write a few lines in ink. Now I know I am not going to do very well with this pen and ink but as long as you can read it I think it will carry out its message. I got your letter of the 5th and was much releaved when I read that you had received the check, for there are fellows here that claim money has been sent them but not received. Twenty five green ones is an awful bundle of dough in this game, (and right here I want to say that I have managed to get along. We are, or ought to be paid the first of next week, and after settling up my debts Id ought to have enough to carry me through till we hit Boston. (If we do you know.)

I have started this letter and been interupted so often that I have turned my job over to one of the other serg. and told him that I would be down in my tent, but not to disturb me again even if the C.O. wanted me. It has been nothing but, Two men for this. I want three men for that. You will observe by the date that it is Sun., which is a very easy day in the army (if your not top serg.) We had breakfast at 6.30 the last named to consist of Jam Bread & Coffee. Some thing like a Sun at home what?

A long train of Ohio troops pulled in this morning, and when I say long I mean it for one of the boys counted 62 cars. Must have been about two regiments. Some of the fellows are getting letters stating that they are decorating the stores in Boston for the parade that is to follow our return. How about it? Say dont be backward in writing about any rumor or notice that you may hear or see for I like to get the strait dope.

My grand father must have been some guy in his day to have had such a resemblance as I seem to carry. I am glad you can see by the picture that Im not getting any skinnyer any way. Im afraid though that Im not getting any fatter either (although my face makes me look so. I am glad it is getting cooler up there and I hope if they do send us home that it will be soon for it is going to be another job getting aclimated at home. That’s going some isn’t it Aclimated at Home.

Your letter of the 5th reached hear the 9th so you see the service is very good from there down, now. It will go hard for the fellow that you refer to in regard to falling asleep and letting the prisoner escape. Mary’s little doily is still hanging in my tent and will till we leave and Ill take it right back there to 297 and hang it in Sam’s room. It must be funny at that to hear Mary go at it and I can imagine a lot of it.

Do you know that this is the laziest feeling region on the face of the earth I think; and Im going to admit that it is getting me. I wonder how long it will take for me to feel like work.

Well I have no more to say only that I am well. Tell Em that Kingsman is sick, not serious though. Well hoping just the same as you’re hoping I remain


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/8/1916

Dear Em.

I got your letter of the 1st but fail to hear whether or not you have received that check for 25 dollars I sent away back in Aug. I also got a post card from Bert and tell him I sure would like to be present at just such a party as it pictures. I didn’t get any mail from you this morning but trust Ill have better luck tonight.

All of the recruits caved at drill this morning and beleive me I pity them for the next week or so. We had a very easy drill this morning. The flies are not quite so dense now, and I think that we are getting the best of them. Jim Coyne drove by our company, and he hollered “Hello Sam” I forgot my self and yelled back “Hello Jim” I will probably go over and see him today or tomorrow.

Give my regards to every body and tell them Im still swimming, with my head above water. Cut me another slice of bread.


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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 9/7/1916

Dear Em.

Here we are again, out on the drill hills, after a 24 hour tour of out post work. We got six more new recriuts from Framingham last night, but they are not drilling with us yet. I guess they don’t want to kill them so they are going to let them take it easy for a while. Im feeling fine. Some of the boys are sick, but they have to drill just the same. This is a place for well people only. All others are out of luck.

I got your letter yesterday stating that the band concerts are all over. Sounds like winter what? It is a nice cool morning and I hope it continues to be so all day. Tell Mary I send a big X.
I am still the same


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

From the Shop, Boston Mass. 9/6/1916

Dear Sam,

On my return this morning from a little over two weeks vacation up in New Hampshire I found your postal which is dated in El Paso on Aug. 21st, hence you will see why the answer is delayed so long.

I was very glad to get your card but have heard about you right along so knew you were getting along first rate. Also, let me congratulate you on your promotion. As I understand it you are in reality a fourth sergeant as the first duty sergeant is the second sergeant of the company. I may be wrong about this but what difference does that make as long as you are coming along all right.

Everything is about the same around the store except that at times we are not very busy. I don’t know of any new faces and the only one who has left since you went away is Benson. He left the latter part of July to work up in Manchester, N.H. About a week after he left we got a notice that he was married. They’re all hitching up except you and I and I guess we are doomed to be old maids.

I see Jimmy Mellor once in a while and he seems to be getting along. Our bath room sink stopped up while I was away and Jim came to fix it. After he got through he told my mother that it would not stop up again if Walter and I would stop washing our feet in the bowl.

While up in the country I put on a little weight and now when I get on the scales they say 139. That is not very heavy for a fellow of my height but you will appreciate that it is pretty good for me.

I understand by the papers that you ought to be home sometime after the first of October and I shall be very glad to see you. That will make four months in the open and I suppose you have gotten fat and browned up so we will find it hard work to know you. Living in the open must be doing you good and I am glad to learn that you are feeling so fine.

I was mighty glad to get your card and would like to hear from you again. I remain,

Sincerely your friend,


P.S. How many greasers have you put away and how many rattle snakes have you killed for the skins. I see by the papers that some of the boys are making a few extra dollars selling the skins for belts etc. When you get back you won’t know how to appreciate a little hot weather. It will probably be so cool here.

© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 9/6/1916

Dear Em,

Here we are again on out post. It is pretty cool today. The mornings here are fine. I am fine. We are eating pretty good now. Did you all get my card with the poem on it? Isnt this some card? I am glad Madge is better. But say Em did you receive that envelope with the check in it yet? It is about time it got there, for I sent it the first of last week. I am only sending this any way to let you know Im not sick.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/5/1916


Dear Em,

It is Sunday and all is well along the Rio. Tomorrow is Labor Day and another day off.


Dear Mary,

I got your Mother Hubbard and the boys and I are much pleased with it. It is hanging in my (soldier house) all the time and I have all the boys kiss it every time they come in. Im not going to put any kisses on this card for it isnt big enough for the one Id give you.


Poem printed on the front of  both postcards:


WHEN it’s morning on the border, and the sun is breaking through,

And the sands begin to glisten like the good old home town dew,

I look across the river, and it makes me kind of blue,

When it’s morning on the border, Love, my thoughts go back to you.

WHEN the sun is in the heavens and the air is mighty hot,

And its hard to breathe and stifling, and my throat is dry as rot,

I’ve got to grin and bear it, I’ve got to see it through,

To make the burden lighter, Love, my thoughts go back to you.

WHEN the sun has passed the border, and the after-glow is red,

And the silver moon is shining on the silent desert bed,

I’m feeling kind of lonely like, I know you’re lonely too,

When the sun has passed the border, Love, my thoughts go back to you.

WHEN the greaser stops his sniping and skulking in the sand,

When the raider hies himself away beyond the Rio Grande,

And the “spick” doffs his sombrero to the old red, white and blue,

And its calm along the border, Love,  THEN I’LL COME BACK TO YOU.


Segt. Wm. H. Barter, 5th Mass. Infy. El Paso – On the Border

(Copyright Applied For)

Dear Em,

On account of our camp being on gaurd yesterday and last night, we do not drill today but company M. & K. are elected to assemble the new arm wagons that have just arrived. We had a beautiful sun rise this morning, for we were up be for sun up. I think it is going to be pretty warm today. It is 6.45 now.

By what they say now, we are to start home some where around the 21st of Sept., stay at Framingham until the 12th of Oct. and parade in Boston on that date. All bull I suppose. Say did you get that letter yet? There is a little stumack trouble here in camp but that will soon pass. I am fine.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/4/1916

Envelope Art

Dear Em.

Well here it is Labor Day and although the day is given over to sports, and it has all the appearences of a holiday it is dead. There is no one entered from our company in any of the events for half the company is on gaurd, and most of what is left is working on the mess hall cinder pile or some of the other details. I happen to be a man of leisure today and I am dressed up to kill, you know, just as Id look if it was Saturday Night and I had some jingle in my kick. Talk about a long rest.

Saturday was and all ways is inpection day. We have to get up the same time (5.20) Saturday mornings as we do every other only all we have to do is fall in for reveille at (5.30) eat at six, fall in for full field equipment inpection which includes, the shoes we have on, the uniform we have on, personal cleanliness, rifle, bayonet, and the checking up of our ammunition which is in our field belt all the time (100 rounds). When this is all inpected by the inpecting officer and he is very sharp in noting any one that is dirty, we are inspected in quarters. (By the way our company was restricted from pass for 24 hour last Saturday because a few of the men had dirty underwear on.)

I suppose you have read that we have been issued identification tags. Well these are tied to a piece of white tape and hung around the neck. It is the hardest job to keep these clean. I wash mine every day (Keep your neck clean).

These tags look like this. The tags are just as big as this for I made this by drawing it around the one I carry about my neck all the time. My number, which is #7 is on the back. I am getting away from our Saturday work. After the inpection of our rifles, necks bayonets etc. We are then sent to our tents to arrange our field pack in which we carry and which is layed on our cots so that the inpecting officer can see every thing at a glance, 1 shelter half, 1 ponchow, 1 poll, five pins, 1 blanket, 1 mess out fit, 1 suit of under wear, two pairs of socks, 1 comb 1 tooth brush, 1 towel, a condiment can and nothing else. These articles are done up in this new packs, (the rolls are done away with) and strapped to our backs. It is a great deal more comfortable than those old things we used to go to camp with. Well when this pack is inspected our surplus kit bundle is examined. This is a bundle that is all ways done up for emergency to throw right on the team. It includes a pair of shoes an o.d. shirt, pair of pants, two pairs of socks, a suit of under wear and a pair of shoe strings, and our names where it can be plainly seen. Inspection of feet and quarters comes next and by that time it is time to eat. The rest of the day we have to ourselves.

Sunday we have mess at half pass seven and if you dont want to get up to get it you can sleep, but go with out. If I was home Id go with out I guess. Sundays are mostly devoted to washing clothes. This morning being a holiday for all those not on guard, we didn’t get up until 7.15. Soft, soft, yes too soft, for tomorrow we will be at it again. I can hear them over on the parade ground (which there was a lot of hard work done to make it so.) I can hear them cheering for whoever is in the lead. It is just such a day that you Lena and Bert experienced the day you visited me at Lynnfield. They have carried two fellows in on a stretcher already who couldn’t stand the strain of trying to run down here like they can up there, in an altogether different climate. It dosent seem very hot today either, but oh the flies. I bet there are a hundred flies on me now. If ever I go insane, you can lay it to the flies in Texas. I never was a saint on swering but I bet these flies have given me a fixed habit. We washed out the floor of our tent this morning and every thing is as bright as a nice new ten dollar gold peice, but the flies spoil it all. I will be very pleased with Mary’s picture. The doily she sent is pinned right over my head right now as I write this letter.

I am very glad to hear that Madge is feeling so good. I can imagine Pa kidding Mary and also Pa laughing. As for Harper he was to come with us. Give all the people my best regards. You hear we are having dancing down here do you. Well dont for a minute think that we inlisted men have any thing to do with this. These dances are for the officers if you please, and they take place when we are supposed to be in bed. (After taps)

The other night the 8th ran a show the name of which was, The Time, The Place, and The Girl. Although I wasnt there, for I was acting 1st Sergeant they say it was very good. Well Ive got to get up and shake my self and see if I can get rid of some of these flies. For a military camp, it is unbeleivable to any one that doesn’t see the billions and billions of these pests. There is a regimental order for every man to make a swatter and swat the fly. I bet I killed 10,000 last night, probably less you know but that is a good guess. Well it wont always last so cheer up and we will all be happy.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/3/1916

Dear Em

Well it looks now as though we will leave here for some where in the U.S. Every thing is being fixed up good here and I suppose next week when it is all fixed up in tip top shape we will be kicked out, do you get it (kick out).

Id just as leave be the first one in line and get the hardest kick when they start. I will say that I like it a great deal more now than ever before, but, well (nuf sed).

I am acting First Serg. of the company tomorrow. Things are sliding very smooth now, and I am fine


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/1/1916

Dear Lena.

Was down town last night and had something to eat. Great. I bought a few (30) of these cards, for I find they are handy. A few words often, is appreciated more than a book very seldom. How do you like it? Say but it was cold when I woke up this morning. An overcoat would have come in handy. It is pretty cool yet 10.30. If rumor was money we would all return with a fortune, for there is a new one every minute. They say now that we will be on the move by the 15th in complience with the Old Dix law. I may not be any stouter when I get home, but say kid Im going to be there.


Dear Pa.

I geuss it is about time for me to write you a line. Hows a kid? So am I. The 9th is back at Camp Cotton again and I guess the Mich. Bunch is to do some of this work now. Its about time. How is Bills son making out. It would be like hunting for a needle in hay now, (OH for two weeks on the old farm) to find him but Id like to know just where he is and, I probably look him up. The girls tell me things are running pretty smooth back there, and I can assure you Pa that every think is just the same with me here. Some (well yes I will say) quit a few of the boys are in duch most of the time but you can realize that thats only natural.


Dear Em

Just think, here it is Sept. How the time is flying latly. Well Em here we are on this morning out working out a problem in attack. Two privates, a corp. and my self are out about 1800 yard from the rest of the Battalion, and we are representing a front of three com. of an enemy. The point has just reached us and the advance party is advancing now. You know I like to write while on the field. Please forgive me for not writing yesterday for it was a very busy day, and beleive me I am glad the field inspection is over. I am fine. Gee Ill have to get back to the nack of writing again. Have you received my picture and that envelope yet? If not let me know. it is about time you did.

Love to all,


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, 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.