Camp Cotton, Texas 8/19/1916

Dear Em,

Just a few words to let you know that I am in a better mood than when I wrote that letter to Lena. Everything is all dryed out again and I have got a board floor in my tent. Tomorrow is Sunday, and that means a very easy day. The mosquitoes are getting very thick here now on account of so much wet weather. How are they up there? I got your card today, in fact I am getting a card or two every day and it pleases me very much.

Gee but it is a swell night here to night. I am writing this in the Y.M.C.A. which accounts for the ink and pen. The nights are getting pretty cool now. I think I will go to church tomorrow. How is the talk machine. There is a fellow at the piano now playing all the raggy tunes, and say I couldnt try to say how it makes me feel. You can guess it better than I can explain it.

Tell Lena to sit right down at that piano now and play a rag and then a melody for me will you. I can hear it away down here on the Rio Grande “The Dauter of Mother Marchree”. He is playing this now and (I mean it when I say I am home sick again. Lena and I are going to be old pals when I get back, for I have found out that she is never out of my thoughts when I have the blues. I am always glad to hear from her. Have Pa write a line on a letter or post card that you send will you.

What is the latest song any way? Do you, or would you like to hear me sing it. Just as soon as I seem to get used to this life, some one sings a song plays a tune, and then it is all off. I am back home in the front room near the graphophone or piano. Well I can’t think of any more.

Sam

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 8/18/1916

Well Lena

I guess this will develope into quite a letter at that. This sheet here is being written 18 hours later than the other one. Now my intentions of sending the other one as a letter was good but surcumstances that are bound to come up popped up and there you are. On the other page (which realy should be well on the way now) I spoke of a rain storm. Well my guess was right, only it wasnt timid. It broke just as I finish (this noted page) and then there was trouble. Regardless of the rain (that was coming down about as hard as was possible) we had to get our stuff together and beat it out here (which by the way is the furthest out post that is establish from this camp.) Say kid it was raining, and then it rained some more, and then some. Some stuff, what? Out side of this rain nothing happened. This sheet of paper was about the only thing that was dry, for I had it in my note book which is all that saved it. I dont know how my stuff is back at camp but I suppose it is in the same old condition again.

We were driven here in motor trucks which got hung up in the mud about ten times and we would all have to get off and push. When we got here we just stood where we were stationed and (Let er rain.) It cleared off fine towards morning and every thing we own is dry now. It is eleven oclock here now; in Boston it is nine.

We got our mess this morning at ten and it consisted of Rotten tea, Rotten oat meal and Rotten eggs. It was a fine feed to throw at a guy after such a night. You see they had to carry it by mule team (they dared not take a chance with the truck) to us, and that helped to make every thing Rotten. I wasn’t hungry anyway, but I would liked to have had a hot cup of coffee after such a night.

I spoke of the rain storms not being chilly down here. Well I am going to take it all back after last night. The change is very noticeable. I have a Cossack post (four men and myself) to cover a sector between boundary post #10 to 11. Water mellons and cantilopes all around us. Now as soon as I get an envelope I will mail this so don’t get nervous. I must not forget to tell you that I am feeling fine.

Sam

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 8/17/1916

Dear Lena

Just a line or two and that is all. We had another practice hike this morning but we didn’t have to carry our haversacks or extra bandaleers of amunition. We hiked about five miles, drilled, in extended order, exercise with and without rifles, and then hiked the five miles back again. It was soft work although some of the boys felt it, for we had to walk through a good deal of sand, mud, and railroad beds.

We are feeding from a field kitchen on which four companies are feeding now and we stood in line almost an hour befor we got a whack at the eats, which was corn chowder, corn starch pudding and rotten coffee. We had to attend school this afternoon, get our whole equipment changed for now, (and by the way, they are going to issue overcoats, for winter I suppose). I’m thinking of some thing, guess what it can be? I hope they think it is going to be cold in Boston very soon for I dont think we will use these coats down here until Nov. any way, and I hope we are not going to use them here.

We go on out post again tonight so dont expect a letter for two days, although I have done more writing while on out post than any where else. I will try to write and let you know how things are going. It looks like more rain tonight and if it does it is going to be tough. It is a sector we never covered before so we don’t know what we are going to run into. But rain, shine, strange land, or any thing else, we are there so why worry.

I got a card today, stating that you received that paper. What do you think of it? I think it looks like one of Mr. Hearst’s. Gee we hate to leave our camp, (which we will in about an hour) and hike away out there on that dreary border. All along the border, the two countries are separated by barb wire fences. About every hundred yards there is a monument, which we call posts. Well I have to close now, hoping that this finds you as Ive always hoped my others would. I am taking good care of my self, not altogether because I want to but because I have to, in order to be able to return in as good health as I left.

I guess I am loosing the art of writing again, for I havent answered half the letters I have received. Better days coming (Id like to know when.

Sam

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/16/1916

Dear Sam.

Received your letter and I glad to know you’re feeling good. I just sent a card ahead of this letter. The United Drug Co. (Liggetts) is having a big time up to Braves field next Wednesday night for the Mass. Volunteer Aid Association. There will be a band concert, fireworks and an aeroplane flight. The 1st Corps Cadets are going to have a night battle and drill. The employees are going to get free tickets so of cause I’ll have to be there. By the way the papers speak about it I guess it will be worth taking in. They are having their convention (that is the stockholders from all over the U.S. are coming to Boston) so they ought to make good. I guess Lena and Bert are going too.

Lill Studley is up in Maine on her vacation and I got a postcard from her today. The picture on the card is of the 5 & 10 cent store in Augusta. I’ve been in that store and I guess you have too. Isn’t funny that she should send me a card of a place Ive been. She is stopping at Winsorville (where ever that is).

There was a big fire down on the corner of Park and Henley Sts last night in a barn. 15 horses were burned to death and four were brought out but were so badly burned that they had to be shot. I guess the owner lost all his horses.

I was up to the band concert last night. They had another ice cream sale up there. There was an awful crowd up there. I am staying in tonight and Lena has gone out. Pa gets home at 9 o’clock so I’m staying in to get his supper. It is almost time for him now.

Well I guess I will have to close as this is all I can think of. There is class to your letter paper alright. Hoping this letter finds you well and just waking up from a nice long sleep I will close.

With Love from all

Em.

 

P.S. I just gave Pa his supper so my work for the day is done. Em.
© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/14/1916

Dear Sam.

I just got your card and also Pa’s and Lena’s. That is some song and say don’t we wish you were here now. Lena likes to bake with her new gas stove and the oven is great but you know pa and I are poor eaters. You may not have to stay much longer and then we’ll see what Lena and her gas stove will do.

I see by the papers that you had a big storm down there. Did you have a wash hung out? If you did “Good Night Shirt.” Mary was here when I was reading your cards and she feels sorry for you cause you’re so busy. She sends her love and is waiting patiently for a letter. She can play Tipperary with one finger on the piano. She has your skin a mile. I took her over to the band concert in City Point yesterday. They have great music over there. They play all popular songs.

We had two showers yesterday and I got caught in one of them. We were on the front seat of a car and got soaked. Henry was over Sunday to dinner. He is feeling fine. Pa is feeling fine. He changes his watch tomorrow going to work at 10 and getting through at 8 at night. The kids are out here playing “hide & go seek” and making more noise than a whole army. Old George is out on the steps fighting with them. Its awful hard for me to write a letter because I never have anything to write about but I try and do the best I can.

We are all well and so is every one else I know. I am glad to know you are gaining, as it is better than getting any thinner. Well I have nothing else to write about now so I’ll have to say Amen. Hoping this letter finds you well I will close

With Love from all

Em.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/11/1916

Dear Sam.

Your three cards were recieved today. I didn’t send any mail yesterday but it was the first day I missed. Henry was here fixing the pipe. He can only work by daylight and thats why its taking him so long. I guess he finish his job tonight. He was here this morning at a quarter of six and had breakfast with Lena and I.

These last couple of days its been real cool. Mary was up to supper last night and pa was trying to kid her. She said something about Leonard and he said, “Is he as big as I be,” and she said “I don’t know I never saw I be.” You can’t fool her. Napolean is getting his house painted. Here is no news as everything is the same.

Bert is fine and working every day and so is Pa. There was no ice cream sale up the band concert last Tues. night. The week before they made 16 Dollars so the papers said. Henry has just finish his job. Now we have our gas stove. Lena is cooking Henry’s supper on it now. This letter is all Henry this and Henry that. Well he’s a good old scout.

We have the gas stove over where the little table was and we’re giving the table to Molly. I hope you’ll be able to read this, I’m using a bum pencil. You say you have no time to write and I have lots of time to write but nothing to write about. Of course you know Charlestown is a dead place anyway.

I’m sorry I cant write any more but will as soon as I can find some news. Madge is feeling pretty good. Hoping this letter finds you well I will close

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Henry sends his regards.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/9/1916

Dear Sam.

Henry came over to supper last night and he is putting in some gas pipe for our gas stove. Uncle Al was here so he couldn’t do much. It was awful hot here anyway. It is raining tonight and awful cold. Some change. I went to the band concert and left them here. When I cam home what do you suppose Lena told me? It seems that Henry was out in the kitchen and Lena gave him a B. of beer. Bert was here at the time as he bought the treat. Pa and Al was in the parlor. Pa said in fooling to Al “Im going out in the kitchen and have some beer with the boys why don’t you join us.” And Al said, “Guess I will I feel kind of dry.” And they open a bottle for him and he drank it all just like an old timer. Now what do you know about that? He said it was the first he had for 12 years. Lena said when he was going home he banged into the door. Just look at all the fun your missing.

Bert and Henry are great old friends that is you would think so if you heard them talking. Henry was to come over tonight but I guess he got stuck on an outside job. Remember how we use to sit in a corner and laugh at him and the faces I used to make at him when he wasn’t looking. Those was the happy day, ha Sam. I gave him one of your pictures, also Madge and Molly.

Madge is feeling pretty good and every one else is O.K. I am glad Norman wrote to you but I haven’t seen him since. The band was swell last night but it seems to be punk every other night. Well if your coming home for the World Series you can stand in line all night and be ready for the game. You seem to be broke in on that line, owing to your 24 hr. patrol.

Well this is all I can think of now. I just had to tell you how your Uncle is raising Cain. Hoping this letter finds you well and your washing all hung out, I will close.

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Mary sends her love and lots of kisses.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/7/1916

Dear Sam.

Well. Your letters, cards, medels, and pictures are all here. Gee those souviniers are bocker I oh. There’s some class to the pictures too. How did you happen to have a tie on? I guess you bought that for the purpose didn’t you. Now you didn’t have to excuse yourself for your short letter because you know that a short letter is better than none. I got your long letter too. Im glad to know you’re on the job and everything is going along alright. Your picture looks good and your face looks fatter in that than the one I took at Framingham.

Its awful hot up here today but there is just a little breeze blowing now. Pa is feeling good. He likes the picture with the hat on the best but I like the other one. Those medels are just what I like. When you come home I want to have my picture snapped with your uniform on and all those medels on me too.

I was going out to Somerville to see a girl I knew (who married Jack Doherty you know him) and took Mary with me. She dancest for them and we had a great time. She went to church yesterday then came up here and I took her home about 8 o’clock.

Say Sam as for giving you a drink of water at the table, I only wish I could hand you a glass full now and pull your hair while your trying to read this. The papers don’t say a word about you fellows now so I don’t know what your doing down there.

Madge is feeling much better now than what she was. There is no news as everything is the same. Henry wasn’t over yesterday but I guess he is afraid that he’s putting Lena to work. We had some biscuits for him too. He may be over next Sun and I hope so. He is very sociable and full of talk and makes lots of company.

Well I’ve sat here five minutes trying to think what to write but can’t. Molly sent up her gas stove and now the question is where will we put it. Why not up in “Sam’s room.” Well hoping this letter finds you well and happy I will close.

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Have you got your washing done yet?

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/3/1916

Dear Sam.

Received your postcard. All you seem to be doing lately is washing. When you come home you’ll put the wet wash out of bussiness. Lena and Bert went to Nantasket Beach today and Pa and I just got through supper. I am saving all the mail I get from you and if you save all you get and send it home there’ll be some fun reading it over when you get back. When ever that is.

Molly likes her new tenement first rate. Mary came up yesterday to ask Brother Bert, as she calls him, down to her house for dinner. She is the limit. Molly is going to give Lena her gas stove because there was one in her tenement. Some class. Madge is about the same. Mary told me today that John and Anna got a card from you. I am going down there this evening to see how Madge is. The Hollands got your letter yesterday. I showed your souvernier in the shop today and all the girls liked it. It seems funny to them that I should hear from you most every day and all they get is about 1 letter a week. I guess they are all jealous. The password now is, “Did you get a letter last night?” My answer is always yes, and they say, “Gee I didn’t.” I beat them all, thanks to you.

Pa is feeling fine and is looking good too. We still play the machine but the same old records. We haven’t bought one since you’ve been gone. Henry’s favorite is that Hawaiian Hotel. When he comes over he plays it over and over. I played my harmonic for him last Sun. and he was surprised to hear me play so good. He said Lena had the piano and I played the harmonic and you had the graphonola and then he asked pa what he did and pa told him he was the Major.

Well I wrote more than I thought I was going to. I must close as I want to see Madge. I hope this letter finds you well and cheerful. We are all fine and send our love. Amen.

With Love from all

The Kid.

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your neck as well as your clothes.

 

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

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.

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