Camp Cotton, Texas 7/14/1916

Dear Em, Lena, Pa, Bert, Henry and the rest of you.

I have just got Em’s letter and Lena’s card, and believe me they look good. The best thing that pleased me was, hearing that some one is taking my place, (part of the time at least). And who could fill it any more than my brother Henry. I am sorry that I couldn’t see him before I left, but you know there are a lot of people that I should have seen. But why all this, I will soon be back and we will hardly know that I was ever so far from home.

ElPasoI sent a letter yesterday and I hope this one gets there in time to make it possible for you to forgive me for lecturing so sharply. Two post cards and a letter from home in this place is a God send, especially in one day. Well please keep it up and tell Henry to send a line also. John Higgins sent a card and the time he took in writing it was well spent, for I am going to send him a letter today if I have time.

When I got the mail, of coarse the first I looked at was the post cards and I was trying to dope out what Henry it was. And as I have said above I was very glad to hear it was our own Henry. And say tell him to eat will you. Athough they are feeding us good, I cant eat a thing. I guess it is just as well that I can’t for, (well I have told you often enough I think how hot it is)

I thank you very very much for sending the picture and if I don’t have it with me when I get home well don’t let me in. Tell Em not to feel so bad over the heat, for, as I have always played this game; I can stand it just as much as the other fellow, and then some. But say Em you struck it when you said, you wish we would get some rain. It would be welcomed here every day.

If the Holland’s are as interested in me as your letters state well Ive got to use more lead that’s all, so they are going to get a few lines any way from me. So is Madge and the rest, if I have time and some ambition. (There is very little of the latter down this way.) That little Mary is not going to be forgotten, for I know the 17th we were pretty good friends. I am glad Lena found out about my insurance, and I will see that it runs along alright.

Speaking of news from the 8th, you know a barking dog never bites and that is all I will say about this. They say that the recruits are on the way; well the sooner they get here the sooner they will get sick of it, I bet. I am glad to hear that you are sending some writing matter but, please don’t bother about news paper, unless you find some thing that will interest me. Tell Bert I will change places with him on the chore job if he says the word.

There are plenty of chances to keep a piano going but not for me on this trip. I didn’t feel very well yesterday but I am feeling fine today.

Well I have got to get after the other letters so I can get them in before the mail is collected so I must close with best wishes for all.

Sam

P.S. How is Maggie and Napolean, also the birds across the way. Keep “Old Glory” flying every day, and I will try to be an honor to it down here.

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

Published in: on July 14, 2016 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/13/1916

Dear Sam.

Received your letter today and must say that your doing fine. Thats a good picture but you should have been in Marks’s place. You want to pull your pants down, youre a big boy now. Madge and Molly were both very glad to get your cards and they said they would answer right away.

I see by the papers that you have ball games down there. Do you play or are you too busy to take interest in them. I save all your mail to show to Henry when he comes. When we get the pictures of him Ill send one down to you. Mack is going to be shifted over here to work and Molly is thinking of moving back to Charlestown. If she does Ill send her address.

I saw Norman Rinney up the band consert the other night and he was asking for you. He said he was up to the Armory to see you but you wasn’t there. I guess it was the night you came home to sleep. I gave him your address and he said if he remembered it he would write.

The reason we don’t send you more papers is because they don’t have hardly anything about the Eighth. But we will send them any way now. We are having pretty hot weather up here. Lena wrote a letter yesterday so I haven’t got much news. Pa is feeling pretty good for such hot weather. He is certainly sticking it out.

While up the band concert the other night there was a crowd of girls standing behind Sadie and I and one of them said to the others “They don’t seem to be any nice fellow down here tonight does there.” And I turned around and said, “No, all the nice fellow are down the border.” That made everybody smile and they all had something to say about “Those poor fellows.” I bet when your walking up and down along the border you wish it was Bunker Hill St. Well cheer up it could have been worse.

Now please don’t do anything you’ll be sorry for, and if you can’t be good be as good as you can. It was Bert who send you that paper and he also send you a card. Do you hear from your boss? I am sending you a paper so you can read about the “Rookies.”

I am glad you have enough to eat and hope you can eat all you get. Wish this finds you well I will close.

Love from all

Em.

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

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.

Published in: on July 12, 2016 at 12:30 am  Comments (1)  
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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

Sam

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.
Sam

© 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.

Sam

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

Published in: on July 6, 2016 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 12:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Soldiers’ Mail Centennial: 1916-1919

SamAveryPortrait1_zps4728775b

Greetings to everyone who are readers of Soldiers’ Mail! This marks the beginning of the Centennial for the Avery Collection which was written 100 years ago from June, 1916 through April, 1919. In order to commemorate this time, I am republishing the letters in the same order they were written a century ago so that we can once again march along with Sgt. Sam Avery from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse. In order to make it easy for readers to quickly access and read these writings “as they happen,” I am also publishing links to these letters on Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to the purpose. Please rendezvous and come march along once again.

This site began as a labor of love when I was seeking to find a way to give voice to the letters of Sgt. Sam Avery, a national guardsman from New England who served on the front lines of American involvement in the Great War from 1916-1919. This site was originally intended to be Phase I of a publishing project that I intended to culminate in a hard copy book of the same title. However, over time this site took on a life of its own as a living memorial to all those who were part of what I like to call the “Most Gallant Generation,” and it also became perhaps the single most comprehensive information resource on the internet for the history of the U.S. 26th “Yankee” Division and 103rd Infantry Regiment during World War I.

Today Soldiers’ Mail is a living educational resource with more than a quarter-million hits from readers in 95 countries! It is you readers who have made the site so much more meaningful than I ever could have hoped when I started this project 8 years ago, and the many invaluable contributions you have provided are embedded within its pages. I am happy to always solicit input and credit contributions as much as possible. Perhaps the greatest example of our mutual collaboration is the Brothers in Arms section of the site, where a number of readers have contributed the backgrounds and collected writings of their own family heroes to give them voice after so many years of silence. Shortly there will be a new collection of letters added to the site written by Private Frank Coffey.

There is a lively Comments section on the site where readers continue to engage in conversation and attempt to discover information about their own family members from the time of World War I, which in my opinion remains a vital yet understudied and misunderstood period of American History. I continue to moderate these comments and in future will ensure they are posted in as timely a manner as possible.

I am grateful to all who have helped make this site what it is today. I am especially grateful for the assistance of Gilles Chauwin, President of the Froidmont Quarry Association in France, Jonathan Bratten who is Historian for the Maine National Guard, and the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Please feel free to contact me at any time by email at doughboyletters@gmail.com.

With Gratitude,

Richard Landers, Editor

 

Soldier’s Mail for July, 1916 and 1918

July, 1916: South on the Border

In July, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade were stationed at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. In addition to adjusting to the high desert climate, the troops found themselves under fire and in a state of war with Mexican forces along the Border.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read Sam’s compelling account of his journey South from New England to the “North Shore of Hell”. Read the page July, 1916 to learn more about the mission of the Massachusetts National Guard as some of the first troops to defend American soil from foreign invasion since the War of 1812. Read Sam’s correspondence for July as he battles homesickness and the elements along with the enemy.

July, 1918: Champagne-Marne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive

During the first half of July, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under heavy fire with the 103rd Infantry in Belleau Wood which the 26th Division took over from the Marine Brigade. Read about the Champagne-Marne Defensive here. On July 18, the Second Battle of the Marne (Aisne-Marne Offensive) commenced with the 103rd Infantry attacking in line with other Allied units. In a week of fighting, the 26th Division captured 17 kilometers of ground in the first real advance made by an American division as a unit, but at the cost of 20% casualties including Sam who was severely gassed.

Read the page Aisne-Marne Offensive to learn more about the action in late July, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for July and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry during grueling combat conditions.

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.

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

Sam

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

Published in: on June 27, 2016 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)  
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