Camp Cotton, Texas 7/23/1916

Dear Em,

I forgot to thank Lena for the stamps that she sent with the paper and I will do so now. But I am also going to say that they have just finished the Y.M.C.A. building and from now on, as long as we are stationed here I advize you not to send any more stationary, news papers or stamps, for we got paid yesterday and Ive got enough money for these things anyway.

I am going to send home fifteen dollars if I can get down town again and if you need it why go to it. You may not think it is easy to spend money here but let me tell you it is. As I told you before, we are dry all the time and they always have ice cold tonic and ice cream at the canteen. I am sertainly learning to like ice cream and it seems as though the more of this and tonic I drink the thirstier I get.

Talking about sending stationary and stamps. What does this little girl of mine do but send down a whole box of it, a pad of paper and a book of stamps, also a pencil into which you can feed sticks of lead. She sent two bunches of lead sticks. It costs her twenty four cents to send it and you can see that it is not nessessary. Of coarse I thanked her and all that stuff, but I was not backward in telling her not to do this again. Now I hope you will take the hint, and not send any thing but letters. But do send letters. I hope you will take this the way I send it for I appreciate all you are doing to make me seem at home. I got $4.40 about two weeks ago and $72. yesterday so you see Im not broke, but I am going to try and send some home, for if I hold it long, well its gone that’s all. All you can see down through here is silver and gold. Yesterday I got a ten dollar gold piece and two silver dollars. The minute the fellows got their money in their hands they started the cards and dice going and they have been at it ever since in their spare time. Today being Sunday they are at it all day.

I wish you could see the crowd in this tent just now. I guess this is the hottest day we’ve had here yet, and I know it must be terrible up there. Well cheer up Winter is comming and I hope I will be there with it. There is a lot of talk just now of our pulling out of here next week. I hope so, for the change, if nothing else. I suppose Pa’s vacation will be all over when this letter reaches you, but no doubt he injoyed it. Some of the fellows are going to take advantage of that bill that excuses all married men that are now on the border. Well to tell the truth, no matter how hard it is down here for me I am not or would not quit. Of coarse some of them are married and have three or four children, and I don’t blame them. The City of Somerville was going to do this, that, and the other thing, for all these kind of fellows, but I guess the Town is living up to all that Pa thinks of it, for they are doing practically nothing, from what I hear. Well Im feeling fine and hope you are all the same

With love
Sam.

Dear Em,

I have just got in from drill and received your letter, and don’t be surprised if it is the last one for a few days. Ive told you I think, in some of my others that we are expected to move very soon. I was going to write this letter last night when I though I had all the time up till taps. But the Ninth had to go and start some thing, which pulled the whole Brigade out. I was just sitting down trying to get a comfortable light from a candle to write this, when bang-bang-bang. There wasn’t a one in our tent that paid any attention to it, until it sounded like a machine gun. Then (Call to Arms) was blown, all lights went out, the half finish letter was lost in the scramble for round abouts and rifles. In the mean time the firing continued at great speed.

Well there is nothing more to say about it. We formed our company orderly and quietly, into a skirmish line, as did all the other companies and waited for some real action. Now we all knew, the minute that we heard the first Shot that it was the, (Grand Fighting Ninth’s) out post, that had seen a mule or some thing waving its ears at them or some such thing, and of coarse they thought it was, Villa’s Army. You said that the Boston Papers were full of news from the Ninth. Well here is some news that ought to be put in the papers. Lasts nights afair, ment a couple of hours sleep, and about three hours work this after noon on the rifle, for where we formed the skirmish line we laid down in a bank of soft sand, the most of which was picked up by the rifles. They are new guns and the least bit of dust shows very plain on them, (Part of the game.)

If I don’t eat any more bread when I get home as I am eating now I guess there will be very little bread consumed at 297. Gee I wish I was at that number just now emptying the pan under the ice chest, for I know there is something good in there now. I’d put a disc on the machine, and clean up, wash my own dishes, and yes if it was Saturday after noon I’d water the beans. Don’t forget to keep a cold one on the ice for Dad. I’d make a quart of cold milk look sick in less than a minute just now. You spoke of biscuits and butter, its just like talking millions to me, especially Lena’s. Gee it’s a tough job to keep going with this letter and I hope you can make out the meaning of some of the sentences anyway.

Well its just as hot up there I suppose so why should I kick. Is there any sharks in the Mistic? If I had that bath tub here now, I sertainly would take advantage of the fact that the Hollands have one of their own. Well be good, give my love to all.

Sam.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/21/1916

Dear Sam.

Recieved your nice long letter and had Bert sharpen my pencil to ans. it with. I have sent you a few papers but now I’ll only send you the Malitia news. I was up to the pictures last night as I stated in my letter and the picture was good. It showed Gen. Cole telephonning and stated that the fellows were all in their armories in 48 hours. It showed the malitia marching through Haymarket Square. It showed the fellow in Co. C. getting married in the rain. It then showed them taking down the tents and marching away. There was the rookies marching and doing exercises and they looked funny.

Little Mary got home and came up with me and when they were showing the review parade Mary kept saying “Is Sam gone by yet?” I was explaining to her about it and I told her I was down there. Meaning Framingham. And then she wanted me to take her to see you next Sun. But of course I told her I couldn’t. When it showed the fellows marching over the field to the train I told her they were going to Mexico. And she hollered out, “And did they have to march all the way?” Then it showed them loading the trains and she said, “If they walked they’d be tired wouldn’t they?” You can imagine the fun I had.

Yes I understand your letter all right and when you tell about your drills and guard duty ets it makes the letter very interesting. Tell Corp. Marks I was asking for him and glad he is feeling well. Also give Walter Kingsman my best regards. I hope you enjoyed your trip to M. and also glad you took no time in tripping back again. Your some busy guy alright but still its better to be over some one than to have them all over you.

I hope you get your picture all right and be sure and send it home because you know it will be saved here. I’ll send Henry’s picture as soon as I get it and also one of Mary’s. When you go to El Paso sent home some sort of a souvernier if you can. Anything at all will be excepted. I glad you had a chance to dress up and Im also glad your wise enough to can all unnecessary work such as base-ball.

I took your post cards in the shop to show the girls and they thought it was good of you to send them home. Mary is very anxious for me to stop writing so she can write, too, but I going to fill up this paper anyway. Pa recieved a postcard from Bill’s son who is in Fort Bliss. It was good of him wasn’t it? Pa is feeling good and when he got through reading your letter he said it was a fine composition. Of course we read your letters before we sit down to supper and then talk it over.

You are certainly doing fine in writing and when I don’t have to wait for and ans. from my last and you don’t either it keeps us close together and I don’t relize even yet that you’re so far away. As long as we have something to say every day to each other we will be all right.

Will have to close now wishing you the best of health. I am going to help Mary with her letter now but will only spell the big words for her.

With Love from all

Em.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/20/1916

Dear Samakel

Recieved your letter and send a card saying a letter would follow and here it is. Gee, you’re a funny guy. Why don’t you get in the first row when you see them taking your picture? The picture of the “City of Tents” looks fine through the glass we have. I showed Henry your mail, he was over last night. We asked him if he was coming over Sun and he said “Sure, and don’t forget to have some biscuits.” There is no bread eating here now except 1 slice by me in the morning. I guess Lena will have to stop buying bread & butter altogether.

I was over to Molly’s with Henry last Sun and Henry was talking about cooking. He must be some cook himself. We stayed to supper and Molly said she was sorry she didn’t have something nice for him. He said, “If you want to have something for me next time make me some of your potato cakes and plenty of it.” You would think some one gave her $100. to see how pleased she was. I was glad he sprung it. Oh Henry is some boy now but don’t worry I won’t let him cut you out.

Nora and the kids are well. Madge feels alright sometimes and then again she don’t. If you write her a nice long letter she will feel pleased I know, because she loves to have me bring down all the letters and read them to her. I’m saving them all and intend to keep them for you to read.

Bert, Lena, and little Mary have gone down to Nantasket Beach today and I got the supper. I’m going up to Peason’s tonight because they had it advertised that there would be moving pictures of the boys at Framingham. I going up to see if I can see you and will tell you all about it in my next letter.

I have to close because I have to wash the dishes & meet Sadie Mack at 7.30. By the way she told me to tell you she was asking for you and to tell you to try and not get sun burnt. Hoping this finds you well and happy I will close.

With Love from all & everybody

Emily Jane.

P.S. Pa is fine and he starts on his vacation next Tues. Lena wasn’t here to address the envelope and I did it myself. How does it look?

 

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/18/1916

Dear Sam.

I have just got your letter and I’m glad mine cheered you up. When I first read your other letter I thought something was the matter with the mail but when I looked it up on the calender I knew it would be all right. Little Mary had just written to you and put it in the box when she got yours. I just wish you could see how glad she was. She is staying over with us now. Lena plays the graphanola while she dances. Isadore Duncan has nothing on her.

Well to tell the truth Sam I couldn’t blame you for getting nervous in not receiving mail and I hope now it never stops coming. Seeing that you are writing so much, Lena thought you ought to have more stamps. I saw in the paper this morning about your out post duty. It told about some of the boys seeing the horsemen shot down and I’m just sending that much.

Mrs Holland received your letter today and Catherine showed it to me. She said it was real nice of you. Henry told Molly that if she moved to Charlestown he would, too. And if he did it would be to stay. He was telling us that last Sat. night Nora asked him what to get for Sun. dinner and he told he didn’t care what she got for herself because he was coming of here for dinner.

The Hollands are putting in a bathroom down stairs and ours is beginning to get lonesome now for you. Hurry up home and you can have it all afternoon without them chasing you out. Napolean is the same old scout and Maggie is doing fine. I told her about you writing home but I was afraid if I told her you was asking for her she would tell me to buy some butts to send down to you.

The little birds are still there across the way. Your thoughts are certainly around here alright when you thought of them. Pa is feeling fine and working every day. I haven’t got Henry’s picture yet but when there developed I’ll send it.

They have Mary playing statue and I can almost write. Well I guess I better close now as my paper is all used up. Hoping this letter finds you in the best of health I will close.

With Love from all

Em.

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

Camp Cotton & El Paso, Texas 7/15/1916

Notice the ground, and mud hut. This is a good sample of the country down this way. At noon the sun is right over our heads.

Sam

Dear Em,

Although there is no news, for I guess this is the land of nothing, I have to use what time I have in writing. I just received your post cards, and tell Bert I will have to wait until I get home before I buy that gulp, for this is no place to take a chance. Not for me anyway. Its here, but I want to be able to say, “Here I come” instead of “I can’t come back.” And say that card of the park does look good. I am glad you are going to send me, mail of some sort every day anyway.

The recriut think it is hot here. Well tomorrow when they get out in the field drilling, they wont think so. They will know it. They all got vaccinated for small pox and tyfoid fever on the train and, some of them have some pretty sore looking arms. We have got shower bathes up now, and believe me they will not be idle one second.

Our new clothing has arrived. It consists of 3 pair of cotton pants, 2 o.d. shirts, besides the one we have, 2 pair of shoes 6 sets of under wear, 12 pair of woolen socks a new hat, 2 pair of leggings, and the other stuff that a soldier should have. I don’t know how we are going to take care of it, but that’s one of the problems a soldier has to dope out.

I am sending a few pictures, and I hope they will please you. We have got to fall in for “Retreat” so I must close.

With love
Sam.

P.S. They have found that the flies are spreading a lot of disease down here. OH please swat every one of these devils you can see.

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

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.

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.

Soldier’s Mail for June, 1916 and 1918

The collection of Soldier’s Mail written by Sgt. Sam Avery has now been published in its entirety on this site. While a book by the same title is in progress, this post begins a new series of Editorials which recaps the collection for each particular month and helps readers more easily access all of Sam’s writings while at the Front during American involvement in the Great War from 1916-1919.

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.

June, 1916: South on the Border

The Avery Collection begins in June, 1916 when Sgt. Sam Avery and other members of the Massachusetts National Guard were federalized by President Woodrow Wilson and dispatched to defend the Mexican Border from guerrilla incursions during the Mexican Revolution. Ironically, the “Mexican Question” remains as much a problem of national security now as it was then. However, similar decisive action is lacking today due to pervasive political correctness which promotes hand-wringing about “militarizing” the Border rather than robustly protecting American sovereignty.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Rather than simply a footnote to early 20th Century American history, the Punitive Expedition and associated Border defense was actually the first American military action taken in the larger context of the Great War. Read the page June, 1916 to learn more about the mobilization and deployment 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 first letter here as he begins the Great Adventure.

June, 1918: Toul Sector

During the month of June, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under fire in the Toul Sector. While this sector had been officially designated a “quiet sector” by the French Army (because no major offensive operations were occurring in the area), it proved to be anything but quiet for the men of the 26th “Yankee” Division. Read the page Toul (Boucq) Sector to learn more about the action in early Spring, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for June and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry.

Soldier’s Mail for May, 1918

May, 1918: Toul (Boucq) Sector

The La Reine (Boucq) Sector (also known as the Toul Sector) was the southeastern aspect of the St. Mihiel salient which was a bulge in the Allied lines remaining from the original German advance in 1914. This salient continued to threaten Verdun and Toul along with the entire right side of the Allied front (See detailed maps of this salient in the “Map Room”). The principle feature of the terrain in this sector was a ridge east to west from Flirey to Apremont with a highway running along it. The front line was anchored on the towns of Seicheprey and Xivray-et-Marvoisin, continuing into Bois Brule where it linked up with lines held by the French. The Germans had the tactical advantage of both observation and attack as the Allied front could be penetrated through several shallow ravines. In addition, the Allied trenches were in very poor condition and had drainage problems. The entire length of the La Reine Sector front was 18 kilometers and this was the first time an entire sector was completely entrusted to an American division.

During the month of May, the sector was enlarged on the right side to include Jury Wood and Hazelle Wood near Flirey. Relief of front line battalions occurred every fifth day when the men would be moved to rest billets in the rear where baths and steam delousing stations were available.

On May 10, at 0115 hours in a heavy fog, the Germans detonated 1,141 gas projector bombs containing over 20 tons of phosgene on the south slope of Hill #322, Bois de Apremont, St. Agnant and the surrounding trenchworks which were occupied by the 103rd Infantry. Additional incoming gas, trench mortar and high explosive fire was taken by the 103rd at 0525. A total of 33 men were killed, 12 wounded and 162 hospitalized due to gas from the night’s work. The 103rd Regimental HQ was relocated to Laigne from May 22-27 and then to Royaumeix.

Read about the Toul (Boucq) Sector here. See original film of the steam disinfection process for uniforms here. Also, read Sam’s May correspondence from the Toul Sector as he continues to live under fire in the trenches.

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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