From Em, Charlestown Mass. 9/19/1916

Dear Sam.

I think I see you in the right of the picture, am I right? Mary was very much pleased with hers. You may not be getting fat now but when you get home you ought to. We’ll have to squeeze up close together because Mary takes a lot of room at the table.

The papers say you will start for home very soon but I guess you’ll receive this letter though. They can’t send you home any too soon can they? Henry was over Sun. and stayed all the afternoon and we went down to Madge’s in the evening. He is coming to Madge’s tomorrow night. He thinks quite a lot of Madge. He is working on a job down the National House now.

Madge was up here last night with John and Mary. You see she is getting along pretty good when she walked that distance. When Pa read your card about the grass beginning to grow and everything looking green he started to laugh. Well I laughed to because its quite chilly up here now.

I see in the papers that someone want the boys to go to their armories because they think that if they went to Framingham the ground would be too cold to sleep on. I hope you do go to the armory and then we could go to see you oftener and maybe you could get home for a couple of hours. We intend to see you as soon as you land anyway with Mary in the lead.

Lena has gone to bed and I’m beginning to feel cold so I’ll have to hurry up so I can join her. You know she likes to have me sing her to sleep. You know how I sing myself to sleep don’t you?

You did pretty good to stick it out on that march you had. Its too bad Kingsman is sick but I hope he comes out alright. Tell him I was asking for him. I hope this letter finds you packing and getting your things together to move. The Hollands are fine and the Studdly girls and Emma sends their best regards. Every one is O.K.

Hoping this finds you well and happy like meself I will close.

With Love from all


P.S. X X X X X X By request of M.

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/19/1916

Dear Everybody,

Beleive me this is a noisy and happy camp tonight, and I guess it will continue to be until Thursday of this week, when we are pretty sure we are going home. You see they have been holding the good news back, and we wouldn’t know any thing of it now unless the Boston papers didn’t get it. One of the boys got a Post dated Sept. 15 which said that we would spend our last Sunday here Sept. 17. I asked my Capt. what he thought of it and he spoke the same as he has always spoke, “All Bull.” Well if this Brigade don’t leave this place by Saturday 23 there will be a hot time in El Paso. I guess there is going to be anyway.

I got your (Em’s) card today, and I hope you don’t send any more, for we may be on our way now while you are reading this letter.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/18/1916

Just a passing remark from the border. It sounds pretty good to me. How about it? Im fine.


Poem printed on the front of postcard


We joined the militia in the old home town
For the fun to be had each year at the camping ground;
Little thinking as we took the oath in the armory hall,
That quite so soon would we hear the call
To pitch our tents and take our stand
Way down in Texas on the Rio Grande,
There to guard the line with a watchful eye
To see that no Villa bandits pass us by.

And so Texas we’re here we’ll say
To do our duty and draw our pay
We’re here from almost every state—
From Maine to where the sun sets at the Golden Gate,
From up in Washington on the sound,
Down to where the Florida alligators abound.

Some of us came willingly, others not,
But each and all must accept our lot
And do the drilling and standing guard
Although some times we find it hard
To be content with the army chow
Of bacon and beans and some canned cow.

But there are times when it’s not so bad
For there are days when there is fun to be had
And then some evenings down town we stray
And have a good feed at some café,
While some who enjoy their cigars and wine
Find other ways to spend their time
Then back to camp we go feeling fine
Not so sorry to be guarding the line.

Now cheer up boys there’ll come a day
When these Mexican troubles will have cleared away
Then back to our homes and loved ones dear
We’ll march with good will and many a cheer
And in after years as time goes by
We’ll often laugh and wonder why
We didn’t take things more as a joke
Instead of cursing when we were broke
We would of had more fun along with the rest
When the militia encamped in the great Southwest.

—A.R.H., El Paso, Texas
(Copyright Applied For)

Dear Lena,

We are going out this morning to be gone all day. It is now six thirty and the only time I will probably get to write today. As far as I can make out we are to particapate in Brigade battle practice with blank amunition. I see by the papers that El Paso is going to see one of the largest parades since the review of the Union troops at Washington at the close of the war. We are to be in the parade I think. All we do here is think, we don’t know any thing. Hope to see you soon but Im not sure when.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/17/1916

Dear Em,

Although it is Sunday, I feel that the time that it takes this letter to be written is not my own. You see I am acting top sergeant again to day and on account of there being so many men that have got in wrong in the last week, for one thing or another, I have to scout around and find work to keep them busy. Ive got ten men digging a trench a foot deep the whole length of the company street, three scrubbing tent floors, five in the kitchen, and two corporals with six other men doing every and any thing to (keep busy.)

This Kingsman has turned out to be a tough little guy and it has landed him in the gaurd house. Im afraid more will follow. Talk about your quitters, and yet when they get back home they will be all heros you know. It is getting so that we non comp are the hardest worked of all. Of coarse the boys are getting sick and tiered of staying here and not getting any satisfaction as to when they are going home. I got over that long ago. Say I was feeling pretty blue the first week or so wasn’t I? I must have written some pretty cloudy letters. Then I used to sit and dream and write, but now there is absolutly no time for me to kill time this way. I hope you will all forgive me for not writing any oftener but I think what I am doing will be appreciated by you.

Two meals today is all we get and it is three oclock now. Dinner had ought to be ready. We are going out tomorrow to particapate in a sham battle. We are to be out all day eating two meals in the field. All our ball amunition is to be collected and blanks will be given us. We will all be glad to get rid of this stuff. I hear we are going to have another field inspection. Im afraid if we dont leave here next week it will mean that we will stay here till March. We are all getting another pair of shoes. Gee but some of the boys are sorry they ever saw the army.

I got Lena’s letter and tell her I will send her a letter soon. Take it easy all of you. Glad to hear Pa is well.

With love

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/16/1916

Dear Em,

We were issued overcoats and sweaters today and beleive me we will need them mornings for every body was just about froze this morning. The sun was very hot today which felt just like standing in front of a stove. Im sorry I cant do my part by writing, but as Ive said before Im losing the nack, and I be home and tell you all about it soon.

We feel pretty sure that we will start next week. I am fine, so is the weather.

Dear Lena.

All is well. Fine weather. Good eats (plenty of drilling) lots of sleep. And then I cant get fat. Hopeless case.


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

From Lena, Charlestown Mass. 9/11/1916

Dear Sam –

This is the end of another great day, nice and cool and the sun real warm. Mary and I went to the Thompson Squ. Theatre in the afternoon and after the show I could hardly drag Mary out. She is an awful movie fan. I suppose you are all waiting anxiously for the 21st to see what it will bring but perhaps as you say you better not raise your hopes too high.

Madge and John was up all day yesterday. Madge is getting along fine now. John had his violin with him and we had quite a concert. We are planning for another trip down to Nantasket although it is most too cold to go down. Madge thinks the trip will do her good because she has been feeling fine since our other trip.

Im glad you are feeling well but sorry to hear that some of the fellows have stomack trouble. Bert has it again but it must be tough in the Army where they cant get broths or any diet for it. We all received your cards with the poem on it Mary included. Every thing here is quiet, just as you say the same old thing every day nothing new.

I think after I get my wash in tomorrow Ill hang out your coat and suit. The air will do them good. Im starting some of my house cleaning but havent got very far yet for Im taking my time as I think it pays better in the end. I dont do much but after supper Im so tired I could fall right into bed. It’s the same way every night. Last night Madge and I went down to Mollies and at 8 o’clock I thought sure it must be 10 I was so tired and sleepy. I suppose you dont feel any too rested yourself at night time.

I dont know what you are going to do for a place at the table when you get home. Mary has had yours ever since she moved over here. You can imagine how much to home she is. Since the day before she moved over the only meal she has had in her own house is her breakfasts and she has been up here for that more than once. When she goes home in the evening I get lonesome for her but as I said before Im tired and go to bed. Mack was telling pa last Sat. that he dont see her for three days at a time. I dont know what we would do here for life without her.

Well how are the Mexicans behaving on the border. There isn’t much in the papers this week but I suppose you have enough to do just the same. I suppose just as you get ready to come home Villa will show up again. Of course you got my letter before now telling you I received the check and as I said in the letter I dont want you to be without money so when you are getting low in your funds let me know but you know it takes six days for your letters to come up now, it used to take three days and four at the most.

Now I know this is a dry letter but there is nothing new to tell about. There isn’t a sound on the street only the cars and it so quiet in the house you could hear a pin drop. Quite lively here, isn’t it? Now I guess Ill close and go to bed and I don’t think Ill lay long before I get to sleep its just 9 o’clock. Pa turned in long ago I bet he’s snoring now.

Dont work too hard and remember we are all waiting for the 21st as Mary says it (twenty oneth).

Love from all


© Copyright 2009 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.

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.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/22/1916

Dear Sam.

I got your letter and am glad to know your feeling good. It has been awful hot here this last 2 days. Last night neither Lena or pa slept any but I slept all night. It is not quite so bad tonight. Pa went to work tonight at 8 o’clock and gets home about 7 tomorrow. He was down the beach today and had a (Jewbily) jubily.

I succeeded in getting tickets for Lena and Bert for Braves field tomorrow night. They cost 50¢ but we get them free and I got 2 from some girls who couldn’t go. $1.50 saved. I will write and tell you all about it.

There is a hen and roaster over in Napolean’s yard. When the roaster crows it sounds as if some one was closing a sqweaking gate. Oh what a voice. I am glad you are getting enough to eat. Talk about chicken soup say if Napolean don’t put some lard on his roaster’s throat some of the neighbors will be having some chicken soup. By the looks of things it dosent seem as if you would be home for the 12th of Oct. but of course nobody knows. They might send you home as quick as they sent you down there, almost without any warning.

I didnt go up to the Band Consert tonight because I was kind of tired when I got home. I was hot and Lena and I sat on the steps with little Mary and watched Bert go by. We took her home about half past seven and we came home at 8. Lena has gone to bed but I will drop this in the box before I fall in.

I hope this letter finds you well and contented for a while longer anyway. I am almost asleep. Tomorrow night I will leave the house about 7 o’clock as the show starts at 8. Now I must close.

With Love from all


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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/19/1916

Dear Sam.

I just received your letter and am very glad to know you passed the examination. I hope your arch wont hold you back. As for your weight that is all right. Uncle Al only weighs 111 and I weigh 105. You have gone along fine so far in training and promotion so don’t quit. I addressed a card to you last night but Bert carried it in his pocket all night. After this I must tend to the mail myself.

When I wrote your last letter I send a card too because I had no stamps. When little Mary mailed it she only put a 1 cent stamp on. I went down to the post office to see about it and he said it must have gone. If you don’t get it from the top Sergent it might be at the post office down there. My name was on the back of it but it didn’t come back.

I said in my other letter about the time Liggetts is having out to Braves field. There is a couple of girls who are not going and I’m going to get their tickets for Bert and Lena. I asked Pa if he could go but he said he would be working that night and couldn’t get off. He has his hours changed on account of the vacations. It will be just the kind of a show he would enjoy seeing. He may try to get off though.

You told me you were going to send home your mail that you were saving and I’ve been looking for the parcel. Did the storm hurt that? I’ve got quite a bunch of mail from you and I’ve saved it all.

Mary and Lena have gone out to do the shopping and I’m minding the beans. Mary and I are going to the movies tonight, up the Hurst’s and see Mutt & Jeff in movie cartoons. Lena paid your insurance yesterday. Jim Coyne is in Co. H. You asked on Lena’s postal if we could read them. Yes it don’t make any difference how small it is as long as the writing is plain. I have a good eyesight and have read every word on them so far. I must hurry up with this letter and set the table. It is Sat afternoon and beleive me its lonesome here, too. I had the bathroom all to myself and no one to hit my nose or bother me.

I hope the rumor that says you are coming home for the 12th of Oct is true. Did you kiss the other soldiers as Mary told you to and keep the big ones for yourself. Well I must close as the paper is full. Hoping this finds you well I remain.

With Love from all


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