El Paso, Texas 9/15/1916

Dear Em.

Ive havent got any thing to say so I cant say much. As for when we are going home I know just about as much as you do. It is getting nice and cool here now. Grass is beginning to grow and every thing is getting green and nice. Hope to see you soon.

Sam

Poem printed on the front of postcard

 GREETINGS FROM THE BORDER-LAND

Here’s greetings from the Border-land
Where the wind blows to beat the band,
O’er valleys fair and mountains high
Kissed by the sun from a cloudless sky.
Where the soldier boy with his ready gun
Tramps the desert under a scorching sun.
Yes, this is the land where the cacti grow
And the long-eared burro tries to crow.
Where the centipede walks on a hundred legs
And the rattlesnake lays its soft-shelled eggs
The tarantula too, and vinagroon
Bask in the sunshine and lazily roam
Over the rocks and through the sand
Away out here on the Border-land.

By the Poet-Lariat
(Copyright Sept. 1916 by Jos. T. Grant)

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 9/13/1916

Dear Em

Although it is the night of the 12th I am writing this now to make sure that I send my regular daily mail. You see I never can tell what will come up the next minute and the only way to get any thing done (for yourself) in this game is to follow out that old saying “Do it now.” I got your card today on which was the picture of Kings Chapel and it took me back to the day we marched and left Boston for Framingham, for we got a great send off by the firemen in front of the City Hall and we past the old land mark you sent a picture of very soon after. But the thing that mosts interests me, the boys and I guess you also, is, How long will it be before, this tough looking (army) that you reviewed that day will pass this historic chapel which hasn’t changed in the last hundred or so years, and the (army) that you realy will not know was the same one.

If they do parade us I think it will be well worth seeing, not only for the parade but to see the change that has taken place in us after three months of military training. Now the Fifth, Ninth, and Eighth are composed of the same kind of humanity and we all come from the same old Bay State. Then we are all going to return one no better than the other and none any worse than the next. A battalion of the Ninth was on Evening Parade this evening and say it was great. We are not having hardly any of this, now but I suppose we will get it soon. The Fifth have it every evening, and beleive me it does look good. I just wish you could see one of these field ceremonies. We were out drilling to day with full field equipment and say didn’t old Sol beat down on us. Take now for instance it is eight oclock, and as nice and cool as can be. But, between about nine A.M. and four P.M. it is hot.

Let me tell you how we eat, now that we have the cook shack and mess hall ready. There are twelve tables, which are divided as follows. Each corporal takes his squad up for their eats and these eight men sit down to one table assined to them. Now there are nine squads, and that takes up nine tables. (right Roger go to the head of the class.) We sergeants have a table to our selves, the cooks have a table to themselves, and the men that happen to be on detail sit and eat by them selves. The rules are, no profane language, hats off, no spitting on the floor (I hope this is not being read at the supper table) no throwing food around, those making a mess are detailed to clean up the whole mess hall. Well we have a lot of rules, but I can’t write them all for I am getting along towards the bottom of this page and I want to write about some thing else.

We have a new cook, (out of the company of coarse) and say he is a beaut. He makes cakes, johnny bread, griddle cakes, puddings, and cold drinks to perfection. By the way he is a baker by trade in some large place in Boston. I don’t know which has the most ink on it this whole sheet of paper or my thumb and fore finger. You know I always did take a bath when I wrote with a pen, but I guess Im taking two with the same one this trip.

Tell the Hollands I send my best regards and hope they are all well, Teddy too of coarse. They had a show here the other night and it was pretty good considering. I am sending a programe so you can imagine the caste. We expect to have another one soon “Forty five minutes from Broadway.” Well we are a little more than that from Bunker Hill but in the best of spirits.

Sam

Dear Lena.

I sent a letter a day before the 12th dated the 13th and I guess you thought it made pretty good time what? Well I am feeling the same as usual and hope to return as soon as we expect to. The whole 2nd Brigade of Mass. had a hike this morning of ten miles with full field equipment and we all did fine. Only two men from our company fell out. Kingsman who is in pretty tough shape was one, and a fellow that was hurt very badly while we were doing that 15 day outpost duty was the other. It was the day after pay day too and most of the boys were down town last night and (well you know)

Tomorrow we are going to have another field inpection, and I am thinking of making up my pack tonight so that I can assist the less experienced men tomorrow. Gee but it was cold last night and hot today.

See you soon
Sam

© 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

Lena

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/11/1916

Dear Em

I received your card and Lena’s letter of the fifth yesterday which was the tenth. I dont know what the matter can be with the mail leaving here, but you see that the mail leaving there seems to be all right. From all appearances it looks as though we will soon be home. It was very chilly here last night, and about three oclock this morning the moon was shinning and lit up every thing as if it were day.

Never mind the fancy paper stuff, even that that is rapt about a loaf of that good old Mr. Walker’s bread will do as long as it is news from 297. I am glad you all seem to like my last picture. You folks must have a lot of fun with Mary all right. The number on the picture is my number at Washington if I should desert or commit murder or some thing.

My best regards to all.
Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/10/1916

Dear Lena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/8/1916

Dear Em.

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

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

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

Sam

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 9/7/1916

Dear Em.

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

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

Sam

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

From the Shop, Boston Mass. 9/6/1916

Dear Sam,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely your friend,

Fred.

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

 Milly

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