Camp Merritt, New Jersey 5/7/1918

May 7, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I am putting on a little style today, writing in real fussy paper and with pen and ink. This is the paper that is given out at the camp reading room. The place is just as nice and neat as the paper is. This is a stub pen, though, and I can hardly write with it.

I see by the New York papers that you have had it warm in Chicago, too. It has been really hot here and it is so damp that we feel it more than we used to at Ft. Riley. I don’t know what 110 would be like here. We had it that hot in Ft. Riley last summer.

Today the Company let some men go to New York again so it looks as though we would not go before Thursday as they will not be back till tomorrow. A regiment of Engineers went out last night, or this morning rather. Troops always leave here during the night. I don’t know why they do because everybody knows they are going a day or so before, at least we did with these men.

A new lot of cavalrymen came in yesterday, they are old timers having served on the [Mexican] Border a couple of years. Their principal occupation seems to be shooting craps. Gambling is prohibited in the army but their officers don’t seem to care. We have always been strict about that in our company but I have heard the last couple of days that some of the boys are playing on the quiet. If they would play for small amounts it would be all right but some men lose all thier pay as soon as they get it.

Received a letter from Father this morning, also a dues book. I think I can keep track of my dues all right. I would have sent enough to pay up in advance but I didn’t know when we would get paid again and I wanted some money to spend on the trip if the occasion arose. I understand that sometimes the men don’t get paid for a couple of months after they get on the other side. I don’t know what causes the delay. Maybe the U-boats sink a boat full of money once in awhile. That is possible of course. When the war is over the deep-sea divers ought to be in great demand. There will be a lot of stuff to bring up from the bottom of the sea.

I am rather surprised at John’s going into the Navy. He will learn how to scrub decks now. They have to work pretty hard. There are always lots of sailors in New York, more than there are soldiers. There are so many ships going in and out and as soon as a ship lands the sailors are off for a day or two. The day we were in we saw a lot of them and half of them were drunk. It seems easy for them to get booze although there is a law against providing soldiers or sailors with liquor.

I haven’t the address of Aunt Louise or of the Kessler’s so I haven’t written them. I could call them up and probably will if we have to go before I write them. I haven’t kept my addresses separately and I must have destroyed the letter that had those in.

I don’t think we are more than 75 miles from Philadelphia. If I had my Betsy I could drive down some time if I had time. This is almost a suburb of New York and the towns are so close together that you go from one town into another without noticing the difference.

There isn’t anything that you can send me that I am in need of. We can buy nearly everything at the canteen here at prices less than retail. Will write you again tomorrow. Have written you every day since I came except the day I was in New York. This ought to be the sixth letter.

Love from


Camp Merritt, New Jersey

© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Merritt, New Jersey 5/5/1918


May 5, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

This is Sunday and although Sunday is usually a quiet day this has been a fairly busy one for me. Last night I went over to the theatre and introduced myself to the musicians. Two or three of them are civilians from New York, the rest are soldiers who happen to be here. They asked me to come down and play with them while I am here so this afternoon I played for the show. It was by a company now in New York. “The Little Teacher” with some girl named Ryan as the star. It was a good show. We played between the acts as there was no music in the play. Tonight there is to be a musical comedy. I don’t know what it is. It will be rather hard to play the show without any rehearsal but that is what we have to do. The orchestra is pretty fair but rather weak on violins.

I enjoy playing again as it has been a long time since I did anything of that sort. I think the theatrical companies give these performances voluntarily for the soldiers. It is quite an opportunity to be able to hear and see all these things.

We still don’t know anything about our leaving. The company is still issuing passes so we probably will be here a few days yet. Men are continually coming in and going out. A lot of them have gone since we came and as many more have come in to take their places.

I haven’t found out definitely whether I can take my violin along or not. I have asked but haven’t been told which it will be. I must go to the “job” now as it begins at 7:20. I suppose I will be having a letter soon. So far I haven’t had any mail amongst what was forwarded from Ft. Riley.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Fort Riley, Kansas 4/22/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7

April 22, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I had the pleasure of a couple of letters from Mother this last week. I am glad she does not always wait for me to write regularly but don’t always manage to carry out my plans.

Thursday is the day of the doings in Emporia. I have not yet said anything about wanting to get away so really have no idea as to whether I will be allowed to go or not. I will ask for a 21 hour pass, it takes only two hours to get there and I can have from three o’clock Thursday till noon Friday to visit. I shall be disappointed if I can’t go but I can figure on making it some other time over Sunday.

The sergeants are going to have their banquet after all. It is to be in Manhattan next Friday night. I have been arranging the affair.  We will have a pretty fair meal for a dollar. A few of us are acquainted with some young ladies and we are going to have them furnish about a dozen girls for the men who haven’t any. We will have a little program and dancing after the feeding is over. There won’t be so much time for that as the last car back leaves at 11:30. We expect about twenty-two or three couples. That will make a nice sized party. Sgt. Hill and I spent yesterday in Manhattan getting things lined up for the event.

The new officers training camp is to open soon and several of our sergeants have applied for admission. I don’t know whether any of them will make it but I imagine two or three of them will. I sometimes feel tempted to apply for it myself but I don’t think I would care for the infantry work so I will stay where I am. The camp opens about the fifteenth of May.


Maj. Gen. William C. Gorgas USA

General Gorgas is here today. He is the supreme officer of the Medical Department. He is making a tour of the camps. I understand that he may make a call on our company tomorrow. We shined everything up today in case he should come but he didn’t. I saw him in the canteen this afternoon. He is about my size and not very imposing in appearance for so great a man. There is to be a parade for him tomorrow. The Y.M.C.A. is having an outdoor meeting tonight at which the General is to speak. Sgt. Hill has been called upon to sing for the occasion.

It has rained nearly every day for the entire week. Outside there is mud everywhere and the mud around here is so sticky that we can hardly get it off our shoes. Saturday there was a snowfall of a couple of inches. The snow hasn’t disappeared yet where it was piled up.

Our long expected pay day arrived last Thursday. If I remember right my dues were $3.85 or something like that. I will send five dollars which will pay me up to about the first of May. I need a couple of g-strings so will add two dollars for them. They used to be seventy-five cents. Lewis’ strings are the best and I would like to have them medium weight. If there is any change left add that to my dues.

We are still going through the same routine of drill and instruction. The men have gotten so tired of it that they are getting hard to manage. It has become a regular thing for a few men to take a vacation without leave after each pay day. They get a little punishment but they don’t seem to mind that.

Lights have gone out so it is time to trot off to bed. I am tired too, as we were up late last night.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Junction City, Kansas 4/7/1918

April 7, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

You see I am still here. A week or so ago I expected to be far away from here by now but we are still in the same old place and have no idea when we will get away. We have no further news about going and it almost looks as though we would be here a while yet. The men are pretty much disappointed. Their spirits were running high and they were filled with expectation and the delay has discouraged them somewhat. We are still prepared to go in case orders come at any moment but no one has any idea as to when that will be.

Yesterday being the anniversary of the declaration of war and the beginning of the Liberty campaign all the cities had parades. Junction City had one by the entire Medical Camp of Fort Riley. We walked from camp to town and then a couple of miles around town and back to camp again. It was around ten miles and we had our packs on our back all the time. I hope the citizens of Junction City appreciated our efforts and bought lots of bonds.

Today being Sunday there is nothing to do around camp so Sgt. Hill and I came into town this afternoon to write a letter or two and go to church this evening. I don’t know where we will go. It dosen’t make any difference to either of us as to which church we attend. I have been to several of the churches and I haven’t found any of them that had really good ministers. They are very small churches and I suppose pay small salaries so they get just what they pay for. There are a dozen or more churches and if there were only three or four they could pay more and have real good men.

We had quite a fire in one of our barracks a few days ago. It was in our tailor shop. Some men were here putting an oil preparation on the floors. The stuff had to be put on warm so they set a pail of it on the stove. It boiled over and caught fire and in just a few seconds that end of the barracks was burning rapidly. We got the men busy with buckets of water and in a few minutes it was out. We had several suits of clothes in the tailor shop and they were burned up. Our tailor shop has been given up now because we haven’t got a good tailor. We did have one but he deserted about six weeks ago and has never been heard of since. Our barber has been laid up with lumbago so we haven’t been doing much business in the company of late.

The tobacco, candy and other things that we bought to take along had to be turned back as we can’t take it along. Our company fund now has nearly a thousand dollars in cash which is mostly profit from the camp exchange.

I had a letter from Gladys a few days ago. They thought I had gone some time ago and expected that their letters would be delivered in France. If we are here a little while yet I may go down to Emporia for a day. It is about time for their Spring Festival and I will get to hear some good music as well as to see my old friends. They may think it strange that I have been here so long and have not been down to see them.

Sgt. Hill and I have good times together. We have lots of things in common and are interested together in many things. He expects to be married on the trip East. He is going to marry the woman he was divorced from two or three years ago. He went to visit his child a couple of months ago and things were patched up and they are going to get married again. He is older than I, about thirty-two or three, but we don’t seem to notice much difference in our ages. Nearly all of my friends are older than I. I know of very few my age or younger.

I don’t remember what day I wrote you last but I hope you haven’t been worrying thinking that I have been gone. Whenever we get word to go I will let you know so you will know for sure.

Father’s letter came early in the week. I will send some money after payday which we expect this week. I don’t owe as much as I thought I did and having no book I never know how I stand.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Junction City, Kansas 3/29/1918

Junction City, Kansas

March 29, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I have been going to write you a letter all week but we are kept on the go all the time and I haven’t done it. I can imagine that you feel badly about my going away but I really don’t feel that you need to worry about me. Of course our work over there will no be play and it won’t be the happiest and most pleasant kind of work but on the other hand it won’t be like so many boys are having to do right now. We will be taken care of pretty well and I doubt if we will ever have to suffer for lack of good food or clothing.

I like our company and the men and officers in it and I have a couple of good friends in the company so in that way I will be quite contented. It is not certain yet as to what work I will be assigned to definitely. When we really get started there will be a few positions open and any one of us may be put into them. It is possible that I may be put on the anesthetic work for awhile.

After we leave here we will go to Hoboken [New Jersey] and we don’t know how long we will be held there. Our letters from there will be mailed open and of course read by the censor. On the way there we can write as we please. There is no restriction on our writing while on the train. We don’t know when we will go but it probably will be some time next week. They never let you know very far in advance, they just tell you to get ready and some time after you get orders to get up and go.

For all we know we may be here a little while yet. It has happened before that a company got all ready to go and then didn’t go for some time after. We are not allowed to tell just when we leave on the boat, we won’t know it ourselves until we get on. We can mail a letter as we get on the boat and I will try to let you know in that way when we get off. We will probably be on the water about two weeks. That is the usual time. When we arrive you will be notified. I understand that when we leave we write a postal card which is left here and as soon as we arrive the card is forwarded.

I don’t fear the trip at all. The transports are as safe as can be and there isn’t any doubt at all but what we will get over in good shape. It will be a few weeks before you get a letter from the other side so don’t be worried if you don’t hear for a little while your letters to me will not be censored so you can write what you please. I will have to be pretty careful about what I say. I think we will be able to write letters all right.

As I write there is a dance going on here with a brass band for the music. They are making so much noise that I can’t even think straight. When I get some more news I will write you again and will say “so long” for the present.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Fort Riley, Kansas 3/25/1918

March 25, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I wonder if you are having as much summer weather in Chicago as we are here. We haven’t wanted any fire for a long time and overcoats have been put out of sight. If it were not for the wind which keeps the air full of dust nearly all the time the weather here would be ideal. The dust is very bad and it settles all over everything so that we can’t keep ourselves or our bed clothes clean.

The St. Georges Herald came today. There doesn’t seem to be a very great deal going on in the various lodges. I see the honor roll is growing with each new issue. The war will take away most of the younger men from the lodges and as time goes on the social affairs will be dropped. Music work in the colleges has fallen off a lot. Most of the boys are gone from school and the female attendance has dropped off, too. Next year will be still worse.

Our company is coming along in good shape. The men are improving right along and we have quite a reputation around the camp for being a first class organization. Evacuation Hospital No. One which left here last December is in active service now. Their commanding officer wrote quite an article on the work they are doing and it was printed in the Tribune last week.

According to the latest word we will be leaving in a few days. We are busy getting our things packed up as we are to be ready to go by Sunday. We may not have to go that soon but we are to be ready but it is very likely that we will go the early part of next week. It is probably that we will go to Hoboken [New Jersey] and I don’t know how long a time we will be there. The men don’t stay there any definite length of time because if they did that it would be easy for a U-boat to figure out when a ship would be leaving. This is not a bad time of year to go across and by the time we get located on the other side it will be good weather over there, too.

The men are glad at the prospect of going. Some of them, though, are not so anxious to go. We are fixed so nicely that those at home don’t need to worry about us. We won’t have near the hardship that many of the soldiers have and our work is a lot more pleasant and safe than many others. I have hopes that things will come out all right soon and we will get back to our old haunts again.

I had a letter from Gladys today. She thinks I have been gone for some time. It looks as though she had not gotten my last letter. I had a letter from Mrs. Davis also. It doesn’t look to me as though things were coming out very well for her. She is in Denver working now. I don’t know what it is all about but something seems to be wrong. Her husband doesn’t seem to be doing anything right now. He wants to go to France doing YMCA work but that hasn’t been decided yet.

When I get some more news I will write you again. I haven’t got Aunt Louise’s address so that if I got a chance to see her I wouldn’t know how to address her.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Fort Riley, Kansas 3/21/1918


March 21, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

Our company is on guard again and as I have charge of the guard house I am writing this from there. We have twenty one prisoners here now. A couple of them are men I knew then I first came here. Most of the prisoners are here because they took a vacation without permission. It is to “be expected” that right after pay day some men who cant get passes will go anyway.

Usually the punishment consists of a little stay in the guard house and a fine of anything up to fifty dollars. The prisoners aren’t so awfully bad but they just haven’t got sense enough to behave themselves. Most of them are young boys from eighteen to twenty one. Some of the prisoners complained to me that one of the men needed a bath so badly that he was a nuisance to the rest of them. I investigated and found out that he needed one all right so I sent him with a guard to scrub up.

I have been relieved for a little while so I am writing now at my own desk where I have better light and a better pen. We had a meeting tonight of the sergeants. We have meetings once or twice a week for the purpose of discussing various things in connection with our work. At present they think they want to have a banquet somwhere, either in Junction City or Manhattan. It is hard to find a good place to have those things as there is no place in either town that can really put up a good banquet. At first it was thought that we might have ladies present but that idea has been given up. I don’t care a great deal about a banquet myself but if the other men want it I will do whatever they decide.

Next Tuesday evening I am going to Manhattan to spend the evening with the piano teacher I met there some time ago. We played one evening a few weeks ago and spent a very pleasant evening. Some time I am going to make another trip to Topeka. When I do Professor Boughton, the piano teacher at the college and I will spend a little time playing. I get so little chance here to play with a piano that I am always glad to go somewhere where I can play.

When I got back here this evening I found Mother’s letter waiting here. I was glad to get it and the music clippings. I wish I could hear some good music around here once in a while. None of the towns down here patronize concerts at all. Kreisler gave a receital in Topeka three years ago and it was a financial failure. I see that Kreisler has retired until after the war. I hope it won’t be very long before he will be able to appear again.


Joe motoring in his Betsy

The weather has been so fine the last week that grass and trees and bushes have begun to turn green. In some places the grass is quite thick. On Sundays especially, I often wish I had my Betsy here. Last year at this time I used to ride around every Sunday. Perhaps if we are here a while yet I may get a chance to get away and sell it. I really wish I had sold it last year when I had a chance. I don’t know what they are selling for this year or whether they are hard to get or not. I see a number of new ones running around so I guess Ford is still turning them out the same as ever. There are a lot of Fords here in Kansas but not so many as in Iowa. The state of Iowa has the largest number of automobiles for its population of any state in the union and I guess most of them are Fords.

It has started to rain a little bit tonight. That is the first moisture of any sort that we have had for a couple of months. The rivers around here are very low for this time of year. Usually they are up high and overflowing their banks, causing quite a little damage.

Our company is still plugging away at its drilling and classes. It has improved a lot lately and has turned out to be a very fine organization. The men have shown a lot of improvement in their work and themselves and the company is being run with a good deal of system. We are known around the camp for being a good company and other companies often come to us for advice and information and copy our ways of doing things.

I understand that five new evacuation hospital companies are being formed here. I also understand that Ft. Riley is going to be turned into a cavalry camp in a couple of months and that all medical organizations will be sent to some other camp. I don’t know whether we will be here by then or not. I wouldn’t mind going somewhere else for a change if we had to stay in America that long.

Well, pretty soon I must go back and take care of the poor prisoners. So good night.

Love from


© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Soldier’s Mail for August, 1916-1918

August, 1916: South on the Border

In August, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade continued to secure the Border from their base at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. The troops received word they would not be needed  to invade Mexico after all, which resulted in a loss of morale made worse by a lack of promised financial aid from the State for troops with hardships.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read the page August, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton during the Texas rainy season. Read Sam’s correspondence with Em for August as he relates his experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

August, 1917: Watchful Waiting

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, in August 1917 1st Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the 8th Mass. Infantry were mobilized for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments and being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry.

August, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In August, 1918 following the Aisne-Marne Offensive, Sam Avery was hospitalized due to the effects of severe gas poisoning. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read the August correspondence of Sam and his sister Em which reveals a rare and fascinating dialogue across the miles in wartime. Em’s letters were “Returned to Sender” as Sam moved through a series of hospitals over two months,  and thus are preserved for us to better understand life on the Home Front during the Great War.

The Soldier’s Mail correspondence is published here according to the sequence in which it was written. Therefore, letters are organized in “reverse order” with the most recent at the top. To read them chronologically, readers should start at the bottom and work upwards.

Happy Independence Day!


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.


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