Chateau Montanglaust, 6/16/1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Chateau Montanglaust at Joue-les-Tours, 1918

June 16, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I wrote you a letter a week ago but as we have been on the move since it is probable that it was not forwarded for a few days.

The day after I wrote you last we got word to pack up and move. It is a big job to move a whole hospital but we got it done in a couple of hours. We traveled about twenty four hours. We didn’t go so very far but troop trains don’t travel very fast and we went a rather round about way. We had better luck as to accomodations this trip. The officers had first class compartments, the sergeants had second class and the privates, third class. We were as comfortable as on any American train. As we got nearer the front we began to realize that the war was getting close. A good part of the trip was through country that had been occupied by the Germans in 191^. We saw very little of ruins, probably because they had been repaired since or that there wasn’t much damage done. Our route was just about along the line of the furthest advance of the Germans. Of course they don’t occupy that ground now. Many of the fields had a number of graves in them which were marked by wooden crosses.

Our present situation is a very good one and we think we are practically permanently located here. We are on the estate of some countess whose name I do not know. She lives in Paris now but has been here a couple of times this week to see what we were doing with her place. There is a fine old chateau and beautiful grounds. The house is not well arranged for hospital wards so it is used for operating rooms, offices and quarters for some of the officers. We are in small tents around the edge of the grounds and have about twenty-five ward tents up now. When we are all fixed we may have room for a thousand patients. We haven’t all of our operating equipment yet and so have not really begun to work. There is a small hospital attached to us called a Mobile Hospital and they have all their equipment so they have been doing some operating. Last night we got our first taste of what is coming. We got word in the evening that some gassed men were being sent to us. I stayed up all night with eight men to take the men from the ambulances and put them in the ward and in four hours we received nearly four hundred. They were sent to us from another hospital so they had been treated and there was nothing for us to do but keep them warm and quiet and feed them.

We have over a hundred wounded patients but they are taken care of at present in the Mobile Hospital so I don’t see them. When we are fixed to do operating we will be rushed with wounded patients. We have five wounded German prisoners. They receive the same care and treatment that our men do and I guess they hardly know what to make of it. They are surprised to be treated so well. One or two of them are in pretty bad shape but even at that I guess they are glad to be here.

Most of our patients are Marines and I guess the Marine Corps has been doing good work at the front. We hear reports of American successes which I suppose are comparatively small but they are encouraging. We can realize that we are close to the front. At night we can see the flashes from the guns and rockets. We can hear them plainly although they are several miles away. There is hardly a minute of the day that we can’t hear the hum of an aeroplane. Some days they are more numerous than others. The second day we were here we often saw five or six up at the same time. A couple of days ago a German plane wandered over this far but a couple of miles from here the anti-aircraft guns got him. We are so used to the planes by now that we don’t look at them anymore. Our patients say that at the front the German planes do whatever they want to unmolested. We hope that all those planes that the U.S. is said to be building will soon be in service.

Since beginning this letter two days ago I have been put in charge of two wards. I have the officers ward and a ward for enlisted men. None of them were very seriously wounded. Most of them had been operated upon at the Mobile Hospital and then were sent to my ward to be sent on to a base hospital. They are all gone this morning. Two of the officers were suffering from shell shock which is a mental and physical derangement caused by exposure to shell fire. One lieutenant thought he was still in the trenches and was talking to his men and giving orders. We don’t keep patients very long. As soon as they are able to be moved they are sent back to a base hospital to recover. A good many expect to be sent home when they are well as they are not fit for further service. Some of the men have been over here a year and they would give a leg to get back home.

It is surprising, though, how cheerful most of the men are in spite of their injuries and hardships they have gone through. Some are anxious to get back to the trenches while others are terror stricken at the thought of going back again. They have a pretty hard time of it, all right, while they are in the trenches. They are all hungry when they get here and something to eat and a bed look pretty good to them.

A representative of the YMCA comes around every day or two and gives the patients a piece of chocolate and some cigarettes. There is a small building on the grounds that used to be the servants’ quarters. When the French soldiers were camped here it was used for a YMCA and I understand that the Y is going to open it again for us. There is a good piano up there and Sgt. Fontaine and I have been using it in the evenings when we had time.

We have about forty female nurses with us now. I have a nurse and tow men in each of my wards. The nurse tends to the dressing of the wounds and the men do the other work that has to be done. The work is not so awfully hard but the days are long and wearisome.

We get the American papers from Paris every day. We are vitally interested in the news from the Chteau Thierry region. So far the news has been very favorable. A few days ago the papers told of an air raid on Paris. Some of our men who were up saw the search lights from the city as they tried to find the aeroplanes and shoot them down.

On account of our moving around no mail has gotten to us yet but I understand that we may get some soon. Everybody is anxious to hear from home. It is six weeks now since we left New York and that is a pretty long time to be without word from home. I hope you didn’t have to wait that long for a letter from me.

It looks as though we were not going to get paid till next month, we will ge two months pay in one. I understand that after we are here six months we are entitled to a weeks furlough. The American soldiers are not supposed to go to Paries. There are other cities which have been made the official recreation places. They have American theatres and have Americanized the towns so that the men can get along as well as at home. I would like to get into Paris sometime but I don’t know how it can be done. I hope to be able to arrange a little time now and then for practice but it is rather hard to do so. The ward work is not hard but your are expected to be on duty almost all the time. Perhaps when we get going a little while I can manage for an hour or so a day.

I want this letter to get off today so I will close now. I suppose you will have had one or more letters from me by now and that you have been writing me right along so that there will be several of them when they do get here. I will write as often as I can, at least once a week. I will try to write to my friends now and then but I may not be anble to do very much in that way.

Give my best regards to all.

Love from


PS. I think this is the fourth letter I have sent.

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

Somewhere In France, 6/9/1918

Somewhere in France

June 9, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We have changed our location since I wrote you last. As I told you in my last letter we didn’t expect to stay where we were very long. We were there just a week. We didn’t do anything but loaf around there. When we came there the camp was crowded with the soldiers that came across with the same convoy that we did. After the camp itself was filled they put the new arrivals out in the nearby fields. We were about the last to leave of the men that came over with us. But as we came away there were other ships in the harbor unloading men. Men are coming over as fast as they can be taken care of, and faster than I had any idea of.

It is a little over a week ago that we packed up and loaded onto a train of “36 men or 8 horses”. Our trip was nearly four days long, straight across the widest part of France. Of course there was no comfort in the trip but we enjoyed it just the same. We passed thorugh some famous old French cities but we usually went around the edge of them and so did not see much of them. We stopped once or twice a day for an hour or so at small stations. Some of them were regular stopping places for troop trains and the YMCA and Red Cross had put up places to serve coffee and bread or sandwiches. At almost every large town the Red Cross had coffee for us. That was very welcome, especially during the night. The nights here are pretty cold and there was no going to bed in the box cars. We were lucky if we could even sit down and catch a couple of winks of sleep.

There are a lot of American women over here, both Red Cross nurses and regular army nurses. We saw quite a few of them on the way here. They seem to be a fine lot of women. Those who were serving coffee along the way had been at the front and were sent back to do “canteening” for a rest. They worked pretty hard at that but they didn’t seem to mind how hard they worked if they could do something for the soldiers.

As we went further east we met several French hospital trains going back loaded with French wounded. That made us feel that we were beginning to get close to things. Several of the towns had prison camps. The German prisoners were out working on the roads, building the camp or doing other work. They have it pretty easy. They don’t work hard and are well taken care of. I hope our prisoners in Germany are as well off. In one town where we stopped I talked with one of the guards who had some prisoners out building fences. He said that although they see train loads of Americans going to the front every day, the German prisoners won’t believe that they are Americans. They have been told that the submarines are preventing the Americans from getting over. They think we are English or Canadians in American uniforms. I wanted to talk to one of the prisoners myself  but that isn’t allowed.

At one town I talked with some English soldiers who had been wounded and after getting out of the hospital were put on light duty further back. At another town we talked with some French soldiers. One of them was an aviator who had been shot down with his machine. The French people were very cordial to us. We saw lots of women doing railroad work in place of the men who are away. The only men we saw were those beyond the military age. Everybody is tired of the war but they won’t give in.

Our present location is hardly likely to be permanent. We have a real hospital of sixteen buildings. Ten of them are wards and the rest are mess halls, office buildings, sleeping quarters, etc. It has not been used as a hospital as yet and so far we have received no patients. We have been busy cleaning up and putting the place in order. When we first came there was almost no hospital equipment but we have received most of that now.

I have told you where Evacuation Hospital No. 1 is. We are about thirty five miles straight south of them. The American front is north of us and the lowest extremity of the French front is just a little further to the east. It is rumored that we will not be here long but that we will soon move further up behind the American line. I understand that the Americans have had a big part in the activity around Paris and it is probable that if we move we will be around that neighborhood. We are all anxious to get into the work and be doing something.

At present the men are laying walks and making roads. They have been doing that ever since they got into the army and they are tired of it. Our quarters are very comfortable and in that way we are in luck. We are using the beds from the wards to sleep on so we have springs and thick soft mattresses. I have charge of this barrack and have a little room all to myself. I can read and write and practice in here without being bothered by anybody.

We are not so fortunately situated in the way of having a town near us. There are four little towns within the radius of a mile from us but they are hardly more than a few houses gathered together along the road. Only one of them has two streets in it, the others have only one. There is nothing in any of the towns of interest. There are no stores that have anything that we would want to buy. There are some restaurants but I don’t know what we can get to eat there. Our meals here are pretty fiar. Our food is sent down to us from a depot near here. It consists mostly of beans, bacon and such things although we do get some fresh beef every few days. There is a commissary here where we can buy little extra things. We can get canned fruits and jam, soap, toilet articles and tobacco. Everything we buy there we get at the cost price.

[Editor’s Note: The rest of this letter has been lost to history]

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

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.

Somewhere In France, 5/26/1918

Somewhere in France

May 26, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

We are finally landed on French soil. After getting into the harbor we stayed on board a couple of days while the other boats were being unloaded. We came off yesterday afternoon and hiked up here to a camp outside of the town. We didn’t go through the city itself but went around the edge of it. The boys were delighted with the pretty country and the quaint houses. The houses and trees and flowers are all different from what they have been used to in the States and everything is new and interesting to them. Almost every second house has a sign on it “Commerce de Vins”. The soldiers are allowed to have light wines and beer so the stores do a good business. Prices have gone up a great deal since the American soldiers came. The French Soldier makes five cents a day and of course can’t spend much out of that. The Yankees are willing to pay any price for what they want so prices go up. That makes it hard on the people who live here.

We are only temporarily located at this camp. The men come here from the ships and stay three or four days and then go on to other destinations. After you are here two or three days you have your turn at taking a bath. The last week on the boat we kept our clothes on all the time so we are about ready for a little scrub. The camp is very old. I doubt whether it has been much in use by the French of late. The barracks are of stone and the whole camp has a high stone wall around it. It is reported that it was built in Napoleon’s time and I suspect that is true. There are no lights in the barracks and the water system is crude and inadequate.

There are no French men of military age to be seen, just boys and older men. Even the young women seem to be scarce. Perhaps they go to the cities to work in factories and business houses. The women seem to run the farms and the taverns. The farms are not big, just a little patch and a cow or two.

The people out here in the country have odd costumes. Nearly everybody wears black, those who wear colors look to be fairly well to do. The men wear real broad brimmed hats, seemingly of plush. They have silk ribbon bands on them which dangle down several inches over the ends of the hat. Their pants are big and roomy and their coats very short and tight. The women’s dresses are very plain, rather full skirts and close fitting above the waist. Today being Sunday they all had on little white caps. The people here are Bretons, related by race more to the Welsh and Irish than to the French. They seem rugged, perhaps the people in town are different. The soldiers are common to them around here so they don’t pay much attention to them.

The first letter I wrote wasn’t sent away for some time so I put the second one in with it. I don’t expect that I will receive any mail for a long time. We will probably be on the move for some time and it may be hard for mail to find us.

We are all well and in the best of spirits and I hope the same is true of you.

Love from


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

Somewhere At Sea, 5/21/1918


SS Leviathan (Formerly SS Vaterland)

At Sea,

May 21, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I suppose that it will take this letter three or four weeks to get to you and before then you will have received the two postal cards that I mailed at the dock. They were to be held until our ship arrived on this side and then mailed. Let me know if you received them and when.

We are still at sea and I don’t know when we will land but in order to get word to you as soon as possible I am writing this now as there may not be time after we get off the boat. The voyage has not been a hard one. It has been rather warm all along, overcoats having been used only occasionally at night. The sea has been remarkably calm. For six days there was hardly a ripple to be seen. Then for a couple of days it got a little rough but calmed down again and probably will remain so for the remainder of the trip.

So far I have managed to keep all of my meals with me. I haven’t been sick but there were one or two times when I felt a bit unsettled around the region of my stomach. A good many of the men have been sick nearly all the way and some have eaten almost nothing since they got on board. They get very plain food with very little variety and the kitchen and mess hall are stuffy and smelly as they always are on a boat, so that the men have very little appetite. They are all figuring on the big feed they are going to order in some restaurant when they land. They don’t seem to realize that what they can get in a French restaurant these days is very limited. I doubt whether the men will be allowed any time for wandering around. They are not recruits in a training camp anymore.

The sergeants were expectig to travel second cabin but were disappointed. There are a lot of officers on the boat and they completely filled the staterooms. However, we eat with the petty officers of the boat and have real good meals. The sailors have much better things to eat than the soldiers. We eat in a room which is away from the kitchen. We have porcelain dishes and eat all we want, and don’t have to wash our dishes after we eat. We have our bunks with the rest of the men in the hold. It is to be expected that as many bunks as possible would be crowded into as small a place as possible. They are arranged something like berths in a Pullman except that they are three deep instead of two, and from the floor you can touch the ceiling with your hand. The bunks are arranged in rows running lengthwise of the boat. Water is the most precious thing on the boat. It is hard to get any to drink and wash with and what we get is not very good.

I hope the package I sent home from Camp Merritt arrived in good shape. I had to do the best I could with what there was at hand. I have my violin and music with me. There is an order that musical instruments will not be taken but I decided to take a chance and walked right on the ship with my fiddle under my arm and nobody said a word. I have used it a few times on board. The YMCA has a little organ and in the evening we get it out on the deck and the men like to gather around and sing. I usually play a solo or two and someone sings, so we make up a little program. A couple of days ago Sgt. Fontaine and I played some numbers for the officers in their room. They have a piano in there. We got permission to go in there and practice and do so once in a while.

What we are allowed to write in our letters is not much. I could write nearly a book about the things we are not supposed to write about. I imagine that the letters we write now will be pretty strictly censored. After a while they may not be so strict. We will be allowed to write as often as we please, for the present, at least. Even though we write regularly the letters will probably arrive at irregular intervals. I will number my letters so that you will know whether you receive them all. If you number yours, too, I can keep track of them. The government discourages the sending of packages to the soldiers. There is so much of it to handle and the troops move around so much that a lot of the mail is never delivered. I understand that it is possible for the American soldiers to get almost anything they need from the army canteens.

I have been dabbling with French a little since I got on the boat. What I have learned in these few days is very little but I hope to learn more. Sgt. Fontaine speaks very good French and he has been helping several of us.

This letter will be mailed when we land and probably will go back to the states very quickly. We don’t know when we will get into port or even what port we are going to. It is practically certain that I won’t get to visit my grandparents because we are not going that way. We know that much and that is about all.

We don’t know when we will land but the rumors are that it will be in a couple of days. At any rate when you get this you will know that we are safe on French soil. So far we haven’t seen anything to scare us. We bombarded a whale yesterday and finished him up. The only excitement we have had.

I will write again as soon as we land and tell you more.

Love from


Evacuation Hospital No. 7, Am. Ex. Forces

Via New York

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

Camp Merritt, New Jersey 5/8/1918

May 8, 1918

Dear Mother and Father:

I was rather surprised to receive three letters from Mother this morning. One of them was due here a couple of days ago. It probably was delayed somewhere. Aunt Louise also favored me with a letter. I am sorry that I will be unable to see her at all. I will not even get a chance to telephone her now.

We expect to leave here tonight. Our bags are packed and have gone ahead. We will leave about two or three in the morning and will board the boat at ten tomorrow morning. The boat is liable to leave any time in the next two or three days. We found from some sailors we met in New York that the Vaterland is in port and is due to sail about Friday. We may be fortunate enough to get her. She is the largest boat in the transport service. There are a lot of soldiers going from here so I imagine we will need a good sized boat.

Some of the boys seem to be a bit blue about going. When it comes right down to it, it is not very easy, I will admit, but I know that it is harder for those at home than it is for us. I don’t think any of the men are afraid for anything that might happen to them, it is just the thoughts of leaving everybody and causing them the worry and pain that we know it does. Some men have nobody that they are leaving and some have drifted away from their home folks, so for them it is a comparatively easy matter.

If the weather stays like this for a couple of weeks we will have a fine voyage. We don’t know where or how we are going. We are taking enough rations for five weeks but that is just a precaution. When we get on the boat we will address postal cards and they will be forwarded to you as soon as the gov’t gets word by cable that our boat has arrived.

As I told you before, don’t worry about me. As long as you don’t hear from me you will know that I am all right. When any accident happens the gov’t gets word to the relatives immediately. Travel by sea is perfectly safe now. Possibly more so than in peace time.

Received the magazine today and am glad to have that to read on the trip. We can carry nothing of that kind with us. All we have with us is what we can carry in our little ration bags, our big barrack bags go in the hold and we don’t get those until we are located on the other side.

I will send my extra stuff home tonight. When I packed today I cleaned house and found a few things I will not need for a little while. I am still not sure about my violin. I will find out at the embarkation headquarters.

Well, I haven’t very much to say. I hope that it will not be so very long before we can be together again. I hope that when I come back I will find you both well and I hope that all goes well with you while I am away. I have no fears for myself at all and want you to feel the same way about it.

I must close now, sending lots of love to both of you.

Your son,


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

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.

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.

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.


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