Camp Cotton, Texas 9/29/1916

Dear Em,

I see by this mornings paper that about ten or twelve states are to be releaved including cavalry and other units from Mass., but not any infantry from Mass. From all accounts we are to start Sunday for a fifteen day hike, probably travaling about two hundred miles. Say but wasnt it cold this morning. All the boys made use of their over coats and sweaters, and I think I would have frozen if I hadn’t worn mine to bed last night. I slept last night in two blankets, my suit of under wear my o.d. shirt, my sweater, and my over coat. I will admit I was warm and slept good, but when first call for reveille blue and I crawled out of this mountain of woolen, say it was cold. I got up, jumped in to my shoes, and bolted for the street at a ten second clip. Up and down the street I tore and when I got back into my tent again I was feeling like Roughans on a Saturday night. We had oat meal, hot corn bread and butter, and nice hot coffee. I beleive I told you we had some cook in this fellow Gretter. The corn bread just hit the spot and the boys feel just like drilling now. There goes first call and I must cut this letter out now and fall in. Ill see you when I get back, at noon.

Well here I am, in after a stiff, and very interesting drill. I cant say that it was hot at any time during this drill so you must have some imagination of the change in temperature in the last 36 hours. We started in with phisical exercise, then bayonet exercise in which I had to take two rooks and howl and yell at them for about an hour. Then we had about two hours of extended order or battle exercise. In this formation, the captain has his company marching in column of squads. He sends the first squad out to act as a point the next to act as flankers or combat patrols (one of which I had charge of this morning) and the rest as the main body. Well instead of going into it any further I will say that we won. This is pretty hard work, running about 50 yards falling down, firing, crawling fixing bayonets, and charging, but when it is all over it is easy. Get me. After this we had some close order work, such as marching like we do in parades, then we came in.

I understand we are to have oyster stew for dinner today. Fine what? OH we are eating all right. I pity some of the boys if we go on that hike they are talking about. It will be nothing like what we are enjoying now. I just got your letter of the 25th in which you spoke of us not knowing when we are to go home, and you are right. Im glad Tom is getting along so good and hope he makes good. But tell him not to join the army. So they are going to block some of our view of the Mistic ha? I knew it. I could dry my mess kit in the sun if I had plenty of hot water to rinse them in but we don’t get all the water for this purpose that we want you know and the most of the grease is removed by the same old towel. See you soon.

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/28/1916

Dear Lena.

Here is a picture of the colors at the 8th Headquarters. And also a fellow on gaurd over them from K company. We happened to be on gaurd this day. Save this card will you. Im sending a paper in which you will find that we are to be here a while yet.

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/25/1916

Dear Em,

Well here it is the 25th, and still there is no sign of our leaving for home or anywhere else. I got your letter of the 19th in which you openned up with saying, that you thought it was me in the right of the picture post card I sent you. You said I may not be getting fat but that when I got home Id get fatter. Well yes I may not be getting fat but beleive me it’s a sure bet Im not getting thin or am I any the worse for spending this last three months on the border. As “Teddy The Big Stick” would say “Im Feeling Bully” and say folks I am. Eating three good squares every single day, and havent felt an ailment of any kind what ever for at least a month.

Gee but this Gretter guy is there when it comes to putting up the eats. As far as we are concerned Im glad the trouble happened, (for it wasnt until he got the telagram, that he was appointed cook. He makes cottage pudding, raisin puddin, muffins in the morning, griddle cakes, doughnuts, and a lot of such things. I wish you had a peice of the apple pies he made. There was only one thing we all kicked about. Another peice, yes, every thing is fine here now.

Yesterday (being Sunday) two other serg. two musicians and myself (we all live in the same tent although it is more like a house than anything else now,) got a lot of lumber (I guess I have to admit we stole it,) and built up and boarded in this tent as if we were to stay here for life. In the centre of the tent we hang all our over coats, and a stand in which we sergeants place our rifles and round abouts, and the musician’s place their bugles and revolvers. Then we have a water bag in which water that is left over night is as cold as ice water in the morning, and stays so all day. These bags are called desert water bags and hold about 2 gallons. We also have two wash basins that hang tidy all the time. Then we have a little barrel which we use for a waste basket, (and beleive me it isn’t there for an ornament either.) Around the sides of the tent (which is all boarded in) we hang all our cloths. Shelves are plentiful also. Well I could probably go on and fill a couple of sheets of this paper, discribing (our little home) but I don’t know as it would be interesting reading.

We were out on a pretty stiff hike this morning with full field equipment less rations and I must confess I was pretty near all in and glad to get back to (our little home) for it was away after one oclock when we did hit camp. I guess we hiked 8-9 miles all together. It was pretty warm and the packes cut into us a lot but such things come and go, and really we are the best for it after it is over. It is just this way day after day. Get up at five fifteen for reveille, breakfast at six, police up the street and tents, air out blankets and by that time it is seven oclock and time for drill. We either drill, drill drill, or hike, hike hike until eleven or eleven thirty. (today it was after one as I said above) Come in all tired and sweety and beleive me I mean sweet. Wash up and get ready for mess, after which we feel like (Looking for Villa again.) Down to the showers and a complete change of under cloths uniform and all (for me any way). Then a wash tub, wash board, a peice of army soap and a good strong set of arms and back. My cloths are all dry at three or four oclock and in they come. Retreat is at five twenty and mess is at six. After that you can get ready for tomorrow. You can see I use the day up pretty good.

Well Id better cut this out or you will be saying “Doesnt he like to talk about himself”. I see by the El Paso Times tonight where there are about two brigades coming to El Paso to releive Mich and Penn, but no one to releive poor Mass. I guess theyll have to go some to find any body to take our place what? I see where we are to get our state money amounting to $10. per month. I have signed it over to Lena, and if we stay here any length of time I want one of you to let me know if youve received it or when you will. Keep sending your mail just the same and dont let the Post kid you into thinking we are on our way home. We may start home to night for all I know, but that would be to much of a good thing. So keep writing to El Paso as if I was to stay here all winter, and if I should happen to pop up, I think I (personally) would be more appreciated than the answer to letters I probably would not receive.

Youve got to hand it to me for finding some such stuff (as Ive been writing for the last ten minutes) to fill up a letter. Excuse the writing any way, and when I get home to 297 Ill make up for all I havent explained and make things (that I have only partially explained) more clearly understood. A little dark but still

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/22/1916

Some class to this letterhead what?

Dear Lena,

First of all, I don’t know when we are going home, why they are keeping this information from us, or why the Boston papers are pretending to know so much about the matter. It is the same I think as if war really was on, for to keep news of such small importance to the public in general is some stunt. One of the boys just came in and said that he saw a Boston Post on the front page in large print which said that the Ninth and Fifth had got orders to leave and that the boys threw their hats in the air and great inthusiasim was shown. Nothing doing. They are waiting I guess for some state to send a Brigade to releave us. Some troops from N.Y. have been sent home, having reached here latter than we did. Well I for one (personally) dont care if we stayed here all winter, as far as crying and fretting about home is concerned. Of coarse Id like to get home and see you folks as soon as posible, but Im going to say right here that Im as contented and settled to this life now as if I was on a two weeks vacation. Get me right, now.

Oh if you could only see the change in the camp site, the change in the eats, and climate youd say, “Go on you fellows, your living like kings.” And that is the way I am looking at it. It was probably part our fault for coming here, but beleive me Lena, it is not our fault that we are staying here. Next to home with all it means and the ones that make up ours, this is the life. Now Lena, (and the rest of you) you can see that Im as contented as if I were there, only Im not there and that is where the hitch comes. That is why I want to go home as well as the other boys, that have good homes and relatives, but didn’t appreciate it until they got so far away from them for such a long period. Get the sentimental stuff Im slinging. But it really is the sentiment that prevails through the Brigade.

That big parade they had in El Paso the other day was not graced with my presence for we were gaurd company that day and I was trotting around to the different post with a loaded gat on my right hip and say, pretty soft, for when those poor boys got in, they were in, that’s all. After walking about four miles they waited six hours for the rest of the division (which is the only war strength division in the U.S.

I got Ems card today, which by the notice on it, was really from Mary. And in all your letters and post cards you peak of our home coming. Well we have heard rumors of going home and sensibly sounding ones too, but here we are. It’s a long time before the first of Oct. yet so, who knows. We are still carrying 100 rounds of amunition, and that will all have to be turned in yet. We have been releaved of border outpost duty by the Regular Cavalry which is welcomed heartily.

There is a lot of cheering down to the Fifth Regiment now. Rumor 100121012364 I guess thats all. I agree with you and hope that they will herd us in the Armories, for it will be pretty cold sleeping out doors now especially now that our blood is so thin, and all so to make it easier to have you see me at the first chance.

All is well
Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/20/1916

Dear Em,

Ive got a little time so I thought I would use it up writing even if I have got nothing to say. Co. K. will be on gaurd tomorrow 21st (the day of the big parade,) and I cant say that I am sorry, for it isn’t going to be any picnic parading all over El Paso in heavy marching order. It would be a great sight for you to see I guess, but you would get good and sick of it be for the first 10, or 15, thousand dusky brown stream of humanity got by. I know I wouldn’t go to the front window to see it.

We don’t know yet whether this is the wind up of our tour of duty down here or not. Probably you people back home there know more about it than we do. All we are taught here is how to be soldiers and how to obey orders. The out side world is a blank. I received your post card with the poem on it by Phil Osopher which is very appropriate for army life.

If there is an election held here for a lieutenant I will be appointed top sergeant. This will not be so bad considering the fact that when I was at Framingham I was only a corporal. It will be a job filled with responsibility but thats what Im down here for. The sweeters that were issued to us sertainly do come in handy mornings and nights but they might just as well be in Alaska in the day time for we don’t even need our underwear on in them hours. It is hard to imagine the difference in temperature that takes place here in six hours. What in the world will we do when we get back to dear old Mass., if we feel the cold so easy here now. But you see our blood is pretty thin now. The band is about as far away from my tent as the church is from 297, the musicians are practicing in the same tent with me, some one in the next tent is singing, “Loading up the Mandy Lee” and beleive me I can just about write this letter, and thats all.

I dont know how true it is but they say (same stuff) that we have made our last trip to the (Mesa) our drill ground, 3 miles away. Well we were just getting used to it, but we are not sorry.

I stopped for about 3 minutes to try and think up something to write about and what do you think it is? Well this. When I left the house that morning, I took a dish towel, a Turkish towel, a set of union suits (you know the one I paid about 37¢ for in Filene’s Basement) the razor, and tooth brush. And Ive got them all. How is that for keeping things picked up ha Lena? (Don’t get mad now.) I will say that the dish towel and union suit is pretty near in threads, but I hope I can give Lena back her dish towel a little the worse from scrubbing but never the less a (dish towel). There have been times that I wished I took my safty, but (Safty First) you know. Say and aint I fussy about my cloths. They say I am the most particular soldier in camp.

Sam

© Copyright 2008 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.

Sam

© 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.

Sam

Poem printed on the front of postcard

WITH THE MILITIA ON THE RIO GRANDE

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.

Sam

© 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
Sam

© 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.

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/12/1916

I am feeling fine with a big F.

 

Dear Em

 

It is raining like the devil now and the tent is leaking but I am going to write this letter even if the paper is all wet. I put in a very busy morning washing and getting ready to go home, and we may be on our way by the time you get this. We got back to Camp Cotton yesterday and believe me dear old Camp Cotton (that is the desert that we made into a camp) looked good. Say but we were a tired bunch when we struck here, for we must have made 14-15 miles in wet, heavy marching order. We had to walk (plough) through about five miles of deep sand. Now we are getting ready to (Go Home). Saturday is the expected day, and although it is only two day away, I suppose it will seem like a month. The Fifth leaves tomorrow. I guess Id be washing mending or some such thing now if it wasn’t raining. But somehow every time it rains I think of a nice dry place where it is comfortable, and the result is a letter (Home). A little of this life is all right but four months is pretty near enough for any sane man.

 

I have received quite a lot of cards and a letter from you and the rest and they did cheer me up a lot while on that indurance test (they called a practice march). We covered 84-85 miles in eight days, doing all our marching in the morning, between 8-9 to 11-12. First it was lack of water, then water that I couldn’t get by my throut, heat, rain, cold. All this was met and yet today we all laugh at it and say wasn’t that worth going through. I wish you could see it rain and blow even now. We have some pretty hard rains and blows on our old corner at 297 but nothing in it with what is going on now.

 

We have been issued woolen underwear and are to be fitted out in o.d. coat and pants tomorrow. I hope Bert enjoyed his trip to Maine. It is said that we are to go home by way of New Orleans and up the east bank of the Miss river which will be some trip. I don’t know what they are going to do with us when they get us to Mass., and I don’t know as I care much. Well Em its all over but the cheering I guess, so Im saying. Let er rain. (To Tipperary, → Farewell to dry old Texas, Farewell El Paso, It’s a long long way to Massachusetts, But believe me we’ll go.)

 

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