From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/11/1916

Dear Sam.

Your three cards were recieved today. I didn’t send any mail yesterday but it was the first day I missed. Henry was here fixing the pipe. He can only work by daylight and thats why its taking him so long. I guess he finish his job tonight. He was here this morning at a quarter of six and had breakfast with Lena and I.

These last couple of days its been real cool. Mary was up to supper last night and pa was trying to kid her. She said something about Leonard and he said, “Is he as big as I be,” and she said “I don’t know I never saw I be.” You can’t fool her. Napolean is getting his house painted. Here is no news as everything is the same.

Bert is fine and working every day and so is Pa. There was no ice cream sale up the band concert last Tues. night. The week before they made 16 Dollars so the papers said. Henry has just finish his job. Now we have our gas stove. Lena is cooking Henry’s supper on it now. This letter is all Henry this and Henry that. Well he’s a good old scout.

We have the gas stove over where the little table was and we’re giving the table to Molly. I hope you’ll be able to read this, I’m using a bum pencil. You say you have no time to write and I have lots of time to write but nothing to write about. Of course you know Charlestown is a dead place anyway.

I’m sorry I cant write any more but will as soon as I can find some news. Madge is feeling pretty good. Hoping this letter finds you well I will close

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Henry sends his regards.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/9/1916

Dear Sam.

Henry came over to supper last night and he is putting in some gas pipe for our gas stove. Uncle Al was here so he couldn’t do much. It was awful hot here anyway. It is raining tonight and awful cold. Some change. I went to the band concert and left them here. When I cam home what do you suppose Lena told me? It seems that Henry was out in the kitchen and Lena gave him a B. of beer. Bert was here at the time as he bought the treat. Pa and Al was in the parlor. Pa said in fooling to Al “Im going out in the kitchen and have some beer with the boys why don’t you join us.” And Al said, “Guess I will I feel kind of dry.” And they open a bottle for him and he drank it all just like an old timer. Now what do you know about that? He said it was the first he had for 12 years. Lena said when he was going home he banged into the door. Just look at all the fun your missing.

Bert and Henry are great old friends that is you would think so if you heard them talking. Henry was to come over tonight but I guess he got stuck on an outside job. Remember how we use to sit in a corner and laugh at him and the faces I used to make at him when he wasn’t looking. Those was the happy day, ha Sam. I gave him one of your pictures, also Madge and Molly.

Madge is feeling pretty good and every one else is O.K. I am glad Norman wrote to you but I haven’t seen him since. The band was swell last night but it seems to be punk every other night. Well if your coming home for the World Series you can stand in line all night and be ready for the game. You seem to be broke in on that line, owing to your 24 hr. patrol.

Well this is all I can think of now. I just had to tell you how your Uncle is raising Cain. Hoping this letter finds you well and your washing all hung out, I will close.

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Mary sends her love and lots of kisses.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/7/1916

Dear Sam.

Well. Your letters, cards, medels, and pictures are all here. Gee those souviniers are bocker I oh. There’s some class to the pictures too. How did you happen to have a tie on? I guess you bought that for the purpose didn’t you. Now you didn’t have to excuse yourself for your short letter because you know that a short letter is better than none. I got your long letter too. Im glad to know you’re on the job and everything is going along alright. Your picture looks good and your face looks fatter in that than the one I took at Framingham.

Its awful hot up here today but there is just a little breeze blowing now. Pa is feeling good. He likes the picture with the hat on the best but I like the other one. Those medels are just what I like. When you come home I want to have my picture snapped with your uniform on and all those medels on me too.

I was going out to Somerville to see a girl I knew (who married Jack Doherty you know him) and took Mary with me. She dancest for them and we had a great time. She went to church yesterday then came up here and I took her home about 8 o’clock.

Say Sam as for giving you a drink of water at the table, I only wish I could hand you a glass full now and pull your hair while your trying to read this. The papers don’t say a word about you fellows now so I don’t know what your doing down there.

Madge is feeling much better now than what she was. There is no news as everything is the same. Henry wasn’t over yesterday but I guess he is afraid that he’s putting Lena to work. We had some biscuits for him too. He may be over next Sun and I hope so. He is very sociable and full of talk and makes lots of company.

Well I’ve sat here five minutes trying to think what to write but can’t. Molly sent up her gas stove and now the question is where will we put it. Why not up in “Sam’s room.” Well hoping this letter finds you well and happy I will close.

With Love from all.

Em.

P.S. Have you got your washing done yet?

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/3/1916

Dear Sam.

Received your postcard. All you seem to be doing lately is washing. When you come home you’ll put the wet wash out of bussiness. Lena and Bert went to Nantasket Beach today and Pa and I just got through supper. I am saving all the mail I get from you and if you save all you get and send it home there’ll be some fun reading it over when you get back. When ever that is.

Molly likes her new tenement first rate. Mary came up yesterday to ask Brother Bert, as she calls him, down to her house for dinner. She is the limit. Molly is going to give Lena her gas stove because there was one in her tenement. Some class. Madge is about the same. Mary told me today that John and Anna got a card from you. I am going down there this evening to see how Madge is. The Hollands got your letter yesterday. I showed your souvernier in the shop today and all the girls liked it. It seems funny to them that I should hear from you most every day and all they get is about 1 letter a week. I guess they are all jealous. The password now is, “Did you get a letter last night?” My answer is always yes, and they say, “Gee I didn’t.” I beat them all, thanks to you.

Pa is feeling fine and is looking good too. We still play the machine but the same old records. We haven’t bought one since you’ve been gone. Henry’s favorite is that Hawaiian Hotel. When he comes over he plays it over and over. I played my harmonic for him last Sun. and he was surprised to hear me play so good. He said Lena had the piano and I played the harmonic and you had the graphonola and then he asked pa what he did and pa told him he was the Major.

Well I wrote more than I thought I was going to. I must close as I want to see Madge. I hope this letter finds you well and cheerful. We are all fine and send our love. Amen.

With Love from all

The Kid.

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your neck as well as your clothes.

 

© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, 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.

From the Boss, Boston Mass. 7/31/1916

Dear Sam:

Many thanks for your letter of the 13th. It has been my intention to answer a long while ago, but I have been very busy. I intend to go away for a few day’s vacation tomorrow night, and I want to clean up my personal correspondence before I go, which, while it does not seem very complimentary, I am afraid is the reason I am answering even as early as I am.

Am sorry you fellows are not seeing more action, that is, providing you want to see it. In a way, I think it is just as well perhaps that it is ending up the way it is. I am still not so sure that it is all ended, for I cannot imagine a country that has as little respect for its own Government as Mexico seems to have settling down peaceably of itself. In my opinion there are sure to be other outbreaks and there will be one outbreak serious enough to compel some action on the part of this country more drastic than any already taken.

There is a great deal in our newspapers on the doings of the Massachusetts Militia on the Border, and from all we can see, you fellows are pretty well taken care of, at least, as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

It occurred to me to tell you before you left that if there was anything you wanted me to send down to you, not to be backward in asking for it, as I shall be very pleased to send down some little necessities or luxuries that you might not be able to get hold of yourself. If so, do not be at all afraid to write me for anything that you may want.

I showed your letter to the boys throughout the store and without a doubt a number of them are writing you. I hope they will, as I can understand that letters would be nice to get, especially from your old friends, situated as you are.

I hope you will be good enough to drop me a line once in a while and I shall write you again as soon as I get back.

With kindest regards and best wishes,

Yours very sincerely,

H.T. Melbye

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/31/1916

Dear Sam.

Well I got 2 letters today and Pa got a post card. It is awful hot hear today. I never mind the heat till I get home because it is so cool in the shop. Every body is fine and Mary is over with us again. Molly is going to move tomorrow. I am glad you had a little change of senery. Seeing the country down there is something you will never forget.

I got your little souvernier and will always keep it. Madge is about the same. What she needs is a good long rest and I don’t think she will ever get well unless she gets one. She trys to do too much. I am sitting in the window while writing this watching the sights and believe me there is some sights going by.

There was a big forest fire in Canada and it made yesterday and today 2 yellow days. Everything you looked at was yellow. Napolean is just the same and still does the errands for his mother. Speaking of Maine I wish I was on my way down there now. Those were the happy days.

You are having your vacation now and are enjoying yourself play soldier. Well play the game good and come home soon. Pa just got home from a trip to Provincetown so I must get him something to eat. Wishing this finds you well I must close.

With Love from all

Em.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/27/1916

Dear Sammy.

Your letter recieved and I’m glad your feeling good. Uncle Al is coming tomorrow to take Pa to Lawrence to see Mr. Snell a cousin of theirs. Pa goes back to work Aug. 1. Lena sent you some stamps and mailed her letter before yours was recieved telling us not to send any more but I guess you can use them. We like to send them because sometimes some other fellow might need them and you could give them to them. Some fellow might want to write a letter home but not have a stamp and I would be glad to know that you and I helped him out. For instance. A girl in the shop goes with a fellow who is down there and his mother hasn’t heard from him since he left and I told her that maybe he has no money or stamps. She is worrying now because she knows that I hear from you most every day. So if a fellow wants a stamp give it to him.

Have you seen Jimmie Coyne yet? I think John wrote to you telling you he was in Co. H. of the Fifth. I think he must be crazy because he wrote home and told his mother not to believe the papers because he could go anywhere he wanted to at anytime and do anything he wanted to. Can you imagine that Bull.

You told me in one of your letters that the Non Comps had some pictures taken and I’m still waiting for them. Say will you tell me if there is any fellows down there who did not take the Federal Oath as I had an argument in the shop. There was a piece in the paper that 600 men who didn’t take the oath have to return to Framingham and these 2 who are against me in the argument say they are at the border and I say that they must be in their homes. The paper didn’t say where they were but only that they must return to Framingham.

As for the City of Somerville I think is all graft. I didn’t hear or see about any one getting any help as yet. They had fire works and charged admission and I saw them selling ice cream Tue. night but I fail to see where any one got any thing from it. They ask for money to buy underwear and goodies etc for you fellows and as you say you don’t nead it what is the money for? I fail to see where the families are getting it. Its all Graft I think.

Bill who works with Pa got a Texas newspaper from his son and I would like you to send Pa one as I know he would enjoy reading it. As I wrote to you yesterday and Lena wrote today there is not much news. I will ans. your letters all right and send mail every day but some of it will be postcard as I don’t have as much news as you.

Everyone is well and Pa is still enjoying his vacation. Lena and I have been alone since Mon. and the house is very quite. You say you like ice cream and as long as you don’t want paper and stamps I will have to send you a gallon of ice cream and a bottle of ginger ale. Hoping this finds you well I will close

With Love from all

Jane Smiley.

P.S. If you see Jimmie Coyne and he starts to throw the Bull just show him where he gets off. Get me. Em.

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 7/23/1916

Dear Em,

I forgot to thank Lena for the stamps that she sent with the paper and I will do so now. But I am also going to say that they have just finished the Y.M.C.A. building and from now on, as long as we are stationed here I advize you not to send any more stationary, news papers or stamps, for we got paid yesterday and Ive got enough money for these things anyway.

I am going to send home fifteen dollars if I can get down town again and if you need it why go to it. You may not think it is easy to spend money here but let me tell you it is. As I told you before, we are dry all the time and they always have ice cold tonic and ice cream at the canteen. I am sertainly learning to like ice cream and it seems as though the more of this and tonic I drink the thirstier I get.

Talking about sending stationary and stamps. What does this little girl of mine do but send down a whole box of it, a pad of paper and a book of stamps, also a pencil into which you can feed sticks of lead. She sent two bunches of lead sticks. It costs her twenty four cents to send it and you can see that it is not nessessary. Of coarse I thanked her and all that stuff, but I was not backward in telling her not to do this again. Now I hope you will take the hint, and not send any thing but letters. But do send letters. I hope you will take this the way I send it for I appreciate all you are doing to make me seem at home. I got $4.40 about two weeks ago and $72. yesterday so you see Im not broke, but I am going to try and send some home, for if I hold it long, well its gone that’s all. All you can see down through here is silver and gold. Yesterday I got a ten dollar gold piece and two silver dollars. The minute the fellows got their money in their hands they started the cards and dice going and they have been at it ever since in their spare time. Today being Sunday they are at it all day.

I wish you could see the crowd in this tent just now. I guess this is the hottest day we’ve had here yet, and I know it must be terrible up there. Well cheer up Winter is comming and I hope I will be there with it. There is a lot of talk just now of our pulling out of here next week. I hope so, for the change, if nothing else. I suppose Pa’s vacation will be all over when this letter reaches you, but no doubt he injoyed it. Some of the fellows are going to take advantage of that bill that excuses all married men that are now on the border. Well to tell the truth, no matter how hard it is down here for me I am not or would not quit. Of coarse some of them are married and have three or four children, and I don’t blame them. The City of Somerville was going to do this, that, and the other thing, for all these kind of fellows, but I guess the Town is living up to all that Pa thinks of it, for they are doing practically nothing, from what I hear. Well Im feeling fine and hope you are all the same

With love
Sam.

Dear Em,

I have just got in from drill and received your letter, and don’t be surprised if it is the last one for a few days. Ive told you I think, in some of my others that we are expected to move very soon. I was going to write this letter last night when I though I had all the time up till taps. But the Ninth had to go and start some thing, which pulled the whole Brigade out. I was just sitting down trying to get a comfortable light from a candle to write this, when bang-bang-bang. There wasn’t a one in our tent that paid any attention to it, until it sounded like a machine gun. Then (Call to Arms) was blown, all lights went out, the half finish letter was lost in the scramble for round abouts and rifles. In the mean time the firing continued at great speed.

Well there is nothing more to say about it. We formed our company orderly and quietly, into a skirmish line, as did all the other companies and waited for some real action. Now we all knew, the minute that we heard the first Shot that it was the, (Grand Fighting Ninth’s) out post, that had seen a mule or some thing waving its ears at them or some such thing, and of coarse they thought it was, Villa’s Army. You said that the Boston Papers were full of news from the Ninth. Well here is some news that ought to be put in the papers. Lasts nights afair, ment a couple of hours sleep, and about three hours work this after noon on the rifle, for where we formed the skirmish line we laid down in a bank of soft sand, the most of which was picked up by the rifles. They are new guns and the least bit of dust shows very plain on them, (Part of the game.)

If I don’t eat any more bread when I get home as I am eating now I guess there will be very little bread consumed at 297. Gee I wish I was at that number just now emptying the pan under the ice chest, for I know there is something good in there now. I’d put a disc on the machine, and clean up, wash my own dishes, and yes if it was Saturday after noon I’d water the beans. Don’t forget to keep a cold one on the ice for Dad. I’d make a quart of cold milk look sick in less than a minute just now. You spoke of biscuits and butter, its just like talking millions to me, especially Lena’s. Gee it’s a tough job to keep going with this letter and I hope you can make out the meaning of some of the sentences anyway.

Well its just as hot up there I suppose so why should I kick. Is there any sharks in the Mistic? If I had that bath tub here now, I sertainly would take advantage of the fact that the Hollands have one of their own. Well be good, give my love to all.

Sam.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/21/1916

Dear Sam.

Recieved your nice long letter and had Bert sharpen my pencil to ans. it with. I have sent you a few papers but now I’ll only send you the Malitia news. I was up to the pictures last night as I stated in my letter and the picture was good. It showed Gen. Cole telephonning and stated that the fellows were all in their armories in 48 hours. It showed the malitia marching through Haymarket Square. It showed the fellow in Co. C. getting married in the rain. It then showed them taking down the tents and marching away. There was the rookies marching and doing exercises and they looked funny.

Little Mary got home and came up with me and when they were showing the review parade Mary kept saying “Is Sam gone by yet?” I was explaining to her about it and I told her I was down there. Meaning Framingham. And then she wanted me to take her to see you next Sun. But of course I told her I couldn’t. When it showed the fellows marching over the field to the train I told her they were going to Mexico. And she hollered out, “And did they have to march all the way?” Then it showed them loading the trains and she said, “If they walked they’d be tired wouldn’t they?” You can imagine the fun I had.

Yes I understand your letter all right and when you tell about your drills and guard duty ets it makes the letter very interesting. Tell Corp. Marks I was asking for him and glad he is feeling well. Also give Walter Kingsman my best regards. I hope you enjoyed your trip to M. and also glad you took no time in tripping back again. Your some busy guy alright but still its better to be over some one than to have them all over you.

I hope you get your picture all right and be sure and send it home because you know it will be saved here. I’ll send Henry’s picture as soon as I get it and also one of Mary’s. When you go to El Paso sent home some sort of a souvernier if you can. Anything at all will be excepted. I glad you had a chance to dress up and Im also glad your wise enough to can all unnecessary work such as base-ball.

I took your post cards in the shop to show the girls and they thought it was good of you to send them home. Mary is very anxious for me to stop writing so she can write, too, but I going to fill up this paper anyway. Pa recieved a postcard from Bill’s son who is in Fort Bliss. It was good of him wasn’t it? Pa is feeling good and when he got through reading your letter he said it was a fine composition. Of course we read your letters before we sit down to supper and then talk it over.

You are certainly doing fine in writing and when I don’t have to wait for and ans. from my last and you don’t either it keeps us close together and I don’t relize even yet that you’re so far away. As long as we have something to say every day to each other we will be all right.

Will have to close now wishing you the best of health. I am going to help Mary with her letter now but will only spell the big words for her.

With Love from all

Em.

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

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