On the Road back to El Paso, Texas 10/9/1916

Mesquite N.M.

Well Everybody

Here we are back here again to day, and if we are not in Boston soon I will be very much dissapointed. They held us up at Las Cruces N.M. one day and the night of that day we got orders to be ready early this morning to start hiking back to El Paso. We did 12-13 miles to day and are camping (for tonight) on the very same spot as we occupied the 7th. Gee my face is burning from the sun and I suppose tonight I will be almost frozen. Beleive me if they would let us have our way we wouldn’t stop until we struck C. Cotton again. It will take us three or four more days to get there I guess, so when you get this you will know that we are getting ready to “Hit the trail for Boston” instead of Villa. I am receiving all the cards you are sending including Bert’s. I feel as strong as an ox now and the Lord only know how Ill feel when I get an honest to God bath. XXXXXXXXXXX for Mary.

Sam

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

Las Cruces, New Mexico 10/7/1916

On the road to Fort Seldon, Las Cruces N.M.

Dear Everybody

I sent one of you a card last night, and while writing I was so tierd I hardly knew what or who I was writing to. I was not in camp 5 minutes before I was off for the town for some thing to eat. I had about a dollar for about ten minutes. We tryed to get a feed in the only cheap resturant in the Town, but oh what a chance. The door was jamed and thinking that there would be more room later we waited. We went back in about ten minutes and they didn’t have even a slice of bread or a cup of coffee left. Sold out. We then got into a bakery shop some how and I bought two jelly rolls for my pal and I. They were ten cents apiece and there was just about one mouth full in it. We then bought some cakes and tonic.

The town is completely gaurded, no inlisted man being able to even look inside a bar room. We crawled back to camp at taps and I bathed my sore and aching feet. Today Im feeling fine again, ready for any thing they say.

Some hike. Rotten town.

Sam

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

Mesquite, New Mexico 10/6/1916

Mesquit N.M.

Dear Em

After hiking about 10-11 miles yesterday we made camp in (this mans town) as Al would say. Every man in the company was as fresh as a daisy including yours truly. We had quit a shower and out side of our little pup tents blowing down two or three times and our blankets getting a little wet we enjoyed the nights rest very good. I bet Ill be able to sleep comfortably on a row of tacks after this hike.

Shelter Tents from Military Instructors Manual, 1917

It seems as though every thing you touch is filled with thorns. It is very windy this morning and we are all ready and anxious to get started and get the benefit of the cool part of the day. We will be in Las Crusas soon. Every one is happy and well.

Sam

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

On the Road to Fort Selden, New Mexico 10/5/1916

On the road to Fort Seldon 10/5/16

Dear Em

Well here we are after a days rest, waiting for the word that will start this army on the move again. We expect a forced march today to make up for yesterday. Some of the mules are dieing and a lot of the men are in pretty bad shape for hiking. I am as usual feeling great, and Im anxious for the order to start.

We went swimming in the Rio Grande yesterday, and I bet we walked about six miles to and from the river. I dont beleive we are any cleaner for our wash for it is the muddiest water in any river there is I guess.

I am rotten dirty and expect to remain so until we get back to Camp Cotton or some where where it is possible to get a wash. I dont know where we are going today but we will soon be on our way.

Sam

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

On the Road to Fort Selden, New Mexico 10/4/1916

About 2 miles beyond Anthony N.M. 10/4/1916

Dear Lena.

When I sent that card last night I had no idea that we would get this lay off today. I thought (yes, and I hoped) that we would push on and get this job over with, for I am feeling in the pink of condition now.

Say that was some tough hike yesterday and it came pretty tough on me for this reason. I was left guide and when in column of squads the left guide of a company is in the rear of the company. It was all right for a while but after the water began to give up the men wanted to fall out to get some or lay down. Now I being in the rear had to see that no one fell out, and if any one did for any reason I was to wait and see that he or they got back to the company. Now it is hard enough to keep walking ones self, but when youve got to keep howling “Close up.” etc all the time when your mouth is as dry as a fish bone. Not only this but see that men get back to there company as soon as possible and act like a dirty dog by preventing them to drink any water or fill there dry canteens with water from wells or houses along the road. Yes we non comps get our orders and we have to carry them out but with a very unwilling spirit.

One poor fellow in the company some how or other got his canteen filled with water and was about to wet his parched lips when it was snatched from him by our captain (who was under orders.) and emptied. One canteen a day is the order and that from the army barrel.

Toward the end of this long and tiersome march one fellow fell out and as usual I had to see that he got back to the company. He lagged and stalled off until the whole column got by (and although I didnt tell him I didnt blame him. When we did get started it was away back with the ambulance train and if you could see the men on both sides of the roads and in the hospital teams you would agree that it was a tough old hike. It was mainly the scarcity of water. We came to a house where we just sat by a well and drank drank drank. It was the best water we had since leaving Cotton and oh it did taste good. If we never appreciate any thing else when we get home we will, that good old N.E. water.

I just found out that the reason we are being held up today is on account of the sore feet of the mules. We are supposed to be ready to move on at 2.30 and I suppose they will push us to make up for lost time. I should Worry. Im ready for Mexico if need be. This is the last letter you will get until we get to Fort Sheldon I guess. In the mean time rest assured that Sam is there and will stand up with the best of them.

Sam

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

Anthony, New Mexico 10/3/1916

Dear Em

Here we are after a 13 or 14 mile hike. I am feeling fine. We are sertainly roughing it now. Expect to hit Las Crusas Friday. We didn’t have hardly any thing to eat all day yesterday but tonight at about 8 oclock we got some bacon and coffee and say it was great. Don’t think Im crying for it isnt going to last forever, but beleive me I will be glad when we hit Fort Sheldon. This is a funny little town.

Sam

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 10/2/1916

Dear Folks,

I am going to start a letter in my note book for I don’t expect to finish it before we start of again to (the Lord only knows). We are now in a column composed of more troops than ever before participated in a practice hike. This is our second day out and we are leading the column. It is about half past six now and we expect to move any second. We started yesterday morning at seven oclock and for the first five miles it was all fine and dandy but the next five was pretty tough. Sand up to our shoe tops, and the dust and sand kicked up made it imposible for me to see the second man in front of me. The boys got a good idea of what real hiking is and I know the worst is yet to come. Yesterday each man carried his own dinner consisting of three hard tack, and ¼ of a can of beans. It tasted very good only we couldnt get any water. I saw some of the Ohio troops getting down on their knees and drinking water from the side of the road. I dont want to pin any medals on my self but I havent gone through 5 years of this life without knowing that a canteen of water is a soldiers best friend. When the hike was finished and camp pitched, some of the other fellows were begging for (just a mouth full of my water. Such is life in the army. And just think it is peace time at that.

We just got orders that one platoon of our company is to act as gaurd over the Brigade wagon train, and we are also to arrest all men that fall out of the line who have no docters certificate. Last night we had some water with a little milk and corn in it that they called corn chowed. This with some thing that tasted like cocoa and three hard tack constituded our meal. This morning we had some tomatoes which tasted as though they spilt all the pepper they had in it and three hard tack. We got a half a cup of (I dont know what you would call it. I think they call it coffee. For our dinner (which we are carrying) we have a can of beans one package of H.J. to go for four men. We are all starting out with a full canteen of rotten water, but I know that the water will taste the best and go faster than every thing else. It is going to be hot today, but I am feeling as strong and as well as the fittest and the best so I should worry. OH we are right into the real life now.

The suit of under wear Ive got on and a suit in my pack will have to do the whole trip which is listed for fifteen days. I dont know how or where I am going to mail this but some kind person on the road will take it as I pass I think. There are about 26,000 troops on the hike, and I dont know if you can imagine the extent of this mob or not, but I know I cant. We are carrying twenty five rounds of blank amunition, two blankets, ponchow, shelter half, pole and pins, one suit of under wear, towel, soap, tooth brush, comb, tooth paste, razor, brush, shaving soap, two ration cans, and a sweater in our packs. Of coarse our rations, mess pan, dipper, canteen full of water, bayonet, round-about (or belt) and rifle. This load gets heavy after a while but as usual (I should worry).

Well I guess it is about time I put this in an envelope for we have been on the road about an hour now and the stops are gettin fewer. I am just as strong as when I started and getting stronger if any thing. We are having an awful time with these teams, for the roads are pretty tough. Never mind well get there. I hope the one with K. Co. gets along all right any way for we at least want some coffee for supper. I hear the Red Sox only have to win one more game to win the penant. Pretty soft for them what. Id like to get back in time to see a World Series game and probably I will. I hope you can make out a few of the words on these pages any way. You will have to excuse it for I am under considerable handicap, writing a little every time a team gets stuck or we make a stop. You see it is in my note book and all I have to do when we start is close it up and put it in my pocket.

We are sertainly getting it now, some of the boys are all in and want to drop out but (nothing doing.) Walk or lay down and starve or go dry is what they are told. Talk about your desert. Well I must close hoping you are all well and remain so until I return. I remain the same old (fresh guy)

Sam

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

Soldier’s Mail for October, 1916-1918

October, 1916: South on the Border

In October, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade embarked on a 60-mile campaign march to Fort Selden in New Mexico (today both a National and New Mexico State Monument). The entire marching column contained 18,000 National Guard troops from Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina. Heading relentlessly northward through scorching desert heat, many men were felled by heat exhaustion and lack of water. Near the end of the march, the troops from Massachusetts were ordered to immediately retrace their steps across the desert to Camp Cotton where they awaited relief by newly-arrived troops from Georgia.

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 October, 1916 to learn more about the Long March to Fort Selden. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the hardships of service on the border.

October, 1917: The Long Voyage

Following the formal entry of the United States into the Great War, the U.S. Navy was challenged with organizing the greatest sea lift of soldiers and supplies in history up until that time in order to effectively fight in Europe. Never before had American military might been projected so far from home for so long and on such a scale. The overseas troop transport effort became known at the “Bridge of Ships,” accomplished by assembling a large collection of passenger liners, borrowed British ships and seized enemy vessels to help carry more than 2 million men and 7.5 million tons of cargo across the Atlantic.

Sam Avery and other men of the 103rd Infantry sailed aboard the S.S. Saxonia from Hoboken, NJ to Halifax, Nova Scotia before crossing the North Atlantic in convoy to Liverpool, England. After traveling by train to Southampton, they crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France before traveling by train once again to their final destination at the new AEF training area near Neufchateau.

Read about the “Bridge of Ships” here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence which details his Long Voyage from America to embattled France.

October, 1918: Meuse-Argonne Offensive

In early October, 1918 Sam Avery finally returned from the hospital to the 103rd Infantry which had been severely battered during the St. Mihiel Offensive. Immediately upon his arrival, the Regiment was on the move again to Verdun with the rest of the 26th Division where it took up defensive positions before joining the AEF’s final attack during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Sam would bring home shoulder-straps cut from the uniforms of German troops captured during the final advance.

Read about the Meuse-Argonne Offensive here. Also, read Sam’s October correspondence from Verdun as he continues to endure both heavy fire and the loss of friends while also worrying about his family during the Spanish Flu epidemic.

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.

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.