Camp Cotton, Texas 10/24/1916

“While we are waiting for Georgia”

Dear Pa

Expect to leave any day now. Probably be in Boston before the 5th of Nov. Im feeling fine and Im going to remain in this condition until I get home.


Dear Lena,

I received your letter in which you stated that you had received the State money and no doubt you can use it to good advantage. I am going to be truthful and say that I spent a pretty tough night last night with my front teeth. You know I never had much bother with them and to have them go back on me down hear is kind of disagreeable. Im going to try and get down town today to have them fixed. Im not going to take any chances on these army dentists especially the work on these front teeth of mine. I suppose Ill get trimmed, but it will be worth it.


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


Camp Cotton, Texas 10/21/1916

Dear Lena.

After a very cold and dissagreeable night we awoke this morning to hear that Georgia was due to start arriving tomorrow. You remmeber how strong I was for fresh air while sleeping. Well beleive me Im getting my stumack full of this fresh air stunt now. We have all gone back to undressing night and say it is some job and takes nerve to crawl out of our blankets in the morning and slide into cloths that are almost wet from the dampness that settles in to them over night. It isn’t doing us any harm though, don’t worry. Im feeling as fine as a fiddle. Every thing is going pretty smooth. See you soon.


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/20/1916

Dear Em

Well the Second is home and the Fifth should be when you get this, and still we are here drilling just as though we were expecting nothing unusual to happen. All we do though is go out into the field for about two hours to get limbered up after a nights frost. Thirty minutes for exercise thirty for bayonet drill and sixty for close order drill constitutes the days work. It is sertainly tiresome waiting for these Georgia fellows. I suppose it is getting pretty cold in Boston now. I wonder if we will be home for Thanksgiving.


Dear Em, and the rest of you.

I am now First Sergeant of Co. K. which pleases me very much. The company clerk is making out the order now and my time will go on from tomorrow the 21st. The previous first serg. was elected the 18th and I guess the captain thought I was the man for I have jumped two sergeants that have been in the outfit longer than I have. It was some jump for the 1st sergeant to be elected 1st Leiut. and sertainly some jump for me, for if you will look back to the day we were in Framingham and see me as a corporal and now a First Sergeant of the same company you would think so.

I nead all the good luck and wishes you kind folks can give me for it is no snap to act as 1st serg. in a company of men that are almost on the point of desertion to go home. The boys seem to all be glad that I was the guy to get it but there is trouble ahead I know and I will have to face it even if I feel the same way the men do. I didn’t know that I would be sending a letter so soon but I wanted to let you know the good news, and I thought this, the best way to inform you.

I hear now that we are to leave Wed. 25 and I hope it is time. How does the dear old boys of the Fifth look. More strength to them. We are having evening parade every night now, and we should be pretty good at close order when we hit Boston, (God Bless the day) By the way I am fine, (of coarse you wouldn’t think so by the writing) but you know it is something new for me to be writing with a pen, and I know you will excuse me. I thought Id freeze last night, but never mind I only thought I would. A little setting up drill and we feel like lining up against Harvard or Yale’s foot ball teams.

Well I have nothing more to say and not much of that only we are going home tomorrow, but tomorrow never never comes. Hoping this finds you in the best of health, I am still the same


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

Camp Cotton, Texas 10/17/1916

Dear Em

Im not going to say any thing more about going home. We just came in from 24 hours of out post and Im feeling fine. They are laying out drills for a week ahead so I guess they are going to try and take our mind off the subject that most consernse us. Two men (a serg. & corp.) left this morning for home their time having expired. They have given up the idea of waiting for us to move and I think they have taken a wise step. It is nice and cool in the day time now, but good and cold nights. The whole camp is like a grave yard. Some of the companies are getting very little disapline out of the men.


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

El Paso, Texas 10/16/1916

Dear Em,

Well we are still waiting to leave. We havent done a tap since getting back from the hike, outside of packing up everything that is to be packed and stuff that we will not use. The Fifth is well on the way now, and we are still here not knowing just what day we are to follow. No doubt it will be next week some time. The trouble seems to be in the lack of cars. Ive eaten my finger nails all off waiting to go. We are well outfitted with cloths as follows. 5 suits of summer under wear, 2 suits of winter underwear, 3 o.d. shirts 3 pairs of shoes, ten pair of stockings two hats, 3 pair of summer cotton breaches, 2 suits of o.d.’s including blouse and pants. 1 sweater, 1 over coat, two blankets. 2 pairs of leggings 4 towels besides toilet and other articles. Outside of 1 suit of under wear on our backs and one in our pack. 1 shelter half, 1 ponchow 1 blanket, polls pins, sweater and toilet articles, everything that I have mentioned is to be put in a bag and shipped home. Some out fit, what?

You can see I have nothing to say when I will try to fill up a sheet of paper with this kind of junk. Im simply writing this any way to let you know that I am still waiting anxiously for my seat in the train to start on that long journey home. This army life is the same old stuff day after day and Im sorry I can’t gather some news to make up an interesting letter.

I received your letter and was sorry to hear that Henry is not feeling well. Just the opposite with me I tell you. Young Kinsman is in the hospital and has been ever since the next to last day on the hike. He was one of six in our company that had to fall out. It is real chilly here today and reminds me of a fall Saturday after noon, when I am home with all kinds of time on my hands but nothing to say. Katherine Holland sent me a letter which I received yesterday and Im going to answer it so if you will excuse this short and poor letter Ill close and start one to her.

Im feeling fine and expect to prove it soon when I get home.


© 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.


© 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.


© 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.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 9/25/1916

Dear Sam.

Recieved your letter today and I’m glad to hear youre getting along so good. Your card Sat said not to write any more and I thought sure you were going to start for home. The papers had it that you were to start for home by today but since Sat there hasn’t been anything said. You can’t rely on the papers. I guess nobody will know till you are ordered to pack and march to the train (which will be soon I hope).

Mary had the tooth ache last night and she didn’t feel well all day. She went down to the Union though this afternoon. It is lonesome here now without her. Lena is playing the piano and pa is sitting in the rocking chair reading. It is a cool night and feels kind of chilly.

Tom Higgins started for New York this morning. The buyer and asst. buyer took him. I guess he has a good job and if he takes good care of himself he might rise to be a buyer himself some day. I got your paper and read about the parade you had. I guess I would like to see it alright. You say your dish towel is wore out well why not let the dishes or tins dry in the sun. I should think your clothes would be worn out by the way you wash them every day.

There is no news here at all. There is going to be a big suger refinery put up down the end of Belmont st. They are dreging out the river and cleaning up the wharfs down there. I don’t suppose they’ll start building right away though. Of course you know you and I will have to watch them put it up from the window so that they will do it right.

When I mail this letter I’m going to take down my hair and get in to my bath robe and maybe by that time pa will go to bed and then Oh you Rocking chair and magazine. I hope this is your last week down there. We are all well and pa couldn’t be any better. I know when Mary reads your letter she’ll be dissappointed cause your not started for home yet. She is very anxious to see you like all the rest of us. Hoping this finds you well I will close

With Love from all


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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 9/19/1916

Dear Sam.

I think I see you in the right of the picture, am I right? Mary was very much pleased with hers. You may not be getting fat now but when you get home you ought to. We’ll have to squeeze up close together because Mary takes a lot of room at the table.

The papers say you will start for home very soon but I guess you’ll receive this letter though. They can’t send you home any too soon can they? Henry was over Sun. and stayed all the afternoon and we went down to Madge’s in the evening. He is coming to Madge’s tomorrow night. He thinks quite a lot of Madge. He is working on a job down the National House now.

Madge was up here last night with John and Mary. You see she is getting along pretty good when she walked that distance. When Pa read your card about the grass beginning to grow and everything looking green he started to laugh. Well I laughed to because its quite chilly up here now.

I see in the papers that someone want the boys to go to their armories because they think that if they went to Framingham the ground would be too cold to sleep on. I hope you do go to the armory and then we could go to see you oftener and maybe you could get home for a couple of hours. We intend to see you as soon as you land anyway with Mary in the lead.

Lena has gone to bed and I’m beginning to feel cold so I’ll have to hurry up so I can join her. You know she likes to have me sing her to sleep. You know how I sing myself to sleep don’t you?

You did pretty good to stick it out on that march you had. Its too bad Kingsman is sick but I hope he comes out alright. Tell him I was asking for him. I hope this letter finds you packing and getting your things together to move. The Hollands are fine and the Studdly girls and Emma sends their best regards. Every one is O.K.

Hoping this finds you well and happy like meself I will close.

With Love from all


P.S. X X X X X X By request of M.

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