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.

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.

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/20/1916

Dear Samakel

Recieved your letter and send a card saying a letter would follow and here it is. Gee, you’re a funny guy. Why don’t you get in the first row when you see them taking your picture? The picture of the “City of Tents” looks fine through the glass we have. I showed Henry your mail, he was over last night. We asked him if he was coming over Sun and he said “Sure, and don’t forget to have some biscuits.” There is no bread eating here now except 1 slice by me in the morning. I guess Lena will have to stop buying bread & butter altogether.

I was over to Molly’s with Henry last Sun and Henry was talking about cooking. He must be some cook himself. We stayed to supper and Molly said she was sorry she didn’t have something nice for him. He said, “If you want to have something for me next time make me some of your potato cakes and plenty of it.” You would think some one gave her $100. to see how pleased she was. I was glad he sprung it. Oh Henry is some boy now but don’t worry I won’t let him cut you out.

Nora and the kids are well. Madge feels alright sometimes and then again she don’t. If you write her a nice long letter she will feel pleased I know, because she loves to have me bring down all the letters and read them to her. I’m saving them all and intend to keep them for you to read.

Bert, Lena, and little Mary have gone down to Nantasket Beach today and I got the supper. I’m going up to Peason’s tonight because they had it advertised that there would be moving pictures of the boys at Framingham. I going up to see if I can see you and will tell you all about it in my next letter.

I have to close because I have to wash the dishes & meet Sadie Mack at 7.30. By the way she told me to tell you she was asking for you and to tell you to try and not get sun burnt. Hoping this finds you well and happy I will close.

With Love from all & everybody

Emily Jane.

P.S. Pa is fine and he starts on his vacation next Tues. Lena wasn’t here to address the envelope and I did it myself. How does it look?

 

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/18/1916

Dear Sam.

I have just got your letter and I’m glad mine cheered you up. When I first read your other letter I thought something was the matter with the mail but when I looked it up on the calender I knew it would be all right. Little Mary had just written to you and put it in the box when she got yours. I just wish you could see how glad she was. She is staying over with us now. Lena plays the graphanola while she dances. Isadore Duncan has nothing on her.

Well to tell the truth Sam I couldn’t blame you for getting nervous in not receiving mail and I hope now it never stops coming. Seeing that you are writing so much, Lena thought you ought to have more stamps. I saw in the paper this morning about your out post duty. It told about some of the boys seeing the horsemen shot down and I’m just sending that much.

Mrs Holland received your letter today and Catherine showed it to me. She said it was real nice of you. Henry told Molly that if she moved to Charlestown he would, too. And if he did it would be to stay. He was telling us that last Sat. night Nora asked him what to get for Sun. dinner and he told he didn’t care what she got for herself because he was coming of here for dinner.

The Hollands are putting in a bathroom down stairs and ours is beginning to get lonesome now for you. Hurry up home and you can have it all afternoon without them chasing you out. Napolean is the same old scout and Maggie is doing fine. I told her about you writing home but I was afraid if I told her you was asking for her she would tell me to buy some butts to send down to you.

The little birds are still there across the way. Your thoughts are certainly around here alright when you thought of them. Pa is feeling fine and working every day. I haven’t got Henry’s picture yet but when there developed I’ll send it.

They have Mary playing statue and I can almost write. Well I guess I better close now as my paper is all used up. Hoping this letter finds you in the best of health I will close.

With Love from all

Em.

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 7/13/1916

Dear Sam.

Received your letter today and must say that your doing fine. Thats a good picture but you should have been in Marks’s place. You want to pull your pants down, youre a big boy now. Madge and Molly were both very glad to get your cards and they said they would answer right away.

I see by the papers that you have ball games down there. Do you play or are you too busy to take interest in them. I save all your mail to show to Henry when he comes. When we get the pictures of him Ill send one down to you. Mack is going to be shifted over here to work and Molly is thinking of moving back to Charlestown. If she does Ill send her address.

I saw Norman Rinney up the band consert the other night and he was asking for you. He said he was up to the Armory to see you but you wasn’t there. I guess it was the night you came home to sleep. I gave him your address and he said if he remembered it he would write.

The reason we don’t send you more papers is because they don’t have hardly anything about the Eighth. But we will send them any way now. We are having pretty hot weather up here. Lena wrote a letter yesterday so I haven’t got much news. Pa is feeling pretty good for such hot weather. He is certainly sticking it out.

While up the band concert the other night there was a crowd of girls standing behind Sadie and I and one of them said to the others “They don’t seem to be any nice fellow down here tonight does there.” And I turned around and said, “No, all the nice fellow are down the border.” That made everybody smile and they all had something to say about “Those poor fellows.” I bet when your walking up and down along the border you wish it was Bunker Hill St. Well cheer up it could have been worse.

Now please don’t do anything you’ll be sorry for, and if you can’t be good be as good as you can. It was Bert who send you that paper and he also send you a card. Do you hear from your boss? I am sending you a paper so you can read about the “Rookies.”

I am glad you have enough to eat and hope you can eat all you get. Wish this finds you well I will close.

Love from all

Em.

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

The Soldiers’ Mail Centennial: 1916-1919

SamAveryPortrait1_zps4728775b

Greetings to everyone who are readers of Soldiers’ Mail! This marks the beginning of the Centennial for the Avery Collection which was written 100 years ago from June, 1916 through April, 1919. In order to commemorate this time, I am republishing the letters in the same order they were written a century ago so that we can once again march along with Sgt. Sam Avery from the hot sands along the Rio Grande to the cold mud along the Meuse. In order to make it easy for readers to quickly access and read these writings “as they happen,” I am also publishing links to these letters on Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated to the purpose. Please rendezvous and come march along once again.

This site began as a labor of love when I was seeking to find a way to give voice to the letters of Sgt. Sam Avery, a national guardsman from New England who served on the front lines of American involvement in the Great War from 1916-1919. This site was originally intended to be Phase I of a publishing project that I intended to culminate in a hard copy book of the same title. However, over time this site took on a life of its own as a living memorial to all those who were part of what I like to call the “Most Gallant Generation,” and it also became perhaps the single most comprehensive information resource on the internet for the history of the U.S. 26th “Yankee” Division and 103rd Infantry Regiment during World War I.

Today Soldiers’ Mail is a living educational resource with more than a quarter-million hits from readers in 95 countries! It is you readers who have made the site so much more meaningful than I ever could have hoped when I started this project 8 years ago, and the many invaluable contributions you have provided are embedded within its pages. I am happy to always solicit input and credit contributions as much as possible. Perhaps the greatest example of our mutual collaboration is the Brothers in Arms section of the site, where a number of readers have contributed the backgrounds and collected writings of their own family heroes to give them voice after so many years of silence. Shortly there will be a new collection of letters added to the site written by Private Frank Coffey.

There is a lively Comments section on the site where readers continue to engage in conversation and attempt to discover information about their own family members from the time of World War I, which in my opinion remains a vital yet understudied and misunderstood period of American History. I continue to moderate these comments and in future will ensure they are posted in as timely a manner as possible.

I am grateful to all who have helped make this site what it is today. I am especially grateful for the assistance of Gilles Chauwin, President of the Froidmont Quarry Association in France, Jonathan Bratten who is Historian for the Maine National Guard, and the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Please feel free to contact me at any time by email at doughboyletters@gmail.com.

With Gratitude,

Richard Landers, Editor

 

Soldier’s Mail for July, 1916 and 1918

July, 1916: South on the Border

In July, 1916 Sgt. Sam Avery and the rest of the Massachusetts Brigade were stationed at Camp Cotton (the “City of Tents”) outside of El Paso, Texas. In addition to adjusting to the high desert climate, the troops found themselves under fire and in a state of war with Mexican forces along the Border.

Read the page South on the Border to learn more about the events of the Mexican Revolution that made American military action necessary. Read Sam’s compelling account of his journey South from New England to the “North Shore of Hell”. Read the page July, 1916 to learn more about the mission 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 correspondence for July as he battles homesickness and the elements along with the enemy.

July, 1918: Champagne-Marne Defensive and Aisne-Marne Offensive

During the first half of July, 1918 Sam Avery found himself under heavy fire with the 103rd Infantry in Belleau Wood which the 26th Division took over from the Marine Brigade. Read about the Champagne-Marne Defensive here. On July 18, the Second Battle of the Marne (Aisne-Marne Offensive) commenced with the 103rd Infantry attacking in line with other Allied units. In a week of fighting, the 26th Division captured 17 kilometers of ground in the first real advance made by an American division as a unit, but at the cost of 20% casualties including Sam who was severely gassed.

Read the page Aisne-Marne Offensive to learn more about the action in late July, 1918. Also, read Sam’s correspondence for July and learn more about the experiences of the 103rd Infantry during grueling combat conditions.

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.

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.

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