Camp Cotton, Texas 9/3/1916

Dear Em

Well it looks now as though we will leave here for some where in the U.S. Every thing is being fixed up good here and I suppose next week when it is all fixed up in tip top shape we will be kicked out, do you get it (kick out).

Id just as leave be the first one in line and get the hardest kick when they start. I will say that I like it a great deal more now than ever before, but, well (nuf sed).

I am acting First Serg. of the company tomorrow. Things are sliding very smooth now, and I am fine

Sam

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 9/1/1916

Dear Lena.

Was down town last night and had something to eat. Great. I bought a few (30) of these cards, for I find they are handy. A few words often, is appreciated more than a book very seldom. How do you like it? Say but it was cold when I woke up this morning. An overcoat would have come in handy. It is pretty cool yet 10.30. If rumor was money we would all return with a fortune, for there is a new one every minute. They say now that we will be on the move by the 15th in complience with the Old Dix law. I may not be any stouter when I get home, but say kid Im going to be there.

Sam

Dear Pa.

I geuss it is about time for me to write you a line. Hows a kid? So am I. The 9th is back at Camp Cotton again and I guess the Mich. Bunch is to do some of this work now. Its about time. How is Bills son making out. It would be like hunting for a needle in hay now, (OH for two weeks on the old farm) to find him but Id like to know just where he is and, I probably look him up. The girls tell me things are running pretty smooth back there, and I can assure you Pa that every think is just the same with me here. Some (well yes I will say) quit a few of the boys are in duch most of the time but you can realize that thats only natural.

Sam.

Dear Em

Just think, here it is Sept. How the time is flying latly. Well Em here we are on this morning out working out a problem in attack. Two privates, a corp. and my self are out about 1800 yard from the rest of the Battalion, and we are representing a front of three com. of an enemy. The point has just reached us and the advance party is advancing now. You know I like to write while on the field. Please forgive me for not writing yesterday for it was a very busy day, and beleive me I am glad the field inspection is over. I am fine. Gee Ill have to get back to the nack of writing again. Have you received my picture and that envelope yet? If not let me know. it is about time you did.

Love to all,

Sam

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

Soldier’s Mail for September, 1916-1918

September, 1916: South on the Border

In September, 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 National Guard troops were inspected by the Regular Army to ensure their compliance with Federal standards for training and performance. In mid-September, there was a Brigade March to test the men’s strength and endurance after three months of active duty. This was followed by a military parade to Fort Bliss which formed the largest military column seen in the United States since the Civil War.

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 September, 1916 to learn more about the living conditions of the Massachusetts troops at Camp Cotton as they continue to secure the Border. Read Sam’s correspondence to his family as he relates his ongoing experiences of camp life and the dangers of patrolling along the border.

September, 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 once again for federal service. The encampments used by the men of the 8th Infantry for training and reorganization were at Lynnfield and Westfield. During this time, the 8th Mass. Infantry was disbanded and Sam found himself reassigned to the 103rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. Read Sam’s diary notes and letters about life in the encampments, being reorganized into the 103rd U.S. Infantry and preparing to sail to France.

September, 1918: Recovery in the Hospitals

In September, 1918 Sam Avery remained in the AEF hospital system while he recovered from severe gas poisoning. At the same time, the 103rd Infantry participated in the St. Mihiel Offensive with the rest of the 26th “Yankee” Divison. Read about recovery in the AEF base hospital system here. Also, read about the St. Mihiel Offensive juxtaposed with Sam’s September correspondence which reveals a rare parallel narrative.

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 8/31/1916

Dear Em,

Through some misunderstanding I have only received four of these (pictures). They were taken for the War Dept. and if you look very close you will see my number which is #300. Sorry I can’t send more so that some of the rest can’t have any. The inspection was put off until tomorrow on account of this rain.

Best wishes for all
Sam.

P.S. Our time for going home looks very dark to date.

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 8/30/1916

Dear Lena

I said on a post card that I sent yesterday that I thought the rainy season was over but as usual Im wrong. It started raining last night, it has rained off and on all night, and it is still raining. The whole camp is a regular river of mud again. The mail service is sertainly on the bum latly. We are to be inspected again today. Some day for it. I am feeling fine and I hope you are all the same. Did you get that letter I sent.

Sam

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

Somewhere on the Border, Texas 8/29/1916

Dear Lena,

I had this check all enclosed sealed addressed and the stamp on it, but I though as long as I have to stay on an other hour that I would write a letter. (Be a sport you know. I am sergeant of the gaurd for twenty four hours. This is not outpost, but interior gaurd. We have ninteen prisoners, two of which are bad ones. It is a shame the way some of these fellows carry on. For instance one fellow was brought in a few minutes ago with his left hand in a sling. He has been missing for three days, the Lord only knows where he has been. Another fellow was brought in at nine oclock with the jimmies and we had an awful time to get him quited down. I know I should not mention these instances, but they give you an idea what the Gaurd has to put up with, and also a chance to write some kind of a letter.

I guess you have received those post cards, (that speaks of the drill we were to be checked up on this morning,) by this time and I want to say that as far as I can make out, (I dont thing I was looking crooked either) we got a very good mark. It is half past one A.M. now, and I turn in for a nap at two thirty, so you see I am both writing a letter and keeping awake in doing so. (You know that saying Hay while the moon is bright) I hope it is as cool there tonight as it is here, but I hope you can use it for more sleep than I am to get. Cheer up, we are off tomorrow afternoon and night. May be.

I wish you, Pa, and Em could see me writing this letter. Here I am sitting on a roughly constructed chair, and a very roughly constructed d-e-s-k. I thought Id spell it out so that you would know I wasn’t kidding. Well on this desk sits a lantern, that throws a very good light. Up in front of me lays my gaurd roster, special orders, sick report book, and a watch (oh no not mine). Out side of my two elbows, the for finger of my left hand, the tip end of this pencil, and my beautiful blue eyes, there is nothing else ornamenting it. Laying at my right is the officer of the gaurd (my right hand man you see. I have him pretty handy. If he saw this I would probably be put in the prissy tent where these poor fellows are waiting trial. It would put you in mind of Cival War days, I think if you were here now. Out side on both sides of the tents walk two sentinels. Every two hours the gaurd is changed. OH it’s a gay life, as Harry Lauder would say in the wee small hours of the morning.

There is a faint dreary call of the sentinal on post #6, for the corporal of the gaurd, and as I write it, it is being repeated back through the chain of sentinals until now it has reached the man on #1 post and the corporal has started out to see what the matter is. Another prisoner for us to take care of, (this makes twenty. Trying to get into camp with out pass. We have to do it. Well this little event has past, my time to turn in is here and I will simply put this in an envelope and mail it in the morning, (that is when I wake up, for it is half past two now.

I am sending 25 days pay home, for I know if I keep it (well I won’t that’s all. Indorse it on the back just as it is made out, as Helena Avery.

Sam

Dear Em.

You may talk about it being hot, but beleive me it is some hot here today. After the last two days of pretty cool weather we feel this hot spell. The sun just beats down and seems to burn up every thing. I guess the rainy season is over, and a few drops of rain wouldnt hurt anything right now. Remember, Im not wishing for it to rain, for it can’t do any thing down here unless it is over done.

Did Lena get my letter? I cant figure out now how I did it.

Sam

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

Postcards from Somewhere on the Border, Texas 8/28/1916

Dear Lena,

It is 8 AM and here we are out here on the so called battle field. We are about to attack an enemy a 800 yards. It strikes me funny that the signal men are out about 50 yards being examined now. It is a nice cool day and I guess the boys will go through it all right. I am fine

Sam

Dear Em,

It is Sunday morning and everything is fine with me. I just put away a slice of balogna, slice of bread, ½ of a cantelope, and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Will write soon.

Sam

Dear Lena, 

Please take note of the shadow that is cast by the men. It is pretty chilly here this morning. It is Sun. and I am going to use the most of it in washing. There is that washing again. Gag.

Sam

Dear Mary

Well how is my little sugar plum. I am looking and longing

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

Camp Cotton, Texas 8/26/1916

Dear Lena,

I guess we are getting the best of the bargain, as far as temperature is conserned at that. It has been nice and cool here all day today. But say Lena, the sun sure does bake every thing it hits. As long as you can get in the shade here life is sweet, but out drilling in the sun it is awful. Right now as I write this letter, I am sitting in my tent and there is a steady breeze blowing across my cot. But if I should just step out side, Id swear there wasnt a breath of air at all. As I said in my post card it was cool this morning, and I bet we will need our blankets tonight alright.

I hope you enjoyed the exhibition at the big park. I am sorry that your plans for going to N.Y. has been upset on account of Preparedness, but winter isnt a bad time to visit a big city. Of coarse I hope I will not be here as long as that but you never can tell. I don’t know what difference it makes what regiment a fellow belongs to, but I will say right here that the 8th is the best. I can bet you stopped them all right when you got started. More speed to you. One Regiment is doing as much as the other and if they wasn’t you would hear from it I tell you.

I am glad to hear that Henry pays you a visit once in a while. Tell him he is lucky that he can. I wish I could. We are to be inspected for our field or battle work tomorrow, and our equipment Wednisday. Before this reaches you you will have read what the 5-8-9th are rated as.

It hasn’t rained now for two days and we are doing fine. I hope that it will get cooler soon, and do take it easy, and dont get any of those head aches that you are so subject to. You bet Mary and I will be good pals and tell her I am just waiting for the time that I can get her in my arms and pay pack some of those XXXXX she sent me and all the soldiers down here. She may think that I am a coon when she sees me, but I will find a way to over come this I guess.

It is said that we are to go on a seven day hike very soon after this inspection and that will test the regiments better than any thing else unless it is the real stuff. And no danger of any thing like that. Well I am going to answer Ems letter and then I am going to take in my wash.

Sam

Dear Em

Im afraid Im not going to have much time to write to you so excuse me if I make use of this excuse to fill up this paper as soon as I can. I am very sorry that you don’t get any releif from the heat. I hope you all enjoyed the show. I suppose Pa gets all the bacon an eggs in the morning that he wants.

Talking of chicken soup that is what we had this noon. It is just what you say in regards to my return. You never can tell what tomorrow brings until it is yesterday. All the boys are shooting crap in this tent and talk about the Sunday mornings when we lived on High St. nothing to it. I will have to cut this letter until after Retreat, for it is almost 5 now and I got quite a wash out between the tents. If I don’t get them in pretty soon they wont be there thats all.

Well the clothes are in, Ive stood Retreat and here I am at it again. The next call will be mess. I fell pretty hungry so I hope they have some thing good. Please excuse this writing but I am in a hurry and Id like to get this letter off before grabbing my eats. Gee but its nice and cool here today. I can hardly realize that I am away down here on the Rio Grande. Probably it is because I am feeling so good.

We are in for a hard days work tomorrow and I am going to get a good nights sleep tonight. That is one good thing down here. There hasn’t been one night that it wasn’t comfortable to sleep, not one. Tonight it is going to be cold I think.

Good luck
Sam

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/22/1916

Dear Sam.

I got your letter and am glad to know your feeling good. It has been awful hot here this last 2 days. Last night neither Lena or pa slept any but I slept all night. It is not quite so bad tonight. Pa went to work tonight at 8 o’clock and gets home about 7 tomorrow. He was down the beach today and had a (Jewbily) jubily.

I succeeded in getting tickets for Lena and Bert for Braves field tomorrow night. They cost 50¢ but we get them free and I got 2 from some girls who couldn’t go. $1.50 saved. I will write and tell you all about it.

There is a hen and roaster over in Napolean’s yard. When the roaster crows it sounds as if some one was closing a sqweaking gate. Oh what a voice. I am glad you are getting enough to eat. Talk about chicken soup say if Napolean don’t put some lard on his roaster’s throat some of the neighbors will be having some chicken soup. By the looks of things it dosent seem as if you would be home for the 12th of Oct. but of course nobody knows. They might send you home as quick as they sent you down there, almost without any warning.

I didnt go up to the Band Consert tonight because I was kind of tired when I got home. I was hot and Lena and I sat on the steps with little Mary and watched Bert go by. We took her home about half past seven and we came home at 8. Lena has gone to bed but I will drop this in the box before I fall in.

I hope this letter finds you well and contented for a while longer anyway. I am almost asleep. Tomorrow night I will leave the house about 7 o’clock as the show starts at 8. Now I must close.

With Love from all

 Milly

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

From Em, Charlestown Mass. 8/19/1916

Dear Sam.

I just received your letter and am very glad to know you passed the examination. I hope your arch wont hold you back. As for your weight that is all right. Uncle Al only weighs 111 and I weigh 105. You have gone along fine so far in training and promotion so don’t quit. I addressed a card to you last night but Bert carried it in his pocket all night. After this I must tend to the mail myself.

When I wrote your last letter I send a card too because I had no stamps. When little Mary mailed it she only put a 1 cent stamp on. I went down to the post office to see about it and he said it must have gone. If you don’t get it from the top Sergent it might be at the post office down there. My name was on the back of it but it didn’t come back.

I said in my other letter about the time Liggetts is having out to Braves field. There is a couple of girls who are not going and I’m going to get their tickets for Bert and Lena. I asked Pa if he could go but he said he would be working that night and couldn’t get off. He has his hours changed on account of the vacations. It will be just the kind of a show he would enjoy seeing. He may try to get off though.

You told me you were going to send home your mail that you were saving and I’ve been looking for the parcel. Did the storm hurt that? I’ve got quite a bunch of mail from you and I’ve saved it all.

Mary and Lena have gone out to do the shopping and I’m minding the beans. Mary and I are going to the movies tonight, up the Hurst’s and see Mutt & Jeff in movie cartoons. Lena paid your insurance yesterday. Jim Coyne is in Co. H. You asked on Lena’s postal if we could read them. Yes it don’t make any difference how small it is as long as the writing is plain. I have a good eyesight and have read every word on them so far. I must hurry up with this letter and set the table. It is Sat afternoon and beleive me its lonesome here, too. I had the bathroom all to myself and no one to hit my nose or bother me.

I hope the rumor that says you are coming home for the 12th of Oct is true. Did you kiss the other soldiers as Mary told you to and keep the big ones for yourself. Well I must close as the paper is full. Hoping this finds you well I remain.

With Love from all

Em.

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