The Adventure Unfolds…


“No complete story of America’s part in the war will ever be written until somebody has made a collection and read thousands of the letters home.” -Heywood Broun, The A.E.F.

Harry Gregson-Williams, “The Letter”

“Letter From Home” by C. LeRoy Baldridge, 1918

This collection of cards and letters were sent home to Boston by my great-uncle Sam Avery during his various deployments as a U.S. Army soldier during the period of World War One. During the early 20th Century which was also known as the “Golden Age of Postcards” in America, written correspondence was both an art form and the only way to keep in touch across the miles. Postage was 1 Cent for a postcard and 2 Cents for a letter.

These writings are addressed to Sam’s immediate family living in Charlestown, Massachusetts including his sisters Emily (Em) and Helen (Lena), his brother Henry, his nephew Leonard (Henry’s son), his brother-in-law Bert (Lena’s husband), his father Fred (Pa) and also his friend “Little Mary.”

Sams Family

Sam, Henry, Em, Lena and Leonard


Lena and Pa

I have transcribed Sam’s letters exactly as he wrote them, editing nothing and only adding commentary to clarify his references and the historical context in which they were composed.

In the U.S. Army handbook entitled Management of the American Soldier by Maj. Gen. David C. Shanks (1917), officers were instructed to encourage their men to write home to their loved ones. Again, General Order No. 66 from AEF General Headquarters dated May 1, 1918 stated the following:

“Duty to one’s country does not end on the parade ground, nor even on the battlefield, but consists of doing everything in one’s power to help win the war. To write home frequently and regularly, to keep in constant touch with family and friends, is one of the soldier’s most important duties. Mothers and fathers will suffer if they do not hear often from sons fighting in France. In the present large companies, it is not possible for officers to write letters for their men, and every man must do it for himself.”

As we shall see, Sam Avery did not need any such “official” encouragement or assistance to keep in touch with his family and friends as he longed for hearth and home. Rather, Sam reveals himself to be a well-read and engaging writer who vividly captures the nature of his life and times on the front lines of America’s Great War with humor, irony and compassion.

SoldierLetterHomeSam’s letters are published here according to the sequence in which they were written. Therefore, they are organized in “reverse order” with the most recent at the top. To read them chronologically, please start at the bottom of the blog and work your way upwards. Simply click on the Soldier’s Mail image-link near the top of the sidebar to start with the first posts and join Sam’s adventure at the beginning. Students of history and members of the military may find a special resonance and compelling story in these letters from 100 years ago. If so, please let me know. I would like to hear from you.

Please subscribe to the blog and march along with Sam and others of the Most Gallant Generation…

REL, Memorial Day 2008


 Men Who March Away, Eyre, 1934

Men Who March Away, Eyre 1934

Writing Home by Joseph Chase

Published on May 26, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Comments (15)  

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You have a real gift in these letters. As someone trained as a historian I constantly moan about the difficulty future historians will have learning about us, with only the ghosts of deleted emails to comfort them.

    You do honor to your great-uncle with this site. Imagine going back and trying to explain to him, “So someday all your letters will be on this thing called the Internet and the grand-nephews of the men you fought against can read them from their homes across the world.”

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading about the rest of Sam’s adventures.

  2. This really is a fantastic blog – thank you for sharing these personal pieces of history.

  3. Your blog is amazing. Everything is so good. Color scheme, font type, design everything is according to the subject of your blog. posts and pictures are also very interesting. I liked it very much. Thanks for sharing link.

  4. By any chance, were you in the publishing program at GW 06-08?

  5. No, I’m afraid not. This is my first foray into a serious writing and publishing project outside of commercial desktop work.

  6. Well your blog reminded me of one that someone in class was putting together.

    Nevertheless, you have done an amazing job of putting together this memorial. The design is very fitting, and in the construction a reader can see how much care you have taken in presenting your content.


  7. Thanks so much for your kind words! It is always great to hear from readers who find Sam’s words and the site design engaging. It continues to be a great adventure. I am also working on a manuscript of the material for a forthcoming book of the same title, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, please keep visiting and commenting as Sam has many miles to go before he sleeps…

  8. I love reading Sam’s letters. I found this site while googling ‘Letters from Soldiers WW1’ one day; and have read from the beginning, til now. I check here almost every day, to see if there is anything new. Finally figured out Em is his sister, and not his wife. (He must get married later?) Keep up the good work! 🙂

  9. Hi Tina:
    Thanks so much for the kind words. Sam does indeed marry a few years later. You will have to wait for the Epilogue for that. Em was both Sam’s younger sister and my paternal grandmother, but she died when my Dad was only 9 years old so I never knew her. I understand she played a mean harmonica. Keep on reading!

    Best Regards,

  10. My experience with the 26th Yankee Division was somewhat different than that of many others. I was just a kid in High School in Brighton Mass. and it was 1947 on Dec. 3rd when I walked into the Commonwealth Armory, raised my hand and an officer swore me in.

    The unit was the 26th Division Artillery (DivArty) I remained in for ten years and twenty years later I joined up again at the age of forty eight. I retired after 25 years of service, retiring as a full time tech. at Fort Devens.

    The distinction of being the youngest member when originally joining up and finally retiring as the oldest member may be my claim to fame. Nevertheless the years were great experiences of which I have no regrets. I have always wondered just how many are still around now when myself, at the age of 77 is still going strong, alive and healthy.

    Please feel free to write back. Will be glad to share my experience of the past years I served in the guard.

    Dick Callahan

  11. Hi Dick:
    Welcome and thank you for your service! It is great to hear from readers who have either directly served with the “Yankee” Division or have relatives or ancestors that have served. Please explore the site as there is much information here on the formative and earliest combat experiences of the Division.
    Best Regards,

  12. Thanking you for the quick response. I was wondering just how many out there can recall members of 26th DivArty in the fifties as I was member between 1948 to Dec of 1956. Then again between 1980 to 1994. The YD reactivated after the war in 1946 and in all those years some members remained as members for forty years, being forced to retire by age 60. A long time to be in the reserve program of the army. In my case I retired finally after twenty five years at the age of 62.

    Cordially again,
    Dick Callahan

  13. I have only just begun to scratch the surface of this site, but it looks very intriguing. Thank you for posting a link on James Daly’s site (which is how I got here). Having studied the technology of war for over 40 years, I have more recently been exploring the personal side of war, and I look forward to exploring this treasure trove of first-hand information.

  14. There was an article online about a hospital being set up in Boston; it seemed to have been a demonstration of the facility and its capabilities after the Mexican-American war. Thousands of volunteers enlisted as a result of this, and I suppose, speeches by recruiters. The men signed up in Connecticut. This is vague, and I apologize; I thought I bookmarked the article and poof!


  15. My research is on 2nd Lieut. Charles William Scott, born in Huron, Ohio, in 1891. He was a casualty on July 29, 1918, Aisne-Marne; Charles was in the 102nd Field Artillery. News of his death did not reach his famly until November of that year. I am attempting to trace his life from the point of leaving home to attending college at Ohio State University, accepting a job with a lumber concern, and enlisting with the 26th Division. It has been an intersting search. This site has been educational and most helpful — thank you! Anna

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