Letters Home from our Boys in Service
The Philippine-American War, 1899–1902
LETTER TO MRS. G.M. TAYLOR
Letter From a Kansas Boy Who Is Serving In Mindanao. Mrs. G. M. Taylor of Newton, Ills., has received a letter from her son Clarence, who was wounded in the Philippines, but has since returned to the ranks. It tells of some blood curdling deeds perpetrated by the Filipinos, says the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. The letter is dated Cagayan, Mindanao, April 12, and is in part as follows: "When my regiment left for Mindanao, I was left in Manila with a slight attack of malaria fever. I rejoined it two weeks ago at this town, where there are 350 of the regiment now. Nothing of importance happened until the night of April 8, when all the natives began leaving town. We thought something would happen, but did not think the natives had nerve enough to come into the town and attack us. But in this we were mistaken. About 5 o'clock on the morning of April 7 the bell in the cathedral church began ringing ominously. It was the signal for an attack. A minute later it stopped I heard the worst yelling I ever heard in my life, and the shooting commenced. We had to face about 1,200 Filipinos, who looked like Indians, and we did not at once fire on them, as we ought to have done. As they drew nearer we found they had on women's dresses and cried 'Amigo,' deceiving us into thinking they were women fleeing to us for protection. We saw through their ruse at once, however, and knew we were in for a fight. Our boys began to pour hot shot into them, and they began to fall like Kansas jack rabbits. One of them pinned one of our soldiers to the ground with a spear after his leg was broken by a Mauser. The natives danced around and tried to bolo the stricken soldier, calling all the time on 'God to help him'.
Our loss was three killed and ten wounded, while the enemy lost 64 killed. Their wounded is unknown. The Filipino commander says he will have the head of every American in town. I wish you could have seen the way they butchered two of our three men killed. They cut one body into strips and then cut the heart out. Two soldiers were killed on outpost duty before they could get back to us. It has since been learned from two others that escaped that the natives surprised them in a cunning way. They came up at early dawn, stooped over, carried their shields in front and swayed from side to side, in imitation of a herd of cattle, which indeed the boys thought they were. The two men killed were boloed to pieces." [The Rock Island Argus, Volume 48, Number 199, 11 June 1900]
World War I
"Letters from the Boys"
"What They Think of War Service"
Newton Press, January 3, 1919
©Transcribed by Kim Torp
Mrs. Myrtle Brown, Newton, ILL, U.S.A.
Co. B, 130 U.S. Inft. A.E.F., France, Nov. 24, 1918
I hope when this letter reaches you, it will find you well and enjoying yourself. I am as well as usual and my hand is better than it was.
The first front that I was on was the Somme, or Amiens (?), in reserve on the short front, the front line trenches. The Company was up twice, but I wasn't there the first time. The boys said they found dead German and English soldiers that had laid there four months, so you can guess what they looked like, as they were nothing but skin and bones. Then we moved to the Verdun front, which was the worst of all. Started Sept. 24, and got there Sept. 25 at 12 midnight.
Sept 26 at 4:30 a.m., I got wounded just half an hour after the boys went over the top. I was up in what they called Dead Man's hill and from the way they put the shells in the trenches it sure was Dead Man's hill. There's were I, Roy Fouts, Leo Greger and Roscoe Reisner, got wounded, and John R. Balch, one of the boys, was killed.
The boys moved up to another place and stayed there 27 days; got relieved and went to Argonne Forest stayed there until they got relieved and went back to rest up.
When I got hurt I was just inside a dugout, about three feet when Jerry sent over a shell and wounded four of [unreadable].
When I was X-rayed they said they got three pieces in my left side - about the size of buckshot - and of the arm I don't know of any. They got a piece about the size of a dime out of my hand. I got a little scratch along the side of the head, back of the ear and on the cheek, so you can see they were after me.
Well, I don't know how long it will be before I get home, but I think it will be a month, anyway. I don't believe it will do any good to answer this letter, for I will be coming home by the time the answer would get here.
I am at Vichy, the place where the water is shipped from to the States. Vichy water is a fancy tasting water. There are two or three kinds of water here; some is hot, some cold and some is luke warm. There is a difference in the taste.
Pvt. Andrew Brown, Co. B, 130th U.S. Inft. A.E.F., France
From Raymond Yelton
G. Hotel Astoria, Et De L'Arc Romain, Aix-Les-Bains, Nov. 24, 1918
Mr. John R.Yelton, Greenup, ILL., U.S.A.
Dear Father and Home Folks:
I thought I would drop you a line to let you know that I am all right, and hope you are all the same; the reason why I haven't written lately is because I haven't had any place on which to write and no writing paper, but I am on my leave now and things are different.
I am at Aix-Les-Bains,, one of the swellest summer resorts in Europe, for 7 days and believe me I sure can enjoy a life of ease, after what I have gone through the last eight months.
I was at the grand finish of the Hun, one of the things which I had often longed to be. Oh yes, I have seen a lot of action, too much, I tho't sometimes. I was at the drive when she first started near Metz and believe me had old Fritz agoing some too. He went so fast that he had hardly time to bury his dead. He left several for us to bury, a job which did not appeal to me at all. Have been all around the Verdun sector, was at the Argonne Forest, the morning that we went over the top. Some people may say they like to hear the scream of the shell, and whistling machine gun bullet, but for my part a little goes a long ways until you get used to it, and then you don't mind it at all.
It seems so strange to have no noises at all any more. I guess that I must have heard so many shells that ..... [missing text]
Of course I don't know when I will be getting home, nor does any one else;it must be soon, I sure hope, but will have to take my turn.
I don't know what I will do when I get home, I may go back to school; guess I won't be too old. The army is a mighty poor place to save money, even if we do have everything furnished.
The house that I am staying at is some swell place. I judge it would cost a man at least
$30 a week for just a room and board, but our Uncle Sam pays the bill.
I remain as ever your loving son,
Eng. Wagon Train, Wagon Co. No. 3, 23rd Engineers, France, Via N.Y.
P.S. I am sending you a picture of my hotel
Dec. 1, 1918
Dear Father: Thought I would drop you a line to let you know that I am O.K. and having one of the best times in the world while on my leave - living like a gentleman.
I visited the Alps mountains today; well, in fact they are all around us that is I went to the top of one of them, way above the clouds; the snow was several inches deep up there while down in the valley the grass is still green. The only trouble is my leave runs out tomorrow and will have to go back to my duties to drill, I guess, to get ready for the big parades which we may pull off when we get back returned heroes and all that stuff.
There is just one thing I want to hear more than anything else and that is "All aboard for America." Believe me the Statue of Liberty will look good to a lot of us fellows. Staying over here was so bad when there was something going on; if you weren't dodging shells, you were hearing the machine bun bullets whistling around enough to keep one busy all right, but now it is different; but guess we can manage to wait till they say all aboard for the grand old U.S.A.
I suppose Ralph Fitch is on his way home by this time. I see where some of the soldiers have left England for the States. He will be in luck if he got to go so soon.
Well, you sure want to begin to prepare a good feed, for when I do get there that's all I'm going to do is eat and sleep.
I suppose Johnnie is still in Russia; he may get to go home soon, too.
Hoping this finds you all well and happy and wishing you a merry Xmas, I remain
Your loving son, Raymond Yelton
To Miss Dansel Pugh
U.S.S. Dixie, Queenstown, Ireland,
Wednesday, Nov. 27, 1918
Miss Dansel Pugh, Ingraham, Ill., U.S.A.
Dear Sister and All:
As today is my day off and just received a letter from you this a.m., thought I would write you a few lines in answer. The letter was No. 30, the one written Nov. 11th - that was the day the fighting ceased, so you see you people were celebrating early, but it had been so near the end for several days that it was reported early. I'll bet they did have some time there; would like to have seen Ingraham's dummy Kaiser. I guess he has hit for tall timber now.
We are still working hard and preparing to sail in a short time; don't know yet where we are going - some say to France first. I heard last night we were going there for two years' stay, but I think that was all gas. Some one starts something like that and then it goes through the whole ship's company. Every one has a different story. That is all we talk about, so one knows no more about it that the rest.
I am getting very anxious to set my feet on U.S. soil, although I would like to see France first, If I didn't have to stay too long, but oh, think of two years yet on this side, if that is true. But that is the least of my worries now for talk is cheap.
The Reserves are all going to get out soon. A bunch is going to leave this ship Friday for Liverpool and then across. Some have only been over on this side about three months and are going to go back, while there are some poor regulars that have been [text missing]... enlist in the Reserves for the war period when I enlisted, but nothing doing then. And only a short time afterwards you couldn't enlist any other way except in the Reserves. It is not treating us alike.
They are a bunch that didn't come in until the last thing and then got the best of everything all the way through, while a poor regular was in doing his bit before they ever thought of enlisting, and now they are going home while a regular has to stay and finish his four year cruise.
I am afraid it is going to hurt the Navy, too. They put up a sign on the bulletin board the other day for all who wanted to get out of the service to go to school or any others who had good reasons to turn in their names, reasons and time of enlistment. So the result was 91 per cent of the Melville crew, signed up and the per cent of the Dixie crew is going to run as high. Some one is going to be wondering about the reason for it all some time. It was all right in time of need, but now it is going to be much different.
Don't know what their answers will be, but they can't turn every one loose who has requested to be, or there won't be enough men left to man our ship; guess it is about the same every place.
I have heard of some trying to get out who are wearing three and four hashmarks, and each hashmark shows for four years' service. So it looks as though something is wrong, does it not?
Well, it is nearing chow time, so will have to ring off for a short time.
Will now try to write a little more. You were speaking about one of my letters being lost
for some time. I saw on the bulletin board where a ship went down near Liverpool, Oct. 9th, carrying mail to the
States, but only one bag which came from the Dixie crew; guess that was how my letter got wet. It must have been
on that ship, in the same accident, if it could tell the story.
There has been only one of my dear friends killed caused by the Germans (I mean from the base), I got acquainted with him while at Philadelphia and he came across in my bunch. We were together most of the time. We rate a seven days' leave every six months and so he had taken his in September and was on the way to London where most of the boys spend them. [text missing] heard how many were drowned or lost. It sure made me feel bad. I couldn't get him off of my mind for a long time. Just to think of getting off on a furlough, on a seven days' rest and being drowned. It must have been an awful death. I have never taken an hour off myself and after he lost his life I never had any desire to go to London. Temptations also are a fright there, from what I hear and see. Many would have been better off if they had never seen London, both physically and financially.
There were also two officers and ten men killed in September, when a ship rammed the U.S.S. Shaw, one of the Melville torpedo boats and cut her in two parts; half of it went down but the other half stayed on top. That is the greatest danger - of being rammed when they are in a convoy carrying several ships, for when it is foggy and no lights after night a ship can only be seen a short ways and if you get headed towards on and don't see her you are sure to ram her before you can stop or turn. It is very dangerous on misty days. A little of my experience on the Sterrett one night was: We sighted a Sub. periscope a little off on our star board side at 5 p.m.: general quarters were sounded and we all fell in and manned the guns, turned and made full speed towards her and the the third depth charge we dropped on her the oil commenced streaming up and flowing on top of the water, but she kept on going so we kept on following, dropping pills, but we never had but thirty with us; when we got down to three she was still going; we decided to keep them for case of emergency, so sent out word for assistance, but still kept on her trail; in about half an hour we could see two more destroyers peeping up on the horizon, making in our direction. Soon they were with us dropping their charges until they had dropped off 40 or 50 and our Captain sent them word to cease as they didn't seem to be taking any effect.
They shoved off leaving us still on the trail with every one eager to see her stick her
nose up so we could get a crack at her with our guns, but that she never did. So all hands and the ?? stayed at
our post all night in [text missing] have been, had
she ever attempted to come up any ways near the surface, but I guess she was crawling the ground so it was too
hot for her any place else. We were still on her trail at daylight and thinking she would soon come up so we could
get a pop at her; getting anxious, we got orders to give her the other three cans and let them go and still she
went; we kept after her until about eight o'clock; the oil quit coming up and as it was then getting very rough
we lost her for good; whether she finally rested on the bottom for good or kept on going we never knew. It was then we realized that we had had no supper, but ate a big breakfast and was considerably
disappointed because we couldn't bring any of the crew back with us. They think it must have been one of the latest type subs which are 300 feet long as the
charges would not affect it, for they hardly ever fail. They sure make an explosion. They are the highest explosives
there are, weigh 300 pounds each and are about three feet long and I judge about 18 inches in diameter. When you
drop one you can see fish coming up for half a mile away.
We also got 75 per cent credit for getting another sub. One morning at 3 o'clock the boys on watch sighted a submarine on the surface. It happened to be between us and the moon and as it was clear and the moon was bright, it gave them a good view; when first sighted a man was walking on the deck, but he didn't stay out long, for the first glimpse of us they got down they went; quarters were sounded and in a minute we were all at our post part of us dressed and part weren't. We were making full speed ahead towards her. Soon we were throwing cans again. Had only dropped a few when a large quantity of oil came up and spread on the surface. We then were most sure she was a goner, but never saw anything else come up; so we stayed there until daylight and then picked up an oar and a sail, but they had no marks on them to prove where they came from. A message was sent out for a Zeppelin to come and view the spot; we then shoved off and was out five days longer but when I got in the word was waiting for us that we had got 75 percent credit from the British Admirality. It was found to our credit.
Say, would you believe it if I was to tell you the Navy along sub [paper torn] forty million dollars to the [paper torn] Loan? Pretty good, [paper torn]
This leaves me O.K. and [paper torn] reaches you the same. I am
Your loving [paper torn]
Newton Press, January 7, 1919
©Transcribed by Kim Torp
From Doyt E. Barkley to Mr. and Mrs. D.C. Barkley
Antigny Le Grand, Franc (30 miles south of Verdun)
Dec. 9, 1918
Mr. and Mrs. D.C. Barkley, Yale, Ill., U.S.A.
Dear Mother and Father:
I am all right and hope you are the same. I got two letters from you folks a short time ago; was mighty glad to hear from you all.
We are doing nothing here in the way of drill. All I do is bugling. As I am the only bugler in this town, I am on duty all the time, but I do not do detail work of any kind at all. I have been barbering for the last two weeks during my spare time. Imagine me cutting officers' hair. I have cut about 40 heads so far. I am the only barber too, ha! ha! Charge 1 franc 25 centimes (25 cents in U.S. money). Bought my tools at a neighboring town, Joinville; cost $4.80 (24 francs)
We have a comfortable place here. There are six of us (all that remains of F.H. 336, the rest being transferred to a casual camp). We have a room by ourselves, about 18 ft by 16 ft. with 3 stoves of different kinds - cook stove, boiler stove, which we heat water in and boil clothes, and a heater. We seldom have more than two burning at a time though. Yesterday the old lady here brought us a big cherry pie; it was about 18 inches in diameter and good. She would accept no pay. Today she brought us a heaping platter of waffles. We added just a little sugar on top of them and they were great. The French are stinted on sugar themselves.
With your letter came a card from Helen Tagg??; I have not heard from Durward since I came here to France; from Harold once.
Carl Whisen??d says his company has been selected to go to Germany with the army of occupation; hope we are lucky enough to keep out of that.
Our bunch (F.H. 336) consists of Sergeant First Class Thomas A. Doherty from Clay City, Ill., Clay county; Private Robley U. Stephen, Flora, Illinois; Private Charles Bidwell, Albion, Ind.; Private Fred Gerew, Saginaw, Mich; Marshall M. Sturts (Pvt.) (Mort Sturt's boy), Hazel Dell, Ill; and myself. Some bunch. Six bachelors in a French kitchen. Imagine!
We have no news as to when we go home. Our colonel talks encouragingly; hope he is right.
Give my love to all and to little sister many kisses.
Your loving son,
Doyt E. Barkley
390 Sanitary Train, Fld. Hospt. 335, A.E.F.
From Earl Baker to Mrs. Frank Baker
Somewhere in France, Dec. 12, 1918,
Mrs. Frank Baker, Rose Hill, Ill., U.S.A.
Received four of your letters a few days ago. I am getting along fine, but have never met any of the boys but those who came over with me.
Received a letter from Aunt Cora Baker the same day I received yours; she sent me some clippings from the Newton Press and among them was a letter Shirley Reynolds had written to his mother from over here.
Do they know for sure whether Earl Hunt was among the missing on the boat on which he had started?
Well, how is everybody around the old home town?
I suppose Albert and Lou Beam are all right. Give them my best wishes.
Hope you are having nice winter weather. It isn't very cold over here, but we have much cloudy weather and rain.
Will close by wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
With love to all, your son,
From Fred Baker to Mrs. Frank Baker
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Baker
Rose Hill, Ill., U.S.A.
Dear Folks; Just a word to let you know I received the Christmas box and the letters. It was sure a fine lot of eatables and I enjoyed them very much. Hope you spent a merry Xmas together.
We had a fine dinner here and also nuts, candy and cigars for all. We also received a Red Cross package, each, which was very nice and contained a pair of gloves, one pair of socks, handkerchief, candy, cigarettes and tobacco - quite a nifty little package and we were all glad to get them.
Suppose Gene has lots to tell you, even if we didn't get to see much.
Received a letter from Alva (Dock) Foust, yesterday, which was mailed Dec. 3, in Belgium; he said they were all fight, but never mentioned Earl in his letter. The boys will have lots to tell us about when they get back home.
We have about three hundred patients here from the P. of E. hospital, as they intend to use that hospital for overseas patients.
Must close now.
Letter from William M. Hicks to Mrs. F.M. Hicks
(Transcriber's note: This is a letter printed in the Newton Press from my 1st cousin, twice removed which was printed
in the Newton Press, Nov. 15, 1918 just shortly after his death in WWI):
©Transcribed by Kim Torp
"The following letter from William M. Hicks to his mother was probably the last one ever written by him, as he was killed in action a week later, Oct. 10. He tells of capturing a German and forwarding the latter's picture home. Mr. and Mrs. Hicks contemplate having the photos of the two opposing soldier boys in uniform enlarged, put together, with the name of each, William's age, war service, incident of capture, and date and place of death printed thereon for a memorial souvenir."
Oct. 3, 1918
Mrs. F.M. Hicks, Newton, Ill., U.S.A.
Dear Mother and U All: I am fine and dandy; just got back from the front line; we sure had some fun up there; the last time we were up we had one of the largest battles that ever took place; it was Sunday, Sept. 29 at 5:45 in the morning and lasted about all day; we captured 31,000 prisoners. Had but just a few of our boys killed and a few wounded.
Roy Newlin is missing. I don't know for sure where he is.
I am an S.B. (stretcher bearer); about the same as a doctor in time of a battle. I take care of the wounded and dead. I had three days of hard work. I had eight prisoners to help me; believe me I did work them some.
I claim we broke the Hindenburg line you have often read about, that the Boches said we could not break, but we walked right through it. They had lots of girls with them in the trench; we captured them just the same; we have them in the hospital to help take care of the wounded.
I was lucky; I never got a scratch; the good Lord was with me for once.
Here is a picture of a German I captured. He gave it to me. Take good care of it for me till I come home. He was a fine fellow. His name was Mike Nickelsan.
From your loving son in France.
Goodbye to all.
William M. Hicks
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