This story is one of many "letters home" written by young men who left home for the "Great War." The Prosser Republican-Bulletin published many of them from former local residents to the delight of their readers. I was amazed at how well they could write. Remember, this was a handwritten letter.
Soldier boys encountering many hardships
Published on November 15, 1917
The Prosser Republican-Bulletin
The following letter, written by Al Cotton to his brother Bert will be found of interest to the people of Prosser. The letter is dated November 4, 1917, and was written at the Marlborough Hotel, New York City.
I presume you received my card, written enroute to Camp Greene, N. C. I believe it was written during the second day of the trip. We were seven days and eight nights on the road. We camped at Camp Greene seven days, then were moved to Camp Mill, Long Island We have been here about then days. The question we are now asking is, “Where do we go from here?”
Camp Mills is about thirty miles from New York City. The reason I am in New York is that passes are issued for time from Sat. noon until Monday morning, which gives plenty of time to spend money.
I have not seen much of the city in daylight, so do not know much about it as yet. Will take a trip this afternoon and investigate.
We are living the regular army life now. Since leaving Walla Walla, while not traveling, we live in tents.
The climate here is much better than at Camp Greene, although the camp site is not as good. The atmosphere there was hot and heavy during the day and cold and damp at night. The change from the dry west laid almost all of us out with a cold. Of course, sleeping out had something to do with it. Here, the climate is somewhat similar to Wisconsin. It is better, if anything, and dry comparatively. At this season of the year, the nights are cold and snappy. Most of the days are sunny and cool enough to make one feel like working.
The camp is located in the middle of Long Island, so we get full benefit of the sea breezes, which give us good appetites. The fact is, I have a better appetite than ever before in my life. I can eat anything at any time and all I can get. Everything tastes good, whether it is good or not. I can now eat food that I could not eat before.
There is not even a mess hall here. We did have them at Camp Greene. There we would line up with our mess kits, (I presume you have one now) and were served cafeteria style, and ate on long tables in the mess hall. Here we are served in the same manner, but have to go to our tents to eat, during cold weather. We were issued “Sibley” tent stoves (you no doubt have seen them). They are the best things I have seen.
Judging from your letter, you fellows live higher than we do. We never have special Sunday dinners. Every day for us is like the others, regular army rations. So far as I can recall, our meals are selected from these items: meats, beef, bacon and wieners; potatoes, beans macaroni, tomatoes, peach and apple sauces, jam (about once a week) butter about twice each week, oatmeal with milk, bread or hardtack, and sometimes rice or bread pudding. If we want extras, we get out and buy a “square.” In fact, some of the items mentioned above are purchased with money from our mess fund.
We did not receive any woolen clothing until the day before we left Camp Greene, then were issued only one pair of trousers and an overcoat; also one more blanket was given us there. You can imagine how uncomfortable we were living in tents in cold weather, with only two blankets and a “shelter half” for cover. Last Friday we received another issue, including one complete woolen uniform, two suits of woolen underwear, four pair woolen socks and a “Red Cross” sweater and a pair of woolen gloves, so we are now very comfortable, considering everything. We are now becoming accustomed to tent life and will be ready for colder weather as it comes. I hope, however we land in some barracks before winter sets in.
I wish our mothers could see the way we eat and live. It would probably shock them. We are not overly particular about dirt and grime nowadays. We have noting but cold water for washing and bathing, so don’t wash or bathe very often, unless we strike a chance for a hot one.
There is a good bunch of fellows in my tent. There are eight of us. However, it would be no place for ladies. Our tent has a reputation for bantering and joshing and we often call one another hard names. Of course, it is done good naturedly and our tent is the most popular in the battery street. It is known as the “Purple Pup.” It is an old one left here by the troop preceding us. All the tents used here are left standing when the troops occupying them move out, their stop here not being long.
By the time this reaches you, we may be elsewhere or on our way. As yet, we have received practically no artillery drill and for the past month have done practically no training of any kind, excepting signal work. We will have to get down to business pretty soon.
I have been assigned to what is known as the battery detail, which consists of scouts, signal and instrument detail. I am in the instrument detail. It has the range finding, etc., and is made up of picked men. I might say the men are sentenced to the job. Of course, we had our choice in the matter. I am sure I will like the work better than any other.
Al Cotton, Camp Mills, Long Island, N.Y., “E” Battery, 146 F. A., 41st Division.