World War I in Austin Letters 1917

Both Uncle Raymond and Uncle McKinley (Mac) were in WWI, though in 1917, just Mac had enlisted. There are a number of letters from this time frame. Thank you to my mom for sharing with me Uncle McKinley’s and other Austin letters that are in this post.

Barryville, NY, January 15, 1917
Dear Friend,
Received your letter last week. We were glad to hear that you were still in America. We haven’t any horses this winter, so I hardly ever get to Eldred or in fact anywhere. They had a box social in the fall and another one around Thanksgiving, but it was while I was in Brooklyn, so naturally I did not get to that one.

It certainly has been a very cold winter. 30 degrees below zero some of the time, but we really haven’t much to kick about in that direction as we have plenty of wood.

I have a cousin who is a major in the Aviation Corp…I have not heard since where he went. Ruth

Feb 7, 1917
Dear friend McKinley,
Received your letter some time ago and really intended to answer it before, but was busy the last couple of days keeping warm (or trying to, haha).

Monday certainly was a terrible day. The wind blew about 50 miles per minute. You speak of mud. I don’t believe that I would know what much looks like. Aunt Noval said that there were several Sundays when there wasn’t anyone except the minister and Christine that ventured out to church…Every cold day, I make a new vow that I will not stay here another winter, but I suppose that I will not have courage when it comes to the pinch, to get a job…
Belle Mills is teaching here now. Went to visit the school the other day with Anna and it surely was a circus. I never saw so many methods of “spit ball” throwing in my life, but well, I guess she is about as good as the average teacher. Your friend, Ruth

Jersey City Heights, NJ, June 5, 1917
Dear friend Mort,
Hello Mort and co! How is things? It’s a long time since we have seen each other last. Isn’t it a shame this dreadful war is being carried on. Everything is going up. Gussie [his wife] said it is just awful the way the prices of eatables and etc. is going up.

Well, at any rate, I (with the Almighty’s grace) expect a newcomer in the early part of August sometime. Let em come and the more the merrier.

Say Mort, there is a young friend of ours who would like to go away this summer with her niece (9 years) old and we suggested your place. I told her we don’t know but I would write and find out. She is a good soul. She would like to go away for the last two weeks in July. If you are taking boarders Mort, do you think you could take her and her 9 year old niece for the last two weeks in July?

I am back at it again Mort…I am thinking seriously of going to Florida this coming fall. I have already corresponded with one of the railroads for a freight checking position which I am now doing…I am very anxious to get away from this climate and its winters…With love to all from us all, As ever, your true friend, Chas. S.Dassori

Postcard July 1917
I have been accepted and am at Ft. Slocum. Your son, McKinley.

Jersey City Heights, NJ, July 31, 1917
Dear Friend Mort,
…Say, I had a good hearty laugh over that parcel your wife sent me by Mrs. Beltrame. It was a pipper. The picklet I put it in a barrel and it’s half ripe already. The onions are devoured also.

I took the parcel along with me last Sunday (just as you sent it) over to the hospital where Gussie is and let her open it; well we had some laugh over it. Mrs. Beltrame was with me at the time. I’ve got another (stem winder) I mean a boy Mort, so that makes it four boys and one girl.

Mort, I was to have my vacation starting August 6, but I phoned in to the boss and explained matters and things was arranged for me to have it now. So you see I am now a he she or two in one. Chief cook and bottle washer and dish slinger. Just as soon as things is in running order again, I’ll do my utmost to call on you over some Sunday. Gussie wishes to be remembered to all.

Say Mort, shall we charter Pullman cars when we go west; or shall we cut down expenses and ask for cut rates on freight cars. We could up a stove in one of them and cut a hole in the roof for a pipe…Many thanks again for the parcel. As ever your true friend, Chas Dassori

Chickamauga, Aug 4, 1917
Dear Aunt,
I am here and like it better than at Fort Slocum. We get better food and the officers seem better, though we had a fine sergeant there. It took over 34 hours to come here, counting from the time we left the barracks at Ft. Slocum, till we got here.

If I am lucky, and come back, I wouldn’t miss this for five thousand dollars. The trip down to here was worth a year of a man’s life. I’ll never forget it. I am sure….For the present, my address is: Mortimer Austin, 11 US Inf, F Company, Military branch, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Your nephew, McKinley (They put me down by my first name here.)

August 4, 1917
To all the family, relations and friends, I am very well and certainly like this place.

We left Port Jervis on the morning train instead of the 12:15…of the fifteen applicants, only two, Al Delaney and I went. We were examined at Poughkeepsie and a bunch of us, 13 in all, were sent to Ft. Slocum. We got there late at night.

Sunday we were examined again and four were sent back. Also we were vaccinated and inoculated for typhoid. My vaccination didn’t take, but the inoculation did. Monday we got our uniforms and were assigned to our squads. Tuesday afternoon, we were told to get ready to go South. And we were examined again.

About 7:30, we left our barracks, turned in our blankets and marched to the parade ground. The commander inspected us. Then we were sent aboard a ship and sent down the East River. All the way down, everybody on shore was waving. Every boat was saluting and the factor whistles were blowing. The Battery was crowded with people cheering, waving and throwing their hats in the air.

I saw the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and other noted places. They shipped us from Jersey City, through on a special train. We were well received everywhere. As we went through the towns, we would sing and cheer and wave to the crowd. My throat and arms got tired, but I never had so much fun before in my life. We certainly got some welcome.

In one East Tennessee town there was a little girl about eight years old holding a baby about the size of Robbie standing by the track and waving to us. The country through east Tennessee is very beautiful and so are the girls. The ladies of this region are very good looking and nice acting girls. They have a ladylike way that a good many of the northern girls, especially those from the city, have not. And they dress properly for which I think counts a good deal toward making a lady. Of course, I may have only seen the best sort of them, and may later see the short skirted loud mouthed, painted over dressed female that we see too much of in our cities.

Give my regard to all our town and soon I will begin writing to my friends up there. from Mac, otherwise, Mortimer Austin…

August 12, 1917
Dear Ma,
I have not got any letters yet, but I suppose everyone is well. The army is no picnic, but it is not so very bad. They say our lunch is to be assigned to the machine guns…I was vaccinated the second time and it is coming on pretty good. I was down to the station where they were unloading watermelons and a man dropped one of the melons on my sore arm.

Most of the officers are good, but there are two I don’t like. One is a sergeant who thinks that hollering is the only way to learn a man. The other is a conceited kid corporal. Jimmy Sullivan says he would like to meet them again when the war is over. Sullivan is an Irish sailor. He had been in the merchant marine and has been through the danger zone lots of times without seeing any U boats. His boat helped pick up survivors from other ships three times. He says every port in France is full of German prisoners. He says that there are no soldiers in Europe that can match the British in bayonet fighting. I thought the French were better, but I have heard a good many say not.

Just got your letter (double underlined). Give my love to the family. from your son, McKinley

682–60 St., Brooklyn, ? year
Dear friend McKinley,
I got your card and also a letter from Aunt Aida. It was some surprise to us as I thought you weren’t old enough. It seems only a short time since you were quite small. I hope you enjoy the life and that it agrees with you and that you get to be a healthy robust man as it is great outdoor live.

I have some friends away like you and they all like it real well and they tell me they are treated grand and that there health improved so I hope and pray to God that the war will be over before they will have to send any more of our Americans.

Aunt Aida and Uncle Lon must have felt awful at you going away from them as they were so used to having you with them and also your parents and the family. But I hope you nor any more of the boys won’t have to.

Take care of your health and be a good boy and let us hear from you when you get a chance as we all join in sending our best wishes to you and hopes God will save you and all our Americans…Hoping to hear form you soon, Mr. and Mrs. and Estelle Carlin

Barryville, Sept 10, 1917
Dear M. Austin,
Enclosing check 49.52 and money order 2.28 to apply on Note dated May 3/17 from month amount 9000 as follows on Principal 50.00
Interest 1.80
balance due on note 40.00
Think you have done very well. This is war times you know. It will be all right to pay the balance next month. Yours Truly, Geo Carner

August 24, 1917
Dear brother,
How are you? I am getting along well now. I did have a very sore arm, but it is a good deal better now. We have bayonet drill now and rifle practice. Our captain showed us some trenches modeled after the best and newest types and gave us a talk about transverses, parapets, etc. and their uses. Our lunch is in with the regulars now…

September 5, 1917
Dear Father,
We had a holiday today as this is the day when the drafted men were called. There was a big parade in Chattanooga. My company was not in it fortunately and I had a day off. I watched the men march down Market St. They took about three quarters of an hour passing. The drafted men marched behind the soldiers. There were a number of Civil War veterans in the parade wearing their old uniforms of blue or gray.

I bet the drafted men will be sick of war soon. We got some hard drill at first, but I don’t think it was anything to what the conscripts get. Some of our non commissioned officers were transferred to train the National army as the conscripts are called, and from the way most of the regulars fee and speak of the “d—-slackers” they won’t be shown as much consideration as we were.

Some of our men got awful lectures at first and the NC officers say that a man that has to be made to fight, doesn’t deserve to be shown the patience a volunteer deserves. I don’t mean they will be ill treated because of the rules in the discipline that forbid striking a man and all that. But they will probably get some savage calling downs and be reminded they were forced to fight for their country.

At noon a couple of the boys and I were down on Market St. I was just going to look for a restaurant when a fellow came up to us and said. “Boys, there’s a lunch for you soldiers at the courthouse.” The lunch was served by the “Daughters of the Confederacy” and they sure treated us fine. They seemed to be afraid we won’t get enough to eat and they kept urging us to eat some more. One of the fellows with me, tormented the other by making out that the other wanted more to eat and the poor guy was as full as he could be. The first fellow would say, “Shorty wants some more cake.” Then a girl would come over with a plate of cake and offer it to “Shorty” who would protest that he didn’t want any more. The girl would think he was bashful and insist on his taking it while we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We made out that “Shorty” was the big eater of our company, but that he was bashful out among company. So the ladies tried to feed him all the more. When he got outside he gave us a calling down.

One of the old ladies told us that she had seen both armies in the Civil War and the men in camp in 1898, but that the lads in camp now were the best behaved soldiers she had ever seen. Good bye and best wishes from your son, McKinley

September 3, 1917
Dear Mortimer and Jennie,
We would be very glad to have a visit with you before we return. Will you give us the pleasure of your company with us at dinner on Sunday Sep. 9th at one o’clock that we may all keep the Lord’s Day together? We are all proud of Mortimer McKinley A. and we will be glad to talk of him with you in the place where he was born. Hoping to welcome you to the old cottage on the hill.
Very Sincerely Yours, Sara Hall Austin, Charlotte C. Hall

Eldred NY, September 15, 1917
Dear McKinley,
It is nearly nine o’clock, but I will write you a few lines as I have so little time during the week. Dr. Austin’s folks went back to the city yesterday and it seems rather lonesome. I will have the house this week and so be home every night.

I was rather diappointed when I came home Friday and did not find a letter at the Post Office from you, but I suppose you are kept pretty busy. Dr. Austin has not returned from Maine yet and so we have not been able to learn anything definite with regard to this place, but I think we will get it all right.

Your father and mother with the three youngest were up for a little while this afternoon. Your father is working on the road now. Raymond worked a while, but thought he was not getting enough and so left. I don’t know what he intends to do.

Willie seems to hate to go to school, so I will have to give him his work after school each day. I was in hopes I would not have to do any school work after school this year, but I do not like to make him go when he dreads it so.

Uncle Lon is very busy with the fall work. We had a very heavy frost three nights in succession and everything is killed. Miss Hall’s flowers were just beginning to look fine. Everything was so late this year.

Maggie Dunlap was in for some butter tonight. She said Harold wrote to you sometime ago, but has not heard from you yet. Dr. Austin’s wife received your letter. Do write soon, With love, Aunt Aida

Eldred, NY, September 20, 1917
Dear McKinley,
I have not had a letter from you in two weeks. This makes the fifth that I have written to you. I thought perhaps we were not getting each others letters, so I will register this to you to make sure of your getting it.
I had a letter from Mrs. Carlin last night. She said she had just written to you. Do let me hear from you, With love, Aunt Aida

October 7, 1917
Dear Ma,
I am sorry you were worried about me. I might say though that it is best to always believe the best you’ll hear of the worst. I have learned since I joined the army not to worry. I would have written sooner this time, but we had 24 hours in the trenches, a long hike, and a couple of sham battles and I have been so tired when the day’s work was over, I didn’t feel like writing. The strike is over and we can go to Chattanooga when it doesn’t interfere with our duties.

Oct. 9th: Aunt Aida was here yesterday. I thought I made it clear in my letter that I was out of the hospital and what ailed me. She said the folks told her that my letter didn’t say what was the matter or whether I was out of the hospital. I was glad to see her, but I thought it was foolish to come down here. from Mc Kinley

Chickamauga Park, Nov. 3, 1917
Dear Father,
I got out of the hospital alright. I wish I could get off and come home for a couple of weeks, but they are only giving short passes now.
I am sending you some pictures I had taken in Chickamauga. One of the pictures is of me on the bridge below Chickamauga, another of two fellows from the 52nd down at Crawfish Springs, another of another fellow and me at the same place and the other of a place on the road to Chickamauga.
Tell Aunt Aida I’ll send her the pictures too, and that I’ll write soon. But I am busy straightening my things out after being in the hospital and have not much time. Your son, McKinley

Chickamauga Pk, Dec 4, 1917
Dear father,
I am on guard at Fort Oglethorpe just now. I’ll be through and go back to our quarters the 11th. We go on guard every other day. My company goes on at 4 pm today. Then we come off at 4 pm to morrow and rest till Thursday.

Unless the rules are changed in our regiment, no furloughs will be given and no passes for over ten days. We have now a system for giving passes. A person who has been in the army:
4 months can get a 6 day pass
5 months can get a 7
6 months can get a 8
8 months can get a 9

As it costs almost $45.00 with the new war tax on tickets and it takes near two days, I don’t think it worthwhile getting a six day pass. I would only be home two days. Most likely we will be here in March, then I’ll see if I can get a 9 day pass. I would like to see home before I go to France as I think the war will last some time.

The climate here averages much warmer than home. There are spells of cold weather, but they do not last long. The average type of weather here is the sun is very hot in the middle of the day. It gets cool about four o’clock and is very cold by morning (of course it isn’t as cold as it is home then. The nights are cool all the year.

This part of Georgia is much colder than the average as we are in the mountains. The sudden changes in the weather are the worst here. The ground never is frozen very deep and soon thaws out, I am told. So far the ground has not been frozen as I have noticed. This is another disadvantage as it allows the “hookworm” to spread among the people. If a person understands how to prevent the spread of this trouble, there is no danger and cure is easy and certain. If a person has a good warm house and uses sense, this wouldn’t be a bad place to live.

Work is not so well paid as it is in the North, but rents are lower and I believe land, is cheaper. Of course, it takes money to buy a farm in good condition. There are several companies here who will money on farmlands at reasonable. rates.

To give you examples, I will send you some advertisements of farms for rent or sale. Running from 4 to 7,000 acres. And Raymond was thinking of coming here and getting work. I’ll put in some labor advertisements. Well, I’ve got to get ready to go on guard now. from your son, McKinley

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