view counter

Veterans Day Remembrance

Letters home from a new soldier, drafted to fight World War I

November 11 brings us once more to Veterans Day, our nation’s day of remembrance of all our veterans, living and dead. The 96-year-old commemoration began as Armistice Day, celebrating the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when soldiers of the Allied Forces and of Germany, the enemy, laid down their weapons.
    The war to end all wars began in Europe on July 28, 1914. The United States joined the conflict as an Associated Power on April 6, 1917, promptly drafting 2.8 million men. By the summer of 1918, 10,000 American soldiers a day were shipped to France to fight.
    One of those drafted was A.L. Dixon, an Illinois country man who described his experiences in regular letters to a schoolteacher in a tiny Illinois village. The teacher was Miss Cora Smith, my first cousin twice removed, whose papers have descended to me.
    Inspired by the Maryland archivists who I interviewed in anticipation of Saturday’s Family History Festival, I opened and read his long-forgotten letters, transcribing (as exactly as I could) one for you to read here.
    I suspect Dix, a sergeant in the Quartermaster Department, never reached France, for his letters continue from Louisville through April 17, 1919. What became of him I don’t know but shall have to discover.

December 13, 1917
Dear Friend:
    When you want to know how good homemade candy tastes, just join the army for the candy was sure good, a sergt” here stoled some of it and when I bawled him for it he said that I should be satisfied to know a girl that could make good candy.
    I know you have a hard time making out my writing and you know how hard I worked in school, gee — but we never thot them days that all of this war would spring up and get some of us shot.
    When anyone trys to tell you that Ky is a warm state you tell em that its all wrong for we have about one foot of snow here and some cold.
    Miss Cora I am making good here nowdays and I am acting Sergt” seems with good luck I will have my stripe some day but don’t tell this for one is never sure of a thing here and I may get fooled.
    I have had charge of the QMC wagon train for over three weeks am boss of 22 mules, 30 men & 25 wagons and you should see my head swell when I line these men up and yell ‘tention’ squadron right boys march, am such a bear on that & they can hear me all over the camp.
    Who is your best ever now days? and does ‘ma’ let him stay late on Sun night? The girls swarm this camp on Sundays but I stay clear of em some of them are kids and I sure would like to spank the ­little fools.
    We had a fine thanksgiving dinner here and I was invited to a home in Lville but I was on duty & missed out.
    Come down and I will take you to a show at our new theater its some play house and will seat 4,000 of us boys and we have the best of shows here, in this barracks we have lawyers – Drs – artist – school supts – and most any kind of trade but all are soldiers now, and we hear better singing here than at a show.
    Me thinks we will soon see France and I hope so, just to get this over with.
    I have taken out $500 insurance and Mother may find herself rich some day soon, sure was pleased the way old Calhoun [County] helpt us boys she is a good old Co that’s sure.
    Some how I have been afraid of you ever since you called me a 2 face and laughed at me when I took that hard fall at the barn gate remember how you laughed at me?
    Must go to work so please write until you get all the news to Camp T — and many thanks for the candy and good letter.

Friend Dix [A.L. Dixon]
Utilities Branch
QMC Dept.
Camp T, Ky

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com