Letter from Leslie Vesey to His Parents, Albert and Harriet (Hill) Vesey
Provided by His Grand Daughter, Dawn Puliafico of Ashland, Massachusetts
June 30th, 1918
3rd. Tr. Btn. 9th. Co.,
Camp Sherman, Ohio
Have been in the army now a week and many things have transpired in that time, so many things that it seems about a month since I left home. It is certainly quite an experience for a fellow.
While at Wesleyan we used to sing a song which ran as follows:
“They took me in the army and they handed me a pack.
They took away my nice new clothes and they dolled me up in “kak”.
They marched me twenty miles away
to train me for the war.
I didn’t mind the first nineteen
but the last one made me sore.”
There is more to it but this is enough to repeat. At the time I little felt the significance of these words but I realize now that the author of the song must have been writing from personal experience. I have been wearing “kak” ever since the middle of the week and my nice old clothes are lying on my suitcase under my cot awaiting shipment to Holland with some more unnecessary duds. At first we were barracked quite a distance from our eating hall and it was march – march – march; now we barrack and eat at the same building but the exercise is continued – real drill began in earnest day before yesterday. And I have something most wonderful now – A big appetite – be prepared Mother when I came on a furlough and have plenty on reserve at the store. I have an appetite 100%+ increase over my former average and I hope that it will spell about a thirty pound addition to my weight.
But I am getting ahead of my story. I reported Monday 10AM at the court house lawn with one hundred fourteen other selects. After due speeches, including one by Ex-gov. Willis we marched en-masse to the restaurant where we were fed and I may add that our meals now are not restaurant meals but mighty good stuff and I begin to realize now what food conservatism by you home people means to an army.
We were accompanied to the Hocking Valley by a very large crowd and it made the boys feel that everybody was behind them. While marching thru the crowd someone called my name and I made my way toward the voice to Miss Shaw (where I first roamed) gave me a box of candy as a send off. While we were crowding our way to the train another friend grabbed my hand and at the same time stuffed a package of gum into my pocket. These are little things but you know it makes one feel good.
Nothing very eventful occurred on the train. We arrived at Chillicothe late in the afternoon where we were switched over onto a road which runs thru the camp. We dis-entrained and were immediately lined up in double rows, ordered to open our shirt fronts – our chests and throats were now examined for evidence of disease and our suitcases for rum. After this we were marched along streets lined with barrack buildings – we passed a truck of raincoats, also one of blankets – men in these threw out a coat and two blankets to each man. Next we went into a supply building and received a big blue sack containing mess kit, overalls, towel, soap, brush, etc. We now went to another building, took out our mess kits, left the bags and went to supper. After cleaning our kits we returned and got our sacks and went toward our barracks – a very conspicuous bunch, each in citizens clothes, suitcases in hand, raincoat, blankets, etc. over shoulder. At practically every barrack we passed, soldiers would laugh and josh, hurling forth the following: “Where’re you from?” “Where’d you get the straw hat?” “Hey, fatty, how long you in for?” “The army is a great life if you don’t weaken.” And “wait till you get that shot” – the latter referring to the three inoculations we get at intervals of seven days. The men magnify the effects of this “shot” very much – one would think that it was almost sure death. This is all very ludicrous and more so when one is privileged to “see ‘yourself’ as others see you” in the new bunches of selects that come in every day – these same pet phrases are thrown at each new bunch and the “wait till you get that shot” especially emphasized.
Tues (I think) we went thru our medical examination. This was a busy place. We were all taken up stairs and stripped. Then a man came along with some kind of liquid and a blue pencil and as he came to each man he dabbed him with the liquid and wrote upon him a number consecutive with that of the man in front – I couldn’t help thinking of the way they number beef and pork at a packing house and I also thought of a passage in Isaiah, I think, which I put in the first person – we were like sheep for the slaughter and we opened not our mouths. As our names were called we went forth – we were weighed, measured, feet examined, eyes tested, legs examined, impressions taken of both hands (so that we cannot desert), identification marks also were noted, and finally we received our first “shot” which I hardly felt – it did however make my arm a trifle stiff for a few days, but I feel ready for the next one which comes Tues. All these various things were done by one, two or more men who were I suppose specialists on the different parts. In the afternoon we were signed up for insurance – most of the men I think including myself took out $10,000, costing 6 something per month which is very cheap and affords good protection. Father, I made this out in yours and Mother’s name.
We next got our suits and shoes. I wore #92 down here and they gave me #11’s to give my feet a chance to spread. They resemble very much those heaviest Plow B____ at the store. It is a good thing that we have gravel down here and no deep mud. This first pair were merely fitted on. Thurs we were marched to our shoe house where we were measured – this time they put down #12’s (Don’t’ tell my girl or she won’t write to me) – (Tell Claude tho). Don’t know what his number would be down here – think that they would run out of numbers in such an occasion.
I have not entirely overcome my shoes and leggings yet – I am bunking on the 2nd floor and I always find it infinitely easier going down than up, especially toward night – my legs and feet are rather tired at bed time but I am getting used to it. Reveille is sounded at 5:30 AM, a second call is made 10 minutes later and we must be out presently for roll call. We now go back, make our beds, sweep out from under our beds, wash and get ready for breakfast, which is called at 6AM. From 7:30 to 11:30 we drill – dinner at 12 noon – drill again from 1PM to 5PM. After this we are free except in case of special duty. Supper of course comes at six. We have base ball supplies in the barracks and I have been throwing some almost every night since we settled – hope to get my pitching arm in shape again and perhaps we can also get up a team.
We have a hundred and fifteen in our bunch, that is we did when we started out – several however were sent home as unfit. There are some pretty tough ones in the crowd who smoke cigarettes, swear, gamble, and who need a good cleaning up on the inside. As a whole however they are good-hearted fellows. There are some mighty good men in the bunch – one boy about my age Patterson by name I like especially well and chum with him mostly. His father was a minister and the boy has high ideals. There are I think six Wesleyan men in all, so you see I’ll have plenty of companionship. I have never before been so intimately associated with tough fellows and I realize more than ever now the value of a good father and mother and the home training they give.
This morning the chaplain of our regiment came over and gave a little talk, also two leaders of the Y.M. in our section. I hope to become closely connected with the “Y”. At 10AM four of us boys attended an Episcopal service here in camp. It is very good but too much form to suit me. I am going to hunt up a Methodist service.
Must close now and get ready for supper. Lola I had intended to send you a birthday card but instead will give you a whipping when I come home.
Tell everybody to write – excuse my mistakes in spelling as I have no dictionary to refer to in case of doubt.
P.S. Don’t know how I would get along without the kit and accessories – mighty handy. I have it hanging on a nail where I can get to it quickly. Don’t know whether I thanked you and Fern for it or not, Mother, but I do now anyway.