A Soldier's Letters from World War I
July 9, 2009 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Soldier's Mail: Letters Home from a New England Soldier, 1916-1919.
posted by Pater Aletheias (11 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is really interesting.

Also, I happened to click on a link in the blogroll, and found this great site as well, (not entirely unrelated).
posted by HumanComplex at 7:39 AM on July 9, 2009

Original Source documents make me so hot. Cover me in observational diary entrees and whisper sweet oral records in my ear all night long.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2009

Thanks for this -- excellent, this is the best of the web kind of stuff I think.
posted by Rumple at 10:18 AM on July 9, 2009

And thanks for that Iraq site, HumanComplex (the guy (Larry Voelger) can write, not surprisingly since he seems to have a Master's degree). I am sure there will be lots of future comparisons between letters home, then and now. Fuck it must be weird to be out in a tank all day blowing shit up, or not, then getting back to the base and surfing the internet.
posted by Rumple at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2009

I've been doing a lot of reading about the great war lately, and letters like these make the whole thing incomprehensible to me. The soldier, Samuel Avery, had family and friends, battled Germans and lice, had an odd sense of humor... and 16 million people like him died.

I keep trying to reconcile the battle reports (30 thousand dead here, 25 thousand there) with the idea that each one of those of men were human beings, with lives and stories; the idea that each of them had a favorite shirt.

I can't make any sense of it. And I'm kind of glad I can't. I have a feeling that being able to glimpse the entirety of such an enormous tragedy would be like looking on a Lovecraftian horror; too terrible to describe, and a certain route to madness.
posted by MrVisible at 11:15 AM on July 9, 2009

I've been reading Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August, and what strikes me is how wrong so many people were about so many things. Almost every single major political and military leader misunderstood the nature of their opponents, what strategy they were likely to employ, the length of any possible conflict, whether there would even be a conflict. History is filled with wars where one side or another made some major blunders, but it's hard to think of any other war where so many people got so many things wrong all at once.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the link! Fascinating stuff there (and in the Iraq link as well).

I took a military history class in my undergrad studies. The final project was to write a paper on WWII. I decided to be creative and write a series of letters from a 16-year-old boy who ran away from home to enlist (with the help of an older brother's ID card). All the letters were addressed to his mother. The final letter she received was the official government telegram informing the mother that her son was killed in battle. I actually enjoyed working on that paper, and now I'm curious if I have a copy saved anywhere...
posted by educatedslacker at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2009

As a WWI geek, I love this sort of first-hand account "daily life in the trenches" sort of thing. This is particularly intriguing as most of my collection is from British soldiers - it will be interesting to see how an American's experience is similar/different/etc. I'm also happy to note the wealth of links to other WWI sites, and no doubt I shall be lost in the maze of links for a few hours, reading and learning and remembering why I'm so fascinated by this war.

Thanks for sharing.
posted by paisley sheep at 4:28 PM on July 9, 2009

Holy cow do I love this link. Thank you so much!
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:36 PM on July 9, 2009

Something I really love about this is how much it could be any soldier from any time (with some changes in slang or location references, of course). A real great commonality in what soldiers choose to write home to their families from the front, no matter who or where they are...

Especially with some of the details. "As usual I am at this writing, O.K. and although we are now in the thick of it, I am very confident that Ill be all right when things are settled. I try to send a letter from no matter where I happen to be..." I've written something like that a hundred times, except I was able to use email if I wanted.

Anyway, thanks for the link Pater Aletheias.
posted by lullaby at 7:12 PM on July 9, 2009

The Independent (London) has put up several hundred previous unpublished pictures from WW1 that were found in a barn (accompanying article). Many of these are portraits of soldiers and of local countryfolk near the front lines. Poor interface but you can munge the URL to zoom around to get a feel for it. This is like a photogallery of the unknown soldier, since there is no accompanying documentation.
posted by Rumple at 12:33 PM on July 11, 2009

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