Spirits were high, Grandpa reported, as the troops left Camp Funston, May 23. They spent five days on the train, stopping along the way to march in towns and listen to patriotic speeches. Grandpa sent a map to Grandma, on which he marked the places they stopped. You may be able to blow up this map (which was one side of a train schedule) and see the “x’s” he wrote in pencil.
Day 1, Thursday May 23
By 9 pm, they were moving through Kansas City. “Every one jolly” he scribbled on this card.
Day 2, Friday May 24
Just leaving Hannibal, crossed the Mississippi into Illinois. “The boys have a little slogan like this (is Company C downhearted)–then all yell (Hell, no!).” They rode in Pullman cars, “lots better than I thought,” Grandpa wrote. About that writing–not easy on a moving train.
Later that day, he sent this postcard.
Another letter from that day included this: “The way we mail our letters is to hand them to someone along the side. We are not allowed to get off.” Also along the side of the train tracks were people who came waving flags, some handing them candy and tobacco. Red Cross volunteers also showed up with coffee and refreshments.
In Springfield, they brought a stray dog on board.
Day 3, Saturday May 25
Approaching Detroit. “I am feeling fine also enjoying myself.” And a favor, “When you talk to Mother tell her how to address my mail.”
Later, they crossed Lake Erie on a boat.
Sounds like the troops were a bit punchy by Day 3. They started yelling out the train window at startled passersby. A sergeant put an end to that.
Day 4, Sunday May 26
Nearing New York, and it was raining, a lot. But the views were nice. “We had some fine scenery coming through the mountains.”
That dog from Springfield, well, they lost it. “We got another one, a big bull dog. When we go through the towns he gets up and looks out the window.”
“We will get to camp some time tonight, and I hope they have some water there as I and all the rest are getting dirty as can be.”
Day 5, Monday, May 27
“We are sixteen miles from New York city.” When they arrived at Camp Mills, Grandpa received some mail. “Mother talks real reconciled in her letter and it makes it a whole lot better on me when she is. Of course she will worry some. I don’t want you to worry but to think I am doing a noble thing as I could have been exempted if I had tried as hard as some of the rest. But wear your star of honor.”
Camp Mills, Long Island
After they settled into camp, their tents and spirits withstanding days of rain and mud, the troops awaited the ship that would transport them abroad. “We might be here 25 days yet,” Grandpa wrote. In fact, they would leave the next week.
But that week in New York held some pleasures. They went into the “big” city. “It would take me a year to tell you what I saw,” he wrote on May 31, including “most of the large buildings.” He’d been there the day before, on May 30, which was what Grandpa knew as Decoration Day, the forerunner of Memorial Day. “The crowds of people on the streets were something awful. I never saw as many children and never will again. They were like bees . . . ” (Readers, any ideas on the word describing those bee-like children?)
Finally, Grandpa wrote about something remarkable, “aeroplanes.” “They are just like birds flying over our head. The factory where they are built is only about a mile from us.”
And through it all, the train trip and the stay in New York, Grandpa found comfort in the company of a dog. “We still have the dog, he sure is a dandy, we are going to try to take him to France.” That plan changed the next day, when the dog ran off. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine an army company smuggling a dog on the ship. Then again, it’s hard for me to imagine any of this, the crazy lead-up to being shipped off to war.