Transcription, Introduction, & Comments
This is the final letter from my great uncle Harry Hill to my grandmother Bessie Hill Pearce. Harry is in boot camp in Camp Forrest, Georgia, and has written at least four letters giving us a very informative overview of military life during World War I. We’ve looked at many linguistic and social patterns evident in his writing. For example, in the first and third letters he addresses his sister as “Mrs. Wesley Pearce.” In the second letter it’s “Mrs. Bessie R. Pearce,” and in the final letter it’s “Mrs. W. H. Pearce. The difference is perhaps the frame of mind he’s in as he addresses the pre-stamped envelopes: is it a mature, married woman or just his loving sister? The physical letters take various shapes. This one is on a large single sheet, written on two sides, and is dated just two weeks after the last, Dec. 8, 1918:
I rec’d your letter last week and write you a few lines this eve before I go to church. I was at church this morning at the Y. they had a good service. Did your preacher turn out as good as his name?
I am glad you have all escaped the flu. There was two taken from our barracks last week to the hospital with the flu. We had a big feed on Thanksgiving, also had a big dinner today. We had ice cream for dessert. I ate about a quart. I got a pretty good helping of my own and another fellow gave me his so I had all the ice cream I wanted for once.
I was mighty sorry to hear of Uncle Aaron’s death. He will certainly be missed in that home. I wrote to J.D. one night last week. I had so many letters to write since I came here that I couldn’t write to all that I wanted to.
I did some washing yesterday and got it dried well as it was a nice warm day. It has [been] warm here the last few days but had been pretty cold before that.
I got a card from Carl last week. He said there was 4 inches of snow in Michigan.
There were 4 hard coal miners discharged on Fri. There are 7 fellows from this Co. that have sickness at home and are badly needed there that are going home this week. I think they will be moving the rest of us this week or the first of the next. Of course we can’t tell what we are going to do till we do. I guess we will be sent to Camp Sherman to be discharged. I think I will make it home by Xmas.
I am sending you a picture I had taken on Lookout Mt. Our Co. hasn’t got paid this month yet and most everybody is broke.
It is church time so I will close. I hope this find you all well.
[signed] Harry Co. A 125th Engrs.
This is the second reference to the name of the preacher at Bessie’s home church, Salem Methodist in Wexford. We’ll have to do some research to see if Harry is making a play on words with the man’s name. Harry’s uncles Aaron and J.D., short for Joseph Daniel, also nicknamed “Joe Dan,” are his mother Alice Moon Hill’s brothers. Uncle Aaron was just 38-years old when he passed away, and we don’t know his cause of death at this time, but of course we’re always suspicious of the Spanish Flu. We do know that Harry’s brother Carl spent time in Michigan before establishing an insurance business in Delaware. Perhaps he too was in the service. Four inches of snow in Michigan in December doesn’t sound too bad.
With the war over and the Spanish Flu still raging, Harry reports the discharge of four hard coal miners, probably from eastern Pennsylvania, and seven from his company who are “badly needed” back home. He believes that he’ll be sent to Camp Sherman soon for discharge, hopefully before Christmas. He encloses a picture from his recent trip to Chattanooga and complains that no one’s been paid yet this month. He has to be wondering whether he could afford presents even if he does get released before Christmas.
Finally, we know that Harry is feeling much better because he signs off by saying that he will be attending church for the second time this Sunday. As it was this morning, tonight’s service will be provided by the YMCA.
We don’t know at this time when Harry got home. We’re certain that he did not have to serve overseas. We also know that his farm work was waiting for him along with his beloved oldest sister and the rest of the Hills and Pearces.
Last revised 4/27/20