Sgt. Ervin Reuben Wakefield

ABOUT ME: Sgt. Ervin Reuben Wakefield - I was born on January 21, 1890 to Reuben Edson and Adaline Miles Wakefield (Frost) in Hardwick, Vermont. I was the sixth of seven children. At the age of four, I was sent to live with my maternal aunt, Ida May and her husband Willis Parker. I joined the Vermont National Guard.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Letter to Aunt Ida - May 2, 1919

Prov. Sup. Co. Sub Depot # 13
Cheateau Gontier Mayenne
May 2 1919

Dear Aunt Ida:

It has been some time since I have received a letter from you but suppose you are very busy now days moving, you must be home by this time and soon you will be going over to the lake for a vacation.  I wish that I was over there now and catching some of those trout up in the little brook, I think of the cottage many times and wonder how every thing is there.
I have no idea when I will get home but things will have to move soon and I hope that I will move toward home, this place is to be closed soon and I do not know what will become of us.  The chances are that we will start toward home some time in June or perhaps before.
Enclosed you will find some pictures that I had taken a few days ago I think that they are very good considering the subject that the “Frog” had to work on, I hope that you will like
At present we are having some fine weather, witch makes it very pleasent over here, this is a very beautiful country when the sun is out but terrible when it rains.
I received a letter from Uncle Will a few days ago and was surprised to find out that he was in Montpelier I also received a letter from one of the boys that used to work for me, with a lot of Montpelier news.  Very soon the Montpelier boys that were in the 26th division will be home, I saw them just before they left they were a happy bunch of boys.  I suppose that they will get a great reception in Boston.  I think they they deserve it.
Hoping that this letter finds you O. K. and that I hear from you soon, I remain
With love

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Letter to Aunt Ida - November 12, 1918

Le Mons Franch
Nov. 12 1918

Dear Aunt Ida:

Well the war is over and all the boys are in a very good humor.  Last night when they got the news the bells and guns sounded and then there was one grand celebration from 6 o’clock until midnight and I guess it will be worse today than yesterday.
Last night I got a pass and went out.  The streets were crowded and all the flags were out, everyone was feeling pretty good.  I never saw such pleased people in all my life.  They would throw their arms around us and yell “Vive Le America”.  Wine was just like water but as I had to be in at ten I was in good shape.
The Company that I came across with is stationed outside the city about 15 miles at a training camp. Perhaps they have moved by now.  Some of the boys from Montpelier are stationed in the town working at a garage, whenever I go in town I see them.  They have a dandy place and good things to eat.  So we get a feed off them.
Just now I have no idea when we will get started home but the chances are that it will be 6 months before we get anywhere near ready.   I suppose there is a lot of cleaning up to be done at the Front and a lot of supplies to be taken back so if we get home by next spring we will be lucky.
Before the Captain of the Co. left I had him sign my state pay cards and I will enclose them in this letter so Uncle Will can get the money on them sometime when he is down that way.  Pay is very slow in coming over here.  I haven’t seen any for two months but it is no wonder we have been going all the time since landing and I guess the money hasn’t had time to catch us.  I suppose we will get it sometime and then I will have a lot.
As yet  I have not received from home a letter or any news except a clipping in the paper about the Spanish “Flu” and I wonder if any of you have had it.  I hope not as it is very dangerous.   I have seen a lot of it.  Coming over on the boat we had 2,000 cases.
It will be nice if I can get home next spring and we can all go up to the lake and stay a week or so.  I can tell you one thing is this when I get into a good bed and a good bath tub it will seem pretty good, I don’t know as I will know how to act.
I have to go now and change my bunk to some other building that is about all I do is move.
Hoping this finds you O.K.  I remain With Love,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

September 29, 1918

Left on the Leviathan (Vaterland) troopship to Brest, France. Over 2,000 men on this ship were sick with the Spanish Influenza and many died.

SS Leviathan was originally built as SS Vaterland to serve as an ocean liner by Germany.  In 1917, she was seized by the U.S. government and renamed Leviathan.  In 1918 it was used as a troop transport ship to Brest, France, carrying up to 14,000 persons each trip.  On one crossing she had 14,416 troops on board - more human beings than had ever before sailed on a single ship.

Alfred W. Crosby, in his book America's Forgotten Pandemic, gives a detailed account of the miserable march of the 57th Pioneer Infantry to the Leviathan, on the trip across the Atlantic, and the march after arriving in France.  Sick soldiers fell during the cold march to Alpine Landing, Camp Merritt, New Jersey to board the Leviathan.  In the close quarters of the ship, hundreds of solders fell ill.  The hospital quarters were filled and it was difficult to separate the ill from the well.  Many sick soldiers had to stay on deck, even during storms.  Officers became ill and many of the sick did not wear the indentification tags (called in dog tags in WWII) the army ordered them to wear.  The original order to save bodies in order to return them home had to be ignored so that the many dead could be buried at sea.  About 100 men died on the Leviathan. 

As the soldiers arrived in Brest, France, more died joining victims who had arrived in France earlier.  Hospitals were already full and there were at least 600 doughboys who could not attempt the four-mile march (in a storm) to the army camp at Pontanezan.  Of the 57th Pioner Infantry alone, almost 200 died on land and were buried in an American cemetery at Lembezelle.

September 23, 1918

Left Camp Wadsworth with 3430 officers and men.

"57th Pioneer Infantry: Formerly 1st Vermont Infantry. Arrived at Camp Wadsworth from Camp Greene on February 10, 1918, with 29 officers and 481 enlisted men. Commanded by Colonel Fred B. Thomas and filled to wartime strength with draftees. The regiment left Camp Wadsworth on September 23rd with 3430 officers and men." (Tent and Trench, Appendex B)

September 17, 1918

Received grade of 1/c Sergeant.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Letter to Aunt Ida - September 5, 1918

Sept. 5, 1918
[Camp Wadsworth]

Dear Aunt Ida,

Your letter came yesterday certainly does seem good to get letters from home.
Well since I wrote home last there has been a lot of changes in our Company.  Some of our old boys have been transfered and we have had a steady stream coming in and going out.  You would wonder where so many men came from and where they find so many different faces.  I never saw such ignorant people in all my life they don’t seem to know their right hand from their left.  The wise ones are getting our of this draft in large cities through politics.
Since I wrote last our 1st Sergh. has been reduced and I am now acting first Sergh. That is the highest non-commissioned officer.   If I made good it is just as good as a commission with a pay of $51.00 a month.
We expect to go across next week, that is we leave here for the port of embarkation. We don’t know where that is now but will know before we go. Some of the regiments have gone to Halifax from here and some to Newport News.
I have a [?] by myself with a clerk that does the clerical work and it is much better than it was.  You need not tell anyone that I am acting 1st Sergeant as the fellow that I relieved is from Montpelier and if it gets around of course his folks will feel bad.  He has been transfered out of the Company.  He was a mighty nice fellow but the Captain did not like him very well as he was slack.  Do not mention this as the same thing may happen to me and perhaps it will as I am short of experience.
Will write again in a few days and let you know some more about when we are gong and where to
With love and kisses

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Letter to Aunt Ida - August 17, 1918

Soldiers’ Club
Spartanburg, S. C.
August 17, 1918

Dear Aunt Ida,

Your letter came some time ago but have been busy night and day for the last two weeks, drilling men and going to Gas. School at night.  Last night I didn’t get through until 11 o’clock. We went into the trenches and they kept sending attack after attack at us to get us used to the different kinds.
I am very sorry to say that I don’t think that I will be able to get home before I go across as they have stopped all furlough’s but I may be able to get one if we go north.  We have not got all our men yet but we expect to get them soon and the story now is that we will be out of here by the first of Oct. or possibly the 15th of Sept.  All of the boys are anxious to get out or this place.  There is also another story that we are going north to be a developing camp for recruits.
For the last month the weather has been something terrible.  It has been at least 100 in the shade every day but I don’t seem to mind it so much as some. In fact I never felt better in my life. I have lost some weight but I think that I am just right now.
Ida May expects to go home soon so you will probably see her.  I wish that I might come home at the same time but never mind I will consider myself lucky if I can go later.  I was 3rd in line to go when they stopped them.
I came downtown tonight but I do not very often as there is just as much going on at camp as there is in this place.  Tonight there seems to be more excitement than ever [page missing?]
the men that we got are the biggest bunch of “Black Heads” that I ever saw.   They don’t know enough to come in out of the rain but perhaps when we once get it into their heads it will be just as hard to get it out.
Tomorrow night is my turn to go on Guard and then I will get some time to myself and I can write a few letters.   I expect to have a couple of days off while I am doing my Guard that will keep me from that sun baked field.
I will keep you well posted on everything that takes place and write more often than I have been.
Will send last months State Pay Card it is rather late but I guess it will be good.

Hoping this finds you both O. K.
I remain With Love