Thursday, December 29, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - December 1918 - "I am having a very good time"

Despite being hospitalized in France for 3 months, Tom writes that he is having a very good time.  He never mentions his wounds, but is eager to return home, and to hear news of his brother John.  Tom also has not received any letters from home since he was wounded.

[Dec 1918 – not dated – no envelope]
Base Hospital #17
 A.P.O. #721
    American E. F.

Hello! Miss Nora,
Will write you a short note tonight as I am in a hurry.  I am hoping you the very best of health and plenty of fun.  I am having a very good time but nothing like if I was with you. "Ha" Say have you gotten any of the letters and cards I've written you. Listen I have never seen one of yours yet -Ha- and no one else. They have my mail somewhere in my regiment and I've not seen it. Say have you heard from John recently. Hope you have. I haven’t.  I have got something real nice to tell you when I come home. Hope to see you real soon.  Will write you more the next time.  Pardon me this time.  Hope you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.  I am with much love your true friend
    Mech. W. T. Snyder

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - December 11, 1918 - From Base Hospital 17, France

Tom wrote while recovering from his battle wounds.

Wednesday Night P.M.
Dec. 11_18
Base Hospital #17
    A.P.O. #721
        American E. F.

Dear Miss Nora,
How are you getting long, fine I hope.  I am well and enjoying life fine. They was lots of the boys left today for the States.  Wish I could have been in the bunch but I didn’t happen to that good luck.  But maybe my time will come soon.  I hope at least it will any way for I want to come home now. I haven’t got a single letter from any one since I have been in France. My mail hasn’t caught me yet, don’t guess. Say are you still at home yet?  Hope to see you real soon. I haven’t seen John yet.

[December 11, 1918 - page 2]

I am coming to see you when I come home this time for I have got lots for to tell you. Prepare yourself to take French. "Ha" Say did you get those cards I sent you.  Hope you did any way for they was French cards. So hope to hear from you real soon.  Also wish you a Merry Xmas and a "Happy New Year.  I am with much "Love, your true friend.
Mech. W. T. Snyder.

[Censor mark:]
Ok  Robt. F. Penn, 1st Lt USA

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - French Christmas Card 1918

Tom's prior letter was a postcard from France, dated September 1, 1918.  On September 14, his unit headed out for the front lines.  Clarence Johnson wrote:

On the night of September 19, under the cover of darkness, we took up our positions on the Raon l’Etape sector in the Vosges Mountains, north of St. Die. This sector was held by the 321st from September 19 to October 17...The companies took their turn in the front line trenches, serving from 10 to 20 days each. This was our first experience under shell fire.

Conditions on the battle field were bad. Johnson described the experience vividly:

Among the things of which we will ever have a vivid recollection are “Cooties” [lice], rats, mud, water, sleepless nights, endless guard duty, talking in a whisper, leaky, bunkless, overcrowded dugouts without light or heat. But nothing will be remembered with more vividness than the shells that came shrieking and flying through the air day and night, many of which played havoc with our trenches and dugouts. There is nothing that can more successfully divert the mind from the physical discomforts of guard duty in a muddy trench during a cold, rainy night than a Boche 77 that has your range and is placing a high explosive within a few yards of you every few minutes.

Soon after they arrived on the front, Tom was severely wounded. His discharge papers said it happened on September 21; his service card  in the North Carolina archives said it was September 23. I could find no mention of any specific battles on either of those dates for his company so evidently, it was just everyday shell fire. According to his daughter Kathy, he was wounded in the right shoulder during the night and had to wait until the next day for help. His medical report says, “gunshot wound, right shoulder acromion and scapula,” and “peripheral nerve injury resulting in atrophy right shoulder girdle and arm.”  The initial report was 40% incapacitated.

Tom wrote cards and letters, including two from Base Hospital #17, in Dijon, France. He never mentioned his injuries. Note that the fighting ended on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918.

Here is the fancy French Christmas card he sent, presumably in December 1918.

Hello! Miss Nora
Hope you are in the very best of health and still single.  I am coming home as soon as they will send us back. Am coming to see you just as soon as I get home. So be real good.  I am yours Sincerely,
W. T. Snider
The front of the postcard has an embroidered fabric flap.  The upper part lifts up and two cards were inserted into the pocket formed by the lower part of the design.  "Heureux Noel" literally means Happy Christmas.

The back side of each card has a short message.
Hope to see you real soon. I am real anxious to see you. I am well and having a very good time. Hope to see you soon.

Mech W. T. Snyder
My Best Wishes to you. I remain yours.

  • Pension file for W. T. Snyder, file no. C 156 599; World War I pension files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Clarence Walton Johnson, The History of the 321st Infantry with a Brief Historical Sketch of the 81st Division (Columbia, South Carolina: The R. L. Bryan Company, 1919).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - September 1, 1918 - “I am ok and liking France fine.”

Tom's last letter was a postcard from Camp Upton New York on July 24.  He spent the next few weeks in transit.  His unit road a train to Hoboken, New Jersey, and on July 31, boarded a ship to cross the Atlantic. The 321st Infantry took the SS Walmer Castle, an old English passenger ship. From various accounts, these ships were awful.  Clarence Walton Johnson wrote, in his regimental history of the 321st Infantry:

The pages of this history should not be darkened by a detailed description of life on these troop ships. Certainly nothing about these boats, the mess and the crews in particular, improved upon acquaintance. The boats had a smell of their own... The odors from the kitchen were positively nauseating.

It took about ten days to reach England. The 1st Battalion went to a rest camp at Winnall Downs, southwest of London, for a few days.  On August 16, 1918, the 1st Battalion crossed the English Channel to Le Havre, France.  They boarded a French railroad to take them closer to the front in eastern France. The railroad cars were called “40-8s", because each car could hold 40 men standing up, or eight horses. Johnson recalled

We were counted off in groups of 40 and packed into these small rough box cars (about half the size of the American box car), which bore unmistakable signs, which were equally distinguishable by sight and smell, of a recent cargo of cows.

The 1st Battalion was billeted in the small French town of Percey, southeast of Paris, from August 21 to September 14, 1918.  They went through intensive training with emphasis on extended order formations and bayonet practice.  Tom sent a photograph labeled “at the trenches.” It appears that these were training trenches.  X marks Tom in the photo.

The first letter Tom wrote from France was on September 1, 1918. 

The red marks are the censor's approval.  The postmark is September 8, Bordeaux, France. 

Sept 1-18

Dear Miss Nora.
Guess you think I am never going to write you any more.  How are you getting long anyway?  I am ok and liking France fine.  So guess you are going to the big meetings long now. Wish I was there to go with you. Ha".  Well I am coming back soon as the war is over and I don’t think that will be many years longer.  You write me long letter and tell me all the news.  Will write you again.  I am with Best wishes your friend
 Mech. Wiley T. Snyder

[red censor markings - Ok]

Tom enclosed a poem from a newspaper.

Clarence Walton Johnson, The History of the 321st Infantry with a Brief Historical Sketch of the 81st Division (Columbia, South Carolina: The R. L. Bryan Company, 1919).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - July 24, 1918 - Last letter from U.S.

In July 1918, the 321st Infantry was sent to France, which took several weeks of travel time. First they took a train from Camp Sevier near Greenville, S.C., to Camp Upton, New York, where they stayed two weeks. Tom wrote a postcard to Nora (see below). 

Tom’s service record shows he served overseas from July 31, 1918 to January 25, 1919.  That means he boarded a ship to Europe on July 31 and returned to American soil on January 25, which is 5 months and 25 days.

[Postmark:]  July 24, 1918  Brooklyn, N.Y   Upton Branch

Miss Nora McNiell, Millers Creek, N.C.

Dear Nora
              Guess you think I am not going to ans. I really haven’t had time. I am ok. Hope you are well. I am in “Long” Island N: York, Camp Upton. Write me.  I remain your true friend (a short while) W.T. Snider

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - May 30, 1918 "I am so hot now I am ‘bout to scorch"

After talking about the weather and other topics, Tom wrote on page 4 "you are the one I want if I ever want to get married and you know I do if I am like the rest of the boys.  I've got a mighty grand house in Winston you can live in after the war if you want to. Fine location, city water and electric lights.  And if I had you in there I would be happy as a lark."

The only address needed in 1918 was the town!  The postman knew where everyone lived.  Some grandchild (possibly me) cut off the stamp.

May 30-18
C. Sevier
Greenville, S.C.

Dearest Nora.
I rec’d your letter short while ago and was real glad to hear from you again.  I wonder what you are doing for your self these hot old days.  I am so hot now I am ‘bout to scorch.  I was over town yesterday and today and I had a grand old time.  The most good looking girls were there but none as good looking as you, Miss McNeil. Listen they is mighty good looking little girl at Fort Mill S.C. wants me to come and see her and I guess I will go if she keeps on writing for me to come.  Now do you believe me.

[May 30, 1918 - page 2]

I much rather come to see you if I could get long enough pass.  If I go to see Frances I can’t get but a twenty-four hour pass and it would take over half of my time on the road.  She lives ‘bout twenty miles beyond Sharlott [Charlotte] N.C. I am going to ask for a pass to come home real soon and I will come to see you while I am up for we are going to France soon I know. My brother is landed safely in France I am sorry to say.  Well guess I will run up on him sometime over there -  I hope I will if I have to go.  I rather not go if I had my way but maybe it’s all for the good of our country and I am in hope that we will come back safe.

[May 30, 1918 - page 3]

Wish I could have been up there to your box supper.  You know I would get your box or made some large people lots of money and wish I could have seen your box. I know it was just fine.  Who did get your box any way?  You tell me in your next letter who did.  I am getting homesick again for to come home.  Hope I can come real soon for I've got lots to tell you when I see you and hope that will be real soon.  Don’t you work so hard this “Hot Summer.  You stay in and cook and let your mother rest.  "Ha". I know you can cook good and can do any thing you want to, I guess and

[May 30, 1918 - page 4]

you are the one I want if I ever want to get married and you know I do if I am like the rest of the boys.  I've got a mighty grand house in Winston you can live in after the war if you want to. Fine location, city water and electric lights.  And if I had you in there I would be happy as a lark. “Ha. Listen, you wait for me and I will you, if it’s not too long and I think the war will soon come to a close which I hope it will soon.  I am longing for the day to come when I can be sitting by your side looking at your beautiful eyes of yours.  So I will wring off.  Hoping to receive an ans. real soon. I am with very best wishes your true friend.  Please excuse all mistakes and bad writting.  Your wishing
W. T. Snider

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - May 22, 1918, Camp Sevier, S.C.

Tom's company moved from Camp Jackson, near Columbia, to Camp Sevier, near Greenville, S.C.  His brother John's company went to Europe earlier in May.

May 22-18.

Dear Nora.

Guess you think I am not going to ans. your letter, but you know we have been moving to Camp Siver and believe me, it’s a job too, but we got here all ok and I like the place fine so far but don't know yet how I will like the camp. Lots of difference in this place and C. Jackson. Jackson is the best fixed camp, I think, but you know we are living in little tents up here and I like them fine.  It’s cool in them (over)


My address is the same only you put Greenville S.C.

[May 22, 1918 - page 2]

but don’t guess we will stay here long and we might stay here all the summer.  We can’t tell one mo. where we will land at the next in the Army.  Order changes so quick.  I wonder what you are doing for yourself these hot days?  It awfully how hot it is down here now and guess you all are having some real hot weather up there long now.  I am working hard to get the co. straightened out but we are getting along all right now.  I worked all day last Sunday and 

 [May 22, 1918 - page 3]

Sunday before and I don’t like that neither but we can’t help ourselves or we wouldn’t do it.  ever thing worked too.  It’s because we had to move.  They wanted us to get ready just as quick as we could and I had to help make four thousands boxes to pack up in.  Say have you all worked in your corn yet.  Guess you have been working very hard this long week.  Wish I was up there with you.  I could enjoy myself one more time in life.

[May 22, 1918 - page 4]

I hope the day will soon roll around when I can spend some of my hours with you and I would like to spend them with you all the time. ha ha! And hope the day will soon come when I can.  It would suit me very much indeed.  I think this war will soon wind up shop so any way don’t you, Nora.  And then we poor boys can come home with glad tidings to our people.  You know I have been lucky not to cross  over before now don’t you think so.    (over)

[May 22, 1918 - page 5]

Guess John has gone over.  I haven’t heard anything from him in over 5 or 6 weeks and I don't know where he is.  I hope the poor boy will come back safe in the wind up.  Tell your sister I said a big hello!  to her.  Sister they is six large theaters and a very good little town in this camp and believe me I am taking them in too.  They have good shows on ever night and day.  And we are not but four miles from the city.  We can have a big old time down here.  Wish you was here tonight.  We would go to the show.  Please pardon me for not ans. your letter sooner.  I have been so busy.  I didn’t write no one at all.  I must close and drop a few lines home and to my other friends.  Be a real good girl.  Listen I rec’d your flours and was real glad to the pleasure of receiving them.  They was just beautiful and I kept them long time.  Ans real soon and don’t do like I did wait mo. Ha.  I am with very best wishes your true friend
                   Mech. W. T. Snider

Friday, October 21, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - May 5, 1918 "It is so hot down here"

Tom is still in Columbia.  He mentions:
  • It's hot!  I checked the newspaper and it was 86 degrees on May 5, 1918, which is hot with no fan or air conditioning. (1)
  • Della Kilby was Nora Delle Kilby Dancy (1897-1993).  In the 1920 census, she was a school teacher in Wilkes County, N.C. (2)  Tom was born in 1892, Nora in 1900, so Delle was their contemporary.
  • Greenville, S.C. was the location of Camp Sevier, which Tom and his brother John were sent to train before being shipped to Europe.

May 5_18

Hello! Miss McNiel -
I rec’d your nice letter today and like usually I am always glad to hear from you.  I wonder what you are doing for yourself? I wonder if it’s very hot up there yet.  It is so hot down here I am sleepy this morn.  I can’t write so you can read it. "Listen" I am coming up

[May 5, 1918 - page 2]

first of July to stay fifteen days.  My Father got me a furlough and you know I am some Proud of that and you know I will get time to come down to see you lots. I can’t hardly wait until the time comes to come up. Say has Della Kilby come back home yet? She said their school would close first of May.  Wish I could see her.

[May 5, 1918 - page 3]

I was over town yesterday and got some little tricks and I met some good looking girls.  We are going to be in Greenville first of June. and wish I knew where. I would like before I land.  I hope they won’t call us any faster for I am going to come home one mo. after we get up there. John says he is going to France real soon. Well I will go in about three months I heard and we may go sooner.  It’s hard to tell. We can't tell from now on where we will stay at for the orders changes so fast in the army.  I hope to be out of this man’s army soon and carry you to Winston. I am with very best wishes your true friend
Excuse bad writing please. Mech W. T. Snider

(1) "Weather Bureau" Monday, May 6, 1918; State (Columbia, South Carolina); p. 2.
(2) Year: 1920; Census Place: Reddies River, Wilkes, North Carolina; Roll: T625_1329; Page: 11B; Henry C. Kilby household; Enumeration District: 181; Image: 437. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - April 25, 1918 "I like army life very well so far if they wasn’t any war."

Tom writes again from Camp Jackson.  On his latest furlough, he AGAIN didn't see Nora.
Well, we know how the story ends (they marry in April 1919).

                             April 25-18

Hello! Miss McNeill.
             I was so glad to hear from you again.  I just thought that you had forsaken me but altho I found out better. Ha.  I was sorry that I didn’t come down to see you when I was up but when I come up again I will make it all up.  I am going to come up the fourth of July if I can get off and guess I can. To be sure I would like to join with you all on your trip.  Wish I could have been there.  I know I could have enjoyed myself fine.  I always have wanted to go with you, & when you come out at P.H. church [Pleasant Home Baptist Church] I thought that you was the best looking girl I ever saw in life.

[April 25, 1918 - page 2]

and I didn’t think then that you would go with a boy or I would have gone with you if I could.  Ha.  I certainly do hope the time will come when I can go with you ever Sunday. I have got a new house and lot in Winston-Salem, but I had to go off and leave it. But if I ever get back in civilian life I am going to get married and live right the rest of my life and now do you believe me at all.  “Ha.  If I can get anyone to have me and I hope that will be soon and I think it will with the prospects now. Don’t you hope that this war will soon come to an end. Soon or later I will be out of this old army.  I like army life very well so far if they wasn’t any war.

[April 25, 1918 - page 3]

Listen we had a old time party hear in the camp and I and two other boys out of our Co. made music for them to play by and believe me we sure did have a nice time. They was bout fifty girls and was a one as good looking as you are. "Ha" When I am far away from you somewhere in France I ask that you always think of me and pray that I have a chance.  To leave home was hard the hardest thing of all but I am no slacker when I hear my country’s call. To be at home with my friends is happiness that is true but I cannot see the enemy down the read white and blue. Ha. Some day in the near future

[April 25, 1918 - page 4]

this great conflict will end and the soldier boy who likes you will come back to you again.  It is the duty of ever girl who is left behind to remember always the boy she loves who is on the firing line. Do not respect a slacker.  They deserve not even a chance. The boy whom you should honor are the boys who go to France.  I did not want to leave home for I am goin’ to risk my life.  I am a true American and uphold the Stars and Stripes. Will close as I am in a hurry. I could sit here and talk to you until day and then could have something new to tell you but I have got to ans. some more letter. But rather write to you than any of the girls.  So be real good. Ans. soon. I am with very best wishes your true  W.T.S.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - April 7, 1918

W.T.'s brother John was inducted into the U.S. Army in Wilkesboro on March 30, 1918.  The first month, he was assigned to the 16 Company 4 Training Battalion 156th Depot Brigade and sent to Camp Jackson, South Carolina, for training.  Tom had been in Camp Jackson over 6 months (since September 2017). 

    April 7, 1918

Hello! Nora –
           I saw John Sunday and was with him nearly all day. I think he wrote you a letter. He is liking all right so far but what are you going to do now for a fellow while he is a way. Wish I was up there so I could come to see you ever Sunday.

 [April 7, 1918 – page 2]

I did hate to leave home but I had it to do tho’. I am sorry that I didn’t get to talk to you any while I was up.  I had a whole lots to tell you but maybe I can soon get off again soon to stay longer.  Will you stay at home all the summer.  I will send you a good picture when I get them. That one I sent you won’t not very good.

[April 7, 1918 - page 3]

It is raining hard down here today and I am not doing anything much.  Wish I was up there to your home. Say Nora we boys went fishing Saturday and you bet we sure did have one more good time.  We caught lots of fish too.  Wish you could bin long with us.  I and  John is going over town next Sat. if he get his uniform but we won’t go with any of the girls.  I will see that he don’t go with any of them.  They sure is some good looking girls over town but none like you.  Don’t you get married while John is in the army. Ha.  I am with very Best wishes your true friend.
Mech W. T. Snyder

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Courting Miss Nora - March 15, 1918

W.T. is still at Fort Jackson, S.C.  I just love his first sight of an ostrich at the Columbia Zoo (page 3).

On page 5, he heard the other boys, such as his brother John Snyder, won't be drafted until the autumn.  But John was inducted into the U.S. Army in Wilkesboro on March 30, 1918.

The W. A. Bumgarner family (page 6) were Nora's uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. William A. Bumgarner, who had 2 sons and 2 daughters.  Mrs. Bumgarner was Mary Alice McNeil, Nora's father's sister, called "Aunt Alice".

                  March 15, 1918
Hello! Miss Nora -
     Will take greatest pleasure in answer to your letter.  Was more than glad to hear from you again. Say Nora, I wonder, didn’t you get that large picture I sent you.  If you didn’t, I sure will send you another one, but hope you got it.  They wasn't very good tho'.  Now you send me one of yours.  Say, Miss Nora, I am coming up next week and I will

[March 15, 1918 - page 2]

bring my Kodak box and we will have some pictures made and I can get one of yours that way. Ha. The reason I didn’t get off last week.  They was two of our boys all ready and our Captain won’t [wouldn't] let but one or two out at a time.  I think I can get off next week. Hope so any way.  It [has] been real hot weather down here but guess it [is] not so very hot up there yet. The woods and grass are green.

[March 15, 1918 - page 3]

It looks like real summer time down here.  The girls out in their white dresses.  Wish you could see be down here and see the boys drill some time.  It [is a] sight in the world how many boys they are here just the same size and all the time ready for form and believe me we have fun too.  I and my church went to Columbia Park last Sat. Eve. and believe me we sure did have some more fun. We taken some pictures.  I will send you one when they get back if they are good.  I wish you could see that Park.  Believe me they sure is something in there to see. Large Deer and camel.  arich to [Ostrich too]. ‘Bout the size of a mule with feathers on them and wings too.  I never saw such things in all [the] days of my life.  Their neck are ‘bout long as you are - 5' long or 5½.

[March 15, 1918 - page 4]

to the prettiest place I ever saw.  When the war is over we will go through, Nora, and take a good look as we go long.  And the long river is nice too.  They have got steam boats on it and the longest bridge I ever saw.  The soldiers down here sure do see lots of fun over town with the girls.  The whole town is lit up at night with gas and believe me it sure does look good at night.  I am glad the

 [March 15, 1918 - page 5]

boys up home do not have to go away to camp until next fall.  Guess John is some glad of that.  I am for him anyway.  I wish the war would come to a close so all of us boys could go back home. I want to see home so bad I can’t hardly wait until next week comes.  Are you going to look down the  road this time.  Guess you won’t for I didn’t come the other time.

[March 15, 1918 - page 6]

I hope I won’t fool my folks this time.  My sister sent me a large box of apples and believe me I sure did eat apples. They was fine.  I would like to see Mr. W. A. Bumgarners folks.  I sure did enjoy going to see them always when I would come home from W.S.  Tell your sister a big old Hello and the rest of them too. I can leave Columbia one Eve. and get home the next day late. Wish you was down here to go to the moving picture shows with me ever Wed. and Sat. nights.  They are good and something new  ever night.  I would give anything most to be with you.  I could enjoy myself fine I know. Tell your Father I have got some thing very funny to tell him.  So I will close for this time.  Hoping to hear from you again soon. I am with Best wishes your true friend. Mech. W. T. Snider