Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: December 11-17, 1917

December 18th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

A highlight in the letter includes Forrest’s description of an injury he sustained when a horse he was cleaning slipped and stepped on his foot (“it stung for awhile but my foot was so cold that I didn’t feel it after a minute or two”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 16, 1917

Sunday Dec. 16, 1917

Dear Marie,

I got the pictures O.K. and liked them all of you, Mother and Blanche but thought the one of Mother and I was the only one, good of me. Don’t think I’ll have any more of myself for awhile yet. Am on the lookout for the fudge now. Sure am glad that your throat is getting better now. I am taking a turn at being a little out of luck. Thursday I was cleaning the frog of No. 30’s rear hoof. I had his hind leg over my knee and was working with the hoof pick when he slipped on the smoothe brick paving. I let him go quick so as to save a fall and the point of his shoe fell square on the top of my foot. It stung for awhile but my foot was so cold that I didn’t feel it after a minute or two. This was about 8:30. We didn’t ride because it was too bitter cold, but worked around the barracks. During the first period in the afternoon we had heliograph practise. The instrument was set up to catch the sun coming in the window so we could read it inside the barracks. Well my feet started to thaw out and my left one felt pretty stiff and ached. At the end of the period – 2:00 P.M. – I took off my shoe. The toe of the sock was red and a little skin came with it as I took it off. My foot was a little swollen and sure felt sore. I went up to the hospital with another fellow with frozen ears, in a cycle-car and got fixed up. Saturday morning it was swollen so I couldn’t get my shoe on at all so had to cut a couple slits in my tennis slipper. I worked in the kitchen until 4:30 P.M. keeping the K.P. and at night I managed to get my shoe on so caught a car to town. This morning the swelling had nearly gone but was worse where the skin slipped.

This is the first good day we’ve had for a long time but I had to stick around the barrack.

Tomorrow the company is going to have mounted drill with the radio field sets loaded on the pack-mules. We have been issued a lot more stuff – grain bags to carry on horse for his feed in the field and saddle blankets. We also have the aparejos, the mule’s “saddle,” on which the wireless apparatus is packed.

The Co.’s D and E of the 410th B’n (telegraph) are all packed up to go to Texas. I wish we were going for it sure is cold around this woods.

George Stock is here for a few weeks longer. He is going to take his four days home Christmas. I wish I could be with you again, then. You sure was the sweetest and most lovable little sweetheart Thanksgiving and I will never forget it. Marie, every bit of my love is for you – but you must not forget what I told you when we were on the couch. If I – without the intention of marrying you – am going too far in showing you how much I care – for I really do – just as much as a young man can, – I want you to tell me. Marie, you are the most perfect girl I have ever seen and I respect you above all others.

I could never forgive myself if I ever have wronged you, or ever do wrong you in any way. Don’t ever allow anyone to think, or speak, of you and I as being more than good friends.

If you ever get any more letters from me that are mutilated in any way, or show any fire or water marks, please return them to me, envelope and all, after you read it.

I don’t think I’ll serve thirty years in the Army, and I was only kidding Mother when I mentioned it. I’ll never regret enlisting when I did, though.

Will you forget the promise I made not to write to Marion? She helped me have a good time when I was with Win that two weeks and I would like to hear from her if she will write. Well I must write a line to Mother and thank her for a much needed pair of socks.

With love – every bit to you, Marie

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

 

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: December 4-10, 1917

December 4th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

Highlights from this week’s letters include Forrest encouraging Marie to attend high school if possible (“these four years are worth a great deal even though one has to study some things that seem to be non-essential”), outlining his daily schedule, and describing extremely cold weather at Fort Leavenworth (“It was 7 below outside and I’ll bet it was 20 below in the kitchen. The water would freeze on the dishes while they drained”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, December 6, 1917

Thurs. Dec. 6, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letters and the typed letter all came O.K. The latter will be read by every man in the Company. Last night I typed an extra copy for Sgt. Baber. This afternoon Sgt. Brown said that he read that in a recent raid on German trenches the American forces found the heads of the thirteen U.S. captains stuck up on bayonets in the trench. I don’t believe it but I’ll bet there are more barbarous things of this sort done than we ever hear or think about. Believe me I know one American they won’t get alive.

I was awfully sorry to hear about the bad cold and sure do hope you are feeling good now. Some time I hope you will be sufficiently considerate of my feelings to tell me when you are getting cold the way you did Saturday. We have our troubles with the cold weather, too. Here’s the day’s program.

Rise at 5:45. Assemble in ranks in front of barracks at 5:55. Reveille at 6:00. Calisthenics 6:00-6:15. The stars are still out and it’s so dark that one can hardly see what way the drill master is doing each exercise. Make up beds and clean up, 6:15-6:30. Mess call at 6:30. Breakfast of pancakes, butterine, syrup, grapenuts, canned milk, sugar, coffee, stewed figs.

After mess we sweep out and fuss up the barracks. Assemble for drill at 7:25. March up to stables, (a little over a mile and a half), get there at 8:00 and groom our horses until 9:00, then saddle up for mounted drill out in the field. We assemble in regular section formation and ride to the drill grounds in a column of two’s.

This morning it was so cold that when I walked from the toilet “shack” to the barracks, about 200 feet, my wet hair was frozen into big curls. If my hair was only longer, I could have cut one off and sent it to you, ain’t it so?

When we watered the horses, the ice was frozen an inch and a half thick in the tank. Big drops froze on Ten’s head just while going to the picket line. Gee, but it sure was cold. We ride with our overcoats on so I kept one hand in my pocket most of the time. Some of the fellows in the other sections had to lead mules and I’ll bet they pretty near froze their fingers.

We dismounted once to adjust our saddles, and warm our feet by running around in circles. When I first got on my feet they were sore and stiff from the cold. At 11:05, we headed for the stables at a good fast trot and at 11:15 we had our saddles hung up, and worked until 11:30 rubbing our horses dry. We got home at noon and ate dinner at 12:15. From 1:00-2:00 P.M. we had some snappy infantry foot drill.

The hour, 2:00-3:00 was spent practising with wig-wag and semaphore. We had buzzer telegraph practice from 3:00 till 4:00. The rest of the afternoon was spent memorizing guard orders.

Hash was dished out at 5:15. Retreat roll call at 6:00. Then walk to the City to write to the sweetest little girl. I wonder if she can read this awful writing – and does the story of our day’s work really interest Her? Will you tell me?

Last Tuesday was a pretty busy day. Walked to stables and back twice which amounts to about 7 miles. Groom horses an hour in the morning and ride all the rest of the morning and nearly all of the afternoon.

I then walked to town and started a letter to you but gave it up after writing nearly a page.

I wish I could think of something to write every day if you like my letters nearly as well as I do yours.

Well I guess I will quit. Stock says he is “all in” and wants to go home.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Sunday, Dec 9, 1917

Dear Marie,

I sure am awfully sorry to hear that your cold is getting worse, and hope that you will be feeling like yourself again by this time. I know you must feel miserable, especially when you are in school. I wish I could learn to be more careful but did not think for a minute that you were getting cold until you spoke.

You are doing well in school and I am mighty glad to hear it. Keep it up and you will not regret it when you go to High School. You cannot appreciate the value of a little hard work at school, now, but believe in me when I say that you will realize later, the advantages of all the school you can get. Whatever you do, don’t give up the idea of going to H.S. You simply must go if you possibly can. These four years are worth a great deal even though one has to study some things that seem to be non-essential. High school gives one only a fundamental idea of a lot of important things; those graduates who don’t think they “know it all” realize how much there is to learn. One feels an “urge”, or incentive, to think and get a better understanding of things in every day life and also of things that we might otherwise overlook. So remember, little girl, no matter what we will or will not be to each other, if you would take the advice of a good friend, go to High School.

I should be glad to have you make something for me for Christmas. While I told all the folks not to send anything, yet I do want something from just You alone. Would you like to make a box of fudge for my birthday – the 21st? This will be the last box, for I simply must cut out that stuff.

Your picture is in my watch now. I have nearly all the pictures that we took this summer and often take them out and think of the happy times we have had together this summer. Here’s hoping that those we took Thanksgiving will be good. Those three days with You were the happiest I have ever known and I will never forget.

We are having it pretty cold now. Saturday morning it was 7 below, and one sure does feel it here. It snowed all day Friday – the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st sections had mounted drill in the storm, and so I was thankful I’m in the fifth. We have seventy brand new saddles of the very best type so the whole company will ride together soon. Some of the Saddles we have now are the little flat ones with steel stirrups – used by English gentlemen for riding in the parks but useless for our work. It sure is no joke to stick to one of the “pancake” saddles and lead an argumentative mule at the same time. Lieut. Butler said that the fellows were letting too many mules get away, and that the next fellow that let go of the rope before falling from the saddle was going to hear from him. My reputation for hanging on to my mule or lead-horse is without a spot so far, but yours truly is going to kiss that mule goodbye before he will do any Charlie Chaplin flop on the cold, hard ground.

Saturday I was on kitchen police duty and we didn’t have any fire in the dining room at breakfast time. It was 7 below outside and I’ll bet it was 20 below in the kitchen. The water would freeze on the dishes while they drained.  We couldn’t mop the floor because the water would freeze before the floor was clean and dry. Even the vinegar froze solid. When I got through fussing with the wet dish towel I thawed out my fingers with cold water. We feed 86 men now. Each private gets “K.P.” about three or four times a month, for one day. Well the Y.M.C.A. wants to lock up so goodnight.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 20-26, 1917

November 20th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

The first of this week’s letters is addressed to Forrest’s mother, and he reports that “I will have a four day pass so I can spend Thanksgiving Day in Beloit…It will be the only time I can ever come home – not even Christmas – until I am discharged.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 20, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 20, 1917

Tues. Nov. 20, 1917

Dear Mother,

I will have a four day pass so I can spend Thanksgiving Day [November 29, 1917] in Beloit. This all depends on getting the money from you. The O.D. [olive drab] pants and blouse will cost $30 & the fare $15 at the most. Can you send this much so it will reach me by Saturday morning? It will be the only time I can ever come home – not even Christmas – until I am discharged.

I was baptised in the Leavenworth City Baptist Church last Sunday eve.

With Love,
Forrest.

Remember I will be sending $15 a month home in the Summer.

Please send the money so it will get here by Sat. morning if you have to telegraph it.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 22, 1917

Thurs. Nov. 22, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letter with the pictures came this noon. It seemed like old times to see you with the gun again. Sure was glad to get them.

I was baptised in the L. City Baptist Church last Sunday.

Well I don’t feel in the mood to write tonight so guess I’ll wait till later.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 13-19, 1917

November 17th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

In this week’s letter, Forrest mentions a parade in Leavenworth City, an event that was covered the next day (November 18th) by the Leavenworth Times. In reporting on the parade of 4,000 troops stationed at the fort, the newspaper noted that it “brought forcibly home the proximity of the war in which the United States is now engaged.” Even “residents of long-standing, to whom the military reservation has ceased practically to be a point of interest, were surprised at the number of men under the Fort Leavenworth command.”

Image of Leavenworth Times article, "Troops' Parade an Eye-Opener for This City," November 18, 1917

Image of Leavenworth Times article, "Troops' Parade an Eye-Opener for This City," November 18, 1917

Leavenworth Times article, November 18, 1917. Accessed via Newspapers.com.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 17, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 17, 1917

Sat. Nov. 17, 1917.

Dear Marie,

Well we moved into our new home last Thursday. It is pretty crowded but it won’t be so bad when we get settled down. We are at least a mile and a half from our stables now and that means six or seven miles kicking just for that. Here is a picture of Stock and I with the Wagon set. Some class to yours truly with a dress cap on. Stock borrowed it so I used it, too. The other picture is a case of three jugs of cider for the four of us. We sure had a gay time that Sunday.

This morning the Fort turned out for a parade in L. City. Believe me it was a parade & a half. Well I must quit and send some pictures to Blanche.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: November 6-12, 1917

November 6th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to thirteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

Previous letters have alluded to photographs being exchanged between Forrest and Ava. These photos appear to have not survived with the collection. However, one of the pictures Forrest sent Ava this week has been preserved with the letters, and it’s shown below with his caption.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Sunday, Nov. 11, 1917

Dear Marie,

Was glad to hear that you are getting along so well in school. I am afraid that my report for that grade does not come up to yours.

Let’s forget all about that letter. It really was my fault anyway – I am pretty well acquainted with the feeling that prompted you the write that way. Wouldn’t you feel better if you went out more for good times among your boy and girl friends?

Anyway I do understand perfectly, and like you all the more for your mistake – (for it surely was one).

This is a fine afternoon for riding but I don’t feel quite so “funny” now. Stock and I got a few pictures this morning; if they are good I’ll send them later.

We are going to move into “winter quarters” this week. They are wooden cantonment barracks. The brick barracks will be occupied by reserve officers in training. We worked with picks and spades Thursday and Saturday morning at the “shacks.”

Here are a couple pictures that I took Saturday 3rd.

Yours,
F.

Be sure to have Roy take that picture.

Photograph of men on horses, enclosed with Forrest W. Bassett letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Photograph of men on horses, enclosed with Forrest W. Bassett letter to Ava Marie Shaw, November 11, 1917

Sg’t Westrum leading. Others: Weber, Gorney, Howe, & Meyers.
This is blurred – thanks to Ten, who was pulling on the rein I had slung on my arm.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant