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Articles & Local History > WWI Soldier's Letter - McKenzie/Foy

Submitted by Les Niemi

From the Tampico Tornado:

[Note not from the Tornado but by way of explaination - L. Niemi: Ralph is the son of Charles Wesley and Mary G. nee JONES FOY. Arthur is the son of Frank Mortimer and Jenny Viola nee FOY McKENZIE. Arthur married Cora I. SMITH and they had at least one child, a daughter Artice who died January 14, 1923. Frank is the son of John Marcus and Emeline nee DOW McKENZIE. Jenny is the daughter of Daniel and Mathilda nee WILLIAMS FOY. Jenny's brother was Charles Wesley FOY.]

November 14, 1918


The following letter has been received by Ralph FOY from his cousin, Arthur McKENZIE

November 3, 1918.

Dear Cousin:
Well we got out of Texas and we're at a point of embarkation now but the way the papers are "talking" we may not get to embark at all. But we're "crazy" to get over there and get a little action. We left Camp John Wise the 20th of Sept., went out into the bushes and cactus, took our blankets and "pup" tents and camped out for six days. We took a balloon along and maneuvered it around each day. We also broke camp every morning and made a new camp every night.

Then we came back to Camp Wise and had rifle and gas mask drill (and we went through real gas too.)

Oct. 2 we were out on the drill ground drilling when a little after eleven o'clock word came down to us that at 12:00 noon Camp Wise was to be quarantined and we would have to hurry if we got out before that time. (We were an out going company and expected to leave any day.) So we hurried to the barracks, got every thing packed and marched out of the camp just five minutes before twelve. (And escaped the quarantine.)

We went out about a mile and made us a little camp of our own. There were just 125 men in our Co. then. We stayed there until the 27th when orders came for us to move.

We left our camp at 2:5 [sic] p.m. marched to the train one and a half miles, was inspected by the Colonel the Post Commander, entrained and pulled out at 2:40 (everything done on the double-quick.

We went through Austin, Tex., then to Texarkana (on the line between Texas and Ark.) where we marched around town and the Red Cross treated. We got into Texarkana at 10:45 a.m. the 28th and left at 12:00 noon. Then to Little Rock, Ark., that evening. The next morning (the 29th) we got into Memphis, Tenn. 5:45, left at 9:30 then to Corinth, Miss., to Sheffield, Ala., crossed the corner of Georgia and arrived in Chattanooga, Tenn., at 5:30 the morning of the 30th, then to Knoxville where we took another "hike" around town and the Red Cross ladies met us at the station with lots of good things to eat. We passed over into Virginia at Bristol at 2:15 a.m., the 31st. Then to Roanoke, Petersburg to Richmond at 5:20 that evening then on to Morrison at 11:30 that night (Halloween night) but stayed on the train the rest of the night and unloaded the next morning.

Our troop train consisted of 16 coaches, three baggage cars and one caboose and about 400 men, three Cos., the 55th, 56 and 57th.

Haven't been away from the barracks yet so don't know much about the camp only that it is a small camp and very few soldiers here at present.

Our three Cos. and three Detachments that were all ready here are all that here. Our Co. (the 55th) consists of 121 men now and every man a specialist of some kind but there will be 79 men transferred into it here and they will be unskilled which will be pulling down the ropes on the balloon.

I've got my Government rating as a chauffeur and also a balloon rigger. This being Sunday I am going to write eight letters. Played indoor baseball and football all afternoon then right after mess (dinner) I washed some clothes and hung them out to dry but will spend the rest of the afternoon writing. I haven't received a letter from anyone for over six weeks and haven't heard from Ill. since you wrote away last summer sometime, I've forgot just when it was.

We are close to the ocean and close to the Chesapeake Bay, close enough so as to get the ocean breezes which are somewhat different than the breezes that we received off the cactus plains of Texas.

Its really chilly here now, chilly enough so that a fire would feel mighty good "but" we are minus the fire.

I suppose you are just about starting in on husking your corn now. I guess I won't get to make my $7.00 a day shucking corn this fall like I did last fall.

Here's hoping the next letter you get from me will be from France.

As ever,
Arthur B. McKENZIE
55th Balloon Co.,
Camp Morrison, Virginia.

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