Grandpa arrived in Camp Grant, Illinois, on Thursday, April 3, 1919. He started writing letters to Grandma, and presumably to his family as well. He wrote every day, a luxury he hadn’t enjoyed in months.
Located in Rockford, Illinois, Camp Grant lies about 90 miles west and slightly north of Chicago. Like Camp Funston in Kansas, and Camp Merritt in New Jersey, it opened in 1917 to train men like my grandfather for combat in Europe. From Grandpa’s letters, dated April 4, 5 and 6, and the illustrated “souvenir” booklet he sent, life at Camp Grant had many similarities to the other camps, with one major exception: here, he would end his military service.
The first letter chronicles these last days in the army . . . health inspections, signing discharge papers, promising to return government-issued equipment “in good condition.” He responds to the news from home, gathered, I presume, from letters, newspapers and accounts from his buddies at camp.
I picture him, a day’s trip away from his home in King City, Missouri, ready to return to a life interrupted by war. A phrase comes to mind, something I remember hearing him say after we returned from a summer vacation. “The best part of the going away,” he’d say with a broad grin, “is the coming home.”
Here’s the first letter in this group from Camp Grant, dated April 4, 1919, and postmarked the next day.
Camp Grant, Rockford, Ill.
April 4, “19
My Dear Inis
I just finished reading your most welcome letter written April 3rd, and believe me it was a pleasure to me, as I was getting awfully hungry for one. I know by the way you talk you think I have been getting your mail regularly, but the last one received was the date of Dec 15th. (Again, neither knows at this time that her letters, written in February, were never received. Was Grandma hurt that he hadn’t responded to these, and perhaps other undelivered mail?)
Well we got here a little sooner than we expected, was in Chicago yesterday morn when we woke up but didn’t get out here to the camp until about noon. I am feeling fine outside of a cold I caught on the train. We have been kept pretty busy since our arrival. Took my final exam this morn was marked good although I got a 15% disability on my arm. This afternoon we have been signing up papers. Saw my discharge. Sure looks good. I have been helping in the kitchen some.
Guess we will be here until about Tuesday or Wednesday. Then hoping to be home by Thurs or Fri. don’t that sound good. Some of the boys are being sent to the Hosp. and are disappointed as they are all anxious to get home. Oda got a letter from his sister, said Ferris Keys was at home (i.e. in King City).
I am at a Y.M.C.A. now just finished signing a clothes slip “saying I would send all the Government property home or back in three months” and in good condition (meaning the very clothes worn into battle?)
Tom Wright the fellow that has been with me all the way through received a letter from his wife today. He sure was tickled as it was the first since the first of Oct. Well my dear I will close and write more tomorrow night. So I send Love and Kisses