World War One Letters: Emerson



Although the majority of the letters written by brothers Earl W. and Scott Harold Emerson (who generally used his middle name) during World War I were dated after the Armistice, both of them served in Europe and give interesting insight into the experiences, attitudes, and observations of typical servicemen of the period.

Harold expresses initial interest in the new places he is seeing, but as time goes on there are more critical comments in his letters. One point he seems disillusioned about is the waste he sees and also his perception of preferential treatment of officers. Another recurring complaint is the lack of mail from home or erratic mail service, mentioning in one letter (April 22, 1919) receipt of 28 letters all at once.

The pocket diary written by Harold covers the daily activities while he was in service, with brief entries describing everything from basic work assignments, to his experience crossing the Atlantic to Europe, including bouts of seasickness. At the end of the book there is a listing of duties expected while on guard duty.

One interesting, but unrelated piece also found in the back of the pocket diary of Scott Harold Emerson is a small humorous listing of “Ten Commandments for Autoists”, attributed tongue-in-cheek to the “Farmers Anti-Auto Protection Society”. It gives a look at the beginnings of change of the rural landscape by the advent of auto travel. There is an additional point of irony in the piece, since both Earl and Scott made their post-war living operating a garage as auto mechanics.

The letters written by Earl, although sporadic, give good descriptions of his activities, including one dated March 17, 1919 covering a 3-day leave in Paris, as well as concerns about the Germans finally signing the peace accords. The last of his letters in the grouping, written to his brother and dated June 25, 1919 still found him stationed in Germany, where he comments on possibly getting horses and acting as cavalry for a potential advance.

Because some of the letters were written in faint pencil, there is some difficulty in reading portions, so photocopies were made of a few to improve legibility.