State Historic Site
Dear Friends at Home: Some life this army life. I suppose I would be the only exception out of a thousand were I to say I took any special delight in the first few days in camp. Everything is done in an entirely different manner from what one is accustomed. Most of the boys get sick more or less, due to the change in climate and food, and mostly due to the mental strain of not knowing what is coming next. Ordinarily it takes between two or three weeks, before one gets acclimated. I personally am feeling a little better each day. Have been vaccinated four times, or "shot" as they term it here, without any evil effects as yet. It makes quite a few of the boys sick. I expect one or two more before I am through with them. Then I suppose I will be immune from everything but bullets.
Our physical needs are more than well provided for. The food is of the very best, including a large variety and plenty of each. A soldier here never need leave the table hungry. It baffles my imagination every time I think of feeding a camp of 60,000 men, and foodstuffs are by no means cheap here. Huge trucks are on the job all the time as well as hundreds of four mule teams.
We are fed three heavy meals a day, meat or its equivalent, such as eggs, at every meal. The menu always contains fruit or pudding of one kind or another. These, as well as the heavier foods, are set on in bowls and, as soon as empty, are immediately refilled by the kitchen police, or "K.P.s" as they are called. It was my pleasure to serve as one of these for two days. Waiting table is a small part of the job; scrubbing floors and tables occupy the bulk of your time which in my case was from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with about two hours off for eating and rest. But of course, I, being a farmer, long hours don't seem long.
Our clothing was issued to us shortly after our arrival. It would take a page almost to enumerate the articles. Among them was a Red Cross sweater which I am sure we will all appreciate later in the season. At present it is quite warm here and very dry, no rain for over two months. Since there is no grass whatever, the dust raised by the tramping of the men, both in the drill field and around the barracks, fills everything full of it. This is of course unavoidable, and is counteracted by frequent baths.
The drill is quite strenuous; every now and then a fellow topples over and is carried off. The hours of drill have been increased from time to time until now, our officers tell us, we are put through the training in three weeks which formerly took three months. This seems like an exaggeration, but I have no doubt but what it seems quite reasonable to a lot of fellows after they have experienced a day or two of it.
We are in quarantine yet, and I have nothing thrilling to relate, save perhaps of my trip out here, which I enjoyed immensely. We were fed like princes on the diner all the way through, a day and a half and two nights. We also had our sleeper straight through to Camp Lewis. Before we reached the camp, our train was made up of nearly all soldiers, twelve coaches in all.
Each day the watch which you presented me as a farewell gift becomes more precious. I shall write more later.
HERBERT STANLEY BARRETT was born in Missouri, but spent the bulk of his formative years in Sheridan (the Barretts farmed on Soldier Creek). He was inducted into the army on September 3, 1918, and completed his training at Camp Lewis, Washington. He was assigned to the Coast Artillery Corps and was honorably discharged in December 1918.
After the war, Barrett returned to Sheridan briefly, but soon became interested in missionary work. He was associated with the South Africa General Mission out of Brooklyn, New York, for many years. He was married in South Africa in 1929 and worked in the region until 1962, when he died in an accident. He is buried at Mbuluzi Mission in Mbabane, Swaziland.
A graduate of Sheridan High School, Barrett is one of the most literate of the soldiers profiled in our series. This undated letter, published in The Sheridan Enterprise on October 1, 1918, gives a beautifully detailed description of life in the training camps.