Yates Mahaffy, Sr. wrote this letter home to his brother during WWI.
Camp Taylor Ky.
Oct. 13, 1918
Dear Brother Dick;
I received your letter last night, but it came too late for me to heed your advice, for I had just got back from hospital about one hour before. Will try and tell you about it.
We have had dry and warm weather for some time and has been very dusty here. Last Saturday there was a bad dust of sand storm and I had a dusty job, tearing out partitions and shelves from an old house here in camp , that is to be used as some sort of a school this winter. Saturday afternoon did not have to work so another fellow and I got a pass until eleven P.M. and took trolley into Lewisville. We bought a few things we needed and went down along Ohio river and watched boats and ferries and the trains crossing the bridges into Indiana.
We came back early and I went to bed about nine, feeling fine and slept good.
Sunday I felt good and did some washing and ate a good big dinner.
After supper this fellow and I went to canteen and bought a glass of milk and came right back, for I wanted to write. When I got back I found my bunk occupied by a bunch of gamblers and they were so noisy and smoke was so thick I went up to Y. to finish writing. Wrote to Ma and another short letter and started back to barracks about eight. Was a little chilly when I got back and went to bed about nine. Was very cold and ached all over. Did not sleep any.
Next morning I stood out for reveille and we went for a hike before mess. I had hard time to keep up, but got back and when I went to mess could not eat, but drank a little coffee. Started for work about 6:45 A.M. and stopped at Infirmary on way down. Termperature was 101 and they put a mask on me and a fellow came back with me and I got mess-kit and overcoat, and went back to Infirmary to wait for ambulance. Had to wait until nearly eleven and nearly froze. Was ten of us besides one of our Lieutenants in ambulance. He had the flu. Too.
At Base Hospital had to go through a lot of Red-tape and they took my watch and money, and then was taken all around barracks or camp until finally they found Ward 16 where we were to stay.
This was an old barracks and very dirty. 125 beds in it. Mine was no. 80. We went to bed with clothes and shoes on and it was after 3:00 P.M. before we saw any one. Very cold and head ached and ached all over. Finally a sister from some Catholic Hospital came along and gave us a couple of aspirin tablets. I soon began to sweat and the pain left me. She came along again with six calomel tablets and two pills of some kind. This is about all the medicine I had while there. Y.M.C.A. man came with paper, stamps, envelopes. I got some and wrote to Mother every day.
We had no soap, towel or anything so was pretty dirty.
The gov. sent a telegram to Conn. to a boy’s mother, that he was just alive. She and her daughter came and he was in the same room as I was, but was not very sick. Some mistake. They brought soap, towels, oranges and worked very hard over the boys in this room, and if it had not been for these and a few outsiders guess a lot of us would have died. Will never forget that place and first two nights there.
Some threw up all over the floor, bled from nose and throats and coughed all night. Cannot describe it. You have probably seen more of such things than I have. Made a fellow think of home and the good care he would get there.
I saw them carry out a good many, and Y.M.C.A. man said there were ninety dead in one pile.
I have no sweater or blouse yet but understand we are to get a sweater soon. So you better wait and let them give me one if they will. They were to take one of flannel shirts, but guess this disease has put a stop to it. Very hard to get clothing or anything and I have bought several articles already.
I came here Aug. 26 and was only one from my company placed in Battery A. 8th Bn. This was a very hard place and they nearly killed several. I was put in machine gun school and we had Lewis guns to take apart and work with. Was in this several days and then taken out to enter a 12 day period of drill. Camp was all changed about and I was sent to Bat. C. 11th. Bn. And here met some of boys I knew in Buffalo. We drilled a lot and finally got to work making an old stable over into a paint-shop; to be used to paint guns and caissons in. Then we made another shed into a Carpenter School. While working here the B.C. came down with a call for 12 men to go to France right off. Five volunteered and he took seven more; but I did not happen to get it then.
Several from Buffalo went.
Another call came for 25 men to work around camp. My name was on this and I have been working with the Utility Department lately until I was taken sick. Do not know what I will do now.
I find the life of a soldier is full of a lot of hard ships and things are not as nice as the papers say they are.
Just received a letter from Mother, written Friday morning. She had received my letter saying Iwas sick and had thought something was wrong. Fred is sick and several others in the neighborhood. Hope Ma, Pa and all the rest will keep well. You are lucky to keep well so long.
How I wish we were all together again and could go hunting and fishing once more.
Well I must quit and write to Ma.
From your Brother
Camp Taylor, Ky.
Battery C. 11th. Bn.