The following letter was sent from Corpora William James Bean from Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York to his mother – Harriett Bean in Syracuse, New York. He was inducted into the United States Army on December 15, 1917. In this letter he discusses camp life and being away from home during Christmastime.
Dec. 21, 1917
Well Mother your boy is still here in camp and gradually getting used to camp life. I think I will like the life, but Syracuse would be good enough for me. I would rather be living at home with my wife and mother and feel free again, I do not expect to get out for at least two weeks. Do you realise [sic] that this will be my first Xmas away from home and you. Twenty-eight of them.
The best we can do is to do our duty and obey orders and this life will be much pleasanter. There are a big bunch (28) from Syracuse that have been moved to other quarters and kept separated from us. Sickness I guess.
I wrote to Mabel yesterday I suppose she told you. I address it to Canon St. as she would expected to be there mornings at mail time.
They put us thro an infantry drill yesterday all around the current walls about 5 miles that was the first drill we had.
This morning at Rebelle [?] 6:30 in line outside with exercises about 10 minutes and I tell you it did make the blood start. It was so fogy here could not see only about 30 or 40 fee. The fogs horns have blowed [sic] all day long. It cleared up for a short time this afternoon and is settling again.
We lined up on the side porch this morning for training and arrange us for height. Just think there are 4 more taller than I am in our division. There are a couple taller than me in other division. One fellow is 6’4” and I am only 5’10 ¼”.
And what do you think?
I am a corporal, only for a little while I guess. I am to report my eight men present or absent at rollcall and to police the bunks to see if the floor is clean and blankets correct, to report all sickness and I forgot all the rest. We had one hour in the Gim [sic] this afternoon, it sure is great exercise.
Please tell my Dear Wife this letter is from me and let her read it if you will. Tell her not to worry and make the best of this war time business. I do not think we will see any active service Over there.
Give my hearty greetings for a Merry Xmas to all. I am your loving son. Bill
P.S. Mabel, I will write you Sunday so it will go out on the evening mail and you will get it Monday. Your hubby
Bean survived the war. Upon returning home, he transitioned to civilian life. In the late 1920s – early 1930s, he slowly got sick. The doctor found three goiters in his throat. It was decided that Bean had to undergo an operation to remove them. The surgeon, Dr. Colgrove, was inebriated during the surgery on May 16, 1935 and cut Bean’s windpipe, killing him. He was buried with full military honors by Post #41 Syracuse American Legion.
Letter: The Library of Congress