Camp Cody, in Luna County, New Mexico, was
established in 1917. It was named for William F. Cody, known as
"Buffalo Bill", who promoted a Wild West show and who died in 1917.
During the Great War, the camp was a huge 'tent
city' for the Thirteenth provisional Division of the Federal National
Guard troops, primarily from Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa
and Nebraska. An August, 1917 issue of the 'Iowa City Citizen'
describes the camp: Camp Cody is located just north of Deming. It is
estimated to be over 4,000 feet above sea level. Immediately south of
Deming lays the mountains called the Three Sisters. At this point
General Pershing with his forces crossed into Mexico in 1915. A range
of mountains lay north and west of Camp Cody. Hardly any vegetation is
upon this camp site. A tree is a scarce article here.
After the war, the site was used as a tuberculosis
sanatorium for veterans until 1922, and then as a hospital until
buildings were destroyed by fire in 1939.
Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico
The following letters from Iowa boys give a great 'view' of life at
Camp Cody, New Mexico
October 10, 1917
Well here we are stranded on a wide, wide desert,
but glad of the change, at that. We've been working hard since we
arrived, and aren't nearly fixed up well yet.
Our troop train pulled into Deming about ten
o'clock Monday night, after we all were in our bunks. It was an angry
bunch that were ordered out of the cars to unload our equipment.
Details were picked for various duties, and I was put in with a bunch
for unloading the horses. It took a lot of hard work fixing up a
gangway for each separate car, but we at last got all the horses into a
big corral. We fed them hay, and then gathered up our equipment which
we had with us on the trip, and hiked back up the dark tracks to the
passenger and freight cars. Here we piled onto trucks, and were hauled
out to camp, where I was put on a detail to unload trucks. At
one-thirty, my bunkie and I fixed up a bed together on the ground, and
shivered to sleep.
At five-thirty a.m. the whole battery got busy,
and worked hard all day. It got awfully hot as soon as the sun come up,
106 degrees, in fact, though it didn't seem so hot. This is a funny
Our camp is a strip of sandy ground situated on a wide
plain. It is on a line with the camps of many other companies or
batteries. The mess shack was already built, as were the showers and
latrines; but we had to put up all the tents and the picket lines, and
fix up the gun park.
The ground is just plain sand, with a lot of little
tufts of grass here and there. We are busy today putting out this grass
and other vegetation, and dragging a lot of loose sand out of the
street and picket lines and gun park.
Earl Moser, Co A 109th engineers, a
Humeston boy, in writing to his cousin, Miss Vesta Moser, says the
thermometer registers from 110 to 115 at Camp Cody, Deming, N.M. He is
well and hearty. He says July Fourth was a very quiet day in camp as a
majority of the boys were in town. He has been promoted and his pay
advanced $6 a month. He says the camp is dry and dusty and after
spending nine months there, he is anxious to be sent overseas. [~source:
Humeston New Era, 08/17/1918]
Also, the tents have to be set up and
swept clean (as can be), and the pegs driven in the right places.
We had to unload the artillery from the flat
cars, which was a hard job. All the rest of the baggage has to be put
away in the quartermaster's tent.
I haven't a cot yet, but sleep on the ground. The
night's are very cold. We've still a tremendous lot of work to do
before we are well settled.
I saw several fellows from the [illegible] who
are in Battery D.
We are all broke, but expect to get paid anytime.
I sure have had a big appetite since we arrived, with the hard work,
and no candy, or anything sweet. I would appreciate some of Reichardt's,
if you will send it.
PS. -- I wrote the first part of this letter at noon,
and was placed on a detail to put up the picket line posts right after
I was through writing. We worked an hour, then were allowed to go to
see a football game between F and D batteries. D's from Davenport, so
we all rooted for their team. However F won by twenty points. We
(Battery B) haven't practiced six times this fall. The last time was
ten days ago, and I wasn't in on it, as I was on stable duty that day.
Coach Jones sent me my 1920 freshie basketball
jersey, which I will send home for safe keeping. On our trip down from
Fort Logan H. [illegible], we stopped at several towns to feed and
water the horses. At Texarkana, we got out and marched round the town,
and at Sulphur Springs the officers let us go on our own hook for an
hour. The townspeople treated us pretty well, giving us apples, cigars,
and auto rides. At El Paso, the Red Cross ladies gave us coffee and
sandwiches and a post card. I needed the cards, as I couldn't buy any.
Did you get the one I sent home? We all had [illegible] at the Y.M.C.A.
Henry J. Prentiss Jr.
(~ source: Iowa City Citizen, October 19, 1917)
Camp Cody, New Mexico
November 19, 1917
Dear Folks at Home -
Well I finely got down here, landing Thursday,
and it is sure some ride, believe me but I stood the trip fine, and
enjoyed it as there were 565 in the bunch, so a felow couldn't get
lonesome. In our sleeping car there were 48 men, we got our meals on
the train. They let us off once in a while for exercise, generally in
the larger towns. We didn't get very much to eat coming, but I guess it
is better for one when on a long trip. Our feed consisted of corned
beef, canned tomatoes, coffee and bread and got this three times a day.
When we stopped in towns we were not allowed to go in the stores to buy
anything to eat, so there were negro porters on the train that we
bought food from. Of course we had to pay more for it, a pie costing 30
cents, but two or three of us went together on them so it didn't cost
so much. We surely did get tired of the same thing over and over again.
One of the boys that I chummed with had fruit and fried chicken along
and he shared with me. He is a fine fellow and we are still together
but can't tell how long it will be. We are liable to be transferred any
day, so can't send you any permanent address until we hear.
Well this is some place. Of course we haven't seen much
of it yet. It is altogether different from Camp Dodge. We are all in
tents, nine men in a tent, and it seems as though that is all we can
see. But don't think we are going to freeze. Oh no. The climate here is
as warm as summer time up home, but the nights are cool. The climate is
fine but the country is a little wild. Sage brush and cactus is about
all that can be found here, and its pretty lonesome at times but guess
we can stand it. We are two miles from Deming and it is said that there
are no white people there. They are all Mexicans. I wish I could have
taken some pictures on the way down. We saw about 1,000 acres of land I
wouldn't take as a gift. It is very hilly and dry and it beats all the
poor people living there. I don't believe they have enough money to get
away from there, or I am sure they would.
If you take the map you can trace our trip. We took the
Wabash to Kansas City, then the Santa Fe to Deming. Tell pa we got to
see the country around Amorilla. We got off there and went down town.
It is a nice place and they raise good crops but farming would be
better if the ground had more moisture. We also saw the oil wells in
Kansas. From Elderato to Augusta was great. There were thousands of
them and one would think that gas and oil would be as cheap as water
but it is as high as at home. We are 1500 miles from home. The boys
that have been here for several months are awfully brown and expect
that is the way we will look. The Mexicans look like the Tama Indians
but are some smaller. There is no end to sand here. I don't wonder that
Iowa land is so high. There is so much waste land here.
Well folks I'd like to write more of the country if I
could. I must tell you that our time is one hour and fifteen minutes
faster than down here. I had to set my watch back. Well folks I am fine
and dandy. The water here is good and the meals are better than at Camp
Dodge. Don't worry as Chuck is alright. With loving thoughts to all.
59 Depot Brigade
14 Training Co., Camp Cody
(~ source: Iowa Recorder, Greene, Butler co., 12/05/1917)
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