Between August 10, 1918, and December 29, 1918, Albert Reynolds’s wife, Helen, wrote many letters to her husband while he served in the U.S. Army. According to one letter, Helen wrote three letters per week to Albert. Many of these letters never made it to Albert and were returned to sender. These returned letters are included below.
The letters offer a glimpse into the stress and devotion felt by spouses while their husband were overseas. Helen learns that Albert was wounded but goes weeks without knowing anything more specific. Her anguish and loneliness grow as letter after letter is returned. The letters also show what women did on the homefront during the war. Helen takes a job as a teacher, corresponds with many relatives involved in the war, quilts, talks about the news, and notices the toll taken by influenza.
In the letters Helen refers to Harry (Harry Becker – Helen’s older brother), Glenn (Glenn Reynolds – Albert’s younger brother), and Albert’s mother (usually referred to as “Mrs. Reynolds”). Helen lives in Ellsworth, which is where most of the letters are sent from, but some are sent from Geneseo, which is Albert’s hometown. Albert was a student at Bethany College studying violin when the war interrupted his – and his family’s – life.
The letters are linked below in chronological order. Notations are made for significant points in the story, although all the detail in all the letters is significant on some level.
August 27, 1918 [First wedding anniversary; letter from Albert’s mom included]
September 4, 1918 [Contains newspaper clipping of Bethany violin instructor, Arthur Uhe, being drafted]
October 2, 1918 [Helen read that the 89th was involved in Battle of St. Mihiel]
October 3, 1918 [Letter from Albert’s mom mentions “flue”; 4 deaths this week and 3 in Lyons]
October 13, 1918 [Helen heard via telegram that Albert was “severely wounded” on September 18]
November 8, 1918 [Helen wrote it had been one month since she heard from Albert]
December 1, 1918 [Letter from Albert dated Nov. 3 arrives; first since Sep. 23; Albert’s mother had received two letters in between]
December 11, 1918 [Hugh Miller saw Albert in French hospital and reported to his grandfather that Albert was “pretty well shot up”; the grandfather reported this to Helen]