The 2nd Vermont Cavalry trained at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester Vermont prior to WWI and, after training, shipped off to France to fight with the only US cavalry unit during the war. I currently live only ten minutes from the fort, and have previously posted a panoramic photo from an infantry regiment that trained there as well. Collecting WWI Vermont items can be hard; the material seems to never come up to auction. In this case, I was able to find a little nugget of Vermont history hidden amongst the seemingly endless WWI eBay listing section.
Looks like Clarence “Everett” Hall was originally from Manchester, Connecticut. In his letter he mentions a number of interesting topics, including the everyday life of a cavalry troop as well as an interesting encounter where he inadvertantly shoots an officer in the head! A great read, and a must for any fan of WWI cav.
Postmarked Burlington on July 30th, 1917.
Clarence Everett Hall
Fort Ethan Allen
Troop M. 2nd Vermont Cav.
July 28th, 1917
Your welcome letter received. Will write while I have time.
Haveing(sic) a little better weather now. It was 102 Wednesday on the range. We was shooting for record shoot slow and rapid fire. At slow you can take all the time to shoot you want. Fire at 300, 500 and 600 yards slow fire. Ten shots or rounds at each. At 300 yards the bullseye is twelve inches across. At 500 and 600 yards its twenty inches across. If you hit the bullseye it counts as 5, the next ring 4, next 3 , rest 2 if you miss hitting the target it counts as nothing. Then targets are like this.
On rapid fire we shoot 200, 300 and 500 yards. At 200 yards have one minute to fire ten rounds. Sitting from standing that time. Fire sitting. The shells are five in a clip. And are loaded that way. Have one clip in before the time starts and load the others after. At 300 yards have one minute and ten seconds. Prone from standing. At 500 yards have one minute and twenty seconds to fire 10 rounds in. And fire prone, laying down before the time starts. The rapid fire target represents a mans head and shoulders. And count the same. The bullseye is forty inches across.
The higher score you get the better it is. 252 points gives you expert rifleman, that pays fire dollars a month extra. 238 gives you sharpshooter, that pays you three dollar a month. 202 pays two dollars a month and is marksman. Nobody in the troop got expert several got sharpshooter, and several marksman. I had marksman easy till the last. Had an accident then. Some of the shells are what are called slow fires. That is they go off four or five seconds after you pull the trigger. I had one, it went off on the ground after I ejected it from the gun. The bullet hit an officer in back of me in the head, making a bad scalp wound. The shell hit me in the leg cutting it about an inch. It’s allright(sic) now but it sure did sting at first. I got 200 points, only needed two more for marksman.
Besides the rifle we have a pistol, 45 automatic Colt. Had no practice with them yet. Besides that we have a saber. Like a sword. Straight and about three and a half feet long. At full pack, “thats when we are ready for a long march we have the following.” One saddle, one saddle blanket, that foes on the horse, one surscingle, one pair saddle bags, they go on the read of the saddle. In the saddle bag is carried everything for the horse. Curry comb, brush, etc. In the rear one is the man stuff messkit. Knife, fork and spoon and any other little thing you want to carry. The canteen in carried on the rear saddle packet the tin cup in the center of the loops. The picket pin carried in the off pocket. On front of the saddle is rolled overcoat (in winter), slicker in summer. On rear is the blanketroll. In that is one bed blanket, half a shelter tent, tent pole and rope and five tent pins, one suit underwear, two pair socks, one towel, soap, comb, toothbrush and paste. The rifle goes in a boot on the near side, the saber on the off. The pistol is carried in a holster on the belt which is worn. Ninety rounds of rifle ammunition, thirty pistol and two pistol magazines and a first aid package make up the belt, which has suspenders so you can carry quite a little. The rest of out clothing etc. is put in a bag and carried in the wagons. We just use the saddle for regular drill.
We have revellie, first call 5:15 roll call 5:30, breakfast at 6, drill at 7 until 10:30 mounted stables, that’s grooming the horses until 10:50. 11 till 11:30 dismounted drill with rifles. 12 dismiss. In the afternoon if its not to(sic) hot have rifle, pistol, sabre drill. Semaphore and wigwag practice, that’s sending messages with one and two flags. Saturdays we have inspections of everything. No drilling, afternoon off. Sundays off except stables and water call. Water call is 4:30. Water and tie up the horses then. 5:30 retreat and supper. Tatoo at nine, taps at eleven. We have to put all lights out in the squad room at nine.
We have a nice building to sleep in . Have a large day room downstairs, music library etc. there. Shower, baths, etc. in the basement. Have regular bunks to sleep in with springs, sheets, pillows etc. There’s 105 in the troop. Theres 15 troops in a regiment, four squadrons, three troops to a squadron and three troops over A.B.C, D.E.F, G.H.I, K.L.M, machine gun troop, supply and headquarters troops.
That’s all I can think off(sic) to tell about. If I think of anything more that’s interesting I will tell it next time. There’s talk of our leaving here the fifteenth of August for Worcester, Mass. Be there for good. Hope so. This place is all right now but in the winter it gets to 45 below. That’s too cold.
I suppose there’s lots from Manchester drafted that don’t like it. Don’t blame them. For six months they will wish they were dead. The first training is very hard.
Guess I will close now its time for retreat and if I write much more I’ll have to send this parcel post.
Clarence E. Hall