Letter from James Packett, Camp Jackson, SC, 1918

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Camp Jackson


Friday 14 – 1918

My Dear Wife

            I will try and write you again as I have wrote you one letter since I arrived at Camp Jackson Sunday evening but have not heard from you yet.  Well dear you no that I am crazy to hear from you & little Ruth it seems as tho you have forgotten me.  But dear I will forgive you for this time as it may be possible that you did not get the letter.  I have been under the weather every since I have been back but I am feeling a little better now.  I hope you are well by this time and be sure and take good care of baby Ruth.  Dear I don’t know when I will get to come home again for they say we won’t stay here very long the company commander said this company should have been made up and sent to France before we were organized they are giving us our equipments as fast as they can they have issued our rifles.  I am going to have my picture made soon as I get the money and send you all one.  Tell Lucile that Louie Richies brother is here in camp with me and he said to ask her if she ever heard from Louie.  Tell Ed I don’t every see Mr. Lively any more and tell Mother Webb that I said to be good and write to me tell all the children howdy and to be good and be nice and take good care of your self for I don’t know when I will get to see you again but dear I hope some day we can be together again and live happy for if I have to cross the waters I am going with a full determination of coming back to you.  So I will close for this time by saying good bye from your husband.

            From      James Packett

to Wife

Address James Packett Pvt

Second Corps Artillery Park

Camp Jackson


Truck Co. B.


This letter appears to have been written in June, 1918.  My mother, referred to as the baby Ruth, was born in May, 1918, so I believe that her father James Packett had been able to get leave to go home when she was born.  The letter is dated simply “Friday 14 – 1918”, and June is the only month in 1918, after my mother was born, with Friday the 14th.

Yesterday evening I made a startling discovery, at least to me, about James Packett.  On www.ancestry.com, I found a record of his WWI draft registration on June 5, 1917.  He stated that he had no dependents – no mother, father, wife, child under the age of 12, brother or sister under the age of 12 – who depended upon him for support.  “No one” is how he filled in the blank.  So it appears that he and my grandmother married and had my mother within the year, which certainly isn’t impossible.  That’s not the startling thing.  At the bottom of the sheet, on the signature line, he made an “X”.  He couldn’t write his name.  He couldn’t even sign his name.  I’ve heard of people who couldn’t write anything except to sign their name, but my grandfather couldn’t write his own name.  It’s hard for me to imagine that someone in the 20th century couldn’t WRITE THEIR OWN NAME.

Yet we have these letters that my grandfather wrote from Camp Jackson and from France.  I would now doubt that he achieved reading, and writing in cursive, in only a year.  So when I compared the letter above with the one that I previously posted, it is clear that the handwriting is different.  Different people wrote these letters, none of whom were my grandfather. 

When he came home from the war, he went back to work in the textile mills.  He was also a preacher.  So how did he read the Bible?

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5 Responses to “Letter from James Packett, Camp Jackson, SC, 1918”

  1. Simba Says:

    On the 1920 Federal Census it states that James can read and write. That leaves several possibilities. Possibly whoever gave that information did not tell the entire truth? Possibly for censorship purposes during WW I he was not allowed to write his own letters, but they must have been completed by an officer or something. I never heard that before, but that doesn’t mean much either. Possibly he was gaining an education as he grew older? I wonder if he attended any sort of theological school?


    • ruthrawls Says:

      I also saw the 1920 census. I’m wondering if he said that he could read and write in order not to be embarrassed/ashamed. My grandmother could read and write so maybe he didn’t want to report that he could not.


  2. Bobby Says:

    Did Dad ever tell you how he became a iron worker? A call went out for able men to apply for TVA at a job site. It was either 1941 0r 1942. You should never let facts get in the way of a good story. Anyway the day came and it was like there were hundreds of men there. More men than jobs it seemed. Dad was standing near the back of the crowded workers. A man on the platform would call out who can do rigging, concrete, iron work? Men raised their hand and were told to get in line and sign up. It seemed like I was there for hours and a lot of men had been picked. All of a sudden the call came “who can tie rod”? Dad said ” it can’t be that hard so I raised his hand”. Never mind he had never tied rod before. He got in line to sign up and overheard two men nearby talking. They could tie rod but couldn’t read or write. Dad made em a propositionl “I’ll fill out your applications if you show me how to tie rod”. And that was that! I told Dad I was surprised he raised his hand and he said “I had to I was desperate”!


  3. Bobby Says:

    In WW1 soldiers letters from the front had to be read and signed by a officer to insure there was no inforemation that would aid the enemy. I have a letter From James A written “somewhere in France” and at the end an officers signature. Mother told me Grandma Packett had to quit the 2nd grade to go to work. she was very proud of the fact she learned to read and write. She never mentioned her father not being able to read or write which I thinjk she would have. Mother always stressed the importance of education. As far a James not being able to read or write.
    I don’t know when he received the call to preach but he may have objected to the war as many american’s did. I don’t know the penalty for not registering in WW1 but I’m sure it could be severe. The X on his registration card could have been his way of protesting the war. Also I find it strange that the card reads Jim, documents I’ve seen has always been James. As far as his letters that appear to be written by a different hand, his developing malaria could be one explanation. There is always the posibility but With the information available I believe he could read and write.


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