Laura's Letters

Laura with a friend

Laura is on the right.  Look closely and you can see Ligie lying on the ground between the two women.
Laura is on the right. Look closely and you can see Ligie lying on the ground between the two women.

Active combat in the Philippines ended in 1913, but pacification continued.

Actually, the opening of the Spanish American War began in the Philippines. Spain eventually ceded control of the Philippines to the United States. The United States believed it was their job to police Latin American countries and President Roosevelt invoked the Monroe Doctrine as proof. By 1915, the Philippine-American War had ended and America retained its presence with forts located throughout the Philippines.

This was the Philippines Laura's son Ligie was living in. Not totally unwelcome, but certainly not loved, the American soldier was a permanent fixture at that time.

Laura's Thoughts

Laura gave birth to five children, three of them survived to adulthood. It wasn't an easy life, but she was a happy, religious woman. This was the life she knew and the life she loved. Her family meant everything to her.

Laura wasn't very tall, but she was attractive. She kept her shiny brown hair in a bun, it was more practical. With cooking, cleaning, and tending the garden and chickens she didn't have time for fancy hairdos. She was always helping neighbors, even acting as a midwife when she was needed.

Her father had fought in the Civil War so she knew the pain of having a family member in the fighting. Her oldest son, Ligie wanted to be a soldier. It made her heart ache to think one of her children would be in the war especially on foreign soil. Thankfully her other son was too young to even think about soldiering and she didn't have to worry about her daughter. It was a terrible time for her. Living in a rural area she wasn't affected by the hustle and bustle of city life. Things were quieter here and families closer. Friends were like family and shared in each other's joys and sorrows. Church was the glue that kept the community together. A place to pray and a place to meet. Everyone would share in her anxiety over Ligie's decision.

Ligie's first days in the service were happy ones for him. He wrote encouraging letters home. Of course she was a little startled when he said he had asked Jane to marry him! She had no idea. He asked her not to tell anyone because he really didn't want to get married. He'd rather go out with dozens more girls. Oh my boy, she thought, what have you done? Well, now he was away in the Philipines and time would dictate what would happen.

Bridge in Manila, Phillipines - 1917

Source

8th Company

The 8th Company of the real Ligie.  (There's a small "x" under Ligie.)
The 8th Company of the real Ligie. (There's a small "x" under Ligie.)

Ligie Writes Home

Elijah was known by his friends and family as Ligie. Ligie wrote his letters home on a regular basis. He loved sharing things with his family, especially his mother. He even told her about his tattoos! He liked keeping his letters light so he wouldn't worry her. Truth was he liked the military life, the Army agreed with him. He told her about his buddies and what good friends they had become. Then the time to ship out came. He would take a train to California and then a thirty day ship's journey to the Philipines. That was when the transport became important, it took letters twice a month and brought them back to the states.

In the meantime he sent her letters as he rode the train across the country. He described mountains and deserts. He told her of bucolic scenes he knew Pa would like. He wondered at sites he would never have seen at home. All this in preparation for his journey to the Philipines.

When he got there he wrote home saying it was a cool place. No mosquitoes, but oh the bed bugs! Soon after he got to Manila he said he got a letter from Jane and she had found a man she truly loved. What a relief for Ligie and Laura.

He tried to cheer her with his letters because he knew she was missing him. It was awful hot, but he could stand it if the others could. He told her how he had a perfect record and even one of the meanest and strictest officers couldn't find a thing wrong with him. He told his mother he intended to keep it that way. She was so proud of him.

He wrote of long marches and mud up to his knees, after all the rainy season started in August and ended in December. He told her he just might make a career out of this life and retire in thirty years and draw a pension. He thought it was a good job with steady pay raises. Boring right now with lots of sleeping, but that's okay. The Army's a good life. Of course he'll come home to see his mother then re-enlist. No wedding bells for him either!

He talked of the sadness of fighting between white and black soldiers. He said it will be best that the black soldiers will be moving out. He writes of the men's hatred for the Germans and what they are doing. He tried to keep her informed of his day to day living. He tells her about target practice and his sharpshooter status.

In between he mentions his pay and the money he's saving for when he comes home. He is proud to tell his mother he puts money in the bank every month. He told her about how good things were with dances and movies. He told her about the soldiers and sailors fighting with the natives at the dances. Most of all, he told her he kept pleasant thoughts in his head because it didn't pay not to.

He was happy to relate he got his teeth fixed. He admitted it was painful but six teeth were filled with silver and two covered with gold in front and one gold filled in back. It wasn't cheap, but he said at least it was guaranteed. He told her not to tell the family how much it had cost.

Ligie's Orders

She loved his letters. He wrote frequently and told her what he thought she wanted to hear. She often wondered if he was telling her everything or trying to shield her from the truth. He was such a long way off and apparently there was no leave in sight. He said he might not be able to come home for two or three years. Such a long time not to be able to see your son.

She smiled when she read his concern for her. It warmed her heart to know he was still the boy she knew even being in the Army and being so far away. She was surprised to learn it was so cold in the Philippines, but glad he liked the sweater she sent him for Christmas. It made him feel closer to her somehow knowing he was wearing it.

When she found out he was being shipped back to the states she was so happy. He would be stationed in California for a while. Here he met new friends and attended church and dances. He even met a girl. It seemed Isabella was the love of his life and Laura was happy for her son.

The fear of him being shipped out to France loomed large in her heart. Combat was the worst thing she could think of. When she received his letter saying the Army had decided to keep his company in California to train recruits she felt as if a weight had been lifted from her heart. He was to stay here in the states, he would be safe.

Then a letter saying he wasn't feeling well and had been in the hospital. He said he was okay now. They wrote back and forth to each other about the horrors of this Spanish Influenza and how many people were sick and dying. She assured him she was okay and was helping to care for the sick in their family.

Again, the prospect of being sent to France was brought up. He was anxious to go, to do something, after all he was a soldier. Apparently his wish was to be granted. Orders came his company was going to France.

Laura was concerned, but happy he was getting his wish. She had her community pray that the Good Lord would keep him safe.

The Spanish Influenza

The 1918 flu pandemic known as the Spanish Influenza, affected 500 million people globally and is said to have killed between 50 and 100 million. Unlike many other viruses this one seemed to have its highest impact on healthy young adults.

This pandemic was so deadly schools and theaters were closed throughout the United States in an attempt to stop the spread.

"During the flu pandemic of 1918, the New York City health commissioner tried to slow the transmission of the flu by ordering businesses to open and close on staggered shifts to avoid overcrowding on the subways." (History.com)

It is believed by some that the soldiers and their close quarters were responsible for the rapid spread of this virus.

Ligie's Trip East

Her shock would stay with her forever. It was so hard to comprehend. The telegram she received saying he had died in Reno, Nevada made no sense, how could that be? He was going to France.

As she began receiving letters from Ligie's friends, fellow soldiers and Isabella, she was able to piece together what had happened. Ligie had not recovered from the influenza, but never let on just how sick he was. Isabella explained that Ligie had a bad heart and lungs and had been in the hospital several times, not just once.

On the train he had gotten progressively worse. The Army medics on the train were not equipped to care for him so when they stopped in Reno he was taken to a local hospital where he died.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

All Photographs are property of Tillsontitan

This story is based on the true events in the life of Laura Booth and her son Elijah.

More by this Author


26 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 14 months ago from the short journey

Thank you for sharing this family's story as a memorial to their son and his service. It is hard to read of their grief, and sad to think of how common it is due to war, but so important that letters are saved and documented.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Thank you RTalloni. It was truly a sad family story. Both Laura and Ligie deserve a tribute to their selflessness and great faith. As you point out, there are many deaths associated with war that are not always on the battlefield and we need to be reminded of that. God bless.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Mary. Your story is so broad and covers so much territory. It is epic in scope, yet short and trim. It is a love story, in a way and you share that love of family here with us.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 14 months ago from England

Sad ending to a fascinating tale. I remember reading somewhere that the Spanish Flu virus has been captured and buried underneath the Antartic, or maybe the artic? to be looked at in the future! er why? seems so dangerous to me!

So many people survived the war but went on to die because of the evils of this flu. so sad even more because of its truth, nell


whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 14 months ago from United States

In these days of such high technology it is hard to understand the importance of a written letter way back when. Thank you for sharing this poignant work and it was well received my friend. whonu


Adrien Richards profile image

Adrien Richards 14 months ago

it is good to recreate these letters in a long story. I once found a box of abandon letters from the war world II in a house I moved to --guess letters are sadly abandon. I keep mine.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 14 months ago from Olympia, WA

I clung to every word, Mary, the sure sign of an excellent story...and the fact that is was based on fact made it more riveting. Thank you for sharing it.


cleaner3 profile image

cleaner3 14 months ago from Pueblo, Colorado

beautiful story Mary... you write with fact... but passion..


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Mike, I was afraid this was too vague. I had four years of letters to whittle down and wasn't sure I did it justice. Thank you.

Nell, I had no idea of the scope of the Spanish Influenza until I researched for this. I knew many died, but didn't realize how global it was.

Yes whonu, and the fact that it took so long to receive a letter made them that much more special and appreciated. So glad you enjoyed.

Adrien I think we should keep all letters. They speak to our heart when they're written and then when they're read again.

Bill, you made my day. I knew what I was trying to get across, but was afraid I might not. I always knew the basics of the story, but when my in-laws passed away the letters were passed to us. I read them all and tried to pare them down.

Thank you cleaner! This story did mean a lot to me.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 14 months ago from The Beautiful South

Such a great story; thanks for sharing. Even better reading here that it is non fiction. I love any story like this getting to look back into peoples lives. You did a wonderful job.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 14 months ago from london

My Sweet, this is a sad and touching story. All the more real due to the increasing problems with soldiers of war. I think Bill touches on this sometimes. So much pain for mothers, for relatives, for loved ones. Yet our heroes have to go, to fight sometimes. So much pain sometimes, in this struggle called Life. So real for so many!

I have been to the Phillipines a few times. The great hero Lapu Lappu fought the Spaniards for the country's freedom. Interesting the things that history teaches us. An excellent Hub. Much Love, Mary.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Jackie. It is fiction in that I've given it my own twist, but the facts are true. I thought it was so interesting, glad you enjoyed it.

Yes Manatita, war touches the lives of more than soldiers as you so nicely point out. This was on my husband's side of the family. There are sad stories on my side of the family as well, but no letters to corroborate. Thank you dear friend for reading and commenting.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 14 months ago from Georgia

This was an excellent story with a great tie in with the Spanish flu pandemic. The effects of that disease was as devastating as any war as your story clearly demonstrates. You really captured the mom's angst as her son went off to the army. Well done.

Take care.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Thank you Cyndi. So much happens at one time in history we often miss the tie ins. Mothers often suffer silently during war. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a great week.


drbj profile image

drbj 14 months ago from south Florida

Every parent could identify with this beautiful but so sad story, Mary. You write from the heart, m'dear, and it is most evident.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Thank you drbj, it is a story that has touched my heart. I remember when my husband left for the Army. Luckily he spent his two years in Panama, but the feelings of fear and separation were the same. ( It was during the Vietnam War.)


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 14 months ago from Shelton

still the beauty behind the sorrow is displayed here in Laura's letters, thank you for sharing this dramatic account Tillsontitan.. :) Frank


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 14 months ago from California

Beautifully told Mary--but sad--i was just thinking abut the flu the other day--it is starting to make its rounds


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

Yes Frank, they were totally devoted to each other as many mothers and sons are. I am happy to share this small part of family history.

I know Audrey, the flu should be hitting pretty soon.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 14 months ago from Central Florida

Laura must have been beside herself. It's stressful enough to worry when family is in the military or any career that puts you in the line of fire. Thinking her son was safe, to learn he died of an illness must have torn her heart apart. So sad.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

From what I've learned the whole family was in shock. You are right Sha, the way he died, and when he died was just so sad. Thanks for always being here.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 14 months ago from Oklahoma

An amazing story.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 14 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

You are giving Laura's letters the respect they're due...developing a powerful and informative story that touches my heart.

Mom could never imagine the tragedy in a child dying before the parent. Sweet Laura's loss of Ligie is a profound example.

Beautiful work, dear Mary.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

It was a hard life in those days, and you made it come to life. Great work!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 14 months ago

Oh Mary, this is so sad, my heart aches for Laura and the loss of her precious Ligie.

Beautiful memories you share with your readers.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 14 months ago from New York Author

You have made my day Maria. Giving Laura and Ligie the respect and remembrance they are do is certainly my goal. My heart ache's for Laura and what she must have felt.

Thank you Deb. There are certainly more tales like this to be told.

It is a sad story, but true, Shy. Sharing it, is giving Laura and Ligie their due.

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