A collection of time-worn letters penned by his great-uncle during the Spanish-American War led Evans resident David Allard to write a book about the young soldier and his experiences.
Allard, a resident of Brandon Wilde, published Uncle Clayton: A Soldier's Life in Letters in December.
"Some people think this ought to be a war story," Allard said. "It is not a war story. I think this is really just a human story. This is a story about a 17-year-old kid who grew up in a small town - and I mean small - in New York state, and he had all of these experiences."
Allard said he began work on the book in the late 1970s to give to family members.
The basis of the book is about 130 of Clayton Clark Allard's letters, mostly to be sent to his mother and sister. Allard said his great-grandmother, Ella Sophia Near Allard, and other family members saved the letters, which had been passed to Allard's father.
Allard said his great-uncle was 17 when he enlisted in the Army on June 4, 1898, and was trained in Georgia and in the Philippines by late April 1899.
The letters speak of everything from family gossip to daily activities and wartime activities in the Philippines. Information during the war was tightly controlled, so most Americans had no idea of soldiers' conditions.
"The people didn't know how bad the food was and how dysentery was such a problem," Allard said. Clayton Allard was hospitalized with the disease. "My great-uncle got dysentery along with a lot of other people, a lot of whom died. It took almost 10 months for him to get over that dysentery.
"He'd gotten down to 100 pounds or something like that."
The young soldier, who also served in the Boxer Rebellion in China, wrote explicit letters to his family about his experiences.
One detailed a beheading in Peking. In others, he wrote of his health and the need for basic items such as paper, stamps and a washcloth.
Allard said he took on the project earnestly after retiring as a federal administrative law judge in 1998.
He had a version of the book printed for the family in 2004, and it included color maps and photos. A copy was stored in the library at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, N.Y., which is close to Clayton Allard's hometown of Lacona, and Madison Barracks, where he enlisted.
Allard had the book formally published in December; the proceeds from its sale will go toward a scholarship that Allard set up at the college in his great-uncle's name. He also donated the letters and research materials, including military records, to the library.
"I was doing this for my great-uncle," Allard said. He hopes to see the $250 annual scholarship grow.
"It is his book. It is his money. They are his letters ... I feel like I am honoring his mother, my great-grandmother, his sister and all of these people who kept all these (letters)," he said.
In the last of Clayton Allard's letters to his mother, written Dec. 2, 1901, the 21-year-old writes about what he would do when released from the Army three months later. He never made it to his March release, however. He was killed Dec. 26, 1901.
His parents found out about his death the following February, when their letters to him were returned marked "Killed in Action" or simply "Dead." Until two years after his death, Clayton Allard's parents were promised his body would be on a ship home. That never happened.
"I feel like by putting this book together and establishing the scholarship, he has, after 100 years, he's finally come home in a different form," Allard said.
The book is available online at www.rosedog.com.
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