Merville Harrington (from "Letters Home," compiled by Byron Merville Harrington).
Merville Harrington wanted to do his bit for his country. Only 17 years old, he was too young to join the United States Army, so on May 28, 1918, he enlisted with Company H, 4th Infantry New York Guard, stationed near High Falls, NY. He maintained a faithful and steady correspondence with his mother and siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandmother during his time there.
Reading these letters one is struck by the fact that, though a soldier, and doing a man’s job, Private Harrington was still a teenage boy. He unashamedly expresses his homesickness, yet also clearly delights in his life’s new adventure. The reader shares his pride in being promoted to Private First Class. He is proud not only that he’s moved up in rank, but that the promotion comes with a pay raise, allowing him to send a little more money home. We discover that he has adopted one of the puppies born to the New York Guard Airedale Patrol. Private Harrington’s joy in learning that his mother will allow him to bring the puppy home when his enlistment is over, is absolutely crushing in its’ poignancy, for this would be his last letter home.
Private First Class Merville Harrington died of Spanish influenza a week later. He was as much a casualty of the Great War as if he fought and died on the battlefields of France. His name is one of many found engraved on the memorial stone in Sleepy Hollow and in fact, he was one of the volunteers who brought the stone from Bonticou Crag to Sleepy Hollow.
As his nephew, Byron Merville Harrington explains, “My father – Merville’s younger brother – was only four years old when his father died. He revered his older brother and missed him very much until the day he died. I regret not ever knowing my uncle.” Now the owner of these letters, Byron Harrington has gladly given his permission to share these lively, funny, and moving letters with the public.