“Don’t look for me until you see me coming. I will get a car to bring me out. I may be out at any time.”
In his eighteenth letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, to his sister Minnie Riggle, US Army Wagoner (mule team driver) Lester Scott, a World War I soldier from Wheeling, West Virginia, writes that he’s sorry he asked Minnie to meet him as his planned furlough to Wheeling has once again been canceled. He’s going to try to come home with Dutch [our second letter writer, Charles Riggle]. He’s afraid he might be getting the mumps now, a mandatory 19-day hospital stay. He’s sending a photo home and trying to get one of the mule team.
Elsewhere on the previous day, US President Woodrow Wilson had announced his Fourteen Points programme, an idealistic blueprint for peace meant to bring an end to the war. Wilson wanted to address the causes of the war, including an end to the “secret understandings” among nations (the alliance system) and to make the postwar world “fit and safe to live in…for every peace-loving nation.” Among other things, the Fourteen Points called for “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at,” “absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas” (inspired by German submarine attacks), “equality of trade conditions among all the nations,” a reduction of armaments, an adjustment of colonial claims, numerous territorial adjustments including an independent Polish state, and “a general association of nations” (which would become the ineffective League of Nations). Importantly, Wilson called upon the Allied Powers to be fair with Germany, a caveat that would be ignored, and the harsh terms imposed on a defeated Germany would help ensure that the Great War would not be the hoped-for “War to End All Wars.” Though Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts, the Fourteen Points were largely ignored at the Paris Peace Conference.
Lester Scott was drafted in 1917 and trained at Camp Lee, where so many Wheeling soldiers were trained. And, like so many of his Ohio Valley comrades, he served in the 314th Field Artillery Supply Company, Battery “A,” 80th (Blue Ridge) Division in France. This is his eighteenth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 9, 1918.