“I have been having some pretty hard luck…”
In his twentieth 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 is “taking the mumps” and his “jaw is swelled some.” He fears a long hospital stay (18 days for mumps) will ruin yet another attempt to visit home. Even the ever-optimistic Les has to admit he’s been the victim of some “hard luck,” but he still sees the silver lining in that if he has mumps now, he won’t have them “sometime again.” He says the mule drivers will be getting their trucks soon [American manufacturers had produced more than 225,000 trucks by 1918].
Elsewhere on the same day the Germans captured trenches on the Belgian coast, Brits and Germans fought a submarine battle near the Canary Islands, rioting occurred in Moscow even as the Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd, and future Nobel Laureate, American biochemist Gertrude B. Elion was born.
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 twentieth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 23, 1918.