“Well I will see you Christmas for sure…I would not of come but I knew you would have a conniption fit if I didn’t…”
In his twelfth 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 expects to be home for Christmas for three or four days. He wants the visit to be a surprise but he wants to make sure that his best girl, Minnie’s friend Cleo, will be there. He’s glad he’s not one of the boys who won’t get to go home because they were caught playing poker. As usual, Les mentions his mules as well as his brother-in-law Dutch Riggle.
Elsewhere on the same day, British psychiatrist W.H. Rivers presented his report titled, “The Repression of War Experience,” to the Royal School of Medicine. The report focused on the phenomenon dubbed “shell shock,” the disturbing psychological and physical effects on soldiers subjected to the horrors of long-term combat in the trenches during the Great War. We now refer to similar effects as “post-traumatic stress disorder.”
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 twelfth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, December 4, 1917.
To listen to the podcast, visit our SoundCloud page, or subscribe through your favorite podcast app.
December 4, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Dec 4 1917
How are you all by this time. I am just fine. I recd your letter alright and surely was glad to hear from you. well I will see you xmas for sure. there will be nineteen of the supply go and the rest for new years. I was the 29th on the furlough list and the top sergeant asked me if I wanted to go for Christmas. I said yes so he said I could go but I wont get to stay only three or four days and dont forget I want you to have cleo their. but dont you go to any brother and invite any one their for I wont have much time to talk. do not tell any one I am coming for I want to take some of them on a supprise. you can cleo. I am going to write to her as soon as she answers. I would not of come but I knew you would have a coniption fit if I didn’t. it will not be long until we will all be back anyway. I will start from here on the 23. I will let you know alter what time I will land. dont know just what time I will get to start. I dont know whether dutch will come or not. I was talking to Jess H sun. he isnt going home. he says the war wont last long. he comes over and watches us catch the mules. we have a carill to turn them out in. on sunday we haft to lassoe some of them. oh yes by the war Jean Woods is in the same battery dutch is in. I havn’t saw yet. there are some of our fellows wont get to come because they were caught playing poker. there were one of the supply co boys got shot in petersburg the other night. he is getting some better now. well I will ring off for this time so ans soon.
Will see you Christmas
Listen to Episode 16 of “From Camp Lee to the Great War: The Letters of Lester Scott and Charles Riggle”
To subscribe to this podcast, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or your favorite podcast app, search for “From Camp Lee to the Great War,” and click “subscribe.”
From Camp Lee to the Great War: The letters of Lester Scott and Charles Riggle” is brought to you by Archiving Wheeling in partnership with the Ohio County Public Library (Wheeling, WV) and the Wheeling Academy of Law & Science (WALS) Foundation.
Jeremy Richter is the voice of Lester Scott. The letters of Lester Scott and Charles Riggle were transcribed by Jon-Erik Gilot. This podcast was edited and written by Sean Duffy, audio edited by Erin Rothenbuehler with music courtesy the Library of Congress.
[Music for December 4, 1917 episode: “Medley of Southern airs,” Fred J. Bacon, banjo, 1920, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694032/]
Many thanks to Marjorie Richey for sharing family letters and the stories of her uncles, Lester Scott and Charles “Dutch” Riggle, WWI soldiers from West Virginia.