“I will wait and see if I have to go to France but I have begin to think I will never get to go over…”
In his ninth 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 about his dinner of fresh pork and tomato catsup, how hot it remains in Virginia, his mule driving prowess, the insurance he plans to purchase in case “anything should happen,” how he has quit smoking cigarettes in favor of his pipe, and how easy he has it around camp. Interestingly, he asks Minnie what she thinks of the Germans “surrendering” to France. This could be a reference to the minor French victory at La Malmaison in late October 1917, during which the French forced a six-mile retreat of the German 7th Army, which suffered twice as many casualties as their opponents. The Germans recaptured the position a few months later.
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 eighth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, November 18, 1917.
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November 18, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Sun. Nov 18/17
Camp Lee, V.A.
will write you a few lines to let you know I am well and hope you are all the same. I have just got through dinner. we had fresh pork and tomatto catsup. it certainly was good. it sure is a fine day here. it is so hot I have to keep my shirt on buttoned. I was at petersburg again yesturday. you ought to see me drive four mules now. I will get a picture taken of the outfit some time. I think walter scent a picture home of the whole company. if you go down you can see it. this picture I am sending is the mule drivers. there has been two of them got fired. as soon as cleo comes home you let me know. I want to write to her and her my picture. what do you think about the germans surrendiring to French. the boys here have all brightened up since the news arrived here. it is not going to worry me any. I dont care wich way it goes. I expect to come back some time any way. I am thinking of taking out $5000 insurance so if any thing should happen you and jim will have something to fall back on. I will wait and see if I have to go to france but I have begin to think I will never get to go over. the boys that left yesturday were back up to us this morning. there be some more leave this week. I dont think I will haft go. they are only two mile from here. there are only about 75 in our company now. there are to be only 57 left. I got letter from ed Fisher. he said if I was out their now he would give me a job driving a team. roxie has the fever. I have been scending her some cards. tell jim to think of me the next black skunk he catches. I never got maras letter. how is dad and sammie getting along. you wanted to know if I smoke ciggerettes [sic]. I quit. I smoke my pipe. I thought the picture of bill and the bugy was fine. I am going to have baled hay tomorrow. believe me I have it pretty soft. I get to set and watch the other fellows work. well I will close. mabe I will write again soon. it is such a nice day I want to go out side. so ans real soon
Photographs mentioned in November 18, 1917 letter
Listen to Episode 12 of “From Camp Lee to the Great War: The Letters of Lester Scott and Charles Riggle”
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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 November 18, 1917 episode: “True to the Flag March,” United States Marine Band, 1922, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694039/]
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.