“We was lucky to get in the field artillery. It is the safest place a soldier can get in the army…”
For content, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle’s third letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, dated November 2, 1917, is one of the best in this series. In it, he tells his brother James “Abe” Riggle, about how training camp has made him bigger and stronger and how it has changed their brother-in-law Lester into a “brute of a man.” Dutch expresses his concerns about having to go to France now that the “Germans are going after the Italians.” Interestingly, Dutch comments on the 7,000 black soldiers that have recently arrived in camp. Some of them are singers. Dutch has been shoeing mules (brother-in-law Lester is a mule driver) to drive the guns, but Dutch fears the mules will be replaced by motors, which “won’t take much shoeing.” Dutch talks about training (plenty of foot work but not much gun training) and guard duty, and thinks the field artillery to be “the safest place a soldier can get in the army.” Both Dutch and Lester served in the 314th Field Artillery Supply Company Battery “A,” 80th (Blue Ridge) Division. The infantry and machine guns would be ahead of him on the battlefield, providing some cushion. Dutch says there are three field artillery regiments with six companies in each. He ends by turning to subjects back home, including his hounds, his brother’s potato crop, and coming home for Christmas.
Charles “Dutch” Riggle was drafted into the US Army in 1917 and trained at Camp Lee, Virginia, where so many Wheeling draftees and volunteers—including his sister-in-law Minnie Riggle’s brother, Lester Scott—were trained. Dutch Riggle was a Private First Class in the 314th Field Artillery Supply Company, in France.
Riggle was a farm boy with little formal education who grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He spelled many of his words phonetically. His letters have been transcribed exactly as they were written. This is his third letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, November 2, 1917.
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November 2, 1917 Letter Home – Charles Riggle to his brother James Riggle
Nov 2th 1917
Camp Lee Va
Dear old brother
i thought i would ancer your letter which i received yestard and was glad to hear that youins out there are all well as comin. well abe these lines leaves the best man i ever war in my life. i just tip the scales at one hundard an sixty five yestard. you wouldent know me now. i tell you less is some brut of a man now. i know he will way 190 now. the army life is the life for a person but the firing line would not be so good i dont think. the way the germans is going after the itialns it look like we will haft to go to the france but a fellow cant tell what will turn up by the time we get trained. there has bin about 7000 negro arrived in Camp lee in the last week. they are in the north end of camp. me an 2 or 3 other fellows were up the other eving to hear them sing. we had a good time. you know i just got back from the picture show. we have them here 3 or 4 time a week. they are free. there will bee a man here to marrow to take picture an the next letter i send you you will find one of them in it if they are worth sending. we was out in the country about five mile Sunday week an got are picture taking out there an got some cotton. i am going to send david a couple of bunch some of these days. i bet he would be glad to see it. i was out on cartling detail today. i work 2 week study at it. they change sergent an when the new one come he changes things around some. they talk like they wanted me to work in the shop but now they are going to get motors to draw the guns with. if they do it wont take much shoeing. i think i will be able to get a job driving one of them. i an a bunch of fellow went on guard last Sunday morning an stayed till Monday eving. there was 15 of us an i was on 2 hours an of 4. it hant so bad guarding when it hant reining. we are learning to drill an keep step to geater now. we was lucky to get in the field arterly. it is the safest place a solderd can get in the army. we will be about 3 or 4 from the enemy line. the infery an the machine gun go ahead of us. i know if bill an isic dont come they will haft to go in the intfry. i think the FA regement is about complete now. there are 3 regement in the FA 313, 314, 315 an there is 6 comping in each one. 200 men to the co. we only got about 4 or 5 guns yet to traine with. they hant giving us much gun training. they are giving us plenty of foot work. i got a letter from oll yestard an there was the picture of my hounds in it an also crisie david was on them. the dogs look like they was in dandy shape. i got a letter from home today an one from gold D yestard. it keep me busy riting. I rot Robert Carl a letter a week or so ago. i am anious to get a ancer from him. i know it will be a dandy. they said CB sale amonted to about $1600. it surly went high to bring that much. your potatoes surly turned out good an you an davey got a pretty good price for them. tom an david is doing more haring this an he ever did before but they are getting there work done all rite. it ______ to _____ hand to save _____. well ab i am coming home christmas if i get get of. i have never ask the captan about it yet. i got lots of friends down here. they seamed to be aful good fellows. i forgot to tell you i got a card from giney Thomas the other day an he dident put his adress on it. ever letter a fellow send it take 3 cts to take it. the lite go out now. rite a way an i will close hoping to hear from you soon or later. good bye
from dutch to abe
Battery F 314 FA
We get every morning be fore day light. Tell me all the news the next time.
Listen to Episode 9 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.
Vince Marshall is the voice of Charles Riggle. 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 in November 2, 1917 episode: “Castle Walk,” Meacham, F. W. (composer);
Dabney, [Ford] (composer); Prince’s Band, 1914, courtesy Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010714/]
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.