“You wanted to know what I was going to do Thanksgiving. I am going to get my teeth fixed. I got one pulled. I only have two to fix…”
In his tenth 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 still isn’t sure if he’ll get furlough a few days later for Thanksgiving on the 29th. Although November 29 seems late to celebrate Thanksgiving, this would have been typical for the age. Lincoln, in 1863, declared that the holiday was to be held on the last Thursday of November. It wasn’t until 1939, when the last Thursday happened to fall on the last day of the month, that the date was changed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery during the Great Depression, issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. Congress, however, arguing that some years November has five Thursdays when other years have only four, decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday, and in 1941 established the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday. If Lester doesn’t make it home, he plans to get his teeth fixed for the holiday. He only has two to fix, he notes. He says that he and the men asked for a transfer to France and were told they would be there soon. As his brother-in-law Dutch Riggle mentioned in his letter of the previous day (see Podcast #13), Lester talks about the transfer of the infantrymen, including Wheeling friend Walter Toland (W.T.). Lester doesn’t miss Walter but says Dutch seems happy. Lester also mentions the snow but disagrees with Dutch about how cold it is. Les still only needs a shirt. Lester promises to let Minnie know when he arrives at Elm Grove so she can meet him. Finally, as he so often does in his letters home, he mentions Cleo, a friend of his sister and a person of great importance to Lester. Stay tuned for more about the mysterious Cleo, who will have her own podcast in this series next spring.
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 tenth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, November 25, 1917.
To listen to the podcast, visit our SoundCloud page, or subscribe through your favorite podcast app.
November 25, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Sun Nov 25/17
I will try to ans your letter which I recd last evening. glad to know you are well. I am just fine. I weight 184 now. what do you think of that? well I guess some of us will get to come home for a furlough through holidays. I guess some will get to come for thanksgiving. I put in a pass for one but I dont know whether I will come or not for we can only get about eight days. I may take you on a supprise I am not sure yet. some of us were asking for a transfer to france today and the top sergant told us it was absolutely useless for we would be their soon anyway. the boys that were transferred are still in camp. they are in infantry. some of them come up to see us this evening. suppose you think I am lonesome since W.T. left but there boys here I like better than I do him. we got some more pictures taken today of the boys that are in our square room. will scend you one when I get them. there are only about 50 in our company now and only 5% can come back at once. I havn’t heard from Cleo any more. let me know if she comes home. you wanted to know what I was going to do thanksgiving. I am going to get my teeth fixed. I got one pulled. I only have two to fix. I have took out $5000 insurance. if I keep on I wont have much left. that was some letter that jess Hewitt wrote. I saw it to. I see the turkey run news to. I saw dutch last night. he seems to be very happy. I guess he is coming home for a while but dont know when. He dont think we will haft to go to france. the most of the boys want to go. if we do go we wont get to write and tell any one. if we were going tomorrow we wouldn’t know it now. we only have to go twenty mile from here to start. tell dad and jim if I was out their I would show them how to husk corn. it is to late to husk corn now. it snowed a little bit here Saturday but it wasn’t cold. I just wear my shirt. well I havn’t much to say. I will write twice a week now. will let oyu know when I arrive at Elm Grove so you can meet me. ans Soon.
Listen to Episode 14 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 November 25, 1917 episode: “Hail Columbia ; Star Spangled Banner,” 1914, courtesy Library of Congress: www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010368/]
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.