“Believe me we have some bad mules here. We have one we call dynamite nitro glycerin. It takes four or five men to harness him…”
In his eleventh 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 wistfully (on Thanksgiving Day, 1917) about hearing the “hounds running and the rabbit hunters shooting,” an activity he himself engaged in the prior Thanksgiving. He writes about having turkey, pumpkin pie, fruit cake, oysters, oranges and even a five-cent cigar. He says he’ll be getting a raise despite talk of “motorizing” the mule companies. He admits he doesn’t know much about the war but if the papers are to be believed, the “Dutch” (Germans) are losing. Yet he thinks he’ll be sent to France soon as activities in camp have settled down. He then names some of the men in the photo of his company that he has sent home and discusses the bad behavior of some of the mules.
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 eleventh letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, November 29, 1917.
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November 29, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Nov 29/17 VA
I will now ans your letter which I recd yesturday. well this is a rainey old day here. I want to know what it is like up their. the morning was fine. I could hear the hounds running and the rabbit hunters shooting. one year ago today Lewis Rhoades and I were hunting. I believe we got five. I think next thanksgiving I will be doing the same thing mabe. we didn’t have some dinner today. we had turkey and dressing pumpkin pie mince pie fruit cake and oysters oranges and even give us a 5c cigar. there was a bunch of us intended to go hunting if it wasn’t raining. I guess us mule skinners is going to get a raise of $40 a month. that is the report now. they are talking of motorizing our company and shipping our mules to Chillothe. if they do I suppose I will go to. I would not be very far from home then. you cant tell here what is going to be done. you wanted me to tell you what I know about the war. I dont know much, but if the reports in the paper are true the dutch are doing about their last. I honestly think now we are going over for things here are slacking up. the buildings are not going up so fast as they were. the officers are not drilling the boys very hard now. I dont think they need any soldiers over their. it would not surprise me the _____ that the rest of the boys would not come. if they do they will go to some other camp or else some will be transferred from here for this camp is nearly full. the law has not passed yet whether it is constitutionally to scend us over or not but I think it will pass allright. you will know by xmas. I got a letter from dutch. I scent her my picture. I dont know whether I can come out for the social or not but I will come up if I get a furlough and I feel sure I will if there are any issued for I think I have a good record. I have not had anything marked against me. tell jim the fellow with mustache is George Baker from Wheeling. he was just married two weeks before he came here. the fellow on the extreme left in the middle row is our blacksmith. the third one from me is Charles Lewis from Elm Grove. the one behind the word skinners is Guss Sacks. (View photo.) there are several in this picture that we transferred. I will tell you who they all are when I come back. oh yes by the way the fellow behind the work lee his name is Honey from fulton. he couldn’t drive four mules. tell jim I want to know how he is getting along in the fur business and is the rabbits plenty and how is he getting along with the colts. believe me we have some bad mules here. we have one we call dinymite nitro glyserine. It takes four or five men to harness him. and some we have to through to shoe. well I guess this is all for this time. I suppose I will get a letter from you soon. so good Bye
Photograph mentioned in November 29, 1917 letter
Listen to Episode 15 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 29, 1917 episode: “Junk Man Rag,” Roberts, [Luckyeth] (composer), Victor Military Band (performer), 1913, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010646/]
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.