“If you could see this training camp you would not think Germany would last long…”
In his seventh 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, rather humorously, about his adventures in guard duty, including encounters with a soldier who refused to wear his uniform and another who was inebriated. Lester is happy to note that the “mule skinners” finally have their mules and will be able to start driving them. He talks about sending pictures home of the Ohio County boys. He requests “mince pie” and refers again to Minnie’s brother-in-law Dutch Riggle, who has “gained 15 lbs.” Lester talks about a soldier with poor hygiene who is disliked by the other men, and he mentions the liberty bonds he has signed over to his sister, in case anything should happen to him.
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 seventh letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, November 5, 1917.
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November 5, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Nov 5th 1917
I recd your letter today and was glad to hear from you. I have been on guard mount since yesturday morning and just got through this evening. I have had three prisoners to guard. one was a belgum. he refused to put on his uniform so they put him in the guard house. he has decided to put it on now. and another one said he would rather shoe horses for Germany than he would for the united states. the other got drunk. I had to take them to mess and where ever they had to go. I did not feel much afraid for I had poliece [sic] club. we got our donkeys in today. I will start driving tomorrow. it has been a fine day here today. it has never snowed here yet. we drill in our shirt sleeves the most of the time. we had a picture taken of the mule skinners as they call us here Saturday. will scend you one soon, also a picture of the whole company and one of us Ohio Co boys. will send you one of myself soon. be sure and tell Mabel my address so I will get some candy. dont tell Cleo though. be sure and send me some mince pie. tell jim to have a mess of rabbits to. glad to know bill is all right. Walter sleeps right beside me now. I cant notice much change on him. dutch has gained 15lbs. he says his barracks is right beside ours. my arm is all right now. I dont think we will leave Camp Lee. we cant tell though there has been some of our boys transferred to different companys. Dave Conrad got three days extra fatigue saturday when we had inspection for not being shaved. the boys does not like him very well because he goes so dirty. I have never got any extra yet. I shave three or four times a week. I scend my clothes to the laundry except under clothes and socks. I had my liberty bonds made over to you so if any thing should happen me you could get the money. if you could see this traning camp you would not think germany would last long & if there is any questions you want to know about anything here dont be afraid to ask me.
I guess this is all for this time so ans soon
Photographs mentioned in November 5, 1917 letter
Listen to Episode 10 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 5, 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.