Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle: “I would start to France today if could…”
In his fourth letter home from Camp Lee to his sister Minnie Riggle, US Army Wagoner (mule team driver) Lester Scott, a World War I soldier from Wheeling, West Virginia, describes, somewhat boastfully, the details of his rather filling dinner, his eagerness to be sent to France to the war, and his prowess at guard duty. He tells Minnie about how much her brother-in-law, Dutch (Charles Riggle), enjoys being at camp. He then talks about buying liberty bonds, asks how the corn cutting is going, and compares the weather back home to what he expects in Virginia, where there “are no hills to break the wind.” While the other men are homesick, Lester declares himself “very well contented.”
Lester Scott was drafted in 1917 and trained at Camp Lee, where so many Wheeling soldiers, including Charles “Dutch” Riggle, the brother of his sister Minnie’s husband James, 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 fourth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, October 21, 1917.
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Letter 06: October 21, 1917
Sun Oct 21 1917
I will write you a few lines to let I am well and you are all the same. I got your letter yesturday and was glad to hear from you. I have just had my dinner. I am so full I can hardly write. we had beef and potatoes and apple cobler and tea to drink. it is a nice day down here today although very cool. there was a big frost here this morning. when you write tell me what kind of a day it is out there. I don’t think we are going to stay very long. think we will go to Texas. it will be real warm there. dont think we will go for a few wks and mabe not at all. did you know that they are talking of sending Tom Conrad home. his wife sent his exemption papers after he left. ther were about one hundred left Camp Lee this morning for georgia. I would just as soon start for franse in the morning as any place. I know of you may think I am joking but I would like to go. I see by the paper that we will be in france by first of january. we will likely get four months there. I think I will see Dallas onse more before I go. I have been getting along fine drilling. there was about half of our company has to work today because they did not know general ordors. that is things we haft to know when we are on guard duty. I got 100% in every thing I had. Walter did not know what he had either. you would not know dutch now. he has got so fat. he likes it fine here. I have not seen him yet today. I think you can get some of those pictures that was taken the day we left. some of the boys here have some of them. I know every one of them now. they are good fellows. will tell you who they are when I come out. think they will make some more of them. I have not got my pictures yet. will send you one before long. I got letter from Cleo. she said she had a fine time when she was over to see you. I dont expect I will scend much money back for I have bought a liberty bond that will take $15 a month. nearly all the boys have took one. there is quite a lot of that business going on now. it will help out a lot to. how is dad and tom getting along cutting corn. it has been terrible hot down here until Friday. it has begin to look cloudy now like it was going to snow. I presume it would be very cold here in the winter. there are no hills here to break the wind. when you hear people out their saying it does not get cold here tell them they are crazy. I guess the winters are not quite so cold as they are out their. when it rains down here it just looks like a creek. the ground is all level. we have plenty of warm clothes now. we all have fine over coats and rain coats. will get our winter suits soon. I heard a fellow say just now we would all be at home to stay in six months. the most of the boys are all home sick already but I am very well contented myself. I am going to try to do my part. I would start to france today if could get to. I would just like to see the place. I cant see no danger much. I am going to make my liberty bond over to you before I go over their if I haft to go. I dont have any idea that jim will haft to be trained. tell him if he dont like war he had better claim exemption. he can easily get exemped. I wrote ed Fisher and Vincent a letter. will get an ans soon. I was suprised to hear of Frank Magers death. tell Senda and West I said hello. Cleo said Senda gave her and jim more grapes than they could eat so she must be getting liberal hearted. well I dont know much more to say this time so ans soon and tell me all the news. will know what we are going to do by the next time I write. good Bye
Listen to Episode 6 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 in October 21, 1917 episode: “The U.S. Field Artillery March,” Sousa, John Philip (arranger), New York Military Band (performer), 1921, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694042/]
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.