“The doctor asked me what I was before I came to the army a preacher or a prize fighter… I told him I was nothing but a common farmer. I weigh 188 now so you know I would look like a preacher…”
In his Fourteenth 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 will not be home for Christmas but expects to visit for five days after New Year’s. Christmas furloughs are being determined by a random drawing, but after New Year’s they will be granted alphabetically. When Les and the other troops were examined for tuberculosis, the doctor asked if he was a preacher or a prize fighter. He thinks he’ll be driving a truck instead of driving mules. He says Dutch [our second letter writer, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle] was also driving mules that day. Les had luck hunting opossum, until some were stolen.
Elsewhere on the same day, the Battle of Jaffa (Palestine) would begin, with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and a few Scottish brigades of the British Empire on one side and the Yildirim Army Group of the Ottoman Empire and German Empire on the other. A daring nighttime river crossing by the Scottish brigades during a heavy downpour secured victory for the British.
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 fourteenth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, December 20, 1917.
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December 20, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Dec 20 1917
how you was? I am just fine. recd your letter today. certainly was glad to hear from you. wrote you a letter some time ago but guess you had not got it yet. well I cant get up for xmas but will get to come sometime after the first of January. there are three of our co. goes sat. they put them in a box and shook them up. the numbers that were drawn got to xmas and new years. After new years we are going in alphetically form. One will go each day so you see there will quite a few ahead of me. will only get 5 days. I am not working this afternoon. we had a examination for tuberlosis. All passed but one or two. I think when I walked up to be examined the officer or rather the doctor asked me what I was before I came to the army a preacher or a prize fighter and after I went through he asked if I was a prize fighter. I told no I was nothing but a common farmer. I weigh 188 now so you know I would look like a preacher. it is real warm here today. would like to be out and take a sleigh ride. I suppose bill and barney matches up good. if I was out their I would drive linda for him. tell him I would like to see him drive some of these green mules. I will not haft to drive very long. I will drive a truck or take charg of a detail, I dont know which. dave Conrad is still with us yet. he would not be here if he wasnt a good truck driver. Oh yes dutch was driving mules today. he was just on for today. did not know Burl had moved. how is dad standing the winter. tell jim if he was here he could catch lots of rabbits. they are thick there. a bunch of us boys will run them down ourself. Caught opossum to hang them to feeze and some are stoled them so you see we are out of luck. I am in a hurry. will close. will write as soon as I get your other letter. ans soon.
Listen to Episode 19 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 December 20, 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.