“The Coast Artillery will never go across the pond. They may never see a battle unless the Germans come across an they hant much danger of them doing that…”
In his sixth letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, dated December 23, 1917, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle, a WWI soldier from Wheeling, WV, tells his brother James “Abe” Riggle that his name was drawn 104th for furlough, so it will be a good while before he gets to come home — probably February. He’d like to come home with Less [our second letter writer, Wagoner Lester Scott] but thinks that won’t be possible. He says he saw in the newspaper that Bill Riggle was sent to the U.S. Coast Artillery in Georgia [established in 1901 to defend the U.S. coastline and harbors in case of attack]. He thinks that’s good because he doesn’t think they will be sent to France. A few cooks have been sent over. He also read that all the farmers would be sent home in the spring. Charles isn’t sure he wants to go. He feels army life has done him good. He’s heartier than ever. He says the expect a big dinner for Christmas in camp and a lot of stuff from the Red Cross. He says they had nine inches of snow. He asks Abe to save him some apples as they are too expensive at a nickel a piece at Camp Lee.
Elsewhere, peace talks between Soviet (Bolshevik) Russia and the Central Powers had been initiated the previous day at Brest-Litovsk, a city near the Polish border in what is now Belarus. The negotiations would continue for two months and would lead to, among other things, the ceding of the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) to Germany as well as the release of Russian claims in Poland, Ukraine, and Finland. The Bolsheviks were involved in a civil war for control of Russia and were willing to agree to harsh peace terms to free up resources.
Charles “Dutch” Riggle was drafted into the US Army in 1917 and trained at Camp Lee, Virginia, where so many Wheeling draftees and volunteers—including his sister-in-law Minnie Riggle’s brother, Lester Scott—were trained. Dutch Riggle was a Private First Class in the 314th Field Artillery Supply Company, in France. Riggle was a farm boy with little formal education who grew up in the hills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He spelled many of his words phonetically. His letters have been transcribed exactly as they were written. This is his sixth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, December 23, 1917.
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December 23, 1917 Letter Home – Charles Riggle to his brother James Riggle
the first thing you do is excuse this poor writing
Camp Lee Va
To James D. Riggle
December 23, 1917
i though i would try an ancer your letter which I received a few day ago and serntly glad to hear from you once more. am glad to hear that you are well an getting along all rite. i am well as could be. am feeling fine. well it will be a good while yet before i get to come home. they draw my name the 104th draw an you see it will be a good while yet before i get to come. it will be in the month of February any way. they only let 5% of them go at a time. it will be a good while to wait but the time will run around pretty quick. i dont know when less is coming home. i wish we could come together but I dont expect we will for i know he will be at home first. there is only 58 in the suply compny an there is 107 in are battery. we hant crowded a bit here. there was a bunch of are men transferred from here to North Caroline to the regeral army. i dont know wheather there will be any more transfer or not. i hope not till we all get a furlo then i dont care where they take me. i saw in the paper where the two bill Riggle left Moundsville for Georgie to the cost arterly. they got a pretty good place at that. the cost arterly will never go across the pond. they may never see a battel unless the german come across an they hant much danger of them doing that. there are a few cooks an a few solders going to france next week. they just volitered to go. 2 out of battery an a cook goes. there was 50 of them wanted to go but they would only let 2 go. well abe i just drill about 2 minuet last week on detail to work all the rest of the time. i saw a peace in the paper where they were go to send all the farmers back in the spring. i dont know wheater there is any thing of it or not. i dont know wheather i would like to leave the army or not. abe you woulden’t hardely know me now. i was weigh yestard in my shirt sleve an just weigh 170. you know i never weigh that much before. ever body look harty here. i dont know what is the reson unless it is are monking around and not doing much labor. less is same but of man now i expect he will weigh 190. i supose mary an jane hated to see bill leave for the army. it hant much of a job to come to the army but it is a hell of a job to get out of it. charley said old joe die. i expect david went nearly crazy over him. i havent got a letter from home for a good while. we are going to have a big diner here Xmas an i expect we will have a good time here fore there will be a lot of stuff sent here by the red cross for Christmas. there was for thankings. i herd a while ago there would be 5 soldiers leve here ever day on a furlo. if that is the case i will be home about the 15 of Janunary. i bet them fellow hated to leave Moundsville thursday by it being so near Xmas. i know i wouldent like to leave at that time. what is the reason Jess Riggle didnt haft to go to the army. we are having some winter here now. there was 9 inch snow fell here for the first time an it lay on the ground for about a week. you watch an dont eat all of them apple for I want a good mess of them. they are a nickle a piece here an a fellow couldent afford buy very many at that price. well i will quit for this time an tell you all the news when i come home. before i close i wish you an boss a mery Xmas an hapy new years. For ever your brother
Old Dutchman to abe an boss
Battery F 314 Fa
Listen to Episode 20 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.
Vince Marshall is the voice of Charles Riggle. 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 23, 1917 episode: “Hungarian Rag,” New York Military Band (performer), 1914, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694028/]
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.