“We are going to have a big dinner today. I can’t remember what I was doing last Christmas…”
In his fifteenth letter home (written on Christmas Day 1917) 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 the troops will be having a big dinner at camp and that he expects to be able to come home soon for a visit. He regrets that he won’t have sufficient notice to let his girlfriend Cleo know so that she can be in Wheeling to meet him. He’ll only have five days and he won’t be late getting back lest he be “slapped in the guard house.”
Elsewhere on what would prove to be the last Christmas Day of the Great War, there would be no truce in the trenches as there had been in 1914, when French and British soldiers, along with their German enemies, agreed to unofficial ceasefires along the front to exchange Christmas greetings and even to sing carols together in “no man’s land” (recreated in the 2005 film, Joyeux Noel). Though much smaller in scope and number, a few similar truces occurred again in 1915. But the increasing brutality of the war ensured no recurrence in 1916 nor in 1917.
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 fifteenth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, December 25, 1917.
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December 25, 1917 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
Dec 25 1917
how are you all by this time? I am just fine. recd your letter all right. well this is a fine day here. we are going to have a big dinner today. I cant remember what I was doing last Christmas. I suppose jim will rabbit hunting today. well you can look for me home most any time. I may come next week and mabe before. I may get some one to bring me up from the grove in a machine. I will only get to stay a short time. I guess I wont get to see Cleo for I wont have time to let her know when I am coming. there were three more went home yesturday. 5% will go every other day so you see I cant tell when I will come. there are only 5 – 4 in our company now. so therefore you get 5 days five days from the time we start until we get back. if we should be late coming back we will be slapped in the guard house. well I dont know much more to say so good bye
Listen to Episode 21 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 December 25, 1917 episode: “Castle Valse Classique,” [Europe, James Reese] (composer),
[Dabney, Ford] (composer), Metropolitan Military Band (performer), 1916, courtesy Library of Congress: www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010721/]
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.