“I wish now I had enlisted in the Calvary. I would like it better. I like to be with horses. I am tired of seeing mules…”
In his twenty-third 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 might not visit after all as he hates the idea of such a long trip for only two days at home. Despite being hospitalized for many days, Les claims he’s never really been sick. Yet the little field hospital now houses 75 victims of the mumps. He’s seen in the paper that the rest of the West Virginia boys are being sent to Camp Meade, and he’d rather be there than Camp Lee. Les wishes he’d joined the Knights of Pythias, a popular fraternal organization. He also wishes he’d joined the cavalry. He prefers the company of horses to that of mules. He reckons his horse, Bill, is as good as any he sees the officers riding. Les attempts to instruct Minnie in the importance of saluting superiors (and never striking an officer no matter how insulting they might be). He warns Minnie not to put any of his letters in the newspaper, at least until he’s gone overseas. He closes by telling Minnie to “Watch for good news from me…”
Elsewhere on the same day, the transport steamship SS Tuscania, with 2397 US troops on board, was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. The Tuscania was part of a British convoy of vessels headed for France. The ship sank quickly, and 210 of the US troops were lost. On the whole, despite this attack, the convoy system employed as a defensive measure against German U-Boat attacks, was highly successful.
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 twenty-third letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, February 5, 1918.
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February 5, 1918 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
at Camp Lee
Mon Feb 5 1918
thought I would write you a few lines just to let you know I am well and hope you are all the same. I am looking for another letter from you soon. I will get out of here next Monday. I dont know wether to come home or not. I hate that long trip and the idea of only getting to stay two days. I am sure I will be back soon anyway. But if you want me to come let me know and I will come as long. as long as you know I am well you dont kneed to worry. you may think because I have been in the hospital so much that I am not well but I havnt been sick since I have been here. there are nearly 75 in this little field hospital with mumps so you can imagine what is in the base. it is ten times as large as this one. I expect more . I see by the mornings paper that the rest of the West Va. boys are going to camp Meade. would rather be their than here. if I were back on the farm now I wouldn’t be afraid of having to leave. you will see I am right. tell Jim that he never needs to be afraid of having to leave. I would rather be here than on the farm if it wasn’t so cold and I guess it just gets as hot in the summer as it does cold in the winter. I remember of Frank Kimmins saying he was at Norfolk one time when it snowed and it didnt lay on but a half day. I think it must have been in the summer time. Norfolk is only a little way from here. I was thinking of something yesturday that Frank Rhodes told me about camp life. he sure knew what he was talking about. I would like to talk to him now. if I come home I am going over and see him. he is as sharp a fellow as there is around in that community. I wish now I had of minded him and joined the knights of pythias. I am anxious to get out and see Dutch and see what kind of time he had at home. I believe he likes it better here than he does at home. More Pattison is in the same regiment I am in. he is a first class Bugalar. I have never got to talk to Jean Woods yet. I will see him when I get out. do you remember the fight him and I had when we were kids going to sayers School. I can remember it well. I havnt seen J.B.H. for some time. you can judge what kind of fellow he is by the letter wrote to his mother. I guess you saw it. I will bet Jim could at least. he is to inquisitive. he never learnt much from me. he is in the same battry dutch is. I would like to be out and take a horse back ride. I see the officers riding by here. I believe Bill is just as good to ride as any they have here. I suppos you dont know what is meant by saluteing. it is what we have to do to the officers. haft to bring our right hand up to our right eye in a very correct manner. if we dont we would get bawled out. I suppose Dutch will tell you all about it. I have never been bawled out yet. our Lieutenant told Pasco the fellow in the mule skinner group that looks so squinty that he was nothing but a damned bone head. was all he could figure out of him so you can imagine by that how they will tell you. it is sure death to strike an officer if they wished to give it to you. one fellow in the camp got a dishonorable discharge and ten years in prison and 2/3 of his taken from him for stealing a very small sum of money. I havnt saw W.F. for some time. dont know wether he is in camp or not. I dont think I would write any more letters if I were him. I presume he told Berth to put it in the paper. dont you never undertake to put anything in the paper I write or you will never get anymore. after I go over their you can if you wish to. do they ever hear from Lee & White any more? I wish now I had enlisted in the calvary. I would like it better. I like to be with horses. I am tired of seeing mules. I have the honor of being as good a driver as there is in the company. I havnt drove any for five or six weeks. I think we will have the truks soon. I guess Dutch will drive a truck or at least he qualified. dutch is liked by all the boys in his company. Well I guess this will be enough for this time.
So Good Bye
Watch for good news from me
Listen to Episode 31 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 February 5, 1918 episode: “Love Will Find A Way,” The Seven Black Dots (performer), 1921, http://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010774/]
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.