“I say [Germany] ought to get a good whipping before it is over. If they would make peace with her now she would prepare up again. Go back in the war stronger than ever…”
In his seventh letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, dated January 2, 1918, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle, a WWI soldier from Wheeling, WV, tells his brother James “Abe” Riggle that he is recovering from a mild case of the measles. He notes that Less [our second letter writer, Wagoner Lester Scott] is now in the hospital with the same ailment. Dutch regrets missing Christmas at home but says they had a splendid good time and a “number one good dinner” at camp. The weather has been “powerful cold” and it’s “snowing like the devil” as he writes. There are 22 prisoners in the guard house who tried to “run off” for home. Dutch again mentions the U.S. Coastal Artillery (founded in 1901 to defend America’s coastline and harbors). He says the army has made him tough. He has no fear of battle. He’d like to get to France soon but doesn’t think he ever actually will because the Germans are “tired of war” and talking peace [probably a reference to the peace talks at Brest-Litovsk between the Germans and the Bolsheviks (Soviet Russia) that were occurring at the time]. He thinks Germany fears American power entering the war and that “she ought to get a good whipping” lest she arms up again and continues the war. In his own way, Charles seems to anticipate the rise of the Third Reich and the Second World War. He thinks the submarine was Germany’s last chance to win. He closes by noting that James is taking care of Lester’s horse.
Elsewhere on the same day, the British Air Ministry was established to oversee the Royal Air Force and deal with the increasing number of German Luftstreitkräfte bombing air raids (featuring Zeppelins, Gotha bombers, and other aircraft) against Great Britain.
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 seventh letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 2, 1918.
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January 2, 1918 Letter Home – Charles Riggle to his brother James Riggle
Camp Lee Va
Jan 2 1918
To JD Riggle
i thought i would ancer your letter which i received today an was glad to hear from you once more an glad to hear you an boss are both well. i am well now but i had the measles a few days ago but i dident have them very bad. i never was of dudy with them. our top sargent never knowed i had them. if he had he would send me to the hospidel. they dont hurt a person like the mesels i had before. less is in the hospidle now with them but he hasent got them very bad. he been up there fore about 4 day. He will likely get back about Sunday. i wish i was lucky anough to get to come home when less does. i will come about the 15 of this month. i dont know for sure when he will get to come. i would like to bin out there for xmas an tuck in some of them good time but we had a splendid good time here an a number one good diner here fore xmas. just as good as i would want an the captain gave us a dandy good talk after diner. where did you an boss spend your xmas at. i supose at home. i see in the paper where you are having some powerful cold weather up there now. i tell you we are having some powerful cold weather here now. it was 1 or 2 belo zero an you know that hant very warm. it is snowing like the devel tonight but it isent very cold. gee but i am anxious to see all of you people out there but if you only knowed what a hard trip that is you would study a while about coming. tub mariner start tomarow for home on his furlo. there are 5 going out of our battery ever day. i tough there for a while we wasent going to get to come home but i think ever man will get to now. there are 22 prisoners in the guard house now. they wont get to go home for that. what they got in there for running of an going home. there has been 2 from our battery run of but they came back again. they get three month for it an they make them work ever day. i saw the paper where the two bills Riggles went to the army in georgie for the coast arterly. i bet they wont get in a easer plase than i am. we just get anough drill an work togather here for good exersize. it dont look much like they are in a very big hury about training us here. i dont care how soon we go to france after i come home an get back to camp lee the quicker the better. fore me being in the army take the cowereleyness out of a fellow. i dont think it would excite me a bit to be in a battel. i don’t think we will ever see france. i think the germans are getting pretty tired of the war now the way they are talking peace. they beter being thinking about it pretty soon for when the american gets all her force over ther she wont know what has hapin. i think germeny can see what they are going to get up against to. that what is making her want peace. i say she ough to get a good whipping befor it is over. if they would make peace with her now she would prepare up again. go back in the war stronger than ever. i dont see how she has ever held out this long. the submarne is not doing much now. i think that was her last chance to win the war. well i will quit for this time talking about the war for i dont know much about it but i know one thing she will never win this war.
walter toland did leave here 2 or 3 month ago. he went up to the infetry but i don’t know wheather he is ther or not. now there was a bunch transferred from here a month ago to north caroline. he migh of went with them. he hasent been down for a good while. me tub and less are here in the same regiment yet. I sopose you have got your colts looking dandy this winter. less was telling me you had his horse keeping it for him. that surely a cheep way to get a driving horse. well I wrote all the foolish I can think of an i will quit. you dont need to ancer this letter unless i dont come home. for ever your old brother
Duch. good Bye
Battery F 314 Fa
Peters Burg Va
PS listen dont let ever body reed these crasy letters.
Listen to Episode 23 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 January 2, 1918 episode: “Love Will Find A Way,” Sissle, Noble 1889-1975 (composer), The Seven Black Dots (performer), 1921, https://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.