“I have been having some pretty hard luck…”
In his twentieth 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 is “taking the mumps” and his “jaw is swelled some.” He fears a long hospital stay (18 days for mumps) will ruin yet another attempt to visit home. Even the ever-optimistic Les has to admit he’s been the victim of some “hard luck,” but he still sees the silver lining in that if he has mumps now, he won’t have them “sometime again.” He says the mule drivers will be getting their trucks soon [American manufacturers had produced more than 225,000 trucks by 1918].
Elsewhere on the same day the Germans captured trenches on the Belgian coast, Brits and Germans fought a submarine battle near the Canary Islands, rioting occurred in Moscow even as the Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd, and future Nobel Laureate, American biochemist Gertrude B. Elion was born.
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 twentieth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 23, 1918.
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January 23, 1918 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know I am well except I am afraid I am taking the mumps. I was to the doctor this morning. he said he couldnt tell yet. my jaw is swelled some. I will start home in the morning if I am able. if I dont get to come you will know I am in the hospital. I will write from their. Gus sacks goes home today and two more fellows. if I dont come tomorrow I will get to come later. You dont need to worry about me for I know how to take care of myself. dutch will be home before long to. I have been having some pretty hard luck but if I have everything now I wont have them sometime again. we are going to get our trucks soon. the only reason I dont like to go to the hospital you have to stay so long. takes 18 days with mumps but we get plenty to eat and good treatment. I dont think myself I will get to come for I feel sure I have got them. will write again tomorrow if I dont come.
well I dont know much more to say so I will close. hope to hear from you soon.
Listen to Episode 27 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 January 23, 1918 episode: Music: “The Smiler,” Van Eps, Fred (instrumentalist), Burckhardt, John F. (instrumentalist), Wenrich, Percy (composer) 1925, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035784/ ]
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.