“I never saw as many mumps and measles…I will venture to say that there is one fourth of the boys in camp with mumps and measles…”
In his twenty-first 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 feels fine “with the exception of a big jaw.” He’s in the convalescent field hospital with the dreaded but predicted mumps now, and signs the letter “from Fat Face.” He notes that the mumps are doing what the measles did before: preventing his visit home. He has nothing to do for the next 18 days but listen to the Victrola. Luckily, they have plenty of records. There are six inches of snow on the ground. Les is meeting people from all over the country. He tells Minnie it’s OK to sell his horse Bill.
Elsewhere on the same day aerial battles continued over Flanders, the Brits were conducting air raids into Germany, and British Prime Minister Lloyd George met with Italian leader Vittorio Emanuele Orlando. The two men would have significant roles at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. American evangelist Oral Roberts 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 twenty-first letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 24, 1918.
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January 24, 1918 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
I will try to write you a few liens to let you know I am feeling fine with the exception of a big jaw. Was ready to start home this morning but had to come to the hospital. I was afraid to start on such a long trip anyway. the doctor did all he could for me to get me to come but was afraid to let me start. the other time I was to come I took the measles just a week before I was to leave. got back the day I was to start. I feel fine and have a good appetite and get plenty of good stuff to eat. I will be here 18 days. dont haft to do any thing. I am going to come home as soon as I get out again. our company commander told me I would get to come straight. There are several boys here with me that hasnt got to come home yet. I know some of them. it is not lonesome at all. we have got a victrola and plenty of records. I dont haft to stay in bed. I can go around all I please. I never saw as many mumps and measles. there is one of oru boys home now with mumps and one got a far as pitsburg and took the measles and had to stay their until he got well. I will venture to say that there is one fourth of the boys in camp with mumps and measles. did you ever get the letter I scent when I was in the hospital before. I am not in the same one I was before. I was taken their this morning and was not very bad so I was brought back here. it is called the convelescent field hospital. It is not far from our regiment. this is just for the ones that isnt serious otherwise it is just the same as our barracks only we have doctors here. we are not allowed to stay around the barracks with any contagious desease. this was the nicest winter day we have had here. there is nearly six inches of snow on but it is real warm. I see by the paper you have been having very cold weather up their. we had some of the coldest weather here last week I ever saw. bet you people up their couldn’t of stood it here. the air is so much different here. there is a fellow here from Clarksburg. he knows Clarence Barnhart. I meet people here from nearly all parts of the U.S. I thought of you people up their through cold weather. I could imagine how jim would step around. tub merriner says his brother would like to buy Bill back. if you dont wish to keep him you can sell him. do what ever you please with him. he may come in mighty handy next summer but if you think you do not need him sell him for what ever you can get for him. you and jim can fix it up to suit yourself. I know how well you like to buggy ride ha ha. Well I must ring off for this time. address my mail the same. I have ltos of friends that will bring it to me. you may think this hard luck because I could not come home. but you know the worst is always for the best. ans soon. good bye
from fat face
Listen to Episode 28 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 24, 1918 episode: “Old Pal,” Soman, Herbert. (performer), Lieberield, Daniel. (performer), 1921, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694035/ ]
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.