“Well Abe it look like they will haft to do something pretty soon over in Germany. The way the people is doing there, I think the war will close in 2 or 3 month…”
In his eighth letter home from Camp Lee, Virginia, dated January 30, 1918, PFC Charles “Dutch” Riggle, a WWI soldier from Wheeling, WV, tells his brother James “Abe” Riggle that Les (PFC Lester Scott) is in the hospital with the mumps, like a lot of other boys in camp. He says they are practicing on the “big guns,” which “do roar when they go off.” Though it’s raining “like the devil,” Charles has never seen a nicer winter. He’s impressed that camp is “fixed up dandy,” complete with a cement road to hike on, electric lights everywhere, and hot and cold water in the bathhouse. He inquires about the corn husking back home. He thinks the German people are suffering, so the war will have to end soon. Charles is writing on his birthday. He is 24 years old.
In this letter, when Charles Riggle writes about the “way the people [are] doing” in Germany, he is undoubtedly referring to the food shortages suffered by the German people in the months preceding January 2018, during which a quarter of a million people had starved to death. Also as of the end of January, more than four million workers were striking in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Kiel, Cologne, and Hamburg. The German government’s reaction was swift and harsh, even as the German military dropped 14 tons of bombs on Paris. Despite its tenacity, the Germany Charles Riggle read about in the newspapers was in bleak disarray and must have appeared on the verge of inevitable collapse.
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 eighth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 30, 1918.
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January 30, 1918 Letter Home – Charles Riggle to his brother James Riggle
Camp Lee, Va
January 30 1918
i received you letter yestard and was glad to hear from you an glad to hear that ever body is well. these few lines leaves me as well as ever an feeling fine an hope they will fine you the same. we are having some rain hear this week but it hant very cold. i supose you are having plenty of snow out there. Less has the momps an he is in the hopidle with them. this make the second time he has been up there. i dont supose they will hurt him much for there has been a lot of the boys here in camp had them. less was going to come home the day he took them. that was last Thusday 25 an i was coming sunday 28 but they stop them passes again. i think probly we will get to come before long. the reason they stop they want to pratice on those big guns this week. part of the regement has ben out already an fire the guns. i tell you they do roar when they go of. i never been out yet. our batry low to go out today but it is raining like the devel here to day an you know we dont go out in the rain. we have not drill any for a good while. we are having times pretty easy at the present. me an less might get to come home togather yet i cant tell. there is only 11 more yet from our batry. This is the nices winter i ever put in. it is a lot warmer hear then it is up in WVa. we had hardly any snow here yet. i got a card from Bill Riggle. he is down in georgia. He says it is warm down there an they have sement road to drill on. we have a sement road here. we go out nearly ever morning for a little hike on it. they surly have this camp fixted up dandy. elirick light ever place hot an cold warter in the bath house. it surly nice to get in under warm water in the winter. well abe did your corn get soled this fall. are you done husking yet. is to an david done husking corn yet. the reason i haven’t been riting i though i would be home most any time. this make the third time i have been mark up for home an got disponted an the next time i think i will get to come. well abe it look like they will haft to do something pretty soon over in germy. the way the people is doing there i think the war will close in 2 or 3 month. yes i got a letter from G.W. Kimbel last week. he said he sold his farm back to amos. i low he would sell it this spring. the boys are having a game of poker rite over from where i am riting this letter an i cant think of any thing to rite. i am 24 to day. will rite more the next time. hoping to see you all in the near fucher. Good bye
Batery F 314 FA Camp Lee
Peters Burg Va
PS did you hear about gail lemins dying. Kimbel was telling me about it.
Listen to Episode 29 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 30, 1918 episode: Music: “Castle Walk,” Meacham, F. W. (composer); Dabney, [Ford] (composer); Prince’s Band, 1914, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100010714/]
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.