“Don’t look for me until you see me coming. I will get a car to bring me out. I may be out at any time.”
In his eighteenth 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’s sorry he asked Minnie to meet him as his planned furlough to Wheeling has once again been canceled. He’s going to try to come home with Dutch [our second letter writer, Charles Riggle]. He’s afraid he might be getting the mumps now, a mandatory 19-day hospital stay. He’s sending a photo home and trying to get one of the mule team.
Elsewhere on the previous day, US President Woodrow Wilson had announced his Fourteen Points programme, an idealistic blueprint for peace meant to bring an end to the war. Wilson wanted to address the causes of the war, including an end to the “secret understandings” among nations (the alliance system) and to make the postwar world “fit and safe to live in…for every peace-loving nation.” Among other things, the Fourteen Points called for “open covenants of peace, openly arrived at,” “absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas” (inspired by German submarine attacks), “equality of trade conditions among all the nations,” a reduction of armaments, an adjustment of colonial claims, numerous territorial adjustments including an independent Polish state, and “a general association of nations” (which would become the ineffective League of Nations). Importantly, Wilson called upon the Allied Powers to be fair with Germany, a caveat that would be ignored, and the harsh terms imposed on a defeated Germany would help ensure that the Great War would not be the hoped-for “War to End All Wars.” Though Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts, the Fourteen Points were largely ignored at the Paris Peace Conference.
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 eighteenth letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, January 9, 1918.
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January 9, 1918 Letter – Lester Scott to his sister, Minnie Riggle
at Camp Lee
Jan 9 1918
How are you getting along? I am feeling fine. I havnt been working any this week. I suppose you will be dissipointed because I could’nt come home but the passes were all stopped for a little while. there is going to be a big inspection here in a day or so. after it is over we will come then. I am sorrow I wrote and told you to meet me. this is the day I was to start. the boys that were to go yesturday were ready to go when we got orders we could’nt go. dutch was to Sunday. I dont when he will come now. we are going to try to come together if we can. We will get to come all right. that is the surest thing in the world. I thought sure I was taking the mumps yesturday but I didn’t. I think I will start to work tomorrow. I haft to report to the doctor every morning. whenever he tells me I am ablet o work I will start. dutch had the mesels and never stopped drilling. I dont think he had them so bad as I did. If you get the mumps here you haft to stay in the hospital 19 days so I dont think I would want them. I think I would have been able to work several days ago. I have a good appetite. this picture I am scending is one we had taken out in the woods two mile from camp. we were after holly to decorate the mess hall for xmas. we also had a picture taken of three mule teams in a breast. will try to get one. the drivers and me standing up behind the one on the ground with the pipe in his mouth. the other one is on the right on the shed. the other on the ground is our blacksmith. he will haft leave for france in a short time. well I will close for this time so dont look for me until you see me coming. I will get a car to bring me out. I may be out at any time.
will close hoping to hear from you soon
Listen to Episode 25 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 9, 1918 episode: “True to the Flag March,” United States Marine Band, 1922, courtesy Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/00694039/]
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.