"I wish now I had enlisted in the Calvary. I would like it better. I like to be with horses. I am tired of seeing mules..."
In his twenty-third 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 might not visit after all as he hates the idea of such a long trip for only two days at home. Despite being hospitalized for many days, Les claims he's never really been sick. Yet the little field hospital now houses 75 victims of the mumps. He's seen in the paper that the rest of the West Virginia boys are being sent to Camp Meade, and he'd rather be there than Camp Lee. Les wishes he'd joined the Knights of Pythias, a popular fraternal organization. He also wishes he'd joined the cavalry. He prefers the company of horses to that of mules. He reckons his horse, Bill, is as good as any he sees the officers riding. Les attempts to instruct Minnie in the importance of saluting superiors (and never striking an officer no matter how insulting they might be). He warns Minnie not to put any of his letters in the newspaper, at least until he's gone overseas. He closes by telling Minnie to "Watch for good news from me..."
Elsewhere on the same day, the transport steamship SS Tuscania, with 2397 US troops on board, was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. The Tuscania was part of a British convoy of vessels headed for France. The ship sank quickly, and 210 of the US troops were lost. On the whole, despite this attack, the convoy system employed as a defensive measure against German U-Boat attacks, was highly successful.
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-third letter from Camp Lee, dated 100 years ago today, February 5, 1918.
Digital scans and a transcript of Lester Scott's February 5, 1918 letter can be viewed at: http://www.archivingwheeling.org/blog/from-camp-lee-to-the-great-war-february-5-1918-podcast
"From Camp Lee to the Great War: The letters of Lester Scott and Charles Riggle" is brought to you by http://archivingwheeling.org in partnership with the Ohio County Public Library (http://www.ohiocountylibrary.org) and the WALS Foundation (http://walswheeling.com).
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.
Music: "Love Will Find A Way," The Seven Black Dots (performer), 1921, courtesy Library of Congress: 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.