LaForge Civil War Diaries
A recent trip to see my brother Randy in Maine gave me an opportunity to get a good image of one of the photographs we have of Abiel. (There's a reproduction of it on the hard-copy of the diaries that my mother published, but the image quality wasn't worth putting it through another generation of reproduction to use here.) He's clearly in some sort of uniform, and it isn't too bad a guess that this may have been taken at the time of his enlistment. He's just a kid. So many of them were just kids. So many of them are still just kids. It makes you ask: what are we thinking?
When Abiel suggests to the folks back home that they will need to get out the atlas to follow along with his adventure, he isn't kidding. I had the benefit of Google Maps. I really do want to put together some maps to accompany these entries--I want to do so many things. This sort of "micro history" is so great for having an understanding of the past, and it makes it all the more of a crime that the histories of many groups of people have been suppressed, erased, or deliberately destroyed. Reading about troop movements is one thing.
In this period we see Abiel settling into what will be the pattern of his duties for much of the next year: escorting groups of men from one location to another, centered around the headquarters near Washington. He suffers from some physical complaints that may or may not be related to the dysentery that took him out of action. But all in all, he's living quite a pleasant life for a wartime soldier, including regular stops in Washington for cultural entertainments.
A quiet period, with most of the letters concerning family and friends.
The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878
Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)
April - June 1863
Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved
[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]
This selection of letters explains Abiel's continued presence at Camp Convalescent. His health (which he previously claimed to be quite recoverd) was proclaimed to be not up to the rigors of a winter at the front. And (as I intimated previously) his services were snapped up by the camp commander, presumably due to his reliable qualities shining through.
Not much time to write an introduction this time. This covers the rest of 1862 and explains how Abiel became separated from his original regiment (dysentery).
I decided that the end of 1864 was a good point at which to go back and cover the earlier material. When I decided to start creating this edited and annotated version of the material, I was in the middle of processing the 1864 entries, so it made sense to start from where I was and go forward. But since it's time to start setting up the fixed version of the material on my other website, I want to go back and fill that gap.
"We do not war on women and children." It was not, of course, entirely true when Abiel wrote and underscored that line on September 12, 1864. If it had been true, then the Southern woman he wrote about would not have been so pitifully grateful that the soldiers invading her home allowed her to buy supplies from them so that her children wouldn't starve.
December is filled with bitter weather, made all the sharper by the constant troop movements that undermine all efforts to settle themselves in more comfortably. There's an eternal optimism (or perhaps just dogged persistence) in how the soldiers begin throwing up semi-permanent structures at each stop only to be ordered to abandon them before they can be enjoyed.
Abiel begins the month still on leave (due to his battle injury). After working his way through several major cities and then to his childhood home in the area around Newburgh NY (on the Hudson River), he begins November by heading out to the western part of the state to visit his beloved sister Susan and all the extended Potter inlaws and their neighbors in the area around Andover, Alfred Center, and Wellsville.