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LaForge Civil War Diaries and Correspondence: April - June 1863

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 07:00

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


1863 Contents

  • January 11, 1863
  • January 26, 1863
  • February 15, 1863 - The Wonderful "Care Package"
  • March 2, 1863
  • March 20, 1863
  • April 30, 1863
  • May 27, 1863
  • June 26, 1863
  • August 3, 1863
  • August 25, 1863
  • September 24, 1863 - A Night at Ford's Theater
  • October 20, 1863
  • October 30, 1863
  • December 10, 1863 - Transporting Prisoners to Washington and Some Sightseeing


Head Quarters, Camp Convalescent Virginia , April 30th 1863

Dear Jane,

I have the honor to report the proceedings of a meeting convened at this camp, of which Orderly A. T. La Forge was chosen president. After the meeting had been called to order, and a warm debate between the honorable president and the Chief Orderly of the Camp, the following preamble and resolutions were read by the chairman.

Whereas, it being a well known fact among the honorable members of this meeting, that the lady known as Mrs. Susan Potter is the most selfish of women, in that she is reported as hoarding, treasuring up, and no doubt despitefully using (as she is often seen to visit them in secret) the letters of our respected president, not allowing others to have a due share in them, therefore:

Resolved, that our president be authorized to at once open a correspondence with the lady known as Miss Jane Potter, with a view to defeating the evil plans and machinations of said Susan Potter, as this honorable body feels convinced that the before named Janey Potter is not one to betray confidence thus reposed in her.

Dear Janey, need I assure you that the resolutions were carried by an overwhelming majority? In fact, I may say there was not a single dissident voice. Therefore this letter is written with the hope that it will commence a correspondence which will carry out the spirit of the resolutions, as the evil which is spoken of is one of an old standing.

I assure you I had no idea of the extent to which my simple recommendation of Joseph for a kiss would become, or I should have paused before calling forth such a mighty demonstration. But now that it has been commenced, I leave the quelling of it to you, for I feel myself totally incompetent to [do] aught against it, with the exception of praying for you. Now Janey dear, I beg you will write to me in every letter Susan sends, and excuse the haste of this one.

From your brother,

Abiel T La Forge

Chief Orderly

Miss Jane Potter,


[Note: In commentary on several entries I've been trying to remember or puzzle out from context exactly who "Janey" is. Having had a chance to consult the notes at the end of the hard copy edition of these diaries, I've confirmed that she is an unmarried sister of Joseph Potter, who is married to Abiel's sister Susan. Janey (full name: Mary Jane Potter) was born in 1828, making her 8 years younger than Joseph Potter (who was 18 years older than Susan). There is no evidence that Janey ever married--in the 1880 census she is still listed as  single and a member of her brother Joseph's household. Her profession is listed as embroidress (although in that 1880 census she's listed as a "servant" in her brother's household!) So Abiel (born in 1842) was 14 years younger than Janey and one should read his flirtatious teasing of her in light of that. I commented on the previous letter when Abiel sent "a kiss for Joseph," which is alluded to above. Evidently there was some sort of amusing outcome of that, though we have no idea exactly what.]

[Evidently he went home on furlough during May, 1863.]


Head Quarters, Convalescent Camp, May 27th 1863

Dear sister & friends,

Knowing you would feel somewhat anxious about my welfare until you heard from me I determined to write you at once. I did not arrive here until yester-noon. I must tell you the reasons of my delay. In fact I might as well give you a history of my journey after leaving you.

I bade Mr. Wells goodbye and embarked on the 5:40 P.M. train at Andover, run on that to Hornellsville and there took the express to Elmira, where I arrived about eleven P.M. and learned to my mortification that no train left for Baltimore until 4 o'clock Monday morning. Well, there was no help for it so I "put up" with the determination of making the best of it.

Sunday I wandered about the city disconsolate and refusing to be comforted, for the good reason that no comforters offered themselves, only in the shape of a Larger now and then. [Note: I'm not certain how "a Larger" is meant to be understood.] You don't know how much I regretted not staying there and going to Alfred [i.e., the town of Alfred, not a person by that name] Saturday, and starting from there Monday. But regrets, of course, were useless, so I tried to make the best of it. I think I could then appreciate Mademoiselle Amelia's sentence of "being surrounded by evil spirits". [Note: a cursory google search doesn't turn up an obvious literary source for this reference.]

Monday at 4 A.M. the landlord woke me to take the cars for Baltimore. I was nothing loath, I assure you, when about thirty miles above Harrisburgh a train of cars (which was running along ahead of us) suddenly ran off the track. It was a heavy freight, and made a terrible smash up. Still, nobody was seriously hurt. Our engineer held up just in time to prevent running into the wreck. The engine had thrown itself in such a position that its stern lay partly across our track thus:

Derailed train

It was impossible to move it, so they got a guard to work with crowbars, and bowed the track, making it assume this form:

track detour

so we could run by the obstruction, and they did not put in any extra rails either. I got off to see them do it, or I would hardly have believed they could do it. That is the nearest I came to a railroad smash up (you know I was wishing for one before I started).

We got to Harrisburgh at two P.M. The conductor told me I would get to Washington just as quick if I waited in H[arrisburgh] until the two A.M. train of Tuesday. As I had never seen the city--only at a distance--I concluded to stop while there. I visited the public buildings and went all around the city, so I was pretty well acquainted. Took the cars and arrived in Washington without further adventure about ten A.M. and finally arrived at camp just in time for dinner.

I think there was about fifteen days difference in climate between Allegheny and Virginia. Perhaps not so much. I know there is more than this in onions. [Note: I have no idea what "more [difference] than this in onions" might mean, assuming I'm reading it correctly. A very literal reading might have something to do with planting times?]

Those provisions you sent were just right. You must excuse the haste of this letter, its only object being to let you know I am safe. Give my love to all, and my straw hat to Frank. You will find it (the hat I mean) in the lid of my trunk. Tell mother to keep on growing younger until I come back again and I shan't know her. You must read to her once in a while. She is so lonesome.

Love to Jane,

Your Brother

A T La Forge

Chief Orderly


Head Quarters, Convalescent Camp, June 26th 1863

Sister Dear

Yours of the 8th came to hand in due time. What could have induced you to write such a long letter, I cannot see. I hope I did not make you mad while I was home did I? I have been trying to think, ever since the reception of your letter, what it was so I could ask your forgiveness, but have entirely failed so far. Perhaps you will enlighten me in your next. [Note: It's frustrating having only one side of this correspondence. What was the content of Susan's "long letter"? Or is Abiel being sarcastic and implying that it was the shortness of the letter that concerns him? He often uses reversals in a teasing or sarcastic way.]

Your old friend William has been down here, as you are probably aware. His stay with me was short--too short--but we managed to have a pretty good talk in the time. "Golly" Bill is a fine chap ain't he? I wish he could stay here all summer, but it would be too much of an inconvenience to a fellow just [away?] from the blessings of home. I cant help laughing every time I think of how funny he looked when I was making my bed for him to sleep on. He said he was glad he was not a soldier, and I had no difficulty in believing him.

The rebs are coming up to pay you a visit. Please give them my compliments, if they reach your place, and tell them to consider me very much at their service. O gracious! Some of the boys up there will have to turn out to repel invaders. Or they're taken sure, I recommend Joseph to have a good charge of shot in that old musket, so some night when he hears a noise among his chickens he can use it on a two-legged Sekunk (excuse the expression, as it is open to censure) on which it might perhaps have an alarming effect. [Note: I've let the transcribed spelling of "skunk" stand, in case it's representing a dialectal pronunciation, which Abiel often renders in scare-quotes. This paragraph may be referring in general to the opening northward movements during General Lee's Gettysburg Campaign.]

Have you any new potatoes yet? They are in [the] market here. Cherries are all gone. Apples will soon be ripe. It is just the season for Black caps. [Note: presumably the native black raspberry that can go by that name.] I was down to the Potomac last Sunday to take a swim and got all I could eat of such beautiful ripe ones. They grew in great abundance on the banks of the river. How I wished you and Janey were along with me gathering them.

Oh! By the way, do you ever look at the moon these fine nights, and perhaps take a wish by its light, and think I might be doing the same thing? As you'd promised to when I was at home? If you have not, I have, and wondered if you was thinking of Bijou or not. Last Tuesday night I went to Washington after eleven o'clock P.M. to see the Colonel on some important business. It was a bright moonlight, and as I went galloping over the hill, my imagination was up home. I thought of you all snugly in bed, and you perhaps dreaming of me (you know you have a weakness that way) while I was riding along the bank of the historical Potomac. How calm and peaceful it looked in the quiet light. I could [not?] believe this lovely landscape was the theater of the most gigantic struggle for "Freedom" vs "Slavery" the world ever saw, only when the disagreeable truth was forced home to my mind by the stern command of "Halt!" given by some veteran ant on the road, to do "videt" duty. [Note: the beginning of this sentence seems to require negation for sense, so I've added it. I don't know if "veteran ant" is a mis-transcription of something or some sort of slang term.]

I had to cross the river and also gave the countersign in six places. They are very particular just now who crosses the Potomac after twilight. I tell you, a fellow has to dismount and advance on foot to give the password. He is then allowed to remount and proceed on his journey. My ride was about thirteen miles. I went to the Department Headquarters.

I had a letter from father. Himself and "frow" were well and full of love. He is already proposing to move. Is friend William home yet? Please tell Perry not to answer my letter if he don't want me to write to him again. [Note: comments like this last are why I often suspect Abiel of sarcasm when he says something unexpectedly contrary to logic. In regard to the reference to his father's "frow" (read: "Frau"?), Abiel's step-siblings through his father's second wife Julia were surnamed "Swart" which might be consistent enough with a recent German immigrant origin for the family to make sense of the word.]

My Best respects to all, especially my dear mother and Janey.

From your Loving brother,

And humble Servant

A. T. LaForge

Chief Orderly

Mrs Joseph Potter

Andover, N.Y.

P.S.! Some of the "Army of the Potomac" is crossing the river at the Chain Bridge, to be ready for the rebs in Pennsylvania. Look out for stirring times!

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