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Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 13:38

This Sunday February 19th at 4pm, a group of six Bella Books authors (including yours truly) will be reading and talking about why we write at Laurel Bookstore in downtown Oakland. (See link for details.) I'd love to see people there! Laurel Bookstore is incredibly convenient to public transit (literally just on top of the 12rh St BART station) and on a Sunday the parking should be easy as well.

Of course you'll want to buy some books while you're there, but as an extra enticement, I'll have some hard copies of my free story "The Mazarinette and the Musketeer" to give out.

Major category: 
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 08:00

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.

In my final copyediting pass of these entries, I always find that some of Abiel's regular spelling idiosyncrasies have slipped past me: staid for stayedbuisy for busyprety for pretty. No doubt I've still missed some. I've only just noticed the auto-spellcheck function in this blog editor, so perhaps that will help with my regular spelling idiosyncrasies too.

Toward the end of December, there's brief note about Abiel being appointed to serve on a Court Martial (i.e., not a specific case but as a regular participant). As I mention below, this will be an unexpected turning point in his life, although I'm reconsidering the spin put on it that I'd picked up from family folklore about the matter. More on that later as events progress.

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

December 1864



Thursday  December 1st 1864

Still fair weather.  I sent a letter to my sister in the mail which went out this morning.  I sent 7 letters.  I was in command of the Regiment two hours today.  This P.M., took out all the men who had loaded guns and fired them off.  The 1st Division of our corps moved this A.M.; where they are going we do not know but suppose to Petersburg.  We expect to move soon.  Hard at work on my clothing for June and July.  Today got those two months nearly finished.

[Note: There are a couple of cryptic references in this entry. What was the purpose of firing all the loaded guns? It doesn't sound like a target practice exercise--more like "guns shouldn't be sitting around loaded if we aren't going to use them, so we fired them to empty them out." But that's just a wild guess from context. The reference to working on clothing for June and July sounds like this may have been an inventory/supply record that Abiel is a bit behind on. This is supported by the reference to "clothing rolls" in the next entry.]

Friday  December 2nd 1864

Very busy again at the clothing rolls.  The fair weather with which we have been blessed for several days seems about to cease.  Considerable rain fell this P.M. and the sky looks like one of those long winter storms. Still warm, however.  Battalion drill this P.M. Dress Parade postponed on account of the rain.  Wrote to Mrs. Anst Ogdensburg N.Y.  I also wrote to Sherman Crandall.  Indications of a move of men of our corps as a body.  We dread Petersburg.

Saturday 3rd

Last night had orders to be ready to move at 7 O.C. A.M. today.  It only broke my rest for a few minutes.  I went to sleep again.  We packed up with rather heavy hearts and started for the R.R. station four miles below Winchester.  We could not take our pack animals on the cars with us, so we took what things we wanted for a few days with us and then sent the rest by the "overland" route, as we called it.  We had rather a cold ride on the cars (box cars) but lots of fun.

Sunday 4th

Arrived at the Capitol a little after sunrise,  although we are feeling rather as though we were wronged in being sent away from the Valley. Still, the joyful nature of a soldiers' disposition has overcome the feelings which tend to make them despond.  They are now making lots of fun--fine lusty-limbed fellows.  I wonder how many of those sturdy chaps will live to see Washington again.

Our Brigade were all embarked by one P.M.   Brigade Head Quarters was on our boat the "Matilda". Besides our Regiment, the 10th Vermont Volunteers was on board.  We left the wharf by 2 P.M.  I stood at the bow pointing out the various places of interest to the rest who were less acquainted with the notorieties.  Farewell Washington, with your magnificent public buildings, palatial residences of your aristocracy, your rich upper ten, and poor "lower thousand", your churches and haunts of iniquity, your sirens and your vices. When shall we see you again?  We are bound on an expedition where hard knocks will be more plenty than good times.  I was detailed as "officer of the day" to keep things in order on the boat.

[Note: Abiel sounds a bit more mindful of the statistical hazards of war than at some points in the past. Possibly a bit depressed, though it has inspired him to a rather lyrical flight of rhetoric.]

Monday 5th

Found ourselves going up James River this morning. Arrived at City Point at 10 A.M.  Disembarked and moved up on the hill.  Here we stacked arms and waited for the cars. While waiting, I found George Battersby.  He belongs to the sanitary commission.  Ezra Rounds (sister, you remember his likeness?) he has charge of the 9th Corps Commission.  They wanted me to come down and stay all night with them, if the Division stayed here all night.  We built fires at dark. The officers of the Regiment all got together at one end of a large wood pile and built a rousing big fire. We laid down near it and had lots of fun.

Took the cars by 8 P.M. for the front.  Went up 15 miles and got off in the rear of the 5th corps, whose position in the line we are to occupy.  We were short of blankets and tents as they are with the packs. The ground [was] wet, so we built up a large fire of pine boughs. The sparks in millions were soon flying high above the tallest trees. Our men cut down some trees and, breaking bushy boughs from them, soon made us a good bed to spread our blankets on. Then, after taking a drink to keep the rheumatism away, we laid down with our feet to the fire and faces to the sky, and went to sleep amid much more comfortable circumstances than one would have thought possible when we first came up.

Lieutenants Cox and Moor and seven men were left behind in Washington.  They left the boat and did not get back in time to start with us. It was not right for them to leave.

[Note: I'm guessing "our men" who made up the brush beds may have been the officers' servants? Or would they be coming behind with the baggage train? I have no idea whether Abiel would have come back to the same servant he had before his leave, or whether they would have been rotated around as needed. We only had the one reference to "Mr. Griffis" by name and no sense that Abiel related to his servant as an individual, so we may not be given any clues on this point.]

Tuesday 6th

Five months ago today we left this place for "My Maryland" with light joyful hearts.  Since then we have lost in battle 12 officers and some 250 men. Still we hate to return to this place where our losses were not nearly so great.  We stayed there until after dark when, just as I had laid down, the order came to move. To pack up was a short job and we were soon under way. We moved about a mile, which brought us on to the ground of the 2nd Division 5th Corps. They were not to move until daylight, so we had orders to make ourselves comfortable where we were. We spread our blankets on the hard Parade Ground and without fir[e] slept very comfortably even if it was the 6th day of winter. [Note: I'm emending "fir" to "fire" on contextual grounds, but given the mention of making up pine bough beds previously, the may not be as much of a no-brainer as it appears.]

Wednesday 7th

Up and breakfasted at daylight.  Did not move into our quarters until two hours after, at which time it had been raining for half an hour. The quarters into which we moved were nearly as good as those we left in the Valley. They were not quite finished yet, however.  I forgot to mention that one of our new Colonel's 2nd Lieutenants arrived while we were waiting at Harpers Ferry.  None of our companies were large enough to muster a 2nd Lieutenant, so this one had to shoulder his gun as a private!  When we were on the boat, I saw him standing among the men and looking pretty sad, so I got him to go up in my state room and occupy one of the berths.  I could see he was unused to the society in which he was thrown and felt sorry for him.  Rained until after dark, then cleared off.  I am stopping with Lieutenants Chilrton and Hepburn until my baggage comes down.

Thursday 8th

Morning broke fair. We were up and under arms at daybreak, merely as a precautionary measure.  Pretty cold in the A.M., but warm after sunrise.  At work on our new quarters.  Mine are very good, but I have nothing to cover it with yet.  Nothing of importance transpired today.  We have not heard of the 5th Corps yet. It was sent yesterday on some movement to the left.  What it was, of course, we do not know.

Friday 9th

Very cold, looks like snow. At M. [i.e., noon] the Strike Tents was sounded and we were soon ready for anything. We got out in line two hours before dark. We did not leave the camp ground until nearly dark. Very cold standing around so long, trying to keep ourselves warm.  Moved out beyond our left flank towards the South Side Railroad. Found one Division of the 2nd Corps on picket there. They had been out four days.  Our force consisted of the 1st and nearly all the 3rd Divisions of the 6th Corps: a Division of Cavalry and three Batteries of Artilary.  We moved on beyond the 2nd Corps and about 9 P.M. camped in a bitter North East wind blowing.

Before we could make fires and get supper, a cold sleet commenced falling, so our prospect for the night was anything but inviting.  Still all was not so bad.  My servant put up a shelter tent, then at the back he piled some cedar brush and in front built up a huge fire in front.  Then spreading our blankets down in it for a floor, it was quite comfortable.  Soon, my supper consisting of fried pork, hot coffee, hard tack, and butter was set before me and I was soon immused [?] in deep thought and supper. [Note: the contextual sense of "immused" is clear but I'm not entirely certain what word Abiel is aiming for here. Possibly "immersed"?]

As I sat gazing into the fire and listening to the damp wind soughing through the waving pine tops--and occasionally giving an eye or ear to the groups of soldiers sitting around their blazing bivouac fires, wrapped in their blankets, smoking and chatting with as much unconcern as if they were surrounded by the most favorable circumstances in the world--I could not help remarking to my self, what a happy nature a soldier is blessed with! I also wished for a moment that my friends in old Allegheny could get a glimpse of my present surroundings. Then I took it back, for fear it would spoil their night's rest.  Shortly after, I laid down and was soothed to sleep by the crackling fire at my side and slept very comfortably all night.  My servant kept the fire going.

Saturday, December 10th

On waking this morning, I found two inches of snow, an inch of water, and six inches of mud. Very agreeable for us to be sure! After an early breakfast, we moved into line of battle, sent the Cavalry to the front, stacked arms in the snow, and kept ourselves warm until after noon. We could hear cannonading away off to the left, probably the 5 corps engaged. About 3 P.M., considerable firing was heard at our front. (I afterwards learned it was the Cavalry coming in and discharging their carbines to have them empty.)  Then we got the order to move back to camp where we arrived an hour before dark. [Note: the reference to "discharging their carbines to have them empty" seems to answer my earlier question about the purpose of firing off guns.]

We went to work putting up our houses, but that was soon stopped by an order that we were to move again.  After dark, we moved half a mile, up to near Fort Keen, and went into some miserable quarters, all mud and snow and not room enough for all the men.  Remonstrance was useless, so we took them "as they were" and put our shelters over them. Hardly had this been done when an order came around to have the men ready to move at a moment's notice.  Lots of swearing, but no good.  Pack up they did, and then we stayed all night after all.  I slept very cold and was up and about nearly all night.  Moving around through the slush today has made me nervous.

Sunday 11th

A good breakfast this morning makes me feel much better.  Thaws a very little today, no orders to move so far.  I must write to sister. We have had no mail since we have been here, owing to some unaccountable reason.  When one comes, I expect some letters and others.  There is a rumor in camp, which I can trace to no reliable source, that this division is ordered back to the Valley, as Early has set Sheridan back.  This I do not believe, although it gives the boys a good deal of satisfaction to contemplate such a possibility, for they all disliked very much to leave the place where their principal laurels have been gained.

Most of the troops on this line have erected cantonments for themselves so as to keep themselves comfortable as possible,  but they cannot work with the feeling that they are to enjoy them long, for too much uncertainty envelopes all our movements at present. So they do not take as much pains as they would otherwise.  Were we sure of staying we would soon have good quarters that we should not be ashamed to bring our wives and sisters to look at.

LETTER   Head Quarters "I" Company 106th New York Volunteers

Near Fort Keen, Virginia,  Sunday 11th December 1864

My Dear Sister,

I have as yet received no letter from you since I have been here, but this is in all probability owing to the fact that we have received no mail since I have been here.  That is, not since you could have answered my other.

The old 6th Corps is soldiering in earnest again: marching, countermarching, skirmishing, sleeping in the open air, and so on.  Such is life as a soldier.  We know not one minute what will befall us the next.  Running around the country seems to be the order of day, but when it comes to marching through the cold slush--which we have for the past two days--why it is pretty cold work.

How is the weather up there?  Pretty cold, I suppose.  Baby stands it well, I hope.  Have you heard from father yet?  How is mother and the rest of the family this cold weather?  For I am sure it must be cold there.

What is the gossip of the place?  Is anybody talking about my being partial to white stockings and long dresses?  If they are, just tell them, they are my sentiments on the subject.  As long as Janey and you agree with me, I don't care so much for the rest.

Yours in love,

A. T. LaForge


Sunday December 11th 1864

This evening Captain Briggs and Lieutenants Cox and Moore, with 13 recruits and 20 Convalescents, came into camp tonight. They left Washington day before yesterday,  stayed two nights on the boat. Cox and Moor were left by accident, they say, in the city, but had a pretty good time. [Note: see Abiel's previous comments on Cox and Moor's absence. His "they say" suggests that he's still suspicious of how accidental it was.]

Monday 12th

I slept very cold last night.  I gave Cox my bed and slept in Shaw's tent on the ground. It was extremely cold and I almost froze.  Tonight he must look out for himself, for I can't afford to freeze.  The day has been very cold.  Ice has formed over an inch thick.  Pretty cold for such houses.  No mail.

Tuesday 13th

Wrote to Government Claim Agent Johnson.  Still very cold.  No thaw.  Captain Robinson came back from home today, bringing with him our new battle flag with him.  It was made by a firm in New York.  It is of blue silk, with the U.S. Coat of Arms in the center.  The names of the battles in which we have been engaged are formed on it with yellow silk thread.  They are: Fairmont, Martinsburg, Wapping Heights, Culpepper, Kelleys Ford, Locust Grove, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Monocacy, Winchester, Fishers Hill, Cedar Creek.  Also the Wilderness.  Some are not mentioned.  This is, I think, as good a record as most regiments can show. These are only the names of the pitched battles; skirmishes are not mentioned.  The flag cost over four hundred dollars, $400.37.  We expect the flag will be formally presented to the regiment tomorrow, if nothing prevents.  Had Brigade Dress Parade tonight.

Wednesday 14th

The wind is from the South today and its moderating effects on the weather is felt by us all.  The flag presentation did not take place. Tomorrow will see the event, I believe.  We drew some clothing, of which the men were very much in need.  Did not get all we wanted.  Wrote to Miss Annie Porter.

Thursday 15th

Detailed for picket.  Went out.  Found our line ran within 400 yards of the Johnnies.  It looks strange to see two lines of men, composed of men from two hostile armies, thus pacing up and down in front of each other as quietly as if deadly hate was not rancoring in the bosom of each for the other.  The Rebs seemed to feel very sociable today. They came out of their lines shaking papers (the sign that they want to exchange papers, also tobacco, for coffee).  Our boys were not allowed to go out to them, as our orders are very strict not to have any communications with them.

This P.M. a few shots were exchanged. One of our men was shot through the body.  He had went out beyond the dead line and was shot by Mr. Rebs for it.  There is a kind of understood truce between our men and the Johnnies not to fire on each other unless they pass beyond a certain line.  Our boys were getting rather careless, which was the cause of the man's being shot.

Down on the left of our Division line, the Rebels breastworks come within three hundred yards of our picket line.  I went out there and stood for some time, watching the enemy away off on the hills to their rear.  I could see their entrenched camps gleaming in the light of our December Sun.  Woe be unto us, I thought, if we have to butt against those fortifications.  When I came back, I got some of the men on the reserve post which I command to put me up a pine bough bower. This they done in pretty good style, so that Captain Robinson (who is Division officer of the day) and I will be pretty apt to sleep with considerable comfort tonight.

Friday. December 16th

Another very warm pleasant day.  I went into camp this morning to get my breakfast.  The men are at work putting up new Shanties and making themselves comfortable.  I found a letter for myself from Mrs. Annie Wallace full of kind expressions and very pleasant indeed.  It is now evening and I sit down by the light of my blazing campfire to finish the record of the day.

The Rebs have been very uneasy for some reason, firing at our boys without any reason sometimes.  But as soon as night set in, they ceased firing, and every thing on the lines are as quiet as if two powerful armies bent on each others destruction did not lay within hearing of each other.  Behind us, within sight, our camps stretch away to the right and left.  They are now full of the music of hundreds of brass bands, which we can hear as far to the right and left as the ear can reach. I can distinctly hear the band of the 106th playing their favorite pieces. How carelessly they lay there, depending on the eyes and ears, which stretch from the Army of the James away up in front of Richmond about three miles to the left of us, a line nearly 40 miles long. Verily this is an extensive picket line.  I wonder what my sister would say to see me preparing to lay down with sword and pistol buckled on.  But such is picket duty.  We live in constant expectation of an attack, so have to be ready to spring to our feet in a second.

Saturday 17th

Had the men all under arms at 5 A.M., as that is the time the Rebs choose for their attacks.  Captain Robinson, who came out as officer of the day, sent in to be relieved as he was sick.  Captain Briggs came out early this A.M. to relieve him.  One of the soldiers who was killed the 12th of last August, but not buried until Sept 5th, was taken up today.  I think [it] is very foolish to remove a body after once being buried,  It can be but little satisfaction for his friends to see the disgusting mass humanity becomes after burial.  This man was the son of Dr. Johnson of Baltimore Maryland.  Many soldiers, both Union and Confederate, lie buried around us in the woods, and the trees and shrubs bear evidence of the fierce conflict which was waged here for the possession of the Weldon Rail Road. One of the trees which stands near my "Sylvan Bower" was struck over 30 times, and it is but a type of the rest. Not one is here but has been hit lots of times.

Last night, an Irishman deserted from the Rebs and came over to us. He was so scared he could hardly tell us anything.  He belongs to the 19th Mis[sissippi] Regiment Hills Corps.  His mother lives in Boston.  We sent him to Corps Head Quarters.  The Rebs followed him close to our lines.  Rather cold tonight.

Sunday 18th

Commenced raining a little after daylight.  Cold wind from the North. We were relieved at 9 A.M.  Came into camp, got a wagon, and sent out and got the timber for my house.  The boys are at work putting it up.  Lieutenant Cox and I are going in together. Hope we will have as fine a time as before.  Quite warm yet.  No word from our baggage.

Monday 19th

Pleasant warm day.  The 106th is acting as picket reserve and we have to be up at 5 A.M. every morning until we have served our time at it.  Very warm and pleasant, considering it is the middle of December. The men turn out and work like bees at their cantonments.  They wear no coats and none are needed, it is so warm.  Battery "M", which was with us up in the Valley, came to us this afternoon. Our trains probably will be here in a day or two.  I wrote to Sister and George Batersby, the latter is at City Point.


Head Quarters "I" Company 106th New York Volunteers, December 19th 1864

My Sister & Friends,

I wish you a "Very merry Christmas" to commence with, as I suppose this will reach you about the time you are celebrating that time-renowned holiday.  Your fireside is not like many in the land--one of mourning for some near and dear friend who has been lost in the tide of battle--but on the contrary, one of joy, for God has preserved your circle of loved ones from death, although they may be scattered far and wide over the land. For this, I join you in thanking our great Preserver.

If nothing happens, I shall spend my Christmas in a new house.  My boys are building one for me.  They split pine logs, then cut them about seven feet long.  These they stand on one end in a trench side by side and [the back of the letter either did not copy well or was poor to begin with and has not been transcribed.]

[New page of diary duplicates entries for Dec. 18th and 19th.]

Sunday 18th

Relieved and came in from picket at 9 A.M.  Commenced raining a little after daylight, not much.  One hundred guns was fired from our right, in honor of the late successes under Thomas and Sherman.  I commenced work on my shanty today.  The Chaplain came around where we were at work and I asked him if it was wrong to do necessary things on the Sabbath?

"Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might," said he, and walked off.

So I continued at the work, or rather superintending it.

Monday 19th

The news from the West is glorious. Thomas is driving the enemy before him, "Like the hare before the beagle".  The Union horizon looks brighter than it has for many days.  Captain McBroom returned to the regiment from Camp Rendezvous of Distribution.  He reminds me that Sergeant Beaugureau's time is nearly out, so if I want a letter to reach him at Camp I must write soon.

Tuesday 20th

The flag presentation has not yet came off.  The officers are delaying it until they have a house finished for Regiment Head Quarters so that they can have a kind of spree after it is over, I suppose.  I wrote to George Battersby, U.S.S. Commission, and to Captain H. Burrows, General Banks' Staff today.  Looks like rain, and a rain is sure to bring on cold weather now.

Wednesday 21st

Raining this morning when I woke up.  Rained until M. [i.e., noon] then began to grow cold and is now freezing.  I have drawn clothing this month on the 14th, 18th, and 21st inst[ance]s.  C. Snyder 1st Lieutenant got a leave of absence for 15 days and left for Washington this M.  The Quarter Master is going down to City Point to see if our baggage has come, and to bring it up if it has.  He will do his best, I warrant.

Thursday 22nd

Froze up hard last night, very cold today.  I have been here now nearly a month.  Have written home three times, and as yet not had a word in reply.  I think I shall stop writing until I learn whether there is anybody to reply to my letters. I confess I feel rather vexed that I can get plenty of letters from every other place but from those I most desire to hear from.  I don't see what is the matter.  I wrote to Beaugureau. I think he will get my letter before he leaves camp.  Very cold.

Friday 23rd

Still very cold. The report is that the 8th Corps is here from the Valley and that the 9th Corps is shipping for this place also.  If such is the case, I rather think General Grant will soon be trying to see if he can't induce General Lee to let go his hold on Petersburg.  Once set back from here and Richmond, and I believe we could keep him running.  The Quarter Master has returned from City Point. Our baggage has not came yet, nor any news of its coming yet. I was up at Head Quarters and a tremendous cheer was set up by the 2nd Corps.  We learned that it was caused by a deserter's coming in and saying Savannah had fallen.  Our rations are very short. The men have scarcely enough to eat. [Note: Savannah surrendered to General Sherman on December 20.]

Saturday 24th

Still cold.  An official report came down that Sherman had captured Savannah, with General Harde and between 15 and 18 thousand prisoners.  This is a most gratifying report. I hope it may prove true. Things look bright.  Wrote to Mrs. Wallace.

Sunday December 25, 1864

Christmas Day has passed off very quietly, much more so than it would have done had our men received their pay for the last two months. As it was, they had very little money and temperance was forced upon them.  How few among the thousands who have celebrated this holiday have given serious thought to the manner of its origin?   A painful meaning, and still a hopeful one it has for the Christian believer.

The recent cold weather has had the effect of cooling off the loyalty of the rebel soldiers to their government. They are deserting to our lines in large numbers daily.

Received a letter from my sister.  Also one from Uncle John. It was enclosed in the one from sister, but she made no comments upon it, although there was several subjects which I know she must have objected to. Uncle, I am afraid, is a little Copperheadish in his views, as he opposes the administration somewhat. I received communications from the Ordnance Office that my returns for Companies "I" and "F" had been received and found correct.  Have not touched a drop of liquor today.  Only smoked twice. [Note: The Copperheads were a political party in the north that opposed the war.]

Monday 26th

Wrote to Perry Potter last night. Letter will not go until tonight.  I have had my house finished and gave the boys a canteen of whiskey for their work.  I could move in now, if my tents were only here, but they are still up to Washington. Lieutenant Snyder writes that they are loaded and the boat froze in below Washington, so of course we will not get them for some time yet.

I reduced 1st Sergeant Hungerford to Sergeant and promoted Sergeant Wilder in his place.  I also reduced Sergeant Munroe to the ranks for his long continued absence and promoted Corporal Cook in his place, and promoted private Labrake to Corporal in Cook's place.  The officers are going to work in dead earnest to keep Colonel Barney--who is one of Seymour's creatures--and his officers from coming to the regiment. If we can only succeed in keeping them away until Fenton takes the Gubernatorial chair, we can get new commissions in their place.  Then getting commissions for the field officers creates a "pisen difficulty" ["poison difficulty"?] in our regiment. There is too much confounded jealousy,  what with officers who want to jump others--and others who don't want to [be] jumped. They succeed in keeping themselves in hot water.  The probability is that Captain Briggs, who now commands the regiment, will recommend Major McDonald and himself for Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant Robinson for Major.  This last, Captains McBroom and Robinson object to being jumped by, and Adjutant is not what they like.

Rained last night and some to day.

[Note: I'm having a little trouble following the details of the promotion politics described here. But the general sense is that favoritism in promotions is causing disgruntlement at all levels of the regiment.]

Tuesday 27th

Rained some last night, but pleasant today.  Just got my house all ready to move in, and tonight the order has came for us to move out and give place to the 67 P[ennsylvania] V[olunteers].  We go to the camp we went into when we first came here. Well, there is no use of swearing. If there was, I am very much afraid I should indulge.

General Seymour, Commanding Division, has issued orders that all men and officers must wear the proper badges.  The men must wear caps and non-commissioned officers must wear the proper chevrons, and commissioned officers must wear their proper insignia of office. Any found disobeying these orders will be at once arrested and tried by court martial.  All this is very good, but when he comes to moving us about without any apparent reason, although they must be obeyed, still we murmur some.  Having to move just as we should be at work on our rolls too, makes it worse.

The sun set beautifully to night.  Looks as if we should have a pleasant day tomorrow.  I came near forgetting to mention that an order came for us to recommend our enlisted men, who have distinguished themselves for bravery, for badges of honor.  But our boys are all so brave that we could not recommend some without doing injustice to others, so we sent up the names of none.

Wednesday 28th

Moved camp at 8 A.M. Considerable swearing.  Found quarters enough to crowd the men into for one night.  Lieutenant Cox and I took one of his company shanties until we could build a new one, which the boys are willing to do for us.  Our baggage came this P.M. and I have been at work on my company accounts until the present moment 10 P.M.  Had a letter from Mrs. Green thanking me for getting blanks sent her from Washington to enable her to get the monies due her husband from the U.S. Government.  Commenced raining while we were on Brigade Dress Parade. Has rained considerable since.

Thursday 29th

Have been at work on Payrolls nearly all day. Very cold tonight.  Cox and I feel very much at home in our own house--much better than living with anybody else.  The Adjutant and Lieutenant Chilton each got 20 day leaves today.  They will not start home until Monday, on account of muster days being so close at hand.  I shall work quite late so as to get the rolls done for the Adjutant to take to Washington.

Friday 30th

My boys are again at work making me a new shanty. I wonder if I shall have to leave it like the other.  At work most of the day on the Rolls. Sent my Quarter Master Returns for June and July to Washington.  Received a letter from Captain Burrows of Banks' Staff.  The young ladies he and I visited while I was in the city send their respects to me. Very kind! I was detailed tonight as a member of a court martial, which commences its sittings next Monday.  I expect to get some valuable information while a member of it.  A detail for me to act as brigade Officer of the Guard tomorrow.  Looks like rain.  I'll bet I have a bad day for duty. Nothing uncommon for the time of year.

[Note: Abiel being appointed to serve on the court martial will have significant consequences for the remainder of his life, though the precise nature of the connection is susceptible to debate. I'll discuss it further when the time comes.]

Saturday 31st

Rained A.M. and sleet (very cold) P.M.  Old Tom came from Washington with the mule he has got. Our Billy is here all right now, and we cannot keep him after all.  Too bad entirely I vow. [Note: I'm not sure I have the preceding sentence parsed correctly. The transcription has essentially no punctuation. Is "Billy" also a mule? Who is Old Tom? Who exactly is it that they can't keep after all? Mysteries abound.]

Could not finish my shanty today, it was so cold.  Finished the rolls, and had monthly inspection, and were mustered for pay.  My Pay Rolls were the first finished.

My duties as Brigade Officer of the Day have been very light.  I cannot help feeling a little vain to learn, as I did today, that my bravery at Winchester was a subject of comment among the officers of the Regiment for a long time.  It has been told to others and I find I am considerably known by reputation.

Our usual quiet was disturbed this morning by the Rebs making a dash on our picket line and capturing some of our men.  It was before daylight and people thought there was a general attack.  Lieutenant Cox rolled over me and said the Rebs were making an attack on us.  I listened a moment, made up my mind it was not much, and composed myself to sleep again, as I did not go to bed until late last night.  One of the Rebs deserted to our lines and says Lee intends to astonish the world by an attack on our lines tomorrow morning.  He will astonish me if he does it.

Received letter from Annie Porter.  Answered it.

[Note: There's a part of me that takes satisfaction in Abiel's own satisfaction at having his leadership recognized. Why shouldn't he be "a little vain"?]

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 08:56

Alpennia is all about challenging and subverting default paradigms and tropes, simply by its existence and by the people and stories it focuses on. But it can be tricky to have the characters themselves challenge those paradigms without falling into the trap of pausing for set-piece speeches. Consider, for example, the problem of both portraying and challenging the types of social prejudice endemic to early 19th century Europe without turning my characters into 21st century progressive activists. Even those who were addressing racial, religious, and class issues in that era often did it in ways we'd consider wince-worthy today. And it was functionally impossible for people of that era to think about gender and sexuality in ways that my readers would consider truly enlightened.

So it's not uncommon for the "challenge" on the page to struggle to break free of simply identifying and acknowledging the problem. Luzie ponders how the working class in Rotenek would view all the grand ceremony around mysteries that are intended to benefit them just as much as to benefit the intellectuals and upper class participants who perform them. She has no answers, but we see her recognizing the problem. Akezze regularly tries to push Margerit to understand that the solutions she devises to the question of women's eduction are excluding groups that have barriers she hasn't considered. Antuniet and Jeanne consider Anna Monterrez to be almost like an adopted daughter, without understanding how the religious divide feels from her side, and how carefully she has to balance on that line to be accepted.

One default paradigm that Mother of Souls addresses is that of the standard romance plot. But even when the characters acknowledge the tyranny of that plot, they often seem helpless to challenge it effectively. Serafina watched the illusion of a romantic marriage die slowly, but she hasn't entirely shaken free of the assumption that the ideal form of love is a permanent partnership. The author (no spoilers!) of that annoying roman a clef that causes Barbara and Margerit so much trouble operates from two deep-rooted paradigms: that a close affectionate partnership must be completed by romance...and that a romance must be heterosexual. Our heroines' lives deny the latter, but fail to challenge the former.

When Luzie and Serafina start hammering out the plot for the opera Tanfrit, they butt heads over the question of a romance plot. Luzie knows opera; the shape of the genre absolutely requires it. Serafina only reluctantly surrenders a concern for historical authenticity (to the extent that the concept is even meaningful in opera!) and the contradictory evidence of both their lives. The finished work is a carefully crafted piece of art, but when Luzie falls into metaphoric thinking--into reasoning about the world from the internal rules of their own creation--Serafina reins her in. Tanfrit is fiction, not fact, and as fiction it follows the shape its creators gave it. Taking that shape and considering it to reflect eternal verities of the world leads to error. (Just how complicated those errors are will--I hope--eventually be made clear if/when I write the Tanfrit novel.)

This is the last teaser for Mother of Souls. (The chapter is followed only by a coda that echoes the opening prelude...and contains some very vague hints for Floodtide.) I'll have to think a bit about what sort of writing-related blogging I want to do for the next season.

Chapter 32: Luzie

The scene where Gaudericus refused Tanfrit’s gift of the forbidden book had been expanded and rewritten. Now they both came to realize it was learning, not power, they sought. And in a soaring duet they reject and refuse all sorcery, consigning the text to the fire and pledging themselves to seeking only wisdom and knowledge. That was the heart of the mystery, where the power of the music, amplified through the attention of the audience, would strike out against the…the whatever it was they were fighting. A blow that might be unneeded or might be their last hope of success. In the opera, the moment was Tanfrit’s glorious triumph before her tragic fall, when Gaudericus refused to return her carnal love. And then, as before, the river, the flood, the remorse, the dedication.

She saw that finale differently now.


“Yes?” Serafina turned, her hands still trying silently to guide the musicians to her vision.

“It was a tragedy—that Gaudericus couldn’t love her the way she wanted—but it wasn’t wrong. It was only his nature. Serafina, promise me you’ll never throw yourself in a river. Not for me. Not for anyone.”

Serafina looked confused for only a moment, then said solemnly, “I promise I’ll never throw myself in the river. But never forget that we wrote that story. We chose that ending. We don’t know what was truly in their hearts. We don’t even know that Tanfrit really did drown herself.”

That wasn’t what she’d meant. Luzie swallowed hard and tried once more. “I want you to find…to find what you’re seeking. I wish I could have been it.”

Major category: 
Mother of Souls
Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 07:00

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.

The memorandum entries are quite brief during this month, but tell a vivid tale of visits and entertainments. The election is held while Abiel is there, giving him a chance to vote in person. (I wonder what the arrangements were for soldiers to vote in the field in that era?) Eventually it's time for him to head back to his regiment, with a several-days stop in D.C. to visit old friends, hang out with a number of rather celebrated people, and enjoy a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. His company is delighted to have him back, with a touch of relief as they feared that--what with his hobnobbing with Colonels and so forth--he might have been tempted to pull strings for a more cushy posting.

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

November 1864


Tuesday November 1st 1864  Up and breakfasted at 6 A.M. Took my leave of the kind people.  John took me up to the cars.  We parted with many kind wishes and I was whirled away from friends whose kindness will ever remain fresh in my memory.  At Hornillsville [Note: presumably Hornellsville] I got on the wrong train and instead of stopping at Andover [Note: not the better-known Andover MA, obviously, but a small town 10 mi east of Wellsville] had to go on to Wellsville and stayed all night. [Note: the "Alfred Center" that has been mentioned several times is midway between Hornellsville and Andover.]

Wednesday 2nd  Took the 12th NM. train and came to Andover then came up to my dear sister's.  Found all well but mother. She has put her shoulder out of joint by an accident but is very cheerful.  I was very much delighted to see them all.

Thursday 3rd  Wrote to Lieutenant Cox to let them know where I am.  This evening I was going up to Perry's but Mr. & Mrs. Nelson Crandall came over, also Miss Clara, so I must of course stay and entertain them so did not go up.

Friday 4th  I went up to Uncle Stephen Clark's from there after tea up [to] Perry's where I stop all night.  Dell. Eaton stays with me. [Note: I'm not sure if the period after "Dell" indicates this is an abbreviation? The name appears both with and without it.]

Saturday 5th  Went to church today,  then up to Mr. Nelson Crandall's.  Miss M. Livermore and Dell. Eaton were also there.  Our evening was an exceedingly pleasant one.  Clara entertained us with the piano.  Did not retire until 2 A.M. [on the] 6th.  Dell stayed with me. [Note: Although I haven't tracked down solid confirmation, I believe the Potters and their associates were Seventh Day Baptists, hence the Saturday services. I recall references to at least some of Abiel's children being Seventh Day Baptists. The entire Andover/Alfred area was originally settled by members of this sect.]

Sunday 6th  Spent the day at home. Rains some still.

Monday 7th  Promised Dell Eaton I would go home with him from the election tomorrow.  Wrote to Uncle John LaF[orge].

Tuesday 8th  Was down to Andover and put in a full Union Ticket.  Lincoln for President, Fenton for governer.  Had to swear my vote in, then could not get anybody to swear to my age, so done that part myself too.  Rained nearly all day. No trouble at the polls, so had no occasion to use my revolver, which I took with me. [I feel the need to add an exclamation point here. !] Rained all the time while we were going up to Mr. Eaton's.  Mr. Eaton said he would stay in town until the reports came from New York as to the way the election went. [Note: Abiel may have had to "swear his vote in" due to not being on the rolls. It's unclear to me whether he had been a resident of Andover before joining up, or whether his connection at this point was entirely through his sister. I'm curious about Mr. Eaton's plan to stay in town awaiting the results of the election. Was this expected to be a matter of days? For something important like a presidential election, I suppose telegraphs would spread the news rapidly, but how efficient would the reporting in be?]

Wednesday 9th  Dell and I called on Mr. Rosebush and took dinner, then went down to Mr. Remington's.  From there to Elder Kenyon's, where we took tea, after which I went up to Mr. Slocum Livermore's and Dell stopped and brought up Miss M. Crandall.  We passed the evening pleasantly until nearly midnight, when as the old people did not retire we concluded we would, so came home.  I found the doors fastened and tried to get in at the window without waking any body, but did not succeed as my sister heard me.  Rained all day.

Thursday 10th  Stayed at home until evening, then went up to Stephen Clark's,  from there up to Perry Potter's.  Made arrangements to go to Wellsville with Mr. Clark tomorrow.  Windy and cold, but not rainy today.

Friday 11th  Up and had breakfast before daylight and about 7 A.M. started with Stephen and his wife and daughter to Wellsville.  Had a cold ride.  Did not succeed in getting a pair of boots, for which purpose I started.  Got a piece of cloth for Mrs. Eathan Green. She wanted me to take the money for it--could not think of it.  When we got home, found that Sherman Crandall had came home from Alfred Center to see me and left word for me to call over to his house tonight. Went over and found a prayer meeting there. After it had broken up, had a good visit.  Stayed all night. Cold day, snowed some.

Saturday 12th  Attended church. The Elder had to illustrate one of his points by relating a dream which he had about seeing a man shot.  He said he "supposed it was caused by hearing Mr. LaForge relate the proceedings of the shooting of two men which he had witnessed."  After church went to Mr. Crandall's again.  Sherman, Dell, Bill Clark and myself had been expecting to go to Alfred this evening, but the snowstorm which commenced this morning had continued all day, so we concluded to have a party at home.  Sherman went out with the sleigh and got the girls around to come, so we had an exceedingly fine time.  [A] lot of good singing and other enjoyment. Did not break up until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday 13th  Sherman went back to Alfred.  I rode home with him, the first sleigh ride of the season.  I sent my dress coat down to Andover to Mrs. Green to get it fixed.  Macky took it down and brought it back.

Monday Oct. 14th  Thawed very little to day.  Quite good sleighing.  This evening I took the cutter and went over to Mr. Crandall's.  Miss Clara and myself spent the evening at Mr. Rosebush's.

Tuesday 15th  Snowed a little today.  Wind very cold, drifted some tonight.  William Clark and I went up to Mrs. Cooper and found Miss Cooper and Miss Chadwick at home. Passed the evening very pleasantly.  Beautiful moonlight nights now.  I should just like to spend them in sleigh riding but the ladies think it is too cold.

Wednesday 16th  Clear and warm enough to thaw considerably. Spent the P.M. at Perry's.  Mrs. S. A. Potter and myself took the buggy and went to the Sab[bath] Meeting House to a singing school.  Very pleasant evening and I enjoyed myself greatly.  The ladies were very complacent as they always are up here.  About 10 when we got home. [Note: this is probably not the "self-satisfied" sense of complacent, but an archaic sense, "pleasant."]

Thursday 17th November  Opened somewhat rainy.  I took the buggy and went over to Mr. Eaton's and got my revolver which has been there ever since election.  Stopped at Mr. Crandall's on my way back to bid them goodbye as I start for Washington tomorrow.  I got a letter from John Clemence, also one from W.J. Fuller.  John sent his own and wife's photographs.  Both want me to come back that way.

Friday November 18th 1864.  Bade my kind friends at Andover goodbye and [took] the 12.20 P.M. train for Elmira.  Felt pretty sad for a while.  My thoughts were taken from my parting for a while by a flirtation got up by a couple of young ladies who got on the cars at Aldie and off at Horsehead. They were fine looking and very richly dressed. My first impression was that they were lewd characters but I soon became convinced to the contarary. As soon as I found they were determined on a flirtation, why of course I was in for it.  We did not leave Elmira until long after dark, as a train had got off the track and delayed us.  Snow all gone.  Last night's rain melted it.

[Note: I alternate between being amused and annoyed at Abiel's relations with women. In his letters, he gave the appearance of carrying on a flirtation-by-proxy with his sister-in-law Janey, and he seems to have had several female pen-pals who may well have Had Expectations, but for all the references to a startling number of Misses in this visit, he seems to have no very serious interest in anyone in particular. We've previously seen suggestions that he's a bit prudish with regard to prostitutes, so his flip-flop here is all of a piece. Young women should be pretty and well dressed and interested in flirtation...but if they're too pretty and too well dressed then they're probably whores.]

Saturday 19th  Arrived at Washington just at dark.  Went to Willard's and put up. Got supper then went to see [gap in text] played Crosby, former Chief Clerk of Camp Distribution went with me.  House crowded. After play returned to the hotel and went to bed. Has rained all day. [Note: the gap obviously contains the name of the play. I'm guessing perhaps there should be a period after "played."]

Sunday 20th  Still raining. I was going over to Camp but it rained so I concluded not to.  Went to the opera tonight. It was for the benifit of the Friendless women's society.  Beaugureau was there and stayed with me all night.

Monday 21st  Went over to camp today. Found myself quite a lion there. [Note: "quite a lion" appears to have the sense of "lionized, praised and famous."] Returned at night. Brought Beaugureau along. Went and saw the "Gamester" played, after which lunched and retired to my room, where we had a game of chess, although it was past midnight.  I was beaten. [If "Gamester" is a play, then I'm uncertain of its identity. There was a 17th century play by that name by James Shirley which had adaptations into the 19th century under other titles. So possibly or possibly something else? As a food historian, I'm intrigued that one might eat "lunch" at night after seeing a play when it is almost midnight.]

Tuesday 22nd  Run upon Lieutenant or rather Captain Burrows of the 6th Maryland.  I knew him a short time (about an hour) last spring.  He is a splendid fellow.  Tonight he and I went to see the Seven Sisters played,  then I went home with him. We had a game or two of Euchre,  also checkers and then retired. Very cold, ground frozen. [Note: The Seven Sisters is perhaps this.]

Wednesday 23rd  Was introduced to Captain "Late Lieutenant" Cushing, of the Ram Albermile notoriety,  he is a young looking man, his long light hair making him look almost boyish. There is something about his face which shows a strong determination to do a thing once undertaken.  With Captain Burrows I visited some young ladies on Capitol Hill. They are friends of the Captain and very fine ladies. Spent a pleasant evening.  Made Capain stay with me tonight   General Grant is here stopping.

Thursday 24th  Thanksgiving was more generally observed than I ever saw it before. [Note: Lincoln's proclamation fixing Thanksgiving as a national holiday on the last Thursday of November was only issued the previous year, so Abiel is presumably observing the effects of this official recognition.] Places of business closed.  Places of amusement were crowded.  In accordance with a pressing request from Colonel Elison Quartermaster of the Department I dined with him at 5 P.M.  Was introduced to Colonel Stephenson and another Colonel of the regular Army,  also several other officers and citizens. There was ten of us gentlemen present.  We had roast turkey, duck, and pig, Brandy, Whiskey, and several kinds of wine. Finished with segars [read: cigars] and stories.  I passed so pleasant an evening that I forgot I wanted to leave at 8-1/2 until past that time.   When I went down to the hotel I found Burrows had been there and left a note for me to meet him tomorrow at 10 A.M.  I left a note for him stating I could not as I left for the front at 6 A.M.  I must go back, as there is but two company officers left for the whole ten companies. The rest are either wounded, killed, prisoners, or on leaves of Absence, so I must return as am duty bound.

Friday. October [error for November] 25th 1864.  Had breakfast and started from Willard's on the 6-1/2 train. Arrived in Martinsburg just before sundown.  I went and stayed all night with our Regimental Quarter Master.  We went to spent the evening with some ladyfriends of his, the Misses Cookes, with one of which I am prety sure he is in love.  They have been having considerable rain here as is evident by the state of the streets.  I forgot to mention that these young ladies were very rich once, but were burned out by the Rebs on account of their Union sentiments.

Saturday 26th  Had breakfast and reported to the General Commanding to be sent to the front.  Four ambulances loaded with officers, also eight mounted officers (among which was myself), and five wagons of thanksgiving things escorted by one hundred cavalry were to go up. We started at 10 A.M.  Had a fine ride, expecting an attack every little ways from Mosebny. [Note: I believe this has a typo in the transcription and is a reference to General Mosby] He did not see fit, however.  Us officers had some wild races and lots of fun. When in about 6 miles of Winchester, a staff officer and I rode on ahead and galloped into town at least three miles ahead of the escort. We had eaten our dinners by the time the rest came. Then we came on up to Kernstown where General Sheridan now has his Head Quarters.  I found the Regiment by dark, having ridden over 30 miles between the hours of 10 and 4 and making necessary stoppages.  Rained this P.M.  Officers and men were as delighted to see me as I was to see them. My arms are sore shaking hands, and I am sore all over from the ride. It is the first I have had since I was at camp Distribution and am not used to it. Of course, the horse I had is the lamest of us two, I bet.

Sunday 27th  Very pleasant day. Had time to look around. We are laying in a very pleasant position arround Kernstown. The hills are well fortified and our position strong.  The men have excellent quarters for winter, being most of them in little log houses which they have built.  I have been looking all around. Lieutenant Cox [and] my old messmate are going in together.  He has a good log house built, about 9 x 14 feet, a good fireplace, and very comfortable quarters.  1st Lieutenant Robinson, 1st Lieutenant Snyder, acting adjutant 2nd Lieutenants Cox and Hall commanding companies, not a Captain in the Regiment.  The boys are all looking fat and saucey.  Company "I" hardly knew how to express their joy.  They say it is much better than payday to see me back.  Wrote to Colonel McKelvy, also to John Clemence.  I cannot send the letters for several days.  I will not write to my sister until I have a chance to send it.

Monday 28th  Rained last night but has been very pleasant today.  I was detailed as Brigade officer of the guard. The brigade guards are all mounted together now. My duties have been light.  I only had to make my rounds once or twice.  I made a certified invoice today and sent my ordnance report in. It had been sent back for it (the invoice).  I wrote a letter to Mrs. P. J. Hawley, informing her of her husband's being missing on the march from Martinsburg to Winchester. We had Brigade Dress Parade tonight. it is a big thing.

Tuesday 29th  Warm pleasant day,  the air smokey like indian summer.  Snyder, our Acting Adjutant was away and I had to act as Adjutant.  I had to be on horse back. We had Brigade drill and parade.  I find it much more pleasant being mounted than on foot.  I have made my Ordnance Report for the first part of the 3rd Quarter 1864.  That and my duties as Adjutant has kept me busy up to this time 9:25 P.M.

Wednesday 30th  Still warm and clear.  My conscience, if this weather continues, we shall have another fight. [Note: "my conscience" here seems to have a sense of "my thought, my opinion".] I don't believe General Sheridan can lay still if the weather will admit of his moving.  The climate is too uncertain however at this time of the year to trust much to it.  The rumor still continues that we (the 3rd Corps) is to leave the Valley. Of course we all hope such will not be the case, but it is only hope.  Colonel Trueax, 14th New York Volunteers, who was dismissed last summer, has been reinstated.

LETTER   Head Quarters "I" Company 106th New York Volunteers

Near Kernstown Virginia  Wednesday November 30th 1864

My Dear sister and Friends,

I should have written you before, but the mail which leaves tomorrow is the first one which has left since I have been here.  I stopped in Washington from the night of the 19th until the morning of the 25th.  I had a splendid Thanksgiving dinner with Colonel Elison, the Quartermaster of the Department of Washington. There was several distinguished persons present,  still how gladly would I have exchanged the Colonel's table for yours on that day.

I was interrupted in my letter for dress parade.  It is now nearly 9 P.M. but I will finish, as I am sure you would like to hear from me.  I heard that there was but two company officers left in the Regiment, so I would not stay in Washington, but hastened to the front.

We are having very pleasant weather here now. The air is soft and balmy. If you are having the same up there it must be your Indian Summer.  Our camp life was somewhat varied today by a squad of four native women passing through here. They had came in through the pickets and were going to Sheridan's Head Quarters to make some request.  One of them was very pretty. If the rest know when they are well off, they will let her do all the talking, for beauty has a great effect on an old soldier.

Today a recruit of Company A was in my quarters. He claims that his wife can foretell future events, also those which have transpired. To test the matter I have written her the following questions.  Am I a native of this country?  Am I married? Have I or shall I have children?  Are my parents living?  Has my lawsuit commenced?  If so shall I be successfull?  When these questions are answered, I shall inform you of the answers.  Anything to pass the time. [Note: I'm guessing the bit about the lawsuit was a trick question because I don't recall Abiel mentioning one previously.]

When you write, you must be sure to inform me how the boy prospers. Also how mother is getting along.  My love to Janey, Martha, Joe, Mother, and Perry's people.

I am sleeping on boards now, with only a slight cover over me. Still I sleep much sounder than when I was sleeping on your soft beds.  I am now where the wind can come at my nose, which seems to be a great satisfaction to that important member, and has a soothing effect on all the rest.    

I remain, your ever loving Brother.

A.T. LaForge

 Lieutenant Commanding "I" Company 106th New York Volunteers

You can hardly imagine how pleasant and pleased the officers and men were to see me.  They all knew I had influence in Washington and supposed I would stop there. They could hardly see how it was that I would not stop there when I could as well as not. [Note: This is "stop" in the sense of "stay, remain". They expected Abiel to pull strings to avoid returning to the front.]

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 06:00

If I had to sum up Lundoff’s collection Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories in a single word (which would be a totally unfair thing to require me to do) it would be “versatile.” This volume touches base on a broad variety of genres and subgenres yet succeeds in being a unified stylistic whole. There is everything from steampunk horror to hard-boiled alien invasion to magical police procedural, each story both drawing lovingly from its literary inspirations and turning them upside down.

When I say the collection is a unified stylistic whole, I’m not talking specifically of the titular theme of “queer speculative fiction.” While I appreciate the market targeting signaled by that title, non-default identity here is pervasive but casual. The characters, in their myriad genders and orientations, are all queer in some fashion, but queerness is never the central point of the story. It simply is. Someday we’ll be able to expect that sort of inclusion in stories without needing to be reassured of it in the marketing (which can have the down side of inspiring non-queer readers to pass on by).

With collections, I’m never sure whether to say something about each individual story or simply touch on the highlights. Let’s go for the former. “Great Reckonings, Little Rooms” is a straightforward alternate history involving Shakespeare’s fictional sister, his inspirational Dark Lady, and presenting a somewhat different fate for Kit Marlowe than the one in our history books. There’s a gritty, immersive familiarity with the Elizabethan setting that inspires one to double-check exactly where the timeline diverged from our own. “Medium Méchanique” is also set in an alternate version of our history: a steam-punky supernatural horror story that asks just how far a woman would go to be reunited with her true love. Shudderingly gripping with just a touch of gruesome in places.

“The Egyptian Cat” aims for a blend of humor and supernatural thriller, or perhaps a parody of both. It perhaps treads a bit closely to self-parody, opening with the main character sifting through submissions for an anthology of cat-related Lovecraftian stories. The concept is clever and works in the end, but I felt the prose may have been the weakest of the collection, at least in the opening. One of the overarching themes is how Lundoff plays to the strengths of her own experience. Her bookstore-running experience may have helped inspire “At the Roots of the World Tree” in which the clerk of a possibly sentient bookstore is tapped by Norse deities to help push back the day of Ragnarok. Clever, funny, and atmospheric. Another story drawing on traditional literature is “A Scent of Roses,” which takes a wistful and critical look at living with Tam Lin after he’s been won back from the Queen of Faerie. The Queen of Faerie is still drawn to brave and passionate mortals, and she doesn’t play fair. I held my breath through this one, unnecessarily fearing a depressing or tragic ending.

Going somewhat out of order, there were three stories that I’d tend to classify as “standard fantasy quest” tales: set in medievalish secondary worlds (all different, as far as I can tell, but they might easily have been different regions of the same setting). Each involves stock characters facing set-piece goal-oriented challenges. In terms of personal enjoyment, I preferred the stories with less stock settings, but these do expand the overall scope of the included subgenres. “At Mother Laurie’s House of Bliss” is a sorcerous police procedural set in a brothel, with a young man’s life depending on his ability to prove he didn’t kill the nobleman who dropped dead in his bed. “Beauty” starts out with a despised king’s son, born to a mother of the deposed Old Blood of the kingdom who shifts from merely trying to survive to the hope of claiming his right to the kingdom. Then you throw in a vampire bridegroom for the protagonist’s sister who kind of likes him better. Of all the stories in this collection, this one falls the closest to erotica, including a generous dollop of enemies-to-lovers as well as a rape scene. It may not be everyone’s thing. The third in this group is “A Day at the Inn, A Night at the Palace” in which our protagonists need to infiltrate a castle in the middle of a coup to deal with the aftereffects of magical body-swapping. Several unexpected twists at the end (including at least one subtle character possibility I almost missed) save it from being an ordinary D&D campaign tale.

One of Lundoff’s strengths is layering a bit of romantic comedy over the base genre. Like the third story mentioned above, “Spell Book and Candle” is a supernatural romantic adventure involving cats and a family heritage of magic, this time dealing with some tricky issues of magical ethics and the spirit of an unrestful ancestor.

I have to confess that for sheer whacky genre-blending, “Red Scare” takes the cake with its sci-fi / hardboiled detective / alien invasion / political conspiracy plot. I think it took me less than one page to accept that one wasn’t meant to ask the question, “Why are the colonists on this planet performing self-conscious gangster-movie roles with bug-eyed monsters in the wings and made-up drugs subbing in for moonshine?” No, you just plunge in and go with the flow. The setting never does make any more logical sense from an economic or sociological viewpoint, but I stopped caring because the in-story logic and action was so compelling.

There’s an art to choosing the last story in a collection, and “Vadija” was well placed to leave this reader wanting more. It’s a poetic, lyrical tale about survival and storytelling and coming back to our own beginnings. It’s interesting: although I know for a fact that I read this story on the page, it sits in my memory as an oral tale because the language is so beautiful.

In describing the contents of this collection, I have so far avoided using the word “diverse” because that term currently carries a weight of specific connotations, but in the ordinary senses of the word, this is a very diverse collection in terms of characters, themes, genres, and mood. You will never feel like you’re reading the same story twice, and many of these stories will make you long for an entire novel expanding on that seed. Highly recommended. Whether you think you’re the target audience for “queer stories” or not.

Major category: 
Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 08:34

Just a brief snippet this time, sparking a consideration of magical healing. One of the first contexts in which Margerit designed her own "effective" mystery was in Daughter of Mystery after Barbara was attacked on the bridge by Langal's thugs. That mystery was for the purpose of protection, not healing, and Margerit bemoans the fact that every kitchen maid knows an array of healing charms and her more ceremonial interests are of little immediate practical use. But that raises the question of how "effective" healing charms are in the world of Alpennia.

The philosophy that Margerit follows--as expressed in a prior lecture to her students--is one with clear limits. "I’ve never succeeded with healing mysteries that acted so directly. Only ones to cool fever or to heal wounds without infection—ones that work with the body’s natural desires. If a soldier’s leg is amputated, mysteries can save his life but they can’t regrow his limb. Even miracles must work hand in hand with nature." But is this a fact? Or is it one of those circumstances where Margerit's abilitiles are shaped by her beliefs about those abilities?

Magical healing in Alpennia seems to belong much more to the "low magic" of the charm-wives in the market than to the formal mysteries of the guilds. Charm-wives are notoriously uneven in their talents and effectiveness and--as Celeste notes in passing--there's a social disincentive for looking too closely at patterns of effectiveness. In The Mystic Marriage there's a suggestion that Princess Elisebet's personal thaumaturgist is concerned with health-related work, but we don't know much about the effectiveness given that the one episode we see him involved with was a matter of magical influence rather than biological health.

There will be a bit more exploration of this topic in Floodtide, when we spend more time with Celeste and where we see practices around the cyclical "river fever" that has been mentioned at various points. I have my own underlying philosophy of the limits of magical healing in Alpennia, though I'd rather lay that philosophy out in the stories themselves than state it too baldly. What do you think about magical healing as a world-building device? What are its uses and misuses?

Chapter 31 - Margerit

Barbara should have been here. This was her world—the game she had played since her youth. It was hard not to feel like a green girl in Princess Annek’s presence, surrounded by the lords of state on one side and Archbishop Fereir with the masters of the most powerful mystery guilds on the other. Margerit had last known this scrutiny when she had been approved—no, approved was wrong, admitted—as Royal Thaumaturgist. This time it was Serafina who laid out the pages of the depictio with shaking hands and led the watchers through what she had seen.


Barbara should have been here—no, she should be at Barbara’s side. Cooling her brow through the fevers, lighting candles to run through every healing mystery she knew, helping to change the bandages that covered the torn flesh and bound to it an array of amulets delivered from Antuniet’s workshop. It didn’t matter that every member of the household clamored to keep that vigil for her. She should be there.

Major category: 
Mother of Souls
Monday, February 6, 2017 - 07:41

Are you tired yet of me passing off project housekeeping tasks as blog content? No? Well, ok then.

This week I completed adding descriptions and doing housekeeping on the tags I've grouped as "Literary Relationships - Same-Sex Love". They're down at the bottom of this page, if you want to check them out.

I also came up with a much more efficient solution for the tag links in these essays than adding them as actual tags. Kind of a "Doh!" moment, as a matter of fact. So instead of listing the tags as actual tags (and therefore having the break up the tag-exploration essays into multiple parts to avoid hitting the character limit for tags), I've changed them to links from the listings themselves. This allowed me to get rid of a lot of the separate tag sub-essays (that were split off solely to avoid that character limit), though I've still broken up the current group into six separate essays just for readability. The main thing this means is that the list of LHMP essays at the top of the access page is no longer quite so bloated. (When we set up the page structure so that it always lists the essays first, I wasn't thinking that I'd be using that content format for quite so many things. But I'm holding off on contemplating any major site reorganization for quite a while, lest my webmasters kill me.)

I want to reiterate that the groupings in the "People/Publication/Event" tag essays aren't meant to be exclusive, but simply a way of exploring related topics. Any given person or publication could easily fall into multiple groupings. I've chosen one based on what topic they seem a "best example" of. Don't read too much into it. But I seriously encourage people to explore them in idle moments.

Based on my current rate of progress, I should finish up with the tag housekeeping in not more than four more sessions and then I promise I'll get back to new material! I've been reading and taking notes on a fascinating book on representations of non-normative sexuality in medieval art, so that should be the first up. After that, I've been getting multiple requests to do a podcast on Catalina de Erauso and you've all succeeded in bumping her up to the top of my "do next" list, which means two books to cover. Never doubt that I can be influenced by evidence that people are reading and listening! Taking a site-housekeeping break from new publications has enabled me to get settled back into my fiction writing routine, but I'm more than ready to get back to the publication backlog.

Major category: 
Saturday, February 4, 2017 - 12:47

I'm about to do some housekeeping that involves changing a bunch of content from "essays" to "blog entries". I'm going to do my best to not have this material cross-post to Live Journal, but for those who read the RSS feed, you're probably going to see a whole bunch of material show up in a short time. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 07:00

October 1864 is packed full a a wide variety of experiences. It begins with more "clean up" operations following the significant battles of the previous month, and with Abiel feeling a little self-satisfied to be given feedback on the high opinion the men have of him. One can't entirely fault him for that. His astounding luck in battle slips a little on the 19th and he is wounded in the hand and head--painfully, though not too dangerously. As a result, he takes something of a tour through the Union medical establishment and is given 30 days' leave while recovering. This gives him a chance to go home to visit relatives--a journey that will last well into the next month's entries.

After Abiel is wounded, the entries get very telegraphic for a while, at first one suspects due to the pain and resulting lack of sleep he complains of. I suppose it's fortunate that it was his left hand that was wounded or there might have been a gap in his "memorandums"! The entries while he's traveling are also quite brief, but filled with information on sights and entertainments and the everyday activities of visiting and socializing.

While staying at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia, Abiel observes, "There is a car which is worked by steam used here to elevate the guests to their rooms instead of their having to walk up and down stairs. Very fine indeed." 

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

Transcribed, edited, and annotated by Phyllis G. Jones (his great-granddaughter)

Copyright © 1993, Phyllis G. Jones, All rights reserved

October 1864


DIARY Saturday October 1st 1864

Day set in cold and gloomy, which makes us stick prety closely to our tents. As I having nothing much to do, concluded to write a little conversation between Orderly Wilder "I" Co and myslf. I am not sure vanity is not the motive for my writing it, but I have been trying to pursuade myself it was but that I could have some satisfaction looking at it in old age, if I should live to see dotage.

To proceed: as we were walking along, the Sergeant came up to me and commenced to speak of the sanguine nature of our fight at Winchester. He gave me to understand that I had rather astonished the men by what he was pleased to call my bravery. They had rather supposed by my smooth face and usually quiet manner that I was somewhat deficient in the aforesaid article, but that they had changed their mind.

Said he "When you started and called for volunteers to take that battery, I saw Temple (a brave old English soldier who was in the Crimea and India wars) start after you. I ran after him.

"He turned and asked me if you belonged to my company, I told Yes.

"'Why,' says he, 'Ain't he rather a desperate character? See him run at them alone! How do you feel, will you go if I will?'

"I told him I would.

"'Hurrah then,' said he, throwing up his cap. 'Here goes!'

"And we [went] after you. Several others came with us, when we pointed to you away up ahead, swinging your revolver in one hand and saber in the other. We did not go but a little way before the order came to halt, as our right had been forced back. You did not know why we stopped, but we had to. I thought you was a goner when that line fired at you and you threw yoursef behind the stump."

To say that I did not feel proud at this recital would not be the truth, but nevertheless I pretended not to--said all the modest things I could think of, and told him what I really thought: that if any other officer had thought of it before me, they would have done the same thing. Indeed, Lieutenant Cox spoke of it first, but shortly after and before he could get men to go with him (which he tried to do), he was knocked down by a blow in the head from a piece of shell from the guns in which he was interesting himself.

The day has continued cold and gloomy. I wrote to Captain Crawford, as he made me promise to do so when I left camp. The news is tonight that a large train is on the way up here bringing four or five days mail, our rations, and the Paymasters.

Sunday 2nd

Last nights rumor was correct. Just after I went to bed, the officers' call was sounded. I got up and went to Head Quarters. Captain Robertson gave us our Pay Rolls for July and August and said the men must sign them at once, for we should be paid this morning. So I got the men up, had the Rolls signed etc.

General Wright sent around word last night that a Union woman who lived near Mt. Crawford had been deprived of all her property by this Division. Said woman had come into our lines and was going North. He desired the officers of this Division to make her up a purse so that she would not be without the means of living. So we got together at our respective Regimental Head Quarters and, after considerable fun, made up a purse for her.

Colonel Henry 10th Vermont Volunteers came back last night also. He said that when the news of our victories reached the North, the people were wild with excitement. Every little town must do its firing of guns etc. Gold came down to $1.60 and sugar took a tumble of 11 cents per pound. So much joy in the Army of the Potomac as there was when the news reached them of our victory at Winchester! Cheer after cheer rent the air, and when the guns were shotted and old Petersburg received their contents, such a shout went up as must have made the Rebel Hearts tremble. Bully for our side. Our men are having a little private good feeling of their own on the pay question.

Monday 3rd

Rained all day. Considerable drunkeness especially in "I" Company. Sergeant Wilder, who now commands them, had considerable more than he could do to keep them quiet. Ginally he got mad and went to harsh means. The men came to Head Quarters (I was there) with complaints. Captain Robertson tried to settle it. Finally he turned to me and said, "Will you take command of Company "I" again? You are the only one who appears to be able to do anything with them. They were as good a company as any in the regiment while you had them. They were the black sheep always before you came, and have been ever since you left." I told him I would take them again.

Left home three years [ago] today.

Tuesday 4th

This morning Captain Robertson came to me and said, "Let me introduce you to your company." And turning to Sergeant Wilder, "Get Company I into line." When they were formed, he and I walked down before them and the Captain told them he was going to return me to them, and that I should have permanent command of the company. After a few more words he turned and left.

As soon as he turned, one of the men stepped out and proposes, "Three cheers for Lieutenant LaForge!" And three hearty cheers they gave.

Oh! how proud I felt to think I was so much liked by the fine fellows. I took off my hat and thanked them, then they crowded arround to shake hands, and there was a pretty noisy time for a while. The other men of the regiment come running to know what the news was. They were surprised at so much noise about so small a thing.

I soon after went up to Head Quarters. "There was considerable enthusiasm," says the Adjutant with a quiet good-natured smile.

I have been at work pretty hard on my ordnance reports today. Our Cavalry are burning the mills and barns all around. "I" Company is all quiet.

Wednesday 5th

Passed the day in camp at work on Ordnance papers. Pretty heavy cannonading in the direction of Mt. Crawford. Our cavalry seem to be engaged. Rains every few hours, but is pretty warm.

Thursday 6th

This morning the for-several-days-expected order to break camp to fall back was given. [Note: The phrase "to break camp" is duplicated in the text, which I assume is a transcription error.] We moved out about sunrise, marching very rapidly all day, not stopping for dinner. We passed through Clear Spring and New Market and camped at dark on the hills a mile West of Mt. Jackson. We (i.e., Cox and myself) breakfasted on chicken at 4 O.C. this morning. All I ate after that until this evening at 7 O.C. was three apples. It was very warm marching today. I don't remember when I have heard the men complain so much as they have at the hard marching today. Although I am pretty lame from fatigue of marching, still I feel pretty good. It was almost an impossibility for a large army like ours to be supplied at so great a distance from its base by wagon transportation. We have been on short rations ever since we have been up here. Our cavalry are burning all the hay and grain in the Valley as we retreat toward Strausburg.

LETTER (written on diary page) Head Quarters "F" Company 106th New York Volunteers

Harrisonburg Virginia Oct 2nd 1864

My ever dear Sister,

I have just discovered that you have, in several of your past letters, asked me questions which I have not answered, either on account of not having your letter to read over when answering it, or--like the last letter--I did not have time to write. We now only have a few minutes notice before the mail goes out, not long enough to write a letter. If it was not for my memorandum, you would find my letters rather meagre, I am afraid. But to proceed, I will answer all I can think of.

Every time an officer is promoted, he has to swear in for three years. Say, for instance, I come out as 1st Lieutenant, if my time is half up and I am promoted to Captain or any other rank above Lieutenant, I have to swear in for three years more from the time I am promoted, the same when a soldier like myself was, is promoted. I am in for three years from June 9th 1864. If they do not muster me out with the Regiment, which is customary. If they do, my time will be out the 27th of next August.

Now, about bounty. Officers get no bounty from the government. They should be credited to whatever county they belong to and get the local bounty. Did Allegany County pay any? [Note: I presume this is a re-enlistment bounty?]

Did you expect I would be an officer or not? I was rather surprised when I got your first letter after you knew of my promotion. You did not seem at all overwhelmed by the news, never even congratulating me at all, but took it entirely as a matter of course which you had been expecting all along. How was it? I never wrote to you of my expectations, hoping to take you by surprise. Myself turned out to be the surprised party. You must explain it.

Front Royal, October 11th

I finish my letter today and send in it for you one hundred dollars. Please keep it for me. I shall send more soon.

Give my love to Mother, Janey, and the boys, not forgetting young Potter. He must be a fine boy, as he is named after me, and if I get back safe we will have a fine time sure. He will be big enough to learn his ABCs by that time.

Your ever loving Brother,

A. T. LaForge.

Lieutenant Commanding "I" Co. 106th New York Volunteers [Note: When Abiel began this letter on the 2nd, he was still in command of F Company, but when he concludes it on the 11th, he has been returned to command of I Company.]


Friday, October 7th 1864

Started about sunrise on the retreat down the Valley. Had to wait a long time for our turn to cross the bridge at Mt. Jackson over the [missing word?] We then continued our way by easy stages stopping an hour for dinner. We reached Woodstock at sundown and, while the [missing word?] camped on the East side of the town, the 106th stayed on the West on outpost duty. We were told to make ourselves comfortable for the night. So Cox and I went to a creek a few rods off and took a wash. When we came back, we found the Regiment gone. Soon found they had gone out on picket. We followed and found them. Our boys got us a supper of fried chicken, to which we did full justice, then laid down to sleep. Every indication of a hard, cold snap, a little shower of cold rain now and then. Just three years ago today I was sworn into the U.S. Service.

Saturday 8th

The orders was passed down the line to be ready to move at 5 1/2 O.C. A.M. Our servants went to getting us breakfast at once, but before we had half eaten we had to start. The Brigade was waiting for us in town. Part of the regiment came in one way and part the other, so that half of us could get rations, of which we were entirely out. We all got about 1/2 day's rations. It was very cold when we started and has continued so all day. Occasionally some rain mixed with a little snow fell. Our route was down the pike towards Strausburg. We passed over the old battlefield and took a cool look at the Rebel Works and position on the memoriable 22nd September, and our wonder at being able to drive them from here was increased. If they had not been demoralized by being beaten a few days before, we could not have got them out. Moved down Fishers Hill and camped on the banks of [missing word?] near Strausburg. Camped for the night.

Sunday 9th

Laid in camp all day, weather very cold. Just at dark we heard the regiments cheering on the right. Soon an order came down from Brigade Head Quarters that General Torbit (our Cavalry Commander) had captured eight guns from the Rebels near Woodstock, also seven wagons. The Rebel Infantry were at New Market, following us very slowly and cautiously. Afraid to get too near. We have had to keep as near the fire as possible, for the weather is decidedly winterish.

Monday 10th

Broke camp at sunrise and started on the march at 8 A.M. Only our (6) corps moved. We passed through Strausburg, crossed Cedar Creek, marched through Middletown, then turned to the right for Front Royal. Camped a little North of the town for the night. I was provost marshal for the brigade today. My duty was to stop all stragglers from the Brigade and send them to their respective regiments. Last night ice was frozen about 1/4 of an inch thick. Yesterday received letters from Uncle John, Annie Porter, Mrs. Captain Chamberlain, Sergeant Beaugureau, and Sergeant Hungerford. The last is my 1st Sergeant [who] was captured at Monocacy and recently paroled.

Tuesday 11th

Slept illy [i.e., "ill-ly", badly] last night. Had the rheumatism. How the "old folks at home" would laugh to hear me complain of that disease. Day pleasant, but cold. Commissary came up and we drew rations. General Sheridan, who was over here yesterday with us, has gone back to Strausburg. What this movement means, none can tell, but the Commanding General. Lots of conjectures are made, of course, but I like none.

Wednesday 12th

Still pretty cold. I wish I had my overcoat. It is at Winchester with the rest of the officers' baggage. Captain Parker's servant returned to the Regiment. He says that the Captain would have lived, but the doctor thought the piece of shell with which he was wounded did not stay in his side. In this he was mistaken, for when the Medical Director of the hospital came arround, he found it among his vitals, also a button from his coat. The piece of shell weighed seven ounces. Captain died the next morning after it was taken out. [This is the Captain Parker who was hit by "friendly fire" during the previous month's battles.]

I forgot to mention that yesterday some of our boys were out foraging and were attacked by a band of guerrillias. One of our boys was taken, one wounded and got away. The rest managed to get away by taking to the bush.

Thursday October 13th

Ordered to be ready to move at 6 O.C. A.M. to move down the Valley to Ashbys Gap, cross the mountain, and proceed to Alexandria. All supposed to embark for Petersburg. We started and, by a hard march, reached Milford by 1 P.M. Stopped for dinner, then started for the Ford of the Shenandoah. Just as the head of the column was entering the river, an officer with an escort rode up to General Wright and delivered an order of some kind. The General at once ordered a halt, then countermarch, and the head of the column came back. How the men cheered when they saw it! They do not like the idea of going South again, for Petersburg has no charms for us after winning such glory in the Valley.

There are all kinds of reports about the reason of our turning back. Some say, that somebody told them, that they heard an officer say, that he heard another officer tell General Wright that Petersburg was taken with 90 guns and 20,000 prisoners. That Petersburg is taken, many believe, but I dont. My private belief is that Longstreet, who now commands the Rebels in the Valley, has learned of our leaving here and made an attack on the 19th and 8th Corps in hopes of whipping them before we could march back to their assistence.

We have heard some reports up toward Strausburg which I take to be cannon, which strengthens my belief. We stopped near Milford, 2 miles from the river, for the night. Had a mail from the north: a letter from sister for me. Family generally well. Very cold.

Friday 14th

Last night had orders to be ready to move at 6 A.M. but at 3 A.M. an order came to march at once. It was cold enough I was glad that I got my overcoat last night. Bright moonlight until 1/2 an hour before daylight. We rested that half hour. We stopped for breakfast at 9 A.M. near Newtown. We had made a pretty hard march. After breakfast, we moved on up to Middletown found that the Rebs had attacked our troops and drove them from Fishers Hill to Cedar Creek, 3 miles this side of Strausburg. We formed line of battle and camped for the night about a mile west of Middletown. The Rebs are at their old fortifications on the Hill.

Saturday 15th

Cavalry went out to Strausburg and stayed all day, the Rebs firing at them some. The enemy are cutting the trees down on one side of Round Knob to build a fort, or make a more extended prospect. Through the opening they have made, they can command a view of their left flank, where our forces surprised them before. The 8th and 19th corps made no resistance yesterday, but fell back, trying by a show of timidity to draw the enemy into an attack. The Rebs were too wary however.

Sunday 16th

Laid in camp all day. No movement going on that we are aware of. One of the Brigade aides told me that the force in our front consisted of 20,000 men commanded by General Longstreet, and that he (Longstreet) was expecting 13,000 more. If he gets them, his force will be larger than ours. 60 recruits came to the regiment tonight. They were mostly put into Companies "C" and "D". They fill these companies up to the 82 which is required before a 2nd Lieutenant can be mustered. Some of the men disliked to go into those Companies when they enlisted for others, and said so. But they will be made to, I am afraid, but it is a shame if they are.

Monday 17th

One of my Sergeants named Campbell, a smart active fellow, is drilling the recruits and laying down military to them. I was detailed for picket at 3 P.M. Took charge of two Lieutenants and one hundred men from this regiment. After a good deal of unnecessary marchin, we got on the line at sundown. The orders are not to have any fires after dark. It will be cold work.

Tuesday 18th

Deuced cold last night. I was half froze once and made some fire, which did not go out in spite of orders. Four or five shots were fired on our right, otherwise all was quiet. This morning, the officer sent me word to send two guards to a couple of houses across Cedar Creek, on the East bank of which our line runs, if I could find a good crossing for the men. I went down to the creek and found no good place to cross, so did not send the men. While I was eating breakfast, one of the men on the line came and said a couple of ladies wanted to come through. I found them a couple of pretty southron girls. They wanted to get the guards. It was their houses whch were to be guarded, as some of our pickets were trying to take their cows and goods. They told me they could show the men where to cross safely. I had no desire to resist the appeal of two such pretty faces, so sent the guard. The girls gave a very pressing invitation to "come over" and I said perhaps I would. About noon they sent for me again, but as the bearer of the message said he saw a good dinner ready, I would not go, for it looked too much like "cozening" for my dinner. [Note: If I'm interpreting this exchange correctly, it sounds like Abiel is concerned that people would think the dinner was a bribe or payoff for having provided the guards.]

I was speaking with Lieutenant Birge about my coming to the Regiment last June. Said he, "You disappointed us all. When I first saw you, I said to the men 'There is another sell on the 106th.' There is none would call you a 'sell' now though. I tell you frankly, without any desire to flatter, there is not an officer better liked by the officers and men of the Regiment than yourself. We are all well pleased with you." [Note: I'm not certain what the meaning of "sell" is precisely here. The overall impression is negative, of course.]

We were expecting to remain on duty three days, but were releived just at sundown and came into camp.

Wednesday 19th

Another eventful day, another great battle to be added to the already large list.

Just at daylight, firing commenced on the picket line on the right. This was only a feint. It worked rapidly down to our left, where the attack was really intended. I rose up when I first heard it. But as there was no commotion on our part of the line, concluded to sleep again. But the firing soon became so fierce that I concluded to get up and issue some clothing, which I had on hand and did not issue last night, as it was after dark when I got in.

[Random linguistic observation: Several times in this entry and (looking ahead) others, Abiel uses "concluded" to mean "decided. This isn't a usage I recall seeing earlier in his writings, though I haven't made a thorough search. It makes me wonder if it's a usage he's only just picked up from someone else's speech.]

All this time the battle was raging hot and heavy on the left, where the 8th and 19th corps were camped. I went to my tent to get some breakfast (wheat cakes, ham and eggs, and other good things) but had got so excited by the firing that I could not eat. Our forces on the left now began to run, and the 6th corps was thrown into their place. The Rebs were flushed with success, and our men rather demoralized by the others runing through their ranks, so when they charged our line it partly gave way. Our batteries had their horses all shot and the guns were abandoned. This would not do.

The men were rallied and charged, driving the Rebs. We took our guns back, drawing them off by hand. I ran to where two horses were standing, hitched to a limber and gun, took them by their bridles, and led them to the rear of our lines, then went back and helped draw one that had but one horse.

General Wright rode down to the lines and in front of us when the line first broke. He was rather excited. "Halt you d___d cowards!" said he. "Is there a man who is afraid to die for his country?"

The line was stopped. I went with some men in front of the line and brought back a wounded man. Just turned and went back to the line, which was laying down, when a bullet struck my left knuckle and smashed it. I was raising it up to take a look at it when another struck me above the right eye and, glancing, knocked my hat off. The blood ran profusely from both places. I turned, picked up my hat, and put it on. And, as it was evident they meant me, concluded to put for the rear. I bound my handkerchief arround my head and left the field. The Rebs by this time were checked After going two miles, I ran across our Doctor, had my head dressed, found Captain Wilbur of our Regiment wounded in the side. After his wound was dressed, we started for Newtown together. My hand pained me badly, but the Doctor had many much worse wounds to tend, to so I did not ask him to dress it.

When we got to Newtown we found the town full of Stragglers from the 8th and 19th corps. These General Sheridan had ordered to be sent to the front, as soon as he heard of it. General Sheridan was not up when the fight began. He had been to Washington and was on the way up from Harpers ferry when he heard the firing. He put spurs to his horse and got up to the field, just as our forces had checked them after they had been driven to this side of Middletown. When he rode up to the lines, Oh! how the boys cheered him! "Never mind, men," said he. "We will pay them for this before night yet." And so he did, for he charged at 4 P.M., driving the Rebs before him at a run across Cedar Creek through Strausburg, and I understand beyond Fishers Hill.

We found their ambulance corps full of wounded parked near Strausburg. We captured this, also their wagon train and all of the artillery they captured from us this morning, togather with all the artillery (except a fiew pieces) they had with them. Bully for our side! They did not make much by the surprise they gave us this morning. Our troops camped on the same ground they occupied this A.M. Our wounded are being brought down here, I can't yet tell to what number.


Stayed last night with Lieutenant Chilton at a Mr. McLeod's. My hand pained, so I could not sleep much. Had breakfast with them, then came down to the town again. Captain Briggs, who commanded the Regiment for a week back, was wounded in the foot. Four of my men were wounded that I can hear from. Our wounded have mostly been brought down here. I have been to all the hospitals and such a sight I never saw or want to see again. This is the first time I ever saw a hospital after a fight, as I was always at the front until this time. A surgeon must get stern-hearted to attend to their duties with sang froid as they do. I understand that we are to be sent to Winchester in the morning.

Friday 21st

Slept with the rest of our officers in town last night. Not much sleep, however. Ambulances came, into which we were placed about 10 A.M. Did not get to Winchester till dark. Only the worst cases were left; the rest went on to Martinsburg. I took tea at Mr. Jackson's. Saw Lieutenant Buckman. He is doing well. Quarter Master wanted me to stay with him, but I concluded to go on. Rained considerable during the night. Very cold. Tried to sleep, but could not as I was sure to hurt my head or hand every time. Road very rough. The 9th New York H[orse?] Art[illary?] passed us. They were guarding a detachment of 2200 Rebels to Martinsburg.

Saturday 22nd

Got to Martinsburg at daylight. Us officers stopped at a hotel. Got dinner, after which an ambulance came and took us to the cars and we started for Sandy Hook. Got there just at dark and were taken up to a hospital for officers on the hill. Tremenduous cold wind blowing. Had some ham and eggs and warm bread and coffee for supper. Felt very comfortable as there was a good warm stove in the tent.

Sun. 23nd

Stayed here all day. Applications for leaves of absence sent in. Captain Briggs came in. He had laid in the cars all night; he said it was ducedly cold. The wind continued to blow pretty cold.

Mon 24th

Capt Briggs and I got an ambulance and went to Harpers Ferry. Stayed part of the day, then came back just in time to get our leaves, which were for 30 days. We got on the cars and came down to Baltimore. Put up at the Fountain House and went to the Front Street Theater to see Mr and Mrs Barney Williams play the Magic Circle. [The Wikipedia entry for Barney and Maria Williams lists a play "The Fairy Circle" during the appropriate time-frame. It's possible the two are the same.] When it was out, the two Captains went to another place where I did not accompany them but returned to my Hotel. [Note: Based on several previous comments, I will speculate that "another place where I did not accompany them" may have been a house of prostitution.]

Tues. 25th

Bought a new Rig today. [Possibly he's referring to new clothing? I can find a few references from the right era to support this.] Then we took the cars and came on to Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Put up at the Continental and went to the New Chestnut St. Theater. and saw The Lady of Lyons played. Then returned to the hotel. There is a car which is worked by steam used here to elevate the guests to their rooms instead of their having to walk up and down stairs. Very fine indeed. [Note: This article on the Continental Hotel (built 1860) notes that it was one of the earliest (American?) hotels to have an elevator, so Abiel's amazement is understandable!]

Wed. 26th

Came on to New York where we stopped for an hour or two. Went to Barnums, at which place I had a Port monie [sic] placed in my pocket. we then came on the Hudson River Rail Road up to Fishkill Landing, where I left my two friends as I stoped to visit my uncle's people. I went over to New Burgh and stopped for the night at the United States Hotel. Not so fine as the Continental. [Note: I haven't been able to determine what the reference to "Port monie" means. I could find 19th century references to "port money" meaning something like "docking fee for a ship" but that wouldn't make sense in this context.] [Note: I need to come back and add genealogy notes for who "my uncle's people" refers to here.]

Thurs. 27th

Crossed the River and went up to see Uncle Fuller. People all well and very much pleased to see me. I can't imagine what makes all the women appear so lovely to me. I guess it must be because I have seen so few of them lately. A cold storm came up this afternoon.

Friday 28th

Stayed all day with Uncle [Fuller]. Was expecting to go back, but he would not hear of it. They all wish my sister was here, so as to visit together. Uncle and Aunt think the world of sister Susan.

Saturday 29th October

This A.M. went down to Mateawan to cousin Cal's. Visited the felt shops then, after dinner, came down to New Burgh and took the cars for Salisbury Mills, arriving there about dark. Walked down to Bethlehem and was kindley received by Mr and Mrs. Howser, where I stopped for the night.

Sunday 30th

Mrs. Howser did not want me to see Mr. Clemence's people until they came to meeting, so as to take them by surprise, and I did take them by surprise. Uncle Tomy did not know me at first, but was greatly delighted when I made myself known, and John and his wife Mary received me like a brother. Mary insisted on my treating her as an old acquaintance. Took dinner and stopped all night with John. Made a call on Samuel Clemence.

Monday 31st

Went down to Cornwall and Canterbury with John. At the latter place, I called upon Mrs. Townsend, mother of our Colonel Charles Townsend, who was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor. I called by the request of the officers of the 106th to express the deep regard we feel for her son. The lady received me kindly and my call gave her much satisfaction, although upon a painful subject. She extended me a cordial invitation to stop part of my Leave with them. When she found I could not, she desired me to extend to the officers of the 106th the same invitation. I was expecting to go on my journey tonight but John desired me to go with him and join the Union League, which I did, and now belong to Orange League No 5 of New York. I was requested to speak, but being unprepared, declined. On our return at past midnight we found Mary waiting tea. [Note: The "Union League" was an association of social/political clubs formed to promote the Union and Lincoln's policies. Membership was by invitation and at a later date they seem to have evolved into something more like exclusive country clubs.]

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 08:08

One of my worldbuilding "things" is to toss in very specific, concrete details that have to immediate relevance to the overall story in the moment, but will then be available as settings or resources in the future.

In Daughter of Mystery, when Margerit's relatives come to visit her in Rotenek at the Advent season, I had a passing mention of her taking her cousins to the "Strangers' Market" as a sort o tourist attraction. With a couple other passing references, I began to establish that this was a not-entirely-authorized institution on the edges of the wharf district (later established that it's in the vicinity of the Nikuleplaiz) where men who work on ships make a little on the side selling "exotic" trinkets that they've picked up in their travels, or perhaps handcrafts they make in idle hours on shipboard. (When I say "ships", we're talking about river barges and the like by the time they get to Rotenek, but I envision the workforce to have a lot of carryover from wider travel.)

So when Aukustin wants a taste of the wider world in The Mystic Marriage, he gets Tio to take him on an excursion to the Strangers' Market, with entirely too adventurous results. When Serafina wants to replace the broken bottle of hair oil that came originally from Alexandria, Luzie suggests the Strangers' Market as a good place to look. And that is where Serafina spots a very special little icon to give as a present.

The following scene wasn't in the original draft of Mother of Souls; I added it in revisions. The delivery of the gift had already been there, but I wanted to set it up a bit more. To give Serafina a chance to think about gifts both received and given. (And given that I needed her to be functionally destitute shortly afterward, there was a certain pearl necklace that I needed to dispose of.)

* * *

Chapter 30 - Serafina

Summer shifted the wares in the Strangers’ Market from the bright luxuries meant to tempt shoppers from the upper town to still rare but more practical goods offered to those unmoved by the seasons. One last errand brought Serafina’s steps to a booth presided over by a white-haired and wizened man. He sat behind the counter clutching one of the strings of beads that made the bulk of his wares, slipping the counters through his fingers and muttering over them one by one. She hadn’t come to view the rosaries, but she examined several of the more precious ones to distract from the object of her true interest. Coral and crystal, lapis and silver gilt. She hesitated, and reached for a more humble string of enameled beads whose pendant cross was made from a piece of rolled tin.

The man paused in his counting. “Not the one for a fine lady like you.”

Serafina ignored the empty flattery. She was returning to Rome in the same worn blue pelisse she had arrived in. No one would mistake her for a fine lady. She had one thing of value remaining and it sat hidden in the reticule dangling from her wrist.

“No,” she echoed. “That one’s not for a fine lady. The cross holds a relic, save it for someone who needs help.” It was a guess, but a faint glow of power leaked from the seams of the metal.

Now she turned her attention to her goal: a collection of small figures standing at one end of the counter. There was no time for long bargaining. She slid her choice to the center of the space.

“An excellent choice. Very fine workmanship. Said to be—”

“Do you take trade?” she interrupted.

His eyes narrowed.

Serafina loosened the strings on her reticule and pulled out the pearl necklace. She hadn’t worn it since the Royal Guild dinner…it seemed so long ago. She thought of Marianniz. If it had been a gift of the heart, she wouldn’t think of parting with it, but…

“An even trade. I think you will have the bargain of it.”

The man fingered the pearls and peered closely at the clasp, then tapped one of the beads against his teeth and nodded. “Would you like it delivered?”

She shook her head and he swathed the statuette carefully in a clean rag. It was small enough to slip into her reticule in place of the pearls.

Major category: 
Mother of Souls


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