So, I don't DNF (did not finish) books very often. If a book gets my attention enough to move up the list to having me start it, I generally want to give it the chance to show me what it's got. But I read one treadmill-session worth of Musketeer Space and then closed it and chose a new book. And I'd like to explain why, even if just to myself.
This is a good book. A very imaginative, well-crafted, well-written story. It takes The Three Musketeers, gender-flips it, adds some delicious diversity to the cast, then gives it a space opera setting where the Musketeers fly cyber-implant guided ships from their base at Paris Space Station. It's clever and funny and even manages to provide sympathetic and believable underpinnings to D'Artagnan's initial belligerent jackassishness.
But I didn't finish it--indeed, I barely started it. And the reason, as best I can explain, is that it doesn't feel like an interpretation of 3 Musketeers, but rather like a translation. I got a strong impression that I got all the essentials of the creative innovation in the first few chapters, but the story itself was going to run in precise parallel with the original. Which I have read. And don't feel like re-reading at this time.
I may be wrong--I could easily be wrong, given that I only scratched the beginning. And other than the story not being different enough from one I'd already read, there's nothing actually wrong with this book. It's a very well-written book. And if you're the sort of reader for whom the idea of diverse gender-flipped space musketeers is catnip--and especially if you've never actually read the story in the original (or if you think that wouldn't be a problem for you) then by all means let me know how much you enjoyed it!
The most common reaction I get to character demographics in the Alpennia books is, "OMG all the queer women, this is fabulous!" But very occasionally I get reactions along the lines of, "Why is everyone these characters hang out with a lesbian?" One of my first principles in historic research has always been, "If you find yourself asking 'Why is X true?' step back and ask, "Is X true?'"
There are two responses to the underlying question. The first is: Um...you do know that we hang out together on purpose, right? The second is to point out the saliency bias in this observation, because the actual proportion of lesbians in the social circles of my characters isn't as high as these reactions seem to indicate. So let's talk about both of those angles.
How many lesbians or bi women are part of Margerit and Barbara's immediate circle? In Margerit's family, she's the only one. Barbara is directly connected socially to Jeanne and to Antuniet. The only reason that Barbara and Jeanne are close socially is because they were lovers. This is not a matter of random chance or of coincidence. The social connection wouldn't exist without that past relationship. And what about Antuniet? Isn't it awfully coincidental that these two cousins both love women? Well, it's worth emphasizing that Antuniet is demisexual and that her sexual orientation is better described as "Jeanne-sexual" than as lesbian or bi. So that keeps bringing us back to Jeanne as a locus of the purported unbelievably high rate of lesbians in Rotenek society.
It has been made clear in several of the stories that Jeanne actively cultivates a discreet "inner circle" of women who love women. When she made invitations to the Floodtide party at Margerit's estate in Chalanz (in The Mystic Marriage) she was very specifically inviting women who knew about and participated in this part of her life. In fact, she's probably slept with most of them at some point. This is how life works, believe it or not, especially in closeted communities.
Even so, let's look at the sixteen women who formed that party: Margerit and Barbara as hosts, of course, Jeanne as organizer. Akezze is confirmed as straight and was present because she was accompanying Margerit for the summer as tutor. Antuniet is present because Jeanne specifically asked for her to be included and she already has ties of friendship and blood to Margerit and Barbara. Seven of the other eleven women are named. Tio Perzin is attracted to women and open-minded but she's also very happily married, and her friend Iaklin has been dragged along but is very definitely straight (and perhaps a touch scandalized to find what company she's in). Four of the other named five are noted as either married or having been married in the past. This is the reality of their lives. Yes, they love women, but this is not some implausibly separate and openly queer social group. This is people making deliberate connections of affinity within a society that doesn't recognize those relationships.
Once you start breaking down the details, the "coincidence" is far from coincidental. How large is Jeanne's "inner circle"? What percentage of Rotenek's high-society sapphists does it include? And what percentage of all of Rotenek society does it encompass? Is that percentage truly unbelievable? Given the characters on which the series focuses, it it unbelievable that members of this "inner circle" would appear repeatedly?
In point of fact, of the attendees at that party who are significant continuing minor characters (i.e., excluding the four viewpoint characters) we have Akezze (straight), Tio (in a committed heterosexual relationship), Helen Penilluk (most commonly mentioned as a society hostess and not for her discreet and entirely off-page relationships with women), and Marianiz Pertrez. (A marginal character. She features in passing in Mother of Souls--on the other hand, MoS was not included in the books that generated the "too many lesbians" reaction).
Looked at another way, of all the named women who are coded in my database as being "part of Jeanne's larger social set" (i.e., excluding servants and those "not part of society", and also excluding viewpoint characters) six are lovers of women and eight are not. (Probably more in the latter category by now because I have't updated the database entirely for relationships in Mother of Souls.) If you look at all the named women that Margerit interacts with socially, I think the only lesbian/bi one that she didn't meet through Jeanne is Serafina. Too much coincidence? But the specific reason that Serafina "came out" to Margerit is because she recognized the nature of Margerit and Barbara's relationship.
So, getting back to the question of "why does it feel like all the women my characters know are lesbians," the first answer is that they aren't. Only a small proportion of them are romantically interested in women, and not all of those act on it. The second answer is that, in a closeted society, it is a very natural and expected phenomenon for queer women to form close connections with other queer women and to maintain those connections even outside the bedroom. The third answer, of course, is that within all the possible stories there are to tell in Alpennia, I have deliberately chosen to tell the stories of queer women. This is frustrating to some of my readers and I don't necessarily intend to hold to it as a permanent rule, but at the moment it's been a guiding principle and will be for at least the next two books. Could I tell part of the story from Akezze's point of view? Absolutely. Would it be interesting to see what's going on through the eyes of Anna Monterrez? Definitely. (She gets at least a novelette sometime in the future, don't worry.)
Telling the larger story through the eyes of queer women is a deliberate choice--exactly as much of a choice as telling stories through straight points of view is for most authors, even when they don't realize or admit it. Personally, I find it unbelievable how few queer women there are in many stories. Now that is implausibly coincidental.
I am regularly stunned by the beauty of the observations Abiel has the time and presence of mind to make. This one has to be one of my favorites:
It is a beautiful night. I sit and look through the open end of my tent, on a hill half a mile off the signal Corps is busy sending and receiving mesages by aid of their rockets, roman candles, and different colored lights. They have a yellow light now, waving it to and fro. Now a Roman candle begins to burn: one yellow, two green, and two blue balls come from it. Looking to the right and left I see thousands of lights: the camp fires and candles of the 6th Corps en bivouac. What a grand spectacle it is! Looking up to the throne of him who rules the universe, we behold a magnificent heaven thickly studded with bright sparkling specks, which we are told by astronomers are inhabited like our world. Doubtless they are, but it can not be proved for we are unable (though we often desire to) to soar through intervening space and visit those celestial planets, and thus solve the mystery with which they are now surrounded.
[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]
Monday Aug 1st
We're up, breakfasted, and moved on towards Frederick at five A.M. Camped with the rest of the army in a grove a mile and one half West of the city about M. [i.e., noon] I got a pass and went into town just at dark. There did not appear to be as much excitement as I expected, for the rebs were rumored to be in Maryland in large force. Bought some necessary articles and returned to camp.
Tuesday Aug 2nd 1864
Today has been cloudy and much cooler than any previous day for two weeks. Looks some like rain.
I find it impossible to write up my memorandum every day, as most of the time we are in line as soon as light and march until after dark, only making halts for rest and meals. The way I do [it] is to set simply dates in a small book, then when I have a chance write more at length on paper and send it to my loved sister, to avoid carrying what would soon be no inconsiderable addition to my load.
We expected to march at 6 O.C. this morning but did not have orders to get in line until 9. At 10 the order to march was suspended and the boys are now cooking their dinners and gambling. The latter, some of them will do as long as they have a cent of money. I guess we shall stay here all day.
Moved to Monocacy Mills about five miles from yesterdays camp. Forded the river and camped with the rest of the Corps about a mile from the Mills. We expect to stay here for several days and so are going to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. The wagons came up. We got our company books and are now doing the writing, which we have to neglect on the march because we do not have the necessary books. Powell and I went and had a swim and ate a chicken pie, which we bought on the way to the river. When we returned to camp we felt much better. Had to make a report for July tonight.
Thursday 4th 1864
Have been very busy all day making Descriptive Lists for my absent boys who are wounded and in hospital. I have not yet had time to finish my Ordnance Report, which I commenced at Druid Hill Park, Baltimore. If we stay here tomorrow I will try and finish it.
It is a beautiful night. I sit and look through the open end of my tent, on a hill half a mile off the signal Corps is busy sending and receiving mesages by aid of their rockets, roman candles, and different colored lights. They have a yellow light now, waving it to and fro. Now a Roman candle begins to burn: one yellow, two green, and two blue balls come from it. Looking to the right and left I see thousands of lights: the camp fires and candles of the 6th Corps en bivouac. What a grand spectacle it is! Looking up to the throne of him who rules the universe, we behold a magnificent heaven thickly studded with bright sparkling specks, which we are told by astronomers are inhabited like our world. Doubtless they are, but it can not be proved for we are unable (though we often desire to) to soar through intervening space and visit those celestial planets, and thus solve the mystery with which they are now surrounded.
Orders came at 2 A.M. to be ready to move at day light. We were up and breakfasted, and the whole Division was packed up ready to move. The 1st and 2nd Divisions have had no such orders. We waited until 8 O.C. when, finding the sun pretty hot, we put up our shelters again, although the order to march has not been suspended.
Our officers' wagons came up Friday P.M. and we made ourselves comfortable as possible. Just at dark the order again came around to get in line immediately. We again packed up and sent our extras to the wagon again. Then we laid down and went to sleep. The order to fall in did not come until near midnight. Then we marched up to the old Monocacy field and bivouacked for the night on the very spot where most of our men fell that fatal day. Our brigade was ordered to make themselves comfortable for a sleep [note: the transcription has "steep" but I think this is more likely] as transportation would not be ready for us until day light (it was then 2 A.M.). Laid down.
It rained from four to eight A.M. Saturday 6th. Most of the boys got pretty wet. We did not get on the cars to follow the rest of the army until 10 A.M. Just as the cars moved off, we saw General Grant setting in front of one of the houses. We cheered him lustily. What could have brought him up here, I dont see, unless Lee is coming North again, which at present looks possible. We rode on the cars up to a mile and 1/2 west of Harpers Ferry, then left the cars, stopping until after sunset for the officers horses to come up.
While here, I saw Major Martin. He did not have the rolls of the 106th along or he would pay me, he said. We moved 1-1/2 miles farther from the Ferry and camped with the rest of the army. We have not had any order to move yet, but may before night.
[NOTE AT BOTTOM OF DIARY PAGE--I've left this entirely "as is" for reasons that should be obvious!]
Dont think hardly of mistakes for it is seldom I have a chance to look over and correct them. if you see an I that needs dotting, dot it, if a word is left out or of, put one in &c.
Dearly loved Sister and Friends,
For a wonder, I pen this letter only about a mile from where I did the last, if I remember right. I dont know but I wrote you while we were at Frederick City. If I did, we are rather more than a mile from the place of last date. I am sure however I wrote you a letter when we were at this place before, which makes it all right.
I received yours of July 30th which informs me that my box had been received and the money expressed to the gentleman. It is as much of a disappointment to me that there is no blankets in it, as it is to you, for I put two in it when I left camp. It was not nailed up and perhaps some one borrowed them and forgot to return them. Charge the $75.00 and the expressage on the box and money to me. Preserve the trinkets and papers, also the books, and do as you see best with the clothing. If there was any clothes in my trunk, I must have out grown them by this time, so you may dispose of them also, if you have any use to put them to. [Note: this is presumably the shipment of his possessions from Camp Convalescent that he didn't want to be burdened with while on active duty.]
You need not have the least alarm for my health, for I have not had a moments sickness since I have been to the front this time, with the exception of about four hours one day which I could not account for in any other way than that I was getting lazy. It was short duration, but for the first hour or two quite severe.
The physicians theory that the health depends on regularity of rest and meals, would not hold good in the army. I have no doubt, however, that by this constant exposure we are sowing the germs of disease which will make many of us old men by the time we are out of the service. However hospitals are being established for military Invalids where we can all go if necessary, which in my case I consider very doubtful. [Note: in this context, keep in mind that Abiel died at age 36 of tuberculosis, though I don't know whether that was a consequence of hardship during the army or was contracted later.]
I am sorry your crops are so poor up that way. They are excellent here in Maryland and Western Virginia. The Rebs are trying to carry them all away South, and I grieve to say they are likely to be pretty successful. I think you people will have to go to spinning your wool and making cloth for yourselves again. I wish with you and Janey that I could be up there and gather berries with you. Ours are all gone but some very late ones; apples are taking their places however, which will do very well for a change.
Tell Josey if he don't look out I shall have to come up and conscript him for his health. Don't work too hard, however. There is no use killing yourself if you have enough for your at-present-increasing family. Has the baby a name yet, if so what is it? I think I shall have to come up and investigate that show business; tell Miss Amelia so. Mother must not worry for me for God willing I shall come home and see her again. Won't it be a joyful time when the war is over and all us old soldiers come home? [Note: Abiel spells it "sogers" and I think this may be one of his deliberately self-conscious "vernacular spellings" like "posish". I agonize a little over normalizing these, but the originals are all available in the other version of this text.] There will be so many men that the girls will begin to put on airs and say No again.
My love to Janey and Martha and Perry's people. Say to Janey, although I get many interesting letters, it does not make hers any the less acceptable.
With love, Yours
Dear Sister and Friends,
I have just fifteen minutes before the mail goes out in which to write to you, and as it is the only chance I may have in a long time I concluded to improve it.
We are again after the Rebs, trying to chase them out of the Valley. Left camp at the Ferry, where I wrote you before on the 10th, and have been on the heels of the retreating foe ever since. Night before last we brought them to a stand here at Strausburg. I went on picket and we had a pretty warm time of it. Yesterday morning we drove them from two miles this side of the town to half a mile the other side, then we halted as we had a good place for our picket line. It was very hot and we did not fire any more than was necessary to let them know we were there. I got the men in the shade as much as possible. We were relieved at nightfall. When we saw the relief coming we concluded to wake them [i.e., the Rebs] up. So I got the men on the brow of the hill and drew the fire of the Rebs, so by the time the others came on the line we were having a sharp engagement going on. We came away laughing at the uncomfortable night we had prepared for the relief on duty. [Note: There's at least one other passage I've seen where Abiel mentions "stirring up" the enemy just before his troops are relieved, as if it were a sort of practical joke.]
The men drew three days rations and were informed that they must last four days. All our sick and wounded are to be sent to Harpers Ferry and we are to prepare for long quick marches, but I shall probably be where I can write you again at the end of the week. I have not had time this week to write up my memorandum.
The gentleman to whom Joseph sent that money has received it so that is all right.
Tell Joseph he would laugh to see the farmers plowing here. They commence in the middle of the field and plow from the centre out, instead of from the outside towards the centre. The near horse walks in the furrow, instead instead of the off one. The plough turns the furrow to the left instead of the right. All of which was new to me, as I never saw the like before. The farmers have to suffer very much. Their sheep and hogs and cows are killed to eat, and their horses are taken for Artillery wagon and riding horses. If I were them I would drive all of them to Maryland and sell them, then go North until the war is over.
I must close. Many wishes for your health and hapiness also prosperity.
Head Quarters "I" Company 106th N.Y. Volunteers 3rd Division 6th Corps
Near Strausburg Western Virginia Sunday August 14th 1864
As we are laying still for an hour or two, I concluded to improve the leisure by writing up my Mem[orandum]s, which I have not had time to do before this week.
We laid in our camp near the Ferry all day, having an easy time. Captain Parker told me he was going to transfer me to Company F, as that Company had not lately had an officer who could control them, and it need straightening like Company I did when I took hold of them. I thanked him for the compliment but earnestly requested him not to do so, as I liked the company I had command of and did not like to go to another and have to leave those with whom I was satisfied and who I believed were satisfied with me. He promised to consider the matter and I went back to my quarters.
One of the Sergeants was there and I casually told him what they proposed to do with me. He went out and soon the tent was surrounded by my men all asking if it was true that I was going away. The truth was sorrowfull to them, I could see, and I dont believe my vanity had any thing to do with it, as I felt too bad myself to be vain. Some of them had tears in their eyes and there was some swearing at the way things were managed. They said they never had been united and at peace with one another and the rest of the regiment before, nor had an officer who would do anything for them. And now that every thing was going along smoothly, they thought it was too bad.
After supper Captain Parker told me that they had got together and sent the Sergeants down to him with a petition from the whole company not to transfer me to another company, and he, in consideration of their feelings and mine, had concluded not to do so. I could not help feeling proud when I had such evidence of the feeling of the company toward me, because when I took command, Captain Paine who was then commanding the Regiment told me they were the worst company in the Regiment to manage or get along with. So that matter is settled.
We stayed in camp all day. The wagon came up and we got our books and sent off some necessary papers. I sent my Ordnance Reports. Hope they are right. They are the first I ever made out and it is possible mistakes occur in them.
Had orders to be ready to march at four A.M. Drew some clothing in the night and issued them. Marched at five towards Charlestown. Expected to find the enemy there, but did not. It was grand, just as we came out into the plain before the town, to see the heads of three other columns appear at equal distances along and wind cautiously toward one center. Our Cavalry soon found the Rebs gone and dashed on in pursuit. We followed.
The day became intensely hot. Some men droped down and died in a short time; sunstrokes were constantly occuring. We had to rest frequently and finaly halted for the night at 2-1/2 P.M. but more loss has been sustained by the service in this one days march, than if we had been engaged in a good hard fight all day. Our loss in men would not have been near so large.
Our camp for the night was three miles from Berriesville. There was a flock of sheep on the ground when we came up. In less than 20 minutes, every one was dead and soon to make mutton for our suppers. Our boys will forage when they get in this state. We had a thunder shower, which cooled off the air and made the P.M. pleasant.
Started towards Winchester at 7 A.M. Our brigade is rearguard today and marched with the train to protect it from Moseby or the Reb Cavalry. It was very hot, but we marched slowly and did not suffer from heat so much. Stoped near Winchester for dinner. Stayed in the woods two hours, then turned to the left as the Rebs had left the town. So we turned off towards Newtown, marched five or six miles, and camped near where our cavalry came on their rear guard and engaged them in the A.M.
The clouds threatened a heavy rain, but nothing but wind was the result. (Like most threatenings.) We camped in a field of high grass. Some one got it on fire in cooking his supper. It was so dry and the wind blew so hard that at first it could not be subdued, and for a time I thought we were to be burned out, but so many got at it that it had to sucomb. Had all of us all the honey we could eat this afternoon. This is quite a honey country. Rested well, being very tired.
Advanced through Newtown and Middletown. The Rebs had made a stand three miles from the latter place with their picket on the West bank of Cedar Creek. The army halted and our picket was sent out. As it was my turn, I had charge of the detail from this regiment. We crossed the creek [and] went up it to the right. The officer of the day gave me orders to deploy and occupy a hill, to see if the enemy were there. I did so, charged up the hill, established our lines etc. He gave orders to keep the men all awake, but after our hard days march that would be impossible, so I divided into fours on the line. Number 1 of each four was to watch the first, 2 the second, and so on. I took turns in keeping awake with another 1st Lieutenant who was with me but my junior. Passed the night tolerably.
[Note: I keep noticing a lot of little actions like the one about the rotating watch, where Abiel finds a middle way between strict discipline and human frailty. Also the way he "leads from the front" during combat. I have to think that these behaviors are a significant cause of the respect and popularity he has from his men.]
We were out of rations so got a breakfast of green corn roasted and green apples, then the order came to advance the lines. The left was used as the pivot, while the right of the line--two miles off--had to make a big swing to the left. We advanced in splendid style; the line was well kept. The extreme right where I was had to swing [a] full five miles. We came out on the hills above Strausburg and our line was most lovely. Our left was on the Winchester Pike and as the line swung, they kept coming out of the woods in splendid line. It was grand to look from the right, away two & 1/2 miles to the left across the hills and valleys, and see the line all advancing.
We moved up to the brow of the hills above the town and looked down upon it. The Rebs were slowly going down the other side. There was a fine little plain below us, then on the other side another rainge of hills. The Rebel line formed, supported by their whole army, which we could see was in the woods in there by the smoke. We were too far off to make firing very dangerous, but some of the crack shots on both sides putting large charges of powder in their guns, made some good shots.
As we had been living on corn and apples all day, word was sent in by the officer of the day for us to be relieved. For the deviltry of it, we thought we would ensure the wakefullness of those who came to relieve us. We determined to get up a grand fusillade when the relief deployed to take our places. It was just dusk when they came up. I deployed my line on the hill, as the rest of the officers [had] done. We drew the fire of the line upon us and returned it with great vim, so that when the relief took the line it was with the conviction that they were in a very dangerous place. They "had at them" in grand style. They returned their fire from near half a mile off, but it was now so dark that the new picket could not judge of the distance, and no doubt thought they were within a short distance of Mr. Reb.
We marched back to camp, which was now on the same side of Cedar Creek that we were. We had just arrived at camp and lain down when when the bugle sounded "fall in" and the army was moved back to the East side of Cedar Creek. We got into posish [i.e., position] and I laid down and went to sleep almost as soon as I touched the ground. It was near midnight. I had slept but three hours the night before had been on hard duty for four days, so I was pretty much used up.
Today we have drawn three days rations and orders have been issued that they must last four days. All our sick are to to be sent back to the Ferry in the wagons emptied by the issue of rations and we are looking for some unusually hard service by the tone of the orders. Our picket line fell back last night to the posish [i.e., position] they held yesterday morning. This shows we are not to fight them on the ground they held yesterday. It was very strong.
Sunday night orders came around to be ready to move at a moments notice as the picket was to be advanced again, and if they met too strong a resistance we were to charge and make room for them. They advanced to our old line on the hills above Strausburg without much resistence, except when the move first began. We were not called out. Monday [the] 15th we policed our camp's dug sinks and made things as comfortable as possible for a short stay. In the afternoon considerable cannonading was going on up by the town. We could not distinguish whether it was our guns or those of the enemy. Just at night, orders came arround to make ready for an attack, as there was a probability of one being made on us by the foe. The night passed quietly, however. Our boys got all the honey yesterday they could eat. A gentleman a mile from here has some 40 hives of splendid honey.
Friday Aug 19th
Near Charleston Virginia. Tuesday 16th very pleasant. Our camp began to look finely, being nicely laid out. At sundown while I was eating supper, the officers call was blown and I repaired to Head Quarters. The orders were to have our men pack up and be ready to march at 8-1/2 O.C. P.M.--not to strike tents until after dark, so that the movement could not be seen by the lookouts of the enemy on top of the Shenandoah mountains.
I knew we were to retreat, for we had reliable information the Rebs had been reinforced by Longstreets Corps, which would swell their number to much larger than ours, and if we remained here we were likely to be attacked and beaten at any time. Some of our train, which had been sent to Harpers Ferry, had been taken and burned by the enemy and prisoners had been captured. So back we must go.
We started at 9 P.M. The night was very fine. Being bright moonlight, we could see to march as well as during the day. The difficulty was we would get so sleepy. I would run against a tree or man, sometimes bringing myself up with a start, and find I had been walking and sleeping at the same time. When we halted for a moment I would lay down on the ground and find myself assleep in less than 1/2 a minute. Our line of march was through MIddletown and Newtown to Winchester which place we reached and camped for breakfast at 7 O.C. A.M. on [The text is interrupted but I suspect is meant to continue straight into the heading for the next day. It looks like Abiel wrote these entries on the 19th, backtracking to the 16th.]
After eating, we slept until 11 AM. then took up the line of march through the town and down the pike to Berreysville. We stopped half way between the two towns at 3-1/2 O.C. for dinner and did not march any farther that day. The enemy crowded us closely and we could hear the picket sharply engaged, but they did not think it prudent to be too pressing in their attentions. I went down to the creek and took a good wash. A cavalry man was down with his horse, which he left to graze while bathing. After his master was prepared for the bath, Mr. Horse took it into his head to go back to camp and started, followed by his master trying to stop him. Horse would not listen to pursuasion and he would be taken out of the fellow's pay if he lost him, so he had to follow him away up to camp clothed only in the covering nature gave him. I could not help laughing at his remark of "Aint this a d--n pleasant perdicament boys!" I thought it must be. [Note: I have left the cavalryman's charming exclamation in the original. "Perdicament" may be another of Abiel's deliberate representations of dialect.]
We slept soundly, having been two days and a night without sleep and marching 24 hours of that time. on
We were up at four, had breakfast and started at five, or six. It commenced raining at 7 A.M. Rained by times all day. The fields through which we had to march--so as to give the road to the wagons, which had to keep with us to prevent being captured--were slippery and sticky, making very hard marching. So when we reached this place (Charleston) we were very tired. We passed the place where our train was burned by the guerillas. Stopped for dinner in the same place we stayed all night on the 10th going up. Got here at 8 P.M. Had a little supper and went to bed, sleeping well.
On Friday 19th we laid in camp all day and getting our much needed rest. There was a good deal of whiskey in camp and several attempts at fighting. One of my men, who has a brother in "B" Company, got himself into a very bad scrape by going and cutting the rope with which said brother had been bound to a tree, then resisting the guard send to arrest him for the offence. I had to make out charges aganst him for Conduct prejudicial to good order and Military discipline, and also "Mutiny." He was then sent to the Provost guard to remain under arrest until tried for the offence.
No movement today. We got a large mail, which was very acceptable. Our brigade, which was camped closed in mass, has been extended so as to be in a much better position, and not so crowded. It has been comfortably cool ever since the rain of the 18th. Not much trouble sleeping. What a blessing it is that there are no mosquitos in this country to bother a fellow. Our lives would be a torment if there was.
The enemy advanced and attacked our picket line about 8 A.M. We thought it would be nothing but a skirmish at first, but the persistant way in which they pressed our lines showed a determination to develop our whole strength. We struck tents and got in line very quick.
The generals seemed to have considerable difficulty in determining where our line of battle should rest. After going through battallion drill in the woods we finally got into position, the 8th Corps joining our left and the 1st Division 6th Corps our right. Our regiment hapened--for a wonder--to be in the rear line. We were shelled for a while pretty smartly without doing much damage.
The line in our front built a line of breastworks. They cannot be built with as much ease as they could near Richmond. There a pick was necessary only once in a while. Here the ground has to be picked before it can be shoveled.
At four P.M. the 106th was sent out to support our advance of the picket line. The advance was not made until 6 P.M. then the regt was marched by the flank through a cornfield, which was in the rear of our picket line. The Rebs had full range of the field with their rifles and the bullets flew arround our heads too close to be comfortable. One passed close to my head and between two corporals of my company. One of them fell on his knees and I thought he was wounded but he was not.
We went up to the picket line. In front of them was a hill. On the top of this was a stone wall running clear across the field. Behind this lay the rebs and to drive them from it was our object. Our line was formed with orders to advance to the top of the hill and lay down and hold it a short time. This perhaps would drive them from the wall. Up we went. I saw the officers on the right wing get behind their companies, so I stepped out in front of mine. When we reached the top of the hill, the men delivered a volley, the object of which I could not see, and then laid down. [Note: One can't help seeing a sort of boastfulness when Abiel mentions things like "the otehr officers were behind their companies so I stepped out in front of mine", but given the deadly hazard of the conditions, I think a little boasting is warranted. I wonder if he will at some point give his thoughts outright on good leadership behavior.]
I have heard the bullets whistle, I thought, thick enough, but the shower that was poured on us surpassed anything I ever heard. The grass was mowed around us, and twelve men fell in two seconds. To remain in such a fire was murder. The men commenced giving. I could see the necessity of the move, but feared it would become a panic, so I sat still and told the men to do the same. Five or six did so, and fired back at the enemy in good earnest. The bullets flew still faster.
The commanding officer of the regiment reformed the line behind the brow of the hill and motioned for me to come back. Just as I started to do so, a bullet hit the side of my hat, setting it a little to one side without going through it, nothing but a glancing shot. Two inches to the right and it would not have hit me at all; two inches to the left and I should not have been writing this account. I thank God it was not the last.
We saw it would be useless to remain where we were as we could do no good, and the Rebs by a slight advance could sweep us, so we were ordered to fall back. We brought off all our men but one dead. We would have got him, but did not know he was dead until the line fell back. Two killed and 8 or 10 wounded was the casualties and this was done the first 1/4 minute on the hill.
We came in to the same place in the second line we were before, stacked arms, and laid down. My servant came up with some supper for me, but I was so tired and sleepy I could noy eat. I drank a cup of coffee and laid down again. At 11 P.M. we had orders to be ready to move at a moments notice. Did not move until 1 O.C. A.M.
We then went out on the Harpers Ferry Pike and--moving down through Charleston and Hallstown--to our position of one week ago, near the first named place on the same ground we started from to go on this raid. Up the Shenandoah Valley. The results of which have been so meagre--we lost some four hundred men on it, and captured a like number of the enemy. We destroyed part of their wagon train and they destroyed part of ours, so it is about an even thing.
The enemy followed us very closely, for we had hardly got into position when they began to engage our left. Considerable firing and canonading was going on, but it did not last long. Firing at intervals all day. This P.M. was a very heavy rain. Captain Robinson was in my tent when it commenced, and we were laughing to see the rest of the tents blow down, when all at once my tent began to show signs of weakness. We, like the rest, tried to hold it up, but it soon got the best of us and down it came. We could not put up again, so ran and got behind a tree until the worst was over. This did not take place in 1/2 an hour, so we were well soaked. Disagreeable as it was, I doubt if anything would have made more fun in camp. All was jollity and laughter.
My dear Sister,
I have been prevented from writing my usual weekly letter at the usual time by the pressing calls made upon my attention by the Rebs. Although I like you very much better than I do them, still when they claim my attention they have to be attended to before even my dear sister. By the delay they have occasioned, I have been prevented from writing to you until I find by measurement I am sitting exactly five soldier steps from where I set when I wrote you before from this place. But since then how we have traveled! Away up to Strausburg, nestled in its mountain home. How pretty it looked the morning we drove the enemy from the hills above it. I felt as if a great sin was being committed in making so pretty and quiet a place the theatre of strife, but such are the stern neccesity of war: no respect can be shown secluded cot or noisy town. Wherever the passions of men bring them togather in opposition, there must be carnage,
"E'en if in Eden."
How often I have thought of home and you. When--in some fight--a quiet homestead is used by one party or the other as a temporary fortification, to see timid women and children crouching in the cellar and looking up to us strong men for protection, who could harm them or refuse those mute appealing looks? None but brutes. I would think, "What if these bloody scenes were laid in our Northern homes? Those women were my sisters? What should I think of the man who would refuse his protection?" Oh! How glad I am that you know nothing of the horrors of war. The field of battle does not contain one half the horror--even with all its carnage. It is when the fight is over, one feels it most. The heart after the excitement seems open to the softening influence of sorrow. And then to look on the burning dwellings of the people, to see the inmates flying from them without their household goods [note: the transcript has "household gods" but I feel rather safe in emending it], to wander homeless refugees until they gain the roof of some charitable person, when but a few hours before they were enjoying all the blessings of "home sweet home." These, with other scenes I dare not describe to you, make up the worst of war. I knew nothing of war until I came out this summer, comparatively speaking. I have seen it in its worst features while on these several raids through Maryland and Virginia. [Note: Despite Abiel's occasional reference to a southern civilian as a "Sesesh", for the most part he seems to make a very strong division in his mind between civilian and military, with a great deal of sympathy for the former, but a great deal of (perhaps necessary) objectification of the latter. I do, of course, wince a little at the gender essentialism in Abiel's chivalric impulses, but come on, it's the mid 19th century.]
Poor Virginia! Nature has made thy climate, soil, and mineral wealth as if intending thee for the Eden of America, and only the black curses of slavery and war prevents thy being such.
I wish, with you, that I could be up there and and have a good talk with you all. It seems as if the pen was a very insufficient way of expressing one's thoughts. It is too slow and laborious. But if we were together, I think we could spend several hours and evenings in grand enjoyment, simply by using our first invented method of conveying ideas.
I guess the blotting of my paper will show why it is that I have delayed finishing my letter until today. I had to put it up on account of the heavy rain yesterday. The wind blew my tent down, and the rain did the rest. I could not put it up aganst the wind, so I had to take shelter behind a tree until it was over. I got thoroughly drenched, I tell you. Then this morning we got orders to pack up, get our breakfasts, and be ready to move or fight at 4 A.M. It is now past 7 and no move or attack yet, so I concluded to write you, as perhaps I might have a chance to send it yet today. I am feeling first rate, whereas if I had been home I should have a very bad cold today, for I slept with wet clothes and feet last night without any covering, and it was pretty cold.
I am mighty well pleased to hear so good an account of the baby, especially if he is to be named after his uncle. Now if you have the slightest idea that the name does not please Joseph don't name the boy Abiel for anything. I think Oscar A. Potter looks very well, but the middle name is not a musical one. I don't blame him for not wanting to eat from a spoon, and consider it an evidence of his precocity--while yet so young--to know what is what. [Note: I'm a bit startled by the reference to feeding the baby from a spoon, given that he's only three months old!]
Give my love to Dear mother and Janey also the Potter Brothers, and families. I sent my commission home last week, did you get it? I send you some letters this time which you may [Illegible]
[Last line not copied well] love
Near Harpers Ferry August 24th 1864
Our present camp is in a very fine position on the top and side of a hill covered with beautiful oaks and chestnuts. My quarters is beneath the spreading branches of a fine old forest monarch. The trunk forms the back of my house and the branches, my shelter. I have a fine "hard tack" table and on [it] eat and use it for my desk. I am at work on the company rolls so have lots of business.
Heavy canonading today. Our Division not engaged. I received a rich letter from Mrs. S. Annie Wallace. She first wrote me to ask some question about M. Carton, she now continues it for other reasons. She is a gay correspondant, however, and I don't object, so long as she don't.
The enemy made a very heavy attack just at sundown, just like they do before falling back. I wonder if that is their intention now. Lee needs them at Petersburg to dislodge the 5th Corps from the Weldon Rail Road.
All quiet along the lines today. No cannon or small arms. Had a letter from Father and one from O. L. Barney. Father is well in health and doing well in worldly matters, on account of having a wife that is a help meet, instead of a "help eat". Barney is expecting to be drafted and wants to know what the price of substitutes is down here. Also about getting a position as Assistant. Seargeant in the army. Talks some of joining my company as private. Congratulates me on my promotion to 1st Lieutenant. Appears to be glad etc.
We were ordered to be ready to move at 3 A.M. Got up, had breakfast, went to sleep again, and did not start until 9 A.M. It was a fine morning and to see the three heads of the three Divisions of our Corps cross the breastworks and wind across the open fields like three huge serpents was grand. We moved into a piece of woods about three miles from our old position and closed in mass. Stacked arms and sat down, expecting it was the 10 minutes rest which it is customary to give us after every hours march. I went to reading and we finaly got dinner, after which the Chaplain of the 87th P[ennsylvania?] V[olunteers?] concluded to improve the opportunity and preach in a sermon. A romantic one, it was, the text being where our Savior speaks of the two men, one building his house on the sand and the other on the rock. As if to add solemnity to the already impressive scene, heavy clouds began to rise over the distant Alleghenies, and the far off low muttering of thunder was heard. The fitful breeze sighed through the trees over our heads, like the whispering of discontented spirits. The men gathered around the man of God and, with uncovered heads, drank in the words of Salvation which flowed from his lips.
As if to raise an opportunity, the artillery of heaven which was still heard away in the distant bank of clouds, our artillery which was with the cavalry on the heels of the enemy, opened and it echoed from mountain to mountain like the complainings of great giants. [Note: Abiel's poetics have left me a bit confused here.] What a contrast: a few miles from us we could hear the evidence of men engaged in deadly strife thirsting for each other's blood, and by our side stands a man preaching peace and good will among mankind. How well could we carry out the doctrine of peace and love. The chaplain had not yet concluded his remarks when the bugle sounded "fall in", "forward", and he had to come to an abrupt close.
And we resumed the march to Charleston and camped on our old camp ground of last Sunday, where we fought, as soon as we stopped. And Lieutenant Cox of Company A started for the scene of our action of last sunday, where one of his men was killed, but not buried. [Note: This is perhaps the one he mentioned not being retrieved because they hadn't realized, during the retreat, that he'd been shot.] The place was 3/4 of a mile in front of our pickets line, and I must confess to feeling, somewhat disagreeably, that we should not go so far from support. But our errand was a humane one and on we went. When we came to the foot of the hill up which we charged and thought "if the Rebs are on the old line and we go up there, we are gone up" I fixed my revolver where I could use it in a second and took the lead up the hill.
How different my feelings from what they were before on the same ground! Then I felt all the nerve and excitement of battle, and now very much like some charmed person walking directly into a danger which I had every warning aganst and was not able to resist. But the Rebs were not on their old line. There was still the battered stone wall, behind which they lay so securely that day. On the spot where Colton was killed a grave had been dug, but never filled.
Where could he have been taken? We were turning away, giving up the search, when we saw another grave at the foot of an old Locust tree. Just up to the right stood a house which had been made a sieve of by the Rebels shells that day. We walked up that way. A couple of girls met us half way, coming to tell us what kind of a man was buried where we were looking. We walked with them and were met by the lady of the house and a very handsome young lady of "sweet sixteen." She informed us that her father buried all our soldiers. They were stripped by the Rebels. Five were burried in their dooryard, which had boards at their heads, not having had their clothes taken by the inhuman brutes. She also told us (with a pretty blush) that their next neighbor and his daughter had buried some of our dead which had been stripped and left by our chivalrous foe. To think of a lovely woman helping her aged father bury our naked dead. No false modesty in that lady; she will make a jewel of a wife. [Note: I find it interesting that a soldier who merely kills the enemy is to be expected, but one that strips the body after death--presumbly because they had desperate need of the clothing, because why else go to the trouble?--is an "inhuman brute".]
We returned to camp and sent out some men to put a head board over Colton's grave. He was the only dead left by us, and of course we knew the names of no others. Just at dark, had another romantic sermon: "What shall I do to be saved" Our light in this case was the lurid gleam of some of the burning Secesh [i.e., "successionist"] houses of Charleston. I thought that town--some of it--would be in danger if we ever came through it again, for they are most bitter secesh. Religion almost seemed a mockery in this case, for such contrasts are fearful.
Last night we slept in camp here. Today word was sent around that we were likely to stay a day or two and to put our camp in order. We did so. Got things to looking finely by about two hours from sundown. At that time the canonading, which had been going on several miles in our front, began to grow rapidly nearer and soon was within a mile of our front. Our (Ricket's) Division was ordered out to support the cavalry. We soon reached and deployed on the ground held by them and at once took the offensive. The 2nd Brigade deployed as skirmishers and we followed to support them. Charging at a rapid rate for over three miles, the Rebs fled before us in fine style. Our loss was slight. Darkness prevented us from pursuing them farther and we were ordered to retrace our steps 1/2 the distance and establish ourselves where we could support the advanced line. Now we are going to sleep.
Laid in camp all day without much to do. My bones begin to feel like I imagine a man following the usual "ways of life" would feel at the age of forty. This constant exposure will give us a rheumatic heritage.
Finished my rolls and was mustered today. The commanding officer says they [are] splendidly made out. Thinks the rolls of Company "E" are a little ahead of them. I am entitled to ($310.00) three hundred & ten dollars on these rolls and have pretty near two hundred dollars coming to me besides that. I dont know when I shall get out. Hope to this fall. I am to take command of Company "F" tomorrow. I hate to, but all of the officers think it best, so there is no help for it as I see. 3/4 of the Regiment went on picket tonight.
I love answering reader questions about Alpennia. Did you know that? I received a lovely question on my Goodreads page yesterday about what my sources and inspirations were for Alpennian magic. Answering the question gave me a chance to pull up my "development diary" where I took notes about how my ideas developed and changed when I was first writing Daughter of Mystery. Check out my answer and feel free to ask more of your own (either at Goodreads or here). It was also interesting to learn of a new path by which a reader came to the Alpennia books!
One of the tropes that I find annoying in historic or fantasy adventures revolving around female characters it "Not Like Other Girls", where the character actively rejects the trappings of traditional femininity to demonstrate that she's worthy of being a protagonist and having adventures. So I've found it doubly annoying when readers have pointed to hints of that in my own stories. I confess that, for Margerit and Barbara, I can see how they might be interpreted as indulging in that trope. Barbara with her cross-dressing and sword-fighting, Margerit in being disinterested in balls and the other events of the Season, in favor of academic study. But I never meant to imply that traditional femininity is incompatible with adventure or great deeds, and I hope that the variety of my characters has demonstrated that. (If anything, I try to draw on real-world examples of women with fascinating occupations and adventures who felt no need to reject being female.)
It is true, however, that Margerit (in her secret heart) fears that the conventional attractions of society--of love and marriage and family--will prove and either/or choice for the students she teaches. And in the following passage, we see her struggling with that fear.
Chapter 27 - Margerit
There was a soft knock on the door, though she’d left it open in invitation. She looked up to see Valeir Perneld waiting. Margerit glanced over at the clock. Was she late for the thaumaturgy lecture? The girl’s expression combined excitement and trepidation.
“What is it, Valeir? You must have news to share. Come in.”
She still remembered her first meeting with Valeir, during one of the summers spent at Saveze. Valeir had been a student then, at the Orisul convent, just about to launch into her dancing season. The two of them had helped Sister Marzina devise and work a mystery to heal a little boy deaf from a fever. It had been a revelation to her how differently Valeir’s sonitus worked from her own visions. Now the girl was one of the strongest pupils in the thaumaturgy classes and a constant challenge to Margerit’s understanding.
“Maisetra Sovitre?” Valeir said. The excitement in her voice was infectious. “He asked last night. Petro Perfrit. We’re betrothed.”
For only a moment, disappointment ruled. No, I don’t want to lose you! But this was a time for congratulations and a wish for every joy. It would come to this more often than not. They would come to study and then move on to take up the roles of wives and mothers. It couldn’t be a matter of one or the other. She wouldn’t allow herself to think that education was a waste for girls who then chose the conventional path. That was the argument of those who saw no point to educating them at all beyond languages and the arts.
“We’ll miss you,” she said, as she released Valeir from a quick embrace.
“That’s what I—that is, Petro and I—we wanted to ask about.”
Margerit glanced at the clock once more. A quarter of an hour before her lecture. She gestured Valeir to the chair facing her own and sat.
“What’s this about?”
“I was thinking,” Valeir began. “And I asked Petro because I don’t think I could have married him if he said no. I want to finish my studies first. Before the wedding. Petro agreed, but my papa doesn’t like it. He’s afraid Petro will change his mind if I put him off for two more years. I was wondering—would you speak to him? To my father, that is?”
Now that was unexpected. A fiancé who was willing to wait for a girl to complete her degree? Or at least as much of a degree as they’d be able to offer her. But… Petro Perfrit. She remembered that name now, though it had been years. He’d been part of the late lamented Guild of Saint Atelpirt, the student guild she’d joined that had ended in the disastrous castellum mystery. She searched in memory. A quiet man, not sensitive to fluctus but solid in his approach to theory. A partisan of the Dowager Princess, but so many of them had been and that was all in the past now. It was odd to think that her own example in that guild might have influenced his willingness to choose and champion a scholar-wife.
“Yes, of course I will,” she answered. “You’ve made a good choice in Maistir Perfrit. I don’t know that your father will listen to me, though.”
“He will,” Valeir said.
When we shift from historic individuals to literary figures, there's a corresponding shift in the emphasis within types of motifs. The reasons women might choose to pass as men in real life were often economic or practical. In literature, there must be a reason that is important to the plot. Given how (relatively) common it was in real life, cross-dressing to join the military is fairly rare in fiction, outside of the specific genre of "female cabin boy" ballads. And when literary cross-dressing is done for the purpose of establishing a same-sex romantic or domestic relationship, it is typically either played as fraud or played for humor. Historic women who passed in male occupations might be inspired by the wage gap, but in literature they more typically represent a commentary on gender essentialism (either for or against).
This first group of examples don't touch on the same-sex possibilities of the masquerade, or at least, not as the primary function. If you notice a rather large number of 19th century German novels included, that's due to the very detailed examination of this genre in Krimmer. The next group to be covered will be the somewhat more exciting category of cross-dressing situations that create either the appearance or the reality of same-sex attraction and love.
Literary Cross-dressing: General
This groups covers works that include cross-dressing that don't fall in one of the more specific categories. That is, although the cross-dressing may challenge gender norms or represent appropriation of male prerogatives, in these works theres is not a focus on creating the potential for same-sex erotics (although it may be a minor element). The examples included here only scratch the surface of this motif in literature, and there is some skewing toward particular literary contexts, such as 19th century Germany, because of the publications that they've been drawn from. Unlike the historic examples of cross-dressing, I haven't separated out the military examples.
I'd meant to read this quite some time ago but iBooks had some glitch and claimed the file wouldn't open and it took entirely too long for me to remember that I needed to follow up on the problem in a place and time I could track down the glitch (in iBooks, not the file). I finished the main River of Souls trilogy a year ago and in an odd way, having that much of a gap before reading "Nocturnall" worked very well, because we return to Ilse and Raul a considerable time after the end of Allegiance.
"Nocturnall" works more as an extended character sketch than an independent story. I wouldn't advise reading it if you haven't read the rest of the River of Souls series. But if you've done so, it's a...well, I don't know that I can call it a "pleasant" conclusion, but a fitting one. It's an end of life story that gives closure, in the bittersweet way that end-of-life stories must. Without giving any spoilers, we see the pair in their prime, settled into ruling the land and having raised two generations of desendents. It isn't a perfect life, but a satisfying one. And then we see the past come around full circle to return the consequences of past deeds. In the aftermath of that, the story reminds us of the vivid "realness" of the eponymous river of souls--the flow of identities across many lifetimes and ages--that gives the inhabitants of this world a rather different relationship with death and with eternity than our own relationship. That relationship turns what might otherwise be tragedy into...something else.
The story flows smoothly and--though the ending is entirely predictable from a knowledge of the setting--that only means one can sit back and enjoy the language and imagery without too much angst about what will happen next.
It's the start of a new year and perhaps a good time to take stock of the writing projects I have at various stages (including some that are "just a gleam in the author's eye"). It's a way of taking stock and reminding my back-brain of what to think about. It looks like I've successfully gotten back in the habit of writing fiction every day, so...wandering through my writing folders, I can come up with this list:
As regularly noted, the next Alpennia novel will be my venture into the Young Adult realm: Floodtide (basically, all the teenage characters in the series get to have adventures together, seen through the eyes of Rozild the laundry maid and aspiring seamstress). The main series novels that follow that will be Mistress of Shadows (Barbara is posted to Paris to run Princess Annek's spy network and Serafina goes along to...well, let's not spoil everything, shall we? Let's just say that readers of Mother of Souls are aware that there are a number of dangling loose threads in Paris.) This will be followed by Sisters in Spirit (the question of the Alpennian succession is complicated by a number of things, most of them having to do with people falling in love with the wrong people). I'm starting to think that there may need to be another book roughly falling in the same time span as Sisters but have only the vaguest notion of what goes on in it, other than that important stuff needs to happen. Those events may instead be covered by a collection of shorter works. Then the concluding main-series novel (title as yet undecided, but I've started thinking of it as Heirs of the Deluge) covers the Alpennian revolution and its resolution. In addition, I have plans to write the 15th century "real" story of the famous thaumaturgist Tanfrit, which stands entirely outside that main serquence. Of all of these, I have Floodtide outlined in detail and have started writing bits of it, but haven't seriously plunged into it as a main project. The rest are only notes, vague outlines, and initial historic research. (Setting a novel primarily in an actual real-world city will be a new challenge.)
But I have a number of shorter Alpennian pieces that are intended as character sketches or bits that fill in background that doesn't really fit well in the main series. As noted, this may be how I fill in the necessary gaps in the overall plot arc. How I supply them to readers is still up in the air. At the moment, the ones that have actual text written are:
Any of it sound interesting?
A few weeks ago, a writer friend asked for blog prompts and, based on an intersection of mutual interests, I suggested talking about exactly what was going on in 16th century Prague under Rudolf II that made it a fascinating place to write about. (My own intersection is that Antuniet Chazillen's book of alchemical gemstone secrets was written at that place and time.) As it happened, another writer and mutual friend stepped up to address the question, and the essay went live today. Check it out!
The biggest take-away from this set of entries is how meaningless a lot of the on-the-ground action must have seemed to the average soldier. Move here, move there, engage, retreat, end up back where you started a week ago with nothing obvious to show for it except casualties. Abiel sometimes makes comments that address issues of larger strategy, so I suspect he was constantly aware of the importance of even those "meaningless" manoevers. The level of detail he sometimes records from active engagements is startling. It really gives a sense of how lucky any specific individual was to survive the entire war.
The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878
[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]
I will commence my memorandum where it was suddenly terminated yesterday by an order from Brigade Head Quarters, again ordering me to take out and establish a picket line. Captain Parker of Company "F" was the senior officer on picket, but he kept himself in a safe place, leaving everything that required exposure to me.
Our batteries had already been engaged about half an hour with some force in our front--how large we did not know. I crossed the river with my pickets and at once found that I should have to fight for a posish [i.e., position--I just love Abiel's "posish" so much I'm going to keep leaving it in place], so I moved my men to a knoll where we slightly infiladed the reb pickets, and giving them a few shots we gained a starting point. I then deployed my men as fast as possible under fire, conducting them on the run through a corn field where our flank was constantly reciving the reb fire. I would leave a man at every two rods, who would at once commence returning the fire. We ran in a stooping posture, so as to gain all the concealment possible from the corn, which was 4-1/2 feet high.
Everything progressed favorably until about noon, when with my glass I could see a column of the enemy crossing the river 2 miles below us. This heavy force I saw would strike our line of battle on the flank and rear. Still I felt confident. Some of the men who came out in the morning with me were dead, others wounded, but we held our first position. The force which crossed the river soon came up and engaged our troops in such a manner that they came right behind my line on the left. I then bowed the left in, and finally had to recross the river to avoid capture. This was done by fording, as our troops had burned the bridge as a measure of safety. My men were careful to keep their ammunition dry.
A Reb Lieutenant Colonel captured at this time said that we had until an hour before been engaged with the Cavalry alone, but now the whole of Ewell's Army 30,000 strong had came up. Said he, "As near as I can find, you have but 6000 men," (which was the fact) "and unless you dig out of here you will rue it."
An hour after this, they charged our line and were finely repulsed, and held back for some time. Then they again charged with a double line of battle against our one, and with a line so long that it bowed arround both our flanks. Even then, our boys held them nobly for a long time. But mortal courage could not stand against such odds. They they gave way slowly at first, then rapidly, and finally ran. The retreat soon became a general rout. I rallied a few of the pickets and held our line for a few minutes, but they melted so fast that they could not be forced to remain in such a position.
I finally gave the order for the picket to fall back, and I took good care to be the last from the line. When I started, I ran as fast as possible, thus zigzaging for I found myself a mark for more of the enemy's sharp shooters than was at all comfortable. I had a brook to cross, several wounded men and dead also lay in it, their cries were piteous but no halt. I got across the railroad and here found some of our union troops, 8 or 10. I stopped to breathe and we determined to bother the Johnnies a little, and commenced firing at those who were fording the river and crossing the iron railroad bridge.
One of the men called my attention to a reb 300 yards distant who was running toward the river to cross. Bringing up his gun, he fired. The man went down. The "shot" at once commenced expressing the most extravagant joy, at the same time reloading. By this time, some of the enemy were in 30 feet of us. I had just aimed my revolver at the foremost when, looking back, I saw a lot of them in our rear. I thought my weapon might do better service fighting through them.
We all started on the retreat, going to the right of the enemy who were deploying to capture us. The bullets flew like hail stones. The boys fell all around me. I shall never forget the short, "Oh! Ah! Dear Me!" and such like exclamations which was all that gave us to understand that one of our number was wounded.
I overtook General Wallace's retreating column on the Baltimore Pike. The officers were making every effort to bring some order out of the chaos and even while rapidly retreating, the old veterans formed in column so as to resist any further demonstration the enemy could make. On through New Market we came. No halt at dark for making coffee, but those that had hard tack divided with their comrades and they ate as they walked. At 2 OC this morning, a rest of an hour was ordered, but the men were so fatigued that they could go no farther, so they were allowed to lay until daylight, when the retreat was resumed.
What misery the men have endured today: feet sore as boils, tired, hungry, but above all defeated. Still no murmering. We have finally reched Ellicotts Mills, 36 miles from the scene of action, and are now bivouacked in a beautiful wood for a rest and I think probably to stay all night.
My dear sister,
Do not think by the date of my letter that I shall send it today, for I shall not have a chance for a week perhaps. When I do, I will add more and forward it. My object in writing tonight is the romance of the fourth, and also to answer the questions propounded in your last, lest I might forget them, as I have to burn your letter as fast as received for want of transportation for them.
First I am in command of the company because the captain was captured on May 6th at the battle of the Wilderness. The 1st Lieutenant went home on a furlough last March and forgot to return. The 2nd Lieutenant was killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor June 1st, so I am not only in command but also the only officer in the company. My Company properly is "F", being however that there was already two officers present with that company, I was placed in command of co "I".
My pay is now $108--rather higher than before, you see. Out of this I must buy my provisions, clothing, and arms. One dollar a day pays for grub in the field. In camp it would be more, as we could get more to buy. So I have a little more than $2.50 per day for other purposes.
Saturday July 9th: According to promise, I finish my letter to you, but in a far different place from what I had anticipated. We are now about 4 miles from Frederick, Maryland and I am sitting on the bank of the Monocacy River. And delighted is every man in the command to be able to breathe the pure mountain air of these regions again. The Loyal Citizens of Frederick were glad to see us come marching into town. They thought that the very name of the Veterans of the Army of Potomac was sufficient to protect them. What must have been their feelings last night when, to save ourselves from capture, we had to abandon the city, which was soon occupied by the enemy. I grieve at their disappointment.
I will not finish this letter until night as we are likely to have a brush with rebs just now and I shall want you to know the result.
Monday July 11th 1864: Ellicotts Mills, 10 miles from Baltimore.
Dear friends, by the blessing of God I am spared to finish this letter. Immediately after closing this Saturday I was detailed to go on duty as officer of the picket. This was 9 A.M. The enemy attacked at that hour and from that time until nearly sundown we were engaged in in a battle as obstinately fought as any of the war. We, however, were pitted against such fearful odds that the defeat which I sorrowfully chronicle can be considered no disgrace to our brave Division. By reading my mem[orandum]'s, which I enclose, you will get a faint idea of the fearful nature of the struggle. Amid such dreadful carnage it seems almost impossible that any person could escape unharmed as I did, and for which I feel truly thankful. The fertile fields of the Monocacy must have been satiated with human gore, and her waters was discoloured with the life blood of many heroes who will know no other grave than that afforded by her cool wave, which is today gently caressing their marble brows.
Prisoners report the Rebs 30,000 which would make them over five to our one. Still we held them back for eight long hours in spite of all they could do. This I consider a tribute to the bravery of the Division, which may well make them feel proud. I cannot describe my heart-sickness when, after such a resistance, we had to give way. And the last rays of the setting sun saw our routed and retreating army flying across the Maryland Hills. I must abruptly close on account of duty. Much love to all,
DIARY Monday 18th
Halt of the 6th Army Corps in Snickers Gap Shenandoah Mountains. Of this halt I take advantage and shall write up my neglected memoranadum. Also, if I have time, write to sister. I wrote a letter to Miss Porter at Baltimore and have it in my pocket yet, not having had a chance to mail it. On Sunday 10th, our brave but defeated little army under General Wallace reached Ellicotts Mills, 10 miles west of Baltimore, were marched into a beautiful grove near the town, and camped. My servant, who had been behind and was I feared captured, came up with my provisions and blankets. The arrival of the three gave me much comfort, both mentally and physically. Remained all night, luxuriously sleeping among the thick leaves and obtaining in large doses the much needed rest, after two days of excessive fatigue.
On Monday 11th George Powell, Lieutenant of "K" and I went down to the village without our shoulder straps--we never wear them on a campaign--and had a deal of attempting to make the liquor venders believe we were officers. They were prohibited from selling to privates, and insisted on classing us among that order, probably having never seen officers just from the battlefield before. We were looking rather rough. We went into a place for a glass of ale. T'was "no go" "we were not officers, could not sell them" &c. were our only replies. While we were parleying, an officer in full uniform came in with whom I had been an picket at Monocacy. I laughingly told him my difficulty. He soon set matters right by explaining to "mine host" that it was not the style of the officers of the Army of the Potomac to put on many airs or extras, and most of them dressed the same as privates. After this, I got what I wanted. [Note: This item would seem to contradict my previous speculations on Abiel's shifting attitude toward alcohol. Interesting.]
I also got some lime water to dress my face, which had been badly burned by a fellow spattering red-hot grease upon it--accidentally of course--the day before. Three hours before sundown broke camp and started for Baltimore. The Quarter Master stores in town could not be saved. There was danger of their falling into the hands of the enemy, so they were destributed gratuitously to the men. Proceeded to Baltimore by rail. Arrived after dark and bivouacked near the upper Baltimore and Ohio railroad depot. Remained there all night and all [The transcript breaks off here with no indication of illegibility so it may be that Abiel stopped writing in the middle of a sentence.]
Tuesday 12th: Lieutenant Powell and I went into town and got some Ice cream and cake.
Wednesday 13th: Moved arround to the North side of the city and camped in a beautiful situation in Druid Hill Park, where we luckely found plenty of boards to put our selves up in good shape. Captain Robertson and I went through the park on an exploration trip, pitching into all sorts of out of the way places, discovering all that was admirable, and lamenting that war should make it necessary to desecrate such holy quiet by the clash of arms. In the afternoon the blanks came from the Ordnance Office and I at once went to work making out my ordinance report. This has to be done four times a year, when a full account has to be given of all arms and accoutrements, and Ordnance Stores that have been in our possession since last return. Every officer in the service has to make this return. This afternoon, communication between here and Washington by a body of Rebel Cavalry which has passed on towards Annapolis.
Thursday 14th: At M. [i.e., meridian = noon] took cars for Washington, as communication had been opened again and the railroad repaired. The enemy did but little damage, merely burning a few cars and cutting down some telegraph poles, tearing up a few rails etc. Arrived at Washington just before sundown, disembarked from the cars, took supper at the Soldiers Rest, camped near there.
Next morning, Thursday 15th: Breakfasted at Soldiers Rest then marched to Georgetown by way of Pennsylvania Avenue. The citizens received our scarred veterans with demonstrations of joy. I saw many of my old acquaintances in the city and had many gay salutes from all sides. The Division gave three cheers for Lincoln as we passed the White House. Bivouacked near Tennally town until 4 P.M. then marched about six miles further towards Poolsville, then stopped for the night in a field of tall timothy. What luxury to streatch out on that soft bed of grass!
Saturday 16th: Very hot. Still we made a long hard march, fording the Potomac near Edwards Ferry. The men were allowed to take off their clothes and carry them on their heads while fording. The water came up to their breasts, and was 1/4 of a mile wide. It was decidedly a strange spectacle to see 5000 men with their lower person naked and the upper clothed, marching down the sloping bank on one side and wading across in a long line four abreast, emerging on the other side, then marching in that garb 1/2 a mile and fording a branch of the river before dressing. Some young ladies came from the farmhouses around to watch the troops cross, but when they saw the primative garb which was to be worn during the operation, they concluded to retire, out of sight of us at least.
It was dark before the whole Division was across. Still the route for Leesburg, seven miles distant, was taken up. Three miles through the heat and dust we went, and at rapid marching to this, occasioned many men who were footsore and thoroughly exhausted to fall, and finally convinced the General that he would have but few men with him if he continued on, so a "Halt for the night" was commanded. I was very much fatigued. My servant was not up either with my blanket overcoat or provision, so I put my rubber arround me and threw myself on the ground already wet with dew, and was soon fast asleep. My repose was of short duration however, for I awoke with the cold and slept but little thereafter.
Sunday 17th: On towards Snickers Gap, passing through Leesburg, a pretty little city nestling cosily among the hills of London County, something like Elmira New York on a much smaller scale. Stoped near the town for dinner, then marched some three miles farther and joined the rest of the 6th corps, which had arrived on the ground by another route the day berore. The Chaplain of one of the regiments preached a sermon in the grove where the Brigade was bivouacked. It was decidedly impressive, to see the weather bronzed veterans of many a hard campaign gathered around beneath the royal old oaks listening to the words of devotion put up by the man of God. Over the whole of them the ruddy glare of the camp fires was playing, and lighting up faces which showed no less interest in the words there spoken than in the words which had called them forth to do battle for their country.
Monday 18th: The whole corps took the road for the mountains. We have many evidences of the hasty manner in which the Rebs fled along this road: wagons burned to prevent their falling into our hand were scattered all along the route, dead mules and horses--swollen by the heat and looking horrible--interrupted us every little way. The smell too was awful. Our cavalry pressed them closely yesterday. We arrived at this place (Snickers Gap) about 11 A.M. and, as I before said, I take advantage of our halt to write up my mem[orandum]s. The Rebs are on the other side of the Mountain and a Division of Hunter's 8th Corps are close upon them.
DIARY Tuesday 19th
On picket East side of the Shenandoah. Crossed the Blue Ridge yesterday afternoon. When coming down the west side of the mountain, we could see a Division of the 19th Corps forcing a crossing at Snickers Ford. They were sharply engaged. Our corps marched to a posish where we had a splendid view of the engagement, being about three hundred feet above and 1/2 mile in rear of the combatants. One Division of the 19th got across but were driven by a splendid charge of the rebs back into the river again. When the enemy made that charge, battery after battery opened upon them, some of the shells bursting right in their ranks. Still they kept on nobly, and finally drove the 19th from a good posish behind a stone wall, and across the river. Those troops do not fight like the soldiers of the Grand Army. I should like to have seen those rebs attempt to drive a Division of the Army of the Potomac from that stone wall.
The Division just at dark received orders to sleep on their arms. At the same time, a regiment of one hundred days men, was being marched through a ravine in our rear to do picket duty below us on the river, when suddenly a reb battery 1-1/2 miles off commenced throwing shells at random in our direction. Several of these, all at once fell into the 100 days men doing considerable execution, and scattering them like chaff. Fortunately the enemy were not aware of the service their battery was doing and it soon ceased firing altogather. No 100 days regiment came to time for picket duty however, so the 87 P.V. and 106th N.Y. were detailed for that duty and a disagreeable time we had getting on post: wading streams and climbing fences, forcing our way through the underbrush etc. in the dark. However we are very comfortable just now. I slept very nicely on the porch of a mountain cabin last night. Feel none the worse for it now.
I do not know when I shall have an opportunity to send this letter to you, but as one may occur when least expected, I will have it ready. The life of a soldier is "constant change." If the saying "there is no rest for the wicked" applies only to sinners, then all this Grand Army must have a large account to settle. The order to "Forward" has just been given and I can write no more now.
Bank of the Shenandoah. July 18th
I will continue my epistle, from yesterday's interruption. In pursuance of the order which caused such an abrupt pause in my letter, we marched through the Gap, from the summit of which I obtained such a lovely view, such as one is allowed only once in a lifetime, during a halt on the top of the mountain. I ran off and, clambering up a cliff, succeeded in obtaining a m ... elegant position, for from this summit of the Blue Ridge could be seen the whole of the London Valley which we had just left, and much of the world-renowned Shenandoah Valley. In looking across the first, I could trace far back toward Washington the road pursued by the army in chasing the flying Johnnies. To the south-east, the view was interrupted by the Heights of Mannassas, however that part of the country I knew tolerably well. The particular charm lay in the Valley into which we were marching. Far off across the beautifully undulating plain could be seen the dim outlines of the Alleghanies. These lay to the north-west. To the North, the vision was abruptly terminated by the frowning fortified summits of Maryland Heights. Then looking to the south, I could follow the Valley far past Winchester, until its extension in that direction seemed to be suddenly stopped by a hill which had evidently been droped in there by mistake. That hill is what was once Stonewall Jackson's stronghold and was considered the key to the upper Valley.
Inside of these boundaries, all was loveliness: cities, hamlets, and cottages nestled cosily among the green hills, waving woods and meandering streams. To use one's eyes alone, all seemed peace and quiet. But the organs of hearing told another tale, for there came rolling back on the breeze, the boom of artillery and sharp crack of rifles. Already the advance guard of the army, which was slowly winding its way down the mountain, had met a defiant foe who felt disposed to dispute its farther progress.
One more look at the beautiful and historical plain from which it is our proud purpose to drive [the] foe, and I sprang down the cliff and hastened to join my company, which had passed on quite a distance. I refer you to my memoranadum for the description of the fight and the part which we took in it.
Last evening, when we came here to do picket duty in the place of the 100 day Regiment which ran away, we accidentally ran upon a lot of bee hives which had been hidden by their owner in the woods. The said owner and ourselves entered into an arrangement whereby five of the hives of honey pass into our hands on condition that we allow no more to be taken while we are here. We had a splendid honey supper--honey and hard-tack--on the strength of this dicovery. There was enough in the five hives for both of the regiments on duty here. When some other regiment comes out to relieve us, old secesh [note: I presume this is a shortened form of "successionist", referring to the hive owner] will loose more of his honey I presume.
We are on picket on the extreme right of the army on the South bank of the river, expect to move to night. Love to all,
DIARY Tuesday, July 19th, 1864
Our regiment with the 87 P.V. [possibly "Pennsylvania Volunteers"?] were on picket duty on the mountain roads to the right of Snickers Gap. The duty is very pleasant. There is a man lives here who has some 20 hives of honey. He gave us 5 hives last night on condition that we would put a guard over them and prevent any more being taken, which we did. We had all the honey we wanted. We officers also took supper and breakfast with the man, we had hoe cake, butter, rye coffee, and ham. There has been considerable firing along the river today but from the clouds of dust rrising along the roads back I should judge the main body of the enemy were falling back. [See this link for a recipe for Civil War era "rye coffee".]
DIARY Tennally Town D.C, Saturday July 23rd 1864 [Note: I'm guessing that this was all written up on the 23rd and that the interim dates are for documentary purposes. If so, quite a memory for detail!]
Last Tuesday night we were relieved from picket and marched back to the hill where we witnessed the fight of the 19 Army Corps the night before and bivouacked for the night.
Wednesday July 20th
About M. [i.e., noon] got orders for the route, were soon packed up and started. We crossed the Shanandoah at Snickers Ford by wading it--it was about two feet deep--then started on the pike for Berryville. After going a mile, a heavy thunder storm came up which gave us a most thorough wetting. We marched a mile in the rain then turned into the woods and waited for it to stop, which it did in about an hour. We still staid however. There was a lot of hogs in the woods and the boys went to shooting them and we soon had fresh pork enough for two days.
At eight, news was received that a heavy column of the enemy were approaching Washington, that those in our front had only fell back in order to draw us farther from that city, that nearly all those who had been before us two days before had went up the valley and recrossed the Blue Ridge at Ashby's Gap and were also marching for our city and had the inside track. The danger was eminent. [Note: I'm guessing that "imminent" is intended, but either would work!]
Our orders were that we should start for Washington and march night and day till we got there. What rations we had must last us the whole distance. We started on the return at 10 P.M., recrossed the Shanandoah and up through Snicker's Gap. We marched all night--it was bright moon-light. We would go about two hours then rest half an hour. We got to the place we started from the Tuesday before about 8 A.M.
Here we halted for breakfast then started on towards Leesburg. We passed through that city and went into camp on the East side of Goose Creek four miles East of the town at 2 P.M. having marched over 30 miles since starting the night before. This--with the men with pretty heavy loads and over the rough roads of the mountain, fording the Shanandoah twice, marching at night with a wagon train five miles long by our side to bother us--was accomplishing a miricle. This forced march gave us the inside track of the rebs so that we could be more leisurely in our movements hereafter. The Corps rested here until 4 O.C. A.M.
The 3rd Division, to which the 106th belongs, was detailed to guard the wagon train this day. We started at four OC. Our Division had one hundred wagons to guard, making ten for each company. I had ten. My men put their knapsacks and haversacks on the wagons and marched pretty easy today. I left the train once to go to a house and get a drink. When I was coming back, I ran on a blackberry patch, the like of which I never saw. They were large as plums, thick as cranberries, and sweet as sugar. I could have picked a bushel in half an hour. Of course it did not take long to fill myself, which I did to repletion, then joined the train. Ever since we have been up here we have had all the berries we could eat. There is plenty of them in all directions.
My boys caught five hens to make a soup of at night. We camped this night ten miles west of Chain Bridge. The boys have got a lot of cows and horses on the march, which they bring to the city to sell. [Note: "have got" here clearly means "stole from local farmers". We're seeing a lot of details of what it must have been like to be a Southern farmer in the path of this constant back-and-forth.] Some of them make a pile that way. The boys made their chicken soup, then we went into camp getting a lot of rye straw to lay on.
During the night I had a heavy chill, after that a hot fever so that this morning when I got up I could hardly stand. I could not eat, which is a prety sure sign of sickness in me. When the regiment fell in and started for this place, I staggered with weakness. It was evident I could not march. Captain Robinson had a pass to ride in the Ambulance. He gave it to me and I got into one and rode to the Chain Bridge.
We came through one or two little burgs the names of which I did not learn. Some of the country we passed through was very fine, but I did not take much interest in it. About a mile from the Bridge we came to a regiment of Veteran Reserves on duty. How mighty nice they looked with their straps all polished up and arms so bright and such enviable quarters! I almost wished I was in their places.
After we crossed the Bridge (Chain Bridge) they started the ambulances down to Washington. I asked where we were going. They said to the hospital, so I jumped out, as I could not see going to Hospital. We came up here to camp. I joined the Corps at the bridge. Our orders are to have inspection tomorrow, to send in for all the clothing, arms, and ammunition we want and to prepare ourselves for active duty in the field. I wonder what they call the duty we have been on.
The opinion appears to be that we are to go to Petersburg next week. Our Pay Rolls were brought up and the Paymasters say if we will have the Rolls signed they will pay us tomorrow morning. The Rolls will be signed. I have learned that Sergeants Campbell and Hawley whom I thought captured are up at Frederick City. The Orderly Sergeant however is captured and one private.
DIARY Near Georgetown. Sunday July 24th
The regiment was paid off today. Major Martin this P.M. said he could not pay me owing to some informality of the rolls. He showed me what it was but I could not see why he should not pay. I made up my mind if we stay here tomorrow I will take my retained roll down to the Pay Master General and ask him why I cannot be paid.
I received a letter from my sister today. All are well. Some of the boys have got considerable whiskey down them and are having a lively time of it. George Powell and I took a walk into the edge of Georgetown one and 1/2 miles from here. Came back pretty tired. I am feeling much better than I did yesterday.
DIARY Monday July 25th
Last night a heavy wind and rain came up and blew our tent down upon us. Lieutenant Powell and I sleep together. Our servants got up and fixed them and laid down, but the tents were down nearly as quick as they and so it kept them going. We succeeded in passing a rather uncomfortable night. We got up pretty early and about 8 O.C., although still raining, went down town. The first thing was to go to a bath house and take a good cleaning, then I went to Pay Master General and told him why Major Martin had refused to pay me. He said there was no reason why I should not be paid, and endorsed to that effect on the Pay Roll which I gave him. I went to Martin's office with it but found he was out to our Division paying. I saw Sergt Beaugureau and Hauser from camp. We went to Mitchell's and had a gay dinner, then I had a game of billiards with B[eaugureau]. We parted and I went to the A[ttorney] G[eneral] office and put my paper in for a discharge from the 85th New York Volunteers. Afterwards came back to camp. Major Martin had finished paying and gone back to the city so I did not get my $80.00 dollars.
DIARY Hyattstown Md. July 27th 1864
On the night of the 25th we got marching orders again to march early. The 26th we packed up ready but did not move til noon. Marched up the Frederick Pike to a mile west of Rockville. Here we bivouacked for the night in a little wood. This morning were up and started at 4 AM. Passed through Locksburgh about 11 AM, made a short rest, and then came on to this place which is about eleven miles from Fredricksburgh, and we will stay here all night. The wheat is harvest[ed] and is in the barns, the hay cut and stacked. Green corn plenty. Blackberries still abundant. Everything bears the appearance of peace and plenty, but what means the appearances of all these camp fires: a foe to conquer and [be] driven back.
DIARY Three miles west of Harpers Ferry. July 29th 1864
Marched up from Hyattstown through Urbana and bivouacked on the old Monocacy battle field where we arrived [Note: "where we arrived" is duplicated in the transcript, which I'm assuming is a transcription error and have deleted.] about M. [i.e., noon] the 28th. We went to looking for the body of Captain Hooker. The 1st New York Cavalry had dug trenches and burned our dead promiscuously in heaps. We knew where the body was left, however, and after considerable digging found his body. The only thing by which he could be recognised was his clothes and the wound through the head. His body was to be put in a rough coffin and again interred and word sent to his friends where to find him. We had to leave two men to perform the duty, as we were ordered away before we could finish it.
The corps proceeded to Jeffersonville about eight miles from Frederick. We forded the river in the same place I had to with the picket the day of the fight and, making a circuit arround Frederick, started for the mountains, which we had to cross before getting to our destination. It was dark before we got to them and the toil of marching over the mountain roads at night was immense. More than half the men gave out and stoped by the side of the road. At length, we reached the top and the men gave a cheer, as far below them on the plain in front was seen the camp fires of the Division which had crossed before us. We knew we should stop near them, hence the joy of the boys to see their journey's end.
We got down the mount and camped about 11 P.M. very tired. This morning (29th) we marched on up by the way of Petersville, Berlin, Sandy hook and Harpers Ferry. The week has been excessively hot and caused the men much suffering. No doubt as many as ten men have fell from sun stroke each day in this Brigade.
We are now lying in line of battle and dispositions have been made as though we were to be attacked. The rebs are reported eight miles from here. Maryland Heights are near enough to us to send shells from their 100 pounders over us. I dont see how it would be possible for any force to capture that place with its present fortifications. It must be imnpregnable. Strong works on the very top of a rugged mountain with heavy ordnance, lots of water and food, and a good garrison. They could defy the rebel army. I should like to have the chance to fight behind those works. As I have a chance, I will write to my sister tonight. Although I dont know when I shall have a chance to send it.
Through constant employment I have been prevented from writing to you on the usual day and it is while again on the march looking for the enemy that I take this opportunity. You will see by my memorandum that our programme is constantly changing. We are a flying army certainly. This is the third start we have made in this direction. Twice we have fell back to the capital only to start again. I hope we shall not have to go back so fast this time.
I saw the gentleman of whom I borrowed that money while I was in Washington. He said he sent you the order I gave him on the "13". If you have not got it, please tell Joseph to express the $75.00 seventy five dollars prepaid to Sergeant A. Beaugureau. "Chief Clerk" Rendezvous of Distribution Virginia and write me as soon .........sending me the Express [reverse of letter is very faint and only a few excerpts can be read] .......... the clothes I forgot ............ your letter of the 19th while on the march. I am glad you are so much ..... with the baby for as long as you .....................
.......................... to see if there was any .............. telegraph before I come home, so you can have a lot of them made up for me. Tell Miss Martha the Rebs are not so easy killed. They die hard, and not .... to work hard to get the advantage of .......... will do it after a while. ............ to Janey and Perry and tell the ..... I'd like to capture and send a contraband up to them to help at the farm. Give my love to the children also and all our friends. I have not got a letter from father since I came to the regiment. I must scold him. Supper is ready so goodbye for the present. Bijou
Dear sis. As I have some time before the mail goes out I will write you some more. I have just got a letter from father dated June 22nd. It has been laying at Rendezvous of Distribution for some time, which caused the delay. They were all well at that time. He is very bitter against John. C.--thinks he is telling me lies about him, which is reason I don't write. I have sent a letter to him disabusing his mind of any such idea. We are taking it cool just now, resting after our fatigue. The only firing I hear is some of the boys shooting pigs. Fresh meat will not be much of a luxury to me when I get home, for we get it nearly every day here. Pies will be, however. Love to all. [Note: the reference to "pies" leads me to guess that the illegible reference in the previous letter to "have a lot of them made up for me" might be to pies as well. Just a guess, though.]
A.T. La Forge
DIARY Camp near Harper Ferry July 30th 1864
We have had no orders to march yet but probably shall move today. We have just received our mail. I got a letter from father, one from John Clemence $10.00, one from W.W. Hibbard, one from O.L. Barney, all of which are well. It was very warm this morning but a fine breeze has sprung up now and cooled the air.
DIARY Head Quarters "I" Co. 106th New York Volunteers 1st Brigade 3rd Division 6th A. Corps July 29
Marched up to this place (Harpers Ferry) from Jeffersonville today, established our camp on the left of the road, [and] had orders to make ourselves comfortable for the night. Liutenant Powell and I went to a brook to remove from our persons the evidences of our dusty march. As we were coming back to camp, we learned that the Divisions had moved to the right of the road. We found them there in position for an attack, if one was made. It was a nice place to stay all night. We stoped here until about four P.M.
DIARY July 30th
News was received that the rebs had crossed the Potomac and marched on Chambersburg. The Army was at once started back towards Frederick. Our brigade was left as rear guard to move after all the trains had recrossed the river. We moved down to Bolivar so as to be inside the defenses of Harpers Ferry. Halted and word sent arround that we should have time to make coffee and sleep a little before the whole train was by. We laid down and slept all night. We did not move untill about 10 O.C.
DIARY July 31st Sunday
The officers were just going down town and leave me in command of the regiment as orders came to move. We got in line and moved across the Potomac on the pontoons and down through Sandy Hook, Knoxville, and Berlin. I never saw the men suffer so much with the heat. We were marching in a hollow--not a breath of air was stirring and the sun boiled down on our devoted heads in an awful manner. We had not went two miles before half the men had dropped out and the brigade had to be halted to allow them to come up. It was impossible to march, so the brigade was halted in a field to remain until an hour of sundown when the air became cooler and we marched on to Jefferson, where we arrived about 10 P.M. Here we received orders to make ourselves comfortable for the night.
For those who have been waiting for it, the ebook versions of Mother of Souls are now available through non-Bella distributors, including iBooks, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble among others. (I would remind readers that Bella gets a bigger cut when ebooks are bought directly, but of course the best place to buy a book is always the one where you actually buy it. So I will never quibble as long as you buy!) This seems an opportune time to remind readers that reviews on the major reader-review sites like Amazon and Goodreads really help with visibility. There is, in theory, a "magic number" of 50 Amazon reviews that pushes one over into being part of automatic book promotions, and three years after release Daughter of Mystery is still staring longingly at that number with 47 reviews. Since the theme of today's excerpt is jealousy, I'll confess that I'm jealous of authors who don't have to beg and plead to hit that "magic number". (The fall-off in review numbers for later books makes it likely that none of the other Alpennia books will ever hit it.)
Have you ever had that experience of working intensely with someone on a creative project and then reaching the point where it's time for other people, other skills to be drawn in? It's easy for a proprietary interest in the project to become entangled with the intimacy of the partnership, especially if there's a sense that one's own contributions are being left behind. Taken for granted. Even when they aren't. Serafina has never before known anyone the way she knows Luzie. And she has no practice in disentangling those reactions.
Chapter 26 - Serafina
Serafina recognized the small creature that nestled in the pit of her stomach. It was jealousy. She’d learned to recognize it long before she’d learned to ignore it. Who was she to be jealous of anyone? Just as she had no right to give herself wholly, she had no right to expect the same in return. She’d been the first to urge Luzie to draw others into the plans for Tanfrit. But it had been theirs—just the two of them—for so long. Now here was Jeanne, visiting or summoning Luzie to discuss the business of the performance. There were the regular letters from Maistir Ovimen that left Luzie glowing with a pride that no one else could have given her. And there was Iulien Fulpi.
“I was thinking,” Luzie had said, as they rode back together from the Academy at the end of one of the music days, sharing the fiacre with Doruzi Mailfrit and another of the Poor Scholars. “I was thinking I might ask Iulien to look at the libretto.”
And when Serafina hadn’t responded immediately, Luzie continued, “I know, she’s dreadfully young. But you couldn’t tell that from her poetry. And that’s what we need: poetry. The libretto tells the story well enough, but we both know it isn’t what it might be.”
The lyrics of the two pieces Iulien played for the depictio class had seemed nothing special—perhaps she simply hadn’t an ear for Alpennian verse—but the way they wove into Luzie’s settings… There was a crispness, a definition.
Margerit had acquiesced with only a few rules. “She must be properly chaperoned. She isn’t allowed to be wandering around the city by herself.” With a wry smile, “She’s already sweet-talked me into letting her go down to Urmai by boat in the mornings so she isn’t tied to my schedule. It isn’t that I don’t consider Maisetra Valorin a proper chaperone, but…”
But trips to the Academy were a simple matter of going back and forth from the private dock at Tiporsel House. Evidently it was less thinkable to let a girl like Iuli walk alone through the Nikuleplaiz, even with a maid for company.
“I’ll ask my Aunt Pertinek if she can find time to bring her,” Margerit concluded.
And so Serafina sat on the sofa with Maisetra Pertinek, while Iulien sat beside Luzie on the fortepiano bench and eagerly followed along in the libretto as they worked, part by part, through the score.
“Are you enjoying teaching at Margerit’s school?” Maisetra Pertinek asked.
Serafina pulled her attention away from the music and its effects. It was always hard to remember that most people were blind to the visions.
“I’m not really teaching,” she said. “Just helping at this and that. I’m there as a student.” She was enough ahead of the other students in the philosophy and thaumaturgy classes to be frustrated at their progress. That would improve, Margerit promised, once enough students had learned the basics that they could hold advanced classes. But would she have that long? Every day she expected a letter that Paolo’s duties in Paris were over.
“Oh,” Maisetra Pertinek said. “I had thought from what Margerit said… Well, never mind. What do you know about this opera that Iuli will be helping with?”
What do I know? I was there when the seed was planted. I dug through Margerit’s library to find every scrap of history we might use. I’ve sat by Luzie’s side for months shaping it into being.
“It’s a historic drama. One of your Alpennian philosophers. Did Maisetra Sovitre warn you that it’s to be a surprise and we don’t want it talked about before the performance?”
Maisetra Pertinek looked affronted. “I should hope that I know how to hold my tongue when asked. Margerit can tell you that.”
Yes, that must be true. There were secrets enough at Tiporsel House to practice on.