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Thursday, December 22, 2016 - 06:00

The season of people posting their "top 10" or "10 favorite" for the past year is a bit fraught for authors. There's always the hope that maybe, just maybe, your work will have been among someone's favorites, or considered by someone to have been among the best of whatever category it is they're considering. For those of us whose work falls outside the popular categories, and when that work came out at the very end of the year when most people have already drawn up their lists, it's best just to close our hearts and move on.

What does "best of" mean, in any case? For one thing, there's always a subtext of "best/favorite from the very limited subset of things that I even knew existed, narrowed down further by those I chose to consume." So for my list, I'm going to make that very explicit.

This is my list of 20 favorite things that I wrote reviews of in 2016. SInce my reviews get classified into seven categories, I've chosen two items from each of the five smaller groups, and five each from the two largest. Note also that this is things I consumed in 2016, not necessarily things released in 2016.

Lesbian Movies - From my series "Died / Recanted / Unhappy / Came Out"

1. Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister - Costume drama, self-identified lesbians, and something resembling a happy ending. What more could I want?

2. Imagine Me and You - I had so much angst about whether this would turn out well that it may have jumped to my favorites list just in reaction.

General Movies

1. Queen of Katwe - A truly fabulous movie. If you blinked and missed it when it was in theaters, hunt it down in video or when it's available on Netflix.

2. Florence Foster Jenkins - A loving but mostly unflinching look at a bizarre woman.

Live Theater - Ordinarily, at least one of the Broadway shows I saw would make this list, but this time it's all from the Cal Shakes season

1. Othello - "In summary: a powerful, disturbing staging of Othello that succeeded in assaulting the concept of the audience as passive consumers of entertainment and went far beyond the usual goal of making Shakespeare 'relevant.'"

2. Fences - From August Wilson's "Pittsburgh Cycle" presenting portraits from an African-American neighborhood across the 20th century. Check out the new film version opening soon.

Audio Fiction - Although I listen to short fiction on a number of podcasts, I've gotten in the habit of doing brief reviews of Podcastle

1. The Little Dog Ohori by Anatoly Belilovsky - I loved the way information is hidden and revealed to create a poignant ending to a harrowing tale.

2. The Cellar Dweller by Maria Dahvana Headley - A strange and twisty story that I think must be listened to, rather than read, for full effect.

Graphic Stories

1. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua - I loved the way this started off as entertaining biography and then slid sideways into fictional adventure when truth failed to suffice.

2. Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda - An artistic masterpiece, despite the fact that I can't necessarily say I "enjoyed" it.

Lesbian Historic Motif Project - My favorite five publications from this year's coverage. See the entries themselves to find out why these are my favorites.

1. Walen, Denise A. 2005. Constructions of Female Homoeroticism in Early Modern Drama. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-6875-3

2. Lansing, Carol. 2005. “Donna con Donna? A 1295 Inquest into Female Sodomy” in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History: Sexuality and Culture in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Third Series vol. II: 109-122.

3. Newton, Esther. “The Mythic Mannish Lesbian: Radclyffe Hall and the New Woman” in Signs 9 (1984): 557-575. (reprinted in: Freedman, Esteele B., Barbara C. Gelpi, Susan L. Johnson & Kathleen M. Weston. 1985. The Lesbian Issue: Essays from Signs. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-2256-26151-4)

4. Lardinois, André. “Lesbian Sappho and Sappho of Lesbos” in Bremmer, Jan. 1989. From Sappho to de Sade: Moments in the HIstory of Sexuality. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02089-1

5. Eriksson, Brigitte. 1985. “A Lesbian Execution in Germany, 1721: The Trial Records” in Licata, Salvatore J. & Robert P. Petersen (eds). The Gay Past: A Collection of Historical Essays. Harrington Park Press, New York. ISBN 0-918393-11-6 (Also published as Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 6, numbers 1/2, Fall/Winter 1980.)


1. The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher - A book that might have changed my life if I'd read it at an impressionable age.

2. River of Souls series by Beth Bernobich -  Technically I only reviewed the third book in the series in 2016, but I also wrote up an overall impression of how sexuality is handled in the series, so I'm counting the whole thing.

3. Goddess by Kelly Gardiner - There are many directions that a fictionalized biography of Julie d'Aubigny could have gone. I was happy with this one.

4. Pembroke Park by Michelle Martin - A historic lesbian romance written in the 1980s. At the time I first read it, I had hopes that it would help create an entire genre of fun lesbian historic romance. Alas, that has not come to pass, but this one continues to hold up as a model.

5. Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis - I loved the details and atmosphere of the historic setting and the unexpectedly engaging characters.

So what were your favorite things you consumed in 2016?

Major category: 
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 - 06:00

The time finally comes! Abiel gets his commission and is returned to active service, with a rather sentimental send-off by his comrades at Camp Distribution. No more trips into Washington for plays and fine dining. The military run-around should be familiar to anyone who has dealt with that bureaucracy. Abiel can't be officially be discharged from his old regiment and get his back pay and whatnot settled because that regiment isn't available to deal with the paperwork, being in Andersonville Prison. So he has a conditional discharge that says if he isn't mustered in to the new regiment with his new rank, then he returns to his former regiment...the one in prison.

It's fascinating to read Abiel's thoughts on how to integrate into his new unit, particularly as a newly commissioned officer. (They assign him to the "worst company in the regiment".) There's also a very stark contrast between the conditions he's left, well away from the fighting, and the new normal of constant sniper fire and constant mobility. Not that Abiel didn't see the same conditions back in the first half of 1862 when he first enlisted (before dysentery took him out of commission). But from that period we only have his letters home, not a day-to-day diary, and he's clearly making light of the hardships when relating them to the family. One interesting addition to Abiel's life is that, as an officer, he now has a "servant" who is mentioned casually on regular occasions. So far, no personal name has been mentioned for this persion, and one gets the impression that this isn't a private assigned to the duty. Given the evidence and circumstances it seems likely that Abiel's servant is black.

It's been so long since I read this material previously that it's as if I'm reading the details for the first time. And the close reading necessary for the editing that I'm doing adds to that sense. As a reminder, the original transcription done by my mother (which has much less editing, although I notice that the datelines are standardized in this section) is available on my other website (the one). At some point I'll be adding these edited versions to that location, and if anyone is saving off permanent links, please include that site. The existing web page I had for this month includes a brief summary of events for each entry, which was part of my original plans for presenting the material. I don't know that I'll continue this, but I've left it for now.

Content warning: In the entry for June 20 there is reference to a rape, which involves racially-charged language.

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

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

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

June 1864

  • Diary: June 1, 1864 - Commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in the 106th New York Volunteers
  • Diary: June 2, 1864 - Problem with being mustered out of 85th NYV
  • Diary: June 3, 1864 - Conditional discharge from the 85th NYV to enable the new commission
  • Diary: June 4, 1864 - Financing a new uniform and arranging for supplies for his men
  • Diary: June 5, 1864 - Farewell to the old comrades and introduction of the new
  • Diary: June 6, 1864 - In charge of the transport ship
  • Diary: June 7, 1864 - Up the Pamunkey to White House Landing
  • Diary: June 8, 1864 - Escorted wagons to the front
  • Diary: June 9, 1864 - Mustered into his new regiment and met the men
  • Letter: June 9, 1864 - Summary of the preceeding several days
  • Diary: June 11, 1864 - The officers elect a new Major and Lt. Col.
  • Diary: June 12, 1864 - Rumors and snipers
  • Diary: June 14, 1864 - The army shifts position to the James River
  • Diary: June 17, 1864 - Sore feet and crossing the James
  • Diary: June 18, 1864 - Naps and attacks
  • Letter: June 18, 1864 - Logistics for provisions
  • Diary: June 20, 1864 - A spent bullet bounces off his shirt
  • Diary: June 23, 1864 - Battle at Petersburg
  • Diary: June 27, 1864 - Sketching battle lines
  • Diary: June 28, 1864 - A quiet, hot day
  • Letter: June 25, 1864 - He complains of no letters, summarizes recent events, an inventory of belongings

(Some of the following sections are copied from a transcription made by Phyllis G. Jones in 1956/57 in which spelling may have been modernized.)

HRJ Note: In putting together this online version of Abiel's writings, I am working from two sources: a computer file obtained from my mother in 2007, and a paper copy of the edition that she published privately in 1993. It has become apparent that the two don't entirely match for various reasons. Some explanation is needed for the first four days of June. The published text has a note after the entry for June 4th as follows:

"The leather-covered diary ends with a record of letters LaForge had received and the dates when he answered them. For the rest of the war he kept his "men's" on papers that were then sent to his sister from time to time with letters to her. The first four days of June 1864 were duplicated on the new sheets."

So there will be duplicate entries for these four days. The texts I'll identifiy as "A" are indicated as coming from the "leather-covered diary" and that those identified as "B" are from the papers kept after that time.

At some point, I'll need to do a more thorough cross-check between the computer file version and the published version. I only realized that the mis-match existed because I was looking up a question of hyphenation** in one of the computer file entries and spotted the missing material in the printed text. (** My mother's computer editing involved a lot of manual formatting, including the addition of hyphens to format the text pleasantly on the page. Abiel used hyphens in some unexpected ways, such as "to-day", but in general if a hyphen appears at the end of a line in the printed version, I've assumed it was an editorial addition.) End of HRJ comments.

Wednesday June 1st 1864 [A]

Clear and warm. Sent a squad of over 600 men to the Army of the Potomac this P.M. A letter came from Colonel North today saying that, after waiting so long, he had received a commission for me as 1st Lieutenant in the 106th New York. This regiment is now in the 6th Army Corps under Major General H.G. Wright. The 6th is a fighting Corps. Captain Crawford kindly offered to go to the city with me tomorrow to get it and also get my accounts settled. I have had a very busy day preparing for the change. I expect I shall be looked upon with anything but favor when I get to my new regiment, for no doubt some fellow who has bravely fought in the company thinks, and truly, that he deserves it more than me. I have no fear but that I shall soon be all right with them, if they will only be half decent. The Colonel gave me some good advice tonight. Says he, "You have a good start now. If you ever get any higher, it must be by your own exertions." Of course I told him I should do my best. What pleases me most is that my sister will feel so glad of my promotion. She will be so proud of me that she will almost dance a jig.

DIARY -Wednesday June 1st, 1864 [B] opened before me today ..............distinguish myself if I am only true to my good tea.........

I received [a] letter from Colonel North who is the New York State agent, saying that after waiting so long he at length had received a commission for me as 1st Lieutenant in the 106th New York Volunteers. The regiment is now in the 6th Army Corps which is commanded by Major General J.G. Wright. General Sedgwick, or Uncle Johnny as his men familiarly called him, who commanded the corps when it started on this spring's campaign, was killed at Spottsylvania C.J. The 6th is a fighting corps.

Captain Crawford kindly offered to go to the city with me tomorrow to get my commission and also to see if I could get my accounts as private of the 85th New York Volunteers. I have had a very busy day preparing for the change in my condition. I expect that I shall have a very busy day tomorrow also.

Doubtless I shall be looked upon with anything but favor by my new associates when I get to the regiment, for doubless some young man who has fought bravely with the company thinks and truly that he should have the promotion and not I. I have no fear but that I shall get along all right with them in a short time if they will give me half a chance. Colonel McKelvy gave me some good advice today when we were alone, after which he informed me that if I ever got any higher it must be by my own exertions. Of course I told him I should do my best. What pleases me most is that my sister will feel so pleased and proud of her brother officer.

I sent off a squad of over six hundred men for the Army of the Potomac. They go to White House Landing. Weather clear and cold

June 2nd 1864 [A]

Clear and warm. I went to town with Colonel McKelvy and got my commish. I find that I cannot get discharged from the service on account of not having a final statement from the 85th. I went to the War Department. They said no order for my discharge had come from the governer yet and that I could not get mustered out until it was received. Received a letter from Miss P-. She says that she is so very plain looking that she does not like to send her photograph to me.

DIARY Thursday 2nd [B}

Clear & warm. I rode to town with Colonel McKelvy and got my commission. I find that I cannot get discharged from the service on account of not having a Final Statement from the 85th New York Volunteers. I went to the War Department. They said that no order for my discharge had come from the Governor of New York yet and that I could not get mustered out until it was received.

Returned to camp not quite well pleased. I shall not write to sister until I am sure of being an officer. Received a letter from Miss Annie Porter. She claims that she is homely and don't like to send her picture. I am pretty sure of the object of that statement, however. Mr. Loy(?) of the same place has given me a description of her.

June 3rd [A]

Clear and warm. I went to town again with a letter on which I got a conditional discharge. That is, I am to proceed to my regiment and, if not mustered in as Lieutenant, am to return to my former regiment. I cannot get a settlement until the 85th is paroled. Colonel North gave me a good letter to the Colonel of the 106th as an introduction.

DIARY Friday 3rd [B]

Cool. I went to town with a letter from Captain Crawford on which I got a "conditional discharge." That is, I am allowed to proceed to my regament and if not mustered in as an officer, I am to return to the regiment...which I formerly belonged. I cannot get a settlement until the 85th is exchanged ...... .re now in the rebel Prison of Andersonville. Colonel North gave me a letter of introduction to the Colonel of the 106 New York, in which he refers in very flattering terms of myself.

June 4th 1864 [A]

Cool. I got $70 of Sergt Beaugureau for which I gave him an order on Joseph Potter for $75 and went over to town and got a sword and belt, a uniform coat, shoulder straps &c. Went up and played two games of billiards with Edmonds--beat him both times. While I was there, an order came for us to get ready to start by 9 O.C. A.M. tomorrow. A large portion of the men had to be armed before starting, so we are having a prety busy time of it.

The boys are all very sorry I am going, if one may judge by their actions. They are all fine fellows and I almost feel sad at parting with them. I think I will send this book with other things home in a box and get a new one not so large.

I wish the mail would come in tomorrow before we leave, for I expect a letter from my sister by it. She was in delicate health when I last heard from her, consequent on becoming the mother of a fine blue-eyed boy. I shall leave word with Beaugureau to keep my letters until he hears from me and then send them on. I expect we are to be sent to the White House Landing.

DIARY Saturday 4th [B]

Still cool. I borrowed $70 of Sergeant Beaugureau, for which I gave him an order on Joseph Potter for $75. With this money I went to town and got a sword & belt, a uniform coat, shoulder straps, &c. I am to go to the front with a squad of about 1000 men whom we are organizing into a provisional brigade and officering it with the officers here who are to go to the front.

I went up to the Billiard room with Edmonds and beat him a couple of games. While I was there, an order came for the Brigade to be ready to start at 9 A.M. to morrow. Most of the men had to be around [armed? see other version] before starting, so we have a rather busy time. I was airing [arming?] my company tonight.

About midnight the Colonel and Quarter Master came around where I was issuing the arms. Ellison the Quarter Master was a little tight. He took me by the hand and congratulated me on my promotion, saying that it was the best thing Govener Seymour ever did. He wanted to know if I wanted shelter tents for my men. I told him that I had not been mustered as an officer and therefore could not draw them. Colonel McKelvy said the same. "I dont care a damn," said he. "If he will only sign the papers he shall have whatever he wants for them, even if I have to pay for them myself."

I hate to leave my dear old friends at the Head quarters. I have spent many happy hours with them. They all contratulate me, but dislike to have me leave. I wish the mail would come tomorrow before I go. I am anxious to hear from my sister. She was in delicate health when I last heard from her. She had then just became the mother of a fine blue eyed boy. I shall leave word with Beaugereau to keep any letters that may arrive for me until I write to him.

[Note: From here on, we're back to single entries.]

DIARY Sunday 5th

Fine day. The Provisional Brigade started at 9 as before ordered. I was bade adieu by the Colonel and other officers and detained in a manner most flattering to my feelings. I had more friends than I was aware of. The officers & men of the marching brigade stared at me, thinking that I must be somebody.

Our brigade at Alexandria was placed on board three government transports which were lying at the coal wharf. Did not start until about 4 P.M. Ran down the river until dark. Are now anchored until morning, as the Pilot does not know the river well enough to venture to run during the darkness. The officers, of course, occupy the cabins. I look now upon them. There are twelve, myself included, and we represent six nations. All are in the liveliest possible moods and each one is making as much fun and good humor as possible. The Irishman is relating the incidents of a Barnegate Fair to a few Jolly fellows, while an Italian is exhibiting a dancing Jack which he has brought for our amusement. The German, with an immense meerchaum in his mouth, is illustrating in the broadest dialect how he parted with his Frau when He came to war. Loud roars of laughter testify to his sucess. The Frenchman, with many gesticulations, is trying to convince an Englishman that Waterloo would have been a defeat for English arms had it not been for certain reasons which John Bull of course "cant see." A Scotchman sitting by is appealed to by the excited Johnny Crekean. instead of answering, he gravely draws a pocket flask and offers it for "inspection" to both parties. The contents seems to restore good feeling between the contestants for the matter is dropped. I am requested to join them at a game of Muggins to spend the evening I of course accepted ......... the rest of the evening in fun & jolity.

[Note: This description of the "six nations" is fascinating, and a testament to how solidly people were framed in terms of immigrant origins even within the "united" states. Abiel doesn't indicate to which "nation" he considers himself to belong. I haven't been able to track down "Johnny Crekean" which appears to be possibly a French counterpart to "John Bull".]

DIARY (Monday 6th)

........... the upper cabin more comfortable than the deck outside. Our distination is White House Landing. I am officer of the deck & day, so have the entire charge of boat and men for a while. It seems rather strange to have the men salute me as I pass. I try to look dignified enough to make them think that I am only one removed from Major General, of course. We are anchored in the mouth of the York River for the night. A threatening black cloud is coming up. It looks like the bearer of rain, as it comes sweeping across the Chesapeake. Our other two Transports are in sight.

DIARY Tuesday 7th

Rained hard last night. Started up the river at daylight. Had a good view of famous Yorktown. I remember well how glad I was to see her frowning fortifications sink far behind us as the boat which conveyed me--a fever patient--from her walls, receded from this shore two years ago. We entered the Pamunkey river about 9 A.M. Steamed up its tortuous course, which lagoon like seemed to forbid navigation to White House Landing, where we disembarked at 3[?] P.M. Marched [?] a mile from the Landing and camped. We were not long in getting our shelters into the shape of dog kennels. I happen to have no tent, so shall sleep with some of my men to night. Captain Parker--the only officer of my regiment along--and I took ..... together. The rest of the officers have made a house of hard tack boxes and are now playing their usual game of muggins

DIARY Wednesday 8th

Very warm. I turned over some men in my camp belonging to the 132 Ohio over to that Regiment, which is camped near here. About 4 P.M. received orders to escort Wagon Train to the front. 400 were detailed for this purpose. Started at 5 P.M. with 200 wagons. I put my knapsack in one of the wagons and took command of the company, as the  captain got in an ambulance ahead and I did not see him until night. We guarded the train 10 miles, then it parked and we left it. We only marched a little farther however before we camped also. It being 9 P.M. I got the company into a good place then went to a Wagon park near, got a drink, after a while I cooked a piece of meat holding it over the fire on a stick, like I have in the sugar bush up in old Allegany County New York.

DIARY Thursday 9th

Slept comfortably last night, rolled up in a blanket on the ground. Left camp shortly after sunrise. Marched to Army Head Quarters.

General Grant, he was sitting under his tent-fly and for wonder is not smoking. The captain of my Provisional Compay was here--he left us last night--and some other officers of our command also. Made coffee, then the men belonging to my corps (6 & 7) started for its Head Quarters from there. I, with the others who belonged to the 3rd Division, went to those Head Quarters, found the Div[ision?] General & Staff lying upon the ground under tent fly.

Captain Parker & I with two men of the 106 went to our Brigade Head Quarters & from there to Reg. Col. Head Quarters. This last we found to be simply a hole in the ground covered with pieces of shelter tents. Captain Parker introduced me very coolly, but I knew that I had no easy task to accomplish to put myself on a footing in the Regiment so I did not pretend to notice it, but acted & spoke in the most gentleman-like manner I could command.

Captain Paine is command of the regiment. He assigns me to the command of Company I, which he privately informed me was the worst company in the regiment. They are mostly French in from Canada. I went back to Division Head Quarters and was mustered as a 1st Lieutenant in this Regiment.

When I came back to the regiment, everybody was cautioning me to be careful, keep my head down &c. The bullets however would be sufficient warning, for the sharpshooters in the rebel lines were sending their compliments into our lines every time any portion of the body was exposed. Scarcely a moment passed but that some of the Brigade are hit. My company is lying in a ditch behind a breastwork which they have built up for their protection. The upper end of the ditch is my quarters, but on all sides dirt is our friend. A tree under which I am writing has been hit twice since I have set here & shells have knocked the dirt from the breastwork over this paper--to save sanding I suppose. [See note below.] The men, if they move about at all, keep their heads below the breastworks. It is a satisfaction to know that the rebs who are only 200 yards from us are experiencing the same discomfort, for our men keep their heads down too.

Wrote to sister. There is a detail from the Regiment to go out and strengthen our picket line entrenchments tonight.

[Note: Abiel is being funny. "Sanding" was a part of writing with liquid ink, where a very find powder would be dusted over the wet ink. The capilary action would help with evaporation, then the sand would be dusted off when the ink was dry.]


Headquarters Co. I 106 Regt. N.Y.Vol. June 9, 1864

Dear Sister,

I thought likely you may want to hear from me by this time, so you have probaby answered my other letter, and as I was not where you sent it. Of course I wanted to get here as soon as possible to assume my command. I was placed as second in command of a company of men belonging to this corps which was to be sent from our old place here.

I had a good time with the rest of the officers coming down. The boys disliked to have me come very much for in camp. When I get up home I will tell you what a parting I had with the Colonel and Quartermaster. We got to White house Landing day before yesterday. No, the day before that. Yesterday we guarded a train up about a mile of Army Headquarters camped and this morning came on. We stopped near General Grant's tent an hour or so. He was sitting in front of it and for a wonder not smoking. Our squad was divided then and I came with all that came to this corps in charge of a captain of this regiment. I took command of the company as soon as I arrived. We are in a very hot place here. My regiment charged down and took this ground last Sunday with a loss of the Colonel Major, and five other officers killed and about two hundred others killed and wounded. My company lost its commander and six men. We are in a very hot place, the rebs are sending their compliments into camp all the time.

Give my love to all our folks.

Lots of love to you

I am very tired and should much rather come up and take supper with you than to go on the duty I have to tonight. Give my kind regards to all our neighbors and direct your letters to:

Your loving brother,

A.T. LaForge Lieut, Com, d.g.

"I" Co. 106 Regt. N.Y. Vols.

1st Brigade 3rd Div. 6th A.C.

Washington, D.C.

Preserve the other sheet of this letter as I want it as a memorandum when I get home. Lots of firing.

DIARY Saturday 11th

Clear & warm. At dark yesterday, an order came around for us to pack up quietly and be ready to move by time the moon set. It appears that our line is to be extended farther to the left, so our division is moved in that direction. Our regiment got everything ready and the men laid down with knapsacks on their backs and guns by their sides to catch what little sleep they could, while waiting the time that we were waiting for further orders. I was called to attend a meeting of the officers convened for the purpose of electing by vote some of their number to fill the vacant position of Lieutenant Colonel & Major, both of which were made vacant by the last charge on the eve of the first of June. I told the officers that I, being a newcomer and unacquainted with the relative merits of the candidates, would take no part in the proceedings. They elected Major MacDonald who is wounded and Private for Lieutenant Colonel vice Charles Townsend, killed in action. Their votes tied for Major between Captain Robertson & Paine. The latter is now in command of the Regiment.

About 12 midnight we fell into line without noise and moved through the darkness up to Division Head Quarters, which was about a mile. Then we halted, laid down, and slept until about an hour before day, then moved a mile & half farther to the left. There appeared to be some misunderstanding as to what part of the line we were to relieve. Our Brigade marched back a piece, closed in mass, stacked arms, got breakfast, and remained until 10 A.M. when definate orders were received and the Brigade went on to the fron line, 2[?] miles to the left of the position recently occupied. Here we are subject to just as constant and heavy a fire as before, but as our position is behind the brow of a hill, we are better protected and the fire is not so fatal. Two slightly wounded are all the casualities in the Regiment today.

My quarters are slightly improved on the former ones, one being now above ground. The house is in the shape of a V, the open toward the enemy. The two sides were formed of logs. The other two are open to the weather. It is covered with bark and brush. I have had to make the first exhibition of authority today. Two of my men got to quarreling and I had to reprove them sternly.

DIARY Sunday June 12th

Pretty warm. My boys and I covered my chebang [see note] with bark entirely and made some other improvements which were much needed. It is rumored today that our "base" is being changed to the James river. The Division orders to be ready to march at a moments notice. We are always ready, however, for it does not take long to pack up the small amount of luggage we carry. I was out four or five rods from the breast work (rear of them) when four of the rebel sharpshooters made a mark of me. several of their bullets came so close to my head that I concluded the most prudent course for me to take was the course to the breastworks.

[Note: "chebang" is an early variant of "shebang" as in "the whole shebang", and this original sense of "a temporary shelter" starts appearing around 1862, accorging to Wiktionary.]

DIARY Tuesday June 14th

The grand movement of the army has been successfully accomplished. Grant has changed his base from White house Landing on the Pamunkey to the banks of the James. Just after dark the 12th orders were received directing us to fall in, abandon our works, and march back to a line of works a mile in our rear, which had been constructed so that in case we were suddenly followed by the enemy we could defend ourselves from this point.

So as to cover the noise which we necessarily made, the bands were directed to strike up a lively air. This did not excite the suspicion of the enemy as the bands always perform at dark. We double quicked back to the rear line here, finding the troops in sufficient numbers to defend the works without us. After lying about for a couple of hours, our corps was directed to take up its line of march to the Chickahoming. The movement was by the left Flank. When we started off, the rebs were shelling our abandoned front line, how pretty the morter shells looked. They formed the arc of a fiery circle in the air, bursting among the trees and lighting up their verdure so beautifully. However those shells broke no heads.

Marches all night with regiment parts and at sunrise filed off into a field and halted to get breakfast. We had not advanced more than six miles in all night, although our road was very fatiguing. After taking coffee we again resumed the march making for our old crossing of the Chickahoming by the way of Cedar Grove Church. Crossed the river at 10 P.M. and encamped on the Richmond side and received orders to make ourselves comfortable for the night. Such an order was needed, for the men had been without sleep for forty hours, and twenty seven hours had been on the march.

The 2nd, 5th & 6th corps bivouacked close to each other on an undulating plain. Their fires were burning brightly all over the plain, through the woods and fields the same. Those fires marked the spots where our tired veterans were stooping over the supper there, in course of preparation. All this presented a scene that one cannot expect to behold but once in a lifetime. I went out to a hill a little distance from our bivoucac, and tired and sleepy as I was, the view presented was so fascinating that I quite forgot the lapse of time and stood gazing on those gathered multitudes wondering what fate mnight be in store for us in the future. We were bound on an uncertain and difficult move in which the lives of many must certainly be sacrificed, but how little those busy light-hearted fellows down there thought of that.

When I returned to my company, I found that my servant had prepared my coffee, hard-tack and port. After partaking of this frugal meal, I rolled up in my overcoat and went to sleep. This morning was awakened to get breakfast and continue our march at 2:10 o'clock. Yesterday was very hot and dusty. Last night we were unable to get enough water to wash with, so slept without washing this morning. I hardly think that anybody would have pointed us out as examples of cleanliness. After breakfast, we started on and reached this place near Wilsons Landing about 11 A.M. Charles City is a ruined school house, Blacksmith shop and four houses is about a mile south of us. We are a mile from the farms [?] I can hear besides steamers going up & down. The corps is in Line of Battle and expect to remain as they are for the night.

The boys are shooting sheep, hogs, hens, geese and everything they can get. No Rebs can be seen or heard, it seems strange. I have been detailed as officer of the picket. Am on duty in a pleasant woods a mile from camp very pleasantly situated. Captain Chanberlin is also on duty here.

DIARY Friday 17th

Camp two miles from Point of Rocks. Weather still pleasant.

I was relieved from duty about sundown, the 15th (Wednesday) then took my picket to the Regiment, which had changed positions during the time I was on duty. I was not relieved then but directed to bivouac my men a piece in front of the Regiment for its protection from surprise. My feet, from this rest, began to feel better. They have both been dreadfully sore. They hurt me so on the 14th that I should certainly [have] applied for a pass to the ambulance if I had not been a new officer and too proud to complain to any man on endurance. Where my feet were galled, they have festered and broken, and are now easy. Relieved from duty and rejoined the company.

About 10 on the 16th Thursday. Resumed the Route again at that hour, but it was only [to] change the division so that our line was in the form of a semicircle, with both flanks resting on the James [river?]. This line we entrenched in two hours with a Breastwork 7 feet thick. The object of the work was to protect the crossing of our troops from Williams Landing to Bermuda Hundred. Just as we got our work completed, a Negro Division, marched in and relieved us and our Division marched down to the landing to embark.

3000 of us were put on one steamer and brought up to Bermuda, badly crowded. We were too tired and the weather hot. It was awful. The steamer rocked from side to side like a cradle. We reached the place of debarkation about midnight and were marched until daylight this morning, in order to reach Butlers Fortifications across the Peninsula formed by the James and Appomattox rivers. This line is just above Point of Rocks.

We heard the gun boats on the James slowly shelling the enemy below Fort Darling. Butler's pickets were firing also, which makes things seem as familiar as possible. Stacked arms and made coffee and were just about to lie down to catch a little sleep when the Rebs made a charge on the 18th corps pickets line. Tremendous volleys of musketry followed each other in rapid succession and our Brigade fell in and hastened to the scene of action with a strong desire to punish Johnny. But before we got there, the enemy retreated before the determined valor of our pickets. Again we Bivouacked and slept through the heat of the day. It was very hot. At 1 P.M., changed to a position half a mile in rear of the line. The rebs saw us come here and sent a few compliments after us in the shape of six inch shell. I must mention the kindness of the officers in boarding as I did not quite understand how officers subsisted and have been learning the rules.

DIARY Saturday 18th

Last night the Division was ordered out to the Picket Line when it was being released as a support in case of attacks. Laid down 200 yards in rear of said lines and most of our men were soon asleep. I had just begun to doze when a heavy volley of musketry put me on my feet in an instant. Our impression was that an advance was being attempted by the enemy, and we laid just behind a narrow road in line of battle so as to check any such move if made. The balls flew around our heads making their peculiar music too close to our ears to be agreeable. The rebels' batteries now opened and the shells bursting among the trees and men.

Some few were carried by on stretchers either killed or wounded; we were too sleepy to mind this, if the Rebs didnt come themselves. So were composing ourselves to sleep again when the order came to move back to the entrenchments. We thought our duty over for the night, but were mistaken for we only went behind the works to emerge in another place, and formed by the moonlight behind our Picket line in another place (our Brigade 1st in the front line) to make a charge on the enemy works. Charge ordered to take place when the moon went down which would be at 5 A.M. (19th). This left some hours for sleep and nearly all the men soon availed themselves of it, although we had orders to the contrary.

Some of the men who had cowardly legs made excuses to go to the rear but most of them were brave enough. It is a matter of surprise how men can get so accustomed to facing death that they can quickly sleep when he is hovering so close above them. I walked up & down in front of our sleeping braves for a short time, then went to our Picket Line about 200 yards in front of them. I saw the rebs working like ants strengthening their lines. I could get a faint view of the works we must storm and I must confess was not very sanguine of success against their strong lines. Just then, the two lines that were behind our Brigade began to move off and I thought that we must make the charge alone. The rebs heard them and opened with cannon & small arms. After they were clear of the field, we also were taken in moving by the right flank. A few of our men were killed and wounded. I have not learned why the charge was not made.

Moved inside the works and camped for the day as day began to break when we got in. A heavy fire has been kept up toward Petersburg all night. Expect to move again to night somewhere probably across the Appomattox.


Hd. Qrs. "I" Co. 106" N.Y.V. 1" Brig. 3rd Div 6" Corps

June 18th, 1864

My dear sister & friends,

I have not heard from you since I came here but that does not surprise me as we have not had a mail in over a week. I will write you a letter every Saturday when I can, as you will want to hear from me at least once a week and I certainly want to hear from you that often, so you must write to me that often too.

You must not be surprised if my letters are not regular, as we may have to move on that day. We have moved every day excepting two since I came here. Have marched four nights all night in that time. This you must know is very tiresome to us. Alive well enough, carry very little with me so as to march easy.

I often think of you and the little one and all our friends up there and wonder what you would think if you could see the dirty, jolly way in which we live. You would scarcely know me. I look so black and soiled. I sleep on the ground with nothing between me and the sky but a rubber blanket. This is well enough in clear weather, such as we have here ever since I have been at the front. If it rained, matters would not be so pleasant.

We officers have to buy our grub of the commissary when he comes up to issue rations to the men. We get hardtack, beans, sugar, ham, dried apples, coffee, beef, pepper, and pickles when he has them, which he seldom has all at a time, and if he had, we could not carry all, but must pick what we like best of his assortment. He also has whisky calley commissary but of that I have not bought. [Note: I'm unsure how to interpret "calley commissary", possibly "called commissary" referring to a nickname? This is one more of the passing references to alcohol that suggest a shift in attitude toward drinking on his part.]

I was out of money when I got my commission and had to borrow $75 of a friend up at camp to get an outfit with. I gave him a note on Joseph for that amount which I should be obliged to him on Perry's if they will pay when it is sent to them. If I do not get paid so that I can sent it to him by July 15th at which time the note is due. If I pay it I will let them know. I shall have $300 coming to me by the first of July. $200 I cannot get until my former Regiment (85th) is exchanged, and perhaps not the other $100 until our fighting is over. I thought I would send you word so that you could be ready if I was not. The weather is very hot, but the nights are cool enough to sleep in the open air comfortably.

Give my best love to mother and Joseph and don't forget me in your prayers. We are to move tonight so I must close by sending lots of love to the boy & all the rest. Please say to Sherman (Crandall) if you speak to him - that I am very busy marching and fighting day and night, and that he must send me a common towel by mail, do it up and put a common wrapper around it.

Your loving brother,

A.T. LaForge 1st Lt. "I" Co. 106" N.Y.

DIARY June 20th, 1864

In camp two miles south of Petersburg, Virginia. I had only just closed my letter of the 18th when a roar of artillery in the enemies breastworks [?] mile distant quickly followed by a storm of spherical case, canister, and shells warned us that our dog tents (which our men had put up inside our breastworks as a shelter against the burning sun, and which the enemy had not seen until the sun got in the west so that it shone on the side next to them) had finally been caught sight of by our neighbors.

Our men were quietly snoozing away comfortably to make up for the weary marching and watching of the past few nights, but this ungracious salute sent them to scambling for shelter, which was fortunately near at hand in the shape of bomb proofs & breast works. Most of the boys grabbed their tents & dragged them with them, I was assisting my servant to take mine off the guns on which it was spread, when one of those little irregular iron bullets with which those confounded Spherical case are stuffed struck me in the left side. It was so nearly spent that it did not go through my shirt, but hung in it until I picked it off. It left an uncomfortable dent on my fifth rib. However strange as it may seem, but few of the men were hit, none of them seriously. Our cannon soon began to reply and the Rebs were speedily dried up.

Just at sundown the Division was moved into a line of empty bomb proofs and--for a wonder--allowed to rest undisturbed all night, the first entire night's rest we have enjoyed for a long time. We luxuriated in quiet until 3 P.M. yesterday (Sunday 9) [note: trascription error? must mean 19] when our Division was moved to this place crossing the Appomattox on a pontoon bridge at Point of Rocks.

Arrived at our present camp at 10 P.M. after a very hot & dusty march, made coffee, which, disposed of, we laid ourselves to rest in the sand, with the order ringing in our ears to be up and in line of battle by 7 A.M. this morning in order to repel an expected attack. The sleepy god was gracious and so were the Rebs, for no attack was made. In lieu of that however, we had a bombardment at daylight.

Our forces are just in the edge of Petersburg and could take possession of it at any time. To do so would be poor strategy, for the city is completely commanded by the rebel batteries on the right of Pocahontas on the opposite side of the river. Until we can take those also, we do not want the city. Our camp is just in the edge of a wood, which crowns a hill overlooking the Appomattox valley. The situation is pleasant. One little draw back exists, however, in the shape of certain substances which at home would have been left in places designated as privies. This is accounted for by the fact that last week this ground was occupied as a Confederate camp. About noon I walked out to the works captured by the colored troops under General ........ evidences of hard fighting were numerous. In one of the forts was a gallows, on which was hanging a negro teamster. The fiend had raped a white woman at or near Coal Harbor. From the ramports of this fort the view was splendid. It embraced Petersburg and miles of rebel work. The first appears to good advantage from here, but the rest look far better when in our possession.

DIARY Thursday 23rd

Camp on the extreme left of the Army. Test came in front of Petersburg on the P.M. of the 21st and moving through the outer line of the defences of the city. Moved to the left flank of the army. An engagement had taken place there in which our troops--Birney's old Division--had been driven back. We arrived on the field just at dark, formed line of battle, and charged for half a mile without meeting resistence. Halted then and with our bayonets for picks and our cups, plates, and hands for shovels we soon threw up a very good breastworks for defense purposes. My boys were tired, so to encourage them I jumped over our works and went toward [a] house 30 rods [away] to get rails against which to pile the dirt.

While I and Corporal White were loading up, a fellow with five canteens over his shoulder came out from the swamp in front of us and asked how our lines run. The Corporal told him, and then Yankee-like asked him what regiment he belonged to. He said the 54th Georgia Hills Division. "Your regiment is just up here on our left," said the Corporal, "Come with us." The fellow readily obeyed and was very much astonished to find that he was a prisoner in the Union lines. I took his canteens, which we needed very much, as some of my men had none. I took him to Head Quarters & turned him over. In reply to our questions, he said that he had been detailed to bring water for his company. In looking for it in the swamp, he had got turned arround and and came out on the wrong side. He thought we were Rebs. Being dark, he could not see our uniforms. His Lieutenant, he said, had taken his gun "saying that he would carry it until my return." I am sure that Lieutenant will be sick of his bargain before Mr. Prisoner gets back.

Yesterday morning the order to "Form line and charge" was given. Over our temporary breastwork & through swamp and woods we went for half a mile. Then we struck the Rebel line & halted. Our men at once commenced entrenching themselves. No order was given for us to do so, however the enemy were just in our front with nothing but a skirmish line between us and them. Men saw the need of works without orders.

The skirmish line was finally attacked with such vigor that they had to fall back to the line of Battle. One of my men, Corporal S. Carton was badly wounded in the thigh and died in a short time. The bullets flew thick & fast. Still the men continued to work on our defence. They would lie flat on the ground and throw the soft soil up in front of them with their hands at the same time replying to the fire of their foes. The Rebs, by a flank move on our left, succeded in capturing part of the 57th Pennsylvania. Their further success was checked by the resistence of the rest of the line and they were driven back. Our skirmish line following & taking their former position in our front. We had succeeded in making a very good Breastworks when, an hour before sundown, orders came to abandon this and fall back to our line of the night before. We did in pretty good order but with a great deal of grumbling, for we thought the Rebs would take possession of our works and we should have to fight for them in the morning.

We had scarcely reached the line built last night when the order was given for another advance, the whole corps charging in two lines. (Our reason for falling back & advancing again was this: the Rebs this morning made a sudden advance and captured two lines of works from the corps on our right. This, just then partly in our rear, as we were advanced beyond the corps with which our right should connect. Hence the order to fall back, which had scarcely been executed when the lost ground on the right was recaptured & left us free for another advance, of which General Wright at once advanced himself.)

In our forward movement this time, no stop was made at the works which we had thrown up in the forenoon, but on over them we went, then directly at the enemy with a yell that would have astonished a troop of Indians. Drove them out of their works and through the most impenetrable jungle of brambles, through which our progress was necessarily very slow. Our left made a big swing upon the right as a pivot. This charge was made with the guns uncapped. We depended on our bayonets entirely. It soon became so thick that progress was next to impossible & a halt was called. Ordered pickets thrown out & we laid down for the night without our coffee, for building fires was prohibited as it would inform the enemy of our position.

We slept under arms this morning at 1:32 O.C. and were in line expecting advance again but are not to do so. The men are now (3 P.M.) slowly building a small work--the third in two days. The enemy are attempting a drive on left flank from the Petersburg & Weldon Railroad which that flank is destroying. I hope that no advance in force will be made in that direction for it would imperil our whole line.

DIARY Friday 27th

Again back occupying the line of works thrown up on the evening of the 21st. The enemy which were in so strong force on our left flank yester day finally attacked us. Our line until yesterday noon was in this shape __/ the left going nearly to the Weldon R.R. The Rebs charged with their line running at right angles with our left which caused our line to be double back in this wise:

[I have a graphic to insert here but it's in an obsolete format and I'll need to reconstruct it.]

in such an uncomfortable shape as tha,t we had to fight until long after dark. The 106th was in the part of the line marked * which made our breastworks of no use to us unless we got over them, for the Rebs' shells came from almost directly behind us. It was an anxious moment. Nothing could save our brigade from being cut to pieces or captured, if the line behind us gave way. The men kept on strengthening their works but our anxiety was not for our front. We considered ourselves able to defend ourselves from any Rebs that might come in that direction. Behind us lay our uncertainty.

Just after dark, the order came for a charge. We were to advance our right, strengthen our out line so as to front the enemy, and then charge and try to capture them. I tried to feel very confident that this would be a successful move, but somehow I could not see its feasibility, as the force of the enemy was evidently much stronger than ours. Our pickets were driven in pell mell to the main line. Several of the officers, including myself, jumped over the breastworks and rallied them, then formed them in a line advanced in front of us, perhaps an hundred yards.

About 9 P.M. we noislessly withdrew from the works we had thrown up and retired to the line. The movement was a dangerous one to be executed in the presence of a superior foe. Our pickets remain out in our yesterday's line. Today we have orders to strengthen the defences here, as it is to be occupied at all hazards. This we have done by thickening the breastworks and making an abattis in front of it. Some of my men are putting me up comparatively comfortable quarters.

Some of the Rebs we captured yesterday say that, when we made the charge the day before, they thought the whole Army of the Potomac was coming. Such tremendous yelling was kept up. The losses of the corps by these charges has been about 400. The heaviest cannonading I ever heard took place this morning. I thought a general engagement very probable. It must have been at Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred. The roar was continous and awful. I received a letter from Sergeant Beaugureau enclosing one from my sister.

DIARY Saturday 28th

We have enjoyed a quiet day but not one of rest, for it has been too hot, almost suffocating. I placed my hand on the ground and found the sand so hot that to touch it was painful. My servant has cut small pine saplings and stuck them in the ground around my tent, so as to shade me somewhat. Still the perspiration pours in streams from our bodies and "all the cry is water, water." I do not suffer as much from this as might be expected. I wonder if sister has received my letter notifying her of my promotion yet. I have received no answer to any letter written since my joining the regiment.


Hd. Qrs. "I" Co. 106" N.Y.V." South of Petersburg Va.

June 25, 1864

Dearly loved sister,

I expect if you should go to the extensive city of Andover expecting a letter and should not find one when it was due, you would feel rather badly. Well that is just the way with me here when I expect a letter from you and do not get one. This is the third weekly letter which I have written to you, none of which have yet been answered. But I will not scold, for you may have written and I not received it, or you may not have received my communications. For fear this is as may be the case, I will write two things that I did before. One is that I will write once a week regularly (Sabbath day), and desire that you will do the same that we may be in communications with each other. The other is this: I borrowed $75 of a friend at Camp Distribution and gave him an order on Joseph for the same [and] will be obliged if he will meet it when it becomes due July 15th 1864. I have but poor prospect of getting my pay before that time or I could pay it and not half try.

If you can't read my memorandum (which I doubt) you will see that we are having a pretty rough time of it. I am so black and dirty that even with all the love of a sister I doubt if you would know me. It is so very hot and dusty that whenever we march we are covered with mud--yes mud--for we, of course, are wet with perspiration and the dust--which the movements of a regiment causes to fly in clouds so thick that you can not see the length of a company, until it collects on our face & hands and clothing [?] of an inch thick.

It is now the 18th day since we have had a drop of rain and you can hardly imagine the condition of the soil. When I was on the Peninsula with Little Mac, the difficulty was too much rain, now it is the opposite. We sometimes have difficulty in procuring enough water for positive necessities. Soldiers will get water, however, where other persons would not think of it.

The last time I wrote you, our Regiment was in the fortifications near Bermuda Hundreds, where we shelled so skillfully ...... the Rebels. We moved from there, however, to Petersburg, where we stoped for a day and then moved to this place 5 miles South of that city on the Weldon R.R., of which we have partly destroyed the track, for which we paid dearly by our heavy loss.

This is the fourth day since the 8th during which I have not been under fire. It seems funny not to have the bullets flying about one's head. I have become so used to it that I miss the music. I am in excellent health and full of jollity in spite of hardships. I have a servant who does my cooking and takes care of my equippage while I am fighting, which of course takes much of the anxiety off my mind, as the extensive character of my household goods causes me many perturbations of the mind. The articles consist of my haversack, canteen, writing materials, and an extra pair of socks &c. The rest of my wealth is in the regimental baggage wagon, which comes to us whenever it has a chance.

I must close by sending lots of love to all. Say to mother that I will be carefull and to little Joe that he must grow to be a soldier.


Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 07:42

I've started trying to get my habits aligned for the New Year, hopefully without any duels of honor out in the Plaiz by torchlight! I'm currently working on two (2) Alpennia short stories. One for submission to an anthology, telling a story from Jeanne's "wild era" that involves a lovely French opera singer who specializes in trouser roles and who just might be a spy...but for whom? The other is a "just for fun" character sketch about a character who won't appear in a book until Sisters in Spirit. It's something of a ghost story, so I may try to hold on to it until next October. I've been thinking seriously of setting up a mailing list for fans of Alpennia (or my writing in general) and using that as the venue for the initial release of free stories. All sorts of people have been telling me that mailing lists are de rigueur for an author so it's worth giving it a try. It would be a way of getting word out about publications, sales, appearances, etc., and as a metric for interest it would be easier to track than more open-ended communications. The bait (in addition to those communications) could be bits of exclusive content. I've been joking about the "Alpennia fan club". I have an actual list of the people I consider the founding members, based on the wonderful support they've given to the Alpennia books. So maybe it's time to do something concrete in that direction.

Luzie, too, is looking toward the New Year. Her opera is at a stage where she just might feel ready to start thinking seriously about finding a patron. (Like many writers, she's over-polishing it at this point, wanting it to be perfect before presenting it to an outsider.) In the mean time, she finds herself with an unexpected contract. Margerit Sovitre has unbent her disbelief about the nature of Luzie's music sufficiently to hire her to play for the thaumaturgy students at the Tanfrit Academy. Margerit's idea is that practicing how to record mystic visions might be safer using Luzie's musical effects rather than using "real" mysteries for the purpose.

* * *

Chapter 24 - Luzie

The music room at the Tanfrit Academy had once been a small side parlor. With its red-flocked wallpaper and marble fireplace it might have been a room in the house of any of her students’ parents, except that few of those would have boasted both a fortepiano and a double-manual harpsichord. There was talk of adding more instruments in future years. Luzie rattled around in the space as the sole instructor, brought in—as Maisetra Sovitre had noted—as a lure to parents concerned that their daughters be accomplished and not simply learned.

Mornings were individual lessons. After lunch the room filled with girls eager to learn music theory—not the principles of composition yet, but the basics of the science of sound. Luzie had felt out of her depth at first. She’d taught brief snippets of such things around keyboard lessons, but never anything so formal. As that first month passed—as November turned to December—she and the students came to an agreement of exploration rather than instruction. When the lesson was over, instead of musical notation the chalkboard might hint of mathematics or physics or some other subject brought in slantwise.

Once, in the first weeks, she’d gone to apologize to Maisetra Mainus for the chaos and lack of direction, but the headmistress had nodded gravely and said, “If there’s love of learning, the rest will come. We’re all feeling our way down this path. Do you have what you need? Are there any books or supplies lacking?”

Luzie needed do no more than mention that composition books might be of use and the printers were set to work producing sheets of staff paper.

But this class was the one that left her most unsettled and yet most joyful. Late in the day, the small group of girls identified as having thaumaturgical talent clustered around the fortepiano with notepads in hand and she would play. It might have been awkward, except that Serafina was there as their teacher, though she disclaimed the title.

“Begin with your nightingale song,” Serafina had suggested in the very first session.


And so she had played that simple tune over and over again for an hour, learning to ignore the delighted exclamations and puzzled comments of the students as they learned to record on paper whatever it was they saw or felt.

Mother of Souls
Monday, December 19, 2016 - 07:00

Working through setting up the tag pages is taking longer than expected, so I'm going to do this in smaller chunks. I'll present each chunk in a blog entry then put them together into the permanent "tag essay" page when I have each group collected up. Why does it take so much work? Here's my process:

  1. Find tag in master tag-list (back-end web admin access) and open a tab with the results for that tag.
  2. Determine whether there are results for that tag (in some cases I've decided not to use it) and verify that it's in the right overall tag category.
  3. Click though to the best reference to confirm the details of the tag's reference.
  4. Write up a brief description of who/what the tag references (as seen below). In some cases, this involves doing additional reserach in my original source or online in order to pin down date and place.
  5. Add that description to my master database (which is what I use when generating tags for publications) and to the tag entry for the website (so that it displays when you click through on a tag).
  6. Mark that tag as having been completed in the database and assign it an essay group.
  7. When I've written up all the tag-descriptions for a particular essay group, export tag + description and create a blog entry for them.

So my first start on the "Crossdressing" tags is to cover the ones that don't belong to some more specific subset. Here are the subsets for the historic cross-dressing tags:

  • Historic Crossdressing - Any instance of a woman (or someone assigned as female) wearing male-coded garments, either overtly or for the purpose of passing as male, that doesn't fall in one of the following more specific groups.
  • Military Crossdressing - As above, but specifically for the purpose of entering the military. (Sailors may fall in this or the previous group depending on the nature of the service.)
  • Female Husband - As defined for "historic crossdressing" but where a person living as male enters into marriage or a marriage-like relationship with a woman. This category includes some individuals who could be interpreted as trans men.
  • Passing/Trans - As defined for "historic crossdressing" but where there is significant evidence for an alternate interpretation as a trans man, but where marriage is not a core element of the story.
  • Transvestite Saint - Any instance (either historic or fictionalized--I've lumped them together) where the motivation for passing as male is to enter a religious profession restricted to men or to escape a heteronormative life in order to pursue a religious vocation. In the latter case, the cross-dressing may be temporary and the religious profession may be entered as a woman. I've kept the label "transvestite saint" that is used in the literature, although in general I've avoided the word "transvestite" as outdated and carrying implications of identity rather than behavior.

These are not hard-and-fast categories and my assignment is based mostly on "will this grouping be useful to the reader?" The tags for crossdressed literary characters will have slightly different subgroups.

Historic Crossdressing

  • Almira Paul - 19th century Canadian woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Anne Bonny - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed during a career in piracy.
  • Charley Parkhurst - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a stagecoach driver.
  • Countess Amalie of Bavaria - 19th century German woman who wore trousers for horseback and hunting.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine - 12th century Queen of England said to have cross-dressed to escape her husband in disguise.
  • Elizabeth Emmons - 19th c American woman who passed as a man for economic purposes.
  • Ellen Craft - 19th century American woman who escaped slavery with her husband by disguising herself as a white man.
  • Ellen Stephens - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to pursue an absent husband.
  • Elsa Jane Guerin (Mountain Charley) - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Emma Cole - 18th century American woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor.
  • Empress Elisabeth I of Russia - 18th century Empress of Russian who held cross-dressed masques.
  • Hannah Cullwick - 19th century English woman who dressed across gender and class boundaries for political performance art.
  • Hildegard of Swabia - 8th century Frankish woman, wife of Charlemagne, said to have cross-dressed as a man for an extended period to escape a false accusation.
  • Isabelle Gunn - 18th century Scottish woman who cross-dressed for a career as a sailor.
  • Krakow university student -15th century Polish woman who passed as a man in order to study at Krakow University.
  • Loreta Janeta Velazquez - 19th century Cuban woman who cross-dressed to accompany her male lover in the miliary.
  • Lucy Ann Lobdell - 19th century American frontier woman who cross-dressed for practical and preference but with no intention of passing.
  • Lucy Brewer - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to escape prostitution via a career as a sailor.
  • Madeleine Moore - 19th century American woman who cross-dressed to accompany her male lover in the military, unrecognized by him.
  • Maritgen Jans/David Jans - 17th century Dutch woman who tried unsuccessfully to enlist in male disguise, but kept the disguise to earn higher wages.
  • Mary Anne Arnold - 19th century English woman who cross-dressed to work as a sailor for economic resons.
  • Mary Read - 18th century English woman who cross-dressed sometimes in the context of a career in piracy.
  • Schinderhannes (wife of) - 18th century German woman who participated in her husband’s bandit gang cross-dressed as a man.
  • Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann - 18th century German poet who cross-dressed for safety while traveling.
  • Théroigne de Méricourt - 18th century French woman who cross-dressed openly as a symbol of women’s right to public participation in government.
  • Trijin Jurriaens of Hamburg - 17th century German woman who cross-dressed sporadically as part of a criminal career that included becoming engaged to a woman to defraud her.

Tag List (These tags aren’t linked, this is just a reference for setting up the master tag page in the future.)

Almira Paul, Anne Bonny, Charley Parkhurst, Countess Amalie of Bavaria, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth Emmons, Ellen Craft, Ellen Stephens, Elsa Jane Guerin (Mountain Charley), Emma Cole, Empress Elisabeth I of Russia, Hannah Cullwick, Hildegard of Swabia, Isabelle Gunn, Krakow university student, Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Lucy Ann Lobdell, Lucy Brewer, Madeleine Moore, Maritgen Jans/David Jans, Mary Anne Arnold, Mary Read, Schinderhannes (wife of), Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann, Théroigne de Méricourt, Trijin Jurriaens of Hamburg

Friday, December 16, 2016 - 07:00

I'm fairly picky about which animated movies I see because there are some common tropes that grate on me. And Disney movies that "trespass in someone else's garden" (to use the Alpennian saying) face a high hurdle. I'd seen enough advance discussion and critical evaluation of this movie from people with roots in Polynesian culture to have confidence that, although not without flaws, Moana took cultural representation issues seriously and had worked to have creative staff and consultants from within the culture. (That's not a guarantee of success, of course, but it's a start.) I'm not going to review issues of represenation, because that's not my call to make. I'll just be talking about how this works for me as a story.

The title character is the teenage daughter of a chief (but not a "princess," as she explicitly tells the other major character) on a not-entirely-idyllic Pacific island, who has some sort of mystic connection with the ocean that has been suppressed due to her people's strangely fearful relationship with the waters outside their island's reef-rimmed lagoon. Backstory is supplied by the story-telling of her beloved grandmother who serves the role of mentor and provides the encouragement for Moana to embark eventually on her quest. It seems the folk-hero Maui, in the process of doing Great Feats to Benefit Mankind, angered/damaged the earth goddess Te Fiti by stealing her "heart", a small carved green stone. The not-entirely-idyllic conditions worsen as the mystic blight resulting from this event starts spreding to the island. Moana's grandmother gives her three key things: the heart stone, which she has kept since the ocean delivered it to Moana as a toddler; directions to the hidden cavern where the great ocean-crossing ships of her ancestors have been stored (and where a vision shows her a glimpse of their forgotten art of wayfinding); and hope that Moana can protect her people best by seeking out Maui and convincing him to return the heart to Te Fiti.

Things I loved about the movie:

  • The loving relationships between all the characters. Even Moana's father's attempt to suppress her love for the ocean comes entirely from a place of love and has nothing to do with gendered expectations or suppressing dreams and ambitions. And the relationship--both as family and mentor--between Moana and her grandmother is incredibly powerful and individual, rather than fulfilling some archetypal template.
  • Moana's grandmother. I'll make this a separate "thing I loved." It's entirely too rare to get an older female character as powerful, nuanced, and plot-critical as this. Can we have an entire movie about Moana's grandmother?
  • The complete absence of any sort of romantic plot. Moana doesn't simply say "romance isn't the end-all be-all" the way Frozen did; romance doesn't even come into the question. Moana's relationshp to Maui is entirely one of independent equals, allies, and eventually friends. (Maui may be a demi-god but Moana is in every way his equal--with a little help from a personified ocean, mind you.) Even their teasing banter never felt like it had any whiff of flirtation, to me. (Maui may have expected adulation, but it was in no way romantic in flavor.)
  • The way the obstacles and challenges were solved by wits every bit as much as by strength. Maui did a fair amount of addressing problems by clobbering them, but in the end, simple physical strength alone would never have succeeded.
  • The way representations of Polynesian visual arts were used to signal shifts in the storytelling framing. (Ok, Maui's animated talking tattoos were more than a bit corny, but as a representation of his internal dialogues with himself, I suppose they worked.)
  • The way the story structure, the challenges, and the solutions derived from the cultural context as presented. I particularly like the details about wayfinding and all the details about sailing and boat handling.
  • The true nature of the final challenge. (No spoilers. I'll just say it felt very right.)

Things I was less enthusiastic about:

  • Ok, ok, I get that the "goofy non-human companion" is a Disney Thing. And I can see the various story functions that the rooster Heihei performs. Even his apparently disfunctional eating habits are a key plot point. And I've dealt with chickens--we aren't talking about highly intelligent creatures at the best of times. But I was uncomfortable with the depiction of intellectual disability for comic purposes. Even in a chicken.
  • Disney movies always draw from contemporary pop music. This is a fixed thing. I get it. But some of the songs just felt very jarring in musical style for the setting. It's not that I expected the entire show to use authentic Polynesian musical stylings (though I loved the bits that were incorporated) but some were more jarring than necessary. The giant glitter-crab's song is a salient example.
  • Given the historic context of the Polynesian exploration and colonization of an immensely far-flung spread of islands, the starting point of "Oh, we're going to isolate ourselves here on this one island, with no contact with other regions and people, and never cross the ocean again," felt a bit disrespectful. In order to set up the structure of a "hero's journey" for Moana, they evidently felt it necessary to create a single trigger-point for her success. As a plot structure, it works, but it feels like a distortion of the historic/cultural context.

Overall, far more to love than to dislike. Highly recommended. But I want to add some things I don't normally include in movie reviews. I went out looking for some recommendations of children's literature based in Polynesian and Hawaiian culture from an "own voices" perspective, as a "where do I go next" for those (especially children) who enjoyed Moana. This is not an extensively researched or exhaustive list--just an hour of intense googling--and it's entirely possible that I may step on a land mine or two in compiling it, but it's an attempt.

Lehua Parker offers her own review of Moana and not only is a writer herself but has a lot of reivews of YA/Children's literature including having a specific tag for Pacific literature.

I don't know how much YA content there is on Samoan author and blogger Lani Wendt Young's site, but it looks worth exploring.

HUIA Bookshop specializes in Maori-related books, including children's and YA literature.

Hawaiian-based SFF author Kate Elliott graciously pointed me at a wealth of resources for Hawaiian culture, and in particular for traditional sailing and navigation techniques. Here's a selection:

Polynesian Voyaging Society -- the "gold standard" website for traditional sailing and navigation.

Educational programs aimed at children on Hawaiian history and culture

Website about the voyage of the Hōkūle‘a, a traditional Hawaiian seagoing ship that is in the middle of circumnavigating the globe

An essay on the Hawaiian Renaissance by George S. Kanahele (May 1979)

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 06:45

There's something about adding new bells and whistles to the website that makes me go all gooey inside. And unlike the early development worksessions, when we'd sweat over complex problems that might mean we could make progess next time, now we're tidying up a lot of little to-do items and it feels like we're getting all sorts of things done. So here's what this weekend's work session accomplished (excluding the scary under-the-hood stuff that my web designers took care of):

  • Added a page listing all my various publication series
  • Tweaked the automated comment filtering system. I'm not yet trusting it to throw away spam comments entirely unreviewed, but now obvious non-spam comments shouldn't have to wait on manual approval. It would be lovely to test it some more with actual reader comments! I get plenty of data in how well it identifies spam, alas, but not so much of the other. Now that there should be no delays for manual approval, it's even possible we might get conversations going.
  • Set up comments to request an e-mail address (non-public) so I won't have to panic after future giveaways when I don't hear back from my winners immediately!
  • Set up automatic cross-posting of the blog to LiveJournal. Yay! There are a couple of awkward aspects to this. If I want to add cut-tags to very long posts (like the Civil War Diaries), I'll have to follow up manually. And the Lesbian Historic Motif posts will be a teaser and link, because they have an odd internal structure. In essence, they're a blog post "envelope" with the LHMP content embedded in it. And it simply isn't practical to try to send it to LJ as a single unit, so all that will be sent is the "envelope". This means that people who want to follow the LHMP need to click through to the Alpennia site if they're reading elsewhere. Sorry, but that's how I gain some of the other functionality.
  • We fixed several minor issues with the RSS feed, like, giving it a more informative name than "blog"! We also changed it to feed the full content rather than a teaser-and-link. (Although I believe it will have the same issue as the LJ cross-post, i.e., LHMP material will only have the "envelope" and the reader will need to click through.)
  • Fixed an assortment of curious problems (some e-book links that didn't display properly, not having pager navigation on the tag-search pages).

And here are the things that are in progress and/or should go live sometime soon:

  • Pretty much every page associated with the LHMP will have a set of links for the four tag indexes. This is an easy way to explore the content by topic rather than by publication. My dream version includes the possibility of using time-period and geographic tags to do filtering, but that's not possible with the current set-up so it's set aside for now.
  • A similar purpose is served by the "tag essays" that I'm in the middle of drawing up. These not only include thematic lists of tags, but explain the logic behind them and give tips for using them. The tag essays will eventually be added to the LHMP drop-down menu.

It looks like the current webiste to-do list has two clumps of remaining tasks: an assortment of items related to social media (buttons for following me, and buttons for sharing posts), and a whole bunch of notes of the form "Make X prettier." And then I can sit back and just enjoy the site for a while.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 07:00

May 1864 seems to be a bit of a lull in the action for Abiel. There's no particular movement toward getting him into a new regiment, though much of his activities involve helping assemble companies to more to the front. I've added a couple of cross-references to Wikipedia on battles and persons, but I haven't had the time to do a really systematic annotation of his references to the war. Abiel hears of significant battles and troop movements almost as they happen, but it's still "news" and not "life" at this point.

(It has occurred to me that I should include the full heading, including copyright information when posting these.)

The Diary and Letters of Abiel Teple LaForge 1842-1878

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

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

May 1864


Diary: May 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22

Letter: May 22, 1864 - News of a new nephew

Diary: May 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31

Sunday "May day" 1864

Clear but a pretty good wind blowing from the north east. I went up on the hill near Fort Richardson to take a sketch. The wind blowed so I could not keep my paper in its place, so I had to give it up. 2000 cavalry went by on the Fairfax road while I was there. They had, I should judge, three days rations with them and were on their way to the front. Grant will soon be making a big move there.

Thursday May 5th

Day warm & clear. Men who came from the front today say that the regiments were ordered to strike their tents and move [the] night before last. Some at 12 0.C. midnight & some at 3 A.M. If this is true, there will soon be a big fight down there. I took a squad of 200 men--56 of them deserters--down to Alexandria to go to Fortress Monroe. Williamm W. Hibbard, the fellow who was in Head Quarters when I first came in camp and got his discharge just after moving over to this place, was in the squad of Deserters. His grandfather died and left him some money, and of course [he] had to get on a spree before he got through with it. He enlisted for the 85 again. [Note: perhaps $85 enlistment fee? Need to confirm this. I can find a reference to Congress authorizing a $100 enlistment bounty, so $85 would at least be in the right ballpark and the context strongly suggests that money is being discussed.] He was sent to Elmira, from there went home without leave, and was arrested and sent here. An advance was made across the Rapahannoc today. The rebs made but little resistance. The whole army is reported arcross. Look out for news.

Saturday May 7th 1864

Clear & warm. A fight is going on at Chancellorsville. No particulars are known great excitement. No more men can be sent to the Army of Potomac for the present. We have received orders to organize them into provisional Brigades, arm them, have proper officers put over them, issue arms and Shelter tents, have them go into camp near us, and be at all times ready to take the field at a moments notice. They are to draw their stores from this post. I have been at the Commissary Papers today.

[Note: Despite Abiel's reference to Chancellorsville, this was not the "Battle of Chancellorsville, which occurred almost exactly a year previous. Based on the date and location, this appears to be the "Battle of the Wilderness" fought May 5-7, 1864.]

Sunday May 8th

Clear and hot. Themometer 100° in the sun. Yesterday it was 92° in the coldest room of this office. A big battle has taken place and we are reported as being successful. 7000 of our men and 3000 rebels are wounded [and] have been sent back to Alexandria. The enemy are reported in full retreat and Grant in pursuit. This has been the most busy Sunday I have seen in a long time. Over three hundred men came in, in squads of from one to one hundred. The railroad is open to Rappahannock Station Station [sic, possibly a transcription error?] but no men are sent out. 3,000,000 [three million] rations were sent out to the front today

[Note: On May 8, 1864 a son, Oscar Abiel Potter, was born to Joseph and Susan (LaForge) Potter.]

Monday May 9th

A.M. Clear & hot. P.M. cloudy & ditto. (ditto means hot). The Provisional Brigade were marched out and went into camp just below the Railroad Bridge half a mile from this place. They have shelter tents. I took another squad to Alexandria to go to Fort Monroe. A Veteran Reserve Corps officer takes charge of them but Captain Crawford thinks a squad is never properly started unless I superintend getting them off, so I took a horse and went with them to the boat. The officer walks, of course. A thunder storm is upon us, the second of the season. Wrote to O.L. Barney.

[Note: the parenthetical comment "ditto means hot" appears to have been part of the original diary and not Phyllis's editorial comment.]

Tuesday May 10th

Clear and warm. Every thing looks finely. Spring is certainly the finest season of the year. 150 officers reported here today. Orders have been issued to send all officers coming to Alexandria (for transportation to the front) up here to be assigned to the Provisional Brigade. Some did not like to come and stayed in town, but yesterday an order was issued that all officers found in Alexandria tonight should be arrested and sent here under guard. This brought them out with a vengence. Some of them have rueful faces enough while other[s], devil-may-care style, are all right.

Wednesday May 11th

Warm & cloudy A.M. Rained pretty hard P.M.

J. Campbell & W. Melvin of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps went home today. Their regiment has went home to be mustered out. Brave Sedgewick & Hays are both lying in state over in the city. Died nobly in the service of their country. Our troops are driving the rebs in all parts of Virginia. We have lost in Arkansas & North Carolina, but that is of small importance compared with the fight on Rappahannock. Before this fight is over it will be the most bloody of modern times. We have already 35,000 placed hors du combat.

[Note: Sedgewick would be Major General John Sedgewick, killed by a sniper on May 9th at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, and famous for his last words, "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." I haven't tracked down who Hays would be.]

Thursday May 12th

Rained nearly all day. Bad for the army. Received a letter from my sister. Josey is quite well again so that he can walk about some.

[Note: for estimating postal times, this letter of the 12th clearly was written before his sister had her baby on the 8th. The letter notifying Abiel of the birth is mentioned below as arriving on the 22nd--2 weeks after the birth--but of course it may not have been written and sent immediately after the event.]

Friday May 13th

Rained A.M. Cloudy P.M. No rain since M.

[Note: I don't think I've noted previously that Abiel's use of "M" here is clearly for "meridian", i.e., noon. I've let it stand whenever it appears as the meaning is fairly clear in context.]

I took 350 men to Alexandria and got them transportation on the Steamer Swan to go to Aquia creek. Glorious news from the Army of the Potomac. Campbell with his corps has captured a whole division, and also General Johnson (not Joe). He was tickled with his success that he hardly knew how to word his dispatch. Grant says, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.

Saturday May 14th

Rained a good part of the day. Good news still comes from the front. Our arms are still triumphant. All prisoners which have been taken by the rebs and paroled have been declared exchanged by Secretary Stanton, in retaliation for the same thing being done by the Rebs. The prisoners have been ordered from Camp Parole at Annapolis Maryland to this place to be armed and sent to the front. I like that. It will show them that if they disobey the Law of Nations it will not be with impunity.

[Note: A prisoner release on parole has promised not to return to military service, while one that is exchanged presumably has no such obligation. As Abiel points out, this "gentlemen's agreement" system only works if both sides keep good faith.]

Sunday May 15th

Rained more or less all day. I never saw as hard a shower as we had this afternoon. The water actualy seemed to pile itself up. Still good news from the Army. Handcock does fight splendidly. He is capturing more guns than all the rest. The rebs are reported falling back on Lynchburg instead of Richmond. If that is so, it looks like abandoning their Capitol to us. Grant's name will soon be a watchword for all deeds of bravery. "Remember Grant" is at present the cry of our brave boys.

Tuesday May 17th 1864

Rained some today and yesterday also. We have armed and equiped about a thousand men this week and sent them to General Grant. Everything is going on well at the front. No fighting just now. I believe Sigle will have fighting to do up in the Valley before long. I received a letter from John Clemence today containing ten dollars. They are all well at Bethlehem. He says Miss Martha Denniston is teaching school in the Old School House by the church.

Wednesday May 18th 1864

Fine day. Cool enough to be pleasant. No news of importance from the Army of the Potomac.

Thursday May 19th

Clear & hot A.M. Rained P.M. Sent away 900 more men today to reinforce the Army of the Potomac. I went to Washington. Bought a pair of shoes and shirt. I took in a couple of officers to the Surgeon General who were sent here to go to the front but who were not fit for duty.

Friday May 20th

Day cool. Went in bathing this P.M. We sent nearly five hundred more fully equiped men to the Army of the Potomac today. Sigle met a slight reverse in the Valley four days ago. Lost about 600 men and three peices of artillary. Army fighting again. Handcock seems to be the one called on for the most dashing fighting.

Sunday May 22nd 1864

Day hot. Rained a little P.M. Yesterday I got a letter from Janey informing me of the safe arrial of a little stranger who bears to me the relationship of nephew. I feel almost as proud as if it was mine. I have proposed the name of Joseph for him. I took four hundred men down to Alexandria to be sent to Fort Monroe. Answered Janey's letter this P.M.


Head Quarters, Rendezvous of Distribution May 22nd 1864

Dear Janey,

Your welcome letter containing the welcome news of the new relationship I bore to a small portion of the human family was received yesterday, and I should have answered it at once but I had so much to do that I was kept busy until 11 O.C. at night, and when I got through I was so tired that I sought my bed at once. I have also been very busy today getting a squad of four hundred men off to Fortress Monroe, and perhaps I might again have delayed answering yours, but I felt that the weight of the awful responsibility of giving a name to my little nephew would not let me sleep another night without being disposed of, so here goes.

After mature and profound deliberation, La Forge and me have come to the conclusion that, as the little stranger was ushered into the world in a time of great domestic commotion (civil war), therefore he should have two names. And I, A.T. LaForge, by the authority in me vested, do hereby declare that one of said (christened) names shall be Joseph. The choice of the other shall rest with whomsoever the parents shall see fit, provided the person whom they may choose shall not select for the other name neither of the following: Abiel [or] Teple. This matter disposed of, I must ask you to do me the favor to express my contratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Potter on the happy event. I assure you I could scarcely have experienced more pleasure if I had been married and been the happy father instead of brother Joseph. Still I do not envy him his happiness but wish him a long life and many returns of the blissful moment he will first be called papa by the little cherubs.

This is a new bond to their always warm love, and if it is possible to increase such affection as theirs, it will be increased by this pledge of their mutual reciprocation. You must keep me informed of the health of the mother and as soon as she is able consistently to write, have her write me a letter, if it is ever so short, so as to convince me that the whole of my place in her heart has not been usurped by the new affection of her mother love. I don't expect so much fuss about "poor me" now, but if you will love me a little more it will make up for what I loose by my nephew. My mind has been dwelling so much on this subject since I got your letter that I can hardly write about any thing else, but I must tear myself from the pleasing reflections it has given rise to and proceed to other matters.

Please say to Joseph that I could not find the kind of razor of which he spoke, but he must not buy any for I will get them and send them to him as soon as I can, if he will use his old one a little longer.

I suppose father wrote to you of the death of his baby, did he not? The last time he wrote to me he was going to move on his farm and build. [The baby may have been Roselia; records of Samuel LaForge's third marriage, to Mary Wakefield, list two daughters. One was named Roselia, and the second, Josephine, was born in 1865.]

I had to be up very early this morning to get a squad ready of four hundred men and march them down to Alexandria, [then] go to the Quartermaster and get a steamer detailed to carry them down to Fort Monroe. They are very anxious to get men there now to reinforce General Butler. I rather think he needs them, for he has fell back from Fort Darling and is intrenching on the banks of the river below.

The news from General Grant is unimportant. No decisive move has been made by either army since Friday. They have been doing such hard fighting for the last two weeks that they are both very willing to lay still and recruit for a time. It will not be for long however, as there is soon another decisive battle to be fought unless the rebels retreat.

The weather has been very uncertain for some time, either raining or dreadful hot. The themometer has been up to one hundred and four and six, several times. Flies, mosquitoes, gnats, bugs, &c. are getting too thick to be agreeable.

Every night our woods are filled with Whippoorwills. I believe I never heard one in Allegany. The climate is too cold for them. Did you ever hear one Janey? They always make me feel melancholy when I hear their mournful song.

You knew of soldiers' pay being raised to $16 sixteen dollars a month did you not? That is what we are getting now. I probably will not get any pay until July now. If I do not, I presume I shall have to send to you for some more.

Give my love to Mother and tell her not to over work herself just because she is Grandma to another boy. And don't let Susan kill the boy with petting him. Tell her I shall make a review of all her proceedings when I come home. Give the dear girl lots of love also. What does Maty say to the little fellow? My love to your own dear self. Bijou

[Note: As the baby was named "Oscar Abiel", evidently none of Abiel's opinions on naming were heeded!]


Monday May 23rd

Hazy but not rainy. Not so hot as the previous days.

A stage line has been established between here and the city, running two trips a day. The charge is 50 cents each way, which I think is very resonable. No more paying $5.00 for a hack to bring a man out. He carried thirteen passengers today, which is a good beginning.

Tuesday May 24th

Clear & hot until 4 P.M., then cloudy. Windy and rainy from 7 to 9 P.M. Received a letter from Miss A. S. Porter. A very pretty one too. I feel quite disposed to love her.

Wednesday May 25th

Clear & hot until 4 P.M. Cloudy to 7. Windy & rained till 9 P.M.

I went down with some Commissary Stores, which were sent with 235 prisoners sent from this camp, with the charge of desertion against them, to Alexandria to be put in prison to wait trial by court martial.

Thursday May 26th 1864

Rained until M. then cleared off. I took a prisoner to the Alexandria Military prison today. He was a pretty bad case. He attempted to escape from camp but in his haste stumbled over a log and broke his arm. E. L Richmond, our old Sergeant Major came back to camp today pretty badly wounded. It seems to be the fate of all who leave here and go to the front to get wounded very soon after.

Sunday May 29th

Day cool. Weather since 26th very uncertain. Rainy and sunshiny all at once.

I was out gathering strawberries today. Got all I could eat and brought a few select bunches to the Colonel. They have been ripe since the 20th, on which day I saw the first of the season. An order was issued to have all detailed men examined the 25th. I was examined accordingly and marked to be sent to the hospital. So was a great many others, but we did not go, as our object was to have all men now on duty who were fit for their regiments sent to them and keep the rest here. Last night I went up to Captain Marstons to give him some orders, and just as I came out, a man took me by the hand and said, "How do you do?" It was dark and at first I did not recognize him. But after looking a moment, saw it was Jerome Remington. He was here about a year ago. I had a good talk with him and today had him examined and sent to the Hospital.

Monday May 30th

Clear but cool. We did not send the 400 men we had ready to go to the Army of Potomac as General Briggs sent us word the Quarter Master Dept had used all the boats to send other troops. Jerome R[emington] was sent from the hospital to camp again today. I had a good talk with him this evening. A marriage ceramony took place this evening after services on the Chapel. Rather a novel sight in camp. Neither the Bride nor Groom responded so that I could [hear] or anybody else. Nor did the preacher pronounce them Man and Wife--an omission which could be used by either party at their convenience.

May 31st 1864

Day clear and warm. I took a squad of one hundred & fifty men to Alexandria to go to Fort Monroe. The steamer which had been detailed to take them was ordered on some other duty and they could not go. I found a steamship laying at Pier No. 1 [that] was going to New York. As they would go in 12 miles of Old Point and the Quarter Master concluded to send the men on her, I took the order, went up to the boat found the Captain and gave it to him. He took me into the cabin, asked me to set down, brought out some wine, [and] asked me to drink. I declined. He said he loved me better for it. I had to come back over the hill as I could not get my firey horse under the Rail Road Bridge.

[Note: I think Abiel has made references to drinking alcohol before, but if I remember correctly from a previous read of the whole set of diaries, he later is clearly abstaining. That may provide context for the comments about wine here.]

Major category: 
LaForge Civil War Diaries
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 07:00

Well-meaning people will offer a number of very strongly worded rules of behavior for authors. I will heartily endorse most of them, such as, "Never ever ever talk back to reviews" and "I don't care if you're a professional editor, nobody can edit their own work successfully." But there are other rules for authors that make certain unwarranted assumptions about the author's situation. I'd like to talk about two of them today: "Pay no attention at all to reviews" and "Never compare your career to that of other authors." The people who wave these rules in your face are typically coming from a place of priviledge where they have an agent, a publisher, and likely even a publisher's publicity department to do these things for you. And the simple fact is that someone needs to pay attention to reviews and to the shape of your career, and if no one else is doing so, then you need to do it for yourself.

Let's look at "pay no attention to reviews." My publisher has pull-quotes from reviews of my books on their web page for my books. You know how they know those reviews exist? I told them. This is particularly applicable to reviews of my work in SFF spaces, because those are entirely off my publisher's radar. But even in LGBTQ media spaces, I've been instructed to point out reviews of my work because otherwise there's no guarantee they'll know about them. So I not only need to know that reviews of my books exist, but I need to read them so that I can highlight particularly useful ones that my publisher can use for publicity purposes. No one else is going to do this. If I don't do it, it won't get done. Pay no attention to reviews? Wouldn't it be lovely.

How about "never compare your career to that of other authors"? This is all very well if you have a solid idea of the scope of what your career should look like. If you know what a book contract should look like and how a publisher should treat your work. If you know what reasonable timeframes are. If you know what types of publicity are useful and which types only exist to enrich someone else. (Professionally-organized blog tours? If you're paying for them, they exist only to enrich someone else.) If you don't have to organize getting your books to reviewers by yourself. (How do you know which reviewers might be interested? You compare your work to other authors and see where they're being reviewed--and you try to second-guess whether those particular review opportunities are even available to you.) If you know what types of interview and guest blog opportunities are available. (How in the world are you supposed to know who to approach about these things if you aren't comparing your work to other authors?) If you know which types of award venues will enhance your reputation and which ones will flag you as a hopeless wannabe. (It's ok to cast a broad net when you're first starting out, but eventually you need to pay serious attention to the company your books are keeping. Look at the books that win a particular award and ask yourself, "Is this a book I would be proud to lose to? Would I really consider it an honor just to be shortlisted for this award?") If you aren't paying attention to award shortlists and winners and comparing your work to them, you won't know whether it's worth submitting your books for consideration. And that could mean you either miss opportunities or you find yourself boasting of something that turns out to be a vanity award. If you don't have an agent or a publishing publicity department that follows up on these things, then you have to do it yourself. And that means spending a lot of time paying attention to other people's books.

Where is the line between studying the field to work out the appropriate expectations/baselines and looking at other authors' careeers and becoming consumed with envy? It isn't as easy to identify as you might think. It's hard to achieve something in the writing world without wanting it deeply. Wanting something deeply implies being dissatisfied with not having it. Figuring out how to achieve something that other people appear to have achieved implies thinking about that achievement. And we are all human beings. You can suppress the envy, you can conceal it, you can lock it away in a box in the back of your closet along with your secret fantasies of fame and fortune. But you can't stop being human and wanting things.

So if you're a published author with an agent and a large publisher, and you find yourself admonishing another author about obsessing over reviews and the opportunities that other authors are enjoying, check your privilege. Because even if you feel like you don't have much, it may still be worlds more than what that author has--what they even have the slimmest hope of

* * *.

Barbara Lumbeirt would seem to have a great deal of privilege in Rotenek society, but her interest in law and government brings her a great many frustrations at the invisible barriers set between a woman and full participation in that sphere. The casual discussions, debates, and tacit agreements that are hammered out in the gentlemen's clubs are, if not entirely closed to her, entered into only with the spotlight glare of surprised attention. A ball, on the other hand, serves many purposes, and Barbara has come to enjoy most of them.

* * *

Chapter 23 - Barbara

When pressed to it, Barbara had to admit that she enjoyed the grand balls of the season. That is, she had begun enjoying them after the first few years, once the suitors had given up hope of her granting them anything more than a dance and a penetrating conversation about politics. Back when she had attended on the old baron, she had stood watchfully in the arcades and galleries, focused entirely on him and those around him. In those days, she’d wondered why he bothered with dancing masters and lessons in comportment if she were only to be a spectator. She’d denied it at the time, but she’d envied the bright and elegant figures in the center of the salles, knowing she had no entrance to that world except in Baron Saveze’s service.

Then the world had turned upside down and she became Saveze.

Barbara had arrived late and danced a set with Rikerd Ovinze, and then another with Perrez Chalfin, before seeking out her hosts to exchange pleasantries. With several daughters of an age for dancing, the Alboris had become part of the backbone of the season—these grand events designed to introduce a parade of accomplished young women to a similar parade of promising young men. The family’s connection to Lord Albori, the foreign minister, meant they could attract the cream of Rotenek society, despite not falling within the upper ranks themselves. She watched Renoz Albori move through the figures in a gown of apricot silk, overlaid with silver tissue. Her sister must have accepted an offer, or she wouldn’t have been allowed to outshine her.

“Another triumph I see, Verneke,” Barbara commented, nodding in Renoz’s direction. “Mihail, I’m guesing the rumors are true that your eldest has settled her choice at last. Is your cousin here tonight? I haven’t seen him yet.”

Mihael Albori harrumphed in acknowledgment. “Yes, though I beg you’ll allow him one evening without a word of affairs in France!”

Barbara smiled, knowing that Lord Albori himself had no such aversion. It was another hour before she found herself in company with the minister and, as she had guessed, he was deep in conversation over matters unrelated to the ball.

Estapez was asking, “Are you likely to be sent back so soon? I thought Perzin was to take charge of our interests in Paris.”

“He’s a good enough boy. Very sharp. But I expect Her Grace will want someone more experienced until matters settle down again.”

Barbara guessed correctly at which matters they were discussing when Estapez returned, “But he’d been ill for quite some time. Surely the French ministers have everything in hand?”

“You’re speaking of the death of King Louis?” Barbara asked. The question briefly drew their attention, and then the circle reformed and she was accepted into the conversation.

“Nothing is ever settled until there’s a funeral and a coronation,” Albori said. “There’s no judging a king until he’s worn the crown a while. We have no idea what sort of neighbor Charles will be.”

It was the sort of idle banter that Barbara knew was common in the clubs, but she had access to it only at events such as this, or around the council hall. That made balls even more of an attraction than the dancing did. Nothing of any importance would be decided in such a setting, yet she enjoyed being accepted into the debate.

She both wished Margerit were at her side and was glad to spare her what she would find tedious. Politics amused her even less than dancing. Barbara scanned the room and her eyes settled on a tall figure at the far side. Now there was another person who appeared only grudgingly in the Grand Salle.

Antuniet stood regally at the edge of the knot of admirers surrounding Jeanne. They had come to a compromise, where Antuniet would accompany Jeanne into society on occasion, then drift away to quiet corners when the press and noise became too much. They had their little rituals to maintain the truce.

Barbara watched one of those rituals now as Jeanne reached out briefly to touch the crimson pendant that always hung at Antuniet’s throat before returning to her audience. Antuniet turned to retreat to the far end of the salle where a glassed-in conservatory opened off toward the gardens and one might find some solitude even during the bustle of a high season ball.

Something in the way that Antuniet moved nagged at Barbara’s attention. When you had trained with the sword for more than half your life, you never stopped seeing such things: a change in balance, a shift in how one carried oneself. They had met to consult on the current set of alchemical gems several times in the last weeks. Had she stood too closely to notice? Her gaze followed Antuniet’s path across the salle. At first the impossibility of the suspicion baffled her. Yet the signs were unmistakable now that she looked for them. Barbara’s lips thinned into a grim line as she counted back. Without seeming to follow, she too drifted toward the far end of the salle.

Mother of Souls
Monday, December 12, 2016 - 07:00

The purpose of tags on Lesbian Historic Motif Project posts is to make information relatively easy to find. The topics covered under “people/event tags” identify specific historic texts and authors, or historic individuals or events that are discussed in LHMP publications. This essay is intended to explain briefly how the “people/event” tags are being used.

The second purpose is to provide a thematic tag list that the visitor can use to explore the site. The number of tags used in the project, and the organization into four different categories, doesn’t lend itself to a traditional tag-cloud. The Place and Time Period tags each have a single essay. The People/Event and Misc. Tags are covered in thematic groups in multiple essays due to the larger number.

The People/Event tag group requires some explanation of my approach in order to make sense. For historical published material, ideally I have a single tag for each relevant text that includes both the title of the work and the author’s name (if known). If the author’s personal life is also relevant to the project, or if they cover relevant themes across a significant body of work, they will generally have a separate personal tag. For historic individuals, if the person was in a specific relationship that makes them relevant to the project, I will generally have a entry for the pair, rather than individual entries, although “relationship” is interpreted broadly and fuzzily here. Because my tagging system has emerged as I work, rather than being carefully planned, there are some inconsistencies. I often go back and adjust tags on existing posts when I notice. In general, I’ll only tag a person or publication if they are mentioned in my write-up, rather than tagging for everything mentioned in the original text. The tags are meant to help the user explore the site, rather than being an exhaustive index.

I’m planning six essays for the People/Event Tags, each covering a general category with several subcategories. In addition to the current essay, People/Event essays will cover:

  • Historic Crossdressing and Passing/Transgender People
  • Historic People Relevant for Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Literary Examples of Crossdressing or Gender Disguise
  • Literary Examples of Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Poetry Expressing Romantic or Sexual Relationships

Note: The new automated cross-posting functions of my blog means for readers on LIveJournal or via RSS, LHMP posts will include the introductory text, but the reader will need to click through for the main content. I hope that readers in those venues will consider the Project interesting enough to do so!

ETA: Evidently the system still needs some tweaking, as the version of this post on the site was supposed to include the actual content! So click through here to see what was supposed to follow this text automatically.

The purpose of tags is to make information relatively easy to find. The topics covered under “people/event tags” are historical persons, authors, written works, and other specific events, organizations, or works that are the subject of the research and publications covered by the Project. This essay is intended to explain briefly how the “people/event” tags are being used.

The second purpose is to provide a tag list that the visitor can use to explore the site. The number of tags used in the project, and the organization into four different categories, doesn’t lend itself to a traditional tag-cloud. The Place and Time Period tags each have a single essay. The Event/Person and Misc. Tags will be covered in thematic groups in multiple essays due to the larger number.

I’m planning six essays for the People/Event Tags, each covering a general category with several subcategories.

  • Non-Fiction Sources and General Authors
  • Historic Crossdressing and Passing/Transgender People
  • Historic People Relevant for Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Literary Examples of Crossdressing or Gender Disguise
  • Literary Examples of Emotional, Affectionate, or Sexual Relationships
  • Poetry Expressing Romantic or Sexual Relationships

This page introduces the reader to the first set of People/Events tags, which includes the following groupings:

  • Authors (or their works) describing gender or sexuality issues as non-fiction
  • Authors (or their works) discussing gender/sexuality issues in a more theoretical fashion
  • Authors who frequently address issues of gender or sexuality in literary works (individual works may also be tagged)
  • Authors who frequently includes descriptions of sex between women in literary works (individual works may also be tagged)
  • Miscellaneous items, currently including specific works of art and social institutions (both historic and fictional)

Authors (or their works) describing gender or sexuality issues as non-fiction, especially those citing specific persons or cases.

The number of Arabic-language writers in this group is to some extent a result of the greater willingness of medieval Islamic culture to discuss the topic explicitly. Another significant group is “medical” writers who have suddenly discovered the clitoris and concluded it either causes or is caused by lesbian activity. Also included are travelogue type works where there is no specific person or case that can be identified.

Authors (or their works) discussing gender/sexuality issues in a more theoretical fashion

Authors who frequently address issues of gender or sexuality in literary works (if I also have a tag for individual works by the author, I’ve listed those here)

Authors whose work includes descriptions of sex between women where the work is a mix of fact and fiction, or the factuality is uncertain.

  • Aphra Behn - 17th century English playwright and poet whose work includes female homoerotic themes and who may have had romantic or sexual relationships with women.
    • The False Count (Aphra Behn)
    • To the Fair Clorinda (Aphra Behn)
    • Agnes de Castro (Aphra Behn or Catharine Trotter Cockburn) - Note: This refers to two separate works by this title, but discussions aren’t always clear which is being discussed so I’ve combined them.
  • Margaret Cavendish - 17th century English philosopher and Duchess of Newcastle whose works include themes of female homoeroticism and women-only societies.
    • The Convent of Pleasure (Margaret Cavendish)
    • Matrimonial Trouble (Margaret Cavendish)
    • Love’s Adventures (Margaret Cavendish)
    • The Comical Hash (Margaret Cavendish)
  • Mary Astell - 18th c English writer on topics that include feminism and marriage resistance.
  • William Shakespeare - 16th century English playwright whose works often touch on themes of gender disguise or friendship between women.
    • Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare)
    • As You Like It (William Shakespeare)
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)
    • Titus Andronicus (William Shakespeare)
    • The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)
    • Much Ado About Nothing (William Shakespeare)
    • Pericles (William Shakespeare)
    • The Winter’s Tale (William Shakespeare)
    • Two Noble Kinsmen (William Shakespeare and John Fletcher)

Miscellaneous items, currently including specific works of art and social institutions (both historic and fictional)

Saturday, December 10, 2016 - 16:00

This is only a test. If this works, then posting a blog entry at will automatically cross-post to Live Journal.


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