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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

February 1864


Diary: Februay 1, 2, 5

Letter: February 5, 1864 - Receipt of the care package, official visitors from Washington

Letter of Recommendation: February 5, 1864

Diary: Februay 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24

Letter by Colonel McKelvy: February 24, 1864

Diary: February 26, 27

Letter: February 28, 1864 - Attending plays in Washington, the camp newspaper

Feby. 1” Monday

Rained all day getting very mudy.

I received a letter from my sister. she says she has sent a box of good things for Oscar Remington and me they started Jany 28" so they will soon be here. we were anxiously looking for the Paymaster but he did not come, probably on account of the weather. Susan wrote that Josephs straight finger did not trouble him as much as I might suppose for he took good care of it. the people were generaly well. all in good spirits.

Tuesday Feb’ 2” 64

Day pleasant over head until evening, since sundown it has clouded up and is now looking very black. Low muttering thunder is heard like artillery at a great distance which I should think it was but for the Lightnings which accompany it. this is the first thunder this year.

The Paymaster came out to day and payed us off about half of the Hd. Qrs. boys have gone off on a spree. thank the lord I have no desire to do any such thing.

Friday 5” 64

Day warm & clear as also was yesterday. I received a box from home yesterday with lots of good things in it. among the rest was a lot of honey which had got all pressed out of the comb and run all through the box spoiling some of the things in it but nevertheless Oscar and myself enjoyed it very much. Delos Remington was over her to day. he belongs to the company of I.C. doing duty at the Aqueduct Bridge we had a dinner of good thing in the kitchen Frank Basset was also with us. Lots of visitors were with us to day our band discoursed their best music for their benifit-


Head Quarters Rendezvous of Distribution February 5" 1864

Dear Sister

It is now 9' O.C. P.M. but I concluded to write you a short note acknowledging the reception of your box of good things, and also your letter of the 1st which preceeded it only two days, and to return my thanks to you for both. I received your letter the 1" inst and I assure you from that time till the box arrived I was fairly nervous with anticipation , every time the Express wagon went to town which it does once a day. I would caution the Agent to be sure and not overlook it at the office in Alexandria, and I would importune him untill I made him promice to be very careful The expected good things arrived yesterday, no the day before. Oscar and me went down to get it and were very sorry to find unmistakeable evidence that there was honey amongst its contents, for it was oozing out through the cracks. this we considered a great waste of material, but concluded not to "cry for spilt" honey for if it was loose in the rest of the things it would only sweeten them the more. We took the box to Oscars Barrack and opened it, he was saved the trouble of saying it `opened rich' for that was a slf evident fact as was shown by the honey on the out side of the package. the things were considerably smeared with the sweet stuff but we managed to make it prety much all count in some way the butter and cheese were not hurt for both had something arround them. the jell cake too was splendid. "Oh! how I lubie(?)" as Matie says. it was the best thing in the whole package. how is this? there is that fruit cake, but the jell was best after all, though it is rather hard to decide when there were so many good things. the butter and cheese will out last the rest for they are the most needed after all. After we opened the thing I ate untill I could eat no longer and if you have any doubts of wheather I liked it or not just ask Oscar who was a witness of the whole proceedings. Frank Basset also came in for a share And to day at dinner we had Debs who came over from Georgetown to pay us a visit. us four made a rather gay dinner party. we had biscuits with butter and honey, jell and fruit cake, cheese and coffee, these with the jokes that were cracked during our repast made our meal fit for a King and I dare say we enjoyed it more than most monarchs do. After dining we had a cigar and walk. the latter was very much enlivened by the anecdotes of Charley Bossard which were related by Debs- We tried to get him to stay all night with us but his pass was to go back to night so back he sent just like a good soldier as he is would. we were sorry for we were going to have fun with him to night Tell Mr Joseph Potter that I should be mighty glad to accept his invitation to come up and get better things at home notwithstanding the good things you sent. You must charge the cost of the things on the "Contra" side of our account $3.34 cents besides the cost of the Express and consider me your debtor for all your kindness.

Did I tell you the name of our camp had been changed to Rendezvous of Distribution if I did not I will now. hereafter none but men fit for duty in the field are to be sent to the command which will make our duties much lighter and we can also dismiss some of our surgeons which will in some cases be a benefit to the men. The way the camp will be arrainged now will enable us to send all of the men of an Army corps whenever they are called for without having them examined by the Doctor befor they go as they have been heretofore, to see if they were fit for duty or not.

We have lots of distinguished visitors out to see us every day now, Congressmen with their wives and daughters, the former homely and the latter mostly prety. I suppose when they go back they entertain their friends with an account of the peculiarities of the animal called "Soldier" it makes no difference to us what they say after they go away as long as they will only enliven us with their cheerful faces once in a while it is all we care about. To crown the rest of our present blessings we are blessed with the most pleasant weather imaginable the air feels as balmy as spring time. in fact we have had but little bad weather this winter. last winter we considered that we enjoyed as fine weather as ever this country was blessed with during that season, but even that is beaten by the present season for which we cannot feel too thankful- I believe if Mother was down here she would grow yong even faster than she did from the time I enlisted till last May.

I have less than eight months to serve now. it dont seem possible that I have been in the service two years and four months but such is the fact. Yes two years of the best time of my life and a third is still to be given to my country and yet this long as it may seem is a small price to be paid for liberty for perfect Liberty we shall have befor the war is over. Once gained that great boon for the nation, then my struggle to gain a place in the world will commence. I hope it will not wear on the spirits as does the struggle for Freedom.

With much love many thanks and good wishes I must bring my letter to a close. Hoping you will excuse brevity.

I remain as ever

Your loving Brother


(written along edge)

That jell cake is perfectly grand- Very bad pen-


Rend. of Distribution late Convalescent Camp Va.

February 5th 1864

“To whom it may Concern”

This is to Certify that Segt. A.T. LaForge 85th Regt. N.Y. Vols. has been attached to the Head Quarters of this Command for “Over One Year”

Being Chief Clerk of Camp the Greater Part of the time above Mentioned I had Every opportunity of becoming fully acquinted with Segt LaForge’s Character both as a Soldier and a Gentleman.

It is with pleasure at my departure from the Command that I bear testimony to his upright Character, his Ever obliging manner & the faithful performance of his duties as a Soldier. Being a Good Clerk I am fully satisfied he would perform any duties assigned to him Either in Military or Cival life in a Manner highly Creditable to himself and to the Satisfaction of those whom he may have doings with

H. J. Winters

late Chief Clerk

Convalescent Camp Va.


Tuesday 9” Febry” 64

Day clear and cold. I was very buisy we sent all the men not fit for duty to the General Hospitals at Washington D.C. the rest of the men in camp were arraigned in corps preparatory to moving Distribution camp into the barracks camp Deserters were moved over yesterday they occupy from 20 to 25 inclusive 26’ to 50 is for the Army of the Potomac and from 1” to 20 is for men who do not belong to the Army of the Potomac. Part of Distribution Camp was moved over to day. Mrs Thayer the Asst State Agt of New York was here to day the Governer of N. Y. writes that as soon as there is a vacency he will give me a commission. Yesterday Mrs. Vice President Hamlin Mrs Col Green Mr George F Train (the great bombast speaker) with about 20 more ladies and the same number of gentlemen were out here from Wash- they had a ball in the Commisary Depot the band played for them. Col McKelvy did not know they were coming until this morning as it was an arraingement of Capt Elison A.Q.M. Col was rather angry at first as he was not consulted, and worked against them all day so that they did not enjoy themselves as well as they might--

Thursday Febr 11” 1864

Day cold and clear as also was ysterday.

I was very buisy yesterday A.M. examining the Commissary Papers for January 64 P.M. went with Frank Basset 1" N.Y. Dragoons to Washington. We were to meet Oscar Remington at the corner of Willards Hotel we did not see him however. went to the Washington Theater. Saw Laura Keene and her celebrated company play the "Sea of Ice" it was the perfection of the ceinic art when they were froze up in the Polar sea the house was filled with some kind of fog that looked just like a sea fog. I thought Miss Keene rather overdid the part of the Indian Girl "Oberita". Basset seemed to enjoy himself immensely. We came back about midnight. We had a prety good time could not got any thing to drink. Basset was dreadful dry but it was or no use no whiskey was to be had. cold as the mischief walking back. All camp Dist’ is moved over now the tents all taken down and the ground is being cleared up. It is very hard to tell where a man is now for things are rather mixed up. Division commanders swearing

Recd a letter from uncle John beautiful sentiments in it. all well.

Friday Febr. 12" /64.

Day clear and warm.

Wrote a letter to Miss Annie Porter a young Lady I never saw she lives at Swampscott Mass. I sent Edmonds or rather started him for Point Lookout with 19 men of the 2" 5" & 12" New Hamp Regts. he got to Alexandria to late for the boat so had to bring the men back- He will try it again Sunday.

Sunday Feby 14

Day clear & warm-

I went out to see the review of the 1st Com Heavy Artillery they are garrisoning several of the forts along our Defenses of Washington they are splendidly drilled and make a fine show on parade. On my return I did what I consider the most foolish thing of my life of the kind and it has tought me a lesson I shall never forget. as we were walking down through the bushes beyond the New Barracks built for the Invalid Corps who do our guard duty I was struck with the idea that the long dry grass that was growing up among the bushes by the edge of a little brook would burn finely. so I took out a match and in spite of the Sergts (Beaugureau) remonstrances set fire to it. a gale was blowing from the North and in a second it sprung into a bright blaze and spread so rapidly as to defly my efforts to put it out. then the folly of the deed and danger too was apparent for the wind was blowing directly towards the new buildings the brushwood ran within a rod of them and the ground arround them was covered with shavings and old timber scraps of boards &c as dry as tinder. I knew if it was not subdued before it got there all the buildings were goners so I went down to the I.C. Hd Qrs. the chaplain was performing divine service I told one of the officers that somebody had set fire to the bushes and it was running rapidly towards them he went in and reported to the Major who at once came out on the stoop and intimated the danger to the chaplain who at once closed the services by singing the Doxology. never was hym so long as that before I thought the words were a minute long. my heart was fairly bursting it was finaly done and the Major told the men the danger which was now mde plainly visible by the dark clouds of smoke sweeping by, and they at once started for the scene of danger. It was at once planly t.o be seen that no effort could stop it where it was then burning the only hope was to let it burn until it came wher burning material was less thick made so by the wise for thought of Lt Col Saml McKelvy who had this part of the ground burned over before the building were begun. to this part of the ground it soon came then the work began. the Invalids went at it with a will and I also, an hour of anxious fighting more interesting to me than leading a reg't into battle it was subdued. and I began to breathe easy. The Sergt says I turned very pale when the danger of my folly burst on me but that I was perfectly cool as far as actions and orders were conserned. Mrs Thayer was out here to day she say the A. A. Genl of New York told her that my commission was to be along in a fiew days just as soon as a vacancy occured to which I could be appointed with less rank than that of captain. I wrote a letter to O. L. Barney to night I have not written to him before since he refused to give me half the worth of the revolver he lost for me on the Paninsula. Commenced reading Scotts poems. have been studying Wilsons Tackticks-

a little colder this P.M.

Monday Feb 15 1864

Day cloudy and cold. commenced snowing about an hour before sundon is still snowing a little. Sergt B- and I went over to see the result of yesterdays fire. it had worked back aganst the strong wind crossed the creek and burned on this side of the road clear up to opposite "Fort Barnard" where it had been put out by getting to the top of the hill where the blew so fiercely it could not burn. it had crossed a little branch of Four Mile Run and the road burned tow or three acres on the other side as far as it had any thing to burn. It makes me tremble when I think of what might have been.

Tuesday 16"

Day very cold. P.M. snowed about an inch A.M. Edmonds returned from Point Lookout to night.

Wednesday 17"

Day very cold. sent the men who belonged to the Dept of the South (Charleston) to Washing- to be sent to Hilton Head on the Steamer D. Webster. they were sent back to night. a guard of 20" men are to be organized from them and they are to be sent tomorrow to report to Capt Allen A.Q.M. 6" St Wharf Washington D C

Thursday Feby 18” 64

Day very cold & clear. I sent the men belonging to the Dept of the South again this A.M. I guess they got off for they have not came back yet. I took some of our boys up to be examined for the Invalid Corps. they are to be put into the 10" Co. I.C. Soldiers begin to canvass a little for the next president I think Lincoln is sure to be reelected. soldiers take much less interest in politics than could be expected say very little in regard to elections this is not the effect of regulations but they are not stirred up by firey speech makers and although they keep better posted than if at home they say little-

Friday 19”

Day clear & cold.

Crosby our former Chief Clerk is going on duty in the Provost Marshal Genls office Sergt Beaugureau takes his place. I received a letter from Sherman Crandall he is a Alfred centre college I rather think he is a little in love. I also got a letter from Bill LaForge. according to his report he is the most hapy mortal alive takes solid comfort advises me to get married-

Saty. Feb 20" 64

Day warmer than yesterday but still very cold.

Sunday 21"

Day still warmer very pleasant walking without an overcoat Sergt Beaugureau and I went nearly out to Balls Cross Roads. I finished reading the 1" Vol of Sir Waltr Scotts poetry. "The Lay of the Last Minstril" is very good but I do not like him as well as Byron which have just got and am now reading.-

Tuesday 23"

Day warm and pleasant. I received a letter from Miss Anne S. Porter of Swampscott Mass. an unknown correspondent she writes a very prety letter indeed. This P.M. Sergt B. and myself got an ambulance & went over to Wash'g- while on the bridge a train of cars came along and frightened a couple of four horse government teams. one of them got turned halfway round on the bridge and commenced backing aganst the railing which was rotten and gave way and over they went into the river. that is wagon and pole horses. the leaders broke loose just as the others went over the side. the driver found they were sure to go and jumped out on the bridge but got tangled in the lines and was pulled off on top of all the rest. he was rescued prety badly hurt but not dangerously the horses drowned of course. we went and got our pass countersigned by the Pro'Mar' then came down to Willards Hotel and told the driver to come back to camp We went up to the "Sanitary Faire" at the "Patent office" it was closed so we went down to a saloon had a game of billiards then secured seats in the Orchestra at "Grovers Theatre” and got our suppers had a good talk on politics and went up to the play which was "Ruy Blas" written by Victor Hugo. Young Boothe was Ruy "C. Barrow" was Don Salustio. The only part badly played was the Princess Maria of Neubourge Queen elect of Spain. Miss A Placide took the charictor and I must say did not aquit herself with much honor I concluded with the farce of "The Irish Tutor” (T.I. Donnelly) it was impossible to resist the desire to laugh at him I laughed till my sides ached. We walked home a very pleasant night but that does not prevent my being tired and sleepy notwithstanding enjoying myself so well-

Wednesday Feby 24" 64-

Day warm and pleasant. I feel rather tired to night somehow. Today a woman dressed up in soldiers cloths who had been in camp two days attempted to follow her husband to the front. she came with him from the hospital and wanted to follow him wherever he went. when they got down to Alexandria Major Wood Asst Pro’ Mar. Army of the Potomac would not let her go any farther but sent her back to camp. Col McKelvy pitied her she was such an interesting little thing so he took her down to Mrs McDonnalds who keeps a boarding house in camp, and put her to work there until she wishes to change her garb and go home Her husbands name is Philips and hers [blank space] a very good looking girl. I received a letter from my sister to day. all well. very cold weather for a couple of weeks back getting warmer-

[enclosed letter about above case]

Office Asst. Prov. Mar. Gen’l.

Army Potomac, Alexandria

February 24th 1864

Lieut. Col. Sam’l McKelvy

Comd’g Rendezvous Distribution

Dear Sir,

I send back to your camp, by the bearer, a woman who came in with the detachment of convalescents this morning, dressed in soldiers clothes. She claims to be the wife of Private V?. B. Phillips 140th Penna. Vols.

Very respectfully

Your Obt. Servt.

W.H. Wood

Maj 17th ......

Asst. Prov. Mar. Gen’l.


Feby 26” 64.

Day clear and warm.

Received a letter from father. Mary is some what sick [Samuel’s third wife was expecting a child] prices high wends [probably an editorial typo: sends] me a list and requests me to send him a list of prices here Weather rather milder than it was. but once this winter it was intensely cold-

Saturday Feby 27” 64

Day warm and pleasant-

An order came from the War Department to day for me to be returned to duty with the regiment. Col McKelvy wanted to know if I belonged to the Inv. Cor. I told him I was not nor did not want to be. He said I had better see Mrs Thayer and hurry up my commission I told him I thought my best plan was to go to the regt and wait for it. Well said he if you think that is the best plan you had better go. I saw I had slightly offended him in thinking different from him but I had only given expression to my honest feelings. so at my request the paper was endorsed that I would be sent at the first oppertunaty. I received a letter from O.L. Barney. he has returned from New York city and is now at home he had a fine time attending lectures I should judge he is a prety good doctor by this time. He is as great a lover of the female sex as ever I should judge. I know I should have objections to employing him for my female friends if I had any until he is a fiew years older.-


Head Quarters Rendezvous of Distribution Va February 28" 1864

Dearest Sister

I have just finished a letter to father and as my hand is in I think this is my best oppertunaty to answer your short but kind letter of Feby 13" & 18" 64 Now I tell you I dont approve of your writing on such small paper, you should use a sheet like this and put in all the local news, and then you may devote about half of a page to cholding me but not without, you see if you write on such small paper and devote a little of it to a little well merited scholding why by the time you are done you have no room to write any more and that makes me feel bad without doing one any good. whereas if you used a large sheet it would make me feel so good reading the rest of the letter that I would swallow the advice like a bait and the first thing you would know I would fetch myself up with a hook in my nose and give myself a regular going over about my bad habits and all on account of the long letter.

Seriously however sister, I thank you for your caution for although there is no great danger of my becoming a drunkard or great smoaker, still your kind advice shows me that my sister loves me more than any other earthly being "except Josey" and you may be sure your advice and warning falls not on closed ears or obstinate heart. I have not smoked since the 2" inst I made a compact in a joke with one of the boys that I would not smoke again this month and although made in jest my word is sacredly kept.

I was over to Washington a fiew days ago and staid till after midnight. I went to "Grovers Theater" and saw Victor Hugo's celebrated play of "Ruy Blas". the star actor young Edwin Boothe plays "Ruy" and played it well. I saw him play "Richard III" (Shakspere's) whil I was in Boston but the house was so crowded in B- that I could not enjoy it much. but at "Grovers" I secured a splendid seat in the "Orchestra" where I could be at my ease and at the same time see and hear everything going on on the stage. after the first play we had a finishing tuch called "The Screaming farce" or "Irish assureance and Yankee modesty" this was such an intensely amusing play that I fairly made myself sick laughing so much my sides have been sore ever since with the effects of it. But the finest part of the whole thing was we had to walk back after the whole thing to camp. the ambulance which took Sergt Beaugureau (Chief Clerk of Camp) and myself over to Washington could not stay as we had forgotten to get a pass for it to stay all the evening and it had to return to camp before the countersign was out. The walk was most delightful however, the moon shone brightly. the air was as balmy as spring the road dry and hard, and we are the best friends in the world so you see we had every thing to make our walk agreable and so it was.

It is very dusty indeed now, over in W- when the wind blows it raises such clouds of dust that a person can hardly see, ande here too it comes sweepin down acrost our parade grownd some times so it look like the picture of a storm of sand we see in some geography We are willing to put up with the dust however when in exchange for it we have such beautiful weather. the air is warm and has that hazy appearence peculier to the skies of "Indian Summer" the hills two or three miles off look so blue and soft that it makes me wish to go and roll down their sllepy looking sides. the river flows by in the distance and its glassy surface reflects only the still bluer sky. all nature seems at peace and only men in discord. why is it we cannot remain at peace also. An answer is too ready. Traitors have attcked our free institutions our mother is in danger and her sons fly to her rescue, God cannot be angry with us when we fighting in such a sacred cause, though shame it seems to desecrate his beautiful earth with the foul scenes of carnage which are the necessary concomitants of War.

The col of the 85" has sent for me to come back to the regiment as I will have to go or go into the Invalid Corps which I hate to do I have some notion of going but I will think of it for two or three weeks first.

What do you think of our little paper "The Soldiers Journey" of which I have sent you a couple of copies? it is all done at camp from composing the articles to working the press and all done by soldiers too I feel proud of it, dont you?

Please give lots of love to all for me for I have a large stock on hand, and believe me ever

Your loving brother


P.S. I received those socks all safe for which receive my thanks I beg pardon for not acknowledging their receipt before. thought I had done it. Yours, LaF


Feb 29" 64

Day warm and pleasant. as also was yesterday. I answered fathers letter last night and my sisters also. To day we were mustered for pay for Jany & Feby. will not probably until the last of the month. we did not last pay time.


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