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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

April 1864


Diary: April 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Letter: April 16, 1864 - In-camp activities, dealing with deserters, delayed pay

Diary: April 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27

Letter: April 27, 1864 - His original regiment is captured and taken to Andersonville, 9th Army Corps moves to Washington

Diary: April 29

Friday April 1" 1864

A.M. Cloudy P.M. rained we sent a large squad of men to Camp Chase to day. I wrote a letter to Barton to night. I have got the diarrhea again

Saturday 2"

A Cold sleet has fallen all day. very muddy and disagreeable. An order came to night of 7 companies of the I.C. now on duty here it will take nearly all the detail men in camp. four have to go out of this office.

Sunday 3"

Cloudy but not rainy quite pleasant walking. Sergt and me enjoyed ourselves very much this p.m. took a walk up by Ft Richardson and came back by the way of Ft Barnard. looks like rain to night. I wrote to uncle John in answer to his letter the 11" ult. I got a letter from Mrs Nelson Crandall and one from Mr Sherman Crandall. Mrs Crandall says she has assumed the place of a mother and craves a blessing on me as on an absent son. Sherman says they are making maple sugar at a fine rate up there a thousand pounds already made-

Monday 4"

Rained again. I think it only held up yesterday because it was sabbath. the seven companies of the Vet. Res. Corps came over to day to take the place of those sent away this morning.

Tuesday 5"

Rained all day. the boys say when the tide is up the water sweeps clear acrost the Long Bridge. we have had so much rain lately that the river is at an un precedented hight. I think it will clear up to-morrow the wind is getting in the North.

Wednesday 6"

Warm and pleasant. mud rapidly drying up. Capt Crawford got back from his leave of absence just at dark.

Thursday 7"

Clear and warm. roads almost dry. I received a very amusing letter from Miss Anne Porter had a good laugh over it.

Friday, April 8”

Clear & warm. looks like another storm to-night I am reading McClellans report. I do think that no Genl ever had so fine an oppertunaty to accomnplish great deeds as he did with his splendid army and its equipments. I believe that he did not try to accomplish all he could as soon as he was relieved from the position of Genl in Chief. he seemed to loos his energy.

Saturday 9"

Rained all day. I took two men over to the city in an ambulance one of them in irons. he has been court martialed and sentenced to ten months hard labor with a ball & chain & to forfeit to the government $10 pr mo. the other was to go to Depot Camp Meridian Hill. An order has been in force for several days to take up all ambulances found in town that did not have a pass from the Medical Director showing that they were used for medical purposes. I was expecting to be taken up by the patrol all the time but as luck would have it was not. I ordered the driver to come back by the way of the Aquaduct Bridge. roads in that direction are in a very bad condition one days rain spoils them intirely

Sunday 10"

A.M. cloudy but not rainy. cleared up at M. & thls P.M. very pleasant.

No rest for the wiked. I have been at work since 7 a.m. at the commissary papers for March they should have been sent up to be examined before this but Capt Hoyt has a new man at the work and they have been longer than common in making them out and now there is a good many mistakes to be corrected they should be ready to go in to-morrow and I have worked till this time 9 O.C. P.M. to get them ready. My sister has not answered my letter asking if Joseph was any better yet. I am afraid he is very bad and she does not like to let me know it. I had much rather she would for certainty is better than this suspence. I have been adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, reducing, comparing and balancing so much to day that I will not write to uncle John to-night as I expected to.

Monday 11"

Cloudy no rain. it is now 11 o.c. & 40 minutes I have just finished a letter to Mrs Crandall and one to Sherman also. I got up this morning at half past three so in the last 24 hours I haye been at work 20. The Potomac is so high that the Long Bridge is impassable. this bridge is usualy 8 ft above the water but now the water is three or four feet above it. the is overflowed for 3/4 of a mile on this side which makes the river two miles wide now, fear is entertained that the bridge will be swept away. Ten of our barracks are now used by order of Genl Casey for stationing regts in when they arrive here until they can get their quarters up.

Tuesday 12”

Warm & pleasant. I wrote to Mrs Crandall & Mr Sherman Crandall last night. Went up to the room and played billiards to night. I feel much better now for to day I received a letter from my sister saying that Joseph was a little better although still very sick. Poor sister I hope she will not get sick herself by over doing herself. she always is so kind to a sick person and pretends never to feel fatigue in tending them. I realy believe she is the best and most kind hearted woman ever lived, such a good nurse never getting tired or angry with foibles of a sick person always ready and willing she wins the love of all she nurses and that is not a fiew for she is called on more times than a fiew by all in their neighborhood. God bless her.

Wednesday 13"

Clear & warm. about 300 deserters came in to day from Governors Island N.Y. they were a heard set A gang of about 60 of them was banded togather on the boat and they robed and treated the others just as they pleased. they were all down in the ‘tween decks Convalescents, Stragglers, & Deserters. this gang would divide into squads of four or five, a squad would go up to a man that they thought had any money and tell him to “shell out” no matter whether he obeyed and gave them his pocket book or not they would lay him down take off his boots and clothes and search them all to see if there was any money hid about him. if they felt a palce [read: place] in the lining of any part of the cloths that was a little thicker than the rest they would cut it open. if the cloths were good and they wanted any of them they kept them. they broke into the cabin and like to killed the Lieut Comdg the Guard of the boat. they stabed a Sergt but he had a steel lined vest on and it saved his life they played the devil generaly. The whole thing was reported to Col McKelvy and as soon as the men had been put in the Deserters Div where we keep a double guard he had them drawn up in line & searched they dare make no resistance for they would have been shot like dogs as they are over a thousand dollars was taken from them beside watches & jewelry to a considerable amount. this money is to be payed over to the Convalescents & others who can prove the am't stolen from them. this is not the first but still the most wholsale robbery of the kind that has accurred on the boats coming from N.Y. city.

Thursday 14” April

Warm & clear. Last night our detectives sought some smugglers crossing whiskey from Washington to this side of the river, one man a horse and buggy & two kegs of whiskey were captured the boat and men which brought it acrost the river escaped. Mr man is now in our guard-house and our detectives have gone down to night to see if they will not attempt to land some more. I have written to Miss A.S. Porter to night. Edmunds & myself played billiards aganst Sergt Beaugureau (our crack player) to day and beat him 35 points. Peach, pear & cherry trees in bloom

Friday 15

Day cloudy. will rain tomorrow.

Nothing of importance occurred. all quiet along the line.


Headquarters Rendezvous Distribution, April 16" 1864

Dear Sister

Yours of the 7" inst was duly received You can imagine what a relief it was to me for I thought all the time that Joseph must be very sick and you did not like to write and inform me of his true state I am sure I was much more uneasy than if you had written at once. Poor Josey I hope when you receive this he will be enough better to at leaste set up. You say is is so ..... and quiet all the time that you are afraid he is not much better, I bet if I was there and sick and you should tell me I would get well as soon as I got cross, that I would not be long in making you believe I was well at any rate. why dont you know that you made a reflection on all men when you stated that as soon as they got well they began being unbearable now of course I cannot allow you to have such an opinion without trying in some way to enlighten you on the subject, I dont know as it will be necessary to go to that trouble though, for when I consider that you must be nearly crazy watching and working I hardly have the heart to differ with you even if my reputation as a member of the race called man is at stake, so let it went. It was but little after five O.C. A.M. when I got up to write this so that I could send it by todays mail. I dont wish you to think that I seldom get up so early for I often do. very often in fact once nearly every month so you must know I am a very early riser. I seldom go to bed until after ten oclock and very frequently not till after eleven oclock at night I set up reading, writing, talking, or playing billiards or chess. when I learn a game I do hate to give it up untill I get so that I can beat any body I play with if I was content to let a game alone or at leaste only play once in a while after I have learned it would be much better for me. cards I never play, do not think I have played with them but once since New Years Eve with them I have no ambition to excell.

It is raining this morning. has been doing so for nearly two weeks until three days ago. the Potomac was never before known to be so high as it was last week, the Long Bridge which is usualy eight feet above the water was compleately covered. the plain three quarters of a mile on this side was covered making the river two miles wide, such a rise of water in a river the size of the Potomac is a very uncommon thing, we for a long time thought the bridge would be carried away but it was not, all travel for a time between here and Washington had to be done by the way of the Aquaduct Bridge. I went over to Washington with an ambulance while the river was up and we like to have stuck fast in the mud about half a mile this side of the Aquaduct with only myself and driver in it.

We have been having a rather busy time doing work for the Criminal Court for a fiew days past, a squad of two hundred deserters came on a boat from New York with some hundred and fifty other soldiers. they were all turned in together and treated alike. there was only a guard of fourteen men on the boat and they were afraid to do any thing so the deserters run the whole thing dividing into gangs of five they went through the boat and when they saw a man among the soldiers that looked as if he had any money they quietly told him to give what he had. if he did or did not it was all the same they at once collared him pulled off all his clothes, felt the pockets and linings if they found a place where money could be consealed they cut it open at once. when they were through searching, if they took a favor to any of his clothes they appropriated them with out saying "by your leave sir". as soon as they arrived at this camp it was at once reported to the Col. he went down to see the men (convalescents) their clothes were all cut up. where ever there was a possible chance of hiding money one man showed us where he had been stabed for resisting them he hapened to have on one of those steel lined vests and it saved his life. As soon as the deserters had been put in the barracks set asside and doubly guarded for their especial benifit the Col ordered them to be searched and all money and jewelry taken from them. what a satisfaction it was for me to see them drawn up in a line with such a guard arround them that they dare not say a word and be obliged to go through just what they had made the unarmed convalescents, and all the money and other valuables found on them taken away. their faces could grow as black as they pleased but they could resist no more than could the could the [possibly a transcription repetition?] men from whom they had taken the money now being taken from them. We got over a thousand dollars besides watches, rings, chains, dirks, pistols, &c. These are to be kept in a safe and any person who can prove that they have lost such things as we took from these fellows and describe them will get them back, also if they can prove the ammount of money they lost they will get it back, the same with any aricles of clothing in the possission of the deserters. This is not the first time we have heard complaints of this kind but every time a boat comes from New York it is the same but this is the first time we have made such a wholesale retribution for the sake of justice. It will teach these fellows a lesson at any rate.

We have not been paid since the payment for December 1863 and I am intirely out of money, I declare I will soon believe there is no such thing as an honest soldier, and never lend another cent of money to them. I have let them (detailed men) have a dollar or so until they are paid and the first thing one knows they are off to their regts, lots of times I have been fooled but I will be no more. Please tell Perry to send me a couple of dollars in your next and charge the same to my account. An order came the day before yesterday to send to their regts all detailed men not belonging to the Veteran Reserve Corps (Invalid Corps) I dont know how soon the order will be carried out, so you had best write soon as possible

I hope you are having a more pleasant day than we are if not it will be a very bad one for Josey. oh how dreary a rainy day seems to a sick person, I pray that your next will bring me news of his improving rapedly My love to mother and Janey. also to Perrys people. Is little Charleys leg got so he does not limp yet?

With my best wishes I remain,

Your loving broather

A.T. LaForge


Sunday 17"

Rained until after sun rise then cleared off but was showery until two oclock. Rained all yesterday Yesterday there came an order to send to their regts all men not belonging to the Vet. Res. Corps now on duty at this camp. how sown the order will be executed I do not know. I wrote to my sister yester morn. I have been trying to get the Genl' Orders for 1863 in the book form as I could not do that I am going to send the orders we have here into town to be bound by the direction of Capt Crawford.

Monday April 18” 64

Clear & warm. I took the men, horse and buggy captured Thursday night into Dept. Hd. Qrs. today. and turned them over to be disposed of there I think it will go prety hard with them. I went to the Sanatary room and got my dinner, then came back. I found a letter from Samuel here for me he sends for money. I have answered stating that I have no money at my disposal now as we cannot get our pay on the present pay rolls, and can not get paid here again any way as we are all ordered to our regts by Genl Angur who is going to have all duty done at this camp by the Vet. Res. Corps.

Tuesday 19

Clear but prety cold. I went up and played with Edmunds one game of billiards aganst a couple of other fellows we lost. and then played off he discounting me. I lost again.

Thursday 21”

Clear & warm, recd a letter Samuel dated the 7" by some means it was delayed so that his of the 13" passed it. I have been hard at work all day. To night a letter was brought from Col North to Col McKelvy to say that a letter from the brother of Gov Seymoure made it necessary for him to see the Col in regard to my promotion he desires to see the Col about the matter.

April 23” 64

Day clear & warm. I went to Washington to take 15 men to Depot Camp, and two men to Dept Hd. Qrs. who had been Court Martialed and sentensed to two years on the Dry Tortugas. I returned by the way of Georgetown. I received a letter from Sherman Crandall yesterday all well he says he hopes I will get home in time to go to school with him to Alfred Centre this coming winter.

Sunday 24”

Clear & warm. Recd a letter from sister and one from Janey. Joseph is getting better and they soon hope to see him arround again. how good this news makes me feel. Col North was over to see Col McKelvy this morning to see if I would rather have a commission in my own regiment or some other. I told him I should prefer some other. An immence nunmber of army wagons are parked about a mile below here I should think five hundred at the leaste. I think Grant is collecting them here so that if he wins the desisive battle soon to be fought, they can immediately be loaded and started after the army on its advance towards Richmond. or in case of a reverse they will be at hand to suply his army with munitions or whatever is needed-

April 25th

Day very warm. Apple trees ar blossoming. lots of wild flowers in bloom. buds have burst and the woods are green again. currents & goose-berries are large enough to be seen distinctly. oats are up. &c. Jackson (one of our detectives) told me if I would get a pass to go to Alexandria he would furnish the funds. so I got a pass for us and we went down. took supper at Mr Simpsons a gentleman who brings milk out to camp. after that we went after which we went to a house in town stayed about five minutes I was much disgusted with the proceedings. Jack got thirty dolars from one of the girls. we went to the theatre. After it was out we had a pick of steamed oysters for each of us and then he went back to the house where we were in the evening and I started back to camp. Just after we passed the chain of sentinels a shower came up. the moon was about an hour high and there was as fine a rainbow formed in the west as I ever saw. It was the first I ever saw formed by the moon. The 9" Army Corps was bivauacked near the road by which I returned the boys wer laying in the rain rolled up in their blankets arround the fires. The Corps is about 20000 strong. The countersign was "Vermont" to night. Burnside Commands the 9" A.C.

Wednesday April 27" 64

Clear and warm. recd a letter from Miss Porter. Answered one from my sister. My regt has been captured by the rebs at Plymouth N.C. so I cannot join them now unless I go to Richmond for that purpose which I hardly think I shall but I wish I had been with them where they were at Plymouth.

A squad of two hundred was got ready to go to Fortress Monroe to day a captain of the Vet. Res. Corps has gone with them. when they got ready to start which they did about 7 O.C. I jumped on a horse and rode down there as fast as I could to have the boat kept for a while until the squad got there they were expecting to start at 7 1/2 P.M. I found the boat at the Coal Wharf (Pier N° 2) I went aboard and asked the captain if he had ordered to go to Old Point. he said he was expecting to go but had no orders yet. I told him I would go down to the Q. M's. and see abot it. the Q.M. sent a man up to give him his orders. I then went back and met the squad and showed them where to go. I never saw such clouds of dust as was blowing. it was twilight but a man could not be seen to feet. after I got the men on board I came back. owing to the clouds of dust I could not see & lost my way. the first thing I knew I was in the plain away to the right of my road. I waited for a lull in the wind & then looked arround and saw a light about 2 miles off. I knew where I was then and came on. Got to camp about 10 O.C. P.M.-


Head Quarters, Rendezvous of Distribution Va April 27" 1864

My Dear Sister

Yours of the 20th has been duly received and I feel very much relieved by the good tidings it contains Tell Joseph for me I consider myself very much his debtor for getting better just in time to send the good news to me in your letter. I was beginning to feel mighty bad for as you did not write I began to think Josey was dangerous and had half made up my mind to try and get a furlough, probably I could not have got it for there is strict orders aganst furloughing men from this command I think I have enough influence to have got one from the Secretary of War if it had been very necessary, for I have many powerful friends here. you must not think that I am vain in saying so for I assure you it is all truth and I am proud to be able to say so. for they are friends who have not given me their friendship on account of my riches. I understand Frank Basset is at home Colonel North our Military State Agent procured a furlough for him. Frank looked very bad the last time I saw him. I should think he would get his discharge

I see by the papers that the 85th is captured by the reb's, captured while nobly defending their flag from polution, but their bravery was unavailing. before this time they are probably incarcerated in some rebel prison If I had joined them when I first thought of doing so I should have shared their glory and also their inmprisonment. I almost regret not being with them. perhaps if all the men had been with them who like me are absent, their defeat might have been a victory, still such reflections are useless, the duty of a soldier is to perform any duty which his superiors direct him to, if I had went to the regiment some man who was better able to stand field duty would have been put in my place perhaps, so looking at the matter in all its lights I dont see as I am individualy responsible for the capture of Plymouth and the gallant Genl Wessell, though I do feel asthough all my family were captured with them. None but those who have experienced it can imagine the feeling of a true soldier when absent from his regiment he reads of their being in an engagement, fighting nobly, and then after all their efforts to sustain themselves being obliged to surrender and be marched off to languish perhaps for months in an enimies prison he feels almost like considering himself the cause of their misfortune. (LaForge's regiment was taken to the infamous Andersonville prison.)

I hardly know what I am to do now I was getting ready to join the company, but now I have no company to join unless I go to Richmond for that purpose, which I in all probability shall not do. I shall send home a box of goods soon so as not to be overloaded in case I do join them at their present place of abode.

Burnsides command (9th Army Corps) which for some five weeks has been lying at Annapolis, sent there for the ostensible purpose of forming an expedition to strike some part of the Southren Coast, was last saturday ordered to break camp and march for Washington without delay. they all got here day before yesterday encamped and rested yesterday and this morning started for the Army of the Potomac. Now that looks like true strategy and certainly was a most successful blind, to thus hold a splendid body of men in a situation where they could be easily subsisted and where they could embark and suddenly strike in any direction, to have every thing prepared for their embarkation and then to without any intimation of the plan reinforcing the army on which the fate of the nation depends with thirty thousand good fresh troops. as they are on the eve of a great battle looks more like good generalship than any thing I have seen yet. I believe if Grant (recently made general-in-chief) is allowed to have his own way Johny Rebs will be driven from Virginia before our next celebration of the Glorious Fourth.

We are having splendid weather now soft balmy days and nights, generaly a cool breeze blowing from the South West. vegetation in in an advanced state. Apples, Pear, peaches, & cherries are in full bloom. the woods are green and full of wild flowers, gay plumaged birds are beginning to make their appearance, and "all nature looks gay".

I was coming out from Alexandria night before last about midnight, the moon had risen about an hour, when a little shower came up and passed away and left formed aganst the Western sky a most beautiful Rainbow, it was the first I ever saw formed by the moon and I was delighted with it. how I wish I was a painter so that I could transfer it to canvas.

Do you know where mother was born? I do not. I will close by sending my kind regards to all, especially to Janey for her prety little note. Your brother

A.T. LaForge


Friday April 29"

Warm & clear. A military execution took place to-day down below us on the railroad. a fellow who had deserted our army and joined the rebs was shot he was a splendid looking fellow. hair as black a ravens and an undaunted front. he walked behind his cofin with his arms folded and looked arround on the people as unconcerned as could be. looked at his cofin and sat down on it when he arrived at the spot where he was to be shot as cooly as if it was a chair. the bandage was placed over his eyes but he was asked before this if he had any thing to say. he had not. Eight soldiers half with loaded guns and the others with blacks were marched up in front of himn & the orders Ready Aim - was given when Genl Slough called out "hold on Captain" (how must the man have felt at these words probably thoughts of pardon came into his mind) "march your reserves out of the way" (they were standing just behind the prisoner and if the platoon had fired at him some of them would have been hit). As soon as this was accomplished the word Fire was given. at the discharge the man fell back on his coffin shot through each side and through the neck. he had placed his hand over his heart. and the bullet that struck him in the left side went through it. The surgeon examined and pronounced him dead.

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