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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

December 1864



Thursday.  Dec. 1" 64.  Still fair weather.  I sent a letter to my sister in the mail which went out this morning  I sent 7 letters.  I was in command of the Regt two hours today.  this P.M. took out all the men who had loaded guns and fired them off.  The 1" Div. of our corps moved this A.M.  where they are going we do not know but suppose to Petersburg.  We expect to move soon.  hard at work on my clothing for June and July  today got those two months nearly finished.

Friday.  Dec. 2" 64.  Very buisy again at the clothing rolls.  The fair weather with which we have been blessed for several days seems about to cease.  considerable rain fell this P.M. and the sky looks like one of those long winter storms,  still warm however.  Battalion drill this P.M. Dress Parade postponed on account of the rain.  Wrote to Mrs. Anst Ogdensburg N.Y.  I also wrote to Sherman Crandall.  Indications of a move of men of our corps as a body.  We dread Petersburg.

Saturday 3.  Last night had orders to be ready to move at 7 O.C. A.M. to-day.  It only broke my rest for a few minutes.  I went to sleep again,  We packed up with rather heavy hearts and started for the R.R. station four miles below Winchester.  We could not take our pack animals on the cars with us so we took what things we wanted for a few days with us and then sent the rest by the "overland" route as we called it.  We had rather a cold ride on the cars (box cars) but lots of fun.

Sunday 4".  Arrived at the Capitol a little after sun rise,  although we are feeling rather as though we were wronged in being sent away from the Valley, still the joyful nature of a soldiers' disposition has overcome the feelings which tend to make them dispond.  They are now making lots of fun, fine lusty limbed fellows,  I wonder how many of those sturdy chaps will live to see Washington again.  Our Brigade were all embarked by one P.M.   Brig. Hd. Qrs. was on our boat the "Matilda"   besides our Regt. the 10" Vt Vols. was on board.  We left the wharf by 2 P.M.  I stood at the bow pointing out the various places of interest to the rest who were less acquainted with the notorieties.  Farewell Washington with your magnificent publick buildings, palatial residences of your arristocracy, your rich upper ten, and poor "lower thousand", your churches and haunts of iniquity, your syrens and your vices,  when shall we see you again,   We are bound on an expidition where hard knocks will be more plenty than good times.  I was detailed as "officer of the day" to keep things in order on the boat.

Monday 5".  Found ourselves going up James River this morning  arrived at City Point at 10" A.M.  disimbarked and moved up on the hill.  here we stacked arms and waited for the cars,  while waiting I found George Battersby.  he belongs to the sanitary commission.  Ezra Rounds (sister you remember his likeness) he has charge of the 9" Corps Commission.  they wanted me to come down and stay all night with them if the Division staid here all night.  We built fires at dark,  the officers of the Regt all got togather at one end of a large wood pile and built a rousing big fire,  we laid down near it and had lots of fun.  Took the cars by 8 P.M. for the front.  went up 15 miles and got off in the rear of the 5" corps. whose position in the line we are to occupy.  We were short of blankets and tents as they are with the packs,  the ground wet so we built up a large fire of pine boughs,  the sparks in millions were soon flying high above the tallest trees,  our men cut down some trees and breaking bushy boughs from them soon made us a good bed to spread our blankets on,  then after taking a drink to keep the rheumatism away we laid down with our feet to the fire and faces to the sky, and went to sleep amid much more comfortable circumstances than one would have thought possible when we first came up.  Lieut's Cox and Moor and seven men were left behind in Washington.  they left the boat and did not get back in time to start with us,  It was not right for them to leave.

Tuesday. 6"  Five months ago to-day we left this place for "My Maryland" with light joyful hearts.  Since then we have lost in battle 12 officers, and some 250 men, still we hate to return to this place where our losses were not nearly so great.  We staid there until after dark when just as I had laid down the order came to move, to pack up was a short job, and we were soon under way,  we moved about a mile which brought us on to the ground of the 2" Div. 5" Corps,  they were not to move until day light so we had orders to make ourselves comfortable where we were,  we spread our blankets on the hard Parade Ground and without fir slept very comfortably even if it was the 6" day of winter.

Wednesday 7".  Up and breakfasted at day light.  did not move into our quarters until two hours after at which time it had been raining for half an hour,  The quarters into which we moved were nearly as good as those we left in the Vally  they were not quite finished yet however.  I forgot to mention that one of our new Col's. 2" Lts arrived while we were waiting at Harpers ferry.  none of our companies were large enough to muster a 2" Lt. so this one had to shoulder his gun as a private!  when we were on the boat I saw him standing among the men and looking prety sad, so I got him to go up in my state room and occupy one of the births.  I could see he was unused to the society in which he was thrown and felt sorry for him.  Rained until after dark then cleared off.  I am stopping with Lt's. Chilrton and Hepburn until my baggage comes down.

Thursday 8".  Morning broake fair,  we were up and under arms at day break merely as a precautionary measure.  prety cold in the A.M. but warm after sun rise.  at work on our new quarters.  mine are very good, but I have nothing to cover it with yet.  nothing of importance transpired to-day.  We have not heard of the 5" Corps yet  it was sent yesterday on some movement to the left.  what it was of course we do not know.

Friday 9".  Very cold, looks like snow,  at M. the Strike Tents was sounded and we were soon ready for anything,  we got out in line two hours before dark,  we did not leave the camp ground until nearly dark,  very cold standing arround so long trying to keep ourselves warm.  Moved out beyond our left flank towards the South Side RailRoad   found one Div. of the 2" Corps on picket there,  they had been out four day.  our force consisted of the 1st and nearly all the 3" Div's. of the 6" Corps. a Div. of Cavalry and three Batteries of Art.  We moved on beyond the 2" Corps and about 9 P.M. camped in a bitter North East wind blowing,  before we could make fires and get supper a cold sleet commenced falling, so our prospect for the night was anything but inviting.  still all was not so bad.  my servant put up a shelter tent.  then at the back he piled some cedar brush and in front built up a huge fire in front.  then spreading a our blankets down in it for a floor it was quite comfortable.  soon my supper consisting of fried pork, hot coffee, hard tack, and butter was set before me and I was soon immused in deep thought and supper, as I sat gazing into the fire and listening to the damp wind soughing through the waving pine tops, and occasionally giving an eye or ear to the groups of soldiers sitting arround their blazing bivouac fires, wrapt in their blankets, smoking and chatting with as much unconcern as if they were surrounded by the nmost favorable circumstances in the world.  I could not help remarking to my self, what a hapy nature a sodier is blessed with.  I also wished for a moment that my friends in old Allegany could get a glimps of my present surroundings,  then I took it back for fear it would spoil their nights rest.  Shortly after I laid down and was soothed to sleep by the crackling fire at my side and slep very comfortably all night.  my servant kept the fire going.

Saturday, Dec. 10".  On waking this morning I found two inches of snow. an inch of water, and six inches of mud, very agreeable for us to be sure.  after an early breakfast we moved into line of battle, sent the Cavalry to the front, stacked arms in the snow, and kept ourselves warm until after noon,  we could hear cannonading away off to the left.  probably the 5 corps ingaged,  about 3 P.M. considerable firing was heard at our front (I afterwards learned it was the Cav. coming in and discharging their carbines to have them empty.)  then we got the order to move back to camp where we arrived an hour before dark.  we went to work putting up our houses but that was soon stoped by and order that we were to move again.  after dark we moved half a mile, up to near Fort Keen, and went into some miserable quarters.  all mud and snow and not room enough for all the men.  remonstrance was useless so we took them "as they were" and put our shelters over them,  hardly had this been done when an order came arround to have the men ready to move at a moments notice.  lots of swearing but no good.  pack up they did, and then we staid all night after all.  I slept very cold and was up and about nearly all night.  moving arround through the slush to-day has made me nervous.

Sunday 11".  A good breakfast this morning makes me feel much better.  thaws a very little to-day, no orders to move so far.  I must write to sister,  we have had no mail since we have been here owing to some unacountabe reason.  when one comes I expect some letters and others.  There is a rumor in camp which I can trace to no reliable source, that this division is ordered back to the Vally, as Early has set Sheridan back.  this I do not believe.  although it gives the boys a good deal of satisfaction to contemplate such a possibility for they all disliked very much to leave the place wher their principle laurel's have been gained.

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

LETTER   Hd. Qrs. "I" Co. 106" N.Y.V.

Near Fort Keen, Va.  Sunday 11" Dec. 1864

My Dear Sister

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

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

How is the weather up there?  prety cold I suppose.  baby stands it well I hope.  have you heard from father yet?  How is mother and the rest of the family this cold weather?  for I am sure it must be cold there

What is the gossip of the place?  Is any body talking about my being partial to white stockings and long dresses?  if they are just tell them, they are my sentiments on the subject.  as long as Janey and you agree with me I dont care so much for the rest.

Yours in love.

A. T. LaForge


Sunday Dec. 11: 1864.  This evening Capt. Briggs and Lts. Cox and Moore with 13 recruits and 20 Convalescents came into camp to night, they left Washington day before yesterday  stayed two nights on the boat,  Cox and Moor were left by accident, they say in the city, but had a prety good time.

Monday 12".  I slept very cold last night.  I gave Cox my bed and slept in Shaws tent on the ground,  it was extremely cold and I almost froze.  to-night he must look out for himself for I cant aford to freeze.  The day has been very cold.  Ice has formed over an inch thick.  prety cold for such houses.  No mail.

Tuesday 13".  Wrote to Gov't. Claim Ag't. Johnson.  Still very cold.  no thaw.  Capt Robinson came back from home to-day bringing with him our new battle flag with him.  it was made by a firm in New York.  it is of blue silk with the U.S. Coat of Arms in the centre.  the names of the battles in which we have been ingaged are formed on it with yellow silk thread.  they are Fairmont, Martinsburg, Wapping Hights, Culpepper, Kelleys Ford, Locust Grove, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Monocacy, Winchester, Fishers Hill, Cedar Creek.  also the Wilderness.  some are not mentioned  This is I think as good a record as most regiments can show  these are only the names of the pitched battles,  skirmishes are not mentioned.  The flag cost over four hundred dollars $400.37.  We expect the flag will be formaly presented to the regiment to-morrow if nothing prevents.  Had Brigade Dress Parade to-night.

Wednesday 14".  The wind is from the South to-day and its moderating effects on the weather is felt by us all.  The flag presentation did not take place,  to-morrow will see the event I believe.  we drew some clothing of which the men were very much in need.  did not get all we wanted.  Wrote to Miss Annie Porter.

Thursday 15"  Detailed for picket.  went out.  found our line ran within 400 yards of the Johnnies.  it looks strange to see two lines of men composed of men from two hostile armies thus pacing up and down in front of each other as quietly as if deadly hate was not rancoring in the bosom of each for the other.  The Rebs seemed to feel very sociable to-day,  they came out of their lines shaking papers, (the sign that they want to exchange papers also tobaco for coffee,  Our boys were not allowed to go out to them as our orders are very strict not to have any communications with them.  This P.M. a fiew shots were exchanged  one of our men was shot through the body.  he had went out beyond the dead line and was shot by Mr. Rebs for it.  There is a kind of understood truce between our men and the Johnnies not to fire on each other unless they pass beyond a certain line.  Our boys were getting rather careless which was the cause of the man's being shot.  Down on the left of our Div. line, the Rebels breastworks come within three hundred yards of our picket line.  I went out there and stood for some time watching the enemy away off on the hills to their rear  I could see their entrenched camps gleaming in the light of our Dec. Sun.  woe be unto us, I thought if we have to but aganst those fortifications.  When I came back I got some of the men on the reserve post which I command to put me up a pine bough bower, this they done in prety good style so that Capt. Robinson who is Div. officer of the day and I will be pretty apt to sleep with considerable comfort to-night.

Friday. Dec. 16"  Another very warm pleasant day.  I went into camp this morning to get my breakfast.  the men are at work putting up new Shanties and making themselves comfortable.  I found a letter for myself from Mrs. Annie Wallace full of kind expressions and very pleasant indeed.  It is now evening and I sit down by the light of my blazing campfire to finish the record of the day.  the Rebs have been very uneasy for some reason firing at our boys without any reason sometimes.  but as soon as night set in they ceased firing and every thing on the lines are as quiet as if two powerful armies bent on each others distruction did not lay within hearing of each other.  Behind us within sight our camps stretch away to the right and left.  they are now full of the music of hundreds of brass bands which we can hear as far to the right and left as the ear can reach   I can distinctly hear the band of the 106" playing their favorite pieces,  How carlessly they lay there depending on the eyes and ears which stretch from the Army of the James away up in front of Richmond about three miles to the left of us a line nearly 40 mniles long, verily this is an extensive picket line.  I wonder what nmy sister would say to see me preparing to lay down with sword and pistol buckled on.  but such is pcket duty.  we live in constant expictation of an attack, so have to be ready to spring to our feet in a second-.

Saturday 17"  Had the men all under arms at 5 A.M. as that is the time the Rebs choose for their attacks.  Capt. Robinson who came out as officer of the day, sent in to be relieved as he was sick.  Capt Briggs came out early this A.M. to relieve him.  One of the soldiers who was killed the 12" of last August but not burried until Sept 5" was taken up to-day.  I think is very foolish to remove a body after once being buried,  It can be but little satisfaction for his friends to see the disgusting mass humanity becomes after burrial.  this man was the son of Dr. Johnson of Baltimore Md.  Many soldiers both Union and Confederate lie burried arround us in the woods, and the trees and srubs bear evidence of the fierce conflict which was waged here for the possession of the Weldon Rail Road,  one of the trees which stands near my "Silvan Bower" was struck over 30 times and it is but a type of of the rest,  not one is here but has been hit lots of times.  Last night an Irishman deserted from the Rebs and came over to us,  he was so scart he could hardly tell us anything.  he belongs to the 19" Mis. Regt. Hills Corps.  his mother lives in Boston.  we sent him to Corps Hd. Qrs.  The Rebs followed him close to our lines.  Rather cold to-night.

Sunday 18"  Commenced raining a little after day light.  cold wind from the North. We were relieved at 9 A.M.  came into camp   got a wagon and sent out and got the timber for my house.  the boys are at work putting it up.  Lt. Cox and I are going in togather,  hope we will have as fine a time as before.  quite warm yet.  No word from our baggage.

Monday 19"  Pleasant warm day.  the 106" is acting as picket reserve and we have to be up at 5 A.M. every morning until we have served our time at it.  Very warm and pleasant considering it is the middle of Dec.   the men turn out and work like bees at their cantonments.  they wear no coats and none are needed it is so warm.  Battery "M" which was with us up in the Vally came to us this afternoon    our trains probably will be here in a day or two.  I wrote to Sister and George Batersby  the latter is at City Point.

LETTER  Hd. Qrs. "I" Co 106" N.Y.V.    December 19" 1964

My Sister & Friends

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

If nothing hapens I shall spend my Christmas in a new house.  my boys are building one for me.  they split pine logs, then cut them about seven feet long.  these they stand on one end in a trench side by side and (back of letter either did not copy well or was poor to begin with)

(New page of diary duplicates entries for Dec. 18th and 19th.)

Sunday 18"  Relieved and came in from picket at 9 A.M.  commenced raining a little after day light, not much.  one hundred guns was fired from our right in honor of the late successes under Thomas and Sherman.  I commenced work on my shanty to day.  the Chaplain came arround where we were at work and I asked him if it was wrong to do necessary things on the sabbath?  "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might" said he and walked off.  So I continued at the work, or rather superintending it.

Monday 19"  The news from the West is glorious  Thomas is driving the enemy before him "Like the hare before the beagle".  The Union horizon looks brighter than it has for many days.  Capt. McBroom returned to the regt from Camp Rendezvous of Distribution.  he reminds me that Segts Beaugureau's time is nearly out, so if I want a letter to reach him at Camp I must write soon.

Tuesday 20"  The flag presentation has not yet came off.  The officers are delaying it until they have a house finished for Regt. Hd. Qrs. so that they can have a kind of spree after it is over, I suppose.  I wrote to George Battersby.  U.S.S. Commission and to Capt. H. Burrows.  Genl' Banks Staff to-day.  looks like rain and a rain is sure to bring on cold weather now.

Wednesday 21"  Raining this morning when I woke up.  rained until M.  then began to grow cold and is now freezing.  I have drawn clothing this Mo. on the 14" 18" & 21" insts.  C. Snyder 1 Lt. got a leave of absence for 15 days and left for Washington this M.  The Q. M. is going down to City Point to see if our baggage has come, and to bring it up if it has.  he will do his best I warrent.

Thursday 22"  Froze up hard last night, very cold to-day.  I have been here now nearly a month.  have written home three times, and as yet not had a word in reply.  I think I shall stop writing until I learn whether there is any body to reply to my letters,  I confess I feel rather vexed that I can get plenty of letters from every other place but from those I most desire to hear from.  I dont see what is the matter.  I wrote to Beaugureau,  I think he will get my letter before he leaves camp.  Very cold.

Friday 23"  Still very cold,  the report is that the 8" Corps is here from the Vally and that the 9" Corps is shipping for this place also.  if such is the case I rather think the Genbl' Grant will soon be trying to see if he cant induce Genl Lee to let go his hold on Petersburg.  once set back from here and Richmond, and I believe we could keep him running.  The Q. M. has returned from City Point  our baggage has not came yet nor any news of its coming yet.  I was up at Hd. Qrs. and a tremenduous cheer was set up by the 2 Corps.  we learned that it was caused by a deserters coming in and saying Savannah had fallen.  Our rations are very short the men have scarcely enough to eat.

Saturday 24"  Still cold.  An official report came down that Sherman had captured Savannah with Genl. Harde and between 15 & 18 thousand prisoners.  this is a most gratifying report  I hope it may prove true,  things look bright.  wrote to Mrs. Wallace

Sunday Dec. 25, 1864.  Christmas Day has passed off very quietly much more so than it would have done had our men received their pay for the last two months,   as it was they had very little money and temperence was forced upon them.  How fiew among the thousands who have celebrated this holliday have given serious thought to the manner of its origen   a painful meaning and still a hopeful one it has for the christian beleiver.  The recent cold weather has had the effect of cooling off the loyalty of the rebel soldiers to their government,  they are deserting to our lines in large numbers daily.  Received a letter from my sister.  also one from uncle John  it was inclosed in the one from sister, but she made no comments upon it although there was several subjects which I know she must have objected to    Uncle I am afraid is a little Copperheadish in his views as he opposes the administration somewhat,  I received communications from the Ordnance Office that my returns for Co's "I" & "F" had been received and found correct.  Have not tuched a drop of licquor to day.  only smoked twice.

Monday 26"  Wrote to Perry Potter last night  letter will not go until to-night.  I have had my house finished and gave the boys a canteen of whiskey for their work,  I could move in now if my tents were only here, but they are still up to Washington    Lt Snyder writes that they are loaded and the boat froze in below Washington so of course we will not get them for some time yet.  I reduced 1" Sergt Hungerford to Sergt. & promoted Sergt Wilder in his place.  I also reduced Sergt. Munroe to the ranks for his long continued abscence & promoted Corp. Cook in his place and promoted private Labrake to Corp in Cook's place.  The officers are going to work in dead earnest to keep Col Barney who is one of Seymours creatures, and his officers from coming to the regiment, if we can only succeed in keeping them away until Fenton takes the Gubernatorial chair we can get new commissions in their place.  Then getting commissions for the field officers creates a "pisen difficulty" in our regt.   there is too much confounded jealousy,  what with officers who want to jump others - and others who dont want to jumped- they succeed in keeping themselves in hot water.  The probability is that Capt Briggs who now commands the regt. will recommend Maj. McDonald and himslf for Lt. Col. and Adjt. Robinson for Major.  this last Capt's McBroom & Robinson object to, being jumped by and Adjt is not what they like.  Rained last night and some to day.

Tuesday 27"  Rained some last night but pleasant to-day.  Just got my house all ready to move in, and to-night the order has came for us to move out and give place to the 67 P.V.  we go to the camp we went into when we first came here,  well there is no use of swearing,  if there was I am very much afraid I should indulge   Gen'l Seymour Comd'g Div. has issued orders that all men and officers must wear the propper badges.  the men must wear cap's and Non' Com' officers must wear the propper chevrons and commissioned officers must wear their propper insignia of office,  any found disobeying these orders will be at once arrested and tried by court martial.  All this is very good but when he comes to moving us about without any apparent reason, although they myust be obeyed- still we murmer some.  Having to move just as we should be at work on our rolls too, makes it worse.  The sun set beautifully to night.  looks as if we should have a pleasant day to-morrow.  I came near forgetting to mention that an order came for us to reccommend our enlisted men who have distinguished themselves for bravery, for badges of honor.  but our boys are all so brave that we could not reccommend some without doing injustice to others, so we sent up the names of none

Wednesday 28".  Moved camp a 8 A.M. considerable swearing.  found quarters enough to crowd the men into for one night.  Lt Cox and I took one of his company shanties until we could build a new one which the boys are willing to do for us.  Our baggage came this P.M. and I have been at work on my company accounts until the present moment 10 P.M.  had a letter from Mrs. Green thanking me for getting blanks sent her from Washington to enable her to get the monies due her husband from the U.S. Govt.  Commenced raining while we were on Brigade Dress Parade,  has rained considerable since.

Thursday 29"  Have been at work on Payrolls nearly all day  very cold to-night  Cox & I feel very much at home in our own house much better than living with any body else.  The Adjt. and Lt Chilton each got 20 day leaves to day  they will not start home until monday on account of muster days being so close at hand,  I shall work quit late so as to get the rolls done for the Adjt. to take to Washington.

Friday 30"  My boys are again at work making me a new shanty  I wonder if I shall have to leave it like the other.  at work most of the day on the Rolls  sent my Q. M. Returns for June & July to Washington.  Received a letter from Capt Burrows of Banks Staff.  The young ladies he and I visited while I was in the city send their respects to me,  very kind!-  I was detailed to-night as a member of a court martial which commences its sittings next monday.  I expect to get some valueable information while a member of it.  A detail for me to act as brig. Officer of the Guard to-morrow.  looks like rain  I'le bet I have a bad day for duty   nothing uncommon for the time of year.

Saturday 31"  Rained A.M. and sleet (very cold) P.M.  Old Tom came from Washington with the mule  he has got our Billy is here all right now, and we cannot keep him after all.  too bad intrely I vow.  could not finish my shanty to-day, it was so cold.  Finished the rolls, and had monthly inspection and were mustered for pay.  My Pay Rolls were the first finished.  My duties as Brigade Officer of the Day have been very light.  I cannot help feeling a little vain to learn, as I did to-day that my bravery a Winchester was a subject of comment among the officers of the Regt for a long time.  It has been told to others and I find I am considerably known by reputation   Our usual quiet was disturbed this morning by the Rebs making a dash on our picket line and capturing some of our men.  it was before day light and people thought there was a general attack.  Lt. Cox rolled over me and said the Rebs were making an attack on us.  I listened a moment, made up my mind it was not much, and composed myself to sleep again as I did not go to bed until late last night.  One of the Rebs deserted to our lines and says Lee intends to astonish the world by an attack on our lines to-morrow morning,  He will astonish me is he does it.  Recd letter from Annie Porter.  answered it

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