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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

January 1865


Sunday Jany 1" 1865.  Lee did not astonish the world this A.M.  neither did he surprise Grant,   on the contrary this has been an unusually quiet day.  Our flag presentation which has so long been delayed came off.  The Regt. was formed in square and the adjt. brought out the beautiful banner and presented it to the commanding officer in the name of the Ladies of St. Lawrence   then the Commandant presented it to the Regt. after which the Regt was dismissed and the officers adjourned to Hd. Qrs. and of course we had a good time.  The Div. Gen'l & staff and the Brigade Genl & staff witnessed the presentation which was altogather a fine spectacle.  There is being considerable whiskey being drank in the army, but if there is any fist fights they are not likely to become general for it is too cold for the men to come out doors to fight.

Monday Jany 2".  The Court Martial met to-day.  there is ten members.  We organized and tried one case for Desertions.  The law in Court Martial cases dose not allow us to publish what our sentence and findings are until it is published by the proppr authority.  There is much about military matters to be learned by the members of a court which they would never learn in any other capacity;  many little intricate matters which would never come to their observation about the administration of military afairs which it is not intended to become generaly known.  I find it is no light matter to sit in judgement on the life of a fellow creature and brother soldier, as we have to-day.

Tuesday 3".  Commenced snowing about noon and is still at it.  Had a very interesting case to try at Court.  also some fun.  Last night one of Barnies officers returned to the Regt.  he is Sergt Monroe who I reduced to the ranks the other day.  How he is hated by the officers,  I would not like to be in his place.  I received a reply to my communication to the Adjt. Genl. last night,  I must fill certain blanks before I can receive my pay as kprivate of the 85 N.Y.Vols.  We learn that Col' Barney has thrown up his commission and that Maj. McDonald our old Commander is Col' and Maj. Allen Lt. Col.  also Adjt. Robinson is Major.  Last month I was reccommended- 6.15'.18'- 3.1.16'.20".19"-3.15'.13'.13'.9.19". 19".9.15"14'- but dont believe I shall 17'.5.20"-9.20"- as 17'.15'.22"- 19".5.25".13'.15'.21".18'- fills them 8.9.19'- 15'23"14'. way. (Substitution 1=A, 2=B, etc. assuming that the 17's should be 7's gives "Last month I was reccommended for Capts commission but dont believe I shall get it as Gov Seymour fills them his own way."  Code seems unaffected by the fact that numbers from 13-18 are marked with ' and those from 19-25 are marked with ".)

LETTER (written at end of diary page)

    Hd Qrs. "I" Co. 106" N.Y. Vols. Camp Townsend Va.

Jany. 3" 1865

My Dear Sister & Friends

I concluded to write you to-night even if it is prety late as I have not written for over a week.  ever since our baggage came down to us I have been very buisy finishing up my accounts for last year & I expect to be very much engaged for some time to come, as I am a member of a court martial which has its sessions from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. daily.  sundays excepted.  the only time I have for correspondence or work is after its sessions are over in the after-noon so I am afraid some of my numerous friends will be glad that I have some thing to do besides writing to them and boring them.  Winter has really set in upon us now and we have experienced some very cold weather which made all the clothes we could cover our-selves with at night very acceptable,  I have often thought of that little bedroom and the numerous blankets you used to have piled upon it for me.  the baby too, used to be piled upon it once in a while with his uncle Bijou,  has the boy cut teeth yet?  if so I hope he dont bite bad, the little cherub   give him my kind wishes.  I hope you follow up your long dress system,  how does the new one look?  I am sorry mother keeps so poorly.  give her her boys love and kind wishes,  also to Martha,  Janey is getting that flesh back again that she lost the last time she was sick I hope, when I come home I hope she will be as stought as ever, if not stoughter as than ever.  Has Joseys mare been out late at night since I came away?  she seemed very much surprised at my irregular hours when I had her.  I am sorry I created so much gossip when I was home for it spoils a persons character too quick.

Your brother     Abiel


Wednesday Jany 4" 65  About an inch of snow on the ground this morning,  prety cold too.  court adjourned at noon to-day  we only finished the case we had before us yesterday    our Pay Rolls came back last night for correction,  Mine needed none.  I wrote to Miss 1.9'.1.3'.3 v.v. last night   took some pains I dare say.  (Substituting A-I for numbers 1-9 and J-R for 1'-9' gives "aralc" or Clara spelled backwards.  Presumably Clara Crandall is meant.)    I also wrote to my dear kind friends in Andover  I expect a letter from them before long.

Thursday 5".  Rather sloppy under foot.  pleasant above.  the court agreed on the sentence I proposed by which to punish the prisoner to-day.  I wrote to Uncle John last night.  moved into my new shanty to-night,  Cox is out on picket and I shall have to sleep here alone one night.  the Regimental Commander the Q. M- and myslf took our Band and went over to visit the Brigadeer.  had very good entertainmnent  came back before midnight,  good fire in my shanty when I got here,  my old servant must have been here.

Friday 6"  Rained nearly all day  very muddy  came near getting stuck coming from the court room.  we adjourned to meet monday.  I made out my ordnance return for 4" Quarter 1864.  Cox and I are proposing to have a good bath.  Susey should have written me before this.  She is getting to be a poor correspondent.

Saturday 7"  Prety Cold.  I confined myself closely to business of which I have plenty.  I was up to Hd. Qrs. this evening.  they had the string band up there and some dancing and other fun was going on.  the Chaplain has got a leave of Absence and started home to-day.  he is the third officer of our regiment who is now off on leaves.  Yes the fourth for Maj. McDonald has escaped from the Rebs and is now home on leave.  The Major has been promoted to Lt Col. and Col. since he has been away,  we are looking for his return anxiously.

Sunday 8"  I had to assume command of the regiment to-day as Capt Briggs was detailed as Div. officer of the day.  and I am the senior officer left in camp.  Mounted my horse this evening and took the men out for Brigade parade.  a New Lt. Col. came to us this evening,  it is the gentleman we saw in Winchester,  he then had a Majors commission,  the one eyed Allen,  we are working aganst him with all the faculty we have got,  I telegraphed to McDonald at Ogdensburg to come to us at once and get mustered be-fore this man can do so.  but I fear with all our efforts to the contarary he will be able to get mustered,  oh! how hartily we hate him,  he got his position through being a personal friend of Gov Seymours.  I got a letter from Perrys & Josephs people too.  with $25.00 from Perry. which I began to need prety badly.

Monday 9"  Capt. Briggs was away and I had to take the Regt out on Brigade Dress Parade.  Felt gay as a young Cock riding at the head of the regiment.  then when Parade was dismissed, returning my sword and riding with the Colonels up to salute the general.  thinks I this is getting along prety fast for a 1" Lieutenant.  When I came back found Capt. Briggs had returned,  he said I did it as well as he could himself, so I felt satisfied with myself.  The court were divided on a legal question and adjourned until the 11" to look it up.

Tuesday 10"  Rained hard last night and all day.  Lt Cox and I have been at work in our shanty putting up shelves and a table and squaring off the logs some.  so our house (which we have decided to call the Anglo-French Hotel. as he is English & I am French) is now prety comfortable, and we begin to enjoy ourselves.  The question before the court yesterday was have we a right to find a man guilty of the charge and not of the specification, and sentence him when the specification does verify the charge?  The Court has various opinions,  Mine is that the court may set asside the Specification as imperfect, and be governed soley by the evidence as it bears on the charge.  The General Commanding sent back two or three of our cases for review  he made some suggestions,  a fiew of which we adopted and others rejected,  our authority is above his while we are on this duty.

Wednesday 11"  Adjt. Hepburn showed me some letters from some young ladies.  to whom he introduced me while we were at Martinsburg.  I judge they are somewhat given to flatter the boyish looking Lieutenant as they call me.  Lt. Col. Allen has went to Washington to procure an order for his muster.  he said before he went that if we had taken the right course with him he would have filled the vacan-cies with men of the Regiment, but now he will take an other course,  which means that he will fill them with his own personal friends I suppose.  Bah.  The Court met and were divided as ever on the question of which I spoke before.  Finally we agreed to send the proceeings up for the consideration of the General and then adjourned over to meet the 13".  This evening I went up to the Surgeons and had a very pleasant game of chess.  the Dr. beat me on the game.

Thursday 12"  Very cold last night  froze up hard.  and as a consequence clear warm & muddy to-day.  I sent my Q. M. Returns for Aug. & Sept. off.  Now all I have to make are for Oct & Dec. 64 which I shall have done to-morrow night if nothing hapens,  then my Last years work will all be up snug and I can play for a while,  I do not make Returns for November as I was home that month,  We had Battalion Drill this afternoon,  while (I am on Court I do not have any of that duty to perform)  The Capt Commanding sent for me when the Regt got out and asked me to go on drill, because if I did not he would not have a single officer to assist him as all the rest just came in from Picket & Guard duty.  so I went.

Friday 13"  Clear and prety warm,  Attended Court had a prety stor-my debate in which I was in the minority, as they say in Congress "a small but very respectable minority" it was.  We only reviewed cases which we had alreadly sentenced,  When I came to camp the regiment had just turned out for monthly inspection,  I should have went out if I had got back a fiew minutes sooner.  We drew clothing and Camp and Garrison Equipage this P.M.  I issued it after I returned.  I also finished and sent my Q. M. Returns for Oct. & Dec. 1864.  this evening, I hardly know what I shall do now as I have been at work so hard lately upon my papers as to make a moments idleness seem almost a sin,  I received a letter from Miss Porter to-night which was one of her funniest and most laughable productions.  She requested me not to show it to any one especially my lady friends.  I did show it to Lt. Cox however, in order that he might help me laugh over her mirth provoking sallies.  I think I must burn it as soon as answered for if my dear Susie or any of the girls in Andover should see it, I would not hear the last of the matter in a long time.  Our forces are now building abattis in front of the picket line.  so that the Johnnies cannot make those sudden dashes and capture our boys.

Saturday Jany. 14", 1865.  Very clear and pleasant.  Genl. Seymour decided with me to-day on my definition of Desertion.  He returned one of our cases which was sent up for him to review.  All of the court but myself decided that "from the evidence adduced they could find the prisoner only guilty of Absence without leave"  I claimed from the evidence "he was guilty of Desertion"  The General says Desertion is the crime of which he is guilty so I am all right.  I had to take command of the regiment on Dress Parade this evening as Capt. Briggs was away.  We had a considerable fun over it after the men were dismissed.  I wrote to my dearest sister, and friends at Andover and look for a letter from her daily.  I have not heard from father in a long time.

LETTER  Hd. Qrs. "I" Co. 106" N.Y. Vols. "Anglo-French Hotel"

Before Petersburg Va.  Jany 14"/65

My Dear Friends,

I am sitting in a nice comfortable shanty, on a rather uncomfortable stool, with my back to a blazing fire of pine knot's, my face toward the Aurora Boreallis, at least as far in that direction as Andover, where the dearest of human ties bind them at present.  Perhaps some day, when I am not looking for such an event a "dearer tie" than any which binds me now, may be formed and I shall find that instead of Andover being the location of the load stone to which my thoughs are constantly turning, some other place will have usurped its position in my heart.  (I dont see how it is, sister, that I should live to be twenty three years old and not be in love, do you?  It must be because we are not exposed in the army.  I added this parenthetically) but at present no such place looms up in my mental vision.  The cold wind is howling arround outside to-night in such a manner as to make our really comfortable hotel feel very much like home.  Lt Cox and I enjoy ourselves like two monarch's, indeed we are monarchs "of all we survey" when inside our hotel,  In your last you wanted to know what color we should paint our house,  Well Cox & I have decided to have it as near the color of the out side of an unhewn pine log, plastered with mud as we could get it, so it is of that color.  

I had a good laugh after parade to-night.  I was the senior officer off duty and had to command the parade.  when the regiment was formed I marched down and took my place 30 paces in front of the centre,  every thing went on well until the command to Dismiss the Parade.  when I found there was but one line officer on parad, & that was Cox, to see him return his sword, face to the centre march down to the front of the colors, then face me and march up and salute me (as would have been proper if all the officers had been there) without a muscle of his face changing was more than I or any of the other officers who were behind me could stand.  I am afraid the last of that parade was not decorous.

Well here I am prety near the end of my paper and have not said a word about the boy.  Well give the little rascal my regards and tell him to "h∼ve his self" till I come home again.  My love to mother, husband, brother, & sisters, and also Susan & the boy.

Your dutiful brother



Sunday 15"  Clear and quite warm again,  I have had nothing to do all day,  it seems funny after being so buisy lately.  I came near loosing all my self possession on Brigade Dress Parade,  The ground was quite muddy where my division was formed; and in standing so long in one place while the band was Beating Off our feet got prety well fastened.  When the order came "To Open Ranks. To the rear open order, March" one of the men in the Rear Rank (whose duty it is to march backwards four paces) attempted to step to the rear but found his feet hopelessly fast in the mud.  he had lost his ballance when he attempted to move, and to see him sprawl himself out in the mud in such a helpless manner was more then the men could stand.  I had a double duty to perform to chick the laughter of the men and keep from laughing my self.  Another of the men in pulling his foot out of the mud, pulled it out of his shoe as well.  that made one muddy stocking,  he stooped down and put it on again, and then undertook to release the other foot, with this he succeeded the same as before by pulling his shoe off and putting his foot in the mud.  the Genl. looked over to see what we were laughing at.  There is a list of brevets in the papers to-day.  Capt Day and 1" Lt Robinson are made brevet Majors for gallant services at Cedar Creek Oct 19".  That shows how far you may judge of merret by Brevit.  Lt. Robinson was not within fifty miles of the fight on the 19" but away back to the rear at Martinsburg. and when I was coming off the field wounded I saw Capt. Day fully a mile to the rear forming a line to stop stragglers.  well. well!

Monday 16"  Warm & pleasant,  Court met and adjourned for one week as there was not a quorum present.  When a Court Martial adjourns for three days or more the members are eligible to other duty during the time, so I expect to do duty in the Regt with the rest of the officers.  Had battalion drill this P.M. got very tired.  We must have another campaign soon or we shall all get to soft, so that we shall hardly be able to stand the hardships.  Lt. Munro came back from New York last night.  he will also be ready for duty soon, to-morrow perhaps.

Tuesday 17"  Cold and Clear.  Detailed as officer of the picket.  When we got out on the line the Division officer of the day gave me charge of ¾ of a mile of the line.  I had 23 posts which made me four officers and one hundred and eighty four men.  A salute of 100 guns was fired in front of Petersburg  we were on the que vive to know what it was.  shortly before dark the Corps Officer of the Day came arround and gave us the good news that Fort Fisher, which Butler had failed to take, had succomed to another expidition which had been sent aganst it by Genl. Grant,  We were ordered to communicate this news to the enemy so I mounted my horse and rode down in front of our line and gave them orders to attract the attention of the Rebel Pickets by giving three cheers, then tell them our good news.  this they done with a will.  We could see the Johnnies crowding togather and apparently consulting about the news, I expected to be fired at every moment as I was mounted and of course was a consipcuous mark.  they did not fire however, so after I had galloped the whole length of our line and communicated the news, and set the all to making a terrible din I came back to my reserve post. We only stay out 24 hours now and are not allowed to sleep.  So we kept a good fire and sat up.  a lettle after dark some firing was heard, and shortly afterward two Rebels who had came into our lines were brought up to me,  they belonged to the 16" N.C.  they said they concluded it was about time to come over so they came.  They were sent to Corps Hd. Qrs. & every thing was quiet again.  Soon more firing was heard and news came that a small squad had came into the line just to our right.  then more firing on our front and another Rebel was brought up to me.  This one had been a soldier about one year but never fired a gun.  he had wen home and staid in the woods for a while   was caught and brought back, and deserted again to his home and the woods where he had staid three months when he was caught again.  he was brought back and tried, was sentensed to loose one years pay.  He said he told his Lieut. if he must work a year without pay it would be somewhere else than in the Rebel Army.  so he came over to us.  He also was sent to Corps Hd. Qrs.  No more came into our Div. but came in to the right and left of us all night.

Wed'day 18"  Cloudy and cold.  Was relieved at 9 A.M.  came in and after breakfast I went over to see Capt Daymon of the 10" Vt.  had some milk punch and a good time generally.  got a couple of books to read and came home after promicing to renew the visit.  Felt prety sleepy all day  think shall couchèr early this evening.  it appears about thirty deserters came into our Corps front last night.

Thursday 19"  Nothing much to do to-day  everything quiet prospects of a storm.  Bob and I had considerable fun about certain things, but then we have fun every day.

Friday 20"  Cox is detailed for picket,  I thought I should not have any duty to perform, but it happens I was detailed to take a working party.  Was ordered to report to an officer near Ft Keen,  went there but could not find any such officer.  I waited nearly and hour and had just started for Div. Hd. Qrs. when the other working party came up.  as they had jyust been relieved from picket to-day I thought it was too bad to make them work an other night, so I just took the tools for my detail and sent the others back to camp,  We then wen out to the picket line.  I ordered the Videts advanced so as to cover my working party and then set them to work.  The duty was to build an abattis btween our Videts and those of the enimy.  so as to protect our picket line from those sudden little dashes which the Rebs delight in.  Some shots were fired in the dark but they went over our heads or never came near us.  I told the men to take hold with a will and we should not have to work all night.  my advice and the shots had the desired effect,  they worked as if for their lives.  it was cloudy so a prety dark night.  I got all the work which was laid out for me done for the night done by ten oclock P.M. then brought my party in   returned the tools to Div. Hd. Qrs.  Stopt in our Hd. Qrs for an hour  then came home.

Saturday 21"  A little past midnight a tremenduous nasty sleet commenced falling and freezing as fast as it fell,  when I awoke this morning the ground was covered with ice,  we supposed it would stop by M. but storms here are not governed by any regular rules so it has continued without intermission all day.  I cant remember such another storm since my naisance.  We have been prety closely confined to our quarters all day and of course had to make our own fun.  Cox is laying asleep on the bunk now.  he was on picket last night and did not sleep any.  I am going to wake him up.

Sunday January 22" 65.  Very muddy  the heavy rains of yesterday must have done the Rebs some damage, as the freshet last week destroyed some 40 miles of the Southside R.R.  I wrote to Annie Porter this evening.

Monday 23"  Rainy all day.  Cox was sent out to the picket line with the 14" N.J. as they were short of officers.  I have been reading Moors translation of Homers Odyssey,  very interesting I find it.  gave Lt Hepburn a lesson in french this evening.  There has been a good deal of paper exchanging until the middle of the afternoon when the Rebs took the notion of firing which stoped it of course.  just at dark a very heavy fire of cannon was commenced down towards Petersburg which still continues,  the heavy concussions shakes us away here.  Wrote to Beaugureau.

Tuesday 24"  Clear and prety cold.  Received a letter from sister and one from father.  Father has been and is still quite sick, with the liver complaint and dropsy.

Wednesday 25"  Clear and cold.  Night before last and yesterday and last night there was very heavy firing in the direction of Bermuda-Hundred  some say that the Rebel Gun Boats came or attempted to come down.

Thursday 26"  Clear and very cold.  Went on picket at 8 A.M.  cold enough standing out of doors without anything in the shape of a house.  Capt Daymond was out here building a shanty for the Div. Officer of the Day  he said he expected to be on himself in a day or two, so thought it was policy to have a house to stay in.  Lt's Snyder (who returned monday) and Shaw were on with me.

Friday 27"  Clear and extremely cold.  We suffered a great deal last night with the cold,  it froze very had and fast all the time.  I dont know when we have had such a hard time as this tour has been.  We were relieved at 8" A.M. and came to camp.  Adjt. Robinson came back from Leave of Absence last night.  he says Maj. McDonald will be here in a day or two,  he dont think Allen will bother us any more.  1" Sergt. Chilton returned from furlough.  they say the snow is four and five feet deep up North.  Not a flake here.

Sat. 28".  Weather more moderate,  was detailed for fatigue but did not have to go on as the whole detail was not required.  Capt Robertson and Lieut Shaw sent up their resignations but both were sent back disapproved.

Sunday 29"  The dust is being blown about by the cold wind as bad as I suppose the snow must be up North.  it creeps in through the chinks of our houses and covers everything.  Had a letter from Hibbard.  the 85" is now at Norfolk.

Monday 30"  Major McDonald came to the regt. after dark this evening and with him ex-capt Paine who has a Majors Commission to be mustered as such as soon as McDonald gets mustered as Lt. Col. which he will be to-morrow.  as soon as we found the Major had came we got the regiment into line with a lot of candles and pine knots so as to form a torch light procession and moved up to Hd. Qrs. and gave him "three times three"    he made a short reply and the regt. was dismissed.  The army arround us took up our enthusiasm thinking some great news had come, and we could hear them sending cheering to the right and left of us as far as the sound would carry and they were sending it on.   After the affair was over I returned to my quarters   played whist until near mid-night when just as I was going to bed the Adjt. and Q. M. came down all out of breath and begging all sorts of pardon for not having me at Hd. Qrs. before!  they were having a gay time there and never noticed the absence of one or two.  Well I went up!  found the Brigade staff all there.  all our officers and all drunk or getting so.  We staid there dan-cing and singing &c. until three O.C. then broake up.  I did not taste any licquor.  they are getting so now as hardly to think of offering it.  I used fairly fight to keep them from making me drink.  I wrote to friend Hibbard this morning.

Tuesday 31"  McDonald was mustered as Lt. Col. and Paine as Major so we now have two field officers.  I am detailed to act as member of a board of 10 officers who are to examine candidates for those meritorious furloughs which Genl. Grant has decided shall be given to the best soldiers of each Brigade at the rate of one for every thousand.  the Board meets at 10 to-morrow.

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