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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

Table of Contents

[PUNCTUATION AND SPELLING ARE COPIED FROM THE ORIGINALS. EDITORIAL COMMENTS ARE IN BOLD TYPE.]


The website owner's preface

Abiel Teple LaForge was my great-great-grandfather -- the Phyllis G. Jones who transcribed and edited these materials was my mother. I've loved reading Abiel's writings, not simply for their family connections or even for the glimpses of American history they record, but also for his witty and entertaining style. I've gotten permission to post the material on my website in the hopes that historic researchers of the American Civil War may find them interesting and perhaps useful. My mother was a genealogical enthusiast and delighted in corresponding with people interested in our family history. I, alas, cannot promise to be as knowledgeable about the details of family connections as she was, but if you are interested in getting permission for further use of this material, you may do so through me.

Heather Rose Jones


Introduction

Abiel Teple LaForge, the son of Samuel LaForge and Susanna Fuller LaForge, was born on May 26, 1842 near Fishkill, New York. A will found with Abiel's diaries was signed on March 3, 1748 by the mark of "John Laforge Junr" of Piscataway, New Jersey. John Laforge Jr. had received land in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1715. The will mentions John's wife Sarah and his children John, Nathaniel, David, Frances Blackford and Sarah. From John LaForge the line of descent runs from him to his son John, who married Rachel Horn on May 9, 1745, and then to John LeForge IV, a weaver born on May 6, 1756. His son Mathias Teple LeForge, born in April, 1785 in Cold Spring, Dutchess County, New York, married Margaret Le Count and was Abiel's grandfather.

The census records for New Windsor, Orange County, New York, written on August 6, 1850, list Samuel LaForge with "Abial" (listed as seven years old), his sister Susan who was eleven, Samuel's second wife Julia and her three children Emily, Richard and Maria Swart. Ten years later census records for the same community list 16-year-old "Abeal Laforge" as a "Farm laborer" for Thomas & Sarah Clemence. There are many references to the Clemence family in his diaries. (References to "Mother" in his letters probably refer to Susan's mother-in-law.)

In October, 1861 Abiel enlisted in Company C of the 85th New York Volunteers and his memoirs begin two months later. Letters sent to his sister Susan and the diary pages he sent along with them were saved and are now in the possession of his great-grand-daughter Diana Maxson Hull. Sometime around 1918 Abiel's daughter Lily LaForge Prentice traced over some of the original faded ink and also wrote the poem copied at the end of this foreword.

After the Civil War LaForge became the partner of Rowland H. Macy and shared the partnership after Macy's death. Tuberculosis caused his death on February 11, 1878 in Palatka, Florida where his wife Margaret Swain Getchell LaForge had taken him in hopes of extending his life. Margaret died less than two years later and their five orphaned children were raised by Abiel's beloved sister Susan LaForge Potter in Andover, New York. Baby Louis had died in 1870 and the five surviving children were: Laurence (born in 1871), Adrian (born in 1873), twins Lily and Rose (born in 1875) and Leon (born in 1877).

Military pictures inserted with these letters and diaries were copied from The American Heritage Picture History of The Civil War, edited by Richard M. Ketchum, narrated by Bruce Catton, and published by Doubleday & Co. in 1960.

[Website Owner's Note: The abovementioned pictures have not been included in this site for copyright reasons. HRJ]

Maps were drawn by Phyllis G. Jones, using the following references:


A DIARY

Dedicated to the memory of my father Abiel T. LaForge

Late of the firm of R. H. Macy and Co.

1

A diary lies before me, faded, worn,
Discolored by the stamp of many a year;
Its crisping pages are beyellowed, torn,
Ah! Time's sad touches serve not to adorn
These memoirs of my father's brief career.

2

Aye! truly spoken when I call it brief:
He lived but half of Life's alloted span.
My heart tonight is heavy with my grief
O'er his untimely passing, while I scan
These new-formd scripts; of legacies, the chief,
For they're the penned thoughts of a fine-souled man.

3

For they draw back the curtains of the past,
Disclosing vistas, grand, to me and new.
Dear Dad! I've found your own true self at last,
Though over forty years have slipped from view
Since I, but three, stood childishly aghast
Beside your face begrayed by Death's cold dew.

4

Ah! then my loss I could not realize,
But gathering years have stressed it more and more,
And that great boon we oft too lightly prize-
A parent's love - I crave as ne'er before;
And hot, rebellious tears spring to my eyes
As o'er this cherished manuscript I pore.

5

But some inks perish by Time's acid test,
And here so many lines are all but lost.
My eager pen awaits my heart's behest
To save this fading script at any cost,
So with this ally, spurred by filial zest,
I start my task and pray to be uncrossed.

6

And as these vanished letters I retrace,
By aid of lens my sight can poorly spare,
I seem to see my father's youthful face
Envisioned in each page's mellow glare;
To hear him speak the phrases full of grace,
Inscribed here-on when life to him was fair.

7

Though something of a gay Lothario,
He played the role with purpose, clean and right;
To men he was a pal, in joy or woe;
To women, a chivalrous, ready knight.
Thus his terse sojourn in this vale below
Left memories sweet, which Time can never blight.

8

When our broad country, swept by War's alarms,
Aroused herself to meet Secession's threat,
He answered eagerly her call to arms,
And never once his act did he regret.
He joined the strife, a stripling from the farms;
A man he issued, Major by Brevet.

9

Then came the struggle to success and wealth;
His learning, scant, he studied as he worked;
But dread disease crept in his frame by stealth
And Death's grim spectre at his shoulder lurked.
For loved ones' weal he strove, with failing health;
Thus passed a man who ne'er his duty shirked.

10

A diary, saved, now greets my eyes so worn;
Discolored by full many a filial tear;
But now, for generations still unborn,
It is preserved; despite my tear-drops' smear.
Ah, Time! for once of triumph you are shorn;
My pen and I have won; the record's clear!

Lily LaForge Prentice


Sections of the Civil War diaries and letters were typed by Phyllis G. Jones (granddaughter of Rose) in 1956. In 1992 photo-copies of nearly the entire collection were made and they are being put into computer files in 1993. Copies are distributed to family relatives.

Phyllis G. Jones


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