1862: Washington Lafayette (“Lafe”) Colgrove to William D. Kizer

The letter was only signed “Lafe” but I think I can safely attribute it to Washington Lafayette Colgrove (1843-1919), the son of Silas Colgrove (1816-1907) who served as the colonel of the 27th Indiana Infantry. Silas was a lawyer before the war and volunteered as the Lt. Col. of the three-month 8th Indiana early in the war. When the 8th disbanded, Silas was appointed colonel of the newly-formed 27th Indiana. Known as a strict disciplinarian, his men generally disliked him and begged unsuccessfully for his removal.

According to Antietam on the Web, “the 27th moved east to Washington, D.C., and then to Frederick, Maryland, where they camped during the winter of 1861-62. In the spring of 1862, Colgrove and the 27th participated in the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia) Campaign and fought in the engagements at Front Royal and Winchester. The 27th saw action at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, in August 1862. At the battle of Antietam, the colonel was in “the thickest of the fighting” and had his horse shot from under him, but he was not injured. While fighting in Daniel Miller’s famous Cornfield, his Regiment sustained casualties of nearly 50%….The 27th was not actively engaged again until 1863 and the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. Colgrove sustained minor injuries at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg before serving in the Atlanta campaign.”

Theodore F. Colgrove

I can’t find any evidence that Lafe was actually enrolled in the service though when he registered for the draft in July 1863, he identified himself as “Lafayette Colgrove, 20 years old” and listed the “27th Indiana Vol.” as his former military service. So too did his 19 year-old brother Theodore Freelinghausen Colegrove. Lafayette was born in December 1843 which would have made him 18 when this letter was written, Theodore even younger. Neither brother has a muster roll record in the 27th Indiana, however, until February 1863 when Theodore officially joined the regiment as its Sergeant Major and later as Major.

“Lafe” wrote the letter to his friend William Diggs Kizer(1847-1921), the son of Thomas W. Kizer (1824-1901) and Susannah Way (1830-1875) of Winchester, Indiana. Thomas Kizer was also a merchant in Winchester.


Addressed to Mr. W. D. Kizer, Winchester, Randolph county, Indiana

Camp near New Market, Va.
May 10th 1862

Mr. W. D. Kizer
My dear friend Willie,

I take this pleasant opportunity of writing to you again. I received your letter this morning and I was glad to hear from you and as sorry to hear that Alonzo Monroe was dead. He was a good citizen and a fine man. Sorry to hear the condition of some of my best friends. I hope it will stop where it is.

You are right. I would like to have some of those pies at this time. Can’t you send me one of them the next time you write?

Well, Willie, I will give you a little idea of some of the times we have had since I wrote to you from Edenburg. We have been up the Valley 16 miles from here to a place called Harrisonsburg and we stayed there some three weeks when we had to take the back track. There was a force of over 20,000 Rebels thrown in this valley from Yorktown and was all advancing on us so we had to fall back to this place and I think that we will have to fall back to Strasburg.

Col. Robert S. Foster, 13th Indiana Infantry

Well, we marched at 2 o’clock on Monday morning and got here in time to pitch out tents before dark. We was ordered to move across the mountains at 12 o’clock that night. We marched and at 8 we was on the east side of the mountains. We stayed there until three o’clock the next morning when we was ordered to Columbia Bridge 6 miles off. We got there about 8 and there I found the 13th Indiana and went and saw James Brice. 1 At 3 o’clock that regiment started and went up the river as a reconnoissance party. They was ordered not to go over 4 miles but Col. [Robert S.] Foster did not obey orders and went 6 miles.

When 5 miles, they came in sight of a company of Rebel cavalry and began to pursue them. They went about a mile when they found themselves surrounded by a whole brigade of rebels that ws behind a hill to the left. The word came to our regiment that hey was in danger and for us to come up on double quick. We started and went 4 and a half miles and formed in line of battle. In 45 minutes the word reached us that the 13th had cut their way out and were a coming. We drew up to meet the rebels. We supposed them to be in pursuit of the 13th but they was not so we did not get in a fight. And then it was dark and we could not make an attack so we fell back to the bridge. I saw James Brice after he came back. He is all right. The wind is a blowing so that I can’t write. I will stop for a while. 2

Camp near Strasburg, Va,
May 13th [1862]

Dear friend Willie,

I take this opportunity of commencing this letter again for the purpose of finishing it. I was at the Columbia Bridge when I stopped writing. Well the next morning I think about 5 o’clock we started back to New Market and stayed there 2 days when we was ordered to march back to Strasburg. We marched until 12 o’clock the first day and camped at Woodstock 20 miles from New Market. You may guess what kind of marching we done to go 20 miles against noon. We marched here today by 10 o’clock, 12 miles. I think that we will go to work on the fortifications here. There is a rumor that we are to go to Washington City but I don’t believe it.

Tell John W. Henderson to answer my letters or I will get Father after him with the rope. Tell Poopy in the [ ] to answer too. When you answer this letter, direct to Strasburg, Va. 27th Indiana Volunteers. Give my love to all the girls that inquire after me. Answer soon.

From your friend, — Lafe

1 James G. Brice was born October 5, 1840 in Athens, Ohio, moving to Marion County, Indiana before the war where he served with Co. A of the 13th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted June 19, 1861 as a private, was later appointed sergeant, and mustered out July 1, 1864 at the expiration of his three-year term of service. After the war, he married Margaret Elizabeth Williams in Covington, Kentucky in 1869 and had three children. Brice moved west, later living in Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois before moving to Long Beach, California where he died October 26, 1929. See letter by Sgt. James G. Brice published in the Randolph Journal on 2 and 9 October 1863 utilized by Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles in a piece entitled, “Hades Opened Wide: Taking Battery Wagner with the 13th Indiana” (November 9, 2021)

2 The reconnoitering expedition to the “burned bridge (Red Bridge) by the 13th Indiana Infantry took place on 7 May 1862. The action that ensued was known as Somerville Heights.

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