SOPO Editor’s Note: The John D. Vautier (88th Pennsylvania) Diary from June-September 1864 is presented here with the express written permission of Todd Leiss, who runs an excellent site on the 88th Pennsylvania:
Todd was given permission by John Vautier descendants Bob Weaver and Phyllis Weaver Bickley to use the diary as he sees fit, so the diary also appears here with their implicit, if not explicit, permission.
Note that John Vautier was wounded in the hand at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, which is where this diary starts. When Vautier compiled his diary into postwar notebooks, he utilized Captain Charlie McKnight’s diary from Co. K to keep tabs on what the 88th Pennsylvania was doing.
Also note that Vautier wrote a regimental history of the 88th Pennsylvania, History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War for the Union, 1861-1865, after the Civil War.
Civil War Daily Diary of John D. Vautier, Philadelphia, Pa , “a little past 17” when he enlisted in the 88th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company I
After John’s death in 1912, the diary was passed down to daughter Amy Vautier Weaver. Upon her death in 1950, Amy’s daughter Ruth Weaver passed the diary to John’s youngest daughter, Alice Vautier Fairweather. After Alice’s death, Alice’s family donated the diary to the Civil War Library in Carlisle, PA where it is currently located.
Transcribed by Phyllis Weaver Bickley, great grand daughter of John Vautier, from digital images of the original diary taken by Tim Antosy and provided by Todd Leiss, who are also 88th descendants. Comments are enclosed in [brackets] and italicized.
Thursday [September] 1st 
Clear and pleasant Weather.
Cleaned up camp & put things to right generally.
After a while we got orders to fall – stack arms – and await orders.
We are waiting.
Friday [September] 2d 
Very Hot to day.
At One oclock this a.m. we were roused up & fell in. Our Division was then massed on the left – At daybreak we marched down or up to the Centre – & Halted – while a Division of Cavalry – passed out ahead of us. Every one of us thought we were now in for it – & as we were marching out – every soldier was busy with his own thoughts – hardly a word was spoken.
We were sure that a stubborn fight would now take place – for the Confederates would not allow the army to get on their flank & threaten their Communications without a vigorous protest.
These protests are in the shape of Counter Attacks – striking our lengthened Column wherever they find a chance, and on nearly every occasion they managed to find that unprotected place.
And woe unto that Division or Brigade found napping!
Before they are aware of it – they are attacked in front & flanks & they are very lucky if any Considerable portion of them gets back to our lines
After a while we were halted & ordered back again & immediately every tongue was loosed. Everybody had something to say, and I think all of us felt glad that we were alive.2
We soon got back to camp & settled ourselves Recd 1 letter & wrote 1 letter.
Saturday Sept 3, 1864
Weather Cloudy and warm by turns.
Detailed to work on the South Fort. [Fort Dushane?]3
Genls. Grand & Lew Wallace & Secy Fessenden visited the fort on a tour of inspection
Sunday 4 Sept. 
Weather Changeable. Cloudy & Hot
Nothing stirring to break the Monotony of camp life to day,
Recd 3 letters and wrote 3.
Monday 5 Sept. 
Pretty warm to day.
We were engaged to day in cutting trees down in the woods – so as to give the guns of the South fort [Fort Dushane?] a clear range.
The trees were falling pretty thick . Two or three of Co A. men were engaged in cutting down a very large tree – which came down sooner than they expected – or I either. Harry Booz & I were standing talking but a few feet from the tree when it fell but luckily it did not fall our way.
It however went crashing to the ground & before all the men could get out of the way it was on them.
Death of Corp. Hoffman
Corporal Wesley Hoffman of Co A was crushed beneath one of the limbs. We jumped to work & cut him out – & I went over to a battery encamped hard by & borrowd a stretcher, and we carried him in camp. But his eyes had already put on a dying look, and his lips had ceased to speak.
He died that night.
Tuesday 6 September 
Drizzly & Rainy.
Cutting down trees and building breastworks on the left flank.
A tree fell on Clikett of Co K, and badly hurt him..
Thinking about going home
Wednesday Sept 7. 1864
Cleared off to day.
On camp guard.
Thursday 8. Sept. 
Rain again to day. Recd 1 letter.
Friday Sept 9 
Cleared off to day & is right pleasant.
Washed my clothes and cleaned up as I am thinking a good bit about going home.
Recd 2 letters & wrote 2.
Saturday [September] 10 
Cloudy but didn’t rain.
Moved camp & renovated things generally. They are building a new cordrouy road to connect with the City point road & it will come right through our camp.
Eleven of Co. B men go home to day – their time having expired. Peter D Shearer was included among them.
Sunday 11th Sept. 
Variable. Some Hot. Some cloudy & some Rain.
Detailed to work on the Cordoruy road that runs around the rear of the army.
Worked hard all day on the road. The [United States Military] Rail Road is also completed to this point – & this evening the engine came down – blowing her whistle & ringing her bell. All the Soldiers in the different camps, as soon as they heard the locomotive coming, began to yell & cheer, and the woods rang with the shouts of the soldiers.4
Monday Sept 12. 1864
Clear and pleasant.
A lady, belonging to some of the officers while riding along near camp, fell off her horse. This amused event caused some excitement in camp. Wrote 1 letter
Tuesday [September] 13. 
A mule & driver back off the road into a ditch near camp. After some trouble the mule was got on hard ground again, the Driver having previously scrambled out.
Sam Fusman returns to Company. There was also a presentation of medals at [Fifth] Corps Head Quarters – to meritorious soldiers. [Army of the Potomac commander] Genl [George G.] Meade made the presentation speech.
Recd 1 letter.
My last march with the Regt.
Wednesday Sep 14 1864
Clear & Nice
Came off camp guard to day. Another lady slipped off the saddle, near camp to day.
Thursday [September] 15th 
Very Hot to day.
At 2 OClock this morning we were roused up – & fell in line in light marching order. At daylight we advanced out in the direction of the South Side, Rail Rd.
Went to Poplar Grove Church & drove some small parties of the enemy before us.
The boys all persuaded me to go back, in keep under cover – as my time would now be out in a couple of days.
I didn’t see much to get frightened at however, as we are not actively engaged yet – although I expect every moment to hear the boom of the cannon & the screech of the shell.
Then it will be time enough to thinking about getting back.
Near noon we turned around & came back – much to my relief I confess.5
I felt very sick when I came back to camp – something very unusual for me to be sick – as I generally feel very well, & able to march with the best. Wrote 1 letter
My last picket
Friday 16 Sept. 
Clear and Warm.
Splendid falling weather – not withstdg it is somewhat warm in the middle of the day. This is the last day of my service. There was some pickets wanted from our Co – and I voluntd to go. I was accordingly placed on the outposts as a vidette, and served in that capacity nearly all night. I keep a strict watch on everything around. Several of the enemy were reported to be in the woods opposite, but I couldnt see any appearance of danger – although there was pretty lively firing up to the right.
Recd 1 letter
Saturday [September] 17 
Came out Hot and clear.
Was relieved from picket at daylight & came back to Regt.
Went over in the afternoon to get mustered out, but the man in shoulder straps refused to discharge.
So I had to come back very much disappointed
Farewell Boys and God bless you
Sunday [September] 18. 
Ned Nunneville and I went over and got mustered out so now I am
No longer a Soldier.
Left our little squad, to go to City Point. There is only 9 of our Co. now left behind. Farewell boys!
Severing tender associations
When we meet again may it be in a better place & under better auspices than we part.
Good men and true you are. You have passed through the fire; and have not escaped unhurt, But you would reinlist – so you must stay, while I go home.
Reached City Point at 10 oclock at night, and was provided for in the Christian Commission Tent.
Thanks be to God, who has so mercifully spared my unworthy life through all these years of toil, danger and hardship. While my dear companions and comrades have been killed on my right hand, and torn and maimed on my left – He – praise and love His holy name – has wonderfully spared me, and here I am, a living monument of His tender mercy.
Praise the Lord, O’ my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Monday 19 Sept 1864.
Very Hot to day – but I don’t care for the heat now. No more hot dusty marches for me. No more aggravating thirst. No.
No More hunger
No more exposure to the
No more away from Friends
and kindred associations
My apprenticeship is ended.
and I am going home.
Got some provinder at the Christian Commission tent, some pickles & crackers &c.
Procured a pass from the Provost Marshall & took the mail Boat and steaming down the James – am homeward bound.
Home Again for good
Tuesday 20 Sept. 1864
Hot again, but I don’t care.
After steaming all night we reached Washington at 9. A.M. got transportation & reached Home about Nine 3 O Clock on Wednesday a. m
From Capt. McKnights diary
Sept. 19 1864
Called up at 3 am – but didn’t march
Sep 20 
In camp all day
Sept 21 
Heavy cannading on the right
Sept 22 
Sept 23 
Skirmishing on the right – but regt. was quiet
[SOPO Editor’s Note: Here the diary ends abruptly.]
Other Diary Entries of John D Vautier, 88th Pennsylvania:
- DI: June 1864 John D. Vautier (88th PA) Diary Entries
- DI: July 1864 John D. Vautier (88th PA) Diary Entries
- DI: August 1864 John D. Vautier (88th PA) Diary Entries
- Vautier, John D. “Private John D. Vautier Diary.” Descendants of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Ed. Phyllis Weaver Bickley. Todd Leiss. Web. 30 Dec. 2015. <http://www.old88thpvi.com/the-eighty-eighth-documents.html>. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I was not aware of it prior to reading this diary entry, but it looks like some of Warren’s Fifth Corps infantry were rousted out in support of a short cavalry dash by one brigade of Gregg’s Second Cavalry Division. This small affair is called the Reconnaissance Beyond Yellow Tavern. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Soon after Warren’s Fifth Corps captured the Weldon Railroad, Grant set his men to fortifying the position. To the north of Globe Tavern, Fort Wadsworth soon began to take shape. To the south, Fort Dushane was also going up. I suspect that Vautier is referring to Fort Dushane when he discusses working on the “south fort,” but that is admittedly an educated guess. See this OR Atlas map of Union forts on September 13, 1864 for a visual representation of the area around Globe Tavern. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The United States Military Railroad was built from the main Union supply depot at City Point around the back of the Union lines, allowing food, ammunition, reinforcements and all manner of supplies to quickly and easily reach the front in any kind of weather. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Vautier is writing here about the “Reconnaissance toward Dinwiddie Court-House, and skirmish,” one of the few smaller actions I didn’t find the time to write about during the 150th Sesquicentennial of the Siege of Petersburg. I hope to have more on this fight in the future. Click this link to see everything I currently have posted. ↩
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