Editor’s Note: Isaac Foskett of the United States Engineer Battalion kept a diary during the Siege of Petersburg. His brother’s direct descendant John Foskett was kind enough to provide images of the diary for transcription, and Dan O’Connell transcribed the diary for publication at The Siege of Petersburg Online. The transcriptions and images seen here are copyrighted by Dan O’Connell and John Foskett, respectively, and may not be reproduced without their express written consent. All rights reserved.
July 1: Hot and dry. Lay in camp. Firing on the right in evening that being the time that the principle part of the fighting is done.
July 2: Hot and dry. Lay in camp. The 6 Corps come back today. Firing through the night as usual up on the right. The sutlers are a getting plenty again. They having been away from the Army since we left Brandy Station.
July 3: Lay in camp. Dry a little sprinkling of rain.
July 4: Lay in camp. Cooler. Commenced a well.
July 5: Cool but dry. Worked on well. A party was detailed to build a brush stable for the animals.
July 6: Cool but dry. Had reveille at half past 2 a.m. Got our breakfast and went out on fatigue cutting timber for a redoubt. Got back to camp at dark. Had soft bread sent to us. Some firing.
July 7: Reveille at half past 4 a.m. went out on fatigue building redoubt. It is 400 feet square. It is on the Jerusalem road in front of the 5 Corps. Firing as usual.
July 8: Went out to work on the fort at 6 a.m. Three men wounded in and around the fort by a shell. Hot and dry. Pickets are getting on pretty good terms. They made an agreement sometime ago not to fire on each other. From the 9 Corps to the left the pickets exchange papers whenever they can get a chance without being seen and also coffee for tobacco.
July 9: Went out to work as usual. All quiet along the lines. Hot and dry.
July 10: Hot and dry. Went out on fatigue. Had some Negro troops to work on the fort. They were the best working men we have had. They were contrabands and free men from northern states. No firing but considerable moving among the troops. We are living pretty well now. We draw vegetables and soft bread and the Sanitary Commission gives us some lemons and pickles.
July 11: Very hot and sultry. Moved camp 4 or 5 miles to the right. The Co.’s went out to work as usual. Our Co. commenced a new work. Went out on guard again last night in consequence of the battalion getting into camp late.
July 12: Cooler. The battalion went out on fatigue building fortifications. On guard. Picket firing and some cannonading.
July 13: Went out on fatigue throwing up earthworks on our left flank extending to the rear. We got into camp the next morning about 9 o’clock. We had a lot of darkies to work. They were the best men to work that I have seen since I have been in the army.
July 14: Lay in camp. Cool and pleasant. Lay in camp. Two men were hanged for committing rape.
July 15: Cool but dry and dusty. Went out on fatigue on the fort .
July 16: Cool but dry and dusty. Went out on fatigue.
July 17: Cool, dusty and dry. Went out on fatigue. Considerable firing up on the right.
July 18: Cloudy but dry and dusty. Went out on fatigue at half past five as usual. Received a letter from Frances. Borrowed 75 cts of Esquair Burton.
July 19: Rainy. Lay in camp. Wrote to Frances. No party went out from our Co. Borrowed $1.00 of Wm. Donnell.
July 20: Pleasant. Lay in camp. Helped today a sink. A small party went out to work on the fort.
July 21: Pleasant. Lay in camp. Went on guard in evening . details went out to work in the trenches as usual.
July 22: Cool and pleasant on guard. Working parties as usual. Quite sharp firing in the afternoon.
July 23: Cool and pleasant. Went out to the front to work.
July 24: Pleasant in day time but commenced raining at night and rained all night. Worked in the forenoon building a brush fence in front of Officer’s quarters. Working parties went in morning and night as usual.
July 25: Pleasant. Went out to the front to work. This morning some shelling. Three men were wounded where I was at work.
July 26: Pleasant but warm. Went out on fatigue building a covered way for wagons to go to the front. One man wounded belonging to the working party. Considerable moving among the troops. They seem to be going to the left.
July 27: Pleasant in daytime but rained nearly all night. Went on fatigue at night and was gone all night.
July 28: Pleasant. Worked in the trenches all night. Heavy bombardment on both sides. A fire in Petersburg in the night. Had a letter from Frances.
July 29: Hot and pleasant. Lay in camp but detachments went out. Wrote to Frances.
July 30: Hot. Had revile at half past 2 a.m. Ate breakfast and marched out to Gen. Warren’s HdQrs. Battle commenced between the hours of four and five by blowing up a rebel fort then the heaviest cannonading commenced I ever heard. An assault was made under the fire of our artillery and the rebel’s works were carried in front of the 9th Corps. At noon our men held all they had captured but later in the evening there was a rumor that our troops fell back but I don’t believe it. There was no attack made along the 5 Corps. The firing had nearly all ceased by noon and it was more quiet through the night than usual. We came in to camp at noon.
July 31: Hot and sultry. Went out to the picket line of the 9 Corps. They had all fell back into their old works. The lines being the same as they were before the assault. I met a flag of truce going out to see if they could not bury the dead. It was not accepted. The results the rebels minus one and we a lot of men.1
- Isaac Foskett Diary. Personal Collection of John Foskett. Used with permission. All rights reserved. ↩