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.
Aug 1: Lay in camp but partys went out in the night. Hot and sultry.
Aug 2: Hot with a little shower in evening went out on fatigue in evening. We sank a shaft to find a mine that was being run under what is called the 18 gun battery. There was a fire in Petersburg late in the night we could hear the fire bells ring quite plain. Just before daylight the pickets opened fire our men did not return it. They were probably firing at a man that was trying to desert.
Aug 3: Very hot. Lay in camp. Went on guard. The flies are very thick, so thick that it is almost impossible to sleep in the day time.
Aug 4: On guard. Hot and sultry. Day and night parties went out on fatigue as usual.
Aug 5: Very hot and sultry. Went out on fatigue at five in morning and worked hard all day. Building a redoubt. Heavy cannonading up on the right late in the afternoon. Got in to camp at tattoo.
Aug 6: Hot and dry. Worked policing camp in the forenoon. Details went out on fatigue.
Aug 7: Hot and dry. Went out on fatigue in front of the 9 corps. One negro was wounded in the fort. Saw several of the boys belonging to the 36th Mass. There was quite an artillery duel. Received a letter from Frances.
Aug 8: Hot and dry. Wrote to Frances. Went out on fatigue in evening.
Aug 9: Lay in camp but parties went out as usual. Hot and sultry.
Aug 10: Cooler. Lay in camp. A small detail went out to the trenches.
Aug 11: Warmer. Lay in camp. No details went out today.
Aug 12: Hot, but a good breeze. Lay in camp but B Co. went out in evening the 2 corps broke camp this afternoon.
Aug 13: Hot. Remodeled our camp. A detachment went out from C Co. in evening on fatigue. Heavy firing in the direction of Bermuda Hundred.
Aug 14: Hot and pleasant with a thunderstorm in evening. Had orders to pack up and get ready to march. Wrote Melorah Hale.
Aug 15: Hot and sultry. Had a heavy shower in afternoon lay in camp. Wrote to Nancy Priest.
Aug 16: Hot but pleasant. A detachment of 20 men went out to the trenches on fatigue from D Co. last night. Went on guard in evening.
Aug 17: Hot and sultry. Had a shower in evening was on guard . Considerable moving among the troops. The 5 Corps left here today and last night.
Aug 18: Hot and sultry. Had shower in afternoon. Very heavy cannonading in the afternoon on the left. A and B Co.’s went out to the trenches. C and D Co.’s went out in evening. Kelly of A Co. got wounded so that amputation was necessary.
Aug 19: Showery. Working parties went out. Heavy firing on the left. 5 Corps having attacked them on the left. Went out to the trenches but did nothing. Got back to camp after getting pretty thoroughly wet.
Aug 20: Showery. Got up at half past three and ate breakfast and went out to the trenches at four. Got back to camp at about 8 p.m. Very quiet along the lines . The sharpshooters fired at us some but they shot very wild off the mark. Received a letter from Frances.
Aug 21: Pleasant. Party went out to the trenches. Heavy firing on the left. Wrote to Frances.
Aug 22: Pleasant but had a heavy shower late in the afternoon. Went out to the trenches at 4 in morning. Sinking a shaft in one of our works as it is thought that the enemy are undermining it. Got back at camp a little while after dark. All wet from the rain. Not much firing.
Aug 24: Lay in camp. Pleasant. Working parties as usual. Borrowed of D. Taylor 20 cts.
Aug 25: Went out on fatigue at 4 a.m. Were called in in the afternoon and fell in under arms and went out into the trenches. All troops having gone to the left except a few. The Engrs and the HdQr guard were taken out to the trenches. There was a heavy fight going on down on the left if the heavy firing was anything to judge from and that I think was the reason that all the infantry was all sent to the left. We went away in such a hurry that we did not take any with us to eat or to lay under. Not even a rubber blanket. We did not get in until morning. It rained a very little early in the evening but otherwise we had quite a comfortable nights rest under the circumstances. We had some rations sent down to us a little while after dark.
Aug 26: Warm and pleasant. Lay in camp. Went on guard in evening. A and B Co.’s went down on to the left to build some works.
Aug 27: Cool and pleasant. Had a shower during the night. Was on guard. The Co. went out on fatigue at revilee.
Aug 28: Cool and pleasant. The Co. went out to the front on fatigue at revile. Sharp picket firing just at the break of day.
Aug 29: Lay in camp. A detail was sent out to the front on fatigue. Cool and pleasant with a little shower in evening.
Aug 30: Cool and pleasant. Went out on fatigue at revilee. Some cannonading on our side. The enemy did not reply with any of his artillery but he fired a few mortars.
Aug 31: Lay in camp. Cool and pleasant.1
- Isaac Foskett Diary. Personal Collection of John Foskett. Used with permission. All rights reserved. ↩