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:
Descendants of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment
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.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: John D. Vautier writes about being wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864 in the very first passage below. His diary entries take on a dual nature from June 4 through August 13, 1864. The top half of each entry is John’s own, discussing where he was and what he was doing during his convalescence. The bottom half consists of entries taken from Captain Charlie McKnight’s diary, and added later by John to flesh out the regiment’s experience while he was gone. I’ve taken the liberty of clearly separating each entry into its two constituent parts so readers better understand what is going on.]
Friday June 3 2
Clear and Pleasant.
The enemy has a cross fire on us so we have to built cross sections along our works. The musket balls fell most uncomfortably close to us also – and many were the narrow escapes among our men. A little further along our right many men were killed and wounded.
Nearly noon I undertook to get some good water to drink – as the water we had been drinking was stagnated and slimey.
So I took a half dozen Canteens and a little tin bucket and had just started out when – bang – and a shell struck & cut off the top of a big tree that I was passing under.
It bursted – and a piece struck me in the right hand, between my thumb and forefinger.
I run back into the trenches while the shells screamed and shrieked around in a fearful manner. Many were killed and more were wounded, but we held our work.
As soon as the firing was over I went back to the field hospital and from there I was sent to [Fifth] Corps hospital, where my hand was dressed. I consider God was most wonderfully [last line of page cut off]
As we were coming to the hospital, we passed occasionally very near the front – and it seemed to me that the patter of the rifle shots we but a few hundred yards from us. A great many troops were moving out – all going slowly Southward.
Saturday 4 June 
Cloudy & Rainy. Left [Fifth] Corps Hospital at 1 P.M. and started to walk to the White House. Passed through a low, but pretty well cultivated country, inhabited mostly by Indians, and their descendts who live in small but comfortable houses.
When we got at White House landing, we found several hundred Rebel prisoners there under guard, also a good many Union troops, with great quantities of Commissary stores of all kinds.
There is also many wounded men here who are being shipped away on the large Steamboats as fast as they arrive.
I got on board of the Utica, a large river Steamboat. There are 455 wounded men on board, the most of them hurt very badly, and not able to help themselves.
The boat pushed out in the stream and laid by till morning.
[Phyllis Weaver Bickley writes: “At this point it appears the Regimental updates were added later, sometimes squeezed in between or to the side of the lines of writing. Therefore am placing them at the end of each day’s entry, titled ‘Regt’.”]
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. The rebs shelled our pickets with the regiment
A miserable Sabbath
Sunday June 5.1864
Weather very hot – with showers of rain.
Started down the Pamunky [River] at 6 a.m. The river is about the narrowest – marshiest and crookedest piece of a water that I have seen yet. Before we reached the end of the days journey, one of the wounded men died, and the boat stopped at Yorktown and left his body off. Reached the mouth of the Potomac at dark and the boat lays to.4
We now find that there is nothing to eat on board the boat, and all the men are calling for food. The smell from the wounds of the soldiers is almost unbearable, and the poor fellows are suffering dreadfully. I wonder how the folks at home are spending their Sabbath?
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. The regt left works at 8 Oclock PM and marched all night
Monday June 6 1864
Very oppressive in the morning, but in the afternoon it rained.
Steamed up the Potomac and at Noon, Debarked at Alexandria and went to the Soldiers Rest Hospital. Eat a plain but a most welcome supper. Wrote 1 letter home.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. halted put up tents and rested all day
Tuesday June 7 
Clear and Pleasant
Had my hand dressed, and cleaned myself up generally, and I feel very nicely. In the afternoon members of the Christian Commission distribute books and papers to the men.
Wrote 2 letters
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. ready to move but didn’t march. Lively firing in front in PM
Bound for home
Wednesday June 8 
Weather clear and Pleasant.
Doing very well. Plenty of wounded men around. All the large buildings are occupied as hospitals. Wrote 1 letter
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Drum Corp beat reville. Laid out camp near Cold Harbor. Little firing in front, but are too far back to get hit.
Thursday 9 June 
Changeable with rain. My hand is very painful to day, but I am fortunate to what some of the poor fellows are. A lot of wounded fellows – fresh from the front arrived to day.
Oh the suffering & agony & misery it has taken & will still be required to preserve our Glorious Union.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. still in camp
Friday June 10 
A lot of wounded Soldiers were packed off in the morning, and I was lucky enough to be one of ‘em. Came to Washington & got on the train to come to Philadelphia.
I am at last going home! After an absence of 33 months I am on my journey home! I can scarcely realize the good news, but the heavy breathing of the Iron Horse as it starts out of the city of Magnificent mud – tells me it is no dream but “dot it ish sho.”
Well to make a long story short – after innumerable delays – we passed through Baltimore & reached the City of Brotherly Love at Eleven O Clock P.M.
Got off the train & went to a hospital that was built upon the N.E. Cor of Broad & Wash.Ave.5 Washed my face & slept very soundly the balance of the night.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Had dress parade in Eve.
Saturday [June] 11 
Clear. Wanted to go home, but the surgeon wouldnt allow me to do so –
Was send to Haddington Hospital & was not able to get a pass all day.
I wrote a letter, however telling the folks of my arrival.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Marched to near Meadow Bridge & camped
Home Sweet Home
Sunday June 12 1864.
Clear and warm. Finally got a pass in the evening & started for home.
Mother now lives at 1122 Peirce St. Got there at 8 OClock – but Mother wasn’t home.
Went into Mr Browns opposite & soon Mother come. Went down to Church in the evening & was glad to see all the people.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt put on picket. At 6 P.M. marched all night & crost the Chickahomony at Long Bridge.
Monday June 13. 
Clear. Went with Mr Menigo – down to Aunt Anns, Maags – Dillons, over Jersey. Long – Corbils, Fenners, & Shislers
Went to the Churchs fair in the evening but didn’t stay long – soon went home.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Marched 3 miles suppt. the Cav. formed line battle – had skirmish. Capt Rhoads killed – built works – marched at night
Tuesday [June] 14 
Clear and nice weather.
Went over to the hospital in the morning.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In cornfield all day
Wednesday [June] 15 
Sister Elizabeth come over in the afternoon & got me a pass & I come home.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In camp
Thursday June 16 1864
Went down to Uncle John Vautiers & Aunt Louisa Youngs & to Church in the evening.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Marched at daylight to James River – & crossed – on Str Jno. Brooks at Charles City Crossing – Took March at 2 P.M. & marched all night. Heavy firing in front, halted 3 am6
Friday [June] 17 
Went to the market in the A.M. & then to the Hospital.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Took posit. in line. & adv. supporting 2d Corps. Heavy firing – at Mid N. fell back out of range7
Saturday [June] 18 
Clear Got a pass in the morning & went home. Went to Carncross & Dixeys in the evening.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Formed line battle and advanced – troops an orchard – over the R. R. – again charged & took a hill within 150 yards of Reb works – again charged but line to right & left didn’t come up and repulsed – lay low under a hot fire. Our colors close up to their works. Entrenched – fired ab 300 shots to a man – lost 25 men8
Sunday [June] 19 
Clear & Warm.
Went to S.S. & Church in A.M. afternoon & evening. Spoke to the School in the morning. Down to Shetzlines for dinner.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Relieved in P.M. & lay in line behind R.R.
Monday 20 June 1864
Clear & Hot Went back to the Hospital in A.M.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In line battle behind [Norfolk and Petersburg] R.R. 9
Tuesday [June] 21st 
Weather warm & clear
Lib. Come over & got a pass – Come home & passed an evening at Corbits.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In line battle behind [the Norfolk and Petersburg] RR. Rebs attacked our picket line10
Wednesday [June] 22 
Clear Weather. Went to Capen – the phrenologist in 10th Ab. Chestnut and had my head examined to see what I was good for. Told me I was suited for the Commission Business. I don’t know wether I am or not, but I have an idea that Capen was trying to give me my moneys worth. Come away hugely delighted & very well satisfied with myself.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In the front – firing all day
Thursday [June] 23 
Hot & Sultry. Went to Sanitary Fair with Mother & to Church in evening
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. On picket firing all day
Friday June 24 1864
Very Hot. Went down to the Church in the morning and fixed Fathers grave.
Come home then and went over to the Hospital.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Marched to the left and are shelled heavily as we march. Halt on the Jerusalem Plant Road.
Saturday [June] 25 
Got a pass & with a comrade named Willey visited Fairmount Park & Independence Hall. Went to Fenners in the evening. Very Hot.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In the 3rd line all day – on picket at dark under fire
Sunday [June] 26 
Changeable with Rain
To Sunday School & Church
Down to Uncle Charles in the afternoon
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. On picket. Made a treaty with the Johnnie not to fire on one another.
Monday [June] 27 
Went down to Uncle Charles and got some cherries & then over to the Hospital.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Occasional firing. Relieved from picket at night
Tuesday 28 June 
In hospital all day. Clear & Warm
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. In line behind breastworks
Wednesday [June] 29 
Clear & Hot.
Went down to Uncle Charles in the morning after Cherries. Stopped at Uncle John Vautiers for dinner & then come back to the hospital
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Still behind the works
Thursday [June] 30 
Come over in the afternoon & went to Church in the evening. Wrote 1 letter. Weather Cloudy
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. On picket at night – within 50 yards of the 23rd North Carolina.11
Other Diary Entries of John D Vautier, 88th Pennsylvania:
- DI: July 1864 John D. Vautier (88th PA) Diary Entries
- DI: August 1864 John D. Vautier (88th PA) Diary Entries
- DI: September 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: Vautier is describing the famous doomed Federal assault at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. Luckily for him, he was only wounded rather than killed outright. Unfortunately for fans of the Siege of Petersburg, this wound put Vautier out of service for more than two months. He only arrived back at the front in early August 1864, just in time to participate in Grant’s Fourth Offensive, and the Battle of Globe Tavern. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: During the Battle of Cold Harbor, the main Union supply depot was White House Landing, on the Pamunkey River. Students of McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign may recall that McClellan “changed his base” from White House Landing to Harrison’s Landing on the James during the Seven Days in June-July 1862. When Grant crossed the James and threatened Petersburg, he did something very similar, only with City Point rather than Harrison’s Landing as his source of supplies on the James. All supplies were removed from White House Landing and the Richmond & York River Railroad headed in the direction of Richmond was destroyed for a considerable distance to prevent the Confederates from using it. As you will see in Vautier’s diary entry, White House was also where the wounded were taken in order to be evacuated from the war zone back to Washington, D. C. and Alexandria, VA. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Vautier was on his way to Alexandria, Viginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D. C. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Citizens Volunteer Hospital was located at the corner of Broad St. and Washington Ave. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Fifth Corps, including the 88th Pennsylvania, was finally arriving in front of Petersburg during the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 15018, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Day three of the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 17, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Day four of the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 18, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad came into Petersburg from the southeast. It featured prominently in the fighting during the Second Battle of Petersburg, and was used as a reference point by many soldiers who fought there. For more on this, see Dennis Rasbach’s book Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I’ve increasingly started to spend time identifying and cataloging these little fights outside of the main battles. However, in this instance, Vautier does not even mention this fight in his post-war regimental history History of the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War for the Union, 1861-1865. If you know of other sources which mention this skirmish, I’d love to hear from you. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 88th Pennsylvania may have been opposite a North Carolina regiment, but it was certainly not the “23rd.” The 23rd North Carolina was with Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley in this time frame. More research is needed to see which North Carolina regiments fit as possible candidates, but that’s a thread to pull some other time. ↩