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.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: John D. Vautier was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. 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.]
A tremendous hail storm
Friday [July] the First 
Very heavy hail storm in the afternoon at the hospital. Some of the hail stones were as large as shell barks & some even as large as small walnuts. A great deal of damage was done to the fruit trees & glass generally. The storm didn’t reach the neck.
In the evening I come over home & went to Carncross & Dixeys.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Built works on the right of the Jerusalem P[lank]. Rd. Sun hot all day – work all night on the works
Saturday [July] 2d 
Changeable weather with Rain
At home nearly all day rambling around the Neck. Wrote 1 letter.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Heavy Art. firing on the right – all quiet on the front
Sunday 3d July 1864
Attended Church & Sunday School all day. Went to the Anniversary of the Lutheran Sunday School – with our own school in the afternoon.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. all quiet
Monday 4th July 
The Glorious 4th was clear & Pleasant
Went down to Uncle John Vautiers for dinner. The people are not celebrating the 4th as they should. The Army & its operations are too much on their thoughts.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Sanitary Com[mission]. issue Potatoe – onion Pickles Sauerkraut Canned Turkey – chicken – & Beef. Music all day – Color flying
Tuesday [July] 5th 
Clear & Warm
Came over to the [Citizens Volunteer] hospital in the morning & found that the hospital had been mustered – and I not being there the Doctor Commanding had marked me a deserter.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. But little firing
Wednesday [July] 6th 
Hot & Clear
Lib – Miss Wayne – Miss Hoffman – & Miss Dickhart come over to the hospital in the morning – but couldn’t get me a pass Wrote 3 letters
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. All quiet.
Thursday [July] 7 
Changeable with Rain.
Notified that I will be sent to the army again in the morning.
Went down & bid everybody good bye.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Lively firing – 5 or 6 men wounded – moved to the right of the brigade.
Friday 8 July 
Cloudy Run the guard & got in the hospital before breakfast.
I had to do this as I had no pass
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Heavy shelling.
[Sketch: Rebel Battle Flag]
Good Bye Again
Saturday July 9. 1864
Left the hospital at 8 OClock & come to the Carriage Factory Hospital & Barracks S.E. 5 & Buttonwood.
There we were put up in the 3d Story. In another room on the same floor was confined a lot of bounty jumppers, and a fearful crowd they were.
Such swearing & growling & fighting would reflect upon the inmates of the Penetentary. Whenever a new comer was brought in – the whole pack would pounce on him & the guard had to interfere to preserve some kind of order.
Went to the Depot at 6 O Clock & took the train for Washington.
Passed through Baltimore.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. All quiet – sun hot
Sunday 10 July 
Clear & Hot
Just as we were coming in Washington our train ran into another train – but outside of a little concussion – there wasn’t much damage done.
Marched through Washington & went over the Potomac into the Convalescent Camp.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Heavy picket firing in regiment
Monday 11 July. 
It is very Hot to day
The raid on Washington Fall in.
This morning we were all roused up & ordered to fall in & draw guns &c.
The enemy are reported as making a rapid march or raid on Washington – through Maryland. All the Convalescent Soldiers in camp – to the number of probably One Thousand – were got in line & we took up our march for the City. We passed over the Acqueduct Bridge & went to Tennalytown & took position behind the breastworks.
On the march it was very hot & 8 or 10 of the men fell on the road sun struck. I felt the heat a good deal – but it didn’t hurt me any.
There is a great scare here among the Authorities, about the attempt the enemy are apparently marking to take our Capitol. Big clouds of dust are rising over in the direction the Confederates are said to be.
Secy Seward – a little withered up – gray headed man – came out & looked around among the men.
About Eleven O Clock this night there was a fresh scare & we were roused up & changed our position in the breast works – which are already built & extend from Fort to Fort.2
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Sun awful not in regiment
Tuesday 12 July 
Hot and changeable with showers.
Are making changes in our positions all day. First we go to one place & then another.
In the morning there was some skirmishing about a mile out in the front & our pickets were driven in. I saw some very pretty artillery practice during the day.
A number of Confeds had taken up a position behind a Hay Stack about a mile out & were annoying our pickets. Fort DeRussey was accordingly ordered to open on them with their big guns.
The first shot that was fired – exploded away up high above the stack.
The second shot exploded – probably 100 feet above the stack.
The third shot struck right by the stack, and the enemy without any further warning – got up & dusted.3
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Up at 2 am. Our Brig. went to rear – & regts took its place deploying along the breast works – to make a display
Big Guns & Wooly Heads
Wednesday [July] 13th 
Very hot & Sultry. There are some negro troops laying in the works near us & it is as good as a circus to go see them. They call one another all the “Cat fish mouths” “Wooly Heads” “Niggers Heels” & all sorts of names.
I don’t think they would amount to much in a fight.4
I went over among the stumps in front of the works after berrys.
Changed position again at 11 P.M.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. On picket under shells
Thursday July 14 1864
Not so Hot as yesterday.
Laid in the trenches all day.
Went out & got some more berrys in the afternoon
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. On picket under lively shelling
Friday [July] 15. 
Clear and Hot
Our detachment made a recconoisance in our front in the morning – but finding nothing we returned to the works in the evening Wrote 2 letters.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Rejoin brig. form regular Camp – building Ft. Crawford.
Saturday [July] 16 
Very Hot Sun – but good breeze is blowing. Marched over to Fort Simmons a couple of mile from DeRussey.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Built breast w. in left of fort [Crawford?].
Capturing a Milk House
Sunday 17 July 
Hot & Dry.
Went out on picket 3 or 4 mile front of Timmons. There was a nice spring House near our picket post. We got talking to the milk woman – & she said she didn’t mind the soldiers taking the milk – but didn’t want them to break the jars.
About midnight myself & a comrade got very dry (milk thirsty, like) & concluded we would make an assault on the milk house. We accordingly captured the milk house & while one went in & passed out the pans (earthen) of rich milk – the other stood guard.
We took all the milk we could carry – about a gallon in & outside of us – placed the jars very carefully in the spring house again & come back to the tent. Wrote 3 letters
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Working on the breast works
Monday 18 July 1864
Hot & Dusty
Feasted on black berries & milk.
Retd from picket in the afternoon & marched back to Washington & put up at the Barracks (Cliffburne)
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Built another line on the right of the fort [Fort Crawford]
Tuesday [July] 19. 
Very Hot & Sultry
Lay around the Barracks all day Wrote 4 letters
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Finished the works.
Wednesday [July] 20 
Warm – but had a sprinkling of rain. Took up our quarters in A. Tents and turned in our guns Wrote 3 letters
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Put an abattes in front of works
Thursday [July] 21 
Very Hot Was examined by a board of Surgeons to see wether I am fit to go back to active services. I told them they were not examining me as I was all right for duty and wished to be sent to my Regt.
In the evening had a grand dress parade at which there was several thousand men – convalescents from various Regts
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Working on abattes
Friday July 22. 64
Very Hot & Sultry
Had nothing else to do so I went blackberring. Wrote 2 letters when I came back
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Moved camp Maj[or] [Henry J.] S[cheafer] of 107 Pa in Command of Regt
Saturday [July] 23 
Hot & Dusty
Dreadful tiresome laying around here doing nothing Wrote 1 letter
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Fixed camp.
Sunday [July] 24 
Cloudy but warm Several thousand of us left the barracks this am and marching through Washington, crossed the Potomac at the Long Bridge & went to Camp Distribution. Went to Church in Eve.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Orders to get in works anticipated assault
Monday 25 July 1864
Heavy Rain to day
Herron, Dewey, Charles & Rogers – some of Co Cs men of my Regt – came to the camp to day from Phila Wrote 1 letter
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Heavy skirmishing in front all day. Cold rain & wind which demolished many tents.
Tuesday [July] 26 
Cleared up Hot.
Nothing particular stirring. Drew a p[ai]r shoes and p[ai]r sock from Q[uarter]. Master.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Have dress parade but no rations
Wednesday [July] 27 
Clear and Pleasant.
Drew Spring field rifles & wrote a letter to Mary & Abe.
Removed to Barrack No 11.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Drew rations Bread potatoes & onions.
Thursday [July] 28 
Wrote 2 letters one to Oliver – and one to Aunt Louise.
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. All quiet
Friday 29 July 1864
Very Hot and sultry
Had general inspection to day.
Washed my shirts & cleaned up generally. Had dress parade in evening
Attended Church in the evening. Wrote a letter to Charlie
[88th Pennsylvania] Regt. Quiet – only one shell fell in our camp.
Saturday [July] 30th 
Washed the Barracks out.
Had another Dress parade toward evening Went to church Wrote 1 letter
Sunday [July] 31 
Hot & Sultry
All the Convalescents whose Regts are in the 6th & 19th Corps – were sent away this A.M., but for some cause or other they didnt get off & came back again. Dress parades & Inspections. Went to church Morning afternoon6 [last line of page cut off]
[88th Pennsylvania] Regiment: Up again 2 am exp. an attack. moved out to the picket line at 5 am & Brig. on picket
Other Diary Entries of John D Vautier, 88th Pennsylvania:
- DI: June 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 had the misfortune to be heading into Washington just as Jubal Early’s Valley Army was approaching the city from the north. In their desperation, the Federal authorities rounded up almost any man who could carry a gun and put them into the forts surrounding Washington. The resulting Battle of Fort Stevens, fought July 11-12, 1864, quickly showed that Early was no match for the formidable Washington fortifications. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The action on this day ended the Battle of Fort Stevens, as Early withdrew that night towards Montgomery County, Maryland. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Vautier obviously didn’t think much of the USCTs in Ferraro’s Fourth Division, Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac. These same men would see their first major combat at the Crater in just over two weeks. One wonders what Vautier thought afterwards. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This diary entry describes the Fifth Corps’ view of the Battle of the Crater. ↩
- The Sixth Corps and the Nineteenth Corps participated in Sheridan’s Valley Campaign that fall. ↩