Babcock, Willis A., Diary

Willis A. Babcock Diary, 1864 Ms.2009.129


Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

Kira A. Dietz

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech
Willis A. Babcock Diary,1864
0.1 Cubic Feet 1 folder
Babcock, Willis A., b. abt. 1840-?
The material in the collection is in English.
The collection consists of a Babcock's diary from 1864. Entries detail camp life throughout parts of Virginia, the siege at Petersburg, and his experiences with guard, orderly, and police duties. Babcock served with the 10 th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery.

Administrative Information

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Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: [identification of item], [box], [folder], Willis A. Babcock Diary, Ms2009-129, Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va.

Source of Acquisition

The Willis A. Babcock Diary was purchased by Special Collections in September 2009.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Willis A. Babcock Diary commenced and was completed in October 2009.

Biographical Note

Willis A. Babcock enlisted as a private with Company B of the 10 th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery on December 8, 1862 (he notes his 19-month anniversary in his diary on March 8, 1864). He was probably born around 1840 and was living in Adams, Jefferson County, New York, prior to the Civil War. During November and December of 1864, Babcock was on a furlough which was extended from its initial 12 days to an additional 18 days. He spent it at home in New York. The memorandum section of the diary notes extended furlough pay in December. He appears to have mustered out as a corporal, but it is unclear if this occurred with the regiment or prior to the end of the war. There is no information about his life after the war.

Historical Note

The various companies of the 10 th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery were formed during the fall and winter of 1862. By June of 1863 the entire regiment was stationed in Washington, D.C. The regiment remained there until May 1864, when it moved to Cold Harbor, Virginia. The unit fought at a number of significant battles in Virginia, including Cold Harbor, a portion of the Petersburg campaign, and Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley. In December 1864, the regiment moved again and was stationed at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia, until joining the Appomattox Campaign in March 1865, and the final battle at Petersburg in April. The 10 th Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery mustered out in June of 1865.

Scope and Contents

Babcock's Civil War diary begins near Washington, D.C., where his company had been since June 1863. While at Fort Carroll, his entries largely contain descriptions of his duties in camp (drills and guard, police, or orderly duties), as well as rare sight-seeing trips in the city. He occasionally mentions his meals, recording one day in March where he had roast turkey for dinner--several of his friends caught seven turkeys the previous day. Like many soldiers, Babcock frequently records the weather in his diary. In May of 1864, the artillery unit moved to Fort Willard, Virginia. For most of that month, Babcock's diary continues to record picket and guard duties, as well as inspections and dress parades. On May 27, the regiment marched to Washington and loaded on to boats headed down the Potomac River. He spent several days on board the U.S. Transport Jefferson before marching from Port Royal to Bowling Green, Virginia.

In early June, the regiment was encamped at General Burnside's Headquarters near Cold Harbor, Virginia. On June 5, 1864, Babcock writes they were being shelled, which resulting in the "killing [of] one man from Co. K....+ one from Co. M. was wounded. this is the first time we have been under fire." He records several days of shelling before moving toward Petersburg. For most of June, July, and into August, Babcock's diary includes lengthy entries of his experiences from the rifle pits in Petersburg, as well as camp life. On July 30, he writes "losses very heavy on both sides our men occupy the same ground they did this morning. a total failure on our side." By mid-August, the 10 th New York Heavy Artillery was camped at Fort Whipple, in Arlington, Virginia.

In early September, Babcock's entries find him increasingly ill and excused from duty. The regiment left for the Shenandaoh Valley in October and on October 8, Babcock writes, "slept in Hospital to night for the first time since I have been a soldier." He was transferred from Alexandria to Lincoln Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he remained until November. His entries for October are very brief. From November 6 to the end of the year, Babcock's diary is about his activities at home while on furlough.


The collection is arranged by material type.

Related Material

Special Collections houses original Civil War-related letters and diaries depicting Union and Confederate perspectives. Finding aids for many of these collections are available on the Virginia Heritage database. To view Virgina Tech's finding aids, set the "Limit by Institution" to "Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University." Short descriptions of additional collections can be found on the Special Collections Manuscript Guide .

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • Civil War
  • Petersburg (Va.) -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Diaries

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Willis A. Babcock Diary by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Container List

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