Picket duty during the Civil War is an area that interests me. I found this account of the macro view of picket duty during the Peninsula Campaign in an excerpt of Captain August Kautz’ diary found in Broadfoot Publishing’s Supplement to the Official Records. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a soldier’s account of the micro view out here in Washington with me.
“June 18. — Early this morning I was detailed to report at 9 o’clock, with my own and Captain Sander’s squadron. We were ordered to relieve Captain Magruder on picket at Haw’s. We reached Haw’s about noon and the afternoon was devoted to disposing our pickets. I visited all the points and made the connection with General Stoneman’s right. The position is a pleasant one. We get plenty of cherries, berries and vegetables from the inhabitants. I placed my reserve at Haw’s and placed my videttes on the only two roads there are to approach on. Six contrabands came in from Hanover Court-House. They report pickets there but no force.
“June 19. — I made a small map and sent a report showing how the videttes are posted to General Cooke this morning. In the afternoon I sent for some papers and the mail….” (Supplement to the Official Records, Volume 2, pages 125-126).