Albert J. Vining was born in Castalia, Erie County, Ohio in 1843. At the outbreak of the war, he enlisted as a private in Company E, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Dennison, Ohio on June 22, 1861. The regiment was assigned to General Shields’ division and fought Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson’s forces during the first Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1862. During the battle of Antietam, they fought Confederate general D.H. Hill’s Alabama troops at the “Bloody Lane,” suffering 50% casualties.
Following the battle, Albert was one of seven in his company to voluntarily transfer to the regular cavalry. He enlisted into Company C, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Knoxville, Maryland on October 24, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 4 ½” tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and a florid complexion. He served with his new regiment during the winter picketing of the Rappahannock, Stoneman’s Raid and the battle of Brandy Station without suffering any wounds.
During the battle of Fairfield on July 3, 1863, Private Vining was part of Lieutenant Tattnall Paulding’s squadron fighting dismounted on the regiment’s right flank. When the Union position was overrun, he was captured trying to reach his horse. He was a prisoner of war at Belle Isle until he was exchanged November 30, 1863. After a brief stay in Annapolis, Maryland, he returned to the regiment for duty at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the winter of 1863. He fought in the opening battles of the spring 1864 campaign before his enlistment expired on June 25, 1864, two weeks after the battle of Trevillian Station.
Albert was not out of uniform for long. He enlisted as a private in Company I, 128th Ohio Infantry on August 22, 1864. Service in this regiment was a bit quieter than he was accustomed to, principally guarding Confederate officer prisoners on Johnson’s Island, Ohio. He mustered out with his regiment at Camp Chase, Ohio on July 13, 1865.