1862: John Frederick Pierson to J. T. Pierson

Fred Pierson before the Civil War

This letter was written by John Frederick (“Fred”) Pierson (1839-1932), the son of a New York steel merchant. Fred joined the New York National Guard in 1857 (7th New York Regiment, Co. “K”), but once the Civil War broke out, he was attached to the 1st New York Infantry, Co. “H,” as a lieutenant. He quickly climbed up the ranks, becoming a Captain in May 1861, Major in July 1861, Lieut. Colonel in September 1861, Colonel in October 1862, and breveted a Brigadier General in March 13, 1865 (as part of the general brevet promotion that occurred that day).

Fred was wounded twice and captured twice. His first wound was in the Battle of Glendale and his second wound — more serious — was at the Battle of Chancellorsville where he was shot through the chest or shoulder. When the 1st New York mustered out in June 1863, Pierson joined the New York 37th on his recovery. He was captured at Bristoe Station, Virginia, on Oct. 14, 1863, and taken as a prisoner of war to Libby Prison in Richmond until exchanged. The first time he was captured was during the Seven Days Battles before Richmond but he was exchanged after only two months.

This letter was written just after Fred was promoted to Colonel of the 1st New York Infantry.


Headquarters 1st Regiment New York Volunteers
Camp near Edward’s Ferry, Maryland
October 13, 1862

Dear Father,

We arrived here this A.M. after 36 miles march. We guard the Ferry at present but after Stewart from his raid on Chambersburg has reached Virginia soil all safe. I am writing upon the ground with a stretcher for my desk. [Garrett] Dyckman ¹ sits in the mouth of his tent adjoining mine, gazing into the fire. I wonder if the flames auger well to him. I shall hear soon the result of the Court of Inquiry.

I left below in such a haste that I could not get my horse to Henry. He will have to buy one now, I fear, at Baltimore or Washington, and I keep both of mine for I like each of them very much.

I enclose two letters I received at Willard’s [Hotel] the day I left and as an expression of feeling or sentiment, both are very gratifying to my natural pride. I also send my commissions & other papers all of which please put in my room.  The Rebels have  taken so much from me that I now dare keep but little, nor expect to keep that little long.

Give my love to all at home. Yours, — Fred

Your letter of the 11th just received. I will carefully conform my line of conduct to its precepts. I am not aware of any servants of mine — a free man — having been sold into slavery for I never owned a free nigger other than William of Bristow fame and I left him in Washington. My health is pretty good and is improving. Nothing new in my political affairs. Yours, — Fred

¹ Garrett W. Dyckman (18xx-1868) began his military career in the Mexican War and was severely wounded at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. He was promoted from Lt. Colonel to Colonel of the 1st New York Infantry on 10 September 1861 but he resigned his commission from the regiment a month later.


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