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2 Letters, Battle of Fredericksburg – Colonel John F. Pierson, 1st New York Infantry – “The groans & cries of the wounded resounded on the air… for two days and two nights did several hundred wounded men lie upon the ground exposed to cold and calling for a little water for the love of God” – “One round shot struck a man near me, and tearing him into two parts, sent half whirling in different directions.”
John Pierson enlisted as a Captain on May 27th, 1861 and quickly was promoted Major on July 20th. By the time of Fredericksburg, he had become Colonel of the 1st New York Infantry. We are offering 2 letters from Pierson and have grouped them together as they tell quite a story. The first is dated December 10th, 1862 “Camp near Falmouth, Va.” and the second after the battle on December 20th. Another reason we have grouped them together is that in the first letter it is signed, “J. Fred. Pierson” and on the second he just signs it “Fred”. Both letters are written to his father. Together, they make a great Fredericksburg battle account.


Here is the great content:

• “December 10, 1862 – I have just come from the General's Quarters where a meeting of the Colonels of Regmts. was held. We move at last. The ball opens tonight and the morning sun will probably be saluted by five hundred noisy cannon.”

• “We cross the river before Fredericksburg. The Army will take three Platoon Bridges. Sumner's Division moves first. Our Division next.”

• “My Regiment leads the Brigade, and my Brigade leads the Grand Division. God will that we be successful, but the odds are fearfully against us.”

• “The River is about 400 yards wide & rapid, and to cross such a stream in the face of the enemy, and where every hill is crowned with batteries, and probably every house in the city loop-holed will be a fearful undertaking.”

• “I would prefer storming a battery on land, but as it is, I see but my duty before me, and if I live, I hope to be the first man of Hooker's Division to step upon the opposite shore.”

• “…that God may give me wisdom to direct & lead the brave men that obey my voice tomorrow is, I know, your prayer as well as that of your affectionate son, J. Fred. Pierson”

• “December 20th, 1862 – I have really been so much occupied with active duties to collect my thoughts upon so small a surface as a sheet of paper, even though a fool's cap; tonight (for it is 8:00 as the deep taps upon the drone outside so familiarly indicate) I feel for the first time settled.”

• “I wish you might see me now, as I sit with the portfolio upon my knees and the edge of my bed, my feet resting upon a foot stool in the shape of half a big log, and a glorious fire cracking and quarreling in a tremendously huge fireplace.”

• “Yesterday's morning sun found me with sleeves rolled up, fast placing turf on turf, as two sons of Ebony handed it to me in the shape of a fireplace. This morning's sun found me still at work and my labors were completed with its going down to night. By cutting my tent and fastening it around the opening of the oven merely the fire takes up no room and yet is the most valuable thing in my tent.”

• “If Charley (Pierson’s young brother who was planning to work with the regimental Sutler) comes now, I can make him as comfortable as anyone could wish, but from his long delay, I fear he won't come. Lt. Hagadorn wrote me from Washington that he had procured a pass for Charley as Sutler's Clerk, and that Charley had promised to meet him at 9:00 a.m. last Tuesday to come out but that he failed to keep his engagement and so lost the opportunity. I suppose Charley was afraid of being gobbled on his way through Dumfries.”

• “December 22nd 1862 – Some officers coming in last Saturday evening caused me to lay aside this letter, and just now I got a letter from Charley dated from New York the 18th. So he gave it up. Well! I regret it, for I sent to him at Willard's a pass approved by our Generals to come on, and one that I think would have proved to be the "open sesame". I also directed some things purchased in Washington to celebrate his arrival, and had erected quite an edifice here to "push on the Jubilee" in. The sutler John, that Charley says in his letter, he understands was gobbled, arrived last night, about used up in person but with his goods all right. It is as well Charley did not come with him, for they had many frights, alarms, and adventures. The Rebels, it appears, were one day in advance of poor John, for they had robbed five sutlers at Dumfries the day before he got into that place. John reported that he could track the proper (or improper) route to our Army from the Capitol by the remains of wagons, etc., destroyed after being captured and robbed by the Rebs.”

• “I have not yet said anything about the fight at Fredericksburg, nor do I feel like indulging in the topic. It was a miserably wicked, shameful affair or disaster, and condemns someone. I don't know who. Burnside, if he moved uncounseled, the Administration, if they ordered him to do so.”

• “It was a grand and noble sight & sound... My Regiment was the fourth in column of the Brigade when we crossed the River, and then moved by the right flank along its bank from Fredericksburg City.”

• “All the while we were on the other side, namely from the morning of the 12th to the night of the 15th, the Regiment lay in an open field, upon their faces within very short rifle shot of the enemy's works & troops, and not able to build a fire or speak a loud word.”

• “The night of the 13th and all day on the 14th, the Regiment was on picket viz lying behind some grass, flat upon the ground, within thirty yards of the enemy's skirmishers & sharpshooters and partly on the battle field of the 13th.”

• “All night and all day the groans & cries of the wounded resounded on the air. Neither side could get to them as to move the picket line five feet would bring on an engagement.”

• “So for two days and two nights did several hundred wounded men lie upon the ground exposed to cold and calling for a little water for the love of God.”

• “At last the fourth Flag of Truce was recognized, and a Battalion of Stretcher carriers moved between our lines to pick up the wounded and dead. I counted some fifty dead bodies and many other wounded. As they lay stretched upon the ground within two hundred yards of us, and for all this time did they remain there.”

• “One round shot struck a man near me, and tearing him into two parts, sent half whirling in different directions. The same shot killed two others.”

• “One poor devil belonging or that did belong to the Bucktails called to me as I was stepping over his body, and said "Ah, Colonel dear! Please have me sent in. I am bleeding to death." I stooped down and found his words were true but spoken too late. A shell had mangled his right leg off, and the vital fluid was about spent. I took a knapsack strap from one of my men and fastened it about the stump, and then with a bayonet made a tourniquet and sent him to the rear. He died a little after but thanking me still.”

• “I will not enlarge upon such details, to me they are now nothing, or as the Turks say Bosh; but I know to you they will appear horrible. As we lay on picket, an aid said Berry wished to see me and about 7:30 p.m. I went to report. Berry directed me to withdraw the Regiments as soon as possible, and without a whisper to march away.”

• “Silently and anxiously we marched from our perilous or rather dangerous position and recrossed the river. Things are now in status quo, and I am in the tent and on the ground I occupied before the grand movements. I regret I said anything about carbuncles, for it appears to have caused you some uneasiness, but you need not feel so, for since the one I wrote about, I have had two more and weathered both. Also three carbuncle boils, one of them opening in four places; but now, am better of all six troubles. I have got a pretty good boil on my side, yet I am glad to say, for I have had them so long I would not know what to do without them. You need not feel uneasy. I don't mind them a bit, and the Doctor says if it were otherwise, I should be sick.”

• “Give my love to all and tell Helen her kind letter was received and is noted. Also, say so to Charley. Have you had more trouble about my accounts? With Love Yours Affectionately, Fred”


Pierson is an excellent writer and many of his lines are worthy of use in publications.

#L729NY - Price $1,850























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