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John Peirce (1827-1904) Papers

John Peirce (1827-1904) Papers

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Open Finding Aid

JOHN PEIRCE (1827-1904) PAPERS, 1861-1865

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Peirce, John, 1827-1904
Title:John Peirce (1827-1904) Papers
Quantity:.25 Linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The John Peirce Papers consists of letters written by Peirce to his wife, Clarissa Williams (1888- ), and sons John and Clarence.
Collection Number:MSS 354

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The John Peirce Papers consists of letters written by Peirce to his wife, Clarissa Williams (1888- ), and sons John and Clarence. His letters describe camp life in various forts around Washington, DC, describe his duties as an ordnance handler (particularly artillery) and comment on the events of the day. His letters include descriptions of the regiment's living quarters, the daily routine, the number and contents of the meals provided to the soldiers, and the prices charged for local produce with which the soldiers sought to supplement their rations. Major locations where Peirce was stationed include: Forts Pickering and Lee, Salem, MA; Forts Snyder, Ricketts, Reno, Thayer, Saratoga, and Lincoln – all in the Washington, DC area.

Peirce's letters to Clarissa include news of current events in Washington, DC, victories in battle, the surrender of Lee, and the capture of Jefferson Davis. His letter written on April 15, 1865, after the assassination of President Lincoln, describes the alarms, the actions taken in the forts, and the feelings of the soldiers on hearing of Lincoln's death.

Letters to Peirce's sons describe sights which would interest young boys, such as the long trains bearing soldiers to the front, mule trains, cavalry on parade, military bands, as well as fishing, small game hunting, and collecting berries in the areas around the forts. Included in Folder 3 is a sketch of an officer, complete with sword, which John drew for his younger son, Clarence.

Folder 4 contains transcriptions of all of the letters done by Frances Malamy in 2005.

Biographical Sketch

John Peirce, a shoemaker, was born on August 4, 1827 in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Peirce enlisted in the Union Army on September 14, 1863, at the age of 36, serving first on the Massachusetts coast and then in Washington, DC. After being mustered out on September 18, 1865 with the rank of Private, Peirce returned to Beverly Farms and continued his trade as a shoemaker. He married Clarissa Williams on June 21, 1849, and the couple had three children: John L. (born 1851); Clarence (born 1857); and Clarissa Ada (born circa 1862-1863). He died on May 16, 1904 at the age of 77.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

United States. Army. Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment, 3rd (1863-1865)
United States. Army--Military life
United States. Army--Ordnance and ordnance stores
United States. Army--Pay, allowances, etc.
United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.--Civil War, 1861-1865
Operational rations (Military supplies)
Fort Lincoln (Washington, D.C.)
Fort Reno (Washington, D.C.)
Fort Rickets (Washington, D.C.)
Fort Saratoga (Washington, D.C.)
Fort Thayer (Washington, D.C.)
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental history


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

John Peirce (1827-1904) Papers, MSS 354, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was donated by Mrs. Albert Standley in May 1952.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frances Malamy, October 2002. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, September 2014.

Related Material

Massachusetts Adjutant General's Office, comp. Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War. Vol. V. Norwood, MA: The Norwood Press, 1932.

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