From Jerome to Allie and Lulu, January 22, 1863

Dublin Core


From Jerome to Allie and Lulu, January 22, 1863


Peirce, Jerome
Falmouth VA.


From Jerome to Allie and Lulu


Jerome Peirce


Jerome Peirce Collection, National Park Service


HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington




NPS, Civil War Study Group, James Lloyd (Transcriber)


For educational purposes with no commercial use. Courtesy of National Park Service, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP, FRSP 16095-16102 (FRSP-00904).


5.47 X 3.14
4.81 X 8.04
9.80 X 8.05
4.81 X 8.04






Letter #62


Camp at Falmouth VA.

Text Item Type Metadata


Thurs eve 22d Jan. 1863
My dearest wife and daughter,
It’s past “Taps” (lights out) but Jos H and I felt like writing a letter to the folks at home and here let me say that I hope these letters will be shared in a certain degree at least by the whole family. I seldom write directly to any but you, but I know it will be so felt.
We have had a fierce storm of wind and rain for some 36 hours, still cloudy, but rained but little today. We escaped any serious wetting and what is far better, perhaps, a sight of not participating in another battle as we have been under marching orders for several days. Other divisions had broken camp and we were waked this morn. at two o’clk A. M. Had hot coffee and rations dealt out, but the weather has turned affairs and the troops have returned to camp. Jos. H. saw a soldier of the 10th Reg. today who said they had been out four days, had a rough time but thought this won’t finish the business for this winter and we should remain in camp now.
Another rumor is by tonight’s paper that the Army of the Potomac was to be divided, part sent to Washington and the rest to go to the So. West for active operations etc. etc. etc. All of which is mere camp soldier and paper talk. The Journal will tell as near correct as any and I was glad to welcome the three [issues] that came a day or two since with the yarn and many thanks for the same.
Well, your letter of the 18th came this eve., also the tea and stamps. Am glad the picture arrived safely and am glad you think it so natural and that Lulu knew it. It is one of the saddest thoughts that she may forget me or my looks so she might hesitate before coming to me. How your letter made me wish to embrace you both!
We are not down-hearted, indeed have been in excellent spirits of late but we love to think of home and want to see the fighting done. The other eve. at dress parade the colonel read an ‘order’ from General Burnside to the effect that “we were about to meet the enemy and under the Providence of God hoped to win the victory which was due to the country etc.” The colonel called for “three cheers for the general” and were given with a will. But a strange fatality seems to beset us seemingly and I know not what to do or think, feel sometimes like a “ship at sea without a rudder” but still feel that the ship is sound and will come out all right yet. This is precisely as I feel as nearly as I can express it.
Poor Ellen! Saw Lieut. Hodgkins who came from home via Washington a few days since. Said Alonzo was a sick man and would be prostrated for some time. Lieutenant H. has been ill and has just reached the Regt. and is acting adjutant in the absence of Alonzo. He too was a private in Co. B and promoted by the colonel and was to be Adjt. but sickness overtook him. He was a member of the U.S.A. [Army Regulars] and a fine, smart fellow and possibly we may have him in Co. H for Second Lieut.
Had a letter from Ed Haynes (I mentioned before) also one from Edward Peirce dated the 18th said they had heard that day from Alonzo “was no worse” which E. [Edward] thought was poor encouragement. I do hope he will be spared but I know a fever will go hard with him as he is very fleshy and nervous.
Did the Rev. Knapp you speak of ever preach in Brookline near Boston? I remember one by that name, used to be quite feeble, a good man and fair preacher if he is the one, quite tall.
J. H. had a letter from home. All well but Jos., a bout with cold and cough. Charley is going to dances with the girls! and Jos. H. is writing him some good advice. Fine times among the young people up there.
You see I have some stationery including some of the gilt edge that you sent, yet am abundantly supplied for the present.
Will close tomorrow as letters go at night. Have a good, warm fire, doesn’t storm, very still, so a kiss and good night!
Friday, near noon. Have written Abbie and Miss Waldo today. F. Crafts spent the P.M. in our tent a day or two ago. Not cleared off yet. They are playing euchre and checkers in the tents nearby. No news reliable. As ever your loving husband,
Jerome P
NOTE 1: "Taps" originates from the Dutch taptoe, meaning "close the (beer) taps (and send the troops back to camp)". An alternative explanation, however, is that it carried over from a term already in use before the American Civil War. Three single, slow drum beats were struck after the sounding of the Tattoo or "Extinguish Lights". This signal was known as the "Drum Taps", "The Taps", or simply as "Taps" in soldier's slang.

NOTE 2: The location from where the letter was written is not indicated. However, based on letters prior to and after this one and the history of the Army of the Potomac, it was written while the 36th Massachusetts Regiment was camped near Falmouth, Virginia, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia, in Stafford County.

NOTE 3: This letter was written as the infamous Mud March was coming to an end. The Mud March was an abortive offensive in January 1863 by Union Army Major General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside had been trying to approach the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, by crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, but had been soundly defeated. The so-called Mud March was his second attempt at a river crossing. The offensive began with a westward move on January 20, 1863, in unseasonably mild weather. Burnside, with a head start, altered his plan to aim at Banks' Ford, a closer, quicker crossing. At dawn of January 21, engineers would push five bridges across; after that, two grand divisions would be over the river in four hours. Meanwhile, another grand division would distract the Confederate troops by repeating the December crossing at Fredericksburg. During the night of the 20th, the rain began, and by the morning of the 21st, the earth was soaked and the river banks had the appearance of a quagmire. Already, fifteen pontoons were on the river, nearly spanning it, and five more were amply sufficient. Burnside began at once to bring up his artillery, which had the effect of making a perfect mortar bed. For a considerable area around the ford all day the men worked in the rain but to little purpose. Quite a number of cannon were advanced near the ford, but the 22nd only added to the storm, and the artillery, caissons and even wagons were swamped in the mud. The storm had delayed Burnside's movements, giving Lee ample time to line the other shore with his army, though there was no attempt to interfere with his crossing except from the sharpshooters, who peppered away on all occasions. No doubt Lee was hoping Burnside would effect a crossing; with a swollen river in his rear, it would have been a sorry predicament for the Union Army indeed, but Burnside finally became resigned to his fate and gave the order for the army to retire to its quarters, and thus ended the famous Mud March. The Mud March was Burnside's final attempt to command the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln replaced him with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker on January 26, 1863.

NOTE 4: The “Jos. H.” that Jerome referred to in this letter was almost certainly Joseph H. Peirce. He enlisted as a Private in Orange, Mass., on August 4, 1862, at age 18. Jerome also enlisted in Orange on the same date, but as a corporal. Jerome was 31 years old at the time. According to the Unit History, Joseph H. Peirce was taken Prisoner of War at Pegram Farm, Virginia, on September 30, 1864, and he was later exchanged. He was discharged on June 21, 1865. Joseph H. Peirce was a nephew of Jerome.

NOTE 5: Euchre, a game of cards, is an offshoot of Juckerspiel, a game that became widely popular throughout Europe during the Napoleonic era. In the 1800s, Euchre became one of the most popular card games in America and Australia.

Original Format





Jerome Peirce 1863, From Jerome to Allie and Lulu, January 22, 1863, HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington


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