From S.A. Waldo to Jerome, February 16, 1863

Dublin Core


From S.A. Waldo to Jerome, February 16, 1863


Peirce, Jerome
Waldo, S.A.


From S.A. Waldo to Jerome Peirce


S.A. Waldo


Jerome Peirce Collection, National Park Service


HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington




NPS, Civil War Study Group, Tom Neubig (Transcriber)


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


6.25 X 3.25
6.25 X 9
11.25 X 9
6.25 X 9






Letter #74


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Feb. 16, 1863
Friend Jerome,
Mr. Murray mentioned tonight that there was an opportunity of sending to you, and as I have been wanting to write again, I hasten to improve it.
I was much obliged for your kind letter, and wish I could hope to write something that might interest you.
I was delighted to learn by one of your letters that your valued friend “Will Shakespeare” had at last reached you and you could part heart and mind with his imitable portrayal of character.
Had all our soldiers as good resources in pursuing intellectual and moral culture as yourself, there would be much less to dread from the influences of camp life and our men would return to their homes and friends, nobler, better from their hard experiences of the past two years.
But it must be very hard for you to bear up against the many difficulties and hardships of a soldier’s life. Were there but as much true patriotism among our politicians as among our brave soldiers, I should look for a much speedier peace. As it is, they will doubtless drag on longer than they need.
But let politicians take what course they may, there is a power behind them I believe to which they must yield. Whether they will is now proving to them and to us all that there is a “Providence that shapes our ways, roughhew them as we will.” God is teaching us lessons we have long slighted in a way not to be resisted. I can scarcely conceive of a greater change of feeling in the public mind and have since the war has begun and I trust and believe the good work will go on till we are ready to bear the “Ark of Liberty” God has entrusted to us. Onward till every human being through the length and breadth of our land may be free.
The outrageous course of the opposition at the North after slavery has shown so plainly the clever fool is past my comprehension and shows that we must yet suffer from humiliation and punishment as we are brought to our true positions and our duty.
Me thinks [I think] you soldiers who have been made to bear the brunt of all our troubles, will see and realize the evils of slavery as Ben Butler claims that he has done.
Again a change in the leader of the Army of the Potomac and we wait to see what Gen[eral] Hooker will accomplish. While frequent changes I should think would hinder the progress of victory for us, but still we hope, wait and thirst for the “good time coming.”
I have been greatly disappointed at Gen. McClellan’s course, making himself as many say, the tool of the politicians in coming North and East to be feted and caressed just at this time while our affairs are still so far from prosperous. Me thinks Gen. Burn[side] proves himself the more modest and meritorious of the two. Even Gen. Butler seems to be better posted as to the right means of retaining the best feelings of the public on his side.
I cannot understand why Gen. Burnside found so many things to interfere with his plans for I believe he is a true and noble man. When I feel almost discouraged, I strengthen myself with the thought that we are all in His hands who doeth all things well and who doth not willingly afflict any.
I have just returned from Teacher’s Meeting at Mrs. Lonings. Dr. Ellis and his wife are away. They left last week for N[ew] Y[ork], Washington and Baltimore I believe, and Rev. Mr. Everett led in our discussion on the benefits etc. of S S [Sunday School] concerts of which we have recently had one in Boylston Chapel under the care of our good superintendent Mr. Studly. He is a young man of great earnestness in the S[unday] School cause and whom you would like much.
His health is delicate, as he has been suffering some two years or more with his throat.
Mrs. J. Ellis (Lucy Mills) was there this eve. She and her husband are spending four days with him and I think you know somewhat our good friend Mr. Everett. Mr. E seems very much better than I had supposed he would be thru the winter.
You would find many changes in our School and among our teachers though enough remain who would rejoice to welcome you to make you feel at home.
Sometimes I feel very very hopeful that if spared to come back you will return to C[hurch]. Your old friend Charles Smith is still with us as librarian tho I think the duty is rather irksome to him. His wife, who is a pleasing lady tho I know her but slightly, has recently taken a class at the S[unday] School.
I suppose letter [from] J. keeps you informed of the items of interest in connection with our S[unday] School. One of our greatest acquisitions there is Mr. Tranberg who I believe you reckon among your friends. He has a fine class of seven or eight young lads from I think 16 to 20 and you I know would be pleased to see how closely he keeps them interested. He occasionally gives a smart instructive lesson to the whole school, when we teachers feel we gained as much as our pupils.
We have felt all our hearts saddened by the word from young A. [Alonzo] Ranlett but I cannot help hoping his friends’ fates may not be realized, but that Nellie [Ellen] Peirce’s presence may help to win him back to life and health. How many of our true and noble hearted young men have laid their lives on the Altar of Liberty and Country. God grants the costly sacrifice be sent in vain that ere long this fearful course of slavery may “give up the ghost” and vanish from our land.
I sometimes doubt whether we are yet prepared to bear patiently with the poor blacks in their training when paid for we can not expect they will step above into a true grand manhood and yet if they make any missteps on the way how many will have all hope and faith in their being able to enjoy and improve liberty.
‘tis late and I must say good night. Sisters join me in kindest regards and good wishes for you and all our brave defenders. Heaven guard and keep us all.
Tuesday morn. I felt that I would like to send some little token of goodwill but just now seem rather deficient and supposing however that paper envelopes are always useful, I add four and hope this writing will keep off a little cold.
I thought you might enjoy reading the incl[osed] monthly Journal.
When you have sufficient leisure I will be glad to hear from you tho I do not wish you to feel obliged to answer at once.
My time for school when with forty pupils I find enough to keep me very busy.
Your friend, S. A. Waldo
My regards to your wife when you write.

NOTE 1: According to Regimental History, on February 16, 1863, the 36th Regiment was camped in Newport News, Virginia, for six weeks.

NOTE 2: The phrase “ark of the liberties” comes from Herman Melville, who offered a grand vision of America’s global destiny while deploring the chauvinism that framed America’s expansionist war against Mexico in 1846.

NOTE 3: The quotation near the top of the second page is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will."

NOTE 4: S. Alonzo Ranlett was the adjutant and was ill from January 19, 1863, according to the Regimental History, p. 47. Ranlett was from Charlestown, MA. Alonzo Ranlett, whose full name was Seth Alonzo Ranlett, married Ellen Peirce on January 21, 1864. Ellen Peirce was one of the daughters of Joseph Peirce, who was a brother of Jerome. Therefore, Ellen was one of the nieces of Jerome.

NOTE 5: Brigadier General Joseph Hooker was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac by President Lincoln on January 26, 1863. He replaced General Burnside after the Union defeat at Fredericksburg and the failed Mud March on January 20-23.

NOTE 6: Ben Butler was a Massachusetts politician who became a Brigadier General and led the 8th Massachusetts troops, who were some of the first to reach Washington D.C. to protect the Union capital in case Maryland seceded. He was the first Union general to identify slaves who ran away into Union lines as “contraband of war,” despite the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

NOTE 7: Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in 1852 an anti-slavery tract: “The Two Altars, or Two Pictures in One” about the same time as start of the serialization of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Written in response to the Fugitive Slave Law, the story, simple, obvious, and sentimental, consists of two parallel parts, "The Altar of Liberty, or 1776" and "The Altar of _______, or 1850."

Daniel Washburn at the Utica Free Soil political convention in June 1848 gave an anti-slavery speech reference the altar of Liberty: "Can you rest one hand on the sacred altar of Liberty, and with the other extend the domain of the darkest curse that a righteous heaven permits on earth? Every impulse of humanity revolts at the idea. The trials and struggles of our patriot fathers, the blood and agony of their battlefields, a thousand witnesses of the blight and desolation of Bondage on a virgin soil, and thronging Millions from distant shores seeking a Free Land for their Free labor, utter an awful and undying protest!" The Free Soil party in 1848 and 1852 was a single-issue party opposing the expansion of slavery into the Western territories.
Picture of Washington at the Altar of Liberty on a cotton print from 1819.

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S.A. Waldo 1863, From S.A. Waldo to Jerome, February 16, 1863, HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington


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