From George E. Ellis to Rev. Mr. Ballou, June 15, 2864

Dublin Core


From George E. Ellis to Rev. Mr. Ballou, June 15, 2864


Ellis, George E.
Rev. Mr. Ballou
Charlestown, MA.


From George E. Ellis to Rev. Mr. Ballou


George E. Ellis


Jerome Peirce Collection, National Park Service


HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington




NPS, Civil War Study Group, Josef Rokus (Transcriber)


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






Letter #225


Charlestown, MA.

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Charlestown, June 15, 1864
My Dear Sir,
I comply, with a sad sympathy, with the request made to me to furnish a few words of commemorative regard and respect to the tribute which is to be paid to our late cherished friend Jerome Peirce. I was unwilling to receive the first reports which came to me that his young and hopeful life had entered into costly sacrifice of the brave and the good, the patriotic and the useful which thousands of our happiest homes in city and country are now offering to what their death makes all the more precious and sacred a cause to us. It seems that information from a trustworthy source has removed all ground for hope that he may still be among the living. Let us yield him up as he yielded himself. Let us commemorate him in a way consistent with the modes and simplicity of the childlike sincerity of his character. The resources of our language, as well as our hearts, are now daily drawn upon to furnish fitting tributes of honor and love that shall have a special fitness to each case of sorrow, whether inflicted by the loss of one conspicuous in official rank or in soldierly or private virtues, or whether hidden in the humility of modest worth from the knowledge of the world to be the tenderly cherished by a narrow and endeared private circle.
Jerome Peirce will receive from those who knew him well, as hearty and tender a tribute as will be given in any form of homage from circles of men and women however elevated or wide their range, to any hero of our war. I am informed that your male population in the town where he lived for a short time after leaving this city, is now mourning nearly all of the little band of young men who went from their quiet homes to the dreadful battle field. I have given a thought to them, and to their mourning friends, while I write these lines with particular reference to only one among them whom I knew; and in all of them I feel an indirect interest as his companions – first in life and now in death.
It is eight years this month since Mr. Peirce became a member of the Church here of which I am the Pastor. I had many good opportunities for knowing the qualities of his character and the tenor of his life. His circumstances required of him industry and frugality. He joined with those virtues a most [???] and contented spirit, drawing delight from pure and very simple pleasures, refining his tastes, and informing his mind. He was a consistent Christian in the Sunday School and Church, in his home, and in the streets; and he must have been eminently such in his occupations, for he pursued them only to help him to the best ends of life.
He was actively interested here in all our religious and humane enterprises, ever ready to do his part in real work and always doing it beautifully by personal influence. I do not know that I ever met with a human pair more congenially mated for the household joys and cares and responsibilities of life than were he and the lonely stricken partner of his short tenure of existence as a husband and a father.
It was very difficult for me to conceive of him as a soldier; I said so to him very frankly when he came to see me on his visit here from his camp. His gentle spirit and peaceful ways as well as the mildness of his looks and tones seemed utterly out of harmony with the actual work of a military service; and especially so with the traits and duties which require the infliction of vindictive or mortal blows upon fellow men. It was my own secret hope that the fortuitous arrangements of camp life and the incidents of his campaign might happily fit him in to a place and assign to him tasks in which he might have the consciousness of doing the full work of a patriot in arms with as little as possible of a ruthless activity. But I was weaker in this with than he was in [???] and fibre of his own of his own full consecration of himself to all that his military profession should exact. A soldier must be a soldier in the completeness of its stern conditions. He was such a one.
Mr. Peirce’s friends know very well that he regarded the rational purpose of this War as defensive against our utter ruin and disgrace and offensive only against a traitorous and malignant crime. In that full and firm belief he gave himself to the ranks, and his convictions deepened as he followed their lead. So good a man commends to us the goodness of his cause. I therefore looked upon him as one of many loved and honored young men known to me who would do a double service in this dread strive. First their conscious principles would make them formidable foes of rebels; and second, their private virtues would qualify them to exert a restraining and elevating influence upon multitudes on our own side of a less noble and pure character. So while these our Christian soldiers with an indignant scorn of treachery and the prowess of a noble patriotism confronted the rebels in the field, they would also help to purify their own camp and to infuse a right spirit into their coarser associates. Mr. Peirce has proved his fidelity in both ways. All our country towns – even the most quiet and retired of men are hence forward to have Memorial Monuments standing amid grass and foliage to the honored young victims of our nation’s cause. Jerome Peirce will not be forgotten or placed low on the list, when its sad record is complete.
Respectfully Yours,
George E. Ellis

NOTE 1: The funeral at which this letter was read, per the notation on the envelope, was conducted by Rev. Levi Ballou on June 19, 1864, in the church in Orange, Massachusetts, where Jerome Peirce had been the “Sabbath School Superintendent.”

NOTE 2: As indicated in the letter, George E. Ellis was the pastor in the church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, that the Peirce family belonged to prior to moving to Orange, Massachusetts. An Internet search provided the following details about him. George Edward Ellis was born in 1814 in Boston, Massachusetts, and he died in 1894, also in Boston. He graduated from Harvard College in 1833 and from the Harvard. Divinity School in 1836, and he was ordained in 1840 as the pastor of the Harvard Unitarian Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts. From 1857 until 1863, he was professor of systematic theology in the Harvard Divinity School. In addition to being the pastor at the church, he also wrote and lectured extensively. George Ellis resigned from the pastorate of the Harvard Unitarian Church in 1869. He was president of the Massachusetts Historical Society and also a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University in 1850-1854. Harvard awarded him the degree of D.D. in 1857 and that of L.L.D. in 1883. He is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

NOTE 3: This letter provides some indication as to how long Jerome Peirce family lived in Orange, Massachusetts, prior to his enlistment on August 4, 1862, in Orange, namely “a short time after leaving this city [Charlestown, Massachusetts].”

Original Format




George E. Ellis 1964, From George E. Ellis to Rev. Mr. Ballou, June 15, 2864, HIST 428 (Spring 2020), University of Mary Washington


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