Letter from ALBERT G. PEIRCE to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated December 15, 1863.

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Publication InformationBurlington Dec 15 1863

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Dear Sir,

Yours of Nov 23 arrived last evening and I assure you we are all glad to hear once more from the "old couple over the sea" as you call yourselves. The old couple on this side of the sea are in usual health as are also the young ones. I think from your letter that you have been "gadding" about considerably this summer. I wish very much I could go where you have been and see what you have seen but I suppose I must be content to hear of them for the present at least. Burlington is still improving slowly. Since I wrote you last a new block of stores has been built on the corner of Church and Cherry streets where the old green shop used to stand. It is a fine three story building and is a decided improvement for the street. I expect before you return Church st will be one solid block, even our old house will be turned into a dry goods palace. The new church (King Henrys I mean) is about half built, the walls are just to the top of the windows but no more work can be done on it this season. It has gone into winter quarters like our Army of the Potomac

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The baptist church is raised and partly enclosed and workmen are busy upon it yet. It is to be wood. I forget whether I ever told you where it is located. It is almost opposite Sion E. Howards on St. Paul st. The new Catholic church is just fairly commenced, its walls are about eight feet above the surface of the ground. A great many small houses have been built in various parts of the town this year. Prof Torrey has been quite ill for some time past. His trouble (raising blood) is one I fear that will never leave him. His work is nearly finished. Miss Wheeler is up again. I saw her riding out to day and it has been one of our rawest kind of December days with no snow on the ground, Mercury 20 above and the wind blowing a hurricane. It has rained for three days but last night it began to freeze and the dust has been such as only this town can produce all day. The river broke up last night, the ice dammed the water so that it rose all over the interval in a few hours drowning quite a number of cattle. Political matters are very quiet just now. Our new governor Smith, has just got the helm of state in his hand "A new broom sweeps clean"

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We are getting to be a great people here. We have our grand scares like other folks now. You doubtless read of the contemplated raid from Canada to release the rebel prisoners on Johnsons Island in Sandusky bay. Well we had just such another and the worst of it was ours occurred on Saturday night and kept us quaking all Sunday. Somebody telegraphed to Gov Smith that a party of rebels were to leave Canada in small squads and meet at Rouses Point. They were then to take passage on the boat, seize her, sail through the lake robbing and plundering the various town, this one in particular. The boats were detained here, a battery of light Artillery ordered here and thus it ended. Not having anything to lose I did not lie awake nights much to think of it. Recruiting seems to have taken a new start under the liberal bounties now offered. Forty seven men have enlisted from this town in less than a month

We now pay to Veterans a town bounty of $350. a government bounty of $402 and a state bounty of $252, exclusive of the regular pay of the soldier. If money will conquer this rebellion we are bound to do it. We are bound to do it anyway

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Never since the rebellion commenced have matters looked so bright as now. The Copperheads of the North have been beaten at the polls and Gov Seymours friends at the South begin to see and feel that "there is a balm in Gilead."

We have got the rascals almost under our feet and mean to keep them there for a while at least. Old "Unconditional Surrender" Grant has given Bragg such a as he never had. Banks is raking the rascals out of Texas as with a comb and keeping his eye open for Louis Napoleon in Mexico at the same time I hope for his own sake the Austrian Max will not accept the crown offered him for I know it will pinch his head sorely. He had better stay on his side of the pond and not meddle with matters this side. There is not bayonets enough in France to keep his crown three months. We can all recollect how, upon the "galorious fourth of July" we used to be told in the orations we used to listen to, that we were a great people c c. Every one of us now feel confident that the whole world cannot whip us for at least half of it is trying it this very hour and we are to much for them

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You will [have] heard before this reaches you of the safety of Burnsides army and of Longstreets retreat to Virginia with our troops after him It is reported that he has lost 4000 prisoners and all his baggage and Artillery trains since he commenced his retreat. I hope so. Everything looks promising and if you will keep your part of the world quiet for six months longer "Brittania never will rule the waves" again nor will she have any colonies worth mentioning on this side of the pond. You of course have heard of the arrest of Mr Giddings in Montreal. I see some of the Canadian papers begin to think it "not best to excite national passions" and point to Virginia for a sample of the condition of their country after a war with us. The "slate" is made up for next president and "Abraham" heads the list. Everybody seems to agree in that even the . You recollect in old times of democratic triumph when we were at the bottom of the wheel and had to bow down and worship Brad Smalley and that it used to be said that the Democracy was a unit but I think the party never came so near being represented by unity as at present

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Everybody except Copperheads takes it upon them to abuse poor old Bishop Hopkins for his views of the Divinity of the "Slavery question." What his friends find fault with is that he should hitch his title as bishop of Vermont to all his foolish letters. If he would just sign his name as an individual he would get along better. He is now bishop of the "Church Militant," and should be in the rebel army with his brother bishop, Polk. I believe I have told all the news at least all that will interest you. I will endeavour to find all the books you sent for and will also send the other things. I shall write Scribner and if the box does not have to be repacked in New York Mother says she intends to send a few things not ordered just to give you a taste of the good things of old Vermont. Please remember us all to Mrs M & believe me

Truly YoursA G. Peirce

References in this letter:

Considered the premier American botanist of his day, John Torrey (1796-1873) was a professor of chemistry and botany. Plants collected on Smithsonian expeditions were routinely sent to him for description and classification. He and Baird were close friends.

John Gregory Smith (1818-1891), head of the Central Vermont Railroad, was governor of Vermont from 1863 to 1864.

Copperheads were Northern Democrats opposed to the Civil War.

A former governor of Connecticut, Thomas H. Seymour was nominated for the presidency by the Democrats at their meeting in Chicago where they adopted a program of Peace Democrats and Copperheads.

Ulysses S. Grant, after overseeing the defeat of Confederate forces at the battle of Chattanooga in November 1863, became general in chief of the Union armies on March 12, 1864.

Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) was a general of the Confederate forces in the Civil War.

Contrary to the report Marsh cites, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks lost Front Royal (not Port Royal) at the head of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to the Confederates May 23, 1862.

Louis Napoleon (1808-1873), the nephew of Napoleon I, was elected the first president of the Second Republic. In 1852 he was proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III by national plebiscite.

Archeduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria (1832-1873) ruled as emperor of Mexico from 1864 to 1867 with the support of French soldiers. He was captured and shot in 1873 by Mexican nationalists.

Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824-1881) was a general in Union army. After the war, he became the governor of Rhode Island and served in the U.S. Senate.

James Longstreet (1821-1904) Confederate general from South Carolina.

The radical abolitionist Joshua Reed Giddings (1795-1864), a friend of Lincoln's, was appointed U.S. Consul General to Canada where he served from 1862 to 1864. He died in Montreal.

Bradley B. Smalley (1836-1909) was a lawyer and a longtime Democratic leader in Vermont.

The Right Reverand J. H. Hopkins was Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont.

A Burlington businessman, Albert G. Peirce ran the J. S. Peirce and Sons, a grocery and agricultural supplies store on Church Street with his father, J. S. Peirce. When the Marshes left for Italy, the family looked after their house and forwarded their mail.