Letter from ALBERT G. PEIRCE to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated July 29, 1863.

Primary tabs

Page: of 15
Download: PDF (6.16 MiB)
Publication InformationBurlington July 29 1863

Geo. P. Marsh Esqr

Page 1

Dr Sir

Yours of the 13 containing your photograph and note from Mrs M came last night for which please accept many thanks. We were all of us very glad to hear from you and to know of your good health. I must say that you have improved in looks and I am somewhat inclined to doubt your story of hard work on your book. It seems as if so much work must "tell" on you but really you look younger than when you left this land of strife and contention. As Mrs Marsh says in her note to mother over with politics and news. You say you did not get through your book in season to declare your independence on the now doubly glorious 4 of July. After the long dark period of

Page 2

gloomy reverses our northern "army of the Potomac" has at last achieved a victory, . We seem to have at last hit upon a commander that trys to fight and has the ability to handle an army, at least he did at the bloody battle of Gettysburgh.

His praise is in everybodys mouth. Hooker proved to be a drunkard but fought first rate when sober. He was said to have been quite under the influence of liquor at Chancellorsville. The 4 was certainly the happiest day for a long period. We had a great celebration here, speeches c c and during the time the news came of our great success at Gettysburgh and also of the downfall of Vicksburgh. You may be sure the old flag never waved half so proudly from the flag staff as it did that day.

It really did ones heart good to see loyal men shaking hands over the events then transpiring. The whole nation seemed raised up, strengthened and encouraged to push on to the end. I assure you we all felt quite despondent previous to that. It seemed that

Page 3

there was not a northern man with brains enough to lead our Armies. Since Vicksburgh surrendered Port Hudson has followed suit and now the .

There is very little organised force in the Southwest left and we hope that Lee and his retreating vagabonds will receive due attention. I presume you will have read all this in the papers before this reaches you but if the reading of this affords you no pleasure I assure you the being able to write it gives me a of it.

I met Grenville Benedict at a "tea party" a few evenings since and had quite a long talk with him in regard to his experience He was Aid to Gen Stannard in the last great battle. He says Meade had about seventy thousand while prisoners state that Lee crossed the Potomac with about ninety five thousand men. He lost certainly in his invasion thirty five thousand men in killed wounded and missing. Meade is now in close pursuit of him

Page 4

Benedict belonged to the 2 Brigade of nine months men whose time was out before the battle but they all staid and fought most nobly. He says they occupied the left centre and for hours they lay down while the fire of one hundred guns went over and among them. At last the rebels massed their troops on their front for one of their terrific charges. When they got within fifteen yards of our line our men rose and fired with the steadiness of veterans. As the column of rebels came on the 13 Vt and some N.Y regiments occupied the centre while the 14 & 16 Vt marched out into the field as coolly as if on dress parade and formed in line of battle on the flank of the charging column. After delivering their fire the whole mass surrendered.

The greatest number of prisoners taken at any one time by the Army of the Potomac were thus captured by Vermont troops that had never been under fire before. Gen Doubleday thanked the 16 Vt in person and by letter for their coolness on this occasion and I tell you were at home were proud of them and on their return home gave them a glorious reception

Page 5

They are now all disbanden and gone home. After we had thus beaten Lee in Pennsylvania the left wing of his army, the mob of N. Y. City came near defeating us

You have doubtless heard of the dreadful riot in the city which is thank God suppressed at last. It has done an immense deal of good for now every body seems to feel .

There is one thing in this riot that affords me great consolation, that is that the traitorous Copperheady city of N.Y. have it all to themselves and we all wish them much joy of it. They have worshipped St Patrick for sometime and now I hope they have got enough of their ron saint. I see by last nights paper that the Express newspaper is advertised for sale by the Sheriff. I wish the Herald and World and News were in like condition

There has been a great many arrests of rioters but Judge MCann lets all of Gov Seymours

Page 6

go of course. The judge is Irish of course most all of Seymours friends are

I wish we might get rid of Seymour Brooks, Wood, Vallandigham and a few more of that stripe. Mrs M says in her note all the Americans in Italy are Copperheads so I think you might as well have a few more as not.

Your country is famous for poisoning people perhaps you might dispose of our friends. If you ever let any of your traitors there come back alive I shall think you dont make a very good minister.

We are all for the next two years turning our energies to build up St Albans as we have been for the last two finishing up the village of Brattelboro. I mean by that that John G Smith of St Albans in our Candidate for Governor. For town representative we shall probably have Wm G Shaw the same as last year and for Senator Mr Edmunds gives place to L. B. Englesby. as they call them now. A new name for an old thing I think.

Our town matters are quite prosperous, the street running from the South wharf is to be opened

Page 7

clear through to Mr Pease's place on the hill going through the rear of Mr Edmunds lot. A splendid block of stores is now in process of erection on Church St reaching from opposite the jail down to the corner of Bank St. Indeed we are fixing up the old town so you will hardly recognise it on your return. The draft passed off quietly here though for a time we were fearful of a disturbance. We organised home guards, sent to Brattleboro for arms and equipments and went to drilling to endeavour to make soldiers of ourselves. I think it had a good effect for we hear no more threats of burning houses c c as we used to.

We have in our company such men as Capt Lyon, Jim Hickok, Capt Marvin Henry Loomis and all the first citizens of the place including myself .

Fathers health has not been quite as good as usual this summer so he makes that an excuse for deserting the store nearly

Page 8

and devoting his time to gardening, fishing and . Mother keeps about as usual, works herself most sick and then stops a little while to gain strength and then does the same thing again. She would die if she could not work, I believe. Hannah is still with us as cross as ever. I suppose we shall continue to live with her till she dies or sends us off. Mr H. P. Hickok is busy now building his new church. It just suits him for of course the man that pays most should have the most to say. They will have a very pretty church if they ever get it done.

After half the summer gone they have not got the foundation done the clayey soil having troubled them very much in their labors. Their church will certainly improve College St whatever else it may do. Our business has been better than ever this year Money is plenty and all goes on swimingly but when the war is over we all expect to feel the effect of our enormous expenses.

You will be pained to hear of the death of the old Shaker C. M. Dyer. He was shot

Page 9

by a returned soldier on account of some trouble about a child the soldier had placed among them. Prof Torreys youngest son John died of typhoid fever in Beverly Mass where he had just delivered his first sermon after his engagement. He was buried here a few days since. E. J. Phelps's youngest son fourteen years old died last night and is to be buried to day. Old Mrs Fleming died this morning at six oclock. Miss Lucia Wheeler is very low, probably will never be much better. The rest of your friends are in usual health I believe. Mr Hungerford was drafted but of course will not go as it is now haying time and his wife could not spare him from the farm. I know of none of your friends that drew a fine in Uncle Sams lottery except Brad Smalley. He drew a $300 fine. I never could get anything in any scheme. Before the drafting commenced fifteen of us entered into a mutual insurance company contributing $100 each to pay the commutation

Page 10

money of such of our number as should be drawn. There were five lucky ones which just broke our company. The stockholders get nothing, like those of a great many similar institutions. Your description of Italian farming seems queer and is certainly interesting to me. It does not seem possible that so old a country should be so far behind the rest of the world especially us Yankees.


My "princess" as Mrs is pleased to term her has already seized your photograph and given it a distinguished position in her Album. I remonstrated gently at first but of course was obliged to give up being fairly and completely brought under subjection Married life has taught me . This is confidential and not by any means intended for Mrs M to know anything about. We expect William with all his family here every day when we shall open our

Page 11

house for summer travel. Country friends are quite popular with city people in summer but a great bore to them in winter they say. I am truly glad to hear that you have finished your book and hope you wont write any more. What is the use in writing books for people that cant appreciate them. As for posterity and all that humbug, let them write their own books if they want any.

You say it contains seven hundred pages it makes me shudder to think of it. Who will ever read all that. If there is any quotations from mother and myself in it as you say, I hope they are towards the back part of it where no one will ever get to them. I cant think what I have ever said worthy to be put in your book though perhaps you got short of ideas and put in everything you could think of. I shall expect a share of the profits arising from the sale of it but dont wish to be assesed if the . I perceive I am spinning out too long so I will stop my thread if possible

Page 12

Before closing I want to say once more that never since the war began has the whole country felt so prosperous, so much encouraged to push it on to a triumphant end, never has money been more plenty, never has trade been better, never have people paid their taxes with less grumbling (a good sign) and never has a more hopeful feeling pervaded the people.

There is but one draw back to all this, that is, there is scarcely a family in the whole broad land but is now mourning some dear friend killed on the battle field. Only yesterday a poor woman a widow, came into the store to buy a few things for a sick son lying at the point of death. She said she had one son killed in battle, one died in Military hospital and now a third and last one had been discharged from the army and had come home to die. "She said she thought the "

I must say her story brought tears to my eyes.

Page 13

And besides all this, go where you will and you see poor sick and wounded fellows crippled for life endeavouring by all possible means to get a living, but I never heard one of them complain. They all say they would go again. These are the sad pictures of the war and make us all wish it over by no other way. We have had a very pleasant summer thus far, plenty or rain and as a consequence good crops which makes the farmers feel good humored. The hay crop never was better and that is our chief one you know in Vermont. Our own garden looks nicely we have had more strawberries and raspberries than we could eat and our vines hang full of grapes. Should the season prove just right we shall have an immense quantity for father has planted a great many vines since you left. There was quite a lot of grapes on the wild Massachusetts vine but they have all droped off so we shall have none

Page 14

We are now just about to have green corn and succotash and new potatoes and Commencement c c. The classes are quite small now most everybody having gone to the war. Pomeroy still lives or or rather vegetates about as much as the moss on a rock, has bought him a new carriage and "nigger driver" but his efforts to be somebody are pretty much like the twitches of a galvanized frog. He still pins his faith on Greely I believe but I havent heard him speak of Seward any lately. Mr & Mrs Rogers are just as fat as ever and are the rankest Copperheads among us, think that "Fernandy" made the world and are full beleivers in all the other points of democratic faith

I hope they may be converted before they die for I fear their future residence would be to warm to be agreable if they die as they have lived "." I hope yo[u] will excuse this long letter, but you told

Page 15

me you wanted to hear the news and I have told all I could think of.

What is the title of your last book or have you not christened it yet.

Father and Mother Mrs P the younger desire to be remembered to yourself, Mrs M and Carrie. I think if there is'nt a store in the village Mrs M speaks of it would be a good place to start a grocery store.

With many thanks for your kindness in writing you I remain

Yours trulyAlbert G. Peirce

References in this letter:

Joseph Hooker (1814-1879) was an American army officer. He served in the Mexican War, and in 1862, he became a brigadier general in the Union army.

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) of Virginia was commander in chief of the Confederate Armies at the end of the Civil War.

After military service, George Grenville Benedict (1826-1907) was appointed Vermont State Historian and wrote extensively about Vermont in the Civil War.

General George Jerrison Stannard (1820-1886), a native of Georgia, Vermont, led the Second Vermont Brigade at Gettysburgh where they held a key position on Cemetery Ridge and destroyed the right flank of Pickett's Charge.

Major General George Meade (1815-1872) was appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac on June 28, 1863, three days before the battle of Gettysburg began. Like Generals McClellan and Hooker before him, he hesitated in following up a military advantage and allowed General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army to retreat without pursuit after they had been defeated at Gettysburg.

General Abner Doubleday (1819-1893) fired the first gun at Fort Sumter after being provoked by the Confederate forces; he was promoted to major general in 1862.

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.

Fernando Wood (1812-1881), a leading member of the Peace Democrats, was mayor of New York City 1861-62 and member of the House of Representatives 1862-65.

Clement Laird Vallandigham (1820-1871 was a Democratic congressman from Ohio. In 1863 he was arrested by Union military authorities for treasonable statements and spent the rest of the war year in Canada.

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

William G. Shaw, (1831-1892), was the Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs under Governor Ryland Fletcher.

George Franklin Edmunds (1828-1919) began his career practicing law in Burlington. He served in the Vermont State House of Representatives and in the State Senate. In 1866 he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican to fill the vacancy caused by Solomon Foot's death and served for four terms. He resigned in 1891. Edmunds was married to Susan Edmunds, the daughter of Marsh's sister and Wyllys Lyman, his Burlington friend.

L. B. Englesby was a Burlington attorney who held several local offices including Justice of the Peace.

Calvin Pease (1813-1863) served as the president of the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College from 1855-1861. He was the first alumnus to fill the position.

James W. Hickok practiced law in Burlington, for a time with Marsh and was also one of Marsh's brother-in-laws.

A prominent citizen of Burlington, Henry Loomis (d. 1886) was president of the Burlington Savings Bank.

Henry P. Hickok was president of the Merchants' Bank in Burlington.

An ordained minister and professesor of Ancient Languages and Philosophy, Professor Joseph Torrey (1797-1867) served as the president of the University of Vermont from 1862-1866. During his term, the university was faced with a multitude of hardships, including a financial crisis, which resulted from the fact that so many students left the university for military service. Torrey was the last theologian to serve as the president of the University of Vermont, when in 1865, UVM was designated as the land-grant institution of Vermont and became The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College.

E. Phelps (1822-1900) was a Burlington attorney.

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

The lawyer, John Norton Pomeroy, (1792-1881) was a lawyer and prominent resident of Burlington, Vermont. He held several position in Vermont state government and was named chairman of the Statuary Committee to oversee the construction of the monument placed over the grave of Ethan Allen in Green Mount Cemetery in Burlington.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872), founder and editor of the New York Tribune, was opposed to the severe Reconstruction measures of the Radical Republicans.

A Whig, William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was governor of New York and U.S. Senator before he became Secretary of State under Presidents Lincoln and Johnson.

Carrie Marsh Crane, Caroline Marsh's niece, daughter of her brother Thomas, accompanied the Marshs for a number of years during his tenure as minister to Italy. She died in a shipwreck in 1874.

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.