1865: Jacob Lewis Pierson to Mary Emma Durie

This letter was written by Jacob Lewis Pierson (1843-1909) of Co. C, 39th New Jersey Infantry. The 39th New Jersey Infantry was attached to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps. Jacob was the son of a Newark blacksmith named Asa Pierson (b. 1813) and his wife, Mary A. (b. 1810). After the war, Jacob moved to Iowa.

Jacob wrote the letter to Mary Emma Durie (1846-1927), the daughter of Samuel Durie (1814-1901) and Nancy Maxwell (1817-1891) of New Providence, Union County, New Jersey. Emma’s brother, William “Britten” Durie (1840-1916) was in Co. C, 39th New Jersey during 1864 and 1865.

The 39th New Jersey manned the breastworks at City Point, Va., October, 1864, then moved to Poplar Grove Church. Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher’s Run, Va., October 27-28, 1864. Siege of Petersburg till April 2, 1865. Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 2, 1865. Assault on and capture of Petersburg April 2. Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Appomattox Court House April 9. Surrender of Lee and his army. Moved to City Point, thence to Washington and Alexandria April 20-27. Grand Review May 23. Mustered out June 17, 1865.

See also — 1865: J. Lewis Pierson to Mary Emma Durie


Addressed to Miss M. Emma Durie, New Providence, Union Co., New Jersey

Headquarters, Second Div., Ninth Army Corps
Office Assistant Commissary of Musters
March 19, 1865

Friend Emma,

Hope I don’t offend by that familiar style of addressing you. If I do, can’t help it. And id I have done anything that I am sorry for, why then I am perfectly willing to be forgiven.

But all joking aside, I have a few leisure moments and consider that there is no better way in which to occupy them than in writing you — therefore the above.

After fifteen days of pleasure, I arrived at “home” last Thursday night, and found “Britten” looking for me — and if ever mortal was glad to get to anyplace or meet anyone — your humble servant was glad to get here and “more so” to see your brother. And now I have settled down again for “six months and a few” when I hope to visit “Jersey” again — but not on a furlough. And if ever you hear of my being in the service again, you have my authority to deny it. Now is not that patriotic?

But don’t suppose that I am homesick for such is not the case. Oh! No!!! I am perfectly contented but do not intend to reenlist. But enough of this subject. As you will perceive, I cannot write connectedly tonight.

Although I visited many of my relatives and others where I was well received, still at no place did I enjoy myself better than the short time I was at your house. It is a pleasing memory which I shall long retain and frequently refer to but never with other feelings than those of pleasure. Please present my thanks to your entire family for their kindness and consider yourself included in the number.

One thing that I have noticed very much since my return is the difference in the climate between the states of Virginia and New Jersey. When I left Newark, I was wearing my heavy overcoat with comfort, but here I am without any coat at all nearly all the time. The South is beginning to look beautiful with the fresh springing grass and the trees showing signs of life. In a few days, spring will be fully ushered in and then comes our heavy marching and fighting. But thanks to a kind and over-ruling Providence, neither your brother or I need be engaged in the fights.

I hear there is a rumor that the 39th New Jersey Vols. will reenlist but you need not fear for Britten. This forenoon we (B. & I) went up to the regiment to Bible class and Oh! my conscience — what a class. I undertook to ask the leader (Chaplain [Edward D.] Crane) a few questions but soon found that he did not know very much more about the subject than I did. And we concluded not to trouble him again very soon.

Although you may scarcely believe it, still I am sometimes serious. But being naturally of a happy temperament, I am generally gay. You would think so could you have seen me since my return for my face has not been straight except when asleep and then my dreams have been so pleasing that I must have smiled.

Well there, Miss Duril, I have just read the foregoing and if you can derive any satisfaction from it, you can do more than I.

But I must close now. Please let me hear from you soon and if you will only write in as friendly a manner as you talked, I shall be perfectly pleased. Let me have a good long letter and believe me your true friend, — J. Lewis Pinson

P. S. Hereafter my signature will be to you the same as to other friends — simply Lew.

[transcription taken from web]

Headquarters, Second Div., Ninth Army Corps
Office Assistant Commissary of Musters

March 29th 1865

My friend Emma,

Your exceedingly interesting letter of March 23rd reached me on Sunday evening and now I have the first opportunity to reply.

And first let me make one remark in regard to promptness. In western parlance, I was “more than pleased” to receive an answer to my nonsense so quickly. And will hereafter give your letters equal attention.

So! My call at your house gave rise to numerous inquiries didn’t it? Well, that’s the way in New Jersey. If one wants to find out anything about their own business they have only to ask their neighbors.

I sympathize deeply with your friend of whom I inquired their way. She has my best wishes for her speedy recovery. For I know enough about a lady’s curiosity to know that she must have suffered severely. You may tell your sister Lottie that my teeth do not ache now and I have used the very last chewing tobacco I ever shall. What do you think of that? Am I not very patriotic to forgo such a pleasure for the ladies sake?

That reminds, as “Uncle Abe” says of a little verse I once read and thinking it true, I copied it.

“O’ did we take for heaven above,
But half the pains that we
Take day and night for woman’s love,
What angels we would be.”

Please don’t infer from the above that I am moonstruck for such is not the case. I think you would make a fine soldier. If you faint away, where your own is merely touched. Oh! Yes. I think you would do first-rate in an engagement. (Battle I mean).

As for your first letter, I must say that I almost doubted that you had written it. For it was so directly opposite to the character I had heard of you. But when I saw you, my doubts vanished. I am somewhat accustomed to read dispositions by the countenance and it did not take me very long to decide that you could act in a very dignified manner when you chose. And now I have a request to make. Pleas throw aside your dignity when corresponding with me. And I will endeavor to act in such a manner that you will never regret having done so. In other words, I will treat your letters as I should desire any gentleman to treat my sisters.

I am also slightly acquainted with Mr. William Day of Morristown, N. J. The intended victim of the wedding you mentioned.

My card you will receive just as soon as I get chance to ordered while at Newark. Accept my thanks for the promise to exchange the card. I now have from a letter. Believe me, I shall be pleased to receive it and keep the one I now have too.

One word more in reference to your letter. You say that I must get tired if I receive many such. Rest assured I have not in a long time received any letter or letters that interested and amused me as did yours. And were you to try a month you could not write more to my satisfaction than your last.

Do not think I’m a flatterer, for I am not. And what is more, I heartily depise that class of persons who resort to lies to any form. If I do not like a person I can leave them alone but cannot appear to love them.

Last Thursday, we had a perfect “Harry cane” which blew down many tents, trees, etc. But as Britton and I are not liable to the Draft, it did not affect either.

On Saturday, we had a storm of another kind. Being nothing less than a battle and thank God, it resulted in a substantial victory for our arms. Your brother, I suppose, will give you an account of it. So I will merely give you the result in figures.

Our loss was less than 500, mostly prisoners. While we captured 1949 prisoners (including 71 officers) and killed and wounded two or three hundred more.

I look upon Saturday’s engagement as the opening of our spring campaign. The inevitable result of which must be the arrow full of that southern confederacy.

Yesterday at City Point, Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Grant were closeted with Admiral Porter and President Lincoln. And if that conference does not result in important movements, I shall be mistaken.

I fear I have already wearied you with this letter. Therefore I will close.

Please excuse the penmanship as some “pimp” broke my pen last night and I have been trying new ones and at last am suited. With kind regards to your entire family and hoping soon to hear from you. I am,

Sincerely Your Friend, — Lew


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