Manuscript Group #317 Edward A Pierson Papers Papers, 1796-1872

The New Jersey Historical Society Library
Manuscript Collection
MG #317
Edward A Pierson Papers
Approx. 115 items

Edward A. Pierson, born in 1836, was the son of Charles T. Pierson and Harriet Coe Pierson of Newark. As a young man he studied medicine under Dr. John F. Ward and in 1855 entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He graduated in 1858 and returned to Newark, establishing his own practice at 35 W. Kinney St.

 At the outset of the Civil War Pierson responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers to serve for ninety days. He secured a commission as surgeon’s mate (see folder 8) in the First Regiment New Jersey Brigade. After joining his unit at Trenton, he proceeded south with it to Wash­ington, where he completed his tour. He was not sorry to leave mili­tary service in July 1861. “It will do to play soldier on 4 of July & other holidays,” he wrote, “but when you see a whole line of men mowed down by the raking fire of the batteries — why the poetry is all gone and then comes the reality.” (Pierson to his aunt, July 20, 1861) Pierson returned to Newark and resumed his medical practice.

 By October, however, perhaps because of peer pressure, Pierson was seeking a new commission, this time for service in the U.S. Navy. In this he was successful. By the spring of 1862 he was serving as Acting Surgeon aboard the frigate Lawrence. For a short time, the Lawrence was on duty off Hampton Roads, Virginia, and, in fact. Pier-son witnessed the famous duel between the ironclads Merrimac and Moni­tor. But for most of 1862 the sixty-gun vessel was stationed at Key West Florida in order to patrol the Gulf for Confederate blockade run­ners. Late in the year Pierson contracted Yellow Fever in the warm Florida climate and was ordered to Philadelphia on medical leave. There he reestablished his health and awaited reassignment.

 Shortly after Christmas, 1862, Pierson undertook duty as Surgeon aboard the U.S. gunboat Penobscot. Stationed off the North Carolina coast, the vessel participated in the ever-tightening blockade of the Confederacy. On May 22, 1863, the gunboat drew fire from Confederate batteries at Fort Fisher, and Pierson was killed.

 The chief strength of MG 317 rests in the information it provides concerning sea duty during the U.S. blockade of the South. It offers insight into daily routines, supply problems and procedures, medical services, and other matters.

 Yet this is not the collection’s only value. It also provides in­formation on what ninety-day service at the outset of the war entailed and conditions in the national capital before the first battle at Bull Run. Moreover, those portions of the diary which pertain to the period between Pierson’s discharge from the New jersey Regiment and the begin-ing of his service aboard the Lawrence offer glimpses into Newark’s social and cultural life during the early period of the Civil War.

 The collection also provides comments on important events such as the death of Col. Elmer Ellsworth and the engagement between the Mon­itor and Merrimac. Pierson also recorded his seeing Abraham Lincoln on several occasions, as well as other prominent people.

The collection includes a number of items pertaining to Dr. Pierson’s, / father and mother and sisters, but these are of doubtful research value, j, compared to the war correspondence and diaries.

 Papers, 1796-1872, of Edward A. Pierson (1836-1863), a Newark, N.J. (Essex County) physician.  After establishing his medical practice in Newark in 1858, he secured a post as Surgeon’s Mate at the onset of the Civil War, starting in the First Regiment, New Jersey Brigade. He later served in the U.S. Navy as surgeon onboard the frigate St. Lawrence, and the gunboat Penobscot.  Pierson was killed on May 22, 1863, when the Penobscot drew fire from the Confederate batteries at Fort Fisher, North Carolina.

Papers include letters, diaries, and military records that provide documentation of Civil War battles, describe daily routines, attitudes, and conditions aboard the St. Lawrence and the Penobscot, and detail the medical condition of soldiers and treatments administered. Includes an eyewitness account of the battle between the Monitor and Merrimac at Hampton Roads, Virginia; descriptions of the social and cultural life of Newark during the Civil War era; accounts of troop conduct in Washington D.C. before the first battle of Bull Run; descriptions of Key West, Florida (where the St. Lawrence was stationed on blockade duty), and the North Carolina coastal defense; and a recounting of Col. Elmer Ellsworth’s funeral, including  a description of Abraham Lincoln’s presence.

Also, a number of items of Dr. Pierson’s father Charles, his mother Harriet Coe Pierson, and his sisters Nettie and Addie, including a slave indenture (1796), a dance lesson book, autograph albums and letters of introduction signed by Frederick Frelinghuysen and James M. Tichenor.

Manuscript Group # 317 EDWARD A. PIERSON Papers, 1796-1872

Folder 1:     Edward A. Pierson, Letters Received, 1851-1863 (19 items)

Letters describe; Charles T. Pierson’s visit to Niagara Falls and crossing “the wire bridge” 230 feet above (1851); Navy Dept. order (1862) to report for duty aboard the frigate St. Lawrence; notices of commission as Asst. Surgeon, U.S. Navy (1862) signed by Gideon Welles; news of Newark, N.J., including reference to Dr. Alexander Dougherty; commentary on the defeat of General Nathaniel Banks in western Virginia (1862); reports of casualties arriving in Newark; notes on the fate of acquaintances; references to the New Jersey Seventh Volunteers; comments on the Fourth New Jersey Volunteers in the Battle of Seven Days, June, 1862; a false report of Edward’s death from yellow fever; comment on General McClellan’s retreat from the Peninsula and his evacuation offerees from Harrison’s Landing; transfer order to the Young River (Dec. 1862) signed by Gideon Welles; orders to report for duty aboard the Penobscot at Hampton Roads (Dec. 1862) signed by Gideon Welles; and various matters concerning friends, relatives, and close family members.

Folder 2:      Edward A. Pierson, Letters Sent, May-July 1861 (20 items)

Letters describe army unit’s travel from Trenton to Washington, D.C.

conditions in the nation’s capital; Willard’s Hotel; camping at Arlington near the Custis Mansion; references to the activities of the N.J. Seventh Volunteers;

complaints about army life; sarcasm concerning the “aristocratic” Seventh New York Volunteers; manuscript sketch of Washington and Arlington showing entrenchments of Pierson’s unit (letter of June 5th); condition of troops in Washington, D.C.; condition of the Arlington House; rumors concerning the disloyalty of New Jersey troops; quality of army food; Governor Newel’s visit to camp; the weather and poor camp conditions; attitudes toward the war;

reference to E.P. Wilder’s visit to Lincoln to show his patented rifle; events before the battle at Manassas; meeting women in Washington, D.C.; false reports of battle and fire at the Long Bridge over the Potomac; a visit to the White House to view the body of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth and seeing Lincoln in the East Room. Also, bullets that lodged in a piece of tree bark when Philip Barton Key was murdered by Dan Sickles in Lafayette Square in 1859, which Pierson enclosed in his letter.

Folder 3:      Edward A. Pierson, Letters Sent, April-December 1862 (22 items)

Letters describe; anxiety at Hampton Roads over the Mernmac, the Merrimac challenging the St. Lawrence (May 8), the battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor (May 12); description of Key West, Florida, blockade activities;

service as member of the Medical Board of Officers; capture of a blockade runner from England bearing 155,000 Ibs. of powder, bullets, and other war supplies; an attack of yellow fever; awaiting orders in Philadelphia; relocation to North Carolina; conditions in Norfolk, Va.

Folder 4:     Edward A. Pierson, Letters Sent, January-May, 1863 (14 items)

Letters describe: reassignment to Penobscot’, life aboard the gunboat; exchange of fire with rebels on shore; violence against an African American aboard the vessel and punishment of the offender; medical assistance from a “contraband” who formerly served a doctor in Wilmington, N.C.; loss of the steamer Columbia and the rescue of half its crew; arrival at Norfolk for repairs; a trip to Washington, D.C.; naval movements off Newport News, including sketched map of disposition of vessels in York and James River; rumors regarding Hooker’s campaign and its implications for the defense of Washington, D.C.; daily life on blockade duty.

Folder 5:     Edward A. Pierson, Diaries, 1861-1863 (2 volumes)

Volume 1, April 29, 1861-April 27, 1862: Begins with entry “Diary of the Campaign of First Regimental National Guard of Newark Essex County Brigade, New Jersey State Militia.” Describes day-to-day affairs, including diagnosis and treatment of soldiers; arrests for vandalizing a house of prostitution and other matters concerning troop activity and conduct in Washington D.C. before the first Battle of Bull Run; return to private medical practice in Newark after 90 days of service; social life in Newark; note on Sept. 7 concerning E.P. Wilder’s arrest for treason and incarceration at Fort Lafayette; physical examination at naval hospital in October; reporting for duty aboard the St. Lawrence, Feb. 17, 1862; off the Virginia coast in March; naval engagements, (n.b. Volume also includes notes on patients and fees which date before the war.)

Volume 2, April 28, 1862-February 23, 1863: Reports order, April 30, not to write of events concerning activities to people at home; daily routines; on duty off Key West; leave of absence for health in the fall; return to duty at Christmas; on duty aboard the Penobscot off the North Carolina coast.

Folder 6      Letters Grenville Weeks to Mrs Charles T Pierson, May 23, 1863, Frank H Hinman to Nettie Pierson, June 22, 1863 (2 items) Both describe in detail the battle death of Dr Edward A. Pierson.

Folder 7      Additional Letters Concerning the Death of Dr Edward A. Pierson, 1863 (9 items)

From D. James Bruce, who was with Pierson when he died, describing his colleague’s death; from Henry C Luther, who also witnessed Pierson’s death; from the District Medical Society for the County of Essex offering resolutions of sympathy and regret; also, a fragment from a letter of administration re estate of Edward A. Pierson.

Folder 8:     Edward A. Pierson, Commission, May 3, 1861 (1 item)

As surgeon’s mate in the First Regiment Newark Brigade. Signed by Governor Charles S. Olden.

Folder 9:    Edward A. Pierson, Biographical Data and Miscellany (5 items)

Anonymous manuscript biographical sketch; newspaper announcement that Pierson5 s likeness had been made by a Newark photographer; a likeness of Edward A. Pierson; obituary; fragment of notes re Pierson’s life.

Folder 10:    Charles T. Pierson, Commissions, 1829-1855 (3 items)

To Edward A. Pierson’s father for Quartermaster of the Essex Squadron; as Essex County Commissioner of deeds; as Essex County Justice of the Peace; includes signatures of Rodman M. Price and Isaac Williamson.

Folder 11:    Charles T. Pierson, Notebook, 1839 (1 volume)

Provides textual and illustrated instructions on dancing.

Folder 12:    Nettie Pierson, Autograph Album, ca. 1861 -1863 (1 volume) Includes the signature of Dr. Edward A. Pierson.

Folder 13:    Addie Pierson, Autograph Album, ca. 1860 – 1863 (1 volume) Primarily mounted cutouts.

Folder 14:    Letters of Introduction, 1872 (8 items)

For Mrs. Moses Field (formerly Miss Nettie Pierson) and Addie Pierson during their 1872 European trip. Includes items signed by Frederick Frelinghuysen and James M. Tichenor.

Folder 15:    Pierson Family, Miscellany (approx. 30 items)

Newspaper clippings; accounts; receipts; items pertaining to the Coe family; Joseph Davis, indenture, May 2, 1796, selling a slave girl to Sayres Coe.


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