Manuscript Group #317 Edward A Pierson Papers Papers, 1796-1872
New Jersey Historical Society Library
Manuscript Group #317
Edward A Pierson Papers
Approx. 115 items
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 , com^lpared 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 Surgeons
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 Ellsworths funeral, including a description of Abraham Lincolns presence.
Also, a number of items of Dr. Piersons 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
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.
A. Pierson, Letters Sent, May-July, 1861 (20 items)
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
complaints about army life; sarcasm concerning the
"aristocratic" Seventh New York Volunteers; manuscript sketch of Washington and
Arlington showing entrenchments ofPierson'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 NewelFs
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.
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.
Edward A. Pierson, Letters Sent, January-May, 1863 (14 items)
Letters describe: reassignment to Penobscot', life aboard
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
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.
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 ofDr Edward A. Pierson.
Additional Letters Concerning the Death ofDr Edward A. Pierson, 1863
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.
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.
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 ofRodman 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 ofDr. Edward A.
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
Joseph Davis, indenture, May 2, 1796, selling a slave girl to
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