This letter was written by George Peirce (Pierce) of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry. This regiment saw duty at Newport News, Virginia, till May, 1862. They then occupied Norfolk and Portsmouth on May 10 and were there until June 2 when they moved to Suffolk, then to Portsmouth, and White House Landing June 6-7. They then marched to Fair Oaks on June 8, which was approximately 7 miles from Richmond and from which place George penned this letter.
On June 9, 1862, just prior to this letter, the 29th Massachusetts was placed in General Meagher’s Brigade, better known as the “Irish Brigade.” The regiment remained at this place for several days, their picket lines is some places only twenty yards apart. The nearness of the pickets to each other resulted in constant firing and “false alarms” throughout the night, leaving the men exhausted. “The sharpshooters of the enemy, stationed in tall pines and in their rifle pits, fired with almost unerring aim at every moving object…both night and day.” [History of 29th Regiment, p. 143]
There were two soldiers by the name of George Peirce (Pierce) in the 29th Massachusetts and I cannot be certain which one wrote the letter. There was a George Peirce in Co. F and also a George F. Peirce in Co. E. The first mustered into the service in December 1861; the latter in May 1861. George F. Peirce was born about 1843 in New Bedford which is the same town that Daniel Ashley was from, who is mentioned in the letter.
Camp near Richmond, [Virginia]
[Friday] June the 13th 1862
I take my pen in hand to write you a few lines to let you know how I get along. We are stopping within about 30 rods [@500 feet] of the rebel pickets. We have to stand in line of battle most all the time. We expect to have to go into action every minute. There has got to be a great battle fought at Richmond yet, I think.
I saw Daniel [Caswell] Ashley yesterday. He is in the 20th Regiment. If you see his father, I want you to tell him that I see him. He is as tough as a bear. He was in the battle of Saturday and Sunday [June 7-8, 1862].
Have you received that Treasurer’s Note that I sent when I was in Suffolk? If you have, or have not, I want you to write and let me know as soon as you can. I sent a note so that you could draw $16 every two months out of my wages. You must carry it to the town treasurer of Acushnet. The reason that I don’t write often is because that I don’t have any postage stamps. I have not got time to write much more at present. The rebels think that if they lose Richmond, the lose everything.
We have to sleep out doors most of the time. We have to turn out in the night and 4 times in the night. We have to eat hard bread and water most of the time. We don’t get much time to sleep now. I have got tired of such living, sleeping outdoors in the mud and rain. Our sharpshooters are picking off the rebel pickets. There is a large tree close by that we can get up in the top of it and we can see the rebels quite plain, but if the rebels see you, they shoot at you. I went up in the tree yesterday with a Lieutenant. We got fired at twice—both of the balls struck the tree.
Charley is smart [healthy]. Give my best respects to all inquiring friends. Please to excuse this bad writing. Direct your letters to Fortress Monroe or elsewhere. Co. F, 29th Regt. Mass. Vol.
Yours truly, — George Peirce