Category Archives: Building Pontoon Bridges

1865: Merritt L. Pierce to Proctor & Huldah (Reed) Proctor

A post-war CDV of Merritt L. Pierce

This letter was written by Merritt L. Pierce (1842-1869), the son of Proctor Pierce (1811-1874) and Huldah Ann Reed (1816-1872) of Morrisonville, Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York. Merritt was 22 years old when he enlisted on 31 August 1864 at Troy as a private in Co. L, 1st New York Engineers. He mustered out of the regiment as an artificer on 30 June 1865 at Richmond, Virginia.

Merritt died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1869 at the age of 28 but not before marrying Mary S. Mead (1845-1922).

Earlier in the war the 1st New York Engineers were used primarily building breastworks but by late 1864 and 1865 they were attached to Gen. Butler’s Army of the James and performed other tasks such as building corduroy roads, dredging the Dutch Gap Canal, building pontoon bridges, &c.

Broadway Landing; Pontoon Bridge over Appomattox River

Transcription

Camp near Broadway Landing
[Sunday] March 19, [1865]

Dear Parents,

I have a few moments to spare this afternoon & I think I will improve them in writing you a few lines. I have just finished my dinner. It consisted of a small piece of pork, a cup of coffee, and some hard tack. I have got so I like the Government rations first rate and they agree with me well. I have not tasted butter since I ate the last you sent me which was 4 weeks ago. Many of the boys are sick since pay day just in consequence of eating too much,

I went to church this forenoon at Point of Rocks Hospital (it is nearly a half mile from our camp). I heard a very good sermon indeed. After church I went & made Charlie Ford a visit. He was very glad to see me, He knew me at first sight. I did not know him—he had grown much since I saw him last. He is looking well. I think he will soon get his health.

Well today is a most beautiful day—clear, warm & pleasant, wind north. The birds are singing sweet songs. I forget for a moment many times that I am in a land of war and deadly strife. If I listen but a moment, I hear the roar of cannon which reminds me of where I am, but I am so use to hearing the noisy things that I don’t mind them in the least (I must stop. There is an inspection).

Inspection is over and no fault found with the company excepting one of the men had his pants rolled up & the Captain told him not to come on inspection again in that condition. Ed has gone to Burmuda [Hundred] after the mail, This is his job every day. It is an easy one too—much better than laying pontoon bridges, but I have got so I like it very much. It is about a half mile up the river where we lay the bridge & we go there in small boats. Each boat carries about 20 men & such times as we have, racing to and from the bridge is a caution. We construct a bridge & take it up in the forenoon and one in the p.m. It took us just 40 minutes to lay the bridge yesterday p.m. and it is much further across than the bridge at Morrisonville. What do you think of that?

Well, we are expecting to leave here soon, but where we shall go, it is impossible to tell but it will be somewhere with a pontoon train. I think I had rather be a Pioneer than an Engineer. Don’t think there is as much danger in laying bridges as there is in building breastworks, & as for taking up bridges, I don’t calculate we shall have any of that to do for I think we shall whip them (the Rebs) every time. The fact is, the Johnnies are getting discouraged & think there is no hope for them. They are deserting very fast now & very soon they will have a chance to desert as fast as they are a mind to. The Army will soon be on the move for Richmond. They are moving on the left of our lines now. I know that Father will laugh at what I say but I can’t help it. I must tell you what I think about matters and things.

Well, to change the subject, I wish I was at home this afternoon. I imagine what I should do. One thing I would do, that’s certain, & that would be to play and sing a few tunes in the parlor where I used often to go for a few moments to enjoy a little harmony & pass time away. I enjoyed that much better than I enjoy a game at cards. I have not played a game in some time. Guess I had not better play anymore. But I get so lonesome once in awhile for a little amusement & it comes so handy to have a game.

Now Mother, if you think I had better not play, I’ll quit for I can do it as easy as I did using tobacco, According to my manner of thinking, I have not got a great many bad habits for a soldier boy that is exposed to temptations on every hand. I have the privilege of attending meeting every evening now. We have very interesting meetings indeed. The house is much larger than our meeting house & it is crowded full every night. The house is but a short distance from here (about as far as the red house is from ours). It is most time to get ready for church. I don’t have to fix up much for I have not got the fixings to put on—just black my boots & brush up a little & then I am ready for church.

Well Ed has just come in with the mail. I must go and see if there is any mail for me. Indeed, I have got a letter & what do you think I found in it—a picture of Frank P’s, a good picture it is too. Will says tell Frank it is first rate. Ed says so too & of course it must be so. I have shown it to several & they all say it is a young Pierce. Good night. I’ll finish some other time.

Monday morning. I am well. Have just got my breakfast & I feel fine. It is a very beautiful morning. The air is cool & refreshing. My cabin door is open and it seems like summer to look out and see the sun shining so pleasantly. Edgar went to City Point on Friday last. Sent him money home. I sent $50 dollars with his. You will get it from Uncle Lucius. Well Ed goes on duty today. One of the drummers is going to carry the mail hereafter. I went to church last evening. Heard a very excellent sermon. The text was, “The wages of sin is death.”

Well time and paper bids me stop writing. Please send me a little linen thread. The gum Frank sent was nice. I should like to [hear] from George. No more. From — Merritt