1863-65: Alonzo David Pierce to Orrilla (Willard) Pierce

Major Alonzo David Pierce, 6th Illinois Cavalry

These seven letters were written by Alonzo (“Lonzo”) David Pierce (1831-1896), the son of David Pierce (1804-1876) and Jane Jackson (1812-1890). A biographical sketch states that Alonzo was two years a sailor on the Great Lakes and a miner in California between 1850 and 1856 before settling down as a farmer in Pope county, Illinois, and marrying Orrilla Willard on 20 November 1856. Together they had four children; Orrilla (b. 1859), Walter (b. 1861), Carrie (b. 1866), and Henry (b. 1867).

In 1861, Alonzo mustered into Co. A, 6th Illinois Cavalry as a First Sergeant. He rose in rank to Captain of that company and in 1865 was promoted to Major of the regiment.

After the war, Alonzo served six years as sheriff and tax collector in Pope county and was elected a representative in Illinois in 1876 on the Republican ticket.

[Note: Four of Orrilla (Willard) Pierce’s letter to her husband Alonzo are published on Spared and Shared 18.]


Addressed to Mrs. A. D. Pierce, Metropolis City, Massac county, Illinois

Germantown, Tennessee
November 25, 1863

Dear Wife,

I now seat myself to write you a few lines. I have not had a letter from you later than November 10th and have been looking for one now about a eek. I thought sure I would get one today but none came. I went to Memphis yesterday as a witness for Capt. J[ames] B. Morrey, Co. B, but was ordered back this morning. There was six of us so they had to send a special train as we did not get the order until 10 o’clock A.M.  I went to the theater last night. They had a first rate play but it made me feel so sad I could not help shedding tears. I wished you was there to see it and I don’t know know but I would have felt better. I have not been to Saints since you was here.

Notice posted in the Army & Navy Journal of 26 August 1865

Maj. [Thomas G. S.] Herod’s case commences today. I am in hopes he will have a fair, impartial trial and if he does, I don’t see how he can get clear of executed. I know I am in hopes I will not have anything to do with it. ¹

I borrowed $150 of Sam and he tells me he is going to send the note to you. I told him not to send it to T.

We are ordered to take ten days rations. I would not wonder if we went pretty near to Paducah as we are going North. I don’t know as I have anything to write much and I am very sleepy as I did not sleep much last night. It was late when we got in from the theater and then we had to sleep three in bed and then there was such a confounded stomping in the house all night. I could not sleep much less with three in bed. The boys are now drawing amounts in my tent and they make so much noise I will have to stop. I will write as soon as I get back so no more tonight. God bless you and the children and my prayer is to once more get back to my dear family.

Ever your constant husband, — A. D. Pierce

¹ Major Thomas G. S. Herod killed Lt. Col. Reuben Loomis on 2 November 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary on 13 February 1865. President Andrew Johnson ordered his release on 2 May 1866.





Germantown, Tennessee
January 27, 1864

Dear Wife,

I wrote you yesterday and sent you 500 dollars by Samuel Adkins and instructed him to go and take it to you. So I write this to notify you should this reach you first, and if not, you can look for it. I have no doubt but you will get the money before you get this but I write in case of accident. Lt. Col. M[athew] H. Starr arrived here this morning and has taken command. Bully for him. I just came from seeing him. He seemed to greet me very warmly. Anyhow I don’t think he loves me any too much of late.

I sent in my petition yesterday for Maj. with 14 names on it. Capt. Lynch also went with 8 names. If I could have you in I think I could have done a great deal better but as they had possession of the telegraph office, I could not telegraph and I expect too they got a great deal the start of me. Anyhow, they can’t more than make and even thing of it and more than half of the names they get are officers that are not on duty in the regiment. Lt. J. H. B. of course would not support me and I would not feel very much honored if I had have got him.

I have not got any letters later than the 12th yet from you. Just got orders to go to Collierville so you will not get a long letter this time.

Yours in haste, — A. D. Pierce

P. S. I will send you the grand sword presentation proceedings &c. &c. — Lonzo





East Port, Mississippi
February 28, 1864

My Dear Wife,

I am very tired tonight for I was aroused out last night to the steamboat landing with the regiment and had to report to Div. Headquarters at two o’clock A. M. for the purpose of loading forage onto boats for the high water was running all over the ground where it was piled. I did not get relieved until one o’clock P. M. today and the worst of the job was we had to wade about 100 yards in water about knee deep. But I think the water now on a stand but government has lost an immense amount of forage.

I will have to tell you how confounded mad I was at you for a few moments yesterday. I had not received a letter from you since I left home and you can imagine how anxious I was to hear from you when I saw the fleet come up the river and in a few moments after it landed who should make his appearance but the said farmer with a letter from you. I opened it but if you recollect what you wrote, you will understand how little I could understand what had been going on as I had not heard from you since leaving home. In that letter you did not say you had written before since I left you. My first impulse was to throw the letter in the fire—something I never have done with one of your letters—and not write you again very soon. In fact, I can’t tell what all was running through my head, anyhow, none of which you could consider very complimentary. But while I was working myself up to so high a pitch, along came the mail with the letters for me—one dated February 5th and February 10th—and when I came to read them in connection, I could understand the point so I immediately asked your forgiveness but have not yet heard if it was granted. (I think Bine left the country rather hurriedly.)  You say Lo took all the [   ] and the chamber floor (well I should expect to have all of that if I was buying a farm unless it was reserved). Bine might as well have claimed the house as to claim the chamber floor. (I guess Lo was right) and you hoodwinked. You better season a little before deciding on anybody’s right. I think Lo is sharp enough for all the schemers they can set after him. I think you done well in buying the carpenter tools—that is, if there is any of them, and still better if your second husband should be a carpenter. In that case, I think you have done as well as Mrs. Toodles did when she bought the door plate with the name of Thompson on it for her yet unborn daughter in case she should have one and she should marry and than man she married name might be Thompson.

I wrote you several days ago about some of my plans and what I want you to do so I will not enumerate it again but I will remind you that it is getting near seed time. Why don’t you get someone to help you do your work while you are teaching? I sent you five hundred dollars by Mr. Thread—Benham’s partner in I. C. Stock—and if he went direct, he is there before now. He left the 23rd and said he was going direct to St. Benham. I think you and Billy have been pretty badly scared and in my opinion all about what a few fools say. Now then, no one dare molest him and especially that class of individuals. But let Billy get Lo’s gun and if anyone should interfere with him, tell him to put about one hat full of buck shot into them. I have got me a good double barrel shotgun and I will send it home the first opportunity.

I am glad to hear that my Mollie is doing so well. You did not say anything about my dog. I think I will write to Lo and get him to help Billy reg a team and start it. He can tell better what you will want than I can. Lo spoke about sowing that same piece again to oats but I don’t think it would bring good oats again. But it is now time to sow oats. You have got a big job on your hand so you will have to put in to it with the planning part but I know you can do it if you are not too scared. Make up your mind to make or break, sink or swim, root hog or die.

Now I told you about some money I sent home that did not belong to me—only as administrator—and I guess you better not pay to Mrs. Hinbe that $42 for Hinby has some children by his first wife. I will think of it and write again about it but the $95 can be paid to John M. Garrett or order at any time such claim may be presented. Now I am going to stop for I am very sleepy and it is after 9 o’clock. So goodnight. Give respects to all my friends. Tell William Wallace to ride Prince some if Mollie has got over being lame. I want you to ride her some and tell me if you do like her better than Mary to ride. If I stay in the service, I want you to make calculations to stay with me in the army about a month—say April or May. But I have some thoughts of yet coming home.

I don’t think we are going to stay here long but when we leave, I think we will be on a steamboat and in that case, I think we will come by the way of Paducah and go up the Ohio, say to Louisville and get horses. But I don’t know any such thing. Well, if I keep on, I will get this sheet full yet. I did not intend to write more than two pages when I first commenced. So again, good night. Pleasant dreams. Your affectionate husband, — A. D. P.

P. S. I have been homesick, I believe, for the first time since I have been in the service. It goes harder and harder for me to stay away from my family. A kiss or two and goodnight.




Gravelly Springs, Alabama
February 7th 1865

My Dear Wife,

As Sergt. Babb is ordered home in recruiting service, I will drop a few hasty lines. I feel rather disappointed about my muster out for today while I was getting my muster out papers signed by the Regt. Commander, my application that I made at Nashville (to be mustered out) came into the office with the decision of the War Department and that was as follows. That if my time was out September 23, 1864, I should have made application at an earlier date or be mustered three years from the date of the regiment reenlisting. But I am not going to be mustered and gave no consideration (but think I shall tender my resignation). But I will tell you how things progress at my leisure for it has not been but a few minutes since I received the document. I am going to write to the War Department at the earliest date. I wrote to Adjutant General last September 18th asking him when my company time was out and he told me November 19th 1864 but the War Department says September 23rd and I yet have his letter. I think I will yet stir them up a little at the War Department.

Yours in haste and will write again soon.

Tell Billy not to worry for I yet think I will soon be home. I feel greatly disappointed for I expected to start for home tomorrow or next day. The Dr. thinks some of getting a contract to Dr. in our regiment.

Now don’t get despondent but say never [  ] and we will yet see them happy days we have so much doted on is the hope of your ever loving husband, — Lonzo

I have reported for duty and will have to command the regiment as Lt. Col. Lynch is now absent with a part of the regiment and Capt. Glass is ordered home on recruiting service. We are about to move somewhere but where I don’t know but not a great ways, I think. — A. D. P.





East Port, Mississippi
March 24, 1865

Dear Wife,

I did think I would not write until I got a letter from you but I guess I might as well write a few lines to tell you that I have got used to doing without any news from home so you might as well save your time consumed in writing and your writing material and postage stamps although you will have to pay the postage on this when you get it from the office for I have no stamps and if you don’t consider it a paying business to get letters from me at that price, you will have to send me word the first opportunity and I will not trouble you with so many of my uninteresting letters of late. I don’t know anything but what I have….[page missing?]

I suppose you are watching the gold market. I see by the Chicago papers that gold is down to about 65 to 70 cents premium and the consequence is everything else is coming down with a rush. I find that the price of gold is about as good a barometer of the times as can get. Everything seems to look very favorable for the speedy restoration of peace although we can tell better when we find out with what success the Confeds have with arming the Nigs. I have no doubt but what it will turn to our success at last but perhaps it will extend the time a little. But when it does come, it will show to the world that men—white or black—cannot be bartered as human cattle successfully in any country, more especially this of ours.

We have had a little scout on a steamboat up the river about 50 miles—our regiment only. [We] had a few shots with the Rebs and got a few poor cattle and mules and horses belonging to the Rebs but did not get as many as we expected when we started out for the Rebs had driven them away some two or three weeks ago.

If I recollect aright, your school is out one week from today. I guess you will be glad when it is finished. I wrote to Capt. Charlesworth tonight. I got a letter from him last night dated March 11th. I saw one mailed Metropolis, March 15th. Don’t see why you did not get one in the office sometime between February 28th and March 15th but I know you are not to blame for my not getting letters. I suppose you could not get them to the office or some other cause. You must not mind anything I say about it for I don’t think you are the most devoted wife in the business and no man dare tell me you are not, and my thinking so makes me more anxious to hear from you. I am in hopes you and the children and Sir W. W., my [   ] and horses are getting along finely and I would give my old shoes (as you say) to hear from you tonight by one of your long letters. But I am flattering myself that I will see you before long either to come and see me or I will you if everything turns out as I am expecting. Good night and two kisses &c. &c. — A. D. P.





Eastport, Mississippi
April 17th 1865

My Dear Wife,

I received yours today of April 5 & 7 or No. 10 & 11 letters and was glad to hear from you. Tonight looks like rain which causes my old legs to ache with the rheumatism or I should say when there seems to be a storm brewing the rheumatism seems to trouble me most—so I shall not write much tonight for I an going to write to Capt. [F.] Charlesworth in answer to one from him. Also one to the Adjutant General, State of Illinois, to acknowledge the receipt of my commission. I am going to accept it. I don’t know but I best tell you first—that I received today my commission as Major and to gratify your ambition and mine a little, I am going to accept it.

I will tell you something about how I was surprised a little and someone else a great deal. You see about the time I wrote you for my favorite petition (I found it today), I was informed that the Lt. Col. commanding had said I should never get promotion in his regiment. Then I was of the opinion I would get it, if possible, and I knew I was entitled to it, and I knew too that he could not make charges against me that he could substantiate. Consequently I “struck out.” I wrote to Gen. [Isham Nicholas] Haynie, Adjt. Gen., stating what was fact and I was ready for an investigation but then I did not hardly think I could stand all the influence that was brought against me for Capt. [Elijah T.] Phillips of Co. M has made three trips to Springfield with all the recommendation that General Hatch and Lt. Col. John Leach could give him, but could not keep mine back, which was necessary to his success. I think my rank will be 1st Maj.

Capt. Lucius B. Skinner [Co. I] is now going to try his hand as he is now next in rank, or Senior Capt. I am in hopes he will make it for I think he is a fine officer and a gentleman.

I was very much amused at you to see under what an amount of excitement you are working under. It makes me nervous to see what an amount of steam you are working under. There is so much excitement about you that you infuse so much into your letters that it almost unstrings my nerves.

Last night we had the sad intelligence that President Lincoln and Secretary Seward were assassinated on the night of April 14th. I can tell you I never since I have been in the army seen such a shadow cast over our regiment as that new news caused.

Now I will try and finish this for while I was writing last night, there came several officers to my quarters and said I “must come out” so they could congratulate me on my promotion. I knew what that meant. It meant come down to the sutler’s and treat everybody as long as they would drink and when I got back, I felt more like going to bed than writing. And now, since I have got the regiment out to drill (for I am commanding the regiment), I will do up some of my writing. I apprehended some trouble about getting the Colonel to sign my muster papers so I went to him this morning and asked him to sign them and he said he could not as he had no official notice of [Major] Herod’s dismissal—as my commission was “vice Herod dismissed”—but scaly in my opinion. That makes no difference for there is two vacancies besides that, I think, but you can bet I am not going to be idle about it and I told Col. [John] Lynch so too. Damn him, he knows I don’t love him much and I will do my best not to be beat by the crowd if I can help it. I will now close for I am in a hurry and am now going to the mustering officer, but I am sure he is in the scheme too.

Yours in haste, with 100 lbs. of steam on, — A. D. Pierce





Battle House,
Mobile, Alabama
November 13th 1865

My Dear Wife,

You see by this date I am still here at the Battle House, Mobile, and that is not the worst of it—I don’t know how long I will have to remain. My situation is a peculiar one. I am not under arrest but have been and no one but Gen. Woods can make my records right again so that I can get my pay &c. I will explain to you so you can understand how I am situated. You see while I was at Tompkinsville, a man came to me and told me he knew that a flat boat had been robbed of quite a lot of government cotton and he would tell me where it was if I would not tell anyone for if the citizens knew he reported them, his life would be in danger. I promised not to tell and in fact, he would not give me his name and I never have seen him since that time, but I took some men and went and found 83 bales of the cotton hid out in the woods where the robbers had hid it.

Now you see when government property is stolen and it is found by a citizen and reported to the proper authorities, they are entitled to one fourth of the property for finding. Now then there was an opportunity, I thought, for me to save a little money so I put a citizen on the flat boat with a guard sufficient to guard it and started the flat for Mobile and I also gave the sergeant of the guard written instructions to guard the cotton to Mobile and report to the Adjutant General for transportation back to their command immediately. Now in two or three days after the cotton had started for Mobile, there came orders for all the Vol. Cavalry in the Montgomery District to report to Selma to be mustered out. Now you see that order did not affect me and my command for I was out of that district but the balance of the regiment were in the district and of course I must be relieved by General Woods himself for I was reporting to him direct. Consequently I got on the first boat bound for Mobile and came on down to Mobile for I had other business that I thought it best for me to come and see the General in person.

I passed the flat at least 150 miles from Mobile floating on down. As I passed, I hollowed to the sergeant and told him to hurry up with the flat for we were going to be mustered out and that set the guard all on end of course to get away to the regiment so not to be late for the muster out. I came on down and the first thing went and saw General Wood and he seemed very glad to see me and said he “was glad I had come,” but said he “had telegraphed to me the day before to report to Selma with my command to be mustered out.”

I also reported the cotton to him that was coming down on the flat and found that it was claimed as private cotton but he said he would attend to that when it arrived. I stayed four days as a witness as requested by Provost Marshal General but I told him I did not know anything in the case and I saw the necessity of my being with my regiment and I got on a boat and went to Selma without asking my permission of anyone. But I was destined not to be allowed to stay with my regiment until I was mustered out. I am getting a little ahead of my story.

When I got to Selma, I found the guard I had placed on the cotton to come here. I asked the sergeant what he had done with the cotton he was guarding. He said that the man (citizen) I had put on the boat said he did not want them any longer. Also he said I had sent him word to let the sergeant and guard go to Selma to be mustered out and of course as anxious as they were to leave the flat, they were willing to leave the flat. They were willing to take any expense to get away. He (the sergeant) got to Selma just a few hours ahead of me. I stayed one night in Selma and the next day I was put under arrest by the Col. commanding the post and ordered to report to Gen. Woods immediately. I got here as quick as I could and that, 4 days from Selma, went the first thing and saw Gen. Woods, showed him my order placing me under arrest. Well, he said, he did not want me under arrest but he wanted me to find or tell what had become of the cotton i sent down and had reported to him. He said he had not heard of the cotton or seen anything connected with it. I told him he knew as well as I did. He said he wanted me to find the cotton and the man I put on board of the flat and he would then give me papers that would make me alright. Well I looked around but don’t find anything of either and ask him most every day to give me the promised papers for you see I can’t get my pay unless he gives me papers showing I have been released from arrest. But he keeps putting me off so I can’t tell when I will get away. But I have not seen him since Saturday and today is Monday and I am going to see him again today and see if he is going to keep me here always.

You see I can’t well afford to stay here and pay four dollars per day for board and I don’t know as I ever saw days seem so long as they do now for I want to get home so bad. But my dear wife, don’t worry about me for I am bound to come out with a clean name if it costs ever so much time and money for I know there can’t be anything brought against me and sustained.

Oh, the prisoner I brought down here has got away. He offered me $1,000 dollars if I would let him get away and I swore to that at his trial and them they let him get away. I am going to tell General Woods he ought to arrest the Provost Marshal and make him find him for that would be just as he has got me and be just such a case.

I have sent to Springfield for an affidavit from Sergeant Yancey that he left the flatboat without any orders when he left it and I may have to stay until that comes. If I do, it will not be here for a week yet and that will be a lonesome time for me. The last letter I got from you, you wrote out little girl was sick. I am in hopes she is better now but I don’t expect to hear from you until I see you. This is a cold, wet morning. Yesterday I had another sail boat ride down the Bay and the time passed quite pleasantly. I will now close by wishing you all well. Ever your affectionate husband, — A. D. Pierce




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