Capt. (later Lt.Col.) John Pierson's letters record the experiences of an observant officer during his two years of duty in the Union occupation army in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, and later, as he is stationed at Fort Harrison the north bank of the James River in Virginia. There are nine letters written while Pierson was in the 109th U.S. Colored Infantry and two after his military service had expired, otherwise the remainder of the collection consists of letters from Pierson to his wife, Joanna, and daughter, Emma, written while a Captain in the 10th Michigan Infantry.
Cynical, yet patriotic, Pierson writes superb descriptions of Southern towns and cities, and provides detailed information on the military engagements at Corinth, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Dalton, Ga. (February 28th, 1864), and elsewhere. Pierson's letters also contain excellent commentary on army hospital facilities and personnel during the periods after battles when they are flooded with casualties.
Other experiences of interest in the Pierson papers are letters describing his management of a Mississippi plantation after its owner murdered a man in H Company; a tour of the Hermitage guided by Andrew Jackson Donelson, and the Confederate burning of a mail train near Chattanooga. Also noteworthy are two letters from Pierson's daughter, Emma, while visiting her father in Nashville in May, 1863. Emma was aghast that so many churches had been turned into hospitals.