Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Kate Pierce Papers, 1859-1873

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Kate Pierce papers
Creator: Pierce, Kate, 1846-1897
Inclusive dates: 1859-1873
Extent: 43 items
The Kate Pierce papers consist of letters sent to Pierce by several writers, including her brother, Franklin, a soldier in the 15th New York Engineers; Edward Brady, of the 13th U.S. Infantry; and several female friends. Also included are several school exercises.
Language: The material is in English.
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1992. M-2803.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Kate Pierce Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged into three series:

  • Correspondence
  • Essays and Notes
  • Miscellany

Biographical/Historical Note

Catherine (Kate) Pierce was born on August 8, 1846, in North Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Reuben Pierce and Florilla Swetland. She had three siblings: Franklin (b. November 11, 1841); Flora (b. April 27, 1844); and Charles (b. May 17, 1849). Reuben Pierce died in 1857, after which point, Florilla supported the family as a tailor. Kate followed in her mother's footsteps and became a dressmaker; she never married, and died in 1923.

Franklin served with the 15th New York Engineers during the Civil War and spent a significant amount of time in the Union Hospital at City Point. His regiment was present at the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. He married Sarah Peck in 1871, and worked as a carpenter and later as a miller, before his death in 1897.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Kate Pierce papers consist of 36 letters written to Kate, 4 school exercises, and 3 photographs, spanning 1859-1873. Kate Pierce's brother, Franklin, wrote 14 letters in the collection, describing his experiences with the 15th New York Engineers in 1864-1865. In several of these, he described his duties: on October 12, 1864, he wrote, "…our folks tore down brick houses belonging to the rebels in side of the works that we are building. You can see the avenues leading up to the cellars still remaining[.] Shrubs and bushes graveled walks all denoting that wealthy planters owned them…". He also noted his gratitude for the U.S. Christian Commission (December 24, 1864), and described a prolonged stay in the hospital, which was "warm" and a "good place to sleep" (January 12, 1865). In many letters, he requested family news and expressed pride in having a number of female penpals.

The collection also includes eight letters to Kate from Edward Brady, a musician in Company F, 13th U.S. Infantry, stationed at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Shortly after Brady placed an advertisement requesting a penpal in a newspaper, they began corresponding. In his first letter to her (March 5, 1871), he thanked her for her "kindness in noticing my poor Advertisement (and especially from a soldier).” In his letters, Brady discussed the difficulty of educating oneself while in the army (March 5, 1871: "if one's Comrades see one improving his time by study…they would never leave off plaguing him and playing him tricks until he should quit in disgust…"). He also discussed his motivations for joining the military (March 25, 1871), described the country surrounding Fort Bridger (April 15, 1871), and recounted desertions (May 29, 1871). In his letter of July 29, 1871, Brady included two carte-de-visite photographs of himself and described a confrontation with "an Organization formed, among the Mormons for the avowed purpose of fighting against the United States in case the Law against some of there [sic] so called privileges was enforced." Correspondence from Brady ended abruptly after he asked Kate if he could write to her "as though to a sister" (December 15, 1871).

Also present in the collection are four brief compositions written by Kate Pierce: "Order of Exercise," "Imagination," "Sleigh Ride," and an untitled piece beginning "There are 'dark hours' in everyones [sic] lifetime mingled with pain and despair." All appear to date from the 1860s.

Subject Terms

    • City Point Hospital (Hopewell, Va.)
    • Desertion, Military--United States.
    • Draft--United States.
    • Fort Bridger (Wyo.)
    • Military bands.
    • Military hospitals.
    • Mormons.
    • Pen pals.
    • Soldiers--New York.
    • Temperance.
    • United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 13th.
    • United States. Army--Military life.
    • United States. Army. New York Engineers Regiment, 15th (1861-1865)
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Engineering and construction.
    • United States Postal Service.
    • Wyoming--Description and travel.
    • Wyoming--History.
    • Brady, Edward.
    • Pierce, Franklin.
    Genre Terms:
    • Essays.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Photographs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   89, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Correspondence [series]
    Folder   25  
     February 7, 1859-December 30, 1864
    Folder   26  
     January 7, 1865-April 29, 1867
    Folder   27  
     March 5, 1871-May 29, 1871
    Folder   28  
     June 25, 1871-October 19, 1873, and  undated
    Box   89, Schoff Civil War Collection Folder   29
    Essays and Notes,  1860-1864,  Undated [series]
    Box   89, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Miscellany [series]
    Folder   30  
    [ca.   1860], and undated
    Folder   31