Colonel Cromwell Pearce Papers

Collection Title: Colonel Cromwell Pearce Papers

Collection Number: 160

Dates of Collection: 1765-1852

Box Numbers: 2 Boxes (41 Folders)

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA

Language: English

Project Archivist: Margaret Miles Baillie


Col. Cromwell Pearce (1772-1852) was born to Cromwell and Margaret Boggs Pearce on their farm in Willistown on August 13, 1772.  He had a least six brothers; Richard, Edward, John, George, Marmaduke and Joseph, and a sister, Frances.  Col. Pearce was married twice.  His first marriage was to Isabella Bull on April 23, 1801, they had one child, Lewis G. Pearce.  Isabella died March 30, 1807, at age 31.  Cromwell later married the widow Mary Bartholomew; there were no children from this marriage.  According to Pearce genealogy (see Box 1, Folder1), Rev. Slator Clay was the minister for both marriages.

When Pearce was twenty-one, he was commissioned as captain of the 1st regiment of the Chester County Brigade State militia[1] and six years later, commissioned as first lieutenant in the US Infantry (see Box 1, Folder 6).  During a brief hiatus as owner of the Washington Hotel in West Chester, Pearce was appointed the first postmaster of the borough (Box 1, Folder 7).  After being commissioned as a major-general in the state militia, President Madison appointed Pearce colonel of the 16th Regiment US Infantry[2] and he immediately began his service with the beginning of the War of 1812 (Box 1, Folder 9).

Col. Pearce served with distinction and was evidently very considerate of the men he led.  While other officers took furloughs during the winter months in order to be quartered in nearby Plattsburgh, Pearce stayed with his men and made sure that huts were built for them.[3]  He showed concerned for their health and morale.  They eventually saw action in several major engagements along the Canadian border.  At the Battle of York (Toronto), the men went by ship across Lake Ontario, landed and then fought the British.  General Pike, questioning a British prisoner, was mortally wounded by a magazine explosion, and Col. Pearce, after dragging Gen. Pike away to safety, took command. Discrepancies in the account of the Battle of York have been given by Gen. Dearborn, but there are papers in the collection that verify Col. Pearce and the 16th Regiment’s involvement in this battle.

The collection includes documentation of the War of 1812 such as reports of troop movements, orders to march, ordinance stores, court martials, list of sick and wounded, and naval correspondence related to the movements and events of Col. Pearce and the 16th Regiment.  Two documents in particular reveal the sentiment and respect of the men and their leader for each other (see Box 1, Folder 67; and Box 2, Folder 8).  A public dinner was given in Pearce’s honor in Harrisburg, March 22, 1814.[4]

After the war, Pearce became involved again in Chester County public life.  He was elected sheriff and appointed an associate judge.  Chosen as a Presidential elector of Pennsylvania in the very contentious race of 1824, he carried the vote to Washington,

D.C.[5] In the spring of that year he was invited to become a member of the Board of Visitors at West Point Military Academy where Lt. Col. Thayer superintended (Box 2, Folder 14).

Pearce passed away on April 2, 1852, at his home.[6]  He was buried at St. Peter’s Church in Great Valley.

[1] Futhey & Cope, p. 676.

[2] Ibid, p. 677.

[3] Fredericksen, John C. A Poor But Honest Sodger: Colonel Cromwell Pearce the 16th US Infantry, and the War of 1812.  Pennsylvania History, vol. 52, no. 3.  July, 1985. p. 134.

[4] American Republican, March 22, 1814.  CCHS Clippings File.

[5] Futhey & Cope, p. 677.

[6] American Republican, April 6, 1852.  CCHS Clippings File.

Collections Scope:

The manuscripts in the collection cover the years 1765 to 1852.  The bulk of the collection covers Pearce’s military career during the War of 1812, other documents provide information about his lineage and life outside the military. 

The collection includes: letters, marriage certificate, genealogy, legal documents, receipts, oath of allegiance, orders, reports, lists of officers, notes, appointments and commission, muster roll, invitation, account book, diary, etc.

Collection Arrangement:

The manuscripts in the collection are arranged chronologically.  When originally added to the (individually numbered) manuscript collection, the papers were not arranged in any particular order.  The original manuscript numbers are included in the finding aid – though no longer in use for retrieval purposes, they are recorded here for in-house reference use. 

Related Material:

In addition to published references in the library, more Pearce family and military material will be found in CCHS’s manuscript collection.  For example, Ms. 33 is a letter from George Pearce, Col. Pearce’s nephew, to his mother Margaret Pearce written April 1, 1809, from Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, telling about his visit to his Uncle George and family while on a business trip to New Orleans.  There are War of 1812 lists filed in the card catalog under the names of other officers; in addition there are government documents executed by Col. Pearce while serving as Sheriff. 

The farm that Col. Pearce was born on was the scene of the “Paoli Massacre” during the Revolutionary War, therefore, information on his family can be gleaned from these accounts.

Collections Contents:

Box 1

Folder 1:  Genealogy

-Ms. 325 – Pearce genealogy with penciled notes on Cromwell Pearce.

Folder 2:  Marriage Certificate

-Ms. 327 – Marriage certificate of Richard Robinson and Rachel Pearce May 27, 1765.

Folder 3:  Correspondence – Family, 1773

-Ms. 271 – Letter from William Pearce, London, to Brother and Sister, July 4, 1773.  He tells of trying to send letters to them before by the hand of Richard Jinkins, their nephew, but he feels assured that his second daughter, Mary Pearce, will get this letter to them.

Folder 4:  Correspondence – Family, 1783-1789

-Ms. 305 – Letter to Edward Pearce or any of his sons in Chester County near filladelfia (sic) from Cromwell and Sara Peace, County Fermanagh, May 1783.  Typed transcript (partial). 

-Ms. 303 – Letter to Richard Robinson from Mary Pearce, Jefreson (sic) County, July 9, 1785. Tells of the trip there and the good prices they are getting for their labor and paying for products.

-Ms. 299 – Letter to Cromwell Pearce, near the Adm. Warran (sic) Tavern, from John Milligan, Chas. Town, April 26, 1787, regarding sale of a lot.

-Ms. 298 – Letter to Mr. Cromwell Pierce (sic.), Paoli, from brother and sister George and Mary Pearce, Jefferson County, November 8, 1789 (?).  Tells of life where they are and asks for Cromwell to send him a good workman whom he would take on as a partner.  Family news is given and exchanged and they give their regards to sister Peggy, the children and sister Rachel and Richard Robinson.

Folder 5:  Correspondence – Family, 1790s

-Ms. 297 – Letter to Richard Robinson, Paoli, from George and Mary Pearce, Jefferson County, October 1, 1792.  He tells of his conversion and makes inquires about the family’s health.

-Ms. 286 – Letter to Mr. Richard Robinson, Paoli, from George and Mary Pearce, Jefferson County, July 26, 1797.

Folder 6:  Military – Pre-1800

-Ms. 98 – Oath of allegiance and fidelity certificate taken by Lt. Col. Cromwell Pearce, Willistown, March 13, 1779.  Signed by Jno. Beaton, Comm’r.

-Ms. 106 – Cromwell Pearce’s Appointment as Lt. Col. of the 5th Battalion of Militia, Chester County, May 20, 1779.  Signed by Jos. Reed, President and attested by T. (?) Matlack.

-Ms. 105 – Cromwell Pearce’s Appointment as a Lieutenant of Infantry in the Army of the United States, from James McHenry, War Department, March 6, 1799.

Folder 7:  Postmaster – 1802

-Ms. 9 – Appointment of Cromwell Pearce as Deputy Post Master by Gideon Granger, Post-Master General, September 25, 1802.

Folder 8: Correspondence, 1808

-Ms. 30 – List of clothes lent to Mary Robinson of Pittsburgh by Cromwell Pearce, March 26, 1808.  Name of (Mrs. S.?) Bull on reverse.

Folder 9: Military, May 1812

-Ms. 35 – Confidential Letter from Joseph Bloomfeld, Brigadier General, U.S. Army, Trenton, to Col. Cromwell Pearce, May 24, 1812.  Letter instructing him to meet Lt. Col. Dennis in Philadelphia and march two companies to Fort Columbus.  Footnote reads:  “…we must not create an alarm..”

 Folder 10: Military, August 1812

-Ms. 36 –  Letter from Robert Brent, Treasury, Washington City, to Col. Pearce, August 15, 1812.  Payment of $3,000 in bounties and a draft from Henry Drinker, Cashier of the Bank of North America.

-Ms. 42 – Receipt from Cromwell Pearce for a “S.fine Blue Cloath (sic.) full Dress $65,” Philadelphia, August 26, 1812.

Folder 11: Military, September 1812

-Ms. 39 – Receipt for a sword and belt from P. Hartmann (sp.?), Philadelphia, for Col. Pearce, September 12, 1812.

Folder 12: Military, October 1812

-Ms. 40 – Letter from Gen. Dearborn, Headquarters, Greenbush, to Col. Pearce, October 10, 1812, regarding Capt. John H. Bryan’s resignation.

-Ms. 37 – General Orders from E. Beebe, Headquarters Green Bush, to Col. Pearce, October 13, 1812.  Orders to march to Plattsburgh and report to Brigadier General Bloomfield.  Lists supplies that will be given to him at the post.

-Ms. 45 – Marching orders from Greenbush to Plattsburg, October 13, 1812, from E. Beebe, Deputy Adjt. General to Col. Cromwell Pearce.

-Ms. 41 – Itemized account of money paid to teamsters by Storm T. VanDeree, Waggon (sic) Master for transporting supplies to the 16th Regiment, Col. Pearce.  October 23, 1812.

Folder 13: Military, December 1812

-Ms. 38 – Letter from John Chandler, Brig. Gen., Burlington, to Col. Pearce, December 26, 1812.  Questions about a man named Uphan (sp.?) accused of being a spy.

-Ms. 43 – “Muster Roll of Capt. Alex. McEwen’s Company 16th Infantry commanded by Col. Pearce from the first of October 1812 . . .to the 31st.” December 31, 1812.

Folder 14: Military, March 1813

-Ms. 51 – Morning Report of the First Brigade, U.S. Troops, cantonment launch March 8, 1813.

Folder 15: Military, March 1813

-Ms. 47 – Orders to Col. Cromwell Pearce, commanding, from Adjutant General (?), March 13, 1813.  Mentions ammunition and provisions as well as marching from Chataquea [Chateaugay] and Malone to Canton, “avoiding the River St. Lawrence.”

-Ms. 58 – Order to contractor to provide rations to Col. Pearce’s troops at Brownville.  March 15, 1813.

Folder 16: Military, March 1813

-Ms. 54 – “Memorandum of the goods delivered into the hands of the collector” for the district of Sackets Harbor taken by Col. Pearce, March 17, 1813.

-Ms. 49 – Letter to Col. Pearce concerning the local sheriff.  Written from Sackets Harbor, March 18, 1813.

-Ms. 46 – General orders that Jacob Schener, 16th reg. inf., has been struck from the rolls of the army and no longer a captain. From the Adjutant. General, Washington City, March 18, 1813.

Folder 17: Military, April 1813

-Ms. 53 – Report of the sick and wounded at the capture of York, April 27, 1813, signed Chas. W. Hunter, Brig. Major.  Lists how many were killed or wounded and by ball or explosion and what regiment or corp they were in.  Lists some names of the deceased.

-Ms. 52 – Dispute with Major General Dearborn’s official detail of the Battle of York, dated Head Quarters York, Upper Canada, April 28, 1813.

Folder 18:  Military, May 1813

-Ms. 55 – “Statement of the Killed and wounded of the 16th Regiment at the Action at Fort George, May 27, 1813.”

-Ms. 61 – Orders for Col. Pearce to “turn out” twenty-five men to retrieve provisions from and provide labor for three ships:  the Gold Hunter, Neptune and a little sloop.  Also commanded to provide four sailors for the Gold Hunter.  Order from General Dearborn, signed by Major N. Pinkey, aid de camp. May 10, 1813.

Folder 19: Military, September 1813

-Ms. 59 – Morning Report of the 16th Regiment, U.S. Infantry commanded by Col. Cromwell Pearce, Fort George, September 28, 1813.

Folder 20: Military, November 1813

-Ms. 48 – Orders to Col. Cromwell Pearce to take command of the 3rd Brigade, November 25, 1813.

Folder 21: Military, December 1813

-Ms. 50 – Orders for Col. Pearce, Col. Brady, and Lt. Col. Cutting to report to the Recruiting Service from N. Pinkney, Adjt. Gen’l., Head Quarters Military District No. 9, December 7, 1813.

-Ms. 60 – List of the Officers of the 16th Regiment, U. S. Infantry.  Gives their current location and other comments.  (1813? is penciled on the document, note, however, that Ms. 50 gives the order for Col. Pearce to report to Philadelphia for recruiting duty December 7, 1813.  He is listed on this document as doing so.)

-Ms. 62 – “A list of the Officers of the 16th Regiment infantry with their stations,” circa 1813.

-Ms. 44 – List of names of officers with various dates in 1812 and 1813.

Folder 22: Military, February 1814

-Ms. 244 – Letter from Robert Brent, Army Pay Office, Washington City, to Col. Cromwell Pearce, February 16, 1814.

-Ms. 247 – Letter to Col. Pearce from Thomas T. Tucker, Treasurer of the United States, February 24, 1814, pertains to receipt of money for a warrant.

Folder 23: Military, March 1814

-Ms. 139 – Letter to Col. Pearce, Sullivan’s Inn, Spread Eagle, Philadelphia, from John Grinnis, Harrisburg, March 8, 1814.  Recommended Dr. Joseph Kelso as physician for the troops in Harrisburg.

-Ms. 233 – Letter to Col. Pearce, United States Infantry, Philadelphia, from John Gemmil, Harrisburg, March 15, 1814, regarding the recommendation of Dr. Joseph Kelso as Surgeon.

-Ms. 250 – Letter from Robert Brent, Army Pay Office, Washington City, to Col. Pearce, March 31, 1814.

Folder 24: Military, February to May 1814 Orders and Correspondence

-Ms. 121 to 136 – Col. Pearce’s copy of orders he issued and military correspondence from February 17, 1814, through May 12, 1814, while stationed in Philadelphia.  Seems to have been cut from a book binding.  16 double sided pages.

Folder 25: Military, April – June 1814

-Ms. 241 – General Orders from Brigadier General Bloomfield, Head Quarters, Philadelphia, May 13, 1814.

-Ms. 242 – Orders to Col. Pearce from Brigadier General Bloomfield, Head Quarters, Philadelphia, May 18, 1814.

-Ms. 240 – Orders to Col. Pearce from William Cummings, Adjt. General, Plattsburgh, May 26, 1814.

Box 2

Folder 1: Military, July 1814

-Ms. 249 – Orders to Col. Pearce from Head Quarters, Plattsburg, July 5, 1814.

-Ms. 232 – Marching orders to Col. Pearce, Chazy, New York, from Wm. Cumming, Head Quarters of the Northern Army, Plattsburg, July 5, 1814.

-Ms. 234 – Orders to Col. Pearce, commanding at Chazy, from E. Shipp, Brig. Major, Champlain, July 7, 1814.

-Ms. 236 – Orders to Col. Pearce, 16th Infantry, from Adjt. General’s office, Northern Army, Plattsburgh, July 7, 1814, to be a witness at a court martial.

-Ms. 230 – Letter to Col. Pearce, United States Army, from T. Macdonough, USS Saratoga, July 8, 1814.  Reports that two of his seamen have deserted and asks them to be sent back to him if found. 

Folder 2: Military, July 1814

-Ms. 243 – Letter to Col. N. Pinkney from Cromwell Pearce, July 17, 1814.

-Ms. 63 – “Extract from General Orders, H. Quarters ..Army,” Adjutant General’s Office, Plattsburgh, NY, July 19, 1814. Orders to Col. Pearce, commanding the forces at Chazy, for Lt. Col. Clinch’s detachment to march and report to General Smith at Champlain.  It also gives orders for the four consolidated regiments under Pearce’s command to march to Cumberland headquarters and occupy there.

-Ms. 235 – Orders to Col. Pearce, commanding at Chazy, from Adjt. General’s Office, Plattsburgh, NY, July 19, 1814, regarding dragoon attached to Pearce’s command.

Folder 3: Military, August – September 1814

-Ms. 245 – Orders to Col. Pearce from W. H. Nicole, Plattsburg, August 20, 1814.

-Ms. 64 – Itemized receipt for payment from Col. Pearce to Mrs. Belger (sp.?) for washing from June 1, 1814 to September 1814. Signed by James Belger

-Ms. 237 – Orders to march to Col. Pearce from Wm. Cumming, Adjt. General, Plattsburg, August 28, 1814. Mentions Col. Fenwick, a light artillery commander.

Folder 4: Military, October 1814

-Ms. 248 – Notes on the court martial for four privates that were absent without leave near Fort Erie, October 12, 1814.

-Ms. 65 – Charge of theft against Sergeant Statts of St. Horrells company of the 16th Regiment, October 16, 1814.

Folder 5: Military, November 1814

-Ms. 231 – Letter to Col. Pearce, near Buffalo, New York, from Lettitia Fleming, Sadsbury, November 18, 1814, concerning the whereabouts of her husband, Captain Henry Fleming.  She states that the last letter she has from him was dated March 27, Quebec Prison. 

-Ms. 246 – Letter from Joseph Pearce, East Whiteland, to Col. Pearce, Buffalo, November 27, 1814.

Folder 6: Military, December 1814

-Ms. 312 – Letter to Major Robert Gray, 16th U.S. Infantry – Camp near Buffaloe, (sic) NY, from H. G., Sunbury, Tuesday Evening December 20, 1814.

-Ms. 238 – Orders to Casper Snyder, Inspector of the 1st Brigade, 3rd division of Militia, Spread Eagle Post Office, Delaware County, from Nathaniel B. Boiliaus, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in regards to court martials.

-Ms. 239 – Letter to Col. Pearce from George Izard, Head Quarters, Buffalo, December 1814, he tells Col. Pearce of his expanded role as commander and those who will now report to him including an intelligence source.

Folder 7: Military, January – February 1815

-Ms. 70 – Statement of Ordinance stores on hand at Buffalo, January 31, 1815, to Col. Pearce from Richard C. Pomeroy, Assistant Dep. Com of Ordinance.

-Ms. 74 – Roster for Captain’s 2nd Brigade for January 7, 1815.

-Ms. 72 – Letter to Col. Cromwell Pearce, Camp near Buffalo, from T. C (?) East Whiteland, February 7, 1815.  Local news and names along with comments on the war and its officers.

Folder 8: Military, March 1815

-Ms. 78 – A letter of apology to Col. Pearce signed by the men of the 16th regiment, cantonment near Buffalo, March 10, 1815.

-Ms. 77 – Letter to “The Colonel or Commanding officer of the 16th regiment U.S. Infantry, Buffalo, N.Y.” from A.J. Dallas, Department of War, March 14, 1815. (Confidential). A letter requesting a report from Pearce in order for the President to reduce the army to ten thousand men.

-Ms. 76 – Letter to Col. Pearce, Buffalo, New York, from Thomas Powers, Albany, March 29, 1815.  Tells of waiting for the paymaster to arrive.

Folder 9: Military, April – July 1815

-Ms. 75 – Letter to Col. Pearce, Buffalo, New York, from Thomas Powers, Albany, April 15, 1815. Discussion of the war, soldiers and finances.

-Ms. 68 – Bill of Expenses for tending Court Martial by Matthew Stanley, Brigade Inspector, April 2, 1817.  Also lists names of dragoons who served as guards and provosts during the trials.

-Ms. 67 – Farewell Address to Capt. McEwen, officers and soldiers of the 16th Regiment, June 1, 1815, with typed transcript.

Folder 10: Military, August – December 1815

-Ms. 71 – Letter to Major General E. Q. Ripley, which was printed in the Philadelphia Democratic Press, expressing disagreement with a biographical article in the Port Folio.  The writer [unnamed] attempts to correct inaccuracies in the article concerning the Battle at York……(S.H.?)

Folder 11: Correspondence 1817

-Ms. 86 – Letter to Col. Pearce, West Chester, from Jn. W. Cuningham, March 29, 1817. Comments on the late war and books about it.

-Ms. 710 – Letter from J. D. Barnard to Major C. Sharp, July 10, 1817, in regards to Major Pearce’s receipt for an artillery gun in his position as a member of the Chester County Republic Artillerists, for a 4th of July celebration.  More details about the mail not reaching the governor, etc.

Folder 12: Correspondence 1818

-Ms. 88 – Letter to Col. Pearce, West Chester, from P. Hagum (sp.?), Treasury Department, September 14, 1818.  Requesting addresses for three soldiers.

-Ms. 90 – Order to stay proceedings to Cromwell Pearce, Sheriff, by Henry Brower, Coventry, October 22, 1818.

-Ms. 94 – Commission as an Aid de Camp to Governor William Findlay, and bestowing the rank of Lt. Col. in the Pennsylvania Militia.  Signed by William Findlay, Governor and Tho. Sergeant, Sec’y, October 22, 1818.

-Ms. 89 – Letter to Cromwell Pearce, West Chester, from James Trimble, Deputy Secretary, Harrisburgh, November 28, 1818.  Appointment as Governor’s Aide de Camp.

-Ms. 91 – A vindication for sale of land to Cromwell Pearce, Sheriff, by T. W. Kittera, Philadelphia, December 19, 1818.

Folder 13: Correspondence 1819

-Ms. 329 – Receipt of money by Cromwell Pearce, Sheriff, as part of the debt in the suit of Margaret Stocker vs. Thomas Potts, Robert E. Hobart and David Potts, Jr., February, 1819.

-Ms. 334 – Letter to Cromwell Pearce, Sheriff, West Chester, from J. B. McKean, Philadelphia, February 28, 1819. Regarding payment of debt and interest to be charged to the purchaser if payment not received in a timely fashion.

-Ms. 328 – Letter to Cromwell Pearce, Westchester (sic), from John Pearce, Brownsville, September 10, 1819.  Talk of family life and receiving news from Kentucky.

Folder 14: Correspondence 1824-1852

-Ms. 251 – Letter of invitation to Col. Pearce to become member of Board of Visitors at West Point Military Academy and attend the examination of cadets.  Signed by John J. Calhoun, Department of War, May 4, 1824. West Point superintendent Lt. Col. S. Thayer mentioned.

-Ms. 5442 – “Letters Testamentary on the Estate of George McQuead,” October 27, 1826, states a will was approved and filed and Maria and Jane Oaks were executrixes.  Contains the will.

-Ms. 9165 – “Release from Cromwell Pearce and his wife Mary to John Roberts for one third of a kiln of lime yearly,” August 29, 1836.  Signed by Cromwell & Mary Pearce, Thomas R Trimble and Lewis G. Pearce.

Folder 15: Account Book and Check

-Ms. 904 – Bank Account of Cromwell Pearce.  Pearce’s account with The Bank of Chester County 1817-1852.

-Ms. 33085 – Check written by Cromwell Pearce to self on the Bank of Chester County, February 9, 1852.

Folder 16: Military, Diary

-Ms. 3528 – Diary, Cromwell Pearce, Col. 16th Infantry, from September 14, 1812 to July 28, 1813.  Details of infantry’s movements and travel.