Collection Title: Eber T. and Joseph J. Mercer Papers

Collection Number: Ms. Coll. 178

Dates of Collection: 1854-1865, Bulk 1861-1865

Box Numbers: 2 boxes, 34 folders, 1 linear foot.

RepositoryChester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380

Language: English

Project Archivist: Margaret Miles Baillie


The collection spans the years 1854 -1865 and contains personal correspondence from Eber and Joseph to their mother and other family members.  Both served in Co. B, 29th Regt. of the Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War.  Joseph died from typhoid fever during his tour of duty.  Eber, who was captured and paroled, wounded in Gettysburg, and part of Sherman’s march to the sea, was mustered out in 1865 and married his sweetheart, Margaret Moore.  He became a Philadelphia Police Officer in 1875 and lived the rest of his life in that city.


Series I – Eber T. Mercer

The first series of the collection contains letters by 1st Lt. Eber Townsend Mercer.  He was born on January 10, 1835, the eldest of eight children, to Thomas Harlan and Hannah James Mercer, of Westtown, Pennsylvania. His father passed away on February 14, 1853.  By 1860, the family consisted of Hannah, Eber, Ellwood, Jesse, and Margaret Moore and they resided in Philadelphia according to the 1860 census.  Eber was a grocer and Margaret Moore was an assistant grocer.  Although not all the children lived to adulthood, some were living elsewhere because Eber’s brother, Joseph, was mustered into service with him on July 5, 1861.  

Mercer served with Company B, 29th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers. He was a sergeant with the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division of the 12th Army Corp.  His early war letters start out with general reports on camp life, marches, and rebels caught during skirmishes.  He sends requests home for various items and tells them about the visitors to camp and other acquaintances that are serving in the army.  As the war progresses, his letters give details of battles, and the areas surrounding the battle and the local inhabitants.  His writing during the war reflects his maturity and growth in his relationships with his mother and friend Margaret Moore.

 Mercer was captured at Front Royal in 1862 and was wounded in the leg at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863.  He was hospitalized until December 1863. After his return to service, his letters from Bridgeport, Alabama, indicate Capt. Millison had put him in command of a squad of the 29th. He wanted to be relieved of this duty as he and Capt. Millison did not get along.  

On April 9, 1864, the 29th was assigned with the 111th to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 12th Corps under Gen. Hooker.[1]  “The White Star Brigade,” as the 29th was called, was not thrilled about this merge according to Mercer’s April 12, 1864, letter as they felt they would loose their identity. 

The 12th Corps became part of Sherman’s march to the sea.  Mercer’s letters give many details on the march through Georgia, the siege and occupation of Atlanta and of the eventual taking of Savannah. The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division was the first to get into the city of Savannah and because of this; they had the privilege of duty in the city.  During this time, he reenlisted and was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant. He directs Margaret not to put his new rank on any mail, as she would have to pay full cost for postage if she did.

Eber was mustered out with his company on July 17, 1865.  He and Margaret were married on August 3, 1865, and they enjoyed a wedding trip to Atlantic City.  Eber farmed in West Whiteland and then became a Philadelphia Police officer in 1875.  Margaret died sometime after 1870 and Eber married Jane “Jenny” Davis on September 9, 1878.  He had no children from either marriage.[2] 

Series II – Joseph J. Mercer

     The second series of the collection contains letters by 3rd Corporal Joseph J. Mercer.  He was born on November 8, 1841, one of eight children, to Thomas Harlan and Hannah James Mercer, of Westtown, Pennsylvania. His father passed away on February 14, 1853, and by 1860, Joseph was living in Edgemont, Pennsylvania, with the Jackson Baker family as a farm hand. 

     Joseph was mustered into Co. B of the 29th Infantry, Pennsylvania Volunteers, with his brother Eber, on July 5, 1861.  On October 15, 1861, he was appointed a Third Corporal by Col. Murphy at Darnestown, Maryland.[3]  His letters reflect a deep affection for his mother and concern for his family members.  He died at Camp Holt of Typhoid Fever on November 24, 1861.  In his death notice in the Village Record, it was stated, “That during his connection with the company, we had ample evidence of his valor, loyalty, and true soldierly qualities.”[4]


[1] Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-5. Harrisburg, 1869. Vol. 1; p. 501.

[2] Eber died in Philadelphia in either 1918 or 1919.  His address is listed as 230 S. 57th. St. in the 1918 Philadelphia City Directory.

[3] Ms. Coll. 178, Certificate of Appointment. Box 1, Folder 34.

[4] Village Record. January 21, 1862.

Collections Scope:

The collection spans the years from 1854-1865, with the bulk of the collection from 1861 – 1865.  It consists of personal correspondence and a few military related documents.

Information For Researchers:

  • Access:
    Collection is open for research.
  • Publication Rights:
    For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Librarian of the CCHC library.
  • Preferred Citation:
    Eber T. and Joseph J. Mercer Papers, 1854-1865. Ms. Coll. 178. Chester County Historical Society Library. West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Acquisition Information:
    The documents were donated by Mrs. Joseph Uhll, March 1963.
  • Processing History:
    Processing and finding aid prepared using DACS by Margaret Miles Baillie, 2009.

Collection Arrangement:

The primary arrangement of the manuscripts is by author and they are housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.   The secondary arrangement is chronological.

The documents were transferred from the general manuscript and letter collections at CCHS, which, in the past, used an alphanumeric cataloging system and they are still marked accordingly.  This allows for in-house cross-referencing between the two systems.

Related Material:

–     Guide to Civil War manuscripts at CCHS.

–     CCHC clippings files, family files and manuscript collection.

–     CCHC Photo Collection.

–     CCHC Museum Collection for military clothing and accoutrements.

–     Chester County Archives for wills, etc.

Collections Contents:

Collection Contents:


Box 1 – Letters 1854 – 1865


Series I – Eber Mercer


Folder 1 – Letters to Margaret Moore. September 1861 – December 1862. 7 items.

–          Letters from Camp Foster, Aquia Landing, VA, and Fairfax Station, VA

–          Letters mention Gen. Hancock and Gen. Jackson. He gives directions and prices on transportation for those who wish to visit them at camp.

–          Talks about some men wanting to take “French leave.”

–          Talks of guard duty.  Asks for her photograph.

–          Gap in letters during the time he was captured.

–          Mentions cook.  Tells of squad developed to hunt up paroled prisoners.

–          Mentions Dr. Dowlin of Lionville as doctor of regiment. Gen. Slocum.


Folder 2 – Letters to Margaret Moore. January – February 1863. 8 items.

–          Letters from Fairfax Station and Stafford Court House, VA

–          Tells of huts they have made and advises that they do not visit, as it is too muddy.

–          Mentions men from the 124th visiting.  Finding the sick in the hospitals.

–          Says he will not complain when he sees those with lost limbs, etc.

–          Mentions snowfall that measures 14 inches.


Folder 3 – Letters to Margaret Moore. March – April 1863. 10 items.

–          Letters from Aquia Creek Landing, VA

–          Comment about the 29th not getting a furlough due to Col. Gordon of the 2nd Massachusetts. Mentions Gen. Geary.  Mentions Margaret’s brother visiting from another regiment.

–          Mentions his imprisonment of one year ago.  Wants a Carte-de-Viste of her.

–          He talks of Easter and the lack of eggs, but they had eggnog in their mess.

–          Tells of Capt. Yarnall and the Chaplain of the 124th speaking to them on Sunday in the chapel the regiment built.

–          President Abraham Lincoln reviewed their corps on April 12.  He draws a picture of the arch they had at the end of their “street” for the event.


Folder 4 – Letters to Margaret Moore. May – June 1863. 7 items.

–          Mentions Kane’s Brigade.  Sends roll home to frame.

–          Mr. and Mrs. Brady and two women from the “Sanitary Committee” visit camp.  Mentions sick and wounded at hospitals.

–          Mentions Front Royal one year previous.  Tells her of Sunday morning inspections and new flag coming. Tells mother about Joseph’s pay.

–          Mentions weakness of Northern troops and tells of march to Leesburg, VA; Rebels in Pennsylvania.


Folder 5 – Letters to Margaret Moore. August – December 1863. 6 items.

–          Letters from various hospitals.

–          Mentions wounded leg and Surgeon Gen. King. Tells who visited hospital. Tells of death of Dinsmore in the hospital.

–          Mentions mother’s visit to hospital.  Mentions death of Sgt. Kent 28th Reg.


Folder 6 – Letters to Margaret Moore. March – July 1864. 8 items.

–          Letters from Bridgeport, AL; Washington DC; Atlanta, GA

–          Says they are now part of the “Army of the Cumberland”

–          Reviewed by Maj. Gen. Slocum and then consolidated under Maj. Gen Hooker by Gen. Banks.  Tells about Union Navy yard in Alabama.

–          Details given about approach to Atlanta.  Captured 300 rebels.

–          Tells of the many rebel deserters that they are getting and the rebels’ fear of being shot by either side.


Folder 7 – Letters to Margaret Moore. August – September 1864. 9 items.

–          Letters from Atlanta, Georgia

–          Mentions Gen. Hood and Gen. Sherman, Capt. Zarracher. Talks of what Rebel prisoners say. Tells about the four months of the taking of Atlanta.  Talks of problems with the Western Troops.

–          Gen. Slocum named Military Governor of Georgia

–          Mentions review by Maj. Gen. Sherman and Brig. Gen. Williams and comments on Williams.


Folder 8 – Letters to Margaret Moore. October – December 1864. 12 items.

–          Letters from Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia

–          He is commissioned as 1st Lt. Tells Margaret not to put his rank on her mail, as she would have to pay full price.

–          Still doing raids: brought back 700 wagons.  He misses her. Tells of the last train from Atlanta to the North and some Rebels trying to retake Atlanta.

–          Tells some of the 330-mile march from Atlanta.  They left Nov. 13.Tells of their brigade being first in the city.

–          Christmas letter talks of last year and looking forward to teasing her again.

–          Mentions new movement; Richmond, Gen. Grant and Gen. Foster.


Folder 9 – Letters to Margaret Moore. January – March 1865. 6 items.

–          Letters from Savannah, Georgia, and Goldsboro, NC

–          Tells of Brig. Maj. Geary and Barnum.  Gives details on the citizenry of Charleston:  Irish and Jewish.  Mentions prices of shirts.

–          Misses sleighing with her.  Says southeast Georgians are holding a meeting about coming back into the Union.  Mentions J. B. Bullock and Gen. Sherman wanting officers in the field.

–          Details on march to Goldsburg. 

 Folder 10 – Letters to Margaret Moore. April – May 1865. 6 items.

–          Letters from Goldsboro and Raleigh, NC; Alexandria, VA

–          Talks of Abraham Lincoln’s death.

–          Details on Gen. Sherman, Johnson, and the surrender of rebels outside of Goldsboro.

–          Talks of the review of the Army of the Potomac.  Rumors about the soldiers or Negro troops being sent to Texas.

Folder 11 – Letters to Margaret Moore. June – July 1865. 7 items.

–          Letters from Bladensburg and Crystal Spgs, MD; Alexandria, VA

–          Mentions Kirby Smith and Texas; Lt. Col. Johnson of Baltimore

–          Talks of mustering out and going to Atlantic City in the summer.

–          Talks of parade in Philadelphia and march to Camp Cadwalder.

–          Tells her were to find Co. B at the reception in Philadelphia.


Folder 12 – Letter to Margaret Moore. Undated (circa 1862-1865) 1 item.

–          Mentions his proposal to her last fall.  Election news.  Looking forward to coming home.  (dates possible January 1865 and November 1864)


Folder 13 – Letters to Mother. August – September 1861. 8 items.

–          Letters from Maryland

–          Asks for weights in order to weigh rations. Mentions Gen. Butler’s victory and that Joseph was a guard for some rebels that were caught.

–          Mentions taking a steamer to Sandy Hook and capturing rebels.  Mentions Gen. Johnson and Gen. Banks.

–          Tells of life in camp and locals coming to sell things to him.  Says he and Joseph doing well. Mentions death of cook.


Folder 14 – Letters to Mother. October – December 1861. 6 items.

–          Tells of the march and Battle of Conard’s Ferry. Tells of Joseph carrying a captain that had his arm shot off.

–          Gives detail of color bearer’s bravery.

–          Tells of Joseph being sick.


Folder 15 – Letters to Mother. January – April 1862. 9 items.

–          Letters from Camp Carmel, Camp Donelson; Winchester and New Market, VA


Folder 16 – Letters to Mother. September – December 1862. 5 items.

–          Letters from Camp Parole; Washington, D.C.; Alexandria and Fairfax, VA; Boonesboro, MD


Folder 17 – Letters to Mother. January – March 1863. 9 items.

–          Letters from Fairfax Station and Stafford Court House, VA 

Folder 18 – Letters to Mother. April – July 1863. 7 items.

–          Letters from Harrisonburg and Aquia Landing, VA; Gettysburg, PA


Folder 19 – Letters to Mother. August – November 1863. 5 items.

–          Letters from US General Hospitals in York and Philadelphia


Folder 20 – Letters to Mother. March – April 1864. 3 items.

–          Letters from  Louisville, KY and Bridgeport, AL

–          Gives details of trip from Chester, PA to Louisville, KY. Tells of one man being knocked off the top of the train and being killed.


Folder 21 – Letters to Mother. June – August 1864. 8 items.

–          Letters from Headquarters; near Atlanta, GA; and near the Chattahoochee River. 

–          Near the river, they are guarding the base of supplies.  Gen. Slocum comes to see the troops.

–          Mentions writing to his brother Harlan in Harrisburg.


Folder 22 – Letters to Mother. September – October 1864. 3 items.

–          Letters from Atlanta, GA


Folder 23 – Letters to Mother. January – August 1865. 8 items.

–          Letters from Savannah, GA; Fayetteville, NC; Goldsboro, NC; Raleigh, NC; Richmond, VA and Atlantic City, NJ

–          Recounts march to Atlanta.

–          Letter from Atlantic City, NJ, is from him and his new wife, Margaret.  They were on their wedding trip.


Folder 24 – Letters to Mother. Undated. (Circa 1862-1865) 3 items.

–          One letter from New Market, VA; the other recounts a march from Camp Hamilton to a location twenty miles from Washington.


Folder 25 – Letter to Brother. December 1864. 1 item.

–          Letter from Savannah, GA


Folder 26 – Letters to Aunt. December 1861; August – September 1864; April 1865.

 4 items.

–          Letters from Camp Carmel; Atlanta, GA; and Goldsboro, N.C.

–          One letter calls Gen. McPherson the “Vicksburg Rough”


Folder 27 – Letters from Lydia Mercer to Hannah Mercer regarding Eber’s illness.

April (1859?) 4 items.

–          Two letters with envelopes, which were cancelled in Philadelphia.  Lydia is reporting to her mother Hannah about Eber’s illness.  She mentions Joseph, who does not seem sick at this time.


Folder 28 – Letter to Eber from Capt. George. E. Johnson. August 1863. 1             item.

–          Capt. Johnson writes to Eber about getting home. He updates Eber on fellow soldiers.


Folder 29 – Military Papers. 1863-1865. 4 items.

–          August 2, 1863. Recommendation from Capt. Johnson for a leave of absence for Eber.

–          November 1, 1864. Certification of pay for Eber.

–          November 15, 1864. Inventory of company property turned over to Eber from Capt. G. E. Johnson.  Lists soldiers and their property.

–          January 19, 1865.  Special Order to relieved Eber from duty with Co. “B” to take command of Co. “C,” by command of Major G.E. Johnson.


Folder 30 – Civil War Service Certificate. Photocopy. Undated. 1 item (4 pages)


Folder 31 – Appointment to 5th Sergeant Certificate. October 15, 1861. 1 item.


Series II – Joseph J. Mercer


Folder 32 – Letters to Mother. February 1854 – September 12, 1861. 5 items.

–          February 25, 1854.  Letter to mother, who has gone to Philadelphia.  He tells how he and brother Jesse miss her and what Eber is doing while she is gone.

–          August 20, 1861. Written from Frederick County.

–          August 30, 1861. Written from “Mareland.” Tells of march; not received any letters from her; three sick men in the company; request she make a pair of pants for him.

–          September 12, 1861. Written from Camp Foster.  Tells of baking and stewing peaches; asks for a pairs of hog hide “legens,” a “tbaco pouch;” a map and other items. Tells of going on drill.  Mentions stamps for Eber.

–          Undated. Written from Camp Joseph Holt. Tells of heavy rains; of Eber being sick, but he does not know what is the matter with him; of others dieing from the sickness; asks for a book he left at home; asks Mag to send some pies.


Folder 33 – Letters to Uncle and Brother. 1861. 2 items.

–          September 6, 1861. To Uncle.  Tells of camp life; going to Virginia; requests items.

–          Undated. To Brother. Tells of Conard’s Ferry.

Folder 34 – Appointment to 3rd Corporal. October 15, 1861. 1 item.