Thomas K. Pimer Papers

Thomas Kingsbury Pimer was the sixth child of John Pimer, a successful sailmaker in New London, Connecticut. He volunteered for the Union army in August of 1862, joining the 21st Infantry regiment, the last of eight regiments to be raised in the state over that summer. Pimer enlisted in Company F of the 21st, a company recruited almost equally from the citizens of New London and Montville. The 21st saw action in particular at Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. After the fall of Richmond, they occupied the city until the end of the war. Company F suffered particularly heavy losses with about 20% of the company killed in action or as a result of their wounds.

From the week after he joined the 21st in September of 1862 to the week before he was finally mustered out of the regiment in June of 1865, Thomas wrote twenty-two letters home to his father. The letters trace Pimer's progress through the war. His first glimpse of combat comes at Fredericksburg, where the 21st is ordered to charge the Confederate batteries, but is then ordered to retreat before the attack can take place. The scene of the battle leads to a loss of Pimer's idealism and confidence in the necessity of the war. In this and the following letters there are disturbing descriptions, not only of the battle, but of Pimer's and his fellow soldiers' callous disregard for both the local population and for the enslaved African-Americans.

By summer of 1863, Pimer is attached to the Provost Marshal's office in Norfolk, Virginia and he spends the next 18 months away from the front, describing the occupation of a pacified population. But by the winter of 1865, Pimer is back on the move, from Petersburg to Richmond to Appomattox Court House, where he describes Lee's surrender. In the meantime he has become engaged to a girl in Norfolk (they never in fact married) and regained his enthusiasm for the war.