Joseph Pierce, Corporal, USV, b. 1842 d. 3 January 1916
Joseph Pierce's birth name is lost in the shroud of history. Born in Canton, China, there are no less then four stories that explain his arrival in the United States:
1) Taken from his obituary, "Our comrade told us he was born in China, May 10, 1842, drifted to Japan when small, and was there picked up by Capt. Joseph A. Pierce of New Britain, who finding he had no friends, brought him home with him, and gave him his own name, and brought him up in his own home."
2) From Private Edwin Stroud, 14th Ct USVI, Pierce "was picked up 40 miles from shore in the China sea by Capt. Peck," of Kensington, Ct.
3) From Peck family tradition, " He (Capt Amos Peck III) is said to have bought Joseph Pierce, then 10 years old, from the lad's father in China, in or near Canton, for 6 dollars, the father desperately needing the money to feed his starving family."
4) Also from Peck family tradition, "the boy's elder brother . . . sold his kid brother for about 50 or 60 dollars."
Depending on the story, Peck either adopted Piece's name, or was first nicknamed "Joe" by Peck's crew, and then formally named Joseph Pierce after Franklin Pierce, then campaigning for President.
Pierce, farming in Berlin, Ct, enlisted in Company F, 14th Ct Volunteer Infantry in New Britain, 26 July 1862. Fighting in his first battle at Antietam, Pierce was injured falling over a fence so severely that he was in hospital in Alexandria for over a month.
After detached service, with a Virginia Convalescent Camp and an illness that returned him to hospital, Pierce returned to the 14th Ct. in May 1863. Among the first to serve on the regiment's skirmish line on 2 July 1863 at Gettysburg, Pierce also volunteered for the 3 July attack on the Bliss Barn. The Bliss Barn was being used by Confederate sharpshooters to harass the Second Corps positions on Cemetery Ridge. General Alexander Hays turned to Col. Thomas A. Smyth and ordered him to "rid his troops permanently of this vexation." Smyth gave the task to the 14th Ct. The Bliss barn was taken and burned "under a savage fire, contributing to the Union victory later in the afternoon."
That evening (3 July) Pierce was on burial detail. For the battle he was charged for lost equipment:
Canteen - .44
Rubber blanket - 2.45
Half shelter tent - 1.62
Bayonet sheath - .45
Subsequent to the battle Pierce was promoted Corporal on 1 November 1863, and assigned to recruiting duty in New Haven. Returning to the regiment in September, Pierce was mustered out on 31 May 1865.
Postwar, Pierce settled in Meriden, becoming a silver engraver. He married on 12 November 1876 and fathered four children, but only his two sons survived infancy. On 25, October 1890, Pierce began collecting a disability pension (10 dollars per month) for his Antietam injury. In ill health, Pierce applied for an increase in his pension, but was denied until 1907, when the amount was increased by two dollars. His pension was further increased in May of 1912, and reached its zenith of 24 dollars in November of 1912. Pierce however continued to work until 1915. Joseph Pierce died from a combination of grippe, arteriosclerosis and bronchitis on 3 January 1916, and is buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.
In 1993, through the efforts of Col John Dynia, USA (retired) a picture of Joseph Pierce, in civilian clothes, was placed on "The wall of faces" at Gettysburg National Military Park.
That Dynia Guy
Connecticut for the Union, David Niven
Record of Connecticut Men in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1865, Adjudant General's Office
History of the 14th Regiment, Connecticut Voluteer Infantry
Minutes of 1916 Reunion Meeting, Veteran's of the 14th Conn. VI
Chinese Historical Society, artcle by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
Independent research conducted by Colonel John Dynia, United States Army (Retired)