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Captain Pierce goes to war

September 29, 2012
By HOWARD RILEY ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

This column is continued from last week, covering the life of Capt. James H. Pierce who was one of the founders of Bloomingdale, a prominent businessman and politician. He died in April 1908 and his obituary was carried in a clipping from the Enterprise found in the E. L. scrapbook in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library. The story continues about his service during the Civil War.

"In 1861 he had in his employ two nephews, Henry I. Pierce and Martin V. Lennon. The former enlisted in the Ninety-sixth Regiment as a private, was afterwards promoted to the rank of Major. Mr. Lennon enlisted in the Seventy-fourth Regiment, also as a private, was afterward promoted to Captain. He was killed at the battle of Cedar Creek, Va., under Sheridan, October 19, 1864.

"In July 1862, Pierce himself determined to go to war, and within two weeks of the time he made that decision he had one hundred and eleven men in Plattsburgh without one cent of expense to the government.

Article Photos

Norman’s Store is pictured in the background in this 1908 photo of Bloomingdale.  The team of trim horses was called “driving or carriage horses,” more often owned by the gentry and too light to ever pull a plow. The guys awaiting the sleigh ride were probably Normans, Cohen’s, Currans and maybe even Sandy Hayes’ grandfather.
(Photo # 83.32 Courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library)


Taken prisoner


"He was commissioned Captain of Company C, 118th Regiment and served with his company and regiment until the disastrous battle of Drewey's Bluff, on the sixteenth of May, 1864 when he was taken prisoner and sent to Libby prison. He spent only two weeks in Libby of awful memories before being sent to Macon, Georgia, where he was kept for about two months. His next prison was in Savannah and during the two months that he spent in the latter place he was not well for a day.

"The prisoners were started from Savannah to Columbia, S. C., but when they reached Charleston were halted for the night, taken off the cars and Pierce with some others was put into a negro pen which had been used for years as a place for keeping negroes sent to Charleston market to be sold. When morning came Pierce was totally blind and after examination by the surgeon was sent to Charleston hospital. That 'hospital' merits special notice. It was an old tobacco warehouse about one hundred by fifty feet, with rows of bunks running its entire length and a driveway for mule and cart.

"The Captain was placed on a bunk and remained there for fourteen days. Suffering from an attack of fever he lay there during that fortnight without a drop of water touching his burning hands and face. Each morning an employee would come into the hospital and hunt out the dead. Then the mule and cart would follow, the dead were thrown in and hauled out to the dumping ground, all combining in deplorable surroundings for suffering men.

"Captain Pierce was an inmate of this hospital until paroled on December 16, 1864." [His blindness was never mentioned again. He was then only age 38, born in New Sweden, Clinton County, on August 27, 1826.]


Starts a business and enters politics


"The Captain reached home December 24, 1864, after two years absence. He found his family domiciled in the town of Franklin, and he therefore purchased a farm there and resided on it for twelve years. He carried on a large lumbering business with a partner, P. H. Shields and built a large potato starch mill where he manufactured starch for many years.

"In 1872 he expended eight thousand dollars in assisting to build the St. Armand House in Bloomingdale with James A. Skiff. When Skiff died he bought out his interest in the house from his heirs and later moved into the St. Armand House where he resided until 1887.

"The Captain has held innumerable public offices. He was supervisor of the town of Franklin for five years, chairman of the town board for two years, member of assembly for Franklin County for three years, viz., 1870, 1871, 1872; supervisor of St. Armand from 1855 to 1861 inclusive, from 1879 to 1882; in 1884, and from 1893 to 1898; chairman of the board four years, and member of assembly for Essex County in 1897 and 1898.

"When Bloomingdale was incorporated three years ago, residents honored him by electing him the first village president, a man, who more than any other living person, had devoted his life to the service of Bloomingdale.

"On August 7, 1856, the Captain was married to Miss Carrie O. Lennon, whose death occurred one year ago. Two daughters, the Missses Carrie E. and Alice M. Pierce, survive."



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