James Nelson Pierce was born in 1833 in England or Ireland.
James immigrated to America and eventually settled in western Michigan. By 1860 he was probably working as a carpenter and living with the Gottlieb Martin family in Ada, Kent County.
James was living in Nelson, Kent County when he married New Hampshire native Sarah M. Towns (1836-1932) on December 8, 1854, probably in Nelson, Kent County, and they had at least three children: James E. (1857-1935), Mary E. (born 1859), Perley O. (born 1862).
He was a 26-year-old carpenter probably living in Nelson or Ada, Kent County when he enlisted in Company A on August 14, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Nelson.
James joined the Regiment September 18 at Fairfax Seminary, Virginia, and was shot in the arm, wrist, head and neck on July 2, 1863, while the regiment was engaged in the Peach Orchard, during the second day of the battle of at Gettysburg. James died of a wound to his neck on July 5. He was buried in the Michigan plot, Gettysburg National Cemetery: section D, grave 15. One source listed him as having died in one of the hospitals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but this is probably incorrect.
In October of 1863 his widow applied for and received a pension (cert. no. 27388); the following year she married Bradford Reed in Nelson, Kent County. In 1865 a guardian named Benjamin Stiles was living in Nelson, Kent County when he applied for and received a pension on behalf of three minor children (cert. no. 73336). Sarah eventually married George Marshall and was listed as Sarah Marshall and living in White cloud, Newaygo County in 1890. She married Chauncey Anible in 1917 and eventually became a resident of the Michigan Soldiers’ Home where she died in 1932 and is reportedly buried in the Home cemetery.