Monday, July 1, 2013

Researching Chinese soldiers in American Civil War.


Joseph Pierce.

With the country commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, it's timely to pass along the "Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War" website, which collects research on Chinese soldiers who fought in the American Civil War and "would like to honor the Chinese people who fought for freedom for their host, in this new country, the United States of America". A Department of Defense website provides more information about Chinese soldiers in the Civil War, including Joseph Pierce, pictured above:
Pvt. Joseph L. Pierce was age 21 when he enlisted in the 14th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862. It's unclear how Pierce ended up in the United States. One story has it that his father sold him to Connecticut ship Captain Amos Peck for $6. Another story was that his brother sold him for $60. Still another was that Peck picked up the lad, who was adrift in the South China Sea. Peck, a lifelong bachelor, turned the 10-year-old he called "Joe" over to his mother in Connecticut.

Young Joe went to school with the Pecks and formally became Joseph Pierce in 1853. He picked up the last name from President Franklin Pierce.

At the time of his enlistment Pierce was a farmer in New Britain, Conn. He listed his height at 5 feet 5 inches, dark complexion with dark hair and black eyes. His birthplace was Canton in Kwangtung Province, China.

His regiment participated in the Battle of Antietam, Md. Sept. 17, 1862.

He suffered some sickness during his time around Washington and was in the hospital for a time. He was assigned to the Quartermaster Department for a bit and rejoined the 14th in time for the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va. in May 1863.

The 14th had a distinguished role in the Gettysburg campaign. "It fought on the north part of Cemetery Ridge on July 2 and was one of the units that helped repel Pickett's Charge," said Gettysburg Historian John Heiser. "The 14th was primarily responsible for turning back Brig. Gen. James Pettigrew's North Carolina division." Today, you can see the 14th Memorial to the north of the grove of trees marking the High-water Mark of the Confederacy.

The 14th's regimental history says that during Pickett's charge, Pierce appeared "pig-tail and all, the only Chinese in the Army of the Potomac." But he wasn't.

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