Thomas P. Pierce by Hon. John H. Goodale
Most of the success and thrift which during the past thirty years have
attended the manufacturing interests of New Hampshire are due to the
untiring industry and intelligent foresight of that class of
self-reliant, progressive business men who, starting in life with
ordinary advantages, have had the nerve to seize and the capacity to
improve the opportunities within their reach. Prominent among this class
of enterprising and valuable citizens of this state is the gentleman
whose name stands at the head of this page,—Hon. Thomas P. Pierce.
Col. Pierce was born in Chelsea, Mass., on the 30th of August, 1820. He
came from Revolutionary stock on both the father's and mother's side.
After limited training in the public schools, he learned the trade of
carriage and ornamental painting in Boston.
In 1840, the subject of this sketch came to Manchester, which was then
springing into existence as a manufacturing village, under the auspices
of the Amoskeag Land and Water Company. Three years previous the first
improvements were begun, and it was now a bustling town of six hundred
families, gathered from every section of northern New England. With much
of the rush and recklessness of a newly grown community, there were then
germs of that energy which has since made Manchester an eminently
prosperous city. Young Pierce, not yet of age, worked as a journeyman at
his trade, and by his unvarying courtesy and cheerful spirit was a
favorite among his associates. He was an active member of the famous
Stark Guards,—a military organization of which Hon. George W. Morrison
and Walter French, Esq., were successively in command.
There is no more exhaustive test of a young man's stamina than life in a
rapidly growing manufacturing village. One literally goes in and out in
the presence of the enemies' pickets, though they may not be intentional
enemies. The temptation to excess is constant and persistent. Often the
most brilliant and sagacious fall victims. It is to the credit of Thomas
P. Pierce that he passed the ordeal unscathed. In the summer of 1842 it
was his good fortune to marry Miss Asenath R. McPherson, the daughter of
a farmer in the adjoining town of Bedford.
The war with Mexico began in 1846. When it was decided that an army
under Gen. Scott should be raised to march to the city of Mexico, it was
ordered that a regiment of infantry should be raised in New England. Mr.
Pierce at once volunteered as a private, and was soon after
commissioned, by President Polk, as second lieutenant of one of the
companies of the New England regiment. The command of this regiment was
first assigned to Franklin Pierce; but on his promotion to the command
of a brigade it was given to Truman B. Ransom, a brave and accomplished
officer from Vermont.
Early in the summer the brigade under Gen. Pierce was ordered to proceed
to the eastern coast of Mexico, and to land in the vicinity of Vera
Cruz, to be ready to co-operate with the main army under Gen. Scott in
the march to the Mexican capital. The troops disembarked on the 28th of
June,—a most unfavorable season of the year. The heat was so intense on
the lowlands that to march between nine o'clock in the morning and four
in the afternoon was impossible. With the exception of a few of the
officers, the entire force was made up of new recruits. It occupied two
weeks to secure mules for army transportation. On the 14th of July the
movement toward the city of Mexico began, and, on reaching the
foothills, every bridge and fortified pass was strongly guarded by
hostile Mexicans. There was constant skirmishing, and the enemy, from
the cliffs and thickets, made annoying and sometimes dangerous attacks.
The climate, the difficulties of marching, and hardships of a military
life in a strange country bore heavily on the inexperienced soldiery.
Amid these perplexities, the tact, the genial spirit, and untiring
attention to the wants of his comrades won for Lieut. Pierce a high
regard and strong personal attachment. In the sharp conflicts which
occurred on reaching the table-lands, Lieut. Pierce took an active part.
At the battle of Contreras, fought August 19, he was personally
complimented by Col. Ransom for bravery,—himself soon after a martyr to
his personal valor.
Reaching the higher lands, Gen. Scott found the flower of the Mexican
army entrenched among the cliffs of Churubusco. To leave the enemy in
the rear was to hazard everything; and in the dangerous task of
dislodging and utterly routing them the New England regiment bore a
conspicuous part. In his report of the battle, Gen. Scott placed the
name of Lieut. Pierce on the list of those recommended for promotion on
account of gallant and meritorious conduct. The storming of Chepultepec
soon followed, in which the New England regiment had literally to cross
a succession of ridges and ravines, exposed to a deadly fire from the
enemy among the crags. The assault was successful, and the surrender of
the Mexican capital immediately followed. In this action, and in the
details of patrol service during the winter, while the city was occupied
by the American army, Lieut. Pierce was officially commended for the
vigilant discharge of his duties.
The campaign in Mexico, with its varied experiences, had, without doubt,
a marked and favorable effect upon the subject of this sketch. The
novelty of climate and productions, the grandeur of the scenery, and the
immense natural resources of that region were not lost upon him. But of
still greater value was the experience gained from association with men
of large attainments, positive ideas, strong will, and comprehensive
views. The majority of the army officers in that campaign were of this
character; and the young soldier, at the close of the war, returned home
in March, 1848, with higher aims and a better and truer estimate of the
duties and responsibilities of life.
Col. Pierce again engaged in business at his trade, in Manchester,
which, in the meantime, had been incorporated a city. In 1849 he became
a member of the city government; and in the same year was appointed a
member of Gov. Dinsmoor's staff. Upon the inauguration of Gen. Franklin
Pierce as president, in March, 1853, he was appointed postmaster at
Manchester. This position, in the largest and most prosperous city of
the state, was one of unusual labor and responsibility. Col. Pierce
filled the office for eight years, and to the entire satisfaction of the
citizens of all parties.
On the breaking out of the rebellion, in 1861, Col. Pierce was selected
by Gov. Goodwin as commander of the Second New Hampshire regiment, of
the three months' troops. Having satisfactorily discharged his duties,
he retired after the term of enlistment was changed to three years. The
next year, September, 1862, unexpected difficulties having arisen, Gov.
Berry telegraphed to Col. Pierce to take command of the Twelfth New
Hampshire regiment, then completing its organization at Concord. How
well he accomplished the duty assigned him was expressed in a statement,
signed by the officers of the regiment, at the time of his withdrawal,
in the following words:—
"Your generous and patriotic course in assuming temporary
command of the regiment during a period of great excitement and
confusion, thereby saving it from dissolution and the state from
disgrace, merits our admiration and sincere thanks."
In 1866, Col. Pierce removed to Nashua, for the purpose of engaging in
the manufacture of card-board and glazed paper. Since then he has been
an active member and one of the directors of the Nashua Card and
Glazed-Paper Company,—one of the most successful business enterprises
in the state, and which, in the variety and excellence of its products,
is not surpassed by any corporation of its kind in the country. Col.
Pierce is also a director of the Contoocook Valley Paper Company in
Henniker, a director of the Second National Bank and president of the
Mechanics Savings Bank at Nashua.
In 1874, Col. Pierce was elected a member of the New Hampshire state
senate, the only candidate of his party ever elected from that district;
and in 1875 and 1876 he was sheriff of Hillsborough county. While
unwavering in his attachment to, and support of, the Democratic party,
he is not rabid in his policy or partisan in his associations. When
President Hayes visited Nashua, in 1877, he was selected by the city
government as chairman of the committee of arrangements; and no citizen
took a more efficient part in securing a proper observance of the
obsequies of President Garfield. He and his family are attendants of the
In his social and domestic relations, Col. Pierce has been fortunate. Of
his two children, the eldest, Mrs. Julia M., wife of William N. Johnson,
resides at West Henniker, where her husband is a paper manufacturer; his
son, Mr. Frank Pierce, is associated with him in business.
A few years since, having purchased the homestead of the late Gen. J. G.
Foster, he built a spacious and elegant residence. Situated on an
acclivity on the north side of the Nashua river, surrounded by ample
grounds and stately trees, it is a home of rare attractions. Col. Pierce
is still in the prime of active life, and his past record, as well as
his present position, is a guarantee that he will ably and faithfully
meet the responsibilities of the future.