James Nelson Pierce was born in 1836 in England.
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.
He married one Sarah M. and they had at least one child.
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. He was shot in the arm, wrist, head and neck while the regiment was engaged in the Peach Orchard, during the second day of the battle of at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. James died of wounds 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.
In October of 1863 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 27388). And in 1865 a guardian named B. Stiles applied for and received a pension on behalf of a minor child (no. 73336). His widow, Sarah, was living in White cloud, Newaygo County in 1890.