Sparse or nonexistent rations for Union prisoners, latrines commingled with drinking water and the groaning of men suffering from camp diseases would have been the backdrop of the prison camp in Andersonville, Ga., where Pierce spent Thanksgiving Day in 1864, his family and military pension records show.
Within another four months, starvation and camp disease would claim Pierce's life after he was moved to a hospital in Wilmington, N.C.
On Wednesday, nearly a century and a half after his death, Pierce's great-niece Alice Smedstad, of Crown Point, and volunteers from the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project gave thanks for the 99th Indiana Infantry private's sacrifice.
A memorial plot for Pierce at Merrillville Cemetery received a new granite marker - detailing his war service - as part of a region-wide historical preservation and tourism initiative.
Pierce is buried along with other veterans at a national cemetery in Wilmington. But his family placed a marble memorial marker for him near the Pierce burial plot in Merrillville sometime after his death.
That marker has deteriorated and broken into three pieces over the years. His new granite marker, installed Wednesday, was purchased through grant money obtained by the preservation project and the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail.
"It's a fitting tribute for someone who suffered through such tragedy," Smedstad said Wednesday following the new marker's installation.
Pierce was captured in July 1864 in Georgia by troops under the command of Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, according to his regimental history. Two of Pierce's brothers and at least one of his cousins also served with him in the 99th Indiana Infantry Company A, a group known as the Lake County Plow Boys because of all the Merrillville and Crown Point farmers in its ranks.
Ross Township Trustee Joe Shudick, whose office maintains the cemetery, lauded efforts to preserve the memorials and grave sites of region Civil War vets.
"It is becoming more and more important to remember our history, especially given the mobile and transient society we live in today," Shudick said. "Many of these things would be lost otherwise."