William Seward Pierson

Updated: January 24, 2011

William Seward Pierson was born on March 18, 1865 in Durham, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Yale University and eventually moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where he became mayor and a businessman. Pierson also was a member of the Science Lodge No.50, a Masonic organization, in Sandusky.

William Seward Pierson was born on March 18, 1865 in Durham, Connecticut. He was a graduate of Yale University and eventually moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where he became mayor and a businessman. Pierson also was a member of the Science Lodge No.50, a Masonic organization, in Sandusky.

With the Civil War's outbreak, Pierson joined the Union military, helping to form the Hoffman Battalion. Established in December 1865, the Hoffman Battalion spent the war's duration as guards at Johnson's Island, a Union prison camp, which was located on an Ohio island, in Sandusky Bay, in Lake Erie. On January 5, 1864, the battalion became part of the 128th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and continued as prison guards at Johnson's Island.

Upon the opening of Johnson's Island in April 1862, Pierson became superintendent of the prison. Pierson became known for his cruelty to the prisoners, all of whom were Confederate officers. Pierson established ten rules that prisoners had to obey at all times. The first nine rules dealt with times that prisoners could be outside of their barracks, bedtimes for the prisoners, and similar requirements. The tenth rule stated that guards would fire on prisoners who violated any of the other nine rules. A sutler's store also operated on the prison grounds. Prisoners could purchase clothing and other supplies from the store, but Pierson prohibited the inmates from acquiring additional food from the sutler. Due to Pierson's harsh policies, Union officials removed him as superintendent in January 1864.

Pierson remained in the Union military after his firing. On August 25, 1863, Pierson received a commission as Lieutenant Colonel. On February 29, 1864, he joined the staff of the 128th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Pierson remained in the 128th until he resigned his commission on July 25, 1864.

Following the Civil War, Pierson eventually moved to Keene, New Hampshire. He died in Keene on April 18, 1879.

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"William Seward Pierson," Ohio Civil War Central, 2019, Ohio Civil War Central. 14 Oct 2019 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=375>

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"William Seward Pierson." (2019) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved October 14, 2019, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=375

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