When popular Amherst College student Frazar Stearns died shortly before noon on March 14, 1862, in the Battle of New Bern, North Carolina, another Amherst man lay dead nearby.
They probably did not know each other. Frazar was young and handsome and still in school (Class of 1863), while the other man had graduated with the Class of 1853 and was a teacher, a husband, and a father. He was also not the son of William Augustus Stearns, the sitting president of Amherst College. The college and town were overwhelmed by Frazar’s death, and those Amherst people who in 1862 still remembered the other student nine years after his graduation would not have felt his loss as they did Frazar’s. Much was written about Frazar Stearns at the time, and much has been written since—his death continues to resonate. A cannon and a poet’s verses testify to his loss. The other Amherst man’s service was noted and recorded in quieter ways, during his class reunion and in the biographical records of his class. His story is not as well known as Frazar’s, and yet they died within an hour of each other on the same day, in the same battle, and apparently in the effort to take the same small but critical part of the battlefield.
The other student’s name was Henry Reuben Pierce. And when he was at Amherst College, he too was young and handsome, with a promising future.