James Henry Pooley was born in Northamptonshire, England in 1810. He was educated in England and received a licentiate’s diploma for the practice of medicine. He married and had five children before immigrating with his family to the United States in the mid-1840s. They settled at Dobbs Ferry, in Westchester County, New York, where he worked as a general practitioner and obstetrician.
During the Civil War, Dr. Pooley was appointed an Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Army on August 5, 1861. He initially served on hospital duty in Washington, D.C. until November, and was assigned to the 6th U.S. Cavalry in December. He served with the regiment throughout the Peninsula campaign, and was assigned to duties at Fortress Monroe in July and August 1862.
When the army evacuated the peninsula, Dr. Pooley was assigned to the Convalescent Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia for the remainder of the year. He served with the Light Battery, 5th U.S. Artillery in the IX Corps, Army of the Potomac until April 27, 1863, when he resigned his commission.
Dr. Pooley returned to New York and resumed his practice. His two oldest sons followed him into the practice of medicine. His eldest son, James H. Pooley, Jr., was a professor at the Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio and later the Dean of Faculty of the Toledo Medical College. His second son, Thomas R. Pooley, was a professor of ophthalmology at the New York Polyclinic and surgeon in chief of the New Amsterdam Eye and Ear Hospital.
Dr. Pooley was described in his obituary as a “man of engaging manners and a fluent and eloquent public speaker.” He retired from his practice in 1880, and returned to England shortly after the death of his wife Anna in 1885. He died on June 3, 1890 in Birkenhead, England, and is buried next to his wife in a cemetery near Liverpool.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 797.
Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume I (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873), pg 105.
Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744
New York Times, June 4, 1890, obituaries