John J. Ferris was born in the small townland of Smuldegon close by Donald's Hill near the village of Drumsurn N. E. of Dungiven Co. Derry.
John was born
in 1842 and
he and his family probably lived a very basic existence probably
labouring to the
local farmers in the immediate area.
In his army records he is listed as a saddler so
I assume he or his family
had this trade as well as running a small farm before they left Ireland.
In 1859 aged 17 he left for America
probably along with his family
or maybe with an older brother or a group of young men to seek a better life.
They probably sailed from Derry and settle in Boston Mass.
Two years later he enlisted aged 19 in the 19th. Mass. Vols. C. Div. on the
13th. Aug. 1861 as a private soldier. He was mustered into K Co. of the Regt.
on the 28th. Aug. 1861 at Camp Schouler Mass. At an unknown date he is promoted and mustered as sergeant.
He is later given special duty
in Co. H. The Civil War was in full spate. On the 22nd. Jan. 1863 he is commissioned and mustered as
2nd. Lieut. and commanding
Co. On the 27th. Feb. 1863 he is commissioned to 1st. Lieut. and mustered 21st Dec. 1863. This was no mean
He is wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg
on that fateful day
of 3rd. July 1863. He recovers from this and is in action again
at Bristoe Station Va. on the 14th. of Oct. 1863 where he is again wounded. This time on the left ear.
Again he survives this and recovers.
The 19th. Mass Regt. moves on and gets involved in the Chancellorsville campaign. Ferris and his company are involved in the capture of Marye's Heights which commenced on May 3rd. 1864. However his luck would run out and on the 12th. May 1864 he is killed at the battle at Spotsylvania Court House Va. He had been shot in the head. He is initially buried on McCoull's Farm in Spotsylvania Co. Pa. but his body is later exhumed and he is re-buried in the National Cemetery at Fredericksburg. Va. Grave 4061. He was 22 years of age. John Ferris is mentioned in the book "History of the 19th Regt. Massachussette Volunteer Infantry 1861-1865". He is spoken highly of as a very brave young man and a leader never fearful to volunteer for a task and lead from the front.
In the book mentioned there are several comments on Ferris. It is interesting to see some of the names. One comment is of Ferris and his fellow soldiers Adams, Thompson, Donath, Palmer, Rowe and Ferris whilst resting on the banks of the Potomac in May 1864 during the Chancellorsville Campaign river whiling away the leaden hours with wit and song. Needless to say as a Drumsurn man he was given over to the craic!.
Later on would come the more serious business. On one occasion when when Lt. Col. Devereaux called for 20 volunteers to cross the river along with a similar number of the 20th. Mass. Regt. Ferris volunteered at once and would command the group. He briefed the group on how they would "charge" across the river on boats and engage the enemy. Having briefed the group on the great dangers of the task stating that he would not take any man who would fail the task it was left to Lt. McKay with Ferris being 2nd. Lieut to take action. Men would die.
Some other names of those who accompanied Ferris in the campaign are know. Benjamn Lummus of Co. H. Paddy McGivern of Co.E. Edward Mahony of Co. E. John Robinson Co. I. Joseph De Castro Co.I. George Teele Co. I. John Costello Co.I. George Stevens Co.I. Richard Foster Co. C. Ernest Nicholls Co. C.
The 19th Regt. lost many men in the the battle of Fredericksburg. It was initially thoughht thats its commander Col. Edmund Rice had been killed. In fact he survived and was take prisoner by the Confederates but escaped from one of their prisoner trains. Rice survived the war and was promoted many times and took part in many subsequent confrontations. He ended up as Brigadier General Edmund Rice and died in 1906 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. One very interesting point is that when initially it was thought that Rice had been killed on the battlefield a cousin of his went looking for his body and in the course of his search found that of Lieut.Ferris. Brave men all.
As will be realised few of the men from Co. Derry or Tyrone were from well
to do families. Most were
the sons of small farmers who eeked out an existence on the poor
lands on the
slopes of the Sperrin hills or the poorer lands of the lowlands.
The image at the top of the page is of Smuldgeon townland showing the view towards the west with Donald's Hill a very well known landmark to the right side of the image. The area in Ferris's time as it still is, given over mostly to sheep farming with some grain and potatoes for domestic use. The image above to the left is of Gelvin Community Hall (currently being refurbished) which served as a chapel between 1840 and 1902. This is the chapel that a young Ferris would have attended and probably been baptised in. After 1902 it was used for a period as a school. Now a community and general purpose building for the local community.
Organized at Lynnfield Mass. August 28, 1861.
John Ferris had joined some 9 days earlier as the unit was being set up. He would be one of the units original soldiers.
The regiment left the State for Washington, D.C.August 30. They were attached to Lander’s Brigade, Division of the Potomac, to October, 1861. Lander’s Brigade, Stone’s (Sedgewick’s) Division, Army of the Potomac, to March, 1862. 3rd. Brigade, 2nd Division 2nd Army Corps Army of the Potomac to March 1864 1st Brigade 2nd Div. 2nd Army Corps to June 1865.
Camp at Meridian Hill until September 12, 1861.
Moved to Poolesville, Md. September 12-15.
Guard duty on the Upper Potomac until December.
Operations on the Potomac October 21.24.
Action at Ball’s Bluff October 21.
Moved to Muddy Run December 4, and duty there until March 12, 1862.
Moved to Harper’s Ferry, thence to Charlestown and Berryville March 12-15.
Ordered to Washington, D.C. March 24, and to the Peninsula March 27.
Siege of Yorktown April 5 – May 4.
West Point May 7-8.
Battle of Fair Oaks, Seven Pines, May 31-June 1
Seven Days before Richmond June 25-July 1.
Oak Grove, near Fair Oaks, June 25
Peach Orchard and Savage Station June 29
White Oak Swamp and Glendale June 30
Malvern Hill July 1
Harrison’s Landing July 8.
At Harrison’s Landing until August 15.
Movement to Alexandria August 15-28, thence to Fairfax C.H. August 28-31.
Cover Pope’s retreat from Bull Run 2nd August 31-September 1.
Maryland Campaign September-October.
Battle of South Mountain September 14 (Reserve).
Battle of Antietam September 17.
Moved to Harper’s Ferry September 22, and duty there until October 30. Advance up Loudon Valley and movement to Falmouth, Va. October 30-November 17.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 11-15
Duty at Falmouth, Va., until April, 1863.
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6.
Maryes’s Heights. Fredericksburg, May 3.
Salem Heights May 3-4.
Gettysburg (Pa.) Campaign June 11-July 24.
Battle of Gettysburg July 2-4 (Pickett’s Charge / the Angle)
Advance from the Rappahannock to the Rapidan September 13-17.
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22.
Bristoe Station October 14.
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8.
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2
Robertson’s Tavern, or Locust Grove, November 27.
At Stevensburg until May, 1864.
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7.
Campaign from the Rapidan to the James May-June.
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7
Laurel Hill May 8.
Spotsylvania May 8-12.
Po River May 10.
Spotsylvania C.H. May 12-21 Assault on the Salient May 12.
1st Lieut John J Ferries wound be fatally wounded on May 12th 1864. His war was over the young man from Drumsurn aged 22 had his young life ended. Initially buried at McCoulls farm near Spotsylvania Court House he would later be buried in the National Civil War Cemetery at Fredericksburg.
North Anna River May 23-26.
On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28.
Totopotomoy May 28-31.
Cold Harbor June 1-12
Before Petersburg June 16, 1864 to April 2, 1864
Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23, 1864.
Demonstration north of the James July 27-29.
Deep Bottom July 27-28. Strawberry Plains,
Deep Bottom, August 14-18.
Ream’s Station August 25.
Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher’s Run, October 27-28.
Dabney’s Mills, Hatcher’s Run, February 5-7, 1865.
Watkin’s House March 25.
Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9
Crow’s House March 31.
Fall of Petersburg April 2.
Sailor’s Creek April 6
High Bridge and Farmville April 7.
Appomattox C.H. April 9
Surrender of Lee and his army
At Burkesville until May 2.
March to Washington May 2-13.
Grand Review May 23.
Duty at Washington until June 30.
Mustered out June 30 and discharged July 22, 1865.
Regiment lost during service 14 Officers and 147 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 133 enlisted men by disease. Total 294
Organized: Camp Schouler, Lynnfield, MA on 28.8.1861
Mustered Out: 30.6.1865 at Munson's Hill, VA.
Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 14
Officers Died of Disease, Accidents, etc.: 0
Enlisted Men Killed or Mortally Wounded: 147
Enlisted Men Died of Disease, Accidents, etc.: 133