"Tennessee Trails" through Bedford County

Bedford County TN Biographies


James P. Ferrelll a farmer and stock raiser, of Elizabethtown, Ill., (Hardin Co) was born in that County, Dec. 30, 1847. His father, "JOHN H. FERRELL," was born near Chapel Hill, Tenn., (Bedford County TN) April 15, 1823, and lived there until he was about sixteen years of age. About the year 1839 his father, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, died. Soon after his death the widow, with her two sons, John H. and Charles M., came with one wagon containing all of their earthly possessions to Illinois and located near Furnace, in Hardin County. The two boys worked on the farm in the summer time, at the iron works in the winter, cut cordwood, and did various other things to assist their widowed mother.

In 1843 John H. Ferrell was united in marriage to Nancy Pillow, a niece of Gideon Pillow, who won distinction as a Confederate general during the Civil war. To this marriage there were born the following children: James P., the subject of this sketch; Martha, who died at the age of two years; John C., now living in Los Angeles, Cal.; Ann, who died in childhood; Josie, now living at Elizabethtown, and Nellie, who died as the wife of James B. McFarland. About 1851, John H. Ferrelll went to California and remained there for about two years, prospecting and mining, but at the end of that time returned to Hardin County , making the trip by water both ways. From that time until the war he was engaged in steamboat navigation on the Mississipi, the Ohio and Cumberland rivers. He was the owner of the steams Winneford, Kate French and Governor's Island, and was doing a good business when the war broke out. In 1861, he enlisted as wagon master in the Twenty-ninth Illinois infantry, but was transferred to the navy by General Grant and made a master pilot, serving in that capacity during the entire conflict. He was the volunteer pilot on the board the monitor Neosho and in one of the engagements her colors were shot down. Assisted by a German soldier he raised the flag while the fight was still going on and received a medal from Congress for his bravery. December 6, 1864 While convoying several transports from Nashville to Clarksville, NEOSHO and CARONDELET discovered that the Confederate batteries at Bells Mills had been re-occupied. NEOSHO attacked the emplacement from a distance of 20 to 30 yards but her fire could not reach the Confederate guns on the high banks. After several hours NEOSHO retired but soon returned to attack from a point below the batteries while CARONDELET enfiladed the position from above. By nightfall, the southern batteries were only partially silenced. CARONDELET and NEOSHO who had taken over 100 hits without serious damage, returned to Nashville along with the other gunboats and transports. December 15, 1864 Commander Fitch, with CARONDELET and NEOSHO, returned to Bells Mills and held the Confederate gunners' attention while a Union cavalry unit surprised and captured the southern batteries with very little resistance. The following day Hood's army was defeated and began to retreat southward.

After the war he returned to his old occupation and continued in the river traffic until 1878. He was a charter member of the Grand Army post at Elizabethtown. His death occurred on April 17, 1900. His widow is still living, being now about eighty years of age. James P. Ferrell began working with his father on the river just at the commencement of the war and remained associated with him until 1878, both giving up the river at the same time. After that he lived in Metropolis until 1882, when he located on the farm where he now lives
From the Website of Jimmy Pillow/Rootsweb World Connect
Memoirs of the Lower Ohio Valley. Madison, Wis.: Federal Publishing Company. 1905.Hardin County entries in Vol II

Rank and Organization: Pilot, U.S. Navy.
Entered Service At: Illinois. Born: 15 April 1823, Tennessee. G.O. No.: 59, 22 June 1865.
Served on board the U.S. Monitor Neosho during the engagement with enemy batteries at Bells Mills, Cumberland River, near Nashville, Tenn., 6 December 1864. Carrying out his duties courageously during the engagement, Ferrell gallantly left the pilothouse after the flag and signal staffs of that vessel had been shot away and, taking the flag which was drooping over the wheelhouse, make it fast to the stump of the highest mast remaining although the ship was still under a heavy fire from the enemy.
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