Monday, September 01, 2008

Washington Knapp Ferris

Washington Knapp Ferris was born 1819 in New York.

Washington was married to his first wife, New York native Mary Jane (b. 1828), probably in New York, and they had at least one child Viola (b. 1847).

He moved to Michigan, probably from New York, sometime before 1847, and by 1850 he was working as a farmer (he owned some $3000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and daughter in Emmet, Calhoun County. By 1860 Washington was a farmer and a merchant living with his second wife, New York native Catharine M. (b. 1834), in Rutland, Barry County. Besides the daughter from his first marriage, he also had two other children: Ciola (b. 1853) and Mary (b. 1857), both girls were born in Michigan. (It is not known what became of his first wife Mary.)

Washington stood 5’9” with blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion and was 42 years old and still living in Barry County, probably in the Hastings area, when he was elected First Lieutenant of the Hastings Rifle Company in April of 1861. Although the company was disbanded shortly after it arrived in Grand Rapids to become part of the Third Michigan infantry then forming at Cantonment Anderson just south of the city, Washington eventually enlisted in Company E on May 13, 1861.

Apparently there were rumors around Hastings that Washington had thrown the regimental colors away during the battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. However, according to Isaac Reed, also from Hastings and formerly of the Third Michigan but on detached duty as Brigade wagoner, in fact Ferris suffered a sunstroke on Thursday, July 18, when the Regiment first engaged the enemy at Blackburn’s Ford, near Bull Run, but was soon back on duty and participated honorably with the regiment on July 21.

Washington was discharged for hemorrhoids on November 19, 1861, at Fort Lyon, Virginia. He returned to western Michigan where he reentered the service as Captain in Company D, Third Michigan infantry (reorganized), commissioned on July 29, 1864 and mustered at Grand Rapids on September 10, crediting Rutland. He was under arrest as of December 4, 1864, reason(s) unknown, but he resigned from army soon afterwards. On February 28, 1865, while in camp near Huntsville, Alabama, Ferris wrote in his resignation that “I do not consider myself competent to discharge the duties of the office” of company commander. There is no known record of what prompted his resignation or what exactly was the nature of his “incompetency.” His resignation was accepted by Headquarters, Department of the Cumberland on March 12, 1865.

After he resigned from the army Washington probably returned to Michigan, but by 1883 he was apparently residing in Arizona when applied for a pension (no. 452232), although the certificate was never granted. In fact at one time he operated a saloon in Arizona in the late 1880s in either Arizona or New Mexico. Washington eventually returned to Michigan, however, and was living in Hastings, Barry County in 1890, and indeed he lived most of his postwar years in the Hastings area.

He became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in December of 1889, and was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Fitzgerald Post No. 125 in Hastings.

Washington died in Hastings on January 5, 1892, and was buried on January 7 in Riverside cemetery, Hastings: block B-south, lot no. 9, grave northwest 1/4-1; see photo G-291.

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