About Orris Sanford Ferry
Orris Sanford Ferry (August 15, 1823 – November 21, 1875) was a Republican American lawyer and politician from Connecticut who served in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He was also a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Ferry was born on August 15, 1823 in Bethel, Connecticut. He attended the Hopkins School, and worked at his father's shoe factory as a boy. It was here that he realized his love of books. At age 17, Ferry entered Yale, where he served as one of the editors of the Yale Literary Magazine and was a member of Skull and Bones. He graduated in 1844.
Ferry first settled in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he studied law under Thomas B. Osborne. He then settled in Norwalk, Connecticut, and served in the office of Thomas B. Butler. Ferry married Charlotte Bissell, the daughter of Governor Clark Bissell. He was admitted to the bar in 1846. The following year, he was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the 12th Regiment of Connecticut Militia. During his time in the militia, Ferry did not fight in any battle or war.
Early political career
Ferry served as a probate judge soon after being admitted to the bar. At age 32, he was elected to a term in the Connecticut Senate. He then served as the State's Attorney for Fairfield County from 1856 to 1859. Ferry was a member of the Toleration Party, but in 1856 became a Republican. After joining the party, he campaigned for John C. Frémont. In 1857, Ferry was nominated to serve in the United States House of Representatives, but lost the election. In 1859, he was again nominated, and this time he won.
House of Representatives
During his time in Congress, Ferry was known for extemporaneous speaking. He gave numerous speeches against slavery. Ferry was chosen as Connecticut's representative to the Committee of Thirty-Three. This Committee was created in the hopes that peace could be settled between the Northern and Southern states. However, Southern states continued to secede from the Union, and the committee was disbanded. Ferry also served on the Committee of Revolutionary Claims. In 1861, he was renominated for his seat, but lost the election.
American Civil War
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Ferry volunteered as part of the initial defence of Washington D. C.. On July 23, 1861, he was put in command of the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, and given the rank of Colonel. The original regiment was the 1st Regiment Colts Revolving Rifles of Connecticut and was supposed to be led by Samuel Colt, but the unit never took the field. Its organization failing, the regiment was reorganized in May 1861 as the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. In early March 1862, Ferry led his troops across the Potomac River, and attacked the Confederates at Winchester, Virginia. This action would later lead to what became the First Battle of Winchester. Ferry was well praised for his ability as a leader and as a military strategist. Ferry was promoted to Brigadier General on March 17, 1862. He was then put under the command of General James Shields, whose division joined that of Gen. Irvin McDowell. It was under McDowell that Ferry fought at the First Battle of Winchester. Ferry continued to serve under Shields, during the Valley Campaign.
Battle of Cedar Mountain
Shortly after the Battle of Winchester, Ferry, and the 5th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry were put under the command of Major General Nathaniel Banks. On August 9, Ferry, under Banks, encountered Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain. The Union troops attacked to gain early advantage, but a Confederate counterattack repulsed Banks's corps and won the day. Later that day, Union reinforcements under Major General John Pope arrived. This led to a two day stand-off between the two armies. The battle ended in a Confederate victory.
Services and resignation
During the war, Ferry served in the VII Corps, X Corps, and XVIII Corps. He was also the head of the District of Lehigh, from August 20, 1863 until May 1864, and served as the head of the District of Philadelphia from December 16, 1864 until July 15, 1865. Ferry was brevetted a Major General in recognition of his services during the Peninsula Campaign. He resigned from the military on July 15, 1865. His resignation followed the Confederate surrender.
After the Civil War, Ferry returned to both his political career and law practice. In 1866, he ran against Lafayette S. Foster, the current incumbent of the Class III Connecticut Senate seat. Ferry won the election, and took his place in the U.S. Senate on March 4, 1867. He became very active in committees, and favored amnesty for members of the Confederacy. Ferry participated in the Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, voting to convict.
In 1869, Ferry was attacked by a rare disease of his spine. This disease led to a slow deterioration of his spine. This slowed his workings in the Senate, but he continued to play an active role. From 1870 to 1871, he served as the chairman of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expenses. From 1871 to 1875, he was chairman of the Committee on Patents. Ferry also served on the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Ferry was considered a Liberal Republican, but he declined to be officially considered a Liberal Republican. In 1872, Ferry was reelected for a second term. His main supporters were Democrats and Liberal Republicans.
Alexander Caldwell scandal
In 1871, Alexander Caldwell was elected to the Senate from Kansas. From the start, allegations of corruption and pay-offs emerged. In 1873, Congressman Sidney Clarke, who assisted in Caldwell's election, testified that Caldwell's campaign had claimed that it would pay $250,000 to secure the election. Kansas Governor Thomas Carney testified that he was paid $15,000 to drop out of the race. In investigation followed; its final report asked the Senate to expel Caldwell for not being "duly and legally elected". On March 21, 1873, Ferry took to the floor of the Senate and gave a speech asking the Senate to expel Caldwell: "The crime of bribery goes down to the very foundations of the institutions under which we live. We all know it and...we shall stifle our consciences if we do not vote to expel." After a survey of the Senate, Caldwell saw his inevitability of being expelled, and resigned, on March 23.
I see around me the life-long friends and neighbors of Senator Ferry, now no more; a man whom I cherished as a dear companion and associate, and to whom I looked up as one of the foremost men of the republic, in talent, integrity and patriotic spirit. More than almost any one I knew did he possess those qualities of mind and character which just at this period of our history are so greatly needed for the guidance of public affairs... Had his body been as strong as his mind and heart, he would beyond doubt have compelled universal recognition as one of the very first of statesmen in American history.
Later Senate career
In 1874, Ferry gave a speech against the future Civil Rights Act of 1875. After speaking, Senator Charles Sumner, both a friend of Ferry's and the proposer of the bill, stood up and said, "Mr. Ferry, your speech is far the most damaging blow my measure has yet received". The Civil Rights Act would eventually pass, but was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, on the basis that Congress did not have the power to regulate the conduct of individuals. His last speech in Congress was considered an uncommonly eloquent dissertation on his former friend, William Alfred Buckingham.
After his final speech, Ferry left the capital for a new medical treatment. The treatment was to help heal his decaying spine, but the procedure failed. On November 20, 1875, Ferry's friends and doctors helped take him home. He died of his spine disease the next day. His funeral was attended by dignitaries such as Senator Carl Schurz. Ferry was interred at Norwalk Cemetery.