151 years ago today, my great-great-great grandfather enlisted in the Civil War. He joined up with several of his family members, all of them fighting to preserve a way of life that was all they had ever known.
Jacob Perry Merrill (1838 - 1875) was one of seven children born to William Merrill and Susannah McDade. He was the youngest surviving son. The information that I have on his younger years isn't very clear. We do know that William Merrill and his older brother Jacob Merrill settled in the Leon area of Crenshaw County, Alabama in the late 1820's. In addition to owning many acres of farmland, William Merrill also opened a trading post near the Patsaliga River. While tension was high between Indians and settlers during this time, William and Jacob Merrill became known for their ability to peacefully trade with the local Indians.
Jacob married Elefare Parrish (daughter of Hamilton Parrish and Belinda Handley) in 1858. Church records from Good Hope Primitive Baptist Church indicate that both the Merrills and Parrishs attented Good Hope and it is quite possible this is where Jacob and Elefare met and became acquainted. Jacob and Elefare's first child, Susanna Melinda, was born in 1860 with the rumblings of the Civil War in the not-so-distant future. Although his father was a farmer and trader, Jacob was listed as a tailor on the 1860 federal census.
On March 24, 1862 Jacob Perry Merrill enlisted with the Alabama 37th Regiment of Volunteer Infantry. William John Merrill (brother), Benjamin Greenberry Merrill (cousin), Greenberry Benjamin Merrill (cousin), Henry Martin Merrill (cousin), Thomas Hezekiah Merrill (cousin), Thomas Lambden Merrill (cousin), and William Reid Merrill (cousin), joined on the same day and all of them served in Company C together. All but Benjamin Greenberry Merrill (son of Greenberry Benjamin) made it home from the war.
Through the United Daughters of the Confederacy application process I was able to learn quite a few details about Jacob's military service. The Alabama 37th fought at the Battle of Iuka and he was captured on September 19, 1862. He was paroled shortly thereafter.
Jacob fought again at the Siege of Vicksburg and was captured as part of the Confederate surrender on July 4, 1863. He was paroled five days later on July 9. Jacob's cousin Benjamin Greenberry Merrill was killed in action on June 12/14, 1863.
Jacob's final battle was the Battle of Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga. He was captured on November 25, 1863 and held until December 2, 1863 when he was transfered to Louisville, Kentucky. From Louisville he was sent to Rock Island Barracks in Illinois where he appeared on a POW roll in December 1863. His official confinement date is listed as December 5, 1863.
Not much is known about his time at Rock Island. He never regained his health after he returned back home and died 10 years later at the age of 36. He is buried in the Good Hope Primitive Baptist Church cemetery next to his wife Elefare. Four generations of his descendants are also buried in Good Hope.
Elefare married Daniel Hansome Gainey in 1880 and they had one son, Joseph Samuel Ganey. Joseph went from a teacher in Covington County, Alabama to the superintendent for the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind throughout the end of the Great Depression and through World War II. He also served as President of the American Association of Institutions for the Blind.
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