Jesse Neff, Company F

Boone County, Indiana, Portrait and Biographical Record. Published 1895, by A.W. Bowen & Co., Chicago

Jesse Neff – When the Great Civil War swept over the country, and Abraham Lincoln made the first call for troops to defend the Union, the American people were pursuing the arts of peace, and the farmer’s son was holding the plow and assisting in the support of his father’s family.

Jesse Neff, the subject of this sketch, was one of these farmer boys. He is a native of Indiana and descends from hardy Swiss stock – from those people who founded the first permanent republic in the history of the world. Two brothers of the name were the founders of the family in America, in old colonial times. One settled in North Carolina and one came west. Colonel C. C. Nave was a veteran of the Mexican War, was from east Tennessee, and descended from the brother who went to North Carolina. The Colonel was well informed as to the family history, and stated that the name was originally spelled Nave, and that they were of Swiss ancestry. Colonel Nave practiced law for many years in Hendricks County, Indiana, and at the time of his death was the oldest practitioner at the bar in the State of Indiana.

From the brother who came west, or his descendants, came its name Neff. John Neff, the grandfather of the subject, was born near Baltimore, Maryland. He was a farmer and settled in Boyle County, Kentucky, near Danville, and reared a family consisting of the following children: Jacob, Abraham, Margaret, Martha and Sarah. John Neff came to Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1835, and settled in Eel River Township, where he entered 160 acres of land, became a prominent and substantial farmer, and lived to the great age of eighty-eight years. Jacob Neff, father of Jesse, was born in Boyle County, Kentucky, February 22, 1804, received the common education of his day and became a farmer. He married in Boyle County, Kentucky, Gabriella Skinner, who bore him twelve children: John, William, Elizabeth, James B., Elias, Pantha J., Martha E., Jesse, Lucebra, Emily, Sarah F. and Albert; the first four were born in Boyle County, Kentucky, the remainder in Hendricks County, Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Neff were members of the Christian Church, in which he was deacon for some years. In 1863 Mr. Neff moved to Boone County, Indiana, and settled near Lebanon on a farm. He died at the age of seventy-four years, an honored citizen. He was a stanch Republican in politics, was strongly in favor of the Union, and had three sons in the Civil War.

Jesse Neff was born in Eel River Township, Hendricks County, Indiana, March 17, 1843. He received the common school education of his native county and early learned to work on the farm. At the age of eighteen years he enlisted in Company F, Fortieth Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry, at Lebanon, Indiana, for three years, as a private under Colonel W. C. Wilson, and Captain Elias Neff, on October 7, 1861. He served until honorably discharged December 7, 1864, at Nashville, Tennessee. He was in the battles of Shiloh, Tennessee, fought April 6 and 7, 1862, when Grant, with 45,000 troops, was attacked by 40,000 Confederates under Generals Johnston and Beauregard; the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October 8, 1862 – between 15,00 Federals and under Colonel Daniel McCook of Buell’s army and four divisions of the Confederate Army under Lewis, Bragg, Polk and Hardee; Stone River, Tennessee, December 31, 1862, and January 1, 2 and 3, 1863, between 43,400 Unionists, under General Rosecrans and 62,490 Confederates under Hardee, Polk and Kirby Smith; Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 24, 25, and 26, 1863, between 80,000 Unionists under General Grant and 50,000 Confederates under General Bragg, and in Sherman’s expedition from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia. He took part in the battles of Resaca, Georgia, May 14, 1864, between General Sherman and Johnston’s Confederate Army, Rocky Faced Ridge, Pine Mountain, Georgia, Battle of Calhorn, Battle of Burnt Hickory; Battle of Kenesaw Mountain, June 27, 1864; Battle of Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, July 20, 1864, between General Sherman’s army and the Confederates under General Johnston; Jonesboro, Georgia, August 31, 1864, under General Sherman’s army and a heavy force of Confederates, who soon withdrew; then at Lovejoy Station, Georgia.

Mr. Neff took part in all the battles as above given of this memorable expedition, and after the Atlanta campaign, the Fortieth Regiment returned with “Pap” Thomas to Chattanooga, and then went to Athens, Alabama, and Columbus, Tennessee. They fell back with Thomas to Spring Hill, where a hard battle was fought, considering the number of troops engaged. He took part in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, between General Schofield’s Union force, consisting of two army corps, commanded by Generals Stanley and Cox, and two corps of Hood’s Confederate Army under Generals Lee and Cheatham. This was Sergeant Neff’s last battle, and the terrible scenes of that day are vividly impressed upon his mind. He witnessed, as a combatant, the final charge of General Hood’s Confederates, which is considered one of the most brilliant infantry charges during the war, attacking General Schofield’s entire army. It was one of the most desperate scenes ever witnessed on the field of battles. Sergeant Neff was wounded in the storming of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863. He charged up the ridge with his company and was shot through the right thigh by an ounce ball. He was taken to the field hospital, where he remained for six weeks under a tent, and was then home on a furlough for six weeks – the only furlough he received during the war. He then rejoined his regiment. He was the second time wounded in the charge up Kenesaw Mountain, June 28, 1864. This was a slight wound on the right shoulder, which did not trouble him. The veteran soldier, Captain Bragg, of Lebanon, who was in command of his company, was taken sick just before the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain, and Lieutenant J. C. Sharp, temporarily in command of Company F, was killed in this charge, and Sergeant Neff commanded the company, from this time until just before the fall of Atlanta, in many hard skirmishes and in the advance on skirmish line and picket fighting.

After the Battle of Chattanooga he was tendered a captaincy of an Alabama white regiment on account of his gallant conduct and meritorious duty as a soldier, but he preferred to remain with his own regiment, the Fortieth Indiana, most of whose men were from his own and neighboring counties. During his services as a soldier he was on many hard and tedious marches, which greatly taxed his powers of endurance. He well remembers a hard two-days march from Louisville Kentucky, to Bardstown, Kentucky, to Bowling Green, in March, marching sixty-eight miles in two days. He was then a new soldier and carried a heavy baggage; also a force march from Nashville, Tennessee, to the Battle of Shiloh, day and night for six days, with but little sleep, marching all of Sunday night before going into battle. Sergeant Neff was a strong, active and efficient soldier, and at a time of life when his health and spirits were at their best, and he entered with alacrity and cheerfulness upon his duties, and served his country faithfully and well. After the war, Mr. Neff returned to Lebanon and engaged in the mercantile business with his father and brother John. At the expiration of one year he engaged in the mercantile business at Jamestown with an old comrade, John J. Carriger, who married his youngest sister, and remained in this business seven years. In the fall of 1872 he was elected Clerk of Boone County on the Republican ticket and served four years. He was not a candidate for reelection, but remained with his successor as Deputy Clerk for three years. He then engaged with others in the manufacture of implement handles, and while engaged in this business he was Chief Deputy Clerk of Decatur County for three years. He finally sold out his business, and was Deputy County Clerk for Dr. Reagan for four years. He then assisted the present County Clerk, Charles W. Scott, in opening his office, for six months. Afterwards he became connected with J. H. Perkins & Co., as one of the managers of their clothing department and in charge of their books, which position he still occupies. Politically he is popular, and was elected Councilman from the First Ward five terms. He was married in February 1865, to Miss Mary M., daughter of William and Elizabeth (Piersol) Galvin. Mr. Galvin is a farmer of Center Township, formerly of Hendricks County, where he owned a farm adjoining Jacob Neff’s, so that our subject and his wife were reared together. Mr. Galvin is from an old American family and a member of the Christian Church. Mr. Galvin and wife are the parents of nine children: Mary M., John P., Carrie, William, Albert, Olive, Emily, George A. and Christopher C. Politically Mr. Galvin was formerly a stanch Republican, but is now a Democrat. Jesse Neff is a charter member of Rich Mountain Post, No. 42, Grand Army of the Republic, at Lebanon, and has held the office of Commander three different terms in succession, of one year each, and was again elected Commander for 1892. He was a delegate to the last National Encampment at Indianapolis, representing the Ninth Congressional District. Mr. and Mrs. Neff are members of the Christian Church, in which he is an elder.

Albert Neff, youngest son of Jacob, enlisted in the regular United States service in 1886, Company A, Sixteenth Regiment, United States Infantry, and served five years on frontier duty in Texas and Utah, and reenlisted in Company F, Eighteenth United States Infantry, and was instantly killed in the City of Laredo, Texas, being accidentally thrown from a wagon.


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