This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.
The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Thirty-First Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 12th, 1900.
Brevet Major General Thomas A. Davies, of the City of New York, was born on his father's farm in a log-house on the shore of Black Lake, in St. Louis County, New York, on the 3rd of December, 1809.
His father, Thomas John Davies, was of Welsh descent, and his mother, Ruth Foote Davies, was a sister of Judge Samuel A. Foote, of a New England family. Mr. Davies, the father, was a farmer and one of the first settlers of that section, 1797, and was a representative citizen of that county, having filled the office of Sheriff many years, and afterward Judge.
During the war of 1812, General Joseph G. Swift, the first graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, and its first Superintendent, was on secret service duty on the Canada frontier p46and found Mr. Davies' house a convenient place for operation and seclusion. When his duties terminated, he felt kindly towards Mr. Davies and his family for the accommodation, and offered to procure a cadet's appointment for his second son, Charles Davies. He was accordingly appointed and graduated in 1815, thirteen years after General Swift; and out of this appointment sprang all the fortunes of the Davies family.
Charles was commissioned a Lieutenant in the army, and about two years after graduating, was appointed Professor of Mathematics in the Military Academy, which position he held for many years.
On his return home on furlough in 1823, his youngest brother, Thomas, was a lad about thirteen years old, and working on the farm. The offer was made by Professor Davies and accepted, that the Thomas, the subject of this sketch, should leave the farm and prepare for entering the Military Academy as a cadet.
He was first sent to Dr. Allen's school at Hyde Park, on the Hudson, and after two years of preparatory education, was examined and admitted to West Point in 1825. In his class were Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston, since famous Confederate Generals, and Ormsby McKnight Mitchela distinguished astronomer and Union General, the latter being General Davies' room-mate at West Point.
Graduating in 1829, Davies was commissioned Second Lieutenant First Infantry, and ordered to report for duty to Lieutenant Colonel Zachary Taylor, (afterward President), at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, now in Wisconsin.
Travelling by stage, he went from his home to New York, then via Philadelphia and Baltimore to Wheeling, thence by steamboat to New Albany, then again by stage across to St. Louis. From St. Louis by stage to Galena, and from Galena by open wagon to the canoe ferry across the Wisconsin River, and a •seven-mile walk, with snow knee-deep, to Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, brought him to his destination. The entire p47 distance from St. Louis to Galena, and from Galena to Fort Crawford, was one boundless prairie with no inhabitants except a few in log huts along the stage route, with now and then a patch of timber. Springfield, Ill., then contained but one house, a rude log cabin; and Lieutenant Davies, during the interval of changing stage horses, amused himself by shooting gray and black squirrels from the huge hickory trees which stood on what is now the handsomest portion of that thriving city. Between Galena and the Wisconsin River, there was but one habitation — a log hut — the half-way house — where a sumptuous supper was provided of whole hominy, this being all they had. The next day a blinding northeast snow storm came on, and the teamster lost his way and was compelled to camp down in the open prairie and await results. Lieutenant Davies fared well, however, for while the horses ate their corn raw, his portion was parched in the ashes. This was all there was to eat that day.
After arriving at Prairie du Chien, a refreshing night's sleep and eating to make up for two days of starvation, Lieutenant Davies, being well dressed in full uniform, supposed he would find in Lieutenant Colonel Taylor a tall, handsome officer, with traditional sword, epaulets, cocked hat and feathers. He was therefore much surprised when the sentinel at the gate of the fort, on being requested to show him to Colonel Taylor's headquarters, remarked: "There goes Colonel Taylor now across the plaza." This was none other than a little short man, dressed in a bucket coat with black streaks over the shoulders, ordinary soldiers' pantaloons and vest, wearing brogan shoes and a seal skin cap worth about twenty-five cents. Nevertheless, he found Colonel Taylor a very courteous gentleman and officer, and was soon made acquainted with his Adjutant, who assigned him quarters and ordered him on garrison duty.
Some difficulty had been experienced by Colonel Taylor in procuring lumber to build new barracks at this post, ordered by the War Department, as two or three failures had occurred in the attempt. In January, 1830, he was informed that the officer p48who had been sent with a command to the Manomanieº River, a branch of the Chippewa, for the purpose of getting this lumber, was returning to the fort by easy stages on a hand sled drawn by soldiers, with both legs frozen to the knees. "Another failure," said Colonel Taylor, and he was truly in a dilemma.
Lieutenant Davies was selected to supply the place of this officer, and, although the winter was well spent, hope was entertained that with energy the lumber could still be obtained that season. A military order, written by Colonel Taylor himself, of four pages of foolscap, was handed to Lieutenant Davies, and after reading it, he said to the Colonel: "Do you wish me to obey this order, or bring you the lumber?" The Colonel saw the point and said: "Put that in your pocket and bring the lumber."
With a hurried preparation, five sledges, each drawn by one horse, started on the ice up the Mississippi River, snow knee-deep, loaded with provisions and lumbering equipage, to make the journey of •300 miles to the lumber camp on the Manomanie. The weather was so intensely cold, and the loads so heavy for the horses, that the Lieutenant and men were compelled to walk nearly the whole distance, and when they arrived at the camp after a ten days' march, found that the provisions for the winter supply had been buried on the west bank of the Chippewa, •fifty miles below the camp, in the fall, on account of the ice. Immediately the teams retraced their steps, and in two or three days all the provisions were in camp. Four sledges returned to the Fort, leaving two horses for drawing logs, etc.
From the 10th of February to the first of March, the work of filling the bill of lumber required, was pursued with no common zeal. Lieutenant Davies driving team himself and drawing most of the logs and lumber to the bank of the river, for fear that the horses, his only dependence, might get injured. The entire bill of lumber consisting of 700 white and yellow pine saw logs, square timbers, shingles, hand sawed, clear stuff, etc., was ready to be put into the water for rafting as soon as the ice broke up in the river.
p49 The incidents of this trip would fill a volume; but suffice it to say that the lumber was cribbed down to the Chippewa River, put into rafts, floated down that river into the Mississippi, thence to Prairie du Chien, arriving there the 1st of May, without loss of a single piece.
Lieutenant Davies immediately reported to Colonel Taylor that while at the camp on the Manomanie, the Indians had threatened to exterminate the lumber party if they did not cease cutting timber on their lands. One or two parties of Indians came, but made no hostile demonstrations.
While floating down the Mississippi about where La Crosse now is, a war party of Sioux in full war paint hove in sight in canoes paddled by their squaws. They approached and landed on the raft, but the Lieutenant was prepared for them. He soon discovered by their actions that they meant no mischief. They came to exchange some venison and game for flour and pork, and when this was done they all departed, visiting the raft the next day for the same purpose. Colonel Taylor, on learning these facts, sent out scouting parties to find them, but to no purpose.
It subsequently transpired that this war party went down the river past Prairie du Chien to meet old Peomoskie, the Chief of the Sac and Fox Nations, who was on his way up the river with his chiefs and squaws to make a treaty with the United States. The Sioux surprised them and murdered the entire commission, cutting their bodies and mutilating the corpses in their usual style.
These Sioux came up to the fort, had their war dance, being decorated with scalps and parts of human flesh dangling from sticks, etc. From these occurrences in some way grew out the memorable Sac and Fox Indian war, which cost the country so much trouble and money.
A party of soldiers had been sent to the bluff back of Fort Crawford to make brick to be used in the new barracks, and were not progressing satisfactorily to Colonel Taylor, who, in a few days after Lieutenant Davies had arrived with the lumber, p50gave the latter orders to take charge of the party, which he did, and by the 15th of August had made, kilned and burned 200,000 of first quality bricks, ready for use; the first brick made in the Northwest Territory.
A party of soldiers and citizens in the meantime had been sent on to Yellowstone River, opposite to the fort, to build a new saw mill to saw up the logs of lumber brought down by Lieutenant Davies. This party had failed to make a sufficiently strong dam for holding the water, and the sawing of the stuff had been thus far a failure. Colonel Taylor ordered Lieutenant Davies to take charge of this party as soon as the bricks were made. He went there, strengthened the dam, made some alterations in the mill, and was sawing out the lumber at a rapid rate, when he received an order from the War Department to report at once to Colonel Thayer, Superintendent of the Military Academy, for duty.
He left the mill the same morning, repaired to the fort, and in the afternoon was on his way down the Mississippi in an Indian canoe. Reaching Galena, he took a steamboat to St. Louis, having been absent from that place about a year.
Here Lieutenant Davies became ill with ague and bilious fever, and was taken to Jefferson Barracks, where he lay in a delirious state for two weeks. Recovering sufficiently to move on to Cincinnati, he experienced a relapse, and was kindly taken care of by the mother-in‑law of his brother Charles, Mrs. Mansfield, the widow of Colonel Jared Mansfield, formerly Professor of Philosophy in the Military Academy.
Lieutenant Davies arrived at West Point and reported to Colonel Thayer for duty in the fall of 1830. The duty assigned to Lieutenant Davies was improving the Point by setting out trees, generally elms, laying out and gravelling the walks under the brow of the hill and roads on the plain, and finally finishing the West Point hotel.
These works having been all completed, Lieutenant Davies took a position as an Assistant Engineer under Major Douglass, then Professor of Engineering at the Academy, to survey the p51Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad — the third road projected in the United States. While here engaged, Lieutenant Davies, by direction of Major Douglass, got up the first models made in the United States of the various sizes of the T rail.a
This work completed, he determined to resign his commission in the army, and take up his permanent residence in New York City. On his way he stopped at West Point, and while waiting the time to go to New York, revised the manuscript of his brother Charles' first work in his mathematical course — "Davies' Arithmetic" — at his request.
Once in New York, he applied for and received a clerkship in the shipping house of Goodhue & Co., on a salary of $300 a year, his object being simply to learn a business.
In about a year he went into business on his own account, and having made a very handsome little fortune on paper, the panic of 1837 taught him that promises were not dollars. He at once made up his mind to settle up this kind of business, and put what he had left into real estate on Manhattan Island, for he had confidence in the future of New York City.
During the settlement of his business, Generalº Davies took a position of Assistant Engineer to Horatio Allen, son of Doctor Allen of Hyde Park, who had charge of building the Croton Water Works of New York. The General superintended the laying down of the first pipes, the reservoir in 42d street, and other reservoirs, and the high bridge.
On August 24th, 1844, he was married in New York to a Virginia lady by birth and education. To this marriage there was no issue.
His first investment in real estate was the building of two large stores on the corner of John and Dutch streets, in 1844. Since that time he has bought, improved and sold a vast amount of real estate in New York. In 1847 he bought the house, 678 Broadway, of his uncle, Samuel A. Foote, and lived there twenty years.
p52 Encroaching business drove him out, and his wife having lived there alone during three years of the war, determined to join her husband in the field. In 1864 the house was leased temporarily, and subsequently he erected a large store upon the lot.
He was one of a committee of Broadway property owners to oppose the first Broadway surface railroad.b When it became apparent that the scheme was all settled, in the style usual in such cases, and that the franchise was to be given away, General Davies arose about the close of the proceedings before the Aldermen, and addressed them as follows: "If the Aldermen determine that the necessities of the community require the building of this railroad, and determine to give away this franchise, I now make a bona fide offer to give the city one million of dollars, and give security for the payment for this franchise." This made no difference with the Aldermen, but seemed to spur them on to accelerated action, and the result was the offer was considered by the Courts, the Aldermen were put in jail and the grant canceled.
Soon after the Rebellion broke out he went to Albany on business connected with the organization of some batteries of artillery. It happened that the Sixteenth Regiment from St. Louis and other northern counties was encamped in the city at this time, and without General Davies' knowledge, elected him as their Colonel. The position, after mature reflection, was accepted. The regiment, with another, went into a camp of instruction there, and in about two months they were ordered to Washington, D. C.
On the way through Baltimore, as there had been a disturbance a few days before in the passage of a Massachusetts regiment,c the Colonel thought best, as it was just after daylight, not to make any display, but march quietly through the city without music. A pert Secessionist stepped up to Colonel Davies and said: "Where is your music, Colonel?" He replied very pleasantly: "In our cartridge boxes."
p53 On organizing the army for the battle of Bull Run, Colonel Davies was assigned to the command of a brigade of four regiments, and moved over to Alexandria in camp. The day before the battle, Colonel Davies had his command encamped at Centreville, and at General McDowell's tent that evening received his instructions for the next day.
His duty was to go to Blackburn's Ford, and open the battle by a demonstration of artillery. Early in the morning he had his command on the march, directed by a guide.
He came to the forks of two roads and halted to question the guide. "Where does this road to the left lead to?" The guide answered: "Down to the crossing of Bull Run at Blackburn's Ford." Then pointing in the direction he was going, asked: "Where does this road lead?" He answered : "Down on the hills in front of Blackburn's Ford, where you are to make the demonstration." Colonel Davies proceeded to carry out a plan of tactics of his own, not specified in the order, and which secured victory that day to the left wing of McDowell's army.
He halted his command and ordered forward every sapper and miner in the brigade, directing them to fell trees across that left hand road, as far down as his position in front. He left a section of artillery and a regiment to guard the road till this was done, and then moved on to the position assigned, and made the demonstration as ordered. Green's battery of Colonel Davies' brigade firing the first gun in the morning and the last gun in the evening of this memorial battle.
McDowell was, in the meantime, moving to his battle ground on the right. As was expected, Colonel Davies saw a large rebel force about ten o'clock A.M., moving for the blocked road, but finding no passage, they returned.
The command at Blackburn's Ford consisted of two brigades, and on comparing dates of commission with Colonel Richardson, who commanded the other, Colonel Davies ranked him and took command of the division.
p54 About five o'clock in the afternoon, after firing had ceased in McDowell's command, Colonel Davies was still in ignorance of which side had been victorious on the right. General Ewell, with a large force of rebels, still made a second attempt to get through the trammeled road and on to Centreville to cut off McDowell's retreat and gain Washington; but by this foreclosure, he was compelled to file his men out of the woods and into an open field in front of the Union forces. Colonel Davies formed a line of battle on the brow of the hill — one regiment on each flank of Green's battery — and ordered both regiments to lie down. After the rear of the enemy's column filed into the field, Colonel Davies ordered the battery to open fire, and the canister from the twelve-pound Napoleon guns mowed down the enemy right and left, so that in twenty minutes not a rebel was to be seen.
Colonel Davies received orders to fall back on Centreville, about a mile and a half, where the remainder of the division had preceded him by the same order. Meeting General McDowell, who asked him where his troops were, he replied: "Here, sir, in order and ready for duty."
McDowell turned to his Adjutant General, Fry, and said: "Give Colonel Davies the command of the left wing of the army as it stands." The order was written on a small visiting card by General Fry.
At 12 o'clock at night, Colonel Davies received orders to march his command to Fairfax Court House, and subsequently to Alexandria.
Great dissatisfaction and disappointment were felt by the troops under Colonel Davies, that General McDowell's public report of the battle said not one word of the victory on the left, and gave them no credit. They requested Colonel Davies to call General McDowell's attention to the omission, and asked him to amend his report.
Colonel Davies did so, and received a reply from General McDowell: "That he had done so and placed it on file in the War Department."
p55 If General McDowell had not made this omission, the country could have claimed the battle as drawn, for the left wing had a victory, while the right wing was defeated, neither side following up its victory.
This is shown by the following circumstances: A private named Joseph Rodden, of Co. G., Sixteenth New York, who had charge of some cattle driving out from Alexandria for rations, grazed them on Centreville plains, and the day after the battle tried to find his regiment, but unable to find any one, concluded that he would drive the cattle back to Alexandria, with he did, and on reporting to General Davies, said: "He thought that was the best thing to do, as the Rebels had gone one way and the Union troops the other."
When this matter was referred to by General Davies, at the re-union onº the Sixteenth New York Regiment, at Potsdam, September 1st, 1886, another member of the Sixteenth New York, Melvin Tucker, of Lyons Mountain, arose and said: "That's so, General, for I slept with Rodden at Centreville that night, and helped drive the back to Alexandria."
General Davies received his commission as Brigadier General a day or two before McClellan's march on Manassas, March, 1862. He was still with his regiment as Colonel, when the order to move out came to General Franklin's division. General Franklin was in Washington that night, as also General Slocum, and in command, and the order was served on Colonel Davies, next in rank. He immediately issued the necessary orders, and moved out the division to Fairfax Court House early next morning.
General Davies was not entirely satisfied with the form of his commission, and went to Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, and inquired of him if the commission had been earned, to which Mr. Stanton replied emphatically, "Yes." "Then would you have any objections to state that in the commission?" asked General Davies. "Certainly not," said Mr. Stanton; "that ought to have been done at first."
He then called Adjutant General Thomas and directed him to re-write the commission, and state in it that it was given for p56"gallant conduct at the Battle of Bull Run." General Thomas remarked, "that this had never been done in the history of the War Department." Stanton replied: "We will commence history — write the commission." A second commission was written containing the clause referred to and taken to President Lincoln by General Davies, which the President signed, and the first one was destroyed.
The Secretary of War then ordered General Davies to report to General McClellan for duty. The same afternoon General Davies repaired to General McClellan's headquarters near Alexandria, Va., and saw his Adjutant General, who told him the General was engaged with a party of ladies and gentlemen from Washington, and requested him to call the next day.
Upon receiving this reply, General Davies rode back to Washington and went direct to the War Department, saw Mr. Stanton, the Secretary, and asked to be assigned to the Western Department for duty. To this request, Mr. Stanton asked, "What was the matter?" General Davies replied, "that nothing was the matter," but that he would surrender his commission unless this assignment was made.
Orders were then given him to report to Major General Halleck at St. Louis for duty. He reached St. Louis a day or two before the battle of Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing, in Tennessee. General Halleck receiving information of that battle, determined to go there at once, which he did, and General Davies was directed to accompany him.
Arriving at Pittsburg Landing, in a few days General Halleck assigned General Davies to the command of the Second Division, Army of the Tennessee, this division having been commanded by General C. F. Smith in the battle of Shiloh, who at this time lay dangerously ill at Savannah, Tennessee.
Shortly after, an advance upon Corinth, Miss., being decided upon, General Davies received an order from General Grant, in person, who was accompanied by Adjutant-General Rawlins, about ten o'clock P.M., to move out his division on the Corinth road at 8 o'clock next morning.
p57 This was the only direction given, and General Davies was ignorant of the fact that all the other divisions of that army had received the same order. Accordingly, at the hour ordered, the first brigade of the division moved at eight o'clock, the second brigade at eight thirty and the third brigade at nine o'clock; the result was inevitable. All the troops moving from their various camps on to the Corinth road at the same time, a tangle ensued, which took nearly two days to straighten out.
General Grant was relieved of the command of the Army of the Tennessee, General Halleck taking the command in person.
Once in line again, position was taken at a reasonable distance from Corinth and rifle pits thrown up in case of sudden attack. General Beauregard, commanding the Rebel forces at Corinth, evacuated that place and pursuit was made several miles below that point.
During this chase, General Davies was taken ill and fell from his horse. The doctors pronounced it a case of bilious jaundice, and sick leave was given him.
After two months' respite, he returned and again took command of Second Division, Army of the Tennessee.
In the fall of 1862, the Rebel Generals, Price and Van Dorn, with a force estimated at 20,000, were making ready to attack General Rosecrans, commanding four divisions at Corinth, of which the Second Division was one. The enemy having concentrated near Corinth, General Davies received orders late in the night to march on the probable road of attack. He took his position •one and a half miles out from Corinth in the woods, and sent General Oglesby, commanding first brigade, to the front to reconnoitre; the latter soon returned, having met the enemy in force and also having lost two of his guns.
General Davies then formed line of battle in the woods, throwing out no skirmish line, and waited approach of the enemy, who came up about 11 o'clock A.M., and formed line of battle in front. Whereupon General Davies fell back half a mile and re-formed. In the meantime word was sent to General p58Rosecrans for reinforcements, General Davies saying, "it was impossible to hold the place with my command." The enemy advanced the second time and General Davies again fell back, and finally formed line with his left flank on a fort and his right on a swamp, with an open field in front through which the enemy had to come, while his men were in the woods and bushes, well concealed.
He gave his Generals of the brigades notice that the fight was to be made here. The battle commenced about two and lasted till four o'clock, stubbornly contested on both sides, when General Davies' artillery ammunition giving out, he gave orders for the artillery to retire quietly and go to Corinth, re-fill with ammunition, and take a position on commanding ground in rear. In the meantime the infantry made a charge and repulsed the enemy, and this ended the fighting on both sides for October 3d, 1862.
General Rosecrans sent a brigade as a reinforcement, commanded by General Mower, which arrived at five o'clock, after the fighting was over.
In this battle, General Davies' division lost in killed and wounded three brigade Generals. Oglesby shot through the lungs, Hackelman killed, and Brown shot in the arm, nearly half his officers, and one-third his rank and file; and in all about eighty per cent of the total loss of the four divisions in the two days' fight, October 3d and 4th. The neglect of General Rosecrans in not sending reinforcements, as the other three divisions were not engaged with the enemy that day, left General Davies to contest a battle against greatly superior numbers.
General Davies' division being badly crippled, another division took its place, and his was relieved under orders of General Rosecrans to be a reserve force. His men immediately sought much needed rest, and the General himself was preparing for bed at 12 o'clock, when General Hamilton, from Rosecrans, came in with an order, commanding General Davies to take the centre the next day. He accordingly stirred up his sleeping men, and marched to the new point designated and got into position before p59daylight. With ranks and new officers, he was called upon defend a line •half a mile long with weary troops one file deep.
When General Davies got his division in place just before daylight, a Rebel battery opened fire on the hotel in the town used as a hospital for the wounded and dying of the previous duty's fight, in which about 800 men and officers were crowded. He immediately ordered a battery of rifle guns to respond, and three or four rounds silenced the enemy's battery.
At 9 o'clock A.M., the main battle came on, the enemy moving on him apparently about ten regiments deep, which broke his line and took some of his artillery. General Davies now fell back, rallied his forces, made a charge and regained every gun he had lost; about this time the whole Rebel line from right to left gave way, and the battle was over. Such is the meagre account of General Davies' part in this great battle.
Subsequently, on Grant's determination to attack Vicksburg, General Davies was released of his command under Rosecrans, and assigned by General Grant to the command of the District of Columbus, headquarters at Columbus, Kentucky. This district included Paducah, Ky., Cairo, Ill, Columbus, Island No. 10, Hickman and Fort Pillow, the State of Kentucky, and part of Tennessee. The coming campaign against Vicksburg made this command very important, as on the commanding officer at Columbus devolved the duty of protecting nearly all of General Grant's lines of communication, while a large portion of his army and supplies had to be forwarded through his hands, as well as the supervision of all private traffic down the Mississippi River.
After General Grant had passed beyond Holly Springs, the Confederate General Van Dorn captured the place with all the supplies stored there for General Grant's army for immediate use. General in the meantime had destroyed the railroad communication to Grant's army, cut off all the telegraph communication, and the Mississippi River was the only remaining way open to both General Grant and General Sherman.
p60 General Davies now, without communication with General Grant, was left to his own judgment; he immediately cleared the store houses at Columbus of supplies stored there and sent them down to Memphis on steamboats, that General Grant might be reinforced as far as possible for his loss at Holly Springs.
General Forrest in the meantime threatened Columbus, and General Davies received the following telegram from General Halleck at Washington: "Hold Columbus at all hazards and make no movement of troops that would endanger it." Scouts reported General Van Dorn with 6,000 men marching up the country after his capture of Grant's reserve at Holly Springs, and within one day's march of Island No. 10; while Forrest was reported at Hickman with 5,000 men, •24 miles above Island No. 10.
In the afternoon General Davies was back of Columbus inspecting defences, and at the sound of heavy artillery in the direction of Island No. 10, rode quickly to Columbus, ordered the quartermaster to send him the most trusty and capable man he had, and six oarsmen, and dispatched them in a steam yacht, with orders to proceed in it to within a short distance of Hickman, thence by a yawl boat down the west bank of the Mississippi River to Island No. 10, and deliver the following order to the commanding officer, who had fifty men to guard this fortress: Spike all the siege guns on the island and dismount them, and throw the powder into the river.
The order was promptly delivered, but was treated with suspicion, and the seven men were sent to the guard house as Confederate spies.
That night General Davies sent a steamer with 1,000 men to Island No. 10, to expedite and assure the fulfillment of his orders, and following these, two trusty aides were dispatched to see that his wishes had been carried out beyond all question. These latter returned confirming the execution of his orders.
An officer commanding New Madrid, under Major General Curtis, happened to be at General Davies' headquarters that day, was sent with a similar mission to New Madrid, •six miles p61below Island No. 10, and ordered to spike the two guns he had there, destroy his ammunition and then proceed with his command and reinforce Fort Pillow. This officer, although not under General Davies' command, willingly undertook to execute his orders in this emergency. The peculiar condition of affairs, which led General Davies to disobey General Halleck's order, if it was a disobedience, concerning the defence of Columbus, is best explained in General Davies' own words, as follows:
"The situation was peculiarly embarrassing. My troops were pinned to Columbus by General Halleck's order, and I was without communication with my commanding officer, General Grant. Forest,º with 5,000 men, and Van Dorn, with 6,000 men, threatened Island No. 10, and Fort Pillow in my command, which were keys to the Confederates to plug up Grant and Sherman's only remaining line of communication to their operations against Vicksburg, where they had nearly every gunboat and transport on the western waters, with no supply of coal, and their supplies destroyed at Holly Springs. What was I to do? Stand still and obey implicitly Halleck's order, or take care of the posts in my command. I determined upon the latter course, and lend Generals Grant and Sherman such aid as was in my power. I blame myself, somewhat, for not suggesting to General Grant, when he and General Sherman were at my headquarters in Columbus, consulting about this plan of campaign against Vicksburg, that the armament of sixty-four siege guns, with ammunition for a long siege, guarded by fifty men, was a dangerous thing to leave on his main line of communication. But the truth was, I did not think of it in that light then, nor do I believe Generals Halleck, Grant and Sherman thought of it, and I am willing to take my share with each of these Generals for the oversight, which it certainly was, for it took six months to capture Island No. 10 from the Confederates, and was of no earthly use to the Union forces occupying the river; and if Forest and Van Dorn had got possession of it, it would have proved very troublesome, if not fatal, to the campaign, or even worse."
p62 When Forrest and Van Dorn learned what General Davies had done, they began a retreat, as was expected, and the Mississippi was left open.
General Davies realized, however, that his course would be criticised, as it reflected upon his superior officers, and he was not surprised at receiving an order relieving him from his command, and, further, ordering him to report to Major General Curtis at St. Louis, who had been directed by General Halleck to convene a Court of Inquiry.
This Court was accordingly convened, with General Strong of New York as President. General Davies asked the privilege of cross examining witnesses, which was denied by a vote of two to one.
He then made a written request to the Court, to permit him to produce witnesses and to cross examine them, which was likewise denied. The case was then stated to General Curtis, commanding, who replied: "I will have no Star Chamber Inquisitions in my command," and then issued an order to the Court to send for any witnesses General Davies might wish for, and allow him to examine and cross examine all witnesses fully and freely. On this basis the inquiry continued, and the proceedings of the Court thenceforth were fair and impartial.
After many days the proceedings were concluded, and the report was forwarded to the War Department. Although two of the members of that Court were ready at first to hang General Davies, the unanimous conclusion, in accordance with the report, was: "That he had not only done his duty, but had performed extraordinary services to the country."
Subsequently to this, General Davies was promoted to the rank of Brevet Major General.
General Curtis assigned General Davies to frontier duty, first commanding the district of Rolla, Mo., and afterward at Leavenworth, Kansas. After the surrender at Appomattox, he was ordered to Madison, Wis., to attend to the mustering out of troops.
p63 He then returned to New York, by the way of the lakes, and was mustered out of service with the army in August, 1865.
His real estate in New York having been in the hands of agents during the war, was well run down in condition and income, and he found himself a comparatively poor man, when contrasted with his friends and neighbors who had remained at home.
He endeavored to even up by again operating in real estate; and forecasting the coming storm, he sold every foot of vacant property he had in 1872, and put the money into productive property.
In 1869 and 1870 he built the house, 610 Fifth Avenue, where he resided many years.
The panic of 1873 followed, and real estate went down and down, and down, and down, till in 1876 and 1877 it was not difficult to find the poorest man in New York, for that was the one who owned the most real estate, and had its current liabilities and expenses to meet.
General Davies was gifted with a logical and philosophical mind, and his writings display earnest thought and exceptional analytical reasoning and research. Prior to the war, he took special interest in the science of geology, and in 1857 began a series of writing on that subject, questioning deductions drawn by scientists from certain points evolved. He also issued a work styled "Cosmogony, or The Mysteries of Creation," the purpose of which was to harmonize the account of Creation, as given in Genesis, with the action of existing laws of nature. This was followed by another volume, entitled "Genesis Disclosed," and still another, "Adam and Ha-Adam," also "An Answer to Hugh Miller." A manuscript prepared before the Civil War was not published; but he issued soon after the close of the war a popular and successful treatise on "How to Make Money and How to Keep It," and more recently, "An Appeal of a Layman to the Committees on the Revision of the English Version of the Holy Scriptures, to have the name Adam restored to the English Genesis, where it has been left out by former translators."
Whether General Davies' appeal had any weight with the distinguished Divines on the Committee of Revision, will probably never be known. But whatever was their source of action, they have embodied in the New Revision of the Old Testament some vital points urged in the appeal. The powers of the committee being limited by the rules adopted, no radical changes could be made, even though the Revisers had desired to do so.
General Davies was the youngest of a family of six children. Charles Davies, the brother already alluded to, was the well known author of Davies' full series of mathematical works for schools and colleges, in general use throughout the country, and was also for many years a distinguished Professor at West Point. Another brother, the late Judge Henry E. Davies, at one time law partner of Millard Fillmore, and the intimate friend and confidential adviser of the latter during his presidential term, was Justice of the New York Supreme Court, then Judge of the Court of Appeals, of which he was Chief Justice for several years, and was at the time of his demise, in 1881, one of the oldest and most distinguished members of the American bar.
From the Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Biography of New York.
a This bears investigating, maybe: the T‑rail had just been invented in 1830/1831; Douglass and Davies are not usually cited in connection with its history, although New York State railroad pioneer John B. Jervis saw it installed on testing track at the West Point Foundry in 1831 (R. W. Howard, The Great Iron Trail, pp27‑29). It's possible that this is where Douglass and Davies would have been involved; this would have been early in 1831, since Douglass resigned as Professor at the Academy on February 28, 1831 (Roswell Park, History and Topography of West Point, p79).
b The furore attending the Broadway surface line seems reasonable: despite the convenience and the march of progress and all, it must have been very disfiguring, as such things are; as a resident of Chicago I can only think of the ear- and eye-sore that is the elevated train in my city's "Loop". We get a good look at the uproar, from a very pro-railroad point of view though, in Harlow, The Road of the Century, pp120‑121.
c The Sixteenth New York marched thru Baltimore on June 29, 1861 (From Bull Run to Chancellorsville: The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry together with Personal Reminiscences, p31, the month being given on p29); the Sixth Massachusetts had been attacked, and two soldiers killed and eight wounded, on April 19, over two months before. The first regiment to march thru the city after that attack was the Thirteenth New York on May 30, according to the obituary notice of Gen. Isaac F. Quinby in the Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 9th, 1892.
Images with borders lead to more information.
History of West Point
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 4 Mar 13