A Civil War Biography

Jefferson Columbus Davis

Davis was born 2 March 1828 in Clark County, Indiana. He entered the Clark County Seminary in 1841 and was still in school when, at age 18, he enlisted in the 3rd Indiana Infantry regiment, a local unit formed by West Point graduate T.W. Gibson. Davis served under Zachary Taylor during the war with Mexico and on 17 June 1848, for gallant conduct at Buena Vista, was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the 1st US Artillery. Davis was promoted to 1st lieutenant on 29 February 1852. He contracted yellow fever that summer and nearly died. In August 1858 he was assigned to Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina becoming the fort's first commander.

Although no longer in command, Davis was still assigned to Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861. He was relieving the sentinels when the bombardment began. On 14 May 1861 he was promoted to captain in the 1st artillery. On 1 August 1861 Indiana governor Oliver P. Morton appointed Davis colonel of the 22nd Indiana Infantry regiment. Davis commanded a brigade at Wilson's Creek. He commanded the 3rd division of the Army of the Southwest at Pea Ridge and the 4th division of the Army of Mississippi at Corinth. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in May 1862 to date from 18 December 1861. In August 1862 he became ill eventually taking a 20-day leave of absence. On 29 September 1862, while still on leave, Davis confronted a former commander, Major General William Nelson, in the lobby of the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. In retaliation for a personal insult Davis shot and killed Nelson. Davis was arrested and imprisoned but with the strong support of the Indiana governor was released and returned to duty. He commanded the 1st division XIV Corps at Murfreesboro and the 1st division XX Corps at Chickamauga. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 8 August 1864 but although recommended was never promoted to the full rank. He commanded the 2nd division XIV Corps during the Atlanta campaign. He commanded the XIV Corps during the "March to the Sea" and was still in command of the corps when the war ended. Davis was brevetted both brigadier general and major general in the regular army on 13 March 1865.

After the war Davis remained in the military. He was assigned as colonel of the 23rd Infantry and served in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaska. He led the expedition against the Modoc Indians in retaliation of the 11 April 1873 murder of Edward Candy. Davis was still on active duty when he died 30 November 1879 in Chicago, Illinois.

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