Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lt Colonel Henry Davis

Don Henry Davis (1812 - 1887)
A survey of the life of Don Henry Davis leaves little doubt that he had an adventurous spirit. Born October 9, 1812 to his parents Wiley Oran Davis and Susan Parker Kitchen, he was known to his siblings George A., Jessie Kitchen, and Ann Oran as “Henry.” He was a young man when his father left home on “a trip out West,” never to return. That is, he traveled west of Hartburg, Haywood County, Tennessee.

In the absence of his father, Henry was about fifteen years old when he began an apprenticeship in the saddler's trade that sustained him for several years. After moving to Leesville, Indiana, he opened a shop and invented the “Davis Spring Saddle,” the most comfortable saddle of its time.  Although his trade was prosperous, it was not his sole occupation.

December 22, 1833 marked the celebration of  his first marriage to his second cousin, Elizabeth Taylor Davis. To this household eight children were born: Mary Frances (known as Frances), Sarah Jane, Helen Melissa (known as Melissa), Albert Hopkins, Gustavus C. and three deceased; William Houstan, Henry Parker (died in the Civil War, a casualty of the Battle of Chickamauga. He is buried at NationalCemetery Chattanooga, TN) and Ann Eliza.  In 1838 he moved his family to Leesville, Lawrence Co., IN

His military career encompassed two wars. On June 20, 1846, he was enrolled in Company F, Second Regiment Indiana Infantry in the Mexican war. At the outbreak he was elected Captain. His company marched from Bedford to New Albany, IN, where they boarded boats and went to Mexico. While in New Orleans he bought a gold watch and “long, heavy, double-barreled shotgun,” which returned home with him. He served with General ZacharyTaylor through the battle of Buena Vista, and was honorably discharged on June 21, 1847.
In 1849 he moved to Bedford, IN. In 1852 he was elected Treasurer of Lawrence County on the Democratic ticket.  Henry also ran a saddle shop, "Davis and Aley Harness and Saddles." Another move to Bryantsville, IN was prompted by the death of Elizabeth Taylor on August 26, 1858, and remarriage to widow Christina Culbertson Kern (1810-1872), in December of that same year. Christina became a beloved step-mother to the younger children.  He managed her farm as well as a general store and was serving as Postmaster when the Civil War broke out. Christina is buried beside her husband in Bedford, IN Cemetry (photo courtesy of Will Davis)

Henry Parker “Peeler” Davis enlisted in the Union Army in the summer of 1862. He joined the ranks of Company “A”, 67th Regiment, under Captain F. A. Sears.

Record of enlistment for Henry Parker Davis

His father could not bear the thought of his oldest surviving son going to war, and decided to follow him later that same summer. He was 49 years old when he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the Eighty-second Indiana Volunteer Infantry (link to History of the Eighty-second Indiana volunteer infantry, its organization, campaigns and battles. Written at the request of the members by Alf. G. Hunter, 1893.) Peeler was swapped for the brother of Captain Sears and thereafter served under his father.

Lt Col Henry Davis fought the Battle of Chickamauga, he served through Perrysville, Hoover's Gap and Stone River.  During a furlough to Tennessee in the spring of 1863 Colonel Davis was interviewed by Edmund Kirke, aka James R. Gilmore, a New York businessman, journalist and "amateur ambassador for peace," on a fact finding mission.  The story appeared in the New York Tribune, July 06, 1863(the article can be viewed from the link), as an installment in a series chronicling the ongoing Civil War conflict and material he later used to bring to President Lincoln. 

Eighty-Second Regiment Indiana Volunteers - Partial List - Henry Davis
At the Battle of Chickamauga he not only lost a son but was severely hurt by a minie ball which struck his saber squarely and with tremendous force. Given that there was no formal transfer of the two men, there is no official casualty listing for Henry P. Davis. Perhaps this is why his father did not bring his body home to Indiana. He returned from this conflict with a broken spirit: losing Peeler was too great a price to pay for victory over the Southern Rebels.  Owing to his injury, he resigned October 1, 1863.  His gallantry in battle is recorded in the 2nd Volume of Indiana’s Roll of Honor.

In 1877 at the age of 65, Davis was again appointed as Bedford postmaster, a position he held until 1885. At the age of 66 he married a third time to Lucy A Long, another second cousin and his first wife’s youngest sister. Her death in 1882 left Henry a widower for a third time.

Henry spent his final years in Mitchell, Indiana, in the household of his son Gus Davis. He helped with his son’s hardware store "Crawford and Son." He made a final visit to his son Albert, which was spent romping with his grandchildren Ruth and Nina, affectionately singing to his “sweet babies.” Albert received news of his death by telegram on June 22, 1887.

Henry Davis was known to be a gentle soul, “one not taking to swearing.” He resided in his community enjoying certain honors bestowed upon him as Sir Knight in Masonry, a Camp Degree Odd Fellow, a staunch Republican, a member of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War Veterans Organization,) and the Christian Church.

Don Henry Davis left a honorable legacy. He rests in the Green Hill Cemetery, Bedford, Indiana (photo courtesy of Will Davis).
Copyright © Alice Kramer 2012
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