Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Officer, a Gentleman and an Ornament to his Country: The Life of Benjamin Franklin Davis, Part II

 Fort Tejon was established near Tejon Pass at the head of the San Joaquin Valley in California in August 1854.   In December 1856 the fort became the headquarters of the 1st U. S. Dragoons.  Companies H & I were at Fort Tejon while Companies B, D, G and K remained at Camp Moore.  By 1858 the post was commanded by Major George A. H. Blake, 1st Dragoons.

2nd Lt. B. F. Davis arrived at Fort Tejon on July 7, 1858 along with his commanding officer Captain John W. Davidson and Albert B. Chapman of Company K.  Davis immediately took on new duties at the fort as he began serving as the posts Acting Assistant Quartermaster (AAQM) and Acting Assistant Commissary of Subsistence (AACS).   He would continue these duties until December 1858. He also spent some time on detached service and in command of Company B, 1st Dragoons.

Benjamin Davis spent the first several months of 1859 at Fort Tejon.  On the May returns he was reported as being on detached service in San Francisco since May 2nd.  In June he was again absent from the fort conducting recruits to Fort Crook as per Special Order #56,  Department of California dated June 15, 1859.  Fort Crook, named after 1st Lieutenant George Crook, 4th U. S. Infantry, was located on the north bank of the Falls River in Shasta County, California near the present town of Falls River Mills.  It was established in 1857 to protect settlers from the hostile Indians.  In August 1859 Davis was still on detached service, this time on the Colorado River.  He left Fort Tejon on August 12 and did not return until September 29.  By December 27, 1859 Davis was again on detached service at Los Angeles.

1st Lt. Benjamin Davis left Fort Tejon January 19, 1860 for Fort Yuma where he was a member of a general court martial.  He returned to Fort Tejon February 27.  Fort Yuma was established in 1848 in what is now Imperial County, California across the Colorado River from Yuma, New Mexico Territory (now Arizona).  By 1858 The Butterfield Overland Mail had a station near the fort.  In March 1860 Company B, 1st Dragoons was temporarily under the command of Milton T. Carr a West Point classmate of Benjamin Davis.  Both Carr and Davis left Fort Tejon in mid April for the Mojave River.  They were probably part of Brevet Major James H. Carletons Pah-Ute Campaign against the Southern Paiutes and the Chemehuevis Indians who had been attacking wagon trains on the Mojave Road which linked Southern California to Beale's Wagon Road and the Santa Fe Trail. On April 18, 1860 Companies B & K of the 1st Dragoons were  engaged near Camp Cady on the Mojave River in Arizona.  Both Carleton and Carr were back at Fort Tejon by July 9.  Davis probably returned at the same time.

The July returns for Fort Tejon show 2nd Lt. Benjamin F. Davis being promoted to 1st lieutenant, after almost five years as a 2nd lieutenant, and transferred from Company B, to Company K, 1st Dragoons.  Post records do not show the promotion date however Davis's service records indicate the  promotion occurred on January 9, 1860.  On July 18, 1860 1st Lieutenant Davis will apply for and receive 60 days leave of absence, the first extended leave he appears to have taken since joining the 5th U. S. Infantry in Texas in December 1854.  By early October Benjamin will be back at Fort Tejon where he again will serve as the AAQM and Acting Commissary of Subsistence (ACS) of the post.  He will continue these duties until June 20, 1861.

First Lieutenant Grimes Davis spent the first four months of 1861 at Fort Tejon.  On May 3, 1861 he was ordered to Los Angeles on detached service.  He left Fort Tejon May 11.  As noted on pages 55-58 of "Los Angeles in the Civil War, 1860 to 1865":  "On May 14 Major James Henry Carleton and 50 mounted troopers from Company K, 1st Dragoons, from Fort Tejon, trotted into Los Angeles, to the immense relief of Captain (Winfield Scott) Hancock (the Army's lone officer in town) and the Union sympathizers.  A few days later they were joined by cavalry from Fort Mojave and the immediate danger of insurrection in Los Angeles was over.  The soldiers set up camp on the southern outskirts of town in view of Hancock's Quartermaster buildings.  The new encampment was named Camp Fitzgerald."

 June finds Lt. Davis at Camp Fitzgerald.  He would remain here for several months commanding the 1st Dragoon Band and serving as the camp adjutant.  Camp Fitzgerald was garrisoned by a little over 300 soldiers belonging to Companies B & K of the 1st Dragoons and Companies F & I of the 6th U. S. Infantry.

On July 30, 1861 1st Lt. Benjamin F. Davis was promoted to Captain 1st U. S. Dragoons which was renamed the 1st U. S. Cavalry on August 3.  He  stayed at Camp Fitzgerald until mid August.  The camp returns for the month note he is on detached service per a telegraph dispatch from San Francisco dated August 15, 1861.  The young officer would leave Camp Fitzgerald August 17, 1861 to take command of the 1st Battalion (5 companies) 1st California Volunteer Cavalry.

When the Civil War started California was asked to provide a regiment of infantry and 5 companies of cavalry to help guard the overland mail route between Carson City (Nevada) and Fort Laramie (Wyoming).  Suitable officers had to be found to organize and train the raw recruits.  Brigadier General Edwin V. Sumner commander of the Department of the Pacific was coordinating with John G. Downey California's governor to find officers for the California volunteers.  In correspondence to Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant General, Washington DC dated August 22, 1861 Sumner wrote:  "General in raising the volunteers for this state, I find it indispensably necessary, for economy as well as efficiency to have a cavalry officer of experience and ability to command the five companies of cavalry.  There was no suitable man to be found outside of the Army, and at my request the governor of California has given the commission of Lt. Colonel to Lt. B. F. Davis of the 1st Dragoons.  I have known this young officer since he entered the army and I know him to be one of the best officers in it.  He is from the south but a firm loyalist to the government.  I would respectfully ask the sanction of the war department to this appointment."

Benjamin F. Davis was commissioned  Lt. Colonel of Volunteers August 19, 1861 to date from August 6, 1861.  In an August 29 letter Colonel James H. Carleton wrote "by authority of the general commanding the Dept. of the Pacific Lt. Col. B. F. Davis is designated as mustering officer for the 1st Cavalry and 1st Infantry now camped at Contra Costa, (County) California".  It would be Davis's responsibility not only to muster in the volunteer cavalry but also to drill and discipline the raw recruits and make them an effective fighting force.

The volunteers who would make up the five companies of the 1st California Volunteer Cavalry rendezvoused at Camp Merchant near Lake Merritt Oakland, California in August 1861.  They would receive barely a month's training before being mustered into federal service and ordered to Southern California.  On September 14, 1861 Richard C Drum, AAG wrote Special Order #172, Department of the Pacific directing Colonel James H. Carleton to take the 1st California Infantry and Cavalry to Los Angeles.  The horses of the battalion of cavalry were to be left in San Francisco.  The cavalry would be remounted at Los Angeles.  The quartermaster was to procure the necessary transportation by water to San Pedro.

The California Volunteer Cavalry and Infantry arrived at the port of San Pedro on  September 19 and 20th.  They disembarked and marched approximately 18 miles northward where they established a camp   near Bollona Creek christened Camp Latham.  Three companies of cavalry remained at Camp Latham with the 1st California Infantry while the other two were sent to Camp Carleton near San Bernardino.  The recruits training would continue in southern California.

 On October 13, 1861 Lt. Col. Davis wrote a letter from Camp Latham applying for a seven day leave of absence with permission to visit San Francisco.  He noted in the letter "I have given the colonel commanding verbally my reasons for deserving this indulgence".  His leave was approved and Davis departed Camp Latham on October 15.  It is unknown if the request was related to business or pleasure or both however my supposition is he was primarily seeking permission from headquarters to return east with the 1st U. S. Cavalry Regiment.   After Davis arrived in San Francisco he applied for an additional ten days of leave on October 19.  Then in a letter dated October 29, 1861 he resigned his commission as Lt. Colonel of the 1st California Volunteer Cavalry.  The resignation was accepted  October 30, 1861 by Headquarters Dept. of the Pacific who subsequently drafted the following Special Order # 205: "Captain B. F. Davis, 1st Cavalry, having tendered his resignation as lieutenant-colonel of cavalry, California volunteers, will join his company at San Pedro in time to embark with the same on the steamer leaving this port on the 1st proximo".  All the regular army regiments except 4 artillery batteries had been ordered east.  Captain B. F. Davis would leave the port of San Pedro, California November 1st, aboard the wooden side-wheel Steamer S. S. Golden Gate, cross the Isthmus of Panama, by train, board another ship headed for New York and finally arrive in Washington City, DC by early January 1862.

To be continued.