Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dateline Brandy Station, Virginia June 9, 1863: A Fateful Encounter at Dawn

As dawn approached about a mile from Beverly Ford on the north side of the Rappahannock River the morning of June 9, 1863 Brigadier General John Buford's Cavalry Division was waking from a fitful sleep.  Included in that division was a brigade commanded by Acting Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Davis.*  Davis's command had been selected to spearhead the attack of the right wing of the Union Cavalry.  They were to cross the Rappahannock at Beverly Ford than advance in conjunction with the left wing, which was ordered to cross at Kelly's Ford about six miles downstream, toward Culpeper Courthouse, where they expected to encounter the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Everything was in place for what the northerners thought would be a surprise attack.  Events did not play out as planned however.

Map Beverly Ford and Environs

About 4:00 a.m. Davis's command silently mounted their horses and headed toward Beverly Ford.  They arrived at the ford about four-thirty.  As the cavalry horses stepped into the stirrup deep waters of the Rappahannock they and their riders were shrouded in mist rising from the river and any sounds they made were muffled by the noise the streams generated when it passed over a timber crib dam just upstream of the ford.  

The Rappahannock River near Beverly Ford

Benjamin Davis, who wore a Mexican serape to ward off the morning chill, led the advance as his command dashed up the southern bank of the Rappahannock.  He was followed closely by two squadrons of the 8th New York Volunteer Cavalry who were in turn supported by the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and the 3rd Indiana.  Just after crossing the river, much to their surprise, the northerners encountered two pickets, Fleet and Bob James, from the 6th Virginia Cavalry.  The James brothers fled, firing their pistols in the air to alert their comrades as they headed in a southwesterly direction from the ford toward a stand of timber about a quarter mile in their rear.  The Union troopers followed the retiring Confederate pickets down the Beverly Ford Road.

Captain Gibson of the 6th Virginia heard the picket fire and gathered his command for action.  When he saw the James brothers come into view followed by the 8th New York Cavalry he ordered his line to fire at the attacking Yankees.  Lt. Henry C. Cutler of the 8th New York was the first casualty of the day when he took a bullet in the neck from one of Gibson's troopers.  Captain Gibson's small force delayed the Yankees momentarily before they were forced to make a hastey retreat toward their own lines themselves.

Benjamin Davis brought up the 8th Illinois Cavalry to support the New Yorkers under his command.  The Union cavalry branched out on both sides of the Beverly Ford Road and headed southward.  Their advance was met by a charge from additional troops of the 6th Virginia under the command of Cabell Flournoy.  Flournoy's surprise, vicious counterattack halted the Union advance, which was pushed back in disarray.

Beverly Ford Road (Davis was wounded at the bend in the road just south of where the road intersects the Beverly Ford road from the east.) 

Benjamin Davis saw his troops break.  Realizing he needed to regain the initiative and rally his disorganized forces the gallant and brave officer raised his saber above his head and trotted down the Beverly Ford Road toward the Confederates.  When about 75 yards in front of his command Davis turned in the saddle to face them with his back to the enemy.  With raised saber he reportedly shouted "Stand Firm 8th New York" several times.  

A Confederate lieutenant with the 6th Virginia, Robert Owen Allen, saw Davis in the road.  Realizing the officer was in an exposed position and unaware of his presence he raced toward his unsuspecting prey.  Benjamin Franklin Davis's attention was focused on his command and he failed to realize Lt. Allen was approaching him from behind until it was almost too late.  Upon hearing Allen's horses's hoofbeats he turned in the saddle and raised his saber to strike Allen.  Allen dodged the blow and at the same time raised his pistol and sent a bullet into the Union officers forehead.  Davis fell to the ground mortally wounded at a bend in the road not far from Beverly Ford.

Mortal Encounter by Don Stivers Depicting Davis's Wounding

Site of Davis Wounding on the Beverly Ford Road

Sometime before 6:00 a. m., Benjamin Davis's comrades gathered the grievously wounded officer up in a litter and transported him back across the Rappahannock to the Hamilton House.  In route the litter bearers encountered Reverend Samuel L. Gracey, Chaplain of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  "Who is that boys?" Gracey reportedly said.  "Colonel Davis Sir."  "Is it possible!"  "Noble fellow"  Is he badly wounded?" Gracey asked.  "A mine ball through the head, sir!" replied a litter bearer.  Gracey then noted:  "He is insensible, his hair matted and clotted with blood.  God have mercy on this brave, noble, patriotic soldier the hero of Harpers Ferry."  Davis wound breath his last before the sunset on June 9, 1863.

Colonel and Acting Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Davis's body would be transported to Washington by train, where it would be embalmed before being shipped to New York for burial.  On June 20, 1863 Davis's remains were interred in the cemetery at the U. S. Military Academy at West Point.  He now reposes there next to Alonzo H. Cushing and one space away from his commander at Beverly Ford Major General John Buford.  May these American heroes from a by gone era rest in peace.

*  Confederate general JEB Stuart referred to Benjamin Davis as an "Acting Brigadier General" in his official report about the Battle of Brandy Station.  Davis was the Colonel of the 8th New York and while he had been recommended for promotion to Brigadier General that appointment was not confirmed before his death, most likely, because, being from the south, he had no support in Congress which had to approve all military appointments.  He lead a brigade and at times a division as a colonel for months before his death.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

One Family's Sacrifice Exemplifies The True Cost of the Civil War

When studying or discussing the American Civil War we often focus on statistics and those statistics usually include a numerical listing of the casualties: those killed, wounded, captured or found missing  after any skirmish or major engagement.  What we many times fail to communicate or consider is what all those casualties signified, someone's loved one, a family member, a father, son, brother, uncle, nephew or cousin.  Real men with real hopes, ambitions and desires.

One family from Mississippi via Alabama and Louisiana lost five boys in the war, four brothers and a cousin of the brothers.  Due to family circumstances and the death of the parents of the brothers, when they were all less than fifteen years old, all the boys were raised by the family of the cousin, that is, they grew up together in the same household near Aberdeen in Monroe County, Mississippi.

Although raised together, at least for a time, the young men fought on different sides during the war.  One served with distinction in the Union cavalry and the other four, one of whom proudly carried the colors for his regiment, fought for the Confederacy.  Three were killed in or went missing in battle, in Virginia, the fourth died as a prisoner of war at Point Lookout, Maryland and the fifth took his own life within years of returning home to Mississippi after the war.  One of the soldiers is buried in the cemetery at the United States Military Academy at West Point another is buried at the Confederate Cemetery at Point Lookout.  The location of the remains of the other three is unknown.  Here is their story in a little more detail.

The brothers, including the eldest Benjamin Franklin and the three youngest, Francis Marion, Christopher Columbus and Augustus Romalus are four of the six sons of Benjamin E. And Matilda Davis.  They were born in Perry County, Alabama between 1831 and 1840.  In the fall of 1840 the boys, their parents and their other brothers William Owen and Thomas Jefferson, moved to Union Parish, Louisiana where their father opened a store northeast of Farmerville.  Their mother died in 1843 and their father passed away on or about June 26, 1846.  The orphaned brothers moved to Monroe County, Mississippi where William Taylor became their guardian.  Taylor, a successful planter, was the husband of Matilda Holladay's older sister Agnes Portatier. The cousin of the Davis brothers, James H. Taylor was the son of William and Agnes.

Benjamin Franklin Davis was a career army officer.  After graduating from West Point July 1, 1854 as a brevet 2nd lieutenant he was assigned to the 5th U. S. Infantry in Texas.   In May 1855 he transferred to the 1st U. S. Dragoons and served with them in New Mexico Territory and California until November 1861 when he headed east with the 1st U. S. Cavalry.  Captain Davis lead a squadron of cavalry at the Battle of Williamsburg that routed the enemy and helped save a Union artillery battery.  In July 1862 Davis was promoted to Colonel and assumed command of the 8th New York Volunteer Cavalry.  He trained them to be an elite fighting force and helped lead the 8th New York and portions of five other cavalry regiments in a daring escape from Harpers Ferry, Virginia into Maryland and Pennsylvania on the night of September 14, 1862. After the Battle of Antietam Colonel B. F. Davis was assigned to brigade command.  He was commanding a brigade of cavalry under Brigadier General John Buford when he was shot from the saddle and mortally wounded by Lt. Robert Owen Allen of the 6th Virginia Cavalry, early in the morning, on June 9, 1863, near where Beverly Ford crosses the Rappahannock River during the Battle of Brandy Station.  Colonel Davis's body was taken to West Point and interred in the cemetery on the grounds of the United States Military Academy.

Augustus Romalus Davis, a lawyer in Monroe County, Mississippi in 1860 and the youngest of the 6 Davis boys was the first to enter the Confederate Army.  He was 20 years old when he enrolled as a private in the Van Dorn Reserves in February 1861 at Aberdeen, Mississippi.  The Van Dorn Reserves would become Company I, 11th Regiment Mississippi Infantry.  Davis was ordered into the Confederate Service on April 26, 1861. The regiment formed in Corinth, Mississippi , a major railroad hub, on May 4, 1861 and soon headed to the theatre of war in Virginia.  He was with the regiment when they mustered into Confederate service May 13,1862 at Lynchburg. A. R. Davis would serve as a private in Company I  from his enlistment date until April 21, 1864 when he was promoted to ensign.  His compiled service records note he was absent from the regiment sick at Strasburg in September and October 1861.  He received a $50.00 bounty in February 1862 when he reenlisted and was given a 2 month furlough. November and December 1862 found him absent from the regiment  recovering from wounds.  He was killed in action on August 18, 1864 at the Battle of Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg, Virginia in the waning months of the war.

Francis Marion Davis, known as Marion by his friends and family, was about 13 years old when his eldest brother left Mississippi for West Point. They might have met twice more before the civil war, once when Benjamin Davis had a summer furlough from the military academy between his 3rd and 2nd class year and again when Benjamin came home after graduation and before heading to Texas in December 1854.

 In 1850 Marion was living with his guardian William Taylor's family.  Marion was still  in Monroe County, Mississippi when he enlisted as a private in Company I, 11th Regiment Mississippi Infantry in November 1861.  By this time the 11th Mississippi and Marion's younger brother Augustus  were already in Virginia.   Marion would serve with the regiment throughout the winter, spring and early summer of 1862.  He also would receive a $50.00 bounty and a furlough in February 1862 after re-enlisting. In late June and early July 1862, when the 7 Days Battles were occurring around Richmond,  Virginia the 11th Mississippi was brigaded with the 2nd Mississippi as part of Evander Laws Brigade of William H C. Whiting's Division.  Marion Davis would appear on the list of missing in action from the 11th following the Battle of Gaines Mill, June 27, 1862.

Christopher Columbus Davis was probably born in early 1839 as he was sandwiched between Marion and Augustus.  He would have gone to Mississippi with his 5 brothers after his fathers death.  The 1850 Census shows him living with his cousin Sarah E. Clopton and her husband Dr. John H. Clopton.  William Taylor appear to have been his guardian.

Christopher would enlist as a private in Company D (William Beck's Company), 2nd Regiment Mississippi Infantry on April 27, 1861 for twelve months.  At the time of his enlistment Christopher was listed as a 21 year old farmer from Pine Grove, Tippah County, Mississippi.  He stood 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall, with blue eyes, black hair and a dark  complexion.  One wonders if he resembled his older brother Benjamin who stood 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall and weighted about 130 pounds in 1849 when he was 18 years old.

The 2nd Mississippi was mustered into Confederate service May 10, 1861 at Lynchburg, VA. Christopher was present with his company throughout 1861.  On February 9,  1862 he received  a $50.00 bounty for re-enlisting for 2 years.  C. C. Davis was listed on the Roll of Honor for action at 2nd Manassas August 28-30 where he was the regimental color bearer.  Private Davis was present at the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 and would have been engaged when John Bell Hood's Division made a successful counter-attack against the Union 1st Corps between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m.  Christopher was wounded in the right arm during Hood's counterattack and left on the field.  He was captured, sent to Fort Delaware as a POW and later exchanged in December 1862, after which he rejoined his regiment.

On February 16, 1863 Private Christopher C. Davis was promoted to 4th Sergeant.  He was with the 2nd Mississippi at Gettysburg although he did not participate in the fighting on July 1st because he was sick.  Sergeant Davis would be wounded in both legs while carrying the colors during Pickett's Charge.  He would be captured July 5, 1863 and taken to a hospital  either in or near Gettysburg.  On July 19, 1863 Christopher was transferred to A hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania.   On October 4, 1864 C.C. Davis arrived at Hammond General Hospital at Point lookout, Maryland as a POW.

On January 26, 1864 Christopher C. Davis "galvanized" when he became a sergeant in the 1st U. S. Volunteers.  He officially mustered into Federal service on May 1, 1864 at Norfolk, Virginia.  He deserted August 2, 1864 and entered Confederate lines at Suffolk, Virginia.  In September 1864 Davis was promoted to ensign to rank from August 25, 1864.

Christopher Davis survived the Civil War and returned to Mississippi after the Confederate troops surrendered only to take his own life by suicide several years after returning home.  In a letter written by D. J. Hill, who was a member of the 2nd Mississippi, to Rufus R. Dawes, of the 6th Wisconsin, on September 12, 1893, Hill noted C.C. Davis may have taken his life due to "the grief over the loss of his four bothers during the war, coupled with the defeat of the Confederacy." (See Note at bottom of page)

James H. Taylor was born March 9, 1839 in Monroe County, Mississippi, the son of William and Agnes Taylor.  He spent his teenage years growing up with four of the Davis brothers who were his cousins.  On June 25, 1861 James Taylor would join for duty and enroll as a private in the Hamilton Guards which became Company B, 20th Regiment Mississippi Infantry.  By October 1861 he would be a 4th Sergeant.

The 20th Mississippi  originally served with John B. Floyd's Brigade in Western Virginia after mustering into Confederate service before being transferred to Tennessee in early 1862. In February  the regiment was sent to reinforce Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.

 James H. Taylor was captured at Fort Donelson on February 16, 1862 and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago as a POW.  Sergeant Taylor was exchanged in September 1862 near Vicksburg, Mississippi and rejoined his regiment which remained in the western theatre.  Taylor was captured a second time, at Brownsville (Edward's Station) on May 16, 1863  during the Vicksburg Campaign.   He was sent to Fort Delaware as a POW in June and later transferred to Point Lookout, Maryland on September 20, 1863.  Taylor died at Point Lookout on August 22, 1864.  He was buried in the Confederate Cemetery at the prison.

Maybe it is a blessing the Davis brothers parents proceeded them in death so they did not have to experience the loss of four of their six sons because of the fratricidal conflict that was the Civil War.  One must also wonder how difficult it must have been for William and Agnes Taylor when they realized that 5 boys they had helped raise were casualties of this great American conflict.  It must not have been easy to put their shattered lives back together.

Most of the information in this post related to the military careers of the Davis brothers and their cousin who served with the Confederacy is derived from their Compiled Service Records.

Note:  The Hill letter to Rufus Dawes, who met C. C. Davis on the field of Gettysburg on or about July 5, 1863 is in the Special Collections at McCain Library at the University of Southern Mississippi (Dawes (Rufus R.) Letters, Collection M30).

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Benjamin Franklin Davis: The Measure of a Man in the Words of his Peers.

What most historians know about this Alabama born, Louisiana and Mississippi raised orphan, who spent his short adult life as an officer in the United States Army, can be summed up in a couple of paragraphs.  The vast majority of what is known is positive, but not all.  This dearth of information has lead me on an exhaustive search in an attempt to bring to light something more definitive and insightful about this young man.  The following is the result of that ongoing research extracted from the written word of his family, friends, colleagues and peers.

William F. Dowd, a Mississippian, who would serve as a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, had this to say about his young friend Ben Davis in a letter he wrote January 2, 1850, supporting Davis's application to the United States Military Academy at West Point: "Davis is a young man of about 18 years of age of unblemished reputation of very superior mental endowment - also if educated at West Point I feel soon will prove an ornament to the service and an honor to his country."

Benjamin F. Davis was admitted to West Point July 1, 1850.  Upon graduation, in 1854, the brevet 2nd Lieutenant was assigned to the 5th U. S. Infantry.  In March 1855 he transferred to the 1st U. S. Dragoons.  He would serve with the dragoons in New Mexico Territory and California from 1856 until late 1861.

On page 56 Executive Documents The House of Representatives 1st Session of the Thirty-fifth Congress in documentation referring Captain Bonneville's 1957 Gila River Expedition it is noted: "Great credit (was) given by the commanding officer to the following named officers - Alfred B. Chapman and Benjamin F. Davis.  

In the fall of 1861 orders were issued to transfer almost all the regular army troops from the west coast, east, so they could serve in the rebellion. To do this volunteer regiments had to be raised in California, Washington and Oregon to replace them.  In August 1861 the governor of California was looking for an officer for the 1st California Volunteer Cavalry Battalion.  In recommending Lt. Davis for this position to both California's governor and Lorenzo Thomas, the army's Adjutant General, Brigadier General Edwin V. Sumner, commander of the Department of the Pacific, had this to say: "General in raising the volunteers from 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 out of the army, and at my request  the governor of California has given the commission of Lt. Colonel of Cavalry 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.   Between August and November 1861 Davis reportedly "whipped the raw recruits of the 1st California Cavalry into 1st class horse soldiers."

Captain B. F. Davis came east with his regiment in November 1861.  By early 1862 he would be serving in the defenses of Washington, prior to joining the Army of the Potomac for the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, where he would be commended for his action at the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862.  While at Camp Sprague, on the outskirts of Washington Captain Davis "trained" George B. Sanford, the 1st Lieutenant of Company K 1st U. S. Cavalry.  Sanford noted in  "Fighting Rebels and Redskins: "To Captain Davis more than any other one officer I am indebted for whatever I afterwards became in the service.  He was a thorough officer ... and never missed an opportunity to impart the instructions that I required...He required me to study and recite to him daily.  On the march he taught me to notice the character of the country, the advantages of positions for attack and defense, sites for camps etc.  At a halt he would practice with me in the saber exercise and give me instructions in posting pickets and sending out scouts.  If I did not appreciate his kindness at the time, I certainly have since."  Sanborn also mentioned "Captain Davis was a handsome man of about twenty-eight years...He had gained some reputation for his gallantry in action with the Apache.  He was as loyal as he was brave, and nothing but his early death prevented him from reaching very high rank in the service."     

 By mid June 1862, Benjamin Davis would be on leave, sick at Willard's Hotel in Washington D.C.  About this time however the 8th New York Volunteer Cavalry was looking for a new commander and George Stoneman recommended Davis.  Davis's commission as Colonel of the 8th New York was backdated to June 25, 1862.   He would not take over command of the regiment in the field in Maryland until mid July 1862.  

At first the 8th New York Volunteers did not think very highly of their West Point educated  regular army colonel but this is what several members of the regiment had to say after they became better acquainted.  

On July 29, 1862 a member of the 8th New York wrote a letter to New York's Governor Morgan.  He said "You will not think it amiss if I give you the public judgement already pronounced in the 8th Cavalry Regiment upon the quality of it's head....The bearing of our colonel among us has given us a lofty example of the hard-working soldier and of the man of honor, at home in his work, quiet, thoughtful, cheerful, of few words, and, like the weight of a pendulum of a clock, in ceaseless and noiseless influence on all of the wheels.  His quarters and their furnishings are as plain as those of any other officer, that is, as plain as plain can be, and no one rises in the morning and finds him abed.  That he means to do his duty is evident, and no one is left in doubt that he expects the rest of us to do ours.  He has no favors to ask for himself.  That is both evident and striking.  I dare say your Excellency will recognize that as a peculiarity; but it is also the secret of true dignity and freedom....To the office of the Chaplain he has shown himself respectful and considerate, in making it useful and impressive, and so have all the officers - to his gray hairs courteous and kind.  In reproof to officers I hear no instance of impatience, and none have been administered in the presence of subordinates.  In this record I believe I have the camp's unanimous concurrence."  

Henry Norton noted in Deeds of Daring History of the 8th New York Volunteer Cavalry, that Colonel B. F. Davis “was a military man clear through, the right man in the right place.  He was a strict disciplinarian, and brought the regiment down under the regular army regulations.” 

The 8th New York Volunteer Cavalry, and Colonel Davis were ordered to leave Relay House, Maryland for Harpers Ferry, Virginia on August 28, 1862.  Once at Harpers Ferry they were primarily charged with protecting the Winchester and Potomac Railroad that ran from Harpers Ferry to Winchester, Virginia and breaking up the 12th Virginia Cavalry.  The 8th New York and 5 other regiments of cavalry were trapped in Harpers Ferry when Confederate forces commanded by Stonewall Jackson surrounded the town on September 13, 1862.  Colonel Davis was instrumental in facilitating and helping lead the union cavalry escape from Harpers Ferry on September 14, 1862.  For this action he was breveted Major in the regular army and given command of a brigade by Major General George B. McClellan.  Davis would lead a brigade as a colonel until his untimely death at Beverly Ford, Virginia during the June 9, 1863 Battle of Brandy Station.

In his official report following the Battle of Brandy Station Major General Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac reported: we "would have captured his (Beckham's) guns but for the untimely loss of the brave and accomplished Colonel B. F. Davis of the 8th New York Cavalry, who while commanding a brigade, charged at the head of his column into the midst of the enemy and was shot through the head."

Brigadier General John Buford, who commanded the 1st Division, which Davis's brigade was attached to, wrote: "this success was dearly bought, for among the noble and brave ones who fell was Colonel B. F. Davis.  He died in front, giving examples of heroism and courage to all who were to follow.  He was a thorough soldier, free from politics and intrigue, a patriot in its true sense, an ornament to his country and a bright star in his profession."

In Annals of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Reverend Samuel Levi Gracey Chaplain of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and, for a time, the 1st Division of the Cavalry Corps, who saw the insensible Davis being carried from the field (at Beverly Ford) in a litter wrote: “Here comes a rough litter bearing an officer.  Who is that boys?  “Colonel Davis sir!” “Is it possible!” Noble fellow!  “Is he wounded badly”  “A minie ball through the head, sir!”  He is  insensible his hair matted and clotted with blood. God have mercy on this brave, noble, patriotic soldier the hero of Harpers Ferry.”  This is our hastily breathed prayer, as we linger for a moment,  and then hurry on to join our command.” 

In writing his Personal Recollections of the Civil War Brigadier General John Gibbon, who also had ties to the south from growing up in North Carolina, wrote in a June 9 letter: “he (Davis) was killed in the fighting up the river either yesterday or today…I regard his death as the greatest loss this army has met with in a long time.  He ought long ago to have been promoted, but such men, I am sorry to say, seldom get positions to which their merit and service entitle them.”  

In another letter dated June 11 John noted: "Poor Davis was killed while gallantly charging at the head of his brigade….I feel very sad when I think of him, and he is a very, very great loss to this army.”

Brigadier General Marsena Patrick's notation in his diary for June 9, 1863 read:  "Pleasonton has been engaged up the River, in a severe fight, which cost us the life of our best Cavalry Officer - Col. Benjamin F. Davis."

In an article written for Harpers Weekly titled  "The Battle of Brandy Station" General Wesley Merritt noted" “the leading brigade of Buford’s Division was commanded by Col. B. F. Davis, 8th New York Cavalry, a captain in the 1st U S Cavalry…The battle was hotly joined and Davis had fallen mortally wounded.  He was dearly beloved throughout the command, and many a veteran of the old 1st and 2nd Dragoons drew his chin grimly to his breast and with clinched teeth awaited the shock of battle determined to do his share in avenging the death of this hero."

Merritt also noted in Personal Recollections-Beverly Ford to Mitchell's Station,  "He (Davis) was a gallant man, an ambitious soldier, a courtly gentleman.  A southerner, like the idolized chief of the first division (Buford), he stood firm by the flag under which he had received his qualifications and commission as an officer; he died for that flag, under that flag fell to soon, but oh! so bravely."

Elias Beck, surgeon of the 3rd Indiana Volunteer Cavalry did not have the same high regard for Colonel B. F. Davis as did many of his fellow officers.  Beck remarked in  June 10, 1863  letter to his wife that we:  "had a fight, our brigade commander Colonel Davis was killed...Davis was a regular, a Mississippian by birth, a proud tyrannical devil and had the ill will of his whole command.  I bet he was killed by our own men.” 

In a History of the 3rd Indiana CavalryWilliam N. Pickerill painted a different picture of the regiments opinion of Davis.  Pickerill wrote: “Colonel Davis was an officer of the regular army, a strict disciplinarian…was regarded as one of the best subordinate cavalry commanders of the army.”

George W. Newhall also commented about B. F. Davis in the Battle of Beverly Ford in The Annals of the War Written by Leading Participants North and South.  Newhall recorded: “he  (Davis) fell in a moment mortally wounded on the further bank, and should be remembered with special honor for he was a southern man and a graduate of West Point.  He was called “Grimes” by all his army friends and was the beau ideal of a cavalry officer.  He was borne back in a blanket just as Pleasonton gained the southern bank of the river.”

In the years after the Civil War and Colonel Benjamin F. Davis's untimely death at age 31 encomiums were still being written about the gallant American soldier.  

In Three Years in the Federal Cavalry Willard W. Glazier wrote: “ In the early part of the engagement (Brandy Station) fell Colonel B. F. Davis of the 8th New York Cavalry.  His loss was a subject of great lamentation.  He had distinguished himself for great sagacity, wonderful power of endurance and unsurpassed bravery.”

Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac  served with Benjamin Davis at Fort Tejon in California before the Civil War.  Lettermen wrote in
 Medical Recollections of the Army of the Potomac,  "This officer, who so successfully extricated his regiment from Harper's Ferry when the post was surrendered by General Miles - who fought so gallantly on our march through Virginia in the autumn of 1862 - had been my companion in more than one campaign among the Indians; my messmate at stations far beyond the haunts of civilized men.  This long, familiar intercourse produced the warmest admiration for his noble character, which made him sacrifice friends and relatives to uphold the flag under which he was born and defend the Constitution of his country."

Henry L. Abbott, who graduated 2nd in the same West Point Class as Davis, noted in a book he wrote titled Half Century of a West Point Class 1850 to 1854,  that Davis was Captain of Cadets.  Abbott also wrote on page 18: “He took part in all the battles and skirmishes of the Army of the Potomac after that of South Mountain, always with so much credit to himself, as to be regarded as having very few equals and no superiors in the cavalry branch of the service.  He commanded a brigade of the 1st Division of Pleasonton's Cavalry Corps for many months, and was over and over again recommended for promotion to the grade of Brigadier General...The request that his body might repose at West Point was granted by the Secretary of War.  It is the fitting place.  He was a gallant son of his Alma Mater, and an honor to his class and to the Academy.”

And maybe one of the final and most fitting remarks regarding the life and career of Benjamin Franklin Davis was written by Major General George B. Davis in an article about Harpers Ferry published in the Journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association May 1, 1913.  General Davis noted: "Colonel Davis, affectionately known as "Grimes" by his friends and admirers who were many and enthusiastic - was to valuable a man to permit to be cooped up again (as at Harpers Ferry), or employed in escorting his own forage and rations...and was immediately assigned to the command of a brigade of cavalry by General McClellan.  Here he was at his best, and Grime's Davis's best was something beyond the common...In one of the early combats of cavalry against cavalry of which the year 1863, and those following were to see many, he was killed while leading his brigade - not upon a place - but upon a mounted force of the enemy, of equal if not superior strength; and so the gallant spirit passed, in the tumult of battle, "to where beyond these voices there is peace."  A photograph, dating probably from the late summer of 1861, is - or was, one of the cherished possessions of the Army Mess at the Military Academy, which in life, not less in his untimely death he so much adorned."