William Garcelon Davis died protecting the American flag. His grave deserves a name

William G. DavisWilliam G. Davis, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers, Company E*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News:  The Associated Press has picked up our story.  It has appeared in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, ABC News, NBC, The Denver Post, Army Times, US News, and many more.  You can read the article by following this link AP News.

Our relative, Color Sergeant William Garcelon Davis gave his life defending the American flag and his long lost grave may have been recently discovered but the Army refuses to perform DNA testing and give these remains a name. We therefore ask your help to request that a grateful nation finally put a name on the grave of a soldier who paid the ultimate price for his country. 


Summary: William Garcelon Davis was a Color Sergeant in the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers, carrying the American flag into battle.  He was killed in combat on August 28-29th, 1862, at the Battle of Brawner's Farm, which occurred the day before the Battle of Manassas/Second Bull Run. Our family never got to see Will’s face again. His final resting place remains unknown. 

However, in October 2014 a field hospital burial pit was accidentally unearthed near Brawner’s Farm. It was excavated and extensively studied by the National Park Service and the Smithsonian and the findings reported in the summer of 2018. A first hand account sent in a letter to Will's parents said that Will was shot and loaded into an ambulance that took him to a nearby field hospital where he died.  The letter also describes how he was buried at that hospital when the Confederate forces overran it. This is the only first hand account known to describe such a burial on the Manassas Battlefield. The excavated burial pit contained severed limbs from battlefield amputations as well as two skeletons determined to be Union soldiers. One of these skeletons could be the remains of William Garcelon Davis. This skeleton matches Will's wound, age, build, place of birth, and method of burial. 

A request was made to the Army for DNA testing to confirm if these were the remains of our missing relative.  The Secretary of the Army refused to conduct any test to identify the remains and they were buried at Arlington in a ceremony to open a new area of the cemetery  in September, 2018. In a letter to an Associated Press Reporter, the Army said it would be "too costly" to conduct DNA testing. DNA testing is routinely done on remains of soldiers who died in battles from World War II to the present time. The family of William G. Davis believes a grateful nation should attempt to give Will back his name and identity. This website tells his story and asks for your support to identity the remains, and if possible, bring Will home.

Please sign our Petition Demanding that DNA testing be performed by clicking here


The Covenant to bring our dead home and identify their remains

The United State military makes an incredible effort to bring home and identify the remains of our soldiers killed in action in our wars from World War II to the present.  The agency charged with this task has the initials D.P.A.A.  To learn more about their important work please read New York Times Article.

Please follow the link or watch this brief video to learn more about the D.P.A.A.  Great effort and expense is given to return and identify our war dead from wars from WWII to the present. War dead from wars prior to WWII do not have the resources of D.P.A.A. to help with their recovery and identification. Unidentified remains from prior wars the Army considers themselves next of kin.  This creates a catch 22 where families have no way to bring their family members home, if the Army does not wish to identify the individual.  Why do we not return the names and identities to those who died in prior wars when it is possible and the family can be easily identified?  When a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice and dies for his country, why does it matter in which conflict he died?

"The Nation which forgets its defefenders will itself be forgotten" President Calvin Coolidge

Identification of Remains

"Carrying out the promise to military service personnel to find and bring them home only partially fufills our obligation. We must also identify the remains, for it is a name that transforms a casket full of bilogical material ad minerals into a son, brother, husband, father, or daughter, sister, wife and mother....even if the Soldier Dead had no family whatsoever to whom a name would be important, the members of the Armed Forces consider their comrades to be family and desire that they be brought home and buried with all due recognition."  Soldier Dead by Michael Sledge


 

 

 

 

Would the Army fail to Identify remains in order to have "Unknowns" for a Ceremony?

This seems too cynical to be taken seriously, yet there is evidence from a Vietnam era soldier that the Army did just that.  Please see Washington Post Article.


The Discovery of the Remains and Bone Pit

On June 20, 2018 the Park Service announced a historical discovery on the Manassas (Bull Run) Battlefield.  A field hospital burial pit had been discovered and carefully excavated.  In the pit were the amputated arms and legs of up to 11 individuals and two almost complete skeletons.  The Park Service does not normally disturb remans found on the Battlefield but these remains were found where utility work was being done.

The remains were extensively studied by both the Park Service and experts at the Smithsonian Institute. Results and findings were included in an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, on websites and in newsletters.  The finding was unusual as there have been very few burial pits discovered.  The remains helped scientists better understand how the surgeries were conducted.  The report of the discovery was picked up by many news outlets.

Articles on the Bone Pit


Next: Contact with the Park Service/Army and discussion about the Remains


Contact with the Park Service/Army and discussion about the Remains

On June 25, 2018,  Paul Davis contacted Brandon Bies, Superintendent of the Manassas Battlefield and one of the lead researchers in the excavation of the burial pit.  Davis reached out to Bies to discover if there was any possibility that the remains of the soldier with the bullet in his femur could be his Great, Great, Uncle, William Garcelon Davis.  Mr. Bies was helpful in answering his questions about details of the burial.  The following letter was then sent on behalf of the Davis family.

Dear Mr. Bies and Mr. Brown,

Our family, the descendants of William Garcelon Davis who fought with the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers and lost his life on the Gainesville-Manassas battlefield on 28 or 29 August 1862, whose remains have never been located, request DNA testing of one of the recently found remains.  We respectfully request that you put us in contact with those at the Army mortuary service or Arlington Cemetery so that the analysis can be done before the remains are reinterred later this summer.

We have documentation that William Garcelon Davis was shot through the bowels or haunch matching the wound of the skeleton with the enfield slug in the femur. We have sent you a written account that he was buried on the battlefield at the field hospital.  He was born in New Portland, Maine, which appears to match the Isotopic study.  He was almost 24 when he died which is very close to the estimated age of 25 of the remains.

You have shown tremendous respect for those who died.  We do not want to disrupt what will be a moving and fitting ceremony at Arlington.  However, if we can spare our relative the fate of resting forever in an unmarked grave we believe that this further test is warranted. 

Sincerely,

Paul Davis

On July 5, 2018 Davis received the following message from the Army
 
Subject: REMAINS FOUND AT MANASSAS

Mr. Davis

The Park Service has forwarded your email regarding your family member whom which you are a descendant, William Garcelon Davis, to the US Army.  We are processing your request and will get back to you.  Your case number is  #296676.

v/r
Joseph Mercer
Director, Accountability & Quality Assurance

On Sep 6, 2018 Davis received the following brief email on the day the remains were buried at Arlington

Mr. Davis,

 The Secretary of the Army has directed the interment of the unknowns to ensure they are provided a dignified burial.

v/r
Joseph Mercer
Director, Accountability & Quality Assurance
Arlington National Cemetery
 
 

The Burial of the Remains

The remains of the two "unknowns" were buried in a very dignified ceremony to open a major expansion of Arlington, Cemetary.  The Park Service had made period type coffins out of an old tree from the Manassas Battlefield and the bones were put in replica US Army blankets.

To see the ceremony click here AP News


Reaction and Action

The family was stunned that the Army showed no interest in the possible identification of the remains.  We reached out to family members on active duty in the Army to ascertain the best way to ask the Army to reconsider. We contacted the Park Service once again. We reached out to the Smithsonian as one of our family had been a Doctoral Fellow there.  We contacted Matthew Barakat, an AP Reporter who had written a story on the Burial Pit.

No one from the Army or the Smithsonian would agree to an interview with Mr. Barakat.  The army sent the following email to him.

“The Army was given disposition of remains this past June and fully reviewed and considered the details of the discovery of the remains as well as multiple requests for identification. The Army made the decision that the costs associated with obtaining, storing, and testing of the DNA from these two Unknown U.S. Soldiers was not justified due to the significant passage of time as the possibility of identifying comparator DNA is extremely unlikely.  The Army feels strongly that the dignified burial of these two sets of remains is in keeping with the over 2,000 Civil War Unknowns who were killed in action near the national capital region and are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The Army is honored to care for these two unknown U.S. Solders at Arlington.”

Our discussion with the Park Service and our research has determined the following facts:

  • The remains were from Union Soldiers from the time of the Battle of 2nd Manassas/Bull Run
  • The Burial Pit (whose location has not been disclosed to the public) was close enough to the Brawner Farm battlefield that it would be possible for an ambulance of that time to reach it
  • The skeleton was in good enough shape with several teeth found that could be used for DNA testing.  [One of Will's relatives is a Paleontologist with expertise in recovery of ancient DNA]
  • Isotopic testing of the bones revealed that the person had grown up in New England. [Will was originally from Maine]
  • The skeleton's mortal wound was from a shot through the haunch. [Will's injury was described as through the bowels.  Both could describe the fatal wound]
  • Researchers were able to narrow down the identity of the other skeleton to one of three individuals, but DNA testing was not pursued 
  • The Army's reasons for not doing DNA testing have not been consistent or rational:

1) They said they did not test because they wanted, "to insure a dignified burial."  -Secretary of the Army as quoted by J. Mercer

2) They said they did not test "due to the cost associated with obtaining, storing and testing of the DNA from the two unknowns."  -Army email to Matthew Barakat [The skeletons had already gone through months of extensive study at the Smithsonian]

3) They said they did not test "due the significant passage of time as the possibility of identifying comparator DNA is extremely unlikely." -Army email to Matthew Barakat [Our family self identified as potential relatives and would offer to provide DNA samples]

We believed a lot of pressure was put on the Park Service and Smithsonian to turn over the remains, and not to try to further identify them. The Army has in the past rushed to bury an "unknown" in order to have a ceremony.  Were the unknowns  needed to open a new section of Arlington?

Still we waited.  We have the upmost respect for the Park Service. They have a very hard job, to preserve the ground, where many may still be buried.  They work with limited resources. They did their scientific work on the remains and yet recognized that they were men and not just bones.  We believe that in most cases the Army does what it can for those who have paid the ultimate price. D.P.A.A.  routinely does the impossible to find, return and identify the remains of our soldiers killed in action.

We realize that our relative died a long time ago.  We realize the "unknowns" have been given the honor of a distinguished burial.  They are no longer unknowns in a shallow grave.  They rest in Arlington.  

However, just like the soldiers who have died in more recent wars, the ultimate respect is to have your own identity, to have your name, to have your wishes honored and not to rest forever as an "unknown."  The ultimate respect is for a grateful nation to do what needs to be done to return our soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice from the battlefield and to do what is necessary to identify their remains.

William Garcelon Davis was one of the first to respond to the call to save our Union. He endured hardships.  He volunteered and was given one of the most dangerous and important assignments in the Army.  He died carrying the flag and rallying his comrads-in-arms.  He suffered from a horrible wound and died far from his home.  He lies in an unmarked grave.  He wanted to come home. He questioned if anyone remembered him.  He can no longer speak for himself.

Please read his story, and if you feel he deserves his name, join us by signing our petition demanding that that the Army fulfill their duty to a soldier who did his duty.

Next: Death of a Lewiston Boy



Death of a Lewiston Boy

Forward Boys, your country needs--forward and God defend the right

brawner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

death of a lewiston boyLewiston Newspaper Article on Will's Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Post of Honor

Will volunteered and was selected for one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army.  He was a Color Sergeant.  Today it is difficult to understand how important the Flag was for a soldier fighting in the time of the Civil War. In the Civil War only men of great bravery and leadership ability were given the honor. In a time before radios, where clouds of smoke from the guns blanketed everything, flags were the way soldiers could communicate. Men were taught to “rally round the flag” and the flags established the lines of battle. To have your flag captured brought dishonor to your regiment. Flag carriers went into battle without a rifle, and were protected by a “color guard.” Even with this protection, many who carried flags died, as enemy troops targeted the flag and those who carried it.  To learn more about Color Sergeants, and Color Guards, click here.

groveton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Battle with Many Names

William Garcelon Davis was killed in a battle that had many different names.  It has been called both the Battle of Groveton and the Battle of Gainesville, but today is most often called the Battle of Brawner's Farm. It occurred in the early evening of August 28th, 1862.  It was a test of two legenday Civil War Brigades.  For the South, Jackson's "Stonewall Brigade" and for the North what would later be called "The Iron Brigade." In the battle the two Brigades faced each other about 100 yards apart, with little cover, and fought until dark. About 2,000 men died in roughly two hours.  [To give some perspective of the number of dead, in the Afghanistan War, which in the longest war in American history, we have lost about 2,300 soldiers.]  Brawner's Farm was the begining of the greater battle of 2nd Manassas or 2nd Bull Run.

For many years, the Brawner Farm battlefield was privately owned. Through great effort It has been saved and added to the 2nd Manassas Park.


 A 3 page letter from a brother-in-arms describing Will's wound, being loaded on an Ambulance, Death and Burial on the Battlefield

We have found no other letters describing a burial on the 2nd Manassas Battlefield at a field hospital during the battle..  This letter describes a very specific place and type of burial.  

Camp Skear, Sharpsburg, MD

September the 23rd, 1862

Dear Sir,

I received your letter today and hasten to answer it.  I have seen some of the hardships of war since I wrote to you. before.  I have been in three battles since then but have been spard through them all.  

Your son was not killed in the battle of bull run it was in the battle near gainesville one day before the battle of bull run. He was shot through the bowls & I put him in the Ambulance & he was taken to the hospital & died as soon as he got thare.   He was buried by men that was left thare to take care of our men.

Thare was two months pay coming to him & it will be sent to you when such things are settled up with government & he sent $30 to you was lost on the road I do not know wither he has sent any money to Wis. or not but I will find out as soon as I can.

I have not got much time to write today but will write to you again soon.

We have had one of the greatest battles of the war here & drove the rebels thare loss is very heavy we only 150 men left in our Reg. thare is only 21 left in our Company out of 108.

I send you my best wishes & respects

 From, your friend

Edward Moscrip

E Company 2ndReg Wis Vol

Washington DC

   

 

 

 

 

 

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wis2ndflagThe Flag Will Davis died carrying, The Flags of the Iron Brigade by Howard Madaus and Richard Zeitlin, 1986, State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Will Davis and the Color Guard gave their all at Brawner's Farm...
"The flag carried at Bull Run in 1861, had been kept aloft by the Color Bearer [Will Davis] until he was shot. The eight men of the color guard kept the Stars and Stripes flying until only one of them remained.  The lone survivor, Color Corporal Joseph L. Minor, "though wounded in the leg, still bore them up until receiving a second wound in his other leg which lay him prostrate."
 
 p.81 Brave Men's Tears: The Iron Brigade at Brawner Farm by Alan D. Gaff, Morningside 1988.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next: Getting to know Will Davis, Letters home from a Soldier


Getting to know Will Davis, Letters home from a Soldier

Will wrote home often.  He describes camp life. He describes visiting Arlington, and the White House.  He describes the first batlle of Manassas (Bull Run).  He moonlighted as a cook to earn extra money to send home to his parents. Some of his letters were included in Brotherhood of Valor: The Common Soldiers of the Stonewall Briugade CSA and the Iron Brigade, USA by Jeffery D. Wert, 1999, Simon & Schuster.

Will's older brother Henry and his younger brother John lived in Maine but were in the South when the Civil War started.  Many letters expressed his concern about their safety.  Eventually he discovered that they had enlisted to fight for the South.  Like Will, John and Henry were color bearers.  They chose to fight for Alabama.  Henry was mortally wounded in a skirmish in Alabama about a week after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.  John was wounded in the shoulder.  After the war John returned home to Maine and married.  It is our belief that Henry was one of the last to die carrying the Confederate Battle Flag into battle.

The letters have faded with time. Much of the original spelling has been kept. Below are selected excerpts from the letters and pdf files of all the letters.

 

July 4th, 1861
Arlington Heights Virginia
I am getting discouraged about the boys I am afraid they are in the hands of the Enemy, or else we should hear from them.

 

July 16th, 1861
Arlington, Heights, Virginia
I got a pass from the Col for myself and Conrad to go a visiting.  We first went to the encampment of the 8thNY Regt which is the bodyguard of General McDowell quartered on the plantation of and occupying the residence of General Lee of the Rebel Army.  This the hansomst and best located place I ever saw for a private residents the grounds are splendid situated as they are on the banks of the old patomac about a mile above the long Bridge with a full view of the Cities of Washington & George town with a Telegraph line across for his own use terminating at his residence and with about fifty smart looking Slaves and every thing that a lord could wish for at his reach and call.  What could incline a man to turn traitor to his own country and leave a home like this is more than I can guess.
We went up  to the white house and visited all the public rooms thare and that is where we found some nice furniture came to go and sit down on a chair and a sofa by Gerry mighty you almost would go oui of sight in the cushions there other ones you would pop up again as if you were in a baby jumper why tell you the truth I can barely believe my own eyes nor my own ears when they told me I was in the President’s house and I could look it all over if I wanted. On the whole it is a splendid place.

 

July 23, 1861
Arlington Heights
Dear Parents
A great battle has been faught and we have been badly whipped.  Sunday morning at 2 AM we left ur Camp three miles this side of Bull Run and marched for the Battlefield about five miles at Manassas Garp, there was faught the worst Battle ever faught in the U States.  I cannot tell the loss nor the victory our loss is great tis said the Enemie loss was far greater yet their number was five to one they occupy a hill which  is full of masked batterys prisenors taken by us say we have not yet got a taste of what they have.  Our Rgt losted about three hundred dead and wounded.
We have retreated to Arlington about 30 miles this we were obliged to do with out rest after fighting about 6 hours our men are jest alive those that did get back.  I cannot give any pictures now I can hardly stand alone so hard did I fight and after the retreat began, carring the wounded off the field, I thought not of myself only of my comrads.  I was not harmed at all.  I was struck down by the Sun only.  I feel very bad in the head.  I will write again soon Good by

 

Fort Corcorn
July 27 1861
Dear Parents,
As I have somewhat recovered from the fatigue of our long journey I will send you a few more lines as you have proberly heared before this of the battle of the 21stand the cause of our defeat it will be useless for me to write more abot it. Old President Abe came over to see us Thursday in company with Seward.  They got up in their carriage and gave us a few words of encouragement telling us that although we lost the meeting, it was no fault of ours they lay it all to bad generalship.

 

Fort Corcoran 2d Wis Co E, August 4, 1861
Dear father
You requested me to tell you of the Brave & daring needs of men on the field of battle…..
Father there was that day bravery shown amongst Privates that would cause a man’s heart to burst within him had he been obliged to stand back and not go to there aid.  The first dying man I saw lay upon the road sick with two comrads by him giving him water and holding his head when finally he rouse up and with a strong clear voice said "My brave comrads onward tis for our Country, God and Country onward and the day shall be ours", then with a jesture to his comrads he said "leave me now and away to the contest, don’t mine me here." His breath failed him and he fell over and died.
When about half way between the run and Centerville whare the calvery charged on us the Regimental Flag was in the field at the left unprotected so badly was the Regt scattered at that time thare I was alone in the road. I saw the danger of the Flag and once threw away my blankets and two day rations which I had just picked up …and made what I expected to be my last rally for I was bound to die rather than see that flag taken.  By urging a few along as I went we got about twenty around the staff and there we swore to die to sustain the flag….the horses began jumping the fence after us when a part of one of our batterys a little in advance gave them a round of grape which took 20 out of their saddles.

 

Arlington Heights, Fort Corcoran Virginia, Aug 9th, 1861
Dear Mother
This is dreadful indeed this horrid horrid war would to god that peace was once more restored throughout the Union so we could return to our homes and see a little more comfort before we die.  Little did we know how to appreciate the glouriusness of a happy quiet Union until we were so suddenly plunged in the midst of Rebellion and war.  God can only tell how and when this bloody contest shall end.  The latest news give account of Rebels at sea, trouble amongst the Indians, Old Brigham Young declaring himself independent.  All these troubles coming upon us at once will give us a hard time. Reports today say that foreign powers are going to interfere now, if so the Union must all be lost forever.  But enough of this disparing, come what will we will ever stand by the Union, stand by the Flag, the homes of our forefathers we will protest with the last of our blood.

 

Arlington Heights Virginia, Aug 26th1861
Dear Mother as for my opinion of the fate of the boys it is not worth but little.  If they were at Pennsicola last spring and were there pressed into the service it is probable they are there yet. If they had got away we would of heard from them. If they undertook it  and failed they would only be taken back and punished not killed.  That they have never done to any of their deserters. Their men are too scarce.  They have not had any engagements there that would endanger lives and there is no Rgt from Florida in the service here on the frontier.  Their position in the war is at present and had been safe.  It is the service they are in that makes it horrible, not the position.
I wish they were at home or either here in the service of their country.  It would be a pleasure to know they died in defense of their country rather than be held against their wills by those cursed traiters.

 

Camp Tillinghast, VA Dec 4th1861
Dear kind Friends,
It is now seven oclock I the Eve.  I am just done my work for the day and now sit down to pen a few lines to you hoping they may find you all well as they this evening leave me and my comrads.  I am now cooking for the company.  They all got sick of their old cooks and all picked me to do the cooking.
…the company numbering eightysix in all pays me fifty cents each month amd I pay my helper out of that…We cook each five days one barrel of Pork, forty four lbs rice, three hundred and thirty lbs fresh beef, then we have what they term diissecced vegtables whith which we make soup two days out of the five.  The other three days we cook beans.  Sixty-six lbs being our ration for the five days.  We have coffee or tea twice a day, our bread we draw each night.

 

Arlington, VA , March 6, 1862
…PS  give my respects to  Nelly and tell her that I think of her often would like to see her much and the children also.  Tell her to hope on and not dispare men are each day returning from the south, those that have been reported dead and morned for as such this week crossed our lines and report many more on their way every day.  I espect to hear from or see my brothers, your sons and her husband.

 

Germantown VA, March 11th1862
The old flag is today flying on the field where so many of my noble comrads fell on the 21st. July last and now we are anxious to march on Richmond, Peace will soon
Crown all and soon to our friends return.  God bless you all .  Ever your son W.G.Davis.

 

Camp Opperait, Fredericksburg, VA, May 18th1862, Sunday Afternoon
Dear Parents,
I will send you a few lines today as I cannot better spend my time, than by letting you know that not a day passes by but thoughts of you and the pleasures of home is fresh upon my mind and I hope soon to be allowed to return and greet not only you my dear Parents but also those dear absent brothers.  The way is fast opening to their imprisonment and god grant them a safe exit form the bands that have so long held them captive.

 

Oppersit Fredericksburg, VA June 11th1862
…I only hope that  it may soon all be over.  I want to get out of the army and home.  I think you need one like me to help you now and I am anxious to be the one.  Much love to you my dear Father and Mother.  God Bless you .  Ever Will

 

Camp Oppersit, Fredericksburg, July 10th1862
…My dear Parents, Would I were with you once again.  I want to see you so much for you know I am a great home boy.  But I could not be content at home now, there is too much at stake. Oh that my dear brothers were at home safe there with you all it would be well. Or if they were only on the side of their country in this great struggle it then would be a pleasure if they fell to know that the cause in which they died was good.  God grant they will yet get home safe.  

 

Camp of te 2ndWis Vol, Aug 14th1862 [Last letter from Will before his death]
Dear Parents,
I am well.  We are on the march, we have been on forced march for three weeks, going here and there and every where, making little dashes in and out all of little or no account.  We are now camped withn a half mile of the battleground of the 9thnear Culpepper, where Banks got whipped the third time.  We got here on the 12thyesterday I was on the field and the dead are yet quite numerous, unburied.  Our loss in killed is here called 600.  A rebel D. left in a hospital on the field with some rebel wounded told me their loss in killed was 1,000..  Many yet unburied and those that wee poorly many feet arms and heads are to be seen above ground.  The general depth or earth over the bodies is about six inches.  They have left and we expect to put after them.  We expect to go at any hour.  Goody by Will

pdfGarcelonletters.pdf16.09 MB

Next: More on the Battle of Brawner's Farm: First Burial of the Dead


More on the Battle of Brawner's Farm: First Burial of the Dead

 Bronnersfarmmaphttps://www.battlefields.org/about/civil-war-trust

 

After it got too dark to see, the 2nd Wisconsin retreated back to the Warrenton Pike (road).  Neither side granted a truce or pause to remove the wounded.  Hundreds of dead and dying had to be left where they fell. The next day began the battle of 2nd Bull Run and the eventual retreat of the 2nd Wisconsin back to Washington. Survivors were not able to get back to Brawner's farm until November, 1863 to bury their dead.  They found the skeletal remains of their comrades and friends where they had fallen. We know William Garcelon Davis was not among those who were buried at that time, as he had been taken by Ambulance to a field hospital and was buried there months earlier.  The following poem was read at Iron Brigade reunions after the War describing what they found bringing tears to the eyes of the survivors.

 

They had lain for long months in that ghastly array! 
They were keeping their lone vigil well;
As if guarding the pike from the low line in grey
Closely ranged o'er the opposite swell.
 
O, brave comrades and true, we remember you still,
Though war-weary, and worn since you fell;
Now, at last, we have come these sad rites to fulfill,
Ere we bid you, forever, farewell!
And we covered them over with cold, clammy clay;
But we left them still proudly in line, where they lay,
When the battle of Gainesville was done. *

 

*Milwaukee Sunday Telegraph, September 18, 1887

 

ironbrigadeThe Iron Brigade, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Brawners Farm August 1862 by Chris Collingwood.

The brigade fought in the battles of First and Second Bull RunAntietamFredericksburgChancellorsvilleGettysburgMine RunOverlandRichmond-Petersburg, and Appomattox

Next: Dear father and mother, I sit myself down to let you know that you have one son yet alive


Dear father and mother, I sit myself down to let you know that you have one son yet alive

JA DavisJohn Augustus Davis, 15th Alabama Cavalry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Civil War caused brother to fight against brother.  In our case Henry (Harry) Davis and his younger brother John A. Davis chose to fight for Alabama even though they were from Maine.  They were caught in the South at the begining of the war.  We believe they may have had a lumber or quarry business that brought them south.  From Will's letters we know their mother and father worried about their fate and did not hear from them for the longest time.  Eventually  the relatives in Maine learned of their enlistment in the Alabama 15th Cavalry.  Will learned this shortly before his death.

Like, Will, Henry and John were color bearers. Henry (Harry) Davis was one of the last to die carrying the Confederate battle flag into battle.  He was wounded on April 11, 1865, and died on April 13th. at the age of 31, leaving a wife and son.  He died in a skirmish near Mount Pleasant, Alabama and lies in an unmarked grave.  Robert E. Lee had surrendered on April 9, 1865, and the Alabama 15th disbanded on April 20th.

John was wounded in the same skirmish where he brother was killed.  He managed to stay on his horse which brought him to a farmhouse where his wound was treated.  His letter describing the final battle and his wound gave the sad news to his parents that "you have one son yet alive."

After the War John returned to Maine, married and had four children.  We are the descendants of his line.

Mobile the 24 [of  August]  1865

Dear  father ,

After five long years  I  sit myself  down  to let  you  know  that  you  have one  son  yet  alive. I  do  not know  what  to say for myself after so many years And  such  years  as  I  pray  GodI  may  never  see  again, years  that have  made  an  old  man out  of your  once  happy  boy. As  far  as my  health  is  concerned  it  was never  better. I  have  not  been sick  but  two  weeks  since I  left  home.  Home  I  say how  strange   that  loved  word goes  to  my  heart.  The  news  that Mr.  Ester  told  you  was too true.  Poor  Harry  has  gone  to  his  long home,  he  was  wounded  on  the 11th of  Apr. and  died  on  the 13th of  the same  month.  He  died in  his  right  mind  and  his last  words  were  about  his  wife and  parants.  I  did  not  see him  to  speak  to  him  after he  was  shot.  He  was  struck just  above the  left  hip and the Ball  passed  through his  hounch.  He  was  holding the  flag at the time.  I  was sitting  on  my  horse  and  we were talking and laughing only a few moments before he was struck.  I was ordered  with  a dispatch and when I returned I saw him about 100 steps in advance of our line down sitting at  the root of a tree and still waving the flag.  I  started to him and when about 20 steps from him the Federal force charged and I was obliged to retire but not before I was struck in the left shoulder.  The Ball  passed  through my shoulder blade and left lung and lodged in my breast where is now and will remain there as long as I live.  My  left  arm is helpless almost and I  have not  been without  pain since the moment  I was hit. When  I  was  struck it did not dismount me.  I had a very fine horse and as soon as I lost control of him he started with me at breakneck speed and someway I  never can  tell  how I  stayed  on him until he ran 7 miles. That was  why I  did not see Harry again. Judge my feelings as  my only kindred  in this strange land was breathing his last only 3 miles from me and I too weak to lift a hand. I sit down  to  write  a  letter  butbfear  that you will think that I am writing a history of  the war,  I  came to  Mobile yesteday and until then I thought you all dead, but I  thank my God  that I have once more seen some of your writing.  It has been my prayer that God would allow me to see you all once more and I  have faith that he will.  Dingley wrote  to  you as  soon as he recieved your letter and  it went to Washington and was sent back here.  I  would have written before this but I thought someone would write if you were not all dead.     

God  Bless you all and try and Forgive your undutiful son.  Tell all my friends if I have any there to write to me  Direct to Augustus  J  Davis,  Mobile,  Ala.

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John's letter was corroborated years after the war by CH  Driesbach, of  Baldwin County who was in the skirmish.  The account appeared in the Baldwin Times, February 8, 1928.

Special to the Register:
Bay Minette, Ala,  Jan  27-? 

With his form as erect as the day when he first donned the uniform of Gray to fight for a cause he believed was right, but with father time gradually lessening 
the virile resistance that once characterized this Son of the South, CH  Driesbach, of Baldwin County, and one of the few survivors that marked the closing of the
Civil War, graphically relates events leading up to what was said to be the last battle in this section. History relates to the generation that followed the war 
descriptions of the decisive battles, but as Mr. Driesbach says, little is said about some of the closing combats that proved vital to the South and where many
Alabama Heroes "went west", whose names are cherished by those who survived, but whose identity has been lost in the cataclysm that followed. 

It was on April 11, 1865, according to Mr. Driesbach that one of the last battles of the Civil War was fought near here and although strongly outnumbered by the  
federal troops, a strong resistance was put up. It was in this battle he recalls, that Harry Davis, the flag bearer of the Confederate Soldiers, although 
mortally wounded propped himself up against a tree and held his flag aloft and vainly tried to give the "Rebel  Yell". The Battle occurred in Monroe County 
when what was estimated 3000 federal troops under the command of Lucus clashed with the 15th Cavalry commanded by LT Col Myers and a company of Mounted  Infantry, commanded by 
Capt TC English. Captain English was a brother to General McClelland,  It was English’ company Mr. Driesbach was a member of and one of the few survivors after the engagement.

“Our Company was guarding a bridge on Little River, between Baldwin and Monroe  counties”, Mr.Driesbach says, “while the 15th Cavalry, or rather part of it was at Claiborne, 
Monroe County. On the morning of April 11, 1865. General Lucus and his men were coming up the Highway from Stockton. The Confederate Troops came together at what is now known as 
Eliska. The federals numbered about 3000 and the Confederates had something like 200. Arrangements had been made between Captain Barlow and Colonel Myers that
Capt Barlows company should make a detour and reach the rear of the enemy and advance in echelon formation. The strength of the enemy was not known at the time. 
Colonel Myers decided to wait and attack the enemy in front. Shortly after Barlow left on his mission, Arrington’s company of the 15th Cav, used as an advance Guard 
met the enemy and it was plainly seen they were outnumbered. Col Myers then gave the command to charge and at the same time the "rebel yell" went up.

We drove the advance guard back to about ¼ of a mile when we came in contact with the enemy consisting of about 3000 men. The fighting was fierce, continued for about 20 minutes, when we were forced to retireHarry[Henry] Davis the flag bearer was shot in about 20 feet of where I was at, and getting off his horse, sat down  by a pine tree and was last seen holding the flag aloft”. Several were killed. “Besides several being killed about 50 of our men were captured. In the retreat William HH Greenwood and myself accompanied the few of the REGT, which was left to a rendezvous near Claiborne, Al. 

About April 20 all troops in south Al were ordered to Gainesville to be paroled.Davis the Flag bearer was buried on what is now known as the home of Capt CA  Marriot.

 “My experience during the war, like many another rebel, has been sometimes dark and sometimes bright.  I sometimes hear the boys who have gone before tapping on my chamber door calling ‘Come  o’re,  Come  o’re’.

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Will has been in an unknown and unmarked grave for over 150 years.  Please take a moment and sign our petition to give him back his name and return him home


 

Note on Will's Picture

 * The picture we have of Will has passed down through our family since 1862.  On the back of the picture is written the following...Father's brother William Davis fought in Civil war. Killed at that time.  Willl looks much like our brother Mark E. Davis.  The exact same picture is in the Oskosh Public Musem labeled William H. Boyd.

davis8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note on Will's headstone in Lewiston, Maine

gravestone

Will's parents lost their son James in 1855.  He died at age 19 in Michigan.  They put up a headstone for him in Lewiston, Maine.  The family does not know what killed James or if his body is in the grave under the headstone.  William's body was never recovered, nor was Henry's. We believe Will and Henry's names were added later.  We belive the headstone records the names of the three, but it marks an empty grave.