Death of a Lewiston Boy
Forward Boys, your country needs--forward and God defend the right
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.
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
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
E Company 2ndReg Wis Vol
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.