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Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Davis (Captain William Van) Diary

Collection Number: M280

Dates: April 1864 - May 1865; 1909

Volume: 1 Folder

Provenance: Given by Mrs. Noel Smith in July 1986, through Dr. Betty Drake of the McCain Library Genealogy Collection.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

William Van Davis was born July 15, 1828, and lived in Kosciusko, Mississippi, before the outbreak of the American Civil War. On March 11, 1862, Davis was commissioned captain of company D, 30th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, Confederate Army. The 30th regiment was known as the "Dixie Heroes" from Attala, County, Mississippi, and campaigned in the western theater of war, which consisted of north Alabama, north Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia.

The 30th Regiment first served under the command of General Pierre G.T. Beauregard at Corinth, Mississippi, and later under generals Braxton Bragg, Joseph E. Johnston, Stephen D. Lee, and John Bell Hood. The Dixie Heroes fought in the battles of Chattanooga, Jonesboro, and Lookout Mountain, distinguishing themselves at Chickamauga and Perryville. In 1864, the 30th Regiment merged with the 29th Mississippi Regiment and was unsuccessful in preventing Union General William T. Sherman's campaign against Atlanta and subsequent march to the sea. On April 26, 1865, the Dixie Heroes surrendered to Union forces at Greensboro, South Carolina.

Union troops captured Captain Davis at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. He was held in a number of temporary prison camps until the Confederate surrender in April of 1865. After the war, Davis returned to Kosciusko, Mississippi, and married Susanna Morrison Porter in 1866, who bore him ten children. He died on March 30, 1884, and is buried in Kosciusko, Mississippi.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a typescript of a diary, one piece of correspondence, a marriage certificate, and a page of handwritten notes -- all relating to the military career and personal life of Captain William Van Davis, who served in the 30th Mississippi Regimental Infantry during the Civil War.

The first item is a photocopy of a twenty-three page diary kept by Captain Davis between July 28, 1864 and May 15, 1865. In the diary, Davis discusses his day-to-day life in the western theater of the Civil War, focusing mostly on troop movements, the weather, quality and quantity of his meals, his daily Bible readings, and the changing medical condition of his broken foot. In addition, he elaborates on his capture at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in November 1864, and the treatment he receives while a prisoner of war in a number of different Union hospitals. Davis describes the hospitals as being lice infested and containing an abundance of rats. He concludes the diary with his arrival at Atlanta, Georgia, and describes the destruction left behind by General William T. Sherman's Union troops. One error exists in the editor's notes preceding the memoir -- Davis was a member of the 30th Regiment and not the 13th Regiment.

The second item is a photocopy of a two and one half page letter from Davis to his future wife, Miss Susan Porter. Dated April 25, 1864, and sent from Dalton, Georgia, the letter discusses Davis' appreciation of a previous letter from Ms. Porter; questions whether or not she has a beau; denies that he is courting another woman; and explains his need for a wife. Davis further talks about the likelihood of a major battle soon, and his plans for moving to Texas after the conclusion of the war.

The third item is a one page copy of a marriage certificate for Davis' son, Thomas Whitman Davis, to Miss Jennie J. Featherston in Noxubee County, Mississippi on December 22, 1909.

The final items in the collection are two photocopies of handwritten notes relating to Captain Davis' diary, which were taken by a Ms. Catherine McCool. The copies are of poor quality, rendering them difficult to decipher. However, with the aid of a magnifying glass, it is possible to read parts of the notes, which appear to identify certain individuals mentioned in the diary.

This collection should be useful to any researcher looking for day-to-day information about an officer's life in the American Civil War, particularly in the Western Theater.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
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Revised: December 16, 2004