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Markers & Museums
South East Edition
Title of Marker:
General Jefferson C. Davis 1828-1879
Location: Location: US 31 and Court Street, Memphis. (Clark County, Indiana)
Erected by the Indiana Civil War Centennial Commission, 1963
Marker ID #:
was born in Clark Co., Ind. Appointed colonel of the 22nd Indiana Infantry. After promotion to brigadier general for service at Pea Ridge, he saw action at Corinth, Murfreesboro, and Chickamauga and the Atlantic Campaign.
History trivia buffs remember General Davis for two reasons. His name was similar to President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy. And he murdered another Union general in full view of witnesses and got away with it.
General Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)
The eldest of eight children, Jefferson C. Davis was born near Memphis, Indiana. His parents, like many people in the area, had emigrated from Kentucky and took up residence in southern Indiana. He joined the 3rd Indiana Volunteers inJune 1846 to serve in the Mexican-American War. He proved brave during that war, eventually recieving a commission as a second lieutenant. When the rebels bombarded Fort Sumpter, starting the Civil War, Davis was serving in the fort as a garrison officer. The Army promoted him to captain in May, 1861 and sent him to Indiana to raise a regiment. With his following promotion to colonel, he recieved command of the 22nd Indiana Infantry. During action in Missouri he recieved promotion to Brigadier General.
By summer 1862 Davis was exhausted by his combat duties. he requested, and recieved, a twenty day leave of absence to rest. He returned to Indiana. During his leave, the Confederacy won a major victory at the Battle of Richmond in Virginia. The Confederate army pressed the Union forces back and the Union Army fell back in Kentucky fell back to Louisville. The rebels were set for a major offensive, possibly into the north.
Insult and Dismissal
Davis heard of the situation and returned back to duty early. He reported to General Wright in Cincinatti. He sent him to aid General William "Bull" Nelson set up the Louisville defenses. General Nelson charged him with arming and training Louisville residents for defensive actions. After two days, Nelson ordered Davis to report. After giving some non-commital answers, Nelson insultingly dismissed him and ordered him to return across the Ohio River. He charged the guards with removing him if he did not go.
After protesting his poor treatment by Nelson, Davis departed to Cincinatti. From there, General White ordered him to return to Louisville. In the meantime General Buell had replaced Nelson at Louisville, so White assumed it was safe to send Davis back. Davis returned to Louisville.
Nelson had been transferred, but had no yet left Louisville. He was in the hotel in which Davis was attending a meeting. Davis approached Nelson and demanded an apology. Nelson responded with another insult. Davis picked a registration card off the desk, wadded it up and flicked it into Nelson's face. Nelson bore the nickname "Bull." He was a huge man, possibly 300 pounds. Davis was a slight man, barely 125 pounds. An old friend of Davis, Indiana Oliver P. Morton had been in attendance at the meeting and witnessed the exchange. Davis asked the governor if he had come to see him insulted. When the governor answered in the negative, Davis left the room. Once outside, Davis asked an old friend for a pistol. The friend replied that he had none. Davis asked another and recieved one. He went back into the reception room and down a hall to Nelson's office. nelson was standing outside. Davis took aim and fired, hitting the man in the chest.
Off Scot Free
Davis was taken into custody. In a few days an old friend, Major General Horatio G. Wright, got him released and returned to duty. Because of the shortage of officers, Davis was never charged with murder. He served the rest of the war with distinction, retiring from the military many years after the war.
Excerpted from the author's book
Exploring Indiana's Historic Sites, Markers & Museums - South East Edition