Lt. Col. Charles Davis

Davis was born on October 11, 1833 in Concord, Massachusetts.

In 1854, he migrated to Chicago and worked as a bookkeeper or bookseller—military records say both in different places—or as a bookkeeper for a bookseller. Since Davis and Colonel Luther Bradley were friends, going back to a time before the formation of the regiment, it's quite possible that they worked together for the firm of F. (Francis) Munson, Booksellers and Stationers.

Davis' familiarity with things-military went back to five years of militia activity in Massachusetts prior to his moving to Chicago. He was the first adjutant of the regiment, his commission as lieutenant and adjutant dating to October 15, 1861. He worked closely with Cumming and Bradley in late 1861 in recruiting and forming the regiment.

Davis was promoted to major of the regiment in September 1862. He was severely wounded at Stones River. Bradley wrote that Davis was wounded so severely that he would lose his right arm; a doctor in mid-1863 described the wound as a compound comminuted [multi-fragmentary] fracture of the right ulna, severely injuring the flexion of the fingers and the ulnar nerve. Davis kept his arm, but was away from the regiment for six months, healing. On July 17, 1863 a Chicago doctor recommended extension of his disability leave, as "the wound is still unhealed and the general health is such that he will be unable to resume his duties... and is at present unable to travel." In August, 1863, Davis was finally able to return to the regiment.

Charles Davis
Later Years in Chicago

His horse was killed under him at the Battle of Chickamauga. He was promoted lieutenant colonel in October, 1863 when Samuel Raymond resigned soon after Chickamauga. Davis led the regiment up the slopes of Missionary Ridge in the battle of November 25, 1863—until severely wounded by a gunshot to the right thigh. One of his surgeons described the wound: "the ball passing downward and backward injuring the sciatic nerve producing all the symptoms incident thereto"—the ball passing downward and backward, exactly as one would expect, as the regiment was charging up the steep incline at the time of his injury. He spent the rest of the war trying to recover from that wound, sometimes with the regiment, sometimes in hospitals in Nashville and Louisville, sometimes on disability leave in Chicago or with family in Massachusetts. In late 1864, somewhat recovered but not able to serve in the field, he was made inspector of prisons in St. Louis, and, in early 1865, he was appointed assistant provost marshall general in St. Louis. In the last month of his career with the Fifty-First Illinois, June 1865, Davis went to Arkansas to take the surrender of Confederate Brigadier General Jeff Thompson and several thousands of men. Davis was formally discharged on June 30, 1865.

After the war Davis settled again in Chicago and took a position with the firm of Richard Mason in the lumber trade. On September 22, 1870, thirty-six-year-old Davis married twenty-seven-year-old Emma Frances Moore in Concord, Massachusetts. She, like Davis, was born in Concord. They raised one child, a son, Bradley Moore Davis, born November 19, 1871. It can hardly be a coincidence that Davis' son bore the same name as Davis' pre-war friend and war colleague from the Fifty-First Colonel, Luther Bradley. A daughter died in her first year.

(Davis' son, Bradley Moore Davis, graduated from Stanford University in 1892, and then studied at Harvard, where he received his doctorate, and in Europe. He was professor at the Universities of Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. He was affiliated as a researcher with the Woods Hole Marine Research Laboratory in Massachusetts, where he was head of the Department of Botany. He wrote numerous scholarly articles on plant evolution and co-authored, with Joseph Young Bergen, Principles of Botany [1906] and Laboratory and Field Manual of Botany [1907]. Bradley Davis died at his home in Portland, Oregon in 1957 and was buried in the family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.)

Davis' war wounds started to catch up with him. The Bureau of Pensions granted him full disability. The ball that had passed through his right wrist had destroyed part of the bone and damaged the nerves, causing some deformity and leaving his hand partially paralyzed and his fingers unable to flex. The ball through his right leg, which had damaged the the sciatic nerve, caused withering above the knee and robbed his leg of strength and made it prone to poor circulation and cramping. Fortunately for Davis, he was not trying to live by the fruits of his own physical labor.

Davis established his own lumberyard in 1876, wrote A. T. Andreas. "Ten million feet may be piled on his yard at one time." He steadily employed 125 men and receipts annually averaged 30,000,000 feet (which, at that time, in lumber circles, was considered a lot). Davis was involved heavily in veterans' matters. He contributed an article on New Madrid and Island No. 10 to the first volume of The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Illinois Commandery publications. Davis died in Chicago on December 15, 1898 in Chicago, and was buried in the city's Graceland Cemetery. The cause of death on his death certificate was "paralysis of the heart, general exhaustion from overwork." After his death, Emma moved back east. She died in Philadelphia on October 10, 1919.

Davis Grave at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago

Biographical Research, William Edward Henry
Photograph, Davis in uniform, courtesy of the United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Charles Davis Compiled Service Record, 51st Illinois Infantry, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, Record Group 94, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Jeff Thompson's surrender at
A[lfred] T. Andreas, History of Chicago from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 3 Vols, Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1884-86, Vol. 3 , p. 378.
Graceland Cemetery photographs by Cindi Lynn Geeze, Chicago.