By Colin Woodward
In the collection of carte de vistes at Stratford Hall is an image of Colonel James Lucius Davis. Who was this man, and what was his connection to the Lee family, if any?
Davis was born in Clarke County, Virginia, on 1813 January 25. He attended the U.S. Military Academy in 1829. After graduating, he served as an artillery officer at Fort Monroe in Virginia and Fort Macon in North Carolina. He also spent time in the Creek Nation and in Texas before it achieved statehood. As did his cousin, Jefferson Davis, James Lucius Davis fought in the Mexican War. Davis also was the author of The Trooper’s Manual; or, Tactics for Light Dragoon and Mounted Riflemen, which was published during the Civil War.
When the Civil War broke out, Davis received a commission in the Confederate army, where he became colonel of the 10th Virginia cavalry regiment. His sons, who were in their teens when the war broke out, served in the same regiment.
Colonel Davis fought with the Army of Northern Virginia and was wounded on the third day at Gettysburg. As Lee’s forces were retreating, Federal forces captured him at Hagerstown, Maryland. He was sent to Point Lookout, a prisoner of war camp for Confederate officers in Maryland. He was exchanged in March of 1864.
Davis, as did so many people during the war, suffered the loss of a loved one. His son, James, Jr., was killed at the battle of Samaria Church (also called the battle of Saint Mary’s Church or Nance’s Shop) on 1864 June 24, one of the many engagements during the fateful Overland Campaign in Virginia. James, Sr., fought on, commanding a brigade in the battle for Petersburg. Frustrated with not being granted the rank of brigadier general, he resigned on 1865 February 2.
After the war, Davis worked as the superintendent of schools in Buckingham, Virginia. He died on 1871 May 11 and is buried in Emmanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery in Henrico County.
Davis’s son Mervyn moved to Texas after the war, where he worked as a prominent journalist and Texas Ranger. He was also a conservationist.
The Lee Family Digital Archive is working to assemble the writings of the Lee family. But our archive contains stories of many interesting Virginia families. The Davis family might not have been a close associate of the Lees, but the life of James Lucius Davis and that of his family was part of the larger story of Virginia and Civil War history.