James West Davis was
born in about 1839 in Saginaw, Michigan. The lure of the Civil War must have been
exciting for 22 year old James, who enlisted for 3 years service on August 21, 1861 in the
Michigan Cavalry, 2nd Regiment, Company A, on the side of the Union. He enlisted as
a private, and his Regiment served under General Pope's Army. They were immediately
deployed into Mississippi, where they skirmished with the Confederates at Framington,
Monterrey, and the Seige of Corinth where they served under newly commissioned Colonel
Phil Sheridan. From Boonville, they pushed into Kentucky and through the Cumberland
Gap into Eastern Tennessee. In February and March of 1863 they fought at
Murfreesboro and the Columbia Pike. In September, 1863, they were in the great
battle of Chickamauga, followed by a march through the Cumberlands and meeting the enemy
in a fierce battle at New Market, TN. In January, 1864, they camped at Mossy Creek,
skirmishing with the forces of General Longstreet enroute to Knoxville.
James West Davis re-enlisted January 5,
1864, at Mossy Creek, TN and, after a 30 day furlough, returned to action in Tennessee at
the rank of Corporal, participating in various battles enroute to Atlanta. By
November, 1864, they were marching on Lexington, Lawrenceburg and Columbia and other
skirmishes at Lewisburg Pike and Bethesda Church.
In March, 1865, the 2nd crossed the
Tennessee River into Alabama, destroying Confederate supply lines. James West
Davis was promoted to Sergeant July 31, 1865. When the war ended, the 2nd was broken
up into detachments to garrison Macon, Georgia and other southern cities. He was
mustered out of the service 17 days later, on August 17, 1865 at Macon, Georgia, and the
Regiment was returned to Michigan by rail, arriving in Jackson, Michigan on August 26,
1865, where they were paid off and disbanded.
The Civil War toll on the Michigan
Cavalry, 2nd Regiment was as follows: Of 2425 men, 47 were killed in action, another 23
died of wounds while still assigned to the Regiment, and 268 died of disease. They
distinguished themselves in no less than 62 noted battles as they moved through
Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and participated in the rout of Georgia.
Family legend tells of the story told by James West Davis upon his return from
the war. The story was passed down by his son, James Thomas Davis, to his son and
grandchildren. According to the story, early in the war, James West Davis was
captured and taken to a home or barracks, in which he was locked up. During the
night, he was able to climb up and out of a chimney and made good his escape.