“Discovering a Family Split By the Civil War” Part 1:  Why They Fought

The historian, antique weapons dealer, and Historical European Martial Arts master Matt Easton recently took Ancestry.com to task for a particularly sloppy advertisement wherein a gentleman named Alex is led to believe that he is “part Viking.”  Easton summed up his response in a video on his YouTube channel Schola Gladiatoria:  “Genetics…bit of a minefield.”

For anyone who may be getting started in genealogy, Ancestry.com provides a very useful service. Any user can quickly learn how to utilize the compiled census, marriage, birth, and death records, and how to navigate the public, open-source data. Some user-provided information found on Ancestry.com is incorrect, as can be expected, but anyone can learn how to proceed in the task of solving mysteries with no expertise required. Combined with the Ancestry-owned Fold3.com, which places at its users’ disposal all military service records from every major war of the United States, virtually anybody could begin discovering the military service of their ancestors. These services are inexpensive, and very simple to use.

Some of Ancestry.com’s activities have left a lot to be desired, however. Regarding Alex the Viking, Matt Easton rightly pointed out the fact that “viking” was a profession, and not an ethnic group. It was a particularly bad profession too, especially by the standards of their civilized victims. Vikings murdered, raped, pillaged, enslaved, and terrorized.  If someone can trace their roots to an actual Viking then it is what it is, but Alex merely discovered that he is a certain percent Scandinavian.  Ancestry.com should not have allowed him to go away believing that he is “part Viking” just because he is part Scandinavian.

But Alex sure did look happy.

Alex discovers that he is part Viking

Contrast that treatment of the Vikings with this treatment of the American Confederates on display when Ancestry.com’s Director of Education Brock Bierman walked Washington Post columnist Mike Wise through his Civil War heritage.

Mike Wise discovers that he is part Confederate

In 2013, Wise discovered a “yellowed document” amongst the possessions of his recently-deceased father.  He explained:

It was a statement from Mamie Belle Stout, my father’s maternal grandmother, declaring that we had relatives who fought on both sides in the Civil War. My father had always told me he believed this to be true.

“Need to research further,” a notation on the document read, in his handwriting.

Wise decided to investigate the matter by sending to Ancestry.com “an incomplete family tree along with a question: Were members of my family literally brother against brother?”

Months went by before the research was complete, but I often received updates saying “we have found something interesting,” which piqued my imagination. Finally, a form titled “Family Tree Finds” appeared in my e-mail inbox. I was again teased with a message stating, “We don’t often find what we’ve found with you.” To preserve my authentic reaction to the discovery — and, frankly, because I wanted help in processing what they found — I promised I would not open the file before Brock Bierman, Ancestry.com’s director of education, explained their finds to me personally two weeks ago in The Washington Post’s television studio.

Bierman revealed that Wise is a great-great grandson of Private Samuel G. Stout who served in Company C of the 1st North Carolina Artillery Regiment, assigned to the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  Wise is also a great-great-great grandson of Corporal Tilman Sutils who served in Company A of the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Regiment of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard.

Mike Wise stated that he “wanted help in processing what they found,” and Ancestry.com probably could have done a better job helping him process the data.  Brock Bierman probably did not know that the result of their encounter would be a Washington Post article entitled “Years later, discovering a family split by the Civil War,” but to the question of whether or not members of the family of Mike Wise were “literally brother against brother” — the very question from which sprang this joint WaPo/Ancestry.com project — the answer should have been a swift and resounding “no.”

Generations passed before descendants of Private Stout and Corporal Sutils formed a family. A Sutils had to marry a Booth, and a Booth had to marry a Stout, before a family actually existed among the soldiers’ descendants.  Stout and Sutils did not know each other. Their families did not know each other.  Stout lived in North Carolina, and Sutils lived in Missouri. Stout, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in which his unit served, never battled the Missouri Home Guard.

The writer of this blog happens to be descended from Private Blackburn Davis (1842-1882), who served with Private Samuel G. Stout (1843-1919) in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, as well as a descendent of Private James Madison Whitney Sr. (1822-1885), who served with Corporal Tilman Sutils (1817-1861) in the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Regiment of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard.

 

Generations passed before descendants of Davis and Whitney formed a family. Davis and Whitney did not know each other. Their families did not know each other. Davis lived in Virginia, and Whitney lived in Missouri. There was no family between them to “split.”

Likewise, the family of Mike Wise was not “split by the Civil War.” He merely discovered that he has at least one ancestor who fought on each side of the war, in two totally separate theaters of the war. His headline is fakenews, but his approach to discovering his Civil War heritage can teach a valuable lesson about why there is no place in genealogy for Political Correctness.

Immediately after Brock Bierman stated the rank, name, and unit of his Confederate ancestor in the four-minute video called “Mike Wise’s surprising Civil War ancestry,” Wise replied that “it’s a little weird to have a Confederate soldier in your past.”

But his ancestor was an able-bodied, military-aged man who lived in North Carolina at the time of the war.  Wise probably has more than one Confederate ancestor. Probably more Unionists, too.  Maybe he actually does have some family who actually were split by the war.  The fact that English-speaking men were prone to volunteering for military service in the nineteenth century is neither weird nor surprising.

It is doubtful that Mike Wise has investigated the military service of his own Confederate ancestor any further. With a quick glance at the National Park Service‘s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System he might learn that only one member of the 1st North Carolina Artillery Regiment “was present at Appomattox.”  Only one man who enlisted in the militia which mustered into Confederate service as the 1st North Carolina Artillery Regiment lasted all the way to the end of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Indeed, the Confederate ancestor of Mike Wise “was present at Appomattox.”

   

Americans who descend from numerous veterans of either side in the war may classify their ancestors’ service into categories such as dishonorable, honorable, and badass. The military service of the Confederate ancestor of Mike Wise certainly qualifies as honorable if not downright badass.  Numerous letters which he mailed home from the front lines have been preserved by his descendants, who are fortunate enough to be able to see for themselves who this man was.

However Mike Wise wondered whether or not his Confederate ancestor “believed in shackling fellow human beings for the glory of the South.” No information to support even a reasonable suspicion that such a sentiment motivated Private Stout had been presented to Mike Wise.

It can certainly be said that the concerns which motivated the states of the Deep South, from December of 1860 through early February of 1861, to peacefully and democratically withdraw from a Union in which slavery remained perfectly legal did include the expansion of slavery in the western territories.  But Wise should have been reminded that his Confederate ancestor fought for North Carolina; a Southern state which along with Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas refused to join the Deep South in secession after the election of US President Abraham Lincoln. Whig Unionists maintained a strong presence in North Carolina politics in early 1861.

Circumstances changed drastically in April when Lincoln ordered the invasion of Charleston Harbor to initiate the Battle of Fort Sumter so that he could have his promised war to force the Confederates back into the Union.

As President Lincoln very famously stated:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.

Both houses of the US Congress passed war aims resolutions stating very, very plainly that the war had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery, and everything to do with forcing the Confederate states back into the United States.  The US Federal government, and especially its executive branch, went to great lengths to inform the states on both sides that the purpose of the Federal blockade and invasion of the Confederacy, which President Lincoln illegally and unilaterally declared after the Confederates’ predictable response to the naval incursion he ordered into Charleston Harbor, was to wage an anti-democratic, anti-Constitutional war of conquest for the purpose of increasing Federal tax revenue.

But Mike Wise wonders if his Confederate ancestor — who was busy trying to fend off the US military invasion of his country  — concerned himself with “shackling fellow human beings for the glory” of his country.

If the data reveals that an ancestor of Mike Wise believed in such a thing, would it be the Confederate who enlisted to fight for the independence of North Carolina in a war which had nothing to do with the abolition of slavery, or would it be the Missourian who served the US Federal government against his own neighbors?

The Missourians did not want to be involved in Abraham Lincoln’s illegal war.  Their constitutional, democratically-elected state government remained in the Union, but maintained the legal position that efforts to bring Missouri into the war on either side would be resisted.  With war forced upon them, the people of Missouri were compelled to make a choice.

Missouri slave-owners often answered the question of which side to fight for with fierce Unionism.

Missouri had rich slave owners who wanted to stay in the Union and poor farmers who never saw a slave but fought for the South. Even Julia Grant, wife of the Union general who would win the war, came from a wealthy slave-owning family with a plantation outside St. Louis.

Examples of Unionist Missouri slave-owners abound, but one does not need to look much further than the Unionists Corporal Sutils and Private Whitney to find a prominent example.  Colonel Joseph Washington McClurg, who organized and commanded the Osage County Regiment and the Hickory County Battalion of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard, would “not free his own slaves until just prior to the Emancipation Proclamation” in January of 1863.

Does Mike Wise believe that his own Unionist ancestor, Corporal Tilman Sutils of the Hickory County Battalion of the Osage County Regiment of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard, enlisted to fight in some sort of a grand and moral crusade against slavery? Does Wise believe that his Unionist ancestor decided to embark upon the task of militarily abolishing slavery by being enlisted and commanded by the wealthy, slave-owning Unionist Colonel Joseph Washington McClurg, who continued owning slaves throughout the entirety of Sutils’ military service? Does Mike Wise believe that on the day his Unionist ancestor mustered out of the slave-owner-commanded Hickory County Battalion of the slave-owner-commanded Osage County Regiment of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard, he saluted his slave-owning commanding officer one last time, then rode away believing that his mission of militarily abolishing slavery had been some sort of a success?

The preposterous idea that Union veterans of the war generally believed they were enlisting in a war against slavery is the equally absurd counterpart of the idea that Confederate veterans of the war generally believed they were enlisting in a war for slavery, rather than a defensive war to repel the US invasion and to break the US blockade of their country.  Which is why Mike Wise fundamentally misunderstands the implications of a Confederate ancestor “ready to die for the glory of the South.”

I immediately thought of my grandmother, Martha Pearl Stout, Samuel’s granddaughter. The phrase would have been anathema to her. Until the day she died, she drummed it into us: Irrespective of the differences in our complexions, geography and social rungs, we are all in this together.

Mike Wise would never know this, but “we are all in this together” irrespective of the differences in our complexions, geography and social rungs sounds a lot like the Confederate Trans-Mississippi.

 

Corporal Tilman Sutils and Private James Madison Whitney Sr. mustered out of the Unionist Missouri Home Guard on December 20, 1861. A few days later, Missouri partisans murdered Sutils and dumped his body in a river.  According to Wise, Confederate soldiers participating in the Raid of General Sterling Price perpetrated the murder (but Price’s Raid happened in late 1864).

Had the Unionist ancestor of Mike Wise survived the winter of 1861, then he might have gone on to serve once again with James Madison Whitney Sr. who in early 1862 enlisted in a privately-recruited Unionist militia called Captain John M. Richardson’s Mountain Ranger Battalion, whose members hunted down Confederates in the Ozarks, and integrated into Federal service as Company B of the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, with Richardson promoted to Colonel. Richardson, a fierce Unionist originally from Virginia, had served as Missouri’s Secretary of State under Governor Sterling Price.

 

In late May of 1862, Richardson and a detachment of the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry arrived in Neosho, Missouri.

On the same day that Richardson arrived in Neosho some of his Union scouts went to the home of one Thomas L Hunter, presumably a Southern sympathizer, and shot him dead in front of his mother. He had been playing with his twin infants.

In the ten minute long Battle of Neosho, the Unionist 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry broke and fled before a combined Confederate force which consisted of local guerillas, the locally-recruited 6th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, and their allies to whom the locals confidently appealed for assistance: the forces of Colonel Stand Watie, who would soon afterward be elected as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Neosho, both sides believed that Colonel Richardson had been mortally wounded.

According to the investigation, three rounds were fired by only about half of the Union force before they broke and ran. Richardson explains this by saying that it was at that crucial moment he was shot in the right arm and his horse was simultaneously hit as well and fell on his left leg, dislocating his left shoulder, and spraining his wrist. Richardson said his soldiers supposed their commander was dead and fled.

However, the follow up investigation stated that Richardson’s fall was ”no justification” for the retreat. The same report stated that the war whoops of the Confederate Cherokee warriors had startled the horses and that the Unionist refugees still at the camp had begun to flee at the first shots.

Which side would Mike Wise call “the good guys” in this battle, the Unionists who announced their presence in the area by committing a war crime? Were the bad guys the Confederates, who clearly understood the fact that, irrespective of the differences in their complexions, geography and social rungs, they were all in it together?

Would Mike Wise say that the Cherokee fought for the expansion of slavery in the western territories, or that these red-skinned Confederates fought for some sort of white supremacist ideology?  Could Wise not admit that the Cherokee, as well as the other tribes who fought against the US Army — against the same organization which carried out the ethnic cleansing of their people from their ancestral homelands when they were young — could have legitimately viewed the Confederacy as their salvation from the United States?

Mike Wise is a Californian. Had his ancestors moved no further west than Oklahoma, then he might have grown up in Cherokee Nation, with an appreciation of the fact that the last to quit the field was none other than the Cherokee Chief and Confederate General Stand Watie.  Were Mike Wise an Okie, then he might be able to reconcile himself with the fact that a great number of the fiercest Confederate warriors were not “white.”

But to be fair, Mike Wise does not claim to be a genealogist.  And he is no historian.  Although his article and its accompanying video are highly instructive on how not to approach genealogy in general and Civil War heritage in particular, it is hoped that this installment is not received as a mere personal attack upon the columnist.  The military records of his veteran ancestors do indeed reveal that the service rendered by each to their respective country was nothing less than honorable, irrespective of their politics, or their totally unrelated views on slavery.  He should be proud of them both. His Unionist ancestor likely never wore a uniform, and would have never been seen with his Confederate ancestor, but if the Confederate artilleryman and the Unionist cavalry NCO ever could have been pictured together in uniform, then they would look something like the Confederate artilleryman and the Unionist cavalryman memed up top.

In addition to highlighting an example of how Civil War heritage should never be approached, the purpose of this installment is to also outline the actual context in which men chose to fight in the war, and especially in Missouri. A primer on the situation in Missouri at the outbreak of the war may be useful ahead of the next installment, which actually will address the topic of families “split by the Civil War” – with an actual example of “literally brother against brother” warfare.

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Calebic Clues

Although science supports the conclusion that the true parents of Caleb Davis (1746-1821) are Robert Davis and Susannah Hart, many pieces of the puzzle still need to be arranged.  One of which may likely be Theodore E. Davis (1842-1933) of Marion County, Virginia whose father Franklin Davis (1813-1845) was a son of Jehu L. Davis (1786-1817). Jehu’s father was apparently another Jehu. And the Jehus allegedly moved to the area of Marion County from Sussex County, Delaware – just as Caleb did in the 1790’s.

  

Theodore was the only other Davis who served in Company A of the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment besides two of Caleb’s great-grandsons, the twin brothers Jesse and Blackburn Davis.

 
Theodore, Jesse, and Blackburn Davis were all three born in 1842, and they enlisted in the Marion Guard at Fairmont on the same night. Although Blackburn was captured near Strasburg in June of 1862 and Jesse was captured in the Fall of Petersburg, Private Theodore Davis — who receieved a demotion from the rank of corporal by his own request — finished the war as one of the very few who lasted all the way from the start to the finish, at Appomattox Court House.

 

No familial link has yet been proven between the two lines, and none may in fact exist. However it is entirely possible that the line of Theodore and the Jehus may yet prove to be an alternate route back to the roots of Caleb’s family.

The Other Forrests

In 1908, just a year after the territory achieved statehood, Delford Watts Chambers became the first member of his family to be born in Oklahoma. Following his retirement from a long and honorable career on the Tulsa Fire Department, he eventually settled in Bartlesville, where he died of a heart attack in 1980.

Delford Watts Chambers (1908-1980) and wife Dovie Virgle Peters Chambers (1913-2006)
His children and grandchildren fondly recall his storytelling to this day. One thing that he passed down, regarding his maternal grandmother Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington (1857-1941), is that she was related to the legendary Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877).

Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA
At a time when the very topic of Confederate heritage may be too taboo to discuss in some circles, matters are certainly not helped if a Confederate ancestor actually did happen to own slaves – or traded slaves, or co-founded the Ku Klux Klan.  Merely asserting the fact that the “Nathan Bedford Forrest of 1875 was not the Nathan Bedford Forrest of 1866” can today be commonly mistaken for the approval of, or the desire to revive, the very institution of slavery itself. Appreciation of his martial abilities is denounced as anything sinister from “racist” to “seditious.”

Nevertheless, the military heritage of the Forrest family runs deep. Just like General Forrest, his brothers Colonel Jeffrey Edward Forrest (1837-1864), Colonel Jesse Anderson Forrest (1833-1889), Colonel Aaron Forrest (1828-1864), and Major William Hezekiah Forrest (1831-1875) also enlisted as privates, then soared through the ranks of the Confederate States Army.

But Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington, the grandmother of Delford Watts Chambers, was not a daughter, a sister, nor a niece of the aforementioned Forrests. The last common ancestor they shared with Mary was their great-grandfather Shadrach Forrest.  Shadrach’s sons Nathan Forrest and Jekiel Forrest were the grandfathers of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington, respectively.  And if the wartime allegiance of Mary’s branch of the Forrest family can be described in any way, it is staunchly Unionist.

Mary’s father Claiborne M. “Claib” Forrest (1817-1891) of Metcalfe County, Kentucky joined the US Army at the age of forty-three in Greensburg, on September 24, 1861.  He enlisted alongside his brother James S. Forrest, aged forty-five, and James’ son, James B. Forrest (1843-1888). Together they served as privates in Company H of the 21st Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

   
   
   

Not only were these Forrests stalwart Unionists, but they served in a regiment organized into the US Army of the Cumberland, whose principle field nemesis was the CS Army of Tennessee – whose cavalry corps was of course commanded by their cousin, General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Claib Forrest went absent without leave from October of 1862 to March of 1863. This period coincides with the severe sickness of his brother James Sr., whom the US Army medically discharged in March of 1863. Although Claib lost pay for his unauthorized absence, he does not otherwise appear to have been punished, and soon received orders to put his skills to use as a nurse in the US Army hospital at McMinnville, Tennessee.

  

Claib returned to his unit around November of 1863. He reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer on January 4, 1864. After being hospitalized for sickness in Nashville on June 6, 1864, the US Army discharged Claib Forrest on June 26, 1865.

   

James B. Forrest also reenlisted as a Veteran Volunteer on January 4, 1864.  On June 19, 1864 he was wounded in action in a prelude to the bloody Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. After a period in the US Army hospital at New Albany, Indiana, the US Army discharged James B. Forrest on December 9, 1865.

 

Laura J. Stewart, a present day historian from Metcalfe County, Kentucky, provides a newspaper clipping from the Metcalfe County section (dated October 29) of the November 6, 1884 Glasgow Weekly Times, in which Claib Forrest told a war story:

Mr. Claib Forrest, of this county, had almost as miraculous an experience in the late war as Dr. Washington Thompson Sandidge. He relates an interesting episode regarding a battle in Georgia the last year of the war as follows: “The rebels were getting the better of us and almost a panic ensued. General officers became alarmed. I saw the critical moment had arrived for me to prevent a great disaster to our arma. I went up to Bill Sherman and told him something must be done, and at once, to stop the decimating fire of the enemy. He agreed with me, but said he was at a loss to know what more to make that would succeed. I remarked that if I had command I thought I could mend matters. Said he: ‘Sail in, Mr Forrest.’ I at once rode along the line and said, ‘Boys, aim at their shine,’ and in a few moments we had the rebels in full retreat.”

Mr. Forrest also claims that he has evolved a theory from the inner consciousness that wholly dispels all mystery surrounding the character of the Priest Melchizedek, about and concerning whom the Scriptural account is so vague.

Although it seems unlikely, it is not known for certain whether or not Major General William Tecumseh Sherman desperately relinquished command in the heat of battle to Private Claib Forrest. The newspaper also neglected to include his theory regarding the ancient Semitic king-priest Melchizedek.

Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma some time following the death of her husband Tyre Bullington (1853-1910) in Blackburn, Arkansas. Tyre Bullington was born in Putnam County, Tennessee, and wed Mary Forrest in Metcalfe County, Kentucky on December 21, 1875. It is unknown precisely when and why Tyre Bullington moved from Tennessee to Kentucky.  However he did have cousins in the area. Unlike Tyre’s numerous Confederate cousins in Tennessee, the Kentucky Bullingtons were mostly Unionists.

 

Corporal Levi B. Bullington and Private Robert A. Bullington served together in Company A of the 30th Kentucky Volunteer Mounted Infantry Regiment, USA.  Following the war, Levi Bullington moved to Kansas and became a rancher near Dexter, Kansas.  Tyre and Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington moved to Kansas with Levi.  The 1880 census recorded that the Bullingtons lived in Dexter with their first two children, Ora Lee (1877-1950) and Margaret Mae (1879-1943), both of whom were born in Kentucky. After the birth of their son William Levi Bullington (1882-1919) in Kansas, Tyre and Mary moved once again in 1883 to the vicinity of Cane Hill, Arkansas.

Ora Lee Bullington married Frank Pinkney “Pink” Chambers (1872-1955) on March 5, 1893. The Chambers family had arrived in Washington County shortly after Arkansas achieved statehood in 1836.

Pink Chambers and Ora Lee Bullington Chambers, with sons Syrus Elzy Chambers Sr. (1894-1950) and Stewart Forrest Chambers (1903-1974)
Pink’s grandfather Isaac Chambers (1799-1870) was born in South Carolina.  He moved west, married, and owned land in Tennessee before moving his family to the outer rim of the United States.  They settled in the area of Cove Creek Township, Arkansas which later became known as Lee’s Creek Township.

Pink and Ora Lee Bullington Chambers moved to Oklahoma some time between the birth of their sons Orlen Ward Chambers (1905-1984) in Arkansas, and Delford Watts Chambers in Oklahoma. They briefly stayed in Mayes County, then finally moved to Tulsa, where Ora Lee’s mother Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington joined them not long after her husband Tyre Bullington died from cancer in 1910. Mary, Pink, and Ora Lee are buried together in Tulsa Memorial Park Cemetery.

When researching the common Civil War heritage of the descendants of Delford Watts Chambers, one is likely to find sources which state that his grandfather Tyre Bullington served in the Confederate cavalry. One obvious problem with this assertion is his age. Born just eight years before the war began, he would have been too young to serve in that capacity.

The father of Tyre Bullington, Henry Tyre Bullington (1804-1865), had a brother named Tyre Bullington (1806-1860) who had his own son named Tyre Bullington, who was born in 1847 and is in fact the young Tyre Bullington who did ride with General Forrest in the Army of Tennessee. The brothers Henry Tyre and Tyre Sr. were sons of William Crenshaw Bullington (1771-1850), and both families can be found in the 1860 Putnam County, Tennessee census.

 

Another reason why Private Tyre Bullington of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment could not be the husband of Mary Elizabeth Forrest Bullington is because — following his capture near Woodbury, Tennessee on September 6, 1864, and his imprisonment at Camp Chase, Ohio — Private Tyre Bullington died of smallpox on December 14, 1864.

  

William Crenshaw Bullington moved to Tennessee decades before the war.  His family had lived in Virginia since the earliest days of settlement at Jamestown. All of the Bullingtons who served in the Civil War from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas appear to descend from this extended family.

Of his immediate family, Tyre Bullington (1853-1910) is not the only member who is commonly mistaken as a Confederate.  His older brothers William Bullington (1831-1877) and Henry Harrison Bullington (1841-1872) are often mistaken for the William and Henry H. Bullington who served together in Company G of the 25th Tennessee Infantry Regiment.

 

However those Bullingtons both died of fever, in February and March of 1862, respectively.

 

Oddly enough, Tyre Bullington’s brother William actually did enlist. Having moved to Arkansas prior to the war, William Bullington served as a corporal in the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry – a Unionist regiment.

As for the wartime allegiance of the Chambers family, it should first be noted that practically nothing by way of actual “government” existed in Northwest Arkansas at the time.  The sort of people who moved out there simply had little to no use for it. However the name of a president does appear on one of Isaac Chambers’ land titles from 1861, and it was not Jefferson Davis.

Two of Isaac’s sons did enlist in the Confederate Army.  Pink’s father, Calvin Cern Chambers (1833-1907), and Calvin’s younger brother William were enlisted by the Reverend Fontaine Richard Earle at Cane Hill on August 11, 1862.

A Kentuckian and a leading figure in the Cumberland Presbyterian communion, Reverend Earle presided over the Cane Hill College, which the Cumberland Presbyterians established in 1834. The family of Mary Ann Larremore (1834-1905) also moved to the area from Kentucky and played a role in establishing the school and the community.  Mary Ann Larremore, the mother of Pink Chambers, married Calvin Cern Chambers in 1857.

Reverend Earle, and the men he enlisted, answered the call of Governor Henry Massey Rector in May of 1862 for the organization of a defense for Arkansas. Until the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern just two months prior, the Confederate Army west of the Mississippi River consisted of regiments from Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas, in addition to the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek Nations.  Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch, a Texan, commanded this Army of the West.  McCulloch frequently clashed with his colleague Major General Sterling Price – a former US Army Brigadier General and former Governor of Missouri whom Missouri Governor Claiborne F. Jackson commissioned as the commander of the Missouri State Guard.  Like Jackson, Price opposed Abraham Lincoln’s intention to bring war to Missouri.  However the US Army inevitably invaded, chased the State Guard into Arkansas, and replaced the constitutional, democratically-elected government of Missouri with a brutal military dictatorship. Arkansas was next.

With Missouri lost, Generals Price and McCulloch failed to agree upon an adequate defense of Arkansas. McCulloch died on March 7, 1862 as he personally scouted enemy positions near Elkhorn Tavern. The CS Army reorganized its Army of the West and the Missouri State Guard into one force following the battle, then ordered it across the Mississippi. With Arkansas laid bare for a US invasion from occupied Missouri, the situation in Arkansas appeared so bleak that Governor Rector even threatened to secede from the Confederacy.

Rector had proclaimed on May 5 that “Arkansas lost, abandoned, subjugated is not Arkansas as she entered the confederate government.  Nor will she remain Arkansas a confederate State, desolated as a wilderness.” Threatening to build “a new ark and launch it on new waters, seeking a haven somewhere, of equality, safety and rest,” the governor summoned 4,500 volunteers “to free the state and repel the tyrant.”

Davis, Jefferson, Lynda Lasswell Crist, Mary Seaton Dix, Kenneth H. Williams, and Suzanne Scott Gibbs. The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Vol. 8. Series 1862, page 194. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971

Governor Rector’s appeal was accompanied by a promise to conscript, should an adequate number of volunteers not rise to the defense of Arkansas.  It is likely that Calvin and William Chambers enlisted together merely in order to avoid being drafted separately. They mustered into Company B of the 34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by the Reverend Major Fontaine Richard Earle.

 

The 34th Arkansas Infantry trained at Elm Springs in the late summer and early fall of 1862.  When they first arrived, the soldiers received orders to relinquish their personal firearms, which they had brought from home, to the ordnance department. If that was not bad enough, the US Army learned of the disarmed Confederate regiments.  The 34th Arkansas soon took a long and miserable hike through the Boston Mountains toward the safety of Van Buren, with the US Army behind them, and torrential downpour overhead.

The Chambers brothers did not complete the trek.  In early October of 1862 Calvin and William Chambers seceded from the Confederate Army, deserting their regiment near Fayetteville.

 

They returned home and apparently faced no retribution for their desertion. Northwest Arkansas was already lost to the invader. Calvin died of a heart attack in 1907 while working on his land.  During the war the US Army burned Cane Hill and the college, but the Reverend Major Fontaine Richard Earle built it again. 

The Reverend Major Fontaine Richard Earle, CSA
The only other close relation of Pink Chambers who served in the war was his mother Mary Ann Larremore Chambers’ brother, Private James J. Larremore (1842-1925) of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry Regiment – yet another Unionist.

Thus the Civil War heritage of Delford Watts Chambers did navigate through the Unionist branches of large Southern families which mostly fought to defend the Confederacy; and the only actual Confederate in his direct lineage enlisted after a threat of conscription, then abruptly deserted.  For anyone who might have grown up thinking that they descend from Nathan Bedford Forrest, discovering such a heritage can be a shocking disappointment, or a welcomed relief. 

A Century in Oklahoma

Harold Otis “Yank” Davis
It is unknown precisely when Harold Otis “Yank” Davis (1898-1970) of Wetzel County, West Virginia went west. His World War One draft registration is the earliest surviving documentary evidence of his presence in Oklahoma, and it is dated June of 1917.

The form states that Harold Davis worked for the Bartlett-Collins Glass Company in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.  He soon found work in the oil fields; a career which he moved to Oklahoma in order to pursue in the first place.

Harold Davis, on the left, and crew in the Tonkawa oil field, early 1920’s
The form also states that Harold Davis was born in Wirt County, WV and that his home of record was Fairmont, in Marion County, WV. He grew up in Wetzel County, WV where his parents Charles Morgan “Charley” Davis (1864-1941) and Temperance Ursula “Sula” Satterfield Davis (1868-1945) — both of Marion County — moved sometime before the turn of the century.

His draft card states that he was born in 1896, but he was in fact born on December 4, 1898.  The discrepancy may be explained by the fact that the Selective Service Act passed on May 18, 1917 “required all men in the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for military service.” Harold would only turn 19 in December of 1917, and it is entirely possible that he lied about his age in hope of being drafted. He would not have been the first, nor the last, of his line to enlist in the military as a teenager if it had worked. It could also be a typo.

Harold did not get drafted or go to war in Europe, but he did eventually leave the oil fields for a long and distinguished career as a Tulsa city firefighter. His fellow Tulsa firemen nicknamed Harold “Yank,” due to the fact that he came from West Virginia. The nickname stuck for life.

Yank and Major, early 1940’s
Yank married Racine Beatrice Cunningham (1902-1998) of Sarcoxie, Missouri on May 23, 1925. Her mother Nancy Elizabeth “Bettie” Bennett Cunningham (born 1871) died when Racine was young, in 1912.  In the early 1920’s, Racine moved to Tulsa with her father William Nathaniel Cunningham (1872-1947), and her younger brother Paul Edgar Cunningham (1905-1972).  Racine’s older brother Elza Arthur Cunningham (1893-1975) moved to Oklahoma in the 1910’s. Their sister Myrtle Narcissus Cunningham Wicks (1896-1981) married and remained in Missouri.

Elza, Paul, William, Racine, and Myrtle Cunningham, early 1920’s
Together Yank and Racine Davis had two children, Carolyn Hope Davis Conger (1927-2013) and Charles William Davis, both born in Tulsa.  Carolyn married a son of Yank’s fellow Tulsa city fireman Charles Ernest Conger (1897-1974), and Charles married a daughter of Tulsa city fireman Delford Watts Chambers (1908-1980).  Yank brought his wife, children, and eventually even his grandchildren on numerous trips to see the Davis family back east.

West Virginia, early 1930’s
In the picture above, Yank’s parents Charley and Sula are seated in center.  Yank stands on the right, holding his son Charles. Racine stands next to Yank, behind Sula’s left shoulder. Carolyn stands in front of her parents Yank and Racine, next to her grandmother Sula.

Yank had several siblings: Willa Lee Davis Simpson (1887-1963), Dessie Erma Davis (1889-1965), Wilbur Atkinson Davis (1890-1990), Hazel Inez Davis Price Beatty (1893-1974), Lottie Grace Davis Price (1896-1969), John Rymer Davis II (1904-1978), and Mabel A. Davis Heldreth (1906-1999).

Although his branch of the family did not ultimately take root in Oklahoma, Yank’s brother Wilbur also moved to Tulsa at some point in the 1910’s. At the time of the 1930 census, Wilbur lived in Tulsa with his wife Myrtle and his son Wyley, aged eighteen, who were both born in West Virginia.  A son John, aged sixteen, and daughters Ruth and Billy Jean, aged twelve and eight, were born in Oklahoma. 

Tulsa, Oklahoma 1930 Census
By the time of the Second World War draft, Wilbur had apparently moved back to West Virginia, living in Monongalia County.He may or may not be the Wilbur Davis recorded in the 1940 census living in Monongalia County with a wife named Mary, a daughter Bernadine, aged eight, and son Donald, aged three.  It is possible that “Myrtle” of the 1930 census and “Mary” of the 1940 census are the same person, although the age discrepancy could suggest that they may be two different people.  Wyley, John, Ruth, and Billy Jean are not present, but they were adults by 1940 and would not have necessarily been living with their parents at the time. Bernadine and Donald were born in West Virginia.

Monongalia, West Virginia 1940 Census
Although Wilbur’s branch of the Davis family is now unknown to Harold’s, it is a readily accessible fact that Wilbur became the last of his generation to go when he died at the age of ninety-nine in a nursing home in Warren, Ohio.  In 1970 Harold Otis “Yank” Davis died of cancer in Tulsa.  His numerous descendants continue to live throughout Oklahoma.

The Province-Davis Feud


According to page one of the September 7, 1882 Harrisburg Telegraph, James Province was a coward and a murderer. However the paper only got the story half-correct that day. Although Province did indeed stalk and ambush Blackburn Davis in Marion County, West Virginia with a high-caliber long gun a week earlier, Blackburn Davis was not quite murdered yet. He lived nearly two weeks with his ribs, kidneys, liver, and spine shot through, dying on September 12, 1882 at the age of thirty-nine.

The Province-Davis Feud remains a little-known chapter in the storied history of Appalachian feuding.  It consisted of two reported altercations, with three known participants. On one side, a young man identified by local and regional newspapers as James Province, of the same community as the victim, who abruptly fled the country following the murder.  On the other side, Blackburn Davis (1842-1882), and his son Charles Morgan “Charley” Davis (1864-1941).

Blackburn Davis, 1863 and Charley Morgan Davis, 1916
The culprit can be none other than James Perry Province (1863-1958), the only young man named James Province from Marion County who moved away from there in the early 1880’s.

img_0381
James Perry Province, Murderer
Just as the Hatfields and McCoys slaughtered each other on the other side of West Virginia that very month in a feud dating back to the Civil War, the story as received by the descendants of Blackburn Davis goes simply that he was shot “because he was a Confederate.”  Although no other immediate cause of hostilities is known, it is likely that something other than Civil War-era politics precipitated the bloodshed in August 1882.

Evidence of interaction between the families can be found in the 1880 Marion County census, in which a boy named Agrippa Province is recorded as the servant of Blackburn’s father Asa S. Davis (1802-1890), and Asa’s third wife Emily Nuzum (1817-1904).

1880 Marion County, WV Census
The servant Agrippa Province (1867-1934) was a son of Agrippa “Dutch” Province (1828-1892), who was a son of David Province (1788-1889), who was a son of Joseph Yard Province (1764-1843).  The murderer James Perry Province was a son of John William Province (1823-1911), who was a son of Jesse Province (1802-1873), who was another son of the aforementioned Joseph Yard Province. Agrippa the younger and James Perry Province were indeed cousins, but without a discovery of additional records it is impossible to know whether or not Agrippa Province played a role in the feud.

Whatever the cause of immediate hostilities between Province and Davis in August 1882 may have been, the military service records of the two families do in fact reveal a deep divide between their wartime allegiances.

The Davis family were Virginians. They moved in the 1790’s to the expansive Monongalia County, and dispersed throughout Harrison County; both from which Marion County would later be carved. The Province family established itself just across the border in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  Various branches of the Province family migrated across the Virginia border in the decades leading up to the war. The father of James Perry Province, John William Province, was born in Pennsylvania and married a Virginian, Lucretia Arnett (1823-1890), the mother of James Perry Province, in Monongalia County in 1845. The extended Arnett and Davis families flourished amongst each other for decades.

No less than two Arnetts served in Company A of the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment, with Blackburn Davis, his twin brother Jesse Davis (1842-1926), and Morgan Jolliffe (1828-1864), whose sister Sarah Ann Jolliffe (1833-1915) married Blackburn in 1863.  Blackburn and Sarah Ann named Charley Morgan Davis after his uncle, shortly before Morgan Jolliffe died from wounds sustained in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

      

In the 1850’s, John William and Lucretia Province moved to Ohio, where his parents and siblings had relocated prior to 1850.  Many of John William and Lucretia’s children were born in Ohio, including James Perry Province.  Although John William Province waited out the war before enlisting to serve in the 189th Ohio Volunteer Infantry — a regiment which only existed for one month prior to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia — his brothers James, Amida, and Uriah Province enlisted on June 10, 1861, at the ages of 18, 19, and 23, respectively. They served in Company C of the 25th OVI.

         

John William’s brothers Nathan and Jesse Province enlisted on December 2, 1861 at the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-four.  David Province enlisted December 13, 1861 aged thirty, and Joseph Province enlisted on December 9, 1861 aged thirty-six.  Nathan, Jesse, David, and Joseph served together in Company I of the 77th OVI.

         

Nathan finished the war as a sergeant in Company C of the 77th. Private David received a medical discharge on December 19, 1862. Joseph received a medical discharge as a sergeant on September 14, 1862, and Jesse mustered out as a second lieutenant upon the expiration of his enlistment on December 27, 1864.

Although the 77th OVI served in the Western and Trans-Mississippi theaters, the 25th OVI fought in the Eastern. Uriah mustered out with company C of the 25th on June 18, 1866. Amida received a medical discharge on October 25, 1862 for wounds sustained in the Battle of Cross Keys. James died on June 6, 1863 from wounds sustained in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

It is entirely possible that a strong animosity developed between the Province and Davis families during the Reconstruction Era, or at least between the three specific individuals who went into battle the night of August 30, 1882.  The easiest assumption — that the Confederate Blackburn Davis must have resented the Yankee Province family for migrating into Marion County — is eclipsed by the fact that the 25th Ohio clashed frequently with the 31st Virginia, and the 25th Ohio lost nearly every time.  After a loss at Cheat Mountain, the Confederates won every major engagement in which the 31st Virginia and the 25th Ohio both participated, all the way to Gettysburg; a battle in which the 31st Virginia played a relatively minor role.  The 31st Virginia won at Cross Keys, where Amida Province fell in 1862. The 31st Virginia won at Chancellorsville, where James Province fell mortally wounded just months after the birth of his nephew James Perry Province in 1863.  The 25th Ohio transferred to duty in the Carolinas shortly afterward, far away from the superior soldiery of the 31st Virginia.

John William and Lucretia Province moved back to the area now called West Virginia in the late 1860’s.  According to the 1880 census, they lived with their children, including son James Perry Province, in the Lincoln magisterial district of Marion County.  Blackburn Davis lived with his family in the neighboring Mannington district.

   

It is not known for certain if James Perry Province sought to avenge his uncles when the shooting broke out in late August 1882.  What is known for certain about the shooting is recorded in various newspaper articles, such as the one entitled “A Bloody Affray” published in Fairmont on September 1.

Blackburn Davis, a citizen of this county, living on Plum Run, in Mannington District, and a young man named Provance, of the same community, had a controversy some time ago which made them enemies. On last Wednesday Provance, actinated by a revengeful feeling, took a position, gun in hand, so that he could see Davis as he and his son passed along the road, and when Davis came in range Provance fired at him, the ball taking effect in his victim’s bowels. He immediately fell forward in an almost dying condition. It is reported that Davis was also carrying a gun which the boy, as soon as he saw his father fall, grabbed and fired at the assailant, but it is not known whether it took effect or not. Our information is that the wounded man cannot recover, and that Provance has not yet been arrested. We learn, in addition to the above that on Tuesday, the day before the shooting, Davis shot twice at Provance but without effect.

The precise date and time of the fateful encounter varies as reported.  Whereas the Harrisburg Telegraph stated that the shootout took place the night of Tuesday the 29th, the Baltimore Sun reported that it occurred around 0700 the morning of Wednesday the 30th.

IMG_0509It is believed that Province came around the Davis property for the first altercation, deliberately provoking Davis before falling back to set the ambush.  Province clearly expected that Blackburn Davis would be approaching.

The Wheeling Intelligencer, Page 1, September 1, 1882
The Wheeling Intelligencer, Page 1, September 15, 1882
Charley Morgan Davis returned fire, and James Perry Province retreated all the way to the West Coast.  Blackburn Davis identified the shooter on his deathbed, and explained that the shooting resulted from “an old feud.”  Although the Davis family sustained a casualty rate of fifty percent in the Battle of Plum Run, they held the field to win a strategic victory in the Province-Davis Feud.  Nearly a hundred and thirty-five years would pass before distant descendants of Charley Morgan Davis compared their notes to conclusively identify and discover the ultimate fate of the murderer; whose father, step-mother, and various siblings also moved away from Marion County, West Virginia in the years following the murder.  James Perry Province eluded justice in his own lifetime, his descendants apparently unaware of the reason why their family ever left Appalachia.

The Oregonian, Page 11, January 14, 1958

His Name is Blackburn Davis


A nineteen year old, six-foot and one-inch tall farmer named Blackburn Davis enlisted for one year in the Marion County militia at Fairmont on May 17, 1861.  Virginia seceded from the United States on May 23.  The Marion Guard soon mustered into Confederate service as Company A of the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment.


One branch of his descendants which produced a set of twins several generations after his death learned long ago from an older, distant relative that the last set of twins born into the Davis family had been Confederate cavalrymen. Blackburn had many brothers and sisters, but Jesse is the one who enlisted in the Marion Guard alongside Blackburn.  They may not in fact have truly been twins — the records vary as to their years of birth — although Jesse’s gravestone says 1842, which would support the claim if Blackburn’s enlistment records are correct.

The legend is at least partially true; Jesse, Blackburn, and various other relatives in Company A of the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment served in the most important battles and campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia, including the most studied maneuver warfare campaign in American history: General Thomas J. Jackson’s 1862 defense of the Shenandoah Valley. Privates Jesse and Blackburn Davis did not ride horses, they were Stonewall’s Foot Cavalry.

The campaign conducted by Maj. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862 is considered one of the most brilliant in United States, if not world, military history. Vastly outnumbered” . . . “Jackson’s men covered 350 miles, defeated three Union commands in five battles, caused 5,000 casualties at a loss of only 2,000 men, and captured much needed supplies. More importantly Jackson had accomplished his main objective of keeping nearly 60,000 Federal soldiers occupied in the Valley rather than advancing on Richmond in conjunction with McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. The 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign made “Stonewall” Jackson the most celebrated soldier in the Confederacy (until he was eclipsed by General Robert E. Lee) and greatly lifted the morale of the Southern homefront.

Blackburn Davis did not finish the campaign, however. Federal troops captured him on June 2, 1862 following the skirmish at Strasburg.

Lincoln intended to crush Jackson before he was able to withdraw down the Valley Pike from Harpers Ferry. To that end, he ordered Frémont to move to Harrisonburg. When bad roads, blocked mountain passes, and the starved state of Frémont’s army made that plan impractical, Lincoln authorized Frémont to march through the Allegheny toward Strasburg. At the same time, he directed McDowell to move against Strasburg from Front Royal. Lincoln hoped to catch Jackson in a vise, but he also considered either column capable of defeating him independently of the other. It was all “a question of legs,” Lincoln told McDowell.

On June 1 Frémont skirmished inconclusively with a blocking force under Ewell. McDowell failed to move at all, and the Confederates slipped through Strasburg and up the Shenandoah Valley.

The divided US armies intended to envelope and destroy the Confederate Army of the Valley at Strasburg. The blocking force ensured that the main body remained covered, as Jackson’s army slipped through the trap, before securing the Valley, then continuing on to yet another round of victories around Richmond in the Seven Days Battles; which in turn collapsed the US Army’s Peninsula Campaign, thus saving the capital and the Confederacy.

Following his parole by the Provost Marshal of Shields’ Division at Luray on June 12, Blackburn Davis quickly returned home to Marion County.

On June 21, in a journal he kept throughout the war, Corporal Henry Solomon White from Company N of the (Unionist) Sixth Virginia Infantry Regiment, then encamped at Fairmont, recorded that his company commander “arrested a man near Worthington. He was in the secession army something like 10 months.” A few days later, Corporal White elaborated:

At 7 o’clock this evening a report came to town that there was a secession spy near Benton Ferry. Sergeant Hoge started in search of him with a squad of 10 men and arrested a man named Price near Worthington who is convicted of treason or as being one of the party that burnt those bridges near Mannington. The man that Captain Kenney took near Worthington on the 21st is also convicted of the same act. His name is Blackburn Davis. There is evidence against them in circuit court of the county. I think they are played out at present.

Blackburn Davis was not played out. In 1863 he married Sarah Ann Jolliffe, whose brother Morgan Jolliffe served with Jesse and Blackburn Davis in Company A of the 31st Virginia Infantry Regiment. Elizabeth Morgan, the mother of Sarah Ann and Morgan Jolliffe, descended from the Morgans and the Pricketts.

It remains unknown how Blackburn Davis escaped the typical fate of a parole violator, especially one who is captured as an irregular.  One possible explanation for his survival is that the unit which captured him partly recruited in Marion County, where Blackburn’s family lived since his great-grandfather moved to the area in the 1790’s. Blackburn Davis likely knew a number of his captors.

It is likewise unclear precisely which bridges Blackburn Davis destroyed near Mannington during his brief guerilla saboteur campaign in June of 1862. However, he may have left one clue.

Blackburn’s father, Asa Davis (1802-1890), was the son of Robert Davis (1776-1860) and Mary Coon.  Mary was a daughter of Anthony Coon, a Revolutionary War veteran of the 13th Virginia Regiment.  The extended Kuhn/Koon/Coon family leant their names to various places in Virginia, such as Koon Town. The residents of this settlement elected to change its name to Mannington, in honor of a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad official named Manning, when the B&O laid track through the town in the 1850’s.

The B&O Railroad played a vital role in the Federal war effort, linking Washington DC, through Confederate Virginia, to the US. The B&O’s importance can scarcely be overestimated; US President Abraham Lincoln declared the B&O’s President John Garrett to be “the right arm of the Federal Government…”

Blackburn Davis, whose extended family flourished throughout the countryside surrounding Mannington, spent the end of his one-year enlistment serving in the legendary Foot Cavalry of General Stonewall Jackson, whose own audacious raid on the B&O Railroad at the beginning of the war remains a source of controversy to this day.  Although Corporal White, who wrote in his journal about the capture of Blackburn Davis, served in a company which formed “for the purpose of guarding bridges on the B&O RR,” he did not specify whether Price and Davis destroyed bridges on the B&O line.

However in the autumn of 1863, following the secession of West Virginia from the Confederacy, Federal officials moved into Marion County to catalogue the inhabitants suitable for conscription. In spite of the fact that Blackburn Davis, his father, his brothers, and his sons appear in nearly every other record as farmers or farm laborers — and in spite of the fact that neither the Federal authorities nor the B&O officials would have likely allowed a known, twice-captured, Confederate saboteur anywhere near the B&O — when the Federal conscription officials asked his profession, Blackburn Davis answered “rail roader.”

Jesse Davis finished the Valley Campaign in 1862, and continued fighting until his capture in the fall of Petersburg, when the invader shipped him off for a brief stay in the prison at Hart’s Island, NY.  Morgan Jolliffe died from wounds sustained in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. In 1864 Sarah Ann and Blackburn Davis named their first son Charles Morgan “Charley” Davis. Sarah Ann would bear three more children for Blackburn Davis, as he slipped back into the quiet life of a yeoman farmer.

Charles Morgan Davis (1864-1941), Lexina Davis Shore (1875-1924), John Rymer Davis I (1868-1929), and Minnie Ida Davis Starkey (1866-1933)
Charley walked alongside his father in late August, 1882, when the Ohio-born James Perry Province, a teenage son and nephew of various Union Army veterans, stalked and ambushed Blackburn Davis with a large-caliber rifle. 

The Harrisburg Telegraph, Page 1, September 7, 1882
Charley quickly retrieved one of the firearms his father carried, and returned fire at the coward Province, who immediately fled West Virginia, retreating all the way to the Pacific Northwest; soon followed by his father and various other relatives. He eluded justice, and died in Portland, Oregon in 1958.  The Davises sustained a casualty rate of fifty percent in the Battle of Plum Run, yet held the field to win a strategic victory in the Province-Davis Feud.

The Wheeling Intelligencer, Page 1, September 15, 1882
Blackburn Davis lived nearly two weeks with his ribs, kidneys, liver, and spine shot through. He died on September 12, 1882, surrounded by his family. His descendants are numerous, and they have served in the US military in every war from the South Pacific to Iraq. Although the Wheeling Intelligencer stated that Blackburn Davis died at the age of forty-five, the Marion County Court Clerk recorded that he died aged thirty-nine, of “Violence.”

Caleb Davis, Cedar Creek Hundred, DE 1746-1821 Monongalia County, VA (Marion County, WV)

Caleb Davis and his wife Leah Basnett Davis are buried at Davis Ridge Cemetery in Marion County, WV.  They arrived to what was then Monongalia County, Virginia sometime in the 1790’s, having migrated from Cedar Creek Hundred, Delaware.  Although their descendants are numerous and well-documented, the origins of Caleb Davis remain shrouded in mystery.

One would not know of any mystery regarding the origin of Caleb Davis if one were to merely check various public family trees at Ancestry dot com.  Many free online sources, such as this family history offered by Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendants, Inc affirm that which many descendants of Caleb Davis believe they know to be true: Caleb is the son of Thomas William Davis (1712-1786), son of the Quaker clergyman William Davis II (1663-1745) of Llansteffan, Wales who arrived at Philadelphia in the 1680’s.

However the William Davis DNA Project has dispelled this myth.  Apparently the haplogroup of descendants of William II is I2a, whereas all descendants of Caleb Davis test into the R1b1b2 group.

Caleb’s parents are likely Robert Davis (1720-1794) and Susannah Hart, Robert belonging to an old Maryland family which arrived in the early 1600’s and then settled an area which eventually became Delaware. At present however, this has yet to be proven to a certainty.

Moving on to yet another great mystery of Caleb Davis is his Revolutionary War service.  According to both the Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the grave of Caleb Davis in Davis Ridge Cemetery, Marion County, WV is the registered grave of a Revolutionary War Patriot.

This is problematic.  Neither organization lists the unit or state served. Indeed, no Caleb Davis fought for Revolutionary Delaware or Maryland (or Virginia).  The graves of the four Caleb Davises who did serve in the Revolution, from Pennsylvania, Boston, New York, and New Jersey, are all accounted for.

It is most often the Caleb Davis of Pennsylvania — Chester County, to be exact — with whom our Caleb Davis is confused. This could very well be an innocent mistake, due to the fact that Caleb of Chester County, PA owned land in what eventually became Delaware County, PA.  These people all lived in a time when boundaries were fluid.  Caleb of Chester County is a well-documented minuteman, a committee member, and a Colonel of Chester County, PA militia. His wife is Lydia Boon, he died in 1813, and he is buried in Kingsessing.

The only other information which ever seems to be offered in support of the Revolutionary War service of our Caleb Davis are Monongalia County militia rolls from 1802 and 1804, and a pension awarded to a Caleb Davis for a wound in the right thigh. The militia rolls do list the names of Robert, Clement, Henry, and Caleb Davis, and Caleb did have sons named Robert, Clement, and Henry; however Caleb also named a son after himself, and so the Caleb Davis enrolled in the Monongalia County militia is likely Caleb II, serving alongside his brothers, in lieu of their elderly father.  Not to mention the fact that 1804 is two decades after the Revolutionary War concluded.

Moreover the pension belonged to a War of 1812 veteran from Delaware who happened to be named Caleb Davis, and its initial reward is dated 1881 – six decades after our Caleb I died.

So what sources do we actually have on the Revolutionary War service of Caleb Davis I, 1746-1821, from Cedar Creek Hundred, DE?

According to page 1331 of Volume III, Delaware Archives Revolutionary War in Three Volumes, the Revolutionary Delaware militia took Caleb Davis prisoner.

Caleb Davis is immediately preceded on that list by one Samuel Basnet; Caleb’s wife Leah Basnett had a brother named Samuel.  Their names appear only in this instance, but some of the other individuals listed on page 1331 are mentioned elsewhere – and specifically charged with treason against Revolutionary Delaware.

Caleb Davis and his brother-in-law Samuel Basnet apparently participated, to some extent or another, in the colonial British loyalist effort to counter the Revolution. Most participants in the local 1780 Black Camp Rebellion came from Cedar Creek Hundred, all from Sussex and Kent counties. It is therefore the theory of this historian that the Black Camp Rebellion is the very context in which the Delaware militia imprisoned Caleb Davis and Samuel Basnet.  In fact this likely explains the 1790’s migration to the extreme edge of civilization, in northwestern Virginia.

Some background information on the Black Camp Rebellion, from page 44 of Michael Morgan’s Pirates and Patriots, Tales of the Delaware Coast:

Although many coastal residents supported the American cause and called for independence, it was not unusual to remain loyal to the King; a significant number of county residents believed it was only right. At the same time, the years of strife had driven some people of Sussex County to seek an end to government of any kind.

The Black Camp Rebellion threatened to erupt into a major uprising in 1780 when some 400 men from Cedar Creek and Slaughter Neck gathered in the swampy area near the center of Sussex County. The men who joined the ranks of the Black Camp Rebellion were motivated by a variety of issues. A contemporary reported that, “Some of these ignorant people were for opposing all law;” others were in favor of re-establishing British royal law. Some were tax rebels who opposed all government taxes. All seemed to believe that most of the people south of Virginia had already submitted to the British army, and the rebels believed “that they should very easily make Sussex County do the same.”

When news of the Black Camp Rebellion reached the patriot authorities, the militia from Kent County was dispatched to disperse the rebels. The leaders were captured, convicted of treason, and sentenced to be drawn and quartered. Fortunately for the eight condemned men, the American Revolution was also a rebellion against “cruel and unusual punishments.” In those days, the trend was away from torture. On November 4, 1780, the Delaware General Assembly pardoned all of the leaders of the Black Camp Rebellion, and the eight men were saved from literally being torn “limb from limb.”

The general pardon did not end the turmoil, however. According to page 68 of Stephen P. Halbrook’s A Right to Bear Arms: State and Federal Bills of Rights and Constitutional Guarantees:

After the war, Whigs refused to recognize rights to suffrage by the loyalists or “Black Camp men.” Interference in elections by armed bodies continued unabated in Delaware for another decade. Disturbances reaches a peak in October 1787, just as the states began to consider the proposed federal Constitution. In Delaware, the Constitution raised little controversy, both Tories and Whigs favoring the new system. While the other states debated the proposal, Delaware debated the Sussex election.”

Charles Polk and Rhoads Shankland were among the Tories elected in a tumultuous situation at the Sussex polls. Protests were lodged with the legislature that militia companies entered Lewes and, “furnished with pistols, clubs, cutlasses, etc to the great terror of the peaceable inhabitants,” beat and prevented people from voting.” . . .

Electoral disturbances continued in Sussex County for years. In early 1790, the General Assembly repealed an act which disenfranchised loyalists. However, events at the Delaware constitutional convention the following year would reveal that arms and suffrage were still being debated by the same Whigs and Tories.

Whether or not the Caleb Davis and Samuel Basnet held captive by Delaware militia circa 1780 are in fact the husband and brother of Leah Basnett Davis who is buried in Davis Ridge Cemetery, this chaotic post-Revolutionary scene is precisely what Caleb and Leah left behind at Cedar Creek Hundred when they moved to Virginia in the 1790’s.

We can be certain that our Caleb Davis was no Revolutionary patriot.  And we can reasonably conclude that he — like a majority of British colonists in many areas throughout the nascent US during the Revolutionary War — was a loyalist. Or perhaps he was merely a “tax rebel who opposed all government taxes.” If the latter, then he certainly would not be the last of his line to espouse such a principled philosophy.