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Alfred Ward Grayson Davis papers

Two manuscript volumes, 8 December [18]62 - 14 September [18]64 and 24 September [18]64 - 25 April 1865, of Alfred Ward Grayson Davis (1806-1865) and Charles Lewis Davis (1840-1907) present a unified account of the endeavors of father and son as they worked in the capacity of Confederate Post Quarter Master at Greenville. The letterbooks are official in nature and contain no personal letters. The subject of most of the letters is the acquisition through purchase or impressment, shipment, receipt, and distribution of goods necessary to the war effort, among them corn, oats, rye, fodder, horses and mules, iron, horse shoes, nails, wool, cotton yarn, cloth, clothing, hides, leather, harness, shoes, wagons, and ambulances. Others concern the need for clerks, teamsters, money, stationery, blank forms, ink, pens, pencils, and blotters.

A native of Vanceburg, Ky., Alfred Davis enrolled in 1824 as a cadet at West Point, where he roomed with his cousin Jefferson Davis. Leaving the Military Academy before graduating, Davis studied law and in 1827 was appointed attorney general of the Arkansas Territory by President Andrew Jackson. In 1831 he moved to the Mississippi Delta to plant cotton and was soon elected major general in the Mississippi militia. Davis married a Virginian in 1834 and established a homestead on the Greenbrier River, southwest of Lewisburg, W.Va. In the years following his marriage, the elder Davis moved from western Virginia, first to Texas and later to Mississip-pi. By the time of the secession crisis, however, he was back in Virginia, a member of the state legislature and delegate to that state's secession convention.

Although Alfred Davis had initially opposed secession, in the opening years of the war he became active in organizing resistance to Northern invasion. In September 1862 he was commissioned a major in the Confederate Quarter Master Department and received orders to assume the duties of Post Quarter Master at Greenville. Davis also served as Post Comman-dant until Maj. John Durant Ashmore was appointed enrolling officer for what was then the Fifth Congressional District. Because Greenville was the terminus of the Greenville & Columbia Railroad, the Confederate government recognized that the bustling village of three thousand stood to serve as a crucial supply hub for the South. Moreover, the Quarter Master General recognized the upstate's potential importance as a bread basket for the Confedera-cy. Because of the railroad, Green-ville's economic sphere of influence extended north-ward to Asheville, N.C., eastward to Spartanbu-rg, southward to Green-wood, and westward to Anderson.

Greenville and its upcountry environs grew little cotton, yet the piedmont traditionally produced large quantities of corn to supply itself and the drovers from Tennessee and Kentucky who traded with Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston. The railroad, which came to Greenville in 1853, had effectually killed the drover trade south of Greenville, and by the time of the war surplus grain was readily available to supply the Confeder-ate army. Greenville too boasted a budding textile industry based on water power, another pipeline that the Confederacy needed to tap. The regional transportation infrastruc-ture was equally conducive to commerce. A stage line connected Greenville to Asheville, N.C.; a tri-weekly coach to Greene-ville, Tenn., provided a crucial westward link; and the proximity of Abingdon, Va., less than two hundred miles distant, was equally important because of its connection with the railroad running east.

When Alfred Davis arrived at Greenville in December 1862, he immediately requested a credit appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars from Secretary of the Treasury Christopher G. Memminger. Shortly thereafter, on General Beaure-gard's orders, he wrote to eight local business firms inquiring about their ability to support the war effort: Gower, Cox, Markley & Co., manufactur-ers of wagons, carriages, and other vehicles; Grady, Hawthorn & Perry, manufacturers of cotton and woolen cloth, paper, and milled wheat, successors to Vardry McBee's Reedy River Factory; William J. Gibson, trustee for Weaver's Factory, manufacturers of cotton cloth; Hodges, Davis & Co., manufacturer of shoes; William Bates, manufacturer of cotton yarn on Rocky Creek at Batesville; Samuel N. Morgan & Co., manufacturer of cotton and woolen cloth at Cedar Hill Factory on South Tyger River; Lester Brothers, manufacturers of cotton cloth on Enoree River at Pelham; and David Lopez, Superintendent of the State Military Works, manufacturer of guns and other iron and brass-work.

Davis was quick, too, to communicate with Quarter Master General Abraham C. Myers. In a letter of 11 December 1862 he extolled the merits of Greenville as a crucial supply depot for the Confederacy. "I have made much inquiry about the amount of corn to place in this portion of South Carolina. I am satisfied that in this and the neighboring Districts, after leaving enough to supply the needs of the inhabitants, a million bushels of corn, should the exigencies of war require it, could be obtained in this quarter." Davis was equally impressed with the region's manufac-tur-ing capacity and advised that the Confederate government tap area tanyards and factories for the manufac-ture of shoes. "In Greenville District alone there are fifteen tan-yards known to me. There may be more. There are in a days ride of this place twenty-five. I am in-formed...that an almost unlimit-ed amount of leather can be furnished if the tanyards here can obtain the hides....If I have power to take the leather from the tanyards at a fair compensa-tion or at prices posted by the Department and also authority to bring back from the Army the laborers who have toiled in the shoe-makers staff in past years, I can furnish you two hundred pair of shoes a day for an indefi-nite period or during the war."

Then as now, the upstate's potential for manufacture made the area particularly attractive. "There is a woolen Factory six miles from this place which turns out from one hundred to two hundred and twenty yards of woolen cloth daily," Davis reported. "There is also a cotton Factory which turns out three hundred and fifty yards of cotton cloth. Besides fifty bunches of yarn daily there are also three other cotton factories one of which is larger that the one above-mentioned. There is also a paper mill which turns out seventy five reams of letter paper or fifty reams of foolscap daily. There is a wagon manufactory here with capacity to turn out three wagons or ambulances daily, and by a return of the hands taken from them for army purposes their capacity is double they operate by water power. There was before this war large saddlery establishments here which have been stopped by taking away the operatives for other purposes. They can be easily restored if needed. I am informed by a Tailor here that any amount of clothing can be made by the women of the town and county if the clothing and trimmings be furnished."

Davis exerted his influence in many ways. He appointed disabled veterans to spot draft dodgers and deserters and offered rewards for their apprehension. Learning that there were three distilleries in the vicinity of Greenville, he arranged for the medical purveyor in Columbia to contract to buy several thousand gallons of alcohol. He bought hundreds of horses and mules for shipment to Columbia and on one occasion drove two hundred horses and mules to Raleigh, N.C. In September 1863, however, Alfred Davis' health failed, and mounting differences with his superior, General Beauregard's staff Quarter Master, Maj. Hutson Lee, convinced him to relinquish his duties as Post Quarter Master. En route home to western Virginia, Davis was captured and mistreat-ed by Union soldiers. He remained an invalid for the rest of his life. Charles Lewis Davis, a graduate of the University of Virginia and medical doctor who had served as a captain in the Stonewall Brigade but was impaired from further duty in the field, now succeeded his father as Post Quarter Master at Greenville.

Reporting to Quarter Master General A.R. Lawton on 1 July 1864 and to Adjutant and Inspector General Samuel Cooper on 30 September 1864, Charles Davis ennumerated the following responsibilities: issuing coupons on railroads and stage lines for soldiers, officers, and stores; providing quarters for troops and officers and store houses for officers; furnishing transportation for Quarter Master and Commissary stores to and from store houses and to troops stationed near Greenville; buying wool and exchanging cotton yarns and cloth for the same; paying commutation of quarters and fuel; furnishing clothing to soldiers; furnishing fuel and straw to the local hospital; procuring and issuing forage to cavalry; and other duties incidental to a Post Quarter Master.

In many ways Charles Davis carried on the work started by his father, but as the war wore on his letters came to reflect a sense of urgency, obliga-tion, and compas-sion toward both the civilian and military populace with whom he interacted. On 24 October 1864, Davis penned a letter to Hutson Lee requesting that the Quarter Master for South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida send him "several hundred suits of clothes including Shirts, Drawers, Jackets, and Shoes." "Recently, numbers of Soldiers have passed through this place, in a most destitute condition; nearly naked and barefoot," Davis explained. "I have continual applica-tions, and many who make those applications are really forlorn looking. The inclemencies of the Winter Season are approaching; and I would like to have it in my power to relieve those, of the most needy, who may apply." A similar letter to Quarter Master General A.R. Lawton, 25 March 1865, noted that Davis had "on hand 500 pair shoes turned over to me on storage" and requested permission "to issue them as there are a large number of Soldiers passing through this place barefooted." And a 25 October 1864 request to Lawton pleads the case for two indigent upstate women from whom corn had been confiscated by Confederate cavalry.

By early April 1865, the fortunes of the Southern Confederacy were at low ebb. Davis' records indicate that several members of the Confederate Congress fleeing capture traveled from Spartanburg to Greenville and that his department furnished feed for their horses. By late April, the Post Quarter Master was aware that Union troops occupied Asheville, N.C., and anticipat-ed a raid. Communi-cating with Greenville & Columbia Rail Road superin-tendent J.B. LaSalle, 9 April 1865, Davis urged that "a train be sent here" to transport "articles of very great value." With limited means, he did the best he could to move his valuable property toward Augusta. Charles Davis' final record is dated 25 April 1865. Still at his post, Davis continued to carry out the official duties which he and his father before him had performed throughout much of the war. The anticipat-ed raid on Greenville came on 3 May 1865. Charles Davis returned home to western Virginia.

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