Friday, June 13, 2008

Edward Porter Davidson

Edward Porter Davidson was born February 1, 1840, in Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan.

Both of his parents were reportedly born in New York but settled for a time in Pennsylvania. Apparently Edward’s family left Pennsylvania and settled in (returned to) New York, quite probably Elmira, where Jonathan died when Edward was still quite young; he was subsequently raised by a lumber dealer in Elmira. (Curiously, in 1850 there was one Edward Davidson, eleven years old, living with a butcher named Charles Brooks and his family in Athens, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.)

Sometime around 1859 Edward came to Michigan and lived with his sister in Owosso, Shiawassee County where he worked in the lumber industry. By the following year, 1860, Edward had moved further west and was a farm laborer working for and/or living with William Thompson in Crockery, Ottawa County.

Edward stood 6’ tall, with black eyes, black hair and a dark complexion and was 21 years old and probably still living in Crockery when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) He was wounded on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Virginia, but he soon rejoined the Regiment and had probably been promoted to Sergeant by the time he was wounded a second time on July 2 at the battle of Gettysburg, and was hospitalized from July 2 to July 8 and treated for a gunshot wound to the left groin. (He claimed after the war that the musket ball remained lodged in his groin.)

After he was wounded at Gettysburg, Edward was eventually transferred to Mower hospital in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He remained at Mower hospital until about November 20, 1863, when he was transferred to the convalescent camp at Washington, DC (probably Camp Convalescent near Alexandria, Virginia). He remained in the Washington area about three weeks before being sent home on furlough.

In January of 1864 he was reported in the hospital, but apparently had rejoined the Regiment by late February when he reenlisted on February 29, near Culpeper, Virginia, crediting Muskegon, Muskegon County (for which act he received a $150 bounty). He was absent on veteran’s furlough in from April 6, 1864, and probably returned to the Regiment sometime in late April or early May.

He was transferred as a Sergeant to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. On November 3, 1864, the Grand Rapids Eagle printed the following letter from Davidson, under the headline, “A Soldier's Sentiments.” “Speaking of the peace advocates he says:

They will tell you to vote for McClellan as the only man qualified to establish the old Union, and to secure an honorable and lasting peace. But be not deceived by these cunning tricks, for once masters of this Government and utter ruin and anarchy would be the inevitable result. In Abraham Lincoln we recognize the best man -- a man qualified to pilot the good old ship Union safely through the awful hurricane of civil war, that now sweeps with such unrelenting fury over the fairest portions of our once united and prosperous country. While we soldiers, ‘mid the angry roar of battle present to our enemies in the field a bold front, we earnestly entreat you, our former comrades in arms, at home, by everything you love on earth and by everything you hope for in heaven, to exhibit a like courage in standing by the present administration in the coming election, and repelling the cowardly assaults of domestic traitors, and by again elevating Mr. Lincoln to the high position he has so nobly and honorably filled for nearly 4 years, demonstrate to our enemies and ‘misguided brethren’ of the South the utter folly of longer contending for a separation of this great country. Elect Lincoln this fall and only a few more weeks of self-sacrificing devotion and we shall have conquered a sure and pasting peace. And then, oh how gladly will we soldier boys forsake the bloody path of war, and return once more to friends and the peaceful avocations of civil life. Be true to your friends and country.

Edward was First Sergeant when he was wounded severely and taken prisoner on October 27, 1864, at the battle of Boydton Plank road near Petersburg, Virginia. While a prisoner-of-war, Davidson was commissioned a Second Lieutenant as of October 15, replacing Lieutenant Fred Barker. The commission was forwarded to the Regiment on October 25, but he was never mustered as such, having been captured.

He was first confined at Richmond (probably Libby prison) on October 28, then sent to the prison at Salisbury, North Carolina, on November 4. He was paroled on February 2 (or 27), 1865, at N.E. Ferry, North Carolina (or Goldsboro), and apparently sent north to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio.

Edward was furloughed from Camp Chase, Ohio on either February 18 or March 21, 1865, for 30 days, but did not in fact return from his furlough until May 11. By the end of March he was in Nunica, Ottawa County. On March 25 he wrote to the mother of Chauncey Smith, also of the Third Michigan and who had also been captured at Boydton Plank road.


It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son Chauncey Smith. He was captured Oct. 27, 1864 in one of the battles in front of Petersburg with myself, and confined in the C. s. Military Prison at Salisbury, N.C. where he died sometime in Dec. I left my memorandum book in Grand Rapids & cannot give you the correct date today but if you desire it drop a lone to Grand Rapids or Nunica and it will receive prompt attention. Very respectfully, etc. Lieut. E. P. Davidson 5 Mich inft.

Edward was still in Nunica on April 5 when he wrote again to Chauncey Smith’s mother:

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your note of the 2nd inst in regard to the capture and death of your . . . [T]he information would state that he died the 24th day of December 1864. He caught a severe cold and it settled on his lungs. He had entirely recovered from his wound. He had as good care as the circumstances of the place afforded. Tis true that was none of the best, but all that could be done for him by his comrades was done. He [died?] in a tent with some 15 of his own regt. . . . I think I may venture to say that he got enough to eat such as it was. I did not see him buried. He was buried the same as they buried all of our dead men there in trenches outside of the prison. He was in his right mind to the last moment. He realized that his time for this world was short. But he said he was ready and willing to die and died happy. He said that he had been a true and faithful soldier to his country and he believed that he had made his peace with his maker. By his premature and untimely death you lost a worthy son and the country lost one of its best soldiers. Very respectfully etc., Lieut. E. P. Davidson, 5 Mich Vet Vol. Inft.

On April 25 Edward was examined by Dr. O. J. Bissell of Nunica, Ottawa County, examined Davidson, and certified “that he is afflicted with chronic diarrhea and opthalmia . . . and in consequence thereof he is not only unfit for duty but unable to travel to rejoin his station or to report to the U.S. Military Commander at Detroit” nor would he be able “to report as required in a less period than twenty (20) days.” Edward was discharged as a First Sergeant on June 19, 1865, from Camp Chase, Ohio.

After the war Edward returned to Crockery before moving on to Indiana where he lived for a time working as a timber estimator for the railroad. By April of 1871 he was living in Waterloo City, DeKalb County, Indiana. He was residing in Kendallville, Indiana in 1874 but he eventually returned to Michigan where he lived the rest of his life. By 1880 he was working as a foreman on the farm of William Thompson in Crockery, Ottawa County.

Edward was living in Nunica, Ottawa County, when he married Ohio native Matilda Elizabeth Wherly (1851-1939) in Grand Rapids on December 30, 1881, and they probably had at least two children: J. (1888-1924) and Ora B. (1892-1909).

He was still living in Nunica in 1883 when he was drawing $14.00 per month for a wound to the abdomen (pension no. 113,312).

By 1888 and 1890 Edward was living in Sullivan, Muskegon County where he engaged in farming for some years, and was elected Sullivan Township clerk in April of 1891; he also served as Township treasurer in 1902.

Edward became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association in 1871 and he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Bartholomew Post No. 136 in Nunica.

Edward died of typhoid fever on March 22, 1907, in Sullivan, and was buried in Nunica cemetery.

In May of 1907 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 639287).

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