Fallen Heroes: Private William Davy

Ohio Troops at Camp Harrison, Ohio

Often what makes historical research so frustrating can also be what makes it so fulfilling. I decided to look into the brief life of Private William Davy (1844-1863) precisely because I could find so little information about him. Now having done so, I am proud to bring his story of service out from under the shadows of time.


The Davy family settled in the Tuscarawas County/Carroll County line area early in the 19th century. John D. Davy (1820-1889) was a son of the family patriarch, also named John (1775-1847). The younger John, his wife Mariah Buskirk (1818-1898), and their four children were living in Fairfield Township, Tuscarawas County in 1850. The children ranged in age from 8 to 2 years old. John’s father’s will divided much of his estate among his children when he died, and rather than stay in Tuscarawas County, John moved his family to Putnam County, Ohio.

The Davy family settled near the town of Pandora in Putnam County, and it was here where William Davy was living when he entered military service in the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The regiment was in service since April 1861 and when the original three month enlistment period expired, it was reconstituted as a three-year regiment in September 1861. William enlisted on September 1, 1861.

Regimental colors of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. (Source: https://ohiopix.org/record-display/p267401coll32/10039/)

As with many of Ohio’s regiments, the 21st was destined to see much of its service in the western theater of war. Early in 1862, the regiment was sent to Tennessee as part of the campaign to capture the city of Nashville. Nine members of the 21st, though not including William Davy, took part in the failed hijacking of the Confederate locomotive The General in April 1862. Later that year the regiment took part in the siege of Nashville in the fall of 1862 and the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro) at the end of December 1862.

Following Stones River the regiment went into camp with the rest of the Army of the Cumberland. The army’s commander, General William Rosecrans requested that the war department provide his cavalry with more modern repeating weapons. As a result of this request, and in spite of them being an infantry regiment, the 21st was issued 5-shot Colt revolving rifles. William Davy would never use his new firearm in battle.

General William S. Rosecrans in camp near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, January 1863. (Source: https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.51272/)

Like many soldiers during the Civil War, William Davy was exposed to a variety of camp diseases that were often more dangerous to their survival than battle. While it is not known what the precise cause of William Davy’s eventual disability was, he was discharged from the army on May 4, 1863 as a result. Whatever he suffered from must have been very serious as he would pass away eight mere days after his discharge.

William Davy spent most of his short life in the county of his birth before his service to the country. The fact that he was ultimately buried in another Ohio county after his service does not diminish his place as a fallen hero of Tuscarawas County.

William Davy’s headstone in Pandora Cemetery, Putnam County, Ohio. (Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/77559122/william-davy)

© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.

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