Fallen Heroes: Sergeant Davis D. Cordrey

The vast majority of men who served during the Civil War did so in units raised by the individual states; however, the United States Regular Army needed men to fill its ranks. This is the story of one of those men.


The Cordrey family was residing in New Jersey by the middle of the 18th century and elements of the family would gradually move westward as expansion and land was far more obtainable. Nathan Cordrey (1774-1859) was living in New Philadelphia, Ohio by 1820 having moved from his birth state of Maryland and living briefly in Pennsylvania. Nathan and his wife, Dorcas O’Brien (1781-1863), had a number of chldren and among them was a son named Riley Cordrey (1812-1889).

Riley, according to one source, practiced the trades of wagonmaking in New Philadelphia and later in Shanesville. Eventually Riley earned enough money to turn to farming and start his own large family with his wife Sarah Barthaus (1816-1850). Riley and Sarah had six children before Sarah’s death, including four sons who would later serve during the Civil War. Riley married again following the death of Sarah in 1850; this time to Mary Smetts (1825-1889).

Canal boats in Ohio, 19th century. (Source: loc.gov)

One of those sons, Davis DeWitt Cordrey (1836-1863), answered President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers when he enlisted in April 1861 for three months service in the 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. After those three months were up, the regiment was reorganized at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati as a three-year regiment and Davis was discharged. He took a job as a boatman on a canal boat operating on the Miami & Erie Canal, eventually ending up in Toledo, Ohio. There he enlisted as a Private in Company D, 1st Battalion, of the 18th United States Infantry Regiment, a regular Army unit, on July 28, 1861.

By the end of November 1861 most of the regiment, including Private Cordrey’s company, was ordered to Louisville, Kentucky to report to General Don Carlos Buell, and his newly organized Army of the Ohio. The 18th Infantry was immediately placed into the force under Buell that, from December 1861 into part of February 1862, operated against Confederate forces under Generals A. S. Johnston and George Crittenden in Kentucky.

Battle of Perryville, Harper’s Weekly. (Source: wikipedia.com)

During the ensuing year of 1862, the 18th United States Infantry Regiment found itself marching all across Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Mississippi. It took part in numerous small engagements and larger battles including the battles at Shiloh, Perryville, and Stone’s River. Private Davis must have demonstrated his worth as a soldier since, during the year, he received two promotions; first to Sergeant and then to Lieutenant. Based on later records the latter promotion was likely a brevet, or temporary, promotion.

Whether Sergeant Cordrey was wounded in battle or suffered from illness is unclear, but in late December 1862 he was discharged for disability reasons at Gallatin, Tennessee. He died six months later and was buried in Union Cemetery in Port Washington. His wife applied for a Widow’s Pension after the war ended, which was granted based on Cordrey’s rank as a Sergeant. His father, with the rest of the Cordrey family, subsequently moved to Auglaize County.

Davis D. Cordrey’s headstone in Union Cemetery, Port Washington. (Source: findagrave.com)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

One thought on “Fallen Heroes: Sergeant Davis D. Cordrey

  1. Thank you for posting about Davis D. Cordrey, whose brother was James Franklin Cordrey (b.1846),my father’s maternal grandfather.

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