COLONEL JEFFERSON C. DAVIS
Commander, 3rd Division
Jefferson C. Davis, not to be confused with the President of the Confederate States, began his military career as a private during the Mexican War. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Buena Vista and was given a direct commission to Second Lieutenant. He remained in the army after the war, and in April 1861 was stationed at Fort Sumter guarding the harbor at Charleston, SC. After the bombardment and surrender of the fort to South Carolina troops, Davis received a volunteer commission to Colonel and given command of the 22nd Indiana Infantry.
He was placed in command of Curtis's 3rd Division and distinguished himself in the battle. Davis was promoted to Brigadier General for his actions at Pea Ridge and was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland. There, he became one of the Union Army's most controversial generals. In September, 1862, Davis and his commander, General William Nelson, got into an heated argument in the middle of a Louisville hotel lobby. Nelson cursed and swore at Davis, and Indiana's governor Oliver Morton, who was also present. Finally, Nelson slapped Davis twice. Davis left the hotel, took a pistol from another officer, returned and shot Nelson in the heart. Davis was never prosecuted for the murder of Nelson, most likely due to political influence from Governor Morton, and was quickly restored to duty.
Davis commanded a division at Stone's River and Chickamauga, and later, the XIV Corps under Sherman. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of Major General and was one of General Sherman’s most capable and trusted commanders.
After the war, he was the military commander in Alaska and fought in the west against the Modoc Indians. He died in Chicago in 1879.
Did You Know?
The Elkhorn Tavern served as headquarters and hospital for both the Union and Confederate armies at different times during the battle.