Benjamin "Grimes" Davis

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Photograph of
Photograph of "Grimes" Davis

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Significance:
Union Colonel, 5th Brigade, Cavalry Division
Place of Birth:
AL
Date of Birth:
December, 1831
Place of Death:
Beverly Ford, VA
Date of Death:
June 9, 1863
Place of Burial:
West Point, NY
Cemetery Name:
West Point Cemetery

From the Peninsula to Maryland: Davis' role in the summer of 1862

Benjamin Franklin Davis, known as “Grimes,” was a Mississippian who fought for the Union during the Civil War. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1854 and started his military career by serving with the 5th United States Infantry and later the 1st United States Dragoons. By July 1861 he was the Captain of Company K, 1st Dragoons. One year later Davis was recruited to serve as Colonel of the 8th New York Cavalry.

In early September 1862, Davis and the 8th New York were stationed at the Harpers Ferry garrison. Confederates under the command of Stonewall Jackson surrounded the garrison on September 13. After much fighting on Maryland Heights on that day and a barrage of artillery fire on the 14th, Davis realized the cavalry would be caught by the Confederates if they did not escape. On the evening of the September 14, 1862, Davis and other cavalry leaders met with garrison commander Colonel Dixon S. Miles and planned for the 1,400 cavalrymen to escape from Harpers Ferry. The plan was successful – Davis led the men and horses across the Potomac River pontoon bridge, around the base of Maryland Heights, and north along the Harpers Ferry-Sharpsburg Road. Not only did the cavalry escape, they also captured a Confederate ammunition train near Williamsport, Maryland consisting of 75 to 80 wagons and 300 horses and mules. They took the train to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and then the cavalrymen turned around and rejoined the Union forces at the Battle of Antietam.

In the spring of 1863, Davis was killed in combat at Beverly Ford, near Brandy Station, Virginia.