Thomas Prevatt Davis

Thomas Prevatt Davis was Richard White's great great uncle

T. P. (Thomas Prevatt) Davis was Hugh Craven Davis's younger brother, Jonah Beale Davis's older brother, and the second oldest son of Jonas B. and Clarissa Prevatt Davis of Decatur (now Grady) County, Georgia.  On 10 May 1862, two days after his older brother was mustered into the 2nd Florida Cavalry, Thomas Prevatt Davis was mustered into the "Quincy Young Guards", Captain Waller's Company of the 8th Florida Volunteer Infantry Regiment, as a private.  This company was subsequently designated Company B, 8th Florida Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Some 75 men from Decatur County, Georgia, comprised the initial membership of the unit, along with 50 men from the adjoining Gadsden County, Florida.

Apparently T. P. Davis did not immediately take to the military way of doing things.  His name appears on a company return for May 1862 as "Absent without leave not having reported when mustered-in."  But it was not long before he participated most fully in military endeavors of considerable note.

The 8th Florida was assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia, initially to General James Longstreet's 1st Corps, and to A. P. Hill's 3d Corps from the Battle of Gettysburg until the end of the war.  Upon mustering in in the Spring of 1862, the strength of the unit was 950 men.  Although an unknown number of "replacements" were recruited into the 8th Florida during the war, only 4 officers and 28 men surrendered at Appomattox.  In between their record is that of the Army of Northern Virginia.  In late August 1862, they were baptized under fire at 2nd Manassas.  They then participated in the capture of Harper's Ferry to the bloodiest day of the war, 17 September 1862.  On that day, near Sharpsburg Maryland (Antietam Creek) the 8th Florida was part of the defense of the sunken road known forever afterwards as "Bloody Lane".  On 11 December 1862, at Fredricksburg, the 8th Florida supported Barksdale's two Mississippi regiments in engaging the Federal troops from houses in downtown Fredericksburg as Burnsides' men tried to cross the Rappahannock. It lost 7 killed, 24 wounded and 20 captured that day, and more the next.  At Chancellorsville Lee divided his forces in the face of Hooker's superior strength, and held Hooker's attention to only 1/3 of his force (which included the 8th Florida), while Jackson flanked with the other 2/3.  At Chancellorsville, the 8th Florida lost 11 killed and 28 wounded.   At Bristoe Station, the 8th Florida lost 3 killed and 21 wounded.  Then came the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Courthouse, Bloody Angle, Cold Harbor.  At Cold Harbor Grant was able to breech only one part of the six-mile Confederate defensive line... a section commanded by Col. George S. Patton.  The Florida Brigade, with the 8th Florida at its center, counterattacked into the breech and though outnumbered 5 to 1, prevailed with a loss of 20 men.  At Petersburg, the Florida Brigade held the right flank. In the pre-dawn hours of 2 April 1865 A.P. Hill's Corps of 10,000 men spread over an 11 mile front was shattered by a night attack of 65,000 Union troops.  The Petersburg defenses collapsed.  Hill was killed in the fray and that night the Army of Northern Virginia began a withdrawal to the west.  On the afternoon of 6 April Richard H. Anderson, then commanding the 3d Corps, deployed it along Sayler's Creek to prevent Sheridan's cavalry from taking Lee's wagon train.  But Custer's cavalry division broke through and captured a good part of the 8th Florida and other elements of Anderson's old Division.  On 9 April 1865 the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered.  On 12 April the Florida Brigade surrendered 64 officers and 441 men, 4 officers and 28 men of those were the remnant of the 8th Florida.

On 12 August 1862 T. P. Davis was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 4 at Richmond, Virginia, suffering from "Debility".  This was shortly after the 8th Florida reached Richmond, and probably reflected the hurried movement of unseasoned troops to the front.  For instance, Lieutenant Booth of the 8th Florida died of pneumonia on 7 August 1862. T. P. Davis recovered and was returned to duty on 20 August 1862.  He was admitted to the General Hospital at Farmville, Virginia, on 2 November 1862 with "chills and fever" and returned to duty on 26 November 1862.

Next to T. P. Davis's name on the company muster roll for March and April 1863 appears the remark: "Wounded in battle of Chancellorsville & sent to hospital."  A list dated near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on 9 May 1863 shows him "wounded contusion of hip".  On 7 May 1863 he was admitted to General Hospital No. 18 (formerly Greacer's Hospital) in Richmond, Virginia with a notation that the wound was "v.s." (very slight).  He was transferred to the Florida Hospital on 21 May 1863.  The date of his release from the hospital is not mentioned in surviving records but it appears that he was not returned to duty in time to participate in the Battle of Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, the Eighth Florida Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the Florida Brigade of which it was part, arrived too late to participate in the first day of the battle, 1 July 1863.  However, they were fully engaged on both July 2nd and 3rd.  On the 3rd of July, the Florida Brigade assaulted Cemetery Ridge in an attack that was supposed to have been a follow through after the assault by Pickett's Division.  Instead, it met the same fate as the Virginians.  In two days of fighting, by my calculations 60% of the men of the 8th Florida were casualties. Every man who had responsibility for its regimental colors fell in the assault on Cemetery Ridge and the colors fell with them.  The flag of the 8th Florida was trampled unnoticed by the first Union unit to pass that way.  A soldier in second Union unit noticed the 8th Florida's colors laying there, claimed credit for their "capture" and received a Congressional Medal of Honor for "capturing" them.  Those colors were returned to Florida some years after the War, and are now on display in the Museum of Florida History in the R.A. Gray State Library and Archives building in Tallahassee. Private Isaac Sidney Barrineau, of Company B, 8th Florida Infantry, who was wounded in the battle wrote a letter home to his younger sister Kate on 18 July 1863.  In that letter he stated that Company B went into the battle with 57 men and came out of it with 7 men (89% casualties).  He named 3 of the 7 who came through the battle unscathed.  T. P. Davis was not among those named.  So he could have been one of the unnamed 4, but I think it most likely that he was not there.  Either way, he was extremely lucky.

Soldiers of Florida notes that T. P. Davis was wounded at Bristoe Station on 14 October 1863.  He was sent from Receiving and Wayside Hospital No. 9 at Richmond, Virginia, to Hospital No. 11, on 7 December 1863.  Whether this is was in connection with that wound or some other malady is not clear.

He was captured along with his younger brother, Jonah Beale Davis, at Farmville, Virginia, on 6 April 1865.  That capture occurred during the Confederate retreat from the Richmond-Petersburg defenses and only 3 days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysees Grant at Appomattox Court House.  Part of the 8th Florida and other units of Anderson's Brigade were captured by Union General George Armstrong Custer's cavalry in a rear guard action at Farmville (Sayler's Creek).  As was rather usual for Custer, he was exceeding his orders at the time... since he was supposed to avoid engagement and only report the Confederate Army's position.

That 3 days made a lot of difference.  While the Confederate soldiers who made it all the way to Appomattox were wending their weary way home bearing their small arms and riding any livestock they could lay claim to, those captured at Farmville remained Union prisoners of war.  Union records indicate that the Davis brothers were sent to Newport News.  Thomas P. Davis arrived there from City Point on 14 April 1865.  In his application for a Confederate pension from the state of Georgia indicated that he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia.  He was not released at Newport News until 21 June 1865, 2 1/2 months after Lee's surrender.  His Oath of Allegiance gave the following physical description:  complexion - "Dark",  eyes - "Black", and height - "five feet 8 inches".

This account owes much to Phil McCall's manuscript "Regimental Sergeant Major Thomas Chalmers McCall, 8th Florida Infantry, Company B". Phil McCall is probably related to Sergeant Major McCall. He is definitely related to Lieutenant John W. Booth, and to the McCalls who owned the McCall House now at the Nicholson Farm House Restaurant, which is the building in which the Finley's Brigade Camp # 1614 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has often met.


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This page was created by Richard White on 18 October 1997.
Changes to this page were last made by Richard White on 17 September 2002.