SHARING THE STORIES OF NORTHWEST CONNECTICUT'S AFRICAN AMERICAN CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS
Jesse W. Davis
Little is known about Private Jesse W. Davis’s experiences as a soldier in the 29th Connecticut Infantry during the Civil War, but his circumstances shine an important light on the composition of that regiment. Davis was born in 1828 in South Carolina, most likely as a slave. An examination of the places of birth of the men who enlisted in the 29th reveals that it was not uncommon for soldiers of the regiment to be from slave states. In fact, almost half of the regiment was born in a slave state, most from Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Nearly as many soldiers were born in these three states as in Connecticut.
There are several reasons why this may have been the case. With draft laws in effect, recruiters were employed to help towns meet quotas. Also - especially for former enslaved persons of the upper South - Connecticut’s formation of a Black regiment provided an opportunity for African Americans soldiers to serve the causes of emancipation and Union. Furthermore, the high number of soldiers born in Southern states may provide evidence about the operations of the Underground Railroad.
AA Civil War hospital, perhaps not unlike that where Jesse W. Davis died.
The fact that Davis was married in 1850 to Maria Simons - reportedly in Sharon, Connecticut - may point to the last of these explanations. Jesse became the father of Georgina and Charles Davis in the following years. However, there is no official record of his marriage with Maria, the specific date, or where it took place. Jesse Davis enlisted on January 5, 1864, and was officially mustered into the Union army as a private on March 8th of that year. Officially credited as a soldier to the town of Salisbury, he was 36 years old. He trained with the regiment in Fair Haven, and went to war, participating in all of the unit’s engagements. Unfortunately, on July 8th, 1865, Jesse W. Davis became sick with chronic diarrhea in Texas. He passed away in May of 1866. In doing so, he joined the many other soldiers during the Civil War who suffered from this illness, as there were at least 57,000 soldiers who died of the same cause. Though there was a lack of official record of her marriage with Jesse Davis, Maria Davis was still able to secure a pension for both herself and the couple’s two children. Maria would receive $8 per month, while both children would receive monthly payments of $2 until they were 16 years old. Jesse and Maria’s marriage was said to have been officiated by Reverend Grove L. Brownell, a clergyman of the Congregational Church in Sharon. This, along with where the pension was filed and the fact that Jesse Davis is buried in the Hillside Cemetery of that town, suggests that the Davis family most likely lived in Sharon, at least for a decent amount of time.