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Letter from D.J. Hill to Rufus
Rufus Dawes completed his war memoir, Service with the Sixth
Wisconsin Volunteers, in 1890.
At that time, he began a series of correspondence with his old
comrades and with the officers of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry,
which the 6th Wisconsin had engaged at the unfinished railroad cut
at Gettysburg the morning of July 1, 1863. He was interested in
trying to identify a color bearer of that regiment he had found
wounded on the field of Pickett’s Charge on July 4, 1863. In his
search, his letter was often printed in Southern newspapers. One of
those letters produced the following reply which is in the Rufus R.
Dawes Papers at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at
Blue Mountain, Miss.
September 12, 1893
Gen. R. R. Dawes
The accompanying is clipped from the Southern Sentinel, a paper
published at Ripley, Miss., July 27th 1893. It did me good to read
your letter and I trust you will excuse me from troubling you with
this scrawl. I was a private in the 2nd Miss. Regt. And will give
you such information as I can in regard to Christopher Columbus
Davis, the wounded color bearer whom you found on the field on the
4th. He recovered from his wounds and survived the war, came home
and having a good education, engaged in teaching for a short time,
but finally from some course put an end to his own life a year or
two after the war. He was one of five brothers that were raised
orphans, their parents having died when the boys were very young.
One brother was a cadet at West Point at the outbreak of the war and
enlisted in a N.Y. Calvary regt. and was killed at Brandy Station,
Va., while in command of his regt.
Three other brothers in the Confederate service were killed at
different times and places. C. C. Davis was the only one of the
brothers left living at close of war. He was regarded by his
comrades as being a very brave man, even to recklessness. It is
presumed that grief at the loss of all his brothers and brooding
over the result of the war may have unsettled his reason and suicide
was the result.
I gather this information from comrades belonging to the same
company with him, and who knew him well. I was a member of a
different company and knew but little of him personally.
I will now tell you and your brave boys how I “played off” on you in
that R.R. cut. I was in it and soon found to my dismay that I was in
a tight place, saw no chance of escape, was disgusted with the idea
of surrendering and in fact became very much demoralized. I saw a
bloody, muddy blanket lying on the ground also two wounded men lying
near me. I tumbled down by them and covered myself with the blanket.
I then went to practicing all the manners and moaning that I thought
would become a badly wounded and suffering man.
Some of your boys eyed me pretty closely but no one spoke to me or
interrupted me in any way. The result was you left me there as sound
and well as I ever was in my left. I tell this not that I think it a
sharp or brave trick but that it is true and may go for what it is
I got out as soon as I thought it safe to do so, and the first man I
met was a federal soldier wandering about as if dazed or lost and
not knowing what to do. I saw that all of one side of his lower jaw
was torn off. I got him to a shade and fixed him down with his oil
cloth, blanket and knapsack, then brought him a canteen of water and
how pitiful to see him trying to drink by pushing the mouth of the
canteen through the wound into the throat. I could do nothing more
for him. He couldn’t talk so I did not learn his name nor what
command he was of. I suppose the poor fellow died, but if living I
would be glad, very glad to hear from him.
The high compliments you express in regard to the bravery of the 2nd
Miss. Regt., whether strictly due us or not, are gratefully received
and highly appreciated and we respectfully send our greetings to
yourself and your brave and gallant comrades who are yet alive.
Most of ours have gone to their account, but a few of us remain but
are now in the “sore and yellow leaf” and I am proud to say that
there are no more peaceable, honest, lawabiding citizens here than
the old Confederate soldiers.
They seem to have long ago forgotten all the animosities engendered
by the war, and the federal soldiers would hardly find better
friends anywhere among the veteran Johnnies that followed Lee and
Jackson in 1861 to 1865.
Yours most respectfully,
D. J. Hill