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John Wynn Davidson
John W. Davidson
Nickname "Black Jack"
Born (1825-08-14)August 14, 1825
Died June 26, 1881(1881-06-26) (aged 55)
Place of birth Fairfax County, Virginia
Place of death St. Paul, Minnesota
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
  • United States United States of America
  • Union
Years of service 1845–1881

John Wynn Davidson (August 14, 1825 – June 26, 1881) was a brigadier general in the United States Army during the American Civil War and an American Indian fighter. In 1866, he received brevet grade appointments as a major general of volunteers and in the regular U.S. Army for his Civil War service,


Davidson was born in Fairfax County, Virginia. He graduated from West Point. Shortly after graduation he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons and participated in the Mexican-American War, seeing considerable action at the San Pasqual and the Rio San Gabriel battles.[1]

Following the war, Davidson was promoted to 1st lieutenant and assigned to the Western frontier. He served as the regimental quartermaster and adjutant. He led the 1st Cavalry Regiment against the Jicarilla Apaches in the Battle of Cieneguilla on March 30, 1854,[2] where he was badly defeated in what was to be the fourth worst defeat suffered by the American military during the Western Indian Wars.[3] In 1855 Davidson was promoted captain and was in command of Fort Tejon, California when the American Civil War erupted.

Civil War

He was allegedly offered a commission in the Confederate Army but turned it down.[4] Davidson was transferred to the east and took command of a brigade in the newly formed Army of the Potomac. On February 6, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Davidson to the grade of brigadier general of U.S. volunteers, to rank from February 3, 1862, the same day the U.S. Senate confirmed the previously submitted nomination.[5]

General Davidson assumed command of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, IV Corps during the Peninsula Campaign. He fought at the battles of Yorktown and Williamsburg. During the Seven Days Battles he received brevet promotions in the Regular Army for his service at Gaines' Mill and Golding's Farm. Shortly after the culmination of the Seven Days' fighting, Davidson was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Theater where he was placed in command of the Dist. of St. Louis. From December 3, 1862, to March 26, 1863, he was also in command of the so-called Army of Southeast Missouri until much of his army was transferred to Ulysses S. Grant in preparation for the Vicksburg Campaign. He retained command of the Dist. of St. Louis until June 16, 1863, when he briefly commanded the Dist. of Southeast Missouri.

From August 10 to November 3, 1863, Davidson commanded the 1st Division of Frederick Steele's Army of Arkansas in his most distinguished role in the west. He led Union advance into central Arkansas and won the battle of Bayou Fourche, which led directly to the fall of Confederate-held Little Rock. After the Little Rock expedition, Davidson commanded the cavalry in the Dept. of the Gulf before returning to command the cavalry in the Dist. of Southeast Missouri. For the remainder of the war, Davidson held various administrative commands in Mississippi. He was mustered out of the volunteer service on January 15, 1866.[5] On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Davidson for appointment to the grade of brevet major general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on March 12, 1866.[6] On April 10, 1866, President Johnson nominated Davidson for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on May 4, 1866.[7] On July 17, 1866, President Johnson nominated Davidson for appointment to the grade of brevet major general, U.S. Army, to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 23, 1866.[8]

Following the end of the American Civil War Davidson was again posted on the Western frontier, this time as a lieutenant colonel of the 10th Cavalry, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. It was there that he acquired the nickname "Black Jack."[9]

In 1879 he was transferred to the 2nd Cavalry as colonel, at Fort Custer in the Montana Territory.[9][10] Davidson died in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1881 after being seriously injured by a fall from a horse[10] during an inspection tour. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[11]

See also


  1. John Wynn Davidson - The Handbook of Texas Online
  2. Davidson, pp. 69 - 79.
  3. Johnson, Adams, Hawk and Miller, Final Report on the Battle of Cieneguilla: A Jicarilla Apache Victory Over the U.A. Dragoons March 30, 1854, United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwest Region, June 2009, p. 1
  4. Eicher p.200
  5. 5.0 5.1 Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 7210
  6. Eicher, 2001, p. 711
  7. Eicher, 2001, p. 733
  8. Eicher, 2001, p. 707
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gorenfeld, Will. The Battle of Cieneguilla, Wild West magazine, February, 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 Eicher, 2001, p. 200
  11. John Wynn Davidson - Arlington National Cemetery website


  • Davidson, Homer K. (1974). Black Jack Davidson, a Cavalry Commander on the Western Frontier: The Life of General John W. Davidson. A. H. Clark Co.. pp. 273. ISBN 0-87062-109-2. 

External links

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