Category Archives: Kentucky Homefront

1861: Edward Rumsey Weir, Jr. to John Littlejohn Davidson

Major John L. Davidson, 26th Kentucky Infantry, killed at Shiloh

The following letter was written by Edward Rumsey Weir, Jr. (1839-1906), the son of Edward Rumsey Weir, Sr. (1816-1891) and Harriet Rumsey Miller (1822-1913) of Greenville, Muhlenberg county, Kentucky. Edward, Sr. was “an attorney, merchant, politician, and soldier. Greenville, Kentucky, native. Member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Muhlenberg County from 1841 to 1842. Attorney in Muhlenberg County in 1850. Owned twenty-nine enslaved persons in Muhlenberg County in 1850. Attorney and merchant in Muhlenberg County in 1860. Owned forty enslaved persons in Muhlenberg County in 1860. Served in the Muhlenberg County Home Guard in 1861. Member of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from Muhlenberg County from 1862 to 1865.” [See Kentucky Historical Society] According to the Archivist at Western Kentucky University, Edward , Sr. was “also an abolitionist; he emancipated some of his slaves and assisted with their recolonization in Liberia. After the outbreak of the Civil War, he used his wealth and influence to advocate for the Union and to recruit and equip home guards and companies for the regular army. As Confederates moved through Muhlenberg and surrounding counties, Weir’s wife Harriet removed with their children to Jacksonville, Illinois and returned home only after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862.” [See Weir Family Collection]

Edward, Jr., served as an officer with the 11th and 35th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry and saw action at Shiloh and Corinth and elsewhere. Many of his letters, archived atWestern Kentucky University’s Special Collections, “provide much detail of his life in camp at Calhoun, Kentucky with his servant Jesse, and his fears for the Weir home amid reports of Confederate theft. He reports on incidents such as the arrival of non-English speaking German “cannonniers,” troop losses from illness, and a young Indiana wife who visits the camp, only to find her husband dead. He provides vivid descriptions of his actions at the Battle of Shiloh and of his regiment’s advance on Corinth, Mississippi, including his arrival at the deserted town of Farmington, Mississippi. He tells of seeing Confederate general John Hunt Morgan approach the Union lines at Farmington under a flag of truce, and the doubts of the colonel in command that he was actually “Morgan of Kentucky.” Illness compels Weir to resign from the 11th Kentucky Infantry in 1863, but later that year he receives a commission in the 35th Kentucky Mounted Volunteer Infantry, and writes of his march through Kentucky into Virginia and of the fighting at Saltville. Prior to being mustered out in 1864, Weir expresses regret at leaving the 11th Kentucky, whose men he thought superior to those of the 35th. He also alludes to wrongs committed by other officers of the 35th that could attract lawsuits.”

Edward’s letter was addressed to John Littlejohn Davidson (1830-1862), the son of James W. and Priscilla Quinn (Jones) Davidson of Elton, Kentucky. John worked at a dry goods store in Nashville, Tennessee, before the Civil War and then enlisted on 9 September 1861 and was commissioned Major of the 26th Infantry Regiment Kentucky on 8 March 1862. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in Shiloh, Tennessee on 7 April 1862.

Transcription

Greenville, Kentucky
August 1861

Mr. John L. Davidson
Dear Sir,

Your note and flattering offer were received last mail and to my regret, I am in no condition to respond in person. I have been thinking of entering the Cavalry Regiment but all my military aspirations have been nipped in the bud by a long spell of fever. I made a journey to Washington during the dog-days and the excessive head combined with unusual excitement was too much for me, and I have been “laid on the shelf” ever since my return, and fear I will not be fir for active service for some time. The regiment will probably be organized before I am well enough to engage in stirring business of any kind.

You may rely on my secrecy. With most heart-felt wishes for your success. I am yours respectfully, — Edward R. Weir, Jr.