GIBSON CLAY DAVIS – Colonel John S. Mosby’s Rangers
Gibson Clay Davis was born February 13, 1844 in Rappahanock County, Virginia, a son of Milton B. and
Octavia (Jett) Davis. He enlisted in Company F of Colonel John S. Mosby’s irregular cavalry. This celebrated band of mounted
men, known as “Mosby’s Rangers,” gained notoriety
from 1863 through 1865 by harassing the Union Army In
Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Davis was one of nine Mosby men captured on October
29, 1864 during a skirmish at Upperville,
He was imprisoned at the Old Capitol Prison in Washington,
D. C. until February 6, 1865, at which time he was transferred to
Harbor. He was released there on June
13, 1865. Davis came to Texas
after the war and married in Chambers
County in 1876 to
Virginia Moore “Ninnie” Alston, a daughter of William
J. Alston. They built a substantial farming operation on
near Wallisville. After the death of his first wife,
he was married secondly in 1880 to Miss Rachel Mayes, daughter of Joshua J. and
Sarah (Dunman) Mayes. G. C. Davis served as the
sheriff of Chambers
County from 1880 to 1896
and operated a hotel at Wallisville from 1895 until
1915. He died January 12, 1918 at Wallisville and is
buried in the Wallisville
Cemetery. Sheriff Davis and his first wife, Virginia,
had the two following children: Edna, born in 1878 and died about 1883 at Wallisville; and Lena
Virginia [1881— 1951], who married first in 1900 to Robert L. Kilgore and
secondly to Charles Tarkilsen. Sheriff Davis
and his second wife, Rachel, later formally adopted their two granddaughters,
Jennie Moore Kilgore [1902—1987], who married Joseph Hennessy; and Octavia Jett
Kilgore (1905—1989], who married Lester Byerly LaFour.
Almost 2,000 men would serve with Mosby 80% being from Virginia.
Many were too young to join the regular army, yet Mosby
favored these young troopers. "They haven't sense enough to know danger
when they see it, and will fight anything I tell them to," he once noted.
Confederacy" encompassed almost 125 square miles in the Piedmont region of
Fauquier and Loudoun counties with secluded country lanes, past open farmland
and rolling pastures. It was obvious that the terrain favored guerrilla
warfare. A lone sentry could sit astride his horse on a hilltop and see for
miles. Forests provided natural cover, and the ubiquitous stone walls gave
The people of Virginia may have been Mosby's
greatest asset. Jeffry D. Wert, author of Mosby's Rangers, wrote, "When Mosby came to Virginia,
he made his mission theirs and gave shape to people's lives for over two
years." The rangers could not have operated without the cooperation and
assistance of local citizens. "Jeb" Stuart
once cautioned Mosby to "not have any
established headquarters anywhere but in the saddle." Accordingly, Mosby and his rangers lived in "safe houses"
throughout the region. Many had hiding places--trapdoors and secret wall panels
that enabled them to go undetected when houses were searched by Union soldiers.
Mosby's successes so irritated Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
that after the Berryville wagon train raid on August 19,1864, in which 29 of 30
Union soldiers were killed, the North's top military leader told Maj. Gen.
Philip Sheridan to hang any rangers he captured without benefit of a trial.
Sheridan's main objective was to defeat Maj. Gen. Jubal
Early, not Mosby, in the Shenandoah Valley, and he
delayed committing any men to the new task. Three weeks after
defeat of Early at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, Grant again instructed
Sheridan to "clear
out the country so that it will not support Mosby's
gang." Brigadier General Wesley Merritt was given four days to destroy all
barns and mills in Snickersville before moving on to
other areas. A Middleburg resident reported, "The whole heavens are
illuminated by the fires." Mosby was a hunted man, his days clearly numbered.
Mosby did not known of Lee's surrender to Grant at
Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865, until he read about it in
the Baltimore American
newspaper. Soon afterward, Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sent a message
to Confederate stragglers: "Those who do not surrender will be brought in
as prisoners of war. The guerrilla chief Mosby will
not be paroled." Mosby chose to disband the 43rd
Battalion rather than surrender. On Friday, April 21, 1865, almost 200 men
gathered for a farewell address read by Mosby's
younger brother, William. In part, Mosby had written:
"The vision we have cherished of a free and independent country, has
vanished, and the country is now the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your
organization in preference to surrendering it to our enemies."