William Watts Hart Davis papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
William Watts Hart Davis (1820-1910), born to John Davis and Amy (Hart), became an influential military leader and prominent supporter of local community affairs in Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
William’s early educational opportunities were acquired at a number of institutions including the private school of Anna Longstreth, the parish school at the Southampton Baptist Church, the Doylestown Academy, and the boarding school at Burlington, New Jersey. He then attended Partridge’s University and Military School in Norwich, Vermont, graduating from there in 1842. Not much later, he studied law with the Honorable John Fox when he enrolled in a law course at the Dane Law School at Harvard University. However, it was during his studies at Harvard in 1846, at the outset of the Mexican-American war, he enlisted in the 1st Massachusetts Infantry. Thus, he commenced his military career and was commissioned as First lieutenant in the United States Army. In 1847 he was appointed adjutant and promoted once more before he was mustered out of service as Captain in 1848.
He returned to Doylestown where he practiced law for about five years until called to serve office in the territory of New Mexico from 1853 to 1857. There, he primarily served as the district attorney of New Mexico where he also functioned as the governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. As well, he pursued an interest in publishing, establishing the the Santa Fe Gazette which was published in Spanish and English. During this time, he returned east to marry Anna Carpenter, of Brooklyn, in 1856. While back in New Mexico, only a year later, he would resign his post and return to Bucks County to establish a household.
Continuing his journalistic interests, in 1857, he also purchased the Doylestown’s local weekly paper, the Democrat, which he managed until his retirement. Davis edited the paper quite carefully thereby making it an exceptional and recognized paper in the state at the time. It is through the paper that he galvanized local interests of the Doylestown Guards whereby to form the 104th Pennsylvania Regiment during the Civil War. Of those efforts to establish the regiment, the President appointed him colonel on August 6, 1861. His influence then led to his appointment as the provisional brigadier gerneral and first brigade of the First Division of the Fourth Corps of the army of the Potomac which included the 104th regiment, the 56th New York, the 52nd Pennsylvania, and the 111th Maine regiments; and, in 1864 was charged with the management of Morris Island in the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. The close of his participation in the war was precipitated by an injury sustained to his hand (loss of fingers) by shrapnel.
After the war effort, William Watts Hart Davis returned to Doylestown and pursued a number of interests including genealogy, local community history and related historical matters. These interests allowed him to produce a number of books and writings concerning his family’s history, the military, and his hometown community. Some of his writings included El Gringo, or, New Mexico and Her People (1857); A History of the Hart Family (1867); Spanish Conquest of New Mexico (1869); History of Doylestown Guards (1887); The Fries Rebellion, 1798-99: An Armed Resistance (1899); History of Bucks County (1905).
As well, Davis was a member of many social, civic, and military groups and organizations including the American Historical Society, Aztec Club, Board of Charities of Pennsylvania (Lunacy Committee), Bucks County Historical Society (founder), Doylestown Literary Club, Grand Army of the Republic – Post No. 1 of Philadelphia, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Society of Foreign Wars, Society of the Army of the Potomac, Survivors of the Mexican War, Western Reserve Historical Society, and the vestry of the St. Paul’s P. E. Church. Chief among Davis’s organizational memberships was his association with The Doylestown Guards. It was established in 1835, an offshoot of the Doylestown Grays which preceded it. Davis was a signee of the company’s constitution when it was reorganized in 1846. They are well known for their participation in the Civil War as the first company from Bucks County to enter service upon the President’s call for patriotic citizens.
Davis enjoyed a long life of multiple careers as an educator, journalist, author, and government and military official, which allowed him to produce a great deal of writings and communications. The papers here show the work he engaged in and the people he worked with, or who were impressed by the worked he produced. Contained with William Watts Hart Davis's papers are correspondence, various writings and compositions, newspaper clippings, military records, and artifacts.
Box 1 contains a number of compositions including historical overviews, biographical sketches, correspondence, commentary, extracts from personal journal, and historical notes about the war and other contemporaneous events in the United States and Europe. Among the many entries included are “Pennsylvania;” “Benedict Arnold;” “The Abolition of Slavery; “Washington;” “Farming,” and “History of the Hart Family.” Items are housed as they were included in the volume where they were previously bounded.
The items in Box 2 primarily concern the public’s response to Davis’s “History of Buck County” and the “History of the 104th PA Regiment.” The commendations show their appreciation of his works saying “it is a work of great labor and research” and “the remarkable contribution you have made in the ranks of historical research.” Also included are various newspaper clippings discussing social and civic engagements, and Davis’s printed speeches most notably his remarks offered at the Bicentenial Celebration in Doylestown in 1882. Other items include thank you letters regarding invitations to events other civic and social engagements.
Box 3 include a number of drafts of Davis’s writings including the “History of the 104th PA Regiment;” “Mexican War: A Military Execution;” “The Mexican War;” “The Capture of General Valencia;” “With General Cushing in Mexico;” “Indian Trial at Santa Fe;” “History of Bucks County Historical Society;” “The Military Spirit of Bucks County;” “A Description of Pennsbury Manor Reformed Church, Bucks County;” “Major Joeph O. Archambault”; and “From Over the Sea” all of which are hand written. Other miscellaneous material includes a mathematics notebook, newspapers clippings on the Mexican War, the 104th Regiment badges, and correspondences.
Boxes 4 and 5 contain returns and consolidated reports for the 104th Pennsylvania regiment. The reports show the promotions of military personnel, ranks, attendance records. Box 6 also contains a variety of documents related to the military including correspondence, orders, invoices, circulars, and memos.
There are seven volumes in the collection of a variety of documents including correspondents, autographs, newspaper clippings, invitations, cards, and notes. Most notably, among the volumes, is the Doylestown Guards company book (1848-1860). The loose items from these volumes were removed and rehoused in Box 7.
- Doylestown democrat
- Doylestown guards, Doylestown, Pa
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--104th Pennsylvania Infantry
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Military Documents
- United States--History--Reconstruction, 1866-1877--Democratic Party Platform
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Weckea D. Lilly.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2015.