Nelson T. Davis was born in 1837, the son of David Davis and Vermont-born Susan Smith (1803-1903).
David and Susan were married in Waterville, Vermont on May 8, 1829. By 1840 David L. Davis was living in Adams, Ohio. The family eventually left Ohio and by 1860 Susan was living with her daughter Ann and her husband Oliver Carman and their family in Ganges, Allegan County, Michigan. Next door lived Nathaniel Plummer; his daughter Pamelia would eventually marry Nelson’s younger brother David.
Nelson was 24 years old and probably living in Ganges when he enlisted in Company I on May 13, 1861, along with his brother David (known as Lyman). They may have been related to Washington Davis of Company A (his father’s name was Nelson).
David and Nelson were among the second wave of recruits to come out of Ottawa County and did not in fact enlist until the end of May, along with Albert Hamlin, Calvin Hall, Joseph Payne, Albert Gardner, James Rhodes, Perry Goshorn, Sylvester Gay, Joseph Solder (Josiah Schuler), Quincy Lamereaux, William Suret and John Ward.
Sometime during 1861 Nelson was struck down with measles. (His brother David also suffered from measles in July of 1861.) He eventually recovered (as did his brother) and was on duty with the regiment when it participated in the opening phases of McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign in Virginia in the spring of 1861. On May 29th Nelson wrote home to his mother,
It is not much that I have to write this time. I received yours of the 13th last night; it found me in good health and I hope this will find you all as well as it leaves me. You wanted me to help you to a pair of light shoes. Now I would do it if I had the money. From the time we left Yorktown till within a few days I bought my own living for I was sick and could not eat government food. We shall get our pay before many days and when we get it I will send the required amount. I shall not write anything of our late movements for it has been forbidden and I think it . . . is not our business to write home what is transpiring here. It is warm and pleasant here; corn is large enough to hoe; wheat is headed out; string beans are ripe. The season of cherries will soon be at hand and then I will enjoy myself while they last. I was sick with the measles last year when they was ripe. L. [his brother Lyman] has just got back from the spring with some cool water and I feel like indulging to the extent of a canteen full or less. I expect that you will see me at home sometime in July provided we both live for it is my opinion that the game of Rebellion is nearly played out. We made a point [?] at Williamsburg and we will shank [?] them at Richmond.
Well I have wrote more than I expected when I commenced but my head is not quite empty so I will . . . write a little more. The Allegan boys are all here and they are all well. Harry Campion has been promoted to a corporalship.
I guess that I won’t write much more for I am tired of writing; write often I will write when I can. Love to all and keep a share to yourself.
Nelson added a postscript to his brother-in-law “Oll” (Oliver Carman):
I shan’t write to you until you write to me. Oll you had better enlist; Uncle Sam gives us two drinks of good whiskey every day [although] I don’t indulge; he also gives us plenty of hard bread, bacon, sugar and coffee, also plenty of beans. Lyman and I carry a three-quart dish to cool beans in; we can eat the full of it at one meal and wish that it held more. I was pretty hard up for nearly a month but I am well now. I hope that you are in as good health as your humble writer. Well Oll I will close for this time. Write soon. I remain your affectionate brother, Nelson.
Nelson was killed in action on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia. His remains were returned to Michigan and he was interred in Taylor cemetery, Ganges, Allegan County; buried next to him is his mother Susan and near him is his brother David.
In February of 1863 his mother applied for and received a pension (no. 146670). In 1870 Susan was living with the Richard Ames family in Saugatuck, Allegan County.