Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29, 1862 (Monday): Murder in Louisville

General Jefferson C. Davis
LOUISVILLE, KY., September 29, 1862.
Captain T. T. ECKERT:
    Nelson was killed by General Jeff. C. Davis this morning about 8 o'clock. It seems Nelson treated Davis harshly one night last week and ordered him from the city. This morning Davis confronted Nelson at the Galt House about the insult. Nelson refused to listen, slapped Davis in the face, whereupon Davis turned, went to a friend near by, borrowed a pistol, went back to Nelson who was then in conversation with some one, and shot him in left breast. Nelson died in fifteen minutes after he was shot. Davis will be tried before judge of police court to-morrow morning.

    [Assistant Manager U. S. Military Telegraph.]

Official Records, Series II., Vol. 4, Part 1, Page 576.

The murder of Major General William Nelson by Brigadier General Jefferson C. (no relation) Davis at the Galt Hotel in Louisville is one of the most bizarre incidents of the war.  Nelson had removed Davis from command of a Kentucky home guard regiment a week before, ordering him to Cincinnati for reassignment.  Instead, Davis went to Louisville with Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton to confront Nelson.  They met around 8 a.m. in the hotel with the massive (6'4", 300+ pounds) Nelson cursing at Davis and throwing his card in his face (reportedly calling him a "puppy" before slapping him).  Davis retired, obtained a pistol, and returned to shoot Davis dead with a single shot to the chest.  Although General D.C. Buell asked Halleck to convene a board to charge Davis with murder, the area commander (General Wright) declined, since Buell himself had not preferred charges.  The case languished on the books of the local circuit court until 1863, but never came to trial and Davis spent the rest of the war serving with distinction in the western campaigns and Sherman's march to the sea.  Although the influence of Morton and the need for experienced officers likely spared him a trial, he was never named Major General although his service would have warranted this brevet rank.  The two men were opposites, Davis being a regular army officer of quiet intelligence.  Nelson was alternately engaging and consumed with rages.  Both were well regarded as able commanders.

No comments:

Post a Comment