Col. Benjamin ‘Grimes’ Davis at Barbee’s Cross Roads

Col. Benjamin Franklin ‘Grimes’ Davis, 8th New York Cavalry, remains an intriguing figure, largely because he is so elusive.  A Regular Army officer, Davis’s rigid adherence to strict discipline put him at odds with the volunteers who served under him.  One perpetually disgruntled surgeon termed him “a proud tyrannical devil.”  Upon learning that Davis had…

Another Bridge – Another Question

As I prepared my last post describing Union attempts to burn the Waterloo Bridge, I was also reading Seizing Destiny, The Army of the Potomac’s “Valley Forge” and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union, by Albert Conner Jr., and Chris Mackowski.  One of the first offensive operations described by the authors is the…

a terrible hand-to-hand fight ensued

Maj. Gen. John Pope, commanding the Army of Virginia, certainly thought the gods of war were smiling on him as the sun broke over the horizon on the morning of August 30, 1862. Most of the intelligence Pope was receiving indicated the Army of Northern Virginia was retreating. Overly confident, Pope not only made little effort…

The Bravest of the Brave – Part 1

Wilson Vanatta (aka Vannatta) was born in Steubenville, Ohio, just across Ohio River from, what is today, West Virginia, and only ten miles from the Pennsylvania line. Vanatta enlisted in the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry on August 26, 1861. He was a farmer, 22 years of age, five feet, ten inches tall, with a fair complexion and brown eyes and…