During the middle and latter weeks of September 1864, the Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry was not engaged in any fighting. Their duties included the usual manning of the picket line every four or five days and working at building and improving the fortifications at several points along the Union siege line.
One of the places the Fourteenth spent a couple of days was Fort Davis. John Hirst of Company D and younger brother of Sgt. Benjamin Hirst (wounded at Gettysburg), described the regiment’s short stay at Fort Davis: “As soon as we got nicely settled, we were ordered to leave and take a position near Fort Morton (on the Taylor farm near the site of the Crater explosion). The boys are on duty all the time, one day on the skirmish line (picket line) and the next on the reserve.”
Some of the fortifications the soldiers built during the siege can still be seen today. Fort Davis was built on the western side of the Jerusalem Plank Road and you can see what remains today on Google Earth. The Jerusalem Plank Road is now called Crater Road and the remains of Fort Davis can be found at the intersection of South Crater Road and Flank Road, right across the street from Fort Davis Shopping Center.
Fort Davis was originally named Fort Warren after the commander of the Fifth Corps, Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K Warren. However, it was renamed in honor of Col. P. Stearns Davis of the 39th Massachusetts Infantry, who was mortally wounded there by an artillery shell fragment on July 11.
From the Historical Marker Database website (www.HMdb.org) we have this description of the fort. “One of the Union soldiers assigned to this task recalled: ‘Covering about three acres of ground, it is capable of holding a brigade…. In building our fort, we dug a trench twenty feet wide and ten feet deep, and threw up the rampart on the inside. The fort was made square with a diagonal through it. We had a magazine in it, and two wells were dug for a water supply…it took eight men to get one shovelful of dirt from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the work, the men standing in little nitches cut in the side of the bank and passing the earth from one to another.’ The completed fort held a garrison of 550 men with eight field guns.” To watch a short YouTube video of the Fort Davis site, please click here.
Next week: A digital tour of the siege lines.