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Ancestor's diary fuels interest page 2
Stafford woman says Civil War diary of relative who fought in region she calls home has deepened her connection to local sites

 Pat Barker of Stafford inherited a copy of Matthew Jack Davis' diary from a relative in 1988, but only recently rediscovered it. Davis, who served in a Mississippi regiment during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, writes of that brutal winter.
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Date published: 1/25/2005

By ROB HEDELT

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The humor is set against grim battle details when Davis writes about the carnage that took place beneath the stone wall where he and other Confederates readied for battle on Marye's Heights.

"The enemy charged several times to within several feet of the stone fence, but was repulsed with fearful loss," wrote Davis.

He added, "About 2 o'clock that evening, Col. Mullins was struck across the small of the back by a cannon ball, and was almost cut in two. The poor fellow was in five feet of me when struck He was both brave and noble and greatly loved by his men."

In other sections of his diary, Davis talks about camping out in the shelled remains of a house in Fredericksburg, about feasting on the "fattest hog in Virginia" shot in a campsite outside the city and, after taking part in action at Chancellorsville, of watching "the burning of the Chancellor's House which had been set on fire by bursting shells."

He also mentions "the night I was on the picket line all night, and was not far from Gen. [Thomas J "Stonewall"] Jackson when he was fired upon and killed by our own pickets thro mistake."

Barker said she's read through his writings several times, including a section detailing Davis' capture in fighting not far from Spotsylvania Courthouse, and another detailing how he was placed on a steamer in a "spot called "Bell Plains" and taken to a Union prison at "Fort Delaware."

Barker notes that about a year ago, she was so moved by reading the diary that she was drawn to Chatham.

"It was cold and snowing, but I felt the need to be there," she said. "Looking across the river at Fredericksburg, I was moved to snap a picture of the city there."

Barker, who had taken up photography both as a hobby and a side business years earlier, was rewarded with a landscape photo of Fredericksburg that's been a big seller for her.

She notes that it isn't all that different from the view Davis would have seen so long ago.

That's a connection she's both proud of and, in ways she doesn't always understand, driven to explore.

To reach ROB HEDELT: 540/374-5415 rhedelt@freelancestar.com


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