While my genealogy research has resulted in some rich finds, I did a LOT of stumbling around in confusion at first when trying to track down W. Hunter Davis and his military service.
I have to admit, while growing up I had no idea I had an ancestor who served in the Confederate Cavalry. Even though my grandpa (George L. A. Davis) was alive until I was eighteen, he never mentioned it. Of course, I didn’t ask either. And in the last few years of his life he was unable to speak due to problems with his throat muscles. His mind was still there, and he would write short notes, but that was about it.
When I became interested in my family history while in my early thirties I took on the role as the keeper of family documents, including a letter my mother received from my grandpa when she asked him for some biographical information for a college assignment. Great primary source documentation! -- for his own life. He wrote (see below) that during World War I he enlisted in “Troop A, First Georgia Cavalry...the same troop of cavalry in which my Grandfather, William Hunter Davis served as a lieutenant in the Civil War.”
Here’s a transcription of the paragraph:
So this clue led to some confusion, especially when I saw W. Hunter Davis listed in a published index of Confederate Soldiers as having served in the 1st Georgia Infantry. It hadn’t dawned on me that men would have gone from one unit to another. I did keep searching and then the Footnote (now Fold3) database allowed me to find Hunter's cavalry records. So, my grandpa’s letter was slightly misleading, but still a GREAT clue that gave me some motivation to search for W. Hunter’s military records. And it underlines the importance of not relying on one source, but looking for multiple sources of evidence for an ancestor’s life story.
Letter from George L.A. Davis to daughter Mary Elizabeth Davis, 11 January 1944, Private collection of Margaret M. Eves