Davidson was born in Shelbyville, TN, on 28 Jan 1831, a son of George Davidson and his first wife, Betsy Chilcot. Henry spent his early childhood in a one-story farm dwelling on Martin Street. He had two brothers and a sister older than he and one sister who was younger. His mother died from cholera when he was two and a half years old.
Henry’s father, George Davidson, was a leader in the affairs of the county, and the family had long been distinguished for service to the community.
Henry’s paternal great-grandfather was Major William Davidson (1736-1814) who was an active participant in the Burke Co, NC, Militia. At the close of the Revolutionary War, Major Davidson and wife, Margaret (McConnell), along with their ten children headed the movement over the mountains into the Swannanoa Valley and settled on land near the present First Presbyterian Church of Swannanoa (Piney Grove).
When Henry was only fifteen years old, he enlisted in the 1st Tennessee Volunteers, a full company of volunteers furnished by Bedford County for service in the Mexican War. Davidson fought with notable courage in the battle of Monterey, and he was promoted to sergeant. He was appointed a cadet at West Point early in 1848, graduating 1 Jul 1853, ranking 33rd in a class of 52 members. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the First Dragoons.
He served in the United States Army in such places as Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oregon, New Mexico and California. He fought against the Apache Indians, and took part in the Oregon Hostilities and the Spokane Expedition. He was promoted first to 1st Lieutenant, and later to Captain. While on a leave of absence, June 1861, Tennessee ratified the Ordinance of Secession, and Davidson sent in his resignation to the U.S. Army. He offered his services to the Confederacy, instead.
Davidson joined the Confederate Army with the appointment as Major in the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office, being attached successively to the staffs of Generals Floyd, Buckner, A.S. Johnston, and Mackall. He was promoted to Colonel and assigned to command the post at Staunton, VA. While serving with Mackall he was captured at Island No. 10 by the Federal General John Pope in April 1862, but was later released in an exchange of prisoners. On 18 Aug 1863, he was commissioned Brigadier General, and early in 1864, took command of a brigade of Wheeler’s Cavalry at Rome, Georgia.
Davidson was soon transferred back to Virginia, where he was assigned command of a brigade in Lomax’s division in Early’s Valley Campaign of 1864. The close of the war found him in North Carolina where he surrendered with General Joseph E. Johnston at Greensboro. Davidson was paroled at Greensboro, NC, on 1 May 1865.
After a brief stay in New Orleans, he moved to California where he was admitted to the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara County Bars, although it seems that he never practiced law. In 1875-76 he became Inspector of Harbor Improvements at Wilmington, California. He was appointed special clerk to the Secretary of State of California, later being made Deputy Secretary. For the last six years of his life he was station agent of the Southern Pacific Railroad at Danville, California.
Davidson died at the home of a relative, Dr. Hammond, in Livermore, California, on 4 Mar 1899, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery at Oakland in an unmarked grave. Among his personal effect were a letter from General Lee and a gold watch presented by the Secretary of State of California.
Source: Abstracted from The Shelbyville Times Gazette, SesquiCentennial Historical Edition, Shelbyville, Bedford County, Tennessee, 7 October 1969.