DescriptionMexican War Silver Presentation Spurs of Colonel George T. M. Davis. Fabulous set of silver spurs, made in Mexico, and presented to Col. George Turnbull Moore Davis on October 27, 1847 at the Presidential Palace in Mexico City. One of the spurs has an engraved inscription in the interior wings, to wit: "To/ Captain G. T. M. Davis/ Bene Merito de Sui Patria/ from/ The Officers of the N.Y. Regiment/ Mexico/ October 1847." The eagle is 18K gold and the applied decorations are silver gilt. The eagle holds a rowel in its beak and clutches two American flags in its talons. The flags have stripes with a shield superimposed. They come with their original deep rose velvet-covered display stand (faded).
The occasion for their presentation was the resignation of General Quitman as Military Governor of occupied Mexico and the installation of his replacement, General Persifer F. Smith. Davis was aide-de-camp to Quitman, subsequent to working on the staff of General James Shields. The New York regiment had been first to plant the flag on the parapets of Churubusco, but another regiment claimed the honor in the brigade report of the battle. Feeling the injustice, Davis found a chance to "right" the situation when he "urged Lieutenant-Colonel Baxter, the evening preceding, to take both his national and regimental colors with him into the battle of Chapultepec, fought the next morning, and to wipe out the designed injustice by hoisting one of them upon the outer walls of that strong fortress, and the other upon the citadel that crowned its heights." This was done and the regiment acknowledged the favor by presenting this set of spurs to Davis.
Davis was born in Malta in 1810, but moved to Syracuse, New York in 1829 where he practiced law (hence his affinity with the New York Regiment). His family then relocated to Alton, Illinois where he was witness to the slaying of Elijah P. Lovejoy in 1838 and the incidents leading to the murders of Joseph and Hiram Smith in Nauvoo in 1844. He later moved to New York City and became involved in real estate and railroads, becoming wealthy in the process. His daughter married George Francis Train, flamboyant entrepreneur and eccentric. These spurs, along with other Train family material were kept together for decades and were just recently acquired by the consignor.
We are including much of this associated material with the spurs. Many of the documents, as well as the spurs, are specifically mentioned in his posthumous biography published in 1891 (a recent reprint of this work is included). A list of the more significant pieces include: 1) Davis's personal copy of the 1847 leather bound book "Official List of Officers Who Marched with the Army Under the Command of Major General Winfield Scott From Puebla Upon the City of Mexico" with custom gilt-stamped inscription on cover. 2) a May 3, 1847 ALS of General Quitman, written to President James K. Polk, recommending Davis for a post in the Quartermaster Department. 3) a November 26, 1847 ALS of General James Shields to Davis expressing sorrow at their parting, giving a glowing assessment of his conduct in the war and thanking him for saving his life at the Battle of Cerro Gordo (the amazing details of which are recounted in the biography). 4) a two-page manuscript "General Orders No. 111", Plan del Rio, April 17, 1847, giving directives on a looming battle, with references to Generals Twigg, Worth, Shields and Pillow (whom Davis detested). 5) An April 15, 1852 ALS of Winfield Scott, written to Davis "bearing witness to the zeal and gallantry displayed by you in the campaign of 1847", lauding his services as "Judge Advocate of an important military commission" (a case of a African American soldier convicted of depredations on a native woman and executed) and "the care and attention bestowed by you upon General Shields after that gallant soldier was severely wounded at Cerro Gordo." 6) a 2 1/2 page stampless cover letter to Davis, Mexico City, September 29, 1847, from Captain J. P. Taylor of Company D, attested to by eight other members of that regiment (1st Regt. U. S. Vols. N.Y.) regarding "from what portion of my command the flag was first raised at Chapultepec and by whom it was raised..." (followed by an extensive account of the event).
Other items include: Davis's 1810 baptismal certificate, Davis's 1832 license to practice law signed by New York State Supreme Court Justice John Savage (great graphics!), an October 11, 1849 ALS by Horace Greeley to Davis offering to pay him $10 per week to provide information on the Congressional Mileage issue developing in Washington, and expressing concern over an unauthorized trade treaty with Nicaragua (building of a canal)that had been published in a rival newspaper, a significant April 23, 1861 4-page letter to Davis from a committee of Unionists in New York (endorsed by General John Wool) ordering Davis to meet with President Lincoln and Cabinet members to ascertain their need for armament, troops and supplies (great content), another great letter from April 24, 1861 to Davis urging an aggressive policy against the Rebellion, asking for an authorization of $1M to build a fleet of ships, with annotation by Davis indicating he met with Vice President Hamlin who approved the plan and indicated so by signing off with his initials at the end of the letter. The miscellaneous papers include a packet of letters written in 1857-1858 by Davis's daughter, a 1839 stampless cover from New Orleans describing the cholera epidemic (Train/Pickering family), a 4-page manuscript poem by George Francis Train sent to Mrs. Winfield Scott, the last will & testament of daughter Wilhelmina Davis Train, a George Davis ALS regarding the death of his daughter, an 1814 ALS possibly from Davis's grandfather written to Davis's mother, a manuscript Davis family genealogy, a manuscript Pickering family genealogy (ancestors of George Francis Train), an 1850 ALS from George Francis Train to Col. Davis discussing Train's shipping interests and his interest in Davis's daughter, an 1856 ALS of Mrs. Winfield Scott written to Wilhelmina, an 1857 4-page ALS of Mrs. Winfield Scott written to George Francis Train, an 1867 church pew deed for Wilhelmina, and two Metropolitan Museum of Art donation receipts made out to Col. Davis.
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