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Davidson and the Armed Forces

Since Davidson College was founded in 1837, countless faculty, staff, students and alumni have participated and served in military life. This guide is intended to highlight materials in Archives, Special Collections & Community that relate to this service

Civil War

Throughout the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, Davidson College remained operational. While classes continued at the college, they were done so at a significantly reduced capacity. Many students and professors left the college and took up military service, primarily joining the Confederacy.

This fact may come as unsurprising, considering the demographics of the college at the time. Davidson was a Southern college, with many of its students coming from the South. Famously, the son-in-laws of Robert Hall Morrison (the first president of Davidson College) served as officers in the Confederate Army, including former mathematics professor and chair D.H. Hill, Rufus Barringer, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

This page is intended to provide information about resources available in Archives, Special Collections & Community related to Davidson College, the Civil War, and those affiliated with the college who fought during this historical period. This page is not intended to glorify those who fought in the Confederacy, but to provide information and access about available resources that can help us better understand this historical moment.

Headshot of Captain William Erskine Ardrey

Captain William Erskine Ardrey. Ardrey entered Davidson College in 1858, but left the college in 1861, before completing his degree, to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War

Civil War Service

In her history of Davidson College, Cornelia Shaw compiled a list of the ranks of Davidson men who served in the Civil War. 

 list of ranks of Civil War soldiers

Manuscript Collections

Listed below are relevant manuscript collections related to the Civil War. Collections are organized by manuscript number, along with a brief description of the collection's contents, and are hyperlinked to the collection's digital finding aid.

William E. Ardrey Collection (DC001)

Description: Captain William Erskine Audrey was a member of the Davidson College Class of 1862. He left the college to join the Confederate Army, first enlisting in Company C of "Charlotte Grays" of the First North Carolina Regiment commanded by General D. H. Hill. He later enlisted as a private in Company K, 30th North Carolina Regiment and was at Appomattox at the surrender on April 9, 1865. The bulk of the collection are Ardrey's diaries. The entries describe his life as a soldier in the Civil War, farming and his daily life after the war. View a few digitized materials from this collection.

William Wallace Robinson Letters (DC0123s)

Description: William Wallace Robinson was graduated from Davidson College in 1860. He served in the Confederate Army in Company B, 13th Regiment N.C. Troops and was wounded during a battle at Spottsylvania Court House in 1864. The collection consists of letters written by Robinson. The letters from 1857-1860 discuss family and college life while the letters from 1861-1864 describe Robinson's activities during the Civil War.

Samuel Reece Neel Notebook (DC0182s)

Description: Samuel Reece Neel was a member of the Davidson College class of 1863. He left college to join the Confederate Army. The collection consists of Neel's student notebook, which later became his diary. The notebooks contains notes from D.H. Hill's mathematics class, an account of textbooks purchased by Price, a list of his classmates and their class standings and a diary of his Civil War experience, 1861-1865.

Adam Brevard Davidson Collection (DC0184s)

Description: A. Brevard Davidson was a Trustee of Davidson College from 1845 to 1876. Although he was opposed to North Carolina's succession, he eventually invested heavily in Confederate Bonds. After the war, he invested in real estate in Charlotte, North Carolina. The collection consists of Confederate bank and bond certificates.

Davidsoniana Files

Davidsoniana Files, or "​D-Files," primarily contain secondary source information and are housed in Archives and Special Collections. This includes newspaper articles, scanned memos, brochures and pamphlets, memorial speeches, and booklets. 

A selection of D-Files related to the Civil War:

  • Confederacy--Davidson College in

  • Confederacy--Davidson College in - Ordinance of Secession-Signers

  • Wars-Civil War

Davidson College Library Research Guides are licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Mailing Address: Davidson College - E.H. Little Library, 209 Ridge Road, Box 5000, Davidson, NC 28035