George E. Davis grew up in New England and was living in Burlington, Vermont, in 1861 when the Civil War broke out, so at 21, he decided to enlist in the 1st Vermont Infantry. It wasn’t a long stint, though. The 1st Vermont saw action at the Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia, that June, but within three months, it mustered out. So, Davis went back to his job as a store clerk.
But about a year later, in July 1862, President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for more troops, especially those with experience. So Davis enlisted again, this time for a three-year stint in D Company of the 10th Vermont Infantry. He was almost immediately elected to the rank of second lieutenant. Within six months, his steadiness under fire and attention to detail led to his promotion to first lieutenant.
Davis earned the Medal of Honor during the July 9, 1864, Battle of Monocacy near Frederick, Maryland. On that day, Davis commanded a small Union detachment at Monocacy Junction that was able to hold its position. They managed to fend off repeated Confederate assaults while guarding two bridges, despite being outnumbered.
The one-day battle turned out to be the Confederates’ northernmost win of the war, but the Union troops, including Davis’ soldiers, did succeed in delaying the Confederate march to Washington, D.C. This gave the Union time to bring in reinforcements, so when the Confederates did finally attack the capital, they were unsuccessful.
The battle is considered the one that saved our nation’s capital from falling.
After the battle, Davis continued his service and eventually was promoted to captain. Unfortunately, at one point during the war, he was seriously injured when a log cabin he was in collapsed. He wasn’t able to continue serving, so he was discharged from the Army.
But his actions at the Battle of Monocacy weren’t forgotten. On May 27, 1892, Davis received the Medal of Honor for his valiant defense of the bridges near Monocacy Junction. Another man, Alexander Scott, also earned the medal for his actions during the one-day battle.
Davis continued to live a quiet life for decades after that. He died June 28, 1926, at the Vermont Soldiers’ Home in Bennington, Vermont.