Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/339

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fence of Louisville. General Davis, who commanded one of the divisions sent by General Grant to General Buell but had been at home on sick-leave, on finding himself unable to join it, owing to the interruption of communications, had reported a week before for duty to Nelson, who placed him over a body of militia known as the “home guards.” Nelson was not satisfied with the way he filled this function, relieved him from duty after a violent scene, and ordered him to report to General Wright at Cincinnati. The latter sent him back to Louisville, where he had arrived the day before. At the fatal moment, General Nelson was standing with Governor Morton of Indiana in front of the office counter, when General Davis approached and asked him to apologize for his rude behavior when he removed him from command. General Nelson refused to listen and turned away. Davis, who was a small, frail-looking man, followed him and insisted upon an apology. Nelson there upon called him a puppy and struck him in the face. Davis at once went for a revolver, re-approached Nelson, and fired it at a distance of only a few feet. That Nelson's conduct was utterly unjustified and brutal, admits of no doubt. Indeed, his excitable temper made him too often play the part of a bully, although he was really good-natured and kind-hearted. The awful event made a sensation in the army and throughout the country, but Davis was released from arrest without a trial.

General Buell found a motley mass of about twenty thousand officers and men at Louisville, consisting of newly organized regiments from several Western States, of men discharged from hospitals or returning from furloughs and trying to reach their commands. There was great need of this accession of force. For, in truth, not a single regiment in his army had more than half of the officers and men on its muster-rolls present for duty, while a number had not more than one-third. The causes of this depletion were disease, straggling, desertion (very few to the enemy, but many to Northern homes), and the furloughing which was prac-