Miss Nora Fontaine Maury Davidson,
Miss Nora Fontaine Maury Davidson (1836 – 1929) lived a life of service. Born in Petersburg Virginia in 1836, she lived her entire life of almost 93 years in this city. Intricately connected to the Confederacy and the lifeways of Petersburg, her family home was used by General Lee as a headquarters during the "Siege of Petersburg."
Miss Davidson, with the help of her two sisters taught school in Petersburg for 59 years. During the war years, her school was known as the Confederate School and in the postwar years as the Davidson Seminary. Some of the most prominent men and women of Petersburg were educated there.
Known and loved by everyone in the city, she was known to all by the simple and respectful epithet,
Her love for the Confederacy and the men who wore the gray became her lifelong inspiration. During the war, she displayed the patriotism of a true daughter of the South.
In early 1861, Miss Nora headed various fund raising projects to buy equipment for companies of soldiers forming in Petersburg. Her efforts were most successful in equipping the Ragland Guard, the unit that became Company G, 41st Virginia Infantry.
She continued throughout the war to raise money to help her boys in gray. Miss Nora was among a group of Petersburg citizens to meet and entertain the first troops arriving there from other Southern states in 1861.
There were no hospitals within the city and Miss Nora and others established the Ladies Hospital on Bollingbrook Street. Money raised from various entertainments went into maintaining this hospital.
Miss Nora became the hospital’s treasurer, and continued in this capacity until the need for other hospitals arose. When the large Confederate Hospital was established at Poplar Lawn in Petersburg, Miss Nora served as linen matron until the end of the war.
Defeat did not stop her devotion to the Southern soldiers. Shortly after the war ended, Miss Nora and her school children went to Blandford Cemetery on June 9, 1865 to decorate the graves of the soldiers who died in the defense of Petersburg and elsewhere in the war. One of the graves she cared for was that of her brother, Charles Davidson a member of Graham's Horse Artillery, who died on December 25, 1863.
Miss Nora’s memorial decoration became a yearly event, placing flowers and flags on the graves of those she called "her boys."
Moved by the grave decorations she witnessed upon her visit to Blandford Cemetery, Mrs. Mary Logan, wife of the Union General and First Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic John A. Logan credits her 1868 visit to Petersburg's Blandford Cemetery with her husbands recommendations for a National Decoration Day. (Today's National Memorial Day.)
"Miss Nora" was one of the Charter members of the Petersburg's Ladies Memorial Association which was organized May 6, 1866. This association took as their objective the reburial of Confederate soldiers who fell on battlefields and were buried there.
In 1901, the city of Petersburg gave the Ladies Memorial Association the charge to refurbish the old church in the Blandford Cemetery into a mortuary and Confederate Memorial. Only a visit to the Church can truly capture the beauty of this tribute. Please visit the following websites for a virtual visit to the Blandford Church:
Miss Nora’s own tributes to the soldiers were simple and personal. She flew her personal Confederate flag over her brother's grave every June 9th. She flew this same flag from her window upon hearing of the death of a Confederate veteran. And when she died, at her request, her Confederate flag was buried with her. To visit Memorial Hill, where Miss Nora rests, click on:
Read More About It:
 Recollections of a Soldier’s Wife, Mrs. John A. Logan, Cosmopolitan (Feb – July 1913); Congressional Record, May 27,1922.
The Petersburg Campaign, The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, June 9, 1864, Preface, William G. Robertson, 1989,H. E. Howard, Inc.
Time Life, Civil War Series, Death in the Trenches
Why the 9th of June? On June 9th,1864 approximately 125 citizen soldiers, men as old as 60 and boys as young as 15 of the Petersburg Militia under the command of Major Fletcher Archer held off an attack of 1300 Union Calvary men under the command of General Augustus Kautz for more than two hours. A large number of the defenders were armed with vintage muskets and such dated equipment. 300 of the 1,300 Union attackers were armed with 15 shot repeating rifles. This part of the Petersburg militia lost over 60% of their number (killed, wounded, captured) in defense of the first battle to capture the city of Petersburg. This battle is often referred to as "The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys." Among this group were the richest and poorest citizens of Petersburg.
Much thanks to P. Michael Jones, of the General John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro, Illinois. He was of great assistance providing information for this article and other publications.
Douglas Southall Freeman called this 9 June 1864 battle at Petersburg:
"perhaps the unique battle of the entire war!"
"A major reason for the uniqueness of the Battle is the fact that the citizens of Petersburg themselves contributed heavily to the successful defense of the city, and paid a disproportionate share of the cost. Another reason is the possibility that there might never have been a 10 month Siege of Petersburg if the results of the Battle of 9 June had been reversed. Still another reason, and one important to all Americans, is the fact that the great national day of remembrance known as Memorial Day indirectly stemmed from ceremonies begun at Petersburg in 1866 commemorating the heroes of "The Ninth of June."