Davidson College During the Civil War
On March 10, 1863, Charlotte’s Western Democrat published an interesting account of conditions at Davidson College in the midst of the Civil War. Everything written below is from the Western Democrat article and the punctuation is as written in 1863..
“It is gratifying to learn that this institution is in active operation notwithstanding the troubles in which the country is involved, and that it enjoys a measure of prosperity which, all things considered, is highly encouraging. More than sixty students are in actual attendance on its exercises. These of course are for the most part under the usual age for Students of College. Yet the two lower classes are formed and are pursuing the regular course of study. The remainder of the students are in the Preparatory Departments, in which they enjoy the advantage of being instructed by two or more of the Professors, each in his Department. Without some calamity overcoming the country, there will be a large number to enter the College proper, from the Preparatory Department, at the beginning of the next collegiate year.
It will be seen from an advertisement, that the young men who have been disabled in the war, and who are not able to defray the expenses of obtaining an education, will be admitted into the College or Preparatory Department without the usual fees for tuition, etc. This is as it should be. There are and will be many young men who will be incapacitated for manual labor, or for making a living in any of the usual ways by the casualties of the war which they have waged for their country’s honor and safety. Let such men seek an education, and let a grateful and generous public aid them in preparing for usefulness in such work as demands mental rather than manual accomplishments.
It will be seen also that the rates of board at the College have been raised. This is the unavoidable consequence of the extraordinary rise in the prices of subsistence…But if the board is advanced, the tuition is low enough, thirty dollars a year, including everything!
Truly, Providence smiles upon Davidson College, in one respect at least. We learn that the College has recently been informed that a legacy of eight thousand dollars to the College and one thousand dollars to each of the two Literary Societies, has been left by the late William Lee Davidson, of Marengo County, Alabama. Nor is this all: This College is one of four parties who are constituted, equally, the residuary legatees of Mr. Davidson’s estate after the special bequests of the will are paid off….
Mr. Davidson, we learn, is a grandson of Gen. Davidson of revolutionary memory, in honor of whom the name of the College was selected. He resided until a few years ago, in the vicinity of the College and was one of its earliest friends and benefactors…
We trust that there is before Davidson College, with its large endowment, a career of long and extensive usefulness.”
Nancy Griffith lived in Davidson from 1979 until 1989. After a career as an archives and special collections librarian, she retired to Davidson in 2015. She has published a number of books and articles on local history, and has just completed a history of the Ada Jenkins Center.