Louis Poisson Davis Papers

Manuscript Collection #309
Davis, Louis Poisson, 1883-1978
Physical description
1.52 Cubic Feet, 970 items , consisting of correspondence, a war diary, orders, reports, proceedings, thesis, pamphlets, citations, certificates, biographies, clippings, photographs, album, financial records, postal cards, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Louis Poisson Davis Papers (#309), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1897-1972, undated) of a U. S. Naval officer, a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, 1905, who commanded the destroyer USS JARVIS during World War I, and as ordnance inspector at the U. S. Naval Ammunition Depot during World War II, consisting of correspondence, a war diary, orders, proceedings, reports, thesis, albums, photographs, postal cards, financial records, citations, certificates, biographies and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

Captain Louis Poisson Davis (1883-1978), a native of Wilmington, N.C., was the son of attorney Junius Davis and grandson of eminent Confederate statesman George Davis. A 1905 graduate of the Naval Academy, he participated in the around the world cruise of "Great White Fleet" in 1907. During World War I he commanded the destroyer JARVIS and earned the Navy Cross for his troop and convoy service. As Ordinance Inspector at the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot during World War II, Davis implemented a system of palletized ammunition loading, an immense logistical advantage to the U.S. war effort. For more biographical detail see the biographical file of this collection.

Scope and arrangement

Early materials (1912-1913) include correspondence pertaining to an imbroglio between Davis and the Naval Academy over coursework and a requirement that he purchase textbooks. Subsequent intervention by political officials further compounded the matter. A miscellaneous file contains the Organization, Routine, and Orders book for the USS NORTH DAKOTA (1911), also from this period.

During World War I Davis commanded the destroyer JARVIS. Correspondence consists of suggestions on naval duty for forces operating in European waters (July, 1917) and suggestions of the commander of the USS TEXAS based on experience in European waters (May, 1918). Other war-related material consists of war diaries of the JARVIS, based in Queenstown, Ireland (May 7, 1917-March, 1918), which record fuel, provisions, men aboard, weather, position, ships convoyed, convoy dispositions, sailing and operating orders, submarine encounters, and torpedoing of convoy ships. Reports in General Military records, consisting of proceedings of British and American ships in the southern division, list ships, dates, positions, submarine sightings, convoy sinkings, and torpedoings for June and August, 1917. A statistical analysis reports the activities of the USS JARVIS from June 10, 1917, until December 1, 1917.

Other topics covered in the Davis correspondence are the administration of the USS RINGGOLD (1919-1920), the administration of the USS WOODBURY (1922), trials and testing of Mark II compasses by the Sperry Gyroscope Company (1922), recommendation of Davis for additional navigational aids on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (1922), collision of the USS ZEILIN and HENDERSON (1923), and the loss of the USS WOODBURY by grounding in the Point Pedernales incident (1923-1924). A letter (May 2, 1923) provides a detailed confidential report on the visit of Lieutenant (later admiral) Tamon Yamaguchi, Imperial Japanese Navy to the USS WOODBURY. Letters (September, 1923, 1938) pertain to the burning and later liquidation of the Atlantic Paint and Varnish Company of Wilmington, N.C. A letter (February, 1925) reports on rioting in the Gulf of San Blas, Panama, by local Indians. Another letter (April, 1925) discusses lessons learned through combined fleet maneuvers.

World War II-related letters pertain to the development of a system of palletized ammunition loading and materials handling devised by Davis, then Inspector of Ordinance at the U.S. Naval Depot at Hingham, Mass. (1942-1943). A variety of photographs from Davis's time at Hingham show construction projects and various military functions. A six-page letter by a disgruntled Naval armed guard commander aboard the SS WEST CACTUS (July, 1942) complains of the phenomenal ineptitude of a merchant marine captain, the surly, inept union-controlled crew, lack of procedure for emergency operations, and inability to acquire armament. Post-World War II material includes a letter from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to Davis recounting an amusing story of life at the Naval Academy in 1905.

Proceedings of the general court martial of Davis (November, 1923) pertain to his acquittal in the grounding of the WOODBURY in the Perdernales Point disaster. This incident was precipitated by an error on the part of the captain of the DELPHY and also involved the LEE, YOUNG, NICHOLAS, CHAUNCY, and FULLER. Materials on this incident also include charts of the Point Pedernales area and news clippings about the disaster.

Included in the papers is Davis' Naval War College thesis, "The Foreign Policies of the U.S." (1929)

Pamphlets include a "Diagrammatic Study of the Battle of Jutland" (1921); and "A Descriptive and Historical Sketch of Port Arthur," which describes a city fought over by the Russians and Japanese and includes a map of the city and chart of the harbor showing sunken warships. There is also a pamphlet about Nimitz (1971), and a commissioning ceremony program for the USS NIMITZ (May 13, 1972). Clippings include a memorial tribute to Junius Davis (1916) and an account of the sinking of the USS DELPHY (1923). Also of interest is a "secret" eyewitness account of the Battle of Jutland (apparently hand-copied by Davis) by the executive officer of HMS WARSPITE, dated May 31, 1916; "Berehaven and Bantry Bay" (1917), a description of historical and legendary incidents of this Ireland locality, apparently written for Americans stationed in the area during World War I; and typescript copies of ribald doggerel pertaining to the efforts of John Harrelson to make saltpetre from chamber lye in Virginia in 1863.

Other items included are a program for the Army-Navy football game in 1940 and a reprint of "A Letter From the Committee Of the Association of New York To The Lord Mayor And Corporation Of The City Of London 5th May 1775," dealing with attempts to avoid the Revolution.

A photograph album consists of scenes of ships and ship life, probably of the USS DELAWARE in England dating from the time of the coronation of George V, 1910-1912. The oversize folders contain a 7' ×1' panorama of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, showing an anchored fleet, ca. 1920, and Davis's U. S. Navy captain's commission.

Administrative information
Custodial History

May 27, 1976,, War diary (1917-1918) for USS JARVIS and USS CUSHING, 221 pages; Gift of Captain Louis Poisson Davis, Washington, D.C.

April 13, 1979,, Files of Naval Officer (1905-1947); Including correspondence, orders, citations, notes, reports, logbooks, financial papers, photographs, clippings, and miscellaneous. Gift of Mrs. Davis, Washington, D.C.

August 29, 1983,, 120 items; Papers (1907-1944) including photographs, a commission, and publications. Gift of Louis P. Davis, Jr., Sarasota, Florida

October 4, 1983,, 115 items; Papers (1897-1943), including correspondence, photographs, reports, citations, decorations, and miscellaneous. Gift of Louis P. Davis, Jr., Sarasota, Florida

Source of acquisition

Gift of Captain Louis Poisson Davis

Gift of Mrs. Davis

Gift of Louis P. Davis, Jr.

Processing information

Processed by D. Lawson; C. Bentley, November 1985

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Davis, Louis Poisson, 1883-1978
Yamaguchi, Tamon, 1892-1942
Corporate Names
Henderson (Transport)
Jarvis (Destroyer : DD 38)
Ringgold (Destroyer : DD 89)
United States Naval Academy--Students
United States. Navy--Officers
United States. Navy. Pacific Fleet
Woodbury (Ship)
Zeilin (Destroyer : DD 313)
Destroyers (Warships)--United States--History--20th century
Jutland, Battle of, 1916
Shipwrecks--California--Honda, Point--History--20th century
World War, 1914-1918--Naval operations, American
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American
Honda, Point (Calif.)--History, Naval--20th century
Lüshun (China)--History

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Correspondence 1905 - 1917
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence 1923 - 1926
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence 1927 - 1936
Box 1 Folder e Correspondence 1937 - 1947, 1962
Box 1 Folder f War Diary 1917 - 1918
Box 1 Folder g Orders 1905 - 1923
Box 2 Folder a Orders 1925 - 1946
Box 2 Folder b General Military Records 1917 - 1921, undated
Box 2 Folder c Personal Military Records 1912 - 1946, undated
Box 2 Folder d Financial Records 1914 - 1938
Box 2 Folder e Court Martial Proceedings 1923
Box 2 Folder f Naval War College Thesis 1929
Box 2 Folder g Pamphlets 1921 - 1972
Box 2 Folder h Citations, Certificates 1920, 1946, undated
Box 2 Folder i Biographical Material 1933, 1942, undated
Box 2 Folder j Clippings 1916, 1923
Box 2 Folder k Miscellaneous 1916, undated
Box 3 Folder a Photographs, Post Cards, undated
Box 3 Folder b Photographs N. A. D. Hingham, MA 1942
Box 3 Folder c Miscellaneous Photographs 1905 - 1944, undated
Box 3 Folder d Photographs
Box 3 Folder e Photographs
Box 3 Folder f Photo album 1910 - 1912, Possibly the U. S. S. Delaware
Box 4 Folder a Miscellaneous, Citations, Program
Folder os1 Davis's U. S. Navy Captain's commission, Warrant of Appointment to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1945); and miscellaneous military documents and photos
Folder os2 Panoramic Photograph of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (ca. 1910) (Housed separately, see curator)