UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Hunter Davidson, 1827-1913

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1827
Place of Birth: Virginia
Date of Death: 1913
Place of Death:

Identity:

Captain Hunter Davidson was born in Virginia in 1827. His cousin Thomas Hunter died in 1868.

Life:

As Lieutenant Davidson in the Confederate States Navy (CSN) he visited London during the American civil war, on an expedition to pick up the steamer Stonewall and take her from London to Bermuda en route for Wilmington, NC. His superior officer was Captain Thomas Jefferson Page. By the time the Stonewall reached Havana, the Civil War had almost ended, and the ship was surrendered to the Captain-General of Cuba.

JW met Davidson shortly after this episode, during a visit to Valparaiso, Chile, in 1866. Hunter's ship, the Henrietta, carried arms, apparently torpedoes. It arrived in Valparaiso on 24 July 1866, by which time it was apparently too late to sell the arms, so the expedition was an economic disaster. JW's role in this affair is unclear; he may have been arranging the sale or distribution of the arms.

In 1868, during the time of his threatened expulsion from the Burlington Arts Club for pushing his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden through a plate glass window in Paris, JW wrote to Davidson for a character reference. H. H. Doty, who had also wronged Davidson, had been spreading lies about JW that would negatively impact his case with the Burlington (#00802).

In 1872, Commodore Thomas J. Page, a former CSN officer then in service with the Argentine Navy, referred the former Lieut. Davidson, then living in New York, to Dr Manuel Garcia, the Argentine Minister in Paris. Davidson met Garcia in Paris and after initial talks, voyaged to Argentina, where he helped to establish a floating torpedo (mines) defense system. He advised and assisted the Argentine Navy in the purchase of torpedos, torpedo boats and a depot ship, which would house the explosives, mine and cables required. Late in 1874 Davidson helped to establish the 'Argentine Torpedo Division' on the Lujan River, and was appointed commanding officer of the same. The depot ship blew up in an unfortunate explosion in 1877, but Davidson was exonerated from any blame.

During 1879 he was put in charged of a scientific expedition up the Paraguay river and rendered valuable services to the Argentine Navy until September 1885, when he resigned.

Bibliography:

Bulloch, James D., The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe or How the Confederate Cruisers were equipped, 2 vols, London, 1883, vol. 2, pp. 84-85, 90-96; www.history.navy.mil/photos (accessed 2004); information from André Louis Maurois, 2005.