During the Atlanta Campaign of the Civil War in 1864, 18-year-old deaf man, Joshua Davis, lived with his parents near Macon, Georgia. Joshua was squirrel hunting one day when he was surrounded by soldiers from Sherman’s army. He tried to explain that he was deaf, but the soldiers did not believe him. They pushed and shoved him towards the large mansion where the Davis family lived. Other soldiers were hauling away furniture and preparing to burn down the house. Joshua’s parents tried to convince the soldiers that Joshua was indeed deaf. But the soldiers suspected him to be a spy and dragged him away to hang him. Suddenly a Union officer on horseback rode up. The officer looked at the boy and signed to him, “Are you deaf?” Surprised, Joshua responded in sign language that, yes, he was deaf. When asked where he had gone to school, Joshua told the officer that he had attended the Georgia Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Cave Spring. After some thought, the officer, who had a deaf brother, ordered Joshua’s release and attempted to prevent other soldiers from looting and destroying the mansion. Joshua’s parents invited the officer to stay for dinner. Sign language saved Joshua’s life. – This story was told by Joshua Davis’s son, a retired teacher of nearly fifty years. NOTE: “…it is uncertain whether the Joshua Davis story is hard truth or an embellished tale describing how the war had affected a young deaf man. As with several other stories… we can only go so far with the research. Family records are often inaccurate, and in this first attempt to document the deaf experience in the Civil War….” An extra effort was made to verify these findings. (Condensed and edited from “Fighting in the Shadows” – Author Unknown – Reference: gupress.gallaudet.edu/excerpts/FITS.pdf)
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