Charles M. Davis was the first Special Agent of the Post Office Department to die in the line of duty.
During the 1860s, nearly all communication in the United States went through the U.S. Post Office. However, the horrors of the Civil War and vastness of a growing country led to disruptions in mail transportation.
By 1860, the Pony Express and contracted stagecoach companies (like Wells Fargo) were utilized to transport U.S. Mail. Trails like the Overland Trail, Mormon Trail, and Oregon Trail were crucial to delivering mail across the United States territories but were increasingly dangerous. Protecting the mail and the employees became a dire concern as tensions after the Civil War and with indigenous tribal communities in new territories were high.
After numerous reports of stagecoach attacks, the U.S. Post Office Department began to rethink how to manage mail traveling across the country. The solution was to appoint trusted individuals as Special Agents for short durations. This appointment enabled the Special Agents to carry a weapon, arrest, and report on any crime that occurred during the venture.
Special Agent of the Post Office Department
On May 14, 1867, Charles M. Davis was appointed as a Special Agent of the Post Office Department. On May 31, 1867, a Wells Fargo stagecoach was transporting the U.S. Mail, nine passengers, two drivers, and Special Agent Davis along the Overland Trail beginning in Julesburg, in the northeast corner of the Territory of Colorado.
Just three days into the trip, the stagecoach was attacked by a group of individuals near Moore’s Ranch. One of the stagecoach drivers was killed instantly and C.M. Davis was mortally wounded. After the attack, Davis was able to make it to Dr Latham, the nearest military doctor, in Fort Sedgwick, but the damage was too grievous. Davis succumbed to his wounds on June 5, 1867.
The next week, the mail--covered in blood—arrived at its destination in California, but news of the attack didn’t reach Washington D.C. until much later that month.
Charles M. Davis’s death was discovered in 2022 by Postal Inspector Travis Smoot, Phoenix Division. During Police Week 2023, Davis’s name was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. He is the first Special Agent of the Postal Inspection Service to die in the line of duty.