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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Deposition of John Lane concerning the death of John Davis [Extract], including biographical note about Davis
Lane, John
December 12, 1855
Volume 15, Pages 377-378

[December Term, 1895, Book 13, Pp. 524-525.]

Wednesday, December 12, 1855.


“John T. Lane appears in open Court, and being sworn upon the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposes and says that he heard Thomas A. Green, of the County of Craven say, that he, the said Green, and John Davis of said County were taken prisoners of war together during the Revolution, and imprisoned together in Charleston (1780), and that he, the said Green, was separated from the said Davis, and that he never saw the said Davis after

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the said separation, and did not know what became of him, except from general rumor, and that rumor was that he was whipped to death in the British Navy. Deponent further states that he has frequently heard Thomas Davis say that his brother, John Davis, was whipped to death on a British Man of War. Deponent further states that he heard Captain Richard Carter say that he was a prisoner of war during the Revolution, and was imprisoned on board a British Man of War with one John Davis; that the Master of the ship tried to make the American prisoners do duty on board ship, and that the said John Davis, who was an American, peremptorily refused; whereupon the said Davis was severely whipped, that the whipping was stopped and he was told that if he would draw a bucket of water from the ship's side the punishment should cease; that he refused to do it, and the whipping was commenced often, and continued until his bowels were whipped out, and he died; that he, the said Carter, was an eye-witness to the whole. Deponent further says that the said Green and Carter died many years ago; that they were men of truth, and that he believes that their statements were true, and that he has no interest whatever in making this deposition.”


John Davis was one of three sons of James Davis—John, Thomas and William.

James Davis established the first printing press in North Carolina, in New Bern, (at foot of Broad street,) in 1749, and was the first public printer.

It is said that Davis, after his first whipping, was taken in a boat to the side of every ship in the fleet and given 15 lashes at each one; was then returned to the prison-ship and told if he would draw a bucket of water from the ship's side they would cease the whipping. He replied: “If His Majesty's whole navy was on fire, and that one bucket of water drawn by him would extinguish the flames, he would not draw it.” The flogging was then resumed and continued until he died, he being wholly or partially disemboweled.

Capt. Richard Carter was Captain of a Revenue Cutter at New Bern after the Revolution.