Daniel Chevilette Govan was born in Northampton County, North Carolina on July 4, 1829, but was brought up in Mississippi, and attended the University of South Carolina. Joining in the gold rush to California in 1849 with his kinsman, Ben McCulloch, who was also to become a Confederate general officer, Govan returned to Mississippi in 1852, and then moved to Helena, Arkansas, in 1861, where he engaged in planting. Raising a company, which became part of the 2nd Arkansas Infantry, he became the regiment's lieutenant colonel, and subsequently was made colonel of the 2nd Arkansas regiment, and was present in the first day's battle of Shiloh. Sickness prevented his participating on the second day. In the Kentucky campaign, the 2nd Arkansas was in the brigade of General Liddell, and participated in the battle of Perryville. At Murfreesboro, still in Liddell's brigade, Colonel Govan led his regiment and during a part of the day the brigade. At Chickamauga he led the brigade, Liddell acting as commander of a division. He again commanded his brigade at Missionary Ridge and on the retreat, sharing prominently in the timely victory at Ringgold, and winning from his division commander, Pat Cleburne an evaluation as one of the commanders of whom General Cleburne said, "Four better officers are not in the service of the Confederacy.". On December 29, 1863, he was promoted to brigadier-general, his command consisting of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Arkansas regiments of infantry. Throughout the Atlanta campaign he handled his brigade so admirably as to merit favorable mention from his division and corps commanders and from Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who especially mentioned the gallant conduct of his brigade at Pickett's Mill. On the 1st of September, while Hardee with one corps was holding a position of no great strength in order to protect Hood's retreat from Atlanta, he was attacked by five corps of Sherman's army. Fortunately, the attacks were not simultaneous along the line, and Hardee was able to shift troops to the threatened points in time to repel assaults. About the middle of the afternoon an angle held by Govan's Arkansas and Lewis' Kentucky brigades, troops that had no superiors in the army, were assailed by an overwhelming force. They held to their line until the dense masses of the Federal troops poured over the works, and by force of numbers drove back the brave defenders. A large part of Govan's brigade fought until the dense volume of Federal troops overran them and took physical possession of the men and their weapons. What was left of the brigade, charging with Granbury's Texans and Gordon's Tennesseeans, succeeded in establishing a new line, which was held until night put an end to the conflict. General Govan, captured that day, was soon exchanged and followed the fortunes of the army of Tennessee to the last. He led his brigade through the hardships and disasters of the Tennessee campaign at Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville, and in the final campaign in the Carolinas commanded his own and Granbury's brigade, which had been consolidated. No officer of the Army of Tennessee enjoyed to a greater degree than General Govan did, the esteem of his men and of his superior officers.
Surrendering with General Joseph E. Johnston in 1865, General Govan returned to his plantation near Helena, Arkansas, where he continued to live until 1894, when he accepted from President Cleveland a post as Indian agent in the state of Washington. The last years of his life were spent in the homes of one or another of his fourteen children in Tennessee and Mississippi. He died in Memphis on March 12, 1911, and is buried in Holly Springs, Mississippi.