Friday, April 24, 2009

Sam Davis

One of the famous spy incidents of the war involves Sam Davis of Smyrna, Tennessee. Davis served with the 1st Tennessee until wounds forced him out of the regiment after Perryville. Then he became a member of Coleman's Scouts operating in the Middle Tennessee area.

It was during this service that Sam had the misfortune to be captured by the Union and was taken to a jail in Pulaski, Tennessee. Union General Dodge told Davis he would hang as a spy if he didn't reveal information about his unit. Sam said something along the lines of, "I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend." Or "If I had a thousand lives to live, I would give them all rather than betray a friend or the confidence of my informer." In any respect he stuck to his guns and would not reveal any information. There are stories that Dodge really never intended to hang Sam but had said the threat just to scare the young man. And that Dodge later tried to get Sam to give up some minor piece of information so that he could spare a life. But Sam steadfastly reused to budge and showed quite amount of grace and courage.

Prior to his execution he wrote home:
"Dear mother. O how painful it is to write you! I have got to die to-morrow --- to be hanged by the Federals. Mother, do not grieve for me. I must bid you good-bye forevermore. Mother, I do not fear to die. Give my love to all."

Even at the very end Sam showed amazing courage. The guard was put off by Sam's age and seemed to have no desire to do the execution. Sam said to him (or maybe it's fake to add to the great story), "Officer, I did my duty. Now, you do yours."

In Pulaski you can see the spot where he was hanged on November 27, 1863. There is a little museum there but it was not open when I was there. Apparently its open only by appointment.

Davis' home in Smyrna is now a museum you can tour.
He visited his home a few days before his capture. He tied his horse to this tree while he visited his family, for the last time.

Behind the house is the family burial site.

There is also a monument of Sam on the capitol grounds in Nashville. I have not personally seen that but hope to one day. The story might be exaggerated but the essence of it is correct. A young man was captured and threatened with death to reveal information that would cause his friends to be captured (and possibly killed as well). He refused multiple times to save his own life by telling all he knew. He may not have said all those eloquent things that are attributed to him but his actions are proven.

1 comment:

Slamdunk said...

Good story and post--I had forgotten about Sam Davis.