Sam Davis-Nathan Hale of the Confederacy

The Civil War seems colorful to many of us in retrospect, grey against the blue, all the romance that has built up about the War, etc.  To those who lived through it, I suspect the War seemed more like a dreadful nightmare from which they could not wake.  It is important to remember then those men and women who behaved with courage during this national calamity.  I can think of few people braver in that conflict than Sam Davis.

Davis was born in Smyrna Tennessee in 1842.  When the War came he enlisted in the Confederate 1rst Tennessee.  By 1863 he had transferred to Coleman’s Scouts, a group of Confederate mounted scouts and spies who operated behind Union lines in Tennessee.  On November 20, 1863 he was captured by Union forces.  He was wearing a Confederate unform, but he had Union battle plans in his possession.  Under the laws of war he could be hung as a spy.  He was sentenced by a courtmartial to be hanged unless he revealed to his captors who had given him the battle plans, which he adamantly refused to do.  Seven days after his capture he was taken out to be hanged in Pulaski, Tennessee.  The night before he wrote this letter to his mother:

Pulaski, Giles County, Tenn., Nov. 26, 1863
Dear Mother: Oh, how painful it is to write you! I have got to die to-morrow morning–to be hanged by the Federals. Mother, do not grieve for me. I must bid you good-by forevermore. Mother, I do not fear to die. Give my love to all.
Your son, Samuel Davis
Mother, tell the children all to be good. I wish I could see you all once more, but I never will any more.

Mother and Father, do not forget me. Think of me when I am dead, but do not grieve for me. It will not do any good. Father, you can send after my remains if you want to do so. They will be at Pulaski, Tenn. I will leave some things, too, with the hotel keeper for you. Pulaski is in Giles county, Tenn., south of Columbia.


His captors had grown fond of him and pleaded with him to save his life by naming his contact.  The Union officer in charge of the hanging detail appeared nervous and Davis told him, “Officer, I did my duty. Now, you do yours.”

Just before the noose was placed around his neck, he uttered the words that made his memory immortal in the South:

 “If I had a thousand lives to live, I would give them all rather than betray a friend or the confidence of my informer.”


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  1. Sam Davis died a patriot’s death; a patriot without the good will for the comon good; a patriot without our Founding Principles: “that all men are created equal”, a patriot without a country.
    Congress made all Confederate soldiers citizens, that they too, might be buried in Arlington Cemetery

  2. “Sam Davis died a patriot’s death; a patriot without the good will for the comon good; a patriot without our Founding Principles: “that all men are created equal”, a patriot without a country.”

    Oh, he had a country Mary, and that was precisely why the Confederates fought till half past midnight, with all their major cities occupied and their armies reduced to starving bands. I am very glad that the Union won, but never did men fight harder for a cause than the Confederates, and in making that claim I quote Ulysses S. Grant who hated their cause, but did justice to a defeated foe.

  3. How the Confederates must have hated the Union. Our Founding Principles, our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are ratified by every state and every citizen in every state. The Southern plantations borne on the backs of slaves was no reason to secede.
    The idea that one man can be free while another man cannot be free was the reason for the treason.
    Sam Davis was no Nathan Hale. I have known drug addicts who went to jail rather than roll over on their upline. That does not make them heroes.
    U.S. Grant treated the losing Southerners in the way that the losing Southerners ought to have treated the slaves. The South lost because the Southerners were losers.

  4. What a load of foolish rot Mary. Here is what Grant actually said in his Memoirs:

    What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.

    Your ignorant rant merely shames yourself and not Sam Davis. You are banned from this blog.

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