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:
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: