DAILY NEWS JOURNAL, GREG TUCKER, 3/10/2013 Dewitt Jobe and Sam Davis were Coleman Scouts for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War. They were spies for the Confederacy. Both died at the hands of the enemy while refusing to name and betray their sources.
Davis is remembered as the “Boy Hero of the Confederacy.” His memory is preserved with a statue on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol and another at the site of his death. The Davis home is preserved as an historic site.
Jobe on the other hand is almost forgotten. One marker recounts his sacrifice.
As the Army of Tennessee moved southward and the Union forces advanced to and beyond Murfreesboro, Confederate General Braxton Bragg assigned Capt. Henry B. Shaw to recruit and organize a corps of “scouts” to work in secret behind enemy lines. Their job was to gather information on Union plans and activity and to deliver the information to the Confederate military command. To conceal his identity, Shaw used the “Coleman” name to identify his role as leader of the scouts.
Capt. Shaw recruited only unmarried young men who were excellent horsemen and who were familiar with the people and terrain of northern Middle Tennessee. Recognizing the dangers inherent in their spy work, and the deadly consequences of capture, Shaw wanted daring young men who would not be prone to caution because of family concerns. Information-gathering, meetings with informants and delivery to the Confederate leadership were done at night to minimize detection. During daylight hours the Scouts hid and rested.
Davis came from a prosperous plantation family. His home was east of Smyrna. Jobe was the son of a relatively prosperous furniture maker/metal smith in Mechanicsville, a community on the western edge of Rutherford County. (Mechanicsville, proximate to the Rocky Fork community, has disappeared from today’s map. The community name may well have evolved from the manufacturing activity of the Jobe family which employed a number of local artisans.)
Davis was on horseback to deliver documents and information to the Confederate command when he was captured. Documents in his saddlebag confirmed his role as a Confederate spy. He was held at a Union prison in Pulaski, where he was interrogated by senior Union officers. Refusing to cooperate, Davis was sentenced to death by hanging according to military protocol.
He was given a last chance while on the scaffolding. If he would provide the requested information, his life would be spared. He refused to betray his superior, his sources or his fellow Scouts. He died with dignity and honor. His body was placed in a coffin and returned to his family for burial.
Jobe was in daytime hiding, asleep in a dense thicket, when he was surprised and captured by a Union patrol of fifteen soldiers of the 115th Ohio commanded by Union Sgt. Taylor Temple. As he was being surrounded, Jobe literally chewed up documents that would have revealed his mission and sources. His captors demanded that he disclose what he destroyed. When he refused, he was brutally beaten.
Although accounts differ, Jobe’s assailants apparently knocked out his teeth, gouged out his eyes, cut out his tongue and strangled him to death. In response to each demand for information, he cursed his captors and refused to cooperate. Eventually he died from hanging or being dragged behind a horse.
His body was found either in a field or hanging from a tree limb, depending on the story told. Most agree that the body was picked up and brought to the family home by a Jobe family slave named Frank.
The fates of Davis and Jobe may have had some common factors. Both may have been betrayed by someone they trusted. Both may have been protecting the identity of a young woman who was an informant in Nashville with access to some of the Union command.
Clearly, both served their cause and their colleagues with determination, courage and integrity. They both died for their refusal to betray their leader, their sources and their friends. What sets them apart is the way in which they died, and how they are memorialized.
Davis died with dignity according to military protocol. His remains were treated with respect. Jobe was tortured and humiliated. His brutalized and mutilated body was left exposed.
Why are these two young heroes remembered and memorialized so differently? The answer involves John C. Kennedy, a Union collaborator from Kentucky. He agreed to help a grieving family and was deeply impressed by the story he heard from senior Union officers about a young soldier’s courage and loyalty.
At the request of the Davis family and with the cooperation of the occupying Union leadership, Kennedy brought home the body of Sam Davis and with it the story of his brave death as told by his admiring captors. (See Tucker, “Remembering Rutherford, ”The History Press 2010, page 31.)
Years later Kennedy retold his story at a meeting of the Tennessee Historical Society. This initiated the Sam Davis Monument Fund with Kennedy as its treasurer. The result was the commissioning of statues and memorials at the state capitol and in Pulaski, and the eventual designation of his boyhood home as a state shrine.
Jobe family lore, documented a generation later, suggests that some of the Union soldiers told the family of the fate and bravery of their son. But there was no one like Kennedy to bring the story to a greater awareness and appreciation. No one organized a monument fund to give Jobe’s story of valor and suffering a more visible and permanent place in Tennessee history.
Greg Tucker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.