Sam Davis, Boy Hero of the Confederacy

1969 – Tennessee FOP Magazine

Sam Davis was born October 6, 1842, near Smyrna, TN attended school at Smyrna and later the Western Military Institute in Nashville, leaving there to volunteer for service in the Confederate Army, Co. I, 1st Tennessee.

Due to unusual courage and desire to accept hazardous responsibilities , he was assigned to the Coleman Scouts, operating in Tennessee. Generals Forrest and Bragg were anxious to recapture Nashville, the capitol. In some manner, the daring Sam Davis had secured the entire plan of the Federal army. It has always been thought that there was a traitor in the Federal camp who gave these papers to Sam and that he was not a mere private. The plans were too explicit and well arranged. Sam was offered his freedom – anything – if he would only divulge the name of the man who supplied him with the valuable plans and data.

To quote from the “Last few days of the Life of Sam Davis,” by Mrs. Ida King Davis, a sister-in-law of the Hero, now living in Smyrna:

“Sam was at his home near Smyrna one night a few days before his capture; he was cold, hungry and barefooted. His mother, after covering all of the windows so that no one could see or hear from the outside, prepared him some food, while his father made for him a pair of boots. They fed, warmed and clothed the boy, then he left for Cox’s Bluff on the Stones River, where, he spent the rest of the night. As there were Yankees near Smyrna he could not stay at home very long.

This was the last visit made by the young hero before his capture near Pulaski (Tennessee) where was put in prison and sentenced to be handed. He rode from the prison to the gallows on his own box of a coffin. After the black cap had been placed on his head someone saw a fast rider on a gray horse approaching. The captain said, “We’ll wait, this may be a message for Davis.” The message read, “Give Davis a safe guard home or to the Confederate lines. Tell him to let the guilty man die and the innocent man go free.” Sam never uttered a word but kept shaking his head in answer: nay, nay, nay. The Chaplain asked him, “Davis, don;t you think you owe it to your family to give the guilty man’s name?” To this Sam replied, “Chaplain, if I had a thousand lives to give, I would lay them all down before I would betray a friend.”

During the last five minutes of Sam Davis’ life he wrote his mother as follows:

“Dear Mother, I have five minutes to live and will spend it writing you. I don;t want you to grieve after me. I don;t only feel I am doing my country’s bidding but that all Heaven is sanctioning the act I about to take. I have asked the Chaplain to sing ‘On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand and Cast a Wishful Eye to Canaan’s Fair and Happy Land Where my Possessions Lie.”

This young hero now rests at the rear of the rose garden of his old home near Smyrna. this is the place where he spent a happy boyhood. This sacred spot was purchased about forty years ago by the State of Tennessee, to forever be preserved as a shrine to Sam Davis. Visitors are welcome there at all times.

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