Sam Davis

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Sam Davis
Sam Davis Monument at its dedication in Tennessee.jpg
The Sam Davis Monument at its dedication in Nashville, Tennessee
Born October 6, 1842
Rutherford County, Tennessee
Died November 27, 1863(1863-11-27) (aged 21)
Pulaski, Tennessee
Allegiance  United States
 Confederate States of America
Years of service 1861 - 1863
Rank Private
Unit Tennessee First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry
Coleman's Scouts

American Civil War

Sam Davis (October 6, 1842 – November 27, 1863)[1] is called the Boy Hero of the Confederacy. He was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He served in various combat roles in the Confederate army from 1861-63 during the American Civil War. As a Confederate courier he was captured around November 20, 1863. Suspected of espionage, he was executed by the Union Army after a captivity of only seven days.

Youth and Confederate service[edit]

Born October 6, 1842, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, he was the oldest son of Charles Lewis Davis and Jane (Simmons) Davis. The Davis family was considered upper middle class. At the peak period of the 1850s, records show the Davis Plantation had more than 50 slaves.[2] He attended local school in Smyrna, Tennessee, and was educated at the Western Military Institute--now Montgomery Bell Academy--from 1860–61. While there he came under the influence of headmaster and future Confederate General Bushrod Johnson.

He was recruited by Confederate scout forces early in the Civil War. He signed up as a private in the First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry in 1861 and his regiment marched off to war first at Cheat Mountain, next in the Shenandoah Valley, then at Shiloh and Perryville. Wounded slightly at Shiloh, Davis suffered a more severe wound at Perryville. After recovering from the later wound he took on very active service as a courier for Coleman's Scouts.

Capture and Execution[edit]

He was captured near Minor Hill, Tennessee, on November 20, 1863, wearing a makeshift Confederate uniform and in possession of Union battle plans. He would not tell who gave him the items. For this reason, he was arrested as a scout, and was seen as ineligible for the privileges of a prisoner of war. Instead he was sentenced by a drumhead military court to die by hanging unless he was willing to divulge the name of his contact. He is purported to have said, "I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend." Another famous quote, reminiscent of Nathan Hale, was, "If I had a thousand lives to live, I would give them all rather than betray a friend or the confidence of my informer.

Davis wrote a letter to his mother before his execution, "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." There was a postscript for his father, too. "Father, you can send after my remains if you want to do so. They will be at Pulaski, Tenn. I will leave some things with the hotel keeper for you."

He was hanged by Union forces in Pulaski, Tennessee, on November 27, 1863. As he was trundled along to the hanging site atop his own coffin, Union soldiers alongside the bumpy wagon road shouted out their entreaties for his cooperation, lest they have to watch the grim execution. Supposedly the officer in charge of the execution was discomfited by Davis' youth and calm demeanor and had trouble carrying out his orders. Davis is alleged to have said to him, "Officer, I did my duty. Now, you do yours."


Sam Davis House in Smyrna, Tennessee

Davis' story, and its parallel to that of Nathan Hale during the American Revolution, became a rallying point for the Southern cause in the waning days of the Confederacy.

Postbellum, he was commonly spoken of by clergy as well as laity as a Christ figure.[3]

His boyhood home is opened as a tourist destination Monday through Saturday.[4] A statue of Sam Davis was erected on the grounds of the Tennessee state capitol at Nashville.[5]

Statue of San Davis, "boy hero of the Confederacy", in the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville

A small monument has been placed at the site of his capture in Minor Hill, Tennessee.[6]


  1. ^ Biography from the Website of the Sam Davis Home and Museum. Retrieved on August 10, 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Wilson, Charles Reagan, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980, p. 53 et seq.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Statue of Davis at Nashville
  6. ^ Minor Hill official website. Accessed: 31 October 2016.

External links[edit]