“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Pulaski in Giles County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Samuel “Sam” Davis

(1842 - 1863)


— The Boy Hero of the Confederacy —

Samuel "Sam" Davis Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, June 6, 2020
1. Samuel "Sam" Davis Marker
Inscription.  Sam Davis was born on October 6, 1842 in Smyrna, Tennessee, attended Nashville's Western Military Academy and, like many other young men, left school to join the Confederate Army in 1861. He served as a private in Company I for the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment and participated in the Cheat Mountain campaign in western Virginia under Robert E. Lee. In 1862 the 1st Tennessee moved west and took part in the battle of Shiloh, where Sam Davis was wounded.

The railroad running through Pulaski, connecting Nashville, Tennessee and Decatur. Alabama, was a vital supply line and strategically important to the Union Army. The Confederate Army's plan was to disrupt this supply line by destroying railroad tracks, bridges and trestles. As part of his plan, Confederate General Braxton Bragg saw the need to create a secret service organization to report on a regular basis what the Federals were doing in middle Tennessee. Henry B. Shaw was selected to command this unit and about 30 young men were chosen to serve, being selected because of their loyalty and courage. The unit was called “Coleman's Scouts” and Sam Davis was transferred to
Samuel “Sam” Davis Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, June 6, 2020
2. Samuel “Sam” Davis Marker
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this elite espionage unit.

In the late fall of 1863, Davis and five other scouts were assigned to collect information on the Union army in Middle Tennessee. It was during this time that General Grenville Dodge was moving the 16th Army corps from Corinth to reinforce General Grant at Chattanooga. When he reached Pulaski, Dodge received orders to remain in Pulaski, re-build the railroad, and fortify the town. Concerned about Coleman's operations in the area, General William Tecumseh Sherman instructed Dodge to “hunt out pests that infect the country. Show them no mercy.”

On November 29, 1863, Davis was traveling through southern Giles County when he was taken captive near Minor Hill by two Union privates dressed in Confederate uniforms. In Davis' possession were papers detailing the Federal troop movements near Nashville and Pulaski, as well as eleven newspapers and various personal items for General Bragg. Among the papers found concealed on Davis was information that could have only come from the desk of General Dodge. Convinced that one of his own officers was supplying information to the Confederates, Dodge decided to put pressure on Davis to identify his spy. Davis was incarcerated in Pulaski and was offered his freedom if he would tell where he obtained the papers and the identity of Capt. Coleman. Davis refused and was told he would have to
Samuel “Sam” Davis Marker image. Click for full size.
3. Samuel “Sam” Davis Marker
die unless he revealed this information. Dodge ordered a court martial and Davis was charged with being a courier of mails and of being a spy. Davis was convicted on both charges and was sentenced to hang. On Friday November 27, 1863, 21 year old Sam Davis was brought to the gallows on Seminary Ridge (presently Sam Davis Avenue). He was again offered another opportunity to gain his freedom by revealing his informer and the identity of Capt. Coleman (who was in the next cell, under his real name), but he replied, “If I had a thousand lives, I would lose them all here before I would betray my friend er the confidence of my informer.” Young Sam Davis chose his honor over his life that fateful day and was hanged by the Federals.

Upon his death, Davis was buried in Maplewood Cemetery. Several days after his death, Davis' brother Oscar and a family friend came to Pulaski and carried Davis' body back to his home in Smyrna for final burial.

Sam Davis, “The Boy Hero of the Confederacy,” will forever live in the hearts of all who hear his story. Confederates and Federals alike respected Sam Davis, and it would difficult to hear about this noble soldier's sacrifice without feeling a mixture of emotions; General Dodge, who regretfully carried out the execution, later donated money to the project that placed the Sam Davis statue on the Pulaski Square.
Sam Davis image. Click for full size.
Internet Archive
4. Sam Davis
This photo of a bust of Sam Davis, a design for part of a memorial to Davis, appeared in the Confederate Veteran, March 1901.

Erected by City of Pulaski.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #18 Ulysses S. Grant series list. A significant historical date for this entry is October 6, 1842.
Location. 35° 11.544′ N, 87° 1.668′ W. Marker is in Pulaski, Tennessee, in Giles County. Marker is on South Sam Davis Avenue south of Cleveland Street, on the right when traveling south. Marker is located in Maplewood Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 500 Ballentine St, Pulaski TN 38478, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. James M. McCallum (within shouting distance of this marker); John Goff Ballentine (within shouting distance of this marker); Pulaski Cornerstone — Southeast (within shouting distance of this marker); United States Colored Infantry (within shouting distance of this marker); Maplewood Cemetery (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Thomas McKissack Jones (about 400 feet away); Thomas Martin (1799-1870) (about 400 feet away); Professor John Thomas Bridgeforth (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pulaski.
Monument at Sam Davis's Grave Erected by His Father image. Click for full size.
Internet Archive
5. Monument at Sam Davis's Grave Erected by His Father
This drawing of Davis' Monument in Smyrna appeared in the Confederate Veteran in 1899.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 1, 2020. It was originally submitted on June 9, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 84 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 9, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.   4, 5. submitted on September 1, 2020, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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May. 8, 2021