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“Mother, I Do Not Hate To Die”
A choice between life and honor is a fearful one for any man. Here is the unforgettable story of how it was made by a twenty-one-year-old Confederate private.
February 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 2
Had General Dodge but known it, he would have had to look no further than his own military jail in Pulaski to find the man he wanted so badly. For in the roundup “Dr. E. Coleman,” the herb peddler, had at last been picked up and detained because of his skimpy identification papers.
Again, one wonders why no one connected “Dr. Coleman” with the man whose name was signed to the pass Sam carried. It read:
Headquarters General Bragg’s Scouts, Middle Tennessee, September 25th, 1863. Samuel Davis has permission to pass on scouting duty anywhere in Middle Tennessee or south of the Tennessee River as he may think proper. By order of General Bragg. E. Coleman, Captain Commanding Company of Scouts.
And the letter Sam carried bore the same signature:
Giles County, Tenn., Thursday morning November 19, 1863
Colonel A. McKinstry, Provost Marshal-General, the Army of Tennessee, Chattanooga.
Dear Sir:—I send you seven Nashville and three Louisville papers and one Cincinnati, with dates to the 17th—in all eleven. I also send for General Bragg, three wash-balls of soap, three tooth brushes and two blank books. I could not get a large size diary for him. I will send a pair of shoes and slippers, some more soap, gloves and socks soon.
The Yankees are still camped on the line of the Tennessee and Alabama railroad [evidently Nashville and Decatur]. General Dodge’s headquarters are at Pulaski; his main force is camped from that place to Lynville; some at Elk River and two regiments at Athens. General Dodge had issued an order to the people in those counties on the road to report all stock, grain and forage to him and he says he will pay or give vouchers for it. Upon refusal to report he will take it without pay. They are not taking all they can find. Dodge says he knows the people are all Southern and does not ask them to swear to a lie. All the spare forces around Nashville and vicinity are being sent to McMinnville. Six batteries and twelve parrott guns were sent forward on the 14th, 15th and 16th. It is understood that there is hot work in front somewhere. Telegrams suppressed.
Davis has returned; Gregg had gone below. Everything is beginning to work better. I send Roberts with things for you and General Bragg with dispatches. I do not think the Federals mean to stay; they are not repairing the main points on the road. I understand part of Sherman’s forces have reached Shelbyville. I hope to be able to post you soon. I think part of some other than Dodge’s division came to Lynville from the direction of Fayetteville. One of my men has just returned from there. The general impression of the citizens is that they will move forward some way. Their wagon trains have returned from Nashville. Davis tells me that the line is in order to Summerville. I send this by one of my men to that place. The dispatches sent you on the 9th with papers of the 7th, reached Decatur on the 10th at 9 p.m. … I am with high regard, E. Coleman Captain, Commanding Scouts
Sam could have saved himself by revealing that “E. Coleman,” “Dr. Coleman,” and Captain Shaw were one and the same man, but Sam steadfastly refused to tell anybody anything. To a final plea by General Dodge he replied, “The man who gave me the information is more important to the Confederacy than I.” That left the Federal commander no choice. A court-martial was convened on November 24.
Sitting in judgment were Colonel Madison Miller, 18th Missouri Infantry Volunteers; Lieutenant Colonel Thomas W. Gains, 56th Missouri Infantry Volunteers; Major Lathrop, 39th Ohio Infantry Volunteers; and Captain George Elliott, 39th Iowa, judge advocate. Charges and Specifications were:
Charge 1 : Being a spy.
Specification: In this, that he Samuel Davis of Coleman’s Scouts, in the service of the so-called Confederate States, did come within the lines of the United States forces in Middle Tennessee, for the purpose of secretly gaining information concerning these forces and conveying the same to the enemy; and was arrested within said lines on or about November 20, 1863. This in Giles County, Tennessee.
Charge 2: Being a carrier of mails, communications and information from within the lines of the United States Army to persons in arms against the United States government.
Specification: In this, that the said Samuel Davis on or about November 20, 1863, was arrested in Giles County, Tennessee, engaged in carrying mails and information from within the lines of the United States forces to persons in arms against the United States government.