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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
His step was firm as he mounted the gallows and paused for a moment, gazing out over his beloved Tennessee hills. As the hangman stepped forward with a white hood, Colonel E. J. Chickasaw, chief of the scouts of the XVI Army Corps, pushed his horse to the foot of the gallows.
“I want to remind you again of General Dodge’s offer,” he called above the rolling drums.
“What was that?” Sam asked, without turning his head.
“Your life, your horse, your sidearms and safe conduct to the Confederate lines if you will tell who gave you those papers.”
Then Sam turned and, looking down from the gallows, gazed straight into the eyes of the Yankee officer. “I will not tell,” he said firmly. “I would die a thousand times before I would betray a friend.”
Colonel Chickasaw turned away. The hangman adjusted the white hood and the noose. Captain Armstrong closed his eyes as his arm rose, then fell in finality. The gallows rope jerked taut and swung gently in the rain.
Sam Davis “came home” for the last time on December 24, 1863. A neighbor, John C. Kennedy, drove the wagon that rumbled up the long drive to the front veranda where Charles and Jane Simmons Davis waited for their son. Beside him sat Oscar, Sam’s younger brother, who had also made the sorrowful trip to Pulaski. He brought a message from the Yankee provost marshal at Pulaski for the parents of Sam Davis:
“Tell them for me that he died the bravest of the brave, an honor to them, and with the respect of every man in this command.”