By CLAUDIA JOHNSON|
Published in CITIZEN August 24, 2004
Sam Davis' servant interviewed at age 83
was in Pulaski when Davis was hanged in 1863
by Claudia Johnson
In 1926 an 83-year-old negro man, Coleman Davis Smith, visited a business in
Senatobia, Miss., and spoke to H.C. Featherstun about "the (Civil) war and
"He said he could not get a pension as he was with a spy and stated that he
was with Sam Davis, was arrested with him, saw him hung," Featherstun wrote
to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He seemed to tell a straight story.
Seemed afraid that the Yankees would be after him this late. If we have made
a mistake, just pass it off."
Featherstun reported the visit to the Tennessee Historical Commission, and
on March 7, 1927, in a letter to A.P. Foster in Nashville, stated that he
found out all he could from Smith.
"He is very quiet and humble," Featherstun observed. "He did not ask for
Featherstun sent Smith to the proper authorities to apply for the pension
for which he had been eligible for several decades but had been afraid to
seek because of his relationship with Sam Davis.
Smith agreed to answer a Civil War veteran's questionnaire, in which he
stated that he was born in Virginia in 1844, the son of slaves, Robert Smith
and Maria. He was brought from Virginia as a small boy and sold to Lewis
Davis, the father of Sam Davis, and given to Sam as a playmate. His father
worked on the farm, and his mother cooked.
"Sam Davis and I worked together plowing and hoeing, doing such work as
comes up on the farm, until the war," Smith reported. "I was in no battles.
I went with Mr. Sam Davis, my young master, as a servant. He was a spy."
"My young master was always good and kind to me," Smith recalled. "When he
ate, I ate. When He slept, I slept. I did whatever he told me to do."
Smith was imprisoned at Pulaski when Davis was captured.
"My master had some important papers when they caught him," Smith
remembered. "I was in jail with him and kept pleading with him. We cut off
some of the soles of my shoes and put some paper in them. Soon after this,
he was hung. I was in [earshot] of him when they still [were telling] him
they would let him go. He gave no sign. Then the trap was sprung, and it
broke my heart. I canąt stand to think of it now."
After Davis' death, Smith returned to the Davis plantation in Rutherford
"Donąt remember much about it, only I finally got home to my old master,"
Smith farmed for the rest of his life, raising a family of 12 children. At
the time of his interview only four of his children were still alive, and he
was living with a daughter on Florida Street in Memphis. Although he was in
his 80s, he had worked the previous year for farm wages but was afraid he
would not be able to work the next year.
"The old man is very feeble," Featherstun wrote. "He won't be here long."
More information on Sam Davis, Confederate Hero.