From: The Daily Herald, Columbia, Tenn. April 24, 1969
Frank Harrison Smith (1848 1915) is perhaps the dean of Maury County writers and historians. He was active in the organization of the Maury County Historical Society, serving as its secretary until his death. He was known as a careful researcher and he filled many large notebooks with his research, interviews, and notes. As a youngster during the Civil War, he was present during the fight between Gen. Nathan B. Forrest and Lt. A. W. Gould in downtown Columbia. Smith's eyewitness account of this altercation remains the only one written and is greatly quoted by Forrest's biographers.
From: Frank H. Smith's History of Maury County
As compiled by the Maury County Historical Society, 1969
Execution of Sam Davis, Nov. 1863.
William James Moore of Maury Co., Tenn., 21 Dec. 1911, as revised by Mr. Moore
Mr. Moore was born in Maury County, 15 March 1840, and has resided here continuously all his life. Mr. Moore enlisted at the beginning of the Civil War in the 48th Tenn. Infantry (of Col. Wm. M. Voorhies). Sometime in 1862, he was detailed especially by Gen. Braxton Bragg of the Confederate Army to serve with Capt. E. Coleman's scouts (alias Capt. Shaw).
He was personally acquainted with Sam Davis, and very intimate with him. Mr. Moore speaks of young Davis as a soldier of the highest integrity of character, always prompt in the discharge of every duty. He was level headed and of fine judgement; a boy who did not shirk any danger where duty called, and did not hesitate to go where it was deemed important in securing information.
Sam Davis belonged, I think, to the lst Tenn. Infantry and he also had been especially detailed, possibly by Gen. Bragg, anyway, by a superior officer to serve with Capt. Coleman's Scouts, and it was while they were thus serving together that Moore and Davis got so intimate and well acquainted.
Bob Owen, Wm. Street, Newt Vaughn and myself, all of whom belonged to Coleman's Scouts, were in Middle Tennessee about Sept. 1863. The Yankees were cutting all the cedar timber around Blue Springs, five miles southeast of Columbia, near the present line of the N. C. and St. L. R.R. We were lying out up here on the river on Geo. Kennon's lot, and could hear these yankees cutting the cedar timber, which was abundant at that time, to make cross-ties for the Railroad. We concluded that as we were going out that night, we would ride over and see what they were doing. It was then about three o'clock in the afternoon. When we got there, we found about four or five hundred negroes and a squad of soldiers in the woods. We kept away from the soldiers and rode around among the darkies and stopped and questioned them occasionally. Finally we came across an old negro that used to drive Wm. S. Fleming's carriage, the negro was named York Booker, and he lived in Columbia, and died here recently.
This negro looked up and recognized me, threw up his axe as far as he could and then lit out, stampeding all the other negroes. Newt Vaughn shot at him twice, that brought a stampede on the whole crowd, yankees, negroes, and all. We got 14 mules, one Yankee soldier and three negroes and put them on these mules and started about three o'clock to carry them across the Tennessee River. When we got across the river, we turned the stuff over to Col. Carter, who sent the whole thing up to Gen. Bragg's headquarters.
We came back in here and stayed about a week and then went over on the other side of the river. When we got there, we had orders from Gen. Bragg to report at his headquarters immediately -- just we four scouts -- Bragg was then on Missionary Ridge. We got there in the evening and went in and spoke to him and he said, "You are the men that want to get into a fight, I believe?" We told him we didn't know so well about that. He said, "You have been fighting inside the line." We told him he was mistaken about that, and he said, "Well, show me your passes." We all had them, handed them to him. He took them and tore them all up, all four together, saying, "I want you to report to your command", and he talked to us a few minutes. We did not object, and he said, "You go back to the baggage-train and stay all night, and report to me in the morning." We went and when we got to the baggage-train there were negroes there to take our horses. However, we looked after our own stock as we knew our lives depended on our horses.
The next morning we went up to Gen. Bragg's headquarters at nine o'clock. When we got there, Bragg, having a double private tent, opened it, saying "Come back in here." He had our passes all written out for us to go to our command and handed them to us. We thanked him and started out but he said, "Hold on here, sit down here again. We sat down and he said, "Now you boys could do me a heap of good in Tennessee if you could go back there and do as a man wanted you to do. Well, we told him we did not care about going back, and he said, "Now I might detail one hundred men and send them in there and get every one of them killed before they could find out what you boys could find out in a week, and I want you to go back."
I believe Newt Vaughn was the man who spoke up and he said, "General, we will go if you detail us to go, but we are not going on our own hock. He scratched his head, then talked awhile, trying to persuade us to go, but we told him we would not. He then said Well you boys have been in there and know the roads, etc., and I will just have to detail you to go.," and asked us to give our passes back. So we were detailed by Gen. Bragg himself. Capt. Coleman had about 12 or 14 men in his company of scouts at that time.
When Gen. Dodge was leaving near Florence for Pulaski, in Nov. 1863, we were encamped on Big Creek, Giles County, on Bob English's place. Shaw detailed Bob Owen and myself to take some messages across the Tenn. River that night, and says, "It has got to go tonight." That was about three o'clock in the evening. We told him there would be about 20,000 soldiers (yankees) encamped along that road, and we did not see how we were going to get through. But he said it had to be done, so we told him we would take the chances, so he gave us the papers to cross Tennessee River at Decatur, by the next morning at breakfast. We started and went right through these camps. Rode down the road for three or four miles and them camped on both sides before we could find a good place to go across. We went then to Decatur and got there that morning just at daylight, called across the river, and made them come for us in ferryboat. Amos Barfield was Provost Marshal at Decatur at that time.
We went down the river about 20 miles, re-crossed and went back to Giles County. When we got there, Capt. Shaw had some more papers that he wanted to cross the river, and wanted me (W. J. Moore) to carry them across. I told him I could not carry them across that my horse was tired, I had ridden him all night and would have to have a new horse. So I came down close to Columbia and got me a new horse) started back and got about 12 or 14 miles from Columbia on the Pulaski pike about 12 or 1 o'clock at night. I noticed a light in two or three houses along the road and stopped to find out what was the matter.
I hitched my horse at the gate of a house, went up to the window and knocked my fingernail against the window and then went to the door. A negro girl came to the door and I asked her was Mr. Foster at home. She said he was, and I told her I wanted to see him. We went back in the hall and then into the room, and when she got in the room -- where there were several people sitting -- the women commenced to scream and go on so, I stepped inside of the hall and closed the door behind me and went to the door that led into the room. It was open about 6 or 8 inches. I had my six-shooter in my hand, so I put it against the door and pushed it open. When I pushed the door open, there were three yankees in there, who drew their guns all down on me. I had no way to get out for I had fastened the door behind me.
The papers that Sam Davis had on him when he was hanged had my name on them instead of his, and had written on them to Gen. Bragg that I was to carry them out to him. Davis got in the next day after I was captured, and Shaw sent him on with the papers,
The country was full of yankees, and he had never been through that country but a few times and did not know the roads very well, and they run him all day, and the next morning at daylight, he went to the ferryboat to get across, called the boat and after he got in the boat and pulled out in the river, the yankees came on him. He had no chance to get away, so he threw the papers that he had in the river and they followed them down the river and took them out.
They brought him to Pulaski where I was in prison, but never let me see him. In the meantime, they captured our captain (Shaw). Shaw and Davis were in one part of the prison and I was in another. When they tried Davis, Shaw did every way he could to make him tell that he (Shaw) was the man that gave him the papers, but he could not get him to do it. Davis said, "No, if I tell them that you are the man who gave me the papers, they will hang you, and they will never turn me loose anyway, and you will be worth more to the Confederacy than I will.
Dee Jobe was one of our scouts. The yankees caught him, swung him up by the thumbs, cut his tongue out, and left him to die.
Another thing you ought to have is about Old Man Shaw, the lame fellow who was a spy. He would come down here to town, go out in the woods there and cut a green hickory stick about half as big as his wrist and about five feet long, limping, and wearing an old white hat, his whiskers and hair worn very long, he would come into town and there was not but one man in town that he would talk to, except old man Jim Andrews. He could come to town, go to Nashville or Murfreesboro and go all among the yankees and find out in one day more than we could find out in a month. He is the man that got all this information down at Pulaski.
Patterson in his talk at Nashville on the Sam Davis monument accused Shaw of not being the right kind of a man by not telling the yankees himself that he was the man that gave Davis these papers. That made me as mad as the dickens, and I tackled him right there. I said, "You left the impression that our Captain did not do the right thing, and I know that he tried to get Sam Davis to tell it, and Alf Nicholson was in prison with Shaw and he told him about it."
I was captured at Foster's and sent to Pulaski. I was to start the next morning with papers that San Davis was captured with. My name was on these papers. Shaw had written it out, and said in the letter that I was to carry the papers out, and he did not re-write them, but sent the papers by Davis.
Well, I jumped out of the 2nd story window, after trying to bribe the Guard. He had agreed to let me out for $5.00, and I went across the street to Mr. McCord's. He had some relations here in our country, and I knew I could make him know who I was, that's the reason I went to him. So I went in and talked to him and told him who I was. Well, he says Mr. Moore, I can give you all the money you want in the morning", but I had made up my mind to go that night, and I said, "Mr. McCord, I do not want the money in the morning, I want it tonight, and if I cannot get it tonight, I do not want it at all. He said he could get $50.00 for me in the morning, and I said, "I do not want it, go back and see the women, they may have a little money. See if you cannot rake me up a little," but he came back saying they did not have it. I insisted so strong that he went back the second time, but came back without it again, and said again that he could get $50.00 in the morning, and I told him again that if I could not get it then, I did not want it at all.
I could not tell him I had bribed the Guard, but came as near telling it as I could. So I went back and tried to get the Guard to let me go and take an order. He said, "No, if I were to let you loose and they were to find that order on me, they would hang me in a minute! So I went back to the jail and jumped out of the 2nd story window, on a 12 foot pavement and into a two-foot ditch. There were eight guards standing there during the day, and I don't know how many was there at night, but one was standing at the corner of the jail when I jumped out of the window. He was looking the other way, and when I hit the ground I lay down in the ditch -- it seemed to me for about five or ten minutes, but I reckon it was just about that many seconds. Finally I raised up a little and looked at the guard, he was standing in the same position at the corner of the court house. He was either asleep or a little hard of hearing and did not look around.
I went across the street and got in McCord's garden. I then wanted to get out of the Chain Pickets, so I went out and found out where I wanted to go. I wanted to go between the Pulaski and Columbia Pike and the Railroad. The night was so dark I could hardly tell the location, and I finally had to lay down and crawl through the pickets and when I came across the line and got up to walk, I started out pretty lively and they hallowed and I walked slow to keep them from shooting at me, but when I got out a little further I lit out, and got up on top of the big hill between the railroad and Columbia pike and went into the big woods lot. I had a good knife, and found a log that had fallen down and took my knife and made space big enough to crawl under, then made a place big enough to lie down, then raked the leaves up and fixed them around, so any one going along would not notice where I went in. I had not been there 20 minutes until about four horses and wagons with about 10 or 15 negroes on them came along in about 30 yards of me, down under the hill, they never did see me.
I stayed there all day and was in sight of the Yankee Camp and it looked like about 1000 people camping there down towards Wales Station. I stayed there until it began to get dusk, finally concluded I would go down to a house to get me something to eat, but just then two Yankees rode up and hitched there and I was stopped, but made up my mind that I would ride one of those horses.
So I started out down the hill to a ravine that was running along down the side of the fence in the field. I went up that ravine until I was about even with the horses. It begun to get dusk and I got me two big rocks (my only weapons) and came down off the hill. I got out to the fence in about 40 feet of the horse just as the yankees opened the door and started to come out of the house, so I just lay down and let them come and get the horses and ride off. Then I went into the house and asked the man of the house could I get something to eat. He said, "My wife has been cooking for soldiers all day long. I told him I was aware of that and that I had been watching them, and said, "You tell your wife that if she has got anything cold it will satisfy me." He went in the house and came back and said, "My wife says come in, she will cook you something to eat." I had on my Confederate uniform.
I had been in the house but a few minutes when a bird dog that was on the porch barked. As soon as he barked, I went out the back door. I stayed out there until the gentleman came for me to come and get my rations. When I went in the kitchen to suppers the man's wife would not have been more surprised if I had shot her. She was just paralyzed, you never saw anything like it. She said, "I never expected to see you in this sort of a place, well, I never expected to see you in the yankee army. I said, "You are mistaken in the man." She said, Mistaken, indeed! I know you as well as I know anybody, you used to clerk at Sam Mayes store and I have bought goods from you when I went to Columbia. I said, "You are mistaken in the man." but finally she did pour me out a cup of coffee, but it looked like I never would get it. I ate two biscuits and a big piece of ham and was drinking the coffee, it was good coffee too, something soldiers had not been used to. Before I got through drinking the coffee, the dog barked again, so I reached over and got another biscuit and some more ham and went out the back door of the kitchen. I stayed out in the yard awhile and finally the man came out there and I told him, "You tell your wife I don't suppose she ever did expect to see me in the same place she did tonight, but I am no yankee soldier. I got out of jail last night and have been lying upon the hill here. I want you to tell me if there is a yankee picket on this road." He said, Yes, there is one at the mouth of this lane, I would advise you to go in the center of this field as near as you can and cross the pike in the center of the field. They may have a picket on each side of the mouth of the lane, so you had better look out up and down the road when you got out of the road in the field.
So I got across and walked about 5 or 6 miles, got tired and stopped at a fellow's house to sleep awhile, I was then seven miles from Pulaski. I told him I wanted to go to sleep and at daylight for him to be certain to wake me, and would like to have something to eat about that time. Next morning about one hour by sun, they called me to breakfast. I ate breakfast and started out up the road. I had not gone more than a mile until I came across a road that crossed Richland Creek that had a bridge over it -- going from Lynnville to Brick Church. I crossed the bridge and saw a man walking down the hill about three or four hundred yards. I went down there to see this fellow, and when I got up to the step and commenced talking to him, I asked him about the yankees. He said, "Look back up on the hill right where you were at. I looked back upon the hill and it looked like a Regiment of Yankees in the road. I turned and walked off from him and there was an old beach tree that had retained all the lower leaves that sometimes stay on all winter. I got that beech tree between me and the yankees, then I lit out.
I ran about 250 yards and jumped through a fence. They called "halt!" I could hear them but that did not make any difference. I got through the fence into a weed field. There was a sort of a pond in the weed field. I ran right down into that little pond and just stretched out on the ground right there in the weeds. In a minute I guess there was 15 or 20 Yankees ran up and commenced looking for me. Some of them said, "He must have gone in a hole." One of them said, "He is in that thicket." but another said "He did not have time to get there." Then another said., "He flew". They threw down the fence about 30 yards apart. They deployed skirmishers through that field about 30 yards apart. They were not looking for me on the ground, they were looking way ahead. One of them rode so close that I could see him bat his eyes. The sun came up pretty warm on me there directly and I went to sleep, and the first thing that waked me was this same crowd of yankees down below that thicket. They had been up in that country and got drunk. Some were so drunk could hardly ride. I thought I would go down and catch me one that was too drunk to ride and get his horse, but they all got away, before I got there.
I then went down to the house and told the old fellow there., "I want you to send me to Sam Garrett's, who had been discharged from the army with his eyes shot out. He said, I haven't any way to send you. I told him he had some horses up there in the thicket. I said, "I do not want to steal your horse, I want you to send me there and then I will be all right". He sent and got the horse and sent me over to Garrett's, and when I got there, I made him carry me to Mooresville. Then went from there out in the woods between Scribner's Mill and Morgan's Mill out in the Wolf Harbor Hills. I took a nap out there that day between two rocks, and slept there until the sun got away from there and I got cold, and that waked me up. I went from there down to Morgan Fitzpatrick's mill and met two girls coming up the road, scared to death, saying there were 1000 yankees at the mill and they were coming. I went down to the mill pond and crossed in canoe, thought if I was on that side they could not get me. I walked on down to the mill and when I got within about 50 yards of the mill, it had begun to get a little dark. I looked down towards the barn and think I saw about 50 yankees down there at the barn. I turned and ran back up to the mill pond, got over in a cornfield with burrs about 4 feet high, ran about 30 yards, and lay down in the burrs. They came down to the fence and then said they reckoned they would go on to Culleoka, which they did.
I went from there to George Hight's where I had left my old horse when I got a new one. When I got there, he was scared to death, thought the yankees would get me in a minute. I got his wife to cook me some supper. He said my horse was down under the creek bluff. After I ate supper, I got me an old quilt and plow line, put the quilt on the horse and tied the plow line around to hold it on, had a rope bridle on the horse. I hitched him to the door facing and told George Hight I had been losing a good deal of sleep, and that he must stand picket for me that night while I slept. So I got in a good feather bed and slept all night and waked up the next morning about an hour by sun and ate breakfast, got on my horse and started to hunt my friend Mr. Newt Vaughn. I had left him sick and unable to go, out in the woods, I went to the place to find him and from the looks of the camp, there had been no one there for three or four days. So I went to the house where he had been in the habit of going for his rations, and they told me he had been gone three or four days, so I went up Duck River to hunt him, and found him about three o'clock that evening. He gave me one of his pistols. We were in a few miles of Capt. Ben Turner's.
Newt Vaughn said, "Now Ben Turner has come in here from the Army and taken the oath. He came in horseback. I know that he did not give his saddle and bridle up to the yankees, so we will go down there and get them."
We went down to Mr. Turner's and told him, he denied having them. Mr. Vaughn says "Now you just as well get them for me. I know this river, I expect, just as well as you or any other man. I know where the caves are and which one you have hid them in." He looked up at Captain Vaughn and said, "Newt, who told you I put them in that cave. He said, "Nobody, I just knew the country well enough to know where you would hide them." Well, he said, I will go and get them for you, so he went and brought us a pistol without any scabbard, saddle blanket and bridle. We wanted the other pistol that he had, but he did not want to give that up, so we let him keep it.
End of Interview