In honor and memorial of the 150th Anniversary of the Capture, Trial and Execution of Sam Davis, Confederate Hero, an article by Dr. Michael Bradley. See samdavis150.com for more information regarding the 150th Anniversary memorial in Smyrna TN Nov 22-24.
Following the Battle of Chickamauga the Scouts were tasked with moving into Middle Tennessee to determine if reinforcements were moving from Corinth, Mississippi, to assist the Union forces trapped in Chattanooga. The men followed what was called “the Scout's line” which ran through the mountains of North Alabama south of the Tennessee River, a no-man's land controlled by neither army, and then crossed into Middle Tennessee. Once the vicinity of the Tennessee River was reached the men traveled alone or in groups of two or three.
Sam Davis moved into the area around Nashville, not far from his home at Smyrna, and visited his family and friends there for a few hours one night and then, after sleeping in the woods all day, made his way on towards Nashville. On the way he met two other Confederates, dressed in civilian clothes; Philip Matlock and James Castleman. The three caught a ride on a wagon going into town and were not questioned by the pickets. The three took a room at the Saint Cloud Hotel on Church Street. They spent two days visiting friends, gathering news, and purchasing pistols from U.S. soldiers who were willing to sell their side-arms for as little as $3. On the night following their second day they stole horses hitched outside the courthouse, and rode into the country, using side streets and cutting across vacant lots. The next morning, Sam Davis moved back toward LaVergne, Tennessee.
The attraction in that vicinity was the house of Mary Kate Patterson and her cousin, Robbie Woodruff. The Patterson house was used as a contact point by the Coleman Scouts since E.V. Patterson was a member of the unit. During the night Sam threw a gravel against the window of Mary Kate, who would later marry Sam's brother, and told her he was going to hole up in Rain's Woods for a few days. Rain's Woods was a 300 acre patch of dense undergrowth and cedars not far from the Patterson house. The next morning the two young female cousins took Sam his breakfast, putting coffee in an earthen crock and wrapping it in a blanket to keep it warm. After a pleasant visit, during which all the military news the two had collected was passed on, Sam took his path further south.
About November 16 Sam was in the vicinity of Fayetteville where he contacted Joel and Peter Cunningham, two local businessmen who had become guerrilla leaders. From them Sam gained more information and helped them chase a U.S. patrol back into town after the Yankee soldiers had crossed the Elk River.
Moving carefully cross country during the hours of darkness Sam reached the vicinity of Pulaski where he knew the XVI Army Corps, commanded by General Grenville Dodge, had taken position. Robert English lived on Big Creek near Campbellsville in Giles County, not far from Pulaski, and he provided a “safe house” for couriers passing through the area. Robert's nephew, Polk English, was a member of the Coleman Scouts. Davis spent several days at the English home and in the vicinity of Pulaski, visiting contacts and collecting the information they had gathered. On November 19, 1863, he began his return trip to Confederate lines.