On a cold frosty morning, in the winter of 1863, a wagon moved silently down the dirt road, a short distance from Pulaski, Tennessee, with only an occasional squeak from the springs to be heard. Riding behind the wagon is a squad of Federals, their horses' feet crunching on the frozen bleak winter ground.
Sitting on a casket in the rear of the wagon is the lone passenger. A strikingly handsome young man of but 21 years. A few days before this morning Sam was a Confederate scout, in the service of his homeland. Captured by the Federals and sentenced to die, he has been offered his life if he will but identify those who have given him information. Davis' answer was to look bravely into the face of the interrogating officer and reply, "Do you suppose were I your friend, that I would betray you?" The federal once again offered Davis his life and eventual freedom. Davis straightened his lean frame, and with total contempt in his voice for all the Federals represented said, "Sir, if you think that I am that kind of a man, you have missed your mark. I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend or be false to duty."
As Davis starts up the steps of the gallows, the boards beneath his feet gently creak from his weight. It is a bleak day; trees nearby are barren and stark. A single leaf finishes its life and flutters toward the ground.
Davis from the last step looks down upon the men, who in well-ordered columns intently watch him. The American flag snaps as a cold gust of wind rushes through his thin shirt. Davis sadly reflects that while this is his homeland, his native soil, it is none the less his hanging, for his country is occupied by the men who fly the red, white, and blue; and they are the enemy of his people; they represent a government whose sole objective is to destroy the way of life of those Davis loves.
As the heavy, stiff rope is placed around his young neck, thoughts of how course and ruff the rope is rush through his mind...thoughts of his mother who was hoping that he would be home for Christmas...thoughts of his beautiful sweetheart, whom he dearly loves....
Suddenly, a galloping horse is heard in the distance. A courier dashes up with a final offer of life for Davis, if he will but reveal the names asked for. Emotion wells up in the heart of Davis, his throat swells as a lump appears--a short breath--a moment's pause, and Davis says, "I'm ready." Another winter's breeze rushes through the trees, the many-starred flag snaps, and with it the rope around Davis's neck goes taught.
The Federals watch quietly as the golden leaf floats toward the ground--the
last vestige of a summer past, and like the Federals themselves soon to be forgotten. Not
so, Sam Davis.
Essay by Louis Beam