I believe the title above is a true statement.
I am (maybe) the first to say so in print and (maybe) the only one who actually believes it.
But, whether I am or not, it was NEVER my intent to write about this subject.
However, a quote from an article in last week’s PULASKI CITIZEN convinced me to use this installment to reinforce my opinion.
Quoting THE PUBLISHER (in part): “Bryant told the story of Sam Davis’s slave who was with him at the jail, Coleman Davis Smith, calling the men friends.”
The earliest mention I have found of the (alleged) Coleman Smith/Sam Davis connection is in a 1910 Mississippi newspaper.
The (alleged) friendship showed up in Giles County Feb. 2, 1927, on the front page of the PULASKI-GILES COUNTY RECORD.
H. C. Featherstun of Senatobia, Miss., provided the information contained in this article which ends with the phrase, “...when Davis was shot as a spy.”
The last report I have of Mr. Smith (alive) is the 1929 newspaper story: “Bodyguard Of Civil War Hero Sent To Insane Hospital.”
The hospital was in Jackson, Miss.
From the TENNESSEE STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES (via the Internet): “The effort to record Civil War veterans’ experiences, during the conflict and before and after it, started in 1914. Dr. Gus Dyer, Tennessee State Archivist, developed a questionnaire and contacted all known living Tennessee Civil War veterans, asking them to return the questionnaires to Nashville.
“In 1920 the project was continued by John Trotwood Moore of the Tennessee Historical Commission and State Librarian and Archivist. The 1650 completed forms were returned by 1922 and were made available for historical research.”
A six-volume set of books titled “THE TENNESSEE CIVIL WAR VETERANS QUESTIONNAIRES” was published by the Southern Historical Press, Inc. ©1985
Mr. Smith’s transcribed QUESTIONNAIRE file is in Volume 5.
His information was (likely) added to the collection about 1927.
I ordered a copy of Mr. Smith’s file in December 2015. I received:
4 large (undated) QUESTIONNAIRE pages under the name of “Coleman Davis Smith.”
4 large (undated) QUESTIONNAIRE pages under the name of “Coleman Smith Davis.”
The PULASKI-GILES COUNTY RECORD article referenced before.
Two handwritten letters on the letterhead of H. C. Featherstun dated March 7 and March 10, 1927.
[DAN-NOTE: A small portion of one letter is missing from the published transcriptions. The handwritings on the two questionnaires are different. The handwriting on the “Coleman Davis Smith” questionnaire matches that of the Featherstun letters. The corresponding answers from the two questionnaires vary at times.]
After carefully studying this data, PLUS Mr. Smith’s (1926) Mississippi “APPLICATION FOR [Servant] PENSION” my conclusion is that when taken AS A WHOLE, the information is contradictory in places and inconclusive at best.
In 2018, the complete Sam Davis Trial Transcript was presented in seven installments of THE DANTICLEER.
I prefaced the series with the statement: “For more than 90 years reports have circulated that another young man (a servant) was captured and jailed with Private Davis. The factual details of that story are contained within this court-martial transcript.”
Sam Davis’ two captors and their (once slave-holding Captain), Levi H. Naron, testified at the trial.
They recounted details about Private Davis’ pass, the condition of his horse, the type of pistol he carried, his haversack full of newspapers and letters, a yellow envelope addressed to General Bragg, his Confederate uniform, etc.
But NONE of the three testified to seeing ANYONE with Private Davis on Nov. 20, 1863.
An Autobiography by Captain Naron (a.k.a. “Captain Chickasaw”) was published in 1865. Three pages in the book address the Captain’s experience with Sam Davis. But NO reference was made of anyone accompanying Private Davis when he was arrested.
The CONFEDERATE VETERAN was published (mostly) monthly for 40 years beginning in 1893.
From 1894 forward, portions of the Sam Davis narrative were presented regularly in the magazine. His enemies submitted much of the information.
The (alleged) Coleman Smith/Sam Davis relationship was NEVER mentioned.
The only “Coleman Smith” listed in the three-volume CV (reprint) index was a former Confederate soldier.