The Civil War commenced not many weeks following and the Cadet became a Private in the army: Company I (Rutherford Rifles), 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment. At an unspecified date in 1863, Sam was selected as a member of the Coleman Scouts. The Scouts worked behind the Federal lines tracking the movements of the Union army.
Though usually dressed in Confederate uniforms and carrying passes authorized by CSA General Braxton Bragg, should they be captured, the enemy saw them only as spies.
On November 20, 1863, while resting en route to Chattanooga, Private Davis was captured south of Minor Hill, Tennessee. In his saddle seat was hidden information on Federal troop placement and strength between the Tennessee River and Nashville. This information had been taken from the headquarters of Union Brigadier-General Grenville Dodge.
In a waterproof haversack he carried northern newspapers, personal mail from southern citizens, small gifts for General Bragg and a letter signed by the mysterious “E. Coleman,” commanding Captain of the Coleman Scouts.
The intelligence found with Private Davis was so accurate that Dodge believed there was a traitor in his command. He offered young Davis freedom in exchange for either the name of his informant or the whereabouts of “Captain Coleman.” Sam refused. He was ordered to be tried before a military commission charged with being a carrier of mails to the enemy, and for being a spy. He confessed to being a courier, but adamantly denied being a spy. He was convicted on both counts, and sentenced to hang. At the foot of the gallows, Captain Levi “Chickasaw” Naron offered the Scout one last chance to save his life by giving General Dodge what he wanted. Sam declined again with these words: “If I had a thousand lives I would lose them all here before I would betray my friend, or the confidence of my informer.”At 10:30 a.m. on Friday, November 27, 1863, Private Davis gave his life for his cause and his country.