LOOK AT SOME OF THE SAM DAVIS HOME RELIC COLLECTION
by Charlie McCulloh
In an age where a “hero” is a morally corrupt rock star or a professional athlete making millions of dollars, the Sam Davis Home quietly preserves. The entrance to the grounds is of cut stone with the inscription “Sam Davis Confederate Hero”. The example of Sam Davis seems lost in today’s world, yet is more important than ever. Sam was a partisan from Tennessee who, rather than betray his friends, chose to die on the Federal gallows. For those of you who don’t know the story of Sam Davis, I would suggest that you read the very fine article that was in the June 2001 edition of the Camp Chase Gazette by Bethany Hawkins. Through the kindness of Ms. Hawkins, the Executive Director for the Sam Davis Memorial Association, and the able assistance of Stan Hutson of the 33rd Alabama re-enacting unit, I was able to review several interesting articles in the collection.
Richard Alexander Coat (see photos below)
The first article is an early war swallowtail enlisted coat
attributed to Richard Alexander of the 6th Tennessee Infantry. The
overall condition of the coat is good and all pieces are present. This coat is
of pronounced twill jean. Both the weft and warp are evidently machine loomed as
their texture is fairly consistent. The cotton is undyed and the wool is
apparently dyed prior to weaving. The wool color is now a faded light tannish
gray. The color is similar and consistent with other jackets
I have viewed. There is no evidence of overdying. The fabric has a very tight
weave, almost like canvas. Museum archives attribute the making of this coat to
Mr. Alexander’s Aunt, Mrs. M. B. Mentlo. The coat is cut, as a frock coat
would be, with the six piece upper body, two-piece sleeve, two-piece tail
construction. The jacket has 9 front buttons with well-worked hand button holes. Of the front buttons there are 5 remaining originals, which
appear to be brass. There are two buttons at the center tail/waist seams and two
buttons at the bottom of the tail folds. These buttons are not functional. The buttons are all flat ¾ inch coin type with single shanks. There are
no markings on the button faces. The buttons are benchmarked WARRANTED/RICH
ORANGE. The center rear fabric pieces are cut as one cut from neck to tail end. The swallow-tail pieces are cut on the arc from waist to side with
a moderate arc on the outside edge of the tails. The outside tails
are cut pieces joined at the waist. The tails are constructed as a
frock coat with the overlapping folds. The coat has no pockets in
the tail folds. The tailpieces overlap as in a standard frock coat. The collar
is a four-piece construction with a center seam at the back of the neck. The
collar had, at one time, a ½ inch red woolen tape that banded the collar.
The interior lining is of a striped and patterned cotton fabric. The lining is sewn directly on the seams where the interior and exterior seams line up. The lining extends to the interior tail and covers the interior tail overlap. There is evidence of cotton batting placed in the shoulder and chest area for padding. The collar is not lined. There are two pockets set to the exterior of the inside chest. They are approximately 7 inches deep and are made of different fabric. The left being made of the lining material and the right being made of a jean that differs from the garment. The pocket jean being of a heavier and courser twill. Both pockets overlap the interior facing and lining. The tail is unlined with the exposed tail edges being selvage and whip stitched down. There was no evidence of an edge top stitching on this jacket. The collar stitching appears to be where the woolen tape was applied.
The museum has a cased Daguerreotype of Mr. Alexander in this jacket. It is a fine representation of an early war coat and this particular swallowtail configuration is underrepresented in historical recreations.
Pvt. T. J. Flippin Jacket (photos below)
This is an interesting jacket of gray wool with a pronounced weave that appears to be kersey. The museum records show the jacket as being worn by Pvt. T. J. Flippin of the 3rd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry. The records show that he was captured shortly after the jacket was issued, but no date was shown. The museum also has Pvt. Flippin’s hat, and the records for the hat state that the hole in the hat was “received at the Battle of Jonesboro” which would mean late war.
The jacket itself is of gray wool with a very pronounced weave. It is a six-piece shell body with two-piece sleeves. There is no evidence of any trim on either collar or cuffs. The collar is about two inches and appears to be stiffened with interfacing. There are no external pockets. The jacket has eight buttonholes and six remaining Federal dome eagle buttons. Buttonholes are hand stitched and of top quality. The remaining thread on the exterior of the jacket appears oxidized brown, which would lead to the speculation that it was once dyed with darker natural dye. The sleeves are cut full and the body is cut to taper. There is a slight rounding at the bottom of the jacket fronts and the back rear of the jacket is cut straight across. There is a single row of topstitching along the outer edges and cuffs. The lining extends to the bottom of the jacket and is anchored in place by the topstitching. A wool-backing piece of approximately three inches backs the front edges of the garment. There appears to be interfacing in these areas.
The interior lining and sleeve lining of the jacket appears to be of osnaburg tabby weave cotton. The lining is cut in the same six-piece fashion as the shell with the back being of two sections. The sleeve lining is stitched to the body lining after the body lining is set in place. There is one exterior attached pocket at the left breast. The interior stitching is somewhat visible and the thread appears dark. This could be the color of the exterior thread prior to sunlight exposure. There is a fabric nametape with hand written name sewn to the collar of the jacket.
This is an excellent example of a documented western wool jacket. I have seen two other documented Western gray wool jackets, of this similar style, that were issued in late war. Both were in very good condition and were worn home by the owners after the end of the war. This leads me to believe that wool jackets were available in the west until the end of the war.
Charles B. Conley Handkerchief (photos below)
The provenance of this piece is that Mr. Conley used this handkerchief to stop the flow of blood from a wound he received at the Battle of Perryville. This piece is of a printed patterned cotton material that has selvedge on all sides. There is no evidence of stitching at the edges although the edges are slightly rolled. The pattern consists of a rose in a circular shield placed in line over a striped border. The interior pattern is a geometric flower like pattern on a field of random makings and patterns. It is a very busy overall design. Of course the colors have faded with age but the original colors were probably of a subdued nature. Due to the condition of the cloth it is impossible to get an exact measurement but the overall size appears to have been 24”X24”. The cloth itself is lightweight and it is obvious that it was made specifically as a handkerchief due to the fact that the pattern fits the entire area evenly and the edges are selvage. There is no evidence of any bloodstains that are discernable.
The Sam Davis Home has many interesting items that will be returning to display when the planned new museum addition is completed. The home and grounds are one of the most unique museums in the country because they home belonged to the Davis family and were in use until the purchase of the home for a museum by the State of Tennessee.
Sam Davis and his family are buried behind the home in the family cemetery. If you are in the Nashville area please stop by and support this very worthwhile and historic home.
Sam Davis Home
1399 Sam Davis Road
Smyrna, TN 37167