— RUTHLESS AND RACIST — Just before the hangman slipped a black cap over his face on October 11, 1878, William Preston Longley admitted to killing only eight people, not the thirty-two he bragged about—as though this revised number would help in his salvation.

“I deserved this fate,” he acknowledged in a final goodbye. “It is a debt I have owed for a wild and reckless life…so long, everybody!”

Longley’s […]

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— FORT SMITH’S FIRST EXECUTION — The afternoon of August 15, 1873, turned gray and foreboding, but the crowd gathered around the new gallows at Fort Smith, Arkansas, ignored the threat of an approaching storm to watch a prisoner navigate the thirteen steps to the scaffold.

Prisoner John Childers, cigar clamped between his teeth, wore a look of indifference as he made his way through the crowd of […]

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The Spy Who Wouldn’t Talk

Davis Home, Smyrna, TN

ALONG THE GRASSY BANKS of Stewarts Creek in Smyrna, Tennessee, sits the home of Civil War legend Sam Davis. Cotton still grows on this 160-acre farm, where the two-story upper middle-class structure now serves as a museum.

Davis, early in 1863, joined Coleman’s Scouts, a group of Confederate spies and scouts whose mission was to disrupt communications, and gather information about federal troop movements.

Boy Spy Captured

By the time 21-year old Davis joined the […]

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