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Title: Heroes of the Great Conflict; Life and Services of William Farrar - Smith, Major General, United States Volunteer in the Civil War
Author: Wilson, James Harrison, 1837-1925
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heroes of the Great Conflict; Life and Services of William Farrar - Smith, Major General, United States Volunteer in the Civil War" ***

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AND SERVICES OF WILLIAM FARRAR SMITH, MAJOR GENERAL, UNITED STATES
VOLUNTEER IN THE CIVIL WAR***


HEROES OF THE GREAT CONFLICT; LIFE AND SERVICES OF WILLIAM FARRAR SMITH,
MAJOR GENERAL, UNITED STATES VOLUNTEER IN THE CIVIL WAR

A Sketch by

JAMES HARRISON WILSON, MAJOR GENERAL, U.S.V.

The John M. Rogers Press
Wilmington, Del.

1904



[Illustration]



William Farrar Smith, the subject of this sketch, graduated at West
Point in 1845, fourth in a class of forty-one members. He died at
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 28th of February, 1903 in his
seventy-ninth year.

The publication of the Rebellion Records puts within the reach of every
student the official reports of the various campaigns and battles of
the Great Conflict, but something more is needed. They deal but
slightly with men's motives, and still less with their personal
peculiarities. They give only here and there any idea whatever of the
origin of the plans of campaigns or battles and rarely any adequate
description of the topography of the theatre of war, or of the
difficulties to be overcome. They describe but superficially the
organization, equipment, armament and supply of the troops, and leave
their trials, hardships and extraordinary virtues largely to the
imagination. They are entirely silent as to the qualities and
idiosyncrasies of the leaders. Neither romance nor personal adventure
finds any place within their pages, and fine writing is entirely
foreign to their purpose. They are for the most part dry and
unemotional in style, and are put together so far as possible
chronologically in the order of their importance without the slightest
reference to literary effect. While nothing is more untrustworthy
generally than personal recollections of events which took place over a
third of a century ago, those which are supported by letters and
diaries are of inestimable value in construing and reconciling the
official reports. But this is not all. The daily journals and other
contemporaneous publications are quite important and cannot be safely
left out of account. All must be taken into consideration before the
final distribution of praise and blame is made, or the last word is
written in reference to events or to the great actors who controlled or
took part in them.

In the list of the most notable men of the day the name of Major
General WILLIAM FARRAR SMITH must be recorded. He belonged at the
outbreak of the Civil War, to that distinguished group of which Lee on
the Southern side and McClellan on the Northern, were the center.
Joseph E. Johnston and William B. Franklin were his most intimate
friends, and I but recall what was then the popular belief when I state
that they were widely regarded as the best educated and the most
brilliant officers in the service. They were in middle life, in the
full enjoyment of their powers, and it was the confident opinion of
those who knew them best, that they were sure to become conspicuous
leaders in the impending conflict. Great things were expected of them,
and in this the world was not disappointed. They all reached high rank
and great distinction, but only one of the group was fortunate enough
to enroll himself amongst the world's great commanders. Johnston rose
to the leadership of an independent army but failed to win a great
victory or to secure the entire approval of his superiors. Franklin was
without doubt a corps commander of sound judgment and unshakable
courage, but he also failed to achieve the success that was expected of
him, and to secure the support and confidence that his high character
fully entitled him to look for from his Government. Smith who was not
inferior to the ablest of his friends and contemporaries, in the art
and science of war, had a career of great usefulness, in which he
rendered services of extraordinary value and brilliancy but which ended
in disappointment and unhappiness.

He was however not only a conspicuous officer connected with important
events throughout his life, and especially during the Great Conflict,
but he was a singularly virile and independent character who exerted
great influence over all with whom he came in contact. He was strong,
self-contained and deliberate in speech, and having been an industrious
student and an acute thinker all his life, his opinions always
commanded attention and respect. It so happened that his services
brought him into the very focus of events on more than one occasion. It
so happened also that I was more or less intimate with him to the time
of his death, from the date of my entry into the Military Academy,
where I had the good fortune to receive his instruction in mathematics.
I first met him in the field, while I was serving temporarily on the
staff of General McClellan, and he was commanding a division in the
Antietam campaign, and next at Chattanooga, whither I was sent in
advance of General Grant to prepare for his coming, after the
disastrous battle of Chickamauga.

Shortly afterwards Smith was transferred to Grant's staff as Chief
Engineer, and we messed and served together, in the closest intimacy
throughout that campaign, and until I was assigned to duty in the War
Department in charge of the Cavalry Bureau. I saw him frequently while
I was commanding a division of cavalry and he an army corps in Grant's
overland campaign against Richmond. During the latter period we were
exceedingly intimate, and when we were not serving together an active
correspondence was kept up between us. It is a source of pleasure and
satisfaction to me that this intimacy became still closer after General
Smith was appointed agent of the United States and assigned as a civil
engineer to the charge of the river and harbor works on the Delaware
and Maryland peninsula, with his office at Wilmington, Delaware. This
long and close intimacy, extending as it did over the greater part of a
lifetime, has afforded me an ample opportunity of studying his
character and familiarizing myself with the facts of his military
career, and with the point of view from which he considered his
relations to the men and events with which he was so conspicuously
connected.

A man of great purity of character and great singleness of purpose, he
took an intense interest in whatever his hand found to do. He felt a
deep and abiding concern in all public and professional questions, and
was both a tender and affectionate friend and an unrelenting enemy. He
was a bold and resolute thinker who indulged in no half way measures.
The bolder his plans and the more dangerous his undertakings, the more
careful was he in working out the details, and the more attentive was
he in supervising their execution. He left nothing to chance, but
provided for every possible contingency with infinite care and yet he
was a rapid worker. Methodical in his habits, untiring in his
application and deliberate in his manner, he was always ready, always
on time and nearly always successful.

In following him through the trials and vicissitudes of his active life
it will be seen that he was one of the most interesting personalities
of his day. He played a bold and distinguished part in the war for the
Union, quite out of proportion to the actual command which fell to his
lot. Indeed, it may well be doubted if any other single officer exerted
a more potential or beneficial influence than he did upon the plans and
operations in which he took part. While he was austere and reserved in
manners, he was most highly esteemed by all with whom he served, and
received unstinted praise for his suggestions and assistance, and yet
strangely enough he became involved in several notable military
controversies, which so enlisted his interest and wounded his pride as
to materially change his career and cause him great unhappiness, during
the later years of his life.

It may be truly said that he came to know by experience the dangers of
frankness and friendly criticism, and that even the most patriotic and
unselfish men in these modern times, like those of antiquity "have
their ambitions which neither seas nor mountains nor unpeopled deserts
can limit;" their egotism and personal interests "which neither victory
nor far-reaching fame can suppress;" their secret motives and purposes
which "cause them to injure one another when they touch and are close
together." After all, generals and statesmen are but fallible men, the
most magnanimous of whom are watchful of their rivals, and love not
those who despitefully use them. In the vindication of his claims that
he has rendered some service to his country, General Smith has made
several valuable contributions[1] to current American history,
and has in addition left a manuscript volume of personal memoirs upon
which I shall draw as occasion offers, and which will doubtless be
published in due time. They were written during the last two years of
his life and throw an interesting light, not only upon his own deeds
and character, but upon the life and services of his friends and
contemporaries. They are conceived in a kindly and charitable vein
which does credit both to his heart and to his understanding.

[Footnote 1: From Chattanooga to Petersburg under Generals Grant and
Butler, Houghton, Muffin & Co., N.Y. 1893.]


WILLIAM FARRAR SMITH was born at St. Albans, in Northern Vermont, on
the 17th of February, 1824. He came of good New England stock, which
emigrated from Massachusetts to the valley of Lake Champlain before the
beginning of the last century. Both his paternal and maternal ancestors
and relations were notable people, and took prominent parts in the
troubles of a thinly-settled frontier, and especially in the French and
Indian war, and in the Committee of Safety, as well as in the militia
and volunteers during the Revolutionary War. They fought at the battle
of Lake George, at the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and at the affairs
at Hubbardton and Bennington. They were the companions of Stark, Seth
Warner and Ethan Allen, and appear to have borne themselves bravely and
well upon all occasions. They were by name Robinsons, Saffords, Fays,
Butlers and Smiths. There is a well-founded tradition that his father's
family, which came from the old hill town of Barré, Massachusetts, were
known during the earlier colonial days as Smithson, but before
emigrating to Vermont dropped the second syllable for the sake of
simplicity, and always thereafter called themselves Smith.

William's father was a respectable farmer at or near St. Albans. His
uncle John was a lawyer and a judge of distinction, and during the
excitement growing out of the Canadian rebellion of 1837, was elected
to the next Congress. He was a Democrat and the only one up to that
time ever elected from the State. During his term of service he gave
the appointment of cadet at West Point to his nephew William. His
cousin John Gregory Smith, also a lawyer of distinction, was afterwards
Governor of Vermont, and for many years president of the Vermont
Central and Northern Pacific Railroads. His grandmother Smith also from
Barré, was the sister of a certain Captain Gregory of the Highland
regiment serving in Boston before the Revolution. Through this
connection the General always believed he received a strain of McGregor
blood, for many of that clan took the name of Gregory after their
immigration to the colonies.

His own mother was Sarah Butler, a direct descendent of Isaac and
Samuel Robinson who were believed to have come in the direct line from
the celebrated puritan pastor, John Robinson, of Leyden, who was long
recognized by even those who differed with him on questions of doctrine
as "the most learned, polished and modest spirit that ever separated
from the Church of England." To the prepotency of this distinguished
divine, General Smith often, in a tone of mingled banter and
seriousness, attributed not only his habit of mature reflection and
love of learning, but also his "moderation combined with firmness" upon
all questions which engaged his attention.

Be all this as it may, it is certain that his family were straight
Anglo-Saxons, who like the rest, came into New England under the
pressure of religious and political disturbance at home, and brought
with them the sturdy virtues and ineradicable prejudices of their race.
It is equally certain that this race, whatever its origin and however
it may have been compounded and produced, has thriven and expanded in
America, and that our country is indebted to it for not only its
greatest scholars, divines and statesmen, but for its greatest soldiers
as well. General Smith belonged by nature and education to both
classes, and before this sketch is concluded I hope to show that in the
highest walks of his chosen profession he had few equals and no
superiors.

Like many another youth, his latent love of arms and his determination
to go to West Point were aroused by seeing a company of regular
soldiers, and making the acquaintance of its officers, at his native
town. They were sent there to maintain order and prevent violations of
the neutrality laws during the Canadian disturbances in 1837-8. From
the day of his cadetship he received the sobriquet and was always
thereafter designated familiarly by his more intimate friends as Baldy
Smith in contradistinction from other officers of the same patronymic.
In the old days his name would have been written Baldysmith.

He was a brilliant and faithful student and became in turn a
cadet-corporal, color-sergeant and lieutenant. When it is recalled that
he received those honors from that prince of soldiers Captain
(afterwards Major General) Charles F. Smith, then commandant of cadets,
and in whose presence it is said no graduate of his time could ever
appear without involuntarily assuming the position of a soldier, it
will be understood that young Smith was brought up under proper
influences and sent forth with the highest ideals of his profession. He
graduated in the "fives" of his class. He was commissioned as a Brevet
Second Lieutenant in the corps of Topographical Engineers, and served
with it continuously till, for convenience and simplicity of
administration, it was merged with the Corps of Engineers after the
outbreak of the Rebellion. At the request of his chief, he gave up
two-thirds of the usual graduating leave of absence to lend a hand to
an under-manned surveying party on Lake Erie. His services were from
the first of the scientific and useful rather than the showy sort. They
brought him a wide range of valuable experience, extending from the
surveys of the great lakes to explorations of Texas and Arizona,
covering a period of seven years, two of which were spent under Joseph
E. Johnston and William H. Emory, then of the same corps, while engaged
in establishing the new boundary line between Mexico and the United
States. During his service in that region he located the stage and
wagon-route from San Antonio to El Paso, surveyed a part of the Rio
Grande Valley, and familiarized himself with the topography and
resources of Northwestern Texas and the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.
Later he was transferred to Florida and made surveys for a ship canal
across the peninsula from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico.
Subsequently he had charge of the Eleventh District in the light-house
service with his headquarters at Detroit. He then became Assistant
Secretary, and finally on the retirement of his friend, Captain
Franklin, Engineer Secretary of the Light-House Board. He had
previously asked for service with the army in Mexico, but this had been
denied. His service in Texas and Florida had brought him in contact
with a number of officers who afterwards became distinguished in the
Civil War. Among the most notable of these were Buell, Joseph E.
Johnston, McClellan, Meade, Burnside and Emory. His light-house service
gave him a friendly association with Commodore Shubrick and Captain
(afterwards Admiral) Jenkins of the navy, General Totten of the army,
Professor Bache of the Coast survey and Professor Henry of the
Smithsonian Institute, and opened to him a wide acquaintance with the
scientific thought of the day. While connected with the Light-House
board he planned and supervised the construction of four first-class
light-houses, one for Montauk Point, two for Navesink Highlands and
Sandy Hook, and one for Cape Canaveral. These were all works of the
highest class, fully abreast of the world's best practice at the time.

His experience in connection with the Light-House Board prepared the
way for a piece of specially useful service to the country during the
exciting period just prior to the outbreak of actual hostilities
between the North and the South. His position gave him access to the
Secretary of the Treasury, as the chief of the department to which the
Light-House Board belonged. The storm then brewing showed itself in
that board, made up, as it was, of Northern and Southern men, as well
as elsewhere, and being intensely loyal, Smith took measures to protect
and supply the principal light-houses on the southern coast. It will be
remembered that Howell Cobb of Georgia was succeeded by General John A.
Dix of New York as Secretary of the Treasury, and that the latter
aroused the drooping hopes of the country by his celebrated order: "If
any man attempts to haul down the American flag shoot him on the spot."
Smith was privy to and encouraged the issuance of that order.
Immediately afterwards General Dix gave him _carte-blanche_ over the
light-house service, in pursuance of which he visited all the important
southern light stations, winding up at Key West. He found that place
cut off from communication with Washington, and liable to fall at once
under the control of the Secessionists. The Collector of Customs was a
southern man and disloyal. The people of the town were in sympathy with
him, and were doing all they could to overawe Captains Hunt and
Brannan, who were stationed there with a small force of regular
artillery. They were loyal and able officers. Both rose to distinction
afterwards, but having been left without instructions they were at a
loss as to their proper course till Smith arrived with the latest news
from Washington. His clear and determined counsel gave them heart and
encouragement, under which they made good their hold upon the fort and
the island. They were reinforced in due time, which enabled the
government to hold this important strategic position at the entrance to
the Gulf of Mexico till the termination of the war put an end to all
danger. Before returning to the north, Smith visited Havana, where he
obtained valuable information for future use.

So far his work had been preparatory, and one of the most useful
features of it was his tour of duty at West Point. His services in the
south, and especially at Corpus Christi, had brought on a severe attack
of malarial poisoning, ending in congestive chills and shattered
health, followed by sick-leave and a return to the north. Before he had
entirely recovered he was ordered to West Point, as principal Assistant
Professor of Mathematics. This was in 1855, but his illness had so
seriously affected his head as to make it impossible for him to
discharge the duties of his position in a manner satisfactory to
himself. As one of his pupils, I failed to discover any lack of
knowledge or perspicacity on his part. To the contrary, he impressed
the sections of which he had charge as a very clear-headed man with
remarkable powers of mind and great aptitude as a disciplinarian and
teacher. It is now known, however, that the close attention and mental
exertion which his duties required of him gave him such pain as to make
it imperative that he should be relieved, and this was done at his own
request after a year's hard work and suffering. The injury he had
received was unfortunately never entirely overcome. Throughout the
whole of his subsequent life he was subject to recurrent attacks of
malaria, accompanied by pain in the head with a tendency to mental
depression, which disabled him entirely at times, and upon one most
important occasion compelled him to leave the field, when his interests
and his inclinations demanded that he should remain. I refer now
especially to the time when he was assigned by General Grant to the
command of the Army of the James, to succeed Major General Butler, who
was at the same time ordered to return to Fortress Monroe. It will be
remembered that this order was never carried into effect, but that
General Smith, who was suffering from one of his attacks, took leave of
absence, much to the concern of his friends, and went by the way of
Fortress Monroe to New York. There was no great movement under way at
the time, but before his leave of absence had expired he was notified
that the order in question had been countermanded. Various explanations
were given for this action, and I shall recur to it again. But it is
believed by those who were interested in General Smith, and had
confidence in his unusual capacity for high command, that his relief
was largely, if not altogether, due to intrigue, on the part of General
Butler, aided perhaps by an exaggerated estimate on the part of General
Grant of that officer's political importance, which General Smith could
easily have defeated had he been on the ground in actual command of the
army to which he had been assigned.

But to return to his services at West Point. It was during this year
that he greatly widened his knowledge of military history and the art
of war. Although far from well, he led the studious life of a
scientist, and in the daily companionship of the professors and of
Lieutenants Silvey and Holabird, two officers of distinguished talent
and learning, he obtained new and broader views of professional
subjects. He had early become noted as having an investigating mind
which could not be satisfied with superficial knowledge, and for a
sound and conservative judgment which gave great weight to his
conclusions. He was most deliberate and methodical in his habits of
thought, and had an unusually tenacious grip upon the thread of his
argument. His manners and movements, while free from every appearance
of hurry and excitement, were habitually so well ordered that he was
enabled to cover a great deal of ground in a small space of time.
Always a close student of the higher branches of his profession, and
belonging to an élite corps which at that time had no part in the
command of troops, he became a proficient in military organization,
administration and logistics, and also in strategy and grand-tactics,
as taught in the text books, long before the outbreak of the war for
the Union, but it is to be observed that he never claimed to have
become specially skilled in minor tactics, or in the daily routine of
company or regimental service. He was, however, so profoundly devoted
to the military profession in a larger way, that at times he gave to
those less learned than himself the idea that he was a pedant in
knowledge and a martinet on duty. With imperturbable self-possession,
great lucidity of statement and a decidedly deliberate and austere
manner, he was widely recognized as a masterful man, who won easily and
without effort the respect and admiration, not only of the cadets who
fell under his charge at West Point, but afterwards of the men and
officers who came under his command from the volunteers. To such as are
acquainted with West Point life, or with the relations existing between
officers and men in the army, no higher evidence can be given of
Smith's real abilities and strength of character. It is a creditable
fact that no cadet, however adroit or skilful can cheat his way through
the Military Academy, and that no officer, however plausible, can for
any considerable time deceive or impose upon the cadets with a pretense
of knowledge or a show of character which he does not possess. The same
is true perhaps in a less degree of the volunteers and their officers.
Occasionally a cadet or an officer may be so modest or unobtrusive or
so slow of development as to escape the critical observation of his
associates, but in most cases he becomes sufficiently known to justify
a correct estimate of his character and a fair prediction, under
favorable opportunities, as to his probable course and success in life.
Of WILLIAM F. SMITH it may be truthfully said that he made his best
friends among the cadets he taught and the subordinates he commanded,
not one of whom ever deserted him in trouble or adversity, denied the
greatness of his talents or questioned the elevation of his character.
His troubles and differences were always with those above him, never
with those under his command.

As is frequently the fate of the strong man gifted with an analytical
mind, and an outspoken contempt of pretense and sham, it was Smith's
misfortune upon more than one occasion to arouse the animosity and
opposition of those having higher rank than himself. Direct and
vigorous in his methods, and confident of the rectitude of his
purposes, he never hesitated to give his views to such as he believed
to be entitled to them, without reference to whether they would be well
received or not. Loyal and truthful by nature, he always held others to
the high standard which he set up for himself. Brought up to a rigid
observance of military discipline, it is not to be denied that he was
exacting in a high degree, with those over whom he found himself in
command. While he never permitted those below him to vary from or to
disregard his instructions, it is perhaps true that like most men of
talent, he was somewhat impatient of restraint, especially in cases
where he felt himself to be abler than his commanding officer, or
better informed as to the actual conditions of his work, and yet no man
knew better than he when the time for discussion and the exercise of
discretion ended and that for obedience and vigorous action began. If
at any time later in life he seemed to forget the true rule for his own
guidance, it must be inferred that he was sorely tried by the ignorance
or incompetency of those above him, or had overestimated their
forebearance or friendship for him, or their zeal for the public
service. Always highly conscientious in his purposes and independent in
his thoughts it was but natural that he should scorn "to crook the
pregnant hinges of the knee where thrift may follow fawning." Not
always as patient and conciliatory with his equals as a less virile or
rugged nature would have made him, he occasionally aroused antagonisms
and made enemies, as such characters always do, and those enemies were
not slow to impugn his motives, nor to do what they could to mar his
career. Withal, it will appear from a careful study of his life and
services as set forth in the records, and as explained by his own
writings, that his critics have signally failed to mar the foundation
of his reputation or to deprive him of the fame to which his brilliant
achievements so justly entitle him.

The culmination of the political agitation for the dissolution of the
Federal Union, and the commencement of actual hostilities between the
government and the seceding states, found WILLIAM F. SMITH, only a
captain by law, after fourteen years of continuous service, a few
months over thirty-seven years of age, and in the full maturity of his
faculties. As before stated, his health was never afterwards altogether
stable, but it was sufficiently re-established to enable him to throw
himself heartily into the struggle and to perform such duties as fell
to his lot with a fair degree of endurance. Although a Democrat, as far
as he had any party connection, his sympathies were all with the Union
and National Government, and impelled him to lose no time, but make
haste, on his return from Key West and Havana, to obtain such
employment as might be open to him. The first duty that was offered him
was in New York, where he was engaged for several weeks in mustering
the volunteers into the United States service.

During this period, on the 24th of April, 1861, he was married to Miss
Sarah Lyon, a young lady of New York, who was famous for the loveliness
of her person and character, whom he had first met two years before. It
was on a short wedding trip to his native state that he offered his
services to the Governor. The latter had already raised and organized
two regiments of infantry but without hesitation he promised Captain
Smith the next, as soon as it should be called for.

Meanwhile he was still subject to duty as an engineer officer, and as
such, strangely enough was ordered to report to Major General Benjamin
F. Butler, fresh from the life of a successful lawyer, then in command
at Fortress Monroe, where he arrived on the 1st of June, 1861. While
there he conducted several important reconnaissances in the direction
of Yorktown and Big Bethel, and thus became acquainted with a region in
which he was afterwards to play a most important part. His services
lasted something less than two months, and became still more notable
from the fact that they made him thoroughly acquainted with General
Butler. They were brought suddenly to an end by the reappearance of his
old trouble, which in time made it necessary for him to take a
sick-leave. The surgeon who had him in charge directed him to again
seek the tonic climate of Brattleborough in his native State. According
to promise, his good friend, the Governor, took the earliest
opportunity to send him his commission as Colonel of the Third Regiment
of Vermont Volunteer Infantry, to date from July 16th. But owing to the
scarcity of regular officers, he had previously been ordered to duty on
the staff of General McDowell, then commanding the army in front of
Washington, though, his health did not permit him to join in time to
take part in the forward movement which ended in the disastrous battle
of Bull Run.

As soon however as his strength was sufficiently re-established Colonel
Smith repaired to Washington, and in the rush and excitement which
prevailed after the return of the defeated army to that neighborhood,
he was engaged in helping to fortify and defend that city till the
danger was past and the requirements of his regiment made it necessary
for him to take command and begin its preparation for active service.
It is to be noted that there was an unaccountable reluctance on the
part of the War Department at the time, to permit the detachment of
officers belonging to the various staff corps, for the purpose of
commanding volunteers, but this was overcome without much difficulty in
his case, and he began his career as an infantry colonel opportunely at
the very time that McClellan was re-organizing the defeated army and
badly needed the assistance of educated officers. Deeply impressed with
the importance of stimulating the pride of the volunteers, and of
keeping alive the heroic traditions of their state by all proper means,
Colonel Smith recommended that the Vermont regiments should be brigaded
and trained together, and fortunately this was approved by General
McClellan. The Green Mountain men had won great renown in the Colonial
and Revolutionary Wars by virtue of their state organization and
services and the marked individuality which characterized them. It was
a happy thought to keep them together during the Civil War. The sequel
showed that it was not only highly beneficial to the national cause,
but that it added greatly to the fame of the Vermont men.

As the war was a sectional one in its origin, many of our best officers
believed that the volunteer regiments should be formed into brigades
and divisions, without reference to the States from which they came.
They held that an army organized in this way would more rapidly develop
the national spirit and become a more efficient military machine than
one formed on state or sectional lines, and the general practice to the
end of the war, in the Union army, was in accordance with this idea.

The Vermont brigade, composed of the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and
Sixth Vermont Regiments, was the one notable exception to this practice
and the result was in every way satisfactory. It preserved its identity
till the end of the war and became famous as one of the best and most
distinctive organizations that ever upheld the Union cause. It was
composed almost entirely of native Vermont men, racy of the soil,
hardy, self-reliant and courageous, and always ready for the serious
business of warfare. It owned its early and enduring discipline to
Smith, who was appointed Brigadier General on the 13th of August, and
from that time forth it never ceased to have a place in his affections.
From the first he took a special pride in his regiment, and devoted
himself earnestly to its instruction and discipline, for the perfection
of which it soon became noted, but in those days of rapid changes, when
the loyal states were sending forth their volunteers by the hundred
thousand, brigades soon grew into divisions, and divisions into
army-corps and armies.

General Smith was then at exactly the right age, and had already
achieved such a high reputation as a scientific and competent soldier,
that he was called upon after only a few weeks' service as a brigade
commander to take charge of a division of three brigades. Looking about
him with anxious care for a suitable successor, he assigned the Vermont
Brigade to the command of Brigadier General William T.H. Brooks, a
graduate of West Point from Ohio, but a grandson of Vermont. He was a
veteran of the Mexican and Indian Wars, in which he had gained great
experience, and from which he became justly famous as one of the finest
soldiers of his time. A man of striking countenance, great physical
vigor and dauntless courage, he was an ideal leader of the Vermont men
and at once won their confidence and respect. It is one of the
traditions of the times that under him "The Iron Brigade," as it soon
came to be known throughout the army, was never repulsed and never
failed to accomplish the task before it. Its "skirmish line" was
believed to be "stronger than an old-fashioned line of battle," and
when it covered the advance, the column behind it had to put forth its
best efforts to keep up. From the brigadier general to the lowest
private, they not only knew their business, but just when they should
be called upon to take the lead. It was one of the grizzled privates
during the pursuit of Lee from the field of Gettysburg, who perceiving
that the cavalry was making but poor progress, said from the ranks as
General Sedgwick was passing: "I 'low you want to get to Williamsport
tonight, don't you, Uncle John?" "Yes, my man," said the General.
"Well, in that case you had better put the Vermont brigade to the
front!" The suggestion was at once adopted, and under the sturdy
advance which followed the desired camp was reached that night without
a check or a halt by the way.

The other two brigades of Smith's division were commanded,
respectively, by Windfield Scott Hancock and Isaac I. Stevens, two
soldiers of the highest quality, and both destined to achieve undying
fame. When their subsequent career is considered it may well be doubted
if there was ever a division in the Union army commanded by abler men
than Hancock, Stevens, Brooks and Baldy Smith. During the formative
period of the Army of the Potomac, when all were drilling, all studying
tactics, all teaching guard duty and all striving hard to establish a
satisfactory state of military discipline, Smith varied this irksome
work by an occasional review, or by the still more exciting exercise of
a reconnaissance in force, thus adding practice to precept, and
bringing regiments and brigades to act coherently together. In all this
he handled his division skillfully and well, and consequently soon had
the satisfaction of showing those in authority over him that it was in
admirable spirits and condition.

How far he favored the policy of delay for the purpose of increasing
the army's strength and perfecting its organization is not certainly
known, but it must be admitted on his own testimony that he belonged to
the coterie of officers who fully trusted and supported McClellan in
the determination to make complete preparation before moving against
the enemy. Nor is it known what part he took in the selection of the
line of operations ultimately adopted by McClellan for the capture of
Richmond. Perhaps this is not important, for neither the duty nor the
responsibility of the choice was his. It is not likely, however, that
he was consulted for his acquaintance with McClellan was not at first
close or intimate. At a later period he joined his friend General
Franklin, then generally acknowledged as one of the leading military
men of the day, in a letter to the President recommending the transfer
of the Army of the Potomac from the vicinity of Fredericksburg to the
James River, as near to Richmond as practicable, and urging its
reinforcement by all the troops that could be gathered from the
departments of the Atlantic seaboard. Without discussing here the
origin or the wisdom of this controverted proposition, it may be
remarked that it was supported by such an array of arguments and
influence as would doubtless have secured another trial for it, even in
the face of its failure under McClellan, had the condition and strength
of the army, and the resources of the country been considered by the
administration sufficient to meet all the requirements of the civil and
military situation.

At a still later period after General Grant had come to the head of
military affairs, had decided to take personal charge of operations in
Virginia, and was seriously considering the appointment of General
Smith to the immediate command of the Army of the Potomac, it became
known to me, through a letter from the latter, that he strongly favored
a "powerful movement from the lower James River, or even from the
sounds of North Carolina" against the interior of the Confederacy. I
was at that time serving in Washington, as the Chief of the Cavalry
Bureau, and upon receipt of the letter laid it before General Rawlins,
Grant's able Chief of Staff, but without giving it my concurrence or
approval, for such consideration as he might think best to give it. It
was received at a juncture when the selection of a proper plan of
operations was conceded to be a matter of the gravest importance. It is
an interesting fact that the plan in question did not receive the
support of Rawlins, although both he and Grant, fresh from the victory
of Chattanooga, were warm friends and admirers of General Smith as a
strategist. Rawlins, with unerring instinct, took strong grounds
against it, for the reason, as he vigorously expressed it, that he
could not see the sense of going so far, and taking so much time to
find Lee with a divided army, when he could be reached within a half
day's march directly to the front, with the entire army united and
reinforced by all the men the government had at its disposal. Knowing
that this was Grant's argument as well, I have always supposed that his
final decision to advance directly from Culpepper Court House against
Lee's army, and to retain Meade in immediate command of the Army of the
Potomac, while the entire available force of Butler's Department should
advance directly from Fort Monroe under the immediate command of
General Smith, was due partly to Smith's decided opposition to the
overland line of operations, and to his tenacious adherence to the
principal features of the plan which he and Franklin had recommended to
Lincoln. Meade's approval of the direct line of advance, and his
cheerful support of Grant's plans as explained in detail, aided by
Butler's assurances of hearty co-operation, doubtless had much to do
with the retention of those officers in their respective places, and in
the assignment of Smith, much to his disappointment, to a relatively
subordinate position on the line he had so openly preferred. It may
also account in some degree for the failure of those distinguished
generals to work as harmoniously with each other to the common end, as
was necessary to ensure success.

Before following this interesting subject to its conclusion, the part
actually played by General Smith in McClellan's Peninsular Campaign
should be briefly recounted. After the Army of the Potomac had been
transferred to the lower Chesapeake, by water, instead of landing at
Urbana or on the estuary of the Rappahannock, as was at first intended,
out of fear of the Merrimac, which had played such havoc with the
wooden frigates of Goldborough's fleet, in Hampton Roads, it was
disembarked at Fortress Monroe. It necessarily lost some time here
before it could be reunited and begin its march up the Peninsula. It
had hardly got well under way, when much to the disappointment of the
country it found itself stopped for thirty days, by an insignificant
stream and a weak line of entrenchments held by a few guns and a single
division of Confederate Infantry, under the command of General
Magruder.

The so-called "Siege of Yorktown" followed, and General Smith, chafing
at the delay which he conceived to be unnecessary set about studying
the situation in his own front, with the keen eye of an experienced
engineer. Having the year before familiarized himself with the lay of
the land near Fort Monroe, he was quick to grasp every condition which
favored an advance. A careful reconnaissance of his immediate front
enabled him to surprise a crossing of Warwick River and to carry a
section of the fortified line beyond. This as might have been expected
was done by a detachment of the Vermont Brigade, which made a gallant
effort to maintain the lodgement it had gained, but as it was not
supported by McClellan, it was withdrawn after suffering a loss of 165
men killed, wounded and missing. This was the first engagement in a
campaign destined to cost the lives of many brave men and to end in a
terrible disaster to the national arms.

After making a heroic stand and holding McClellan and his overwhelming
force at bay for nearly a month, Magruder abandoned his lines and fell
back to Williamsburgh on the road up the Peninsula to Richmond. He was
slowly followed by McClellan's army. Smith's division having crossed
the Warwick at Lee's mill, led in the pursuit, coming up with the enemy
strongly posted in a new line of fortifications covering the town of
Williamsburg. Smith's engineering skill and his quick intelligence
served him again most fortunately, and with the aid of Captain West of
the Coast Survey then serving on his staff, soon enabled him to find
the weak spot in the enemy's position. This time it turned out to be on
the extreme left, where he had failed, probably through lack of troops,
to occupy the extensive works which had been previously constructed.
Realizing intuitively the futility of a front attack against such
entrenchments, Smith threw Hancock's brigade promptly to the right and
under cover of the woods, succeeded without serious loss or delay in
occupying one of the works from which, with his division he could
easily have swept the whole line had he not been restrained by the
presence of his seniors.

Unfortunately McClellan was in the rear, but Sumner and Heintzelman,
corps commanders, were soon upon the ground, and with prudent but
ill-timed conservatism declined to sanction the proper movement to
reinforce Hancock, for fear that it would bring on a general engagement
before the army could be properly closed up and placed in position to
participate. Smith recognizing, the great advantage certain to arise
from pushing promptly through the opening he had already found,
besought Sumner for permission to go with the rest of his division to
Hancock's assistance, but this was also denied. As other troops arrived
on the field, Smith moved to the right to make place for them, with the
hope that he might be permitted to continue his march unobserved till
he had come up with his advanced brigade, but orders were sent which
arrested him before he had accomplished the object he had in view. All
day long he was held in the leash with certain victory in sight.
McClellan arrived on the field late in the afternoon, but before he
could get a satisfactory understanding of the condition of affairs,
night came on. Consequently nothing decisive was done that day and a
great opportunity was lost. The wily Magruder, seeing that his left had
been turned, and that his position was untenable, abandoned his works
under cover of darkness and fell back towards Richmond. Obviously this
result was due, first, to the fortunate discovery made by General Smith
and his engineer, and to the successful turning movement of Hancock,
based thereon; and, second, to the certainty that if properly
reinforced by the rest of Smith's division, and by other divisions, if
necessary, as it surely would be as soon as the national commander had
come to comprehend the real condition of affairs, the Confederate
forces would be taken in flank and rear and overwhelmed.

This was Smith's last chance at anything like independent action.
During the remainder of this ill-starred campaign he played the part of
a subordinate division commander, in a large army engaged in a
complicated series of movements and battles, and of course had no
control over the general plans or operations. There is no evidence that
he was ever consulted by anyone except his corps commander Franklin who
was himself also a subordinate. The army lacking field experience, did
not work well together as a whole. The corps commanders had been
selected and appointed by the Secretary of War, without reference to
McClellan's wishes or recommendations. Several of them were veterans,
who received their assignments because of seniority rather than for
special aptitudes, and this naturally begot a disposition on the part
of the division commanders, who were generally younger and perhaps more
ambitious men, to look carefully after their own troops and leave
larger affairs to their seniors. At all events, Smith's principal care
henceforth was to handle his own division and look out exclusively for
its requirements, and this he did prudently and well, especially during
the Seven days' battle, and during the change of base from the York to
the James River. His brigades, led as I have pointed out, by very able
men, were more or less constantly and successfully engaged. They took a
most creditable part in the battles of Golding's Farm, Savage Station
and White Oak Swamp.

Throughout the whole of this trying time of incessant marching and
fighting Smith remained watchful and wary, directing his division
through every peril, and finally conducting it, without material loss,
but with increased confidence in itself and in its leader, to the new
base which had been selected for the army. His cool and confident
bearing, and his skillful conduct throughout this campaign, won for him
the brevet of Lieutenant Colonel in the regular army and the rank of
Major General of Volunteers.

It was during the night march from Malvern Hill that General Smith
encountered General Fitz-John Porter, his class-mate whom he always
regarded as a first-class soldier, and with whom upon this occasion he
had a conversation, the facts of which go far to justify this high
estimate. Noting that Porter seemed greatly depressed he asked what was
the matter. In reply, Porter told him that as soon as he had become
certain the evening before that the enemy had been broken and beaten
back from his reckless attack on the Union lines at Malvern Hill, and
had withdrawn in disorder from the field, he had gone to McClellan on
board the boat which he had occupied with his headquarters, and had
begged him with all the arguments he could bring to bear, and all the
force he could command, to assume the offensive at dawn. He said he had
spent half the night in advocacy of this policy, expressing the
confident belief that if adopted it would result, not only in the
destruction of Lee's army, but in the capture of Richmond. He had no
doubt that our own army, encouraged by the sanguinary repulse it had
finally inflicted upon the enemy, would respond to every demand which
could be made upon it, and would thus turn a series of indecisive
combats, which the country would surely regard as defeats, into a
magnificent victory. Smith's testimony shows this splendid conception
to have been no afterthought with Porter, as it was with many who
subsequently came to understand the facts of the case, but coming as it
did hot from a desperate battle field, must be regarded as the
inspiration of true military genius, while the fact that McClellan
rejected it must always be considered as the best possible evidence of
his unreadiness to meet great emergencies. Smith does not say
specifically that he approved it, but the context of his narrative
leaves but little doubt that he thought favorably of it and would have
given it hearty support.

In the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula, and
its transfer to Washington, as ordered by Halleck and the Secretary of
War, Smith and his division necessarily played a subordinate part. With
the rest of the army they formed a tardy junction with Pope in front of
Washington, and did their share towards making the capital safe and
unassailable, but they were not again engaged till they met the enemy
in the bloody and successful action at Crampton's Gap, in the South
Mountain. The division also took part three days later in the battle of
Antietam, but notwithstanding McClellan's claim that the battle was a
"master piece of art," neither Smith's troops, nor the corps to which
they belonged, were seriously engaged. This was not the fault of either
Franklin or Smith, both of whom were greatly displeased with the
disjointed and irresolute manner in which the Union forces were handled
and the battle was fought. The most that can be said is that both
General Smith and his division did all that was asked of them, not only
in the battle of Antietam, but in following Lee's army back to
Virginia. These operations are now justly regarded as reflecting but
little credit on the generalship by which the national army was
controlled during that period of its history. While they ended
McClellan's military career, they afforded but little chance for any of
his subordinates to gain distinction, and those who escaped
responsibility for supporting his policy of delay had good reasons to
regard themselves as fortunate.

The withdrawal of McClellan and the accession of the weak and
vacillating Burnside to command was followed by a re-arrangement of the
Army of the Potomac into three grand divisions, and a re-assignment of
leading generals. Franklin was placed in command of the Third Grand
Division, consisting of the First Corps under General Reynolds, and the
Sixth Corps under General Smith. In the abortive Fredericksburg
campaign which followed, these corps had the extreme left of the Union
line, but it should have been evident from the start that with the
opposing armies separated by a broad river occupying a deep valley,
from three-quarters of a mile to a mile and a half between the opposite
crests, the movement which was to bring on the battle must necessarily
be fought under extraordinary disadvantages to the attacking army. In
the mind of those who were to carry out the details of the movements,
success must have seemed hopeless from the first. Burnside was from the
beginning of the campaign overcome by the weight of his
responsibilities, and between tears at one time and lack of sleep at
another, his fatuous mind failed to evolve for itself, or to accept
from others a definite and comprehensive plan of operations. He seemed
at successive times to have had hopes of surprising Lee, of breaking
his center and overwhelming his left, of seizing two important points
in his main line of defence and completely turning his left, but withal
it is certain that he gave to none of these operations sufficient
attention to justify the slightest hope that it could be successfully
carried into effect.

On the other hand, Lee was on the alert with his army of 78,000 men,
well and compactly posted in a commanding and almost impregnable
position along the wooded heights which overlooked Fredericksburg and
the valley of the Rappahannock from the south. Burnside had 113,000 men
of all arms, well supplied and thoroughly organized, commanded by the
ablest generals in the service. His preponderance of force was
therefore close to fifty per cent., but unfortunately that was not
enough to outweigh the natural and artificial obstacles, the heights,
stone walls, entrenchments, open fields and river to be overcome by the
advancing army. The task was a hopeless one from the start, and to make
matters worse, Burnside, who at best had but a vague and uncertain
comprehension of the work before him, seems to have lost what little
head he was endowed with before his operations were fully under way.

The result was unfortunate in the extreme. Two Grand Divisions
succeeded in crossing the river without material opposition, but at
once found themselves confronted by difficulties and forces they could
not overcome. Franklin, in compliance with his instructions, took two
days to get into position, but when his two corps had reached the place
assigned them on the old Richmond Road, with the aid of Smith and
Reynolds, he looked over the ground and made up his mind that the only
chance of victory was offered by an assault upon the enemy's right
center, with the full force of his two corps, amounting to 40,000 men.
Burnside, at his invitation, came to that part of the field, and after
listening to the views of the three generals, either of whom was vastly
his superior as a soldier, approved the plan and promised to give a
written order for its execution. Franklin waited all night for the
order, telegraphed twice, and finally sent a staff officer for it, but
it never came. Indeed it was never issued but a different order
directing him to seize the heights at Hamilton's House, nearly three
miles from his right division, and to keep the whole of his command in
readiness to move at once, was sent instead. Sumner received an order
equally inane, in reference to Marye's Heights. The resulting
operations which should have been carefully co-ordinated and vigorously
supported, were weak and indecisive. As the day wore away Lee took
advantage of the delays and the opportunities which they offered him,
and assumed the offensive. There was much severe but desultory and
disconnected fighting. The Union generals with their officers and men
did their best, but Burnside was on the opposite side of the river and
could neither give intelligent orders nor act promptly upon the
suggestions which were sent to him from the field. There was no chance
for maneuvering. It was from the first head-on, face-to-face fighting
with no hope of victory for the assailants. The Union losses were over
12,500 men killed, wounded and missing, of which 4,962 belonged to
Franklin's Grand Division, while Jackson's corps which confronted him
lost 5,364.

A full description of this mid-winter campaign would be out of place in
this sketch, and the same may be said of the abortive Mud Campaign six
weeks later, which had for its object the passage of the Rappahannock
by a movement above Fredericksburg. Both Franklin and Smith took part
in this ill planned and poorly executed undertaking. The weather and
the roads were against it, and it soon came to an end quite as pitiful,
though not so costly, as its predecessor.

Following these failures, Burnside, in futile desperation, prepared an
order relieving Franklin, Smith and several other officers of inferior
rank from duty, and dismissing Hooker, Brooks, Newton and Cochrane from
the service. He made no further charge against these officers than that
they had no confidence in himself, and this much was probably true, but
it would have been equally as true of any other generals serving at
that time in the Army of the Potomac. The President, instead of
approving the order, it should he noted, at once relieved Burnside and
assigned Hooker to the command. Sumner and Franklin both of whom
outranked Hooker were relieved from further service with that army,
while Smith was transferred to the command of the Ninth Corps, which he
held but a short time, owing to the failure of the Senate to confirm
him as a major general. This was doubtless brought about by
misrepresentation, made to the Senate committee on the Conduct of the
War, but as the action of the Senate and its committees in reference to
confirmations were secret, no correct explanation can now he given of
the allegations against Smith, though they were generally attributed at
the time to Burnside and his friends, and while they were neither
properly investigated nor supported, they resulted in reducing Smith to
the rank of brigadier general and depriving him of the high command
which he would have otherwise continued to hold.

It is worthy of note that before these changes were made, and while the
Army of the Potomac was still floundering in the mud under the
inefficient command of Burnside, Franklin and Smith joined in the
letter previously referred to, advising the President to abandon the
line on which the Army was then operating, with such ill success, and
after reinforcing it to the fullest extent, to send it back again to
the line of the James River. This letter was doubtless written in
entire good faith, but at a time when it seemed to be impossible for
the government, even if it had so desired, to carry out its
recommendations. Its only immediate effect was to arouse the antagonism
of Mr. Stanton against these two able officers, and to deprive the
country for a while of their services. A wiser and more temperate
Secretary of War would have filed and ignored it, or sent for the
officers and explained why he deemed their advice to be impracticable
at that time. That, however, was not Mr. Stanton's way. Although
intensely patriotic and in earnest, he was imperious and overbearing
both to high and low alike, and preferred to banish and offend rather
than to listen and conciliate.

The winter of 1862-3 is now by common consent regarded as the darkest
period of the war for the Union. The failure of Burnside's plans and
the defeat of Hooker at Chancellorsville severely tried the discipline
and organization of the Army of the Potomac, and filled the loyal North
with alarm, while it correspondingly encouraged the Confederate
government and raised the confidence of its army. As soon as the winter
was over and the roads were settled Lee assumed the initiative, drove
Hooker back from the Rappahannock, crossed the Potomac, advanced
confidently to Chambersburg and pushed his cavalry as far north as
Harrisburg and York.

Hooker had also proven himself to be incompetent, and desperate as the
measure was, the Washington government relieved him in the midst of an
active campaign, and entrusted the army and its fortunes to the
direction of Major General George G. Meade, a gallant and able soldier,
who checked the high tide of rebellion at Gettysburg on the 2nd and 3rd
of July, 1863. During this campaign Smith, who was on leave of absence
when it began, made haste to offer his services, without conditions,
and was at once sent to Harrisburg to assist Major General Couch, who
had been assigned to the command of the Pennsylvania and New York
militia. Taking command of an improvised division, he moved against the
enemy, then threatening Carlisle, with all the assurance of a veteran,
and while the prompt retreat of the enemy prevented any severe
engagement, the movement was entirely efficacious. With the true
instincts of a soldier he pressed on in the direction of the
Confederate army, and took part in its pursuit from Gettysburg back to
Virginia. Curiously enough, instead of commending and thanking him and
his raw troops for their gallant services, the Secretary of War ordered
his arrest for taking his command beyond the limits of Pennsylvania,
for the special defence of which the militia had been called out, but
fortunately the remonstrance of General Couch caused this order to be
recalled, and the gallant but unappreciated general again withdrew from
the field, as soon as the scare was over and his forces were permitted
to return to their homes.

It will be remembered that the news of Lee's defeat and his retreat
from Gettysburg reached the country on the 4th of July, and that the
same day was made triply memorable by the capture of Vicksburg with
Pemberton's entire army of 30,000 men with all their guns and
ammunitions. These two striking events threw the country into the
wildest enthusiasm. Even the most despondent now became confident that
the Southern Confederacy would soon be destroyed, and that the
triumphant Union would be finally re-established. But this confidence
was destined to be rudely shaken.

Later in the summer, taking advantage of the lull in operations
elsewhere, the Confederate leaders sent Longstreet's splendid corps of
veterans from Virginia, and that part of Johnston's army which had been
paroled, together with such detachments as could be got from Alabama,
to reinforce Bragg, who had been driven by Rosecrans from Middle
Tennessee to Northern Georgia. Turning fiercely upon his over-confident
pursuer, as soon as his reinforcements were at hand, Bragg struck a
staggering blow at Chickamauga, which not only came near giving
Chattanooga back to him, but filled the northern states with
consternation. The war was not only not ended, but had burst forth with
renewed vigor. Reinforcements in large numbers were hurried forward
from all parts of the country to Chattanooga. Hooker, with Howard's and
Slocum's corps, was sent out by rail from Virginia, while the greater
part of Grant's Army of the Tennessee was withdrawn from the lower
Mississippi, where it was resting after the capture of Vicksburg, and
marched over-land from Memphis to the same place. The separate
departments in the Mississippi Valley were consolidated into a military
grand division, under the supreme command of General Grant, and what
turned out to be of almost equal importance was the fact that Brigadier
General William F. Smith was relieved from service in West Virginia,
where he had been recently assigned to duty, and sent to contribute his
part towards strengthening the national grasp upon the vast region of
which Chattanooga was justly considered the strategic center.

Whatever the government at that time may have thought of him as a
commander of troops, it is certain that it was willing to recognize and
use his experience and marked intellectual resources as an engineer
officer to their fullest extent. As it turned out, it could not have
paid him a greater compliment, nor given him a better opportunity for
distinction. His fame had gone before him, and on his arrival at
Chattanooga, although he preferred the command of troops, he was
assigned at once to duty as Chief Engineer of the Department and Army
of the Cumberland. Fortunately this gave him the control, not only of
the engineer troops and materials, and the engineer operations of that
army, but carried with it the right and duty of knowing the army's
condition and requirements as well as all the plans which might be
considered for extricating it from the extraordinary perils and
difficulties which surrounded it.

Although efforts have been made at various times and by various
writers, to minimize these perils and difficulties, it cannot be denied
that the situation of that army was at that epoch an exceedingly grave
one. It had been rudely checked, if not completely beaten, in one of
the most desperate and bloody battles of the war, and shut up in
Chattanooga by Bragg's army on the south, and by an almost impassable
mountain region on the north and west. Its communication by rail with
its secondary base at Bridgeport, and with its primary base at
Nashville, had been broken by the Confederate cavalry and rendered most
uncertain. Its supplies were scanty and growing daily less, while its
artillery horses and draft mules were dying by hundreds, for lack of
forage. The only safe wagon roads to the rear were by a long and
circuitous route through the mountains north of the Tennessee River,
which was besides so rough and muddy that the teams could haul hardly
enough for their own subsistence, much less an adequate supply for the
troops.

All the contemporary accounts go to show that Rosecrans, while
personally brave enough, was himself more or less confused and excited
by the great disaster which had overtaken his army at Chickamauga. He
had been cut off and greatly shaken by the overthrow of his right wing,
and consequently retired with it to Chattanooga. Notwithstanding this
unfortunate withdrawal and his failure to rejoin the organized portion
of his army, which under General George H. Thomas, held on firmly to
its position against every attack, those who knew Rosecrans best still
believed him to be a most loyal and gallant gentleman who was anxious
and willing to do all that could be done to save his army and maintain
its advanced position. But there is no satisfactory evidence that up to
the time he turned over his command to his successor, he had formed any
adequate or comprehensive plan for supplying it or getting it ready to
resume the offensive. Every general in it knew that it needed and must
have supplies, and that the only way to get them, without falling back,
was to open and keep open the direct road or "cracker line" to
Bridgeport. But how and when this was to be done was the great
question.

Much has been written upon this subject; a military commission has had
it under consideration; the records have been consulted; a report has
been made, and comments upon it have been issued by General Smith and
his friends. Even the late Secretary of War, Elihu Root, has passed
judgment upon it, and yet it can be safely said that nothing has been
done to disturb the conclusion reached at the time, that General Smith
in consultation with his superiors worked out the plan as to how, when
and by what means the short supply line by the way of Brown's Ferry and
the Lookout Valley should he opened and maintained. He certainly
secured its adoption first by Thomas and afterwards by Grant, and
finally when he had arranged all the details of the complicated and
delicate operations, and had prepared all engineer's materials and
pontoons which were required, he personally commanded the troops and
carried that part of the plan which was based on Chattanooga, to a
successful conclusion.

When it is remembered that Rosecrans had left Chattanooga, that he had
been succeeded by Thomas, and that Grant himself had arrived on the
ground and assumed supreme command, before the first practical step had
been taken to carry the plan into effect, and that the plan itself
involved a descent and passage of the Tennessee River by night, the
defeat and capture of the enemy's outposts, the laying of a pontoon
bridge across a broad and rapid river, the rebuilding of the railroad,
and its maintenance within easy reach of the enemy's front for
twenty-five miles, and that all of this was done without the slightest
mishap and with but little loss, and that it resulted in relieving the
army from want and in putting it in condition to resume the offensive
as soon as its reinforcements had arrived, some fair idea may be had of
the value of General Smith's services and the part he actually
performed in all that took place. If General Rosecrans had actually
conceived and worked out all the details of the plan, which cannot be
successfully claimed, there would still be enough left to the credit of
General Smith to immortalize him, but when Grant, Thomas and all the
other officers who were present and in position to know what was
actually done gave Smith the praise, not only for conceiving it, but
carrying the plan into successful effect, there is but little room left
for further controversy.

If any additional testimony is needed as to the masterful part played
by Smith at Chattanooga, it is found in the fact that Grant made haste
to attach him to his own staff and to recommend him for promotion to
the grade of major-general to take rank from the date of his original
appointment, declaring in support of his recommendation that he felt
"under more than ordinary obligations for the masterly manner in which
he discharged the duties of his position." Later he recommended that
Smith be put first of all the army on the list for promotion, adding:
"He is possessed of one of the clearest military heads in the army, is
very practical and industrious," and emphasized it all with the highly
eulogistic declaration that "no man in the army is better qualified
than he for the largest military commands."

It is noteworthy that about the same time General Butler with whom he
had served for a short season, made an application to have General
Smith re-assigned to his command, but the Secretary of War, having
evidently forgotten his order for Smith's arrest at the close of the
Gettysburg campaign, wrote: "The services of William F. Smith, now
Chief Engineer in the Army of the Cumberland, are indispensable in that
command, and it will be impossible to assign him to your Department."
But this was not all. General George H. Thomas, the soul of honor and
fair dealing on the 20th of November, 1863, although General Smith had
already been transferred from his own to the staff of General Grant,
formally recommended him for promotion in the following striking and
comprehensive words:

     "For industry and energy displayed by him from the time of
     his reporting for duty at these headquarters, in organizing
     the Engineer Department, and for his skillful execution of
     the movements at Brown's Ferry, Tennessee, on the night of
     October 26th, 1863, in surprising the enemy and throwing a
     pontoon bridge across the Tennessee River at that point, a
     vitally important service necessary to the opening of
     communications between Bridgeport and Chattanooga."

Certainly no language could be more clear and unequivocal than this,
and yet, as though General Thomas wished to remove all chance of doubt
as to whom the highest credit was due, he declared in a later and more
formal official report:

     "To Brigadier General William F. Smith, Chief Engineer,
     should be accorded great praise for the ingenuity which
     conceived and the ability which executed the movements at
     Brown's Ferry."

While even the best memory so long after the event is but little to be
depended upon for details, it may serve especially when supplementing
the records, to strengthen the conclusions therefrom. In this instance
it should be stated that it was perfectly well known to the late
Charles A. Dana, then present at Chattanooga as Assistant Secretary of
War, and also to myself, who was serving at the time on General Grant's
staff as Inspector General, and was in daily contact with all the
leading officers, that it was General Smith, and General Smith alone,
who conceived and carried out the plan actually used for the capture of
Brown's Ferry and the re-establishment of the direct line of
communication between Chattanooga and Bridgeport. Indeed, there was no
question in that army, or at that time, in regard to the matter.
Rosecrans was never mentioned in connection with it, while Smith's
praise was in everybody's mouth till the close of the campaign, not
only for the Brown's Ferry movement, but, what was still more
important, for the plan of operations against Bragg's position on
Missionary Ridge. He it was who personally familiarized himself with
the _terrain_ in the entire field of operations, which, with the
mountains, valleys, rivers and creeks, that gave it its unique
character, was the most complicated and difficult one of the entire
war, if not the most complicated and difficult one upon which a great
battle was ever fought. It was he alone who worked out every detail of
the combinations and movements by which the great victory of Missionary
Ridge was won. I state this upon my own knowledge and not upon hearsay.

Moreover, it was conceded by all in high command that Smith was easily
the leading strategist in that entire host. He knew all the details of
the ground and all the difficulties to be overcome, better than any
other man. He studied them more closely, and with more intelligence
than any other man, not only because it was his duty to do so, but
because he was conscious of the portentous fact now so commonly lost
sight of that the safety and success of the army depended upon the
discovery and adoption of a feasible plan of action. Grant, the
generalissimo, had neither the time nor opportunity to gather the
facts. He was neither an engineer nor strange as it may seem, a close
calculator of the chances.

He necessarily depended upon the Chief Engineer, and the criticism
which was sure to come from others, to gather and sift the data upon
which final action must be based. Thomas was there from the first,
able, methodical and invincible, a great field tactician, but not
specially distinguished for his knowledge of engineering, grand tactics
or strategy. Sherman came afterwards. He was bold, active and
energetic, and had a fine eye for topography. He knew as well as anyone
what could be done and what could not be done by an army, but he came
too late to take part in the original investigations, or to do anything
more than to accept the part assigned to him, and from an examination
of the ground say whether or not he could carry it out. The important
fact is that Smith was, beyond any question, the first mind among them
all for working out just such problems as confronted the leaders of the
Union army at Chattanooga, and that task was by common consent assigned
to him. The responsibility was Grant's. His judgment and resolution
must necessarily decide and execute, but it was Smith's place to gather
the facts and work out the details of one of the most complicated
military problems that was ever presented for solution, and it can
hardly be too much to say that he discharged his task with such
patience, skill and success as to justly entitle himself to be known in
history as the Strategist of Chattanooga. Were his distinguished
associates living, it cannot be doubted they would willingly concede
that honor to him. In their official reports and correspondence at the
time they went far beyond the usual limit to give him praise, and
although Grant finally withdrew his friendship from him, for reasons
which will be given hereafter, he never in the slightest degree
withdrew or modified the praise he had awarded him for his services in
the Chattanooga campaign.

But to return to the details of the plan of operations. It was Smith
who discovered the possibility of turning Bragg's position on
Missionary Ridge, by the Army of the Tennessee. After personal
examination of the lay of the ground he suggested that Sherman's army
coming up from Bridgeport through Lookout Valley should cross to the
north side of the Tennessee by the bridge at Brown's Ferry, and after
passing to the east side of Moccasin Point, under cover of the woods,
to a position opposite the mouth of Chickamauga Creek, should re-cross
the Tennessee River, by a bridge to be thrown under cover of darkness,
and land on the end of Missionary Ridge with the obvious purpose of
marching along the Ridge and rolling up and destroying Bragg's army, or
taking it in reverse and driving it from its line of supply and
retreat. As early as the 8th of November, Mr. Dana, writing to the
Secretary of War, speaks of a reconnaissance made by Thomas, Smith and
Brannan on the north side of the river to a point opposite the mouth of
Citico Creek, near the head of Missionary Ridge, which he thought at
that time "proved Smith's plan of attack impractical." But further
investigation proved that a passage could he made higher up the river,
and when Sherman was taken to the place that had been selected,
examining both the place for the bridge and its approaches, on both
sides of the river, with his usual care, he closed his field glasses
with a snap and turning to Smith said with emphasis: "Baldy, it can be
done!"

And so much of it as referred to the passage of the river was done
without halt or fault, just as it had been planned. Sherman's entire
army, except his rear division that had been cut off by a break in the
Brown's Ferry floating bridge, was brought upon the field just in the
way suggested and by the means which had been provided by General
Smith. I assisted in transferring the troops to the South bank of the
river at the point of crossing, by the use of the river steamer
"Dunbar," which had been put under my command so as to make certain
that a sufficient force should be on the ground in time to cover the
construction of the bridge. The bridge was laid successfully and the
army was transferred without delay. Every stage of the movement pointed
to an onward and victorious march against Bragg's commanding position,
and a complete victory was finally achieved, but much to the surprise
and disappointment of all, it was not attained at the time nor in the
way that had been expected. The prearranged plan, so far as it concerns
Sherman's army, had no other legitimate purpose than to land it on
Bragg's exposed right flank and double him up or drive him from his
regular line of supply and retreat. And there is nothing more certain
than that there was no man in authority on either side who intended the
battle to be fought as it was actually fought, nor who seriously
expected the victory to be won in the way it finally was won by
Thomas's army, and not by Sherman's.

It is here worthy of remark that for nearly a quarter of a century both
Grant and Sherman believed and contended--in fact both died in the
belief--that Sherman's lodgement on the foot-hills at the north end of
Missionary Ridge, and his unsuccessful attack from that place, caused
Bragg to so weaken his center by withdrawing troops from his center and
left, to resist Sherman, that Thomas met with but little resistance
when he advanced to the attack about ten hours later, in obedience to
Grant's personal order. But it has been shown by irrefutable testimony,
and is now conceded, that there is not a word of truth in this
supposition--"that nothing of the kind occurred," and that in face of
all statements and suppositions to the contrary, however natural they
may have seemed at the time, "not a single regiment, nor a single piece
of artillery," not even "a single Confederate soldier was withdrawn
from Thomas's front to Sherman's on the final day of the battle. All
the Confederate reports are clear and specific on that point."

The simple fact is that the plan of operations for Sherman were clear
and perfect, and they were carried out in their initial stage without
fault or accident, but their execution in the final and vital stage was
marred by Sherman himself or by his subordinates, who never reached the
point from which they could strike a fatal blow, or from which they
could have taken possession of Bragg's communications with the rear.

That Sherman was entirely satisfied with Smith's part in carrying out
the plan, is shown beyond dispute by his report, which bears

     "willing testimony to the completeness of this whole
     business. All the officers charged with the work were present
     and manifested a skill which I cannot praise too highly. I
     have never beheld any work done so quietly, so well, and I
     doubt if the history of war can show a bridge of * * 1350
     feet, laid down so noiselessly and well in so short a time. I
     attribute it to the genius and intelligence of General
     William F. Smith."

The genuineness of this praise is strikingly attested by General Grant,
who almost immediately after the battle again urged the Secretary of
War to give Smith the promotion which he had previously recommended.
Unmistakably referring to the part taken by Smith in making and
carrying out the plans which had yielded such notable results, he
wrote, among other things: "Recent events have entirely satisfied me of
his great capabilities and merits. I hasten to renew the recommendation
and to urge it."

Shortly afterwards Grant followed this letter by another asking for
Smith's assignment to the command of East Tennessee, to succeed the
luckless Burnside, with whom he was dissatisfied, but in so doing he
intimated that it would be agreeable to him if the government should,
in pursuance of a personal suggestion sent to the War Department about
the same time by Mr. Dana, give General Smith even a higher command. It
is now well known that Grant had in mind the command of the Army of the
Potomac, and not only then, but frequently afterwards, assured General
Smith of his support for that great position.

The friendship of Grant, Sherman and Thomas, for Smith, was at that
time genuine and unmistakable. Neither of these great generals had ever
served with him before. He was a comparative stranger to them, and that
he should have come amongst them from the East under a cloud as he did,
and should in less than two months have won such unusual praise and
recommendations is stronger testimony than their words themselves to
the masterful part he had played at Chattanooga, and in recognition of
which the President made haste to promote him again to the rank of
Major General, at that time the highest grade in the service. It is to
be regretted, however, that the vacancy made by his previous
non-confirmation, having long since been filled, and opposition having
arisen on the part of other generals already promoted and confirmed,
the President did not feel justified in dating his new commission back
to the date of his original appointment. The action of the President,
the Secretary of War, who concurred in it, and the Senate which acted
upon it, this time without reference to the military committee, set the
seal of government approval in the most signal manner upon the services
and abilities of General Smith. No subsequent action or criticism can
deprive him of the great praise and unusual honors which were then
bestowed upon him.

But a new and far less fortunate era was about to open upon General
Smith's career. Grant's work in the west had reached its close, and his
extraordinary success had secured for him the full rank of Lieutenant
General, with the command of all the armies of the United States. It at
once became known to me, and to others serving at that time on his
staff; that it was from the first, and till he went east to take charge
of his new duties, Grant's intention to assign Smith to the command of
the Army of the Potomac. He had come to trust his intelligence,--his
judgment and his extraordinary _coup d'oeil_ implicitly, and to regard
him as a strategist of consummate ability. He made no concealment of
his confidence in him, nor of his intentions in his behalf, and there
can be but little doubt that he would have carried those intentions
into effect could he have done so without injustice to others. But it
is also true that after going to the eastern theatre of war and
conferring with the President, Secretary Stanton, General Meade and
General Butler, the Lieutenant General completely changed his mind, not
only as to the proper plan of campaign for the army of the Potomac,
which he had not previously visited or studied, but as to the
disposition to be made of Smith and the other leading generals. In all
this he had the sagacious advice and support of General Rawlins, his
Chief of Staff and doubtless of other influential persons. Exactly why
he did so, or what were the details of the argument which brought him
to his final conclusions, is still one of the most interesting
unsettled questions of the war. The general argument has already been
indicated in the comprehensive language of Rawlins and that was
doubtless strengthened by Mr. Lincoln, whose homely but astute
reasoning convinced him that the better and safer line of operations
was overland against Lee's army wherever it might be encountered, and
not through a widely eccentric movement by water to a secondary base on
the James River and thence against Richmond.

It is also doubtless true that finding Meade, who had shown himself to
be a prudent and safe commander, if not a brilliant one, not only
favorable to the overland route, but deservedly well thought of by the
President, the cabinet and the army, while Smith, on the other hand, if
not openly opposed to this plan of operations, was somewhat persistent
as was his custom, in favoring a campaign from the lower James, or even
from the sounds of North Carolina, Grant reached the conclusion that it
would be better to retain Meade in immediate command of the principal
army, and to place Smith over all the troops that could be mobilized
from Fortress Monroe in Butler's department. Whatever may have been the
open or secret influences at work, or the reasoning based upon the
facts, this was Grant's first decision, but it is to be observed that
the plan as adopted was afterwards fatally modified by permitting
Butler, notwithstanding his partiality for Smith, as shown by his
recent request for his re-assignment to his department, to take the
field in person, with Smith commanding one of his army corps and
Gillmore the other. In other words, Grant was not altogether a free
agent, though the government had ostensibly given him a free hand. Of
course, Smith knew that in any case he could not be permitted to make
all the plans, even if he held the first subordinate command, and it is
always possible that he had not specially endeared himself to the
leading officers of the eastern armies, but there can hardly be a doubt
that he would have given efficient and loyal support to Grant without
reference to the plan of operations which it might be found necessary
to adopt.

Without pausing here to recapitulate the arguments for and against the
line and general plan of operations actually selected by General Grant,
or to consider further his choice of subordinate commanders, it may he
well to call attention to the fact that the organization and
arrangements made by him for the control and co-operation of the forces
in Virginia, are now generally regarded by military critics as having
been nearly as faulty as they could have been. It will he remembered
that Meade, with a competent staff had immediate command of the Army of
the Potomac, but was followed closely wherever he went by General Grant
and his staff. At the same time Burnside, with the Ninth Corps, having
an older commission than Meade, and having been once in command of the
Army of the Potomac, was for reasons which must be regarded as largely
sentimental, permitted to report directly to and receive his orders
directly from Grant, while Butler with two army corps operating at
first at a considerable distance and later in a semi-detached and less
independent manner, made his reports to and received his instructions
directly from Grant's headquarters.

This arrangement, as might have been foreseen, was fatal to coherent
and prompt co-operative action, and the result was properly described
by Grant himself as comparable only to the work of a "balky team." It
was in the nature of things impossible to make either the armies or the
separate army-corps work harmoniously and effectively together. The
orders issued from the different headquarters were necessarily lacking
in uniformity of style and expression, and failed to secure that prompt
and unfailing obedience that in operations extending over so wide and
difficult a field was absolutely essential, and this was entirely
independent of the merits of the different generals or the
peculiarities of their Chiefs of Staff and Adjutants General. The
forces were too great; they were scattered too widely over the field of
operations; the conditions of the roads, the width of the streams and
the broken and wooded features of the battle fields were too various,
and the means of transport and supply were too inadequate to permit of
simultaneous and synchronous movements, even if they had been
intelligently provided for, and the generals had uniformly done their
best to carry them out.

But when it is considered that Grant's own staff, although presided
over by a very able man from civil life, and containing a number of
zealous and experienced officers from both the regular army and the
volunteers, was not organized for the arrangement of the multifarious
details and combinations of the marches and battles of a great
campaign, and indeed under Grant's special instructions made no efforts
to arrange them, it will be apparent that properly co-ordinated
movements could not be counted upon. When it is further considered that
Meade, Burnside, Butler, Hunter and afterwards Sheridan, as well as the
corps commanders, were left almost invariably to work out the details
for themselves, it will be seen that prompt, orderly, simultaneous and
properly co-operating movements on an extended scale, from different
parts of the same theatre of operations, and that properly combined
marches and battle movements were almost impossible. As a fact they
rarely ever took place, and it is not to be wondered at that the best
officers of every grade in the armies operating in Virginia found much
throughout the campaign, from beginning to end, to criticise and
complain of. Nor is it to be thought strange that many of their best
movements were successful rather because of good luck than of good
management, or failed rather because of their defective execution, than
by the enemy's better arrangements or superior generalship, though it
is evident that the Confederates kept their forces better in hand and
operated more in masses than did the Union generals. Their
organizations were simpler and more compact, their generals were better
chosen and better supported. Operating generally on the defensive and
fighting behind breastworks whenever it was possible, it was all the
more necessary to bring overwhelming forces to bear against them, in
order to ensure their final overthrow. In addition to the defective
organization and inefficient staff arrangements which have been
mentioned, neither the Union government nor the Union generals ever
made provisions, or seemed to understand the necessity, for a
sufficient preponderance of force, to neutralize the advantages which
the Confederate armies enjoyed, when fighting on the defensive, or to
render victory over them reasonably certain.

Looking back over the long series of partial victories, vexatious
delays and humiliating failures, and considering the inadequate
organization and defective staff arrangements for which Grant was
mainly responsible, it is evident that the terrible losses in the Union
army in the overland campaign were due quite as frequently to the
latter causes as to incompetency or lack of vigor on the part of the
subordinate commanders. The blind grapplings in the forests of the
Wilderness could not be helped, when both armies were marching through
it, for they could not see each other through the tangled underbrush
till they were almost face to face, but it is now certain that if the
marches of the Union army corps had been properly timed and properly
conducted, they could have reached the open country before the
Confederate corps could have engaged them. But when the senseless
assaults of fortified positions, which occurred in endless succession,
from Spottsylvania Court House to Petersburg are considered, it will be
impossible to find sufficient excuse for them. They were in nearly
every case the direct result of defective staff arrangements and the
lack of proper prevision. In a few instances they were due to positive
incompetency on the part of subordinate commanders, while on several
notable occasions there was a woeful lack of responsible oversight and
supervision on the part of those whose duty it should have been to
exercise both. Before the campaign was half over it had come to be an
axiom among both officers and men that a well-defended rifle trench
could not be carried by a direct attack without the most careful
preparation nor even then without fearful loss. Such undertakings were
far too costly, and far too frequently ended in failure, to justify
them when they could be avoided. But no experience, however frequent or
bloody, no remonstrance however forcible, could eradicate the practice
of resorting to them occasionally. Rawlins was utterly opposed to them
and never failed to inveigh against them but the advice of more than
one trusted and influential staff officer was uniformly in favor of
assaulting fortified positions. The favorite refrain at general
headquarters is said to have been "Smash `em up! Smash `em up!"

It was with special reference to the application of this method of
procedure at Cold Harbor, that General Smith afterwards gave vent to
his indignation in words of the bitterest criticism. It will be
remembered that the entire army confronting the enemy had advanced on
that fatal day in compliance with a general order to attack "all along
the line," which was done in a half-hearted, desultory manner,
foreboding failure and defeat. Not a soul among the generals or in the
fighting line dreamed of success and not a commander from highest to
lowest except Smith and Upton, made any adequate preparation to achieve
it. Officers and men alike felt that they had been ordered to a sure
defeat. Knowing intuitively what awaited them, they wrote their names
on scraps of paper and pinned them to their coats in order that their
bodies might be identified after the slaughter was over. This done they
advanced in long and wavering lines of blue against the enemy's
bristling breastworks and rifle pits, and were mowed down like ripe
grain before the scythe. In almost as short a time as it takes to
recount the useless sacrifice, over twelve thousand Union soldiers were
killed and wounded, without shaking the enemy's position or inflicting
serious injury upon him.

Smith and his gallant corps, did their part bravely in the futile
attack. They were just back from Butler's abortive movement to Bermuda
Hundred, in which by good management on the part of the General, and by
steadiness on the part of the men, they had saved the expedition from a
disgraceful defeat. They were not only hungry and tired, but disgusted
with the incompetency of Butler and his abortive plans. The situation
which confronted them was most discouraging. They were on new and
unknown ground, but they had not yet worn themselves out against Lee's
veterans and therefore they cheerfully took the position assigned them.
Smith with his usual foresight and deliberation made haste to examine
the ground in his front, and by availing himself of the advantages
which his trained eye soon detected he was enabled to direct his main
attack along a sheltering depression against a weak point, where he
reached and broke through the enemy's line. He needed only the prompt
and vigorous support that intelligent prevision and co-operation would
have given, to make his lodgement safe and his victory certain. But as
no one above him seems to have expected victory, no proper provision
was made to ensure it. No supports were at hand. Each corps commander
was looking out for his own front only, and not for his neighbor's. The
Confederates were more wise and more alert, and seeing the danger which
threatened the continuity of their line, made haste to concentrate
their forces against Smith and of course hurled him back with terrible
loss.

Smarting under this unnecessary disaster, and grieving over the useless
loss and suffering of his gallant men, it was but natural that he
should vent his feelings in sharp and caustic denunciation of all who
were in any degree responsible for the blunder. He was especially
outspoken with Grant and Rawlins, whose confidence he had won in the
Chattanooga campaign, and with whom he had since been on terms of the
closest intimacy and friendship. It is but just to note that they did
not at that time appear to consider his criticism as in any sense
directed against them nor did they rebuke or condemn it, but to the
contrary they gave him every assurance of sympathy and approval.

But Smith although one of the heaviest sufferers, was not the only or
even the severest critic, of the mismanagement or lack of management
which characterized that disastrous day. The result was most
demoralizing to the army. Officers of every grade were unreserved in
their condemnation. The newspaper criticism was wide-spread and
continuous.

It was with special reference to the useless slaughter at Cold Harbor
that the gallant and invincible Upton, then coming to be widely
recognized as the best practical soldier of his day, immediately wrote
in confidence to his sister.

     "I am disgusted with the generalship displayed. Our men have
     in many instances been foolishly and wantonly sacrificed.
     Thousands of lives might have been spared by the exercise of
     a little skill; but as it is, the courage of the men is
     expected to obviate all difficulties. I must confess that so
     long as I see such incompetency, there is no grade in the
     army to which I do not aspire."

Later referring to the same battle, he adds:

     "On that day [at Cold Harbor] we had a murderous engagement.
     I say murderous, because we were recklessly ordered to
     assault the enemy's entrenchments knowing neither their
     strength nor position. * * * I am very sorry to add that I
     have seen but little generalship during the campaign. Some of
     our corps commanders are not fit to be corporals. Lazy and
     indifferent they will not even ride along their lines, yet
     without hesitancy they will order us to attack the enemy, no
     matter what their position or numbers."

As the assault on Cold Harbor was a general one, it follows of course
that it must have been ordered by someone higher in authority than
either Smith of the Eighteenth or Upton of the Sixth Corps.

It was doubtless in allusion to this and to similar instances that the
veracious and outspoken Humphreys, at that time Meade's Chief of Staff,
and afterwards the peerless commander of the Second Army Corps, wrote:

     "The incessant movements day and night for so long a period,
     the constant close contact with the enemy during all that
     time, the almost daily assaults upon intrenchments having
     entanglements in front and defended by artillery and musketry
     in front and flank, exhausted both officers and men."

Although all the orders which brought about this unfortunate condition
of affairs must have passed through Humphreys himself, it is obvious
that they could not have originated with him, but must have come from
higher authority.

If the imperturbable and painstaking Smith, fresh from the triumphs and
confidences of Chattanooga, should have lost his patience under these
distressing circumstances, and declared to General Grant, frankly and
fearlessly as he did as was clearly his duty, that "there had been a
fearful slaughter at Cold Harbor," surely it should not have been
brought up against him later as one of the reasons for relieving him
from the command of the troops of the Department of the James, to which
he had been assigned after this criticism had been made. If in the same
interview Grant acknowledged, as it is credibly stated he did, "that
there had been a butchery at Cold Harbor, but that he had said nothing
about it, because it could do no good," his remembrance of the
circumstance to the prejudice of Smith, must be regarded as an
afterthought which had its origin in some cause not yet fully
explained.

It is altogether likely that Smith's criticism was repeated to others
less entitled to speak than himself and that it was exaggerated into a
direct attack upon both Meade and Grant, which could not be passed over
lightly. Be this as it may, it must be apparent that it was fully
justified as a mere matter of military criticism and quite independent
of both Smith and Upton, it was generally approved both by the army and
the country at large.

It was shortly after the assault in question, while I was commanding a
division of cavalry, that I visited Grant's headquarters. During the
conversation which followed the Lieutenant General asked me: "What is
the matter with this army?" To which I replied:

     "It will take too long to explain, but I can tell you how to
     cure it. Give Parker [the Indian Chief] a tomahawk, a supply
     of commissary whiskey and a scalping knife and send him out
     with orders to bring in the scalps of general officers."

During this same visit and frequently afterwards Rawlins, in a white
rage, inveighed against the desperate practice of blindly assaulting
fortified lines, and denounced in unmeasured terms all who favored them
or failed to make adequate preparation for success, where any just
excuse could be found for resorting to them. It is worthy of remark,
without reference to the origin of the practice, or to the persons who
were responsible for it, that General Grant alone had the power to stop
it, and that later there was a noticeable change in the Army of the
Potomac in regard to that practice, although it should be noted that
Sherman followed it as an example in his desperate, but unsuccessful
assault of the enemy's impregnable fortifications on Kenesaw Mountain,
for the purpose, as he frankly explained, of showing that his army
could also assault strongly fortified lines.

That such a costly practice could spring up and obtain imitation in our
army is a striking commentary upon the lack of intelligent supervision
over the essential details of its daily operations. It affords ample
justification for again calling attention to the fact that in this
respect the Confederate Army was much better off and more fortunate
than the Union Army. Its generals, although not without fault, were
much more careful in the management of their military details than ours
were. Jefferson Davis was himself an educated soldier of great
capacity, and selected none but educated and experienced military men
for high command. While Lee's staff was far from faultless in
organization, he had supreme authority in the field, with no army or
independent corps commanders between him and the troops. His army corps
were led by generals of the first rank, who took their orders directly
from him, and no unnecessary time was lost in their transmission or
execution, nor was there any uncertainty as to whose duty it was to
work out and superintend the details of attack and defence. But
whatever may be said in further elucidation of this important subject,
I cannot help expressing regret that General Smith, who had shown such
rare talents in another field, for planning and executing the most
complicated movements, should not have had in this an opportunity to
add to his fame, instead of being sent out as a subordinate to a
general who, however great his talents as a lawyer and a militiaman,
had developed no special aptitude as an army commander. In this
connection the important fact should he recalled that Generals Barnard
and Meigs, officers of the highest training and distinction, at the
request of General Grant, shortly after the fiasco of Bermuda Hundred,
had been sent by the Washington authorities to make an investigation of
General Butler's fitness for command in the field, and had with due
deliberation reported that while "General Butler was a man of rare and
great ability, he had not had either the training or experience to
enable him to direct and control movements in battle." It was doubtless
the verification of this report to Grant's satisfaction that caused him
finally to relieve that General from duty in the field, and in doing so
to incur both his active and his covert hostility.

Meanwhile however valid and important, in either a military or a
political sense, the considerations may have been which sent Butler out
in command of an army with such men as Smith and Gilmore, both
professional soldiers of the highest standing, as his subordinates, the
arrangement was unfortunate from beginning to end, and from its very
nature it was foredoomed to failure. It is to be observed that while
these admirable soldiers were constantly with their troops moving
against or confronting the enemy, Butler was generally at Fortress
Monroe, or at a more central point some distance in the rear, and when
his orders were not ill-timed or inapplicable to the case in hand, they
were not infrequently deemed impracticable, or at cross purposes with
the convictions of the generals whose duty it was to carry them into
effect. The simple and incontrovertible fact is that General Butler's
presence with that army was from the start embarrassing if not
absolutely unnecessary. It interposed an intermediate commander between
the generalissimo and two entire army corps, and however good the
intentions of that commander or great his abilities, his principal
influence was necessarily to derange and delay the orderly conduct and
development of the campaign. It was productive of no good whatever, and
was besides in direct violation of the rule of experience which teaches
that better results are to be expected with one poor commander in full
authority than with two or more good ones liable to pull against each
other.

The chief conclusion to be reached from these considerations, and from
a study of the records, in connection with the writings and unpublished
memoirs of General Smith, is that his conduct during the continuance,
of the arrangement was not only natural and blameless, but that the
failure of Butler's army to play an important and decisive part, was
due primarily, if not entirely, to Butler's own misunderstanding or
mismanagement of what was entrusted to him, or the inherent defects in
the organization and staff arrangements of the Union forces operating
in Virginia. Under the conditions as they actually existed, effective
co-operation and control, it has been shown, could not have been
reasonably expected, and for this the verdict of the military critic
and historian must be that the Lieutenant General who had ample power,
if he chose to exercise it, was primarily responsible. Under the
incontrovertible facts of the case it is difficult to see how this
conclusion can be avoided.

It will he recalled by those who have read "Butler's Book," that in
addition to a number of trivial derelictions of duty, General Smith was
charged with the more serious one of having failed through negligence
and an untimely cessation of operations, to capture Petersburg, when it
was claimed that all the conditions were favorable to success. It
should also be recalled that several weeks after this failure had taken
place and all the necessary explanations had been made and considered,
the President had, on Grant's recommendation, relieved Butler from
further service in the field and had assigned General Smith to the
command of the Eighteenth Corps which was composed of the troops from
Butler's department, serving with the Army of the Potomac. It should be
remembered at the same time that before General Smith received this
order he had applied for and been granted leave of absence on account
of illness, or as he explained, "because of his old trouble with his
head," and that while he was absent, the Lieutenant General was by some
means never fully or satisfactorily explained, induced to restore
Butler to his former command and to dispense entirely with the services
of General Smith. In reply to a letter from Smith, he authorized
Colonel Comstock of his staff to inform him that he had been relieved
"because of the impossibility of his getting along with General
Butler," who was his senior in rank. But General Grant assured me about
this time that it was with great regret that he had taken this action;
that he had tried in vain to utilize Smith's great talents; that he had
been too free in his criticisms, and that Smith himself had made it
necessary that either he should be relieved or that Meade, Burnside and
Butler should he deprived of command and sent out of the army. Some
conversation followed, in which it was suggested that he should have
given the preference to the alternative as a means of simplifying the
organization and increasing the efficiency of the army, and it is a
singular coincidence at least, that this suggestion was partly carried
into effect, with most excellent results, by the relief of both Butler
and Burnside, shortly afterwards, from the command of troops in that
theatre of operations. It has besides long been a question among
military men whether still better results would not have been obtained
if Grant had at the same time relieved Meade, who was certainly a most
competent and loyal general, from the immediate command of the Army of
the Potomac and placed him instead at the head of an army corps.

It may not be out of place here to call attention to the fact that
while no specific limitations were ever put upon the responsibilities
of Meade as an army commander, Grant thenceforth took upon himself a
closer supervision of the details of the campaign, while upon many
occasions during the final operations, he gave his orders directly to
the corps commanders, instead of sending them through the regular
official channels. The result of this practice after it became
confirmed, was in every case beneficial, though it should he observed
that it was far from increasing the cordial relations between Grant and
Meade or between their respective headquarters.

But to return to the breach between Grant and Smith, to the exact state
of facts which led up to it, and to the immediate pressure which
finally brought about Smith's relief from further command in the field.
Much that is as well forgotten, has been written about this unfortunate
episode. Smith felt to the day of his death that he had been
misrepresented to Grant and unjustly injured by his action. He always
contended that the whole truth had not been told, and it must be
confessed that no consecutive and exhaustive analysis of the case has
ever been made. Perhaps none can be made. But from such information as
I have been able to gather, I have always supposed that Grant's action
was based upon Smith's criticisms, exaggerated reports of which were
made by certain officers of Butler's staff with whom Smith dined and
spent the night at Fortress Monroe on his way home, that Butler
presented these reports in person to General Grant, without the
knowledge or concurrence of Meade or Burnside, and made them the basis
of a demand for Smith's immediate relief. Exactly what took place at
the interview must for reasons which will appear hereafter, always
remain a matter of conjecture. It however seems to be probable that had
General Smith deferred his leave of absence till he had seated himself
firmly in his new command, or had he been sent for and allowed to make
his own explanation, he would have been spared the humiliation, which
ended his military career, while the country would have continued to
receive the assistance of one of its greatest military minds.

General Smith, by his military writings, has not only refuted the
unjust criticisms of General Butler's Book, but he has modestly and
conclusively set forth his own military services during the various
campaigns in which he took part. He points out with pardonable pride
the friendship which sprang up during the Chattanooga campaign, between
himself and General Grant. He makes it clear that his failure to
capture Petersburg was due to a number of causes more or less potential
and altogether beyond his control. First among them was the physical
exhaustion of himself and his troops; second, an order which was sent
to him through the signal corps from General Butler, who was all day
June 15 at Point Lookout Signal Station, to stay his advance; and,
third, the failure of General Hancock, who was with the Second Corps
within supporting distance, to take up the movement and give the
finishing stroke to the day's work. To these should be added the
defective staff arrangements by which the various forces in the field
of operations were controlled, the inadequate strength of Smith's
command, which was inexcusable where such a vast force was within call,
the lack of engineer officers and of exact information as to the
character of the ground over which the troops were compelled to
operate, and the total absence of proper support and co-operation on
the part of the Army of the Potomac. Above all, it should be kept in
mind that the enemy held the defensive and had interior lines upon
which he could throw his troops from point to point on his threatened
front, with greater celerity than the attacking force could be
concentrated by outside lines and across wide rivers against him.

When Smith began his movement against Petersburg, which was to be in
the nature of a surprise, the greater part of Grant's army was still
north of the James River, and both Meade and Hancock allege that they
were not notified that a new effort was to be made to capture
Petersburg by Smith alone, after Butler had tried and failed with his
whole army to isolate and cut it off from Richmond by the movement to
Bermuda Hundred. Both of these able officers declare that if they had
known in time that Petersburg was to have been captured, Petersburg
would have been captured. This simple statement, without reference to
its truth, which has never been questioned, is conclusive evidence that
the staff arrangements and the organization of the machinery of command
were fatally defective, for had it been otherwise, every officer who
could have been called upon to take part in the movement, or could have
been expected to co-operate with it, would have been so clearly
instructed as to make his duty entirely plain.

General Smith, in explanation of why he was relieved from command in
the field, not only reflects strongly upon the conduct of General
Butler, but endeavors to show that General Grant "was forced" by Butler
to restore him to full command, in order to prevent the exposure of his
own conduct, yet even if this were true it necessarily leaves both the
question of fact and the question of motives in the dark. Certain
letters which passed between Smith, Grant, Rawlins and Butler have been
quoted, for the purpose of illustrating the character of the persons
concerned. They will he found in the Records and they throw much light
upon the subject, but they still leave the reason of Smith's removal in
obscurity.

It cannot be denied that Smith was a man of great talents and
conspicuous services, with unusual powers of caustic Criticism, who had
been badly injured by the way in which his connection with the Army of
the James had been severed. His views and conduct had been impugned,
not only then, but afterwards, in both the newspapers and the personal
statements of the day, and hence it was but natural that he should
retort with an appeal to the facts of a private nature more or less
commented upon at the time, to expose the reasons for official action
and to vindicate his own conduct. He strenuously contended that he was
under no obligation to conceal any important facts of the case
connected either personally or officially with those who were using him
unkindly to the prejudice of the public welfare, especially where those
facts were believed to be a potential factor in influencing their
official acts and in shaping history.

It must he confessed that Grant's explanations of his later attitude
towards Smith, and of the reasons for relieving him and restoring
Butler to command, were neither full nor always stated in the same
terms. He ignores the subject entirely in his memoirs, but it so
happens that Mr. Dana, then Assistant Secretary of War, was sitting
with General Grant when Butler, clad in full uniform, called at
headquarters and was admitted. Dana describes Butler as entering the
General's presence with a flushed face and a haughty air, holding out
the order, relieving him from command in the field, and asking:
"General Grant, did you issue this order?" To which Grant in a
hesitating manner replied: "No, not in that form." Dana, perceiving at
this point that the subject under discussion was an embarrassing one,
and that the interview was likely to be unpleasant, if not stormy, at
once took his leave, but the impression made upon his mind by what he
saw while present was that Butler had in some measure "cowed" his
commanding officer. What further took place neither General Grant nor
Mr. Dana has ever said. Butler's Book, however, contains what purports
to be a full account of the interview, but it is to be observed that it
signally fails to recite any circumstance of an overbearing nature. It
is abundantly evident, however, from the history of the times and from
contemporaneous documents published in the Records, that neither the
working arrangements by which Butler commanded an army from his
headquarters at Fortress Monroe or in the field while the major part of
it, under the command of Smith, was co-operating with the Army of the
Potomac, nor his relations with either his superiors or subordinates,
were at all satisfactory. In the nature of the case, they could not be.
Butler was a lawyer and politician accustomed to browbeat where he
could not persuade. He and Smith while starting out as friends, early
came to distrust each other. Smith, who was as before stated on
intimate terms at general headquarters, made his views fully known from
time to time, and especially in a frank and manly letter of July 2,
1884, to both Rawlins and Grant, and from the correspondence of the
latter with Halleck, it is certain that both sympathized with Smith at
first. It was evidently at Grant's request to Halleck, then acting as
chief of staff and military adviser at Washington, that Smith was
assigned to the Eighteenth Corps, and at Grant's request that he was
relieved from it, without explanation. The undisputed fact is that the
countermanding order was issued after a personal interview between
Grant and Butler, the details of which are only partly known, and that
no further explanation consistent with the continuance of friendly
relations between Grant and Smith has ever been given.

The inference to be drawn from the records, the correspondence, the
conversations and the writings of all the parties thereto, is that the
representations of Butler, and especially his comments upon Smith's
criticism of the battles and management of the campaign, were the
principal factors in convincing Grant that the best way out of the
complications was to relieve Smith and restore Butler to full command.
This way had been foreseen and suggested by Smith himself for he had
asked more than once to be relieved from further service in the field
on account of ill health, which made it impossible for him to undergo
exposure to the hot sun, but his request had been denied, doubtless
from a sincere desire on Grant's part to have the advantages of his
services in the solution of the complicated problem which yet
confronted the army. Had this request been granted when made, or had it
been granted afterwards, and placed on the ground of a personal favor
for the benefit of his health, which might well have been done, General
Smith has frankly admitted that he would have had no shadow of excuse
for anything but thanks. But when he was relieved without notice or any
assignment of cause, as he was starting on sick leave, and the order
was concealed from him till he had returned, a suspicion at once arose
in his mind as to the motives which inspired it, and the suspicion was
claimed by him as a sufficient justification for telling the world all
he knew in regard to those who were responsible for the action of which
he complains. His military criticism, however indiscreet, had always
been direct and manly. Its soundness had been approved by some of the
best officers ill the service, including Grant himself, but it must be
observed that the latter in his final report of the campaign, takes
pains to make the point, evidently to forestall criticism, that he held
himself responsible for only the general plans of the campaigns and
operations, and that in accordance with an invariable habit, he left
the details and the actual conduct of the battles to his subordinate
commanders. The wisdom of this arrangement is not here in question,
though much might be said against it. Its effect, if admitted, as a
sound rule of action, must be to transfer the responsibility for a
bloody and costly campaign to the shoulders of Meade, Humphreys,
Burnside, Butler, Sheridan, Hunter, and in a number of cases even to
those of corps and division commanders, instead of leaving it where it
more justly belongs, on the shoulders of those who were responsible for
the working organization of the army, and for the details of its staff
arrangements.

General Smith's true place in history does not depend solely on these
considerations, nor on his contributions to the history or criticism of
the war. Fortunately for him the military committee of the House of
Representatives of the Fiftieth Congress on its own motion, long after
all these incidents had been closed, investigated his military career,
for the purpose of deciding upon his fitness for the retired list, and
on April 20, 1888, it submitted to the House of Representatives a
highly favorable report, from which the following extract is taken:

     "On October, 1863, he [General Smith] was transferred to the
     West, where he in turn became Chief Engineer of the
     Department of the Cumberland, on the staff of General George
     H. Thomas, and of the Military Division of the Mississippi,
     on the staff of General Grant. As such he devised the plan of
     operations by which the Army of the Cumberland was saved from
     starvation and capture at Chattanooga, and was duly credited
     with the same by General Thomas. He also devised the plan of
     operations by which Bragg's army was overthrown and driven
     back from Missionary Ridge, for which services he was again
     appointed and this time confirmed as Major General of
     Volunteers, also as Brevet Brigadier General, United States
     Army."

After referring to other incidents of his life, which have been
considered more fully in this account of his public services and need
not he repeated here, this report added, although General Smith had
resigned from the army many years before, that he was

     "fully entitled at the hands of the government to be retired
     for a lifetime of hard and conspicuous service, in which he
     has displayed the most incorruptible honesty, the most
     outspoken patriotism and devotion and the highest ability. It
     has been the good fortune of but few men in any age or in any
     country to save an army and to direct it to victory, from a
     subordinate position. Such service in Europe would secure
     honor and riches. In ours it should certainly result in an
     assignment to a place on the retired list of the army, with
     the rank of Major General, and the appropriate pay for the
     remaining years of his life. The committee therefore
     unanimously recommend the passage of the bill."

The final action taken in this case, while highly creditable to General
Smith, was not as liberal as the House Committee thought it ought to
be. The Senate Committee, while concurring in the commendation of the
General, in conformity to its own practice cut his rank on the retired
list down to that of Major, which was the actual grade he held in the
regular army at the date of his resignation. It was a piece of
ungracious and niggardly economy, for the services which entitled him
to retirement were those of a general officer, and as he was actually
promoted from Brigadier General to Major General in recognition
thereof, the House of Representatives was clearly right in recommending
his retirement with the higher grade. General Smith, who had not in any
way asked for this recognition, was strongly inclined to decline it,
but on the solicitation of his friends he finally accepted it.

At the end of the war General Smith, notwithstanding the differences
which had arisen between him and his official superiors, received the
brevet of Major General for "gallant and meritorious services in the
field during the rebellion."

After his relief from further service in the field, General Smith
remained at New York, awaiting orders, till November 24th, 1864, at
which time he was assigned to special duty under the orders of the
Secretary of War. This detail was voluntarily tendered and took him to
New Orleans, where he was engaged in looking into the military
administration of the department, under Butler and his successors, and
in reference to which he made several confidential reports which have
never been given to the public. Perceiving that his military career was
practically at an end, and that he was not likely to receive
satisfactory recognition on the reorganization of the army, he resigned
his volunteer commission on the 4th of November, 1865, and took a leave
of absence as a Major of Engineers, from December 15th, 1865, to March
7th, 1867, on which later date his resignation from the army was
accepted. He had meanwhile taken employment as President of the
International Ocean Telegraph Company, and had visited Florida, Cuba
and Spain for the purpose of obtaining an exclusive concession for a
term of years, for laying, maintaining and operating an ocean telegraph
cable from Jacksonville to Havana. He was most successful in his
negotiations, and in the construction and management of his lines, till
1873, when he and his associates sold out under advantageous terms to
the Western Union Telegraph Company. For the next two years he resided
abroad, mostly in England, with his family. During this time he visited
nearly all the countries of western Europe, where he met and made the
acquaintance of many leading men in the highest walks of life.

In May, 1873, General Smith was appointed one of the police
commissioners for New York City, which place he filled till December
31st of that year, when he was appointed president of the board. He
held this office till March 11th, 1881, during which time he took an
important part in elevating and perfecting the police service. He was,
however, too honest and independent to get on harmoniously with the
politicians, and after an open breach with a number of them, including
the Mayor, he resigned his position and retired to private life.

While engaged in this service he took an active interest in the
presidential campaign. It will be remembered that the closeness of the
vote between Mr. Tilden and General Hayes, and the high degree of
tension between the opposing parties and their managers, filled the
country with alarm, in the midst of which General Smith was consulted
by the friends of Mr. Tilden, with the view of devising measures
against the possibility of a subversion of the government by military
or arbitrary power, but fortunately the device and action of the
Electoral Commission averted all danger of that sort. The timid and
vacillating behavior of Mr. Tilden during the emergency and afterwards
was, however, a powerful factor in the estrangement of his supporters,
and did much to bring about the nomination of General Hancock by the
next Democratic National Convention. General Smith and his friend
General Franklin took an active interest in the canvass and convention,
and although they were soldiers without political experience, it is
believed that their endorsement of Hancock and their work in his behalf
was one of the most powerful influences in securing his nomination.
They had been his life-long friends and his comrade during the great
conflict, and hence felt justified in giving him their most earnest
support.

At the close of the presidential campaign, the result of which was
necessarily disappointing to General Smith, he was compelled, by
unfortunate investments, to look about for an occupation. His friend,
General John Newton was then Chief of Engineers and the system of
Internal Improvements, which had long been favored by the Republican
party, was being carried forward by bountiful appropriations from
Congress. Many officers and civil engineers were required for the
supervision of the various river and harbor works, and General Smith,
having had wide experience, was, by the act of his friend, appointed
Government Agent, and placed in charge of the works on the Peninsula
between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, with his headquarters at
Wilmington, Delaware. On March 1st, 1889, he was, in compliance with a
special Act of Congress, put upon the retired list of the army, with
the rank of Major. This at once raised the question whether he could
draw the pay appropriate to his retired rank, and at the same time
receive pay as a Government Agent. After argument by his friend, the
Honorable Anthony Higgins, the United States Senator from Delaware, the
case was decided in his favor on the theory that an "agent" was not an
officer, within the meaning of the law. The decision in this case was
similar to that made in the case of Quartermaster General Meigs, who
was employed to supervise the construction of the Pension Office in
Washington, after he had been placed on the retired list. Under the
decision General Smith continued to perform the duties and draw the pay
of Agent, till 1901, when he voluntarily gave up the appointment and
definitively retired from business of every kind. For the last ten
years or more he resided in Philadelphia, where he enjoyed the
acquaintance and society of his chosen friends to within a few weeks of
his death, which occurred on the 28th day of February, 1903, four years
subsequent to the death of his wife.

He retained his wonderful intellectual powers, absolutely unimpaired,
to the date of his final illness. With keen wit, sparkling repartee and
a mind always on the alert for fresh information and the beauties of
literature, he remained a delightful and instructive companion to the
end. Firm in the Christian faith and fully satisfied that life had
nothing further in store for him worth waiting for, he took his
departure in to the Silent Land composed and free from regret, like a
strong man going to sleep. He left a son and daughter with many friends
and hosts of companions scattered throughout the country to mourn his
loss. His native State had filled his heart with pride and satisfaction
by giving on the walls of its capital to a bronze effigy and tablet
with a laudatory inscription celebrating his virtues and his most
distinguished services, and handing down his memory to future
generations as one in every way worthy of their respect and admiration.

[Illustration:

This tablet is presented to Vermont by soldiers from other states who
admire so much her great soldier son

Brevet Major General
William Farrar Smith,
U.S. Army.

The extracts here quoted from the letter of the assistant secretary of
war C.A. Dana, to General Grant, dated December 21, 1863, show that at
a crisis in the Nation's life he was in the thoughts of Lincoln,
Stanton and Grant, as the general best qualified for the most important
command.

     "The surest means of getting the rebels altogether out of
     East Tennessee is to be found in the Army of the Potomac.
     This naturally led to your second proposition, namely that
     either Sherman or W.F. Smith should be put in command of that
     army. Both the Secretary of War and Gen. Halleck said 'Gen.
     W.F. Smith would be the best person to try'. The President,
     the Secretary of War and Gen Halleck agree with you in
     thinking that it would be on the whole much better to select
     him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Series I Vol. XXXI Page 457 Official Records Union and Confederate
Armies. (War of the Rebellion)]

I cannot close this sketch without repeating in part my personal
testimony to the strength and elevation of General Smith's character.
He was blessed by a singularly clear, orderly and comprehensive mind,
and was most industrious and persistent in its use. Somewhat phlegmatic
and deliberate in temperament and manner, he gave the impression
occasionally that he was lacking in push and energy, but such was not
the case in fact. During his services on the Rio Grande he suffered, as
previously related, a malarial attack from which it is now evident he
never entirely recovered. Under exposure to the summer sun, he was for
the rest of his life liable to a recurrence of the symptoms especially
those pertaining to the head, and this may have made him more or less
irascible at times. Military habits are at best not calculated to
develop a mild and patient behavior, nor to beget a spirit of
resignation to unjust or arbitrary treatment, especially if it comes
from higher authority, and is not merited.

General Smith was the last man to lay claim to a saint-like character,
but according to those who knew him best he possessed a just and even a
charitable disposition, which made him fair towards his equals and most
considerate towards his subordinates. He was, however, above all
things, logical, and as a close student of his profession, he
invariably followed the established principles of the military art to
their legitimate conclusions. In the presence of great military
problems and responsibilities such as those with which he had to deal
at Chattanooga, he became absorbed and reticent if not austere and had
but little to say except to those with whom it was his duty to talk.
There the solution was so clearly his own that no one thought of
disputing it with him till years afterwards. But in the conduct of
operations against Lee, there were so many roads open, so many
commanders in the field, and so many plans of operations suggested, so
many considerations to be observed that no one man except Grant who was
clad with special powers for the emergency, could hope for the honor of
directing all movements. That became his exclusive function as soon as
he was made Lieutenant General, but unfortunately, as has been shown,
he and Smith began drifting apart from the day of their arrival in the
East, and long before the great task before them was accomplished they
had by their own peculiarities, looking at the problem from different
points of view, and aided doubtless by the misrepresentations and
selfish purposes of others, become hopelessly out of harmony with each
other.

This is not the place to pronounce final judgment between them. They
knew each other well, and although Grant had said towards the close of
their friendship, "General Smith, while a very able officer, is
obstinate, and is likely to condemn whatever is not suggested by
himself," he had shown an earnest desire that his great talents should
be utilized. On the other hand Smith, who was intimately acquainted
with both the strength and the weaknesses of Grant's character, had
full confidence in the soundness of his judgment, when left free from
prejudice and misrepresentation, to act upon a full statement of the
facts. Neither had hitherto shown himself to be particularly sensitive
to criticism from the other, and both were in the highest degree
patriotic and loyal to the cause. They had worked harmoniously and with
marked success together in the West. Not a shadow had come between
them. The case must therefore have been a most complicated one which
made it impossible for them to work together in the same manner and to
the same end in the East. The severance of their relationship, to
whatever influence it may be attributed, is profoundly to be regretted,
not only because it prematurely ended the military career of General
Smith, but because it must have injuriously affected the fortunes of
General Grant as well as of the country and the army, at a time when
both sorely needed the help of every capable soldier. These results are
all the more to be deplored because no one can study the circumstances
connected therewith, without reaching the conclusion that they were
brought about by methods which were themselves not above criticism, and
which finally resulted in the downfall of their author.





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