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Brevet Major-General Thomas Kilby Smith, U.S.V.

Brevet Major-General Thomas Kilby Smith was born in Boston, Massachusetts, September 23, 1820. On his father's side he was descended from Dr. Christian Godfrey _Schmidt, a German physician, who emigrated to Massachusetts before the French and Indian War, in which he took part; and on his mother's side from the family of Walter, long and honorably known in colonial New England. His parents moved to the West in his early youth, and settled at Cincinnati, Ohio, where he received a military and engineering education under Professor O. M. Mitchel, and subsequently was admitted to the bar from the office of the late Chief-Justice Chase. During the administration of President Pierce he held office in Washington and for a brief time as United States marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. Early in the war he offered his services to the government and was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Fifty-fourth Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry on September 9, 1861. This regiment he recruited at Camp Dennison to nearly its full strength; was mustered into United States service as colonel October 31, 1861, and took the field February 19, 1862, his being one of the original regiments making up the command of General Sherman. At Shiloh, where he succeeded to command of his brigade on the wounding of Colonel Stuart, his conspicuous gallantry was complimented by General Sherman in his official report, and made such an impression on that great soldier's mind that he referred to it after General Smith's death, twenty-five years later. In a eulogy before the Ohio Society of New York, he said, speaking of this brigade, " The next morning they came back to me under a heavy fire. As General Smith rode at the head of his men, I thought I had never seen more handsome conduct under fire." His regiment was the advance guard in the occupation of Corinth; he commanded his brigade on the wounding of General M. L. Smith at Chickasaw Bluffs, and led it again at Arkansas Post and in the various operations and battles preliminary to the siege of Vicksburg, until after the bloody assaults of the 19th and 22d May, 1863. Pending his promotion, which was earnestly asked in a memorial signed by every officer under his command and officially urged by Generals Grant and Sherman, he served on the staff of the former and performed important service while bearing to General Banks intelligence from Vicksburg. He communicated news of the surrender of that city, whereupon Port Hudson capitulated. After some weeks of staff duty with General Grant, he was finally accorded his hard-won rank of brigadier-general August 11, 1863.

Being assigned to the division of General McPherson, he shared in its various campaigns until March 7, 1864, when, in command of a division of the Army of the Tennessee, he took part in the Red River expedition, where he protected the fleet of Admiral Porter in an arduous and severely-contested series of fights during his retreat to Alexandria,-a retreat made necessary by the disaster to Banks's army at Sabine Cross-Roads. The exposure of this campaign ruined his health. He was granted leave of absence until January, 1865, when he was assigned to command of the military district of South Alabama, and later to the post and district of Mobile.

His commission as brevet major-general was dated as of March 13, 1865, and he was honorably mustered out of the service January 15, 1866. Such is a brief resume of services which, told in detail, were most brilliant and won the encomiums of all his commanding generals, and the confidence of his officers and men. After the war General Smith held no official position save that of consul at Panama, for a time during the administration of President Johnson. His constitution was badly undermined by the diseases incurred during his campaigns, and most of the later years of his life were spent in domestic retirement at his residence, Jonesdale, Philadelphia. In 1887 he went to New York to aid in the management of a journal in that city, but his strength was not equal to the strain put upon it, and he died, after a brief illness, December 14 of that year.

General Smith married in 1848 Elizabeth B. McCullough, of an old Ohio family. She, with five sons and three daughters, survives him.

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.

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