Charles Ferguson Smith
|Charles Ferguson Smith|
April 24, 1807|
|Died||April 25, 1862
|Place of burial||Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Allegiance||United States of America
|Service/branch||United States Army
|Years of service||1825–62|
|Commands held||3rd Infantry Regiment|
Early life and career
Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Blair Smith, an army surgeon. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1825 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. As he rose slowly through the ranks of the peacetime army, he returned to West Point as an instructor and was appointed Commandant of Cadets as a first lieutenant, serving in that position from 1838 to 1843.
As an artillery battalion commander he distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War, serving under both Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Churubusco. He received brevet promotions from major through colonel for his service in these battles and ended the war as a lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army. In Mexico City, he was in charge of the police guard from the end of the war until 1848. During this time he became an original member of the Aztec Club of 1847.
He commanded the Red River expedition in Minnesota of 1856–57, and served under Albert Sidney Johnston in Utah (1857–60), commanding the Department of Utah himself from 1860 to 1861, and the Department of Washington (at Fort Washington, Maryland) very briefly at the start of the Civil War.
After the outbreak of the war in 1861, Smith served on recruiting duty as commander of Fort Columbus, New York. He was commissioned a Brigadier General of volunteers (August 31, 1861), and as colonel in the Regular Army, commanding the 3rd U.S. Infantry regiment, as of September 9. He was soon transferred to the Western Theater to command the District of Western Kentucky. He then became a division commander in the Department of the Missouri under Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had been one of his pupils at West Point. This potentially awkward situation was eased by Smith's loyalty to his young chief.
The old soldier led his division of raw volunteers with success at the Battle of Fort Donelson in February 1862. During the attack on the Confederate right flank, which he led personally, he saw some of his men waver. He yelled to them, "Damn you, gentlemen, I see skulkers! I'll have none here! Come on, you volunteers, come on! This is your chance! You volunteered to be killed for love of country, and now you can be!"
Smith's experience, dignity, and unselfish character made him Grant's mainstay in the early days of the war. When theater commander Major General Henry W. Halleck became distrustful and perhaps jealous of Grant, he briefly relieved him of field command of the Army's expedition up the Tennessee River toward Corinth, Mississippi and gave that responsibility to Smith. However, Halleck soon restored Grant to field command (intervention by President Abraham Lincoln may have been a factor). Grant's restoration was fortunate because by the time Grant reached Savannah, Tennessee, Smith had already met with an accident while jumping into a rowboat that seriously injured his leg, forcing him out of field duty. His senior brigadier, W.H.L. Wallace, led his division (and was fatally wounded) at the Battle of Shiloh.
The early close of his career in high command deprived the Union army of one of its best leaders, and his absence was nowhere more felt than on the battlefield of Shiloh, where the Federals paid heavily for the inexperience of their generals. A month before his death, he had been made Major General of volunteers.
Two forts were named in his honor. The first Fort C.F. Smith was part of the perimeter defenses of Washington, D.C. during the American Civil War. A second Fort C. F. Smith was located in the Powder River Country in the Montana Territory during Red Cloud's War.
- Many authors see presidential pressure behind Grant's reinstatement to field command. See, e.g., Gott, pp. 267-68; Nevin, p. 96. But there is room to question that conclusion. Halleck relieved Grant of field command of the expedition (but not his overall command) on March 4 (OR I-10-2-3). On March 9 and 10, Halleck advised Grant to prepare himself to take the field. On March 10, the President and Secretary of War inquired about Grant's status, and on March 13, Halleck directed Grant to take the field. See Halleck to Grant, March 9, 10, 13, 1862, OR I-10-2-22, 27, 32; Thomas to Halleck, March 10, 1862, OR I-7-683. This sequence suggests that Halleck may have decided to restore Grant to field command before receiving Lincoln's inquiry. See Smith, p. 176: Halleck's "reinstatement of Grant preceded by one day the bombshell that landed on his desk from the adjutant general [on behalf of the President and Secretary of War] in Washington."
- Cunningham, O. Edward. Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862. Edited by Gary Joiner and Timothy Smith. New York: Savas Beatie, 2007. ISBN 978-1-932714-27-2.
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
- Gott, Kendall D. Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry—Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.
- Nevin, David, and the Editors of Time-Life Books. The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983. ISBN 0-8094-4716-9.
- Robertson, James I., Jr. Article in Civil War Times, February 1986, p. 25.
- Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84927-5.
- Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Smith, Charles Ferguson". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Minnesota Historical Society account of the Red River expedition
- Military biography of Smith from the Cullum biographies