Charles Ferguson Smith

Charles Ferguson Smith (April 24, 1807 – April 25, 1862) was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War and as a Union General in the American Civil War.

Charles Ferguson Smith
Gen. Charles F. Smith - NARA - 528469 adjusted.jpg
Born(1807-04-24)April 24, 1807
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedApril 25, 1862(1862-04-25) (aged 55)
Savannah, Tennessee
Place of burial
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1825–1862
RankUnion Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General
Commands heldDepartment of Utah
3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment
2nd Division, AotT
Army of the Tennessee
Battles/warsMexican–American War

Utah War
American Civil War

Other workCommandant of Cadets

Early life and careerEdit

Charles Ferguson Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Blair Smith, an army surgeon and a grandson of the celebrated Presbyterian minister Rev. John Blair Smith.[citation needed] He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1825,[1] and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. As he rose slowly through the ranks of the peacetime army,[citation needed] he returned to West Point as an instructor and was appointed Commandant of Cadets as a first lieutenant,[1] serving in that position from 1838 to 1843.

As an artillery battalion commander he distinguished himself in the Mexican–American War,[1] 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[citation needed].

He commanded the Red River Expedition (1856) into the future State of Minnesota in 1856–57, and served under Albert Sidney Johnston in Utah (1857–60),[1] 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.

Civil WarEdit

After the outbreak of the war and through the summer of 1861, Smith served on recruiting duty as commander of Fort Columbus, New York.[citation needed] He was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers[1] (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.[citation needed] He then became a division commander in the Department of the Missouri under Brigadier General 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.[1]

The old soldier led his division of raw volunteers with success at the Battle of Fort Donelson in February 1862.[1] 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. You volunteered to be killed for love of country, and now you can be. You are only damned volunteers. I'm only a soldier, and don't want to be killed, but you came to be killed and now you can be."[2]

Smith's experience, dignity, and unselfish character made him Grant's mainstay in the early days of the war.[1] When theater commander Major General Henry 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).[a] Grant's restoration was fortunate because by the time Grant reached Savannah, Tennessee,[citation needed] Smith had already met with an accident while jumping into a rowboat that seriously injured his leg, forcing him out of field duty.[1] His senior brigadier,[1] W.H.L. Wallace, led his division (and was fatally wounded) at the Battle of Shiloh.


Smith died of an infection following his foot injury and chronic dysentery at Savannah, Tennessee, and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia.

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.[1] 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 at the Bighorn River crossing of the Bozeman Trail in the Montana Territory during Red Cloud's War.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Many authors see presidential pressure behind Grant's reinstatement to field command. See, e.g., Gott 2003, pp. 267–68; Nevin 1983, 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 2001, 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."
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Chisholm 1911, p. 259.
  2. ^ Brinton 1914, p. 121.


  • Brinton, John H. (1914), Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Major and Surgeon U.S.V. 1861-1865, New York, NY: The Neale Publishing Company
  • Gott, Kendall D. (2003), Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry–Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.
  • Nevin, David (1983), Editors of Time-Life Books (eds.), The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West, Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, ISBN 0-8094-4716-9CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  • Smith, Jean Edward (2001), Grant, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-684-84927-5

Further readingEdit

  • Cunningham, O. Edward (2007), Joiner, Gary; Smith, Timothy (eds.), Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, New York: Savas Beatie, ISBN 978-1-932714-27-2
  • Eicher, John H.; Eicher, David J. (2001), Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3
  • Robertson, James I., Jr. (February 1986), Civil War Times: 25 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Warner, Ezra J. (1992), Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7

External linksEdit