Friday, December 9, 2011

Meet the Generals: John Eugene Smith, Galena Jeweler

I understand that this is a very quick turnaround, from my last post, but these next few generals (leading up to Ulysses S. Grant) do not take up to much space, due to the minimal knowledge the amateur civil war historian knows about these men.

The next general I will discuss will be General John Eugene Smith.  John E. Smith was born in Berne, Switzerland, on August 3, 1816, to a father who served for Napoleon Bonaparte during the Napoleanic Wars.  His family emigrated to Philadelphia after the downfall of the Napoleanic regime.  In Philadelphia, the young Smith was educated to be a jeweler.  After operating his jewelry shop for 20 years, he moved to Galena to continue practicing his trade.  

When the Civil War began in 1861, Smith served as an aide de camp to Illinois Governor Richard Yates. On July 23, 1861 he was appointed colonel of the 45th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He led his regiment at the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. On November 29, 1861 he was promoted to brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers. He briefly commanded a brigade before taking command of he 8th Division, XVI Corps. When Ulysses S. Grant began his final campaign against Vicksburg, Smith was placed in command of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, XVII Corps. He fought at the battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Champion Hill and in the assaults on Vicksburg. In June, 1863 in the midst of the siege of Vicksburg, Smith was chosen to replace Gen. Isaac F. Quinby in command of the 7th Division, XVII Corps after Quinby became ill and took a leave of absence. In September, 1863 Smith was transferred to command the 2nd Division, XVII Corps and his division was sent with William T. Sherman to aid in the relief of Chattanooga. During the battle of Missionary Ridge, Smith took part in the attacks against the Confederate right flank at Tunnel Hill.
In December, 1863 Smith took command of the 3rd Division, XV Corps which he would command until the end of the war.  He saw action during the Atlanta Campaign, March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign.

Following the war, General Smith was mustered out of the volunteer service, but chose to stay in the regular army. He was appointed colonel of the 27th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He received a promotion to brigadier general in 1867 and a brevet promotion to major general in 1869.  He retired from the army in 1881.
Smith resided in Chicago, Illinois during his final years of life and died there on January 29, 1897. He is buried in Galena.

We are now half way through the general series, this is the 5th general (US Grant will have a two part piece at the end of the series).

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