Edmund Kirby Smith

Edmund Kirby Smith

Infobox Military Person
name= Edmund Kirby Smith
born= birth date|1824|05|16
died= death date and age|1893|03|28|1824|05|16

caption= Portrait of Edmund Kirby Smith during the Civil War
placeofbirth= St. Augustine, Florida
placeofdeath= Sewanee, Tennessee
allegiance= United States of America Confederate States of America
branch= United States Army Confederate States Army
serviceyears= 1845 – 1861 (USA) 1861 – 1865 (CSA)
rank= Major (USA) General (CSA)
commands= Trans-Mississippi Department
battles= American Civil War

Edmund Kirby Smith (May 16, 1824 – March 28, 1893) was a career United States Army officer, an educator, and a general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, notable for his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy after the fall of Vicksburg.

Early life and the U.S. Army

Smith was born in St. Augustine, Florida to Joseph Lee Smith and his wife Frances Kirby Smith. Both his parents were natives of Connecticut, and moved to Florida in 1821 shortly before the elder Smith was named a Federal judge there.

In 1836 his parents sent him to a military boarding school in Virginia, which he attended until his enrollment in the United States Military Academy in 1841. He graduated from that institution in 1845, where he was nicknamed "Seminole" for his native state, and was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 5th U.S. Infantry.Eicher, p. 494.]

In the Mexican-American War he served under General Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. He served under General Winfield Scott later, and received brevet promotions to first lieutenant for Cerro Gordo and to captain for Contreras and Churubusco. His older brother, Ephraim Kirby Smith, a captain in the regular army, served with him in the 5th U.S. Infantry in both the campaign with Taylor and Scott, until he died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Molino del Rey in 1847.After that war, he served as a captain in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, primarily in Texas, but he also taught mathematics at West Point and was wounded in 1859 fighting Indians in the Nescutunga Valley of Texas. When Texas seceded, Smith, now a major, refused to surrender his command at Camp Colorado in what is now Coleman, Texas, to the Texas State forces under Benjamin McCulloch and expressed his willingness to fight to hold it.

Civil War


After serving briefly as General Joseph E. Johnston's assistant adjutant general in the Shenandoah Valley, Smith was promoted to brigadier general on June 17, 1861, and given command of a brigade in the Army of the Shenandoah, which he led at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21. Wounded severely in the neck and shoulder, he recuperated while commanding the Department of Middle and East Florida. He returned to duty in October as a major general and division commander in the Confederate Army of the Potomac in northern Virginia.


In February 1862, Smith was sent west to command the Army of East Tennessee. Cooperating with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the invasion of Kentucky, he scored a victory at Richmond on August 30, 1862, and was named in October to the newly created grade of lieutenant general, becoming a corps commander in the Army of Tennessee. Smith would receive the "Thanks of Congress" on February 17, 1864 for his actions at Richmond. [Eicher, p. 494. "...for the signal victory achieved by him in the battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on the thirtieth of August, and to all officers and soldiers of his command engaged in that battle."]

Trans-Mississippi Department

In January 1863, Smith was transferred to command the Trans-Mississippi Department (primarily Arkansas, Western Louisiana, and Texas) and he remained west of the Mississippi River for the balance of the war. As forces under Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant tightened their grip on the river, Smith attempted to intervene. However, his department never had more than 30,000 men stationed over an immense area and he was not able to concentrate forces adequately to challenge Grant or the Union Navy on the river.

Following the Union capture of the remaining strongholds at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and the closing of the Mississippi, he was virtually cut off from the Confederate capital at Richmond and was confronted with the command of a virtually independent area of the Confederacy, with all of its inherent administrative problems. The area became known in the Confederacy as "Kirby Smithdom".

In spring 1864, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, directly under Smith's command, soundly defeated Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at the Battle of Mansfield in the Red River Campaign on April 8, 1864. After the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, Smith joined Taylor and dispatched half of Taylor's Army, Walker's Greyhounds, under the command of Maj. Gen. John George Walker northward to defeat Union Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele's incursion into Arkansas. This decision, strongly opposed by Taylor, caused great enmity between the two men.

With the pressure relieved, Smith attempted to send reinforcements east of the Mississippi but, as in the case of his earlier attempts to relieve Vicksburg, it proved impracticable because of Union naval control of the river. Instead he dispatched Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, with all available cavalry, on an unsuccessful invasion of Missouri. Thereafter the war west of the river was principally one of small raids and guerrilla activity. By now a full general (as of February 19, 1864, one of only seven such men in the Confederacy), he surrendered his department—the only significant Confederate army left—on May 26, 1865, and arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 2, whence he fled to Mexico and then to Cuba to escape potential prosecution for treason. He returned to take an oath of amnesty at Lynchburg, Virginia, on November 14, 1865.

Postwar career

After the war, Smith was active in the telegraph business and education. From 1866 to 1868, he was president of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. When that effort ended in failure, he started a preparatory school in Newcastle, Kentucky. In 1870, he combined efforts with former Confederate General Bushrod Johnson and became president of the University of Nashville. In 1875 he left that post to become professor of mathematics at the University of the South at Sewanee from 1875 to 1893. At the time of his death in Sewanee, he was the last surviving man who had been a full general in the war. He is buried in the University Cemetery at Sewanee.

In memoriam

A men's dormitory building on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge is named Kirby-Smith Hall. At 13 floors, it is the tallest building on campus.

The state of Florida erected a statue honoring General Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Kirby Smith Middle School, located in Jacksonville, Florida, is named for him.

He is memorialized (as Edmund Kirby-Smith) at Sewanee by the Kirby-Smith Memorial on University Avenue, by Kirby-Smith Point on the edge of the South Cumberland Mountains on the University Domain, and in the naming of the Kirby-Smith Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at Sewanee. He is memorialized with a tablet and in a stained-glass window at the university's All Saints Chapel, and in a painting in the university's Jessie Ball du Pont Library and in a painting in the Chapter Room of the Tennessee Omega Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity House.

During World War II the convert|422|ft|m|0|sing=on Liberty Ship SS "E. Kirby Smith" was built in Panama City, Florida, in 1943, named in his honor.

ee also


* Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., "Civil War High Commands", Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
* Parks, Joseph Howard, "General Edmund Kirby Smith, CSA", Louisiana State University Press, 1954, ISBN 0-8071-1800-1.
* Prushankin, Jeffery S.,"A Crisis in Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi", Louisiana State University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8071-3088-5
* Sifakis, Stewart, "Who Was Who In The Civil War, Facts on File", 1989, ISBN 0-8160-2202-X.
* Warner, Ezra J., "Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders", Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.


External links

* [http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/smith.cfm Architect of the Capitol description and photo of Smith's statue]
* [http://www.dreamsbeginhere.org/static/ourschools/listings/sip/middle/kirby_smith.asp Kirby-Smith Middle School website in Jacksonville, Florida]
* [http://www.leonidaspolk.org/Sewanee-s-FiveGenerals.html Memorials at Sewanee]

NAME= Smith, Edmund Kirby
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Confederate Army general

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